Irish-American Witchcraft: Connecting to House Spirits and Land Spirits

Irish-American Witchcraft: Connecting to House Spirits and Land Spirits June 5, 2019

I was asked on social media for ways to attract house spirits and land wights. Since those spirits are always around us anyway I thought it would be more helpful here to make a short list of ways to connect to and build relationships with these spirits instead. Because while they are all around us many people, even pagans and witches, may not be fully cognizant of that and may not be in the habit of acknowledging them or engaging in activities that build connections to them.

Spirits are all around us. Image by Andreas Hoja via Pixabay.

So here I will divide them into two sections and look briefly at what they each are and then give a short list for each of methods I suggest for connecting to them. As with anything of this nature these suggestions are my own opinions and other people may have different ideas. I will say that I have found these methods successful and suggest them here because I feel they work and can be done by anyone.

House Spirits

Folklore is full of beings that fall under the broad category of house spirits. These might be types of fairies, or spirits-of-place, or spirits connected to particular families living in a location. What makes them house spirits is simply their association with human habitations; some of them prefer to shelter in human homes, some of them like attaching themselves to humans, and some simply exist in human built structures. Most house spirits seem to enjoy being around humans, although that can vary widely depending on the humans. Some will follow a family even if they move while others are stationary and will remain in the same location over time. If the subject interests you I suggest Claude Lecouteux’s book The Tradition of Household Spirits to dig deeper into the topic.

House spirits can communicate in various ways, but a lot will depend on exactly what type of spirit you are dealing with. Some will only express themselves with shifts in mood in an area, some may communicate in dreams, some may express themselves with how things work or break around a house, and some may be more direct. A house that has a lot of functional issues and food that quickly goes bad without any obvious reasons may have an angry or unhappy house spirit. A home with a happy house spirit should have a general positive feeling to it.

House Spirits like things tidy! Photo by Thieme via Pixabay.

How To Build Relationships with House Spirits

  1. Keep things tidy – while a lot of folklore deals with house spirits like brownies who are reputed to clean up around a person’s home (and wouldn’t that be nice!) most house spirits and fairies more generally prefer people who are neat. There are many stories of those who were rewarded for keeping their homes clean and those who were punished for being messy. If you want happy house spirits, being tidy goes a long way.
  2. Create a space for them – this doesn’t have to be large or fancy, but setting aside some small area for your house spirit to claim is a great way to let them know you welcome their presence.
  3. Leave out offerings for them – this is something we see across different cultures and traditions. Usually the offerings are left out rather unceremoniously, as house spirits are reputed to be shy and dislike too much direct attention. Offerings might include milk or cream, fresh bread, porridge with butter (on top), or sweets.
  4. Talk to them – house spirits can be reclusive and you may or may not see or sense yours but you can always talk to them. Make sure to always speak well of them – don’t even jokingly say anything rude or negative – and praise them if you feel like they are being helpful in any sense. If you want them to communicate back to you I suggest asking for messages in dreams, its a traditional approach and often effective.

Land Spirits

Land spirits, like house spirits, are a diverse collection of beings that we tend to categorize as land spirits to make discussing them easier. Individual land spirits may be better understood under other specific terms, perhaps nature spirits or spirits-of-place. Generally the best way I can define a land spirit is that it is a spirit tied to a specific location or natural feature (which differentiates them from fairies more generally who are able to and often do travel). Land spirits in my own experience are less actively sentient than other spirits, although this may be a matter of perception because of the much grander time scale they exist on. Sometimes I think trying to talk to them must seem to them, like what it would be for a human if an ant was trying to talk to them. Communication isn’t impossible but it’s difficult and again in my experience often is a matter of feelings and images.  Although I will add that there are some land spirits that are better able to communicate with us and will do so in forms and with methods we understand. Its still good to keep in mind that their perspective is radically different from ours. Lecouteux has another book, Demons and Spirits of the Land, that can be useful here although I’d also suggest looking around at other sources of material on land spirits. Perhaps the anthology Spirits of Place.

Land spirits are known to communicate to people in dreams and through the mood of a place as well as less often through apparitions. They may take on human forms or they may appear as animals or plants (although I’d note that animals and plants also have spirits that could communicate with people, and the two shouldn’t be confused with each other). They may be subtle in how they express themselves or direct – really every spirit is unique.

Land Spirits can communicate through the mood of a place. Image by Sasin Tipchai via Pixabay.

How To Connect to Them

  1. Respect their places – if you want to connect to the land spirits anywhere the best start to is to show respect to that place. Most of this is common sense: don’t litter, don’t kill or destroy needlessly, don’t speak ill of the place or it’s spirit.
  2. Leave it better than you found it – I’ve found a great way to connect to land spirits is to clean up the ridiculous amounts of human flotsam and jetsam to be found. And if you think you won’t find any whether you’re in your neighbourhood, a state park, or a far of travel destination trust me you will find plenty. There’s human made garbage at the bottom of the deepest ocean trench and I have never gone anywhere, excluding perhaps some places in Iceland, that I haven’t seen rubbish scattered around. Bring a bag with you and be ready to pick up any trash you find and the land spirits will appreciate it. (I have a more in-depth guide for pagans visiting sacred sites here)
  3. Accept that sometimes the answer will be no – a part of connecting to land spirits is understanding that they won’t all like you and that’s okay. If you feel unwelcome in a place, just politely leave.
  4. Offerings can also be an option with land spirits but I find they generally prefer things like clean water or local fruits. If you want to make offerings to these spirits it is very important to consider what is safe to leave out that won’t harm local plant and wildlife or create wider issues – no foreign seeds that might take root and grow, no milk poured out on plants (it will cause mould to grow), no food that could poison animals like chocolate, etc.,
  5. Try to understand their perspective – I mentioned above that land spirits have a very different perspective than humans do. One good way to connect to them is to try to understand that perspective. They are, I think, the souls of places and natural features and so they are tied to those places and things. They exist on an almost continuous scale; they change but they don’t ever move from where they are rooted. They may be grand – a mountain – or humble – a small stream – but they are so long lived and so permanent-yet-always-changing.  They feel but not as growing, living incarnated beings do. They think but in a different way.

Final Thoughts

I have long advocated that people drawn to animism or any paganism or witchcraft that involves fairies should begin by connecting to the spirit beings that are always around us: house spirits and land spirits. Begin at home. Begin in your house and in your yard. Your neighbourhood. It doesn’t matter if you live in a rural area or the city, there are spirits everywhere, fairies everywhere. The first step is knowing they are there, whether you can sense them or not. the second step is learning to act respectfully to the Unseen wherever you are. And then you can get deeper into it perhaps with the ideas I suggest above. But however you do it, these first steps are important. Its meaningless to make a lot of effort to connect to spirits of exotic places and fairies more generally if you are neglecting the ones that are constantly around you.

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