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A Brush with Spiritualism: A Visit to Lily Dale

It turns out that mediums aren't the same thing as psychics and palm readers. This important distinction is made clear on a visit to Lily Dale, a hamlet in the Chautauqua-Allegany Region, tucked into New York's southwestern corner. Blithe spirits of the Noel Coward variety and crystal-ball-reading hacks are not to be found in this small town of roughly 275 residents, many of whom are mediums and certified ministers, living in a cluster of Victorianana cottages. Lily Dale refers to itself as the "World’s Largest Center for the Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism." Many of the traditions here seem to have roots in Christianity, and prior to embarking on a reading, most mediums start their sessions with a prayer. The Lily Dale Assembly defines a Spiritualist as "One who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the continuity of life and in individual responsibility. Some, but not all, Spiritualists are Mediums and/or Healers. Spiritualists endeavor to find the truth in all things and to live their lives in accordance therewith."

Like the nearby Chautauqua Institution (about a 30 minute drive away), the Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly hosts an active summer season full of programming and attracts upwards of 20,000 visitors who flock to the spiritualist-oriented events. Deepak Chopra was once a keynote speaker. In the off-season, the town continues to draw visitors who schedule appointments with the resident mediums. A walk through the town's streets reveal signs indicating the homes of mediums, who hold sessions in their living rooms. Binders advertising available time slots are set on tables in the screened-in front porches, and visitors select a time for their meeting with the Reverend. Even on a cold, rainy, late-September day, most mediums are completely booked up; it is definitely recommended to schedule an appointment well in advance. Some mediums have set fees for each reading, but many operate on a donation basis. Reviews of some of the mediums can be found through internet searches, but a visitor may be forced to defer to any medium with availability. A full list of current Lily Dale mediums can be found HERE.

Inspiration Stump" Inspiration Stump in Leolyn Woods" by  grilled cheese is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Even skeptics might agree that Lily Dale is situated upon hallowed ground. The geographic setting is incredibly serene and rejuvenating for many visitors. Located on the southern banks of Cassadaga Lake and just north of Middle Lake, areas for peaceful meditation include the coast of the lake, the Fairy Trail, and both the Forest Temple and Inspiration Stump, where many of the Assembly's summertime sessions are held. Feel like venturing to Lily Dale to connect with the spirit world? All information, including summer events, can be found HERE. The NYSOM Magazine will take you inside the Lily Dale experience when we publish a first-hand account from our visit to the site.

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