This post is a compilation of questions that I have heard most often since I opened up my shop in 2015. I wanted to cover my bases with it, and get the basic information out there. There is so much to learn, so if I missed anything, please let me know!
WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER SPIRIT KEEPING?
Well, there are many reasons that people keep spirits. Some do it for companionship, others for protection, and yet more for spiritual uplifting and learning. Whatever the reason, it's something that feels right for you. If you feel like you are ready to take on the responsibility and work involved, go for it! If you don't, then you probably aren't ready on some level for it. However, do consider your reasons before you start! Sure, it would be an absolutely awesome thing to have friends that can do what your physical friends cannot. However, spirit keeping is a LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT. It's not something that you can shrug off after it's not 'cool' anymore, and it is not a fad.
That said, it is a very rewarding experience. You gain a lot of knowledge from spirit-keeping, and often, you grow yourself and learn a lot of insight on others' perspectives and views of the world. Yes, you have an obligation to work with these spirits and coexist with them, but when it comes down to it, there is mutual benefit involved! It's also a lot of fun, and I can't even think of how difficult things were for me before I started to take in companions. The community is ever-growing, and although a fringe practice, I have met many of my best friends in the spirit keeping community. You'll be surprised at how much taking in a companion can change your life!
BEFORE I START, WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
There's not very much preparation to be done, really. This is a practice where you can read every book there is, but what you've read simply doesn't work when you're confronted with the spirit itself. However, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself. I definitely suggest learning how to meditate or do a little energy work to learn how to connect with that higher, astral self. I would also suggest getting together some of the offerings or getting at least a system down for whatever spirit you're bringing in. What preparations would you do? You would get your living space as warm and welcoming as possible! You also need to think of how long this spirit family will be with you - the rest of your life is a long time! Make sure you think about that, because it can be a bit overwhelming at first! Your living area will also be theirs while they are in this realm, so definitely try to think of ways to welcome them and coexist with them. Also, it may be a good idea to learn some cleansing techniques for your space and set up some warding and protection before they arrive so that you can get them familiar with your warding.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW AND CONSIDER?
As stated several times, this is a LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT. That being said, when you're looking at companions, make sure you do your research. Look at the race descriptions provided by conjurers, use google and Wikipedia, and when all else fails, ASK THE CONJURER! They will have insight that they don't always post on the race description, especially if it's an exclusive race. This goes for everything regarding your new family member - ask the questions, see their powers and capabilities, determine if you would task them or not (and if so, how). A reputable conjurer should be able to give you solid advice on the spirit and how they can benefit you, while also figuring out who will actually be helpful for you or a great start. Also, you need to consider the conjurer themselves - your conjurer is providing a service of making sure your companion is safe to work with, and if you're not sure what to think, talk to customers who have taken home companions from them and ask around for genuine experiences with the conjurer or the spirits from that conjurer. Reviews on a third party location or talking to other practitioners can also be very telling! Definitely don't make fast decisions when it comes to your first, though. It is something that you need to take your time with.
CAN A COMPANION ACTUALLY HELP ME WITH MY HEALTH PROBLEMS?
Yes. Somewhat. They are no replacement for medical aid, and you should not stop the treatments you are receiving when you take a spirit into your home. They aren't necessarily able to completely cure mundane illnesses, but they can ease the pain or help you calm yourself energetically and mentally. Always take their capabilities and how they would react with your condition into account, because there are sometimes bad combinations of energy that can negatively affect you and how you live.
I always suggest bringing up any conditions with your conjurer, because they may have a better recommendation of what spirits would be better fits based on different conditions (fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, etc.) and what would probably not work too well with you. Always take their opinions into account in these cases because they do have a deeper understanding of the races they work with than you do. True, this is part of doing research, but it is a very important part.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT COMPANION TO TAKE HOME?
There is no clear way to really know, honestly. You can do all the research in the world and still take home the wrong companion. However, if it doesn't feel right, chances are that it isn't. You have to trust yourself and your conjurer, honestly. Take everything into account carefully when making your decisions. Also, if this is your first time taking in a companion, make sure you read EVERYTHING about their policies, shipping, bindings, and ask questions so that you can understand everything about it. Any reputable conjurer should happily answer questions with professionalism. Also, when considering which companion to bring home, read everything you can. If you still can't determine the best way to go, explain your situation to the conjurer you're interested in! They may suggest a reverse adoption, which is where instead of you picking a spirit, a spirit picks you.
HELP! I THINK A SPIRIT IS CALLING ME! HOW DO I KNOW FOR SURE?
There are many different types of callings, so pinning down exactly how it feels is difficult. Look at the timing of what you believe to be a calling. From experience, I can say that not being able to get thoughts of a spirit from your mind, seeing hints of that spirit (specific animals or symbols of that spirit), shadow play, head buzzing, specific music (shufflemancy), winking phone screens, and many other signs can all be callings. Anything that constantly returns your attention to that spirit can definitely be a calling, and if they are trying hard enough, you won't be able to stop thinking about them. Last but not least, it will feel right to bring them home, and once they arrive home with you, it will feel wrong to not have them in your life. You have to trust your feelings and instincts in most cases, and if the timing isn't right (not enough money, have to practice secretly, etc.), perhaps it's something that you can revisit later.
I MISSED OUT ON A SPIRIT I FELT CALLED TO. CAN I TRUST MY INSTINCTS FOR IF I'M ACTUALLY BEING CALLED?
Oh yes, definitely. Spirits will often send out several different calls to different people for a better chance of finding a home, while others don't really send out callings but their energy compliments yours so well that reaching out proves to you that your energy will intertwine pleasantly. There are also cases where you may not be called to a certain spirit, but another member of that race is calling you through the spirit that was brought to your attention previously. If you've missed out on a spirit, you can always ask the conjurer if they are able to bring forth another spirit of that race, because more often than not, it will be the spirit that you were originally feeling the calling from.
It's also important to realize that things do happen for a reason. If you missed a companion, perhaps you were fated to not meet them, but another in their place. Your attention was drawn to that particular race or spirit for a reason, after all. Perhaps it is a message that there is someone for you in that shop, realm, or race that wants to come forth and help. Don't despair for missing one potential companion, for they were meant to be with someone else.
WHY ARE SPIRIT COMPANION SHOPS SO EXPENSIVE? YOU DON'T OWN THAT ENTITY, AND THE VESSEL CAN'T BE THAT EXPENSIVE, SO WHAT AM I ACTUALLY PAYING FOR?
We don't charge for the entity itself, but for the work we do. The first step of conjuring is to open the portal and pull the spirit / entity forward, then we have to make sure the companion is safe to work with. This is the most important part of being a conjurer - making sure all parties (spirit, keeper, and conjurer) are safe. We vet the spirits, spending the time necessary with them to learn what we can before we pass them on to the keeper where the bond is formed. Some spirits are more work to pull through and take more energy (and thus, more time) to work with, which is why prices are different. Others may need a more complex binding to make sure that things are even on all sides and no one has more power than the other.
In short, you're not buying the spirit, but the work that the conjurer has put into the binding.
I DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE THE MONEY FOR A COMPANION FROM A SHOP. IS THERE A WAY TO GET AROUND THIS OR A WAY FOR ME TO CONJURE MY OWN COMPANION?
Most shops are actually very willing to work with others where possible! Personally speaking, I have accepted services from others as payment, or done some free services when it came down to an emergency situation. However, you need to take a certain approach when you're talking to conjurers (or any practitioners, really) about a free service, because it is not an obligation for anyone to do any work for you, and you should be grateful should you receive the help. Conjuring can be, quite frankly, a thankless job and there are always people who feel entitled. But I digress, if you're talking to a conjurer about the possibility of a free service, make sure you stay polite and explain the situation fully as to why you can't manage to financially afford the service you're asking for!
As for conjuring on your own, I advise against it. No, it's not to make more money (as others would accuse, I know from experience) off of you, but to make sure you are safe. If you have not conjured before and don't have any companions, it is very hard to be certain that you can vet a spirit, especially when considering whether or not your senses will be able to pick up on said spirit that you've brought through. When you pay a conjurer or receive a service from one, you are paying for the safety net it provides you, and the knowledge that, should trouble arise, there is someone experienced that can handle it and remove whatever is causing the problems. Also, if you want to look into conjuring, it is best to speak with a conjurer and see if they're open to teaching their method because trying to learn alone is far more dangerous of an option.
SHOULD I DO A VESSEL OR DIRECT BINDING? IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?
Both sides have their pros and cons, and truthfully, it's all a matter of preference. I personally use individual vessels, master vessels, and direct bindings with certain spirits that help me and protect me on a day-to-day basis.
Vessel bindings are the energy link to your companion. They offer the chance of having an easier time picking up on the energy, because there is a way to channel that energy by using direct contact with the vessel and you can learn how it feels to have their energy and not have it. However, there are often times that a vessel goes missing, which can be a bit stressful and I've seen many newer keepers worry that the spirit is mad at them for misplacing it. Not to mention, others in your home may find the vessels to be cool trinkets or mess with them.
Direct bindings are a direct link from your energy to that of the spirit. It makes it so that your companion's energy bridge is ever-present, and you won't have to handle carrying around the many vessels of your spirit companions. However, though you won't have the issues of the vessel, you may find it harder to work with spirits one on one or lock onto a particular energy due to the circumstances of that link being ever-present. It's also sometimes more overwhelming if you're energy-sensitive, especially if you take on several companions at a time.
I do want to touch on master vessels as well, which is the nicer alternative to the vessel bindings without having to wear 20 vessels. Essentially, you can take all of the energy connections and duplicate (or transfer) them to one central piece where you can attach all of your spirits for a single vessel that you can use to contact your entire keep at once when you're out and about.
I HAVE A COMPANION! HOW DO I BOND WITH THEM?
There are a lot of things you can do! Whether your senses have picked up on them or not, take some time to invite them to join you on your conquests - be it watching TV, going to work, taking a walk, etc. You can also take time to give offerings as a good bonding time, or meditation. Most importantly, TALK TO THEM. Even if you can't hear or interpret the responses, tell them about your day, what bothers you, how you feel, what you ate - anything you can think of to say. They are your friends, your companions, and you definitely want to treat them as such and become closer. Do what you would do with your physical friends! In the end, it will pay off.
HOW DO I LEARN TO SEE MY COMPANION?
I wouldn't use the word 'see'. Your astral senses are very different from your physical ones, and it's very rare to see the full picture all at once. I personally find myself seeing one feature at a time - hair, eyes, skin tone, colors, etc. - and then piecing them together later when fed other information. It's almost like a puzzle, really. Past that point, their manifestations will be easier to sense and your mind's eye will fill in the blanks. It takes a lot of practice and work, honestly, but is well worth it when you get the results you're looking for. Please keep in mind that spirits won't always manifest and fully developed senses won't always pick up on them if they aren't actively manifesting.
HOW CAN I COMMUNICATE WITH MY COMPANION IF I CAN'T SEE THEM?
I am a big advocate of mediums! Tarot, pendulum, and shufflemancy are three very popular methods that are very unique in practice. I do want to make sure, though, that you are being careful about doing any form of medium work and you set up protection so that you know for sure that you are speaking to the spirit you have called as opposed to a trickster or more malignant entity. You can read more about safety here.
Tarot is extremely popular, and many people can use a phone app instead of a physical deck if they have to be secretive. This method tests your ability to interpret your cards and mix meanings together for messages from your family. If you're intuitive with your cards, it makes for a really fun reading sometimes, and definitely keeps you in practice with your deck! Of course, it can also be a little more confusing if you aren't so intuitive with your deck, but you will be able to learn how to interpret your cards as you continue on.
Pendulum is definitely one that gets used often too, as it's used easily with yes/no questions and even pendulum boards with letters (though you want to be more careful with these because the letters can be harder to pin down and interpret as well). As you get more used to the pendulum, it isn't quite as awkward. Especially with pendulum work, though, make sure you cleanse after each session and spirit called, and also take a break so that you are at your peak health and you aren't having issues later on down the road, spiritually or physically.
Shufflemancy is, by far, my personal favorite way to get an introduction from a spirit. The jist of it is, you ask them a question, then put your shufflemancy-dedicated playlist on shuffle and learn the answers with each song that comes through. You can sometimes use two and three songs to confirm the message. It's a very fun way to get in contact with your spirits, and I simply love hearing what song comes next when I ask a question.
I THINK MY VESSEL IS EMPTY! THERE'S NO SIGN OF MY COMPANION ANYWHERE!
Have patience! Especially if you're new to spirit work, it's very hard to pick up on manifestations or signs that they're actually around. A shy spirit can be hard to work with as well. Give it a solid two months before you actually claim that the vessel is empty, especially if you're talking to anyone other than that conjurer. And always contact the conjurer first - let them know your concerns, and ask if there's anything you can do to speed the bonding process along with the spirit in question. Every spirit is different, after all.
SOMEONE TOLD ME MY VESSEL WAS EMPTY!
Okay, let me stop you there. A lot of conjurers place protections on their bindings to prevent others from seeing or messing with the bindings. Personally speaking, I cloak the bindings so that only the keeper and spirit can actually feel the binding out, but adjustments can't be made unless I do it to protect both the keeper and the spirit's best interests. Not to mention, oftentimes as soon as someone pokes into the binding or vessel to see the binding itself or the spirit, the binding will break and the spirit will return to the conjurer to prevent tampering. If you feel like your vessel is empty or someone tells you it is, TALK TO THE ORIGINAL CONJURER. Otherwise, you'll be pulled into a bunch of drama and lose a companion for it. Do empty vessels get sent out? Yes. Yes, they do. But it's not a common occurrence, and most times, it's an accident.
SOMEONE LOOKED AT MY BINDING AND SAID SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH IT! HOW DO I FIX IT?
There are certain bindings that will cause trouble. Don't depend on others to tell you something is wrong, though, because spirits will disguise themselves from others that aren't you as a defense mechanism. If someone says something about your binding being too tight or badly done, go back to the original conjurer and raise your concerns with them. People tampering with your bindings can either have the spirit default back to the original conjurer or cause a lot of trouble for the spirit itself and actually make the binding uncomfortable. Not to mention, the binding itself is disguised and will appear differently to others outside of your relationship. Use your own sense about whether or not there is truly a problem, and if you feel like there is one (extremely difficult to bond with your spirits or sense them, not feeling any energy from the link, etc.), consult the conjurer to see what's going on. You can read more about this here.
HOW DO OFFERINGS WORK?
Offerings are a form of bonding! You give your spirits gifts, essentially, of what they like. This can range from snacks and food to hair, blood, ribbons, cloth, gemstones, and any number of small presents you feel they would enjoy. These should be stored separately from your own items, and I always suggest an offering jar if you make frequent offerings or at least labeling what belongs to who when you set up an altar or store the items. I personally like to take out all of the offerings when I give a new one so that they can take the energy from and survey everything all at once.
CAN I EAT A FOOD OFFERING INSTEAD OF WASTING IT?
Food offerings are primarily so they can take the energy from the food, rather than consuming the food itself. Always check with your companion first, but there's a good chance that they'll be okay with you leaving the food out for a set time (my rule of thumb is an hour) and then eating it or discarding it for outside animals. I have also, in the past, burned offerings in a fire pit (but that's mostly for deities and immortals, as personal preference).
I HAVEN'T HAD TIME TO WORK WITH MY COMPANIONS LATELY! DO THEY HATE ME?
No, not at all! Spirits travel the realms, so they go between their realm and ours. They understand that things come up and your physical life is very important too! So long as you make the effort to reconnect when things are a bit better for you, they won't hesitate to bond with you like they did before. Time passes differently in other worlds, so it may even be that they didn't feel the time without you like you felt. Always talk to them, and in my case, I find that apologizing sincerely is acceptable and we move on from there. We're not perfect, after all.
I LOST MY VESSEL! WHAT DO I DO?
Deep breath! Losing your vessel is a common problem, whether it's your spirit trying to mess with you or convey a message (wanting a new vessel, not wanting to bond that day, etc), or a bit of careless placement, it's easily remedied. Go to the conjurer and ask them what the process is for transmuting the binding to a new vessel. A lot of times, conjurers will either do it themselves or teach you an easy way to do it. It's an easy problem to fix and you don't need to feel embarrassed!
MY VESSEL BROKE! IS MY SPIRIT OKAY?
Yes! Your spirit is not physically tied to or trapped within the vessel. The vessel houses an energy bridge for safe and easy passage to and from this realm. They can still use the bridge this vessel has, or you can (again) talk to the original conjurer about transmuting them to a new vessel for aesthetics and ease.
I AM A CLOSETED WITCH AND CAN'T DO OFFERINGS OR RITUALS VERY OFTEN. IS THIS OKAY?
Yes, it's perfectly alright! I used to have to be very careful about my practice (and to a degree I still do), and there are so many tips and tricks to being a subtle spirit keeper. I will make a separate post about this in particular, as there's so much information on subtle witching and subtle keeping, but spirits generally understand that there are powers and presences that govern our actions and lifestyles. Explain this to them when you welcome them home and when you find the time, do what you'd like to do!
I REALLY WANT SOMEONE TO TALK TO, BUT I DON'T WANT TO PUT THIS OUT THERE IN MY HOMETOWN OR FAMILY...
There are a lot of online communities, including MetaSpirit, the Chaos in Pandora's Box Spirit Keeping Forum, FaceBook Groups (many shops host these groups), and a plethora of others that I'm not a member of! There are also Skype and Discord chats available to those seeking spirit keeper friends and advice! Definitely check out these online avenues if you want to share your stories and hear about others' experiences too!