The Ghosts We Carry and How to Banish Them
Have you ever noticed how in haunted house stories or an occult detective tale, there’s always an object that keeps a spirit anchored to a place? It could be a keepsake from when the ghost was a living being or a terrible artifact use to summon darker entities. Sometimes it’s a whole room or house, the energy of the people who have lived in it soaking into the very walls. Other times it’s the memory of a horrific incident that has bled into the earth.
In order to banish the ghost, of course, we have to destroy the object—set it on fire, break it, or, to be less dramatic, let it go or move on from it.
Move out of the haunted house.
Contain the dark occult artifact that can’t be destroyed so that no one will find it (until the inevitable sequel, of course….this is dramatic fiction after all!).
These stories remind us, in one way or another, that the things we carry with us absorb the energy of our experiences. And that, sometimes, the only way we can move forward is to let those objects go. Otherwise, we keep that old energy—sometimes toxic energy—around and get stuck, finding ourselves in a time loop of the same draining experiences that first tainted the objects in question.
The Ghosts We Carry
Take, for instance, the story of The Sad Birthday Dress. It goes like this: There once was a woman who wanted to feel beautiful. All day long she was asked to be nothing but a talking head. But this woman knew she had a heart and hips and a juicy center. So she bought herself a dress to remind herself that she could be a whole person and not just a shriveled head sitting in someone’s cabinet of curiosities. And what a dress it was! It was stunning, with finely spun organic lilac cotton and loud bouncy yellow and white polka dots that told her that she was allowed to have color in her life—that she was allowed to be of color, no need to pass as another kind of pale specter. The skirt was flouncy and feminine and begged to be flipped up for illicit romance or at least a lively dance.
It was the perfect birthday dress. So she did what any woman who wanted to feel alive did—she wore it out and ate cake and drank champagne and danced until the weight of the pale city bore down on her and her loud pretty dress didn’t make her feel pretty anymore. Just sad. Unspeakably so. Because, she realized, this dress didn’t make her feel pretty. It only reminded her that she lived in a place that didn’t want her to be a flesh and blood woman. A city that was uncomfortable with her long wild hair and her rounded hips and the way the bodice of her dress clung to her breasts. She knew shame in that dress. And a sadness that welled up inside her until it became heartbreak. That heartbreak spread from her body and into the dress as surely as the bubbly drink had spread through her body only moments before.
The woman learned a hard lesson that night: A dress couldn’t fix a city that treated her like a brown stain on a white shirt. And cake couldn’t disguise the fact that there was no sweetness for her there. Only loneliness and a bone-deep cold. The solution was to leave in search of warmer hands and beating hearts.
Eventually, the dress came off. But the heartbreak stayed. And every time the woman tried to wear her I Am Beautiful Dress, she inevitably took it off and rehung in her closet, until one day she stopped trying to wear it all together. It moved to the back of her closet, limp and half-forgotten, like a mediocre date or half-baked wish. It was no longer her I Am Beautiful Dress. It was stained with the experience of that night, which is how it became The Sad Birthday Dress.
Years later, when the woman had figured how to be a breathing, living woman and not someone else’s curiosity, she pulled the dress from her closet and her heart broke all over again. She knew there was no reclaiming the original power of the beautiful bouncy fabric. Of cake and champagne and moonlight. In the dress, she saw the pain of her past welling up inside of her. Its presence was like a ghost reminding her of all the broken things she could never fix. Of the hopeless realization that the thing she wanted—thought she wanted—wasn’t for her and, in fact, had never existed at all. She had been chasing phantoms and, in the process, almost become one herself.
So she packed it up and gave it away in the hopes that it might become what it was meant to be—that I Am Beautiful Dress—for someone else who was ready to pay the price to reclaim that joy in the way she hadn’t been when she had first purchased it. The weight of that terrible time lifted from her shoulders and the energy in her home felt lighter.
Now the woman has a closet full of I Am Beautiful Dresses. They are loud. And they sparkle. And they have hems ready to be tossed above the knee for dancing and more dancing and things that would make you blush for me to write. And they all radiate joy. All because she let go of the thing that was holding her back. All because she chose to feel the pain of the past and let it go. All because she chose to be a loud woman with a beating heart in a sun-kissed land and not a phantom shade.
Lovely little story, isn’t it? And it’s all true. I once had an I Am Beautiful Dress that became The Sad Birthday Dress. And when I gave it away, I was giving myself permission to be more than that sad story. I could learn from my past and create space for joy in my present. The truth is, we all have a proverbial Sad Birthday Dress or something that was once a profound piece of armor in our lives that became stained by experience. Other times, we change—becoming someone that certain objects no longer feel attached to, can no longer nourish. And in order to keep growing, transforming, evolving, we must let them go. If we don’t, what once was beautiful or nourishing becomes toxic. The spirit that won’t move on becomes the ghost that terrorizes the living.
Having recently completed a massive house cleansing—saying goodbye to old ghosts and old selves—I found myself thinking about one of my pieces from Everyday Enchantments, “Letting Go of Past Lives, “ about the things you hold on to even when you are ready to let go of the person you used to be. It can be scary to let go of the past because, as stagnant as it can make us, it’s also familiar and comforting. That’s why we hold on to so much unnecessary stuff. It keeps us feeling safe—but it also keeps us stuck. In the end, it’s better to let go and know that you are creating space for new, positive vibes to enter your life (but not necessarily more stuff!).
The first part of banishing ghosts or old selves? Let go of the objects they are attached to. Say goodbye to things that don’t bring you joy or that you haven’t used in over a year. Be conscious of the energy you want in your home and life. Then be ruthless about protecting it—get rid of anything that doesn’t contribute to your overall sense of well-being. Ghosts hide behind sentiment and guilt to keep you trapped under their spell. Low-level spirits are a lot like low-level people: They want you to feel as trapped and miserable as they are, so they’ll do anything to stay in your life. Best to see them for what they are and move on.
The second part of ghostbusting? Let go of the troubling energy you’ve been holding onto psychically. That last one will take a little more time, but letting go of the object that keeps constellating that energy will go a long way to dispersing its psychic impact. Give yourself permission to heal and move on from sad or seemingly unfinished histories.
The rest will follow.
This post originally appeared on Enchantment Learning and Living, home of professor, writer, and bruja Maria DeBlassie, where true magic is in the everyday!
A Gothic Fairytale about Ancestral Hauntings
Genre: Gothic Fairytale, Occult, Supernatural
Publisher: Kitchen Witch Press
Date of Publication: August 25, 2021
Number of pages:150 pages
Word Count: 37,935
Cover Artist: Rachel Ross
Tagline: Nothing makes a woman brave except getting on with the business of daily life.
A compelling gothic fairytale by bruja and award-winning writer Maria DeBlassie.
The women of Sueño, New Mexico don't know how to live a life without sorrows.
That's La Llorona's doing. She roams the waterways looking for the next generation of girls to baptize, filling them with more tears than any woman should have to hold. And there's not much they can do about the Weeping Woman except to avoid walking along the riverbank at night and to try to keep their sadness in check. That's what attracts her to them: the pain and heartache that gets passed down from one generation of women to the next.
Mercy knows this, probably better than anyone. She lost her best friend to La Llorona and almost found a watery grave herself. But she survived. Only she didn't come back quite right and she knows La Llorona won't be satisfied until she drags the one soul that got away back to the bottom of the river.
In a battle for her life, Mercy fights to break the chains of generational trauma and reclaim her soul free from ancestral hauntings by turning to the only things that she knows can save her: plant medicine, pulp books, and the promise of a love so strong not even La Llorona can stop it from happening. What unfolds is a stunning tale of one woman's journey into magic, healing, and rebirth.
CW: assault, domestic violence, racism, colorism
One time, I was feeling mighty fine and thought I’d try
something different. I saw this ad in a magazine where a woman was in an
obscenely large bathtub and covered up to the neck in bubbles. This was in a
room with a marble floor, and there were candles everywhere, and she had her
hair up all nice and a face mask on. Well, I got to thinking a nice long soak
after a hard day’s work would be nice.
This was a few months after my run-in with Sherry, and I was
trying hard to let myself enjoy things more. It occurred to me after seeing her
that her fatal flaw was not believing that her future was right in front of
her. Or maybe she was too afraid to take it with both hands. I began to wonder
if we didn’t hold back and do half the work for La Llorona with all that we ran
So I bought some bubble bath and made more beeswax candles
and set about having myself a spa night. I mean, my bathroom was nowhere near
as nice as the one in the picture. My tub was only long enough for me to sit
upright and was right next to the toilet, but I made do.
It was lovely. I mean, divine! I could see why fancy women
liked this. I put on the radio, and the music was soft and sweet, like the
candlelight against the fading day. I was so relaxed, that I was about to fall
asleep in that tub.
That was when I felt cold hands grip the soles of my feet and
pull me under.
I should have seen it coming. Why willingly linger in a body of water? But I
didn’t, and that was how I found myself drowning in bubbles and thrashing
around in my tub. It’s also how I learned that evil woman could find me
anywhere—and I mean anywhere—so I could never let my guard down.
Her grip was strong. Seemed like the harder I fought, the
stronger she got. I was flailing about, my arms searching for anything and
everything to hold on to, when I knocked one of those beeswax candles into the
tub. To this day, I have no idea why that scared her, but it did. She recoiled
something quick at the hiss of the flame when the wax hit water.
I didn’t waste a second—I hoisted myself out of the tub and
collapsed on the bathroom floor, choking and sputtering and sopping wet. Took
me forever to clean up the mess and cough up all those flower-scented bubbles.
My feet were cold and sore for days, with claw marks where her bony fingers
hooked into my skin.
Whoever said bubble baths were relaxing was a big fat liar.
About the Author: Maria DeBlassie, Ph.D. is a native New Mexican mestiza blogger, award-winning
writer, and award-winning educator living in the Land of Enchantment. Her first
book, Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic and Daily Conjurings
(Moon Books 2018), and her ongoing blog, Enchantment Learning and Living are
about everyday magic, ordinary gothic, and the life of a kitchen witch. When
she is not practicing her own brand of brujeria, she's reading, teaching, and
writing about bodice rippers and things that go bump in the night. She is
forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she
thought was there.
more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at https://mariadeblassie.com/
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