Spirits are hard. How can you tell who you’re talking to? Are they really who they say they are? Can you really trust them?
The short answer is no. No you can’t trust them and no they should not expect you to automatically trust them any more than you should automatically trust a stranger.
The long version is no as well but it’s kind of a complicated no.
Spirits sometimes cannot or will not tell you who they are. They could be doing that for several reasons. They could be worried about being bound by their names. They could be working for someone who doesn’t want to be known. They might not even have a name.
This is also somewhat true for what kind of spirit they are. After all, how often do you just blurt out your genealogy to random folks off the street? Can you even sight your ancestry? Do you know who owns the company you’re working for? Can you name the mayor of your town? Would you tell a random person that you’ve just met all of that information?
Yeah, I thought not. If you can’t or won’t do it, then you can’t expect a spirit to want to do it either.
I’ll be honest, I don’t usually bother figuring out what kind of spirit I might be talking to. They are themselves and I’ll treat them according to how they act. That being said, it’s still important to be able to figure out who or what you might be talking about. Here’s how
What do they love? What do they hate? How do they speak? How do they interact with others? You can figure out a lot by channeling your inner Sherlock.
For example, if a spirit loves cucumbers then you might guess that maybe they’re a Kappa. Or they could be related to cucumbers in some way. Or they’re the spirit of a farmer. Or maybe they just really love cucumbers.
Observing them will tell you what that individual likes. Observing that spirit in a group of similar spirits can tell you what that kind of spirit is like as a whole.
How do others treat them?
Do others balk and run away from them? Are they treated in a lordly manner? A polite manner? Do people give them the stink-eye?
This gives you some idea on whether or not this spirit is considered important or is tied to someone important. Depending on the context, you might be able to figure out that they’re a servant to a faerie court or that they’re very wise and thus respected.
If they’re getting dirty looks then maybe they don’t have the kind of stellar reputation they’ve been gloating about. They could be an information broker, murderer, or just a known liar. They could even be a contract breaker (which is bad because that means they will definitely break their word and probably stab you in the back).
Ask them for a small favor
See what happens when you ask them for a small favor which you will pay in kind. This could be something like “hey, want to try my ice cream and I’ll try yours” kind of deal or it could be something like “can you go over to this faerie court and pass along this message and I’ll go over to this spirit marketplace and buy that thing for you”.
This should be an inconsequential favor. Don’t ask them to do something for you that’s actually important.
How they treat this request and how they complete it (if they even agree to it) can tell you a lot about their operating methods which often allows you to figure out spirit type.
If there’s a specific spirit you’re trying to figure out, keep notes. Write down the things they like, dislike, and do. Write down their appearance to you, even if they change appearances all the time. Every so often, google those attributes and see what comes up.
That’s all you can do. Since most of the time you’re not going to be dealing with many of the same spirits, you’re always going to be battling the question “is this how all of them act or just this individual spirit?”
A good way to deal with spirits is to remember these rules:
- All spirits can hurt you
- All spirits have the potential to be benevolent or malicious
- Spirits are not there for your benefit. They live their own lives and you’re just a person in it.
- Spirits have their own culture, beliefs, and needs. They don’t need to make sense to you.
Make no mistake, knowing your mythology and folklore can definitely help you figure out who you might be talking to but it’s not the be all that ends all. You could be talking to an anthropomorphize spirit of freedom or a minor spirit of winter. How might those spirits be summarized? Can you even summarize them neatly?
Spirits aren’t animals or plants that can be so easily categorized. They’re people. It might be prudent to ask yourself if you even need to know what kind of spirit they are. If you’re worried for your safety, then act according to that potential danger. Otherwise, you might fall into the trap of expecting someone to betray you because their species is a known trickster and that’s not really fair to them – or you.