Spirit work is such a broad term. Put any two spirit workers side by side and their practices might have virtually nothing in common. While I’ve tried to give something of a definition of spirit work on this blog, I find myself wanting to discuss it more, but without trying to prescribe spirit work as I practice it for everybody else. So rather than give generalities, I want to share some of my experiences with you.
Yesterday, I woke up from a dream that seemed to contain a message for me from a spirit being from a pantheon I practice in. Interesting. Even for someone who’s Gods-bothered, this is not something that necessarily happens every night–otherwise, I’d never get a decent night’s sleep! I hopped onto a private Facebook group I’m in with some fellow mystic types and asked for their insights on the dream. Sanity checks with my fellow practitioners are an important part of my efforts at discernment, and having the support is really nice. After some discussion I decided to lay out some offerings that the being had requested. But, this particular being is known for, shall we say, a rather strong preference for a clean home. Uh oh. I’m emerging from a lengthy battle with the flu. My bedroom, where my primary altar is located, looked like it had been hit by a tornado, to put it mildly.
So first things first, I had to at least attempt to make the environment look pleasant. I’m still pretty weak from my illness, so a full-scale clean was impossible. So I did some basics: get the dirty laundry off the floor and into a hamper. Take out the trash. Sweep the floor. Too tired to hang up the clean clothes–ok, dump them on the futon for now, that will have to be close enough. Oops, didn’t take that last offering off the altar yet; better toss that. Why do I share this with you? Because spirit workers or those of us who are mystically inclined are not perfect, nor somehow better than other Polytheists. We have off days, we have breaks in our practice or times when it slows down, we fall short of our goals.
Having made my room at least somewhat acceptable, I gathered offerings and performed a simple rite. Basically, it just involved grounding myself and getting into the right mindset, asking the entity in question to join me to receive offerings, presenting those offerings, and then inviting any communication They might have for me at that time. I listened and spoke directly and followed up with a rune reading for confirmation and further insights. In particular, this being wanted me to step up my offering game, and we negotiated an agreement about when and how this would happen. In return They offered me assistance with some particular challenges I am facing that fall under Their purview.
I wrote up my experiences in my journal and went to bed. That part is important and I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. I’ve found that much as dreams often fade if you don’t record them upon waking, I will lose important details from spirit interactions or journeys if I don’t write them down right away. I’ve also had to get better at organizing my writings so that I can refer back to things later. What if this thing that a spirit said to me reminded me of that thing some other spirit did two months ago? I won’t remember it as happening two months ago, or where I put it, unless my notes are organized. So far, I’ve found dividing my journals by major subjects and using a bullet journal style of indexing to be very helpful. I have a main journal for everything that doesn’t have its own book, one specifically for Ancestor Birds, one for runic studies, one for Braucherei studies, and one for letters I write to deities and spirits. This has worked out pretty well for me so far. Not all of what I record is written; I also use drawing, photography, and collage.
Today I checked in with my group from yesterday just to update them on my results. Moving on with my day, in my news feed I saw a picture of a barn owl in flight from below, eerily lit up against the night sky. This particular bird and its ghostlike appearance in the photo really stood out to me, as both are associated with the being I was talking to last night. Synchronicity is a big part of how I talk with the Lewesbaam (life tree/world tree). It’s one of those parts of my day that’s natural to me but might seem unusual to others. Images, songs, bits of dialogue on TV or overheard in public, passages from books, encounters with animals, all of these might have significance for me in context of what I’ve been doing. I experience it as an ongoing conversation with the Lewesbaam, weaving itself into the fabric of my life.
Later in the day I continued my research on the Ancestor Birds of New Zealand, inspired by recent interactions with Adzebill. Part of my work with the Ancestor Birds is to learn as much as I can from existing resources about Their lives in the physical world. This information prepares me for spirit interactions, much as you might learn about the culture of another country before traveling there. Sometimes a spirit will reach out to me, which inspires my research, and sometimes my research leads me to reach out to a spirit. All of it inspires my art for Them!
My next task was an experiment with grinding millet with a mortar and pestle. What? Why on earth would I do that? Well, I’ve been searching for awhile for a good daily offering for the Ancestor Birds. It needs to be something small and affordable that stores well on my altar, so that I can just dip in and make my offering. It needs to be easy for me to get a hold of so that I can continue my practice consistently. In my experience, it’s better to offer a little bit, very often, than to make large offerings rarely. It’s about building a connection, an ongoing relationship, by checking in and offering hospitality regularly. (Of course if you have the means to make extravagant offerings regularly, go wild!)
Millet is a grain that has a long history of cultivation by humans but is also enjoyed by many birds. It’s perfectly safe for me to set outside after it’s been offered. It’s also perfectly safe for me to use to draw sigils with outdoors, which leads to why I was grinding it: I wanted to prepare a fine powder that could be used that way. Some traditions use cascarilla or cornmeal in a similar fashion, but I wanted something specifically appropriate to my Ancestor Birds practice. The “experiment” part was to find out if I could grind millet effectively, and how it would turn out when I did. It turns out that yes I can, and it makes a nice fine powder that should do the trick. I also like the idea of empowering it while I grind, and then using a sprinkle of it in cleansing and blessing rites.
All told, this is really more like two days in the life of a spirit worker than one! But I wanted to give you some insight on how I follow up on “woo” experiences, and some of the varied tasks involved in my spirit work; things like prayer, research, writing, receiving and interpreting spirit messages, and even physical tasks like cleaning house or preparing offerings. This is a window on my spirit work: what does yours look like?