Maya Doytchinova says it’s often a surprise who’ll arrive next for an astrological reading. There are mothers, fathers, couples in their 80s; musicians, business executives, artists. Stories and often long-held secrets unfold in the safety of her Bowen Island studio. “The variety of people I see has been all over the map, and I love it.”
Astrology has always had a presence in Maya’s life. “My father is Bulgarian, and it’s very common to go and see your astrologer or tea leaf reader pretty regularly. We grew up with it being the norm, it was part of the culture.” Her own first tarot reading took place at a party at age seven, and a deck of tarot cards were gifted to her at 11.
Maya’s early years were spent in Utrecht, The Netherlands, a historic university city. Her father was a rock musician in Bulgaria, campaigning with his band Episode for the opposition of the Communist party. He fled to the Netherlands when the Communists later won the election and banned their music. Working from a recording studio adjacent to their Utrecht home, electric guitar often blared from his studio while Spice Girls blasted from inside the house (courtesy of Maya and her sisters).
A move to Vancouver was planned when Maya was six. Their Netherlands home was sold, and a few months were spent in Missouri, USA, prior to their relocation. “As far as culture shocks go, it was quite something. In The Netherlands, there’s more bikes than people. Missouri didn’t have sidewalks, and it took my mother weeks to find a wholewheat bread without sugar.”
They embarked on a European summer road trip, piling into a little red Peugeot before settling in Vancouver. Maya recalls the journey from Venice to Spain, where they stayed in an 800-year-old house in the Pyrenees. The back part of it had literally fallen over the mountain.
Eventually settled in Kitsilano, an 11-year-old Maya entered a professional dance programme. “I was quite late to start, but I think I was just very driven. I wanted to perform and work with my body.” Pointe shoes to sew and feet to ice were a constant, and a strict training regime took its toll.
“It was a very intense time of my life. I’d get about a day off every month, it was tough.” Maya says she was discouraged from taking the school’s graduate programme. “I was burned out, and I was asked to leave. I felt so devastated and ashamed.”
She calls it now a blessing in disguise. A break from her academy gave her time to heal, which led to a yoga teaching training course at Vancouver’s Semperviva Yoga College. Hundreds of hours of training in meditation, Thai Yoga Massage, Kundalini and prenatal yoga followed in the years after.
Maya put her training into practice on a trip to Peru, volunteering at a village north of Lima on the coast. “The village was made up of mud dome structures. What my training didn’t prepare me for were the flies! As I led everyone into savasana, no one could lie still and meditate, so I’d have to walk around swinging a towel to get the flies away.”
A few sticky situations also found Maya during her South American travels: hitchhiking with Mexican drug dealers, witnessing a fatal rafting accident and waking to an eye swollen shut from bug bites.
But it was on her return home to Canada she faced her greatest challenge, three years of severe illness stemming from a parasite infection. She moved to Bowen for the support of her parents who had relocated to the island.
“I was bedridden and got down to 38kg at one point. I was a skeleton, quite literally on my deathbed. I had lost the body I’d spent years developing, and lost my identity.”
From her bed, she delved deeper into the art of tarot and astrology, studying with master teachers online within various astrological methods and disciplines. Reflecting on her childhood, where she developed a love for history, mythology and mathematics, Maya says her attraction to the art form made sense. “Tarot cards are stories: archetypes, myths, astrology, and numbers.”
She describes tarot readings as a snapshot of someone’s life at that moment. It can offer a sense of where they are now, where they’ve come from, and how they might get to where they want to be. “We look at what’s happening at a deeper level, and how that can empower you.”
If tarot readings ‘zoom in’, birth charts ‘zoom out’, Maya says. “With astrology, it’s like zooming out and getting a higher perspective. A chart is an exploration of your own mystery and all of its possibilities.”
Maya examines patterns planets made at the exact moment of someone’s birth. “If you think about our relationship to the stars throughout history, we literally look to the stars for direction. If we’re feeling lost or need to map our way on earth, we look to the stars. Often when we’re grieving or in a moment of prayer, we look up. It’s an innate part of our nature to always be drawing our attention up in search of guidance. We uncover our true natures by looking at our charts.”
She sees her clients both in person and via Skype. What people want out of a reading is always different, she notes. Some clients have one reading for their business and one for their personal life, some want readings for their babies; others seek readings near the end of their life. Heavy stories often come to surface.
“I’ve seen clients really going through the worst of it. It could be someone who’s just lost their child, or received a cancer diagnosis. I do feel like I’m Mother Confessor sometimes. But when people share these stories, it’s important to know that I go with you, I don’t hold the pain for you. When we delve deeper, we do it together, and people always leave feeling lighter.”
Maya says scepticism of astrology is common, but she embraces it. “You should always be sceptical. Even I have always approached it with scepticism. I’ve questioned it for years, but it always catches me by surprise how it proves itself time and time again.
“Readings are really about revealing your story and the role you play within it. We don’t just look at what is written, but we read between, above, and below the lines, so we can edit, add, and rewrite freely.”
Her reading services have grown organically, mainly through word of mouth. Between work from her studio, she acts as The Well and Nectar Yoga’s in-house astrologer and tarot reader (where she regularly teaches yoga at their mid-island retreat, too).
Living on Bowen strikes a perfect balance between social and solo time, Maya notes. There’s enough opportunities to connect with others, just as there is enough space to enjoy the quiet of the forest. “It’s a special place composed of kind community and natural abundance. It’s the perfect home for what I do.”
Find Maya: mayadoytchinova.com
This story was originally published on WomenClan.com by New Zealand journalist Nicole Barratt.