By Erika Webb
Dismayed doomsayers may take heart. Though Dec. 21 came and went uneventfully, it's a new year with an inauspicious element, the "unlucky" number 13.
In the last days of 2012, Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp was a-bustle. This is not unusual. A tour guide stood outside the bookstore, sharing the camp's history and informing a group of seekers about the practices of those who live and work beyond the gates at Stevens Street. She explained there are no modalities -- no cards, no crystal balls, no sleight-of-hand tactics that have at times erroneously been associated with activities in this part of Cassadaga.
Matthew and Amanda Orloski ambled contentedly along the street. Both are psychic mediums from the Tavares/Mt. Dora area. They've been to the small community in West Volusia County numerous times.
"We come out here because we feel the energy," Mr. Orloski said. "We're gifted ourselves and we come out here to ground."
Ms. Orloski agreed with her husband. She said she feels peaceful, tranquil and grounded in Cassadaga.
Any predictions for 2013?
"It's all about abundance, pretty much," Mr. Orloski said. "It's the year of the snake and '12 was a warning."
The Rev. Diane Davis is a well-known and widely utilized psychic medium and spiritual counselor. She doesn't take herself too seriously and said she isn't sure if her comments are predictions or opinions. But her tenure among Cassadaga's most popular readers and her renowned accuracy are inarguable.
"I have a real feeling we're going to see a shift in 2013," she said. "There will be a transition of so many governments because common people feel they can't rely on a single person. The shift will be in people's attitudes, not necessarily through hostility."
Ms. Davis said she thinks that people's perceptions of life will change.
"So many people are going to start to take back their own health because our healthcare system is so broken. I feel like that is proving itself," she said.
Many are learning more self-control, she added, whether they want to or not.
"I also don't think the world is ending, but I recognize we are no longer wanting to be slaves to big companies or corporations," she said. "That includes banks and major institutions we look to."
A shift will occur in how people react to news, she said..
"The media keeps our adrenaline pumped instead of bringing stories to us neutrally," she said. "I feel people will no longer participate in the media broadcasts for days and days and days about tragedies, so life can be put more easily into perspective for all of us."
Ms. Davis said rather than focusing on horrendous events like the shooting in Newtown, Conn., and hearing about an event "over and over and over again," she feels it's important to have "immense compassion" for those affected and equally important to balance sympathy and empathy with "a perspective about the baseline problem of mental health."
As for the fiscal cliff, Ms. Davis called it "a cliff of confidence" and said politicians with self-serving agendas will begin facing resistance from citizens.
"I think people will eventually just say no, no more of this behavior; no more polarized politics," she said.
But Ms. Davis's overall forecast is optimistic.
"I feel excited because out of all of the chaos there is abundance for everyone to create -- new opportunities, new relationships and new beginnings," she said.
The Rev. Judy Cooper shied away from offering generalized predictions.
"We're not fortune tellers," she said. "We're mediums and (focus on) spirit communications."
Ms. Cooper explained "all mediums are psychic but not all psychics are mediums," referring to the distinct differences in terms.
According to famed psychic medium James Van Praagh's website: "Often referred to as our sixth sense, psychic ability, or our intuition, is the gut feeling or hunch you have that you cannot logically explain. Everyone is psychic to some degree or another, but not everyone is a medium."
"A medium is a psychic who has fine-tuned his or her extrasensory perception and can interface with the spirits in other dimensions," according to the website.
Official statements originate from the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp office; no information is forthcoming until a board of trustees has reviewed the questions and issues comments, or gives permission to resident-members to do so. Perhaps the result of years of ridicule, mockery and misrepresentation, an office representative declined even to provide her name without the board's permission.
Marie Wilson Gates, a medium and healer who has lived and worked in the camp for around 20 years, watered the plants outside the Colby Memorial Temple. At first she wasn't talking, either. Possibly she intuited sincerity in the inquiries. Most likely she wanted to share -- not the winning lottery numbers, and not predictions of a 2013 typhoon hitting Kentucky -- something more real.
"I will tell you this," she said. "I have and will wake up every day loving who I am, therefore I attract love. That's natural law."
And that, she said, will bring positive results to anyone, anytime.
Ms. Gates had open-heart surgery 25 years ago. Following the surgery she had a near-death experience, which she said changed her life. She saw departed loved ones. She touched them and they touched her.
"They felt more alive than anyone here, I can tell you that," she said. "I did not want to come back."
But since she's been back, Ms. Gates has followed a philosophy of gratitude for everything and has developed trust in all that is. She is convinced there is divine orchestration behind every occurrence and if people will cease depending upon, and limiting outcomes with, their own desires, what they once considered to be bad luck or lack will no longer exist in their lives, even if the year contains the number 13.
"If you allow it, spirit will come in and give you more than you could have wanted for yourself," she said. "The older you get the closer your (deceased) loved ones are to you. The more you believe, the more they'll come to you. We all have (the ability to connect) but we've been trained against it."
Ms. Gates, who was raised in the Quaker faith, said a person's religion doesn't matter.
"I've belonged to all of them and been kicked out of most," she said laughing.
She said early-morning meditation sets the tone for her day, everyday, and the answers people frantically seek exist in the stillness.
Spiritualism's main focus is to promote individuals' personal experience with God.
Three major beliefs separate spiritualism from other, more mainstream, religions: Spiritualists believe in an "Infinite Intelligence" rather than a particular savior; they feel the ability to communicate with departed spirits, by mediumship, proves that personalities survive death; and they maintain the nature of mankind is good, not evil, and there is no sin and repentance, only spiritual progression by natural law.
The full definition of spiritualism and an explanation of its facets are detailed on Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp's website, www.cassadaga.org.
Ms. Davis said it is imperative that people realize, above all else: "There is more hope in the world than we can imagine."