‘I’m Weird, but I Get Results’: Have You Met This Wizard on the Subway?

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In New York, a city where anyone can be anything, Devin Person is a self-proclaimed professional wizard.

On a Sunday afternoon in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Greenpoint, Mr. Person — looking more Merlin than Harry Potter, with his plush robe and scraggly white beard — led about three dozen people in meditation.

He encouraged them to “sample the flavors and energy of each cloud formation as if you were walking around Costco’s different free sample stations,” to float “like Michael Phelps diving into the pool” and to wear a smile “like the sun on the Raisin Bran box.”

As a modern “wizard,” Mr. Person, 33, holds group sessions, like the recent meditation and Wizarding Hour in Greenpoint. He speaks to companies. He officiates weddings. He reads tarot and performs hypnosis. He hosts a podcast. He once planned an “edible enhanced” walkabout in Central Park.

He will also show up if someone wants to “have fun hanging out with a wizard.” He generally charges $150 for a one-on-one meeting, or $400 to $500 to create a ritual, but sometimes offers services pro bono.

“I try to think, ‘What would a wizard do in the modern era?’” he said.


“Talk to the wizard,” Mr. Person’s sign reads, “because no one meets a wizard by accident.”CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times

In recent years, new-age pursuits — crystals, sound baths, astrology — have shed their stigma and seemingly become ubiquitous among swaths of city dwellers. Even venture capitalists are putting money into what one investor called the “mystical services market.”

It is in this environment that Mr. Person, the zany kind of character who makes New York distinctive, offers his services with a hefty wink. He would not disclose his “wizarding” salary, but said, “I do other work so I don’t have to distort my magic into an endless sales pitch.”

“Wizards are people helpers,” he said. “They are who the hero encounters on their journey, and they’re able to give the hero a bit of advice, maybe a magical artifact, some sort of assistance that helps the hero get over their obstacle and on their journey.”

Mr. Person had long been interested in the occult and spirituality when, in 2014, he decided to “hatch an egg” of something to pursue alongside his day job at the website creator Squarespace, now as an associate product manager.

So, after making his way through an exhaustive list of new-age books, Mr. Person started holding “occult consulting” sessions with friends and friends of friends, eventually expanding to dozens and dozens of clients. He described his transformation as “reaching out through time and space and across the dimensional barrier to make contact with the most wizardly possibility of myself.”

That meant, he said, functioning as a mentor and listener. (The word “wizard” comes from the Middle English “wys,” or “wise.”)

Mr. Person posted on Facebook that he was offering coaching services. Not long after, a childhood friend from Indiana reached out.

The friend, Sahil Bhatia, said he was “in a deep depression and crisis of faith.” The two men discussed strategies like “set five goals per day” that Mr. Bhatia could use to feel fulfilled.


Mr. Person posing with Amber Leon in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times

“The lower pressure and informal nature of it was much different,” Mr. Bhatia said. “That was really helpful to me.”

Mr. Person stresses that he is not a therapist and that he generally offers just one session to participants, which he frames as, “This is the moment in your life where you encounter a wizard, and this has the potential to change a lot and we’re going to talk about it.”

He added, “I’m weird, but I get results.”

Quirk attracts quirk. Charles Philipp, a co-founder of Micro, which builds six-foot-tall museums, hired Mr. Person last year to appear at the company’s factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“There’s the idea and the gift of pulling people out of their daily routine,” Mr. Philipp said. “No one does that like a large bearded man in a pointed hat and a robe.”

The clothing is a costume, but the facial hair is not. In 2015, a joint disease in Mr. Person’s left knee flared up. Doctors gave him medication, but there was a caveat: It would turn his dark-brown hair Santa Claus white.

The perfect color locks for a wizard.

“I started a tap dance in his office. I think he was surprised,” said Mr. Person, who also legally changed his last name as part of his new identity; it comes from the “Person is awake” line in New York City’s guide to helping someone who is choking.

As a child, Mr. Person was “into the whimsicality of life,” his friend Mr. Bhatia recalled. “He would dress up, have his hair gelled up in some strange way, wear tacky sunglasses, clashing beach shorts, that kind of thing. Even then, I think he was dancing to the beat of his own drum.”


Mr. Person wearing his wizarding hat and robe on the subway. Some commuters chat with him about “deep, interesting things — their dreams, their wishes,” according to one rider. Others feign indifference.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times

At Squarespace, Mr. Person dresses in what he calls “wizness casual” or “urban Jedi” — kurta, kimono jackets and other flowing clothing. But during his commute, he sometimes dons his robe and hat, and offers “spells” to subway riders that range in theme from family and career to dating and health.

The sign he hoists on the subway reads: “Talk to the wizard, because no one meets a wizard by accident.”

Matt Levy and Jennifer MacFarlane, both native New Yorkers, spotted Mr. Person on a J train.

“It was one of those magical things that doesn’t happen much in New York, especially on the train,” Ms. MacFarlane said. “Everyone is on their phone, but this opened up some other dimension. Everyone was chatting about deep, interesting things — their dreams, their wishes.”

There are, of course, skeptics and those who feign indifference. Recently, Mr. Person said, he sat across from a commuter reading a Harry Potter book. “I was like: ‘Oh, come on! There are four people on this train! You’ve got to notice there’s a wizard!’” he said. “But she just literally walked off the train.”

Back at the Wizarding Hour in Greenpoint, held at a space called Magick City, the smell of burning sage hung in the air. A 20-foot-wide circle was drawn in chalk on the floor, and adorned with zodiac symbols and the word “wizard.”

Guests including Mr. Person’s fiancée, a poet named Lisa Ann Markuson, lounged on pillows near the circle or sat on benches beyond its perimeter.

They ate snacks, listened to poetry and played icebreaker games. Then came the meditation session. About 30 minutes later, their eyes slowly opened.

“I hope you feel the wizardry in you,” Mr. Person concluded.

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