Psychomanteum Q-and-A   2 comments

(Update, March 2017: The psychomanteum has been retired for the foreseeable future.  It has now been converted into an endarkened space for meditation; it contains a shrine for Skadi and a meditation cushion.  It no longer contains a mirror or a bean bag chair.  But you can still visit the Hermitage for a Paths of Sacred Endarkenment retreat, and arrange to make good use of it!)


Interested in scheduling a spiritual incubation session in the psychomanteum (mirror gazing room) within the Black Tent Temple space at the Hermitage?  Then please read on!  This page is required reading for all visitors prior to booking sessions.

As of May 2015, Psychomanteum sessions are open for bookings once again, after a long hiatus when they were put on hold due to excessive noise from the neighbouring unit.  I cannot promise that there won’t be a disturbance, as the psychomanteum shares a wall with the neighbouring unit.  But the risk is lower now that there is a new neighbour, so I’ve decided to accept bookings once again.

Contact information can be found at the bottom of the page.


1. What is a psychomanteum?

The simplest explanation is that it’s a very dimly lit space in a darkened, enclosed chamber, with a chair and a mirror opposite the chair.

It is also known as a portal, lair, spirit room, spiritual incubation chamber, or oracle of the dead.

2. What is it used for?

It is most often used for grieving individuals who wish to facilitate the process of communication with the spirits of the deceased, but it also has broader uses as a spiritual incubation and contemplation space.  At the Hermitage, it is used to facilitate the processes of relaxation, meditative inner focus, emotional alchemy, acceptance, and surrender that allow for deep embodied guidance, gnosis, healing, and visions to arise.

Rebecca Merz, a transpersonal psychologist, describes the psychomanteum as “a mirror-gazing technique that was developed in ancient Greek times, used for divination of souls.  Basically…an oracle of the dead.  People would go there…as a pilgrimage to find out information from the deceased.  Raymond Moody studied this, and brought it into contemporary times as a way to try to contact deceased loved ones to help with grief.”

Grieving individuals are welcome to use the psychomanteum at the Hermitage, but please note that I am a temple keeper and mystic; the work I do is artistic and introspective, and it is done in service to the gods and spirits.  I am not trained or licensed as a therapist or counselor of any kind.

Also, please note that while I have read some of Raymond Moody’s books, I have not studied with Moody or anyone associated with him, so the psychomanteum at the Hermitage should be considered an amateur experimental effort.

3. What does the inside of the psychomanteum at the Hermitage look like?

It’s about 5’ (approx. 1.5 meters) long and 3’ (approx. .9 meters) wide.  It’s located inside a walk-in closet with sliding doors and no windows.

Covering the walls are floor-to-ceiling black velvet curtains, and on the wall facing the chair is a large mirror.  Covering the ceiling is a sheer black veil, and on the floor is a soft black rug.  The mirror is hung at a height and angle that prevents you from seeing your own reflection while you are seated in the chair.  Once the curtains are fully closed, the only light in the room comes from a very dim (4-watt) soft blue light located behind the chair, in the left hand corner of the psychomanteum.

There is just enough room for one person of average size to sit comfortably.  It is a rather tight space; if you are claustrophobic, very tall, or have large body mass, you may have some trouble with it.  There is a very comfortable bean-bag style chair to sit on; it is made of purple velvet microfiber and stuffed with sturdy but flexible foam.  A pillow to support your neck can be provided.  The aim is for you to feel nestled in and secure.

4. Are there any photos of the inside?

No, and none will be posted.  No cameras are allowed inside the psychomanteum, and that won’t change unless I am instructed that it should by Those I serve.

But here is a photo of the doors to the psychomanteum:

The door to the new psychomanteum – a portal or spiritual incubation space, a.k.a. mirror gazing room. I will be scheduling the first exploratory sessions very soon!

The door to the new psychomanteum – a portal or spiritual incubation space, a.k.a. mirror gazing room.

5. Why was it built?

It was created out of love, devotion, and sacred intent, in order that it may serve divine purposes as a spiritual incubation space.  It was built under the guidance and at the behest of the gods and spirits I serve.  I assume that, as with all the work I do for Them, that They have Their own reasons, of which I am given but a mere glimpse.

6. Where did you get the idea to do this?

The dark ambient band Psychomanteum, who released an excellent album in 2011 called Oneironaut, originally inspired me to look up the word and find out what it meant.  (The members of this band are no longer working together, but I highly recommend their album to dark ambient fans.)

Intrigued, I read everything I could find about the psychomanteum and its uses, and when I started getting “nudges” to actually build one at the Hermitage myself, I went through a process of prayer and divination to determine the correct course of action with respect to the gods and spirits I serve.  The building of the psychomanteum was greatly facilitated at every step of the way, so I conclude that They wanted it built, and They tapped me to carry out these plans and serve as its keeper.

7. Who started this, and why do I seem to be hearing more about it lately?

Raymond Moody is widely considered to be the founder of the modern psychomanteum.  David Sunfellow of NewHeavenNewEarth puts it this way:

“Psychomanteum is the word that Dr. Raymond Moody, the famed near-death researcher, has coined to describe a special kind of room that is designed to help people contact spiritual forces, including the spirits of those who have died.  Based in part on the customs, temples and oracles of ancient cultures, Moody created a psychomanteum that has generated a great deal of interest and, according to many of the people who have used it, healing.

“Although many of the people that first used Moody’s psychomanteum used it in the hopes of contacting loved ones, more recently, another phenomenon has been taking place.  People are beginning to see other kinds of visions, including visions of global upheavals!  Sometimes these visions are vague and fleeting, while at other times that are stunningly real.”

There seems to be a psychomanteum “renaissance” gathering steam right now, as I write this in late 2013.  I have heard reports that several newly built psychomanteums have opened their doors in the past year, and many reports of psychomanteum experiences seem to be surfacing.  Just in the space of the year or so that I have been investigating this myself, I have noticed a strong uptick in interest, as more people discover what it is and become intrigued.

8.  How does the psychomanteum work, and what will happen while I’m inside?

The environment is designed to create conditions of sensory deprivation and deep solitude that may open the way for direct experience of the numinous, the spiritual realms, and the inner self.

From Wikipedia:

“The room is set up to optimize psychological effects such as trance. Its key features are low light or near-darkness, flickering light, and a mirror. The dimness represents a form of visual sensory deprivation, a condition helpful to trance induction, the undifferentiated colour without horizon producing the Ganzfeld effect, a state of apparent “blindness”. The Ganzfeld experiment replicates the conditions of a psychomanteum where a state of trance may be induced by a uniform field of vision…It is supposed the indeterminate depth of the mirror’s darkness allows the eyes to relax and become unfocused, a state that reduces alertness.”

You may experience alterations in your sense of the passage of time while you are in the psychomanteum.  The first time I tried it, 30 minutes in the psychomanteum seemed like just five or ten.  You may also feel drowsy as your relaxation deepens.

The psychomanteum process can be useful for people from all walks of life who are open to what it may bring.  Some people easily slip into states of deep relaxation and trance; others, not so much.  What you experience in the psychomanteum environment will vary based on your current state of mind, emotional and physical state, and what happens in the surrounding area during your session…among many other factors.  Each person comes to the psychomanteum for their own reasons, and their experience is theirs alone.  It’s best to trust the process, as it has a wisdom of its own.

There is no guarantee that you will experience spirit communication of any kind, even if you are open to it.  This is exploratory work and your expectations should be tailored accordingly.  It’s best to approach the psychomanteum with a sense of adventure and an open mind; try to let go of preconceived notions about what will happen for you.  Most people find the psychomanteum experience to be positive, comforting, or peaceful and think the time was well spent, regardless of whether or not an apparition appears or any spirit contact takes place.  Self-awareness, clarification, intuitive guidance, expanded awareness, visions, or deeper relaxation may be your result.  (Of course, it’s also possible that you may simply find yourself sitting there, bored or distracted, in a dark closet with a mirror!)

When you exit the darkness of the psychomanteum, of course your vision will need a bit of time to adjust.  I keep the lights in the surrounding area low for this purpose, so the transition will be gentle.

9. Is it in an underground space?

Not at this time, no.  It certainly has a subterranean theme, and I try to give it a cavelike atmosphere…but out of necessity it is located in my live/work space, which is a studio flat (apartment) on the seventh floor of a brick building.  My hope for the long-term, however, is that a space will eventually be found for the Hermitage where a new psychomanteum can be built in a real subterranean location such as a basement, in an appropriate location selected through the use of geomancy.

In the meantime, I do everything I can to keep the space as sacred as possible.  Shoes are always removed before entering, for example.  For the better part of three years before it became the psychomanteum, it was used as a quiet meditation room.  Over time, continued ritual and meditative use makes it into a more powerful spot.

10. Is it wheelchair-accessible?

Unfortunately, the building is not wheelchair-accessible because it was built in 1951 and “grandfathered in” so that accommodations are not legally required.  Or so I’ve been told, at least.

The only way to reach the entry door to the building is via a staircase.  I apologise for this, but can do nothing about it at this time.  My long-term intent is for the Hermitage to eventually find a new home which will be accessible for more people with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs.

11. Where is the Hermitage located, and how do I get there?

It is in downtown Portland, OR, one block from Portland State University.  You will be given the street address when you book a session.  Parking outside the building can be a problem and free parking (when it’s available) lasts only for an hour, so public transit is recommended.  The Portland streetcar stops about 6 blocks from the building.  If you are driving, be sure to allow extra time for parking.

12. How long will it take?

Each psychomanteum session is booked for 2.5 hours and is reserved just for you.  It is of utmost importance that the sessions not be rushed in any way, so please plan to arrive a few minutes early.

There will be up to an hour of prep and orientation time before you enter, followed by 45 minutes to one hour in the psychomanteum.  The session will end with a half hour or more of re-orientation time.

13. What happens when I arrive?

Call when you arrive (via your cell phone or the enterphone at the door.)  You will be met at the front door of the building by the temple keeper (that’s me), and escorted on the elevator up to the Hermitage.  Immediately inside the front door of the Hermitage is a transitional space where you can hang your coat and bag, turn off your phone, remove your shoes, and visit the restroom if necessary.  There is a table in the entryway with a bowl of purified water; it is customary to be sprinkled with this water or wash your hands with it before entering the temple space, but this is optional.

When you are ready to proceed, the curtains separating the sacred space from the entryway will be parted.  Just inside the sacred space is a chair where you can sit for a few minutes to orient yourself if you wish.  Then you will be given an orientation to the temple space.  You will have a chance to place offerings on the shrines, to choose the music you would like played while in the psychomanteum (if any), and to discuss any concerns you may have.

The Hermitage uses dark ambient music to facilitate meditation, trance, ritual, and devotional dance.  If you would like dark ambient music to accompany your session, the temple keeper can create a custom dark ambient playlist for you, or you can select from her existing playlists by theme.

When you enter the psychomanteum, the temple keeper will close the door behind you and sit in light meditation for the duration of your session.  At the end of the hour, you will hear a soft knock, and the temple keeper will slowly open the door and welcome you “back.”

You will then be offered tea or water, and you will have an opportunity to discuss your psychomanteum experience with the temple keeper, or to sit in companionable silence (or with the company of dark ambient music) as you re-orient yourself.

14.  Can I bring a friend, spouse, child, or family member?

Psychomanteum sessions are booked for only one person at a time, due to the solitary focus of this work, and the fact that the space is so tiny.

I do sometimes schedule general incubation sessions (e.g., in grief work) in the Black Tent Temple area with two or three people.  Three is the maximum that the space will hold comfortably.

15.  How quiet is it in the psychomanteum?  Is there outside noise?

Although every effort is made to keep the space as peaceful as possible, the Hermitage is located in an apartment building, so keep in mind that there may occasionally be some noise from the neighbours.  The neighbours are mostly quiet, which is very fortunate, but noise is more likely with sessions booked on Friday or Saturday evenings after 5 PM.

The unit is located near the elevator, so some soft elevator noise can be heard at any time of day from the hallway, whenever the elevator is in use while you are in the psychomanteum.

So far, most visitors to the psychomanteum have said that they found a deep silence in the space that envelops and welcomes them, regardless of outside noises.

16.  What days and times are available for sessions?

Sessions are booked on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between noon and 8 PM.  The psychomanteum is not available for community use on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays.

Summer (June, July, August, and September) is considered “downtime” at the Hermitage; no sessions are scheduled during these months.  Bookings are open from October through May only.

17.  What should I wear?

Please wear comfortable, dark-coloured, non-constricting clothing that will permit relaxation.  Sometimes it gets slightly chilly, so bringing a sweater or light jacket is advisable.

You will be required to remove your shoes when you enter the psychomanteum.  You can bring house slippers if you prefer (I wear them all the time due to cold feet), or simply wear socks.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do not wear synthetic perfumes or scented personal care products.  The temple keeper has allergies and asthma, and may have to turn you away at the door if you are wearing a scented product that causes her respiratory distress.

NON-SMOKERS ONLY.  If you smoke (cigarettes or marijuana) or vape, I cannot book a session for you, as these things trigger my asthma.

If you have any allergic reactions to pure woodsy incenses or essential oils, please note that the Hermitage regularly uses the following:

  • All-natural incenses from Incendiary Arts
  • Incense of the West (Santa Fe) cedarwood incense
  • Pure, all-natural essential oils of cedarwood, atlas cedar, fir, pine, cypress, and other forest and mossy scents

18.  What if I have to cancel?

If you need to cancel, please try to give 24 hours’ notice, as the time is booked just for you and careful preparations are made for your comfort.  Please respect the temple keeper’s time and effort.

19. Can I bring offerings?

Yes, offerings are welcome, though not required.  In the temple space directly outside the psychomanteum, there are the following shrines in honour of the gods and spirits I serve:

Offerings can be made to these divine beings and spirits on Their shrines.  There is also a bowl for general offerings to the Hermitage.

You may also bring a memento or photo of the beloved deceased if you wish, and during your session it can be left on the shrine for Móðguðr, the ancestors, and the beloved dead.

Appropriate offerings include coins, bills, tea or coffee (dry), and small mementos.

Please do NOT bring alcohol, flowers, plants, perishable food, perfumes, or incense of any kind, unless you have cleared it in advance with the temple keeper.  (Apples and loose tobacco are allowed for Santa Muerte.)

You may also make an offering of appreciation to the psychomanteum itself, and thank it directly (verbally or silently) if you like, as I often do.  It is a sacred space and should always be treated as such.

20.  Are there any fees?  Are donations accepted?

There are no fees for the use of the psychomanteum.  It operates on a gift basis only.  Donations are accepted gratefully, and will be used for supplies for the temple space (incense, tea ritual items, light bulbs, etc.)  Donations are not tax-deductible at this time.

21. Other items of note?

All phones, tablets, etc. must be turned completely off before you enter the temple space, and left off for the entire duration of the session.  No exceptions.  If you suspect you’ll need to make or accept a call, schedule your psychomanteum session for another time.

Keep in mind that the Hermitage is a private home, in which you will be an honoured and respected guest.  Please conduct yourself appropriately.  The temple keeper is the guardian of the space, and she reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone, for any reason.

22.  How do I book a session?

Send an e-mail to shrine.of.skadi AT gmail DOT com.  Please provide the following info:

  1. Name, location, and a brief introduction, if you are not already known to the temple keeper
  2. How you found out about the psychomanteum at the Hermitage (Google search?  Friend’s recommendation?)
  3. Day of the week and time preferences

I will do my best to accommodate you and will try to respond within 48 hours, though I cannot promise it.

If you are not already known to me or someone in one of the communities I frequent who can vouch for you, I may postpone booking your session until I’ve had a chance to meet you in person.

23. Where can I read more about the psychomanteum?

If you’d like to read a personal account of a psychomanteum experience, see Steve Trask’s fascinating report.

You can also watch this video by Jamie Butler of Beyond Intuition, or read about The Spirit Education Center and Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, which opened a psychomanteum under the supervision of Raymond Moody on October 1, 2013.

A few more references to explore:

Natural Health – Psychomanteums
Psychomanteum – Spirits Through a Looking Glass

Thank you for your interest!

~ D. JoAnne Swanson, Temple Keeper


Posted 2013/12/25 by The Black Stone Hermitage

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