This ancient form of divination gets its name from the Greek words “theos”, meaning god, and “manteia”, meaning divination. Practitioners seek to understand the past, present, and future by consulting with the gods. In ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi was consulted, as were other spirits and divine beings.

The most popular version of theomancy is the séance. To perform a séance, a group of people gather to either listen to a spirit medium as she relays messages from the spirits, or attempt to communicate with ghosts or spirits themselves.

Religious séances do occur in Spiritualism. However, they preferred the term “receiving messages” to the word séance. In some churches, the séance has been linked to faith healing.

Some mediums prefer to perform the séance on stage, with audience members seated before them. The famous Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) was renowned for his ability to communicate with the dead, from relatives of audience members to ancient philosophers like Plato.

Leader-assisted séances are made of small groups. They are led by a medium who enters a chance to permit the spirits to communicate through his or her body. Other forms of spirit communication include wrapping, automatic writing, smells, and more. This type of séance is often trickery, using stage magic and illusion to defraud clients.

Informal social séances usually consist of only two or three people. This is often used by young people curious about the paranormal. The Ouija board is the most common tool used for informal séances.

Mediums work in a number of ways; however, they all seek messages from spirits. Some mediums prefer to do this while wide-awake, while others enter into a trance-like state. Those who enter a trance rarely remember what is said while they are in that state, so mediums often have an assistant to record their words.

Through channeling, a medium may permit a spirit to use his or her body for a short time. The Spirit may then communicate with others who may be present. It is important to contrast this with the concept of possession, which is a complete and hostile takeover.

Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Courtesy Wikipedia.