How Would I Know If I’m a Medium?
Published in Pathways Magazine, Winter 2023-24, beginning on page 11
BY ANNIE LARSON
Seer, prophet, oracle, sibyl, necromancer, spiritualist, clairvoyant, witch, shaman, psychic, and medium… These are all words used to describe the ability to communicate with disincarnate beings who supply information or messages to the living. Throughout history all cultures and religions have held some form of belief of life after life. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and scientist who died in 1955, reminds us.
Mediumship is met with both skepticism and awe. In a 2021 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about seventy percent of Americans say it is possible to feel the presence of someone who has died, while forty seven percent believe they can communicate with them in some way. Religious influence may also play a role in how you approach the belief in communicating with loved ones in spirit. Indeed, we’ve seen how religion has played a role in shaping beliefs throughout history, including attitudes toward the mystical and metaphysical.
From my own experience as a medium, skeptics become believers once they have lost a loved one that they wish to communicate with and experience evidentiary proof during a mediumship session. Believer, skeptic, or somewhere in between, it is worth exploring your own connection to the spirit world by first understanding what mediumship is, its historical background, and the characteristics associated with what it means to have mediumistic abilities.
A Brief Summary of Mediumship Throughout History
Communicating with spirits is recorded as early as in the Hebrew Bible, where Saul, the king of Israel, asks the mistress of Endor (a Seer) to communicate with the spirit of the prophet Samuel (who, by the way, when he was alive, was against such sorcery) to gain insight on defeating the Philistines. As history portends, the Endor medium didn’t give Saul good news about the battle. Saul’s sons were slain, and he committed suicide on Mount Gilboa in the 11th century BCE.
The suppression of paganism, esoteric beliefs and practices was greatly influenced by the conversion of Constantine the Great to Catholicism, after he had a vision of a great illuminated cross before a battle. He won the battle, and as Emperor of Rome, he and all his subjects converted. To bring consistency to the Bible and unite Catholic teachings, in 325 AD Constantine created the First Council of Nicaea, where 318 Christian bishops met to mold the New Testament as we know it today.
Many gospels of the Bible were discarded or destroyed; and if it wasn’t for the sale of antiquities in Egypt in the 1800s and the discovery of the Dead Seas Scrolls in 1946, we might not ever have known there were other gospels written with references to mystical practices. Take, for instance, the Gospel of Mary, a fragment of which resurfaced in Egypt in the late 1800s, nearly 1500 years after it was originally written. According to the account written in The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, by Karen L. King, Mary comforts the disciples of Jesus by explaining his prophecy from a vision she received from him, “The Savior had explained to her the nature of prophecy and the rise of the soul to its final rest, describing how to win the battle against the wicked, illegitimate Powers that seek to keep the soul entrapped in the world and ignorant of its true spiritual nature.”
From the time of Constantine into the next millennium, the Catholic Church’s papacy became the authority that governed. Any deviation from their beliefs, with an emphasis to not engage with mediums, was heresy punishable by death, as clearly stated in Leviticus 20:27, “A man or woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.” Joan of Arc, who had celestial visions and heard disincarnate voices, led the French army into victory against the English. Joan continued to claim she heard divine voices until the very end, when in 1431, the English tried and condemned her as a heretic and burned her at the stake.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church was the theocratic authority in all of Europe, until Martin Luther, tired of their corruption, posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany; and thus, the Protestant Reformation was born, on October 31, 1517. It’s interesting that Luther picked the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (modern day Halloween) — when the veil is very thin, and costumes are worn to ward off spirits that are allowed to walk the earth — to make his revolutionary proclamation.
Coming out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, early Modern Europe began with a wave of witch hunts, accusations, and executions. In England, King Henry VIII believed his second wife, Anne Boleyn enchanted him; and with her inability to produce him a male heir, Henry accused her of sorcery, adultery, and incest, and she was executed in 1536. A few years later, King Henry VIII’s Act of 1541 was the first to make the “practise or exercise…[of] an Invovacons, or cojuracons of Sprites witchecraftes enchauntements or sorceries to thentent to fynde money or treasure” illegal and punishable by death.
Many, mostly elderly, unwed, or independent women, were executed in a 90-year period spanning 1560 to 1670. This eventually extended to the puritanical American Colonies, which were at the height of witch hunts during the Salem witch trials, in Massachusetts, from 1692 to 1693. In 1702, the Salem witch trials were declared unlawful in the Colonies, as written in “A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials,” by Jess Blumberg in Smithsonian Magazine. The last innocent woman accused of being a witch was executed was executed in Europe in 1782. The suppression of mostly women accused of practicing witchcraft began to fade.
In the 1800s, as America transitioned from an agrarian society to an industrialized one, inventions like the telegraph made communication across vast expanses seem like magic. It’s no wonder that a belief in mediums and communicating with the disincarnate grew. In 1848 in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York, the Fox sisters began communicating with otherworldly intelligence through a series of audible raps on their bedroom walls, and Spiritualism was born. Spiritualists believe that consciousness exists outside the human physical body, and spirits can be communicated with by virtue of a medium, or go between, between the two worlds. Like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin describes, we are spirit having a human experience — wearing a skin bag.
Spiritualism surged well into the 20th century due to three wars (the Civil War, WWI, and WWII) and the 1918 influenza epidemic. With so much loss of life, the living wanted to stay in touch with loved ones who had passed, especially ones who passed on suddenly. This ushered in a modern age of Spiritualism and mediumship that continues today. Britain’s Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951 that prohibited people claiming to be psychics or mediums for profit was repealed in 2008.
What is a Medium?
Defined in contemporary terms, a medium has heightened etheric senses to see, hear, feel, touch, taste, and smell, or to be the vessel through which something manifests. Furthermore, a medium is someone with an extraordinary level of receptivity that one might refer to as a “sixth sense”. We refer to these senses as Clair senses (French for “clear”). Spirits sense those that have a sixth sense.
Beyond our five traditional Aristotelian senses — see, feel, touch, taste, and smell — scientists have found other senses. Each sense sends information to the brain to help us perceive the world around us. Take, for instance, proprioception, or the ability to know where your body parts are without looking. You might be familiar with the gymnast, Simone Biles, who stopped competing because she experienced the “twisties”. Biles no longer trusted her sense of the spatial location of her body parts while in the air. “I have no idea where I am in the air, I also have NO idea how I'm going to land. Or what I'm going to land on,” as she shared in a 2021 interview with Women’s Health magazine. She and others considered her twisties as a mental block; but, maybe, just like when we lose our sense of smell or taste when we have a cold, Biles may have had one of her senses temporarily suppressed.
Mediums are the people to whom spirits are drawn, so it’s not just an ability to see what others can’t see — it is an ability to be seen or get the attention of whatever it is that is out there. Mediums are beacons for spirit. No matter where a medium is — sleeping, driving, shopping, traveling, hiking — she will sense spirits all around.
How Do I Know if I Have Abilities?
While we might all have a modicum of spirit connection, not all are mediums. If you are communicating with a loved one in spirit, does that make you a medium? The short answer is no.
Annie, I spoke with my grandfather shortly after he died. Does this make me a medium?
This is a common question I get asked. I believe we all have the ability to connect with our own family members and perhaps close friends after they have left the body. Many people have shared very vivid dreams where loved ones in spirit appear. I call these dream visits, and believe it is an uninhibited and approachable way for our loved ones to communicate with us without fear. What makes one a medium is the ability to connect to a stranger’s grandfather, and to do so on command and with little effort.
Most, if not all, mediums are not able to ever close their connection to the other side. Try as we may! According to one Arthur Findlay College (AFC) collegiate staff, “Only one in 10,000 has true mediumistic ability and only one in 100,000 will go on to realise his or her potential.” AFC is a college of Spiritualism and psychic sciences at Stansted Hall in Essex, England, founded in 1964.
Many mediums are born knowing. They are the natural mediums where spirit communication happens effortlessly; and sometimes it is unwelcome. These mediums came into this world with abilities, much like renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who by the age of three had mastered many musical instruments but settled on the cello at age four. Yo-Yo came into this world with natural musical talents that were welcomed, nurtured, and developed. He is probably one of the 100,000 musicians who achieved such a level of mastery from the natural musical skills with which he was born.
Natural mediums usually begin having experiences with ghosts or spirits by the age of three. The veil between this dimension and the dimension of spirit is very thin for young children. Spirit encounters are common among children having a natural inclination of seeing, feeling, hearing, or sensing ghosts as effortlessly as seeing embodied humans. By age seven, considered the “age of reason”, most children lose their connection to the spirit realm. According to Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD, a psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch, at this age, children become “more capable of rational thought.” She explains that, “Despite their wish to maintain childhood wonder, latency age (7- or 8-year old) kids are increasingly able to problem solve, identify patterns and apply logic to questions. Thus, their beliefs in imaginary characters, like Santa and monsters diminishes during this time.”
As a result, children may be trained out of believing in ghosts as our society, as a collective, doesn’t believe in communication with the dearly departed. Some young mediums may be ashamed of their beliefs in spirit, or may run away from them fearful of what they are experiencing.
Other Ways to Mediumship.
But what if you’re not born to mediumship? There are many other ways one can arrive at or develop these abilities. For example, another potential pathway is through Near Death Experiences (NDEs). Countless mediums have found their abilities awaken after a NDE, as is the case with two of my mediumistic mentors, Michelle Whitedove and Reverend B. Anne Gehman.
Whitedove, considered a top Spiritual Medium until her premature death in 2022, recalled her fatal car accident, where she crossed into the spirit world and was shown visions of heaven, forever changing her life and opening her gifts. Michelle was mentored by Reverend B. Anne Gehman, after they met on the set of the 2010 film, No One Dies in Lily Dale. Reverend Gehman, a world renowned medium and Spiritualist Teacher who predicted JFK’s 1963 assassination, opened to her natural gifts after her near-death experience.
My friend and fellow medium, Susan Grau, who works as an Intuitive Medium with Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop, personally shared her near death experience. As a child, she was trapped in an abandoned freezer that closed on her, cutting off her air supply. Her NDE at the tender age of four impacted her profoundly. After she was rescued by her mother, who herself kept hearing Your daughter is in the freezer, Grau woke up and could see and communicate with spirit.
Being born with the caul — the membrane that encloses the amnionic fluid — where the amniotic membrane encloses the face, head, or entire body of the baby, has also long been seen as a sign of those born with abilities, as it is such a rare occurrence in birth. Being born with a veil (caul) is considered good luck. Carrying a child and giving birth seems to be another spark that has been shared with me by some of my students who reported having mystical and unexplained experiences during and after giving birth. And being born into a family lineage of mediums is a sign of possible mediumistic abilities as our DNA remembers.
Sandra Ingerman, a world-renowned shaman, teacher, and author, has shared her own unique arrival to her gifts, writing, “From a classical shamanic point of view, being hit by lightning is typically a sign of a shaman in the making…. It was the initiation into becoming a shamanic healer. So, in my own life, first I was hit by lightning when I was seven.”
Finally, tragic, untimely deaths of loved ones are a few other ways that might spark an interest to explore mediumship, though it is not a sign or catalyst for mediumship.
What Type of Medium Might I Be?
Just as there are various paths to the destination of mediumship, once you get there, abilities can manifest through a number of outlets. The four main types of mediumistic abilities are: mental, physical, trance, and channel.
Mental mediums (called Evidential mediums in the USA) tune in to the spirit world using their mind by listening, sensing, or seeing spirits or symbols to deliver evidence of the afterlife and messages from loved ones in spirit. Within mental mediumship we have diverse ways of how we receive information from spirit, and one might refer to themselves as a spiritual medium, psychic medium, or intuitive medium.
Physical mediums, who are the rarest of all the mediums, allow spirits to use the medium’s physical body to share information. In addition, physical mediums can produce apports (objects such as jewelry and small objects), knocking, rapping, and other physical manifestations from spirit, usually during a séance. They can produce ectoplasm, created from their own bodies, to produce a voice box that spirit is able to communicate through. Physical mediums are said to be naturally born that way rather than being able to develop into physical mediumship.
Trance mediums allow themselves to go into a trance state, where they may stay aware or may be fully immersed into trance to allow the disincarnate to use their body, voice, and mind, to give messages and advice. Edgar Cayce, often called “The Sleeping Prophet” due to the fact he would close his eyes to enter a state of altered consciousness, is probably the most well-known Trance medium.
Channel mediums go into trance to receive messages from specific sources such as Ascended Masters, like Buddha or Jesus, or from other spirits or angels. Seth (channeled by the late Dorothy Jane Roberts) and Abraham (channeled by Esther Hicks) are two of the most popular and currently channeled sources. Both offer sage and uplifting answers to the purpose and meaning of life and the ideas that we create our own reality.
Other kinds of mediums include healing and medical mediumship that fall under one or all four types of mediumship, as you can be more than one type of medium.
Trance mediumship healing is a way of allowing spirits or spirit guides to step into and blend with a medium’s energy to help channel and heal the sitter or client. If you ever get the privilege of having healing services such as those offered in a Spiritualist church, please do so. It is an other-worldly experience you will not soon forget.
Medical mediumship, recently made popular again by Andrew Williams, who created a craze of drinking large volumes of celery juice, offers medical and health advice based on communications from spirit. Here again, Edgar Cayce was the first modern prophet to do this while under full trance with almost (if not) 100 percent accuracy. Although he died in 1945, his skills as a medium are still being studied today.
Lastly, while not considered a form of mediumship, Reiki is a connection to a channel of healing that sensei Mikao Usui discovered on Mount Kurama, Kyoto, Japan, in 1922. At age 56, Usui underwent shugyo — an austere daily training, or in his specific case, a 21-day inner peace meditation — under an Osugi (cedar tree) until he had his revelation about a channel, or method of natural healing, he called Reiki Ryoho, or Spiritual Energy Healing Method. In practice, Usui Reiki Ryoho addresses the whole person on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.
Common Traits of Mediums
Mediums share a lot of common traits, including ailments, diseases, electronic anomalies, childhood trauma, atmospheric sensitivities, food allergies, learning issues, sleep disorders, astrological signs, and heartbeat irregularities. Mediums have been studied by universities, governments, and private organizations. Both the University of Virginia and North Carolina’s Duke University have some of the oldest psi study programs. Psi (from the Greek word psyche, meaning “mind” or “soul”) is often used as an overall term for extra-sensory perception, or ESP (psychic abilities or our sixth sense), and psychokinesis, the ability to move objects with our mind.
In a 2019 study by the Windbridge Research Center, researchers conducted a survey of 124 who identified as mediums, and 222 who identified as non-mediums. As detailed in Disease Burden in Mediums, a significantly higher proportion of mediums reported having been diagnosed with at least one autoimmune disorder (35.2% vs 18.9%). The disease most often reported by mediums was Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (11.2%). It’s not surprising that mediums, like me, suffer from Hashimoto’s as the thyroid, found in the throat, is affected by the disease. (If mediums are suppressed from being able to speak their truth, it will have an impact on the throat area. Few mediums readily share that they have abilities, especially if the abilities came at a young age.) Other reported disorders that were higher amongst those identified as mediums are: water retention, bruising easily, migraines, asthma, food intolerances, and sleep disturbances.
Dyslexia, a learning disorder that involves a difficulty in the ability to read, is anecdotally common amongst mediums, although there isn’t research to support this — yet. However, there might be good reasons for this, given a person with dyslexia processes information visually, or conceptually, in their head (or mind’s eye) in 3D. Only ten percent of the population naturally process data this way. Most process information verbally, as written in The Dyslexic Advantage, by Drs. Brack and Fernette Eide.
To understand how dyslexia might help with spirit communication, take for instance, reading the word orange. A verbal processor sees the word orange. A visual processor sees an orange. One with dyslexia sees the orange as both a picture and a symbol of an orange, which engages distinctly different parts of the brain. In mediumship communication, this is extremely important to be able to use the language of symbols as this is how spirit communicates. One cannot become dyslexic — and nor would you want to have dyslexia! As one who suffers from it, the world of words is challenging.
* * *
If you recognize yourself in this article, or if you have a deep interest in developing your connection to spirit, innate or not, I strongly encourage you to do so. While we may not all rise to the Yo-Yo Ma-level of mediumship, there is room for the medium equivalent of wedding singers, shower crooners, and coffee house performers amongst us. The path to mediumship will be the most difficult and emotionally challenging pursuit you will ever love.
Annie Larson, a psychic medium, is a sought-after speaker, reader, teacher, and healer who has been featured in TV, radio, podcasts, magazines, and newspapers, including the Washington Post. She meets clients in-person in her office in Sterling, Virginia, via phone, and online. She also hosts immersive intuitive development and mediumship retreats to help those looking to explore individual abilities. Learn more at www.MediumAnnieLarson.com.