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From its earliest beginnings to contemporary times, mediumship practices have had many instances of fraud and trickery. Séances take place in darkness so the poor lighting conditions can become an easy opportunity for fraud. Physical mediumship that has been investigated by scientists has been discovered to be the result of deception and trickery. Ectoplasm, a supposed paranormal substance, was revealed to have been made from cheesecloth, butter, muslin, and cloth. Mediums would also stick cut-out faces from magazines and newspapers onto cloth or on other props and use plastic dolls in their séances to pretend to their audiences spirits were contacting them. Lewis Spence in his book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1960) wrote:
heyJessica i’m kind of worried i’m really confused i can control the wind by using my mind and i think i saw my spirit guide or an angel or mother nature in a dream i don’t know if i can talk to the dead…Im scared of myself Im scared of my abilities and i don’t want to do any protection spells but i’m scared of demons and the devil…Maybe if u can grant me protection or get one of your guides to help protect me or something this whole thing gives me the creeps…i also can feel other peoples emotions but usually only the negative ones which causes me to have panic attacks for no reason…please if you could reply and help me that would be so helpful :) ( I can also tell when i’m going to see someone at the shops)
Matthews has authored several books on divinatory cards, and her latest is The Complete Lenormand Oracle Cards Handbook. This 36-card deck was named after the celebrity card-reader Mademoiselle Marie Anne Lenormand, who was popular around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, though the decks bearing her name weren’t actually produced until after her death. The oldest packs in Matthews’ collection are two Lenormand-style decks, the French Daveluy of the 1860s and the Viennese Zauberkarten deck from 1864, which were some of the first decks to be illustrated using the technique of chromolithography.
During a seance, a medium may be the method by which messages are relayed from the spirit world to the guests at the event. While some mediums may enter into a trance-like state, others may be completely awake and fully lucid while passing messages along. Sometimes, particularly if there are a group of fairly magically-aware people at the table, messages might be coming through all over the place, in no particular order. It can feel like the spirit world version of a chat room, with everyone just being bombarded right and left with messages from the other side.
Channeling is a growing phenomenon whereby the channeler – often he or she would not describe themselves as psychic – opens a line to another being or group of beings. They have the ability to allow their consciousness to step aside and let their contact speak through them. One of the most well-known is Esther Hicks, who channels a group of entities called Abraham. Esther describes the experience of channeling as "receiving blocks of thought".
“Etteilla was one of the people who actually made divination so esoteric,” says Matthews. “He created a deck that incorporated all the things from Court de Gébelin and his book ‘Le Monde Primitif’ [‘The Primitive World’], which suggested an Egyptian origin for the tarot and all sorts of arcane things.” Matthews makes a distinction between the tarot’s abstract interpretations and the straightforward “cartomantic” reading style that thrived during the 16th and 17th centuries, prior to Etteilla.
A series of mediumistic séances known as the Scole Experiment took place between 1993 and 1998 in the presence of the researchers David Fontana, Arthur Ellison and Montague Keen. This has produced photographs, audio recordings and physical objects which appeared in the dark séance room (known as apports). A criticism of the experiment was that it was flawed because it did not rule out the possibility of fraud. The skeptical investigator Brian Dunning wrote the Scole experiments fail in many ways. The séances were held in the basement of two of the mediums, only total darkness was allowed with no night vision apparatus as it might "frighten the spirits away". The box containing the film was not examined and could easily have been accessible to fraud. And finally, even though many years have passed, there has been no follow-up, no further research by any credible agency or published accounts.
My experience and personal belief is that a spirit guide has lived at some time or another on Earth in a physical body, while an angel has never had a physical incarnation. Every medium I know has one or more guides who work with them — some are constant, and some change during the medium’s life, but each has their own unique influence over the development of the medium’s gifts.