When I first heard it, it was just the sound of whispering behind boarded up windows. I was in New Orleans, five years after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city, leaving debris, chaos, and desperation in its’ wake. I had been photographing a ruined church, capturing the beauty in the devastation and abandonment. Hearing the disembodied voices, I lowered my camera and cocked my head to one side. What was that? After a few moments of silence, I decided it was probably either nothing at all or perhaps some homeless people sheltering in the vacant church. I kept photographing until I heard it again. I stopped to listen and this time the whisper said my name: “Catherine. Dawn. Calhoun.”
I scarcely had time to think, “Hey, now. No one calls me that but my mom,” when I felt something blow into my body like a strong breeze through a window, enter the center of my left shoulder blade and settle into my trunk. I was instantly overwhelmed with a huge desire to get as drunk as possible. Granted, I’ve spent some time diligently working my way toward the bottom of various alcohol bottles, but this drive to inebriate was very odd because 1) it was 10 o’clock in the morning and 2) I don’t even like the taste of alcohol (thanks to numerous hangovers in my youth).
Nevertheless, I stowed my camera in my pack and jogged about a half a block to catch up with my partner, who had walked on ahead of me as I had photographed. I locked my arm into hers and said enthusiastically, “Hey, let’s go get a drink!” She gave me a weird look and a resounding no. I grumbled a bit, but we didn’t go drinking. As a matter of fact, the rest of the trip was pretty much alcohol free even though the cravings continued, and we returned home without drunken incident.
Unfortunately for my ‘hitchhiker,’ I’ve logged enough time on this planet to have some truly awful hangovers, as previously mentioned, and have zero desire to repeat that particular experience. Unfortunately for me, the more I refused my hitchhiker’s desires, the more agitated I became until finally, a month later, I was a seething, angry mess. Enter the previously referenced, Barbara The Energy Ninja. Barbara called her favorite helper for this kind of work, a being she experiences as the Archangel Michael, and the angel escorted my passenger to a better, more appropriate place. The anger and the deep desire for alcohol left immediately. And I was left with a whole new concept to ponder: possession.
Devils and demons, according to the theology of my childhood, were lurking around every corner and under every stone, waiting to pounce on the unwary and either possess or beguile them. Though I accepted this teaching in my youth, the questions and inconsistencies mounted in my adult years until finally I scrapped everything I’d been taught about spirituality and for several years believed nothing at all. Though I had slowly rebuilt a lot of my spiritual practice in ways that worked for me over the ensuing years, the concept of any kind of spiritual possession was left unaddressed in a corner of my mental attic, written off as a power and control mechanism wielded by the theological elite to keep the masses frightened and in line.
The experience in New Orleans prompted me to retrieve this dismissed and forgotten concept and to look at it with fresh eyes. It was clearly a “possession” experience, but at no point did it look like anything scripted in the movies, nor did it resemble anything I was taught in my childhood. It wasn’t frightening, but it was weird and uncomfortable. Based on what I understand now, I think what happened was that I encountered an “earth bound spirit.”
An earthbound spirit is what is left when someone dies but doesn’t make a smooth transition between physical life and death. From a shamanic viewpoint, these bodies we walk around in are on loan to us, consisting of components we borrow from the Earth for a time. When we are done with this life, we return those elements back to the Earth, allowing the soul, mind, and consciousness to disconnect from that combination of physical elements.
In a “good” death experience, a dying person goes through a process of letting go. They might let go of people they love by saying goodbye. They could let go of attachment to possessions that hold meaning to them by having a will in place or by giving their possessions away to people they think would love them. The person could also have a living will, which indicates they have a sense that they will let go of the body at some point and might even need help releasing the anchors holding them to physical existence. They might also have a cosmological belief system that would give them a sense of comfort about what happens after their body dies. All of these things will help a person move easily from this version of reality into What Is Next.
Earthbound spirits, for whatever reason, have attachments that keep them tied to their former lives. An earthbound spirit might have died suddenly or in such a way that they didn’t understand their own dying process, as discussed in the previous article. Others might feel very attached to people, to things in their lives, or to the experience of living, leaving them partially connected to their previous physical existence and lost in the process of transition. It was one of these people/earthbound spirits that found me. Perhaps it was not even aware that it had hitched a ride. It might simply have been looking for light, energy, or something that felt familiar and comforting. In this case, that comfort and familiarity might have been a shot of whiskey … or five.
Though I was taught in my youth that possession should be met with exorcism, this is not a great approach in most instances. Earthbound spirits are suffering and in need. Exorcism might work, but will not help the spirit heal and may result in them getting sucked back into the original person they were kicked out of when they find themselves again, wandering, hurting, and looking for some kind of solid ground.
By contrast, “de-possession” seeks to bring resolution to the entire situation, helping the earthbound spirit to find a way to detach from this life and move on into light, growth, and healing. In the best possible outcome, the person who was ‘possessed’ is also healed when they seek ways to strengthen their own energy field from the inside out so that the weak spots in their field are strengthened and are no longer vulnerable to outside interference.
It has been my experience that most possession events are earthbound spirits looking for help in some way, though they may not know what has happened to them, what kind of help they need, or even that they have slipped into someone’s personal space. True, the combination of a living person and an earthbound spirit gets pretty uncomfortable and can have malevolent results, but this is more likely to be the result of the incompatible chemistry rather than some kind of demonic intent. In most of these encounters, de-possession is the best treatment. There is no battle to be waged, no war to be fought, just a win-win for both parties.
Do you feel like you relate a little too much to the concept of possession as it’s been described? You might need some help from a de-possession expert. Contact a local shamanic practitioner who is trained in this form of work. It’s a gentle experience that heals everyone.
Cat Calhoun has been seeing dead people for more than 50 years, but that’s not her only claim to fame. She is also a licensed acupuncture practitioner, a Shamanic practitioner, and a certified Usui Reiki Master Therapist whose overwhelming passion is weaving this physical existence into the greater whole of Who We Are.