It’s been pretty quiet around here, hasn’t it? Since the final push to get the hand bound copies of Worshiping Loki out the door I’ve pulled back in order to focus on job-writing and other work. The effort left me pretty wiped out as you might imagine and I’ve still got the logistics of printing standard copies to think about. The person who I had originally planned to partner with on this effort had to pull back for job-related reasons, which I totally understand. He’s a freelance designer and though I would have been paying him, he had other clients come up in the meantime that had to become a priority. He’s provided me with some references but so far nothing has panned out. I’ve also put myself to studying formatting for bound material printing just in case I have to do this all myself – which I really, really hope I don’t have to do. My intention is to have paper and electronic copies of Worshiping Loki available by the beginning of February, just in time to head to Pantheacon.
I think I’ve also alluded to some major shifts in my personal spiritual landscape. It’s taken several weeks for these things to settle into place and I expect there’s still some settling taking place. I don’t want to share many particulars but one of the most interesting changes has been that dealing with the dead has suddenly been a much more significant part of my practice. Though my ability to communicate with spirits and Powers has gotten pretty good over the years, the dead have never had much to say to me. Even communicating with ancestral powers has been a lot of ehhhhh. I wasn’t sure if they simply didn’t have anything to say to me or if I just wasn’t able to communicate on their wavelength. Now they do and now I can and so I’ve had to expand my hospitality a little bit.
I’ll admit, I’ve had to work at ancestor veneration for, um, a really long time before I got any sort of discernible results. Years went by without much response. For a long time I had a collection of old women and gender variant sex workers living on my ancestral altar but after a couple years they moved on. The ancestral altar was pretty quiet for two years or so but it wasn’t empty, if that makes sense. It wasn’t until last fall that my ancestors of blood finally showed up – and even then, it’s the folks from the Mexican/indigenous side of the family that took the long walk over the western mountains to have a seat on the altar. The other side of the family has been much more elusive.
Since then the ancestral altar has been a little more lively, especially once my paternal grandmother in particular was identified as a spiritual force in my life. Things got shaken up a little bit once Panpsyche decided that She was just going to sit Herself on the ancestral altar and take care of the dead woman who followed me home one night.
Having a new spirit in need of hospitality showed me the gaps in my practice for the dead. I had food and drink and light and incense – and that was about it. The altar wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t a place where a spirit could hang out and be sick for a while if it needed to; the altar wasn’t a good recovery ward and healing was what some of these folks clearly needed. I decided to create a spirit house furnished with items that would suit the needs of visitors. I played with several ideas before settling on a shelf full of dollhouse furniture.
A lot of people would think that it’s a terrible idea to set up hospitality for strange spirits. In some paradigms, even ancestors get unruly and have to be handled firmly. And yes, this is always a possibility but I’m confident in my ability to solve this kind of problem should it arise. There are many strategies to address the question of unruly spirits and a simple list of house rules has actually worked out perfectly so far.
But see – my paradigm is a little different. To me, it is entirely absolutely OK to offer some basic hospitality to strange spirits in order to foster a healthy community. Having traumatized dead folks wandering around is actually a problem on lots of levels. I’m certainly not equipped to handle a wide variety of problems but I can handle some unseen houseguests so long as they don’t overstay their welcome without pulling some weight around the place. I also trust Panpsyche and Panhyle to help keep the dead in line should anything start to go wrong. They’re the ones that figure prominently in this work and I trust them both.
So for a few weeks I’ve been looking diligently for the materials required for a spirit house. I found a shelf with a small railing that looked rather like a balcony; it was perfect for the space I had available. A piece of art featuring the bony Lord and Lady of Death was centered just above the shelf like they were presiding over this new house. Digging through thrift stores finally paid off with a haul of new-in-package dollhouse furniture, which I immediately placed on the altar. I explained to my dead folks what it was for and they instantly settled in. The feeling at the altar shifted noticeably. The real estate “earthed” the dead, for lack of a better term. They felt more tangible, more settled, more calm, more quiet even. I couldn’t have been happier with the result.
Once that first dead woman moved on, Panpsyche pulled back – until another dead person showed up a few nights ago. He’s much more timid and much harder to discern and he might have moved on entirely by now but having a little guest room for him to stay in made a huge difference in the kind of boundaries I was able to draw. Though the idea might not immediately make sense, the dead seemed to be happier, better behaved, and more content once they were given real estate of their very own.
I have additional plans for the spirit house. I’ll make some tiny pillows and blankets for the bed and couches. I’d like to make a very smol altar to Santa Muerte just for the dead. A couple small rugs and that’s pretty much it. In the meantime, it’s wonderfully attractive. The spirit house is a lovely addition to the niche in my home primarily dedicated to ancestor work and Saint Death. It’s been a very rewarding project to work on.
5 thoughts on “Building new practices – a spirit house”
I was presented with the idea of doing something like this about a year ago now and never acted on it. This post may well be my second ping. I love the idea of using dollhouse furniture; makes me wish I still had my childhood dollhouse.
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I went through a few furniture ideas since the items only need to have spiritual potency, not physical practicality. I thought about drawing furniture and other items, building them out of odds n ends, painting them onto a cardboard structure, just buying a miniature room diorama…. Dollhouse furniture is unfortunately expensive to purchase outright. Spending a lot of time digging through toy bins at thrift stores won me a few items but only one of them was judged good enough to come home with me. Buying lots of furniture on eBay was the second best option. I felt quite sure that I would find what I needed at a thrift shop but otherwise I think I would have gone the eBay route. The transformation of the space was so immediate and positive. If you do try it out, let me know how it goes; I’d love to hear your experiences. 🙂
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Reblogged this on Flight of the Hamsa and commented:
I’m one of those who is willing to offer hospitality to strange spirits. This is perhaps not always a wise move on my own part, but I also believe it’s part of building a community.
There’s certainly a lot of common sense involved and I don’t think I would do so unless I already had some powerful friends living with me (and if I didn’t have a few tricks of my own). Really, I feel like stray spirits are like stray cats and dogs; some of them really truly need our help sometimes and some of them should be left alone or handled by more experienced/trained individuals. I care about the well-being of the spirits and if a nap and a drink is what’s required to make them feel better and to accomplish what they need to, I’m not harmed by offering this. It is definitely community building. 🙂
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Your work with the dead is really inspiring. You know, receiving strangers isn’t really uncommon at all for folks in all manner of traditions. In fact, it seems to be expected which is why folks set aside space, offerings, etc. to placate wandering, mischievous and other kinds of spirits. Blessings.