Spiritualism, mediumship and talking boards
Our interest in talking boards is not a secret, in fact we published an article entitled ‘What is a planchette’ when we launched our sterling silver Planchettes’ Collection in May 2013 -which goes hand in hand with the history of talking boards- and we have even our own travel Ouija board: the one and only Singular Talking Board!
But let’s look back to the past for a moment in order to refresh our memories. Spiritualism was in vogue in the 19th century and channelers used automatic writing or drawing in regular basis. In fact, mediumship became quite popular in the USA and the UK after the rise of Spiritualism as religious movement. The trance mediums Paschal Beverly Randolph and Emma Hardinge Britten were among the most celebrated lecturers and authors on the subject in the mid-19th century. However, scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to paranormal forces or ‘energies’ are actually due to ideomotor action. After the exposure of the fraudulent use of stage magic tricks by physical mediums such as the Davenport Brothers and the Bangs Sisters, mediumship fell into disrepute.
If you want to learn more about the history of the Ouija board in science, read now this article from the Smithsonian Magazine: ‘The Strange and Misterious History of the Ouija Board’.
So, can Ouija boards be used to communicate with the spiritual dimension? We may not have a definitive answer to this question, but the ideomotor effect may help us throw light over other relevant issues…
It is clear that Christmas time is not unrelated to the supernatural. In fact, telling spooky tales upon a Christmas night is a long tradition in many cultures and probably you have read yourself ‘A Christmas Carol’, the classical story written by Charles Dickens.
I still have not found verified information about this, but I have the feeling that séances gets boosted during Christmas time. Why do I think this? Because Christmas celebrations have an intense family component that makes us miss our beloved ones more than ever precisely at this critical moment. For many people Christmas séances are not the exception, but the rule.
At the end of the nineteenth century this was even more tangible, as spiritualism was all the rage. This was reflected, for example, in the second season’s Christmas Special of one of the most acclaimed British television series of all times: Downton Abbey. In this single episode a séance takes place, using a ouija board.
Are you among our regular readers? Then you will probably remember this blog post entitled ‘Amoelbarroco, Decimononic and… fortune telling?’ we published in July. Due to the success of this photo session featuring Viveka Goyane’s couture and Decimononic’s Seampunk luxury jewelry, we cannot help but bring you this video.
Irene and I have known Viveka Goyanes for many years. She is an explorer of the intersections between fashion and art, and we spoke with her about her alter ego Amoelbarroco, Steampunk jewelry and many other topics in March (this interview is available here: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with… Viveka Goyanes’).
As we share common interests, we started to think about further collaboration possibilities and an idea popped-up: Victorian occultism and spiritism! So we decided to go ahead with a photo session, but covering this topic in one session only would be complicated; this is why we preferred to focus on fortune-telling, as this was a very popular discipline in the Victorian era.
1.- A brief intro: fortune-telling in XIX century
As Wikipedia goes about Fortune-telling:
Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting information about a person’s life. The scope of fortune-telling is in principle identical with the practice of divination. The difference is that divination is the term used for predictions considered part of a religious ritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune-telling implies a less serious or formal setting, even one of popular culture, where belief in occult workings behind the prediction is less prominent than the concept of suggestion, spiritual or practical advisory or affirmation.
Despite divination has been considered a sin in Islam, most Christian denominations and Judaism, it was a very common practice in the XIX century (normally linked to Gypsies). In fact, divination methods from non-Western cultures, such as the I Ching, were also adopted in western popular culture during this period.
2.- Fortune teller portrayal: attire by Amoelbarroco and fine jewelry by Decimononic
May this be Steampunk? May this be uchronic, anachronic, retrofuturistic? Honestly speaking we do not know. However, if there is anything we know for sure is that this is pure Amoelbarroco aesthetics with a pinch of Decimononic style; epic win, the way we see it. Judge for yourself.
Cartomancy is one of the oldest fortune-telling techniques in the Western world. Thus, it is relevant to point out that it probably has Eastern roots as playing cards were introduced into Europe in the XIV century. Cartomancy using standard playing cards was the most popular form of providing fortune-telling card readings in the XIX century and the most common method of cartomancy using a standard playing deck was referred to as the Wheel of Fortune.