Image map

Sorry, your browser doesn't support Java.


My fieldwork concerned belief and practice in Spiritualism in contemporary England. There has not been, as far as I know, any recently anthropological investigation concerning Spiritualism in western societies. The exception is Swatos' study of a famous Icelandic medium, but still, that study is not contemporary. My choice of ethnographic region was England because Britain was the first European country which opened itself for Spiritualism when it first came from the US to Europe in the late century.

Then, in the last part of the century and the first part of the century, Spiritualism grew rapidly and spread to all parts of the population in England and in the continental Europe.

Spiritualism divided into physical mediumship and mental mediumship. Christian Spiritualists was fighting against the church and the non-Christian Spiritualists. Some parts of the Spiritualist-movement turned to New-Age movements, while still others became influenced on numerous other ways. But still, the main thing in Spiritualism endures: the belief in the Afterlife, and the possibility to communicate with those on the other side. "The Death is the biggest Lie on earth".

There has been a lot of investigation concerning Spiritualism, but not about Spiritualism in general. The early and later researchers were all concerned about how to prove or disprove Spiritualistic mediums, the Spiritual world, the eventually afterlife or to explain strange phenomena's that occur during seances, or PK and telekinesis, among other related phenomena which all are claimed to rest upon spiritual or (occult) mental power. Those who have been (and indeed still is) investigating this, are called psychic researchers.

That's absolutely not my intention. I will try to find out how and why someone become mediums, who they are, who the spiritualists are, who and what the spirits are, how the spiritual world are, what the afterlife is, which levels in the afterlife exists and which is reachable in seances, how are seances done and a lot more. These things are extremely interesting!

I was conducting my fieldwork from September 1997 to the beginning of April 1998. I participated in demonstration seances (physical mediumship) and gathered a lot of data, in addition to some tons of books I have read.

Now I am finsihed with my fieldwork. I have succeeded in gathering a lot field data. I have participated in a lot of physical seances, and met quite a lot of interesting people, specially through the Noah's Ark Society and the Society for Psychical Research. A big thank you to two very helpful ladies in the Society for Psychical Research (49. Marloes Road, Kensington, London.
(Tube: Circle line. Turn left, through Boots, pass Penguin, turn right, turn left, pass one excellent Thai Restaurant and there you are.)
And, of course, without The Noahs Ark Society, everything would have been extremely difficult.
I owe you a lot!
Everyone that have helped me will be credited in my thesis. There is a crowd of you.

During my fieldwork, I stayed in London (sout west 17). If you are a medium, or wish to get in contact with me, please drop me a mail. Despite that I have finished my fielwork, you can still send me e-mails. The results of my investigation will be presented and will be the final part of my Cand.Polit (between MPhil and Ph.D) degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, hopefully before the summer of 2000.

So how to make you own seances?


All the spiritualists I have spoken to agrees on this: do not use the Ouija-table in your seances. That's because you don't have any control with whom or what you might be able to come in contact with.
If not the spirits should be dangerous, don't forget what the human mind might be able to...As a general rule: never, ever try to make any seance alone! That is really dangerous.

But anyhow; using a Ouija-table or practising table-tilting is one way to try to develop mediumism, or to get the first contact from the other side. The trick is to not attach to deep reliability to the messages given, since they, as told above, could be corrupt in many ways. Also, it is essential to develop a circle (for the purpose of a sitting) with good conditions (see the Noah's Ark Society) and try to attend regular sittings. The quality of the sittings depends on time, and some of the best mediums have spent a lot of years developing their gifts. Don't expect anything, since every sitting (seance) is to be considered as an experiment. Also bear in mind that physical mediumship is far more rare than mental mediumship (as platform mediums in spiritualist churches).

Consider the following event: Someone in you (r circle!) should fall into trance during a seance, stay cool. Maybe the spirits appear through a control-spirit through the medium (in trance), and the communication might be open. Usually the medium does not remember anything from the seance, as far as I know. The eventually mediums must be treated well, since the medium him/her self will then not be able to watch their own achievements, unless you get the permission to tape-record the seance.

Duncans case: A warning: The famous Scottish medium Helen Duncan was exposed to flashlight from a small army of journalists during her last seance, when she was in trance. No one had given any permission to take photos. Well, this was Duncans last seance. Later she passed over.
(according to spiritualists ectoplasm will disappear quickly when exposed to white light, and a fast dissolving of ectoplasm back into, specially the medium, will cause harm. It is said that this process will burn the medium, and Duncan had burning marks on her tummy from where the ectoplasm appeared and disappeared.), and her death (and imprisonment because of witchcraft(!)) made her the first martyr of Spiritualism.  

Ectoplasm: During physical seances, according to the spiritualists, the spirits use a psychic substance that they extract and build from the medium (in trance) and in smaller quantities from the spectators (the sitters), which is called ectoplasm. This substance can seriously harm the medium if exposed to sharp white light, when the substance will subtract too fast back into the medium, as mentioned in the Duncan case above. 
Ectoplasm is the substance from which the spirits form materialization's and are able to make physical phenomena occur. That is one of the reasons why it is important to practice safe physical mediumship. The Noah's Ark Society (named after the medium Noah Zerdin) can teach you how to practice safe physical mediumship.


Back to my main page.                      Tilbake til den norske hovedsiden.
(c) JOO 99 Home (c) JOO 99 My fieldwork Links Photos How to make your own seance