Two months ago, when a tarot card told Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett that he should slow down and focus on his spirituality, Bartlett let out an exasperated yelp. The only way that was going to happen, he thought at the time, was if he won the lottery.
Yesterday, a day after he announced that he was one of four winners of a $330 million Mega Millions prize, Bartlett was back at the White Marsh New Age shop where the tarot cards foretold his future. Frustrated no longer, Bartlett says he now has the time he needs to contemplate life, as well as a few other matters.
"I've received one marriage proposal, there was one woman who wanted to sleep with me, and one person who wants me to adopt him," said the soon-to-be former accountant.
Lottery officials will meet with Bartlett tomorrow to confirm his winning ticket. He's not sure whether he wants to take the lump sum of $49 million or an annuity, which would pay him $3.7 million a year until 2032.
But Bartlett said he knows how at least some of the money will be spent: helping shop owners Lori and Mick Perdue expand Mystickal Voyage to include a holistic healing center and yoga studio. The store has been open for about a year and already expanded once with the addition of a coffee shop. It's there that Bartlett regularly hosts "dragon coffee klatches" and conducts Reiki treatments, a form of Japanese energy healing.
Yesterday, drinks were on Bartlett. Herbal teas, that is.
"We're just ecstatic. No one deserves this more than Bunky," said Mick Perdue.
Through the store, Lori Perdue said she has met thousands of fellow Pagans and others interested in alternative religion, from all walks of life. They say they're hoping the attention from the lottery win and improvements to Mystickal Voyage will help attract new customers and dispel misconceptions about Pagans.
"There's far more [people interested in the Pagan religion] than you think," said Lori Perdue. "Five times a week, we have customers come in who are in the 'figuring it out' mode, who are pulling away from how they were raised and seeking deeper meaning. We want people to feel comfortable and welcome."
Bartlett is a practitioner of Wicca, a nature-based religion of magic and witchcraft. There are an estimated 800,000 Neo-Pagans in the United States, the largest subset being Wiccans.
Bartlett calmly sipped a cup of iced tea yesterday morning as two reporters waited to interview him and Lori Perdue fielded calls from accountants and television stations trying to set up meetings. One customer wanted to know what all the commotion was about.
"Did you hear that someone in the area won the Mega Millions?" Mick Perdue asked. "That's him."
Bartlett raised his cup nonchalantly. "Wow! that's awesome - congratulations!" the customer said.
In the background, Bartlett's 18-year-old daughter, Ashley, hovered with a video camera. She takes television production courses, and her teacher asked her to produce a segment on the family's good fortune. She has already parlayed the winnings into a new car, though she said she hopes the family doesn't change.
"It's a lot to comprehend," she said, adding, "I don't want to turn into Nicole Ritchie or Paris Hilton."
The commotion later died down, and Bartlett settled in to lead his discussion group, which included one newcomer who said he was having trouble reconciling his beliefs with his Catholic upbringing. Bartlett didn't try to steer the man toward any particular religion, instead offering resources to help him find his own way.
"I can't stress this enough - get off the Internet and go to a li-brar-y!" he barked, his media-shy wife, Denise, seated next to him.
Inevitably, the conversation sometimes found its way back to that lottery ticket, though.
"I'm just going to live my life," he told the group, when asked how the money might change things. "I'm not going anywhere. Any other questions, nonlottery related?"