The Vancouver Sun — by Kevin Griffiths
It worked for Oswald. The experience persuaded Oswald to open the West Coast Institute of Mystic Arts, a New Age centre in North Vancouver. The institute will celebrate its first anniversary next Tuesday.
“I needed to change my lifestyle,” Oswald said. “I wanted to do something fun. If you’re going to spend eight hours a day doing something, you might as well make it something you enjoy.”
“The idea came to me out of the blue. I can’t take credit for the idea – it just popped into my head.”
Oswald is the founder and administrator of the institute which has grown to include 36 teachers and about 400 students. Think of the institute as a shopping centre for anyone interested in psychic development and personal growth where you can choose classes in everything from shamanism, clairvoyance, and Wicca to channelling, sound healing and reading tarot cards.
A big part of what the institute does, Oswald said, is quite practical: it helps people listen to their intuition and help them get to the point where they’re living the way they always wanted to.
“We’re creatures of habit. Once people get into a relationship or job, it becomes a habit. Changing course – even if they want to and know they’re in the wrong situation – can be very difficult.”
Courses at the institute include free introductions to shamanic studies, $10 drop-ins for healing circles, $45 for a course on handwriting analysis, $285 for several classes on Wicca, and $975 for a course on Shamanism that lasts for several months. The institute is not considered a registered private post-secondary institution by the provincial Secondary Education Commission.
Oswald is careful not to encourage anyone to rashly quit a job or leave a relationship. Instead, what the institute does is help people build bridges to what they really should be doing.
Oswald recalls one woman who came into the institute who admitted having a crush on a fellow worker for two years but didn’t know how to let him know that she did. Armed with Oswald’s encouragement, she finally told him – only to discover he, too, had a crush on her. The two are now married.
“When people start to feel empowered, it’s so exciting,” she said.
In explaining the appeal of the more ethereal side of what the institute does, Oswald said the mystic arts are ancient practices being rediscovered by people today.
“The tarot and other mystic arts exist because they are useful and helpful,” she said. “Otherwise they would be obsolete, like beta video and eight-track tapes.”
For Oswald, being psychic is something that’s always been part of her life. As a youngster, she recalls feeling tapping on her back almost every night when she went to bed.
“I was always very intuitive,” she said. “My parents always joked, ‘If you want to know what’s going to happen, ask Kelly.’”
Before her near-death experience, Oswald taught tarot and feng shui at the North Vancouver Recreation Commission and North Shore Continuing Education. Not everyone shared her attitude toward the mystic arts. A parent complained, calling a course she taught on tarot for teens “a whole dogma of witchcraft and sorcery under the guise of choice and empowerment.” The course was cancelled.
Despite how magic and psychic powers appear to have gone mainstream with the popularity of Harry Potter novels and The Lord of the Rings, Oswald still has to deal with skeptics. It doesn’t bother her. Her first response tends to be a laugh. Oswald has a well developed sense of irony about the world and what she does – and she doesn’t take the criticism personally.
She tells of the first time the institute held a smudge ceremony – where they burned sage and sweetgrass – to clear the negative energy out of its ground floor office space. The smoke set off the fire alarm, which brought the fire department. It also happens that burning sage and sweetgrass smells an awful lot like burning marijuana. “I told them it was smudge,” Oswald said, laughing at the incident. “They didn’t believe it. Now we have to be very careful when we smudge.”
Oswald, who commutes from Whistler, where she lives with her family, said her husband, James, was also a skeptic at first. What helped turn him around, Oswald said, were several psychic incidents with her eldest son Ian. Her husband is now her biggest supporter.
“Other people who are skeptical, I try to be supportive of them. It’s always interesting when I sit down with someone like that for a reading and they cross their arms and say, ‘Okay, you tell me. You’re the psychic.’ Nine out of 10 times, they’re pretty wowed.
“Some people don’t like this kind of stuff and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone.”
The Vancouver Sun — by Kevin Griffiths