Earthworks ~ Tending Sacred Ground

Take it to the Earth/Take it to the Stone/Take it to the Deep to the Dark to the Bone/Take it to the Mountains take it to the Caves/Take it to the Dark of the old ones’ Graves *

For a large part of human history travel was not common.  Although trading and raiding were a distinct part of the tapestry of human civilization, most people were born, lived, and died within the same few square miles.  A journey of 30 to 50 miles was an undertaking that people might endeavor once a year or less.  We were more geographically centralized.

Our dead shared that geography with us.  We still see the reverent echoes of it here in the mid-Atlantic.  It is not uncommon to pass by or stumble across a tiny burial plot, weather-worn headstones marking the line of just a few families.  We buried our dead where we lived, and the resonance of their bones passed into the same earth that grew our food.  The line between where we lived and who we were was blurry.  We were our land as much as we were ourselves.

Jessop Family Cemetery, photo by Jennifer Jones

Those of us from the United States who travel to the countries of our ancestors frequently feel a strange pull, a wordless reverberation that fills our hearts with deep kinship when we walk the ground our ancestors did.  Our blood remembers, yes, but the deep magick here runs both ways.  The land remembers as well.

This beautiful, besieged planet we share has an overspirit, gnar or deity (depending on how you think of such things) – Gaia, the Mother, the Great Cauldron of Creation.  Along with that Great Spirit are more local Spirits.  Just as we have country-wide cultures, regional cultures and individual characters, we also have regional gnars, overspirits specific to certain geographical areas and individuated land spirits dwelling in and through particular areas of earth.

The land remembers. Those spirits have not disappeared.  They live alongside us, beneath our very feet. They live in the trees and birds just outside our windows.  They live in the dandelions fighting through the concrete and the flowers we plant by our front doors. They remember, and they are waiting.

Spirit of the Forest by Kayla Joncas

Although this time of physical distancing calls for staying away from other humans it does not mean that we must curtail all our relationships.  Now is a good time to begin reconnecting with the land spirits and you can do that wherever you happen to live.  Even if where you live is an apartment building, there are land spirits all around you.  Humans built into an existing awareness.  Just as a friend wearing a hat does not change who they are, land spirits wearing a townhouse complex are still themselves.

So, how do we begin?

Think of cultivating a relationship with your land spirits like forming a new friendship.  When we join social gatherings, we observe the people around us.  When we notice folks who seem like potential friends, we move closer to them and engage in conversation.  This same process of observation and greeting works with our land spirits.

Begin with noticing. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, leave your phone inside and go sit outdoors.  If you are in an apartment and have a balcony, sit there.  If you are in an apartment and do not have a balcony, sit at a window. Avoid distractions during this time – just notice. Think of it as listening by using all your senses.

Start by softening your shields so that you can listen and observe more clearly. Just as water follows a path over the ground, energy does too.  Begin to observe the way energy passes over and around the land around you. That flow of energy frequently follows the contours of the land, but not always.  Notice where it flows smoothly, and what those currents are like.  Where do they enter and leave?  Notice where energy pools and collects. These pools and eddies hold concentrations of spirit. The trees and plants in those spaces are frequently healthier than other areas in the immediate vicinity.  If you are still developing your sensitivity to energy and spirit, you can rely on your physical senses. What parts of the land look healthy and lush?  What parts look undernourished or withered?  Are there places where trash or debris has collected?  Just observe. If it helps you process information to write things down, you can journal about what you see.

Notice the pattern of wildlife in your immediate vicinity.  What kinds of birds are nearby?  If you see insects, what are they? Are there any animals?  Land spirits frequently communicate through the plants and animals that inhabit their area.  On my own land, that takes the form of a specific robin and some cabbage white butterflies.  They find ways (sometimes rather startling ones) to get my attention if something is needed or if the land spirits wish to give me feedback on a project.

Observing takes time and is an ongoing process.  However, after even a short time noticing the flows of energy and life around you, you will have a better sense of your land spirits and of what they might need.

Begin to communicate.  Start gently – I speak aloud to my land spirits when I am out watering in the morning.  I tell them they are beautiful, that they bring me joy, that I am grateful to share space with them, that I am grateful for their tolerance of me.  Many land spirits seem to like music.  Sing or play for them.  Listen for responses.  They may take the form of emotions, flickers of information or images that appear in your mind, or impulses to address land-based needs in your area (cleaning up trash or debris or planting a specific thing somewhere). If you start to get requests or suggestions, write them down.

Begin here.  You have arrived at the party.  Look around.  Notice what is happening.  Maybe start some gentle conversations. Next week, we’ll talk about how to place and tend outdoor shrines and Vés.  We will also cover how to begin supporting our land spirits and entering into cocreative relationships with them.


So, what are you observing about your land spirits? Have they expressed any needs?  How does the energy flow over your land? Hit me up in the comments!


Go to Earthworks II: Creating Your Outdoor Shrine


*From ‘The Earth’ by Kindred Crow


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