A Beginner's Guide to Communicating With Spirits

Welcome, cosmic warriors. I'm astrologer Aliza Kelly Faragher, and this is Allure Astrology, a column dedicated to all things magick. Did you just hear that? Grab your Ouija board! Today, we're learning how to communicate with the other side.

Years before I became a practicing astrologer and occult columnist, my first foray into the "strange and unusual" was through my deep fascination with ghosts. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by the spirit world: I read every collection of scary stories I could get my hands on, hosted a séance for my ninth birthday, and loved spending time in any space considered "haunted." Simply put, the paranormal was my thing.

Spooky people like myself are amused by all that is macabre, but contacting spirits isn't a parlor trick. In fact, communicating with the dead is serious business and requires advanced expertise. Mediums are professional connectors who facilitate dialogue between the living and the dead. According to Jessica Lanyadoo, an astrologer and medium with two decades of experience, "being a medium means that I can hear, see, and feel those who are no longer in their bodies."

In her work as a psychic medium, Jessica creates bridges between worlds. Just like our mortal conversations, dialogue with the dead can range from profound to petty. Spirits won't always offer specifics or say what you want to hear (ghosts can be jerks, too). And since Jessica receives messages from spirits constantly, she works hard to create healthy boundaries in both the physical and spiritual realms: "I'm a huge believer in privacy and don't like to invade others' space, and am not a fan of others [dead or living] invading mine."

In preparation for this column, I reached out to dozens of individuals who have sat with psychic mediums. Their stories are rich, diverse, and — perhaps most importantly — extremely specific. One individual, Jackie, did not know her ex-lover had passed until a medium channeled his spirit: "[The medium] kept telling me there was a young man who was very interested in me, and that he had a lot to say, even describing him physically, but I couldn't figure out who she meant. I found out about a year later that my first boyfriend had died of an overdose shortly before that appointment."

Megan, another individual who received a reading, described how the medium was physically affected during the session. While communicating with Megan's grandmother, the medium felt her chest become heavy and experienced difficulty breathing. Megan's grandmother was an extremely heavy smoker who underwent a tracheotomy in her final years — a defining characteristic that transcended its mortal form.

While each client's story was unique, those who shared their experiences with me all expressed sincere gratitude, peace, and a definitive sense of closure. Though the deceased cannot be reanimated, communication with the dead breathes new life into difficult situations. According to Jessica Lanyadoo, "when someone dies, they are not meant to be here anymore. Learning to let go is a part of loving someone who has passed away."

Many spirits can only be heard and seen by experts, which is why mediums help deliver their messages. Ghosts, however, are a bit different. Ghosts will often use any conduit available to make contact. According to Los Angeles-based psychic medium, Meghan Castro, "ghosts are spirits that have not yet had closure with leaving" This process can take a long time and is often linked to location, which explains why some places — like a dimly lit attic or former battlefield — can remain haunted for centuries.

Just like the living, ghosts can also be showboats. It's easy to connect with attention-seeking spirits — though most experts advise against making contact haphazardly. According to Jessica Lanyadoo, you can't protect yourself from what you don't understand. So, if you do decide to open a portal to the dead, "just be prepared that anyone can come through." Now that's spooky.

Even with Jessica's warning in mind, intrepid adventurers may still decide to go rogue. For those seeking self-guided experiences, follow the tips and tricks outlined below. All divination practices require study, practice, and patience, but when dealing with the dead, you want to be especially careful with your approach. After all, ghosts are people too.

Sage it for later.

Sage is an ancient herb used for cleansing and purification rituals. Smudging (a fancy word for burning) is the first step to many rituals and spells — but not when it comes to contacting ghosts. Since sage is used for clearing, ghosts interpret sage as a request to leave a space. If you sage and then try to communicate, the ghosts will likely get annoyed by your mixed messages and, if it does show up, either be cranky or despondent.

Set up different conductors.

Even the most industrious ghosts rely on conduits to deliver messages. As you're preparing to make contact with the dead, set up several different conductors within the space. Historically, ghosts have been known to communicate through candle flames, liquid (water in a glass may ripple when a spirit is present), and scent. Audio and video recording devices are also effective conductors and can be used in real-time to aid transmission. Just as the living have preferences, the dead may prefer some devices over others, so make sure to have several options available.

Thou needn't speak with affectation.

It's great to treat the dead with reverence, but there's no reason to embarrass yourself by speaking in a fake, antiquated dialect. Drop the olden talk, and communicate with spirits authentically. Of course, it's important to be respectful, so use thoughtful words (don't make any demands) and a calm tone throughout the dialogue. Be direct, and communicate exactly what you would like to say and what you're experiencing. Most ghosts don't want to scare you (and the ones that use fear tactics are often just being mischievous), so if something makes you nervous, let them know (in a strong, yet peaceful intonation) that you're afraid. Usually, they'll then move to another conductor that is less obtrusive.

Ouiji boards really work.

Last summer, I coerced my friends into using an Ouija board. Although our session yielded no distinctive results, there was an undeniably eerie tone to the planchette's slow movement across the black letters and its assertive answer when it abruptly slid to "GOODBYE." Ouija boards aren't foolproof and, yes, people often — whether consciously or unconsciously — move the planchette. But since Ouiji boards are complete with letters and numbers, it's easy for ghosts to, quite literally, spell out their messages. If the commercial aspect of the Ouija board cramps your style, go ahead and make your own!

Celebrate life by embracing death.

Sure, our fear of ghosts has been perpetuated by horror movie tropes. But, in actuality, a fear of ghosts ultimately reflects our relationship with mortality. It's not easy to accept death; it's painful, heartbreaking, and scary. Connecting with the spirit world, however, explores the impertinence of the physical realm. At the end of the day, all that's left is a strong, powerful, and beautiful soul. In the wise words of Jessica Lanyadoo, let spirits "help you to love more wholly and live more fully." And of course, accumulate some riveting campfire stories along the way.

Find Aliza on Instagram, Twitter, and her website.

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