Amanda C in Utah asked about ghosts, spirits, and phantoms and how they are associated with witchcraft.
I guess I should state my own beliefs first. To answer your question, yes, I do believe in various types of spirits. I have been witness to many strange things in my lifetime. I work with a small group of "ghost hunters" who investigate supposed hauntings and try to debunk them.
There are various types of paranormal phenomenon that have been documented. There are 6 types of haunting activity.
Residual haunting can occur when events of a strong nature happen in an area and the energy is basically burned into the place like a stain. The activity does not have to involve actual ghosts, but can be an emotional stain on the area where things like abuse or violence have happened. These events will continue to play over and over.
Poltergeist activity happens around an adolescent just reaching puberty most times. I have had this one happen to me since I was 13. Usually it happens to females but can happen with males. There is some debate about what is actually happening. Two theories are that the girl is producing so much emotional energies that it is projected out from her body and manifests as haunting activity, or that the girl's energies are so great that spirits are drawn to her.
Demonic activity is a much debated subject. Some believe that they are evil entities and others believe they are evil spirits of bad people. There are those who believe they are alien in nature. In Christianity they are angelic in nature. They can take possession of an individual and cause them to do great harm to themselves and others around them.
Intelligent activity is spirit activity that is aware of the things around them and they are interactive. Humans are a collection of electrical activity. This activity is what makes up our auras. When we die sometimes our spirits are left here. The spirit is the energy our bodies housed. It is still conscious of the things and individuals around it.Since witches believe in reincarnation we believe that the spirit or soul houses our stores of knowledge. Knowledge is obtained over many lifetimes and it only makes sense that one's spirit would still be aware and knowledgeable of surroundings just as it was in life.
Shadow activity is considered by many to not be human. Shadow people are exactly that, a shadow just like what we cast in light. Some believe that shadow people are a thin area in a veil between worlds allowing the shadow of other beings to show through. Others believe them to be harbingers of omens. People who encounter them report a feeling of dread and sorrow.Usually viewed out of the corner of ones eye they appear to be a free standing shadow. They are quick and sometimes just a dark mass without shape. The most common shadow figures are that of a hooded man or a cat.
The rarest form of haunting is doppelganger activity. This activity is considered an omen of death or the evil twin. In these cases the individual is endanger from their surroundings, family members, or terminal illness. Some investigators believe these types of hauntings to be demonic in basis. They believe the demon is impersonating the other individual to cause them great stress and to drive them mad. Others believe them to be a twin of one individual from another dimension who has become trapped between worlds and wants to take over the life or become the other. There is even some debate that the doppelganger is not evil but in some cases themselves frightened of the situation and thinks the individual is the evil counterpart and tries to destroy them to take their lives back.
Belief in spirits in witchcraft are very important. Many times we call upon our ancestors to aid us and give us knowledge. Samhain is a celebration of those ancestors and a time when the veil between the Summerland and the world of the living is lifted and spirits can cross over to rejoin the loved ones they have left or finish business that was left undone. We believe in the energies created by emotions or events that happen in life, and that these energies can have effects on areas and others around it. Proper cleansing is important to remove or dismiss those energies and release any spirits remaining. Many individuals who are drawn to the pagan path are done so by spirit activity. Some mediums and clairvoyants have had a relationship with the spirit world since they were small children. Most times they are told that there is something wrong with them or that they have a mental illness, when in fact, they just have a much more open and receptive mind than others have. A lot of people witness spirit activity but just dismiss it as something else because they refuse to believe it happened. Spirits and hauntings are not hard to see just some people chose to ignore them. Their minds completely block it out because it would go against everything they have known and accepted about life and death.