We've all experienced the empty sadness of having a loved one pass out of this life and on into death. Even if we sense that death is not an end, we can't help but regret the separation.
We miss our dear friends and family who have died, and we long to be with them for one moment more: to feel their presence, to share another deep conversation, to laugh together as we once did. We can. This Samhain, the phone lines to the ghost world will be open, as the barrier shrouding the dead from the living melts on this mystical night. Spirit communication is a way to stay in touch with lost loved ones, and October 31st is an optimal night for such magic.
The many methods of spirit communication can be used with success any time of year, but they all work more easily and the results are often most profound on Halloween/Samhain night. This time of year is widely regarded as a time of the Underworld, a time to acknowledge death and honor our loved ones who have passed on. It is a time when the mundane world and the psychic world are clearly one, as the usual illusion of division is lifted. We can seize this opportunity to gain profound knowledge by exchanging ideas with souls on the other side, communicating with the dead through the parted curtains of life's mystery.
Safety precautions should be heeded and underlying principles understood before making any attempt at spirit communication. Talking to the dead is a spooky business, and the practice can be dangerous if guidelines are not followed. However, by taking simple measures to protect yourself, spirit communication becomes a safe and enriching experience that need not be feared.
The first rule of spirit communication is moderation. The dead have other things to do besides linger here, and they should not be pestered often. Limiting communication rites to once or twice a year is wise, as moderation shows respect for the dead and also cuts down on the danger. Spirits with ill intentions sometimes try to take advantage of the witch performing spirit communication, so it is necessary to limit contact with such forces and to also take defensive measures for protection.
The second rule of spirit communication is defense. You'll need to cast a shield charm around your workspace, and also upon yourself and upon any tools that you'll use in the rite. Visualize an impenetrable shield of light surrounding what you wish to protect. Add an affirmation such as, "Only good spirits may enter here. This path is closed to evil; they cannot come this way." In addition, you may want to scatter a protective substance such as burnt matches, pepper, salt, or cumin around your workspace to add another level of defense. Even after casting such charms, if at any time during spirit communication you feel scared or suspicious, you must immediately abandon the attempt, as your defenses may have been broken by an evil ghost. Don't let your curiosity rule over your intuition or gut instinct, and you'll be fine.
The third and final rule of spirit communication is intent. Intent determines potential, and by talking to the dead for the purpose of sharing ideas and enjoying each other's company, another channel is opened through which the sacred energy can flow, and new awareness is gained that can benefit both the dead and the living. In contrast, raising the dead in an attempt to gain power, control the spirit, or impress and intimidate is inadvisable unless you're up for attracting the very worst karma. Spirit communication is not something to toy with or use to show off, as doing so makes you prey for evil spirits and also brings about unfortunate disasters and negative or unbalanced emotions.
Now you know the principle guidelines and the importance of adhering to them. On to the methods.
Talking Through the Tarot
Once you've laid down proper protection, you may want to sit out food, drink, and lit candles as an invitation to the dead. Begin by shuffling your deck and asking the spirit or spirits to join you for a friendly chat. If your invitation is accepted, you will feel a presence and you will know that your fellows are with you. Candles will flicker and the air might grow a shade colder. You might even feel light touches on your head, back, arms, neck, or shoulders.
You can now talk to the dead and ask questions, inviting them to answer through the Tarot. For example, you might pose the question, "How are you?" You would then mix the cards and allow your fingertips to be spiritually directed, selecting the card or cards you feel most drawn to.
The cards chosen express the spirit's answer or message, and you should decipher the meaning with intuition, a good memory, and an open heart. Sometimes, the traditional interpretation of the card is conveyed, while other times, the symbolism might speak of something specific to you and your dead pal, an inside joke of sorts. For instance, the Ace of Cups can mean that the spirit is in a state of peace, bliss, and wholeness. Alternatively, it could refer to a special time when you and the deceased shared a glass of wine, and could mean that the spirit misses the good experiences you shared.
You can also use the Tarot in the other direction, to express your ideas to the dead. For instance, if you want the spirit to know that your children are well, place The Sun card beside the Ten of Pentacles or another happy arcanum. Likewise, to ask the spirit for protection, you could set out the Ace or King of Pentacles; to ask for good luck, the Wheel of Fortune is a suitable choice.
Talking to the dead through the Tarot can be an intricate or a simple procedure. You can use the cards to just say "Hi," or you can use them to obtain extensive and detailed information. You may feel like picking just a card or two to check in and be done with it, or you might be led to lay out the cards in a complete reading such as the Celtic Cross. Your need to know and the spirit's willingness to communicate will shape the conversation, so just let yourself be guided.
Communicating Through Candle Scrying
Start by relaxing and clearing your mind of interfering thoughts and emotions. Gaze casually into the candle flame, blinking regularly so as to not strain your eyes. Ask the dead to join you and allow yourself to be entranced by the fluidity of the pulsating flame.
You will receive visions through the flame as if you are having a lucid dream, and the dead may send you images of themselves, far away events, or any significant information you should be aware of. You can also pose questions to the dead, and they will answer through the flickering of the flame. A growing flame is a "yes," while a flame getting smaller or dimmer indicates a "no."
Once you are finished with your conversation, you can either snuff out the flame to close the gateway, or leave it burning to help guide other spirits on their Samhain journey into the living world. Never leave a candle burning unattended, of course, and make sure to use a sturdy candle holder lest it fall over unnoticed while you are entranced.
Begin by inviting the spirit to write a message. Hold a pen loosely in your hand above a piece of paper, and let it move freely. Try to stay detached and avoid reading the message as it is being written. You may want to close your eyes. When the pen stops moving, try to read what is written on the paper. It's common for letters to appear backwards and for words to be misspelled. Sometimes the markings will be completely unintelligible, and if this is the case, you must accept that the attempt was unsuccessful. Other times, however, the message will be quite clear.
Spirit writing is best used for contacting a single familiar spirit. You do not want to invite a multitude of unknown dead to write messages through you. It's often difficult to make out the penmanship of one ghost, so you can imagine the mess that ensues if more than one spirit is trying to write at the same time, not to mention the increased danger that such a situation could present.
In addition to bringing messages from a dead loved one, spirit writing is also well suited for finding out more about any ghosts that might be living in your house. However, I must caution that some stories are better left untold, especially if you want to be able to sleep at night. Getting to know the ghosts around you can be fascinating, but it can also be terrifying. If the spirit seems unpleasant, avoid further contact and purify your house through magical prayer and a generous sprinkling of a strong banishing herb such as garlic or cayenne pepper.
Ouija boards are notorious for attracting evil spirits, so be sure not to skirt any of the rules of spirit communication. Using one of these boards too often casts suspicion upon your intent and can give negative entities the impression that you're up to no good. Used only on occasions such as Samhain, however, a spirit board is an excellent way to talk to the dead, as the board makes it easy for the ghost to communicate detailed messages with clarity and accuracy.
You need at least two people to use a spirit board, three being preferable. This is to increase the odds that if a bad spirit enters the board, someone will have the sense to take their hands off the marker and break the connection. Begin by holding hands with your friends who will be using the board with you. Invite the dead to come to the party. As with all ghostly communication, asking to speak to familiar spirits rather than to a host of strangers carries the least risk. Have each person place their fingertips lightly upon the marker.
If a spirit is communicating with you, the marker will be guided across the board, pausing to point to different characters. Messages are spelled out, and they may include uncanny details such as phone numbers, childhood nicknames, and deeply hidden secrets. Beware of impostors, bad entities that may offer personal information in order to pose as a familiar spirit. Trust your emotions, and if you're suspicious of a particular ghostly visitor, take your hands off the marker and bring the session to an end.
Playing with a ouija board can be spooky, but it is nonetheless an exceptionally effective tool for spirit communication, especially on Halloween night.
Although our own attempts to contact the dead should be limited to rare occasions, the dead can send messages our way any time. You might see a lost loved one in a dream, or observe an unlikely or bizarre scene in waking life. A bird, insect, or other creature might behave in an odd, very friendly manner, coming up to you as if to say "Hi." You might catch a scent on the air that stirs a vivid memory. These are all ways that the dead let us know that they are watching over us. Being aware of such signals throughout the year will improve your ability to connect with the spirit world.
There are many barriers to spirit communication, but most of these are removed on the night of October 31st. You will have the best chance for success at this time, so reach out and contact someone on the other side. With candles, Tarot, a pen, some paint, or a spirit board, you can talk to the dead and share some good times this Samhain, staying in touch until we all wake up from the dream of life and death.
Melanie Marquis is the founder of the United Witches global coven and the organizer of Denver Pagans. She has written for Circle, Pentacle, and the American Tarot Association. Melanie's books include Llewellyn's Little Book ...