I’ve been offline for a while, until recently. Some of it had to do with taking the first vacation in about 10 years where I was not also there to do spiritual work for other folks. Some of it has also had to do with not feeling like I had much to write on, and the inspiration to do religious poetry not being with me lately.
My family and I went to Lake Superior (aka Gichi-gami), visiting the Porcupine Mountains and living in a DNR yurt for a few days. We had a great time. We left immediately after we got home from our church’s Midsummer ritual.
On the road up we stopped at Lake Michigan at a rest stop. It was quiet, just us and the Lake. We hailed Her, gave prayers to Her. I gave offerings of tobacco and mugwort, then smoked on the beach to Her. Both Sylverleaf and Kiba eventually went back to the car, leaving me to smoke with Her a total of three times, thanking Her for blessing us, for allowing us to be with Her. When She spoke, it was gentle, and with a deep, deep power. With each rush of the tide bringing a word: lay. I wish I had thought to change my pants or empty my pockets, since I did as She told in that moment.
I prostrated myself before Her, and a small wave washed over me. I immediately felt both cleansed and blessed. I was also immediately soaked and cold! Thankfully nothing in my pockets was damaged. I felt clean from my head to my toes, washed clean by the Goddess of Lake Michigan, and blessed by Her waters. I felt my Soul Matrix cleansed in that moment. She had me sing to Her, galdring Laguz to Her. Before I went to leave, She asked me to take some of Her water and soil with me. The powerful, almost floating feeling did not leave me until I got near the car, and had to change. That feeling of being blessed and cleansed has stayed with me.
We crossed the Mackinaw Bridge late in the evening, and I found myself holding my breath at times. I’m not a big fan of heights. I thanked the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir profusely once we got to the hotel room, and we bedded down. We woke, and explored St. Ignace for a bit, spending a great deal of time at the St. Ignace Museum of Ojibwe Culture. We walked the Medicine Wheel, leaving offerings there, and I spent a lot of time speaking with the front desk clerk for about an hour and a half, mostly listening to her expound on history. I had a great time.
Unfortunately, we spent so much time in St. Ignace that we had no time to do much else, and so, we made a dash for the Porcupine Mountains. We arrived very late, too late, and after an hour or so of trying to find our yurt, we turned around and made for a local Americinn. We crashed, hard.
When we got up the next day, we found we had been heading in the wrong direction So, we asked for clarification on the map. The map they give you is really tiny, and unless you blow one up on a phone or have a bigger one, some of the little trails, like ours, can get lost. After we found the right trail and set off, we were set upon by mosquitoes. Most were about the size of a quarter, and a few were about the size of a half dollar. It would take us a few days to find a combination of sprays that would repel them. So we made for the yurt as quick as we could, and got inside.
The yurt itself was pretty, elevated off the ground, and cozy. It’s nestled in amongst a lot of trees, and it feels incredibly private, and the landvaettir were very inviting. After taking care of offerings to Them and to the Gods of Fire and the Hearth, I got to work on building a fire in the firebox. I found very, very quickly that it turned the yurt into a sauna. I had not realized yet how, or that I could, open the sides of the yurt or the plastic dome. So my first few hours I was absolutely drenched in sweat…but my wife and son were quite comfortable, thank you!
Because the yurt is a rustic camping site, it has no hookups; no electricity, no water, no sewage. All the water was brought up from the stream behind and below the yurt, following down a path to a large stream, and hauling the 5 gallon bucket back up. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in hauling and boiling the water, and cutting firewood. It is a kind of connection to the land I do not have in my own home. I already recognize that I am dependent on the land, and acknowledge and pray to the vaettir of the water that are in the well that gifts us with the water for our showers, our drinking water, and the water we use for food preparation and cleaning. Yet, it lacks that really down-and-dirty tactile quality I experienced when I was physically hauling the water, and going through the process of finding wood for the fire, and cutting up the wood for the fire so that we could heat the yurt and boil the water we were going to drink and cook with. It made me realize how truncated all of our processes of life, living, and thriving are in our modern way of living from where they have been with our Ancestors. It made me deeply appreciate just how much work the hot water heater in our home does, how much work my Ancestors would have done just to get water to home. I appreciated the making of a cup of tea much more when it was done with the wood stove.
We spent the rest of the day and most of the next relaxing in the yurt before braving the mosquitoes to explore the towns nearby. We grabbed some breakfast at a local cafe, and headed to a gift shop in the town. It turns out that if we had stayed up another hour or so from when we knocked out, we may have seen the Northern Lights. I was bummed we missed them, but given where we were in the woods, I am unsure we would have seen them in any case.
After we explored around some more, we made our way to Lake Superior for the first time. Lake Superior was quiet, and as in the yurt, I felt worlds away from anyone else. Our first day at Lake Superior we only saw one or two other families. There was maybe one person or family per stair access, and the driftwood was all about, and far out to tide you could see old, well-polished stones. It was absolutely gorgeous. The Lake was all around us, stretching out like an ocean. The Great Lakes I have seen, offered, and prayed to so far feel something like oceans, Goddesses in Their own rights. Something smelled familiar about each Lake: similar to the scent of the Undine Goddesses, yet unique to Them. As with Lake Michigan, Gichi-gami’s power was gentle, inviting to a point, and yet, there was a ferociousness to it. Not…hostile, per se, but this quiet, waiting ferocity and strength.
As with Lake Michigan, we made offerings, and I smoked with Her. As with Lake Michigan, I dipped my sacred pipe into Her waters just enough so that She could smoke, without the water consuming the fire inside the pipe. I smoked with Her three times, and offered Her mugwort and tobacco, and sang Laguz to Her. Her power rolled in small waves on my feet; She was icy. There was a power in Her waters, too, something I did not start hearing about with a name until I got back. As with Lake Michigan, I made offerings not only to Her, but to the vaettir that were within Her, and the vaettir were pleased. I had nothing in my pockets this time; I left my sacred pipe, the matches, the mugwort, and tobacco on a large driftwood tree when She asked me to prostrate myself before Her. When Her waters rushed over me, the ice ripped into me; I yelped and cried out. She hurt. She burned with the fire of ice, and it took everything I had to stay down and let Her run over me three times in full. It felt like so much had been taken away, as if a piece of Nifelheim Itself had come and taken my spiritual detritus, pain, and in a kind of quick death, had scrubbed me clean. It was so cold. I sweat in freezing temperatures. I find a lot of winters here tend to be too warm; I sweat a lot. So when I say “I felt cold down to my bones” I mean it felt like I was bathing in ice. I shivered as I warmed up under the sun.
When we went back to the yurt and I built up the fire, it made me appreciate it all the more. Granted, I was back to sweating, but I appreciated the feeling of cleanliness the ice and the fire brought, and given the Norse Creation Story, it made me appreciate it all so much more. That evening when I was sawing logs I heard wolves howling, and it sent the shivers down my spine that said “Run with them! Go to them!” I gave a howl of my own, and listened, and they responded a little bit later. I feel blessed to have had that contact, to hear the kin respond. I stayed outside for a few moments, relishing the feeling. When I went in, I spent some time keeping the fire up that evening, and reading some of the entries from past guests, and making my own entries.
The next day we spent most of it traveling around to different towns, then going to Adventure Mine and walking in the old copper mine there with hardhats with LED headlamps on them. A lot of mines around do little mine car trips; this one we walked. It was quite the experience, heading in with just the headlamp. I felt very close to the Dvergar then, and at points the mine felt like there were spots where the two Worlds, ours and Theirs, connected. As we walked, we could see the old drill sites for testing and connecting tunnels, and the air shafts. Looking at it, and taking it in,you could feel and almost experience, hear the work that had been done by a couple hundred hands over the course of a few centuries was amazing. When we kicked off our headlamps and the guide lit a single candle to demonstrate how much visibility the miners had, it really brought home how dangerous the work could be, and how much you were at the mercy of your coworkers, the rock, and the mine as a whole. It also made a good deal of sense why Tommyknockers were ubiquitous in the gift shops. We came across native Michigan copper, one of them being a large chunk whose cost bankrupted the company that sought to mine it.
We returned to Lake Superior later in the day, and I smoked with Her after offering Her mugwort and tobacco. I remembered the public shrine project that Galina had posted about, and set about making one while smoking my personal sacred pipe. When it was finished I brought Kiba back to take a look at it, and he liked it, but did not add anything to it when I offered him the chance.
When we came back to where Sylverleaf was, I stopped at what I assumed earlier had been someone’s hangout area made with driftwood and local dead trees. it would have maybe held one person. When I took a good at it, though, I realized it was more of a shrine. So I added to it, leaving a Yggdrasil made of stones and twigs. I left it beside the opening; I did not feel that I should put anything into it. When this was done, after smoking one last time with Gichi-gami, we headed back to the yurt for the night. I felt that same ice-cold bone feeling in my feet creep up my spine, and when we finally got in the yurt, I immediately got a fire going.
Our last day in the Porcupine Mountains was going to be fairly brief; we had to be checked out by about 11am. So, we packed everything the night before that we could and got it back to the car. While Sylverleaf was taking things back I was sawing wood and keeping the fire going, leaving enough so the next folks should have an easier time of it than we did. As I had been reading through the yurt’s journal, what came up again and again was that here Gebo was the rule. You left wood for the next group, and if you could you left items you needed during your stay. In our case we left wood, bug spray, a pack of toilet paper, and a lot of kindling and tinder. It was interesting reading that those who had left little or nothing were chastised in the journal against doing that. Many of these people were staying in the yurt in the winter, and were arriving after a 2 mile hike in snow with no trail, and only a tarp covering any excess winter wood there may have been. Gebo meant the difference between these folks having to forage for wet wood, or going out 2 miles again, buying wood, and hauling it back.
By the time we were ready to go the ashes were cool enough to put into the bucket, and then into the pile. We left offerings to the Gods, Ancestors, and the landvaettir for letting us stay, and for being so hospitable. When we started heading towards the car there was a part of me that wanted to stay like that. Maybe not necessarily in the Porcupine Mountains (because seriously, fuck the horde of enormous mosquitoes) but in a situation where we were living that close with the land. We checked out, and feeling called to Her, we visited Lake Superior one last time. She had me bring some stones home, and was generous enough to let me bring home water and soil from Her beach. I smoked with Her one final time before we left. The communion I have felt with the Great Lakes feels at times beyond words. This sense of connecting with something that reminds of the ocean, yet is not one. Connecting with this vast Goddess who smells like an Undine Goddess, whose one song I know of is how the Edmund Fitzgerald sank into Her depths, and yet has shown my family and I such gentleness, blessing, and cleansing. Our Gods are many things; They can be ferocious and kind, brutal and gentle, and so much more. I know in our short time there I only touched a bit of this Goddess, and hope to again sometime soon.
The ride home was nice. Even facing the Mackinaw Bridge after the week didn’t leave me white knuckling much. As soon as we made it home around eleven or midnight, we all crashed. I had Michigan Paganfest to look forward to, and had to be up for Opening RItual at 10am.
The ongoing pilgrimage plan is to take a similar pilgrimage out to Lake Michigan. It will be a lot shorter trip, and now that we know what to expect in a yurt we will be a good deal more prepared.
I feel blessed that we were able to take this pilgrimage, that we had such a good time, and learned so much. It was a powerful time, even the times where I was cutting wood, keeping the fire going, or boiling water. I’m looking forward to meeting with the other Lakes.