Séances, also known as spirit circles, first gained widespread notoriety during the 19th-century Spiritualist movement in late Victorian England. They were gatherings where individuals sought to contact the “other side” to communicate with the dead. Although some were exposed as nothing but smoke and mirrors, there were devout Spiritualists that took the ritual seriously and strove to tap into a Higher Self. More than 150 years later, the practice is still alive. I recently attended a spirit circle at Ipso Facto, a goth/alternative shop in Fullerton, California, that has been hosting séances for the past two years. I’m going to share my experience, plus my Q&A with shop owner Terri Kennedy.
A friend and I were attending spirit circle for the first time and had no idea what to expect. It was a small gathering of no more than 10 people. When it was time to begin, candles were lit, and lights turned off. The group was guided in meditation so that we could be more receptive to the spirits and entities around us.
The practice that followed was meant to exercise our psychic abilities. It involved each person pulling out a piece of paper from a glass bowl, memorizing the word written on it, then returning it to the bowl. Then, we were to take another piece of paper from the same glass bowl that was different from the one we first picked out. At this point, we went around the circle and everyone stated the word he/she got the second time and was to tell whatever immediate impressions or visions the term brought to mind. What was communicated was intended for whoever first picked out that word. In a sense, we were doing readings for each other.
For the second half of the session, we sat quietly and opened ourselves to receive any messages that might be coming through to us from spirits. We spoke out loud any words/visions we felt were intended for someone in the group. Carl Young, who was leading the circle, informed us that there were many messages coming through, we just had to be aware and in tune.
It was a very personal and eye-opening experience. I think because of how séances have been portrayed in film and television, there exists a misconception that they are frightening, but this was quite the opposite. I felt a sense of calm and left with the desire to enhance my spiritual awareness.
To gain more insight, I had the opportunity beforehand to ask owner Terri Kennedy a few questions about these special gatherings.
1. What incited you to make spirit circles part of the events you offer at your shop?
A couple of years ago a psychic/healer friend of mine, Kristin Dwan, met with me for coffee and told me that she had a strong sense that my shop would be heading towards a more metaphysical direction in the near future. Many years ago we’d had a tarot reader, but it didn’t work out, and since then we only had readers a few times a year at store events. I was skeptical about making a major shift in that direction, but I started meeting a lot of practitioners/ teachers who created excellent workshops for Ipso Facto, and it is doing really well. Carl Young has been a major factor in building the tarot reading side of the business, as well as our Spirit Circles and Tarot/psychic development classes and he has trained me to read tarot and tap into the psychic side of myself.
2. One of the reasons I am fascinated by séances is because of my interest in the Victorian era. Séances really captivated English society during the 19th century. What do you think the Victorian séance and modern-day séance have in common? Do you think the ritual holds a similar impact on people today like it did back then?
Our spirit circles follow the practices and techniques of the Spiritualist Church which have been doing this for over 150 years, so yes, they are very akin to what occurred in the Victorian era. Of course we are not augmenting our events like some charlatans did with special effects. To the people of that time, it must have been quite a shock. What is similar is there is still no scientific explanation for the phenomena. What is different was they were more focused on the research and note taking aspects.
3. Of the spirit circles you’ve held, is there one that really stuck with you or is very memorable?
There was one night we had 20 people or so, and someone’s phone kept going off (helicopter parent) which was annoying. I recall a time where I was able to visualize a patron’s car and tell her the make and model. Another time I felt the presence of someone who gave me their name and it was the deceased mentor of a friend who was there that night.
4. What has been the overall reaction from individuals that have attended a séance? Have you had skeptics leave with a change of perspective?
Most people seem to come with an open mind and curiosity. I have no idea if someone has changed their perspective. People go home and mull things over. Some messages are rather cryptic and require some musing to fully understand. That said, most people immediately find something in the reading that resonates with them. It isn’t unusual to have teary emotional hugging when someone is touched emotionally by what is said. It’s interesting how positive and encouraging most of the messages are.
5. What do you hope people walk away with after attending one of Ipso Facto’s séances?
We really hope to help people who are seeking answers. Also these circles teach how to access one’s psychic side, and to trust their guides, with the aim of improving ones’ life.
6. When will the shop hold its next spirit circle, and how often will you continue to host them?
On October 15th, we will host the second annual All Hallows Spirit Conjuring at Ipso Facto, which features not just spirit circle, but also pendulum and planchette (Ouija board) divination, table tipping and tarot reading. Table tipping involves a spirit rapping or tilting the table a certain number of times to answer questions, but it also moves and spins. We have videos!
Using authentic Victorian Spiritualist practices we engage with spirits in haunted historic downtown Fullerton, California, where one can meet spirit guides, get messages from deceased loved ones and hone ones’ psychic abilities via various mediums of divination.
Monthly spirit circles are held on the Monday in the middle of each month. I should also mention that Ipso’s 29th anniversary is in November, so we will be hosting a free gala in-store event with entertainment and giveaways. Stay tuned!
To keep up-to-date with Ipso Facto’s lectures and workshops, and to shop online, visit the official website.