I was asking around for something to write on, and my friend Rhyd Wildermuth of Paganarch asked me to write on the landvaettir.
Landvaettir are spirits of the land. They can be as large as a whole city, stretch as large as a valley, or be as grand as a mountain. They can be ancient trees and boulders, or small rocks and spots of land. They are the living spirits of the land itself. We share each inch and each moment of our lives with landvaettir. They are in the farms, the wild places, and the cities. They are our homes, and the wide variety of materials that went into them; I call these housevaettir.
I have found that landvaettir can present us with close, intimate interactions, such as through direct messages or omens. These I tend to get around my home and in local parks. Landvaettir may also be distant, barely noticing us or not desiring interaction with humans at all, which I have felt in a city and in a forest. They may also be more subtle than a direct message, such as a feeling of awe and presence that I felt standing on Mount Beacon in New York or standing beside an ancient oak tree on a friend’s property. The landvaettir on a single bit of land may be more or less inclined to interact with humans; on my friend’s land the ancient oak is quite friendly, whereas the old willow is not as much.
Being a good ally and neighbor with the landvaettir is in our best interests. When we live well in and on the land, we live well with the landvaettir, and so, the environment and our lives are better for it. Living well with the landvaettir can be as simple as keeping the land clean of things like harsh chemicals and trash, or more complicated such as the regular offerings I give to the housevaettir. Just as each person’s relationship will be different with a given God, so too with landvaettir. They may more readily like or interact or bless certain people, especially those who live well on Them and live well with Them.
When I enter a city I try to find the central vaettr or vaettir (spirit or spirits respectively) and make an offering. Sometimes it is something small, such as a pinch of tobacco or mugwort, and others a bit of a drink if I visit a local coffee shop. This is not only polite, as a guest within the vaettir’s home, but it also means I am living in conscious awareness that when I walk within the city, I am walking within a vaettr, and that It is as alive as a forest, or my home’s land. There is also a practical side to a good relationship with landvaettir: They can give us a head’s up, even if it is something small like hairs standing up on the back of our neck or a sense of foreboding if we should not go down this street or to that area. I once found myself lost in a city local to me, and after about an hour of wandering, I made an offering of some coffee to the city’s landvaettir. Shortly after I found my way. By opening myself up to a good relationship with the city’s vaettir, and then following through and listening I was able to find my way.
I live in a semi-rural area; the blessings of the landvaettir are not only apparent on the farms I pass, but in our own backyard. The asparagus season has started, and the first week of May many stalks have grown large and tall enough to cut. Before I go to harvest I make a small prayer, saying: “Thank you landvaettir. Thank you Freyr. Thank you for this harvest.” Then I might say “Ves heil!” or “Hail!” before or as I cut. The landvaettir allowed my family to eat well last night, and provided enough that I could eat tonight at work. As I associate the asparagus with Freyr I hail Him as well, for He has blessed the asparagus as the landvaettir have, helping them grow well.
The old maxim of ‘politics is local’ very much applies to my politics in regards to the landvaettir. Because the landvaettir are not given a voice in today’s mainstream society, part of our role as people is to be their voice, advocate, and/or activist. That’s right, everyone that works with the landvaettir signed up to become the Lorax. How could you not? If these vaettir, these partners in our lives, are to perpetuate and grow, and keep on being living ecosystems it is on us to help protect them from ourselves, whether it is picking up trash in a park, keeping chemicals off of our lawns, growing native plants wherever we can, and/or direct action to protect the wild landvaettir. In reshaping our relationship with the land itself as not only ecosystem and habitat, but also a very real relationship with the land as one between us and other very real and present spiritual beings, such a relationship requires action to maintain and grow well.
This relationship extends, when you unfold it, to everyday decisions such as what we purchase, and how we treat the remains of what we buy and consume. When I began living at home again and really working with the landvaettir a few years ago, I began composting all the organic waste that I could in our home. It is amazing how much of it there is, and how it enriches the soil, this loamy black soil, that then helps the plants grow. What is also amazing about it, is how it makes me feel when I take the 5 gallon bucket out to the compost and hail the landvaettir, Niðogg, and Hela. It makes me happy, it makes the landvaettir happy, and it helps my family become more self-sufficient. Now that I have my own vehicle, because of how many animals I see by the side of the road unable to be eaten by carrion eaters, I am preparing to pick up animal carcasses and save and use the hide and bones wherever I can. I am just learning how to do leatherworking and rather than buy from a provider, where I can I would like to produce my own. There are a lot of miles for the leather alone (not to mention the transport, slaughter, and so on of a cow) to come from a distributor like Jo-Ann Fabrics or direct from Tandy just so I can make a bag. Just as the compost heap we have began with a single bucket, so every decision we make to better our relationship with the landvaettir grows.
Living with the landvaettir is not just the giving of offerings or planting native plants, it is the entire mindset in which one approaches Them, the land we live on, and the way in which we live our lives. This is why I mention earlier people who live on the land and people who live with the land. Living with the landvaettir requires us to engage these beings on Their level, physically and spiritually. It is to enter into a living relationship, one in which there may be a push and pull, and one which will definitely require Gebo, gift-for-a-gift. The landvaettir offers Their bounty with the asparagus harvest; what gift can I give Them in kind? How best can I give the gift in return for Their gift of good food? When my ability to live comes out of the ground, for both water and food (we have a well system) what gifts can I give in return for all that sustains my life? If I were only living well on the land these questions would be straightforward and practical, such as taking care of the soil, using natural means of pest control, keeping the water clean, etc. Since I am living with the landvaettir these points still matter, and carry additional meaning and spiritual weight. I also have to consider, in living with the landvaettir, what They want. So far They are happy with the composting, the prayers, and the offerings we leave by Their trees. They may have more requirements in the future, and in maintaining a good relationship with Them we will do our best to meet Them. After all, we are guests on what has been and always will be Theirs, and Them.
We belong to the landvaettir rather than They belong to us. They are the Beings by whose bodies and partnership we are able to eat, breathe, drink, shelter ourselves, and live well. We live upon Them and within Them; Their bodies are the means by which we clothe ourselves and build our homes. Their spirits resonate all around us, whether from beneath our feet from the carpet, concrete or dirt, the wind in the willows, the pages of a book, or the plastics and metals that form your computer or mobile device and allow you to see this post.
In understanding this, we can understand too, that we are Ancestors in the making, as well as landvaettir in the making. The lich (the body) is a part of our soul, and it stays behind while other parts of the soul matrix move on. Our body then becomes part of the land, wherever it eventually ends up. What land we become part of, how we become part of that land, what we do to that land when we become part of it should be something we think about. When we die we become embodied in the land we are put on and/or within.
Becoming one with the landvaettir is unavoidable; how we live and if we die well with Them is up to us.