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By Witchipedia, Questions About Divination

Who is a Medium: In History & Modern Days

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

A medium is a person who serves as a conduit for communication between the material world and the spirit world. Mediumship may take any of several forms based on who is being contacted and how the contact manifests.


A medium, both historically and in modern times, is an individual with the claimed ability to communicate with the spirit world or entities beyond the physical realm.

Throughout history, mediums have played crucial roles in spiritual and religious practices, serving as intermediaries between the living and the deceased, providing guidance, and facilitating connections with loved ones who have passed away.

In contemporary society, mediums continue to offer their services, conducting psychic readings, channeling messages from the spirit world, and providing solace to those seeking insights into the afterlife.

Mediumship practices vary, encompassing mental, physical, and trance mediumship, often involving abilities like clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairsentience.

History of the Practice

The practice of mediumship – attempts to communicate with living humans or the spirits of the dead –  can be traced back for centuries. The rise of Spiritualism as a religious movement in the nineteenth century caused interest in mediumship to increase in the UK and the US. Trance mediums including Emma Hardinge Britten and Paschal Beverly Randolph became famous during this time as authors and lecturers on the subject.

Around 1860 Allan Kardec first used the term Spiritism. He claimed that conversations with spirits, via mediums, formed the basis of his books The Spirit Books and the later Spiritist Codification series.

The Spirits' Book (New English Edition) (Translation Classical Spiritist Works)
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The Spirits’ Book (New English Edition) (Translation Classical Spiritist Works)
  • Kardec, Allan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 482 Pages – 02/05/2021 (Publication Date) – Luchnos Media LLC (Publisher)

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The reputation of mediumship suffered a catastrophic blow in the wake of the exposure of many practitioners as frauds who used stage magic tricks to convince their audience of their “powers.” However, although physical mediumship and seances went into decline, platform mediumship rose in prominence.

In the early twentieth century, there were around 250,000 practicing Spiritists and approximately 2,000 Spiritist societies in the UK  – not to mention the variety of “home circles.” Spiritism continues to be practiced today, largely through denominational Spiritist churches in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia.

Purpose of Mediums

A medium may mediate communication between living humans and spirits of the deceased or between material humans and spirit beings, including Gods, angels or the medium’s own spirit guide or Ascended Master. This is most often done while the medium is in a trance state, but the actual process varies greatly.

The medium may channel the spirit, allowing it to completely take over the medium’s faculties; speaking and acting through him or her. In this way the spirit can deliver its message directly through the medium’s voice (often changed) or through another means such as automatic writing.

Some mediums report no memory of anything that happens while a spirit is riding them, other mediums report watching the events unfold in a passive manner and still, others are able to maintain some active control during the channeling event.

Alternatively, the spirit may speak to the medium so that the medium may pass along the information.

Some mediums are able to bring encourage physical manifestations of the spirit through visual materialization, sounds, such as knocking and the movement of objects and the appearance of ectoplasm.

In these cases, it may be possible for the spirit to speak directly with the third party through conversation or simply answering yes or no questions and responding through a code (like “once for yes, twice for no” ) or a Spirit board with the medium acting a facilitator.

Who is a Medium by magickal spot
Copyright: Tina Caro

What is Automatic Writing?

Automatic writing is a technique used by some mediums. It involves an individual allowing a spirit or guide to use their hand to write or draw messages. When deploying this method, a medium will typically sit quietly, clear their mind, and allow the spirit to communicate without any conscious effort on their part.

The technique of automatic writing can be found in several spiritual and religious traditions, including the Chinese folk practice of Fuji, which is also known as planchette writing.

Modern Mediumship

In modern Western tradition, mediums often ply their trade at seances or gallery readings. These tend to be in great demand during the Samhain season.

These practitioners are best known in the media for their theatrics and the media delights in nothing more than pronouncing them frauds and many are.

But mediums hold an important place in many magico-religious and spiritual systems including Candomblé, Spiritualism, Spiritism, Umbanda, Voodoo, Vodoun and Wicca.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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