For a very long time, Claudie-Anne Irondelle thought she was peculiar. She wondered if she was crazy, or even possessed by a demon. But one day she realised that her ability to read people’s souls was a gift. She now uses her skills as a medium to help other people master life’s crises.
“When I’m connected to someone medially, I become that person. I’m able to experience their feelings, anxieties, and suffering. It’s like being able to tune in to the exact right radio frequency,” says Irondelle. The 38-year old is wearing jeans and a simple long-sleeved shirt. Her appearance is not remotely out of the ordinary, and certainly nothing like the stereotype of a mystic or clairvoyant.
A narrow path next to a hedge, then down a flight of stairs into a basement – that’s the way to Irondelle’s studio in the village of Collex-Bossy, an agricultural area in the canton of Geneva. There are no crystals or talismans. Irondelle describes herself as a “pure medium”. Special aids are unnecessary; she says a name or a photograph suffices. Her only tool is a memo pad to jot down notes.
“I write down everything that I perceive. People are like an open book. Their energy has no secrets,” says Irondelle, who is married with two children.
In Irondelle’s view, it is incorrect to speak of what she can do as some kind of an “extraordinary power”. This would imply a sort of superiority, which she steadfastly maintains that she does not have. Instead, she prefers to speak of a “potential” that allows her to envision the past and future of a person.
“I just want to help people go forward in their lives. I never tell anyone what they should do: each person holds their future in their own hands,” she explained. Although it hasn’t always been easy, Irondelle finally found her own life path after deciding to turn her gift into her profession by becoming a medium.
Born in Geneva and raised in the canton of Vaud, Irondelle’s childhood was difficult. Her parents were often embarrassed by the things she said to friends and relatives.
“I understood straightaway with whom I was dealing. I understood who I needed to be suspicious of, even if I was being treated lovingly. I prophesised bad things, such as deaths and accidents. So I came across like a messenger of misfortune,” she remembers.
“People told me I was twisted. At one point I asked myself if I was crazy,” she says. One of her grandmothers, who was extremely devout, became convinced that Irondelle was possessed by the devil. She brought Irondelle to church, but that didn’t change a thing. Then one day, when she was about 12 years old, it struck her that something out of the ordinary had happened to her. This, she believes, was the turning point in her life.
“I was with a friend in my bedroom when we heard footsteps in the next room. I said, ‘Those are the steps of my deceased grandfather.’ And quite suddenly I felt a massive energy released from my body. From some distance away, my friend noticed the heat coming through my hands and was terrified. Right at that moment my mother came into the room and asked, ‘What did you do? It’s so hot in this room.’ That was the proof to me that I hadn’t just been imagining everything.”
After her obligatory schooling was completed, Irondelle moved back to Geneva to attend a commercial school, obtaining a diploma as a receptionist. She worked in a practice for early detection of cancer for several years before changing to the field of insurance. “I hid myself in a very conventional profession in order to feel normal.”
Her moment of truth came when she was 33, after maternity leave for her first child: “I had two options: either resume my normal work or become who I really was.” At the urging of her husband she opted for the latter and earned a degree in energetic massage using the Reiki method. “I told myself that a diploma on a piece of paper would make clients feel ‘reassured’ to a certain extent.”
In the meantime, Irondelle sees about a dozen people per week. A 90-minute session costs CHF130 ($145). She treats many cases of depression and burnout. People with relationship problems or illnesses also seek her help. Often patients do not even need to speak, she said.
Intellect tunes out
“What I do is speak on the basis of a name or photograph. I communicate my knowledge very directly, which sometimes irritates people.” During the consultation the intellect is “turned off” and value judgements or thoughts are suspended. “As a medium you function completely opposite from normality. It’s as if the intellect takes a break.”
Irondelle never helps her clients work through their problems. Instead, her help consists of describing the problems and the reasons they exist. “I bring this out of people, but I’m not in a position to bring about a new way of doing things. I advise patients who want to make changes to consult a professional – a doctor or a therapist.”
Clients ask all different kinds of questions – there is no rhyme or reason to what comes up. Some people want to know the winning numbers in the lottery. Is that even possible? “It’s possible, if winning the lottery is part of your fate,” she laughs mysteriously.
Medicine and mediums complementary
Irondelle sees her work as a medium as both a calling and a passion. “Many people want to be like me,” she said. However, there is another side to her work. “Some people seek contact with me for their own purposes. They cannot differentiate between the Claudie-Anne who has a practice and the Claudie-Anne who lives a completely normal life outside of it. To protect myself from these kinds of situations, sometimes I need to pull back and be completely alone.”
Because of Irondelle’s professional activities, there is also much mistrust towards her. In point of fact, it is not easy to differentiate between legitimate therapists and charlatans. In a book on this theme, social anthropologist Magali Jenny posits that more and more people will start consulting mediums. But even traditional medicine is not as sceptical of mediums as it used to be. Some hospitals actually have lists of mediums posted on the walls.
“Doctors have become more open, at least mentally,” said Irondelle. “But many do not feel confident enough to knock on our doors yet. It’s probably due to fear of too many negative rumours. That’s a pity, because I think the work of a doctor and that of a medium could be optimal complements to one another.”
Before we bid farewell, there is one question I absolutely must ask: Is there something in her notebook about the swissinfo.ch journalist who has just visited? Irondelle answers in the affirmative. Her answer aroused my curiosity. Reading her handwritten notes, I found remarks of a general nature but also descriptions of very specific aspects of my personality. Was it the power of psychology, or supernatural abilities?
Faith healing is understood as the ability to bring about healing through prayer. It is an extremely old practice dating back to Christian antiquity or even further.
Healing aphorisms and blessings formulas used in faith healing are thought to cure or relieve a wide range of illnesses and injuries, such as burns, warts, angina and headaches, as well as certain psychological disorders.
This practice is very widespread in canton Jura. However, faith healing is also practiced in other Swiss cantons, in particular, in Catholic regions such as Fribourg, Valais and Appenzell, as well as in central Switzerland.
It is difficult to ascertain how traditional medicine perceives healers. But Swiss homes and hospitals have numerous lists with telephone numbers of healers – organised according to the illnesses that they are able to treat.
In 2012 the traditional practice of prayer healing in the cantons of Jura and Fribourg were put on the list of living traditions in Switzerland.
Switzerland signed the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008. It is aimed at preserving living forms of expression that have been passed down through the centuries and that rely on human skill. In joining, Switzerland committed to making an inventory of living traditions in the country and periodically updating it.
(Translated by Kathleen Peters)