Monday, July 16, 2012

Spirits 101: Consent for Spirit-Walkers

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{As with all of my intro/explanation posts, this can be found under the tag '101s'.}

Consent is a huge deal in my Shamanic/Spiritual practices. A huge fucking deal. Probably the number 1 element I could not practice without. And if you ask me, anyone who regularly works with Spirits/Journeys/the Astral/even Ancestors and Land Spirits especially should be really concerned with consent.

So what do I mean when I say 'consent'? Well, consent helps to smoothe the gears of human society. You don't walk into your friend's house, open his TV cabinet and decide you'd really like to borrow ALL of his movies without asking. One, it's rude and probably creepy as fuck, and two, kinda looks like and might be a crime. Smaller-scale, you usually wouldn't start helping yourself to every foodstuff in somebody you just met's kitchen without asking them, because again, creeper alarm. In the more serious vein, you should always ask for consent in a sexual situation, because if you're not sure if you have it, or you absolutely don't have it, congrats, you have a very good chance of being a rapist.

Let's stick this in Spirit terms.

Metaphorically, you're the Land spirit, okay? I waltz onto your land and start developing buildings. Oh, what's that? You had no warning and I'm kind of deliberately stomping on you? Oh well, I can't hear you screaming at me, so it doesn't matter.

Another example. I'm a dead animal attached to a pelt. I was roadkill, or I was killed in a fur farm, and you don't know that when you buy my pelt/tail. I'm frightened and frankly pissed off, and still attached to my parts. You don't know that when you decide to dismantle them or wear them in ritual without my consent. I am understandably upset by this, and when I snarl or snap at you or try to make it known, you think I'm attacking you and you force me down or get rid of my parts, thinking they're victim to a 'bad' spirit attachment. You don't think about my side of the story at all.

A more intense example. I'm a traumatized/highly energized spirit who died horribly. You come into my place of death and start poking around because you can, or you start maybe doing a ritual on my lands. I try to make it known to you that I have a problem with this, and you freak out instread screaming demons at me and conjuring your defenses because you can't understand why I'm upset. I then get more upset, because I'm traumatized and perfectly content being left alone, and you're honestly not understanding why I'm so angry at you.

All of these situations COULD have been avoided if you did one simple thing: Before you do anything on another person's property, or with another person's property, just like in real life, you should probably ask the rightful owners if that's okay with them.

It astounds me how many seem to not think of this concept in Spirit-working. It avoids a lot of mega-trouble, and it keeps your relations polite. It's so ingrained in us who are mannerly to ask the rightful owner if it's okay to do things. As a kid you probably asked the parents if it was okay to do things, since they were the authority.

If you're walking onto a Spirit's land, they are the authority, the rightful owner. So if you're going to proceed to do something without even acknowledging or telling them, they might be a little understandably nervous, confused, or upset with you. Think of a stranger walking into your house and rearranging all your shit and then throwing things around. Would you be a tad scared? Confused? Wondering who the fuck this person was? That's what I'm talking about. Consent.

I've read a few blogs in the past week that seem to stomp all over Spirit-consent and then wonder why they got so pissed at them. I've pondered and pondered this seeming lack of common sense, and I've come up with a few reasons I think it happens, starting with the biggest one.

1. Ignorance

Believe it or not I really think a lot of this consent issue is simple ignorance. I don't always think it's the Spirit-walker's fault that they stomp all over consent. After all, of the Pagan traditions that approach Spirits at all (I mean beyond a cursory 'lol they exist maybe lol'), how many really, deeply consider the Spirit's rights and point of view? If you've found one, really, I'd like to know which. And I'm talking about every spirit, from Ancestors to the smallest Land Spirits in your garden. Every single one. (And how many discount that those things even have spirits?) And how many approach Spirits only as something to be used and discarded, like humans love to approach pretty much everything? Yeah. So I can see how this is not often being considered.

The thing is...whether you want to think so or not...everything has a Spirit. Whether you stomp on it or not does not require your belief. A Spirit doesn't need you to believe it's there to kick you in the face, or for you to fuck their shit up. So if you're going to work with them (or if they decide to work with YOU and you're just along for the ride) please really ingrain everything I'm telling you and apply it to your interactions. I'm not saying this to be HERR AUTHORITY, I'm just concerned for the well-being of the Spirits I work with and the people who work with them. Fear is not the way to go when working with them.

2. Fear

I think this is the second biggest reason for the lack of emphasis on spirit consent. Even among people who work with them, there is often an element of fear when it comes to Spirits. Fear is healthy--it tells the body when to make a run for it. But too much fear, unchanneled, stops us from searching and prevents us from thinking clearly.

I get that. Even I get freaked out at Spirits sometimes--especially ones that don't respect MY consent and wander into m house unaccounced and I can't clearly identify them for a while.

I think people are afraid to reach out and contact a Spirit first. Maybe technical reasons--your awareness is borderline good, and you're afraid you'll make up the responses, or maybe you're afraid of the idea of a Spirit telling you no or getting angry with you for even reaching out. I can see this especially in a very active/haunted area.

But the thing is--if you're afraid to even contact the Spirit to get consent, maybe you shouldn't be doing shit on their land or with their parts if you're not fully prepared to get backlash, you know? It's like yeah, asking your mom to take you to the doctor for birth control might be awkward, but isn't that better than getting knocked up later and having to face her with that interesting story? Okay, extreme example, but you get my point.

Even if you're terrified, even if you think you won't hear a response--the simple act of explaining what you're going to do, or maybe leaving a small offering, is usually enough to at least get you on good terms with the Spirit. Just trying can be enough. And it's sure as hell better than doing nothing.

3. Being an Internet Badass

I really hope this is in the minority of reasons people don't ask the consent of Spirits before doing shit.

This is the category I put people into when they specifically fuck with Spirits in haunted places/known traumatized places on purpose because it might make a good story later/test their skills/prove they're an internet badass.

There's that old idea in martial arts where if you're the third degree blackbelt in the class, you're usually the one who knows enough not to go around looking for trouble so they can beat people up. But if you're the newbie in the class, you haven't learned enough discipline or gained enough wisdom to realize that's kind of pointless and not a good use of your skills or time.

This is what I mean by internet badasses. People who may go specifically looking for trouble or for 'tough' Spirits to fight or try to take on to stroke their defensive egos or show how obviously on top of their game they are. So you can guess the last thing they would do is ask Consent, because clearly they're more powerful than silly land spirits, and besides they could just get rid of a dissenter anyway, right? Trolling around like an internet badass trying to show your utter mastery of Spirits is not going to gain my respect. Or their respect. And respect is a two way street. Spirits have ways of fucking with you, and the thing is there's many more of them than you. So I suggest letting go of an attitude like that fairly quickly.

THAT SAID: Should you defend against a Spirit that is wrongfully after you? Hell yes. As long as you tried talking to the thing and you're sure you didn't do shit/or you apologized and it's still coming after your ass. Then, like in real life, you end that shit. But if you went looking for that shit I'm not going t respect your ass.

Oookay. Moving right along here.


+Times in which you are doing a ritual on open land, especially land that has a history of haunting or violent or traumatic experiences. Examples: battlefields, sites of hangings or murders, unmarked graves.

Firstly, politeness. Secondly, if you just waltz in and begin doing whatever you feel like, you not only run the risk of spirits being pissed, but also of the ritual becoming FUBAR'd by said Spirits who have no idea what you're doing. Double for this if your ritual is meant to invoke Spirits of any sort. Thirdly, you're risking attachment and said pissed spirits following you home since you opened the doors on their land.

If you can contact the Spirit before even coming upon the land, that's actually even better. You'll be meeting in a no-stress environment kind of like a phone call. Focusing on the energy of the place/a photo of the place and asking to contact the Land Spirit there or a particular Being there is an easy enough task. As always, use discernment. Though we treat Spirits with respect, do not assume every Spirit is always truthful, or is looking out for you.

Failing this, I suggest you properly ward and put up defenses, and travel to the land, if possible, a week or two before the ritual you planned. Then, you can sit quietly with the land (in a circle, if you prefer) and ask to contact the 'main' Spirit there. You can then explain your intention, what you plan to do, who you plan to bring, what the ritual is for, etc. Be specific. No surprises or lying. And if the Spirit tells you no, that would bring upset here, you should probably listen. And in the case you don't, at least you know why you have a pissed off Spirit in your face during the whole ritual. On the other hand, if the Spirit says yes, that's no problem, you're now on good terms and know you at least let the Spirits there know what the deal was, so all parties are on equally respectful footing. And sometimes the Spirit says yes, that's fine, just leave an offering for us on the land before or after. And that's fine too. Again, respect and discernment. Asking for a portion of ritual food is fine, but asking for a blood oath or your first born is obviously not.

+When deciding whether to work with Spirits of pelts, furs, tails, animal/human bones or other parts.

Well, not being a douche. There's a reason people pre-consent to be organ donors, you know? You don't want to just start using a dead thing's parts without permission because frankly it's sort of creepy and disrespectful to the Spirit. Think about how upset you might be if someone started using your bones and you were still attached, without asking you first. Kind of awkward right?

Even if you're in a store feeling up a pelt and wondering if it's 'calling' you, despite the feeling, as awkward as it looks, I would try to shut my eyes right there and silently ask the Spirit of the item if it wants to come home with you. It feels a lot better to have a 'yes' (and I'm talking a yes in the form of a vague feeling of 'yes'--it doesn't have to be a strong verbal yes for every spirit) than to take it home and realize you have a terrified Animal Spirit attachment.

Sometimes you don't get an answer either way with Animal parts--this is because not every single item has an attachment. I personally have a few that don't have attachments at all. But asking just in case there is an attachment is always necessary. This way, if you establish contact, you can usually tell from the state of the Spirit how it was killed or died. I've actually found out things from the Spirit the seller won't tell me. For instance, they sell tails at Renaissance faires a lot. I know what to look for when it comes to Fur Farm tales (which I do not patronize) so when I asked the seller where their source came from and he didn't know, I had suspicions. When I felt up the tail and focused, I felt the violent death still hanging over the tail, and I just knew. So I walked away instead of buying it.

By the same token, maybe you have a fur farm death part that really wants to come home with you--to someone who can honor the part instead of using it for some other purpose. Many times a sacred purpose helps the Spirit to handle itself and move on, and many times if you're Called to this path fur farm parts will find you because they need help dealing with their traumas. This is why it pays to ask the Spirit what they prefer.

And sometimes you have a part that wants to be Honored in exchange for you using it/keeping it on your altar. My one fox skull takes energy in exchange for work, and we have that worked out. It keeps us both happy. Some parts might ask you directly to help move their attached Spirit along, and in that case I recommend a small ritual/offering to the Spirit, or whatever it suggests. Doing this kind of Work can be extremely rewarding.

+When putting together an Ancestral altar.

I've had people disagree with me on this before, and that's just fine. You do what feels right between you and your beloved deads.

Anyway, I think before setting up an Ancestral altar, it's a really good idea to ask said Deads what they think about that. Who knows, maybe you have a Grandma like mine that might be really skeeved to be housed next to my skull collection, since she was severely German/Roman Catholic inclined. Maybe she doesn't care, and that's a-okay. But the way to go about figuring that out is asking them directly.

And maybe you don't get a response either way at all, or they don't care, at which point, sure, why not? But personally I like to ask before creating a shrine/remembrance to any Spirits. Alternatively, you could create the space first and then invite the Ancestors into it, and if they refuse that's their preogative. Both of those techniques are fair.

I would personally meditate with a photo of the Deads and ask them to speak to me. Then, using discernment techniques of course, I would ask directly if they would mind/prefer to be venerated on my altar, and I would explain what I meant by that, and ask if they had any requests. For instance if they were particularly fond of an item and want that on the altar, it's good to know what that is and why. As an added plus it helps to build trust between you and your Deads.

+When moving in to a new place/land.

This maybe isn't so much a Consent issue strictly as it is a politeness issue.

When you move to a new place you like to get to know your neighbors, and find out if there are creepers around, you know, the usual. Personally when going to a new place I like to sit down outside and sense out Spirits in the area. Usually you have the standard Land Spirit, the big one, and the little one for your land specifically. It's a good idea to introduce yourself and ask if the Spirit wants anything/has anything to tell you. Especially information about the grounds itself.

Sit on the grass/ground and meditate, opening your senses to Spirits around. Use Discernment, but ask for the Land Spirit, introduce yourself, and maybe leave an offering. My friend had a Deer Land Spirit once that asked for apples when she went on vacation to watch the house for her and guard against break ins. Well, she's never had one, in any case.

+When entering/exiting Hallowed Ground.

This one is at the end because this one is really fucking important.

Most of the time when you bring home a Spirit attachment it comes from really active/haunted/traumatic land. All of the times it's happened to me, I was doing something stupid on Hallowed ground, as in, land that serious shit went down on. The Land remembers that trauma, and the Spirits there can sometimes be trapped, scared, or confused. Or all 3.

 So how to try and prevent this? First, if you know you're going to said Grounds, make sure you have solid defenses and wards in place. (I'm working on that post still, I swear.) Going in with Respect for Spirits is NOT THE SAME as going in defenseless to a situation. Not every Spirit wants to fucking kill you, but hey, some do. Not gonna lie to you. The key is not to assume every Spirit wants you dead OR means well for you. You know, like in dealing with strange people in real everyday life.

Anyway. When entering or existing Hallowed ground I like to pause at the border and sense out the land. If I sense fuckery there, I can generally pick up feelings from what it was. If it was especially bad I mentally ask permission to walk on said land, and I can generally feel if I have a yes or a no. A casual yes is a 'Yes provided you leave something of value behind as an offering'. But be careful leaving offerings of objects very personal to you--leaving something you have a lot of energy invested in can be a one way ticket to attachment land of the long distance sort.

And there isn't really shame is turning back from Hallowed Ground. Obviously if you're driving through it it's not like you can just turn around if there isn't another route, so in cases of travel I suggest still mentally explaining/apologizing for trespassing. Make yourself out to be the humble one. You're the kid, remember? They're the authority in this situation. Mentally explain you're just passing through and mean no harm, and you'd appreciate it if they gave you the same. In the case you HAVE to pass through fuckery land and the Spirits are not pleased with you, I still emphasize heavy defense, and invoking of seals/sigils/Deities if you feel personal harm is coming at you. I have mighty Respect for Spirits, but if I've tried reasoning and talking and really getting into the Spirit's head, I'm also not afraid to protect myself from harm. But more on that topic later.

Now I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this is all from my experience, YMMV, yadda yadda, I'm not the divine authority on how to work with Spirits. I'm just trying to make those who want/do work with them aware of some important concepts maybe they didn't consider before. I'm not trying to blame people for not doing it 'right' or 'my way', just trying to open you up to some possibilities to make the Work smoother. Take it as you will. :)

I promise to make a basic How to for Spirits 101 post after this, since this is more advanced in thought than that. And that's how I always do shit here: Post the advanced post first and the beginner post second. So wait for that if this one makes no sense to you.


2. Victim-Shaming, YOUR consent, And Spirit-Walking


  1. My Dads cousin used to own a pub. They had a terrible time trying to make it work. It had been built on the site of an old execution square. It had also once been a slaughter house for pigs. One of the previous owners of the pub had also died in the building. It's no wonder they had trouble with the place.

    1. Yo shit built on a) lost graves b) forgotten graves or c) native graves is always messed up. And that goes double for execution squares. We have 4 in Philadelphia and they're all fucked.

  2. Interesting post, I learn something new here every time. :)

    I'm going to be moving into a new, unlived in apartment soon, but the problem here in Spain is that basically ANY place can be the site of an unmarked mass grave, thanks to Franco. I don't have the luxury of asking permisson to live there or not, I need to live there because I have nowhere else to go. So if I'm to come in there assuming it might be a mass grave or something, what would be the best way to make peace with whatever spirits are there and make the place liveable?

    1. Yo Spirits are generally pretty reasonable creatures. The ones that aren't are usually unstable and so it's not really their fault.

      When I lived in Philly, we had a Spanish family haunting the place. So, to give honor to the fact it was their place first, we put up a little space in the window for them. (I think they were Mexican, so we decorated in fall with sugar skulls, things like that, to make them feel included.) Even sitting in the new place and asking if anything is there will open the way to dialogue. Some sort of olive branch is the way to go when you have to live somewhere. Then, once you gauge the situation, you go from there. And if you have a pretty bad haunting and Spirits that refuse to go and fuck with your life, well, there are ways to handle that too. In any case you won't know til you get there, and then I can give you advice more specific to your situation. (I've dealt with conscious hauntings, impressions, hungry demon nonsense, possessions, you name it. It's nothing I won't be able to kind of guide you on.)

    2. Sorry for the late reply but thank you for the offer! If anything comes up you'll be my go-to person. :)

  3. May I love this post to bits, please?
    Awesome, thank you, this should be a required read.


      I plan to do a series on Spirit 101s that I really think anybody wanting to get into the 'biz should think about, yo.

    2. Looking forward to them!

  4. This was a very interesting post, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

    what is YMMV

    Susan you know that sight -impaired visitors can NOT comment on blogs with any type of code capture? Their "readers" do not recognize the code as words, and won't read them. Comment moderation is the best way to go.

    1. YMMV is Your Mileage May Vary, as in "My way may not always be your way." :)

      Thanks for the tip, I'll look into changing that!

  5. I came across your blog in hopes to be rid of a sabatore entity that I feel has been with me since puberty. Can you please give me assistance on being free of it. I think it is some sort of revenge issue with things my ancestors did in the past. Maybe myself in past life screwed up majorly. I have done forgiveness work...still here...

  6. Love this. i want to invoke a spirit for... curiosity. i want a good spirit. i need to do plenty of research first. like protection circle etc. thanks for this nice read.