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A (brief) History of Mediumship

For centuries, the idea of mediumship has been present across a variety of cultures. The earliest known record of mediumship comes from a cave in France that dates to 13,000 BC. Known as “caverne des trois freres,” and located in the Pyrenees Mountains of Ariege, France, the cave depicts a drawing of a sorcerer.

A man wearing animal skins, as well as a mask, and antlers of an animal, he is thought to be playing the role of the God of Hunting, leading a ritual that would bring success to the hunt. During the ceremony, the sorcerer would have spoken as the deity, directing the early humans and channeling the hunting god to speak through him. Though a very pagan depiction of mediumship, this is the first record in human history of a communication outside of perceived living beings.

The tradition of mediumship was continued throughout other cultures, including Ancient Greek and Roman culture. The first psychics in recorded history were the Sibyls in Greek culture, or Oracles in Roman culture. The word Sibyl is first mentioned by an ancient Greek writer Heraclitus in 500 B.C., and is translated as ‘prophetess’. The meaning of sibyl is psychic, clairvoyant, or a woman who makes predictions about the future, and it is found in French, German, Greek, Italian, Roman, Polish, and Swedish languages, with slight variation. These women of the ancient world gave prophecies while in a “frenzied or ecstatic” state, similar to entering into a trance. When Sibyls entered into these trances, they were able to speak with authority for a deity and became “divinely inspired.”

Oracle at Delphi

This temple housed the oracle Pythia, commonly known as the Oracle at Delphi. The most famous oracle of the ancient world, powerful leaders would come from far and wide to get her counsel, including Alexander the Great. She was rumored to speak with the authority of the god Apollo.

The ancient world revered Sibyls and Oracles. Ancient Romans, Greeks, and even Christians admired them for their prophetic abilities; they largely communicated prophecies about judgments from God, as well as prophesizing the birth and later crucifixion of the messiah. There are ten recognized ancient Sibyls that represent all points of the (ancient) civilized world. Five of the ten -- the Erythraean Sibyl, the Samian Sibyl, the Hellespontine Sibyl, the Phrygian Sibyl, and the Tiburtine Sibyl – were praised by early Christians for predictions of Christ: his coming, his birth in a stable, and his crucifixion. A testament to how respected Sibyls were by early Christians, Michelangelo even included five Sibyls in his painting of the Sistine Chapel, located in the Vatican.

Archeologists have discovered evidence of numerous other cultures exploring the practices of mediumship and divination, or predicting the future. In Armenia, shrines have been unearthed from 3,300 years ago. Investigators found evidence of: osteomancy, trying to predict the future by rolling knuckle bones of animals; lithomancy, making predictions based on colored pebbles, and ground flour, which can be used to practice aleuromancy, another form of divination. While people have existed, mediums and psychics have existed as well. Present in some variation in nearly every culture, this is yet another commonality that connects us across cultures as people - who simply want to hear from their loved ones.



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