I was excited to see an old acquaintance of mine, Diana L Paxson, on The Paranormal Podcast discussing her book The Essential Guide to Possession, Depossession and Divine Relationships. I strongly encourage readers to give a listen to the podcast since Jim Harold does a good job of asking the questions that most people not familiar with this phenomenon might ask and bringing up the very real concerns of those encountering possession for the first time.
In the Western, Christian-dominated mindset, possession is a bad, some might even call it terrible or evil, thing. This is a classic example of the kind of cultural blindness that prevents paranormal investigators from looking at phenomenon with new eyes. If one happened to be a member of one of the African originated religions of the Caribbean or South America, one would view possession as not only acceptable but even desirable when undertaken in the proper manner i.e with proper training and initiation in controlled circumstances with other experienced practitioners to assist. The followers of these religions understand that possession is not a practice undertaken for ‘kicks’ or to ‘see what will happen’ but is a spiritual experience with deep meaning that fills their lives with significance and the presence of their honored spirits.
Ms. Paxson makes a point in this interview of not over-simplifying. Interaction with the spirit world can be very complex; in his classic work, The Secret Commonwealth, the Rev. Robert Kirk tells us that those who open to the Sight can often be frightened out of their wits since their world suddenly becomes filled with spirits. In one telling part of this fascinating book, Kirk describes a way in which a seer can temporarily open the Sight of one not born with it. The percipient in that case is completely taken aback as he or she (do not remember which) is suddenly overwhelmed by a vision of spirits coming from all directions. I’ve stood at the crossroads, in vision, when one of these hostings was going on and I can say from experience that, while a Westerner might lump all these beings under the category, faery, that would be like looking out over the African savannah and saying, “oh, look, animals!”
While Ms. Paxson’s expertise has to do with those who are ‘bothered’ by or seeking to come into relationship with the Powers (her term for the gods or god-like beings of various traditions), what she has to say about those Powers applies as well to more ‘ordinary’ spirits. If you happen to have a gift for sensing or communicating with spirits, treat any new spirit as you would a new human acquaintance. Number one rule: be polite! Think of how you would feel if someone walked into your house and started yelling at you and throwing holy water on you. Or how you would feel if you were lost in a strange city and the person you asked for directions suddenly whipped out a sage bundle, lit it and started blowing the smoke in your face.
Yes, there are spirits that need to be removed from a place or from a person but, before making this assessment, as with a human being, do you not think that a period of contact and negotiation might not be in order before ‘going off’ on a spirit or spirits? Here is just one example that you might consider:
Spirit A lives in a lovely little copse of trees on a piece of land that you have just purchased along with your new home in the country. A has lived quietly in this area for years despite having a house built not too far from its little “home”. You begin to enthusiastically shape things up and mow a little too close to A’s copse taking down some of the plants that it values as part of its home. You begin to notice flitting shadows in the house. Things go missing and then re-appear. There seems to be movement outside the house at night and you have the feeling of being watched.
Being a good co-resident of the land, you spend some time on your back patio. You make sure your personal protections are in place, just in case, but then do some light trance work to see if you can communicate with your ‘neighbor’. Perhaps in this first instance, you don’t really ‘see’ anything but you have a feeling that there is something on the land. You introduce yourself and ask if the being has anything to say to you. A is probably going to view you with some suspicion and may not reply but, again, you are a good neighbor. You pay attention to your intuition as you walk the land.
The next time you are out to mow, you have a definite feeling that you should avoid the copse of trees on the back part of the land. You listen to that inner voice and follow up later, again sitting quietly on your patio and respectfully asking if the spirit that you have been seeing lives in that copse of trees and if there is anything they want to tell you. It takes several attempts but A eventually conveys to you, in some way, that they would like you to avoid cutting a certain area of the yard. You agree to leave that section wild and the manifestations in your house stop. You follow up by occasionally leaving a small offering amongst A’s trees. A is happy and so are you and maybe, if you are so inclined, A even deigns to work with you in keeping the land healthy.
This is just one example of what might happen if we humans did not assume that everything invisible that we encounter is some sort of evil entity out to get us. I know that this type of posturing gets more viewers for TV but, in real life, a policy of communication is often the way to go, even with spirits who might be a little more difficult to manage.