On certain evenings, this café in the 18th arrondissement of Paris hosts a curious Sabbath. People come to have their cards drawn or their palms read in a gentle atmosphere. As if esotericism had the power to re-enchant the world.
It’s a Friday night like any other Cafe Countersort. Like every weekend for two years, between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., around thirty customers, mostly women aged 20 to 35, flock to this cozy tea room in the 18th arrondissement, the first esoteric café in the capital, created by restorers Mathilde Fachan and Éloïse Méhard, for its “print evenings” highly prized. And this evening in early December, it’s Queendomancy, fortune teller with multiple tattoos and four thousand Instagram subscribers, who officiates behind the midnight blue velvet curtain. Sitting in a large armchair, she listens to the neophytes of the Tarot de Marseille and the enthusiasts who have come to ask their questions.
Far from the dusty image of the old woman with the hooked nose and pointed hat, the witch celebrated by the Café Contresort is resolutely modern. Reflecting the renewed interest in this ancestral figure who, in recent years, thanks in particular to the publication of Witches. The undefeated power of women (2018), of Mona Chollethas invaded social networks.
Numerology Instagram accounts, birth chart readings, tarot, oracles, but also energy crystals, TikTok videos with millions of views, books, events… Esotericism is on the rise. Avoiding caricature is a deeper tendency than it seems. “It’s cyclical. The need for spirituality often returns during major periods of crisis. When the foundations on which human beings usually rest, such as politics, science or religion, fail, we need to look for answers elsewhere. The last time was in Paris in the 1920s, between the two world wars,” explains Caroline Drogo, 33-year-old author, illustrator and tarot reader.
Every day, just over nineteen thousand subscribers follow its draws and other decryptions combining astrology, numerology and Rider Waite Smith tarot. Posts which, contrary to popular belief, do not claim to predict the future but ” help to put words on what we feel, she adds. The tarot is like a mirror, a development tool. I’m more of a one-time companion, someone who will listen and give keys to understanding. I give another point of view, that of the cards, without judgment. » Her game, which she takes everywhere, Caroline Drogo has redesigned it and updated it herself with cards that “represent all bodies and a more current society”. An approach of militant inclusiveness, based on respect and the well-being of everyone, also advocated by the two founders of the tea room in the 18ᵉ arrondissement.
Because at Café Contresort, in addition to the dishes and beverages made from sourced and mostly vegan products, people also come to feed their minds and educate themselves. “Witchcraft is no joke, explains Éloïse Méhard, the Franco-Cameroonian chef of the place. Our approach is holistic! We advocate inclusive, queer, feminist and anti-racist witchcraft. We make sure that all the practitioners who come to us are careful to respect everyone’s pronouns and identities. »
And no question for these thirty-somethings with atypical backgrounds – pastry and astrology for Mathilde Fachan; cuisine and palmistry (the art of reading the correlations between the appearance and shape of the hand and character) for Éloïse Méhard – to reduce esotericism to folklore. “Astrology makes it possible to take stock of the situation and to give food for thought. It is a thousand-year-old philosophical and intellectual tool, created by scholars, to understand the world. Even Carl Jung was an astrology enthusiast! » exclaims Mathilde Fachan. “We are not priestesses, adds Éloïse Méhard, and not there to cure anything. I advocate well-being, self-acceptance. I systematically refuse people in consultation when I see that their situation requires the advice of a doctor. »
For the “traditional healer” (or Thadarwicht) Linda Louchi, specialist in ancestral care in North Africa, “Western medicine and witchcraft are complementary”. On her Instagram account, this quadra of Algerian and Franco-Russian origin, trained in psychotherapy, herbalism and organic cosmetics, popularizes the thousand-year-old Amazigh (Berber) medicinal practices inherited from her paternal grandmother. Balms, ointments and other herbal teas made from spices, laurel, sage, radish, olive tree and many other plants, which she distils during consultations or workshops.
Passed down from generation to generation, long considered heretical, these plants have been used again, particularly since the pandemic. “With the Covid, there was a great need to return to nature. But these practices have always been there. Today, it is my duty to promote this Amazigh culture and its heritage. »
r Cafe Countersort11, rue des Portes-Blanches, Paris 18ᵉ.
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Tarot, astrology, palmistry… The return of the witches of well-being
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