I’m pleased to welcome Dianne Salerni here today to Dark Faerie Tales to talk about We Hear the Dead, which was recently released on May 1, 2010.
One lucky commenter has a chance to win a copy of We Hear the Dead. Details are listed at the end of the post.
Spiritualism and Séances
by Dianne K. Salerni
When I first began my research for We Hear the Dead, I thought that séances were all about communicating with dead relatives. After all, isn’t that what we expect? A person attends a séance to contact a beloved spouse – or to make amends with a departed brother – or to find out where crazy Uncle Ed hid his will. Based on the historical record, this seems to have been the initial purpose of the Fox sisters’ séances, which they called “spirit circles.”
Yet, we all know that any new enterprise requires funding and marketing. So, perhaps it’s not very surprising that once the Fox sisters began to establish themselves as spirit mediums, another element crept into their spirit circles — politics.
In the beginning, it might have been just happenstance. The Fox sisters were already acquainted with several well-known abolitionists; the Fox family had even boarded for a time in the home of Amy Post, a progressive Quaker known for her work in both the abolitionist and feminist movements. Whether it was Amy Post who first saw the potential of the spirit circles — or Leah Fox Fish, the eldest of the Fox sisters — the fact is that a number of important social reformers soon converged upon Rochester, New York. These included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass, who all wanted to hear the spirit rapping for themselves. After their visits, the spirit circles took a surprising turn toward political and social reform.
Consider that women were taking a greater interest in politics in the mid-19th century, but had no real power or authority. Women’s attempts to redefine themselves often resulted in ridicule by the public (bloomers were sneered and scoffed at) and sometimes even civic punishment (suffragettes were arrested). No one particularly cared whether or not the young Fox girls supported abolition – however, if they could raise the spirit of Benjamin Franklin to promise “great changes” on the horizon, their messages carried more weight. The Fox girls even produced raps from Senator John Calhoun, an ardent pro-slavery supporter who claimed that he’d been converted to the abolitionist cause in the afterlife!
This arrangement (if there was one) worked to the mutual benefit of both spiritualists and reformers. The endorsement of prominent leaders such as Douglass and Post increased the credibility of spiritualism and brought new, higher class clients to the Fox sisters. Moreover, the reform leaders were able to back their own beliefs with the support of “A Higher Authority.” Participants at the Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s Rights in 1848 reported hearing raps at the very table where Stanton and Mott drafted their resolutions. They concluded that Heaven itself supported this cause.
The blending of spiritualism with reform and the use of séances as a social media was, perhaps, inevitable. Still, you have to feel a pang of sympathy for those poor grieving souls who paid a dollar to attend a spirit circle in the hopes of speaking to Grandma Nellie, only to sit through a paid political announcement first!
Dianne K. Salerni lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania with her husband Bob and two daughters, Gabrielle (13) and Gina (9). She graduated from St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, Delaware and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Delaware. She subsequently earned a Master’s in Language Arts Education at the University of Pennsylvania before taking a job teaching in the Avon Grove School District. She has now been teaching fourth and fifth grade at Avon Grove for 20 years.
Synopsis (Product Description):
I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions.
I do not believe that I have ever intentionally deceived anyone. Maggie has a different understanding of the events that have happened. To her the spirits were always a game. For me they were my life’s calling. I have no regrets.
One lucky commenter will have a chance to win a copy of We Hear the Dead.
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:
Would you participate in a séance? If yes, what would you expect to happen? If no, why?
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6. Giveaway ends Thursday, July 1st at 11:59 PM EST.
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