Now that that's out of the way, there's a whole lot to discuss about spirits. Types of spirits, uses of spirits, which to invoke when... We're not going to talk about that here. What we will talk about is the types relevant to this path.
Elemental Helper Spirits
If you've read the page on Elements, or Jaelle's Quest, you may have noticed that I placed a heavy emphasis on elements, and said they were central to my path. They're so central in fact that I have five helper spirits, one to an element, to help me keep these elements in balance. They work with me in various ways, depending on the situation with that element. Perhaps I am afraid of that element, but I have to deal with something relating to that element, the helper will act according to my need at the time.
For example, I have traditionally been rather weak in air, and one day I was in my drumming circle and my air helper, Kestrel, came to me. We'd been fairly confrontational at times, so while I know she's there to help me I was generally distrustful. She flew to me, did not land, but told me that I had to be prepared, that something was coming and she was bringing me a warning. I accepted the warning, and attempted to get myself into a frame where I could deal with a time of air in my life. When I returned home I had an urgent message from a friend of mine in the marines - he'd been informed that he needed to be prepared to ship to Kosovo in 3 days, during the conflict a few years back. Thanks to Kestrel's warning I was prepared for the news of crisis, and rather than collapsing in a tearful fit and disrupting my friend's preparations, I was able to be calm and collected and not burden him with my fears on top of his own. For anyone interested, he didn't ship out, but the fear was there.
The elemental helper spirits generally are in some way related to that element in your life. For example, while Horse is not traditionally considered a fire spirit (it's generally relegated to air), my passion in life relates to horses, and so horse is my fire helper. They are not limited to just animal spirits; my Spirit element helper is the willow tree. The spirit could also be a human spirit that expresses that form, or a pure elemental spirit (though elemental spirits tend to be too absorbed in their element... they don't tend to be able to relate as well as some other kinds of spirits to us non-elemental types).
Totem is a word which has so many different meanings it almost has none anymore. I have decided to side with those who use the term to relate to a spirit that is within your blood family, perhaps was a helper to (or a tormenter of) a parent or grandparent, but the totem is definitely a family spirit of some sort (at least in this path). It's possible also that no one in your family was interested or bothered to find this spirit; its influence however will be felt in some way. Perhaps your family were ranchers (cattle or horse or...). Perhaps your family has always had dogs. Perhaps a few members share a fascination, or an irrational fear, of a particular animal. Any of these could be an indication that the spirit is totem to your family.
Helper spirits come and go for the most part, depending on what is needed at the time. Some may stick around a good bit, and indeed I consider my earth helper, who is also totem, to be my primary helper spirit, because she sure sticks around a lot, and is practically always at my side if I call her. But helper spirits can come and go depending on the situation.
There's some spirits out there who just get bored sometimes, and they decide they want something to do. Others may take an interest in your work. Still others may decide you can help them in some way. Many of these spirits aren't malicious, and they volunteer or trade their services to you, agreeing to help you and to work with you for whatever reason. Some of these may be constructs (known or unknown), some of these may be independent spirits. Whatever the case, these types of spirits can be indispensable allies when you find you've got six trillion things you need to coordinate and you need a hand working on it. Unlike the above relationships, generally in this case the spirits are the subordinate in this relationship, though that could be a temporary thing depending on the specific relationship. One "Workerbee" of mine is generally quite content to help me in keeping up with obligations, or reminding me of details, but heaven forbid I "overdo" it in his eyes, because the instant I do he decides to make sure I take a break RIGHT NOW thank you very much, and will even get other authorities involved if I resist. Cultivating these spirits can really get you out of a jam sometimes. There are levels of relationship in these situations; I picked the term "workerbee" because honestly that's the way we generally treat them, but they include anyone you enlist for help fairly often.
You may have noticed a particular thing which distinguishes these spirits is a level of commitment to you and/or your family. A totem spirit is committed to the entire family, an elemental helper will be with you for life, while helper spirits come and go as the situation requires, and "workerbees" vary from spirit to spirit. The implication is that there are spirits out there with no commitment to you - a detail which may seem obvious, and yet so many people will expect or even demand help from a spirit who is not related to you in any way. Remember that line in red at the top of the page that I asked you to read over a couple of times? Here's where it's relevant.
If you meet an unfamiliar spirit, and you are not introduced by a familiar spirit, you're basically in the same position as meeting an unfamiliar person. Yes, spirits are people too. Think about that real long and hard before you randomly accept help or advice from an unfamiliar spirit. If that spirit was a person you met on the street would you take the help or advice? That's a good way to get kidnapped...
So let's say you're starting out looking to meet spirits. You don't know any, right? So how are you supposed to meet them safely? Look for your totem. Look for animals, plants, *anything* that has consistently been helpful in a given situation. At worst, if you've got any pets try to address the spirit of that type of animal.
I guess the main point I'm trying to make here is, keep in mind that spirits have their own agendas as well. Just like most people are basically good, so might most spirits be. But you can't know that, and the same caution you'd use with people is appropriate with spirits as well. This doesn't mean you have to be afraid of them; just don't check your common sense at the cave door, as it were.