The word séance is not particularly associated with shamanic practice. However, the role of medium is one of the roles of a shamanic practitioner. On some occasions the practitioner will merge with a healing spirit in order to complete a healing ritual. In other cases a practitioner will merge with a spirit to procure or relay a particular message for a client. An example of this is when a recently deceased loved one will reach out to a client through the practitioner.
Often a client will contact a practitioner with a request to assist a loved one who is about to die or has recently died. This work is called psycho pomp and is the work of helping a person cross-over.
A séance is slightly different in that it typically involves a group of three or more people with the specific intention of contacting one or more spirits. The practitioner works as a medium to bring these spirits into contact with this group. Generally this is done by merging with the spirits.
A séance is more social than many shamanic undertakings. It is often characterized by a heightened state of excitement and nervousness among the participants. Once the session is underway the difficulty for the medium is not to bring spirits through, as there are many waiting for such a chance. The challenge is to connect with the specific spirits connected with the individuals present.
I am often saddened by how many spirits are wandering this earth without direction. I think this is due to traumatic deaths such as from natural disasters and from the number of people who die without having worked through their challenges through religion or spiritual practice. By contrast, I seldom meet spirits who have passed from illness. I believe that as their illness progressed, they worked through much of the process and move more easily to the other side.
One way to obtain the most from a séance is to let go of expectations of what it will look like based on old movies. It is also helpful to focus on a specific question rather than just wanting to connect with Grandmother to see if she still loves you. I can assure you she does. However, she isn’t just hanging around with nothing to do on the other side.
Most people have felt the presence of a diseased love one at one time or another, especially just after a person has died. Our loved ones do retain ties to us and will occasionally appear when we need them.
My experience with the spirits tells me that the best way to connect with our ancestors is to continue to do our personal healing. We share the wounds of our ancestors. When we heal ourselves, we heal our lineage in both directions, back to our ancestors and forward to our children.