I had the most amazing thing happen to me about a month ago, and it involved the direct (palliative) healing of an active strip mine site. I was heading to teach an herbalism course at a friend’s business about 15 minutes away from where I live. My drive this requires me to cross a divided highway and do a u-turn at a site that is a very new active strip mine. They aren’t fully removing the mountain, but they are certainly cutting into it quite a bit, and ripping up the entire surface of the land in the process. For a while, I’ve been driving past this spot, and energetically, it just feels bad, like in the pit of your belly bad. I knew something was to be done, but I wasn’t sure what. So I kept visiting, listening, and being told “wait” (using the same strategies I’ve shared with you earlier in this series). And so, wait I did.
That particular day when I was going to teach my class, we had both sunshine and storms. Rain would pour for five minutes and then it would be sunny again. These are such fun days to enjoy, and usually rainbows abound. I hadn’t yet seen one, but I had anticipated it, and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Just I was turning around, I saw a rainbow–it was right in front of me, on the road ahead. I decided to follow it slowly with my car, and suddenly, it jumped. When it jumped, I looked to my left, and there it was, coming down right in the center of the whole strip mine operation. Now, for anyone who has studied the old Celtic, underworld, and fairy lore, a jumping rainbow is described as an old trick to lead you somewhere–and that’s definitely what happened in this case.
Now, every day, as part of my AODA practice, I connect with the three currents (a strategy I’d suggest in preparation for this kind of work; I’ll talk more about this later in this post). I’m pretty adept, at this point, in channeling down the solar current. I connected with that rainbow, with the sun’s rays reflecting off of those droplets of water and pulled it down, deep down, into the darkness and suffering of that strip mine. I sat for quite a while and channeled down that energy, and as I did, the rainbow grew brighter, and more brilliant. At some point, the work felt done. The land felt cleaner. More at peace with what was happening. The worst of the bad energy was gone. Each time since I’ve visited that spot, the effects of the rainbow remain.
Now, obviously, a rainbow working is not really something you can plan! But, I did want to share this as a potent land healing strategy to open up today’s post. And I think what I can share is that even if you don’t have the blessing of a rainbow over the spot you want to help heal, you do have the energy of the sun frequently, and it can be used in various ways–as we’ll explore today, along with other strategies for palliative care.
Why Palliative Care?
When I started this land healing series, I started with descriptions of the different kinds of healing work you can do: physical and energetic land healing for sites that need active regeneration and healing (which is where things like permaculture fit) and palliative care (for sites that cannot yet be healed and are underging active harm). Today’s post is going to explore specific land healing strategies for palliative care that you can engage in–these are specific strategies for sites that are just like the rainbow working above: these sites have ongoing active destruction or are far from what nature intended. As before, if you haven’t read the earlier parts in this series, I would strongly suggest that you do so, as the series builds from the previous posts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI and Part VII.
I think that Palliative Care for sites that are currently experiencing destruction and suffering is just as hard to deal with as the impending destruction of a natural site (which I talked about two weeks ago); both of these give you a sense of powerlessness that is difficult to deal with. You want to look away. You want to disengage. But instead, I suggest you try to engage, to help, to heal. Because I can tell you this–nobody else is doing this work on our landscapes. If we, as druids and those who love the land and hold her sacred can’t do it, then who can? Even when looking at that strip mine, that logged landscape, that fracking well, that acidic river (the ones I deal with here most often), know that that what I am looking at is still the living earth and it is still sacred land. This kind of stuff is not one a druid meandering through the woods wants to find, but it is unfortunately a common reality that we face in the age of 21st century industrialism.
I believe that every age has its own spiritual challenges, and that our spiritual practices are often born from what we experience; I certainly see responding to this kind of experience as necessary for a druid living in such times. And to me, we are in a unique position to do something, and I believe, even for sites that are actively being destroyed and harmed, that something can have very long-term implications. Consider palliative care like the first stage in the healing process–you are setting the stage for what is to come.
Palliative Care and Energetic Changes
I want to start by saying that nearly all of the strategies I outlined two weeks ago for sites that are going to be destroyed also work for palliative care. These include: working with the stones, working with Indian Ghost Pipe as a plant ally, putting the land in hibernation, and saving seeds. These are strategies that can do tremendous good for sites that are undergoing active harm.
At the same time, there is a large energetic difference between these two kinds of sites: namely, a site that is not yet destroyed doesn’t have this energetic darkness and active suffering that a site that is destroyed carries. Its that energetic darkness that is the focus of some of my work in palliative care, and so, I generally find myself doing a lot more energetic cleansing work on actively destroyed sites, and hence, that’s what today’s post will mainly focus on.
I’d also like to share that the energetic nature of active destruction changes over time, and I think, is due in part to where in the process things are occurring. If a site has been actively destroyed for a long period of time, you often encounter this energetic deadness or a complete lack of vitality. A lot of the rivers around here are like that–they have been acidic and poisonous to life for half a century or more–this means that they are largely “dead” feeling, where the active strip mine site (a new operation less than a year old) is energetically very dark and intense.
What I do depends on a number of factors. I generally don’t do much with the dead sites unless I know active healing can happen–I think that the deadness is better than most other things, in that there is no active suffering, and the land has figured out how to numb itself and the spirits have retreated. So for these, I might say a small prayer or blessing, but otherwise, leave them be. I am certainly not going to do anything to “wake” that site back up or call those spirits back until it is time and active healing work can begin. When it is time for real healing to take place though, the “deadened” land then needs you to come in and give it a burst of light and life (see upcoming post!)
Most sites actively under siege, instead, have this really dark intensity to them and feel really “wrong” and “awful” just being near them. For example, when I was visiting a friend in West Virginia not too long ago, I was driving and was struck with this horribly awful feeling as I rounded the bend. Turned out, just around the next bend was a huge gravel/sand pit, cutting into the mountainside–and that was the source of the suffering. This is exactly the kind of site that could benefit from palliative care. And so, my real focus today, is on active suffering and sites that have that energetic darkness, sickness, feeling of absolute wrongness, that pervades them.
Solar Blessings and Getting Rid of the Worst of the Energetic Darkness
So about 5 posts ago in this series, I shared information on the three currents and how ancient peoples, and modern ones, can use the currents to help heal and bless the land. In the case of palliative care, nearly all of the problems we have are with the currents of energy in the earth, the telluric currents. The telluric currents govern what is on the land and of the land, what is on and of the earth, and that’s where the bulk of the problems for industrialized cultures, great and small, arise. It is the uncontrolled fossil fuel use, an earthly treasure, that has our world’s climate in chaos; it is the pillaging of earthly resources that are really causing so many palliative situations to occur. These telluric currents become easily corrupted by the many earthly activities that pervade industrialized society: gravel pits, strip mines, regular mining operations, pesticides and industrialized farming, fracking, tar sands, logging, typical lawn care, and more. And so, I have found that attending to the telluric currents, by way of ancient knowledge, can tremendously help in palliative care.
I have found that you can effectively use the solar currents to clear away, or purify, the worst of the energetic darkness of sites under active destruction. There are lots of ways to do this, and one of them was how I opened this post: a rainbow working! There are many, many ways to channel the solar currents down into the telluric, and this is an excellent way to get rid of the energetic crud, the worst of the suffering, and provide some respite. I kind of see this work like providing a healing balm to soothe the energetic effects of active destruction. You aren’t solving the problem by any means, but you are certainly doing something that really helps.
Most of my strategies for channeling the solar (sun) down into the telluric currents (the energy of the earth) for purification and blessing involve using specific rituals within the AODA framework. These include the AODA’s sphere of protection (which I use most often), our seasonal grove rituals (found in the Druid Grove Handbook) or the communion ceremony from the Gnostic Celtic Church (found in the Gnostic Celtic Church Handbook). Each of these rituals establish the space and then, as the core work of the ritual, connect to the energy of the sun, the earth, and awaken the telluric current. I’ll share one simple derivations here, but I wanted you to understand where a lot of what I do comes from and where you can get more extended versions. I’ve been working in this tradition for over a decade, and I think, in its own way, maybe it led me to this work by putting the perfect tools in my hands!
So a simple way to channel the solar down into the telluric is through AODA’s Sphere of Protection working as a basic framework. I’m giving a simplified version of it here, and you can add and adapt as necessary. I would begin by going to an area that needed some palliative care, and, as I mentioned before in earlier posts, ascertain the nature of the work at hand. If I felt led, I would do the following:
- Grounding and centering myself for the work at hand. Part of this is opening myself up for the flow of energies, breathing deeply, and feeling rooted in the living earth. As part of the grounding and centering, I would open up some kind of protective space (even if its as simple as drawing a circle on the ground, or in the air as white light).
- I would next go to the east, and call in the positive qualities of the east to aid the land and me in the working. Then I would banish in the east, driving away any harmful or disturbing energies. I’d then go to the south, west, and north, doing the same thing: calling upon the positive qualities of the element and banishing the negative ones. As you get used to doing this, you’ll find you can banish the negative qualities in larger and larger regions and areas–and this is super helpful for clearing work.
- At each of the quarters, I would use my senses to experience that element in the world around me, identifying the influence of those four elements on the landscape: in the east I might look at the movement of the air, pay attention to the smell of the air, the birds in the sky, seeds blowing in the wind, and so on.
- Then, I would invoke the three currents: I would first draw a circle on the ground and invoke the telluric current, envisioning it rising through the circle as a greenish-gold light. I would assess its purity and flow. Then I would trace a circle in the air and pull down the solar current, envisioning it as a yellow flame coming down from the sun and the celestial heavens.
- I would intone the “Awen” and then draw upon everything I had called: the four elements and the currents to unify the currents, awakening the lunar current and sending the solar deep within the telluric. I would envision energy coming from each of the four directions, from the sky, and down, into the telluric.
- I would envision this work as long as necessary, sometimes for several minutes, sometimes for a half hour or more. Usually it doesn’t take too long, but it depends on the area. When I felt the work was done, I would close the space (but would not send away what I had called).
That’s it in a nutshell–there’s more to it than that, but I think that’s enough for you to work with, and adapt, as you see fit. I would say that there are more elaborate rituals and workings using these energies, but doing something basic, to start, is a good way to begin. Some of you, who are new to ritual work, might say, “yes, but does it work?” The truth is, I cannot believe the potency and usefulness of the Sphere of Protection alone in much of this work. I find its an extremely versatile for a lot of different kinds of land healing (and other healing) work.
As I wrote about in my third post of the series (which helps set up today’s post) as well as my recent post on sacred gardening, humans have long been using standing stones, temples, trees, ceremonies, and more to channel the solar energies into the land for healing and abundance–but I have found these work fantastically for palliative care. The reason is simple–setting a standing stone or using some other key marker to help channel down the solar current is a working that takes time and space to achieve. Unlike a ritual, which radically alter a space and its energetic profile quite quickly, a standing stone is slow work, over time, over potentially a lot of time. This lends itself well to palliative care, because its like a slow-releasing healing agent. I’m having difficulty putting into words exactly what I mean here, but I hope you get my meaning.
So just this past week, two druids snuck into the woods into the park north of town and worked to set a standing stone in the forest; the same forest where many gas wells are present. We did this because here is a place, in the heart of fracking country, where the waters and forests and lands are under active duress. We had come across a natural spring earlier in the week on a hike, a tiny spring that pops up only in the springtime of the year or after heavy rains. It was barely noticeable, but eventually flowed into a small stream with moss-covered stones. We carefully cleared away the leaves and sticks to see what we could find, and were excited with the discovery of three trickles of water welling up from the earth, almost in the shape of an awen. The next day, we came back better prepared and set some rocks below the spring to created a small gazing pool. Then we went off in search of a standing stone–and sure enough, within about 10 minutes, we were delighted to find a perfect standing stone for the pool. We set that stone as a long-term healing presence, to bless these waters, those that flow past so many of those gas wells, and later, one fracking well. To help bless all these waters that are under duress from the many fracking activities here, to cleanse and nurture the telluric currents, the spirits of these lands, and the physical forest during this difficult time. The interesting thing about this particular spot is that its right along a fairly well-used path, so if passerby are looking in the right direction at the right time, the pool and standing stone will be quite evident! Now, we didn’t do any ritual work at the spot–we just wanted to set the stone and let it do its good work for a while. However, we could come back at a later point, when we felt it was time, and do that work.
Even if you can’t set a standing stone, I have found that a small shrine, carefully placed and tended, can work wonders over a period of time. Perhaps you create a simple stone cairn and pour blessed waters (see below) over it every season. Perhaps you plant a rare native plant and surround it with stones. The actual shrine, and what goes into it, can be intuitive. But these small places are healing, they are like a light in the dark. For land that is suffering, what your shrine does is give it a focal point, something to hang onto, something to direct its attention and let the spirits of that land know that someone is thinking about them, wishing them well, and saying that we are here in support. I have made many such shrines over the years–small places, hidden places, that I quietly go and visit. You will get a sense, from the land itself, about how often you need to come and what you can do while you are there.
Music and Song
I’ve mentioned before on this blog about the wonderful (and often subversive) nature of music and singing for any land healing work. This is healing work, of any variety, that can be done publicly and openly. I have found that certain songs, especially old folk songs, work particularly well for soothing the land, and allowing it to prepare for what is to come, and putting it to sleep.
If you use this technique, you will develop your own songs that that have meaning and may even be given songs to use with the land–but I would start with the melodies of old folk songs, songs that have been sung in your lands for several generations at least–and use those. I found a book once, at a local cave that was open to the public, called “Back Porch Melodies” and it had almost 50 folk songs–many of these I found useful and adapted them to my practices. I may change the lyrics or play them on my panflute, but the songs resonate deeply and the music can soothe and help pave the way.
Blessed Waters for Damaged Rivers
Another thing that I have done over a period of time is to collect and bless sacred waters (see this post for a ritual to create them). I usually do this work at Imbolc or the Spring equinox each year–when the waters are flowing and the spring is returning. I began working with blessed waters many years ago,as part of my work with water over a period of years. Now, I have this sacred water, used for countless ceremonies over the years, and from countless places all over the world, that I use as part of my land healing work. Because the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans are one of the things tremendously under distress, a little bit of healing water goes a long way. I have placed a few drops of my water into the headwaters of various rivers, so that as they go and become more polluted, the healing waters are still there, flowing. I also place them into the polluted rivers themselves, dropping a single drop or two in with prayers (think homeopathic doses, here!). I use the sacred waters to drip on the roots of trees and plants, to lathe stones, to pour over healing altars and standing stones, and much more. I have found that carrying a little bit of this water with me anywhere I am means that I am always ready and able to do some healing work. And I can give it away to others, and then they can do good work as well!
I replenish the sacred waters, adding to them, by visiting springs and other local healing wells. These have an abundance of good telluric energy and you can multiply the sacred waters you create as much as you need to.
This last strategy I’m going to share today for palliative care is one that I’ve used only once, but I think its an important one, and some of you may find yourself also as needing to do this work. When I first moved to MI, there was this big shopping mall area–it had a stadium, all these highways, buildings, even a big giant garbage mountain that they were doing as a dump. But the area just felt sacred to me, in ways it normally wouldn’t have. Every time I was there (I had to drive past it on my way to campus each day), I would see the most amazing things: spirals of birds, the light of the sun peeking through the clouds, interesting cloud formations, etc. It was just slightly more magical, more sacred, than everywhere else around it. So one day, I went to the site, climbed up on a big hill near a big box home improvement store, and lay among the weeds, listening with my inner and outer senses, and observing. I saw a vision of the site, what it had been (indeed, a sacred place for peoples before), and how much it was suffering now–it was very much awake and alive, and being used in a very unsacred manner. I was asked, very clearly, to gather up a small handful of soil from the site for a year period–at each of the solstices and equinoxes. I did this and then, had the bowl of soil at my house for some time on one of my altars. Finally, I was led to move the soil to a very sacred place, an old growth forest. When I next drove by the shopping mall area, it wasn’t sacred any longer. I had somehow…transferred…what was sacred there to a place it could reside. This was certainly a kind of palliative care, but in this case, it was literally transferring something sacred to somewhere else.
I hope that this set of strategies proves useful to you in your ongoing land healing work–and please comment and share your own strategies, thoughts, and experiences. I’m especially interested in hearing from you about my last two weeks of posts–and the many specific strategies that I’m sharing. I believe I have 1-2 more posts to write to complete this series, at least at this time. Blessings to all!