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Household Spirits

A lot of folks seem to have household spirits on the brain. I’ve had five questions this week alone about elemental spirits, specifically those associated with the hearth & home. I included a chapter on elemental spirits in my upcoming book on spirit communication and learned a lot as I was reading, studying, and exploring this topic. I have always maintained that I will be forever "wary of fairies." This may be true - we need to be careful to not anthropomorphize beings that have never been human - but I am realizing they are far too prevalent to ignore.

When we think of household spirits, we usually think of the brownies of England and Scotland, the tomte of Sweden, or Dobby the house elf. The “good folk” or “little people” as they are sometimes collectively called, exist everywhere. They fall under the broader category of elemental spirits, which means they are associated with the elements of the earth. I went down quite the rabbit hole trying to suss out where this concept originated. You'll have to get my book to find out what I learned, though ;) Most household spirits seem to be earth or land-based spirits, related in some way to fire (literally the household hearth-tenders), or a blend of the two. They tend to want to be left alone due to a justified distrust of most modern humans due to the destruction our kind has wrought on nature. They are also notoriously quick to take offense.

While there are reports of tomte and brownies here in the US, my theory is that those are culturally relevant names that were given to spirits who were already here OR people are somehow able to bring their household spirits with us as we migrate. While I enjoy learning the stories of the hobgoblins, trolls, brownies, and elves of my European ancestors, they don't automatically translate into what I experience in my neighborhood in Colorado.

If you want to understand the spirits in your home, neighborhood, and region that are clearly not those of the human dead, I suggest you start by researching the history of the land you live on. Always remember that the people indigenous to a region are the knowledge keepers. That said, unless you are a member of those cultures, you don’t have a unalienable right to those stories. They must be freely given and cherished as precious gifts if you are lucky enough to find someone willing to share their stories.

The other way to learn is to educate yourself about the history of the land you live on. I am not talking about a human-centric history. Literally learn about the changes the land had to go through in order for where you live to exist. What did it look like before there was a sewer and water system? Before streets, sidewalks, and houses? Was a waterway rerouted to make way for your neighborhood and everyone seems to experience floods and water damage? A pissed off water spirit who lost their home may be the cause. Do you have something rambunctious in your basement? Could be an upset earth-dweller like a troll or a displaced tree sprite.

Most of us immediately want to rush into savior or friendship mode. We want to help or we want the spirit to be our buddy. My advice is to ease up on those instincts, but still find ways to be kind. These spirits, particularly in developed areas, have no reason to trust us. Have empathy and think about something you can offer that is simple. Can you plant a tree, bush, or perennial plant and state aloud that you dedicate it to the spirits of the land? Can you make a simple fairy house and state aloud that it is for any displaced spirits in need of a home? Build a small pond or water feature in honor of water spirits who may need a space of their own?

Sometime the gestures can be even simpler, especially for spirits that are associated with homes. A small plate of food and mug of beer left once per year is a traditional way to honor household spirits, such as the tomte, in a way that recognizes their contributions, but also doesn't make such a fuss that they will get hotheaded over it.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but we'll leave it there for now. If you found this information helpful, tips are always gratefully accepted via Venmo @Sterling-Moon-Tarot and PayPal via

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