I’ve written on this blog before about land healing, specifically in relation to healing the land here at my property that we purchased 2 and a half years ago. Yesterday, my grove celebrated Imbolc, and as part of that we did a personal and land healing ritual (details of that ritual at the end of this post). Because of that, I wanted to spend some time reflecting more on this idea of healing, what druidry has to offer, and how the inner and outer worlds can be integrated for healing and renewal.
A Balance of Inner and Outer Work
When most druids or other spiritual/pagan-leaning people think about healing, I think our minds immediately go to to the ritual/magical aspects of healing work. That is, we do rituals, raise positive energy, and do other things that connect with the spirit realm and allow us to heal ourselves and heal others. And while I do much of this work too, I also recognize that spiritual healing is most effective if its combined with physical action in the outer world (and of course, this is how magic works). That is, we must think about how our energies are used and enacted–both spiritual and material.
Spiritual and Physical Healing of the Land
Being called to be a land healer requires an understanding of context and the needs of individual locations for different kinds of healing. In wild, natural places that are not under threat, healing might be as simple as picking up the garbage, saying a simple blessing, and leaving nature to do her good work (as nature is the greatest healer of all, and has taught me so much about healing!) Unfortunately, in our world today, most of the spaces that require healing are not quiet forest groves or protected state parks. Rather, they are the lands below shopping malls, in gravel pits, in post offices, your neighbor’s backyard, the local park, or the path of an oil pipeline. They are spaces that have their natural growth repeatedly stifled by fossil fuels, petrochemical fertilizers, heavy machinery, and a war against nature’s rejuvenating plants (like dandelions). These are the spaces that I have found need healing the most, but these are also the most difficult spaces to work with.
For some of these spaces, the only kind of work that can be done is magical/spiritual, because physical healing can’t necessarily happen in a shopping mall parking lot or a gravel pit that is continuing to be used. These are the spaces that we can’t usually physically intervene in, and often, they are filled with anger, sadness, and bitterness. All that we can do is help these spaces release negative
emotions and put them to “sleep” so to speak (I will blog more about this kind of healing in a future post).
But there are other spaces, abused spaces, that can be worked physically and magically very effectively. Mushrooms can be used to pull toxins out of the soil, trees and regenerative plants that bring nutrients back into the soil can be planted, permaculture design techniques can be used to restore and renew the land. We can clean up rivers, we can replant forests, and we can create productive spaces that give local wildlife shelter and food. This physical healing can be complimented with spiritual healing–and I’ve found that when you can work on two levels, the healing work that can be accomplished is truly an incredible thing (I also plan a blog post about this!)
Spiritual Healing: A Personal/Land Healing Group Ritual (Imbolc Ritual from Crescent Birch Grove)
Yesterday, our grove’s Imbolc celebration focused on healing the land and healing ourselves. We did this because Imbloc is traditionally a time of healing and rejuvenation. Its a time to reflect and to plan ahead for the upcoming spring. We can’t heal others if we, ourselves, are not healed. So our ritual first focused on the physical healing of ourselves–bringing ourselves into balance so we could then help heal the world.
For the second half of our ritual, we focused on spiritual land healing of a tar sands oil pipeline. The pipeline is is being put into the ground less than a half mile away from our outdoor grove (for more information on this part of the line, you can see the Line 6B blog which is being maintained by two of my neighbors and colleagues). This oil pipeline is being put in by Enbridge, which is the same company who caused the Kalamazoo (MI) river oil spill which dumped oil into the river for 17 hours (877,000 gallons of oil), and who are currently being sued by the EPA and the city of Kalamazoo for their shoddy job in cleaning it up. The land suffers when tar sands oil is extracted, it suffers when we cut down trees and dig up the land to put in pipeline, and so, focused on sending positive, healing energy to these lands. In this case, we have little physical power to change what is happening with the tar sands pipeline, but we can at least raise some good energy and let the land know we are aware of her suffering.
I’m only going to include the main rite here with an outline of our grove opening and closings (I think that opening magical spaces are one of those things that are a bit specific to a group/individual, and so different things might be done depending on the person/grove). I should also mention that this ritual was written for eight people (druids 1-4 + four directions) but it can be adapted for many different kinds of groups or solo work. Also note that actions are in italics, and speaking parts are in normal text. You can also use appropriate visualizations with each of the steps, although I didn’t write them into the ritual.
For the ritual, you’ll need:
- waters (gathered from sacred spaces, outside, rain water, lakes, etc.)
- eight vessels
- symbols of the season and of healing
- drums, rattles, and other musical instruments
For our grove, we start with three deep breaths, declaring peace in the quarters, saying the druid’s prayer for peace, saying the druid’s prayer, casting a circle, and calling the four quarters. If blog readers really want the full script of the opening, I can provide it (but it would make this post very long!)
The Imbolc Healing Rite
Druid 1: “So the skies rumbled and the snows came,
And everywhere down through the centuries of this gray night,
Came women and men gathering to pray,
And to sink their hands into the dark earth.
They gathered seeds and prepared them for planting,
They meditated in the icy darkness,
And they celebrated the lambing of the first ewe,
To hasten spring.
And when through the earth they felt the stirring,
They sang songs and drummed encouraging the tiny seeds to grow.
In the dark, wet soil you can smell their work still;
They are digging along beside us. Listen!
The north wind carries their song across the snow,
This Imbolc night.
As the Earth prepares for Spring,
We gather in circles to await the promise of new life,
And to sing praises for the green earth.
We gather to heal ourselves and heal the lands around us.
And so do we, here now,
This year, and every year.
All: “Welcome Imbolc!”
Druid 2: “Imbolc is a time when we begin to see the first stirrings of spring in the world. Although the world is still plunged in darkness, we are moving towards the light half of the year; the snow is melting into water to nourish the land. Imbolc is a time of renewal and rebirth, a time of purification and starting anew, a time of quiet anticipation and reflection. This is a time that we seek healing for ourselves and for this land.”
Druid 3: “Today, we work to heal ourselves and our lands. The work of healing is done in the element of water; during this time of Imbolc, the waters once again begin to flow as the first stirrings of spring occur. To perform our healing, we bring together waters from our lives and lands. Please step forward now, tell us where your water comes from, and add it to our pitcher. ”
<Participants bring water forward, speaking where their water comes from, and pouring it into the central pitcher>
Druid 4: “As Imbloc is traditionally the time of purification and renewal, we will now purify and bless our lives, hearts, and minds with these sacred waters.”
North: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the north. “This water represents the need for purification of body. In the course of life, we build up many toxins, disease, and illness. As you lave your wrists, allow your sickness, illness, or toxins in your body to be purified in the spirit of the water.” Pour a little water into the north cup. All participants walk sunwise to the north cup, dip their fingers into it and spread water onto their wrists.
All: “With this water, my body is purified.”
Druid 1: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the northeast “This water represents the need for purifying the mind. In the course of daily living, we build up painful memories, stress, hatred, and other things we have difficulty in letting go. As you lave your forehead, let these painful memories, stress, or negative emotions be washed away.” Pour a little water into the north-east cup. All participants walk sunwise to the north cup, dip your fingers into it and spread water onto your forehead.
All: “With this water, my mind is purified.”
East: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the east. “This water represents the need for purifying the spirit. Even our souls, at times, are stressed and fatigued, bound in our earthly bodies. As you drop water on your crown, remember that the soul should remain free!” Pour a little water into the east cup. All participants walk sunwise to the east cup, dip your fingers into it and drop a little water onto the top of your head.
All: “With this water, my soul and spirit are purified.”
Druid 2: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the southeast. “Now that the body, mind, and soul have been cleansed, it is a time for renewal. This water represents renewal of the body. May an increase in energy, vitality, and physical well being be present here and in the year to come!” Pour a little water into the southeast cup.
All: “With this water, my body is renewed.”
South: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the south. “This water represents renewal of the mind. May an increase mental energy, creativity, and inspiration be present now and in the year to come!” Pour a little water into the south cup.
All: “With this water, my mind is renewed.”
Druid 3: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the southwest. “This water represents a renewal of the soul. May our eternal souls be refreshed and renewed for the year to come. May we be able to hear and understand our higher self, our guides, and the lessons the soul has to teach.” Pour a little water into the southwest cup.
All: “With this water, my soul is renewed.”
West: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the west. “This water represents the renewal and replenishment of happiness in life. May the water bring joy into our homes, our families, and our entire existences.”
Pour a little water into the west cup.
All: “With this water, happiness is renewed.”
Druid 4: Takes the pitcher of unified waters and moves to the northwest. “Now that we are restored, we can begin restoring the land. This final cup of water is in honor of the earth and all of her blessings. May this healing water wash over 1000 fold on all of the life on earth.
All: “With this water, the our lands is healed.”
Druid 1: Let us dance and drum, raising energy for the lands that are suffering close to our grove!”
Participants dance and drum, outside in our sacred circle, around a fire. (Note: for our ritual, we did the personal healing portions inside, then went outside to drum and raise positive energy–it was a balmy 17 degrees :). )
Druid 2: “Now that we have restored our lives and lands, we ask for a message to see how our work must continue. Spirits of this land, what wisdom do you have for us?” (Tarot Reading)
All: Take turns and walk back around the circle sunwise, and at each cup of water, pause, then pour it back into the pitcher. As each of these cups is emptied, say, “I return this water to the others. May it bring each of us healing in our time of need.”
At this point, we say the druid’s oath, thank and release the quarters, and unwind the circle.
Participants can all take water from the ritual home with them at the end of the ceremony. We’ve also used this water for other healing work and for incense making.