Is $12.95 a Good Price for a Spirit Guide?
Author: Morgan St. Knight
Fair warning: this isn’t going to be a how-to essay, as in “How to make contact with your spirit guide/patron Deity/guardian angel.” I only have a couple of tips for making the process a little easier, not a complete step-by-step ritual or series of meditations.
This is truly something you have to work out for yourself. Often the process of contacting your guides is a very important lesson itself. It may be even more important than the result because it teaches you ways of approaching the world that can assist you greatly later in life. In other words, the journey is just as important as the destination. Once you experience the process of successfully contacting a guardian entity, be it a Goddess, a power animal, an angel, etc, you’ll understand how that process works, and more importantly how it feels when you’re doing it correctly.
Let me clarify: doing it correctly for you. It’s a very individualized journey because we each have our own unique way of relating to the universe and to the Divine. What works for you won’t necessarily work for me, or for the next ten people in line. But maybe it will work brilliantly for person number eleven. That’s why I don’t want to mislead you into thinking I can use a simple essay to guide you on what is essentially a very solitary journey. I caution you to be wary of people who claim they can do it through a simple set of instructions because more often than not, they’re just out to make a buck.
While I don’t strictly object to books that promise to put you in contact with your spirit guides, I’m not very keen on the premise most of them push: that there is a set process, and all you need to do is follow their how-to manual. I haven’t read all the books on the market, but I’ve read a fair amount. I have yet to find an author who says: “This approach to contacting spirit guides may not be for you. Here’s a list of books by other authors whose systems may work better for you.”
These books will often set parameters for how the process of contacting your spirit guide should go (you should never feel [blank] when meeting the spirit being if it’s truly your guide, you should ALWAYS feel [blank], you should be able to verify the information the entity is giving you by doing [blank]) Unfortunately, it’s very easy to convince yourself that things are happening just as they are described in the book, because they’re mostly happening in your mind… which you control to a large degree. And if you want to believe what the book is telling you…
Sometimes this coaxing is done very subtly; the author will relate his or her own encounters, or the encounters of others, often putting just enough diversity in the details to make it seem more realistic. Leeway is a big plus for selling books on paranormal topics, and one of the best ways to create leeway is to rely on suggestion through examples. The implication is your experience should be “something like this”. Well, how much “like this”? The book can’t talk, so it can’t clarify details.
This puts the burden on the reader to correctly interpret the examples and figure out whether it applies to them. Did your “encounter” not mirror Mary Esther’s story on page 103? You must not have understood what she was experiencing, or what you were experiencing. Try again! You’ll see! It’ll happen just as the book says it will if you keep trying and visualizing exactly what you’re told to visualize. Everyone wins with this book, step right up and meet your spirit guide within the week for a mere $12.95.
If you are truly desperate to meet a spirit guide, these books can provide you with enough raw materials to make you think you’re doing it. I won’t say these books are outright fraudulent. The steps described in most of them will probably work for some people. They simply are not universally valid. This, as I’ve noted, is something the authors don’t tell you.
Certain cultures had specific names for the process of finding a spirit guide, a sacred animal, or some other spiritual ally. (Let’s use “vision quest” for simplicity’s sake, although I don’t want to imply this was the only reason people may have gone on such a quest.)
The steps varied from group to group. There may have been some basic preparation everyone in a particular group went through: periods of fasting, sleep deprivation, purification through sweat baths or purgatives. A person may have been taken to a sacred location to remain there, or to wander in a certain area. There may have been other steps, such as a specific chant to sing (unless the finding of one’s particular chant was the goal of the quest) . It’s difficult to know exactly how the quester would be guided because there are so few cultures left which practice this, and they don’t typically blog about the experiences.
Here’s what probably didn’t happen: the person was brought to a specific spot, told to sit there a certain number of days, to recite a precise chant an exact number of times, when to get up and pee, when to drink water, how often to close their eyes and count backwards from ten while trying to imagine specific colors with each number….
No. I just don’t believe it. If you’re trying to sell a book to 10, 000 people, then yes, you might try to convince them that they can just follow a rigid list like this and get what they want. Let’s think about that premise. Does it make sense that everyone who picks up that book will be at the same stage of development? Spiritual evolution is not like a marching band; all the horns don’t pass the 40-yard line at the same time. We each hit different benchmarks at vastly different times. This means the timing and method of contacting a spirit guide will vary from person to person. This is why a book with a one-size-fits-all approach won’t genuinely help most of the people who read it.
If you’re a spiritual leader in a small community, where maybe only one or two people undertake the vision quest every year, you can certainly be a lot more hands-on with them. More importantly, a good spiritual leader learns to look beyond the outward expressions of a person’s experience with the quest to understand whether the core experience has truly been successful.
This is crucial, because everyone’s experiences will be different if they’re genuine. Person A may see Coyote walking up to them on two legs and speaking a word or chant to them; Person B may see Crow flying overhead, dropping a sacred crystal to them; Person C may feel they’re falling through a void, only to wake up on a bed of exotic flowers next to a naked Roseanne Barr.
All of these experiences could be considered valid, but not because of these details. It also isn’t because the people followed the preparatory steps to the finest detail. I suspect Person C botched up something royally in that stage.
What makes them valid experiences is the actual change the person has undergone. Connecting with our spiritual guardians is not just a matter of having someone else to talk to or ask advice from; it’s about taking a huge step to claiming our own sacredness, our own connection to the Divine. So it’s possible three other people will have the same experience as Person A, and yet the shaman of the tribe may judge their quests have not been successful, because there has been no detectable change in those three people.
And guess what? No matter who the author is or how many books on connecting with spirit guides they’ve sold, they aren’t able to sit with, talk to, and examine everyone who buys their book and tries their method (never mind whether they actually have the qualifications to make the assessment of whether the attempt has been successful) . Well, they usually don’t have time to examine you, but if you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a “consultation” with them or to book them to teach a class at your local metaphysical store….
It would be great if we lived in a culture where contacting spiritual guardians or tutelary Deities was a matter of course. Such a society would likely include teachers capable of guiding us properly so we could each have our own, special realization/transformation, and be confident the experience was legitimate. It doesn’t mean things wouldn’t go wrong for some people later. After all, even the finest medical schools with the best teaching doctors turn out a few students who end up getting sued for malpractice. But in general, most people would benefit and grow from the experience.
The problem is, we don’t live in a homogenous culture, especially in the Pagan community. The reason people in a specific Native American tribe would follow the same basic steps for a vision quest is that they all were raised in that culture. They had a common frame of reference, common beliefs and religious teachings, a common interpretation of symbols, and a common experience of life. The community lived, worked, worshipped, hunted, gathered and grew up, grew old, and died together. But another group living hundreds of miles away might have a different set of steps and standards of interpretation that applied to them.
The tribal paradigm doesn’t exist for modern Pagans. Our society is mostly fragmented into nuclear family units, or less. Many of us live alone for extended periods, often not by choice, or we have only loose affiliations with co-workers and acquaintances at the local watering hole. While we may have some common frames of reference, there are many instances in which our personal experiences are so unique and varied that it virtually rules out commonality of interpretation for events such as communication with spirit guides.
In this case, plurality has its strengths and weaknesses. If I follow an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, I may have spirit guides who take the forms of demigods from the Greek or Celtic pantheons, and relate to me in a certain way; that’s not the way a follower of Cadomble would relate to their guardian Orixa. She may also practice Spiritism and consider her guides to be entities from that tradition. She and I may discuss and learn from each other’s experiences. We would gain knowledge about another path, and that is usually a good thing.
But, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to evaluate the other person’s experience or provide feedback if asked. Lack of familiarity on an experiential level could raise barriers between us. If each have the same conversation with someone in our own tradition, we would be much more likely to get an evaluation and interpretation that is meaningful and helpful to us. This appears beneficial on the surface, but in fact reinforces a desire to keep such discussions confined to a small group of people.
If you follow a book that describes a specific method, you’re likely to get a false sense of “community”, believing there are many other people having the same experience as you after reading the same book. The only thing you may have in common with them is that you all convinced yourselves you got authentic results.
I’ve worked with people who have tried following the books. I didn’t roll my eyes when they told me excitedly that they contacted their spirit guardian, who looked amazingly like (insert character from Lord of the Rings, Narnia or any random walk-on alien in Ten Forward from Star Trek TNG) .
Nor did I tell any of these people: “I knew it was just your imagination” when they finally admitted to themselves that they were just talking to a make-believe friend.
I told them what I’m telling you: there are some basic steps that may help, but in the end, finding a spirit guide is going to be a very personal journey, and you’re the only one who can draw the map. Most of the time, you have to do it as you go.
So what are these steps I keep mentioning?
1) State your intention clearly, and out loud. When you’re ready to begin you can perform any ritual or activity that has meaning to you, if the symbolism resonates with your intent. Lighting candles and incense, writing a formal chant, leaving an offering at a location you associate with higher spiritual forces, or just facing the rising or setting Sun or Moon, can all work. But do it because it means something to YOU, not just because you read it here or in a book. If there’s something else you think would be more meaningful, by all means do it. At some point, say clearly and out loud that you want to have a deeper connection with your spirit guardian or guardians, and you are ready to listen to them.
2) Be open. Don’t have preconceived notions. Don’t try to imagine how or when your spirit guardian will answer you. I’d love to nod with sagely and say “You’ll know it when it happens.” The truth is, you may not. And that’s because….
3) You just may not be ready. Be prepared for that. If you have developed to the point where deeper, more obvious contact with your spirit guardian will be beneficial, then it will happen no matter what. If you haven’t, then you won’t have the experience. Trust that your spirit guide will let you know when it’s appropriate for your relationship to progress. If you don’t trust them to make that decision and expect them to bend to your will and appear at a moment’s notice, you aren’t ready for the experience (and anyway, if they did appear just because you demanded it, would they be a very good spirit guide?) This is another thing most of the books don’t tell you. Just because you want it to happen, doesn’t mean it will. Some of the books out there assure you, you will make contact, and that only makes self-delusion more likely.
4) Above all, relax, and don’t obsess about it. Keep your eyes and ears open, because you miss an awful lot of life when you’re just focusing on making one thing happen. Maybe that’s the lesson you need to embrace in this lifetime, and your spirit guardian will help you do that by not appearing or contacting you.
LIfe, by the way, is really the point of all of this. A spirit guide is supposed to help you understand life, not avoid it. Don’t be so focused on finding a spirit guide that you ignore the blessings you have in life already; for example, the fact that you are in a country where you have the freedom to read this essay, and the many other essays on this website, and to write your own essay.
There are many people around the world who will never see a site like this because their government deems it “subversive”. Don’t take this for granted; there are people in this country who would gladly shut down any chance for Pagans to openly communicate or meet with each other. Our spirit guides won’t suddenly manifest and fight them off. We have to protect these rights ourselves.
Many, many more people live with grinding poverty, and no hope of ever having more than existence rather than an actual life. They deal with war, rape, and violence every day. Countless children grow up knowing no other life. Learning to be grateful for what we have, and willing to help others get the same blessings, is a lesson you can learn all on your own, with no need for a spirit guide.
A spirit guide can be a wonderful ally, but they are far from the only teachers. We have teachers everywhere we look if we open our hearts and minds. They appear as the child who needs your mentoring so they don’t fall in with a gang, the friend who needs a place to stay for a few days so she can get away from her abusive husband, or the man next door who just emigrated from another country and needs help learning English. These people can have more meaningful lessons for you and help you grow more than Coyote or Badger can at this stage in your life.
Conversely, if you convince yourself you have a host of spirit guides and spend all of your time talking with them rather than relating to the world around you, then you are separating yourself from Creation and finding excuses focus only on yourself. A real spirit guide will support you in learning how to help yourself, and help others, not enable your efforts to distance yourself from them.
Best of luck with your journey. Trust that it will unfold as it should, and remember, ultimately you are the one who has to make the decisions in your life. Spirit guides should be friends, not necessities or crutches. If you accept that, you’ll find the right guide at the right time, and save $12.95 on top of it.