Spiritualism and the New Age goes mainstream in Kawartha Lakes

Spiritualism and the New Age goes mainstream

in Around Town/Community by

They come from the Toronto area and Durham Region. They come from points north, east and west. In the heart of Bobcaygeon, population 3,500, they’re coming to be a part of the Kawartha Mediums, their Zen Den, and the ‘New Age’ spiritualist beliefs that underpin who they are, and what they stand for.

For anyone who has met the three women of the Zen Den, there is an instant understanding that they do not conduct themselves on the fringes of society, despite their expertise. While there are tarot cards and energy books for sale, readings and reiki, there is also an acute understanding of what some would call ‘the real world.’

While their metaphysical space is devoted to helping people achieve healing, transformation, empowerment, and personal growth, the ladies of the Zen Den do not attempt to operate above the earth plane, free from the confines of a so-called normal life.

After all, they are mothers, grandmothers, wives – and they embrace the community in which they live. The Kawartha Mediums are made up of Debra-Claire Kemp, Emalee Kemp (her daughter), and Christine Whelan. Debra and Emalee – the mediums — conduct the vast majority of the readings, hold circles and teach others how to meditate, heal, develop their own intuition and discover more self-awareness. Christine Whelan “keeps everyone organized,” according to Emalee, and is doing some facilitation work as well.

At the Zen Den, the Kawartha Mediums conduct three ‘circles’ a week, touching over 240 people each month – and it’s growing.

“This has manifested into a movement where we are compelled to bring more education on spiritual growth and universal knowledge to our people,” says Emalee. “We accomplish this with a monthly learning series, workshops and through community and tourist events.”

Kawartha Mediums started over five years ago with a few family members and friends as a circle in a barn for healing. As the word spread the demand for their services increased they eventually found their space in the heart of Bobcaygeon.

One of the first big events they became known for three years ago was their annual summer psychic fair, this year being held July 29 at Kawartha Settlers’ Village. “With a wonderful landscape and well preserved history it really has the perfect energy and feel for such an event,” says Emalee.

The whole historical village is taken over to showcase readers, vendors, healers, kids’ activities and more.

Got to Have Faith

And what of the traditional religious beliefs of Canadians? Are they fading away? A 2017 poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, found there is still a solid core of faith that continues to shape Canada.

Spiritualism and the New Age goes mainstream in Kawartha Lakes
The Zen Den in Bobcaygeon.

The poll found that 21 per cent of Canadians were “religiously committed,” meaning they hold a strong belief in God or a higher power and regularly attend religious services, according to the National Post. At the other end of the spectrum, 19 per cent of Canadians are pure non-believers.

“Yet it is the swath in between, equally divided between what the pollster terms ‘privately faithful’ and ‘spiritually uncertain,’ that offers the greatest insight into Canadians’ evolving beliefs and practices,” according to the National Post story.

This swath accounted for a full 30 per cent of respondents. Perhaps it is this core of people – the spiritually uncertain – that the Kawartha Mediums are reaching. In an age of anxiety fueled by rapid technological change the Mediums – and others like them – may offer the kind of open, inclusive, and more immediate connection to spirit than the more rigorous traditional churches are known for.

As for the Mediums’ relationship to traditional churches in the area, Emalee says it has been nothing short of fantastic. 

“As we strive to be as inclusive as possible and promote, partake and connect with local churches…we have received nothing but a warm and welcoming reception from them.”

As well, Debra is an active speaker and participant within the Spiritualist Churches of southern Ontario. (Spiritualism is a religious philosophy with epistemological ties to older traditions – not to be confused with the more all-encompassing term ‘New Age.’)

“I also send my kids to various summer camps with the area churches,” says Emalee. “They get to meet good, caring people and it’s a nice experience for them.”

The extent to which the Kawartha Mediums have embedded themselves within their community is immediately impressive. For instance, Debra is the chair, Emalee the vice chair, and Christine the secretary for the Bobcaygeon Midnight Madness Committee. (It’s hard to get any more ‘real world’ than a midnight madness event.)

This is a huge tourism draw, and popular with locals, where thousands of people wander Main Street, Bolton Street and King Street between 7 pm and midnight, shopping, eating and partaking in the festivities. The event is completely funded by merchants and vendors who participate in the event.

Emalee is a member of the steering committee of Impact 32. Impact 32 operates under the umbrella of the Kawartha Works Community Co-op, to identify, coordinate and assist with community-based initiatives, funding, and promotional opportunities such as waterfront improvements, marketing, beautification, and events.

A division of Impact 32 is Vibrant Village. Volunteers Emalee, Debra and Christine are heavily involved in this civic group, too, that works to improve the physical characteristics of the village. This includes hanging flower baskets on street posts in town and ensuring their maintenance, to the annual tree lighting event, winter basket creation, and more. Emalee applies for City of Kawartha Lakes grants each year to get funds for the initiatives, so that they don’t have to ask for money directly from the merchants in town.

“We know they (already) give so much,” she says.

The ‘paddle project’ is their newest initiative being launched this summer. The project was created “to showcase and add colour to even more of our beautiful community,” says Emalee.

The Kawartha Mediums have reached out to local volunteer organizations, local artists, schools, photographers, families and community members to paint paddles.

The wood paddles were crafted by volunteers John Falls and Carol Eldridge and donated by Jermyn Lumber. The paddles will be hung on street poles along King, Main, Canal, and Bolton Streets. After the summer season is over they will be taken down and auctioned off for community members and merchants to bid on. Vibrant murals depicting the village’s heritage may next be on the horizon.

Emalee is also president of the local parent council for Bobcaygeon Public School where her own children attend. She serves as a director on the board of the Bobcaygeon Chamber of Commerce.

Right now the Mediums are working with the City of Kawartha Lakes’ Economic Development team on business expansion goals. This will include an intuitive mentorship program, motivational speaking opportunities and a venue for a “complete spiritual experience” that drives local and tourist traffic alike.

People sometimes ask Emalee why she is so involved in grassroots activities in Bobcaygeon, as if the world of spirit, energy, and faith should perhaps be separate from the lives that we live each day.

“Kawartha Mediums’ intense level of community involvement derives from our unique perspective as mediums,” Emalee tells The Lindsay Advocate. “We are able to see, hear and feel what it means to have connection to a community. By being active members in the community, we have the opportunity to lead by example and therefore encourage so many people to take part in and achieve community goals that raise the vibration of the town as a whole.”

It’s also about her role as a parent, too.

“I tell them about my own children, and my hopes and dreams for them. I tell them about how I want my own kids to be proud of Bobcaygeon. This is our community and we want to help build it.”

Standing by the main picture window in the Zen Den, where the light is strong, Emalee looks toward the downtown.

“Beliefs aren’t so much ‘in the lines’ anymore. We’re all connected – we’re all really one.”

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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