There is great power in spiritual practice. One of the truest things I know about magick and life is that which is fed increases. Repetition matters. We form deeper friendships with people we interact with regularly, we become more skilled at the work we do frequently and the paths we often tread become easier to walk.
One of the most powerful ways we can increase our connection to the land spirits is through shrine tending. The placement and form of an outdoor shrine, vé or spirit house is a cocreative effort that brings together the threads of your own spiritual practice, the natural energy present around your home, and the needs and preferences of the land spirits you live with. Last week, I talked about ways to start connecting to the spirits and energy of the land you live on. If you would like to connect more deeply to your land spirits, please start there before continuing further.
An outdoor shrine should honor and work with the currents of energy already present on the land. There is a natural ebb, flow and gathering of energy over, around and through the land you live on. During your observation of the spaces around your home, you probably noticed some areas where the energy pools naturally. Depending on how landscaped/adjusted your land is, the trees and plants in that location may be a bit healthier. Since a shrine should support and enhance the energy already present, one of those naturally formed centers of energy is a good choice for the site of your shrine.
Evaluate each nexus considering your own needs as well. If a shrine is difficult to reach, in full view of the neighbors (and you’re trying to keep the witchy stuff to a dull roar), next to an aromatic plant you happen to be allergic to (or simply dislike), in a damp area subject to a lot of mosquitoes during the summer, or otherwise presents obstacles to engaging with it, your practice will most likely falter. The lovely Pagan fantasy of an outdoor ritual space deep in the woods is very tempting, but the truth is that if we can see our shrine from our front or back door, we are far more likely to tend it.
Between the natural pools of energy on your land and your own needs, you will find yourself considering a small list of potential locations. Once you have narrowed down your options, it is time to ask the land spirits for their thoughts.
Depending on your spirit communication skills and energetic awareness, there are a few different ways to work with the land spirits to choose your site.
1) Ask directly. Go outside and find a comfortable place to sit. Soften your shields so that the spirits can reach you more easily. One thing I like to do is root down into the land as well. To do so, simply imagine roots spreading out from your seat or feet down into the earth. Allow those roots to connect you to the energy of your land.
Start a conversation with your land spirits. I always begin with praise and gratitude and sometimes make an offering while I am at it. Once you are in conversation, bring the specific places you are considering for a shrine site to mind. Notice any responses from the land spirits. The land spirits in each place are individuated – they have their own ideas and opinions about things. Some of them may be easygoing and would be happy to have a shrine anywhere. Others are more specific. Remember that some of their considerations may not be things you are aware of. Maybe the soil in a spot you were thinking about putting a shrine is more damaged than it appears. Maybe the microbiota in one area would not interact well with regular visits. Getting a ‘no’ from your spirits about a site you thought was perfect doesn’t mean they don’t want one. It just means they don’t want one in that spot.
If your spirits are content to have a shrine anywhere, then the choice is yours. However, most will have an opinion. Try to settle on a site that they are enthusiastic about.
2) Divination. If you are not comfortable with direct spirit communication or are still developing those skills, divination is a wonderful option. Take your divinatory tool(s) outside with you and ask the land spirits to speak through them. Then, do a simple yes/no divination on each site you are considering.
3) Dowsing. Using a pendulum or dowsing rods can be another way to get confirmation. To use a pendulum, simply draw (even roughly) a map of your land. It does not have to be to scale. Take the map and pendulum outside and request that the land spirits speak through the pendulum. Before you start penduling, ask the pendulum to show you its ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘I don’t know/indifferent.’
Suspend your pendulum over the map on each place you are considering a shrine location. Watch for a spin to develop.
Similarly, if you have dowsing rods and privacy, visit each potential shrine location and note what the dowsing rods do.
4) Offerings. Test drive your potential shrine locations by leaving offerings at each one. Pick a different location each day to leave an offering, then wait to see how the land spirits react. An enthusiastic ‘yes’ can look like visits from local wildlife, sudden flowers opening or even a random stroke of luck. Remember that when the land spirits are speaking through local wildlife, they will behave in ways that are deliberately designed to get your attention. Some examples could include butterflies stopping you in your tracks as you try to walk to your car, a bird tapping on your window pane, an unusually beautiful feather left right in front of your door, or a rabbit, squirrel or other small mammal or bird coming startlingly close to you. (Yes, these have all happened to me, which is why I can list them off.)
It feels a little like this
Once you and your land spirits have agreed on a site, it is time to build your shrine! Shrines can vary dramatically in form depending on your practice and personal preferences. Some things to bear in mind:
What shape helps support the flow of energy in that space? If energy pools there, round shapes can help build up and hold even more energy. If multiple streams of energy cross there, arches can help shape the flow of that energy. Crossroads patterns corresponding to the different flows/lines of energy can also work beautifully. If energy pools at the bottom of a hill, a curved ‘dam’ shape can help support a stronger nexus.
What will your shrine be used for? Will you pour out liquid offerings? Light incense? Meditate? Place written petitions and praise? Think about what you will need to have available to you in order to support your shrine tending. For example, the shrine to my landvaettir is a stone cairn. I primarily use it to pour out or place offerings. If I want to, I can tuck a petition into the stones. It is not a site where I meditate, though, so I do not have seating near it.
What materials will you use? This can be a great opportunity to use existing material. If you already have rocks native to your site (from gardening projects or other housework), consider incorporating them. If you are adding a Spirit House, think about what will honor and reflect the existing plants and animals most. What fits most harmoniously with the surrounding trees, shrubs and plants?
Will you incorporate any gardening? If you are planning to add any plants or flowers, consider native or environment-supporting varieties. Some plants are exceptionally good at returning nutrients to the earth. Some are wonderful for feeding pollinators. Some provide habitat for different species.
What if I live in an apartment? Outdoor shrines in shared spaces can be just as effective, just as sacred, and just as strong as a shrine on private land. Their construction just needs to be more subtle in order to avoid disruption. Allow the existing plants to be your shrine. Pour out your offerings onto the roots of a tree living right at a nexus. Add a single, small stone. Remember, shrine creation and tending is a recognition and enhancement of energy that is already present. We do not always need to build a structure to honor the land spirits.
So here we are. Begin working with your land spirits to choose a site for your shrine and start planning the form it will take. Next week, I’m going to talk about the shrine-tending relationship, offerings, and ways to make your relationship with the land spirits beneficial to them as well as you.
If you have any questions, want to talk about the feedback you’ve gotten from your land spirits, or share the design you’re planning for your shrine, hit me up in the comments. What are your land spirits sharing with you?
Go to Earthworks III: Tending the Shrine: Gifting, Offering and Sacred Work
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