A gathering of people for the purpose of investigating or experiencing supernormal or psychic phenomena. In the past they were sometimes called 'circles', because participants, called 'sitters', sat around a table (or on chairs arranged in a circle) in order to link hands, in the belief that this boosted the psychic forces that encourage paranormal manifestations.
Generally seances involve a medium who enters a trance-like state (see ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS) and contacts a 'spirit friend' or 'spirit helper' - or, more often, what is claimed to be the spirit of one who has died (see NECROMANCY). The spirit then communicates with the gathering through the medium, either mentally or directly, using the medium's vocal chords.
In the 19th Century, seances were dominated by physical manifestations, such as rappings, strange smells, levitation and materialization, most episodes of which were eventually exposed as having been fraudulent.
Because of these fraudulent associations, the term 'seance' has fallen into disuse and modern psychic researchers and mediums use the term 'sitting'.
see also: NECROMANCY
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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