Before we begin, I humbly ask the reader to first look over my guide on proper graveyard etiquette found here. Working with ancestors and other entities is serious business. I would like to offer a bit of a disclaimer before we begin. I try to avoid speaking in absolutes, however I absolutely urge you to approach this work with sincerity and respect. Invoking ancestors or other ethereal entities is no laughing matter and can have serious consequences. However, if you are of mind to approach this work with dignity for the deceased and you are willing to intelligently open yourself up to what the spirit world has to offer, then please proceed. Blessings.
Finding a Spirit
Cemeteries are liminal spaces. They are a kind of portal between the worlds where not only our direct ancestral line can be called up, but also willing spirits who wish to make contracts with the living. We will get into spirit contracts further in the article.
If you don’t have an ancestor who is buried locally, then you may choose to work with the spirit of a departed soul. If you do have an ancestor, then you will most likely be able to make a connection to that spirit quicker than a spirit who is not of your blood. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel anything right away.
If you’re walking the graveyard and you are called to a specific grave, either by an intuition or another sign expressed through augury, follow the feeling. Usually, you will find the graves that call the loudest, those who are not of your ancestral line, are the ones which have been forgotten through the passage of time.
As I urged in my last article, please do not work with any grave which is regularly tended by a family unless you have their express permission. It gives a very bad impression of Witches / Magickal folk and also causes the family members great distress.
Invoking the Dead
After the work of building a rapport with the cemetery and finding a grave to work with has been established, it’s time to learn how to invoke the spirits of the dead.
I like working with the departed during the early morning hours. Twilight is a transitional period of time when it seems like the dead are at their most active. I generally avoid working with spirits during the brightest part of the day because it appears this is when they are least active. I enter the graveyard, perform my prayers, call on whatever deities I am working with (you do not have to work with a deity, this is completely optional) and I find the grave I will be working with for the duration of my ritual.
I stand at the foot of the grave, with good posture. In my hand, I carry coins, candy, rum or whatever offerings are appropriate to use with the spirit. You will find through experimentation what works and what doesn’t work with the ancestors. I start with a prayer, focusing my mind towards the grave stone. I envision that marker as a portal between me and the spirit I am trying to contact. I materialize the image of the grave in my mind’s eye, so we have a connection body, mind, and spirit.
I might say something like this, however you can use a prayer you make or one that you find which would be most appropriate.
“Spirit of (insert name) I have come to this liminal space to pay you respect. Here is an offering of (insert name of whatever you’re using). Please accept this gift as a token of our bond. You are remembered, you are wanted, and I summon you to this area. Spirit, if you are willing, please come to me.”
I give the spirit time to choose their reaction. Some spirits will be willing to work with you immediately, and some spirits will choose to observe you for a while. If it’s a spirit I regularly work with, then the result of the invocation is fairly immediate. I might observe the wind moving through the trees, feel a warm presence around me, or hear the cry of the crows from a neighboring nest. After I have received my affirmation, I proceed to the next step.
Spirit contracts are agreements between you and an otherworldly entity, such as an ancestral spirit, non-ancestral spirit, deity, daemon, angelic being, etc. You do not have to work in graveyards to strike up a deal with an entity, however, I find these sanctified grounds to be ideal spaces to work some effective Magick. Spirit contracts are as real as any contract you would sign in real life. The idea of a spirit contract may conjure up images of you signing your soul away, signature in blood on a piece of parchment paper. It could be that, however, it could also be as benign as a verbal agreement between you and an ancestor to work on aspects of your personality which need growth.
When you’re forming a contract, be sure to write down everything you agree to do, as well as what your boundaries are during this transaction. If you say you’re going to come every Monday to give the spirit a shot of rum, some tobacco, and candy, then stick to that oath. Breaking oaths in the spirit world is just as detrimental as breaking them in the realm of the living.
Be sure to outline everything you wish to receive during this interaction, such as help with divination, procurement of funds for a project. I would not recommend asking a spirit for help winning the lottery or some other grandiose scheme. Keep it respectful and realistic for both parties involved and you’ll see more immediate results. A spirit also has the right to turn down a contract, as well as you also have the right to refuse to do anything you deem uncomfortable.
And there you have it, friends! These are the practices and exercises which have helped me in the past when working with the spirits of the dearly departed. Remember that this guide is only a brief introduction and there is much more to learn via experiences, books, and other credible sources. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or constructive criticism, please feel free to reach out here on the blog, or on Facebook. Remember to follow me on Instagram for more related content! – Shining Quill the Unicorn.