You don’t have to worry about getting dire forecasts like those predicted by Madame Groeda Weyrd in Edward Gorey’s Fantods tarot cards when you get a reading by Owl Tree Healing, even if you’re having it done at the Edwardian Ball this Saturday (23 February 2013). Hair loss and shriveling might have been more Goreyesque, but Owl Tree Healings’ Bonnie Duque is more about holistic wellness and expression. If you’re going to the ball on Saturday, hurry in and sign up for her readings. Appointments go quicker than children meeting misfortune in Cautionary Tales.
If you don’t think Duque can know the angst we face as Los Angelenos, you’re dead wrong (but luckily not dead yet). The Texas-native was raised in Torrance and graduated from Torrance High. She bounced around the sunny beach cities before settling in San Francisco where’s she’s been for the last 18 years. In email and telephone interviews, Duque explained her style of reading the cards and gave hints of what to expect when on Saturday.
Duque wrote, “I picked up my first deck when I was 15, so over 25 years. Cards came very naturally to me and I have always felt that I also read in former incarnations. In this life, I have been through three different decks since I started. Commensurate with my personal growth at different stages, each one symbolized a new level of core understanding of the way spirit and energy works.”
Over the telephone she further explained that in her maternal family history, there’s a long line of people with extrasensory perception and “that’s where my gifts come from, at least partly. We’ve had healers in our family.” By this she doesn’t mean doctors although in her regular working day life she is surrounded by them. Duque works as an interior designer for the Veteran’s Administration. The kind of healing she brings with Owl Tree Healings come from her family’s association as shaman-like folk healers, Curanderismo. Curanderismo is a type of “folk healing steeped in Catholicism.”
Having earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in commercial interior design, Duque is all about understanding healing for difficult cultures and what make a “home-like environment.” By home-like, Duque also means healing and that kind of place can be different for different cultures depending on their perception of colors and also takes in accessibility to traffic, texture, height and religion.
For instance, the area she covers includes the Oakland area where the veterans and staff tend to be African American. Their color palate is bolder and more expressive design is appropriate for those clinics as opposed to the more conservative Sacramento Valley areas that tend to be more comfortable with quieter, more so-called traditional design, colors and textures.
You can expect much the same attention to comfort and detail in her incarnation at the Edwardian Ball. For San Francisco her booth is larger and she has a receptionist who greets one formally. “It’s set up like a parlor,” she explained. “I imagine what would Owl Tree have been like 100 years ago. So I antique it and antique myself. I make the areas look more mystical, more gypsy-esque, like you’ve been walking through a forest and sitting with an owl and that’s me.”
The setting at the Los Angeles Edwardian Ball won’t be as elaborate, but it will keep that feeling. “It will be theatrical. The readings are 10-20 minutes on a single subject,” Duque stated. This is just a taste of what she usually does–readings of 1-2 hours. Since her main venue is out of a Pilates Studio (EHS Pilates Studio at 1452 Valencia Street) in the San Francisco Mission district where she goes with the flow of the place and uses the exercise balls for balance and even does breathing exercises, the Edwardian balls are quite a bit more theatrical and that’s what makes it fun.
Duque finds the balls a good fit because she explained, “As a visual artist myself and I think, really born from my own unsettling experiences with sprit growing up, I have always been drawn to the strangely macabre illustrations of Edward Gorey and Aubrey Beardsley. Similar in flat, one dimensional artistic style, they tell stories of life, death, sex, hope, isolation and despair, but all in the most fanciful and delightfully, funny ways. I became a huge fan of the Edwardian Ball many years ago through its amazing creator group, Rosin Covin, back when it was still held at the DNA Lounge.”
Her opportunity to join the Edwardian Balls was happenstance. She recalls, “As I was launching Owl Tree Healings officially in 2011, Justin Katz, co-founder of the Ball, was simultaneously looking for a new reader, as the very gifted Katie Heflin, the former Edwardian Ball reader, had since moved out of state. I was fortunate enough to be offered the role and joined this talented group of artists and producers in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2012. Owl Tree Healings just revisited their role again in January 2013 at the exquisite Regency Ballroom and is thrilled to be rejoining the 2013 Los Angeles Ball at the Fonda Theater.”
Having spend 18 years in San Francisco and having relatives in Los Angeles, Duque knows both cities well. “I feel a special bond with both cities and appreciate the nuances and personalities of each. The Balls’ home is in San Francisco, a city steeped in Victorian architecture, eye-popping daily costuming as the norm and a truly organic flow of people well-adjusted to their tight but gorgeous environments. The SF Ball is accordingly full of grand majesty, history, gorgeous revelers that both compliment and contrast the stunning architecture of the Regency Ballroom it is held in, as they sway together in harmony like a well-choreographed dance of flesh and marble. It’s utterly enchanting. Los Angeles is a brilliant, flashing city on the move and sprawling endlessly across the Southern California landscape, are neon beacons of bright people boldly getting in the mix and mixing it up in their own unique way. That is the essential LA Edwardian Ball; a sprawling sea of stunning, larger than life bright souls, in unbelievable, jaw-dropping costumes and all in perfect characters of their own making, mixing it waaay up! It is a breath-taking sight to behold and I highly advise all Edwardian Ball fans to attend both events to take in the full scope of what the Edwardian Ball means and how these contrasting cities each, take it to the next level.”
Need more to get over your fear factor? You’ve probably been spooked by the commercialized movie depiction of healers as evil gypsies. That image is, for Duque, how society has “disempowered women in that role or anyone of a spiritual nature” who might use helpful healing arts. Healers and their arts have become the devil’s work. Duque sees two extreme popular images of healers: the benign figure with gypsy coins across her head with a crystal ball who is just silly and the frightening figure that has potentially satanic powers.
Duque’s favorite depiction of Tarot card readers is Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion where you see a woman before a crystal ball and hear bells. She likes it because it’s so fun and “super tongue-in-cheek.”
In a post-interview email, Duque elaborated:
One of the most stereotypical portrayal of a fraudulent psychic reader is Whoopie Goldberg’s Oda Mae in “Ghost.” Of course, she turns out to be the real deal in the end, but is a laughable character throughout the movie. There is the freakish and then evil Carrie with her telekinetic ability. That’s enough to scare any psychic into the closet. A whole James Bond movie, “Live and Let Die,” was centered around a psychic card reader who lost her power when she lost her virginity. The cards become a tool of seduction and the gifted reader’s worth was based solely on the condition of her hymen. Fraud-Joke-Evil-Sex Pot.
I couldn’t find a truly authentic portrayal of a psychic reader in movies or TV. I enjoyed the suspense movie “The Gift” with Cate Blanchette and thought she was a good example of a regular mom with an extra ability. But of course, the movie turns super dark quickly so it does feed on that fear factor for Hollywood effect. I have seen neither of these movies, but I hear the “The Hereafter” and “Men Who Stare at Goats” are somewhat more humanistic portrayals of psychic readers and their innate struggle of determining whether it is a gift or a curse. Both main characters however are men. But, I have yet to see an authentic portrayal of a female psychic reader, whether with tarot cards or other mediums portrayed in the media as the natural and holistic healers they most often are.
I do want to say very clearly that there are as many styles of Reading as there are Readers. And each person’s abilities are unique to them, so whether male or female, their particular style will match that. Whether they be coin bandana wearing Readers in gypsy wagons with crystal balls or urban type, yoga-pant wearing Readers in pilates studios, or a little of both, they have value. I myself enjoy both the straight-forward as well as theatrical approaches. However, I do look forward to seeing the evolving portrayals of spiritual healers/psychic readers in the media as a valuable resource for guidance to living a healthy and wholesome lifestyle.
Duque’s mother also recommended, “House of Spirits.” Now that’s a movie watching list you might not have time for, and if you’re not quicker than sand, Owl Tree Healings might not have time for you. You’ll miss your chance to be read by a warm and fun woman at the Edwardian Ball this Saturday if you don’t race up to her booth and sign up for a time before her dance card is full.