I owe a special thank you to Sannion for talking with me on these matters, for hosting a discussion on this via the Bacchic Chat, and for providing an excellent sounding board and helping me to dig into different aspects of David Bowie’s music and other personas besides Blackstar that I had not encountered before.
I think it is interesting that I feel more comfortable saying Blackstar than I do David Bowie in regards to my feelings on him and understanding of him. Especially since David Bowie’s recent passing. I am still putting together my thoughts and feelings on all of this, but something I decided right after hearing of his death, is that I will be extending the same courtesy to David Bowie that I would to any of my Ancestors, or Dead I would worship, venerate, or pay homage to:
Wait a full year before putting Them on the Ancestors’ altar. This gives Them time to acclimate, gives Them time to get through the journey They may need to do in the afterlife(ves) that They may be going through. Doing so for him would be respectful and give him time to settle in, get the lay of the land, and so on.
I did not, and will never know David Bowie. Given how private he was, I would be surprised if all but the closest of family members and friends actually knew him.
Hey folks, I have been asked to do several presentations at this year’s ConVocation. When I know which rooms I will be presenting in, I will update this blog post. I am really, really excited for this year’s offerings that were picked.
For those who do not know, ConVocation is:
…a convention of the many mystical spiritual paths and faiths and the people that follow them who desire to teach each other and promote fellowship among all esoteric traditions.Since 1995, this 4-day event has brought together over 100 classes and rituals presented by local instructors, internationally renowned guest speakers and authors. Along with workshops, ConVocation offers over 35 tables of merchandise in our Merchant Room, an Art Show and the largest indoor Drum Circle in the Midwest.
Acts of Devotion – Thursday 8:30pm – 90 minutes
Description:In this workshop and discussion we will explore ways to honor our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. These ways can be small, such as daily prayer, offerings, everyday mindfulness, and keeping ourselves healthy and engaged in the world, to more intense ways such as learning crafts, writing books, engaging in activism, spiritual work, and making temples. Bring your own experiences to share.
Polytheism 101 – Friday 4:00pm – 90 minutes
Description:This lecture/discussion will dig into the basics of what polytheism means, and how it is lived. We will be exploring how we can use literary and archaeological resources as springboards and foundations to polytheist traditions. We will also explore what the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are, how we relate to Them as polytheists, and how to engage Them with respect.
Encountering the Runes – Sunday 12:00pm – 90 minutes
Description:The Runes are often looked at as simply a divination tool. This workshop is about approaching the Runes as spirits in and of themselves. The workshop explores what the lore can tell us about Them, to how to interact with Them, to appropriate offerings and communication, and will delve into deeper aspects of Runework from a spirit-based approach.
I remember the words of my Elder:
Each telling you are creating the World anew.
Words have power, raw magic, refined magic
However they slide up the throat along
the shuddering chords
They seize ahold of us through the ears, the eyes
hold us because through them
we hold You, us, Worlds, Ancestors, vaettir
The whole body hears and feels
The cold pit in the stomach, the sweat on the brow, the widened eyes, fear,
The heat, creased forehead, gritted teeth, rage
Words crush the soul
Revive a religion
Join us to one another
The telling creates the Worlds anew.
Today was a lot of kicking back and relaxing, much to my surprise. It wasn’t until later in the day that Odin and I began to work on things. Usually my Wednesdays are days I set aside for silence, meditation and communication with Him. He told me to take a break today, no questions asked. So I wrote on forums, played World of Warcraft, and watched TV until later in the day, when He finally told me what He wanted me to do with Him. It came rather sudden as I sat in the basement on my computer. I bolted up. It felt like lightning had been shot through me.
My folks were getting ready for work, and He began to tell me things He wanted me to take out to the garage rapid-fire. I headed out into the garage with one of my testing needles, two clean, unblemished and uncrinkled sheets of paper, my copy of Wyrdwalkers, the pen I was using to write the Hávamál-style poem we are writing, the notebook the poem is in, a year-old bottle of wine from Samhain, and my iPod. He told me there to purify and sanctify the area, to lock it down tight for the work we would be doing. At first I was confused, since He had neither mentioned nor even hinted at anything. I did it anyway, similar to how I had done the previous night, taking the extra step of ‘locking down’ the door from the house to the garage. Once the wards were in place, I went back to the altar. This time, though, the candles were pink on the left, blue on the right, and purple in the middle. He told me I would get later why He had me give the pink as Ve.
As the smoke rose from the charcoal, I put down Mugwort onto it, and cleansed myself with the smoke. Something felt…off. It felt odd, like the world was slightly tilted. As I continued to cleanse myself, I breathed deep, and put a dab of the wine onto my Ancestors’ statue, then Odin’s. The tilted feeling was still there, but it felt good. Then, at Odin’s request, I brought some of the wine into my mouth, swished it, and spat it out outside onto the ground, as He said, to share the wine with my Him and my Ancestors without actually drinking it, and offering a bit of myself to the landvaettir. My mouth tingled a bit from it when I came back in, and looked to the altar. He told me it was time, and to grab a chair. So I brought one with me up to the altar, and sat before it.
Odin gave me a quick explanation, and demanded I start right away after telling me to put on The Lord of the Ring’s The Council of Elrond. The song hit me immediately…I started to trance, and heard Him ask “What is the first thing you would get rid of?” and I wrote the Rune for it. I kept writing Runes, losing track of time, until I had everything I could think of. All the personal flaws I wanted to fix or let go of, all the problems I wanted to move through or remove as obstacles. I checked the bindrune against my bag of Runes, and when They were satisfied, He told me why I needed the needle. The Runework would not be complete without a bloodbond to it. I sterilized and blessed the needle by the three candles’ flames, and poked my right index finger as He asked. Then, He asked more of me: to give blood from each of my fingers to this, to seal up this bindrune with blood from all of them. I did this, and when I finished I turned the paper over, and wrote my first name, Sarenth, in blood Runes. I wanted these problems gone. I wanted to move through these things, Hel or high water. In thanks to Her taking on the dead parts of me, I smeared blood from my left index finger across Her skull’s teeth and mouth.
Then, Odin had me change the music to loop Hagalaz’ Runedance’s The Soul of a Hound, and still somewhat tranced, He told me to put the paper, folded up in a specific way on the charcoal disk. Then, He had me pick up Wyrdwalkers for some bibliomancy. A section on controlling and using my breath popped up on the first reading, and the second, a section on hamingja, and regaining it. I took this as a sign: I had to help the paper burn. As I breathed in long, slow breaths, I could feel the Runes pulling things from my spirit bodies, could feel the blood pulling out the inequities I felt towards myself, and as my blood Rune letters burnt, I felt a release, something of joy and relief mixed with a feeling of at last! The paper crinkled into white and black powder on the disk, and I breathed a long, deep sigh.
Odin’s voice pierced my reflective relief, and I grabbed the other clean sheet of paper. For this, He had me turn on Hagalaz’ Runedance’s Labyrinth. On this piece of paper, He told me to write all of the Runes that I wanted to bring into my life. After a long while, double-checking with Rune pulls from my bag, I had it done. I will post a picture of the bindrune that resulted from Him and I working together some time soon. This, He told me it would not be necessary to bleed for it because these were what I would be working on for the next year and may need to change as time went on. The idea was not to get locked into these changes quite yet, from what I remember Him saying.
Once this was done, He instructed me to dump the ashes out of the censer into a palm-sized brass bowl I had on the altar, and to take the ashes outside and offer them to the land. It was just starting to rain; I could hear it coming down from the roof. The charcoal disk smoke and hissed when the rainwater hit it, sending little sparks that extinguished as soon as they left the brass bowl. As I neared a tree, He told me to dump the contents right on the ground. I balked; why couldn’t I just put them under the tree and offer them like normal? Then a bolt of lightning arced across the sky. I heard, very clearly, “Offer them and go!”, in an angry voice. I dumped the ashes onto the ground, stomping out any little bits of stray hot charcoal disk, and hoofed it inside. The storm was really getting going as I got inside, and winds hit the house loudly. My heart was pumping hard, but I was grateful that I had listened when I did. He chuckled and said “There’re reasons I say what I do to you.” I apologized, and blew out what remained of the candles. I prayed, thanking Hela and Odin for working with me. I heard what, energetically, felt like a quiet nod of acceptance from Her. She tends to have a more subtle ‘feel’ to me than other Gods, and I have to strain at times to ‘hear’ Her. Odin accepted my apology, but didn’t stop chuckling even as I came downstairs to write this.
I think what hit me about as much as the Rune magic did, is how simple it was. Compared to previous experiences I’ve had with working like this, this rite was relatively uncomplicated, and yet it hit me hard. I feel like I was lead through some Runic restructuring of my soul. I’m still settling into how this feels, like a newness tinged with relief. It’s kind of like when you move into a new place, and all the furniture is finally arranged and you’re unpacked…that…”Ahh” kind of feel. I think that’s what is closest to it. I’m glad it happened. It sucked while I was making the bindrunes for all the things I wanted to let go of, having to dredge up painful memories and little niggling problems and doubts. I feel lighter, better for it. The challenge ahead will be to bring the new Runes I’ve written into my life, and to move forward. He refuses to tell me anything about any more upcoming rites or magic. Perhaps that’s for the best; approaching these things raw has let me detach myself from them a lot easier, and has given me a lot less in the way of defenses when I’m hit with old traumas or problems. I guess in a way, this sacrifice and moving forward is what I’ve needed for a long time. I’m glad Odin is helping to lead me on this journey.
Today is the first day of a Nine Day fast and Vow of Silence. I did something like this last year with Hanging on Yggdrasil. This time I’m not hanging on the Tree, but going deep inside, reconnecting with myself, purifying, and bringing myself back together. I’ll be letting go of things, and developing a deeper connection with my Gods. Primarily I’ll be working with Odin and Loki, with Odin tending toward work during the day, and Loki at night. I would have thought it would be otherwise, but a lot of work I’ve done with Odin has been done at night, so I guess this is switch-up will challenge me on some things.
The first thing that really hits me is the hunger. I’ve been hungry all day, and finally, after taking a nap, the nagging in my stomach left me alone. Throughout the day I’ve been talking with Odin, going over some of the basics for the following days. A lot of the work is going to be introspective, while other parts of it, such as writing the Hávamál-like poem we negotiated I would write for being able to start the fast after Mother’s Day, will be about creating or exploring. A lot of the conversation is sparse, talking about what I need to really dig into these Nine Days. How I approach relationships, my constant need to be there for people, my boundaries, sexuality, my self-esteem issues and self-denigration are all going to be lain out and one-by-one worked through.
Today, a lot of the work was focused on how I approached relationships. During the day Odin and talked on and off about why I did things with Nicole that I did, exploring deeper where those feelings of “I need to be here” came from, and why I wasn’t honest with myself from the beginning when we started to see ourselves drift apart. I found myself going back to my folks and what I learned from them, that when you find someone you love, you stick it through no matter what. That loyalty is sometimes measured in compromising, sometimes on things you hold dear to yourself. It’s about giving everything you are to that other person. While these are, I think, good foundations in this theory, as I explored how those examples impacted me I found myself giving over to (before Nicole) emotionally abusive relationships, manipulative relationships. With my first relationship I made much of my time with her about her, and was offered very little in return. This became my norm for a long time. I thought “Well, this person loves me, and that’s enough”. Yet I didn’t actually examine my lovers up-close to see if they honestly loved me like I loved them back, or if I was even getting basic things out of the relationship like affection or help on things that I was going through. I have made a lot of my relationships about the other person, to the near-exclusion of myself.
This trickled into nearly everything I did. There’s a joke that Nicole and I share. I usually left food decisions up to the other person; I’m not picky. I mean really not picky. So I was usually just defaulted to the other person (I did this with a lot of things) and didn’t make a hell of a lot of decisions. One day we’re driving in her car and she looks to me, and asks “Hey, what do you want to eat?” I fumble around; holy shit, what do I want to eat? I hadn’t expected the question and started darting my head around looking for some kind of food place. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Well, you need to pick someplace.” “I don’t know what I want.” This goes on for another five minutes. Then she asks me, exasperated, “Well, what do you want?” I answer in deadpan: “Chicken.” She throws her hands up in the air half-yelling half-laughing “There are about five hundred places with chicken! What kind of chicken?!” I eventually fumble out Chinese and laughing, she pulls into the nearby Chinese food joint. Gods, food sound nice right now.
In just thinking about this little incident, it made me think about how much I gave my autonomy over to the other person in relationships. It isn’t healthy, and isn’t something I will be repeating in future relationships. Nicole helped me to make a hell of a dent in this, but I still dipped into it, and still gave a lot of decisions I could make myself (like where to eat, what movie to see) and just compromised on the little things that could have made me happy. It’s no small wonder I was willing to give the rest of my life over when I didn’t even have the spine to say “I’d like to eat here” or “I’d like to see this”. What kills me is, I did this voluntarily. There was no knife to my throat, no one ever threatened to leave me. It was all about keeping the other person happy…while totally forgetting that “Hey, I don’t want to see this movie; I want to see that one.” Totally forgetting, or ignoring, my own needs, wants, feelings and desires. You can’t be honest with the other person if you can’t be honest with yourself…and I haven’t been honest with what I have wanted for a long while.
Part of figuring out what I do want is realizing how much that can change, or is in flux. Something simple: Do I want any more kids? I have no idea. I thought at one point I wanted to have a house and kids and family. The more I think about it, the more I ask if I will have the ability to do that, especially in the economy we’re heading into. I wonder if that “American Dream” is even my dream to begin with. These Nine Days may not help me decide that, but they will give me better ground to judge that on. Yet once upon a time I would have answered off the cuff that I did want kids, I did want the 2.5 square acres and a wife and the house and the car and all the other stuff that goes along with that “Dream”. It’s what I’ve been raised on. So I haven’t really questioned that until lately. What do I want? I want, ultimately, for myself and my son to be happy and have a blessed, fulfilled life. I’m not sure what that will look like. I really have to destroy expectations. After all, I expected to never have to live with my family again when I hit 25. Yet here I am.
Something else that has bugged me lately is how my spirituality seems to have fallen off the radar. I say ‘seems’ because I did a lot of spiritually exhausting, sometimes dangerous work. I was ‘horsed’ (that is, possessed) a lot by spirits and Gods, I did a lot of journeying and seidr work, and much of my spiritual life revolved around my community. Now that I am doing none of those things, I have been doing a good deal more meditation and prayer than I was doing…yet I find myself still looking for spiritual fulfillment. When I ask myself “What am I looking for?” I keep coming back to community. So I am happy that the Shaman Supper in my area is coming up. It will be good to reconnect to people, share experiences, maybe even ritual. I’m also looking into the Unitarian Universalist churches in my area, and connecting to more people on Facebook and through this blog. I asked “Why do I need community?” and I came up with a couple answers. The first is that I like to be around people, and share my spiritual path with people. I didn’t do a terribly long stint as a solitary Pagan. This is probably the longest I’ve gone without a group or someone else to practice with. The second is that community tends to inspire me to go further and deeper into my faith. This stint at going alone is proving to me that I don’t need community to do that, but it sure makes the journey easier and much more pleasant. The third is that community provides a support network and a safe place where I can bounce ideas off of peoples’ heads.
As I have heard from a few Odinswomen being driven is part of what Odin likes in people, and sometimes will push in people. My error is that I let that drive push into everything I do; I don’t tend to relax well, and feel guilty oftentimes for doing so. That “I’m not being productive” is something I have caught myself denigrating myself for, even while enjoying a movie or a video game. Part of the deflation that has come from more or less being apart from everything I’ve been used to is that it throws me into making me relax, into making me take more time for me. This has been hard to deal with; if I keep busy I don’t need to stop, and take it easy. I don’t feel ‘lazy’ or ‘unproductive’. I’ve had to look at myself and realize that I push myself too hard, that I ask too much out of myself. This isn’t something that is simple for me; I pride myself on doing a lot, and so much down time makes me feel out of place. I’ve been keeping busy enough cleaning up the house or doing meditation and prayer…but it always seems like I have a lot of time. I think a good chunk of this is simply learning to mellow out. Until recently, I’ve been running around doing stuff non-stop. It’s weird to have nothing to do like school or especially the work with the community.
So I am having to resettle myself a lot. My work with Odin was largely getting into my head and rooting around about the stuff I’ve written about already. Loki’s work with me today was about going into myself and letting go of the influences of my folks on how I approach relationships. He took me into myself, and together, experienced times where I remembered lessons (and some where I didn’t) of where I learned what I know and practice when it comes to love. It was like looking at my life on rewind. I was sitting in a chair before my altar I’d just set up, smoking mugwort in my sacred pipe. He instructed me that with each inhalation I need to go to a time, and on the exhale, blow it out. I could feel the vaettir of mugwort come into me, help me dig out the pain or poor lesson, and carry it out. I cried at one point as I passed through old hurts, and just as quick as I had started, I stopped. I felt at peace, a kind of powerful peace rise out of me like the smoke. I became still, and happy in that moment. I’m not done…but taking out these harmful lessons from my folks helps. Lessons that come especially from my Dad, like giving over his dreams to make our lives possible to the point where he never finished college, and never pursued his dreams from there. I won’t go into much detail here; some of these are painful, and others uncomfortable.
The experience so far has been powerful, even if at times I feel like “I am not doing enough”. Which is dumb. I’m in the middle of a Vow of Silence, I am fasting, I am praying, meditating, and giving devotion, and going through painful and uncomfortable memories while also finishing up an at least 140-line poem to my God. I’m also still filling out applications for jobs and will be going to volunteer orientation for a nearby crisis center. There should be no reason I should be so hard on myself. As the days move forward I have a feeling a lot of this will be brought into the light and dark, and dealt with in each realm as it needs to be. I pray the journey forward is healing; I know I need it.
I have heard landvaettir referred to be a number of names; some refer to Them as genus loci, others “the wee Folk” (although they sometimes mean Faeries), and a host of other names. I experience Them as spirits of place, with faces that They have shown me as varied as the places They are found. I have found that when I journey or spiritually have a dialogue with Them, the landvaettir on campus take the form of the school’s mascot while the landvaettir around my home are more nebulous, appearing as trees with faces or living earth. When I travel to cities, sometimes the landvaettir sometimes take the form of what might symbolize it, such as a weathered blue-collar worker for Flint, or a bohemian twenty-something for Ann Arbor. Then again, depending on where I travel in these cities the landvaettir’s ‘face’ may change.
I first came to work with landvaettir when I was first starting as a Pagan, mostly through the book Urban Primitive by Raven Kaldera and Tann Schwartzstein. I was living in Flint at the time, and the landvaettir were loud, active, and stirred up. The very thought of going out and talking to Them, that They could show me a ‘face’, hadn’t occurred to me till I read the book. Then, I began speaking with the landvaettir of Flint, really getting to know it. I didn’t have a car at first, and I was living on campus going to college at Baker. The spirit showed me a kind of weathered blue-collar worker, which in reflection makes sense since Flint was the birthplace of the sit-down strikes and was home to a lot of production. The city used to have a place in it called Buick City for Gods’ sakes. Well, in my end of the bargain with the landvaettir around the campus, I kept up the campus by picking up trash where I found it and give to the homeless that would occasionally hang around campus. In return It/They helped keep me safe and keep other spirits off of me. It was with this spirit that I first learned how to bargain and negotiate, and how to scratch a spirit’s back so it would scratch mine in turn. I also learned why speaking with the spirit of a place was important before you do magic. I did magic on campus, ignorant that I should even ask the spirits prior to doing so. When I finally did, it was much more effective, and came to fruition faster and with greater effect. Through the landvaettir of Flint, I learned of basic reciprocation with spirits, how to actually do offerings other than leaving out food. This turned out to be good, since I didn’t have a lot of food to spare, and it seemed the spirit(s) liked my offerings of doing stuff like cleaning up and helping out better anyhow. It had enough litter and stuff floating around. People used to throw carts from shopping areas into local creeks and leave food and wrappers around all the time.
Landvaettir have helped me a lot over the years, whether it has been to find my way when I was lost in a city (good thing; this happens from time to time), food, or even money when I really needed it for parking. Being kind to the landvaettir and giving Them your ear can do a lot of good; you might find things you never would have otherwise, and They finally feel listened to, something a lot of people in general simply don’t do. By paying attention, running some errands for Them, or simply helping to take care of Their space, there is a lot you and the vaettir can gain. Imagine how happy it would make you to have a random stranger come up to you after a long, rough day, and ask “How can I help?” The gratitude, at least for me, is immediate, and I want to know how I can help the person in turn when they’ve helped me.
Lately, my home’s landvaettir and I have developed a closer relationship given I’m now living back at home and am working in the garden. This last Friday I harvested the first asparagus harvest. I gave prayers to the landvaettir, thanking Them for such a beautiful bounty, and praised Them and Freyr (whom I associate with the vegetable due to its phallic shape and reputation as an aphrodisiac) as I was harvesting, thanking each individual plant’s vaettir and the vaettir of asparagus Itself. I had given offerings of food at the oak that is a little ways from the garden the night before. There is Gebo, gift-for-a-gift, in these things. By taking care of the plants, and by being allowed to harvest, by giving offerings and prayers and accepting help from the spirits, the cycles of gifts continues to turn, and relationships grow even closer. When I eat now, I pray to the landvaettir both here, and wherever my food comes from. The former, I pray to in thanks for the home, for warmth, the ability to live in this modern world alongside Them, and the latter landvaettir, I thank because it is from Them that this food comes. It is from both that I am able to type to you, to live a modern life, to go to school and better myself. Yet I do not forget the people who harvested the food or cooked it; everyone deserves their praise in turn, everyone who allows our lives to be as they are is worthy of remembrance. As Odin said: “Cattle die, kinsman die/but I know what never dies/He who gets himself a good name”. How seldom do people praise the lands from where their food comes from; how seldom people recognize that other human beings grew, harvested, and brought the massive amounts of food we have to us. We lionize combat but do not praise the growing of food. I can tell you this: in my own experience it is far easier to throw a competent punch than grow your own food. I also know which one will allow me to live longer, too.
This is not to denigrate those who choose to give their of their lives in military service; that has a place. Yet I have heard relatively little praise for the myriad of people who bring us the food we eat. It was only until I started reading Lupa’s blog that I even considered working with Food Totems. From that I thought “Well, if I can honor the spirits of the animals who have died so I can live, I can do it with the plants, and I can do it with the people too.” Though I haven’t started talking to anyone or thing analogous to the Chicken Totem from, say, the people who farm, the prayers I give and the prayers I teach my son to give don’t only praise our Gods, but the beings, from spirit, from root to flesh, from flesh to flesh, that make our meals possible. This, in my view, resacralizes all the landvaettir, not just the ones that exist with us in our homes and properties. Cutting ourselves off from our part, to thank those who make this life possible and doing what we can to make those spirits and lives better in the long run, cuts off Gebo. They help to give us the gift of life; shouldn’t our return be more than words?
I say this as a person who is, as of right now, making no income. Sometimes magic, prayers and my signature are all I have. Yet all of these are powerful, and should be treated as such. My signature can be the start or continuation of an avalanche of change, or a whisper of a promise to a future generation. My magic can be a powerful catalyst, or progenitor of change. My prayers can give word to the wordless, praise to the unappreciated, recognition and immortality to those who would die in ignominy. So could any one person.
Working with the landvaettir is part of my work as a shaman and priest; I am able to live by Them, and They are able to have greater impact in this world because I listen to Them and do things with and for Them. I hope it is something that more people, whether or not you’re a priest, or someone who just likes to garden, will take up. Having a vibrant relationship with the land makes it come even more alive, makes the Sacred that more immanent because you truly are finding it because you’re looking for it everywhere. Our Wyrd ties into all things, and vice versa; by feeling those threads and acknowledging them we can allow understanding, healing, or simple recognition for its own sake to come into our lives. Sometimes we do not need to do anything, except acknowledge something or someone, be thankful for it, and honor the spirit or person for their undertaking. Sometimes we don’t even need to do that; sometimes the hardest thing we can do is simply get the hell out of the way and let things happen as they need to. In harvesting to asparagus recently I had instances where the landvaettir asked me not to cut down certain stalks, but to simply let them grow. To leave them be. Sometimes I thought I knew better, and harvested a stalk because “well, I think that’s long enough and I probably didn’t hear right” and found out later the stalk wasn’t ready to harvest. Mercifully it was only a few; the landvaettir sometimes up the ‘volume’ for me to hear when my head is chattering. Other times, They wait for me to get the clue and take a breath and listen.
Sometimes receiving a message from a landvaettir vastly harder than it is from a God or Ancestor. The latter two are much more ‘close’ to myself as a human being, whereas I find that landvaettir are sometimes composite spirits or overarching spirits that comes together from the energy around an area, like Flint’s blue-collar person or Ann Arbor’s bohemian. Other times, the landvaettir are a single sizeable spirit of an area, such as an old oak or swath of grass, and can be rather alien in their imagery or symbols, or hard to understand because They use mental language and metaphor that is far different than what I am used to. Sometimes, as with the first type, it is that the composite isn’t quite sure what it wants to communicate, or there is a cacophony effect that occurs because there are so many voices. Sometimes, as with the second type, the message is jumbled because we’re operating on different frequencies where thought and understanding are centered. Other times, the landvaettir and I just don’t have a deep or strong enough connection to have a decent rapport like my Gods or Ancestors do with me.
There is a lot of feeling out that gets done when I first have contact with landvaettir in meditation or journey work. At least a third of the time I tend to spend figuring out the symbols or communication methods the landvaettir use, another third to establish rapport, and the last third to actually hear the message. Of course, this varies with differing vaettir; I find it easier to ‘get’ city landvaettir because They are more used to human concepts, whereas landvaettir of wild can be hard to interpret due to differences in perspective or downright hostile due to other humans’ treatment of an area or its inhabitants. Sometimes just thinking about Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings helps put this in perspective for me. You’re communicating with a Being that may be pretty old comparative to you, and/or who may have seen a lot of change, chaotic and sometimes pollutive change, wrought by our species for the last hundred or so years. Yet you might be talking to a relatively young spirit, one that’s grown up with the town around you, or the street. One that could be empowered by the attention, or devastated by the blight, or alternatively feeding on it and causing it to grow. Sometimes you simply don’t encounter landvaettir that want to play nice; sometimes you do, and They’ll not only be willing to talk, but really help you. By treating these spirits with the same respect as I, an individual would want, I tend to have a better rapport and time in the places where They live and I frequent.
In my view, thinking of yourself as a guest in Their homes helps put things into a healthy perspective. In the Northern Tradition hospitality is one of the watchwords. If I act a fool and trash the place (i.e. breaking limbs off trees just because I can and littering) why would They want to know me any more, or work with me, or allow my magic to reach its intended destination? I sure wouldn’t. Again, this all come back to Gebo. The gift of respect is the gift you often receive. A lot of books tend to treat Nature spirits, and landvaettir as these cute little beings who are just so happy to help you and achieve x, y, or z. More often than not I find that a lot of spirits around me just want to live in relative peace, as opposed to conflict. It is in their self-interest to have a good relationship with us, just as it is for us to have the same with Them. It isn’t that They can’t be cute; some are, and others aren’t. Not all Nature is pretty, and not all Nature’s critters are pretty. I happen to deeply hate mosquitoes as a specie, while They seem to absolutely love my blood. I can barely walk around in summer without having little mosquito bumps creep from my toes (if I don’t wear shoes) all the way up and down my body in clusters of little bite-bumps. I despise these vaettir. They may be part of my Wyrd, and I can respect Them for that, but I don’t have to like Them. Yet it is in my interest to have a good relationship with Them. After all, if I can cut a deal with Them my bites may not be as bad. Our Wyrd may be tied together, but I believe there is wiggle room for negotiating the threads between us.
The landvaettir in my life have been great teachers, even the openly hostile ones. Many have taught me different aspects of my spirituality, from connecting to the Earth, to what happens to the vaettir when humans trash and energetically drag an area down. Some have brought me to spiritual teachers themselves, whereas others help to provide for my physical needs. There is always something to be learned in our relationships with others. There is always some balance that needs to be struck, and when it is, the ripples of that balance can be felt through the threads of orlog (personal Wyrd) through to the universal Wyrd. Landvaettir are the spirits of the land; They are at once part of and closest to the land we walk on, the food we eat, the clothing we make, the world we change. They are part of Midgard as much as we are. If we are to live side-by-side, then treating Them with respect and dignity, being hospitable to Them and expecting the same in return is part of us living together in this world. Healing where we can, helping where we can, and having the same done in turn generates the gifts all of us can continue to give and receive long into the future. To me, living incommunion with this world and all its Beings is so much more rich than living apart. My relationships and work with the landvaettir, though a part of my life, is an important part that stretches into my everyday life. Hopefully, as time goes on, more will honor our spiritual cohabitants and treat Them with the respect They deserve. In healing our relationships with the world around us, we can more effectively heal our world.
When Mengloth came to me this afternoon She said to me “You’re not much of an herbalist now. Best time to remedy that is now.” So off I went to the library, and picked up 17 books on herbs. I got through about a quarter of them by the time it came for me to leave. I took 4 books with me; 2 are medical professions’ guides, another is on growing and making herbal medicines in your back yard, and the other is about myths, legend, and herblore. She had me start copying down the medical information for the Nine Herbs of the Northern Tradition. Once I had to leave, I saved the file and sent it to myself. She told me to worry about it later, and left me alone for a few hours to relax.
When Mengloth came back to me this evening, She told me I would be taking in plant spirits to start with, since it wasn’t growing season yet. I asked Her how, and She gave me a kind of grin. She said “Better you start knowing the plant inside you so you know how to work with it outside of you.”
She then started giving me instructions. She first had me mix one part of Mugwort, Nettle, and Pine into about 12 oz. of cold water in a metal water bottle. She wanted me to make a cold kind of tea, and had me strain as much of the plant bits as I could. I used my colander and some bits of paper towel, and it worked well enough. When everything had finished straining the first time through, I poured it back into the metal water bottle and strained it again. After this, I poured the remainder into the bottle, and placed it on my altar. Nicole called, we talked, and the mixture sat on my altar, charging.
When we were done talking, I put the phone aside, and took a deep breath to focus myself back to the work at hand. Mengloth told me to take the cigarettes I’ve mentioned in a previous post and head outside with the tea. Once there, She told me to light up and blow smoke in the seven directions, thanking the spirit of each direction. Then, She had me uncap the tea, and blow the smoke into it. I asked Her why, and She responded: “You’ve now got all the Elements in that tea: the Earth of the herbs, the Air of the smoke, the Fire of the lighter, the Water of the tea. You’ve thanked all the spirits who’ve come to help take you in a new direction. Now drink it all.”
In taking that tea in, I took in the spirits of Mugwort, Nettle, Pine, and Tobacco under the guidance of Mengloth. At first, I wasn’t expecting the rush, the subtle power that they hold that crept from the tea into me bit by bit. It was a bit overwhelming at first, with the spirits at first mixing, carrying over me like a wave. They felt distinct from each other, Mugwort more bitter, Nettle more ‘biting’, Pine this crisp flavor, and the Tobacco’s bitter smoke threatening, unless I paid attention, to cover them all. Each had their own spirit, yet were mixed.
I asked Her why I couldn’t have just journeyed with my drum, and She chuckled, telling me “You need to know these plants, not just by fact, but by Them becoming one with you. Consider this your first lesson from me on plant spirits. You could have journeyed and met Them that way…but feel how your body reacts to Them. Feel how They move through you. Not all plants will work with you like this. These plants, and maybe others, will. If They do, you now know how to handle that.” With that, She instructed me to go inside and write about this, and “note whenever you work with a plant spirit what it does, how it reacts to you, and how you react to it.” Just by how ‘large’ the spirits felt, it felt like they might have been the overarching spirits of the plants. I’ll be taking more time to reflect on this experience; the taste of the tea and tobacco is still floating around in my throat despite brushing my teeth and drinking water. I can still feel the spirits moving through my body, through my hame (astral body) and throughout my soul. I can feel the Mugwort cleansing, the Nettle scraping and protecting me, biting the things keeping me back, the Pine protecting and encouraging my vitality, giving me a sense of refreshment, and the Tobacco pushes me to relax, to let meditation, visions, and words come.
The Tobacco catches me off-guard. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with this plant. I know several religious systems use Tobacco as an herb for prayer, others for meditation, or visions. However, I’ve known this plant for about as long I’ve lived as a negative herb, one I never wanted to use or associate with, given how addicted my parents are to cigarettes. So when Mengloth asked me to work with Tobacco, She firmly shoved me out of my comfort zone. I wanted to use no more than maybe a cigarette a month, and always in service for a spirit. I did not want to associate positive things with Tobacco, least of all relaxation, considering the consequences my parents may have to face for smoking so long. As anxious thoughts like “Gods, I don’t want to get hooked!” and “It shouldn’t be so relaxing” what I guess I could call Grandfather Tobacco came up to me and said to me “Relax. You respect my boundaries and I will respect yours. You use my body in a sacred manner and I will do the same.” In a word, Gebo. I heard Mengloth whisper something to the effect of “Trust Him” and I shut my eyes, took a long drag, and felt my body relax, melt in the smoke for a moment or two. When I blew out the smoke, I could see the wisps form my inner anxieties, little face frozen in moments of worry and stress. I blew the remainder of the air in my lungs at them, and they simply disappeared.
When I was finished with the cigarette, I threw it in the trash. I despise it when people leave them lying on the ground when there are perfectly good trash cans around. I can’t sit here and say “I want to help people bridge to the spirits” if what I do is insulting to Them! If I buried it and the cigarette were biodegradable, that might be one thing. However, given I don’t know if Native Spirit is, throwing it away seems the better option for now.
After thanking the Mengloth and the spirits, I headed inside, where She asked me to write about this.