As long as there has been religion, there has been a belief in the existence of life after death. However, exactly what the afterlife entails has differed among various religions. Early man envisioned an afterlife similar to the present one. In order to provide for them, the dead would be buried with those items which it was believed they would need in the next life. Later, the belief developed that the dead could watch over the living and influence their lives. This line of thinking possibly lead to the practice of Ancestor Worship. There are many reasons that one would wish to contact the dead. For some it gives them a sense of closure after the death of a loved one to know that their spirit lives on after death and that the departed is at peace. For some unscrupulous individuals the practice of contacting the dead has become a very profitable business. Other reasons some may wish to contact the dead is to obtain undeniable proof for their selves that there is life after death. For some this may bring relief, for others it may bring a sense of dread. For if there is life after death, then surely they would have to atone for misdeeds in this life. While some people seek to contact the dead to strengthen and build ties, others seek to contact the dead to severe them. Many people who feel that their homes are haunted by ghosts often seek to peacefully send the ghost into the afterlife by communicating with the ghost and convincing it to move on. In addition, rituals and practices were developed to honor the dead and request their assistance, or to protect oneself, home, and family from any evil influences associated with the dead. Spirit communication falls into three main categories, they are: Divination Mediumship Necromancy Divination Though most people think of divination as fortune-telling, various divination tools can and have been used to communicate with the dead. Some of these tools include, but are not limited to the following. Spirit House- A spirit house can take the form of a pot, a wooden-box, a jar, or even a doll. The house serves as a dwelling place for a familiar spirit and a means through which the magician can communicate with disincarnate entities. The house usually contains an assortment of items such as graveyard dirt, photograph of the spirit when it was a living person, their death announcement or personal possessions. In other cases the pot may contain a magickal seal associated with the spirit, as well as other items such as herbs, gemstones, and offerings that the spirit is known to favor as well as dirt from a graveyard and/or other locations such as your home, a bank, court-house, etc... These items serve to attract a spirit which is in alignment with your desire and allow it to operate on the physical plane. Ouija Boards- Also known as Talking-Boards, Ouija Boards are flat boards marked with all the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9 and the words "Yes", "No", and "Goodbye". In fact, the word ouija comes from combining the French word for yes (oui) and the German word for yes (ja). To operate the board, it is placed on a flat surface and one or more people place their hands on the accompanying planchette (a small flat wooden or plastic device used as a pointer when operating the board.) Spirits are addressed and it is believed that they spell out words and phrases by moving the planchette through the individuals. Others posit that the channeled information comes from the combined subconscious of those present. Pendulums- A pendulum is a divinatory tool used to answer subjective questions. It takes the form of a weighted object, called a bob, suspended from a chain, cord, or string. To operate a pendulum it is suspended over a flat surface and a yes/no type question is asked. The direction of the pendulum's swing is then interpreted as yes, no, or I don't know as determined by calibrating the pendulum beforehand. Similar to the Ouija-Board, the pendulum can be used to address a spirit who answers your question though the swinging of the pendulum. Dowsing Rods- Dowsing Rods usually take the form of a Y-shaped branch of wood, usually willow, or two L-shaped metal rods. While dowsing-rods have been used to find people, places and things (most commonly they are used to find running water for the purpose of building a well) more and more spiritualist are using them to find and communicate with spirits. Typically, the user takes the rods to a place where the most spirit activity is thought to take place. The operator holds the rods up so that they are parallel to one another as they address the spirit. When the rods cross, contact is believed to be made. Once contact has been made, the operator straightens out the rods and then questions the spirit. The spirit is believed to make the rods cross whenever the answer is yes. Mediumship A medium is defined as "an individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits". A medium typically offers up themselves to disincarnate spirits so that the spirits can communicate with the living using the body and voice of the medium. Although the basic process is the same, there are many different ways in which this occurs. They include, but are not limted to, the following: Seance- A séance is an attempt to communicate with the dead. The word séance comes from the French word for 'seat', 'session', from Old French seoir, 'to sit.' In English, the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people to receive spiritualistic messages. The séance, or sitting, is led by a medium who will usually go into a trance that allows the dead to communicate through him or her. Automatic Writing- Automatic, or Spirit Writing, has been defined as a method of obtaining information from disembodied spirits in which the spirit takes control over the medium causing them to translate unconscious information on paper without being aware of the contents. Automatic Writing is thought to be only used by mediums, however, anyone can learn to use it with practice. The writer is often unaware of what is being written and often even scrawls out text in handwriting that is markedly different than his own. Others believe that perhaps the spirits may also communicate by forming messages in the mind of the medium, which reproduce on the page. Hypnosis- Hypnosis is a mental state in which a person becomes highly responsive to outside directions and/or suggestions. A person may be inducted into a hypnotic state by another individual or they may induct themselves (called self-hypnosis). Under hypnosis a person is often able to perform feats that they are not able to do in their normal conscious states. Persons under hypnosis have been able to recover lost memories, endure pain, remember past lives, as well as to see and communicate with spirits. Ritual Possession- Spirits are thought to take possession of a person during certain rites. In Wiccan Rituals, the High Priestess often Draws Down the Moon, that is, invoke the Goddess into their bodies so that she can communicate with the coven. During Vodoun ceremonies, the Loa are said to ride, or possess, participants. While possessed by a Loa, the person is able to do things that they are unable to do in their conscious state such as walk on fire without being burned, or pierce their bodies with large needles without drawing blood, etc... In some Christian churches, worshipers often work themselves into an ecstatic state during which they see visions and speak-in-tongues. Through Dreams- Dreaming, like hypnosis, is another state of mind in which the living and the dead can communicate. Simply dreaming of the dead does not necessarily make a person a medium, and there is a difference between dreaming of the dead and communicating with the dead through ones dreams. Southern lore states that dreaming of a death is a sign or an impending birth, and people have been known to dream of loved ones long after they have died. The dead will often visit the living through dreams to deliver a final message and this typically occurs soon after the person dies. These dream visitations can happen either once or a handful of times before they stop altogether. However, a person with a talent for contacting spirits through dreams will experience these types of visitations more often. Necromancy Necromancy is a form of magick which deals with the ritual raising of the dead in either spirit or physical form. While the use of Ouija Boards, Spirit-Pots, and the performing of a Seance can be considered a form of necromancy, this section will deal with more magico-religious methods of necromancy. Some of these methods include: High Magick- Also known as Ceremonial Magick, High-Magick represents a complicated set of ideas involving ritual fasting and abstinence as well as preparing ones tools and workspace in strict accordance with proper purification rituals performed at specific times. Typically, the magician will stand within a protective circle and invoke the spirit into a nearby triangle marked on the ground by uttering long incantations calling upon various names of God. Typically the spirit is summoned to answer questions or to lead the magician to buried treasure. The spirit is often tested to determine whether or not it is speaking the truth and threaten with horrors worse than death when it does not. Low Magick- Whereas High Magick is believed to require a great deal of precision with regard to timing, procedure, and even pronunciation of names; Low-Magick is much more practical in nature and often concerns itself with every-day type goals such as love or money. However, that is not to say that low-magick doesn't offer a few methods of calling forth spirits and communicating with them. A person practicing low-magick may make use of a a tool such as a Ouija Board or Pendulum. Their rituals will tend to be more simple than that of a Ceremonial Magician and may involve something as simple as burning a mixture of Star Anise, Althea leaves, and Acacia leaves to facilitate contact with the dead through their dreams. However, they are just as likely to travel to a graveyard and speak directly with the spirit and negotiate a pact such as an offering of three silver dimes in exchange for the spirits dirt and assistance in a practical matter. As you can see, there are a plethora of theories concerning and methods involving contact with spirits as well as how to communicate with them. I hope that this brief article has given you something to think about as you seek to communicate with the dead yourself. Tomorrow I will share my experiences contacting spirits and communicate with them in my personal practices.
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