The Otherworld is the immaterial existence that (partially) runs parallel to our own. Parts of the Otherworld overlap with ours, generally looking and feeling much like Earth as we know it, populated by spirits who frequently look and act much like humans or animals. Other parts of the Otherworld, however, can appear wholly alien both appearance and denizens. Seas of pure inspiration, paths dusted with dreams, and spirits that can be nigh-impossible to even describe with modern language.
Spirits, in the worldview of the Stardust Compass (to utilize a very reductified description of them for the purpose of this article), are entities that exist in and generally inhabit one or more specific regions of the Otherworld. Whether this regional specificity is due to the choice of the spirit, or a limitation of it’s makeup, varies. Of course, there are other spirits who can (and do) roam freely about the Otherworld, manifesting anywhere they please (and sometimes in any form they please). Spirits, for the purpose of this article, can be everything and anything from the Fae Folk, the Dead, and so much more.
To speak of their “anatomy” in a very reductified way, spirits generally contain two parts: an intelligence (even if it’s rudimentary), and an energy “body” which envelops that intelligence to function as both house and protectorate of it.
Some spirits are as simple as the Will o’ the Wisp: an energetic orb frequently containing a rudimentary intelligence which sometimes interacts with humans (et alia) by treating them as prey / carrion. Others can be immensely complex entities, appearing and interacting with others as a single spirit but actually being formed from a vast network of spirits culminating in a highly complex “host” organism with pooled intelligence, a hive mind, shared energetic resources, and more.
FUELING A SPIRIT
The intelligence of a spirit requires energy in order to function / be awake. More specifically it, it requires the rarified energy that makes up it’s energetic body in order to function. This act of self-consumption, however, can be dangerous for some spirits. If a spirit is not careful, they might eventually consume so much of their energetic body they no longer can sustain their current level of intelligence.
When this occurs, and a spirit body is severely wasted away, it can effectively start a slow downward spiral of that spirit’s intelligence. The spirit intelligence reduces in size to accommodate the remaining energy body, and continues to do so until equilibrium is reached. If a spirit fails to halt this process of wasting, it can eventually lose so much of it’s intelligence that it is no longer able to remember who it was, how it came to be, or how to acquire new energy to sustain itself. After this point, the collapse is nearly irreversible on it’s own. From hereon in the spirit often becomes more and more rudimentary in intelligence until it becomes animalistic and / or parasitic: consuming anything it can locate in the Otherworld to sustain itself… but not knowing why.
Hence, to maintain their aforementioned energetic body it is not surprising that spirits need to semi-frequently intake new energy. However, while it appears that any energy can sustain a spirit, they get much higher nourishment from energy which piggybacks a conscious intention, aka: offerings.
When a Witch burns incense as an offering to the spirits, it’s not entirely the incense doing the work of feeding a spirit. What truly occurs is the Witch attaching a conscious intention onto the offering which states “the energy generated off of the burning of this incense is for X.” This not only signals to the intended spirit that the material item is intended for them, but appears to allow them to extract a much higher quality of energy from it, and in greater quantity. Further, it also locks out any spirits who are seeking a free lunch. Hence, by giving even minor thought to an offering left for an entity the witch is effectively creating a small lock around it, and giving the key to that entity.
Note: to spirits nearly any energy given with intention is viable fuel. So, while the energy of food, water, incense, or candle flame is valuable, so is that of thinking on them fondly, whispering their name, or visualizing their form. An offering can come in many forms, expand your horizons!
BIGGER BODY, BIGGER SAFETY NET
As noted, spirits require a specific amount of energy to house their intelligence and keep it running. However, most spirits who interact with humans (especially those who interact with magickal practitioners) often will keep much more energy around them then they require to function.
When a spirit works to accomplish a task (even one as simple as communicating with a witch) they need to utilize energy to accomplish this. This is one reason why many spirits aren't evoked until a compass (or other such sundry ritual technology) is established, as doing so generates energy for the spirit to utilize in order to manifest and communicate back to the witch. Thankfully, when a spirit reaches out to a witch outside of the bounds of an established rite, many witches are proactive enough to realize that the spirit is utilizing energy to do so and ensures the spirit receives an offering in turn. Of course, it goes without saying, that further manifestations which extend beyond simple communication almost exclusively requires even more energy to actualize.
Further, the other contains dangers and perils, and spirits are not immune to them. If anything, due to their wholly non-physical form, they are likely even more at risk. Due to the dangerous lands that they sometimes frequent, spirits often carry around additional energy. This can be used in defense, ensures that a spirit won’t lose intelligence if they are deeply wounded, and can also simply ward off trouble by other entities noting the formidable nature of the high-energy spirit.
BANISHMENTS, EVOCATIONS, AND INVOCATIONS
The Otherworld, however, is not the only danger to a spirit. Humans are able to cause just as much damage to a spirit and it’s form, if not more-so. A well focused banishment can rip an immense amount of energy off of a spirit who is unable to avoid it, even culminating at a total dissipation of the entity and it’s intelligence. Additionally, humans can cast spells around a spirit to bind it to a location (and leech the energy from it), send it into dangerous lands (where it might not return from), and more. This is one reason that some spirits are exceptionally hesitant to work with humans, and why other spirits often tread very lightly when contacting flesh and blood.
Note: not all banishments result in spirits being ripped asunder. Many banishments don’t even force out any (or all) spirits, and those that do often contain preambles so that spirits can get to a minimum safe distance. So if you banish frequently, don’t worry, you aren’t a spirit-based mass murderer. They might not want to ever hang around you, but you aren’t a target either.
HOUSES & GROWTH
Opposite the concept of banishment and cleansings we find spirit houses. A spirit house is (usually) a physical object that is intentionally used as a storehouse for a specific spirit (or spirits) and is rarely / never purged of it’s energy, but rather constantly fed with new energies for the spirits who live there to feast off of. They can be anything (an old shoe, a bird house, a wooden skull) but ideally should contain items that are in harmony with the spirit you wish to house, and abstain from using items in their construction that the spirits find disagreeable.
In my opinion, spirit houses are of immense practical value to a practicing witch. They help establish healthy long-term relationships with relevant spirits, provide a place for a witch to focus intention and energies, and show all spirits (both those malevolent and benevolent) that you mean business.
Over time (sometimes a very long time), and especially with the use of an object like a spirit house, you might find that a spirit is growing. While they might not appear larger in form, they can (over years of feeding on new energy) learn new talents, skills, or abilities. This is one of the long term benefits of having a lasting engagement with a spirit rather than a one-shot deal.
In the end, regardless of your path, we need to respect spirits for what they are, and what they are made out of. We can’t expect them to do work (help us perform spells) without getting paid (getting energy). Of course, just like the real world, don’t give any spirit a free lunch - and ensure that you trust a spirit before paying for a job in advance.
Image: “And There Was Crow!” by versevend