I often write about the intellectual aspects of my religious practice and spirituality. Partially because these are the things that are easiest to put into words and partially because I think that these are the topics that interest more people. There is another side to things though that makes up the bulk of my day-to-day practices and that is rooted in my honoring the daoine sidhe, the fairies, by following the Fairy Faith. I grew up with the folkloric practices of this belief system and have followed and studied it for as long as I can remember, and as an adult it fits in naturally with my pagan views. I call them the daoine sidhe, the Good Neighbors, the fairies, but to others they might be landvaettir, house wights, yunwi tsunsdi, or spirits of the Otherworld so for the sake of simple communication I will call them spirits here.
I often see pagans talking about wanting to connect to the spirits of the land or spirits of place, and this is almost always followed by a wistful regret that the person doesn’t live in a rural area or can’t get to a specific sacred site. While I applaud the desire to connect, the strange obsession with a need for a wild place to do so is puzzling to me; all places have spirits and it is just as easy to connect to them in a city as in a forest. In fact it is even more important for us to connect to the spirits that share our homes than it is to connect with spirits of places we are only visiting because the ones we live with can directly affect us on a constant basis.
All places have spirits, and in many cases there are layers of spirits. Spirits of place may manifest as vague feelings or impressions associated with an area, but more often they appear with a clear physical form. The island of Iceland is said to have four spirits which appear as a bull, bird, giant, and dragon; one might argue that the red dragon of Wales is another such embodied spirit. On the smaller local scale your property and your home might have a spirit that could appear as an animal or person. In Norse tradition these spirits are called Tomte or Nisse and are especially honored at Yule with offerings of porridge. Spirits of place may be the manifestation of a place’s spirit or they may be a spirit that is strongly tied to a certain place, but either way they have the ability to influence a person or family’s luck, health, and mood. Most homes will have several different spirits of place associated with them, usually at least one with the home itself and in homes with an attached yard possibly more.
Connecting to spirits of place is much easier than most people realize. It starts with the effort of awareness. Know that the spirit is there and let yourself be aware of its presence. Be respectful of it in word and action. For home spirits traditionally this would involve keeping your home or yard in good order, being kind and generous in your life, and acknowledging their presence. Consider setting an area aside, no matter how small, dedicated to your spirit of place where you can leave offerings. In most traditions for home spirits this would be done near the hearth; in my house it’s in the kitchen. Offerings can be made weekly, monthly or yearly and might include fresh water, milk or cream, and baked goods or porridge. Generally you want to avoid giving any articles of clothing as in folklore this will cause the spirit to leave. The offerings serve as an acknowledgement and sign of gratitude for the spirits presence and beneficial activity, but it’s the everyday awareness and respect of the spirit that matter most.
For those who are drawn to more esoteric practices home spirits can also be connected to and communicated with directly. Those who have second sight or experience as a psychic medium can use these skills while those who don’t can reach out through the use of divination tools or spiritual journey work. How the spirit of place communicates will vary greatly depending on the sprit but the same general rules of contact apply: be considerate and be respectful. Sometimes direct communication can be a good idea because it will allow you to establish a rapport with your house spirit and you can tailor your offerings and actions to what the spirit would like.
As with any relationship it takes time and effort to build a connection with your house spirit, but it is worthwhile. House spirits in many ways are the heart of the house itself and can affect the home’s atmosphere as well as influencing the inhabitants’ moods and physical health. For those who want to include working with spirits in their practice I recommend starting with house spirits before moving on to other spirits of place. Most home spirits are more open to human connection and more willing to be friendly than some of the spirits of the wild places, although all the same general rules apply. Start at home and slowly move outward from there.