Communicating with the Spirits of the City

Let’s get a few things out of the way immediately. These are my beliefs and practices, your mileage may vary.I live in a rich and also rotting city, and it colors my practice pretty directly.

The city streets are littered with garbage, people, birds, leavings, and spirits. It takes some time to notice the spirits around you, but once you see them, they are everywhere. Once you notice them, you can try to talk to them.

“Portland” by Dale Cruse via Flickr

Portland Oregon is beautiful and flawed and crowned with the twin jewels of bigotry and elitism. It is in the whitest state in the United States. It has an unfortunate (and often overlooked/hidden) long racist past.  The history of this city is all around from the striking architecture of downtown to the sprawling suburban areas around the city. It sprawls and winds and has some beautiful and eerie spaces. It has risen in popularity as a gathering place for the young and middle class. Hipsters and punks who have non-traditional careers. It is full of people living their lives. It does not have enough homes for its residents, and it does not have enough secret places for all of its spirits.

I don’t know how I became aware of them initially. I know that sometimes in the dark of night or the slow haze of foggy morning I see them in the corners of my eyes and in the reflections of pop-up hipster boutiques. Men in suits, human shapes, and figures that are not there. Pigeons that have no eyes and the dead stare of a dog that when I turn my head is gone. It’s possible this is all in my mind.

I know that when I meditate at a bus stop listening to the quiet ambiance of the morning rush of downtown sometimes I hear a young boy trying to sell a newspaper. He is spouting headlines that make no sense to modern day. I’ve heard someone talk about recent violence in the Vanport slums like they were around the corner, using outdated vernacular and pausing to drag on a cigarette I can smell but not see the smoke of when I look around.

It’s in these liminal moments of commute and travel that I know that this city is holding onto those that went before. That I realize that people have walked these roads and sat on these stoops for decades. I know they are all around us, likely they are no more aware of us than we are of them.

There are so many spirits who don’t have the shape of a person or at least are shaped differently enough that they have lost their semblance altogether. Perhaps one eyelash row but the lack of an eye, or one crooked smile set just too far off in their face gives them away. I spy them in alleys and around corners, standing on second story fire escapes with no way up from the street.

I have started seeking them out more. I want to know where they came from, how they lost their shape, or if they started off altogether not person-shaped and have slowly copied us. I have found these things work well for me to engage them. I have had short conversations and some small interactions. I am trying to be safe and not invite too much attention or notice.

Leave a gift

City of Portland - Skyline by night with lights reflecting in the river.
2011-01-16 01-23 Portland, Oregon by Allie_Caulfield via Flickr
  • Like all creatures spirits in the city like treats. I find that sometimes the gift can be hello, but often I leave a full cigarette on the wall near where I smell the unseen smoke or leave a peanut out for the crows where I spied the corvid with no eyes. I leave heels of bread at crossroads and bottles of water where they will do good to humans. I collect rain water in my back yard and dump it into the tree planters near my bus stop. I just move my resources out into the world.
  • Give a quarter to the homeless man you’ve never seen. Spare the bread from your sandwich to the birds in the courtyard. Give some of your chicken to the cat that is sometimes around.

Be Polite

  • Greet them appropriately. Never gender the shapes that appear in the corners of your eyes. “Hello, Friend” and “Good Day there” work well. Be quiet when you say it, do not draw the attention of the people waiting to cross the street.
  • Do not ask for their name, they know it’s power. Ask them what they are called, use that no matter how strange it appears to you.
  • Use your nickname or your first name alone. Never give them a way to find you easily. If you do not have a nickname, create one.
  • Thank them if they speak to you, or look your way.
  • Never take their offered hand, ask the price of the gift they offer you. Decline politely if it is too high.
  • Spirits are like the fair folk, you do not want to be in their debt.

Be Cautious

  • Never approach something that looks like it wants to be left alone. Always be prepared to leave.
  • Do not ask too much. Ask about the weather and the day, never mention that they may have died, or are “not real” or are a “spirit”. Do not call them a creature. That is like pointing out that someone is wrong, it is rude to be direct. Ask about their history or their past, never be too specific.
  • You do not want them to follow you home. Don’t go directly there. Take four lefts to throw them off your path, never take the shortest path. Be prepared with enough time. Never be in a rush or a hurry. Time works differently for them.
  • Make a charm of protection, wear it near your skin. Keep a penny in each pocket. Never leave a seat in your car empty.
  • Put sigils on the bottom of your shoes to not be followed.

(Images under a Creative Commons Liscence Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Goal Setting Spell

Witten for Week 1 of the 2016 Grimoire Challenge.

Inspired by Jade’s Spell activity for the week. (here)

Intentions and goals spell

The goal of this working is to set intentions for a new beginning. This is ideal for starting the new year (at Samhain or at the calendar new year, or even your birth date).

You will need:

A quiet, private space. If you are working at home tell those you cohabitate with that you need some downtime. If you don’t feel confident with that tell them you’re thinking about taking a nap.

  • Nice writing paper
  • A good pen (one that is comfortable to write with. You could even go fancy dip pen and ink if you wanted to.)
  • Envelopes
  • Scratch paper
  • Something you carry with you daily (a planner, journal, book bag, tablet, purse, etc.)
  • A candle (pick colors and scents appropriate to your intention or goal)
  • Incense (Optional)
  • Sealing Wax (Optional)
  • A focus for your energy (An image or statue of a patron deity, A crystal, a candle, a rock, anything that resonates with you as appropriate.)
  • Music (Optional, select something that matches your intentions. For example In setting goals with my Grimoire writing for 2016 I picked ambient noise from a coffee shop from as it made me think of writing.)
  • Plenty of time
  • You may want to bring tea, water, coffee, or a snack with you into your quiet space

Center and ground or cast a circle as needed for your practice.

Light the candle and optional incense.

On your scratch papers work out a set of step goals from where you are to where you want to be.

There are a few resources for goal settings at the end.

Make yourself a list of step goals to get to where your goal is. Make sure you keep these time bound. Keep the pieces as small or as big as you need to. Remember attainability of a step is just as important as obtainability of the whole goal. If you feel like you need it in smaller pieces or you need extra time that’s okay. Your goal is success, set yourself up for it!

An example of a list of step goals that are time bound could be:

Goal: Finish up writing for chapbook of poetry:

(Note: taking a day off each week is reasonable. This also is assuming that most of the writing is done, and that structures are in place for some of this.)

Week 1 – Write at least an hour a day. Make sure you write 1 “public” piece for the week.

Week 2 – Edit at least an hour a day. Spend one of those days at least writing.

Week 3 – Write at least an hour a day. Make sure you write 1 “public” piece for the week.

Week 4 – Edit at least an hour a day. Spend one of those days at least writing.

Week 5 – Write at least an hour a day.

Week 6 – Spend two hours a day on formatting, arrangement and editing work into the chapbook

Week 7 – Send to beta readers. Request they return within a week if possible. Take rest of the week off.

Week 8 – Read through responses from beta readers as it comes in.

Week 9 – Read through responses from beta readers as it comes in.

Week 10 – First print mockup laid out.

Week 11 – Send to copy editor. Take rest of week off.

Past this point the timeline is less under your direct control. So a good goal may be to get to this phase of your goal.

Now that you have a goal list written out, and you’ve broken it into bite sized chunks, get out your fancy paper and envelopes.

Write a step goal on each page.

Label each of the envelopes with the date a goal should be done (except the last “done date”). You can add a sigil, symbol or sub-goals as needed.

Put each goal page in the envelope of the date that the prior goal should be done.

As you stuff your envelopes visualize a golden light connecting them in order. Visualize your focus with you at each of these steps. You don’t need put the first page in an envelope.

(Optional) Take your stack of envelopes and seal each with the sealing wax.

Stack your envelopes (after you give them a moment to dry) in date order, soonest on top. Place them under your focus. Visualize a well of golden light surrounding them and tying them together. If you feel compelled say a few words. Words I used were:

I have the power within me to seek the goals of my spirit
I have the strength with in me to not be led astray
I have the compassion with in me to love myself on the way

I see a goal before me
I see a path golden bright
I see you here beside me, holding my hand

I will this to be completed
I will it to be done
I will myself enough.

Perform the types of after-spell work that are most natural for you. I give the space a moment and ground again while holding my intention in my mind clearly, snuff anything burning, clean and clear out the area used and then take a shower.

Carry the current page with the goal written on it with you daily. I put them inside the cover of my bullet journal.

When the day for the next envelope arrives I get out my goal page that is current. I write on it some of where I’m at, generally as a short letter to my focus. Then I burn or in some way destroy it. In some cases I encorporate them into my book of shadows or simply recycle them.

I would love to hear any feedback or thoughts on this spellwork. This is generally as elaborate as my spellwork gets.

Goal Resources:

SMART goals (with worksheet) 

Wiki How’s Smart goals explanation (warning: the goals they show are often weight-related)