Talking to Ghosts and Finding Words for Spirituality

Human beings thrive off connection. Most of us have spoken to the dead at various points in our life, telling them we miss them, we’re thinking of them, we hope they’re at peace. We don’t ignore the possibility our loved ones still hear us. Many have encountered the paranormal: ghosts, uncanny dreams, and impossibilities. The ubiquitous nature of unexplained phenomena gives space for people like me.

[CW: child abuse, death]

Of my limited childhood memories, a passion for spirit communication has been clear and enduring, a lifeline to keep me connected. Grief didn’t drive me for I had no lost loved ones. I reached out to dead strangers due to loneliness and fear of the living. It was a form of escapism. Children are believed to be more in touch with ‘the other side’. Mediums and psychics often come into their skills in childhood, never growing out of their intuition. My earliest memories involve spirits.

Debatable, I’m genetically predisposed. Some would argue these are symptoms of the mental illnesses I also inherited. I’ll never deny that interest in the occult can be a sign of psychosis. However, I believe in harm reduction. If mentally ill people are forbidden to speak of their explorations in religion and spirituality, we are not only cut off from potential tools of empowerment but isolated from sources of accountability.

Vulnerable people suffering from delusion may not receive needed support because they’re too ashamed to talk openly about their beliefs. They may not have the self awareness needed to identify the thoughts as delusions, but still be aware others might belittle them. Consequently, these people never have to reflect or learn discernment, further spiralling until nothing can convince them their world is not truth.

I accept that I don’t truly know anything. Last year I write a poem referencing Don Quixote, wondering if I’d wake up some day and realize all are frail fictions. My experiences have been validated by evidence and witnesses in contrast to my psychotic episodes, but spirituality is solely a theoretically science. Evidence and witnesses build the theory but no court will judge it.

My faith doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, 100%. Skepticism is healthy and I find enjoyment in practicing discernment, seeking out mundane explanations. Grounding myself revealed patterns and means of interacting with the unexplainable. The fulfillment and growth I’ve found within the pull is what kept me alive as a child.

Spirit communication is a normal part of the human ability. The presence of a human soul, mind, and consciousness includes the impact it has on the people who carry parts given to them throughout a life or death. Memories, physical objects, spaces, these hold pieces of peoples’ existence. We’ve all instinctively performed spirit communication in some capacity, whether honouring someone’s memory or complimenting a sweater knit by an unknown stranger. We do it when we memorialize, when we consume art, when we go on genealogical quests, when we visit heritage sites.

Demystifying mysticism is no easy task. Generally, only decontextualized, white-washed cultural appropriation is deemed palatable. Misconceptions and prejudice born of Christian colonial sanctimony abuse spirituality. Indigenous practices are most stolen yet most oppressed and stigmatized.

As we broaden our understanding of spirituality and spirit communication, we promote empathy and education. Vulnerable people have a right to define themselves. My work as a white occult practitioner isn’t comparable to the cultural experiences of racialized communities and their connections to spirituality. Many cultural tools and practices are mislabelled occult, ignoring their long history of self description.

Making space for their voices means challenging the hypocrisies of Christian colonialism. Even before being acquaintainted with Christian witches, I knew the heart of the religion was folk magic. Oppressors must relearn their beliefs, find new words to describe their world and how they interact with it. Ignorant fear imposes itself as a superiority complex.

Science has its own history of abusing vulnerable peoples and must have its white supremacy dismantled. Recognizing the reality of science may help. I have found more spirituality in science than in religion. An excellent, widely available book on the intersection of science and spirituality is “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Colonialism and it’s spawn, capitalism, are inherently more anti-science than mysticism is. Commodifying and politicizing science has set us back. Imagine if all the energy put into innovating war and consumerism was spent on health and ecology?

I cannot describe magic better than an agent of health and an educator of ecology.

As a medium, my work revolves around providing counsel and companionship. When I call myself an exorcist, what I mean is I act as a spirit therapist. As an alchemist, I seek the connections between all things. My alchemy reveals what’s already present.

What seems impossible to describe is quite simple.

Little pride has touched my life, but nothing has brought more confidence and self respect than mysticism and occultism.

Daily, I still encounter spirits and offer brief exchange, but my greatest power is exorcism. Not the abusive and ignorant Catholic exorcisms of so-called possession, but the deeper conversation which allows me to understand a spirit’s needs. The list of spaces and spirits in need of counsel is ever growing and I’ve neglected my callings.

I relied upon a hyperawareness of presence to warn me of my abuser and it built important senses. The threat continued until adulthood, my life depended upon this aspect of my practice. My need for companionship and distance from life taught me how to empty my mind and communicate fully. I appreciated when the shadowy figure in the dark was the dead, and not a living person.

Childhood was the height of my power, adolescence the beginning of my knowledge but beginning of my shame, and as my skills and shame grew I eventually encountered a difficult problem:

What happens when my abuser dies?

What happens when the living threat invades the world of the dead I’d grown so close to? To make a very long story short, I began closing myself off.

At the edge of my consciousness, I know I’ve been waiting for the time when my mind is a safer place to speak from. This year has tested my ability to weather my environment. I’m no longer satisfied with mere shadows and shivers, small talk when I once performed summonings.

We all decide who we want to be known as at various points in our lives. Our values, goals, and beliefs work their way through the layers of our presentation but we choose what to nurture and what to discard. The global conversation around spirituality must include the contexts of colonialism, Indigenous, racialized, disabled experiences, it must speak over the loud white men, it needs to be full of culture and communication.

Our personal journeys through spirituality involve open-mindedness.

Being unstable is a game of chance, what will stabilize and what will further destabilize me? There’s no tried and true answer. What works now might not work later, the efficacy of what’s helped in the past may change. I’m willing to bet on my ability to communicate with spirits.

Even when struggling with my dead abuser, I was thankful for my skills which work in multiple levels of being. Spirituality is half psychology (in my opinion), but I believe the mind is responsible for many phenomena in many different ways. My skills in coping with PTSD tie into my ability to ward, cleanse, and ground.

I don’t like to use the word crazy. Mental illness is a topic in need of open and honest discussion, but I am many people’s definition of crazy. Kooky is more polite. I’m willing to fully consolidate the various ‘incompatible’ pieces of my life. I hope to be apart of a new era of recovery and education.

Be honest with yourself. My journey with truth and discovery has brought me to a thousand different conclusions but one always remains: be honest with yourself.

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