I am blessed to be connected with some very interesting and connected people through social media and every now and again they throw up interesting blog posts which make me think. The most recent has been http://seohelrune.net/witchcraft-not-safe/ which got me thinking about my own practices, experiences and the experiences of people I know. The post focuses on the author’s experiences at a burial mound late one night and although their experience is not my own I am in almost total alliance with their sentiment.
Working in Nature
When you work out in nature you are going to attract attention. Gone are the days when the lines between the spirits of the land and the ancestors were just on the boundary of your settlement. The background noise of modern life drowns out so much that when we come face to face the underside of the spirit world it is very unnerving and many feel unprepared when that connection occurs.
My own experiences of working in the great outdoors are limited, so much so that in planning this blog I had to approach a friend for her experience so that I had something relevant to relate. There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is that I realise just how easy it is to attract the attention of something Other and often I have the two witchlets in tow. Visiting ancient sites and monuments in daylight and conducting limited ritual activities above ground always feel much safer, certainly, I have only ever felt that the attention we have garnered has been light interest and anything which may have followed us was left at the location if not the door of our house thanks to my wards.
The most unnerving experience I have ever had was as a teenager when I and a group of friends went down to the beach late at night and performed a small spell. We garnered attention that night, and we were all left frightened to one degree or another. Now, almost 20 years on, it is hard to distinguish between what was interaction with spirits, be they of the dead or the land, and what was in our imagination so it doesn’t really serve in this context. As such I will relate the experience of my friend, who we will call A.
A was camping with a number of friends out in a local woodland, with the intention of carrying out a ritual to celebrate the turning of the Wheel. After the ritual, she and a couple of others left the area where they were actually camping and wandered off to commune with nature more directly for a time. They had sensed they had been watched during their working and wanted to experience something more directly. As they walked they felt the urge to sing, not anything in particular, just vocalising in a melodic way which fed off each other, increasing in volume and tempo as they went. The more they sang, the more they were aware of the sense of being watched, by many presences which were drawing ever closer. The situation began to feel very intense and suddenly worried that they didn’t really know what was being drawn towards them the ended their singing and hurried back to their tents and turned in for the night. A tells me that she was very aware of every single movement taking place outside the walls of her tent, movement which seemed to be something other than local wildlife. Her friends reported a number of experiences after turning in which left them all with the sense that they had been noticed and investigated and when they left they did so with a strong sense of relief.
Their experience was certainly no way as intense as that relayed in seohelrune’s blog however it does nibble at the edges. The spirits wakened by A and her friends were clearly more curious than angry, and there were no reports of attempted possessions, but it goes part way to show that it doesn’t take much to stir some interest.
Protection In Nature
So what can we do when working in nature to protect ourselves? The most obvious method would be to work within a cast circle. A circle can be used to keep out anything you don’t want in your working area but it doesn’t stop you drawing attention and once you step outside the circle you are fair game.
We’re on their turf so we don’t have the opportunity to call on home defence and have to carry everything with us. There are any number of talismanic protection charms and methods which can be employed to protect oneself out and about. Such things can be small and hidden about the person but should only really be supporting your own personal protective skills. Making sure that you enter the space well grounded, having used visualisation to form protection, ensuring that everyone working with you has similar understandings and protections etc will all help in keeping yourself safe.
The issue then becomes one of relative strength and confidence. If you encounter a spirit or entity which is stronger than you and your personal wards you are then in a whole world of potential trouble. This is one reason why I would say never work outdoors, and particularly away from your own property, on your own without being fully familiar with the location. If you have worked there before and have a positive relationship with the genius loci then you are in a much better position, though there is no guarantee that you won’t one day be caught off guard. At the very least check out the area in daylight and make sure you are comfortable with it before going ahead.
I don’t want to put someone off working outdoors. A sensible precaution, confidence in your own abilities and a willingness to push your abilities and boundaries are the watchwords of the Witch. I agree with the sentiment of seohelrune that if you aren’t scared or having that “this s**t just got real!” moment you aren’t doing it right.
In the situation presented by seohelrune there was a very near possession and at that point, you are reliant on the people around you but, assuming that the worst possibility is that something may follow you home there are something you can do to protect you and yours.
Seohelrune and I disagree somewhat when it comes to what it takes to deal with spirits you encounter within the home. I differentiate between those spirits that are resident in your home, belonging either to the property or are associated with a particular object, and those which have made their way in by piggy backing in on your or other family members.
The first group are resident and belonging, in some instances more so that you as the living occupant of the home. So long as relations are cordial there is no need to take any action and thought should be given to not aggravating them if at all possible. Where that isn’t possible these spirits need to be addressed using a particular set of tools and skills and things that may be useful in dealing with the second group will not be relevant here.
For example; wards will not help. The spirits are already present and active and it is impossible to keep something out when they are already in. Other suggestions such as LARP will have some effect but to effectively deal with residents you need to bring out very heavy guns and perform full blown, household banishing’s/exorcism which may even need to be repeated a number of times to ensure that the spirit is fully routed out or compelled to cross over. At that point, it is an exercise in making sure that something can’t return. Full and regularly laid wards, hunting out objects that may have been connected to the spirit and ensuring they get special attention or even removed from the property. There are no short cuts in dealing with this first groups.
In the case of those spirits which may follow you home they are less well connected to the location it is somewhat easier to expel them if dealt with quickly, and frankly, can be stopped at the door if you have sufficient and effective wards. There are many different types of wards which can be employed, too many to go into here today. One good book on the subject is Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller (link).
But dealing with something that gets in can be very simple, particularly if you are faced with a simply curious spirit who wants to know what goes on at your place. What you don’t want is for them to decide they like it at your house and you want to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible and this is where I think this is where Seohelrune and I disagree. I find the whole banging of pots and wide-ranging swear language routine very effective for dealing with transient spirits. These spirits have no vested interest in sticking around and it is very easy to dislodge them. That being said, it is a sliding scale. If a spirit isn’t addressed quickly or is particularly aggressive bagging a few pots will not be effective and you need to step up the game.
By Invitation Only
There is a third group of spirits, those which you summon. Witchcraft often works with the invocation of spirits, are drawn to use spiritual tools such as Ouija boards and other practices which are necromantic in origin. Again, I don’t want to put people off. I have had some very good, and “this s**ts real” experiences with these practices. My first, and so far only, experience of the goetic spirits shook my 15-year-old self to the core and convinced me that the Spirits of the Key were not only real but were something I shouldn’t be messing around with. Fortunately, beyond being shaken by the presence I got off lightly. The work was completed and I have had no trouble since and you would think I would have been raring to go again but at the time I decided to leave well enough alone. I was working alone, with no guidance and I realised I wasn’t working with the best material (though I *wish* I could remember the name of the book!) and decided not to go down that route again. Now there are a lot better resources available should I choose to explore it again but as it is I am happy working with my Goddess, my beloved ancestors and the spirits of the land around me. I just tap into interesting podcasts and writings on the subject now and again.
Saying that working with ancestors spirits is not a failsafe option either. Fail to keep your end of a bargain and you will likely start to experience the repercussions, offer them something they don’t like (or like a little too much) and you will know about it. My ancestor pool is by necessity small until such time as I can research my family tree, although there are some that, based on my current knowledge, I really keep to work with. I just want to avoid offering alcohol to anyone who may have had a history of alcohol addiction…
When working with spirits the number one rule is “never summon what you cannot banish” because by inviting them into your space you are walking them past your wards. Things can get out of hand when spirits go their own way unsupervised. As I said to someone recently in an open group – If you don’t know how to banish spirits as part of summoning, or at all, you are not ready to summon spirits. If you do have this knowledge/these skills then have at ye!
Witchcraft is not Safe
The problem is that when Witchcraft is “safe” it becomes a shallow and stagnant pool which frankly is no true reflection of the Craft at all. It is filled with posers and the passive aggressive who have never pushed themselves to experience that “oh s**t” moment, preferring to play around with their candles and crystals. Now, there is nothing wrong with candles and crystals, but there is so much more depth to Witchcraft that simply limiting yourself to these experiences is simply not enough.
You need to get down and dirty, or bloody, and really finding your connection with spirit, be they of the land, ancestor, gods or de(a)mons. Witchcraft is not a fast track path to spiritual enlightenment, nor is it a place of total acceptance. The phrase “Love and Light” is better placed in a spiritualist context where it is the most over-used and passive aggressive phrase out there on forums and groups. As one clairvoyant I used to know would say “Love and Light dearie, now f**k off”. A lot of people come looking for some kind of brother/sisterhood similar to that they experienced in a former religion or as a replacement for a lack in their lives. I do feel sorry for some but kinship comes through blood and choice, not some shared religious pick on the Facebook profile set up. I will call people on presuming to add me to their kin list whether it is through attempted coercion, presumption or sloppy language, much to their distress because to do so shatters their illusion that the Craft is somewhere where everyone is accepted without question or challenge. These sorts of challenges are very necessary given the fact that as a group we can enable a lot of very unhealthy and destructive beliefs and behaviours.
But as a practice Witchcraft was never intended to be a “safe”. It is meant to be done in the dead of night where the only sound it a bitch-dog howling to the moon; it should cause the hairs on the back of your neck and freeze the marrow in your bones and it should be a process through which the job gets done. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible is part of the process so staying in a “safe place” is not an option for growth.