If you’ve been following me, you may know that my grandfather died quite recently. It was my second familial death in four months, with the first being my great aunt. Although these deaths were hard, I’m no stranger to experiencing the loss of a loved one. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re familiar with it, too.
I receive a lot of questions about what to do, magic-wise, when a loved one dies. Many of these messages sound urgent--people are eager to communicate with their loved one, especially if they pass away unexpectedly. In this post, I hope to answer some questions on what you can do after someone you know dies.
The Mundane Comes First
This probably goes without saying, but the funeral and your family always, always come first. If you were close to this loved one, you’re probably involved in their funeral and honoring their will. These projects take time, but they’re essential for both the deceased soul and the people grieving.
The funeral helps the deceased to wrap up any loose ends they had in life. Many people receive signs from their loved one during this period, such as messages in dreams or specific picture frames falling off the shelves.
If you haven’t received any of these signs, don’t worry. You aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s actually quite common for souls to not contact the living right after dying. Why? Keep reading.
Don’t Expect to Communicate with the Dead Right Away
“Is it too early to contact my dead loved one?” is one of the most common questions I receive. I’ve also seen a lot of practitioners fearfully warn against communicating with the soul soon after death, as if something bad will happen if you do.
Technically speaking, you can communicate with your loved one soon after death. Some older occult works advise that necromancers perform a ritual within a week of the death. In their eyes, the soul will remain close to the body within this time, which makes for an ideal communication session.
However, in my experience, most souls do not contact the living soon after death. I’ve read message upon message asking why a loved one won’t respond, and what the practitioner is doing wrong. Chances are, you’re not doing anything wrong. Most souls prefer not to communicate within weeks, months, or even years after their death.
Think about death as a major life transition (despite how that sounds like an oxymoron). If you moved to a different country, you’d likely take a while to adjust. You’d have to learn a new routine, a new home, and possibly a new language. That major transition could consume your life for a while after the move.
Death is the same way. Your loved one may take a while to adjust to their new state. They may want to wrap things up in their life before they respond to magicians. Some may never respond to magicians--that is entirely their choice.
As a death witch, you should honor your loved one’s choices in death. Be patient. Don’t keep bugging them to respond if they’re not ready yet. As a general rule, most necromancers don’t contact a soul for around six months to a year after death. Although there are some exceptions, expect to receive few messages in between that time.
So What CAN You Do?
Being unable to contact your loved one can hurt. You’re grieving, after all. You may want to help your loved one feel safe and happy, or you may fumble with your own emotions. Fortunately, death witchcraft isn’t only about talking to the dead. It’s about helping, honoring, and caring for the dead, even if you don’t receive any message from them in return. Here are some things that you can do to support your loved one beyond the veil.
Erect an Altar
In my opinion, building an altar for your loved one is one of the most important steps that a death witch can take. The altar continues the soul’s memory just by existing. It contains any tools or memorabilia you need to contact the soul, and it’s where you can perform most of your rituals.
If you already have an altar for the dead or your ancestors, give your loved one a special spot. You can provide a picture of the person or an object that represents them, such as their old jewelry or even their funeral pamphlet. These objects will serve as a taglock to connect you with your loved one during rituals.
What else can you put on the altar? Anything that represents your loved one or furthers your magic. If you have their graveyard dirt or ashes, keep them in a container at the altar. If you write a letter or make a candle for your loved one, you may keep it on the altar. Include a space to give offerings. Appropriate magic tools, such as an obsidian scrying mirror or tarot deck, may also be stored there.
If your loved one was religious, include some items to represent their faith, not your own. For instance, my great aunt Mary was a nun, a sister of Saint Joseph. So I included a Saint Joseph votive and a rosary on my ancestor altar. Even if you don’t agree with your loved one’s religious views, it’s important to honor them. Although I’m Wiccan, I give my ancestors Catholic offerings because I love them and want to make them happy.
Speaking of Offerings…
Never underestimate the importance of offerings. They not only nourish the soul, but also prove that you are thinking of your loved one. Offerings establish a connection between the two of you, even if you can’t receive their messages quite yet.
As I mentioned before, make sure that the offerings for your loved ones honor their religious beliefs. Rose quartz wouldn’t be an appropriate offering for my grandfather since he never believed in crystal healing. But lighting my Saint Joseph candle and offering red wine--which he drank every night--would be appropriate offerings.
When in doubt, here are religion-neutral offerings that you can give: water, bread, wine, honey, milk, and rocks (not crystals). I will write in-depth about offerings in a future post.
Personalized offerings, such as writing a letter or providing their favorite food, also work. If you’d put the object on their grave, it’ll likely make an appropriate offering.
These gifts will relax your loved one in death. It’ll calm them, help them pass on, and remind them that you won’t forget their legacy. Offerings can also help you sort through your grief.
What to Do If These Things Aren’t Enough
If you’re a magician, you’re probably a “doer.” Sticking to prayers and belief isn’t enough for us; we want to push the forces of nature with our own hands. Offerings may scratch this itch for some time, but after a while, you’ll want to perform a ritual.
Although I recommended waiting to contact the dead, nothing is stopping you from trying. You can always try divination to see if your loved one is willing to talk. But don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work; they just aren’t ready yet.
If you want to be more proactive in helping your deceased loved one, I recommend a love spell. No, not a spell to make them fall in love with you--a spell to send healing and love to your loved one in death.
When I performed this spell in February, it encouraged communication between me and my lost loved ones. Even my great aunt Mary responded to my ritual, which is highly unusual given that she died in November.
You will need:
Here’s what you do:
This ritual is just an idea. You can change it to suit your practice if you wish.
Although most people can’t communicate with their deceased loved one soon after death, they can connect in other ways. You can build an altar, give offerings, and perform a spell for the newly deceased soul. Remain patient and focus on mundane tasks first, such as attending the funeral and tending to your living loved ones. If you give the soul time, you’ll be able to communicate eventually.