Monday, 24 September 2018

Spiritualism & Me

I was given my first set of tarot cards when I was 12.

I'm not sure that I had any idea what they actually were, but as a huge fan of  TV shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch and re-runs of Bewitched I was drawn to anything that seemed in any way linked to magic and mystery!

Of course, now I know that there's nothing magical about the tarot at all...but to my 12 year old self, they seemed like something a witch might use. And I was VERY into the idea of being a witch!

The gift had come via my Christmas stocking, courtesy of my mother.

Looking back, it's quite surprising that it was she who first started me off on this journey toward spiritualism - considering the fact that she's actually quite frightened by the whole thing.

The gift set she'd given me contained not only tarot cards, but a book all about the various types of divination (the art of fortune telling or seeking knowledge through supernatural means) - I devoured every bit of information it contained, and using what it taught me I managed to create my own set of rune stones using pebbles I collected at the local shore and a Crayola gel pen. I also learned how to read fortunes using a normal deck of playing cards, how to read tea leaves, how to do numerology and how to practise bibliomancy (divination using books).

By the age of 15, I was well versed in all things relating to divination - but my favoured methods were the tarot and dowsing with crystals.  I regularly read fortunes for family and friends. I even used to take my tarot cards into school and do readings (Looking back, I'm sure this didn't really help my case when it came to making friends and not looking like the class oddball!)

Unfortunately, it was around this age that my thanatophobia started to worsen and although I knew that the two weren't linked - my Mum wasn't quite so convinced, and she decided to take me to see a Nun that she knew.

I think her idea was that the Nun might be able to give me some faith-based reassurance about life after death and why I didn't need to panic so much about my own mortality at the tender age of 15, but the Nun had got wind of my "dalliances with the devil" as she so poetically put it and used our meeting as an opportunity to try her very hardest to dissuade me from my interest in "The occult"!

Needless to say, the meeting had no lasting impact one me other than to leave me with quite a marked fear of nuns!

It was at around 16 that I had my first encounter with anybody else who had any knowledge of divination. That person was a spiritualist medium who - again, quite strangely - my Mum had invited to our house to do an evening of readings for her friends.

Although she was too afraid to have a reading done herself - stating that she wouldn't because her own Mother had warned the entire family off using any such means to contact her after her passing, saying something along the lines of "When I'm dead, you'd all better leave me alone to rest in peace!" - My mum enjoyed hearing about the messages her friends had received from the medium that night. And she allowed me to go in at the end of the night to have a reading myself.

The mediums name was Pat, and she was a warm and friendly woman. The ladies she'd read for that night had all come out the room gushing with excitement and talking about the evidence she'd given - various little bits of information specific to their lives and their loved ones, that they insisted nobody other than their dear departed relatives could ever have known about. She'd even given them accurate names and dates of loved ones who had passed on.

I had no experience of mediums until that point, but I was confident that Pat was a good one. She'd agreed to do a little reading for me but had warned my mum that my young age meant she probably couldn't tell me very much as I had no past to speak of, and that she wouldn't charge me for it.

When I went inside the room, she greeted me with a warm smile and asked me to sit down in front of her. As I did, she said "Well my dear there are a lot of people in the spirit world here with you aren't there!"

I felt my heart skip a beat a little...I hadn't expected her to talk so soon about any of that, I'd really only wanted to know if the boy I liked fancied me back and who I might marry one day!

She went on to tell me that I had one woman and 3 men in the spirit world watching over me and that they were standing guard around me. She said they were very protective and seemed to be reluctant to "let her through" whatever that meant.

She was confident that the woman was my grandmother, and two of the men were my grandfathers - but the other man was younger she said. I think she thought I wasn't sure who he was, so she went on to describe his personality and informed me about how he'd passed over. I knew the person she was speaking about was my Mums brother who had died when my mum was 15 - someone I'd obviously never met but had always known about. He was never physically present in our lives but he'd felt like a part of them anyway - his photograph was always around, in our home and in all of the family members homes we visited, and he was spoken about often. Her description of his death was incredibly accurate and not something that you could easily pull out of thin air, as it was quite an unusual one.

She didn't tell me too much more, a few little tidbits and teasers about my future that I can't really remember too well, but just as I was about to leave she said something that stuck with me - she told me I had a gift. The same gift that she had. And that I could just as easily be sitting there doing what she was doing, and that many years down the line - I would be. But that I just needed to be confident in it.

From there on, my interest shifted from focusing only on divination to spirituality as a whole.

I continued to read the cards, to visit spiritual fayres, to practise candle magic and healing, and to speak to the angels when I felt I needed some guidance in life.

It was never something I spoke much about it as, in all honesty, I'm well aware that to the vast majority of Joe Public - spiritualism is seen as nothing more than something to laugh at. Mediums are held up as examples of con men - accused of "preying on the vulnerable and grieving".

And of course, as with anything, those unscrupulous people do exist. And sadly, they are the ones who tend to make the biggest names for themselves - the ones who end up on TV hunting for ghosts chanting "Mary loves Dick" for comic value (I mean, that WAS pretty funny tbf...) or selling out theatres or grotty pub function rooms, and landing TV shows which make the whole concept of spiritualism seem like one big joke.

But that isn't what spiritualism is about.

I first started attending a spiritualist centre about 7 years ago, and I've gone pretty regularly ever since.

For the last 3 years I've gone along to a weekly spiritualist circle at my local centre, too.

There is nobody there preying on the vulnerable. Nobody who's main goal is to take your money. Nobody who has anything to prove.

It's simply a group of people who believe that there is some form of life after death, and that there are more mysterious forces at work than we know about.

They open and close their evenings in prayer without any instruction as to who or what you should be praying to. Some of them are Christians, some are agnostic (like myself)...They don't dictate what you're supposed to believe in, it's all open to your own interpretation of who or what a higher power might be.

They do demonstrations of mediumship, and at the open circle people try meditation and have a go at learning about communicating with the spirit world themselves.

There are all sorts of people who attend. Women and men. People in their 70s, and people in their late teens. People in groups and people on their own. People who have been brought up around spiritualism and people who've never had anything to do with it before and aren't even sure if they believe in spirit. People of all different religions and belief systems.

The running theme throughout spiritualism is to have good intentions. It's all about karma, healing energy, love and light. It's about the power of good thoughts.

I joined a closed development circle earlier this year and every week I leave feeling recharged and positive, purely from the positive energy I feel there.

Each week, we learn about something different - so far we've learned about healing, dowsing, working with ribbons and colours, meditation, automatic writing, and - the session I found most interesting so far - seeing auras.

I knew about auras before of course, but I wasn't really sure how much I believed that they were real. And I certainly had never seen one myself. I'm very much the sort of person who needs evidence and to experience something for myself before I truly believe it (which may seem surprising given my interest in spiritualism, but I'm confident that I HAVE experienced things that prove to me that there is truth in the notion of life after death and the existence of spirit).

So when, after trying and failing for a little while, I actually SAW peoples auras for the first time - I was amazed!

I'm well aware that this sort of thing isn't for everyone, and I'd never try to force my beliefs or interests on to anybody else but hearing the constant bashing of spiritualists does really irritate me.

Like with anything in life, if something isn't for you - then fine. Don't take part in it. Walk away. Have nothing to do with it.

When it comes to something like spiritualism, this is SO easy to do - simply don't go to the centres. Don't buy tickets for mediumship demonstrations. Don't go to the festivals. Simple as that!

But leave those of us who it brings comfort to in peace to get on with it. It's not hurting you, it's not impacting your life but it IS bringing comfort to the people who choose to embrace it.

So why would you want to rain on their parade?

I love going to the spiritualist centre every week, and I love learning to embrace spiritualism into my life more as time goes on.

Taking the time out of my busy week which is usually so full of noise, chaos and over-exposure to the digital world to just meditate, enjoy the silence and connect with something higher feels like a welcome break and a much needed reminder that there is good in the world.

My life is no different to anybody elses.

I have my own beliefs, and I live a life that is perfectly normal.

But sometimes, I'll get out my tarot cards or faerie oracle cards when I feel a bit lost and need some guidance. Sometimes I'll light some candles and focus on something I want (this is basically all that candle magic is! It's really no more than manifestation or cosmic ordering in many ways!). Sometimes I'll spend some time meditating.

And that's all that spiritualism is to me.

The belief that death isn't  necessarily the end of existence, and faith in the power of positive thought, good intention, the human mind and human energy.

Is that really so laughable and so scary?!

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