Don't be surprised to find some unexpected visitors in your home toward the end of October. And, no, we don't meet trick-or-treaters.
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Instead, you could be tormented by stubborn spirits.
"Ghosts are associated with Halloween because the divider between the living and the dead is a little bit thinner this time of year," says Amy Blackthorn, a witch in Newark, Del., who can be hired to cast out spirits.
Or you can take a proactive approach, and have your house blessed or cleansed of negative energy before you move in.
Practitioners in a range of spiritual traditions can be found to give your home a vigorous mystical cleansing. One such consultant is Blackthorn, who says she can rid a home of spirits, use her skills to help a house sell more quickly or "freshen things up a bit, energetically speaking."
She gets calls these days from people having a tough time selling their homes. By calling her in, sellers "want to give (the house) that warm, homey energy that says, 'You want to live here.'"
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Or if someone has bought a foreclosure, "they don't want to move into someone else's old headache," Blackthorn says.
And a house filled with spirits can cause headaches, too.
Wash that ghost right outta your lair
Spirits stick around for various reasons such as the following, experts say.
Someone who suffers a sudden death, such as a heart attack or drug overdose, might not realize he or she is dead.
The deceased might fear Judgment Day and being sent to hell.
The spirit might be keeping watch on a family member.
The apparition might be drawn to a former residence or haunt.
"Sometimes a loved one's grief is so strong, it's a cord that binds them to this place," says Anna Oliver, a shaman from Tampa, Fla., who conducts meditations to meet up with such spirits. When she explains the need to move on, "they're usually willing to go. They feel stuck."
It's not always about stuck spirits. Some clients ask Oliver to do spatial clearing to remove negativity. Something as common as an argument can mar a space. "That all leaves an energetic imprint," she says. Her goal is to "clear space out so you can claim it for yourself."
She sets up an altar in the center of the room and lights a candle. Then she says a prayer or asks residents to visualize what they want to occur in the space -- prosperity, for example, or a house full of kids. She asks for a blessing for each area of a home.
Salt, smoke and onions
If you ask Blackthorn to cleanse your new home, don't expect her to spend the day slaving away over a hot cauldron. Instead, she shows up with things such as birthday candles and packets of salt from a fast-food restaurant.
While each person uses his or her own method of cleansing, there is overlap in the tools practitioners use. For example, people from various traditions use salt, candles and smoke from smudge sticks or incense. Salt absorbs negative energy. Candles signify purity or the divine. The smoke from herbs such as sage, cedar and lavender travel out open windows, drawing out negative energy.
Blackthorn places the top half of an onion in the garbage disposal to pull negative energy down the drain, then sets the bottom half in a sunny kitchen window to pull in any lingering last bits of energy. She uses white candles in a cleansing ceremony to signify purity. "Your home really should be a place you consider holy," she says.
If you're ready to move to other places, she uses green candles to represent money, so the home will sell quickly.
A Christian blessing
Toting a Bible and "The United Methodist Book of Worship," the Rev. Vicki Walker blesses houses. During a blessing, the owners consecrate and dedicate their home to a higher purpose.
Walker, a Methodist minister in Tampa, says she often gets house-blessing requests from gay homeowners. Her theory is that "the church was hesitant to bless their union, so they ask to bless their home."
Sometimes, residents are looking for tranquility. In one case, a housemate died in a home, and the remaining pair of dwellers didn't feel haunted by an angry presence, Walker says. But "they just wanted peace, not a constant reminder when they looked at the room. They wanted a sense of peace and love in that home."
Feng shui way
Mary Mihaly, a feng shui practitioner in Cleveland, sprinkles flower petals around homes. "Flowers are the best energy booster you can use in a space," she says.
Sometimes Mihaly crumbles citrus peels around the exterior of a house. She returns the next day with more citrus peels, shaped like nine coins, and places them in water. Chanting and flicking the water around the house helps ward off negativity.
Mihaly warns against buying a house on a dead-end street or cul-de-sac -- places, she says, where bad energy accumulates.