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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Household Spirits of Europe

The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and PracticesThe Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices by Claude Lecouteux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the medival times the house was a sacred space in Europe. The home would stay in the family for generations and it was a place that kept one safe from the outside world. In fact it would keep you warm, it was where you cooked your food and ate. So of course one would want to protect the home as much as possible. Usually this meant appeasing the household spirits. Of course in modern times a home is not so sacred. People are mobile and homes are made from pre-fabricated material.
The first part of the book is dedicated to the different parts of the European house. The most sacred part of the house was the hearth. It was at the hearth where the food was prepared and it was at the hearth that meals were partaken. The hearth was also the place of the fire in the center of the room. Often times this is where a household spirit would dwell. It was here that offering of wine, bread and food were made to the spirit of the house. Other places of importance that would house spirits were the attic, corners of the house and even the barn. Offering could be left and the sleepin space must be held sacred as the household spirit could vex , without injury, someone who was sleeping there. The chimney and the stove were also sacred places. By the chimney was the chimney hook and it was on the chimney hook that people would swear oath and perform magic. The chimney hook was alos a mainstay of the house. Something that kept it going so to speak.
Other places of importance were doors, window and the roof. Windows was where spirits could come in and out from. Protective measures of course had to be employed to bar a witches magic or malevolent spirits from entering. When someone died it was best to take them from the house via the window that way they would not come back in. The door was also a place where spirits could dwell. Sometimes a pentagram was painted on the door to keep the negative magic of the witch out. It was also wise never to slam a door as that would disturb the spirits. The roofs usually had holes in them and this could be conduit for souls. To stop a sorcerer from entering the whole could be blocked up or a whole in the wall could be blocked up.
One had to be careful which house one bought and where it was built. Near the road was the best place to build a house. Building near an open field or wilderness was considered a bad idea it would attract evil spirits. The house of a suicide or a criminal was also bad. Upon moving into a house usually an offering was made to the resident spirit to gain their good graces. To not have their good graces was to court disaster. Sometimes a family would bring a spirit with them from their old house.
Exactly who were these spirits? Some sources would say that it was the genius loci of the area. Other say it was the spirit of an former occupant. It could also be an ancestor spirit who chooses to stick around as a protector. Before the adevent of Christianity the household sprits were deities or Gods. Zeuss was the most common. Eventually these Gods devolved into spritis.
Some of the offering that were made could be food and wine offering but often times a human or an animal would be buried in the foundation of the house. The household spirits would provide a number of services if the homeowners were moral and treated the spirit well. The spirit would help with chores , increase wealth and protect from disaster. Of course when angered the spirits would choose to leave, impoverish the family or destroy the house. House hold spirits were are times called browning, kobald and alfs.
Great book the author accesses ancient European documents and brins it forward for the modern people to learn. Awesome job.

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