Mediums vs. Psychics: Is there a Difference?

Tarot card readings are one of the staples of the psychic community.
Floris Leeuwenberg/The Cover Story/Corbis

Tarot cards, Ouija boards and astrological charts -- sometimes it's hard to remember if these are instruments of psychics, mediums or both. The overwhelming presence of both types of seers in today's culture can leave a person wondering how each group functions in the paranormal world, and many make the mistake of thinking that both have the same supernatural skill set. The truth is, while both groups claim to have a sixth sense, they are two very different entities.

So how is a psychic different from a medium? Psychics are people who say they have multiple supernatural talents, such as the ability to peer into a crystal ball to see the future or discern your fate with a deck of tarot cards. Through precognitive powers, psychics claim to be clairvoyants -- people who see the past, present and future. They typically answer questions and offer advice to clients about stuff like health, money and love. Some psychics even assert they're telekinetic -- able to move objects with their minds -- and others maintain they can set people or objects on fire using only their thoughts.

Mediums are different from psychics in that their claim to fame is communicating with the deceased, or spanning the physical and spiritual worlds. Famous mediums, like John Edward and Allison DuBois, appear on television shows and write bestselling books about their abilities to communicate with the dead, and these types of seers are generally seen in a positive light by the public. Some critics argue that mediums are more popular than psychics due to mediums' tendency to possess a higher level of perceived credibility. This may be because mediums generally receive more favorable attention in the press.

The tools of the trade are different, too. For example, psychics often work with a variety of stereotypical items like tarot cards, palms or astrological charts and have no standard set of practices. Mediums, on the other hand, usually convey descriptions of information or images provided by spirits that have significant personal and often private meanings to their client

Most religions have faith that an afterlife exists, so the idea that a medium can communicate with a deceased person's spirit might be more believable than a psychic predicting the future based on a palm reading. Even if mediums are more respected than psychics, both professions are equally lucrative. But how does their prevalence in our culture influence people in society today?

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