In my many years as a witch I’ve heard a variety of opinions on spirits and deities, many of which have been communicated to me with the dogmatic vehemence usually found in organized religion.
Sometimes it can feel like there isn’t much space in the community for certain kinds of beliefs about deities and spirits, which makes it difficult to be vocal. For me, experience trumps beliefs, and experience fuels my beliefs, not the other way around. In my experience working with spirits, this is what I know.
The Gods and Other Spirits are Personal, and They Care
The most common phrases I’ve heard are: “the gods don’t care about puny humans. They and other spirits are so far above us, they don’t care about your worries or concerns,” or “the gods are only energy currents that you can tap into for your magickal workings,” or “spirits are entirely indifferent to humanity.”
There’s an indication in these phrases of the belief (specifically the first one mentioned) that spirits maintain a hierarchy that resembles human prejudice, and that they carry an overall disdain for humanity who are “unworthy” in their eyes. It rather denotes a self-hatred that is projected onto the spirit world. It’s never sat well with me (why would you even acknowledge a deity or spirit that actively doesn’t care about you/dislikes you, except to banish it from your presence?) and it’s a belief that has been demonstrably false in my life.
I’ve never be disrespected by a deity or spirit, and especially not by any with whom I have a relationship. I’ve been chastised by my spirits. I’ve received the old “I told you so,” from them. But I’ve never been ridiculed or put down by them. They’ve never been malicious toward me. No deity or spirit has ever indicated that they consider me to be “less than” them or told me to bow down to them. We’re just different. Our roles are different, and different is not an assessment of value.
Sure, not *all* gods and spirits are especially interested in everyday human problems, nor do they all especially care about humanity. Some even have ill intent toward and don’t like humans at all. This is to be expected. Spirits are numerous and varied and they have their own motives. They don’t exist for us. Even the ones we build relationships with don’t exist for us, but the fact that we build relationships with them indicate a level of care by both parties. We are interconnected and interconnection creates responsibility.
When you approach a spirit or deity you don’t know at all, who hasn’t given an indication that they are interested in relationship, without an offering, and ask them to do something for you, they’re more than likely to ignore you or require terms. There’s a basic element of respect at play here that people don’t usually think about when it comes to approaching spirits. But many of them are quite willing to help, especially if you’re willing to do your part and are responsible. Whether or not they “care” is a matter of personal experience and observation (in my experience they do, at least to some degree). Requiring payment doesn’t equal a lack of care so much as it ensures that our greedy tendencies are kept in check.
The deities and spirits I am in relationship communicate with me and show personality, indicating that they are more than energy currents. They definitely have energy currents, just as humans do, which can be tapped into just as we can tap into the energy of other people. But in my experience, this is not all that they are.
Magick, for Me, is 95% Listening
I accomplish more, with less fuss, by just listening to the guidance from my spirits and following their advice than I do by actively casting spells. They see more than I see (and I’m a seer!), they’ve invested in me, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet. Following their advice has led to greater results than trying to work my own will independent from their wisdom.
This is a weird one to talk about as a witch, because most of the talk of magick is talk of willpower and energy raising. Well, I’m a folk practitioner first of all, so there’s not much ceremony when I cast spells, and the spells I do are based more on the relationship I have with the spirits involved than with raising energy.
Animism is the heart of my magickal practice. If everyone involved (aka me and whichever spirits I’m working with) is willing to work with the purpose I have in mind, the spell is more potent than if I were to do a spell focused alone on raising and releasing energy. It also feels more natural to me to work this way.
Petitioning Spirits is Not a Violation of My Sovereignty
This is a sticky subject for many, and for good reason. Many witches are reclaiming their wills and their choices from toxic beliefs regarding service to a higher power from other religious experiences, and this is important and necessary work that I do not wish to dishonor.
I’ve always preferred “acts of generosity” to “service” as far as terms go, because “acts of generosity” indicates freedom and choice and don’t carry the connotations that “service” does.
I do engage in free will offerings. I do petition spirits. I do recognize my personal limitations. None of these actions equal subjugation for me. Asking for help when I need it with the humility it takes to do so is not the equivalent of giving up my power.
Surrender is part of the process for me as a witch and as a human being. I usually fight against it, but I’ve come to learn that for me, surrendering is giving in, not giving up. I don’t give up my self-respect, or my personal power, or control over myself or my choices, in petitioning spirits or making offerings or letting go of something that doesn’t work. What I give up are unhelpful ideas about how something must be accomplished, and false narratives about what it means to be powerful.
Power doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It must be fed. The additional power lent by my spiritual allies increases the effectiveness of my workings. I have no shame in seeking it out. I don’t feel like I’m a less of a witch for working in this way. And I definitely don’t feel that I am beneath anyone or anything in doing so.
My spirits and I maintain a relationship of respect and reciprocity. I feed them with offerings and do my best to care for them, and they care for me, often making my life easier and taking care of problems for me without my having to ask. I don’t have to throw magick or energy at everything because they have my back. They also aid in my magickal workings and provide guidance in my everyday life in a very personal way.
It may not be the common way of the witch, but it is the way of this witch, and it’s a way that has served me well.