Deity and Spirit Work
Posted by Cassandra Shea on
Beginner Witch Tips
For some witches, spirit and deity work is a huge part of their craft and practice. For others it isn’t a part of their practice at all. And there are those whose spirit work and deity work are separate from their witchcraft. Those starting out can sometimes find it a difficult area to navigate.
Who or what do I work with? How do I build a relationship? How do I protect myself? These are all thoughts that may cross someone’s mind when beginning to look into deity and/or spirit work.
Here we will try to distill some of those ideas and give a starting point for those interested in working with deities and spirits in their practice.
Types of Otherworldly Spirits
You can find a lot of discussion of the different types of spirits out there that you can work with. Here are just a few categories and brief descriptions.
These are divine entities that have some sort of spiritual powers beyond us. These are gods and goddesses of ancient (and modern) pantheons. Different spiritual paths and belief systems view deities and pantheons differently. Some will view them as all powerful while others see their domain being more limited but still very powerful. Some worship and are subservient to their gods while others build a relationship that is more of an equal and mutual partnership.
Angels and Demons
Angels are spirits that are attendants or messengers of God of the Abrahamic faiths. Others see them as largely non-denominational and will work with anyone. They are divine messengers and can serve as intermediaries between humankind and deities.
Demons, then, are often seen as the opposite counterpart to angels in some practices. These spirits are often seen as evil or malevolent in many cultures and thus people often avoid working with them because of this. Others do not believe demons exist at all or see them instead as spirits that were demonized by Christianity. I will leave the interpretation up to you.
There are some practices that do work with demons, however, for various reasons. Sometimes this is because they see them as vilified deities and spirits by Christianity or as misunderstood spirits. For others who work with them, demons are still considered malevolent spirits, but they work to harness their powers in their magic.
The Good Folk are a large category of many types of individual spirits. Many cultures have their own stories of their origins and how to work with or avoid them. These are generally speaking, highly mischievous and morally alternative spirits. They are not the sweet flying spirits of Disney, but come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be both helpful and harmful at the same time. They are often associated with nature.
The Dead and Ancestors
The Dead are any spirit that has died and not yet fully crossed over or moved on. Sometimes these are simply spiritual echoes of the person who passed while others are more intelligent spirits left behind.
Ancestors are more specifically the dead who have crossed over fully and moved into the afterlife but seek to help their incarnated family members who are still living. These can be ancestors who are generations past or they can be more recent. For some, working with ancestors is the first stepping stone into spirit work because these are familial spirits and many cultures and practices work regularly with venerating ancestors and the dead.
These are spirits of the land. Sometimes called land wights, genius loci spirits are the spirit entity that protects and represents the land of a certain area. This can cover the various nature spirits in that area and faeries that also inhabit that area. Spirits of Place are very protective of their land, which is why some people may get weird vibes going into certain forests or areas where the genius loci are upset.
Nature and Animal Spirits
Nature and animal spirits encompass the spirit and energies of the individual plants and animals of the natural world. Garden and Green witches may work heavily with nature spirits when collecting herbs or harvesting plants. Talking to your plants or pets is one way of subtly working with nature spirits.
Spirit guides are a group of spirits that have once incarnated and live a human life and have since passed on to serve as guides to those still incarnating. There are a few schools of thought of spirit guides, but generally speaking everyone likely has a spirit guide or two that works behind the scenes guiding and helping you. They can serve as intermediaries with the divine or as messengers.
Building a Right Relationship
Whenever you decide to start working with a specific spirit or deity or a group of them, do your research. Read the lore. Try to find stories as close to original source material as possible and study up on them. This can give you an idea of what that spirit is like and what domains they cover and what offerings may be appropriate.
In your research you may also find that some cultures are closed and do not want you working with those spirits or deities. Respect these voices and move on to another spirit that may be more appropriate to work with.
Prayer is the act of petitioning or honoring spirits or deities. Some prayers are said in gratitude and others are praising the spirit. Still other prayers serve as requests of the deities and spirits to do something for the petitioner. All forms are valid. Saying small prayers each day to the deities and spirits you are starting to work with is a good way to begin building a relationship with them.
Meditation and Journeying
While prayer is a means of talking to and asking spirits for something, meditation is a means of pausing to listen to their answer. Meditation and journeying are important methods to developing a relationship with your spirits. Take time daily for a short meditation to listen to them. This can hone your intuition and psychic skills to listen to them when not in meditation.
Leaving offerings to spirits and deities is another important practice. Sometimes this is leaving food or drink or other objects on an altar. Other times an offering is an act of service to your spirits. Maybe exercising is an offering or volunteering your time to something. Offer a short prayer when leaving or making offerings so that the intention is there.
Another way to build relationships with deities and spirits is to practice a divination technique like Tarot to communicate with them. This can not only develop your own intuition and psychic abilities, but also help you connect to your spirits. Some spirits are excellent at sending messages through tools like Tarot or pendulums. Practice different techniques to see what works best for you and your spirits.
When working with spirits and deities, discernment is very important. This is your ability to determine if what you are getting is coming from your spirits or if it is just coming from you. It is about interpreting and vetting your spiritual experiences rather than accepting everything as fact all the time.
This can take the form of synchronicities or uncanny coincidences. It can also take the form of asking for signs from your spirits to confirm something. I like to follow a rule of three on this by asking for three instances of a sign from them to confirm that whatever insight I gained was real. Others may use divination as a means of discernment as well.
With any sort of spirit work, practice safety. Know how to protect your energy with wards, shields and protection magic. Know how to ground and center your energy as well. Know how to cleanse your space and banish entities and energies. Practice discernment in everything and be careful of confirmation bias where you search for signs that confirm your ideas. Learn to identify different types of helpful and harmful spirits and imposters (those that disguise themselves as other spirits).
And most importantly, have clear boundaries and house rules when working with spirits and deities. Just because you work with a god, doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say. You can and should be able to say no to certain requests and behaviors from spirits. Just like it is important to have and maintain personal boundaries with friends and family, having boundaries with spirits is even more important.
Where to Go From Here?
Now that you know a little bit about types of spirits, how to build a relationship with them, and how to protect yourself, what’s next? There are many ways to work with spirits and deities. Once you build a relationship with them, you might find calling upon them to aid in your magic is useful. Or you may find that you find they are more useful in guiding your personal and spiritual development and completely separate from your witchcraft.
You may find that you find a need to call them into your rituals to honor and celebrate rather than work magic with. Or you may take things a step further and serve as a priest/ess for that deity or spirit group.
There are as many ways to work with spirits and deities as there are people that work with them. Some people work with certain spirits and deities for life while others find that some spirits may come and go in and out of their life with the phases of their development.
One person’s journey with spirit and deity work will look vastly different from another’s. As long as you are respectful of your spirits and avoid cultural appropriation, there is no right or wrong way to continue your work with them.
Spirit work and deity work can be incredibly fulfilling and enlightening work. They can aid in magic and personal spiritual development when you have properly developed a relationship with them first.
But it isn’t for everyone.
Decide for yourself if it is meant to be a part of your path before diving in. Do your research and build your relationships first before calling their aid in magic. Practice discernment and basic skills like banishing and shielding to protect yourself when necessary.
Do you work with spirits and deities?