Relationship with the land teaches easily that there is an existing spiritual, divine element in nature. The old-world pagans knew there were spirits of many kinds all around us. Beyond relating to nature as only elemental forces, I encountered it as a living, moving form with consciousness. I wondered if these beings were the energetic extensions of a living Earth. I tossed around the idea that they were extra-dimensional entities, that they were the fey folk I’d later read about in my explorations and more. Cultures across the ages have encountered spirits of various types and demeanors. With a healthy dose of discernment, I allow the spirits to identify themselves.
I didn’t set the intention to walk out into my front yard and conjure up spirits, but that is exactly what I did. The warm glow of the afternoon sun after a long day brought a sense of relaxation and peace. Every day around five, I’d sit beneath the elm tree with my tabby cat and my eager little girl who eyed the corner for the ice-cream truck. Birds danced under the branches of the elm early in the morning. It was the first sight my eyes breathed each day I woke.
While sipping hot tea from my porcelain cup, I could hear a woodpecker tapping away for its morning meal. I spied a red head through the leaves of the elm. The moment I noticed her she stopped pecking against the wood. With agile feet, she walked down the tree half way as if to get a good look at me. The air became still for a moment, my ears were full of the sound of my own breathing when she started pecking away again. The noise was different, three taps followed one with a pause. I’d never seen the behavior before, it lasted for only a few minutes before she climbed to her starting point and flew away.
The spirits seem to like the slow and subtle. It reminds me of the way weeds find their way into the cracks of a driveway or sidewalk. The more time I spent resting and listening the more I could understand. There are not clear words to describe the language that forms between a person and a plant, stone or beast. There is an inner “knowing” and the “dreaming” that helps to bring understanding.
In 2001, while helping to paint a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of town, I managed to lose a beautiful silver cuff with a turquoise setting that had been left to me by a great aunt. It was placed at the back of a trailer. The mental note I made was a clear memory in my head. My eyes darted back and forth over the wood and metal of the trailer, but it couldn’t have fallen off. Noticeable panic led to questions. Six other people helped me to look. Over half an hour later and the cuff was still absent. I called it a loss and started painting again. I worked my way around to the back of the church and there, I paused. My eyes followed up the trunk of a towering, twisted oak tree. For a moment, I wondered if I’d move at all. With a deep sigh, I sat on a large, wide root. “Hello, I can feel you here, I know that you are watching.” No birds fluttered, or bugs zipped, all seemed to stop. “The bracelet is very important to me. If you would return it I’d be ever grateful.” I relaxed and closed my eyes. “Hey, you found it!” I jumped out of my cat-nap at the sound of a familiar voice. Beneath my fingers was the silver cuff.
For a week in 2008, I heard a tap on my back door. I tipped toed to the peephole to find an empty porch every time. During the same time, I’d hear odd pitter-pattering across my bedroom floors as though a small kitten was playing but I didn’t have a small kitten and my feet were warmed by my cat Aragus. I stood in the back yard and turned over my shoulder. I gestured to my two-year-old to follow me when my eyes felt drawn to the ground. Resting at the right side of my foot was a stone the size of my palm colored in browns and tans. On its nearly flat surface was a deep black engraving of a symbol. Further inspection revealed more symbols clearly carve. I’d later come to know them as Runes. The unusual find marked the end of the strange happenings. I smile and try to imagine how that stone found its way to me. It has happened since, and each time it does I reflect back to the old oak tree and my silver cuff.
There is often the assumption that land spirits, house spirits, elementals and more are human like when it comes to their feelings and appearance. More often than not there is the image of magical beings that float around with butterfly wings and grant wishes. Though some of them may have human-like attributes and yes, even the power to bring a wish into manifestation, I often remind myself of their wild, beautiful, strange and mischievous natures. I consider that there is often an exchange with most gifts. They often appear to me as animals or invisible forces that make things disappear and then reappear in funny places; like a missing shoe on the vacuum cleaner’s handle.
The choice to be aware and develop a relationship with the land spirits should be entered into with a sense of respect. If you make a promise, do not fail to keep it. If you desire to leave a gift in gratitude ask what kind of gift might be appropriate. Local spirits here seem to love sweet cornbread. I have never gone looking for the land spirits with the explicit intent to ‘see’ them as they don’t seem to enjoy showing themselves but if they want to make themselves known they find a way to get my attention. While visiting some distant relatives in Missouri, I wanted to take a walk through the woods, but the place was wild. I addressed the location’s spiritual guardians and bent over to leave a decorated item, cornmeal from my kitchen and a bit of wine. As I stood up, I noticed a large heron only six feet from me. We watched one another for some time before he left. Seen or unseen, the land folk are always there.