There are no tie-dye kaftans or wafts of incense the day I meet Santa. She is wearing faded jeans, a T-shirt and cute trainers, and is all warm smiles with a positively glowing complexion - a great ad for her GTG Queen of Creams column.
We begin by talking about her favourite find: L'Oreal Nude Magique BB Cream, £9.99 ( www.loreal.co.uk ), a snip for an instant glow, so I can't wait to hear what she thinks of their soon to be launched CC cream. But that conversation will have to wait; we're here to talk about all things spiritual - not something we discuss openly or often…
CT: What is your definition of being psychic?
SM: “It's a sixth sense. Put simply, everything in the universe has an energetic vibration. The slower the vibration the more solid the substance, the higher the vibration the lighter the substance. So at one end of the scale would be a table, for instance; at the other, a rainbow. Being psychic is being aware of that lighter vibration by tuning into a higher frequency.”
CT: Do you believe we are all psychic?
SM:“Yes. It's a question of focus. Most children are psychic - they have imaginary friends they talk to, they see and feel things. At puberty, we tend to lose that sense and become focused on the material world as adults. Some are born 'gifted', and in the same way some of us seem born to play the piano, to some, psychic abilities come easily. Others have to work hard at accessing it, but we all have it.”
CT: Tell us about your first psychic experiences
SM: “As a child I was always aware of spirits in my room at night. I would wake up in that 'not really there' state, see them and hear their voices. As soon as I switched the light on, they were gone. My heart would be racing, and I would be frightened, but somehow I knew they wouldn't do any harm. I now know they hadn't gone - I'd 'grounded' myself by switching on the light, so was no longer tuned into them.”
CT: How did your logical brain react?
SM: “I didn't really think about it; it seemed entirely normal. I grew up in the country, and it was a bit like hearing an owl in the wood, it was part of everyday experience.”
CT: Did you tell your family? Were they receptive?
SM: “I didn't say anything at the time. As I got older, around the age of 12 or 13, I became more interested in the esoteric and I would talk to my father about life after death. I started reading books such as Initiation by Elisabeth Haich, £16.99 (Aurora Press, www.amazon.co.uk ) and My Life As A Medium, £8.99 (HarperCollins, www.waterstones.com ) and Mind Magic (£9.99, HarperCollins, www.waterstones.com ) by Betty Shine. All brilliant if you're interested in understanding these feelings.”
CT: You have a mentor who is helping you develop your psychic skills. How does that work?
SM: “In my 20s, I realised meditation was the key to all of this, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do it. I was working in a store on Bond Street at the time, and an old friend walked in. We met for dinner and talked for hours about psychic things. He was far more developed than I was and introduced me to Susan Dabbs who became my guru. She has taught me to meditate and connect with my angels and spirit guide [Santa explains he is a native American Indian named Totem, in full feathered headdress]. I can now read Tarot; see aura; pick up on energy from a photograph or piece of jewellery, all of which reveal a lot. It's a big responsibility and I still feel I have much to learn, so I only work with friends and family.”
CT: How do you handle complete cynics?
SM: “I don't try to explain. It would be like boring someone at a dinner party by talking about art when they're not interested. I don't need to convert anyone. I can't prove any of it and I don't mind whether they believe it or not.”
CT: What have been your most revelatory psychic experiences and how have they shaped your life?
SM: “It's definitely when spirits come through: a friend of mine who had died of a brain tumour came to me, along with his cousin and father. I had never met his father, yet I got his nickname which I verified afterwards. We were able to communicate for about an hour in meditation. It's not like a normal conversation, more of a presence, with answers to questions flowing into my mind. I've seen my grandmother many times too. It's comforting because I know we don't 'lose' anyone. Those we love don't disappear, they're a thought away because they're not bound by the physical body.
“Also, I've had incredible 'out of body' experiences. One night, I couldn't sleep, and went into a deep meditation. Suddenly I was jolting forwards out of my body, moving up fast to the ceiling and went right through it while I could see myself lying in bed below. It's the weirdest thing, yet at the same time, familiar. It feels totally natural, as though you've done it before, like awakening a memory. I think this is what it must feel like when we die.”
CT: It must be hard to believe…
SM: “After three years of working with Sue I would still question what happened at sessions. But there was a turning point when I began to trust. Sue lit a stick of incense, placed it on the table in front of me then told me to ask my spirit guide to step into my auric field. As soon as he did, he changed the vibration around me and the smoke ascended into a perfectly straight line. When he stepped out, it billowed about. I cried as it was the first real proof of his presence.”
CT: Do you believe in angels?
“Yes. They are around all the time, guiding us. There is an elaborate hierarchy: you only really need to know you have a guardian angel and a spirit guide who have been with you through all your incarnations. Your spirit guide is with you all the time, working through intuition, but you need to ask angels to help you. I regularly call on the 'parking angel'. My husband (the historian, Simon Sebag Montefiore) thinks it's preposterous. But, in three years of living in a notoriously difficult area of London to park, I always get a space.”
CT: Are 'deja vu' moments psychic experiences or just coincidence?
SM: “I think one has to assume nothing is coincidence. I would say deja vu moments are memories from past lives.”
CT: What about dreams - are they our sub-conscious processing the day or can they be 'premonitions'?
SM: “Dreams are very complex. Many are the mind processing the day, some are more significant. It could be a loved one making a visit (often the only way they can contact us is through dreams), memories from past lives or premonitions. They can also be messages from your guide. It depends on the intensity of the dream. If it's vivid and stays with you for a long time after you have woken up, it could be meaningful.”
CT: Can you explain the difference between Tarot, crystal balls, palm reading?
SM: “They are all different 'tools' psychics use to read messages from their spirit guides. I've found Tarot works for me - it isn't just a matter of picking up cards in a shop. You have to work with them, and tune in psychically. Each reader has his own interpretation, so a sitter can get the same message from two different Tarot readers via different cards. Looking into a crystal ball is known as skrying [from the old English word 'descry' which means to see] and palm reading is similar to tuning into the vibrational energy from jewellery, or a photograph and comes under tasseography [derived from 'tasse', the French word for cup, and includes tea leaf and coffee grind readings].”
CT: What about crystals?
SM: “They've been in the earth for thousands of years and have enormous power, which we harness in radios and watches for example. They are great for absorbing negative energy in the home. I use clear quartz next to my television and computer, and have rose quartz by the bed, as it has very loving properties. I also clear space by burning incense, my favourite is Nag Champa Incense, £1.50 ( www.wildeones.com ).”
CT: Is there a 'dark side' to all of this?
SM: “Of course. Where there is positive, there is negative and like attracts like, so if you do these things with love, integrity and openness, that's what you get back. If you do it mischievously, or you want to be scared, you can attract negative energy.”
CT: When would you recommend seeing a psychic and what sort of guidance can be given?
SM: “Remember it is about your spiritual wellbeing. If you are having trouble with someone negative at work, you can learn how to protect yourself. Or, you can ask about enhancing your life with crystals. If someone close to you has died, it can be very healing to have messages passed on through spirit. It won't help with material things, like money or finding a new man, or if you go out of curiosity. A proper psychic will tell you the truth and might say things you don't want to hear in that moment, and you can 'twist' things because suggestion is a very powerful thing. A reading is about where you are now, and things change.”
CT: What's the best way to find a 'good' psychic?
SM: “Through personal recommendation only. Beware of fortune tellers - the 'end of the pier' type thing. It's not a game. There are no qualifications for this, and you can be ripped off, but there are also brilliant people out there.”
CT: Are there any myths you'd love to explode?
SM: “That being psychic isn't weird. A big breakthrough for me was reading Eckhart Tolle's books - they had a profound effect on me - particularly A New Earth: Create A Better Life, £9.99 ( www.amazon.co.uk ). He defines religion as a set of rules, and spirituality as a state of consciousness. Everyone is psychic because we are all beings of light, it's whether we choose to tap into it.”
You can contact Santa via her website www.santamontefiore.co.uk