A light in the darkness

Early on in my studies of magic and related things, a more experienced friend told me something that has always stuck with me: that when you begin to do this Work seriously, you attract the attention of the spirits as if you had lit a match in a dark theater. I was reminded of this reading Sarah Lawless’ wonderful post yesterday, “They’re Watching You.”

As you accumulate spiritual power through repeated practice, you begin to shine in some way that gods and spirits can see, and that They take notice of. And of course if you’re really doing this sort of Work, you’re going to constantly be coming into contact with such entities, aiding and receiving aid, establishing yourself as part of the workings of the otherworlds. The more you pay attention to the messages, instructions, advice and omens you encounter, the more you will find coming to you (after all, who wants to constantly talk at someone who’s not listening?).

Sarah mentions that a good way of learning to to properly interact with gods and spirits is to read fairytales. I concur emphatically. In fact, there was a great webpage once with key points taken from this concept, which I’ve found archived here. Another important learning opportunity is to read about specific cultural fairy types – Celtic gentry, Norse dwarves, Greek nymphs, etc. Not only will you sometimes meet such creatures (or at least, ones indistinguishable even if of different origin), but an overview will get you used to the ways they think and act, and the spectrum of quirks, predilections and rules they might have, and the possible dangers and benefits of interaction.

Though really, I think it usually comes down to a proper exchange. Don’t ever expect to get something for nothing. Now, the payment might be indirect, unexpected, delayed or even undesirable (which is why it’s best to lay down the deal at the beginning), but it will happen.

Nor does this process ever stop or reach some kind of saturation point, at least not as far as I can tell. The further you go along the path, if you keep making efforts to advance, deepen your practice, and devote more of yourself, the more attention you will attract (for good or ill). The spirits can become your constant companions, although it might come at a cost of some of your humanity. (As an aside, not everyone needs, wants, or is able to go that far. There is a place for the spiritworker or witch or devotee who practices regularly but does not drown themselves in the Work, who maintains a “regular” life. There will be things they cannot accomplish, but in trade they are able to negotiate through this world in a way that the more intensive person cannot, and that has its own benefits.)

If you want to see and hear the spirits more, then my first advice is to Look and Listen. Simple, perhaps, but it really is the key (well, that and being willing to acknowledge what you experience as real). My mom, a Buddhist, likes to quote a Zen set of rules for life that state: “Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.” In a way, that works really well for spiritwork too. Show up: do the Work, do it frequently, practice and practice. Pay attention to the signs you receive and act on them. Tell the truth – that’s basic fairy tale logic. Don’t be attached to the results – you’re not always going to have mind-blowing experiences, no matter how much you practice: your magic will fail, your attempts to connect with spirits will fizzle, your worship will feel empty. Keep doing it anyway. As Sarah notes, gods and spirits love to throw obstacles in your path to see how you respond. Nothing comes easy, least of all a life with spirits. Of course, it’s important to evaluate if you may be doing something wrong or need to change your approach or direction, but aside from that, sometimes you just have to push forward. You need to believe that serving the spirits is a worthwhile and valid focus even at the times when you don’t feel like you’re getting much out of the deal. Because it is. It is perhaps even more important in these times when so few people care.

But that metaphor about a light in the darkness should also serve as a warning for those just embarking on the path. You should know what you’re getting into. Personally, I am quite comfortable with the feeling of invisible eyes on me at this point, but it can be unnerving at best, and downright terrifying at times (especially if the eyes belong to some of the scarier sorts). Not only that, but that attention comes with consequences. When you feed Them, They tend to want more. As I said, some people are able to do this at a low level and keep their lives intact, but many aren’t, and often the spirits will take more than you ever meant to give. That just seems to be the way it works (ask any 17th century Scot with “the sight,” or an ancient Greek nympholept living in a cave, or anyone at all who’s ever glimpsed, and followed, a path into Fairyland).

Some people can’t help being a light that shines brightly to the spirits. But I would always advise caution about striking that match.

~ by Dver on December 8, 2010.

15 Responses to “A light in the darkness”

  1. Interesting that this post should arrive in my inbox today. A good deal of my work lately has been with those who’ve ventured beyond their means to cope / deal with what they’ve found.

    You’re spot on about the “match” scenerio. I’ve often told people newly on the path of shamanic work that as they begin their journeys, they’re carrying a birthday candle through a darkened hallway. As their familiarity with the spirit world increases, that candle can become a fog light. This means two things:

    1) They can percieve more of the other side.
    2) More of the other side can perceive them.

    Journeying without spiritual help (especially at this point) and without a fuller appreciation of what they might – and will – encounter is going naked.

    So often neophyte workers assume that everything is benevolent, and they’re quick to chuck aside their inner voice for that of a newly encountered “ally” sight unseen, often with detrimental, or at the very least disturbing, results. . .

    • That’s a good point – the same light that attracts the spirits, gives us a better view of Them. It’s definitely the same force at work.

      I’ve always had an issue with those who teach trance and shamanic techniques as if nothing that one encounters could ever cause harm (either deliberately or even accidentally). That’s either a result of not really believing in the spirit world (and I’ve ranted about that one before), or extreme naivete.

  2. I deeply agree with your sentiments here. I haven’t been listening or interacting with my Gods and spirits outside the Northern European pantheon and there They were there, waiting for me to pay attention. Sometimes, like you said, all it takes is Listening and Looking, or some other form of Seeking.

    I think you’re spot-on with the match analogy. The more I’ve done spiritual work, the more I’ve brought myself to spirits attention, and vice versa. It has taken up a significant portion of my life in a lot of ways when I pay close attention and garner more of it in the bargain, and in ways I hadn’t expected. I never expected to be talking to my patron deity (at the time) when I had a job, in the middle of a minimum-wage sales position at a store. I used to think “Hey, Gods don’t have time for this” but Anubis took time out and spoke with me. Talking with Him wasn’t just a way to pass the time, but it helped because I was only partially engaged with my work, since it didn’t require much in the way of brainpower.

    Right along with the match effect, I think if people are attracting spiritual attention, intentionally or not, they should work on shielding themselves, or setting up defenses with their patron/matron Deity or protector spirits. I should have much earlier, and had I, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. Also, developing discernment and when I needed “me” time would have saved me a lot of grief and aggravation. There’s always something new to learn.

    • When I worked retail, I spent quite a lot of time talking with spirits (at least, on a low level, obviously not direct connection or anything since I couldn’t put my full attention into it). The total mindlessness of the work enabled that, which was really the only benefit.

      • I chalked it up to “I’m doing this mindless task for 4-8 hours, I may as well get something out of it”, and to my surprise when I reached out my Gods were there, particularly Anubis and random wandering spirits.

        What kinds of spiritual contact did you make during this time, if I might ask?

  3. This is a great, great piece on so many levels.

  4. Each time I see someone give warning that life with the spirits isn’t all candyfloss and frolics, I’m heartened. It’s so important to know, and so rarely taught or explained.

  5. Good stuff, thanks. My connection to, well, everything, seems very frazzled right now. I hope that it doesn’t stay that way. This post gives one a bit of hope. :)

  6. [...] can hear you As a follow-up to my last post about seeing and being seen by the gods and [...]

  7. [...] series of posts has its origins in reading Dver’s marvelous post A light in the darkness, which was in turn inspired by Sarah Lawless’ post They’re Watching You.  Most [...]

  8. [...] I also recommend to people that come to me about working with the faeries realize that this path really isn’t for everyone. Anyone can pursue it, sure, but that’s not what I recommend. As Dver so wonderfully writes: [...]

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