Mediumship as Ordinary Experience: An anthropological discussion of ordinary vs non-ordinary – What is the difference?

  • Bettina E. Schmidt University of Wales Trinity Saint David


Using the study of mediumship (spirit possession) as a case study the chapter discusses the methodological differences between labelling an experience as ordinary or non-ordinary. In addition to challenging academic labelling the chapter puts forward the argument to opening the study of religious and spiritual experience in light of Peggy Morgan’s work. The first section looks back at the beginning of the academic study of experience and highlights the contribution of the early Oxford anthropologist R.R. Marrett. Comparing his work with Rudolf Otto’s theological approach it argues against limiting the study to ‘religious experience’. The second section presents the case of seeing mediumship as ordinary experience. Referring to Irving Hallowell’s concept of ‘other than human persons’ and Tim Ingold’s critique of agency it argues that an approach to experience as ordinary can further our understanding. 

Keywords: mediumship; non-ordinary experience; ordinary experience; anthropology of religion; agency