I’m petsitting for Parents and Sister this weekend. Cat Sister and Grumpy Tortoise are not particularly demanding charges however, so I’ve had some time to chill out and think about stuff. Change of scenery and all that.
One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how to acknowledge the spirits of homes and buildings other than my own flat, and as I’m away from home right now it seems a good time to try and figure something out. Here alone, it’s all pretty straightforward; I can easily speak to and leave out small offerings for the spirits in the house and garden. Even when Parents and Sister are here…They’re used to me being a little weird by now. They just roll with it.
But what about when I visit other relatives, or when I’m at work? You might wanna argue that I should just go ahead and be completely overt about things, since animism is a valid spiritual worldview and I have as much right to practice it as any other person in this country has the right to pursue any other spiritual path. Maybe you’d be right. But life is complicated, people are different, and not everyone feels able to be that up-front.
I’m not willing to actually hide or lie about my beliefs, but I’m also not willing to rock up at a relative’s home and say “Hey! Whilst I’m here, I need to leave a plate of cookies that you’re not allowed to eat in your kitchen to feed spirits you don’t believe exist, and then bury them in your garden along with a portion of this nice dinner you’ve made for me, to feed more spirits that you don’t believe exist. OK?” I already have to tackle the whole vegan/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/mental health problems thing, and once I start hormone therapy I’m gonna have to tackle the transgender thing as well (people have been told, but no-one who doesn’t want to has had to confront it as reality yet. Most people have been *great*, and I’m really grateful for that. But some are persistently clinging to my old name, pronouns and stuff like that…and will quite possibly continue to do so once I have a beard and a tenor singing voice lol).
Anyway, I wanted to come up with some acceptable compromises, so that I can respect the spirits without people calling the local mental health team, or (more importantly) offending people in their own homes or workplaces.
I’m already saying a quiet hello to the spirits of the building I work in every time I go down to the basement level, which is where their presence seems to be the strongest. I will also quietly talk to them when I’m alone, to thank them for helping the business and things like that. I’ve considered asking permission to set up a small shrine for them somewhere out of the way in the basement storage room, but I dunno how well that would go down. In purely mundane, practical terms, someone may easily mistake it for stock and put bits of it out for sale. I also don’t know how comfortable other people would feel about having something like that in the building. When I asked, they said there was nothing they needed or wanted me to do – I kinda sense that they would like a spider-themed shrine in the basement and some kind of angel image/s in the staff room near the sink, but they get that I’m not in a position to do that for them.
As for the spirits of other people’s homes, I feel like the best way forward would be to quietly acknowledge them if I get a chance to do so (I could always pretend to need the loo or something) and be mindful of them during my stay – be a good guest and all that (which I’d try to be anyway, obviously).
Any place I’m staying alone or with just with close family – like the holiday we’re planning this Summer, for example – should be quite straightforward. The last time I took a holiday, my family and I stayed in a chalet. I burned a little incense cone every day and also made small food offerings, usually biscuits, which I left outdoors until the guy in the next chalet complained because his dog was eating them. I now also get that biscuits and chips aren’t the best thing for the local wildlife, so this year I’ll try things like fruit, salad and stuff that will drain away into the soil, like plant milk and fruit juice.
I’d be really interested in hearing how other animists tackle this problem, and what does and doesn’t work for you.