Like most obsessed sorcerers I have several altars around my house. Sorry, according to Rinpoche I’m not obsessed, I’m “dedicated,” that sounds nicer. I’ve downsized recently, but I have my general and planetary altar, my chöd altar, my wealth altar, my Buddhist altar (okay a few of those), and my ancestor altar (recently just added a second one of those to discuss later).
Of all my altars my general/planetary and my chöd altar are my most “open” altars. When I do my morning prayers to the planetary angel while the offering is for them, it’s understood that what they don’t take/want can be taken by any spirit in the area. In chöd you go out of your way to call everyone you can to take the offerings. These altars are right on top of each other, so it tends to be, not surprisingly, where a lot of my random spirit activity occurs. My wealth and Buddhist altar(s) are semi-open, they’re dedicated to specific figures, but aren’t exclusive. I have trouble picturing a Bodhisattva getting annoyed that a random spirit is coming to take their offering. For the most part though since the work is directed to these figures no one else shows up.
Lastly there is my ancestor altar, which is closed in two ways. First it’s dedicated to my ancestors (imagine that) and anchored to them via photos, teacups, and art. Secondly it’s somewhat shielded. I wouldn’t say shielded or warded in the traditional sense, but it’s in my living room and I have it isolated from that space. While it is physically located in the living room, it’s energetically elsewhere behind a veil/shield, not for any super mystical reason, but as a genderqueer pansexual polyamorous sex-positive sorcerer my living room is often the scene of many things my very Christian ancestors might not approve of. (I may or may not be naked typing this within arm’s reach of the altar) So whenever I work with that altar, there is a stone I have to touch and “pull” the altar through that visual/sensory boundary.
One day, several weeks, back I opened the space, felt something off and thought nothing of it, and went about my weekly offerings. I lit the candles and incense as I chatted with my family about what had happened in the last week with the family and myself, I refilled their tea cups and noticed there was someone new in the space. Now every once and a while a new ancestor appears, it’s as if they talk from time to time, and someone says “Hey, your great-great-great grandkid is leaving us food and drink, come visit.” It’s weird, cause I don’t know these ancestors, my altar is for those I knew in life, but I’m not going to turn away someone just because they died before I was born. Anyways this new person didn’t feel right. There is a feel to ancestors, when the new people showed up I could feel the connection, I know they were family, and could even intuit roughly who they were (maternal/paternal and how far back). This new person didn’t feel like them in any way, he felt disconnected. It’s like when you’re in high school, there are 500+ students in your school, but you can immediately spot the transfer student in the crowd and tell they don’t fit in.
Before I could even address him, he asked for buttered tea. I asked who he was, and got no response, my awareness of him faded, so I left it. The next week he was there again, a bit stronger, I got a visual sense of him, he was an older white man, thick square glasses, and in a rocking chair, quite at home. Again he just suggested (cause asked implies too much communication) that he would like some buttered tea. This is odd, because buttered tea is a Tibetan drink, and that man is not Tibetan, and he didn’t strike me as someone who lived in Tibet or with the exile, he didn’t feel tied to Tibet/Tibetan Buddhism, he was just a strange old man asking for buttered tea. Again I asked who he was, and he faded out.
It sounds odd (because the rest of this story is so run-of-the-mill down to earth…) but I felt almost insulted by his presence. He wasn’t family, he wasn’t an ancestor, why is he inside my ancestor altar? I have two free-for-all offering buffet altars downstairs, why is he hanging around with my grandparents? As I’m overly polite with spirits (moreso than people most of the time) I decided to leave him be, I wasn’t going to cast him out, but I wasn’t going to indulge him without knowing who he is, or why he was there.
After several weeks of him occasionally showing up I got out a neutral coffee cup and made him buttered tea, which I served along with the drinks for my ancestors. The impression I got when I put down the tea for him? “Some apple crumble would be nice too.” It is amazing how someone seems unwilling to communicate, but still suggest/request to be fed in this manner. He got his tea, and no more.
It didn’t get rid of him, it wasn’t as if he wanted one last cup of tea before moving on, or anything like that. He’s a pretty “grounded” spirit, as solid as a stout ghost or ancestor that’s been worked with, he has presence and personality and awareness, which are really not common traits for wandering human spirits. Usually they’re weak, echoes, mentally dull, but not him. He still shows up, sometimes he’s an older man, sometimes he’s in his 40s-ish. He has the most unusual penetrating glance when his face prominently appears, as if his thick glasses are magnifying his sight, not just fixing it. I asked him to make use of the other altars for offerings, but he never showed up there.
I really have no idea who he is, or why he showed up, how he got into my ancestor altar and why he doesn’t go to any of the other ones.
This really is just to share some of what my magickal life is like, folks read my theorizing and my rants, but I thought I should also share some of what happens in my life. Also if you’ve had anything similar, or any ideas, I’m still trying to sort him out, so commentary is welcome.
He did lead me to creating two more categories of the dead beyond what my tradition held, but that will be discussed another time.