In the last few weeks I’ve had a few comments and questions regarding the nature of “house and plot” spirits. Those kind of a more domestic nature. I am very fond of houses, and gardens, and find domestic spaces infinitely fascinating and dynamic. It is often that people who practice more sorcerous or even Priestly roles inside an animistic worldview, speak of fetishes. But these considerations might be less relevant to a person who is no less an animist but does not practice a Spiritual Craft. Besides having possibly acknowledged a lay-paganism, which might be a topic for another post, the household is the moment that practices of fetishism and spirit cultivation and housing, become relevant for those who have never sort to do either in a sorcerous or shamanic context. For the most part, people of a lay-paganism will often seek help from a witch, teacher, healer, some leader in a community in terms of getting rid of negative influences, and random strays. But there are those spirits we should actually be encouraging.
Among them, obviously, for those particularly of a heathen or reconstructionalist path, the Gods. Such things are well documented and understood. And venerated in an entirely un-scorcerous fashion, but an entirely religious one. After that, the Ancestors. And many more people who would not identify as pagan at all do actually venerate their ancestors in their home. Indeed, the idea of our Beloved Dead watching over us is not even uncommon in terms of monotheistic, non-animistic, mainstream religions like Christianity. It’s the third type I want to address today.
Our European Ancestors have lead us back down the path to a consideration of spirits of the Wild, of woods and bush, rivers and mountains, of plants and animals. But they were no less concerned with the ensouled domestic dwelling, farm and garden. They believed our houses, what lay inside the hedge witches so often like to jump, was no less peopled with all manner of spirits and beings. In fact, such considerations were more regularly and better understood by those lay-pagans, who did not necessarily venture a witchcraft or shamanic practice. They have been relegated to childish fantasy in Western Culture, replaced with twee thoughts of Cottingley Fairies at the bottom of the garden, or worse, confused with more Wild types of beings that no person in their right mind would want in the house on a day-to-day basis.
Our bodies, like any body, is a spirit house, obviously. But our houses are an extension of that vessel, within which we have an autonomy and sovereignty and propagate our will. It is also a place of convergence, a meeting place of all the spirits who live within it, our children, partners, pets, and the things in our gardens. And unless your house floats or is a boat (though I’ll be honest, I would suspect this simply points to a slightly different dynamic) they are no less connected to the earth, and within them all manner of things, least of which yourself, grow. This is true for all people, and doubly so for a practitioner who might work with any number of spirits in their temple, which might also be a spare room or even the lounge room.
Where we cultivate that connection, that symbiotic relationship between the house, the dwelling, and the earth, we create a space in which positive things can emerge. It is likely we’ve all experienced that feeling, a happy house has a happy spirit, a vibe about it, noticeable to guests. A lovely garden in which the individual beings are vibrant, but exists as a peaceful and harmonious whole. In which one has a sense of security, of being well ensconced inside the hedge.
House Fae are a specific type of creature that exists in such dwellings. Their genesis varies greatly across the folklore of Europe. In some cases they are said to be the spirit of the first person who tended the plot/garden/farm/house. In others they are earthly spirits, once wild fae believed to exist in a sort of agreement between householder and land. Others suggest they are imp-like, generated either purposefully or accidentally, arising from the convergence of powers, an avatar of the harmonious whole. I have heard people speak of the spectral gardener they believed to be a long dead owner who continues to tend the plot, others of spectral animals, even pets (particularly those buried inside the boundaries) who continue to inhabit the space and maintain a territory. In other cases people have described very traditional fae like creatures, often complete with red caps. In any case, they are always solitary, most certainly not of a hive minded nature, and almost always seem to be engaged in rather mundane domestic tasks.
How they come to be seems to me to be entirely possible on all scores. And no less true in a new house, in the New World. It seems also entirely possibly that these things can be inherited, just as easily as purposefully generated. Those living in much older houses might find the being connected directly to plot, but other lore points also to those types that will happily move dwelling to dwelling along with a family or person to whom they are connected. There is also lore that suggests a house fae entirely unsatisfied with the householder will simply leave, or cause all kinds of mischief. It is perhaps this last point that interests me, and underpins my encouragement of garnering such connections and propagating your House Fae. I wonder how many times we’ve wanted to rid our households of something that simply wants our attention.
That’s how I came to my own House Tom situation. A period of random mischief. Things flung of benches, glasses broken, a few things taken off walls. I was about to get all hard core on it, when during a completely unrelated ritual meditation I became distracted by my small dog who had taken to growling at a corner in the room, and I caught my first glimpse of it. Instead of going the get rid of route, I went the propagate house fae route.
There are lots of names and lore, as I said. For myself, I researched general folklore from Scandinavia. Hence the moniker “House Tom” from the Swedish “tomte“. They can be difficult to pin down, most folklore speaks to the fact that if all is well, you may never be aware of their presence. Most House Fae, like anything in a domestic dwelling really, can be quite proud, and, like many fae are described, dislike lip service. They don’t generally liked to be asked to do things, nor thanked for doing them. But they are not inclined to be treated like wild things. As such, the space and way in which one does give a House Tom his share must be separate to how one offers to the larger, giantish and wild forces of Land that someone like myself working within the wild might.
So, these are my hints and tips for propagating, attracting and keeping happy a House Tom:
- He considers himself a member of the household: Keep his “table” in a domestic space. Near the hearth, if you’ve room on the kitchen bench by the stove. Alternatively if you live with a working shed, on your workbench, or in a more rural situation, in a barn. For myself I have neither, so his table is at the front door on the balcony. In this way I’ve managed to keep him at the opposite end from my offering stone which is at the back fence where I make those offerings to the Land spirits outside the hedge, and acknowledged him as a Warden. And kept my two dogs out of his porridge!
- Your House Tom is not interested in floral arrangements and raw goods. He wants his share of dinner. I cook porridge in keeping with Scandinavian tradition with butter, and beer is a favourite. I have found buttered bread, baked goods, also well received.
- We are often directed to make our offerings to the ground when making them to various spirits. A House Tom is not interested. Serve things in bowls.
- A candle for a House Tom is not a votive offering, but rather a practical lamp light, as such, glass jars, and lanterns are excellent.
- If you are inclined to make an incense offering, I have found spicy, herbal scents best. Like the candle, consider this alike to burning an oil in your own home for the pleasure of its fragrance as opposed to more occult considerations of manifestation and “feeding” of spirits.
- I prefer the day I do household chores, like vacuuming and clothes washing to set his table. This is often a Saturday, and Saturday as Lördag (washing day) as well as the first day of the weekend, or Sabbath is generally the best.
- If his table is found the next day with pests, ants etc., you can take that as a sign the meal was not accepted. An accepted meal will never attract any sort of pest of that nature. I had it happen once, and never served that food again. It has never happened again.
- An ‘active’ table of a House Fae will probably attract local cats and dogs. Though I get many on my front steps I have never actually seen or heard one eating the food left there. I’ve come to see this is a good omen, a House Fae is particularly kind to domestic animals.
It’s true, no-one has resoled or re-heeled any of my shoes. On occasion I do find I am looking for something I thought I had left out only to find it’s put away and have no recollection of doing so. It’s possible I’ve just done so automatically. But keeping a House Tom should make things easier. Domestic chores should be easier, there should be a sense of things being easier to upkeep and just working. He is particularly good with domestic animals, which is great since I have a dog that suffers anxiety, and I’ll work with anything that might make that situation better!
A tomte is the spirit of harmony and reward for effort. Working with one might not bear gifts in the Santa Claus sense, but it will certainly help to establish routine, establish a functioning household, establish a garden, even a small one, like mine. Working with such a spirit is a reminder of the joys of hard work and rewards for planning and effort. The importance of a healthy household, and what that actually means in a holistic sense.
He is by his nature a good luck spirit. I suppose one could describe such a spirit as a luck farmer. He might not bath your dogs (certainly he doesn’t mine!) but such a spirit greases the wheels in a household. Acknowledging such a spirit reminds us that our households are more than the sum of their parts.
As ever, I’d love to hear people’s stories about their own House Fae, the sorts of Lore one has engaged with in engaging with such a spirit. And that the House Tom is not a dying breed.
P.S. ‘P’ is for “Propagating House Fae”. This post participates with the Pagan Blog Project 2014.