This post is part of a sporadic series on Working with Spirits. Previous installments include "Death Midwifery" and "Making Friends with the Genius Loci." NOTE: All pronouns and nouns in reference to Spirits will be capitalized throughout this article. Yes, it’s not grammatically correct, however, I have just recently moved into a new home and the Spirits therein and I are just getting to know each other: this capitalization is done out of respect for Them as They peer over my shoulder wondering just what it is I am doing. Hopefully it won’t be too distracting.
Many homes and dwellings are naturally filled with Spirits, and the witch, spirit worker, animist, and psychically sensitive person will notice Their presence. These Spirits take up residence in a home or dwelling for as many different reasons as there are different types of spirits. The Dead may linger in a building where they spend considerable time in Their life or that They had strong emotional attachment to (such as the family farm, a house they built, or Their childhood home, for example.) Other Spirits may be attracted to the dwelling due to previous activities that took place there. The regular practice of magick and spirit communication can create tendencies in a location that naturally cause Spirits to frequent that place, as witnessed by anyone who has regularly used the same location for ritual or magickal work. Natural features in the environment may place the building in a location that is naturally conducive to Spirit activity, while the placement of mirrors, doorways, and stairs in a home may naturally create portals from which Spirits enter the dwelling. While some Spirits, such as those we come across in folklore (like the Domowoj, Bean Tighe, or Brownie) naturally dwell within homes and may have found Their way there hitching a ride with immigrant families in times past. These are just a few of the many reasons why a home may be host to a number of Spirits, but it doesn’t address a more important matter: what does one do about these Spirits?
Standard advice in the magickal community advises that when you move into a new home, you should cleanse the home down to a blank slate, removing all residual energies, and then perform blessings to attract the “preferred” types of energies to your home. While this cleansing does provide a clean space from which to begin your new life, as a witches, spirit workers, and/ or animists, this is a disrespectful approach that reeks of entitlement and serves to further strengthen our own imposed boundaries between us and the Spirit World. In other words: it’s counterproductive to witchcraft, don’t do that. It is also an act of hostility and disrespect to the Spirits to Whom your home already belongs. Such a cleansing can serve to remove smaller or weaker Spirits while stronger Spirits and/or those more prone to interaction are more likely to view this action as offensive and will act accordingly to such a threat. The affects of pissing off a Spirit are a bit outside the scope of this article but, thankfully, it is easily possible to create that welcoming new space for you and your family, as well as keeping the resident Spirits happy.
Sharing Space with Spirits
In recognizing that our actions have consequences, and that magickal actions are influenced by our mindset and energetic intention (i.e. holding your entire person in accord with your actions and desired outcome for your actions; the basic internal action for magickal work) then it is rather simple to alter the typical cleansing process of censing or smudging a home to be one that serves as a means of introduction for you and the Spirits in your home. Incense and smoke are commonly used in various cultures as a way of sending messages to the Spirit World, and though you will be working in a localized place with the Spirits in the same realm as you (as opposed to sending messages to Spirits in the Spirit World,) this action serves to garner Their attention and lend further power to the actions you are taking.
Of course, appropriate herbs should be chosen for your censing as those whose purpose is to cleanse and banish would be counterproductive to introducing yourself as friend to these Spirits. If your intuition tells you to use a specific herb or combination of herbs be sure you listen to that voice.
As you smolder the herbs and make your way throughout the home, talk to the Spirits. Introduce yourself and your family, let Them know what your intentions are (if you are renting, let Them know that you will be sharing this space with Them for a short time; if you bought the home, let Them know such; in both instances let Them know that you intend on treating the home respectfully, caring for it as you live there.) Often, Spirits will retreat when unknown people enter Their home, and especially during the moving process when people are coming and going bringing boxes and furniture in. You may not notice any of the Spirits while in the main areas of the home, but you may become aware of Them in more out of the way places, such as basements and attics. They may be timid and even respond threateningly (e.g. you may suddenly find yourself feeling nervous or even afraid to enter certain parts of the home. These emotions are being brought on by Them. Be respectful, continue to speak with Them, acknowledge that They don’t want you to enter certain places, but be firm about what you’re intentions are, i.e. don’t crap out, get scared, and run back to the well-lit common areas of the home.
Once you’ve done this preliminary introduction, give Them time to watch you and to verify your words with your actions before attempting to contact Them again. A day or two may be long enough, trust your gut on this one. When you do attempt contact again, repeat your intentions: that you mean Them no harm, that you will be sharing this place with Them and have no desire to remove Them or take Their home from Them. At this time, an act of good will is appropriate and leaving an offering somewhere where they can enjoy it undisturbed (such as the places you found Them retreated to during your introduction) is advised.
Benefits of Acknowledging these Spirits
As your relationship with these Spirits grows, you may find yourself with new Spirit Allies, working with you to protect your home, family, and pets. The benefits of this relationship can be surprising, as you may find random gifts from the Spirits within your home. My own family and I have recently moved into an old farmhouse and as part of building a positive relationship with the many Spirits that obviously occupy this space we have “found” several surprises. I had found an old horseshoe shortly after we moved in and had lamented there wasn’t another so that one could be placed above both entry doors. After retrieving an offering I had left for the Spirits here, I looked up and found another horseshoe hanging in the rafters of the basement. The past few days my children have suddenly been finding wonderful treasures in the yard: a small, old glass bottle and a green votive candle. We have also found what is much like a crystal sphere, only made of plastic and metal, that I’m currently fashioning into a protective amulet to hang in a window. There have been similar experiences in other places I’ve lived, finding a sculpture of something sacred to the Deity to Whom I’m dedicated that now graces my shrine, a glass decoration suddenly appearing in a cupboard that I know had been empty, large trees that gift stones and hawk bones that had not been there the day before; spirits can be very appreciative and receptive to our efforts. Relationships with Them are very well to be explored.
All relationships take work, however, and honest communication and reciprocation is required. The Spirits in your home may not immediately respond to your efforts, especially if you live in an apartment (people tend to pass through quickly, with transient Spirits making regular appearances, too. Regular Spirits may choose to be aloof and distant.) It is possible that the Spirits may choose to ignore you altogether, as is Their right to do, but my experience makes me believe that this isn’t likely. The creation of an altar, shrine, or work bench tends to attract the attention of any nearby Spirits, so even if your initial attempts and contact are refused, They may take notice of you and choose to acknowledge you once you set up your space and begin to do your Work.
Tips for Keeping These Spirits Happy
Throwing the Bones