Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Spirits 101: Land-Spirits & Forest-Walking!
TODAY, I went outside. And by outside I mean I drove 15 minutes to one of the many parks close to my house.
I've had the itch to go for a while, since I'm very much a forest type, and as if by divine design my other Pagan friend from the area said she was going to a park today. It's called Silver Lake, btw, and I don't know if I've ever been there before now, so I hauled ass over there.
She was gone by the time I was ready to come, but I came with the intention to connect to the Land Spirit there. Nothing more, just wanted practice talking to new Spirits.
The minute I hit the trails (I was armed with water, first aid, a sweater, 2 sticks of Rose Resin incense and a box full of crystals to make a tiny altar space for the Spirit) I felt the energy of the forest. That's a GOOD sign. If I don't feel high from being there, it's a sign that Spirit is weak or missing, or the forest is not as healthy as it can be as an ecosystem. So I knew I would be able to attempt contact.
I noticed the trails were very Astral and gateway-forming, just by design. The forest borders the large river, so I got to see some swamp life and some giant water loving plants. That was cool.
I began searching out a spot to stick the incense and attempt contact. Usually I happen upon a good place when I ask for one. So I saw a bench along the trail, surrounded by 3 sets of 3 trees each, which seemed like a nice liminal portal space. I sat on the bench and introduced myself to the Spirit, though I didn't know what she was/if she was able to speak yet, and I asked for it to show me where it would like the incense offering made. I explained it was in their honor the offering was made, and I meant no harm, only contact.
During the entire time I was on the bench, the bird life in the area went haywire. The forest was completely alive with sound, which was awesome. You could hear constant tree crackling and everything. So, being bright, I asked for a sign the Forest Spirit was listening.
CRACK! Went a branch almost on my head.
I jolted. Okay, point taken...moving on.
Then I asked for the Spirit to show me, if it could, where to begin the incense offering. A gray squirrel (female I think) came out of nowhere, from down the trail, towards me. It got within 5 feet and stopped, staring. It began to forage along the trail, keeping me in its wary eyes. I told it I meant no harm and bowed, because I saw Spirit in the squirrel. You need to pay attention to strange animal life when you're looking for signs. Every other squirrel on the trail was people-shy, except this one. It got within 3 feet and locked eyes with me for 2 solid minutes. Then, it wandered to a nearby tree to watch me there, and ran away. I stuck the incense in the place the squirrel stood, frozen. It seemed right.
So I get out some stones and my tiny box and incense, and light the incense, again telling the Spirit I wished contact and it was in their honor the sacrifice was made. Then, nothing happened for a while. I listened to the birds, and I watched the smoke. I saw wings, flight, swans, birds, and finally an ocean or a river in the smoke. It split into two lines and mimicked water. I began to think perhaps the Spirit was a bird.
I shut my eyes and tried to "see" the Spirit. it wasn't working. I began to listen closely to the birds, and I began to hear words. It was at this point I was probably tripping, because I heard LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN! LISTEN! in the bird noises. And I was like I AM, I AM, WHAT NEXT.
I stared at the incense smoke some more. I then got the strangest urge to hum. I hummed a song I didn't know over the incense, and suddenly the activity picked up. Oh course, I thought. It's a Bird Spirit. They work in song. Then my Spirit-vision seemed to kick in. Below is a video of me badly humming to the thing.
I was sent a vision: become a bird. I got jolted out of my meditation to look behind me, where a male Robin had landed in the clearing, staring at me. It chirped, and moved to a branch nearby, continuting to watch. Okay, Robin it was.
I induced spiritual Shape-shifting. I felt my shoulders go up and back, the bones in my body rearranging. I felt my lips become a hard beak, and my eyes seperate. I felt myself become small, claws gripping the plastic of the bench. Then I saw the Barn Owl as if it was clear as day in the physical world.
She was beautiful, and huge. She was next to me, saying nothing. The Forest Spirit was a barn owl. It somehow made perfect sense.
She flew, and I flew with her. We cleared the trees and flew along the river, North, towards the mountains.
"This is my river," she said, "Follow any river to its source and there seek your answers. All answers begin at the Source."
I asked if she had anything she needed to tell me, any guidance of any sort.
"If you wish to honor the Land Spirits here, you must also follow the river. There are 7 of us, including me, all along this River. Make Offerings to the mud on the side of each section; bury the sacrifice there on the river bed. In this way you can honor each of us, in turn."
Turns out apparently I have to visit 6 more different parks, to honor the Spirit along the river. Theoretically you'd think the first is legitimately in the Mountains. Interesting indeed.
At that point I flew back. I had the feeling she wanted one of my yellow stones. I prepared to offer her one of my Golden Healer Quartz. I felt like I needed to move. I asked if this was right. A feather, a robin feather, fell from the trees right in front of me. Correct. I picked it up and put it in my box.
I felt the Offering spot was not the right place to do this, and she confirmed. She said to follow the Bird calls, because the Offering place would be The Place Where Everything Gathers.
Okay, I said.
I picked up the still-burning incense and the stone, and I carried it with me alone the path. I felt like a herald or a torch-bearer, holding this smoking stick for Spirit. I stopped at a fork in the road. Which way? I asked.
Another robin feather falls, right in my line of sight, on the left-hand path. I pick it up and continue.
Every time I stop at a fork or feel if the spot is right or not, something guides me. A squirrel runs across the correct path. A bird hops. The bird calls switch to the left or right. In this way I was guided. I will say this: I've never had such a firm representation of being guided via animal signs in all my forest visits before now. There was no doubt the Spirit was there with me, watching.
I realized I ended up on a path directly on the banks of the River. Well played, I thought.
I found the offering spot: another circle of trees. A catbird flew out of nowhere and stopped on the spot. I knew it was correct. I put the stone at the base of the trees, and took the incense with me. I felt there was more to the story.
This is where I placed the stone offering: (Yes the rainbow is in every shot, naturally.)
I continued along the path and lo and behold: a path so close to the River you could touch it. I took the incense stick (there was almost none left) and buried it right at the mud-river base, as she had asked. In this way I sealed the pact I had promised her.
It's a strange thing to explain, but if you give something of yourself, like a stone, that is permanent: you somehow establish a connection to that Spirit. It's a concrete evidence of a pact made and honored.
Anyway, it was beginning to get a little dark, and dark forests still tend to spook me, alone.
I reached a clearing right next to the River again, and there was a duck on the bank. Since I was high as a fucking kite on energy and probably tranced the fuck out by now, I went right up to her. I realized she had an injured tail; her feathers were missing. Immediately I went to send her Reiki from 4 feet away, keeping enough distance to make her comfortable. The other 6 ducks came over at this point. I stood there with my hands out and asked Reiki to flow. As I did, one by one the ducks curled up and literally went to sleep right there. Even the duck I focused on, with the injured tail, closed her eyes while standing. I continued for 5 minutes, thanked them and moved on.
I have two side notes here: people who think you can't practice Shamanic and Spirit work stone cold sober, you're fucking idiots, because I can't remember half of my trip due to being so in tune with the Forest Spirit. Secondly, people who think animals can't feel pain: you're also fucking idiots. Okay, moving right along here.
I realize at this point fuck, I am on the totally wrong side of the park to get back to the parking lot, it's getting dark and I have no idea where I am.
THIS IS WHERE IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH A LAND SPIRIT WHEN LOST ON THEIR LAND.
The Forest Spirit told me to keep straight, and told me eventually there would be a left, so take it. The signs backed her up. She was dead on with both left turns, and I ended up right back where I came in, at the parking lot.
Next to my car was a male Robin.
And that's how I ended my forest-walking journey for today.
If you want to connect to your Land Spirit in your local park, I have a few tips/processes like the ones I listed here to do that.
1. Bring Offerings.
If you plan to bring offerings, which you should, THINK FIRST. Don't bring anything that will be markedly toxic to animal or plant life. Don't leave "trash" that will decompose. I bring stones because they are generally from the earth so it's okay to bury them. Usually I bring incense because it leaves ash and I can take the stick home with me, and if I lose the stick the wooden part is just wood. Nothing too horrific. Food is okay if it's not toxic to deer, squirrels or bird life, so do your research. Bird seed is a viable offering, and totally okay. Herbs are an okay offering. Energy is a fine offering. Water is totally fine too. I had water with me, but didn't feel the need to use it.
2. Be respectful.
When entering a Forest I ask permission to enter. Generally I will bow out of respect, and then enter. It works like announcing your presence, and is generally polite.
Don't demand a Spirit come to interact with you. When I set up my incense sticks, I asked for it to commune with me. ASK. Don't demand. If it doesn't come, it doesn't come. It doesn't HAVE to speak to you. I could tell this Spirit was shy and kind of scared by observing how the squirrel I first saw was behaving. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Look for Signs.
The moment you enter a Forest Spirit's realm you're looking for signs. Spirits speak through the natural landscape. Look for behaviors. The birds on the path all flew AWAY from me, so a bird coming close to me on purpose was likely a sign. The squirrels were people shy, but one suddenly comes out of nowhere and stares me down for 2 minutes. You see what I mean? Strange behaviors or occurences.
The robin feathers dropping suddenly in my path were signs, too.
4. Try contact.
As for picking a spot to do offerings, use your gut feelings. I asked for a spot and suddenly saw the bench.
Practically speaking, you're looking for a spot off the trail, preferably where people aren't going to walk the fuck in on you mediating. If using incense MAKE SURE you're there until it burns out. You do NOT want to start a forest fire. For that reason I set incense in gravel or stones, and usually not soil around trees or grasses.
Incense has an advantage in that it's natural bug spray, so if somebody side-eyes you you have an excuse if you need one.
My tiny ceremony is stick offering on the ground, and watch for signs of contact. I'm listening for sounds and Spirit-sounds, visions, or animals in my path. Feathers, rocks, shit snapping...you need to be able to be very aware.
4. Leave the floor open.
If the Spirit comes through, ask if it wants anything done for itself, its name if it chooses to give one, and if it has guidance or wisdom for you. Sometimes it will. Follow instructions given.
5. When leaving the liminal space, show respect again.
Thank the Spirit. I bowed again, and left the floor open for further contact. Make sure Offerings are disposed of properly. Incense put out, things buried, etc.