Tags: spirits

Paranormal Problems

Occasionally a reader over at my Paranormal Montana blog will ask for assistance if they are having problems of a paranormal nature. I do not currently do investigations personally. Here is the response I gave to a recent inquiry:

hi X---

What part of Montana do you live in? (you only said "locally")

There are generally two things people want to happen when such things occur:

1. Verification of the experiences or alternative explanations. This is where paranormal investigation comes in. Using equipment, interviews, etc., the investigators will explore what is going on, come up with possible explanations as to whether the events are paranormal or not (debunking), look for recordable evidence, etc. There are only a couple of fully equipped investigation teams in Montana, with the most active and established group being Dustin Benner's group out of Billings. His email is contact@mtprs.org.

In general, paranormal investigation teams are useful primarily in this way: verification, debunking and evidence gathering. If through the process of debunking they find normal causes of the phenomena, like electrical problems, misinterpretation of events, infrasonic "standing waves" etc., then they can suggest ways to counter the problem. Otherwise, their real interest is in gathering evidence. They are not equipped to stop hauntings, poltergeists, etc. They may offer some ideas like smudging with sage, the use of holy water, and so on, or they may know of psychics one can contact. Of course genuine psychics are rare.

2. "Getting rid of" paranormal phenomena. IF the team decides the situation is indeed paranormal, caused by spiritual activity, etc., it may offer solutions like I mentioned. Sometimes psychics will be able to deduce what is occurring and what could help. They can help human spirits "move on."

If the spirit is nonhuman, generally it is either attached to a place (such as land spirits) or a person (spirits that are attached to a person rather than a place, so that they move with a person from place to place). Both of these are complex situations. Depending on your own personal beliefs and values, you may need a blessing or even an exorcist of some kind. In general, you should start with the church you attend, talking with the pastor or priest there. If you do not attend church, it can be much more difficult, as most ministers of any faith are wary of people who they don't know who suddenly show up with such inquiries. Other religions such as Buddhism also have religious practitioners who may be able to assist. Native American practitioners can sometimes help as well, especially with land spirit situations. Experienced practitioners of magic can also help in many cases. The main thing is to try and find well-regarded and experienced people, or the situation can be exacerbated.


Don't Give Up

I think we can begin working our way back to a more mystical experiencing of the world around us. For example, through whatever religion or belief system you have, or through nature and the wonders around us every day. For example, I see the world around me as alive, all of it: people, animals, plants, the land, the sky, the water, all of it possessing a spirit and the breath of life.

That's how I was raised and that's how I experience the world, and how I interact with it. This is not always easy, considering the bustling world we all live in today, which certainly does not see the land and sky and water as alive, and mainly sees animals and plants as resources to be used as we wish to, and in fact, often sees even people as expendable things to be used and discarded.

I was raised both as a Catholic and in my Native American traditions, and although science is an integral part of my understanding of the material world, it is also innate within me to see things in a mystic way of everything being alive and having the rights to exist as they are. As I am an artist, that is also part of what I am, seeing beyond the appearances of things.

It has been a lifelong quest of mine to synthesize these often contradictory points of view I have been raised with and exposed to, in a way that makes sense for me, and which honors the truths found in each. It has been quite a "wrasslin' match" at times though, that's for sure! There are people in my life who don't like what science has to say, about human evolution for example ("I didn't come from no monkey!") and who see spirits in their own lives, and there are other people in my life who think belief in a living animistic world with spirits is nuts. Yet we all in the end have to find our own road, what makes sense to us.

So don't give up the search for balance in your life, between existing in the world of jobs and school and all that, and the more ancient worlds of spirit, nature, and family/ancestors.

Documentary: "The Fairy Faith" (2000)

A documentary from the Film Board of Canada (2000). The filmmaker John Walker travels to Ireland, Scotland, and Nova Scotia to visit various fairy/faerie sites, and talk with some of the people who have seen them or who study their folklore. Some really interesting cool people and thought-provoking interviews, English, Irish, Scot, and Mi'kmaq Indians in Canada. Of varying lengths, each part runs up to about 14 minutes or less.

"A fairy is a tiny being with wings that looks like a person but possesses powers of magic and enchantment. According to legend, fairies can change the weather, alter aspects of nature and bestow magical gifts such as intelligence and plenty. They can also lure humans to their islands where all is happiness and no one ages or gets sick...however, once brought to these mystical places, there is no escape. Join filmmaker John Walker on a quirky and compelling journey through Ireland, England, Scotland and Cape Breton in search of the child's imagination in a rational world. This unique look into the realm of fantasy traces the popular fascination with fairies and is vividly brought to life with gorgeous cinematography and an enchanting soundtrack."

This segment introduces the filmmaker and his personal search for understanding about the faeries. He travels from Canada where he speaks with a retired policeman to Britain, and speaks to a man who claims to see them and who speaks with them.

This segment continues with the harpist, historical changes in how faeries were viewed, Froud the author/illustrator, and a Scottish storyteller.

This segment is set in Ireland, with a visit to a faerie mound with a dowser, more on faerie music, and Eddie Lenihan.

This segment is set in Ireland, speaks to several Irish folks, including Eddie Lenihan (the thorn tree controversy) and a scholar whose little daughter is a descendant of selkies and she tells the tale. (Have you see "The Secret of Roan Inish"? Then you know what selkies are).

After a fascinating story from a construction worker from Glasgow, this segment goes to Nova Scotia and talks to several Mi'kmaq people who have seen them, including elders, and visits a mountain of the Little People.

This segment has an interview with a Mi'kmaq mother and her grown daughter in a faerie place in Canada.

Do I believe in fairies? Yes, I do.


Whether one believes in the existence of spirits or not, all cultures have had spirits of one kind or another, good and bad, whether gods, ghosts, nature spirits, and so on. When JudeoChristianity encountered the gods and spirits of another group, generally enemies, those of another belief system (faith/religion), they called them evil spirits, if nothing else, because those spirits were of a foreign land or belonged to the religion of "the enemy." The Greeks called such spirits, "daimones" (pl.), Greek being the language of the New Testament...and so in the New Testament, we read of demons (the English form of daimones). All demons are, are daimones, or spirits and gods, of other cultures. Some are malevolent/hostile/harmful, some are neutral, some are nature spirits, some are benevolent/helpful, some are like people, moody and changeable, and treat you as you treat them. So, yes, if you are JudeoChristian and have entered into an enemy relationship with them, they are your enemy. But to other cultures, they are the spirits of their own lands and ancestors, and are allies. The Muslims took the same approach as the JudeoChristians, and see them as enemies (djinn) in general due to their own religious covenants. That is, if you believe that spirits exist ;-)

The Abilities of Spirits and People

I've been reading the Arbatel, and learning about what people have done with it. One of the blogs I came across, by a ceremonial magician named Frater Acher, had a story and a message worth thinking about:

"Think of a goldsmith living in a small town. Our goldsmith is the only one of his kind in his town; maybe even in the state. He has a unique talent to create art and adornment from metals. This particular goldsmith happens to not only have a huge gift for working with metals, but also a huge passion. Doing his job is a calling for him and that's how he approaches every piece of work he does. To be honest, even though he's been working as a goldsmith for decades, every day he still is humbled by the way the metals behave in each of their states he is putting them through and he is humbled by the beauty they reveal in shapes they take... You get it: we are dealing with a bit of goldsmith nerd here.

Now, unfortunately our goldsmith isn't earning a lot of money with his art. He actually is quite in debt and owes money to quite a few people in the town. Much to his disadvantage, one of these believers is a very rich and ignorant fellow. One day this guy comes into the studio of our goldsmith and asks him to pay back his debts.

The goldsmith offers him the remaining adornments he has left on the shelf. But the creditor doesn't want them simply because he doesn't know what to do with them. Rather he insists the goldsmith should rob a bank for him - as he had heard the goldsmith would be very talented with all sorts of precious thing and he was planning a coup anyway. Hearing this demand the goldsmith is aghast and refuses!

Now the creditor hesitates - looking at the goldsmith he gets doubts if he really could do the job... After reconsidering the situation he offers him to work in his garage and polish his cars. As this would make significantly less money than a bank coup, however, he would need to work there for the rest of his life. The goldsmith breaks out in tears... And as he doesn't stop crying at some point the creditor finds himself feeling sorry for the poor soul.

Thus he asks: 'So what do you want? In some way or another you'll need to follow my will!' The goldsmith cries: 'But I am a goldsmith! I am an artist, I can create beauty from metal ashes and slag! Give me a job that uses my talent, I can work on anything that is related to creating value from precious metals. Just don't ask me to do something I am not.'

Well, I'll spare you the rest of the conversation; but at some point the creditor really loses his nerves. Finally, with a big sigh he gives in and orders the goldsmith to work in his kitchen and polish sterling cutlery for the rest of his life..."

"...What if some part in us is as ignorant, as self-obsessed, as uncaring as the creditor in the story? And what if we aren't even the first generation to treat spirits like this... but we are living off a heritage of abuse, of ignorance and dominance? What if we often fail to acknowledge the true talents and gifts of spirit...?

Technically the creditor wasn't wrong in assuming a goldsmith must be good with 'precious objects'. Generally speaking he could claim to be right... And generally speaking Jupiter can bring you luxury, and Mercury will make you win the lottery and the Sun gets you the next promotion and Venus your spouse and Mars keeps you invincible. And here we are - turning spirits into service staff of our astral Tesco or Walmart or BestBuy or what have you...

Sometimes when I read about Grimoire magic, I feel we are so obsessed with putting these creatures to our use and make them work for our benefits that we - just sometimes - forget to respect them for what they are. Un-human creatures, but creatures like us. Goldsmiths of their own kind, masters in their own disciplines... being forced to first bring us and then clean our sterling silver.

Wouldn't it be great to be at a point in the history of magic where we (re-)learn to acknowledge the beauty and subtleties of the spirits we relate with? ...Because they are living creatures just like us, forces that shape life and plants and stones and animals even more than we do... I guess we should allow them to do what they are best at?"

As an artist, like that goldsmith in the story, I am in the same situation. Probably most of us are.

I am good at certain things, very good, excellent (art, calming, connecting, solving seemingly unsolvable problems, words and languages, loyalty, patience, steadiness, helping open minds in others, physical work, walking, etc.) and am lousy at others (playing basketball, working at a task based on time rather than the completion of the task itself, going fast (at anything), social hierarchies/politics, hustling money, schedules, organization according to others' standards, math). So I know the jobs I am good at, and the times I have been hired for the jobs I am good at, the results have been spectacular. Yet, if bosses force me to do the things I am not good at, even when I tell them so, only disaster for both of us results. They get a crappy result and are unhappy, I am miserable and grouchy, and it is pointless and an utter waste.

So maybe that's very much like people and spirits, like his goldsmith story. And yet we live in a society that squashes us into preconceived boxes, it demands our obedience, like a boneheaded boss who only knows what he wants, and doesn't realize that by working to people's strengths instead of his own preconceptions, he could get all that he wants ...and more.

People are boneheads most of the time, trying to get rich, or conquer lovers, get power, turbocharge careers. Most of these people don't look happy to me. A smile doesn't equate to happiness in my book. I look at Wall Street types, rich folks, celebrities, smiling away. But the eyes give them away. I see hardness, arrogance, smugness, worry, suspicion, loneliness. I don't see much joy shining from many of those eyes, whatever their mouths might be doing.

Read people, know what they are good at and what they aren't. The same with spirits. Whether you are a boss, a magician, a teacher, a parent...find the right ingredients and they will almost cook themselves. Let people and spirits be and act in accordance with their nature. The joy and the competence and the effects will shine forth.

Ghosts, Ghouls, and Time

I am reading T. C. Lethbridge, a Cambridge-trained archaeologist, and he has a lot to say about the "supernatural", dowsing, etc. The book of his I am currently reading is "Ghost and Ghoul." He uses the terms in specific ways, "ghost" being the visual apparition (he saw two during his life) and "ghoul" being the emotional feeling of a place, such as cold, fear, etc. He does not try to say they are spirits but he does not deny it either; he takes a more circumspect approach, with explanations such as mental projection, etc. Poltergeists are in yet a third category. Lethbridge seems to link all three to psychic phenomena within the human mind, in some cases, being able to apparently be sensed beyond one's mind. One magician (as in sorcery, not legerdemain) I have read says: "It's all in your head...you just don't know how big your head really is." I am halfway through, so I'll give you some conclusions later.

As to time slips, portals, etc., I have two theories. One is that emotions, imagery, etc. can be "stored" in a place of certain geological properties (underground water, quartz-bearing rock, etc.) The second is that time is only a material dimension of physical/material reality, it is not absolute. Just as width or height or depth (the three dimensions of physical reality = 3D) can differ, so can time (the fourth dimension of physical reality). If it is not physical, time (being a physical dimension) does not apply. And it may be that the dimensions beyond the four (3d + time), 5th, 6th, etc., have functions of connections and slipping by the 4 we are familiar with, in the sense of wormholes, timetunnels etc. Mathematics and physics indicate there are dimensions beyond the 4th (time).

More on Truth and Science and Spirits and Narratives

There is nothing wrong with speculation or. as you say, "building a story around these data." Best guesses, aka speculation, are inductive reasoning. It is where anyone STARTS, whether the most determined conspiracy theorist, pseudoarchaeologist, pseudohistorian, wizard, tweedy professor, scientist, or debunking hardcore skeptic who would have you prove the sky above is is indeed blue. EVERYONE starts with a favored narrative, a story formed around data, arrived at through inductive reasoning.

The difference is THEN, if one wants to validate that story and find whether or not it is empirically valid (notice I stayed away from "truth" which is philosophical), one must go to deductive reasoning. What is the evidence, how does one analyze the evidence, and construct the multiple working hypotheses which must each be falsifiable (thus the process of "deducting" each hypothesis that are determined to be false, contrary to fact).

Constructing a narrative can come from dreams, novels, fantasies, urban legends, twice-told tales, observations in nature, rumor, or pretty much anything.

BUT, if it is important to determine the reliability, the "truth" if you will, of a claim or a narrative or a "fact," then deductive reasoning, and the scientific method for testing claims of empirical reality, are the best (some would say only) tools for testing those claims and narratives.

If one dislikes deductive reasoning or scientific methodology, because it destroys or infringes upon one's favored narrative (it ruins things), whether it is of a house being haunted, or pyramids being built by aliens, or the Chinese discovering America, that God created everything 6000 years ago, or whatever...then enjoy your favored narrative, find meaning and satisfaction in it, but do not confuse it with verifiable, consensus reality...what most folks know as "the truth."

And yes, this is coming from a fellow who CHOOSES to believe in God, and who has had personal experiences of genius loci and other nature spirits. But I do not pretend to say they are scientifically verifiable :-)

Eating and the Otherworld

There seems to be an interesting difference between Celtic and Germanic/Nordic traditions when the Others, the Spirits, the Landwights, the Good Folk, offer you something to eat. The Celtic traditions say don't eat it, as well as the Greek myth of Persephone. Yet in Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol. I by Kveldulf Gundarsson, he notes the difference between Celtic and Nordic traditions, as the latter show that not only should one eat what the spirits offer, one risks insulting them if one does not.

Among Native American traditions, it seems to go either way in the stories I have read and heard. We have stories of spirits taking care of people who become lost by feeding them and teaching them. But we also have trickster spirits that one should not trust.

In any case, I was taught that the spirit offerings left out for the spirits are for them only, as the spirit part of the food or clothing, etc. is taken. However, if one is desperate and it is truly an emergency, it is permitted by the spirits that one can eat or clothe oneself with such offerings. People who have done this though (eaten of the human' offerings to the Others), note that the food is oddly flavorless and unsatisfying. Probably because the Others have taken the spirit part, where the real flavor and energy is.

This always reminds me a little of Stephen King's "The Langoliers" where the food and matches and gasoline loose their essence, are flavorless and do not burn, once the moment in which they are part of "the active world" is gone.

Wheel of the Year

When I was first learning about these things, on my own, I tried to pay attention to the Wheel of the Year. For me, Imbolc never connected at all. I am not around sheep, and here in Montana, February is as nasty as January, and often worse than December. Nothing at all is waking up.

I have come to a point, where except for Solstices and Equinoxes, I don't pay much attention to dates and such. I pay most of my attention to what Nature is doing. I key what I do, what I think, to the Sun and the Moon, the Major Stars (for me, mostly the North Star and the Great Bear, as well as the Hunter and his Dog) and the Winds, the animals and plants that are born, mature, fruit, seed, and die here in my home ecosystem. When the ice on the creeks and rivers forms and when it breaks up. When the snow comes and when the lightning first strikes. When the chokecherries appear and when the grasshoppers are seen and when the geese come winging through, south and north.

I have noticed, for me, that some days and nights are more liminal than others, as well as the dawn and the gloaming. For tradition's sake, I do love Samhuinn and Yuletide, but sometimes my antennae wave more on certain other days and nights. You can feel it in the air and in the earth when the Powers are about, for their own reasons, own purposes, own pleasures.

This week, this is the third day, the winds have knocked like a questing hound against the loose panes, and last night the snow dusted us. Such things are not always tied to Christian nor Roman calendars. For Sun and Moon, I read the calendar. But not for the rest. The Land has its own Calendar, and that is the one I am trying to learn now.

The Great Elk

In our own tribal ways, there was a Master of Life, the Great Mystery, who was formless, but some say the Sun was his face. Every species had its own Master, a very large and holy Being that was the paragon and leader/god/ancestor of that species: a Great Bear, a Great Buffalo, and so on.

In one of my dreams as a youth, I saw the Great Elk. There were two of his elk “soldiers” at either side, and their antlers were 8 or 9 feet long, and they could be seen very clearly, almost like Irish elk. In the center, in the shadows of the pines, was the Great Elk Himself, not humanoid in any way, but a very large God-Elk, His antlers 18 or 20 feet in length and width. I do not remember any speech, just his calm regard. Then all three of them withdrew into the woods.