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"She's a medium you know!"
"Oooh really? Looks more like a large to me!"

(either a Carry On movie or an episode of The Goon Show IIRC)

Basic Information

A medium is one who mediates between the world of the living and the spirit world - a person who communicates with spirits and other incorporeal entities and/or allows them to posses their body to communicate with others (or to perform other actions). Technically the term can be applied to a shaman but in common usage, tends more to be used of westerners and others from non-shamanistic cultures. Like a shaman a medium often uses altered states of mind to facilitate communication and may well deal with a spirit ally for ease of navigation in the spirit world. Unlike a shaman, a medium rarely communicates for religious purposes (including theurgy), tends not to be as well connected spiritually, is most unlikely to engage in spiritual travel1 and is generally a lot more passive in their dealings. Shamen tend to look on mediums as amateurs and/or a kind of spiritual panhandler.

Success as a medium depends a lot on being able to track down spirits that are benevolent, co-operative, sane, honest and know what they are talking about … a medium, especially one with a spirit ally, is more likely to succeed at this than some idiot whistling in the dark with a ouija board, but still takes significant risks.

Being a medium is also somewhat risky due to their typically limited abilities to defend themselves from less friendly spirits, to screen prospective possessors and to expel those that become unwelcome. In most cases they lack the prolonged apprenticeship, initiation and contact building processes common to shamen. Many mediums become such in the process because they have a natural (often inherited) sensitivity to the spirit world - in shamanistic cultures, they are the sort of people that would instead be properly trained as shamen rather than left to develop on their own.

It must also be pointed out that a lot of the 'mediums' in the business are nothing more than frauds, who use a combination of cold reading techniques, psychological tricks and simple probability to deceive their audiences, whether for outright fraud, pseudo-religious purposes or pure entertainment.

Confusingly, a lot of mediums are referred to (occasionally by themselves) as "psychics", although mediation falls outside the normal scope of psychic powers as they are commonly understood.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs may need to clear up the mess resulting from a medium being possessed by a particularly aggressive squatter.
  • Alternatively, they may be caught up in the wash of a fake medium who has defrauded lots of people and skipped town.
    • Or a real one, who stirred up/annoyed the local spirits and then moved on.
      • Or a fake one, who ticked off the local spirits by misrepresenting them or giving bad advice. Or a fake who think's they're real (or a real one who isn't as good as they think), and called up something that couldn't be put down.
  • We shouldn't overlook the possibility of a fake medium suddenly starting to get real results…
    • How about a real medium that thinks they are a fake … it worked for Whoopie Goldberg?
    • Or - again, shades of Ghost as above - because they are having the medium/spirit guide relationship reversed by a power from the other side.
  • In some eras - especially the 1900s to 1930s - spiritualism was very popular and it might be quite normal to go to a medium as part of the investigation of a mystery. This may be where things really start going wrong.
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