In this episode a young Chinese-American is murdered and his ghost finds the Charmed Ones to help him catch his killer and get his body buried properly before Yama can catch him and take him to hell. While all this is happening, Phoebe is using her power as a lounge psychic to earn money for a present for Prue. She sees these actions not as personal gain, because they are for her sister, but it backfires when she has a vision from a man’s wallet about his death, bringing her back to the purpose of her gift.
Talking to ghosts and spirits is an ability witches can learn. Communicating with the dead is called necromancy or the more politically-correct mediumship. We use mediumship now because necromancy comes with lots of baggage and misconceptions. Necromancy is specifically forbidden in the Bible, even though the Witch of Endor does it for one of the kings in it. Necromancy is divination to communicate with the dead, this can be through journey work, scrying, having a channeled conversation through a medium or anyway method you would talk to the dead. Necromancy is used loosely to talk about reanimation of the dead, enslaving spirits to do your bidding, and making zombies in movies and books. Unfortunately this is not a proper use of the word since it means Necros = dead and Mancy = which is used to denote divination. Necromancy is used to talk with spirits to ask them for advice because they have a different vantage point than us, and sometimes to ask them for assistance in manifesting goals.
Mediumship relies more on psychic power than the use of ritual and magic. Not all witches use this ability; some have the ability and use it only for themselves and others use it to do public readings. Not every witch engages in medium work, only the ones who seem called to it. In the Charmed universe they seem to overlook that this ability to see spirits is a power in and of itself and that not all witches can do it. They explain it as they must be able to see the ghost because he is an innocent they are meant to help. In real magick witches can experience the dead, but don’t have to. Speaking to spirits and the ancestors it is said to be easier when the Veil is thinnest at Samhain and Beltane.
Witches also perform psychic readings. Most witches charge for the service because they are using their experience, energy, and time to help their client. In the Charmed universe this is a taboo, because one is not supposed to use witchcraft for personal gain, which Phoebe attempts to get around by using the job to get money for her sister’s birthday present. Even though she is skirting the rules of her universe, she is put in place to help an innocent avoid death and meet the spirit who is central to the story arc, to serve the greater good. If she had not been doing readings, the Charmed Ones would have never done the good that they were to do. So why shouldn’t she get paid for it?
Psychic readings are just one way that witches use their abilities to serve the community in real life. Just like in our story, this can put them in a place where they can do even greater service to people in need. But to be able to have the time to do this and to be able to feed themselves, they must charge. Not all witches agree on this charging for the use of a spiritual ability.
Yama in the show is a psychopomp who captures souls for hell and doesn’t care if they are good or not, just that they have to be gathered. In the real world he is found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese mythology. He does appear to be a psychopomp for souls to purgatory or hell and is called a wrathful god. He seems to hold a place as judge of souls. It brings me to one of the things I like about this show: they allow many different mythologies and religious practices to coexist within the world they have created.