As people who have heard me talk about spiritwork and polytheism online before (spoiler alert: anyone who's read at least half of the posts on this blog) will know, 90% of the time I am approached by a spirit, as opposed to the other way around.
Most of the time when a spirit turns up, I do a pretty good impersonation of the "Kermit flail" at first until I remember that I am, in fact, a spiritworker with ten years of experience, and not just a very photo-realistic imposter. And it's not so much that I react this way because I don't think I can handle it! In my case, my godphone is at a point where it doesn't really "turn off" (which is not as hashtag life-goals as it sounds), and so sometimes when an entity reaches out, it isn't one that I expect and I need to reevaluate myself as a spiritworker. It's at this point that Odin is prone to smacking me upside the back of the head as if he's Severus Snape, and-- okay. I'll cut down on the pop culture references. Maybe.
Disclaimer: The information that's to follow in these next few posts and links is mostly applicable to any spirit; however, my "area of expertise" is with deities, and the Sidhe.
In What Ways Might a Spirit Approach You?
At the risk of sounding repetitive, this question touches on one of the key tenets of spiritwork which is (all together now!) "no two spiritworkers have exactly the same experience". But this is one question that I see a lot both on my dashboard, and in my capacity as one of the moderators of the Lokean Welcoming Committee. To a beginner - or to someone without a developed godphone, or who don't know how to make use of it - one of the most difficult concepts to grasp is "how do I know if a spirit is actually reaching out to me, and it's not just all in my head?" And believe me, sometimes I still struggle with that ten years later.
There are a number of things that affect how (or why) a spirit might reach out to you as opposed to the other way around, including:
What kind of spirit they are
What degree of influence they have in the physical world
What culture the spirit is from
How developed your godphone is
What they are looking for in the relationship
If they are interested in you first
For example... this isn't a textbook example, but people are always asking me about "the snowstorm story", which is the tale of how Loki first approached me. But before I go any further, I want to open with this cheesy, but incredibly important and valid, caveat: do not try this at home. Don’t do anything… stupid. I was a stupid baby agnostic with serious emotional issues questioning my lifelong Christianity and I did not realize the kind of mess you can make for yourself with a handful of careless words.
In November 2010, my now-husband-then-friend was going through a very difficult break-up. The kind of break-up where you spend all of your time in your cups, and your friends can’t get through to you. And after a day of trying to get through to him, I was walking home across my university campus upset and frustrated, and in my desperation… I put out a prayer, “to any god who is listening”, for somebody to do something to cheer him up. I was thinking “hey, this guy is into the norse gods, maybe one of them will answer my prayer”. And I was right. But for the love of all that is good in this world, never ever address a prayer like that with an open-ended invitation.
Anyway, long story short, I didn’t get very far before the heavens opened. Before I could even make it back to my apartment I got caught in a white-out blizzard that more than doubled the time the journey would take and almost stopped me from getting home in the first place. But the next morning, when the blizzard died down a bit, and the buses weren’t running, and the shops were closed… nobody was more delighted than the Canadian who loves the snow. One friend cheered up: check. The blizzard lasted for over a week, and can still be found in news reports if you google it. Which means I can pinpoint the exact day I met Loki.
What Are Signs That a Spirit Might Be Reaching Out to You?
"Hearing from" them in a dream
"Hearing from" them in divination
Suddenly seeing their symbols in places where you did not see them before
Noticing them prominently in media when not looking for them
Reaching out through other "devotees"
And again, this is not a conclusive list, and it also does not take into personal situations. For example, a person who experiences frequent disassociation might be concerned that they are hallucinating an experience, and may feel like they cannot trust their own senses; there are ways in which real life influences the narrative of our dreams that doesn't really "mean" anything; is a symbol endemic to the area you're seeing it in, or is it really unexpected to see it where you're seeing? And so on and so on, ad infinitum.
So, what do you do if you're not certain if a message is a message, and not a coincidence. Discernment. What is discernment? It's defined by the Oxford Learner's Dictionary as:
dis·cern·ment (noun): the ability to show good judgment about the quality of someone or something
This, however, isn't quite the definition in the context of spiritwork, and this article explains why, better than I could. But it basically boils down to the fact that discernment isn't judging whether or not you agree with something, so much as it is judging whether or not you believe something to be true. It isn't to do with your moral assessment, but your fact-checking.
So make sure to ask yourself important questions such as:
Is this sign something I'd likely see in the are, regardless?
Has the spirit been known to us this as a sign before?
Am I likely to be hallucinating, eg. have I taken my medicine?
In What Ways Should You Respond If a Spirit Approaches You?
There are three questions that you should ask yourself before you make any kind of response:
Do I want a relationship with this spirit?
If so, what relationship do I want with this spirit?
If so, what are my hard limits about this relationship?
Knowing these before you get into a conversation with any spirit is important in the same way that you prepare before you go into a job interview because you know they're going to ask you something like "why do you want to work for this company?" or "do you have any questions for me?" If you've done your research and know yourself, then you know what to say when somebody asks and you won't find yourself in trouble further down the line. If you don't, and you have to ad lib, you may find yourself agreeing to something that you don't want; and as with a potential employer, when there's a power dynamic involved, this isn't a situation that you want to find yourself in.
Especially when you consider the importance that some spirits and cultures put on oaths and promises, whether intended or not.
Whether or not you want to work with a spirit, there's a couple of different things you can do to RSVP:
Make an offering either as a way to "break bread" or to say "thanks, but no thanks"
Communicating with your godphone/a trusted person's godphone
Reaching out to other "devotees" for guidance and testimonials
Using divination to confirm the identity of the spirit and communicate
Be clear. Be honest. Be firm. Be respectful.
The final but quick point to consider is that sometimes, spirits are not nice, or obvious, or telling you everything. So keep these things in mind at all times:
If they are vague, you are allowed to ask for clarification
If they are dishonest, you are allowed to call them on it
If they are too rough, you are allowed to protect yourself
If they are disrespectful, you are allowed to sever ties
No matter the situation, any spiritwork relationship is, at its core, no different to a relationship with a friend, lover, neighbour, teacher, boss or family-member. You have a right to be treated well, and you have a right to autonomy over your own existence. Communication and clarity are key, and a respectful spirit will not protest any protective measures you feel you need to take; just the same way you might call a friend when you're walking home alone, or carry your keys in your hand.