The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Land Healing: Ritual for Putting the Land to Sleep February 23, 2020

As I shared a few weeks ago in my land healing framework post, the forest that I grew up in is having a big chunk cut out of it to make way for a septic line, a 40-60′ cut that will go for acres and acres.  It’s coming directly through the refugia garden that my parents and I have worked for years to tend and cultivate, where the ramps, wild ginseng, bloodroot, hardwood nut trees, and so many others grow.  My very favorite hawthorn tree, a tree that grew up with me and now stands tall will likely be removed by the line. The situation is extremely heartbreaking to me and my family–we have done everything we can to fight and try to get them to use the roadways or non-wooded areas to put in the line, but the condemnation papers have arrived, even the lawyers says it can’t be stopped, and the loggers come in the spring. There has been serious talk among the family of us chaining ourselves to the big cherry tree that grows in the middle of the land.  But even if we were to do that, they would come to remove us anyways, throw us in jail, and the land would still be cut.

 

 

Our beautiful land that will be destroyed

This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in a place of powerlessness on the physical plane, knowing or watching something that I loved to be cut down or destroyed. I am certain that you, dear reader, have found yourself at times in a similar circumstance: watching a tree being cut, knowing that land will be logged or removed for some new development and so on. I think its one of the hardest positions to be in because you feel very powerless, and even if you’ve fought (like we have) there’s nothing to be done to stop it from happening.

 

But,there are things that you can do energetically to help the land, or a tree, or whatever else is in death’s path. It depends on the timing: if you are able to be present when something is being cut down/destroyed/murdered, I recommend the techniques in this post (witnessing, apology, holding space) and this post (helping tree spirits pass). Today’s post will focus on what to do before it happens. For our situation, we have a few months before they begin–the township said the project would start in April or May, so there is time to do something.

 

The ritual and techniques that I’m sharing today were learned under a similar circumstance.  When I lived in Michigan, the  line 6B tar sands oil pipeline was coming through the land and destroying land where I lived, including at Strawbale Studio, where I took a lot of classes on natural building. Like our present situation, there was advanced notice, and so, I sat with the spirits of the land and asked them exactly what they wanted. They gave me the message of putting the land to sleep and numbness, a way of reducing the pain and distancing them from what would happen. The strategies and ceremonies I present today have been refined since that time, but all work on the same basic principle–helping soothe the pain, deal with the sorrow, and letting the land know that you are present to be part of that work.

 

Goals and General Methods

I’m going to first explain the energetic portion of this ritual and goals, with the understanding that you can then put the ritual itself into many different frameworks. Below, I share the method that I am using on our family land as a specific example.

 

In a healthy forest or another healthy ecosystem, there is a lot of energy present–both physical and metaphysical. These places feel good, vibrant, and alive. A mature tree in its prime is another such kind of being–they are awake, alive, and aware.  You can imagine, then, what a place like this would experience when the chainsaw and bulldozers come. The ultimate goal of this ritual is to help that land/tree/being is to put it into a deep sleep before the impending disaster strikes–essentially reducing the energetic vibration and soothing the pain of what will come. Other goals for the ritual include communicating what will happen and why it is happening, offer an apology for what is happening, and make a physical offering in solidarity. Methods vary widely to how you might accomplish this–but I’ll now share mine.

 

Larger sleep sigil with smaller woodburned hickory nut sigils for planting

Another piece of the work I’ve outlined below is the use of a sigil. The sigil will active to help reinforce the energy present from the ritual when the actual loggers/destroyers show up. In a nutshell (and explained in an upcoming post), I created a set of land healing sigils for all kinds of healing work within the framework.  One of these sigils, the sleep sigil pictured here, is specifically used as part of this work. The sleep sigil helps continue the work of this ritual.  It can be used on its own or in conjunction with other practices.  There are lots of ways you could use such a ritual as part of sigil work: leaving a sleep sigil somewhere quietly to help the land go to sleep.  My method is a little different–I’m doing the initial ritual in advance, but I’m building a sleep sigil that will stay on the land, right where they loggers will come through.  When they bring their heavy machines in, they will invariably run over the sleep sigil, activating it and pushing that final deep sleep energy into the land.

 

You can do the following ceremony either at a distance or physically on the land.  If you have to do it at a distance, you should do your best to get an object that is from the land (a stone, stick, etc) or else get something that strongly connects you to the land.  The absolute best is to be present at the land, but that’s not always possible.  If you are at the land or tree, you can do the ritual below.  If you are doing distance work, you should put the proxy object in the center of your space and build your ritual space around it.

 

The timing of this ritual also may matter. I suggest doing this ritual some days or weeks before the destruction will occur.  A few weeks is a good time frame; that gives the land or tree time to attune to the lowered energy level and get deeply into a deep sleep.  After it is done you can visit the land, but I suggest not doing any energy work to raise energy or awaken the land after you’ve put it to rest.  Be present, but allow it to rest.  Feel this out.

 

The Sleep Ritual

Materials: 

  • Representations of the elements or other materials for opening sacred space in your tradition
  • An offering to give to the land. See this post for one offering blend. Offerings can be many things including music and dance, herbs, baked goods, etc.
  • Some way of hearing the voice of the land.  You can use spirit communication and/or divination techniques (such as tarot, pendulum, etc).
  • Materials to construct or draw your sleep sigil in the earth or materials for marking your sleep sigil in some way.
  • If at a distance: a representative of the land; paper and pen for drawing the sigil
  • A drum, rattle, or another instrument that can connect you with the heartbeat of the land.

 

Begin the ritual by opening up a sacred space.  I generally use AODA’s Solitary Grove Ritual for this purpose (found in the Druidry Handbook and other places), which includes declaring intentions for the ceremony, declaring peace in the quarters, the druid’s prayer, blessing the four directions with the elements, and then calling in the elements to create a sphere of protection around the space.

 

Spend time connecting to the heartbeat of the land/tree. After you open the space, work to align yourself with the energy of the land/tree.  Feel the wind in the leaves, feel the soil beneath you.  Be fully present here in this place, breathing deeply and attuning to the space.

 

Make an offering. Make an offering to the land  As you make your offering, acknowledge the land/tree in your own words.  For example, “Friend, I see you growing strong. I climbed your branches when I was a little girl.  I walk with you now as a grown woman.  I make this offering to honor you, honor the time we have spent together, and honor our friendship through the years.”

 

Dream hawk

Explain what will happen and offer an apology. Next, explain to the tree/land what will be happening, again, in your own words.  Share how you feel about this. For example: “Friend, we have fought to stop the loggers from coming here to clear this land. We have failed.  When the leaves begin to come back on the trees, they will come and clear you from this land.  I am heartbroken for what is happening to you.  I want you to hear this from me, a friend, rather than experience this.  I am so sorry that this will happen.”

 

Offer Sleep and Distance from Pain.  Offer the spirits of the land distance and slumber, again, in your own words.  Here’s an example, “Friend, because I know they will come, this will cause you great pain.  The trees here will be cut.  The forest creatures will be driven away. The soil will be torn up.  I offer to help you distance from this suffering; I offer to help your spirit go into a deep sleep, to awaken again when the pain is over and when you can regrow.  Please let me know if you would like me to help you sleep through this suffering.”

 

Wait to hear a response. It may take some time to hear a response; be patient. It is possible that when you offer this, the land will not want you to help perform the rest of this ritual or the land may want you to come back at a later point.  Again, feel out the will of the land and honor the will of the land and her spirits.

 

Construct the Sleep Sigil. If the land allows you to continue, begin by drawing or constructing the sleep sigil on the ground as large as you can.  You can draw it in the dirt, create the symbol with stones or sticks, or if it is snowy and frozen, walk it in the snow.  Place the sigil somewhere that will be directly in the path of what is to come, which will help “activate” it when the conditions are right (e.g. the loggers show up, etc).  If you are working with a single tree, you can trace the sigil on the tree in oil, charcoal, etc.   If you are at a distance, you can draw it on a piece of paper or stone and then take the sigil to the location and leave it there.  As you draw/construct the sigil, you can quietly chant “deep sleep” and focus that intention as you work.  Place your intention deeply into the sigil.

 

Put the Land/Tree to Sleep. Now, sitting near or at your sigil, once again connect with the heartbeat of the land/tree that you are working with. Picking up your drum or rattle, match that heartbeat.  For a time, simply play with the heartbeat of the land as you hear it, connecting yourself and that drum to the energy as deeply as possible.  As you drum, imagine that you are holding that heartbeat with your drum. Now, intentionally, begin to slow down that beat.  Take your time doing this, understanding that it can take a while for the land to respond.  Keep the beat going slower and lower until it is very quiet. At this point, you might sit or even lay on the ground, in rest, beating the drum so very faintly. Feel the pulse of the land now, lower and slower, as it slides into deep slumber.  Eventually, stop your drumming entirely and simply sit with the land, feeling the lower vibration.

 

Close your space. Quietly thank the elements (a simple nod to the quarters will do) and close your sacred space. Leave the land for a time, letting it fall deeply into slumber.

 

Closing

After you finish the ritual, I suggest taking care of yourself. Perhaps go hiking somewhere and spend time in a place that is not under threat, that is whole, that is vibrant. Take some time for you. It is hard to do the work I’ve outlined above because it means facing the reality of what is happening to the land and not looking away.  Thus, self care is a critical part of this work.

Shrine for the land with sleep sigil and Reishi Painting

In addition to the ritual above, I’ve put up a shrine in my home that ties to the energy of the land and helps the ongoing work that this ritual provides.  I can work with this shrine every day–as my family land is at a distance of about an hour from me, getting there each day isn’t feasible.  My shrine has a painting from the Plant Spirit Oracle that I did base on my experiences in the forest–from when the forest was logged earlier, I met the spirit of the Reishi mushroom and it taught me much about healing. The irony is that now, that same lesson is being used to help heal the forest that taught me it.  And thus, the cycle continues.

 

But, there is a silver lining to this work. Part II to this ritual–bringing the land out of slumber and into vibrancy and health can be done in the future, perhaps (I will post about this soon as part of this new series). Some of us may never get to do the second part in our lifetimes, depending on what happens to the land and the permanence of what is occurring.  Others, however, can certainly do the “waking back up’ ritual– a ritual of blessing and joy, to help the land grow anew and heal.  I hope that all of us get that opportunity–and its a more joyous day than having to perform this sleep ritual.

 

Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve done any of this kind of work and your experiences with it.  I think this is useful to share and grow together.

 

Long-Term Orientations: Oil, Fracking, and the Environment of the Future July 27, 2012

“In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generations still unborn, have a world no worse than ours and hopefully better. When we walk upon Mother Earth we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.” — Oren Lyons, Iroquois tribal leader

 

As the quote above suggests, the Native Americans believed in making decisions that would not only benefit themselves, but also the next seven generations.  This philosophy, I imagine, allowed them to avoid rash decisions and encouraged environmental stewardship.

Open pile of fracking chemicals in Stanton, ND

Open pile of fracking chemicals in Stanton, ND

 

Cultural communication expert Geert Hosfede developed a set of five measures that can aid us in understanding differences in culture. One of his measures is called “long-term orientation” (LTO).  As the name implies, LTO is about forward-thinking, looking beyond the immediate short-term.  Oren Lyons’ quote above is a great of example of a high LTO, where his perspective isn’t just about the immediate present, but the long-term ramifications of choices and how they impact not only their descendants, but the world they live in.  On the other side of this, we have present-day mainstream American culture. On a global scale, the USA scores quite low in long-term orientation, unsurprisingly.  We can see this reflected in all sorts of activity within our culture–the inability to save, our reactionary political system, even the mainstream food system.  Everything has to be now, now, now, spend, spend, spend. What does all of this mean? For sustainability and earth stewardship, it spells trouble.

 

Case in point: fracking.  I visited North Dakota this month.  North Dakota is currently experiencing an “energy boom” (their term, not mine). For a number of years, they have been tearing up the landscape, removing native prairie grasses and land, to get at a layer of rather crappy coal.  These lands are replanted when they are done, but the burning of coal itself to generate electricity certainly has its share of problems.  This kind of behavior has been going on for decades, and the bulk of North Dakota industry that isn’t centered around farming is centered around the power plants.

Fracking equipment in ND

Fracking equipment in ND

 

Now, however, the newest energy craze is fracking for oil.  In the last 1-2 years, many North Dakotans have been getting rich by allowing fracking and drilling on their lands. But what happens to these beautiful rolling hills, native prairies, or massive lakes in 20, 50, or 100 years after the fracking chemicals are introduced?  What happens to the water table?  Its a good time to mention that Lake Sakakawea is nearby.  This is an artificial lake created by the Army Corp of Engineers to help regulate the Mississippi in the 1960’s.  The dam holds back the Mississippi river, so it feeds into the river that flows through most of the Midwest USA.  I should also point out that nearly 6000 oil wells, created by fracking, are present in the lands surrounding Theodore Roosevelt National Park (in Western North Dakota) alone.

 

All this fracking is being done without, as far as I can tell and from what my relatives tell me, any serious public discussion, research, or consideration of the long-term environmental or social effects.  When enough money exchanges hands, all nay-sayers have a way of being silenced.  While everyday citizens are concerned, there are no protests, no public discussions, little mention of it in the papers.  The power, as usual, is concentrated in the hands of the few.

 

In a small, centrally-located town called Stanton (where I took the photos), the mayor of the town is making bank by selling fracking chemicals.  I’m told by my friend (who owns some property there and visits often as part of her work) that on windy days, the open piles of fracking chemicals and sands awaiting pickup on the train line blow all over the town of Stanton, creating clouds of toxic dust.

 

The fracking craze is mostly about plain human greed, of course.  But when we combine reed with a lack of long-term orientation, we end up with environmentally destructive activities in the name of economics.  What happens to the lands of North Dakota and their inhabitants in three, six, or seven generations? When the oil is gone, and the companies have long-since raked in their profits, the individuals long since spent their oil dividends, and left the area to whatever fate might befall it?

 

I’ve experienced this post-economic frenzied fallout all too well.  To better understand this, we turn to Southwestern & Central Pennsylvania, my homeland.  In their exploration for coal and steel production, numerous companies built up an industry in the 1800’s and 1900’s.  They dug up the land, put men in the ground, and proceeded in digging out the coal, shipping it to the cities, and using it to produce boatloads of steel.  Of course, these companies have long since left (and some are still in business in places like Mexico), the individuals profiting from them long ago passing on, taking their

The road that was flat last time I came now has huge bumps from fracking

The road that was flat last time I came now has huge bumps from fracking

profits with them.  As part of the mining process, the mining companies created mountain-sized “boney dumps” that still remain centuries later.  The dumps, the same size as the Appalachian mountains that surround them, contain a lot of the materials that weren’t minable, exposed to the surface and the elements. The land suffers from the runoff of these old boney dumps: nothing will grown on their toxic contents, which include mercury, sulfur, and  many other heavy metals and toxins.  These dumps, exposed to the elements, make their way into the waterways.  All of the creeks in the area, which locals dub “sulfur creeks” are so polluted that no life can be found in them.  Cancer rates are high, along with asthma, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases (all found in my family and in the families of everyone else I know).  Some of the streams are bright yellow and full of sulfur; others are a pale cloudy blue/gray—all are devoid of life.   And of course now, fracking also is taking place throughout Pennsylvania.  It is just one more blow to the land that has been repeatedly logged, poisoned, and now, fracked.

 

So to conclude, I wish to return to the beginning, to the Native American philosophy of seven generations.  I think I’m about the 6th or 7th generation who grew up in Western PA with those boney dumps, and I see the effects of a lack of long-term orientation and bad decisions. And now, visiting North Dakota, I again see how these decisions take place, and the larger systems of power, privilege, greed, and profits that support them. Until we fight this system, change this system, our lands and our bodies become victims of that system.  We have to understand that individual activities can reinforce–or we can shift to new ways of seeing, new practices, new systems that support sustainable outcomes.

 

I don’t have any easy answers. I’ve seen too much, experienced too much, firsthand. I have a hard time dealing with the powerlessness I feel when I watch these horribly destructive activities taking place firsthand. We need to fight, to band together, to raise awareness about these environmentally destructive processes. We need to seek alternative, sustainable solutions and reduce our energy dependence. We must be the change we want to see in this world.