After cleaning, blessing and unpacking, the next important thing for me to do was make contact with the Hearth Spirit. I decided Saturday would be a good time, by this point we had been in the house over a week and I had been practising my morning devotionals every day. All seemed pretty calm and tranquil, there was no sense of urgency about performing this work, but building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with one’s hearth spirits takes time, so the sooner I could get going the better.
There are almost as many names for house spirits as there are methods for contacting and communicating with them. Known as, for example, Brownies, Boggarts, Dobbins, the Domovoi and Hobs (depending on regional folklore) many of these beings are thought to be hangovers from the older hearth based Gods, personally I see them as being separate entities altogether. I don’t use a specific name (unless the spirit choses to share one directly), to me it’s ‘The House Spirit’ and I work with this entity in a very different way to, say the Disir, or Dame Holda for example.
I view the House Spirit as the home’s Egregore, a little like the coven or a specific tradition’s ‘hive mind’ eventually forms its own consciousness which becomes linked with every member. After years of inhabitation, any place will start developing its own sense of character, consciousness and personality, even more so if nurtured by its inhabitants. So I work with and ‘feed’ the spirit, the essence of the home to enliven and quicken the process which happens naturally over time, although over decades or even centuries. We have all experienced or sensed the spirit of a building, often when we are looking round houses with a view to buying. We can usually sense whether a home has been a happy one because it has that warm and cosy feeling, a sure sign of a happy hearth spirit. Maybe a house is so old the house spirit is already very active, or maybe you’ve walked round a newly built home and it feels like a cold, barren shell with little or no life it what so ever.
I believe House Spirits are often the cause of what many people experience as poltergeist activity, and sometimes Hearth spirits can often become attached to entire family lines, especially if homes are passed down the generations as would have been the case in the good ol’ days. Either way, it’s important for me to ensure we get off on the right foot, and prevent trouble before it could potentially start. Now I don’t wanna scare anyone into thinking that all house spirits will become mischievous or dangerous if ignored and left to their own devices. At worst most will just fade into the background and most people live in blissful ignorance. However, one thing I know for certain is that The House Spirit certainly won’t be helpful if it’s ignored, it may not harm you but it certainly won’t help you either. As Witches we work and interact with spirits, it’s probably the defining, common practise within the pleothra of Witchcraft Traditions. We do this to make our lives and our witchcraft better, for me it’s that simple. If, for example, we want to find a lost object, need protection, want to understand a situation, are seeking info around a specific herb, want to travel to other worlds then we need the assistance of a whole myriad of spirit helpers. Of course nothing is given for nothing, but put simply, if you treat a Hearth Spirit as you would any beloved member of your family, then chances are you will get the same in return…and who wouldn’t want that?
At this stage I offer a word of advice. The purpose of this work is to contact a spirit, introduce yourself and basically make a pact with the spirit. This is a deal / bargain / spit and handshake. Whatever you promise the spirit in return for its assistance, you have to honour. Neglecting to do so can make a spirit become unpleasant or ignore you completely and potentially irreversibly. You are taking on a responsibility here, if that isn’t something you wish to shoulder then consider very carefully what you should aim to accomplish versus what you can realistically give back.
I’m not going to share my exact ritual with you verbatim, there are plenty of authors who I would recommend and refer you to. Nigel Pearson, Gemma Gary and Levannah Morgan all have published workings around the House Spirit and Spirit Houses. Use them as guides, but I personally would recommend coming up with your own words, after all you are contacting a spirit you will be working with and you should only be making promises you can keep! Choose your words carefully.
In order to start this process there are two essential things I needed to gather. Firstly, a candle or a lamp. I used a candle previously but this time I ‘found’ a little vintage oil lamp which will belong to the Hearth Spirit. For me this light serves two purposes. Firstly it’s symbolic of the light of consciousness, it’s the animating fire of life which is always useful when trying to enliven and wake up a spirit. Secondly, it’s a signal…like a lighthouse, when the lamp is lit, I’m basically picking up the phone and calling the House Spirit because I’m leaving offerings or if petitioning for help with something. I generally start by spending a little time ‘tuning in’ to the home, reaching out to the spirit of the place, gently stirring and calling to it. I then light the flame (candle / lamp etc) with words to the above.
The second thing I need is a ‘vessel’ of some sort which has been well cleaned with something like Four Thieves Vinegar and spring water. I’ve seen people construct actual miniature houses for their spirits, I’ve seen exhibits at the Witchcraft Museum of some really intricate spirit houses made from glass jars, some people carve little dolls, and previously I’ve used a simple stone, a skull would also be suitable. The choice of vessel is a personal one and you should be led by instinct and inspiration (and your own capabilities of course).
“Hold On” I hear you ask “why do you need to give the spirit a home if it already lives in the house?” In fairness I should leave you to think about and decide that for yourself, we each need to explore who and what these spirits are, how they work and therefore what is necessary for ourselves. However, my view is that the spirit doesn’t actually reside in that vessel full time, the object is a focal point and an anchor, a bit like sympathetic magic, it is a representation of the house spirit in physical form. If you find you have particularly mischevious and troublesome spirits then spirit houses can be used to basically ‘distract’ the spirit…giving it something else to play with instead, hence why traditionally, spirit houses are filled with pretty and shiny things like mirrors, coloured glass marbles and sea shells etc. In my case a simple yet attractive earthenware bottle was chosen. It’s special, without standing out too much and I will include various objects into the bottle if and when the need arises. I place my hands upon the chosen spirit house and ask that the spirit rest and congregate within this object (note I say ‘rest’, not dwell or stay…I’m not looking to trap anything).
The next thing to do is prepare a suitable offering. Traditionally I use bread and milk sweetened with honey. Don’t scrimp on this, if you’re going for bread make it yourself and / or make it the best bread ever, use organic milk, local organic honey etc. You get out what you put in. I make my pact and offer the food in return for protection and aid as required. This is followed by some quiet time, again reaching out, waiting for a response, maybe even a name. If you are given a name this must never be shared with anyone who doesn’t live in the house and used to address the spirit from here on. I also think it’s polite to share your name too. My house spirit decided to leave its name on the inside of the pantry door…a little reminder that the spirits permeate everything, we need only keep our eyes peeled! The offering remains in place until the following morning, after which it’s respectfully poured outside.
From that point on I greet the House Spirit every morning and wish the spirit good night when we go to bed, I say goodbye when I leave the house, and hello when I enter…One doesn’t ignore family, and besides it’s just good manners! The lamp will be lit and food left as per my promise and also at special occasions, when we have visitors and when doing extensive housework…you never know when a friendly spirit might decide to lend a helping hand!
I got a couple of chickens soon after moving in. They were young-uns and took some time to settle and start laying. The first egg laid was offered to the House Spirit “Here’s a yummy egg…if like us, you would like more of these then please help look after the girls!” just an example of the variety of ways a Hearth Spirit can be useful…be creative!