What is a Medium? Exploring the Different Types of Mediumship

What is a Medium? Exploring the Different Types of Mediumship

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Written By Haunting Realm

Adventurer. Cryptozoology enthusiast. Paranormal investigator. Storyteller.

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A medium is an individual believed to possess unique abilities that enable them to perceive and communicate with spiritual entities, often referred to as spirits or spirit people.

The communication between the medium and the spirit world can provide insights, messages, or guidance from the spiritual realm, often bringing comfort or closure to those seeking connection with their deceased loved ones. 

Understanding Mediumship

The practice of mediumship, the ability to communicate with spirits, has been a part of human culture for centuries, spanning different civilizations and belief systems. 

What is a Medium?

In the realm of the metaphysical, a medium is a person who can communicate with entities in the spiritual realm

These entities can include deceased loved ones, spirit guides, and other non-physical energies. 

Mediums often serve as a conduit or bridge between our physical and spiritual worlds, facilitating communication between these two planes of existence.

The Role of a Medium in Connecting the Physical and Spiritual Realms

The role of a medium is multifaceted. At the core, mediums provide a channel for messages from the spiritual realm to the physical world. 

They use their unique abilities to perceive and interpret information from spirits, often providing comfort, guidance, or closure to individuals seeking to connect with their deceased loved ones. 

Mediums can also assist in healing processes, helping individuals to navigate grief or unresolved issues. 

Furthermore, mediums can provide insights into the nature of the afterlife and the spiritual journey of the soul, contributing to our understanding of life and death.

The Concept of Discarnate Energy

A key concept in understanding mediumship is the idea of discarnate energy

Discarnate energy refers to the energy or consciousness that continues to exist after physical death. This energy is not bound by the physical laws that govern our world, allowing it to interact with mediums in various ways. 

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Mediums perceive this energy through their enhanced senses, often referred to as ‘clair’ abilities, such as clairvoyance (clear seeing), clairaudience (clear hearing), and clairsentience (clear feeling).

The Difference Between a Medium and a Psychic

While mediums are often associated with psychics, it’s important to note that these terms are not interchangeable. 

Both mediums and psychics operate within the paranormal realm, but their abilities and roles differ significantly. A psychic uses extrasensory perception (E.S.P.) to identify information hidden from the normal senses. 

They can perceive information about an individual’s past, present, or future, and their abilities often include telepathy, precognition, and retrocognition.

Recommended read: Psychic vs. Medium: Understanding the Difference Between a Psychic and a Medium

On the other hand, a medium communicates explicitly with spirits in the afterlife. While a medium can also have psychic abilities, its primary role is to serve as a conduit between the physical and spiritual realms. 

Conversely, not all psychics can communicate with discarnate energies or spirits. In essence, while all mediums can be psychics, not all psychics are mediums.

Understanding the distinction between mediums and psychics is crucial in the field of paranormal and metaphysical studies. 

It helps individuals seeking their services make informed decisions based on their specific needs, whether seeking guidance for the future, understanding past events, or connecting with a loved one in the spiritual realm.

Mediums Georgie Hyde and Lees Yeats
Mediums Georgie Hyde-Lees and W.B. Yeats. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Types of Mediumship

Mediumship can manifest in various forms with unique processes and characteristics. The two primary types are mental mediumship and physical mediumship.

Mental Mediumship: Definition, Process, and Examples

Mental Mediumship is perhaps the most commonly recognized form of mediumship. 

In this type, mediums connect with spirits through their mind, using their heightened senses or ‘clair’ abilities. 

They may see (clairvoyance), hear (clairaudience), feel (clairsentience), or even taste or smell (clairgustance and clairalience) impressions from the spirit. These impressions are then interpreted and relayed to the sitter, the person receiving the reading.

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For instance, a mental medium might perceive a spirit showing them an image of a rose (clairvoyance), which could signify love or a significant anniversary. 

They might hear a name or a piece of music (clairaudience) relevant to the sitter. Mental mediums might also sense the personality or emotions of the spirit (clairsentience), providing further evidence of their identity.

Physical Mediumship: Definition, Process, and Examples

Physical Mediumship, on the other hand, involves the spirit manipulating energies or objects in the physical world. 

This type of mediumship can produce more tangible evidence of spirit communication, such as unexplained noises, the movement of objects, or even the manifestation of physical forms. 

Physical mediums often work within a séance setting, with multiple witnesses present to observe the phenomena.

One notable example of physical mediumship is ‘table tipping,’ where participants place their hands on a table, and the spirit energy causes the table to move or ‘tip.’ 

Another example is ‘direct voice,’ where the spirit’s voice is heard audibly, often through a spirit trumpet, a cone-shaped device that amplifies the spirit’s voice.

The Role of Spirit Guides in Mediumship

In both mental and physical mediumship, spirit guides play a crucial role. These spirits have chosen to assist the medium in their spiritual work. 

They often help the medium to establish connections with other spirits, provide protection from lower energies, and offer wisdom and guidance to the medium. 

Each medium typically has one or more spirit guides with whom they work closely.

For example, a spirit guide might assist a mental medium by helping to establish a clear connection with a spirit wishing to communicate with the sitter. 

In physical mediumship, a spirit guide might help to control the energy required to produce physical phenomena, ensuring the safety of the medium and the sitters.

Psychic Abilities and Mediumship

Mediumship is closely intertwined with psychic abilities, as mediums utilize these innate skills to perceive and interpret information from the spiritual realm. These abilities, often referred to as the ‘clairs,’ provide different ways for mediums to receive and understand messages from spirits.


Clairsentience, or clear feeling, allows mediums to perceive emotional or physical sensations related to the spirit or message. 

A clairsentient medium might feel a spirit’s emotions or physical ailments, providing evidence of the spirit’s identity or experiences.


Clairvoyance, or clear seeing, involves receiving visual impressions or images. Clairvoyant mediums might see spirits, symbols, numbers, or scenes that have significance to the sitter or the spirit.


Clairaudience, or clear hearing, is the ability to perceive sounds or voices that aren’t audible to the normal ear. Clairaudient mediums might hear messages from spirits, music, or sounds with specific meanings.


Clairempathy, or clear emotional feeling, is a heightened form of empathy that allows mediums to directly experience the emotions of spirits or other individuals. This ability can provide deep insights into the emotional state or experiences of the soul.


Clairgustance and clairscent, or clear tasting and smelling, are less common but equally valuable abilities. A medium with these abilities might taste a spirit’s favorite food or smell a particular perfume associated with the spirit, providing further evidence of its identity.


Clairtangency, or clear touching, also known as psychometry, involves receiving information about an object or person by touching or holding an object. A medium might perceive images, emotions, or impressions related to the object’s history or the individuals associated with it.

In the table below, you can see a more in-depth comparison between ‘clair’ abilities:

AbilityDescriptionCommon Signs
Tips for Development
ClairvoyanceAbility to see visions or images related to a spiritSeeing symbols, colors, numbers in the mind’s eyePractice visualization exercises
ClairaudienceAbility to hear sounds or voices from spiritsHearing voices, music, or sounds without a physical sourceListen to nature sounds, practice focusing on subtle sounds
ClairsentienceAbility to feel emotional or physical sensations related to a spiritFeeling emotions or physical sensations without a clear causePractice empathy, tune into your feelings
ClairempathyAbility to directly experience the emotions of spirits or othersFeeling emotions intensely, especially when around othersPractice mindfulness, learn to distinguish your emotions from others’
ClairgustanceAbility to taste something related to a spiritExperiencing tastes without eating or drinking anythingPay attention to tastes, try to identify flavors in food
ClairscentAbility to smell something related to a spiritSmelling scents without a physical sourcePractice identifying different scents, pay attention to smells
ClairtangencyAbility to receive information about an object or person by touchReceiving impressions when touching objectsPractice psychometry, touch different materials and note your impressions

The Role of Empathy and Intuition in Mediumship

Empathy and intuition play significant roles in mediumship. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, allows mediums to connect deeply with both spirits and sitters, facilitating effective communication. 

It enables mediums to convey messages with compassion and sensitivity, often comforting and healing those receiving the reading.

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Intuition, the ability to understand something instinctively, is a crucial tool for mediums. It guides them in interpreting the messages they receive, often leading them to insights that aren’t immediately apparent. 

Intuition also helps mediums to navigate the spiritual realm, guiding them towards spirits who wish to communicate and away from lower energies.

Magician William S. Marriott attending a seance
In this photograph, Magician William S. Marriott is seen in the background while a female apparition carrying a ‘spirit’ bird and flowers appears in the foreground. This photo was one of several glass lantern slides used by psychic investigator Harry Price in his talks to expose the methods and equipment used by fraudulent mediums during that time. Image credit: The Spectacle of Illusion, published by D.A.P. Courtesy of the Welcome Library, London.

Becoming a Medium

The journey to becoming a medium is as unique as the individuals who embark on it. While some mediums report having had spiritual experiences or abilities from a young age, others discover their abilities later in life or after a significant event. 

This leads to the question: Can anyone become a medium?

Can Anyone Become a Medium?

The answer is nuanced. While it’s believed that everyone possesses some degree of psychic ability, the development of these abilities to the extent seen in mediums varies significantly among individuals. 

Some people may naturally have a stronger inclination towards mediumship, while others may need to work harder to develop their abilities. 

Signs you might have mediumistic abilities:

  • Frequent paranormal experiences
  • Strong intuition
  • Sensing presences
  • Seeing spirits in dreams
  • Feeling drawn to spiritual or metaphysical studies

However, with dedication, practice, and the proper guidance, individuals can enhance their psychic abilities and develop mediumship skills.

Steps to Develop Mediumship Abilities

The first step in developing mediumship abilities is to cultivate an understanding of the spiritual realm and the nature of mediumship. This can be achieved through reading, research, and learning from experienced mediums or spiritual teachers.

Next, potential mediums should work on enhancing their psychic abilities. This often involves practicing meditation to quiet the mind and heighten awareness and exercises to develop the ‘clair’ abilities. 

For example, clairvoyance can be enhanced by visualizing symbols, colors, or scenes, while clairsentience can be developed by tuning into the emotions of others.

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Potential mediums should also learn to protect themselves spiritually. This involves learning techniques to ground and center oneself, as well as methods to shield oneself from negative or lower energies.

Finally, budding mediums should practice their skills, ideally under the guidance of an experienced medium. 

This can involve participating in development circles, where individuals can practice giving and receiving readings in a supportive environment.

Ways to enhance your connection with the spiritual realm:

  • Regular meditation
  • Keeping a dream journal
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Spending time in nature
  • Studying spiritual or metaphysical topics
  • Seeking guidance from experienced mediums or spiritual teachers

Risks Involved in Practicing Mediumship

While the journey to becoming a medium can be rewarding, it’s essential to be aware of the risks involved in practicing mediumship. 

One risk is the potential to encounter negative or lower energies. 

While most spirits are benevolent, mediums can occasionally come across less so entities. This is why learning spiritual protection techniques is crucial.

Another risk is the potential for emotional strain. 

Mediumship often involves dealing with intense emotions from spirits and those receiving readings. This can be emotionally draining, particularly for mediums who are highly empathic.

Finally, there’s the risk of misunderstanding or misinterpreting messages from spirits. 

Mediumship is a complex process, and messages from the spiritual realm can often be symbolic or ambiguous. Misinterpretations can lead to confusion or distress for both the medium and the sitter.

While not everyone will become a medium, those with a strong interest and dedication to the practice can undoubtedly develop their abilities and deepen their connection with the spiritual realm. 

As with any journey, becoming a medium requires patience, practice, and a willingness to learn. And while risks are involved, the potential rewards—such as providing comfort and closure to others and gaining a deeper understanding of the spiritual realm—are profound.

Mediumship in Practice

Throughout history, there have been numerous individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of mediumship. 

These famous mediums have demonstrated remarkable abilities, providing compelling evidence of communication with the spiritual realm.

Real-Life Examples of Famous Mediums in History

One such individual is Daniel Dunglas Home, a renowned physical medium from the 19th century. 

Home was famous for his ability to produce physical phenomena, such as levitation and the movement of objects, under controlled conditions. His séances were attended by many notable figures of the time, including scientists, politicians, and royalty.

Another notable medium is Leonora Piper, often referred to as the ‘White Crow’ of Spiritualism. 

Piper’s abilities were rigorously tested by researchers from the Society for Psychical Research, including the renowned psychologist William James. 

Despite the intense scrutiny, Piper’s mediumship abilities were found to be genuine, significantly impacting the scientific study of mediumship.

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In recent times, mediums such as John Edward and Theresa Caputo have brought mediumship into the mainstream through their television shows. 

Their readings, often conducted in front of live audiences, have provided comfort and closure to many individuals seeking to connect with their deceased loved ones.

Famous mediums and their contributions:

MediumTime PeriodNotable AbilitiesSignificant Contributions
Daniel Dunglas Home19th CenturyLevitation, movement of objectsDemonstrated physical phenomena under controlled conditions
Leonora PiperLate 19th – Early 20th CenturyTrance mediumshipProvided evidence of survival after death, studied by Society for Psychical Research
Eusapia PalladinoLate 19th – Early 20th CenturyPhysical mediumshipStudied by notable scientists of the time, contributed to the study of physical mediumship
Edgar CayceEarly 20th CenturyTrance readings on various topicsProvided readings on topics like health, past lives, and philosophy
Allison DuBoisLate 20th – 21st CenturyMediumship, psychic abilitiesAssisted law enforcement, inspired the TV show ‘Medium’
John EdwardLate 20th – 21st CenturyMediumshipBrought mediumship into mainstream through TV shows
Theresa Caputo21st CenturyMediumshipBrought mediumship into mainstream through TV shows

The Role of Mediums in Criminal Investigations

Mediums have also played roles in more serious contexts, such as assisting in police investigations. 

For example, Allison DuBois, the inspiration behind the television show ‘Medium,’ has worked with law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes. 

Medium and psychic Gunther Geffers
The alleged psychic detective Günther-Geffers with German detectives in a trance. Image credit: Richard Lewinsohn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

While the use of mediums in such cases is often met with skepticism, there have been instances where information provided by mediums has been eerily accurate, leading to breakthroughs in the investigations.

Media coverage of mediumship has also increased recently, with newspapers and magazines reporting on mediumship events and workshops. 

These articles often feature testimonials from individuals who have received readings, sharing their experiences and the impact the readings have had on their lives. 

For example, a recent article in the “Psychic News” magazine highlighted a mediumship development workshop, where participants reported significant progress in enhancing their abilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be a medium? 

Being a medium means being able to perceive and communicate with spirits in the spiritual realm. Mediums serve as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, conveying messages from spirits to individuals in the physical world.

How do mediums communicate with spirits? 

Mediums communicate with spirits using their heightened senses or ‘clair’ abilities. They may see, hear, feel, or even taste or smell impressions from the soul, which they then interpret and relay to the individual receiving the reading.

Can anyone become a medium? 

While everyone is believed to possess some degree of psychic ability, the development of these abilities to the extent seen in mediums varies among individuals. With dedication, practice, and the proper guidance, it’s possible to enhance psychic abilities and develop mediumship skills.

Is mediumship the same as being psychic?

While all mediums can be psychics, not all psychics are mediums. A psychic uses extrasensory perception to identify information hidden from the normal senses, while a medium communicates explicitly with spirits in the afterlife.

What are the different types of mediumship? 

The two primary types of mediumship are mental mediumship, where mediums connect with spirits through their mind, and physical mediumship, where spirits manipulate energies or objects in the physical world.

Are mediums able to predict the future? 

While some mediums may also have psychic abilities that allow them to perceive information about the future, the primary role of a medium is to communicate with spirits, not to predict the future.

How can I develop my own mediumship abilities? 

Developing mediumship abilities involves understanding the nature of mediumship, enhancing psychic abilities through practices like meditation, learning to protect oneself spiritually, and practicing mediumship skills, ideally under the guidance of an experienced medium.

Do mediums always connect with specific individuals? 

Mediums cannot guarantee a connection with a specific individual in the spiritual realm. The ability to connect depends on various factors, including the willingness of the spirit to communicate.

Are there any risks involved in practicing mediumship?

Risks in practicing mediumship include encountering negative or lower energies, emotional strain due to dealing with intense emotions, and the risk of misunderstanding or misinterpreting messages from spirits.

Can mediumship provide comfort to those grieving the loss of a loved one? 

Yes, mediumship can comfort those grieving the loss of a loved one by providing messages from the deceased, often bringing closure and helping individuals navigate their grief.


  • Edward Clodd – The Question: A Brief History and Examination of Modern Spiritualism. Grant Richards, London, 1917. [Source]
  • Ruth Brandon – The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Alfred E. Knopf, 1983. 
  • Stuart Cumberland – Spiritualism: The Inside Truth. London: Odhams, 1919.
  • Joseph Dunninger – Inside the Medium’s Cabinet. New York, D. Kemp and Company, 1935. [Source]