I mentioned, in my last post, the extraordinary diversity of the Otherworld. As with this consensual reality, the Otherworld has its own form of bio-diversity and part of the magician’s task is to acquaint him or her self with some of those Otherwordly inhabitants and to work with them. Even limited experience in the other realms causes one to quickly realize that there is no way that one will ever know about all the spiritual entities that inhabit the worlds beyond our own. In my more awe-struck moments, I am convinced that even the mages have only explored a certain portion of inner space and that there are untold numbers of beings that we have not even imagined yet.
Nevertheless, being human and having that innate desire to catalog things, magicians throughout the ages have tried to enumerate the spirit world. When one looks at the various lists of spirits, it quickly becomes apparent that those who set about this task often end up like the field biologist in a rain forest trying desperately to fit each new creature into an existing category. Sometimes those categories work and sometimes they seem more than a little contrived.
Given the above, one might think that I am opposed to the cataloging of spirits or that I think it is a useless endeavor. Quite to the contrary, I think such exercises are very useful despite the limits of human knowledge in these realms. Without these attempts, our knowledge of the spirit world would be even more limited than it already is. I think that it especially behooves the investigator of the paranormal/Fortean to have a working knowledge of spirit types so that they can begin to diagnose and deal with situations when they come up. If nothing else, the investigator should be familiar with spirit types so that they know when to head for the nearest door.
I can not possibly elucidate the world of spirits in a thousand word blog but I do want to give the investigator or would be investigator something to think about in that regard so here are my basic categories of spirits:
1) Ghosts – yes, Virginia, there are ghosts. In my definition, a ghost is a part of the human soul complex that has either chosen to remain in this world, usually as the result of unfinished business or extreme attachment to a person or place. It is the case that ghosts may be trapped in a place by magical workings (usually curses) but such cases are, thankfully, rare.
2) The in between – technically, ghosts are in between since they have not moved completely into the Otherworld, but this category refers to those beings who exist on the periphery between this world and the Otherworld. These beings are usually called vampires and are most often humans who have managed to avoid the Second Death (First Death = death of the physical body and the process of loosening the soul from that body; Second Death occurs when the pieces of the soul complex have gone to their respective places in the Otherworld) and who continue their semi-existence by feeding off the energies of the living.
3) The dead/Ancestors – once a soul has reached the Otherworld, it is still possible for that “person” to reach out to and effect this world. If one looks at the rich lore of ancestor work in the African Traditional Religions, as an example, and Hoodoo, as another example, one sees that the dead can still be with us even after they have crossed over.
4) Elementals – classical Western magic recognizes four elements – earth, air, fire and water – and each of those elements is characterized by a magical creature – gnomes, sylphs, salamanders and undines, respectively. Encounters with these beings are usually limited to psychics and magic workers who are actively seeking them out but they are often confused with . . .
5) The Faery – simply, the faery (and I include the djinn here) are the beings that inhabited this world before human beings came along. Since the advent of the human race, they are said to have been driven underground or into the vast wildernesses and deserts of the earth. A little over a century ago, knowledge of “them ones” was common and humans went out of their way to co-exist peacefully with these beings. If you want to know more about this vast swath of races in the Otherworld, look to the myths of the worlds cultures, and look at books such as W Y Evan-Wentz’s The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries. The important thing to remember about the faery is that they are not Tinker Bell. Many possess enormous power and the Scots recognized two courts of Faery – the Seelie Court that was indifferent to humans or might actively aid them and the Unseelie Court that carried active malice to humans.
6) Daemons – I could lump the daemons in with the faery but these beings have a different feel to them in my experience so I put them in a separate category. As you can see from the name, these are the beings that became the demons of Christianity, not because they are innately evil but because they were well accepted throughout the classical realm in early Christian times. Since they did not fit into the Christian pantheon as angels, they had to be working for the other side. The interesting thing about daemons is that they are said to work closely with people – either guiding them along a beneficial path or tempting them away from virtue. If I were pushed, I would give the opinion that the daemons are an intermediate class between the faery and our next class . . .
7) Angels – Please forget everything that you have ever read about angels. 99.9% of it is BS. As with all things we fear (see the faery and Tinker Bell), angels have been disempowered in our culture to the point that we have bumper stickers about not driving faster than your guardian angel. Bah. The next time you are tempted to think in a foo foo way about angels, remember that this is the being that supposedly laid waste to all the first born of Egypt and is alleged to have slain an entire army in one night in separate Old Testament texts. Angels are extremely powerful beings who serve one purpose – they are messengers of the Most High, God, the Source of All Life or whatever you want to call it. As such, they should be treated with the extreme respect and reverence that they deserve. There is nothing wrong with calling on the aid of a favorite angel; just remember who you are talking to.
8) “Demons” – Most of the so-called “demons” are actually daemons or faery/djinn of the Unseelie variety busily working out their malice toward human kind. However, if one deals with the darker aspects of the paranormal/occult, one will eventually run up against a creature which seems to be the exact opposite of an angel. Rather than being a creature of radiant light, totally aligned to the will of “God” (however you see that), these beings seem to gather darkness around them and to delight in the destruction, on all levels, of human beings. Forget the pitch forks and pointed tails (another example of how humans seek to disempower what they fear), forget the holy water and prayers from a book, the only way to intervene in a case where a demon is seeking to destroy a person is to get a qualified exorcist involved. Even then, there are no guarantees.
So there you have it, a quick overview of the Otherworld as I know it. Many of these spirits are quite capable of producing phenomenon of one sort or the other so figuring out what you are dealing with is often most of the challenge. My hope, in writing this little piece, is that it will get the investigator or would be investigator thinking and researching so that they have a deeper understanding of the spirit world.