Sunday, August 2, 2015

Psychics Through the Ages

In honor of "Psychic Day," a look through the history of Psychics.

Do you believe in psychics? Take our poll!

Before we go into the history, we have to look at what falls into the "psychic" category:

  • Psychic Medium
    • Able to see and talk to ghosts
    • Used to find sense of closure after a person's passing
  • Clairvoyant (etc. I'll explain in a sec)
    • Able to get information with 6th sense
    • Finding things, predictions
    • Includes:
      • Psychometry
        • See past of person/object by touching it
        • Pam Asbury in Rose Red is an example
      • Precognition
        • See information or bits of the future
        • One site referred to this as the cause of déjà vu
        • Prophesizing is supposed to use precognition
      • Astrology (debated)
        • The effect of the position of stars and planets on everyday life
        • If you've ever looked at a Horoscope, you've seen astrology used
        • Use charts that are based on time of birth down to the minute
    • There are other clair- words that are related
      • Clairvoyant - sees the information
        • aka third eye, psychic vision, etc.
      • Clairsentience - feels information
        • Empaths are considered clairsentient
        • aka empathic, intuitive feeler
      • Clairaudience - hears information
        • One of the ways mediums get information, according to several sites.
      • Claircognizance - just knowing the information. 
        • aka inner knowing
      • Clairalience - smelling scents that aren't there
        • Mediums smell clues
      • Clairgustance - tasting non-physical tastes
  • Anyone with extrasensory perception, aka ESP.
Now that we've covered that, let's look at the history of Psychics.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word psychic can be traced back to multiple roots, the tap root being Greece. The Grecian word psykhikos means "of the soul, spirit, or mind," and I would point out the Goddess Psyche was the goddess of the soul and mind. The term mutated in the 1640s to psychical, and in 1872 became the term we see today, which means "of or pertaining to the human soul." They also refer to the New Testament of the Christian bible with "psykhe" referring to "soul, mind, life."I feel that I should add that the OED finds the root of clairvoyant, as well.

So the term has been around since Grecian times. I don't find this overly surprising, as the Greeks did have their Oracles to relay and interpret the will of the gods and goddesses. With that in mind, I'm starting there. 

1. Oracles interpret the will of the gods in Greek society.
2. Grecian word psykhikos is main root of term psychic.

Onwards! From the Grecian oracles, there is a continuing tradition of oracles, seers, prophets, and fortune-tellers throughout multiple cultures and religions. There are many found in Christian, Muslim, Islamic, Judaic, and other religious texts and/or belief systems, not to mention the "occult" religions. This is also where the stereotype of "gypsy" fortune-tellers comes from. I'm not going to go into the traveler backstory, as a) I don't want to say anything that could be conceived as racist and b) it's hard to get accurate information that doesn't have a heavy slant/bias. Trust me, I looked, and the racial slurs - both obvious and subtle - made me cringe. Skipping over that issue, we still find a plethora of religions that either incorporated or, as in the case of the Native American Shaman, came up with the idea of communing directly with the God(s) of their particular religion/culture. 

3. Psychic abilities as a part of various religions.

From here, we have a veritable rabbit den of twists and turns, dead-ends and appropriations. The rise of the Tarot card, palm reading, tea leaf reading, smoke reading (basically if it exists, you can get a reading done in it), etc. is overwhelming. 

4. Rise of "readings," using psychic powers to predict the future, etc.

Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame) stands out, as books on his work still can be found on the shelves of even my hometown's bookstores. He purportedly wrote down at least 6,338 prophecies (most of which didn't come true), according to nostradamus.org. Nevertheless, his works can still be found en mass today, in libraries and bookstores nationwide, if not worldwide.

With the rise of Christianity, we see a quieting of the psychic movement, as one could be burned as a "heretic" for believing in such "pagan" ideas. However, psychics continue to ply their trade on the sly, using playing card decks of 52 cards (minor arcana) being owned by those who would get readings with 22 extra cards being carried by tarot card readers (major arcana). This was popular enough to be the source of the playing card decks we see today. Plus it made those getting readings less likely to be burned as heretics as they were "just playing cards."

5. Christianity subdues psychic movement.
6. Psychic movement continues on the DL.

Psychics aren't seen in the spotlight again until the spiritualist movement - partially thanks to the witch trials or "burning times" that are seen throughout America and Europe, which reoccur whenever it seems to be dying out. The spiritualist movement is one of the many sources of skepticism we see today. Houdini, a skeptic of the time, proved many supposed mediums and psychics frauds through his knowledge of showmanship. His disproving of them didn't stop the movement, though it did put a damper on it, and what work he did was slightly undone when his wife, Bess, confirmed that the code he had given her in case of his death was divined by a proclaimed medium. Only one of many was able to make that claim, however.  

7. Resurgance of psychic mediums in spiritualist movement.
8. Houdini one of sources of skepticism.
9. Many mediums proved to be fraud.
10. One medium able to prove he contacted Houdini after death.

Today, psychics are met with a mixture of awe, reverence, skepticism, and claims of fraud. Despite this, there are several psychics that are making a living in the modern world. Sylvia Brown, for one. The Long Island Medium woman for another.

11. Mediums are still active in the world today.

Overview:
1. Oracles interpret the will of the gods in Greek society.
2. Grecian word psykhikos is main root of term psychic.
3. Psychic abilities as a part of various religions.
4. Rise of "readings," using psychic powers to predict the future, etc.
5. Christianity subdues psychic movement.
6. Psychic movement continues on the DL.
7. Resurgance of psychic mediums in spiritualist movement.
8. Houdini one of sources of skepticism.
9. Many mediums proved to be fraud.
10. One medium able to prove he contacted Houdini after death.
11. Mediums are still active in the world today.

What does that have to do with The Forlorned? Well, one character claims to have psychic abilities, which lean towards clairvoyance. So, what would you do if you had psychic abilities? What psychic ability would you want to have? Would you try to hide them, make money on them? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Also, who would you be based on your belief (or lack thereof) in psychics? Find out; take our personality quiz!
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