Don’t Judge a Spirit by its Specter

I went to see the new Mary Poppins movie with my mom over the weekend and during one of the musical numbers about not judging a book by its cover (because you will be deceived if you don’t read what’s underneath) I started thinking about the misconceptions running rampant in spiritual communities that come specifically from judging by appearances. People misjudge me all the time as sweet and are surprised when I open my mouth, but I’m not the point of this post. The point is the many spiritual entities we may come across are not what they appear to be.

How an entity looks doesn’t tell you anything about its character. Many kind and compassionate beings look “scary.” We are programmed in a variety of ways, most notably through media and fear based teaching, to automatically think of them as threats. They are “other” and that alone is threatening, and their strange appearance or the way they move adds to the terror.

Many people first encounter the concept of different beings, especially spiritual beings, via dogmatic religious teachings and/or from the imaginations of Hollywood where the “other” is almost always out for blood and looks or moves in a strange way with the kind of musical score behind it that elicits fear. However, the appearance of an entity does not tell you about its character at all. Fictional dramatization doesn’t serve anyone well when it comes to the reality of these beings.

The Angels

Let’s begin with angels first as these are an often prayed to class of spiritual entities with good PR regarding how they look and and what they do. If you look at the Biblical accounts of people encountering angels, however, the angels tell the people in loud, booming voices “do not be afraid” while the people tremble in terror at the sight of these formidable beings.

Cherubs have been seen as cute chubby babies with wings since 1512 when they were first painted that way by Raphael. However, the description of the Cherubim in the book of Ezekiel would be a very different sight to behold. Ezekiel (Ch. 10) describes Cherubim as covered entirely in eyes and having four faces: the face of a lion, the face of a human, the face of a cherub and the face of an eagle. If you encountered that in your living room would you immediately think, “oh this is a benevolent creature here to do good” ? Unlikely. You probably wouldn’t feel that way encountering an archangel either.

The likelihood that an angel will do you harm despite its truly scary appearance? Fairly slim ( we can’t say 100% unlikely since angels smote plenty of people in their day and I don’t know what you’ve done with your life).

The Fae, Elemental & Nature Spirits

There are many a helpful spirit that doesn’t look it when it comes to the Fae, Elementals and Nature Spirits. Brownies are a great example of this. These are household spirits that protect the home and bring good luck and good fortune. In general they are benevolent, but of course you must always be careful not to offend. Offending a Brownie may lead to the spirit abandoning the property, causing dire misfortune and leaving the home open to spiritual attack. The Brownie may even haunt the home if it is angered enough to do so, becoming a boggart.

At any rate, their appearance is not what humans would describe as beautiful, it may even cause a fright, but their work in general is beneficial. Even if your Brownie turns into a boggart (scarier looking yet) it can still do good for the home with proper propitiation.

However, let us consider Belladonna, the plant spirit. It is a gorgeous plant producing very enticing berries… that are poisonous and so unpredictable that as little as 3 or as many as 30 could kill you. It’s lovely and superficially harmless, but get to know it better by eating its fruit and count the cost. You may trip, or you may die. (I am not advocating anyone consume belladonna and in fact caution against it).

The likelihood of these beings doing you harm is a bit riskier depending on where you’re sticking your nose and what you’re doing (whether or not you’ve offended them, whether or not you’re familiar with their characteristics and how to interact with them), but still less likely. These beings can harm or heal, just as many others are capable of both. The real risks comes from ignorance and superficial judgment on our part. Beauty can mean deadly. Scary or ugly can mean helpful. A swan may be a Faery in disguise. Nothing is black and white.

Demons

The most Hollywoodized being of them all is the demon. Many people come to me for house cleansings thinking they have a demon in their home. It’s a common misconception. When I ask, “did you or someone in your household summon one?” The answer so far has always been no. The likelihood that one just popped up in the house to cause problems is incredibly unlikely and also out of character. Usually what’s happening in a house is malevolent spirit(s) causing issues, or the build up of toxic and malevolent energy from violence or dysfunction in the house past or present has taken on a form of its own to cause problems.

However demons, along with angels and the fae and all other forms of beings, have their own lives and their own things to do. Many of the beings referred to as demons today were originally pagan gods. They do look (and are) quite formidable, but a lot of them are also super kind and helpful despite the way they are commonly described, portrayed, and (mis)understood.

In Conclusion…

Doing certain kinds of spiritual and magickal work may result in encountering an unfamiliar being. Whatever their nature may be, approach with respect. Be prepared when you walk this path by knowing that looks are often deceiving. Responding in fear is always unhelpful. Discernment is a must.

Sometimes we do encounter beings and spirits that are malevolent or harmful, but it’s not about how they look, it’s about their energy and what they do. It’s how they affect you or your home and why they are there. Are they malevolent by nature, is the harm due to ignorance, or did you or someone else piss them off by treading or behaving disrespectfully?

Seek to know truly.

“For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book.” – Mary Poppins

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