Spirits 101

The growth on cable media of television shows dedicated to spirits and hauntings is also increasing awareness of spirits.  The similarity of activity shown in the media presents a limited view of spirit entities. Interaction between humans and spirits has a long and complex history.  From hunter/gathers’ Animism, the Spirits of Place of nomadic herdsman, the myths, legends and folk histories tell a long story.  Agricultural communities and cities have their own.  Animistic cultures see spirits in everything; Polytheistic cultures have hierarchies of spirits; many Monotheistic ones have hierarchies of angels and demons – or something similar.  Basically, there is little in the way of representation that hasn’t shown up in a story somewhere.

Don’t panic: this isn’t going to be an in-depth dissertation on spirit forms. I will describe some spirit categories and ways they were viewed because there are behaviors common to a type that can lead to an understanding of what they may want. Not all spirits are portrayed as evil.  Some spirits are messengers, teachers, and some are just irritating. The key to successfully coping with a spirit is to understand its motivation and spirit type speaks to that issue.

When you first feel that you have a spirit interested in your life there is a tendency to respond with: What is it? Where did it come from? How do I get rid of it?  These are good questions, all. The first two are near the top of my list, but the third – not always on top.  Some spirits are beneficial by nature and you may not want to chase them off. Hearth spirits, for example, as well as other spirits of the home (lodge spirits, etc.) are often protection spirits, as are guardian angels.  If a hearth spirit is acting badly, then there is something in the household that needs fixing: the spirit can’t be banished forever; it lives in the home, so fixing the issue is the easiest and more permanent solution.

At this point, I think the best way to continue is to split the spirits up into groups and tackle those individually.  The groups are based on the type of culture each category is most commonly associated with, but it should be noted that there is overlap. Cultural transitions are not exactly defined and many spirits of an agrarian society can be adaptations of a similar spirit from an early point in the culture’s history – from the hunter/gatherer days, for example. For the purpose of this discussion the spirit groups, and the societies they are most commonly associated with are:

Animism/Hunter-gatherer

Place Spirits/Nomadic herders and agrarian peoples

Field and Fey/Agrarian

Angels and Demons/Monotheism

My official disclaimer is that I am not trying to teach anyone methods of working with spirits, but only introduce them.  In the space of 500 or so words any grander goal would be impossible.  In each category there is a wide variety; so many, in fact, each can be a lifetime study by itself.  As a consequence of that all I can put here is a general outline of each group.  Thank you for reading this, and I hope it is helpful.

There will be more pages to this blog coming soon, so check back with us.

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