By Chrissy Tolley 

Photo by Caressa Chester


I got home from a vacation in New Orleans last week. I wasn’t sure if any spirits followed me back, but God knows it wouldn’t be the first time. I saged myself in my backyard while scanning my aura. I did a reading for a new client while I was there, and sure enough, her dead Mexican grandmother was still hanging out with me. I asked Jesus and Archangel Michael to cut any unnecessary cords and, forced to exit, she saw her way out.

More than one stranger I met on vacation asked me what I do for a living, and I faltered every time. Saying, “I’m a psychic intuitive who utilizes mediumship and angelic channeling to facilitate healing, but my long-term goal is to specialize in exorcism” is weird, so I said, “I work in medical insurance billing.” Both are true.

I launched my business as a psychic intuitive two weeks ago, and was immediately contacted by a friend of a friend in an emergency. An evil spirit possessed her home, and she’d tried every trick in the book to get rid of it. Deep cleaning, saging corners, sprinkling salt. The dog kept barking at nothing, and objects were misplaced around the kitchen sans reason. Could I help?

I wasn’t scheduling clients for another two weeks. More important, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. But she had an infant daughter, and worst-case scenario, I couldn’t make it worse. We deescalated the spirit that night with minimal guidance and prayer, and created a game plan to make sure it disappeared for good.  To be clear: if exorcising a house of a spirit is the Russian Ballet, I’m still a preschooler in a tutu. Don’t call me if your century-old house keeps driving away tenants. I need more practice still, and I’m not sacrificing my safety for your mortgage. Whether I realized it at the time or not, I've played that game before and lost. 

I lived in New Orleans for six months. I was supposed to stay forever, which was a laughable plan. My advice for anyone who wants to move to New Orleans is comprised in the following questions:

Are you white?

Do you develop anxiety in large, drunken groups?

Do you dislike live music because you have to stand the whole time and no one can hear you and, you guys, it’s three in the morning and now the Uber surge pricing is on?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, do not move to New Orleans.

The author as a wildly depressed teacher in New Orleans, November 2015

The author as a wildly depressed teacher in New Orleans, November 2015

I’ve written about why I left New Orleans a year and a half ago. I left out the possession part.

I’m not sure how to introduce this concept, so I'm just going to go for it: a lot of people are possessed. Far, far more people than you think. It’s not like the scary movie with a cheek-sunken girl and a shaky priest sent in after her with holy water. It’s everyday depressed people, addicted people, schizophrenic people. People in your actual life. That’s why I want to specialize in depossession. Because it’s real, and I’ve been there.

When I moved back to Tucson, I scheduled an appointment with a shaman. Don Pedro Gonzalez was a powerful healer from central Mexico, and travelled to Tucson every few months to heal clients. He wore plaid button down shirts and kept his long hair in a big bun and smiled bigger and more honestly than anyone I’d ever met. I say “was” intentionally; he died in the fall of 2016, in his sixties. I didn’t know he was going to die the last time I saw him. I’m not sure what I would have done differently if I’d known.

My sessions with clients are like therapy, except usually they cry and then I make a bad metaphor and then we talk about trauma. Sessions with Don Pedro were not like a therapy. Don Pedro healed disease, daily. He made all of his clients remove their jewelry beforehand because he worked with the lightning god and didn’t want anyone to get electrocuted. He used a pendulum to diagnose your chakras, then chanted over you until they were cleared out. The entire process took two hours, and ended with him whispering, “I’m going to leave you here for a little bit while the angels congratulate you, okay? Okay.” Then he’d lay a foot-long crystal on your sternum and pat you on the head, like a good kid.

I arrived at my last session with Don Pedro in a better place than I’d been the month before, or so I believed. After saging my feet, saying a prayer, and spreading the smoke around with an eagle feather, he looked into my eyes and declared, “Mmm. Not good.” He waved his hands around my temples, summarizing. “Very dark blue and black. What’s going on?”

I was suicidal. I ended up in the psych ward. I just moved home. “I thought I was getting better,” I admitted.

Don Pedro nodded. Then he told me a story.

“I went to the bank a little while ago. Okay?”


“And there’s a long line at the bank. And I just want to deposit the checks. I don’t want to do anything else at the bank, I just want to deposit the checks and go home.”

“Yeah?” I’m not sure where this gripping bank tale is going. 

“But my guides show me this woman, she’s at the front of the line. And she is not good, and they tell me she needs my help. So I say ‘Fine.’” He threw up his hands. “Even if I don’t want to, because I want to go. But she is leaving and I say, ‘Your angels want you to know that tomorrow, everything will be okay. Everything will be okay tomorrow.' And she cries and cries and tells me she just took all her money out of the bank, because she wanted to kill herself that night.”

“Oh. Wow.”  

“So that’s why I do what I do. I have to listen. I have to trust. That’s what I do.”

I wouldn’t figure out the story was a warning until later.

“Let’s get you up, hmm?” He stood.

An hour later I’m lying on a massage table. Don Pedro’s open palm is six inches above my face. He sounds worried.

“Did anyone close to you die? Recently?”

“My grandma died…three years ago, I guess.”

He shakes his head. “This is not your sadness.” He clears his throat, preparing. “Stand here.”

I prop myself on my forearms, groggy from an hour of meditative chanting. He grabs his foot-long crystal from the coffee table and holds it above his head like a sword.

“EXCALIBER!”, he yells.

I recognize I should be moving faster.

“Great Spirit! Archangel Michael! I use Excaliber to detach this lost soul from her body!” He starts making crisscrossing motions across my chest. He physically grabs hold of the air in front of my chest, and somehow more, and begins pulling an invisible rope. “Archangel Gabriel! I ask that you take this spirit to the other side. Let her burden be light, and let her rest be full.”

There’s more prayer, more crisscrossing, more air-pulling. He switches to a native language and then, satisfied, stares into my eyes for his final assessment.

“There we go!” he smiles. “Yellow again.” 

Toward the end of that session, when Don Pedro left the room and placed “Excaliber” on my sternum, I spoke to Archangel Michael. I had a vision, for lack of a more believable term. Archangel Michael informed me that I’m an ancient Celtic healer, and that now, I was ready to serve. Don Pedro entered a minute later, somehow on cue. He hummed to himself, cleansing the space with sage again. “Yes, yes,” he mumbled, hearing my experience. “You are a real-deal angel.”  He patted my head.

Later that week, I approached strangers in stores and gave them messages. I wrote a woman a letter from her dead father. I warned someone to get their ovaries checked for cancer. For the first two months my shields were low, the information was constant, and I thought it was my job to tell everyone everything I knew. If everything I knew and relayed weren’t verified as accurate, I would have admitted myself back into the psych ward, no questions asked. I felt crazy in a brand new way.

But I wasn’t depressed anymore. For the first time in eight years, I wasn’t depressed.

My friend Allie told me he passed away later that year, apologizing that she hadn’t mentioned it as soon as it happened. I wasn’t too worried about it. I knew he’d show up again.  I walked through the French Quarter last week when I felt a spirit come up behind me. “Do not try big depossession”, Don Pedro whispered. “You need real training.” 

“I know,” I responded, annoyed. “I know.” Then I checked my attitude. Spirits don’t like to be disrespected, and there are worse things than being chastised by a well-meaning medicine man. He knows full well that I’d try something big and get in way over my head.

New Orleans, July 2017

New Orleans, July 2017

I don’t know who possessed me. Don Pedro said it was a lost soul, likely one who committed suicide and then regretted it. “Sad souls go toward bright lights,” he shrugged. “Lots of spirits in New Orleans.” If I hadn’t been possessed, I would have stayed in the city longer. I would have missed Don Pedro. I wouldn’t have the gifts I have today. I don’t know who possessed me, but I suppose I should thank them.

We helped each other get home.