One of the cornerstones of Witchcraft is Spirit and the relationships built between the Witch and the Spirit World through how ‘spirit’ is identified will depend on the Witch and their individual practice. The question and the use of the word ‘raise’ directs attention to dealings with the spirits of the dead however I wanted to take a slightly wider approach and briefly talk about three possible categories of ‘spirits’ in Witchcraft.
Elemental / Nature
For the animists among us all things in life and nature posses a spirit which can be interacted with. Most Witches hold some level of animistic belief which informs their perception and interaction with spirit. Usually these relate to plants, animals, locations and occasionally the classical elements.
Genius Loci is the term ascribed to the spirit/entity associated with a particular location in nature. In some instances these entities have been deified and can be recognised in local composite deities such as Sulis Minerva and Verbeia however most go unnamed. The concept of working with particular plants, trees and animals is central to Witchcraft as the spirit associated with the physical object is being asked to lend its own essence to the Witches craft. Something that is often drilled into the neophyte is the need for respectful and responsible methods of sourcing the material elements of such entities. Also there are the elemental, spiritual representations of the four classical elements. Undies, Salamanders, Gnomes and Fairies are just some of the names associated with these beings with others appearing in different strands of mythology and tradition. These spirits are called upon to represent and empower with the qualities of the element they embody in the Craft of the Witch. Other similar entities including Dryads (blah blah blaf)
No that isn’t a spelling mistake. Daemon is the latinised Greek word δαίμων loosely meaning ‘spirit’. Daemons are semi-divine entities which facilitate communication between the realms of the living and the Gods. According to the Greeks deamons may be the transformed spirits of individuals particularly venerated after death, philosophical concepts so powerful they manifest themselves as deamons, nature spirits or even a spiritual entity entirely unique and individual in their manifestation. Whatever their origin and identity deamons provided the Greeks, particularly the Neoplatonists, and effective msans of communicating between the realms of existing; living, dead and divine.
Whilst Christians define *demons* as being purely malignant **deamons** are not universally so. Yes, some wish to drag down and destroy the mortal Witch, others are simply tricksy and want to see the world burn in chaos of their making whilst others still wish only to help in the purest sense. It is the Craft of the Witch to first be able to identify those spirits who are willing, or at least able, to help and secondly control those who will help and banish those who will not.
One collectionof such spirits can be found in the Lesser Key of Solomon. Although the Lesser Key is better known as a Ceremonial Magic process it, and similar angelic systems such as that employed by Dr John Dee, offers one structure of contacting daemonic spirits.
The Dead / Ancestors
As has been previously said, ancestor worship forms an important part of many witchcraft traditions. In some cases this extends to working with individuals in a direct way rather than in an indirect one. The methods of and reasons for doing this vary depending on the individual and traditions. Mediumship plays its part however as discussed previously you do not have to be a world renowned medium, rather posess a developed sense of intuition which is sometimes inherent to us all.
The elephant in the room when discussing communicating with the spirits of the dead is necromancy. The word stirs all the worst connotations of Witchcraft in the casual minds eye but essentially this is the process of interacting with the dead, either on a spiritual or physically level to obtain information. Necromancy is a form of divination with the practitioner seeking knowledge, guidance or advice on matters obscured to the eyes of the living however it can also be employed to compel the spirits of the dead to act on the behalf of the living.
The vast majority of Witches that admit to practicing necromancy perform the rasing of spirit and nothing more. Although it is possible to own human remains and will your remains to family members after death it isn’t all that common for witches to have their Granny’s skull on the sideboard so the use of physical human remains is rare. More often than not resin, crystal and pottery alternatives are employed as vessels for the spirits raised and the physical aspect is implied, as are other vessels as suggested by my earlier Familiars post.
Do all Witches Raise and Communicate with Spirit
Concentrating on the spirits of the dead from here on out; not all Witches communicate with the dead. Whilst ancestor worship is often central to Witchcraft the work does does not focus on the individual, rather looking towards a collective or the Mighty Dead. Working with individual spirits, known or unknown, is usually a step further than some Witches will go for various reasons.
The process of developing a relationship with a given spirit is a long one, and one which takes time to establish. Even when working with Spirits who may have been known in life it is necessary to establish their willingness to work with the Witche. For example a fundamentalist Christian grandparent who was staunchly against Witchcraft is highly unlikely to want to help in your Craft. Equally if you’ve decided to work with and offer alcohol to Great Uncle Whotever without knowing he had been an alcoholic in life you may be in for a nasty surprise. Knowing such things is even more important when working with Spirits entirely unknown to you. The point here is that it is import to know as much as possible about the Spirits you engage with in order to be as effective in your craft as possible but unfortunately the willingness to put in the work or overlook the propaganda isn’t always there.
In addition to research and knowledge is practice itself. This is one of many areas of the Craft which is not safe, indeed should not be safe. Those who know how to shield themselves and their environments, who understand me when I say “do not conjure what you cannot keep” and who are willing to put consistent time and effort into maintaining a relationship with spirit should have little to fear (a little fear is always a good thing). However if none of these resonate and you are looking for a quick fix I recommend maintaining the fluffy delusion that relationships with the other forms of spirits I have mentioned are somehow easier and safer (fyi they are not). A thing worthwhile is worth the effort and the effort is what makes this practice of necromancy as safe as it can possibly be. If you are looking for a safe and easy ride Witchcraft is not for you.
- The Four Elements all Rights and Credits to the artist – unknown
- Elijah by Carlos-Quevedo
- Ancestor Spirits by Willow Arlenea