Lithomancy readings usually involve especially suitable gems or stones that are immersed in water, or tossed as a set and read by mutual proximity. Its origins are unknown, and there are numerous different methodologies used by various cultures throughout the world. A recently more common variant is crystallomancy also known as crystal gazing. Using quartz as a crystal ball it is stereotypically depicted as gypsy fortune telling.
The British medium William Roy earned over £50,000 from his séance sitters. He confessed to fraud in 1958 revealing the microphone and trick-apparatus that he had used. The automatic writings of the Irish medium Geraldine Cummins were analyzed by psychical researchers in the 1960s and they revealed that she worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and took information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history.
Modern tarot decks contain 78 cards, broken into two sections, the Major and Minor Arcana (modern terms, used only in relation to tarot used for divinatory purposes). The 56 Minor Arcana, or pips, are broken into four suits of fourteen cards each. These cards are numbered one (Ace) to ten, and there are four “court cards,” similar to a regular playing deck, only with one additional face card. The 22 Major Arcana, or trumps, are numbered 0 through 21, although some people exclude the Fool (0), considering this card to be outside the deck, a sort of “wild card,” rather like his descendant, the Joker.
“I don’t usually get spirit messages. I just don’t. But one day I was sitting with a friend, and all of a sudden, clear as day, I knew I had to tell her that her grandmother wanted her to go home. I told her, and she said that all her grandparents were dead. She called home anyway, to make sure everything was okay, and found out that her sister had been hurt at work and was on her way to an emergency room. I have no idea why my friend’s grandmother chose me to pass this message along, and it’s never happened since.”
For example, if a spirit wants to give the psychic medium the name Sandy, they might flash (in the psychic medium’s mind) the face of a person whom the psychic medium knows named Sandy. If they want to get the psychic medium to say the word “coffee,” they might show the psychic medium someone’s cat that had the name Coffee. This can be confusing and requires that the psychic medium interpret what they are seeing in their mind. For instance, the psychic medium might say cat rather than coffee; and to the person being read, the psychic medium might appear wrong when the psychic medium is actually just “misinterpreting” the message.
Yet another prominent spiritualist and trance medium prior to the Civil War was Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–1875), a man of mixed race, who also played a part in the abolitionist movement. Nevertheless, many abolitionists and reformers held themselves aloof from the spiritualist movement; among the skeptics was the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
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The Major Arcana (greater secrets), or trump cards, consists of 22 cards without suits: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, The World, and The Fool. Cards from The Magician to The World are numbered in Roman numerals from I to XXI, while The Fool is the only unnumbered card, sometimes placed at the beginning of the deck as 0, or at the end as XXII.
The suit of cups rules over all that is associated with emotions, the unconscious, creativity, and intuition. They frequently talk about relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, and one's imagination and inner world. They are associated with the element of water, which becomes a frequent visual theme within this suit. At their worst, the cups suit is fret with uncontrolled feelings, fantasy, and a disconnect with one's inner voice.
In 1880 the American stage mentalist Washington Irving Bishop published a book revealing how mediums would use secret codes as the trick for their clairvoyant readings. The Seybert Commission was a group of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania who in 1884–1887 exposed fraudulent mediums such as Pierre L. O. A. Keeler and Henry Slade. The Fox sisters confessed to fraud in 1888. Margaret Fox revealed that she and her sister had produced the "spirit" rappings by cracking their toe joints.
Magicians have a long history of exposing the fraudulent methods of mediumship. Early debunkers included Chung Ling Soo, Henry Evans and Julien Proskauer. Later magicians to reveal fraud were Joseph Dunninger, Harry Houdini and Joseph Rinn. Rose Mackenberg, a private investigator who worked with Houdini during the 1920s, was among the most prominent debunkers of psychic fraud during the mid-20th century.