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.
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.
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
- 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.”
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.
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.
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.