Call them seers, astrologers, psychics, mediums or clairvoyants. Whatever term you use for people who work to discern the future, know that this occupation has been around since the dawn of recorded history.
In the ancient world, psychics were often members of the royal court or regularly consulted by the rulers before making decisions both large and small — what crops to plant, which officials to hire, which battles to wage. But while royal psychics were much-heralded, their position was also risky. If they recommended a battle that the empire subsequently lost, for example, they might be fired, jailed or even killed [sources: Hathaway, Guiley].
Since the work of a psychic involved communicating with an entity in another world, the profession was condemned by the monotheistic religions that later emerged: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Texts that are central to these religions viewed psychics as evil, since only God is supposed to know the future. In 785, the Catholic Church outlawed the use of sorcerers in settling disputes [source: Guiley].
Today there are signs advertising psychic readings in innumerable towns around the globe. Some people view such psychics simply as entertainers with no real power, while others see them as charlatans taking money from gullible people. Still others take them seriously. Studies on whether psychic powers exist are inconclusive. Yet some professional psychics have been used by police departments and other crime-solving groups with apparent success [sources: Radford].