A person is surrounded by spirits and in western society modern times we ignore them.
However, once you start on a magical path finding them and working with them becomes more important.
Whether they are believed in they have a direct impact on people’s lives so working with them can either create or relieve a pile of hurt.
To identify them they have to return to a general description handed down from ancient times. For this I am using the Roman classification, which was the most structured.
Ancestors: These are beings who have died and passed on to the underworld. In cabbalah they are the shells of the dead because they are the person stripped of the soul which has moved on elsewhere. They are the automatic complexes and they behave as they always have done. They still have an interest in the world of the living but more often watch it as if it were a television show. As time moves on they fade into each other with only a few more recent or stronger shells surviving. This forms a collective spirit with the heads of several members. They could turn malevolent, if the living dishonour them or if there was some hereditary psychosis. The Romans felt that one day a year at least you should make offerings to the ancestors to keep them sweet. In some cases this is not practical. If a family unit is strongly controlling then some of its members will not be able to stop those sorts of antics after death. While it is not possible to totally cut of connections with them, it is better not to activate them at all.
Deified ancestors: Each family has a dead hero within it, who legend says, did something awesome in their lives. Most romans believed that their families had a divine start or featured at least one or two heroes. Julius Caesar’s family was supposed to be descended from Venus. Historically this was bollocks but it means that a family would look to one of them to inspire and protect them. At some point in a family’s history they would look to one defied ancestor. In modern times this has been repeated by those occultists who use contacts with dead humans to provide them with their teaching and information.
They are different from shells because the soul of the former owner activates them. What happens is that if people do not know of a defiled ancestor they usually pick a hero to talk to. Dion Fortune received the Cosmic Doctrine from Socrates and had others. Sometimes your surname can give you a link to your defied ancestor.
In Christian tradition, the Saints replaced this function. While they had a slightly different theology, ordinary people would have not spotted the difference. In fact Saints replaced Spirits of the Place, City Spirits and national spirits.
House spirits: Each house has a spirit or two which has be formed by the people who have lived in that place. House spirits are what define an atmosphere of the house. They build up power over time and can become sick and unwell. They are connected to fire through the goddess Vesta.
Spirits of the Place: Like House Spirits these are entities which are focused on a geographic region. They are closely associated with the land.
City Spirits: Each urban area, from a village to a huge city has a spirit which runs it. It starts out as a spirit of the place but evolves through interaction with large numbers of people over the centuries. Some of the larger ones are extremely powerful – Rome, London and Paris are equal to or larger than the spirit of the country (see below)
National Spirits: These are complicated because the tendency in modern minds is to associate them with land. But they are more to do with the people who settle on the land and what they identify themselves. They are not racial at all and are entirely multicultural.
If there is ethnic tension they will reflect that as an illness within themselves. Some of these spirits are newer than others as they have been formed more recently.
Guardian spirits: Some spirits have some form of protector. The Romans had one for the house which was in the form of a snake (although some believe this represents the Genius of the head of the household. The City of Rome was protected by two spirits dressed in wolf skins. It is thought that a person also had a guardian spirit and these became the guardian angels of Christian tradition.
The Genius: This is the True spiritual self which dwells within the personality. It was like the soul which drives the lower self of the personality. The personality only really becomes a “spirit of an ancestor” after death. You do not really contact this spirit because it is already you. But at its deeper heart, it contains the infinite spirit. Like the men locked in Plato’s cave it has just forgotten its divine nature and lost the memory to soar to the throne of Jupiter.
All these spirits have an immediate effect on a person daily. That is even before you start looking at gods and Daemons (Angels or other messengers).
To approach them, you can start by making offerings to them, candles are a good start, finding pictures that are associated with them and placing them on your altar. Over time the relationship will deepen. If you find that that the relationship has grown toxic then stop any offerings, banish the influence, and don’t ever call it back.