October 4, 2022

IntecStudio

Buzz The Music

Honing my psychic powers at the Central Calif. music fest

“There is no better place to practice your intuition than a festival,” psychic healer Lianda Swain says to an overflowing, open air tent, dubbed “The Oracle Cauldron,” at Lightning in a Bottle music and arts festival. 

She was right. And not just because LIB’s learning and culture lineup promised more than 80 immersive experiences on divination, intuition, and Earth’s natural wonders. But with around 25,000 people packed into a campground during a Mercury retrograde, telepathy might’ve been nearly as reliable as the cell service. 

For almost two decades, LIB, presented by The Do Lab outside Bakersfield, has been known as California’s premier five-day electronic dance music and camping festival. With stars like GRiZ, Chet Faker and Kaytranada topping the lineup, its 19th year lived up to its reputation for heavy musical hitters and, as one festivalgoer put it, “beats that can rearrange your cells and align your chakras.” But for the creators, artists and attendees I spoke to, accessing divine inspiration was the other headlining experience.  

Going to a festival just shy of my 35th birthday takes a lot of inner knowing, and begs questions like, “Am I too old for this? And will my knees make it?” Ironically, I felt sure the answer to both questions was no. And I was right. I’m still icing my knee and I can’t wait to go back again.

The signs and synchronicities that I was in the right place began before we even got our wristbands. As my friend and I waited in line at the box office late Wednesday afternoon, the very first person we talked to was a gong player from Mount Shasta who went to the same little-known retreat in Peru where I met my festival camping partners, Ashley and Joshua, earlier in the year during a yoga teacher training. We took it as a sign that this experience would be similarly memorable, filled with people who could be family. 

Find your way home


Sometimes referred to as “Burning Man lite,” at LIB festivalgoers also create makeshift neighborhoods as they set up tents and shade shelters on a massive dusty lot just outside the festival entrances. By the time we made it inside the Buena Vista Lake Recreation Campground, the sun had set, so picking our camping spot was a matter of feeling our way. Call it luck or psychic intuition, but we snagged a spot close enough to the entrance so we could pop back to camp easily, but far enough away from the rowdiest of partiers. We were also near the bathrooms and the area where organizers were selling ice and other camping essentials. We felt as lucky as if we had snagged a rent-controlled apartment in … well, any SF neighborhood. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

The next day, the heat was in the triple digits and wind whipped dust into tornadoes, so by noon we grabbed the paddleboard and sought refuge at the lake inside the festival gates where early arrivers were already dancing to DJ sets. 

There were a couple workshops on intuition and the oracle arts I wanted to hit in the afternoon, but I couldn’t access the schedule on my phone and it seemed paper maps and festival signs were still being printed. Programming starts as early as Wednesday, but the festival really hits its stride by Friday.

“I told my friend Moonshine I’d meet her around the Beacon Stage, wherever that is,” Ashley said as we pushed off into the lake. 

“Oh I think that’s around where I need to go, too. Maybe the wind will take us there.” That was about all we had energy for in this triple digit heat. 

We let our board drift until it marooned around 100 yards down the shore in front of a much chiller portion of the festival that I’d later come to know as the Compass, where, in fact, the workshops on my list were being held and where Moonshine was working the alcohol-free elixir bar. 

With a meditation grove, a massive fire pit, a “witch’s hut” of herbal remedies, a shaded sound bath and smaller lakeside stages, The Compass was the oasis among glorious festival chaos we needed to acclimate to this adult Disneyland … and our first big crowd since quarantine. 

I’d later learn at the “Doorway to Oracle Arts” workshop that by speaking our desires aloud, Ashley and I were practicing “abracadabra,” which literally translates to “I create as I speak.” This psychic magic thing was already working. 

Tied up in our minds

As a tarot card reader and astrology writer who was raised by an even witchier mother, I’ve always felt a little psychic. But I didn’t always have the words for this abstract sense of inner knowing until I went to Swain’s workshop that afternoon and heard from countless others who also feel enhanced — even supernatural — intuition. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Photo by Brian Ngo; Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

Audience members spoke of how they “just know” things, what the psychics call “claircognizance,” or clear knowing. Or how feelings in their gut give information that defies reason or logic (clairsentience). Some said their intuition speaks to them in a whisper or through music (clairaudience), while others get visions or dreams that tell the future (clairvoyance). 

I experience claircognizance, clairsentience and clairvoyance quite a bit, especially with the help of tarot study. But I’m also wrong sometimes. For me, and like all mere magical mortals, overthinking can drown out what Swain calls our all-knowing, all-seeing highest inner authority. And according to Isis Indriya, owner of Academy of Oracle Arts and co-director of the Compass’s educational programming, psychic knowledge usually speaks in riddles, making ego and reason the easier, more seductive way to operate. 

But Swain and Indriya confirmed what I already knew: You can enhance your intuition through practice … and a whole lot of trust. 

The homework for amplifying our innate metaphysical powers? Well, Swain says it’s as easy and fun as going on a date with the universe at a festival, or in everyday life, and letting intuition guide you. Conveniently, dancing is also one of her other top tips for accessing intuitive insights. Psychic intuition, it turns out, needs an active and willing dance partner. 

“Allow yourself to surrender to your intuition so you can practice what it feels like to be guided by something bigger than you. And see what happens,” she said.  

Death to the ego, love is the weapon

My date with the LIB universe led me to a ritual theater performance on the story of Mary Magdalene that gave me full-body shivers and deja vu for almost two hours. It guided me to daily Kundalini classes to clear my energetic field. I teleported in the Om Shan Tea Lounge to a world away as Mizuho Sato danced the flamenco. Intuition had me body rolling to Lizzy Jeff’s cosmic rhymes, soaring high to Big Wild’s lush, spiritual soundscapes, and feeling my chakras align to body-vibrating beats of CloZee, Black Coffee and so many others. But mostly it led me on my life’s path, talking to artists and fellow attendees about how they commune with the divine.  

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Photo by Eric Allen; Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

Whether you call it prayer, a wish, or an intention, every workshop leader I saw spoke about the importance of writing down or saying aloud why you’re here and what you’re looking for. But, Swain cautions, the universe doesn’t always give us what we want; instead it gives us what we need. So she suggests making your festival intention accordingly. 

That evening at the opening fire ceremony, I made a wish for heart-expanding connection and inspiration — two things I both want and can’t live without.

There are as many ways to talk to “Source” as there are names for what that word represents. Whether you call it God, your higher self, or your ancestors, the general consensus is that we all have the ability to access this all-knowing wisdom. Swain says you just have to quiet egoic thoughts and figure out how it speaks to you specifically.

“I dream things before they happen.” 

“I get visions in the shower.”

“It’s a voice in my head. Sometimes it sounds like Morgan Freeman.”

Everyone I talked to or heard speak on stage had a story of everyday magic and a theory about psychic power. One idea that resonated with me was from Michelle Meadow Love, an energy healer who was offering reiki out of the festival’s healing haven tent.

“We’re already far enough ahead in our timeline, so it’s just my physical self catching up,” she told me as she described the psychic events that led her to the festival. “We’re accessing the future because we’re just remembering.” If that sounds confusing, Swain says intuition defies reason and logic. 

Reading the tarot 

Before heading to the festival, I turned to my tarot deck and asked the cards what I needed to know. I pulled the six of wands, which shows a man on a horse riding through a crowd of supporters. (Not unlike an old-timey festival.) It’s a card of triumph through work, of good news, and is of special significance to writers, since wands are the suit of ideas, inspiration and sharing a message.

Meanwhile, my favorite astrology app said that my career and creativity were being amplified over the next few days. I took it all to mean that I’d be successful with this article … but that it wouldn’t necessarily come easily. (Which is why you’re not reading this last week like I planned.)

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Photo by Eric Allen; Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

The first day of the festival, I offered simple, one-card tarot readings to strangers and the six of wands showed up three more times, back to back. In journalism, three makes a trend, and in numerology, three represents creativity, communication and the death-life-rebirth cycle. Even after extensive shuffling, the six of wands wanted to be seen. To me, that meant an important message that the festival’s inspired programming might unlock a gentler, more connected life. 

Channeling the divine on the daily seems like something we should all do to help us come into a balanced relationship with ourselves, but how can it help you, say, find your friends in a massive festival crowd?

Chloe, a yoga teacher from San Francisco who was working in LIB’s tea lounge, shared one such festival magic trick. “When I get separated from my friends, I imagine a chord of light,” she said as she poured me tea. “I visualize using it to pull them towards me. It usually works.” 

I tried something similar since our festival comrade Joshua was arriving after us on Friday and I initially had no idea how he’d find our tent in a sea of identical shade shelters. With no cell service, my text wasn’t delivered, but I’m pretty sure what led Joshua to us were the vibes. I just imagined it being as easy as following the light. 

When I asked if he had any trouble, Joshua replied, “You know I’m all intuition.” 

Even this pragmatic Capricorn who works as a financial adviser has the force. And if the three of us could find each other randomly in Peru, clearly the universe was conspiring to pull us together. 

Just be as you are, just do as you do

After the mantra meditation wrapped up on the first sunset of the festival, I heard a shirtless 20-something say as he left the meditation grove, “That was exactly what I didn’t know I needed.” 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

Which is another lesson of intuition: let it surprise you. 

Of course, intuition doesn’t always lead you to the best time ever, or help you find your friends in the midst of festival chaos. Swain spoke of it sometimes putting you in the path of someone who needs your essence. 

On Friday night, at the end of Big Wild’s love-drunk set, Ashley turned to me and said she felt called to go back to camp for a moment to recharge before Glass Animals and late-night sets. 

We had barely sat down when I heard what sounded like my sibling yell, “Here! They’re over here! Oh my God.” 

Just then a fire truck and ambulance screeched to a halt right in front of our campsite and medic crews sprinted to a camp a couple tents away. With emergency response crews swirling around us, there was nothing to do, so Ashley suggested we pray. When we first met, we bonded over our love of mantra and this chaotic moment felt like the time to pull one out. 

We started singing “Ra Ma Da Sa Say So Hung,” which is a mantra that calls in the energy of the sun, moon, Earth and infinity to bring total healing. We didn’t know who was in trouble or how, but we knew they could use all the energy we could send them. And for me, it was a way to transcend a triggering, scary circumstance. 

A woman in her early twenties emerged from a neighboring campsite, wrapped in a blanket. She told us she tried ecstasy for the first time, got separated from her friends and was scared. There’ll be other concerts (and at this point, even two more nights of festival fun). There will be times our intuition leads us to the time of our life. For now, it was asking us to be steady, prepared older sisters—archetypes we just so happen to be born to play. So we busted out snacks and water and made a welcoming home in the dust. 

I hope if my family is ever scared or lonely in an unfamiliar place, they’ll find an older sister in a stranger, too. Maybe this moment was helping ensure that, because I couldn’t shake a deja vu feeling.

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Scenes from the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, which was held at Buena Vista Lake, near Bakersfield, from May 25 to 30, 2022. 

Photo by Brian Ngo; Courtesy of Lighting in a Bottle Festival

The night wore on and we passed a joint just as the sound of Glass Animal’s second most popular song, “Gooey,” echoed from the Lightning stage. 

“Truth be told
I’ve been here, I’ve done this all before
I take your gloom
I curl it up and puff it into plumes”

This was my first time at Lightning in a Bottle, but I got the distinct sense I had been here before. It was right where I needed to be and I felt as beautiful as I do when I’m dancing to my favorite song. 

Amy Copperman is a writer and artist based in Oakland, Calif. Find her on Instagram.