Jesse Hathaway Diaz 2024


LECTURE: Seeds of the Seance: The Plants of Spiritism from Victorian Supernatural Botany to Caribbean Creole Espiritismo

Certain plants and scents have long been felt as aiding in the connection to the spirit world, and with the rise of spiritism in the 19th century, many such plants became renowned for assisting the faculties of mediums to deliver messages and commune with spirits. While many such connections were born from existing cultural associations and carried in to spiritist circles, we can similarly see the incorporation of specific plants and botanical products due to contemporary availability and efficacy through trial or observation, such as with Florida Water and other scented colognes. Flowers served both a heraldic role by inviting certain spirits to the session, and also often were notably produced as apports, objects materialized in seances in the presence of a medium, such as the famous Ixora crocata and the Golden Lily of medium Elizabeth d’Esperance. As spiritism spread in the Caribbean and increasingly creolized into the various forms of espiritismo, a treasure trove of Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous plant lore became part of the spiritist repertoire. In this lecture, Hathaway Diaz will draw on documented history and personal interviews with both spiritists and espiritistas regarding the role of plants in spiritism, as inspiration, apport and proof, as offerings and heraldry, and as tools for the work of spirits.

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