How To Get The Most Out Of Gather

Just as we did with our post on how best to pack for Gather, we asked veterans of the event what advice they have to get the most out of your Gather experience.

  1. “Don’t skip opening ritual.” -Camille
  2. “Ground thyself, every friggin chance you get. Don’t become overwhelmed so that you run, if you need help/feel weird, shout it out.” – Jennifer
  3. “Eat, shower, sleep. Don’t forget. Also, know your limits. It’s a lot of energy.” – Amber
  4. “Take care of yourself. If you’ve never been to an event like this, make sure you’re not running yourself ragged, getting friends and trying every ritual you can. Sometimes it’s just a bit much.” – Ges
  5. “Post-gather hangover is a real thing, be prepared to feel crappy, especially if you over do it! Also I agree, don’t miss opening ritual.” – Amber
  6. “Don’t skip opening ritual. No seriously, don’t.” – Dani
  7. “Looking up briefly what caste system a lot of H.K members use will help. While gather isn’t forcing beliefs on anyone, a lot of people who attend bring up terms in casual conversation without realizing it.” – Kristan
  8. “Don’t be scared. Shield yourself when necessary and if you can. Be open about things. When you feel overwhelmed take a breather. The patio track is the best. A great place to meet new friends. Keep yourself nourished and rest when you can. The people you meet will all be amazing and have many things to offer.” – Holly
  9. “Reiterating especially if you are new, attend opening ritual. Remember to try to follow your normal eating schedule. You may find that you aren’t hungry but trying to find food at 11pm isn’t always easy (even with close food options). Having a plan for the weekend is a good thing. It’s okay if you need to rest or take time away. The whole event can be overwhelming to attend.” – Rhys
  10. “Going to sound like a broken record, but yeah. Go to opening ritual.” – Jessica

Distance Membership

It is important to understand that being part of the house will inevitably lead to the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and distance. It is contradictory in itself that by belonging to this group one would find great satisfaction from being a part of a group of people who pretty nearly understand each other without words and yet day-to-day living becomes filled with desire for more connection. Perhaps this conflict and internal struggle stems from the combination of the spirit of limitless potential and the human body with a human psyche that operates in the realm based on limitations.

There might be a general concept out there that if one joins a group – they become involved in a series of ever evolving interactions that lead to accomplishment of a goal or just result in satisfaction derived simply from exchange of ideas. For the most part this also applies to our group – there are interactions, there are ideas, we work and organize open house gather, however if a year is considered as a whole – our interactions are sparce and concern more policies and procedures as well as organizational matters rather than mystical discoveries.

There was a time when we were younger and had less on our plates, we had more time and mental capacity to dedicate to our awakenings and explorations, there were regular classes, there were frequent online discussions and conversations flowed more freely. As years went on and we have grew into our current lives, moved around, acquired responsibilities and daily rituals dedicated to moving ahead as independent, successful, contributing-to-society members, we had reduced our time spent on interactive mystical collaboration. Something that drove us together has been pushed to the side by the mundanity of the daily grind. It is not to say that we have stopped our spiritual development, quite on the contrary, each individual member has found additional areas to focus on and everyone now is part of some kind of other spiritual tradition that helps them be better. And the connections we feel are no less prominent as they have been at the beginning when we just discovered each other. But this is where we are – the foundation of strong individual characteriestics, which each one of us possess, (and by this point only the most independent and self-sustaining people have remained in the house), results in us quietly doing our own thing and expending our resources to attain individual goals. In turn this means we prone to less likely engage each other in random conversations, we often dont answer questions of rhetorical nature and find it hard to stick to a routeen of sharing our opinion in an online forums.

It is our reality and one of our struggles. Therefore it is important for those who wish to join us to know that one would most certainly experience feelings of isolation, distance, loneliness and frustration. Especially if they do not live in Ohio. It is pertinent to mention that if one chooses our system of beliefs over another system because it feels right, that person would most likely pay less attention to other spiritual paths, even if they might provide them with more social interractions. So one must be aware that the path in House Kheperu is often times walked alone, it presents challenges that also must be overcome individually and the further one goes – the greater the trials become. In the end we do have unspoken support for each other and an invisible web that connects us, but our personalities exist at a distance from each other, and in some cases it is a good thing, for it is far worse when we get in each other’s way of we are too close in physical proximity.

Echoes of Energy: A Museum Exercise

Find an art museum in your area and set a day aside to go visit it. Take your journal with you and if you like, bring a partner along as well. Before you go into the museum, take some quiet time to center yourself. Focus inward on your own energy, and when you feel like you’ve gotten a solid awareness of your subtle body, extend this awareness around you to include the outside world as well. Once you feel very receptive to the subtle reality, go into the art museum. Wander around for a little while, seeking out the areas of the museum which call to you.

The purpose of this exercise is to learn how to “listen” to the impressions left upon objects. Try to be open and receptive to everything around you, but also try to get rid of any expectations you might have about how these impressions will make themselves known to you. Remember: you have lived your whole life “hearing” the subtle reality and yet not really listening to it. It will take some time to break yourself of the habit of ignoring the sensations that come to you. Try not to focus too much on any single piece of art, and try to not build expectations based on the appearance of the artwork. Some of the most mundane things have the strongest impressions on them, and some of the most beautiful pieces are completely blank.

If an image suddenly occurs to you or if you get a sudden sensation as you pass by one of the displays, take a moment to note this in your journal. Take a look at the artwork around you and try to locate the object that the impression is coming from. See if you can focus more carefully on that particular piece. Let the images and emotions come to you, keeping careful track of them so you can record them later. If you have a partner with you, try not to talk about your impressions until you are finished with that particular artwork. Once you have both explored your impressions as far as you can, then you can take some time to compare what you felt. Take note of what was different in each of your impressions, but also note what was the same.

Keep in mind that if you and your partner have conflicting impressions from a particular piece of artwork, this does not mean that either of you is necessarily wrong. Nearly all of the pieces in the art museum are very old, and there are years’ worth of impressions lingering upon these pieces in layers. It may simply be that one particular impression leapt out at you, while your partner focused on a very different one. If you go back later to the same piece, see whether you can separate the layers and get at the impressions your partner was sensing in addition to those that occurred to you earlier.

If you are having trouble picking up on clear impression, seek out those areas where they keep the ancient statuary from the Egypt, Greece, and Rome. These ancient cultures had such a reverence for art that this lingers even despite the wear of many, many years. You might also want to look for the old Church art from the Byzantine period or the Middle Ages. These pieces were created and treated with a kind of religious awe rarely found in Christianity these days. Finally, you could try finding the part of the museum that houses the Oriental temple art. These are some of the most impressively imbued statues, pieces that were the focus of countless religious ceremonies, offerings and prayers. You can almost hear them whispering of the temples they left behind.

Take your time as you wander through the artwork. If a particular piece calls to you, don’t be afraid to stop and spend some time examining it. Study it closely, looking at the care the artist put into it. Look at it from every angle. Above all, listen to it. Try to feel the impressions left upon it by the ages and the passing of many hands. You may see images flit across your mind’s eye. You may hear the suggestion of music. You may even feel sensations upon your own skin or deep within your body. Take note of all of these things. If you get a particularly strong impression from a piece in the museum, explore it as fully as you can, then find some place where you can sit down and record your impressions in your journal. It’s important to write down as much of the experience as possible so you can go over it later. The images might not make sense right away. Don’t try to impose any kind of sense on them. Just let them come. Sometime later, as you’re reading things back over, you may suddenly gain a new insight, and the whole experience will become clear.

You may want to make several trips to the same museum and keep a record of each trip. Note the location of the more potent items and see if, in later visits, they have anything more to reveal to you. If you get an impression that you can pin down to a specific time period or a specific place, try to do some research on the piece of artwork or the culture it came from. You can let an impression stand by itself, but I find it very helpful to back the impression up with fact. The hardest part about sensing the subtle reality is learning to trust your impressions. Finding an outside source that agrees with your impressions gives you the proof you may need to trust yourself more fully.

As you verify your impressions, you may learn some interesting information about a particular time-period or culture that will prove useful farther down the line. Many times in the past I have been drawn inexplicably toward a certain piece of artwork or a certain figure in history only to have these things figure strongly in my own path months or even years later. You never know where your studies will lead you, or what inconsequential tidbit of information will lead to a great revelation at some later stage in your life. The point with the art museum exercise is to practice and hone your perceptions, but hopefully, you’ll enrich yourself while doing it, as well.

Finding a Spiritual Mothertongue

As House Kheperu has grown as a group and as individuals over the past few years, our mission have grown and changed. We have been getting to know one another, and getting to understand ourselves better, and through this, we have come to better understand our path. One thing we have seen as we study all the various religious, spiritual, and metaphysical systems that are out there is this: everyone seems to be talking about the same thing, only each in his or her own language. The reason there is friction between Pagans and Christians, New Agers and Occultists is that each thinks the other is somehow wrong, and each tends to judge on his or her own assumptions, and all of this is based on the superficialities of language.

Basically, when you belong to a system, be it an organized religion or a more amorphous spiritual path, you learn a language specific to that tradition. You and everyone else in that tradition then communicate in terms of that language. The language is different for each system, and rarely is a person from one group conversant in the language of another. And yet, once you get past the specialized terminology and the jargon unique to each group, what lies beneath are basic, universal principles.

A Christian seeks a new job, so he lights a candle and says a prayer, asking God to change reality for him. A Pagan seeks a new job, so he lights a candle and performs a spell, wherein he harnesses the God-within to change reality for him. A New Ager might put a call out to the Universe in order to get the job, envisioning white light instead of the candle.

In each case, you have a person reaching toward an aspect of divinity and seeking to change reality. Christians see God as something outside of them. Depending on the Pagan, God can be both within or without. New Agers can recognize the divinity within and, like Pagans, they might harness their internal godhood to create change, or, like Christians, they might ask the favor of the Godhood outside of themselves.

Yet all are doing the exact same thing. Only in language is it really different. For one, it is a prayer, for another it is a spell. It can be called a working, a coincidence, synchronicity, magnetizing, and any number of other specialized names. The basic principle behind the working similarly has multiple names. For one, it’s religion, for another, it’s magick, for another spirituality, and for still others, its metaphysics.

These different terms describe in essence the same thing, and yet a Christian may cry out against magick, and a Pagan may just as easily look down upon metaphysics. Each is judging on the superficial appearance of a word and not looking deeper to its real meaning. That’s about as foolish as judging a person by the color of their skin and failing to recognize that, underneath the skin, everyone is human.

We Kheprians are a part of yet apart from all these different groups. As a result, our perspective is very different. We have to be conversant in all these different languages, and because of this, we see the meaning behind the words. Often, we can translate that meaning into a language that people from many different groups can understand, serving as a bridge between the many traditions we straddle.

As we have explored ourselves and our unusual perspective, we have begun to learn that this unique position is one of the reasons we are here. It’s why this website is so far-reaching, and also why parts are written to appeal to a variety of groups, mixing jargon from Pagans, New Agers, psions, Christian mystics and so forth.

What we are seeking is to develop a spiritual mothertongue — a language that expresses, clearly and concisely, the basic principles beneath all religious, spiritual, and magickal systems. Through this, we hope to promote tolerance and understanding among the many different expressions of spirituality that can be found on this planet.

Once positive communication has been achieved, we feel that all the different groups and traditions can come together to develop a more complete understanding of the universe and our collective place in it. For we feel each system expresses the truth, but only in part. And only by getting all of the pieces to the jigsaw together will we begin to see the entire picture.

How to Pack for Gather

Gather is coming, and so begins a series of posts about how to best prepare for a weekend of energy work and camaraderie. We asked veteran attendees of Gather how to best pack for the event. Here is the advice they have to give.

  1.  Pack snacks and food as if you have blood sugar issues even if you don’t normally have blood sugar issues. Dramatic changes in energy levels often exhibit the same biochemical response and can be handled in a similar fashion.” – Gryphon
  2. “Plot out what classes you are really interested in.” – Jessica  (There are a lot of great classes, and scoping them out ahead of time will help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed. You can find the list of classes at this link.
  3. “Not only should you plot your classes you want to attend, but keep an eye out for extra goodies you want to pay for – so that can be worked into the weekends times.” – Kristan (We have artists plying their trade each year, and also a merch table for all manner of goodies. Elyria would like to remind you to bring cash for merch.)
  4. “Each hotel room has a microwave and fridge so bring snacks and your favorite beverage. Maybe even a travel cup for a continual caffeine feed.” – Jane
  5. “Hand sanitizer (for this and every con, to avoid the crud).” – Elyria
  6. “If you’re a tea or coffee fiend, bring an electric kettle so you can have caffeine without leaving your room.” – Elyria
  7. “A notebook to keep track of everything in – people’s names, topics, words to follow up on later, resources from classes…” – Elyria
  8. “In all my years of going, I have always slightly overpacked and don’t see that changing. It’s the only day of the year when some of us get to be ourselves – so packing concerns the outfits and outfits are your masks or lack there of- so that means a lot of thought and preparation involved. Which means some extra stuff. But at the same time, I have narrowed it down to the selections of items that are always the same… I can’t think of special items that we could imagine someone would need for sure. Comfortable shoes, something black ( in case they want to blend in) everything else is individual. “ -Rez
  9. “Bottle opener, because it’s good when people with alcohol need your help ;)” – Elyria
  10. “You’ll need a photo ID at registration to pick up your badge. Be sure to bring one.” – The Registration Desk

These little tactics should help you get to Gather prepared and ready to go.  Our next post will tell you what to do once you arrive. Stay tuned!

Protection Ritual for a New House

In the following ritual, Warrior Caste Elder Jason B. Crutchfield shares his methods for cleansing and setting up spiritual protection in a new place of residence.

Familiarize yourself with the house — both its lay-out and its feel. If there are places that give you a certain impression look into this. What is that impression telling you? Once you know the house, start blocking it from the outside world. You do this by seeing shutters on the windows and bars across the doors. See yourself building these shutters and bars. Concentrate on these creations and invest them with your protective energies. This should create a defensive layer on your house that should keep things out.

As to guards. My best suggestion is if you have found any Family sprits or friendly spirits ask them to help protect the house. Offer them energy for this service, but only offer this if you know they are safe. This is your basic deal with spirits — services for energy — that is all. Remember never place too much trust in spirits or come to rely on them too heavily. They are nothing compared to your own skills.

How does one cleanse a house? First, be polite. Stand in a central location and let everything know that this is now your house. Stake your claim on the territory and lay down rules. Describe what kind of things you will and will not tolerate in your house. Then warn everything that you are going to cleanse the energy of the entire place. If there are good spirits around, ask them to step aside for a while as you do the sweep and clear so your new home is starting energetically with a fresh slate.

How do you drive spirits out? Well I use a bell, but other things can work. Incense, other music, candle light, even pots and pans. What I would do is, first open up the front door, so things can leave. Then go through the house and say out loud, “Those that would bring harm to this house are no longer welcome.” Then you make the noise, ring the bell, use the incense. Go through the entire house this way starting up stairs in the far reaches and moving down towards the door. While doing this be very conscious of the fact that you are capable to driving unwanted things out. Make sure the spirits know this. Intimidate them. Let them know not to fuck with you or your house. Most important, DON’T TAKE SHIT FROM SPIRITS!!!

The bell, for me it is a focus for my energy. I see my energy go out as the sound goes out. In addition, I’ve spent many rites investing the bell I use with energy to help add to the effect. The sound strikes spirits on teh other side, and believe me, they don’t like it. Use the sound to drive them away, herding them from the house. If you want good spirits to remain, cleanse the whole place of everythign first, and then invite what you want back in.

The idea is herding — you want to cleanse the area before you can start putting up protection. Chase them out of the closets and corners. Kick them all out the front door.

Once you’ve gone through all the rooms and chased everything out, close the door. Now the only things that are left are things that want to help, good feelings, good energy, and family.

To protect, you should go to the energy center of the house, by now you have likely found it. From there you can effect the energy of the whole house. First you want to center yourself, and see yourself as the protector of the house.

Once you have centered I want you to travel through the house in your mind. What you will do is basically follow the energy in the house and see how energy moves through the place. This might help you find any remaining problem areas. These would be areas that you don’t feel right about. If you find such an area, physically go to it and hit it with everything you’ve got, and have the others do this as well.

You will need to clean the house out every now and then, like every three months. I like to do such things on the equinoxes and solstices to make them more powerful. Also, you can clean whenever you think it is needed. If spirits start knocking things around or if you start having strange feelings or nightmares in the house, then it’s time to do some cleaning.

I’ve also done it with windows open, and it works the same. Sometimes with the door I like to create a flow of energy that will continue after the rite.

As for homes that have additions, so far I haven’t had to deal with them but I do think that would be more difficult. Perhaps to solve that problem you should go into those areas and see if their is a separate center of energy located in the area, and do a separate rite there. Then do some kind of rite to bring it all together.

Spiritual House Cleansing

From my experience, when a human being dies and his or her spirit lingers, that spirit retains its personality, memories, and ability to reason. Depending on how you accept that ghosts (human remnants specifically) become earthbound, this retention of a large portion of who and what they were in life is a fundamental characteristic of lingering human spirits. There are phenomenon labeled as ghosts which are not human spirits. These can manifest as an apparition of a person, as a sense of their presence, the sound of their voice, even the scent of their perfume. In some rare cases, these manifestations will involve all of these things. The manifestations are not necessarily static. Quite typically, they repeat a specific series of actions, over and over again. The vast majority of manifestations witnessed on the field of Gettysburg fall into this category.

These manifestations are what I’ve called “memory ghosts.” They are an imprint or an echo that has been stamped upon the energy of the subtle reality. They are almost always the product of a highly emotional situation or event: a murder, a battle, a suicide. They have all the sentience and free will of an image projected onto a screen. They repeat the seem actions endlessly because they are nothing more than a recording on infinite repeat. As the energy that made the impression fades over time, the repetitions can fade or cease altogether. But the spirit of the actual person who generated the energy to create this effect is long, long gone.

Some constructs exist that might be perceived as ghosts. The most famous example of this is one given by John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies (now a completely inaccurate motion picture!). There is a house in Greenwich Village where residents kept seeing a figure in dark clothes, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat stalking through the corridors. The face of the figure was always indistinct, but some said it had a very piercing, intense gaze. This apparition was seen numerous times by a succession of people. Concluding that the house was haunted, the history of the house was researched, but it seemed that no one had ever died in the residence (I could go on my rant about how everyone seems to think that someone has to have died in a house in order for their spirit to haunt it — suffice it to say that it just ain’t so). Someone came up with the theory that this figure was the ghost of a Civil War soldier or even a spy — it projected a sneaking, almost sinister air about it to those who perceived it.

After coming up with dead-ends on the identity of this mysterious figure, someone learned that the house had once been the residence of a rather prolific writer by the name of Walter Gibson. Gibson had spent some of his most productive years in the house, turning out page after page in a series which revolved around one specific character. The character was The Shadow — “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows … “ as the old radio show used to go.

It just so happens that the Shadow stalked around in dark clothes with a muffled face, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat. The “ghost” in the Greenwich Village house was a construct birthed by Gibson’s fertile imagination and all the energy he put into the form as he worked on his series of tales.

So this brings us back to real, legitimate ghosts. Once again, I define “ghost” as the spiritual remains of a human being who has died and lingered here as opposed to moving on to whatever version of the Afterlife exists beyond this place (The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers some good insights into this, and I’d have to say my own views on the whole process are largely in keeping with that of the Tibetans). These spirits are just like people — except they no longer wear flesh. As such, they can lie just like people do; they can have agendas just like people do; and they can be varying shades of beneficial and malevolent just like people are.

It’s a common belief, propagated mainly through Medieval necromantic traditions, that ghosts, once they’ve crossed over, become omniscient. This is the root of necromancy being a diviniatory technique. It was beleived that the dead were privy to all manner of knowledge and secrets that were obscured from the living by the veil separating the living from the dead. But this belief in the omniscience of spirits is just another misconception that’s grown out of the mystique living people tend to apply to the dead. In my experience, while their perceptions from that side of things are different, they are not omniscient by any means. They do tend to be more empathic/telepathic than your average incarnated human, but this is mainly because they exist on the level of pure energy and all communication and/or interaction occurs on this level.

Energy does sustain them. However, they are perfectly capable of taking it for themselves. When you are alive, you are both spirit and matter — and just as your physical body sustains itself with food and water and air, your subtle body sustains itself with the energy from the world around you. Some of this energy is in the food you eat; some of it is exchanged with the environment through the process of breathing (hence the layered meaning of breath/life/spirit with such words as prana, chi, and even the Swahili roho); and some is gained through more subtle means (we can get into the ramifications this has on the reality of vampirism in another thread). For the most part, a living being’s interaction with and intake of energy occurs on the same unconscious and instinctual level as breathing — you don’t need to know the mechanics of it or even what muscles you’re flexing in order to do it — it’s hard-wired into the organism. Survival’s great that way.

The ability to take in sustaining energy (and expel energetic byproduct) is similarly a natural process for the spirits of the dead. However, there is usually a slightly more active element involved. Consider energy the food of the dead. You don’t eat a hamburger just by thinking about it. So it is with the spirits — they do have to actively forage for their “food” although it’s not necessary for them to consciously understand the whole process by which they eat and digest it (consider how many embodied beings would be in trouble if we had to understand the mechanics of physical digestion just to gain any benefit from our regular meals).

Spirits certainly appreciate gifts of energy — and this is one way I have of thanking them for a service rendered. Think of all the funerary systems the world over that leave food offerings to the dead while acnowledging that the food itself serves as a symbol for the subtle nourishment that the spirits derive from such sacrifice. However, if you’re working with spirits, don’t let them feed off of you without restraint. There’s no reason for this. Set guidelines and groundrules for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Make sure the spirits know that these don’t apply only to you, or else you may have visitors to your home complaining of being tired all the time. Be very clear that the spirits you work with are to take energy that is offered willingly only — and if they start breaking this cardinal rule, make certain there are consequences.

As for what use a human spirit can be put to? You can sit around and talk to it — I find some of them vastly entertaining. They can be put to work as house guardians. This runs much along the same lines as creating a construct to do that job — except most constructs have a limited intellect and frequently can only do what they’ve been programmed to do. A human spirit is just like having another person in the house, but someone who can watch it from the otherside. They can think, reason, make judgement calls on what to do, etc.,

Summoning any other sort of entity for this work yields about the same results — it’s just that some entities don’t operate on remotely human principles, and so their behavior & reactions are harder to predict. I suppose I like the predictability of human spirits — with a good grasp of human psychology, it’s pretty easy to know what they want, how to make them happy, and how to get them to do a job for you. The other benefit is you’re working with something that you can meet on equal terms. Unlike a lot of others who work with spirits, I prefer not to bind or compel otherworldly entities. Constructs, as created things, are a little too much like servants or slaves to me, and bound entities are worse. So I prefer working with spirits that I can relate to as friends, companions, and equals, which means the vast majority of the disembodied I work with wore human flesh at some point in their existence.

Notes on Spirit Work

From my experience, when a human being dies and his or her spirit lingers, that spirit retains its personality, memories, and ability to reason. Depending on how you accept that ghosts (human remnants specifically) become earthbound, this retention of a large portion of who and what they were in life is a fundamental characteristic of lingering human spirits. There are phenomenon labeled as ghosts which are not human spirits. These can manifest as an apparition of a person, as a sense of their presence, the sound of their voice, even the scent of their perfume. In some rare cases, these manifestations will involve all of these things. The manifestations are not necessarily static. Quite typically, they repeat a specific series of actions, over and over again. The vast majority of manifestations witnessed on the field of Gettysburg fall into this category.

These manifestations are what I’ve called “memory ghosts.” They are an imprint or an echo that has been stamped upon the energy of the subtle reality. They are almost always the product of a highly emotional situation or event: a murder, a battle, a suicide. They have all the sentience and free will of an image projected onto a screen. They repeat the seem actions endlessly because they are nothing more than a recording on infinite repeat. As the energy that made the impression fades over time, the repetitions can fade or cease altogether. But the spirit of the actual person who generated the energy to create this effect is long, long gone.

Some constructs exist that might be perceived as ghosts. The most famous example of this is one given by John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies (now a completely inaccurate motion picture!). There is a house in Greenwich Village where residents kept seeing a figure in dark clothes, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat stalking through the corridors. The face of the figure was always indistinct, but some said it had a very piercing, intense gaze. This apparition was seen numerous times by a succession of people. Concluding that the house was haunted, the history of the house was researched, but it seemed that no one had ever died in the residence (I could go on my rant about how everyone seems to think that someone has to have died in a house in order for their spirit to haunt it — suffice it to say that it just ain’t so). Someone came up with the theory that this figure was the ghost of a Civil War soldier or even a spy — it projected a sneaking, almost sinister air about it to those who perceived it.

After coming up with dead-ends on the identity of this mysterious figure, someone learned that the house had once been the residence of a rather prolific writer by the name of Walter Gibson. Gibson had spent some of his most productive years in the house, turning out page after page in a series which revolved around one specific character. The character was The Shadow — “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows … “ as the old radio show used to go.

It just so happens that the Shadow stalked around in dark clothes with a muffled face, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat. The “ghost” in the Greenwich Village house was a construct birthed by Gibson’s fertile imagination and all the energy he put into the form as he worked on his series of tales.

So this brings us back to real, legitimate ghosts. Once again, I define “ghost” as the spiritual remains of a human being who has died and lingered here as opposed to moving on to whatever version of the Afterlife exists beyond this place (The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers some good insights into this, and I’d have to say my own views on the whole process are largely in keeping with that of the Tibetans). These spirits are just like people — except they no longer wear flesh. As such, they can lie just like people do; they can have agendas just like people do; and they can be varying shades of beneficial and malevolent just like people are.

It’s a common belief, propagated mainly through Medieval necromantic traditions, that ghosts, once they’ve crossed over, become omniscient. This is the root of necromancy being a diviniatory technique. It was beleived that the dead were privy to all manner of knowledge and secrets that were obscured from the living by the veil separating the living from the dead. But this belief in the omniscience of spirits is just another misconception that’s grown out of the mystique living people tend to apply to the dead. In my experience, while their perceptions from that side of things are different, they are not omniscient by any means. They do tend to be more empathic/telepathic than your average incarnated human, but this is mainly because they exist on the level of pure energy and all communication and/or interaction occurs on this level.

Energy does sustain them. However, they are perfectly capable of taking it for themselves. When you are alive, you are both spirit and matter — and just as your physical body sustains itself with food and water and air, your subtle body sustains itself with the energy from the world around you. Some of this energy is in the food you eat; some of it is exchanged with the environment through the process of breathing (hence the layered meaning of breath/life/spirit with such words as prana, chi, and even the Swahili roho); and some is gained through more subtle means (we can get into the ramifications this has on the reality of vampirism in another thread). For the most part, a living being’s interaction with and intake of energy occurs on the same unconscious and instinctual level as breathing — you don’t need to know the mechanics of it or even what muscles you’re flexing in order to do it — it’s hard-wired into the organism. Survival’s great that way.

The ability to take in sustaining energy (and expel energetic byproduct) is similarly a natural process for the spirits of the dead. However, there is usually a slightly more active element involved. Consider energy the food of the dead. You don’t eat a hamburger just by thinking about it. So it is with the spirits — they do have to actively forage for their “food” although it’s not necessary for them to consciously understand the whole process by which they eat and digest it (consider how many embodied beings would be in trouble if we had to understand the mechanics of physical digestion just to gain any benefit from our regular meals).

Spirits certainly appreciate gifts of energy — and this is one way I have of thanking them for a service rendered. Think of all the funerary systems the world over that leave food offerings to the dead while acnowledging that the food itself serves as a symbol for the subtle nourishment that the spirits derive from such sacrifice. However, if you’re working with spirits, don’t let them feed off of you without restraint. There’s no reason for this. Set guidelines and groundrules for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Make sure the spirits know that these don’t apply only to you, or else you may have visitors to your home complaining of being tired all the time. Be very clear that the spirits you work with are to take energy that is offered willingly only — and if they start breaking this cardinal rule, make certain there are consequences.

As for what use a human spirit can be put to? You can sit around and talk to it — I find some of them vastly entertaining. They can be put to work as house guardians. This runs much along the same lines as creating a construct to do that job — except most constructs have a limited intellect and frequently can only do what they’ve been programmed to do. A human spirit is just like having another person in the house, but someone who can watch it from the otherside. They can think, reason, make judgement calls on what to do, etc.,

Summoning any other sort of entity for this work yields about the same results — it’s just that some entities don’t operate on remotely human principles, and so their behavior & reactions are harder to predict. I suppose I like the predictability of human spirits — with a good grasp of human psychology, it’s pretty easy to know what they want, how to make them happy, and how to get them to do a job for you. The other benefit is you’re working with something that you can meet on equal terms. Unlike a lot of others who work with spirits, I prefer not to bind or compel otherworldly entities. Constructs, as created things, are a little too much like servants or slaves to me, and bound entities are worse. So I prefer working with spirits that I can relate to as friends, companions, and equals, which means the vast majority of the disembodied I work with wore human flesh at some point in their existence.

Using a Spirit Sensor

A spirit sensor can be any weighted object that is depended from a string and hung in an area where you plan on working regularly with spirits. The spirit sensor should be heavy enough that it will not be set into motion by a simple disturbance in the air, but light enough that it will not take a spirit too much effort to set it swinging.

Constructing Your Spirit Sensor

A spirit sensor can be constructed from pretty much anything. I recommend using materials that you resonate with and which are receptive to energy. As you construct the sensor, you will be investing it with the energy of your intent, and you want it to hold this energy for as long as possible. The spirit’s interaction with the sensor will also involve an exchange of energy.

The spirit is not literally reaching out on a physical level to set the sensor swinging. Instead, the spirit expends energy, directed by intent, which manifests in the physical world as kinetic energy – the motion of all or part of the sensor. As the spirit must exert energy in order to affect the sensor (or accomplish any manifestation perceptible in the physical world) it is also a good idea to charge some part of the sensor with vital energy that the spirit can draw upon. Such a gift of vital energy always gives a spirit an extra incentive to respond to your call, as energy is the food and the currency of the otherside.

I have constructed my spirit sensor from a collection of bones. I took these from a necklace that was given to me, so they were already sanded, shellacked, and drilled lengthwise with holes. Using garnet, onyx, and hematite beads as endcaps, I wired the bones together in a three-dimensional pattern that is basically two pyramids attached together, base to base. I added a small pendulum of carved hematite to the center of the main structure, and this hangs in the very center of the open diamond of bone. Five bones hang in a pattern from the bottom, one connected at the very base and the rest hanging down from the other four corners.

From certain angles, it looks like a three-dimensional hexagram. The geometric pattern seems to significantly increase the strength of the item, although this is merely an unexpected benefit of a largely unintentional pattern. The shape just came to me as I was working with the bones. I had eighteen pieces of bone to work with, and a few were shorter than the others, so in all, there were only twelve that were of nearly the same shape and length. A couple of different pattern combinations were possible with these twelve bones, but the open diamond had the best feel to it.

The bones of course serve to attract spirits because they resonate with that particular energy associated with death. I worked garnet, onyx and hematite into the structure for several different reasons. First of all, I have a special affinity with these stones. Whenever I’ve constructed an object, I’ve been drawn to working these stones into the item, as they seem to help me connect better to that item. The stronger the connection, the easier it is for me to invest the item with energy as I work, thus adding to its effectiveness. There was also an aesthetic choice in using these stones. The bones of the necklace are a beautiful aged ivory color, and the rich red of the garnet combined with the black of the onyx and the dark sheen of the hematite served to accent this wonderfully.

Finally, of course, there are the magickal associations of these stones. The solid black of the onyx has long made it a stone many believe to have protective powers, mainly by absorbing negativity into its depths. Of course, black is also the color of night and all things hidden in shadow, and by extension, becomes a color associated with death and the dead. For the garnet and the hematite, there is an association between both of these stones and that quintessential source of vital energy: blood.

Garnets, at least in my opinion, are the gems that most resemble drops of blood – especially those deeply colored garnets that have something of a rusty tinge to their hue. Hematite has long been associated with blood because of the connection between blood and iron. Iron oxide is what gives our blood its rich crimson color, and this is also the main constituent of the gemstone hematite. Because of their associations with blood, I’ve found that both of these stones are very receptive to being charged with vital energy. This becomes very handy in any item that is intended to attract the dead, for all spirits feed upon energy, and the vital energy of the living is especially potent for the dead. For this reason, I keep the central hematite pendulum charged with vital energy so the spirits have something to draw upon to fuel their manifestations.

During the construction, my intent was to attract only those spirits who meant no harm and were willing to sincerely work with me. Whenever I do a summoning, I ask that a spirit announce its presence by making the sensor, or at least the bones hanging from the bottom, move. The strength of the spirit tends to influence its ability to interact with objects in the physical world, so my results have varied between a barely perceptible quiver that trembled once through the entire thing to one entity that sent the entire sensor swinging like a tetherball.

In time, as you adjust to sensing spirits as they manifest in your ritual area, you will learn to sense the energy of spirits on your own. In this way, you can measure the accuracy of your perceptions against the activity of the spirit sensor. As you hone these perceptions, you will even be able to differentiate between one spirit and the next so eventually you’ll know just through its energy if a spirit is who (or what) it says it is.

Spirit-Chasers: Dispelling Unwanted Entities

Every culture the world over has had traditional tools and objects intended to protect the living from unwanted the spirits. You might think that the dead, once they were finished with their lives, would move on and not bother with the living. However, especially among less modernized cultures, the dead were perceived as being very jealous of the living. Thus, on nights when the wall between the worlds grew thin, such as Samhain, it was believed that the dead would return to their living relatives and attempt to feed on their vitality or to steal them away altogether in order to join them on the otherside. When there was no immediate family for the dead to prey upon, it was believed that any living person would do.

In addition to the dead, there were all manner of other spirits and entities active on the otherside. As an old Scottish prayer specifies: “From ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night – good Lord deliver us!” All of these were thought to hover, just beyond our ordinary reality, waiting for a chance to attack, play tricks on, or otherwise annoy human beings. For these reasons, cultures around the world developed many techniques and tools for driving unwanted spirits away.

Gargoyles and Grotesques

Many items functioned on the notion of chasing spirits away by scaring them. For some reason, living people, who find spirits frightening and often depict them as malformed and hideous, seem to think that making things with hideous faces on them will in turn frighten away these unwanted spirits. Tribal masks from the Innuits to the various African peoples demonstrate this notion very nicely, with their distended faces, enlarged mouths, and protuberant eyes. Similar masks used to frighten away evil spirits can also be found among a number of primitive Asian cultures, with quite a few of these recently finding a receptive market here in the West as decorative pieces.

The jack o’ lantern, such a common sight in the United States around Halloween, also functions on this principle. Originally used in Ireland (and made out of a potato or turnip before it was ever carved from a pumpkin), the jack o’lantern was placed outside of a family’s home with the hope that its hideous face, lit by a candle from within, would frighten the spirits away. The gargoyles and grotesques on old churches also served the same purpose, although I have heard it argued that they were actually intended to impress upon the living attendants of those churches just how ugly and frightening the spirits of evil could be.

I have found that a grotesque, be it a gargoyle or other mask, functions very nicely as a guardian over a doorway. You may coax a spirit to inhabit the item, or you may work an energetic construct into the item with the specific intent of using it as a guard. Either way, placing this object just over a door has the effect of scaring lesser entities away. Think of the item as a sort of keeper of the threshold, and remember to charge it with energy and intent fairly regularly to maintain its function.

Bells

Another spirit-chasing item that the old churches employed were bells. Like masks and grotesques, the use of bells to clear the air of negative energies and to scare spirits away crosses the boundaries of culture and time. In the Catholic Mass, for example, when the host is solemnly raised for the moment of transubstantiation, a small set of four bells is often rung by one of the altar boys. This ritualistic ringing is only partially meant to draw attention to the mystery unfolding within the priest’s hands. The high chiming tone of the bells, ringing throughout the silent church, was at one time also intended to chase off any unwanted spirits from the place. Furthermore, it was a common belief in the British Isles that the sounding of church bells would drive faeries away.
A lot of folk-beliefs are founded on some grain of truth, although in many cases that truth has become greatly distorted. For example, the ringing of church bells was believed to keep faeries away because it was a sanctified and holy sound. Since the fey weren’t part of the Christian belief system, the Medieval Church automatically identified them as “evil” spirits, in league with Satan. Therefore, anything that was holy or blessed by the Church was believed to repel the fey.

In Eastern countries where bells were employed to ward off spirits, the effectiveness had little to do with what god was in charge and more to do with the actual tone of the bells. The vibrations of the bells were thought to clear negative energies and to disrupt the energy of spirits. From many personal experiences, I am inclined to agree that it is the sound of the bells – very specifically their vibration and resonance — which has the greatest impact on clearing energies and chasing spirits away. To clear energy, a resonant, deep-throated bell seems to work best, while for most spirits, bells with high frequencies or a slightly dissonant tone seem to irritate them and drive them away.

Drums

Drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments are also thought to work along the same lines as bells. Typically, the loud and dissonant playing of percussion and other instruments is used to chase spirits from an area. By this reasoning, the claims of some conservative Christians that heavy metal music is used to summon demons might be completely off base. Instead, such ear-splitting tunes blasted at loud decibels is much more likely to disrupt spiritual energies and send entities packing.

Rhythmic drumming is used by shamans to aid them in achieving an altered state for working with spirits and with the dead, so be certain not to get confused. Generally, for the effect of chasing spirits away, the sounds you make on drums and other percussion instruments should be disruptive and unpleasant. As with many other spirit-chasers, this functions on the logic that if it makes your mother-in-law want to flee from the room, it will likely chase away any other nasty entity that’s out there.

Tibetan Ritual Tools

The Tibetans, who had a highly evolved spiritual “science” before the Chinese invaded and drove them out of their land, had developed a number of tools for driving off unwanted spirits. The phurba, a three-edged ritual blade popularized by the late nineties movie “The Shadow”, was used when dealing with spirits. The three edges of the blade are supposed to cut on the physical side, the spiritual side, and the spaces between. Similarly, the three faces of the traditional phurba, their countenances distorted in demonic fury, are supposed to scare spirits away, once again hitting every possible angle between spirit and solid realities.

The phurba is also used to “nail down” spirits so they may be dealt with in other ways. This can be helpful when binding spirits so they do not get away, and it can be helpful when performing a more involved attack intended to weaken a spirit to the point that it will be rendered incapable of doing harm for a very long while.

In addition to the phurba, another ritual blade, known as the dargu, is intended to cut spiritual attachments. This is the sacred blade of the dakinis, the feminine embodiments of the peaceful and wrathful deities. While the dargu is intended to sever the attachments a soul may have for things in this life, I have found that this blade works nicely for severing the links that some entities will forge to attach themselves to people in the here and now.

Another Tibetan tool, the dorje, is a symbolic representation of a lightning bolt. This item, often used in conjunction with a bell, amplifies the energy of the person holding it and can be used to great effect in clearing the energy of a room. Two dorjes forged together make a kind of four-spoked wheel and while this item can be cumbersome to hold, it is a very potent tool for amplifying and spreading out the wielder’s energy. Thus, a double-dorje, when energy is focused through it, can be used to clear out the stagnant and blocked energy over a wide area in a ritual space or other room.

Dream-catchers

A very popular Native American device, the dream-catcher, has gained widespread usage in recent years. Originally woven of sinew within a circle of wood or vines, the dream-catcher is symbolic of a spider web. Typically, there is a small, polished stone suspended from the web at some point within its design. This stone is said to represent Grandmother Spider, a Native American goddess of wisdom who watchers over any who use her dream-catchers.

The purpose of a dream-catcher is to capture nightmares while allowing good dreams to pass through the spaces between the web. Dream-catchers are traditionally placed on the walls just over the head of the bed, where they are supposed to encourage restful sleep. In recent times, dream-catchers are employed to capture any manner of negative energies, while presumably allowing more positive forces to pass through the web.

Fumigation

Just as the nasty-looking faces of gargoyles and grotesques were thought to drive spirits away, so, too, were nasty-smelling substances thought to repel visitors from the otherside. This is where we get the tradition that garlic can keep vampires away. Garlic has a strong and very pungent odor, and if one is wearing a string of garlic around their neck, it is likely to keep not only vampires, but also friends, family members, and perfect strangers at a safe distance.

Moving beyond garlic, there are a number of incenses that were traditionally burned to dispel spirits and drive them from a place. The ancient practice of fumigation, that is, filling a room up with a thick cloud of pungent smoke, was used to dispel negative energies as well as physical pests and vermin from a home. Fumitory is one incense that was traditionally used for this, as was the herb asafoetida. The word “fetid” is part of the root for “asafoetida” and this is very apt, for the herb has an exceptionally strong and amazingly unpleasant odor. Although it is employed in some forms of Indian cooking, asafoetida, in my book, is best reserved for exorcism, and even then, it should only be employed when a situation calls for the “big guns”.

Other incenses often used to purge energies and to exorcise spirits include frankincense, dragon’s blood, and myrrh. All of these have a more pleasant odor, and will probably not have the effect of driving you from the room along with the spirits.

Fire

Nearly every religion and spiritual tradition recognizes the purifying qualities of fire. Returning to Medieval days, peasants would erect huge bonfires, called “need-fires” in times of calamity, especially during outbreaks of plague. The fire was allowed to blaze up, and when it had burned down a little, sheep and cattle were driven through the smoldering coals. This was thought to burn away any harmful magicks or negative forces that were causing the plague.

In a ritual setting, fire can be used to dispel unwanted forces from a person or from a place. If the name or sigil of a spirit is known (especially if it is something you have called up yourself), this spirit can be dispelled by inscribing this on a piece of paper and committing it to the flames. As the name or sigil is burned to ash, the spirit is banished.