Institutt for sosialantropologi
master's thesis

An Ethnography of Energy: Manifestations of Spirits in Norwegian Spiritualism


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2022.

By: Ida Bruland
Supervisor: Associate Professor Jon Henrik Ziegler Remme

Spiritualism is a widespread belief in Norway that needs to be discussed in anthropology. In this thesis, I include different forms of epistemologies that impact the meaning-making of spiritual events and spread awareness of spiritual practices in Norway. I focus on how the notion of ‘energy’ in Norwegian spiritualism unfolds and functions as a key symbol. In spiritualistic discourses, definitions of spirit and energy are similarly understood, and I explain the difference between the two definitions. The data to support my arguments is collected from qualitative fieldwork among spirit mediums I met at medium courses arranged by the Norwegian Spiritualist Association and interviews with people that have experienced paranormal events. I illustrate how the paranormal events are being interpreted based on the embodiment, doubt, and experience combined with the evidence presented by a spirit medium.

In addition, I will look at two different approaches of ghosts in TV representations, where one is capturing paranormal activity on camera whilst the other dramatize and talk about spiritual experiences. I argue that these TV shows produce spiritual beliefs and create affective atmospheres by using different effects.

By presenting my informants’ spiritual experiences and practices, I aim to show the diversity of spiritual events in Norwegian spiritualism. The diversity illustrates that spiritual beliefs seem to be experience-centered and individually developed. I will also present the structure of arranged spiritual practices of a reading and platform reading. In these practices, mediums use humor to diminish the fearful perception of spirits and ghosts. In addition, I am explaining the learning process to become a medium and how to build strong evidence. Mediums improve their mediumship with energy exercises. This to sense spirituality where the body becomes an instrument for spirit communication. After reading this thesis, I wish to have illustrated the process of meaning-making and various understandings of what energy is, and how to use and sense energy in Norwegian spiritualism.