What exactly are spirit guides? Using the language of modern mystics, a “spirit guide” is a nonphysical being assigned to guide us to attain the greatest potential on Earth. In a way they care for us like guardian angels and assist us in many processes and transformations as we navigate life. A spirit guide is an ascended being that has thoroughly mastered life’s lessons, and comes through energetically as a true North Star, a guiding light.
Whether you know it or not, you have a full team of spirit guides cheering you on and subtly guiding you through all of life’s ups and downs. No matter your cultural or spiritual background, these beings are here to give you an added layer of knowledge, wisdom, and protection.
The idea of spirit guides isn’t just new age fluff —it’s a belief system that spans many cultures and religions. And although different cultures may call their guides by different names, they all share remarkable similarities.
There are numerous ways to meet your guides and foster relationships with them throughout your lifetime. This article will cover just a few ways to identify your guides, receive their wisdom and counsel, and foster lasting relationships with your soul’s team.
A Note On Cultural Differences
Different cultures and spiritual traditions may hold wildly different beliefs and practices when it comes to contacting ancestors and other spirit guides. If you’re curious about your unique lineage, look up ancestral spiritual and healing practices in your families’ countries of origin. From there, you can begin to read more about how your ancestors met and fostered lasting relationships with their spirit guides and see how it feels to you.
What Are Spirit Guides?
Have you ever felt like something or someone was watching over you? Or, maybe you’ve heard a whisper or heeded a thought that led you away from danger or a terrible decision. If any of this resonates, then you’ve already had contact with your spirit guides.
Spirit guides are non-physical beings that have signed a soul contract to help you navigate the material realm, and guide you toward your greatest potential on earth. Also referred to as totems by Anishinaabe people (also called Ojibwa or Chippewa), angels, and nature spirits, your guides can take many different forms.
While they sometimes show up as ancestors or animal spirits, voices and visions, they always vibrate at a higher than human frequency. You can think of them as light beings, energy, or souls that have made their way to a higher plane.
Some belief systems maintain that you’re assigned a specific team at birth, while others believe that guides come and go as you need them throughout your lifetime.
What Do Spirit Guides Do?
Your spirit guides are definitely here for your benefit, even if you’re not sure how to “access” them. And they’re already showing up for you (and have been all along), even during times you’ve felt completely alone.
They speak to you in dreams, signs, and symbols. Sometimes, these entities will send small clues or leave breadcrumbs that lead you toward a bigger idea or goal. These usually show up as gut instincts, ideas, “downloads,” and synchronicities.
Your guides can protect you from negativity or harmful thought loops, usher you through anxious or depressive thoughts, increase creativity, and help connect you with your soul’s true purpose.
They’ll help you make tough decisions and often bring the right people into your life at the right times or send you clues that it's time to leave a relationship or remove your energy from a situation.
Photo by @crescentandcraft
Types of Spirit Guides
When it comes to types of spirit guides, there really are no rules. Spirit guides take many forms, from an ancestor you once knew on earth to pure light being to… well, alien. Here are a few forms your spirit guides might take, but if these don’t resonate, don’t worry —there are plenty of ways to connect more deeply. Here are some of the most common guides:
- Your Higher Self
This is one guide you always have access to, no matter what. That’s because your higher self is already… you. Instead of being a separate spirit-based version of you, it’s simply the part of you that’s deeply connected with the divine and can easily see past a lot of the earthly things that can get in the way of divine reasoning.
Your higher self is the kind of guide that sees beyond the surface of things and ushers you forward with deep and loving wisdom. They also have access to way more information than your conscious mind —all you have to do is tap in and that wisdom is yours! This might feel like your intuition or a “sixth sense.” Whatever form it takes, acknowledging it can become your most powerful tool.
- Angels and Archangels
You might have learned that angels are only for those with religious beliefs, but that’s just not true! Angels are non-denominational and many people receive messages from specific angels regardless of their religious background.
Archangels are powerful spiritual figures that tend to come with a “specialty.” For instance, Archangel Michael represents protection, courage, and truth, so you can call on that energy anytime you need it.
Other angels may not come with a specific name and may feel like they’re yours and yours alone. If you sense an angelic presence, feel free to ask them their name and what they’re here to teach you.
- Ancestors and Ascended Masters
There’s a theory that when someone dies, their spirit ascends to a higher plane where it can stay and assist humans on their earthly paths before reincarnating again.
These can be relatives you knew in this lifetime, people or ancestors from previous lives, and spirits your soul has never had contact with before. These particular spirits come with a wealth of information they acquired on earth, plus they gain the knowledge of all that is simply by being in an ascended form.
Some people refer to ascended masters as the big guns like Buddha and Jesus. But I’ve seen these come through as any spirit energy with impressive things to teach and share.
When you connect with guides like ancestors and ascended masters, it’s good to tap into the energy and advice they can offer from their unique experiences and perspective.
- Plant and Animal Spirits
Animism is the belief that objects, creatures, and even places all have a soul or distinct spiritual essence. And for many people, their guides come in the form of plant or animal spirits.
These guides often come in the form of signs and signals, like seeing a hawk every time you have a specific thought or experience. It’s also common to see animal guides in dreams, meditations, and visions.
Plant spirits can pop up when you’re working with a specific herb or flower, or if you spend a lot of time in nature. Feel free to assign your own meaning to these guides or ask them what they’re here to show you.
Every culture has a strong connection to a deity or multiple deities. These belief systems usually consist of one or more gods and goddesses, some imparting judgment or punishment, and all of them with a set of supernatural powers.
If you feel drawn to particular deities or certain god or goddess energy shows up in your life often, foster that connection by learning more about them. Read up on their stories and characteristics —each one comes with its own rich mythology and many lessons to teach.
- Galactic Beings
Some people believe that many of us have ancestral connections to different galaxies. This system suggests that souls haven’t just reincarnated here on earth but on stars and planets lightyears away. If you feel like you’ve never really belonged here on earth or feel a spark of energy when you hear about the potential of being related to star-based spiritual teams, then these guides might be for you.
- Universal and Spirit Energy
Many people don’t see, sense, or hear any particular guide but instead, tap into the all-knowing energy of the universe. This is the collective sea of unconscious energy that connects us all, a spiritual source energy that is all around us and also of us. You can call it universe, spirit, source, or god. You always have access to it and always have.
If you don’t feel connected with a specific spirit, animal, plant, or galactic energy, this might be the way to go. Of course, you can have deep connections to your spiritual guidance team AND a more universal energy.
How Your Guides Show Up
Communication with your guides will vary wildly, and some will come in more “loudly” than others. Your only job is to “listen,” which means listening with more than just your ears. Here’s how:
- Your guides might send information through certain books, “random” people, or practitioners. If you see something more than a couple of times, or synchronistic events tend to happen frequently, pay close attention to it.
- Many guides send messages in the form of numbers or symbols. Again, if you get the inkling that something might be a message, write it down and track how often it comes up in your life. Note what you’re doing, how and what you’re feeling or thinking at the time.
- You might hear messages through artforms like songs, photos, movies, or even TV shows.
- Guides often show up with messages in the dream space when conscious thought can’t get in the way. Dream tracking is a wonderful way to heed guidance from your team.
- Guidance can come in the form of certain jobs, people, and opportunities.
How to Connect With Your Guides
The first (and best) thing you can do to begin fostering a connection with your guides is simply acknowledging that they’re there —no complex rituals or meditations required!
If you’re unsure “who” is on your team or what they’re there to teach you, just be patient. With a few of these simple tricks, you’ll start to gain more clarity:
- Build Trust.
The best thing you can do to foster a lasting relationship with your team is to trust your instincts and the signs and synchronicities that your guides are sending through.
You might think that something is just a coincidence or that you’re just making it up. Keep a journal of everything you hear, sense, and see, plus all the synchronicities in your life. Trust me, writing it assists in the process of connecting the dots, and most importantly, interpreting the symbols themselves.
The more you notice them, the more they’ll keep coming in. Soon, you’ll feel better about acting on the guidance you’re receiving, and that’s when the magic really starts to happen.
- Be Open.
Messages and guidance might come in unexpected ways. Plus, not everyone has the same sensing abilities. For instance, some people are more adept at hearing messages (clairaudience), while some are better at seeing images in their mind’s eye (clairvoyance).
Some people only see colors, some get epic psychic downloads, while others may only get gentle energetic “nudges” in the right direction. Trust your instincts in whatever form they show up, and don’t expect any of this to feel or look a certain way.
- Connect Through Meditation + Visualization.
A beautiful way to connect to your guides is through a meditation or visualization process. Get yourself into a relaxed, meditative state. You can picture yourself in a beautiful, peaceful place or just see where your mind takes you.
When it feels right, ask to meet one of your guides. Be patient and sense what comes up. Traditionally, any person, animal, or other spirit you meet three times on your subconscious journey is your guide. You can then ask:
Are you one of my guides?
What are you here to show or teach me?
What can I do to honor this relationship?
When you’re done, thank your guide, gently open your eyes, and record your experience.
- Solidify Your Spiritual Practice.
It’s called a spiritual practice for a reason. Like many things in life, it’s easy to understand how things work or have a philosophical relationship with them —and it’s much harder to actually practice!
Set up a time every day to sit in silence, reverence, and gratitude. You might want to add some journaling, meditation, or a Tarot card pull —whatever you feel connected to is fine. The most important part is choosing something that helps you connect to your spirituality and practice it daily.
Herbal Allies for Guide Work.
Herbs are powerful allies for spirit work, helping to cleanse and clear the auric field and open the upper chakras so you can better hear your guides’ messages. Work with the following herbs and herbal blends to support your connection with your team.
- Palo Santo.
Palo Santo is one of the most powerful energetic, and physical, purifiers you can find. Indigenous to Central and South America, healers and indigenous people have used it for centuries for direct communion with the spirit world. Use it to help clear energetic space for communication with your guides before ceremony, meditation, or dream time.
This ethically crafted Palo Santo Oil or Water, is a potent botanical perfume you can keep on your altar, bedside table, or in your bag for on-the-go spiritual work. Or if you’re looking to ward off energy at home, you might want to burn the wood itself.
- Sacred Smokes.
Sacred smoke blends are made with herbs and flowers that offer different benefits and spiritual correspondences. For instance, some herbs relax the body and mind, helping to increase your connection with the spirit realm or help open your third eye. You can use this Flores Sagradas blend ceremonially and mindfully to conjure and open the crown chakra. Or, this botanical blend designed to relax and create feelings of euphoria to more deeply connect you to the spirit realm.
- Kalea Sacatechichi.
Kalea Sacatechichi is a powerful herb that’s scientifically shown to boost dream recall. And the better your recall, the more likely you are to remember your guides’ dream-based messages. Traditionally used by the Chontal Indians of Mexico, Kalea is also known to increase lucid dreaming, inner reflection, imagination, and soul-gazing. Be aware that it’s incredibly bitter, it is often used in tiny amounts in tea, with fellow plant allies like Lemon Balm, or Chamomile. Or, traditionally it’s also used as a smoke, or smudge.
- Blue Lotus Flower.
The blue lotus flower is a gentle, yet potent ally known to induce a deep meditative energy, enhance third eye function, and promote lucid dreaming. This is perfect for spirit guide work as it can help relax your nervous system, open your upper chakras, and create a feeling of euphoria conducive to speaking with spirits.
- Other Herbal Allies.
"Draw upon herbs that grow around you, as they speak and contribute deeply to your reality. Ask for their permission, and add them to your altar, herbal bath, or use them as a special ofrenda, divine offering." Adriana Ayales
How to Foster an Ongoing Relationship With Your Guides
Tending to your guides is a beautiful way to show respect and foster an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.
Just like a person, a guide is happy to help, but it’s always nice when a relationship goes both ways. Honor your guides with these tips:
- Many traditions believe that holding your spirit guides’ identities and details close to your heart is a sacred practice in and of itself. That means not posting haphazardly about them on social media or telling everyone you meet about them.
- Learn more about your guides by asking them questions about what they enjoy and how they would like to be honored.
- Call on your guides often. Communicate with them by writing them letters or speaking with them. They want to help, so don’t be shy about going to them for counsel.
- You wouldn’t ask something of someone without first paying them, bringing a gift, or otherwise showing your respect. The same goes for guides. Have a dinner in their honor, set up an altar with their favorite things, or make frequent offerings to show them your gratitude.
Your guides want to have a relationship with you. So, even if you’re having trouble connecting or getting clear messages, be patient. Use the tips in this article and you won’t just find a deeper relationship with your spiritual team, but also with yourself and your own intuitive powers.
Take your time and don’t rush things. You can’t force a connection with your guides. And since everyone experiences these kinds of connections differently, it’s essential to be patient, take note of even the most minor signs and signals, and wait for your relationships with your guides to strengthen.
Written by: Mallory Leone is a witch, healer, and mover of energy. She owns and operates Four Corners Studio, an online offering of magical education, apothecary tools, and unique 1:1 energy healings rooted in lineage techniques.