Spirit work is a huge topic and one that causes a lot of trepidation. There’s very little that freaks new witches out more than the idea that their house might end up haunted as a result of their practice! Having dealt with predatory spirits myself I can’t blame them, it is not fun. I mean really, nobody wants some random spirit banging cabinets, giving them nightmares, and messing up their spellwork.
If you’re not sure if you even want to tangle with spirits, this is also for you! Knowledge is power and knowing how to protect yourself and understanding how spirits function can give you peace of mind and allow you to maintain your boundaries effectively. A huge part of being a witch is claiming your power over your experience of the world and that includes how and if you interact with spirits.
Does Magic Attract Spirits?
One of the major fears that people come to me with is the idea that doing magic or acknowledging any spirits will attract more spirits. This “if I open the door they will all show up” idea is easy to understand, popular media definitely likes to capitalize on it and when you’ve seen it so many times in movies and stories it can start to feel like the truth. Good news though, it isn’t the truth.
Getting in touch with your intuition and using magic doesn’t inherently attract spirits. In reality, most of the time when people start using magic and then find themselves seeing lots of spirits it’s because the spirits were already there, they just didn’t know it. As we become more aware of the spiritual aspect of our reality, we begin to see and interact with it more easily, which means that things we previously weren’t aware of suddenly become obvious.
While this can sound scary, it’s actually a very good thing! You can make better decisions about your experience magically and protect yourself more effectively when you’re aware of what’s actually there. And yes, some people naturally attract more spirits than others. This is quite natural, like someone being naturally good with dogs. Being good with dogs doesn’t mean you have to let every stray dog into your house.
On top of this, most errant spirits are harmless. Some may try to pretend to be tough and scary but it’s usually an act and they’re relying on your fear and naivety to help them pull it off. You can think of spirits as akin to the diversity of life on our planet. The majority of the animals you run into on a day to day basis are harmless, you probably see squirrels, some birds, someone’s cat, occasionally you see a crow or some predatory bird. Once in a blue moon, you might run into something a little more dangerous but this is the exception by far, not the rule. The average spirit trying to scare you is like a squirrel trying to convince you that it can beat you up. It’s absurd.
Here on this plane, we are usually the strongest beings. This is our home turf, we are both spiritual and physical beings and as such when in a spiritual/physical reality we are at our strongest. Meanwhile, a purely spiritual being in a spiritual/physical reality is at a major disadvantage. Knowing this alone will protect you from most troublesome hauntings. Spirits like to prey on the naïve and if you can see through their pretend power, they will quickly leave you be.
Bigger, tougher, scarier spirits are out there but they are unlikely to wander into your home uninvited. Due to the power that these beings wield, usually, lots of people want to work with them. They don’t have to go find people to bother, typically people find them.
Ok, But Do I Have To Work With Spirits?
You don’t have to do anything in the craft that you don’t want to, although some things (like magical hygiene) are heavily recommended.
Spirit work can add a lot to the craft but not everyone engages in it. Some people only work with certain spirits like a green witch who works with genius loci and plant spirits but not with the spirits of the departed or anything else. Some people avoid spirits other than their gods. Some people choose to avoid spirits altogether. Spirit work takes effort to maintain, a relationship with a spirit is like a relationship with a friend or acquaintance, it takes time and consistency to make it a fruitful, healthy, and happy thing for both parties!
There’s no right or wrong way to structure your craft in this respect, it’s simply a matter of what you’re comfortable with and what you hope to accomplish with your magic.
Why you might choose to work with spirits:
- There are one or more spirits that interest you
- You do a type of magic that would benefit from the help of a certain spirit
- Some spirits, like ancestors, are easy to work with and can keep other spirits away
- Spirits can teach you new magic that you can’t find in books
- Spirits can lend a lot of power to your magic
- Spirits can give a sense of community to isolated witches
Why you might choose NOT to work with spirits:
- You don’t like the idea of invisible beings in your house
- You don’t have the time to devote to maintaining spiritual relationships right now
- You aren’t great at maintaining personal boundaries and don’t want to be taken advantage of
- Your discernment/divination skills aren’t great yet and you’re not sure you can tell helpful spirits from unhelpful spirits
- You just really don’t want to
Magical Hygiene Is The Answer
Magical hygiene is an important part of every magical practice but it’s especially important for spirit work. If you aren’t already, you should be cleansing and warding regularly. You should also have a good banishing spell under your belt and have the necessary tools and ingredients to perform it on hand whenever you’re working magic.
These practices will ensure that you and your space stay safe and clear of unwanted spirits. This can be the extent of your spirit practice, simply keeping your space spirit free, or it can be a foundation for inviting the right spirits into your home safely and healthily. It puts the power in your hands.
Cleansing is simply the act of removing unwanted energies from a person, place or object. Cleansing is generally the gentlest form of removal, whereas banishing would be a more forceful tactic. Instead of forcefully ejecting an offending influence or spirit you’re simply removing the bonds that hold the energy in place and allowing that energy to be transmuted into something neutral.
This process is useful for ensuring that you, your living space, or the things near you are clear of energies that could harm or disturb you. It’s useful for creating a blank slate in your environment or preparing tools for spell work and keeping your energy stable and healthy.
For spirit work or keeping spirits away, you should be cleansing once a week, as well as cleansing before and after spells and rituals and cleansing judiciously whenever you feel like something is “off”. Pick one method of cleansing that works well for you and stick with it.
Warding is used to create an energetic safe space, it prevents intrusive or unwanted energies from entering your space thereby lessening the amount of offensive magic that you need to perform. Think of it like the firewall on your computer, it allows only benign files onto your computer and blocks anything malicious. Casting a circle is one of the most common forms of warding, used for protecting magical workspaces, but there are many other forms of warding.
Wards are an extremely versatile form of magic, they can protect a single entity or, given enough power, they can extend over vast amounts of space to protect large buildings or even entire towns. They can be semi permeable, meaning they selectively allow energies through, or they can be completely impermeable, allowing nothing to enter or exit. A ward can be used to keep energies out or to keep them in. Wards are only limited by the imagination and ability of the witch casting them.
Banishing is a more forceful way of removing unwanted beings and energies from your space. This is not a practice you should need to use often if you’re using the above practices regularly but it’s handy to have around in a pinch. Essentially this is what you’ll turn to when a spirit has turned up that just won’t leave. This might be a spirit that is resisting your cleansing efforts or it might be that you summoned something and things got a little too real in the moment. If you do summon something that’s too much for you to handle, DO NOT break your circle, abandon the work, or just shut things down haphazardly. You need to banish the spirit immediately. This means that EVERY time you summon a spirit your banishing kit should be inside of your circle and ready to use. After the banishing, shut down your working properly, break the circle and immediately cleanse and ward your home.
Boundaries Are Key
While spirit work can add a lot to your life and your craft, it does have its pitfalls. One big one is that sometimes people let their spirit companions start running their lives. At the outset, this might seem like a great idea. I mean, they’re spirits! They know so much and have such incredible insight! Especially if you trust them, it can feel like the right thing to do. And if you’re particularly devoted to them? It can seem downright disrespectful not to listen.
This is not a good idea though. While taking the advice and counsel of a trusted spirit can be a wonderful thing, allowing them to make your decisions for you is dangerous. This is YOUR life. You are meant to be living it, not them. While they may have insights into spiritual matters and perhaps even have lived lives on this earth, they are NOT living here now. You are. You are the one who understands, intimately, the world you live in which makes you the one with the most pertinent lived experience. You always have the last word.
There is a world of difference between listening to the advice of a trusted friend and simply handing over the reins of your life. If a spirit starts to try to bully you into doing what they want, they are not trustworthy. If they are telling you to do something against your better judgment or something dangerous, they are not trustworthy. If they are trying to micromanage your life and control every minor, seemingly inconsequential detail, they are not trustworthy. Learn to tell the difference between sound advice and abusive manipulative spirits. Do not give up control of your life, you are the one living it.