Spirit channeling has old origins in Vermont. Here’s how it looks today
It’s a chilly Thursday evening and a group of Vermonters gather in a Burlington living room for conversations with Mother Earth.
Gwendolyn Evans — resident Mother Earth channeler — sits in a comfy armchair at the head of the room, guide dog Julie snoozing at her feet. She has the attention of the six other people in the room, sitting together on sofas and rocking chairs, with big questions on their minds.
Evans starts the conversation with a meditation, and soon, her speech switches from first person singular to the first person plural, indicating that her spirit guide — the reason for the congregation, Mother Earth — is present.
Sandy Post has been coming to the Mother Earth channeling sessions for as long as the group has been around. Although she does not channel a spirit guide, she’s had many encounters with spirits that have shaped the way she sees the world. Over the years, the channeling group has stood as an alternative to more organized styles of religion for Post.
“I always felt like it wasn’t asking enough for me, the churches. It wasn't expanding me enough, in this dimension,” Post says.
For her, the group is a place to connect with others who understand her spiritual experiences.
“I used to feel sort of nervous to talk about this, and it's not like I ever start a conversation about this, but now if someone opens a door a little bit, I now feel an obligation to share with them that there are a lot of us who have been steeped in this for years,” Post says.
Spirit channeling has old origins in Vermont, according to historian Jason Smiley. He's an expert in the Eddy brothers– a pair of spirit mediums who hosted dramatic séances at their home in Chittenden in the late 1800s.
“What the brothers were most well-known for — which makes them unique from some of the other mediums — was their alleged ability to materialize spirits,” Smiley says. “Physical manifestation of spirits would be present at the house.”
Smiley says the brothers were active during a period of Vermont history when ideas of spiritualism were taking off — the religious movement that emphasized communication with the dead.
Although modern mediumship looks different than the Eddy brothers' performances, Smiley says Vermont still has strong traditions of spiritualism.
“On the one hand you’ve got nature, which can evoke a sense of awe, but can also evoke a sense of dread, or at the least the unknown,” Smiley says. “I think that stirs up a lot of interest in these types of things.”
Gwendolyn Evan's channeling group in Burlington isn’t the only force that’s been carrying on these traditions.
Megan David holds psychic readings and teaches classes at theSoul Room, her business in Montpelier. David moved from Washington state around a year and a half ago, and she says building a community around energy work in Vermont has been more tedious than she expected.
“There is kind of a tendency to kind of circle up and be mildly suspicious or skeptical of someone coming in from the outside," David says.
But this hasn’t stopped her from finding patrons. David says her process of building community has slowed down, and she’s been connecting with one person at a time, demonstrating that her services are genuine and sincere.
“In my mind, I'm not running a business, I’m building a community," David says. “It’s a slower process, but it’s deeper, and it’s richer.”
Building this community has looked different for psychic channeler Ashleigh Meagher. Raised in a family that embraced mediumship, Meagher has been practicing channeling for a long time. During the pandemic, she decided to turn her skills into a business. However, finding clients for her readings in Brownsville wasn't easy.
“There seems to be a bit of a hesitation in people fully saying, ‘Oh I believe in this, I am this way.’ I think that's just to do with belief systems growing up and being the hard-working farmers that Vermont mostly is,” Meagher says.
So, Meagher has turned to virtual options. She offers her services primarily over TikTok’s live feature, where she’s known as Ashlightstar to almost 150,000 followers. She says social media has allowed her to create a network of fellow energy readers around the world — the type of community she wasn’t finding in Brownsville.
“Vermont is very rural,” Meagher says. “You might know someone down the road, but there’s not like a hub to connect with them on.”
She hopes that social media will foster connection for other Vermont mystics who feel isolated in spots where psychic work is less common.
This story is a collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.