Building a Psychomanteum

Photo by yulia pantiukhina on Unsplash

A psychomanteum is, according to Wikipedia, a small, enclosed area set up with a comfortable chair, dim lighting, and a mirror angled so as not to reflect anything but darkness intended to communicate with spirits of the dead.

The psychomanteum was popularized by Raymond Moody, originator of the term “near-death experience.” Moody believed the psychomanteum was useful as a tool to resolve grief and compared it to the Greek Necromanteion, and said its function was a form of scrying. Magicians however seek contact with many spirits, not just the Beloved Dead.

I am fortunate to have a room of my own, (I’m sure Virginia Woolfe would approve). Over the years it has been invariably referred to as library, laboratory, altar room, shrine room, temple, and most recently: spirit room. It is where I store precious books, objects, and tools. It is where I pray, meditate, and do all manner of spiritual work.

In his most recent conversation with Dr. Alexander Cummins on his podcast Rune Soup, Gordon White briefly mentions the creation and use of a psychomanteum. Though I had heard of them before, something about this conversation focused on the forthcoming book An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magick moved it up on the priority list.

Closet doors

The closet in the spirit room is used for storage, most of which is organized on two sets of wire shelves as you can see in the picture below.

shelves with items

I still require my storage space, but the closet also meets the criteria for a psychomanteum. So for maximum flexibility, I set out to create a space that can be converted in five minutes or less.

First, I removed everything from the shelves (and not only reorganized a few things, I also found stuff that had somehow missed my KonMari marathon). Then I added casters to the shelves.

Wire shelves with casters

Once I put everything back on the shelves, I tested them out, making sure I could easily pull them out and put them back in.

With a now-empty closet, I set to make measurements for placement of hooks and wall sconces. I already had a floor chair with an adjustable back – perfect for reading, meditation, or journeying. Luckily, the chair is light and easy for me to pick up. It fit perfectly in the closet.

After taking a few measurements, I installed the hooks and then the wall sconces. The wall sconce located behind the chair is fitted with a candle holder perfect for tea lights.

candle and chair

Next I installed the hook for the sconce that will hold the mirror.

Museum wax holds the mirror firmly.

With the doors closed, it is very dark. A wool yoga blanket folded lengthwise perfectly keeps the sliver of light under the doors from coming in to the psychomanteum.

Once an operation in the psychomanteum is completed, the mirror is easily removed, the brackets/sconces are lifted off the hooks and stored away until next time. After the chair is removed, the shelves are rolled back in and all is back to normal operations pretty quickly.

I cannot speak to its efficacy yet as there are still other, secret things to be done beforehand.

4 comments… add one
  • Mark Gan Mar 5, 2022 @ 9:34

    I’m constructing one as well in my house in a spare room I’m curious what other secret things are you needing to do?

    • The Chatelaine Mar 5, 2022 @ 10:33

      Hi Mark, Thank you for your comment and question.

      I’m not sure there is anything secret about building a psychomanteum. Obviously, you should alter it to meet your particular style, tastes, and needs. For example, I know of others who have built a psychomanteum in a spare bedroom, and painted the walls black in addition to putting in black carpeting and drapes/shades. I can very easily block out every bit of light in mine with a rolled up yoga mat or blanket.

  • Jennifer Carroll Jul 28, 2022 @ 7:20

    I’m wanting to build a room full of mirrors floor ceiling walls all mirrors to sit in any thoughts as how to pull this off

    • The Chatelaine Aug 8, 2022 @ 19:04

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for commenting. Floor to ceiling mirrors sounds like a dance studio to me. I would contact a glass company to have floor to ceiling mirrors professionally installed. I have some ideas as to how to DIY such a project, but I think that in this instance, you’d save money and time by having it done by a pro. If you do get your mirror box room, please share pictures – I’d love to see it and hear how it works out for you.

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