How did people first learn to work with spirits? The short answer is that the spirits taught us. The first shaman taught people and they taught other people how to work with spirits, sharing information, techniques, materials, and methods.
Working with spirits is an intrinsically sacred art, but a practical one, too. If spirits deliver on their promises, devotions increase. Weary or disenchanted spirits seeking to retire stop producing. Those spirits who consistently deliver, who dependably demonstrate generous or hard-working natures develop reputations. Word gets around. Some spirits are eager human companionship, hungry for our love and attention.
It is in the nature of many spirits to be workaholics. This works to our benefit. However, like other workaholics, they become impatient with slackers. You will be expected to hold up your end of the bargain.
Spirits work, but so do people. It’s called working because you are not a passive recipient. People don’t just sit back and wait for generous spirits to shower us with blessings. Relationships between people and spirits are symbolic: that means mutually beneficial. They work for us, and we work for them.
Types of food or drink offered to spirits may differ; specific songs or drumbeats may differ; which incense is burned may differ; but basic methods of working with spirits are universal and eternal. Spirits communicate via symbols, oracle, and dreams. Most enjoy, crave, and expect small gifts. When the basics structure of independent spirit working is consistent, two factors are unique to each individual transaction and will affect their direction and out come:
• Will the spirit respond to a petitioner as desired or even respond at all?
• What are the individual petitioner’s hopes, fears, beliefs, and level of expertise or desperation?
How one works with spirits depends somewhat on what it is one hopes to receive from them.
• Study the deity you want to work with.
• Your goal.
• Consider your purpose carefully, before you make offerings or prayers to a particular god or goddess.
Examples with Norse Deities:
Freya: Feminine energy; love; fertility; magick; war; conflict; death; wealth
Thor: Masculine energy; war; conflict; protection; earth fertility and abundance; bullies whether its spirit, human, corporate, commercial, or bureaucracy
Odin: Masculine energy; wisdom; war; death; illness
Loki: Chaos; artisan; craftsmen; not recommended unless you are a devotee first
Skadi Death; hunting
Tyr: War; justice
Valkyries: Life, death, battle, and magick
Sometimes there are times you are grasping a straws to solve a problem and your last resort is petitioning a spirit. You are a beginner, a novice and may have doubts about the reality of spirits, let alone your own ability to reach them, if they exist. You lack experience but you need help now. What do you do next? Where do you start?
Here is a method in a nutshell:
• Identify a spirit who can help you or the spirit who is your personal patron.
• Familiarize yourself with this spirit; are you comfortable requesting their assistance?
• Respectfully but straightforwardly and clearly articulate what you seek, going into as much detail as needed. You cannot be too clear and precise.
Nothing in life is free. This is important: if there is a single key word that must be remembered about working with spirits, it is reciprocity. Relationships between people and spirits are mutually beneficial: in other words, spirits expect to receive something in return for favors rendered, if only sincere gestures of love and veneration.
Spirits don’t want your soul or your first born. Put the knife down; no need to draw up a contract in your own blood. There’s no need for a written contract at all. That’s all propaganda intended to induce fear. Horror stories and religious propaganda present perverted distortions of the ancient art of negotiating with spirits.
In general, spirits seek veneration, relationships, some care and feeding, good deeds on their behalf, and gestures and testimonials to their power and generosity. Thus, the final two steps of working with spirits:
• Explain precisely what it is that you will give in return and exactly when the spirit should expect payment. Never promise something you know you can’t or won’t deliver.
• If the spirit fulfills its end of the bargain, make sure that you fulfill yours, too.
Some spirits are more flexible and good-natured, more or less acquisitive, compassionate, or generous than others. Some like to bargain or negotiate.
There are many paths to spirits. Different individuals approach spirits for a wide variety of motivations. If seek nothing from them, if all you desire is to bask in their presence, then this process doesn’t really apply (or at lest until there is something you desire or need). Since the spirit has not been asked to do anything, nothing is owed in returned. Should the devotee become bored or decide to explore a different spiritual path, veneration may simply stop at any time. (Sometimes this is the moment when previously silent spirits rear their heads and make their presence known.)
The relationship is more complex, however, if you actually desire something or expect to receive something, even just general patronage and protection. You may vaguely hope that venerating a spirit will earn good fortune, but if and when you really need something, you must ask for it specifically and explicitly, naming your desire.
These requests are referred as petitions, not the sense of the modern political petition, a paper signed by vast number of people, but in the old-fashioned sense of a petition as formal requests for a favor, presented to royalty.
There are two ways of effectively presenting petitions:
• Petitions are offered spontaneously or impulsively in a moment of passion or despair.
• Petitions are formally presented within the context of rituals. This type of petition is planned in advance. An awful lot of expense and trouble may be taken to offer this petition, with the person sometimes journeying great lengths to be a shrine at a specific moment. This petition may or may not be accompanied by offerings, the equivalent of a down payment on favors expected or show of good faith.
If you have the time to plan, then the second method can be extremely effective, but sometimes a sincere cry from the heart is all it takes to catch a spirit’s attention and sympathies. This is especially true if a spirit is already waiting for your call.
I have had one experience with just a sincere cry from the heart. I was doing an exercise on gods in my year and day book and the response I received was heard telepathically in a male voice “don’t worry child, we will get through this.” I use to be a “worry wart” but after this experience I have not worried near as much I use to.
You will know within a reasonable amount of time whether a spirit has accepted your offer or wishes to negotiate further, because indications will appear. Sometimes immediate fulfillment of the request is the indication, but not always.
Those seeking help with any aspect of pregnancy should advise the spirit that payment will only be made after the birth of a healthy child-not just upon conception. Vowing to bring a healthy child of a certain age to visit the spirit’s shrine is a very traditional payment. Likewise someone seeking assistance with healing might specify that payment will be made six months or one year following the cure just to ensure that it’s lasting.
Terms and conditions depend upon the nature of what’s sought and the nature of the particular spirit. Of course, the longer a spirit must wait, the more substantial and thoughtful payment should be: you will have had time to prepare.
Spirits frequently work through people. We are their hands, tools, mouths, servants, and messengers, albeit often unknowingly. Although you are petitioning a spirit, do not be surprised to find a miracle arriving via human hands. Miracles frequently look very normal; they don’t always arrive with flashing lights and special effects as on TV. If you have a medical condition that has defied treatment and so have petitioned Raphael, preeminent spirit of healing, and suddenly there is a medical breakthrough that results in your cure, that’s your miracle.
This system is called the promise. It is a reciprocal vow, contract, or covenant between a practitioner and a sacred being. Who is making the promise? Both spirit and human alike: it is a sacred vow and bond.
I had a dream of the goddess and all I remember is she says I’m a part of the covenant. At that time I didn’t know what she meant.
Spirits expect to be paid for miracles provided. You want a miracle; what’s it in for them? That may sound callous, especially in regards to a sacred being, but it’s crucial to be blunt so that this point is understood:
• People who love and venerate spirits all the time, in good times and bad, tend to recognize gifts and miracles when received. They are quick to render gratitude, affection, tribute, and payments.
• Those who may have petitioned a spirit as a whim or long shot are more likely to dismiss experiences as coincidence and hence offer no payment or renege on a deal.
Believing in spirits is not necessary. What is required is the belief in the possibility that just maybe there is something out there that can help you. If it doesn’t, well then you are back in the same place where you started, problems and all. If you are helped, however, then it’s crucial to acknowledge the reality of what helped you, even if only to yourself and the spirit.
Whatever you perceive spirits to be, it is crucial, if you intend to work with them, to see them as something alive and independent from you. Many people have a hard time accepting spirits as distinct living entities. Instead spirits are understood as archetypes, metaphors, or other abstract emanations of the human mind. Working with spirits without acknowledging them as independent entities inevitably leads to trouble. How can you ask an archetype for assistance? You can’t. How can a metaphor provide miracles? It can’t.
Archetypes and metaphors come from the human brain; miracles and favors produced by archetypes and metaphors clearly also stem from the human brain. If it’s all from the human brain, then you can provide your own miracles without asking for outside assistance. (And maybe you can. Some swear by the power of positive thinking. But that’s not the same as working with spirits.)
The problem is that many people believe in spirits when they need something and then, when the emergency is over, rationalize that spirits don’t really exist and that the solution to their problems derived from coincidence or their own efforts. The result is the tendency to fail to pay off a spiritual debt or fulfill a vow. No one likes an ingrate, especially not spirits. You don’t want their reality proved to you via their anger.
Trouble can be avoided very easily. If you can’t accept their reality, if you have a deep emotional investment in spirits not being real, then just don’t address them as living beings. Don’t ask for anything. Don’t promise anything. Don’t fool around.
What’s the going cost for a miracle? Again, spirits don’t want your soul or your firstborn, either. Miracles provided are not tricks intended to make you relax your guard so that later you can be more easily harmed.
So what do you offer in exchange for a miracle? What do you give a spirit who has everything? What do you give someone who may have saved your life and whom you may wish to contact again, should the need arise?
The magnitude of the miracle (how badly it was needed; whether it was a matter of life and death) determines the magnitude of the offering. There are small petitions and major petitions: “Help me find a parking space” versus “Save me from cancer.”
Never make vague, hysterical, grandiose promises like “I’ll give you anything! Or “Take whatever you want,” or “I’ll give you the most valuable thing I have!” You can see this right away how this leads to misunderstandings and trouble.
Likewise, never offer something you know you won’t deliver or that you’re not sure you can deliver. If you have no money, don’t offer something expensive. It is, however, very traditional to base an offering on the requested miracle itself. Delivery of payment is dependant on delivery of the miracle: they are truly symbiotic. The Romans often inserted a little verbal proviso into spiritual petitions; it translates into English as “I’ll give when you have given.”
• If you are asking for financial assistance, offer to give a percentage of the riches received to a cause close to the spirit’s heart.
• Those seeking fertility often name a child after the spirit, bring the child to visit a spirit’s shrine when the child is old enough, and/or raise the child to be an active devotee.
• Those seeking cures may vow to help those suffering from the same affliction should they recover enough to be able to do so.
Historically, working with spirits has been the province of poor and working people. Spirits’ desires are often very modest. Mostly, they seek attention, acknowledgment, and gestures of gratitude. The most important aspect of an offering is that it is given lovingly and respectfully, not grudgingly. True gifts of the heart are more valuable than lavish donations offered carelessly. Here are some generally appropriate payments:
• Provide an artistic tribute, whether created by yourself or commissioned from another.
• Create an altar, whether an actual physical one or a virtual one in cyberspace.
• Throw a party in the spirits’ honor, or offer a more private ritual meal.
• Name something important after the spirit, or post its image in a prominent place.
• Testify to the miracle in some public manner.
• Get a tattoo that references the spirit (name, image, or sacred symbols).
• Make a pilgrimage to a shrine or place strongly associated with that spirit.
• Many spirits are associated with specific animals, plants, and sacred sites. The world being what it is, most of them are endangered. Any efforts or charitable donations on their behalf will be greatly appreciated. Thus Freya has powerful association with cats; if she helps you, do something to help them, whether directly or financially.
For info on a particular spirit, go to the Pagan Gods, Goddesses & other Spirits album. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.620096748031571.1073741829.441928695848378
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses by Judika Illes
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~Lavender Luna’s Cauldron