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The History of Mediumship

Updated on December 12, 2017

For almost as long as humans have roamed the Earth, the subject of spiritual communication has been a curiosity. Everything dies, so it’s only natural that we’d want to know what’s on the other side. Some have questions that they want to find answers too. Others are searching for a moment with a lost loved one. The reasons for having interest in spiritual communication are endless, so it makes sense that there are almost just as many different methods that have been posed for doing so. It’s a topic that has been touched on by religions as well as individual people, and there are a wide variety of different theories. Just like you may have quite a few different reasons for wanting to contact the dead, the dead may have just as many reasons to want to contact you.

If spiritual communication is an interest for you, then the first thing that you should do is research. The most common thing that happens to those that attempt forms of spiritual communication is that they fail. That isn’t exactly something that most would define as a “worst case scenario,” but there are those that warn about much deeper consequences. Whether or not you believe that spiritual communication is dangerous, it’s always best to know what you’re walking into before you take that leap. As is the case with nearly anything, communicating with the spirit world does not come without a certain degree of danger. When making contact with the other side, you can never be too careful.

Family alters and the worship of ancestors is an antiquated custom weaving all through customs everywhere throughout the world. As an individual in the modern world, you may have inquiries of the dead. You may have a dearest grandparent who has gone on the following afterlife or you might be amid a troublesome circumstance. Luckily, you can converse with the dead; for their savvy knowledge and insight into your own particular life, and inspiration on the best way to advance it. There are plenty of different to options to try, ranging from simple things that you can do on your own to more complicated things that it’s best to hire a medium for.

It’s not surprising that a topic as awe-inspiring as spiritual communication makes its own appearances in folklore as well. When one single topic is on the minds of so many for so long, superstitions and stories become legend and myth. There are rituals that have been preserved in the form of folklore that hold quite a few aspects of spiritual communication.


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All through history, humans have had relationships with the dead. Since before any of us can remember (and we begin to hypothesize that our souls rise above this living world upon death) we have constantly kept the dead and their knowledge with us. The ancient Egyptians kept tombs that they designed as final homes for their dearly departed, and the family before them. Death is something that all cultures respect.
Attempts to contact the dead started very early on in the world’s history, especially in the Old Testament. The story of the Witch of Endor tells the story of a medium who summoned and brought back the dead prophet Samuel so that he could talk to Saul, the Hebrew King, and assist him on how to deal with an upcoming battle. In ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, certain priestesses and priests would act as the middle man between the Gods and Elders, helping predict wars, natural disasters, and extreme life threatening events. With this power that the priests and priestesses held, they were considered extremely respected, trusted and valued to many people of power.

There is recorded evidence of spiritual communication as early as the tenth century. The Cup of Jamshid (also referred to as Jaam-e Jam) is a cup that was said to contain an elixir that brought immortality, and it was written into existence in a historical epic called The Shahameh. This book was written in ancient pre-Islamic Persia, and was said to be used by practitioners of esoteric sciences and wizards as a means of looking at all of the seven different layers of the known universe.

A more well-known case of historical spiritual communication occurred in the late 1820s because of a man known as Joseph Smith Jr. He founded a movement known as the Latter Day Saint movement. This came to be in part because of visions that he viewed on the reflections of his seer stones. It is said that he had at least three different stones, one of which was his favorite brown one that he had quite a bit of personal history with. It was found in a neighbor’s well while he was excavating it. At first, he used these stones to assist in a variety of different treasure hunts during the early 1820s. He’d drop the stone into his hat and then press his face into the opening of the hat so that he could see what he called miraculous visions that were reflected on the surface of the stone. He was also reported to have owned a pair of spectacle glasses that were made out of seer stones, and he called them Urim and Thummum. He claimed to be able to translate the stones that the Book of Mormon was sourced from by using these seer stones.

Mediumship started gaining popularity and acknowledgement through the nineteenth century, especially in the 1840s and 1870s, when trance mediums were getting more awareness. Around this time was when the spiritual movement really started to flourish and become extremely fashionable in the United States’ which thus spread to the United Kingdom as well. The first alleged display of talking to the dead was by a woman named Margaret Fox in 1849. Margaret Fox and her sisters: Leah and Kate used rappings to communicate with the dead. They would challenge the spirit talking to them to communicate through tapings or repeating of the snaps they made with their fingers. The sisters would communicate with a presumed dead street peddler who had been murdered and buried in their cellar five years before. The three girls’ séances started to attract many other people whom claimed to be able to do the same thing the Fox sisters could do: communicate with the spirits.

These practices, however, were mostly fraudulent in this era, since it was proven that a lot of people used techniques that were instilled by stage magicians. Margaret Fox confessed that her séances had been hoaxes in 1888, and publicly showed her and her sister’s methods on how they were tricking people into believing that what they were doing was real. This caused the world of talking to spirits and being able to contact the dead to lose its credibility due to the fraudulent actions. Fraud in the practice of mediumship is still a very predominant issue an issue even in the 21st century, and only recently has fraudulent cases of communicating with the dead been uncovered from the early 2000s.

Two of the most well-known trance mediums, a form of medium where the spirit uses mental communication through the medium to convey what they need to say, were Emma Hardinge Britten, and Paschal Beverly Randolph, whom both lectured and wrote for the spiritual movement in the mid 19th century. As aforementioned, the spiritual movement was not only popular in the United States, but had also grown to be known in the United Kingdom. One of the more important United Kingdom spiritualists was William Stanton Moses, whom was more known in the late nineteenth century for his medium work which involved séances that were surrounded by lights of various psychic shapes that could pass through physical objects, as well as levitation, music while there was no instruments anywhere in the room where the séance was being held, and strange smells.

With the sad fraud of some mediums that had been using stage magic instead of actual spiritual abilities, like the Bangs Sisters and Davenport Brothers who had both used ‘spiritualism’ to hoax the public into giving them their money; communicating with the dead became something that was never seen in the correct light again. People started to become weary of trusting any mediums to communicate with their passed loved ones, or anyone else for that matter.

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