Kai Wright: Hey, Regina.
Regina de Heer: Hi, Kai.
Kai: It's Halloween night and you are a huge fan, as I understand it. What do you love about this holiday?
Regina: I've always loved Halloween. I think as I've gotten older, it's changed from being a fun time to dress up and go out, to being more of a time to think about and be scared of and, I don't know, just have fun with the dead. There's something about this time of year and the veil being down between the living and the dead, and other people also thinking in this space that excites me. I was wondering, what is the history of Halloween? What about this time of year makes people all around the world think about the dead? I thought it would be fun to speak with historians and even speak with a psychic medium who is in this space all year round. I think it will be a fun conversation.
Kai: I cannot wait. That's tonight show, the sometimes hidden history of Halloween and how we commune with the dead.
Regina: This Halloween, we're asking people about their relationship to those who have passed. What does Halloween signify for you?
Andy: I'm from New York, so I know the Halloween celebration is crazy. At the same time, it makes you think about people that have been here, people that we've lost. We were in Paris once on November 1st, and oh my God, just hordes of people going to the local cemeteries. That doesn't happen so much here.
Regina: What does relationship with the dead mean to you?
Gail: I speak with my mother and my father quite frequently. I know they're always there with me, cooking a recipe that my mom did, or something that my dad enjoyed, watching over me. Maybe assurance that I'm the right path.
Andy: Either one of us are not really very religious people, but I've always felt somebody was on my shoulder, and it's a very palpable feeling.
Kai: This is The United States of Anxiety. I'm Kai Wright. I really hear that last person. I too have always felt somebody is over my shoulder, and it is a palpable emotion. I came by it, honest, it's a family thing. My grandmother, toward the end of her life, she was in open conversation with dead people she loved. I'd be sitting with her and she'd be laughing and joking about somebody in our family who’d already passed. I noticed she'd be talking in present tense. Then occasionally, I'd catch her referring to a conversation she had with one of them and I'd be like, "Wait, she's talking about last night." I understood because me too.
My dad, my uncle, now both my grandmothers, they come to me regularly. Sometimes too regularly, if I am honest. To some of you all, that will sound crazy, no doubt. To others, it will sound perfectly normal. I know there are a wide range of feelings and beliefs about this kind of thing, and how we relate to the idea of spirits. Since we are live with you on Halloween night, we figure instead of talking about the $10 billion in costumes and candy and decorations that US consumers are expected to spend this year, we figured, instead let's explore the ways in which we all engage with the dead. It's something that cuts across cultures and faiths globally.
Maybe we can learn something about each other by digging into this seemingly universal need to connect with departed souls. We'll go to Ireland and we'll go to Mexico to learn some history. Then we'll come back here, where a medium is going to share her practice of traveling inward to find connections beyond the flesh. We're going to ask your participation in that part, we'll be taking your calls about departed souls with whom you'd like to connect. Stay with us for that. First, the history of Halloween itself takes us back to the Celtics. To explain that history and what it's got to do with us today, I'm joined by New York University lecturer, Hilary Mhic Suibhne, who specializes in Irish history. Hillary, thanks for coming on the show.
Hilary Mhic Suibhne: I'm delighted to be here, Kai.
Kai: I, for one, do not know the history of this holiday very well, but I know from the Halloween fans on our team that there is a pretty straight line between the stuff happening out in the streets tonight and the Celtic holiday Samhain. Start us off and tell us a little bit about that original holiday. It has to do, as I gather, with the fall equinox, correct?
Hilary: Yes, indeed, Kai. Firstly, the origin of Halloween comes from the festival of Samhain, as you mentioned, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The night itself is called Oíche Shamhna. That means the night of Samhain. If you consider Samhain as meaning November, then Oíche Shamhna begins at sunset on that last day of October. To understand the origin, we have to travel back in time quite a long way. We need to back to Ireland before the first Christian missionaries came, to the community that was there. A mixture of Celtic settlers who'd made their way across Europe and had settled in Ireland, where there were also inhabitants from the Bronze Age and the Stone Age. These people lived together and their language and customs combined.
Way back then, a calendar year was accounted for by the movement of the sun, as it still is in a sense. They divided their year into four quarters. The fall equinox that you mentioned there falls in September. The next big date in the Celtic year would be the shortest day of the year, which is the winter solstice on around about December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Right in between those two important periods falls Samhain. It's right in between the two of them, and that's how it is decided upon. It's the beginning of the New Year. It's the start of the dark time of the year.
Kai: I don't think we appreciate today what that means, the beginning of the dark time, when there was no electricity and it gets pretty dark.
Hilary: It gets pretty dark. Also, think of Ireland, which is much more northerly than we are here in the United States. It's even darker earlier at night, and stays dark for a long time. Sun doesn't rise until much later in the morning. Samhain celebrated that darkness and that quiet time of year, and representing that New Year it was time for people to settle back and relax before the start of the next-- Until light started to come into their worlds again. The interesting thing about Oíche Shamhna was, at the end of that year, the year gone by, as soon as the sun set on Oíche Shamhna, until the sun rose the next morning, then the portal to the other world would open. That would allow spirits to return to earth for just that night, just one night. Only disgruntled spirits, really. They would visit and they would mingle with their friends and enemies until the next morning.
Kai: What was it about that moment that took the Celtics to the spirit world that made them think, "This is the moment that the spirits come with us?"
Hilary: The spirits were always there in their hearts and minds, because life and death was one long process. At the end of the light time of the year, that period of time was simply a chance to connect. It was a continuation. The spirits who came back, they may not come back every year. They were just the spirits of people who have perhaps passed away that previous year. All other spirits who were happy with their lives moved on to the next life. Some of those spirits maybe had unfinished business. Maybe they wanted to settle the scores and wanted to pic k on someone. Maybe someone had wronged them. Usually, those spirits and ghosts wandering around in Oíche Shamhna, they were there for a reason. They were looking out for somebody perhaps. That's why everybody decided it might be best to disguise themselves.
Kai: Thus why the costumes?
Hilary: Yes, because then you might not be recognized if somebody was going to pay you a visit. They might not recognize you if you're well disguised. That was the beginning of the disguises to hide from these possibly disgruntled spirits.
Kai: Hilary, I'll just note, I think your microphone is shifting a little bit there, and we're losing some of you when you talk. In these still COVID days, we don't do this in a studio anymore so we do sometimes have [crosstalk]--
Hilary: It might be somebody playing a trick on us.
Kai: Oh my goodness. One of the spirits have come.
Hilary: I think it could be, because they don't want all their tricks exposed. That could well be what’s happening. I will know that this is the case if I mislay my glasses later.
Kai: You grew up in Ireland. Did you grow up celebrating Samhain?
Hilary: Yes. It was celebrated a little bit differently for me growing up in Ireland. For myself and my siblings, we celebrated Oíche Shamhna at home together with my parents. We played games, special games that were only played on that evening after sundown. For example, apple bobbing, or apples hanging on strings. If you could get a bite, that was considered lucky, then the next year would be good to you. All the games really had to do with fortune telling because it was the end of the year and everyone was looking forward to the next year. One fun item from that, actually these continue today.
There were lots of nuts for eating and they would all have their shells on. Part of the fun would be having a nutcracker and opening the nuts and kids enjoy that. It's so difficult to do. We also had some foods, and one in particular was a yeast spread with fruit called barmbrack and they're still eaten tonight in our end, and possibly in other places around the world. The interesting thing about this particular cake was that baked into it were a number of tokens wrapped in parchment and everybody in the family would get a slice, and then depending on what you received in your slice, it would indicate how your year was going to go.
If you received a little silver coin, it would mean that you're going to have a very nice year or you're going to be rich and everything is going to be wonderful, but if you got a little dried pea, that wouldn't be so good. Life might not be so good for you the following year. The best token of all was, of course, to find a little golden ring in your piece of barmbrack That meant everything was going to be wonderful, and you would probably get married, irrespective of the fact that you might have been seven or eight when you would get the ring. And so on, so all these little tokens would be in there. It was a fun thing, and all the games were fun at home too. We loved them.
Kai: Halloween, this celebration comes to the United States with Irish immigrants, correct?
Hilary: That is correct, yes, and all around the world, of course, because the Irish have been emigrating for a couple of 100 years in large numbers, but the biggest waves were in the early and middle 19th century. The majority of those Irish who migrated West in those years were essentially refugees because they were fleeing impossible hardships. They left home with nothing but their traditions, their stories, and their ingenuity. They weren't able to carry anything with them, so they held on to those very, very tightly. That's how Halloween became such a celebration all around the world where Irish people were, and included everybody else too. It was I think one thing that makes it special, that everyone is invited to join.
Kai: Everyone then, as we said at the beginning of the show uses this moment, whether we realize it or not, to think about the spirits among us. I have about 30 seconds left with you. What do you take from that, this idea that the spirits are among us in this holiday? Do you think of it that way, and what does it mean to you if so?
Hilary: Absolutely. We have to be considerate that there are spirits all around us and we want to make our way through life being mindful and avoiding those who cause trouble like that dreadful Jack O' Lantern fellow that you know. We don't want to deal with people like him because he's the only really tricky fellow out there. The others are mischievous. Yes, we have to be mindful. We have to have fun. We have to enjoy the spirit world from the safety of our disguises. We should be careful, be good, be generous and keep those masks on these days.
Kai: Hilary Mhic Suibhne is a language lecturer and specialist in Irish history at New York University. Thanks for giving us the backstory on tonight's fun, Hilary.
Hilary: Thank you.
Kai Wright: Coming up, we want to get a bit more personal about the spirit world. Are you like me and my grandmother? Do you talk with the dead, or is there a departed soul you really wish you could commune with? Get your phones ready because we want to hear about it, and to prime our minds for that conversation, we'll first learn the history of Mexico's more intimate version of this annual festival. That's next.
Speaker 3: Oh thou disembodied spirits. Those of you that have grown old in the mysterious laws of spirit land, we greet thee. We have gathered here at the appointed time. We have complied with all the requirements to enable all of you to make your presence known. Members of the spirit world have long known of an intention of this important gathering tonight. All those in readiness, please now, the time is at hand, make yourself known to us. Any of you, please?
Regina: Hi, I'm Regina de Heer, and I'm a producer with the United States of Anxiety. In addition to doing all the fun behind-the-scenes stuff, every week, I get to go out to talk to people and see what they're thinking about before each episode. Here's a highlight from this week.
Darindha: My name is Darindha. I'm from St. Lucia. I know about Halloween from back home, but we don't celebrate it. It isn't no big thing for me. We don't remember why they're like that. All things, this is what we celebrate, how we celebrate our day. In November month, we would light candles in front of our home. We go to the cemetery, light candles, pray for our dead ones and put flowers, clean the grave site.
Regina: Even here you still commemorate All Saints Day and All Souls Day and celebrate your loved one?
Darindha: Yes, we do. We still do it. I'm a Catholic, so that is how we celebrate our day, not by Halloween.
Houdini Seance: Now it's time ladies and gentlemen, time for your next different commentator.
Announcer: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is a very sad night. Children across the nation from coast to coast are disfiguring their faces, dressing themselves in outrageous costumes and parading the streets. Yes, parading streets, making unholy spectacles of themselves, performing unmentionable acts of vandalism, defacing property, turning over swings, littering alarms, ringing the doorbells. Yes, ringing doorbells.
Kai: Welcome back. I'm Kai Wright, and it's Halloween. We consider taking the night off to go around ringing doorbells like hoodlums, but we couldn't leave you alone on such a night, so we're thinking about spirits and the many different ways we relate to them. Yes, this holiday is about tricks and treats and all that, but it's also one of the few moments in the year when we all consider departed souls and how we do or do not want to commune with them. It's a uniquely collective cross-cultural impulse. Perhaps the most globally famous festival for the dead was developed in Mexico and is widely celebrated by Mexican Americans as well.
Columbia University Professor Claudio Lomnitz has researched and written extensively about the political and cultural history of death in Mexico. He's a playwright, he's a columnist in Mexico City and a cultural historian. Tonight, we've recruited him as a storyteller. He spoke with our producer Regina de Heer hear about the melding of indigenous and Catholic traditions in an internationally renowned tradition.
Claudio Lomnitz: The days of the dead, Dia de Muertos in Spanish refers to two holidays that are Roman Catholic holidays who were invented during the Middle Ages. The Abbot of Cluny in Paris invented All Souls Day for the souls in purgatory and decided to put it next to All Saints Day. Basically, you had one day, November 1st, for all the souls that had already been elevated to glory, that is to heaven. Those are the saints, the souls of those departed that are already clear of sin, in then purgatory the next day, the notion was that most people there were two kinds of sin, one sin is mortal sin that took you straight to hell. There was another kind of sin known as venial sin, but those are more minor sins that everyone and most of us except the saints have.
Those need to be purged. That's why it's called purgatory. In other words, the soul needs to be cleansed, needs to pay for the sins committed on Earth before it can be promoted to heaven. Initially, then, this was a festival that was for the faithful. In other words, you need to have been baptized in order to go to purgatory. If you were, for example, a pagan or if you were Jewish or Muslim, these holidays weren't for you, because you are not going to be among saved. That is the origin of this festival, and it arrives to Mexico in the 16th century together with the Spanish friars.
What is interesting is that it took very strong in Mexico. You see a lot of fluctuation in how it has been celebrated in different places and in different times. The reason why people to like say there is a Mexican way of doing this is because at a certain point in time in Mexico, this is around the 1920s, '30s and after that, it became a point of nationalist pride, in part because the great Mexican muralists in the early 1900s like Diego Riviera raised it to a point of national identification, which was also resonated a lot in Europe. The European intellectuals like André Breton, founding father of the surrealist movement, was fascinated by Mexican connection to death and made a big exhibit in Paris in 1939 right before the outbreak of the war. Mexican days of the dead became internationally famous.
Claudio: Halloween and what it celebrates and what it does is very different from what Dia de los Muertos do. There's a sense of ghosts, which is important for Dia de los Muertos. Except that the way which the ghosts are represented is highly contrasted. In Dia de los Muertos the notion is that the souls that are in purgatory come down to see their relatives. They both have ghosts, but the ghosts in the Mexican Dia de los Muertos tradition are seen as visitors, actually, whose presence is deeply expected, if you want it that way. People are making an altar because they want to attract the souls, but not any soul, the souls of their own dead.
The beautiful thing about the Dia de los Muertos, as it is held in Mexico, is that it is a moment of connection to those who you've lost. There is a conviviality that is staged during the Dia de los Muertos between the living and their dead, not the dead in the abstract. Halloween it strikes me that it's more like the dead in the abstract.
Claudio: One of the important things around the souls in purgatory was to give alms. The idea was, when you die, after you're dead you can no longer accrue merit and you can also no longer sin. There's a tally and probably most of the Christians left some sins unpaid for. They have to go, then, to purgatory to pay for those debts. Purgatory is very much represented like a jail prison. Now, the families of those souls in purgatory can do something to hasten their promotion to heaven. Let's say, if I'm concerned that my mother, may she rest in peace, who died a couple of years ago, is in purgatory, then maybe I can do some good deeds in her name and that will hasten her way out of purgatory.
One of the things that you did was to give things away. To give things to the poor, to give alms to the church, but also to give things to children who often came to represent the souls in purgatory. Because they went around and asked for stuff and they got whatever fruit or a piece of bread, let's say a pan dulce they call it in Mexico, sweet cookies or whatever. That strikes me a little bit similar to Halloween, the notion that you would give to children and that that has something to do with the souls. But it seems to me that, in the US at least, Halloween on the one hand has this sort of scary element and on the other hand side, it's a very domesticated scariness.
I don't think that there is a sense of a tangible, real ghost. Whereas in the Mexican tradition there is because the notion is it's not, but it's something called a ghost. It's, so-and-so, your uncle, your aunt come and visit and that's a bit different.
Claudio: It used to be the case that a lot of towns in the countryside, not on the cities, but in the countryside it wasn't unusual to have a little altar, let's say, outside of the village where people might leave some offerings and would lit a candle or put some water in there for ghosts who don't have family. You don't want those ghosts around because those ghosts can be dangerous.
Claudio: For instance, ghosts in Mexico are supposed to be thirsty, they're supposed to want to join in the banquets. That's very lovely, but if it turns out that you got to ghost who you don't even know, they might be a little bit envious.
Claudio: I actually think that one of the interesting things about what happened in Mexico was that the holiday became, to some degree, unmoored from the church. It went out of the church's control. It was too popular and I think that in that sense, there has been a expansion of Mexico's development of this holiday, which is unique. The holiday isn't unique, but Mexico's development of it is unique. The fact has become, I think, an important resource for people of all persuasions. Here you have a tradition that includes a number of customs like, for example, setting up an altar at home, setting up an altar in the office, or going to the graveyard once a year to clean the grave, to decorate the grave and spend the day there or, in some cases, the night there.
Then there's a market that is all organized around the Day of the Dead. There's a particular flower and a particular kind of bread that's made. There's a, let's say, cultural richness that has been connected to the ritual, like there is around Christmas or Thanksgiving or one of these great festivals. Dia de los Muertos in Mexico has that. I myself, I am Jewish and I was raised in Mexico, but not particularly in any community, neither in a Jewish community nor in any other religious community. I did feel at a certain point that I could adopt this and put up an altar for my family.
One of the things that's very cool about the Mexican development is that it gives you a time and a ritual where you can come together with those who you've lost and that's not very common in our society. We don't have a lot of spaces like that. Certainly no collective spaces like that. Maybe you might celebrate privately the anniversary of your father's death or your grandfather's death, but that's not a collective event. That's a personal anniversary. Whereas here you have a date in the calendar year where you can actually think about those who are no longer with us.
Not the dead in the abstract, your dead. At the same time, because everybody's doing that, there is also the dead in the abstract as well. There's also a intimate dimension of this holiday, which I think is very interesting. Mexico's development of this idea became, at a certain point, an example of a way of generating a space of conviviality between the living and the dead in a modern society that very often lacks those kinds of spaces.
Kai: That was Columbia University cultural historian, Claudio Lomnitz. It's true, we don't have many spaces in this modern life where we collectively engage with our ancestors. So on Halloween night, we're going to do that together here on the show. I am joined now by psychic medium Betsy LeFae, host of the podcast Trust Yourself. She's going to share her practice of going inward to connect beyond the flesh. That's my way of putting it anyway. Let's see how Betsy describes it. Betsy, welcome to the show.
Betsy LeFae: Thank you so much for having me.
Kai: Let's get a basic and a shared understanding here first off, what exactly does a medium do?
Betsy: Well, a medium's job is to connect with the dead to get details about their life, their personality, perhaps how they passed. Things that are not Google-able, as we say, and deliver them to the sitter or the person who's receiving the reading. Provide evidence of their life.
Kai: Right. I have to say, as we talked about the show, I was nervous about doing this show because I wondered how people would react to it. I feel like so many people consider it strange when I say matter-of-factly that I talk with spirits. Do you have any thoughts about why it's so hard for us to take in that idea, why it's so stigmatized in this life?
Betsy: I would say that it's definitely more stigmatized in our culture as opposed to other cultures. There are many cultures, to this day, that actually do have altars to their ancestors, their dead, in the house that they light incense and offer water to them. In our culture, though, I would say that it's almost a two-way street. If somebody wants to walk this walk, as you're doing to on today's show, which I'm so happy that you're basically coming out of the closet. Stepping up, being honest and authentic despite your fears or trepidations, that requires a lot of responsibility and facing one's own fear and/or darkness. The other side of the street, is that when you lull people to sleep with sweets and scary movies, maybe even throughout the year, or with other ways of manipulating people into fear, then you have the power. If you're walking around and you don't know that death is a natural part of life and that you have a whole team of people here to support you on the other side, you're walking around with a lot more anxiety than somebody who knows, for instance, like at the top of the show, that their parents are always cooking recipes with them and that's a sign of comfort and that they know they're on the right track.
Kai: All right, so listeners we want to know, frankly, do you talk to dead people? If there's a departed soul with whom you'd really like to commune in the way that some festivals like the Day of the Dead celebrate this time of year? Who is that? Let's go to Mike in the Bronx. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: Hi, Kai and hi, Betsy. Thanks for the show. It's very interesting. I have a half-brother. He passed away several years ago. It was by his own hand and I've always wondered what was going through his mind because it's something that I never really reached out to him about and I've felt some guilt about. I've largely come to peace with it but just having this opportunity, it would be something that I'd be interested in hearing about how I might do that or might reach him in that way.
Kai: Wow. Thank you for that, Mike. Betsy, I guess that prompts me. I want to cut straight to the how-to before we take some more calls because Mike was so clear in asking for help. Can we talk through a little bit? You have a meditation that you do to help people get to the place where they can look inward and therefore connect beyond the flesh. Can you talk me through that a little bit?
Betsy: I would love to. Absolutely. For anyone who wants to know, I use the words intuitive and psychic interchangeably and this sounds like all Muppets are puppets but not all puppets are Muppets. All intuitive people or psychic people have the ability to be mediums but that's an advanced skill. However, we can cut through everything tonight and we're going to do that with a very brief sample meditation. Now, the reason why I started back there is I also say everyone is intuitive. Mike's intuitive, Kai, you're intuitive, all the listeners are intuitive, if and only if you have a body. Kai do you have a body?
Kai: I got a body.
Betsy: I think Mike has a body. If he doesn't he can tweet at you later and we can help him. The reason why I say that is because your intuition and your spirits on the other side, your loved ones, will communicate to you through your body. What we'll do you today in our little sample and then we do have a longer version at the end of the show. Is that right?
Kai: Yes, the whole seven-minute I believe [crosstalk]
Betsy: When we do the shortened version today, everyone has the same exact potential to receive as much information as they desire. Mike's desire is to find out what happened to his stepbrother's mind before he took his own life. I can only imagine what relief and solace that would give to someone like Mike. When we go through this and we go through our imagination, I'm going to be walking you through an imagination exercise with some breath, when we get to the place where we're picturing ourselves in a room, what we're going to do is not only just use our mind's eye. For example, Kai picture an Apple in your head right now and listener picture an Apple in your head. Everyone is picturing an Apple. It's that's easy.
When we do this exercise the only thing that's going to impede you is your doubt. What I'll tell people is, if you're saying well this can't mean anything or this isn't real or that's just too small, that basically means you're doing it right . You also want to tune into all of your five, and it would get a little freaky because we're on the freaky show tonight, your sixth sense. The sixth sense is that knowing. Kai, you talked about it in the intro. I just know that there's someone over my shoulder. Just have that knowing. When we go through this sample and then if you choose to listen to the longer version on the podcast, which I highly recommend because it takes you through more of a relaxation which really opens up the door no matter what time of year.
When you're in that space communing with your loved ones who you've lost, that's the time when you're going to want to pay attention to the subtleties in your hands and your feet. You're going to want to pay attention to any random memories that come up. Smells. Literally, you're going to want to breathe through your nose and some of you might smell smoke where there's no smoker in sight and that might be your grandfather. Every sense plus that-- Many people are going to walk away from this saying, "I didn't get anything but I just feel loved." That's your message. That's the gift. Even for anyone who wants to develop any of this further, my biggest advice is, as we would say in the world of the flesh that you've been speaking of, don't kick a gift towards in the mouth.
You're going to be given tiny subtle things and you don't want to diminish those things. You don't want to say, "I didn't get anything but this stupid thing," which a lot of people do. You want to say, "Oh my gosh, I feel love," or, "I felt warmth in my chest," or, "My hands felt tingly. I don't know what that means but this means I'm moving in the right direction." That leaves you open to more loving communication from your same loved ones beyond this meditation. Does that make sense?
Kai: That makes total sense. Betsy, I hate to say it but I'm going to have to take a break before we take a little taste of it. We're going to come back with more of your calls and with more from psychic medium Betsy LeFae and talk about this impulse to connect with those who have left our mortal world which seems like a uniquely universal thing in a time in which we don't have a lot of things we share.
This is the United States of anxiety I'm Kai Wright and happy Halloween. We have spent the holiday talking about how people and cultures around the world mark this change of season with festivals that, in some way, involve communing with spirits. For this last segment of the show, I am joined by psychic medium Betsy LaFae who hosts the Trust Yourself podcast. She's joining me as we take your calls so let's go to Anya in Brooklyn. Anya, welcome to the show.
Anya: Thank you so much. Last year during the COVID year, July 19th, a dragonfly showed up in the front of my house and it was exactly to the day that my little sister died two years prior.
Anya: This dragonfly, she stayed around for three weeks. She showed up every day on her same plant at the same time. Not only that. She allowed me to take amazing close up photos of her. Because she showed up on the day that my little sister died, I couldn't help thinking that it was my little sister who showed up in the form of a dragonfly.
Kai: That's beautiful, Anya. Thank you. Let's go to Unique in Manhattan. Unique, welcome to the show.
Anique: Hi. It's Anique. Thank you for having me on. In 2014 my mom passed away. She died a long slow death. She had progressive astasia and she was quite young. I'm an immigrant, obviously. My parents were in Ireland. She died at 4:44 AM. When I learned of her death it was 4:44 AM. When I see four four four or any form of fours I think of my mom and I first became aware of numerology when I was first pregnant with my first child and it was 11, 11. It was 11s that used to follow
me around and sequences of numbers. There was a duck involved as well. I was listening to Anya. There was a duck involved as well in my mother's passing. There were so many messages from her but when my father died in 2019, and I was really very close with my dad, there were no messages and there was a lot of turmoil and family dispute surrounding his death. My last call with him was very hard and it was there was a lot of interference from outside with my relationship with my dad and his passing. I'm lost because I never really got to hear from him again after he died and that was the reason I was calling.
Kai: Thank you for that, Anique. Betsy, what about this, because this, I think, is probably a recurring theme. This idea of not being able to have had closure, I guess. Is that something that comes up a lot in your practice?
Betsy: Yes. Before I go over a general thing, I want to say to Anique, I would say what I'm getting from you is that you're probably relatively empathic, picking up on other people's energy. This lesson of not being able to hear from your father, basically up until now because we're going to be doing the meditation and you'll be able to connect, is a little bit of a gift because your relationship with your father is your own. You get to, like you're hearing with the other traditions in the show, make peace with your past with him and that turbulence between you. Then that's your relationship. When other people's energy gets involved, it the same thing as in the 3D world.
When you learn how to do that through spirit contact, it's also a really good lesson on how to not take on other people's energy in the 3D world. Kai, what you were saying, yes, that is a very big thing. It's very similar to Mike calling up and having some feelings of guilt. A lot of people, yes, they want to know what the last moments of their loved one's life were like. Are they, as the deceased, upset with living or does the deceased see the new life that's happened since they passed? Does Dad know I'm engaged and does he like my fiancé, or whatever that might be? There's a lot of questions like that.
Kai: Let's go to Susan in Washington Heights. Susan, welcome to the show.
Susan: Hello, yes. I'm not sure what I want to ask. My father committed suicide in 1975. I was 19. My family lied about it. I found out about 17 years later at my brother's wedding and I had no idea. They lied. They told me he had a stroke but he actually stabbed himself to death. He was psychotically depressed but I have no idea how he's doing in the other world. I hope he's okay.
Kai: I'm sorry to hear that, Susan. Again, this is a theme that we've heard, Betsy. We've got three or four minutes here because I want to make sure we have these two minutes for the meditation. Quickly, what is the point here? Why is this important that people be able to do this practice? Why do you think it's important that we'd be able to think about this?
Betsy: I don't think it's a practice, Kai. I think it's a sense.
Kai: Right, I'm sorry.
Betsy: It may sound extreme but think of the story of Helen Keller and the miracle worker. She couldn't hear, she couldn't see. When, finally, that sign language got through the palm of her hand and she realized that people were speaking, that everything had names. She woke up, she was no longer "dumb". That's a term they used back then. I'm not calling Helen Keller dumb by any means. It's opening up to a sense that is innate in us and I consider these times to be the dark ages because we're disconnected from something that there is no reason other than programs fear. As you mentioned earlier, your fear of what other people may think and power dynamics that we can break out of. I think it's health-promoting, I think it will help us relate to the environment, and I think that without it we're in a lot of anxiety, fear and doubt.
Kai: We've only got just a touch of time here. Again, everybody, you are going to get the full meditation on the podcast feed and on our website. Can you give us just the 60-second version? I'm sorry, Betsy, but we ran out of time.
Betsy: No, that's all right. No, that's good. All I want us to do is just close our eyes and take a deep breath in and hold it and exhale. One more time. A deep inhale bigger than you've ever taken and exhale. Let's just try and only picture one person that we would like to connect with on this day. Someone who we've lost, but we're going to picture them surrounded and infused by love. A lot of times you can see that with pink light. You can just imagine their light emanating pink light, their heart emanating pink light, infusing them with all this loving energy. Take a deep breath in as you breathe that pink light into your own body. In this moment, as you're breathing, if you take note of how you're feeling, you're already feeling different than you were 60 seconds ago.
It's because of breath, yes, but it's also because you're deeply innately connected to loved ones on the other side and now you're a bit more consciously aware of it. I've never met a spirit on the other side that was suffering, Kai. I have never met a spirit on the other side that was angry at the living or felt that they died unjustly or at the wrong time. I really wanted to get that message out there. No pets have ever come back to me in the 15 years that I've been doing readings professionally saying that they died at the wrong time or in the wrong way and that, I hope, brings a lot of comfort to people.
Kai: Betsy Lefae is a psychic medium and Trust Yourself teacher. The third season of her podcast Trust Yourself will launch in December. Betsy, thanks so much for this time.
Betsy: It was a great honor.
Kai: The United States of anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. A special thanks to WNYC archivist Andy Lanset for all those wonderful old recordings we played during the breaks. Our theme music was written by Hannis Brown and performed by the Outer Borough Brass Band. Mixing and music by Jared Paul. Kevin Bristow and Milton Ruiz were at the boards for the live show. Our team also includes Emily Botein, Regina de Heer, Karen Frillmann, and Kousha Navidar, and I am Kai Wright. You can keep in touch with me on Twitter @kai_wright and, of course, you can send me those voice memos at email@example.com. I hope you'll join us for the live version of the show next Sunday, 6:00 PM, Eastern. You can stream it @wnyc.org or tell your smart speaker to play WNYC. Podcast listeners, as promised, here is Betsy LeFae's full meditation to prepare you for connecting with departed souls you'd love to reach.
Betsy: To begin today's guided meditation, I invite you to minimize distractions. Put your phone in do not disturb, tell your loved ones that you are meeting with a VIP. Maybe that VIP is yourself or, as I say, your spirit entourage. Let's close our eyes. Begin to focus on our breath and begin to be aware of our bodies. This is the time where you want to get the wiggles out a little bit. You can wiggle your shoulders out a little bit. Breathe into your belly really big. Push it all out and let's get into our hips a little bit. Just rock from side to side a little bit lifting up, feeling that root, that tailbone. Wiggle your legs and your feet and your hands. Getting all the wiggles. Shake a little bit. You'll naturally come to a place where you're ready for a little bit more stillness.
Let's straighten our spines. Uncross our legs and uncross our arms, but yet be relaxed. Relax those shoulders. Today we're going to be focusing a lot on the breath so take a deep inhale with me, then exhale. Let's do another one. Deep inhale, then exhale. Continue breathing on your own. You're just getting in touch with the rhythm of your own body and breath taking deep inhales and then emptying your lungs all the way completely. That's great. Again, you can come to a relaxed breathing pace, relaxed body posture. We're just going to use our imaginations. Imagine when we inhale a deep breath and we can send that fresh new oxygen and energy to different parts of our body just using our imagination.
Just as though we can, say, picture an apple, feel an apple, taste an apple, we can breathe in this oxygen. Do it with me now and send it to the top of our heads, very top of our heads, and blow it out. We'll send another deep breath to the top of our heads and as we do, we'll relax the very top of our heads. With each breath, we relax our body a little bit more. Breathing in, allowing our foreheads to gently relax, release any tension, letting it melt down your face as you exhale. As you breathe, allow this new energy, this new breath, this relaxing life force, to relax your eyes, release the back of your head. Feel this soothing new energy in your jaw. Breathe in. Breathe into these spaces and let go. Feeling your face relax and release. This breath is healing and releasing. Taking a full inhale into the neck.
Feeling it cascade into the shoulders, out into the arms, all the way to your fingertips. Bring your awareness to your chest and the back of your body. Take the biggest breath of all into your entire torso and blow out. One more time into the entire torso, then release, oxygenating each and every cell. Breathing into the thighs, largest muscles of the legs. Breathe into that area. Light it up with your breath and let go. Release, relax and let go. Breathing into your shin, your ankles, and taking that extra breath for your feet and toes, carrying us around all day. We relax, release, and let go. As you continue to breathe, just take a moment to feel the difference in your body and as we breathe, we'll bring our awareness to our heart space in the center of our chests.
I'd like you to imagine a cozy light-filled room inside your heart. This could be in the center of your chest. This could be in your mind's eye. This could be in your physical heart. It doesn't matter. It's in your imagination. Just imagine yourself in this cozy room. Maybe there's cushions, your favorite colors. Maybe you feel a sense in your body of comfort of being in this place that feels like home. This is your home and we ready to invite our loved ones into our home. Take a deep breath and feel the love in your heart that already exists and start to see a door in this room. Maybe you know who's on the other side, maybe you don't. Either way I promise you will share the same purpose of love, connection, and healing.
With that and surprise and delight, I invite you to take a deep breath and open that door allowing your loved ones to come in. Some of you will see, them some of you will sense them in your heart, but as you continue to breathe, open up all of your senses, including taste, smell, and touch. Maybe you hear something or you just have that knowing. I'll leave you here for a few moments and when the time is right, I'll call you back.
This time that you have with your loved ones and this space is one that you can come back to at any time. As we prepare to say goodbye for now or see you later, let's take a moment of gratitude for whoever and whatever showed up. Just as children are often given gifts that they don't understand until later, let's even be grateful for the gifts that we've been given that we may not understand. If you desire, give your loved ones a hug. Maybe they have one last gift for you and just know you can come back to this space whenever you want. Over the next couple of deep breaths, you're invited to come back to the here and now, to the physical space. The physical space that is never too far away from the space where all other loved ones in your entourage live.
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