Being a God-owned spiritworker/shaman, it's often had to imagine that there are beings out there a thousand times more difficult than Deities. Every once in awhile though, that remarkable blind spot jumps up and bites me in the ass, happily infecting me with a temporary case of stupid. Stupid happens, most often in our line of work to people who should and do know better (like me). It doesn't matter how much experience I get under my belt, or how much skill and knowledge I acquire. There are always those times where exhaustion, over-confidence, or simple lack of preparedness brings home the fact -- indisputably...that there is always, oh so much more to learn. For me, this usually happens when I'm dealing with non-Deity and non-ancestral spirits.
I find human spirits to be a hundred times more difficult to deal with than any God. Gods obey certain rules. They usually respect one another's territory. The same cannot be said for spirits. More over, depending on the type of human spirit you're dealing with, he or she can be hungry, greedy, and desperate to hang onto life at any cost. This is rarely a problem, unless one is dealing with mediums.
Mediums are those people who possess an innate talent for working with the dead. They can hear them, sometimes see them, and interact with them to a remarkable degree. They are extraordinarily sensitive to dead people. Unfortunately, in most cases, they are also incredibly loosely connected to their physical bodies and have a terrible time grounding. This means taht they can, under certain circumstances, be easily displaced by spirits. When this happens, possession occurs. Now don't let this conjure images of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." It's not like that (usually). There are very good reasons for a medium to allow spirit possession; for one thing, it can be an invaluable resource for working with one's ancestors and guiding spirits. Problems often arise however, when one is dealing with spirits outside of those categories. Your ancestors have a vested interest in keeping you hale, healthy, and whole. Other spirits, not so much. Nor do non-related spirits usually have much of an obligation or debt to you.
I'd like to interject here that mediums are not necessarily Deity "horses." We use the term "Horsing" to imply allowing a God or spirit to come into one's body, pushing aside one's consciousness for a time. The ability to 'horse' Deity is a completely separate gift from mediumship. In fact, the best Deity horses i know cannot horse spirits save under very restrictive and Deity-controlled circumstances. They tend to be very well grounded and don't suffer from the weak body/spirit connection that most mediums experience as a matter of course.
Spirits can be sneaky as hell, and will often behave in unethical and surprisingly self-destructive ways. For those of you who, like me, offer divination as part of your services, this is an important thing to know. When a person divines, the reader enters into a state of psychic receptivity. Sometimes there are very good and lawful reasons for a spirit to come and give information to a Diviner. There are spirit-workers out there who are owned by or in service to non-Deity spirits and while usually those spirits are ancestral, that is not always the case. Extra care must be taken by the diviner whenever a spirit comes to a reading. Why? Because the spirit can linger well after the reading and if the reader remains receptive, as many of us do for the first hour or so following a reading, he or she can be painfully vulnerable to outside influence. I was reminded of this lesson quite recently at painful cost. It's very easy for a determined spirit to influence a diviner into doing something stupid, unwise, and dangerous if the diviner doesn't realize this is possible. Never underestimate a hungry spirit. They can make themselves appear ever so altruistic and friendly but always, always, always, question their motives. The best house wards in the world won't help if you've invited a spirit in.
So, what should a diviner do to be extra aware that he or she is clean after a reading? Well, it's painfully simple but there are a few steps to take that should never, EVER be ignored. If you're like me and in the habit of cutting corners in other areas of your Work, take my advice and just don't here. I did once. The results were terrifyingly unpleasant.
First, cleanse yourself and the room you are going to read in before and immediately after the reading. I recommend spending at least an hour before any reading grounding, centering, and praying. Yes, praying. It is here that one's connection to the Gods is of utmost importance: "May Wyrd reveal what is rightly writ to see. May I have the understanding to interpret it, and the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent. May the Gods guide my tongue and may I be blessed with clarity of vision." You need to be clean before a reading, in every possible sense of the word.
The real work begins after the reading. Be especially aware of any ideas that come to your mind after a reading in which a non-Deity spirit has been present, particularly when those ideas are ones that will either involve that spirit or benefit that spirit. do not EVER and i mean EVER neglect to do divination should you suddenly find yourself absolutely certain that this spirit must be called again or some ritual done for its benefit, or most especially a medium provided so it can speak directly to someone. The one time i neglected to do this, was the one time it did turn into something out of "The Exorcist."
I recommend not only cleansing oneself and one's workspace after a reading but doing a specific ritual to banish spirits, keying that rite to whatever spirit was present. There are several such simple rites given in my colleague Sophie Reicher's book "Basic Psychic Hygiene." This book is an excellent place to start. Seal the space against spirits, particularly whatever spirit was called. Seal yourself as well and this is best done with shielding and special wardings but also with prayer. The best way to counteract negative spirit manifestation is to prevent the conditions that enable it. This is one area where prevention really is worth a pound and then some, of cure.
Be aware of over-confidence. This is something that many magicians suffer from. The Art breeds a certain arrogance. In some respects this is necessary to accomplish what we do but it needs to be reigned in, because it can lead to some dangerous situations. In me, it's led more than once to cutting corners and while in nine cases out of ten I can get away with this, that tenth time is usually one hell of a come-uppance! And a caveat, my God-owned friends, just because you're owned by a Deity doesn't mean that Deity is going to haul your ass out of the fire. I've known more than One to allow Their servants to mess up, sometimes painfully, sometimes in ways that cause serious damage in order to teach a lesson, or drive home a point, or provide a necessary experience. Odin is like that: if I get into a mess, He usually expects me to get myself out of it. According to Him, it's the best way to learn. So don't assume you can call on your Matron, Patron, or Owner and suddenly everything will be hunky dory. It's unlikely to work that way.
Always plan for the worst possible outcome. If you're doing a ritual where a spirit is going to be called (and frankly, I would caution before this happens to do massive divination to see if it SHOULD happen), for Gods sake don't begin until you've set up wards -- even if you're in warded space. Better too many protections than too few. Call your allies to watch over and protect the space and those in it. Call the medium's ancestors. Call your ancestors. Call the Deities that own you or to Whom you're dedicated. Call upon the house Vaettir. Basically, ensure that whatever spirit is coming in is outgunned and outnumbered.
Pay attention to what kind of spirit this is. Knowing the spirit's earthly profession can be particularly helpful in sussing out what type of character he/she has. If they were gritty, greedy, street-wise survivors in life, they probably haven't changed much in death. Spirits don't usually change all that much from who they were in life. The old saying, "If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile" certainly applies here.
Most of all, assume nothing. Do not assume that the people coming into your space have protections or wards, even if they are experienced magicians or mediums. I have seen particularly powerful spirits subtly and insidiously influence very skilled occultists to leave all their protective gear at home before a ritual. If one is not expecting it, such influence can be devastating.
Divination is an invaluable tool here. Before taking any action no matter how simple, involving any time of non-Deity spirit, do divination to see if it should be done. Divine to see if the Gods want it. Divine. Divine. Divine. Do not assume that it's just ok. If you're being influenced, this can be really difficult, even for the very experienced. Make a check-list if you have to and pin it to the back of your workroom door. That check-list should go something like this:
Before any spirit (not God) oriented ritual:
1. Do divination to see if the ritual is necessary.
2. Do divination to see if I should do the ritual.
3. Do divination to see if the Gods are ok with the ritual.
4. Do divination to see if there are any possible cons to doing the ritual.
5. If anything is ambiguous, call a colleague and have him/her divine for you.
6. Clean my space and take a cleansing bath.
7. Set up working ward.
8. Make sure there are tools like water, fire, florida water, and salt to help purify the medium if need be.
9. Do more divination.
You see where I'm going with this. If you think this sounds like overkill, consider what is worse: a few minutes spent in divination, or a few hours trying to banish an obnoxious, determined spirit from the body of an exhausted, unprepared medium. Me? I'll take the divination.
Just because we're used to working with Deities, it's easy to dismiss human spirits. This is a mistake, one I fully admit to making myself. Life can be an addiction, one that some of the dead are unwilling to give up. It's a hell of a thing to find yourself having been manipulated into giving a greedy spirit its "fix" at the cost of some poor medium's health. Take the precautions and drill yourself into following a regimen of checks and counter-checks. The more habitual this becomes, the more deeply ingrained, the harder it is for you to be swayed from it. Even when you think you don't have to, follow a set plan that includes those nine steps above and do it before anyone even steps through your door.
Because my friends, when you least expect it, as I can well attest: stupid happens.