I have always loved trees. Trees frame my journey from childhood to present, those that have held me, hugged me, spoken to me in surprising conversations and have become my teachers. I feel a kinship to them same as any family or friend. I can map my life by the trees I knew and lived by, and so I pay close attention when trees show up, when they speak.
Every morning I spend time in a meditative state in front of my altar. During this time I sit in stillness, and I usually journey to my home in non-ordinary reality, the dimension my ancestors knew as the Otherworld. This is the time I ask for guidance or messages from my spirit guides and teachers, or am just with them in simple friendship and gratitude. For the past week as soon as I arrive to meet them, there has been an immense sequoia in the middle of our circle.
Since I work with trees a lot, I am used to new ones showing up and we talk and get to know one another. But what made this different was the immense size and energy it held! Every morning I greet it and open my heart to its presence. As I engaged with it, I didn’t receive much information at first. Instead of a dialogue, the information was coming in through my felt-sense, primarily in my body sensations and then through synchronicities.
One of these was a recent news article that highlighted an unusual art piece at the local University. The sculpture is an 80 foot tall movable creation being held by three giant sequoias. The artist, John Grade, was visiting the campus to look for an inspired location for the sculpture he had in mind and when he saw the trees, he knew they were the ones. I feel that they reached out and communicated to him in some way to get his attention. I also feel that he had the wisdom and grace to ask them for permission to hold his sculpture. That they are holding it shows that they agreed, as I'm sure a lot can go wrong creating an art piece this size if the trees and the nature spirits are not agreeable.
Why would they be agreeable? Well this is the gist of the message coming in from my new sequoia friend in the mornings. They see collaboration and co-creation with humans as the way that they can break through our human-centrism and self-absorption so that we can fully realize our inter-connectedness to everything. The stronger our connection to nature, the more we will respect and protect it from exploitation and destruction.
And they enjoy the partnership that happens with projects like these. It provides lessons and spiritual growth for them as well. It strengthens the web of all life.
These same trees got my attention as soon as I saw them when I first walked across campus years ago. Freshly arrived from three decades in the desert, I had never seen such amazing trees. I stood in the middle of them and their lower branches hung on the ground and hid me from students walking by. I felt welcomed and cozy. I could have curled up next to them and stayed for a long time.
So I felt called to visit them again after meeting my new sequoia friend in the Otherworld. The late afternoon autumn sun lent its dappled light to the pieces hanging in the trees. I assessed the straps that held the netting the pieces were secured to, the small lamps high above that would light it at night, the thoughtfulness of the protective mats underneath to protect the ground and roots from the increased human activity beneath them. Then I tuned in to the trees and nature spirits. How did they feel? Did they have any specific messages to share?
A myriad of feelings swirled from the nearby faerie folk, from joy and amusement to exasperation and indifference. The elemental sylphs seemed to really enjoy playing in and around the hanging pieces. And the trees relayed this message:
One of the gifts we bring to humankind is that of heart chakra opening. We remind humans of how the energy of connection feels. We remind you of the feeling of reverence. We are - and all trees are - portals to the collective presence of nature kinship. We three who are holding John's sculpture are antennae broadcasting the energy of partnership, transmitting reverence. It's that simple.
With reverence, and gratitude, I sprinkled an offering of flower petals and herbs around the trunks before taking my leave.
The sequoia is still there in the morning stillness in my Otherworld circle. Its loving presence is a remarkable gift, and it is teaching me to broadcast loving presence from within myself.
On our spiritual path, no matter which path we follow, we have access to a powerful wealth of wisdom held by our ancestors. In the Druid and core shamanism traditions that I am a part of, we honor and directly engage with our many ancestors. There are all kinds of ancestors, but the most commonly thought of are those ancestors that are of our blood or adopted family lineage. These can be ones we actually knew like grandparents or parents that have crossed over, or ones we have never met from many generations back. They may frequently check in on us and can even act like guardian angels as needed.
These ancestors are a tremendous source of wisdom and support because we can ask for help from those who have experienced something similar to what we are going through in our lives now, and have had a successful outcome. We can’t forget that last part - that’s where the helpful wisdom is! When covid first came on scene and we were locked down, uncertain of what the full impact was going to be, many of us called on ancestors who had lived through times of plague, flu and other contagions. They could help our mental and emotional processing of the circumstances, as well as boost our physical immunity and strength.
We can meet and engage our ancestors in a shamanic journey, meditation or in dreamtime. We always want to state the intention beforehand to meet only those ancestors who are whole and healed and who are the very best ancestor to be our ally at this time. Sometimes when we meet them we will get a name or an area of the world they were in, and often I will get a power animal for them which is offered for me to call on as well. Sometimes we get a lot of information and sometimes it can be rather sparse.
Keep in mind that each of us gets information in different ways, but everyone receives the information that they need.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we may meet an ancestor in an area that we do not associate with our lineage. My family lineage is primarily Celtic; from Ireland, Scotland, Britain and Germany. But in a journey to my father’s lineage I met an ancestor ally who was from Mongolia. It could be that he is from my ancient family lineage, or he may be a soul ancestor.
A soul ancestor may be thought of as people or beings who do not fit the family lineage ancestor description. They could be an ancestor from a past life, or a star being ancestor from a different planet or galaxy, or from our “soul pod” (I think of this as a collective of souls who are connected at the soul level). I was recently introduced to the concept of “plant-cestor”, as some of us have soul lineage where we were plants, trees or fungi.
These sound pretty heady and maybe hard to imagine, but since we are infinite multi-dimensional beings, our souls have had a myriad of relationships and experiences. This gives us an opportunity to even be our own ally across time and space.
Once we meet our ancestors, the next step is to honor them and to thank them, as we would not be here without them. And then as in any relationship, we ask what we can do for them. I’ll write more about that next month.
In the meantime, let’s send a prayer of gratitude across all our family and soul lineages in gratitude for all those who were, so we could be who we are.
We’ve probably all come across sacred places or places of power. Sometimes they are in the natural world, in the wilds of ancient forest, on a mountain peak, under a waterfall. It is a place where we feel the spirits so strongly that everything within us gets elevated. Our energy field and chakras expand, we may receive communication from Spirit and etheric beings through our senses. The same thing can happen in places like temples, churches, gardens, even in the presence of works of art.
These sacred places are also available to us every day in our homes and yards. We create and cultivate places of power in our own personal spaces where we do spiritual work like journey, meditate, pray, compose art and music, and where we nurture ourselves and others.
Setting up an altar in our home creates a sacred space for us and nourishes our spiritual side. It literally makes a space for it in our lives. It acknowledges and calls in the Spirit helpers and teachers that we have relationships with, as well as those we want to develop relationships with in the future. It is a space to create magic, drawing in or sending out healing, holding the focus for intentions, honoring our journey. It is also a place to create meaningful beauty. It changes and focuses energies in the room, in the building, and on the land. I think of them as spiritual power generators.
There are an infinite number of ways to create altars. We can follow a formula and assemble ritual objects in certain areas of the space, as is the case when setting up a Wiccan altar or a Mesa from a Peruvian tradition. Or we can assemble them with any objects that are meaningful to us that we are guided to use.
Some have specific uses and may be temporary in nature, such as ancestor altars that we may set up on or near November 1st for All Souls Day. Near that time of the year I set up pictures of family members, loved ones and pets who have crossed over. Then I surround them with offerings of flowers, a little food and drink, and gifts they may have given me. Another temporary altar is a grief altar, which helps us acknowledge and process through a time of grieving. When we feel that the time is right, we may disassemble them with gratitude and closure. Some people make their ancestor altar a permanent part of the space and honor them as part of their daily practice. I also always set up an altar when I am teaching a workshop. Not only does it hold the intention of the class, but also energetically charges the objects and supplies for the class. The beauty of altars is that we make them to fulfill whatever we need in our spiritual lives.
My first altar thirty some years ago was very small, a spot on my dresser for special stones and other objects. I didn’t even realize it was an altar until much later. Then I moved it to its own space with intention. As my practice expanded, so did my altars. One is dedicated to the Goddess, another to Reiki healing, one is a Mesa. I keep a seasonal family altar in the living room and even my car has grown a portable one around the dashboard composed of feathers, stones, shells, sacred herbs and oils. They are all energetically connected and fed by my main altar where I sit in daily meditation and journey connecting to Spirit.
When we work with an altar, they become places of power. Our blessings, gratitude, prayers, intentions set up a beacon that draws in power from our spirit helpers and beings that love us. The objects on and around them increase in power as we use them. The definition of power that I am using here is a place where benevolent and beneficial Spirits gather or dwell. It is energy that enlivens, elevates, heals and strengthens. It expands and adds to our well-being. We in turn can share that energy as we do our work out in the world.
Eventually we realize that the power of our altar is embodied within us. We are our sacred space.
My autumn Mabon altar this year
To help you tend to soul issues that may manifest in physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of your life, and to give you tools to empower your path to harmony and well-being.
-There are so many kindred spirits doing the work out there. I include these links to help our community connect with one another.
FAIRY CONGRESS - Offers a summer weekend gathering in person with workshops, circles and of course faeries and nature beings! They also offer a winter virtual weekend with amazing guest speakers like Orion Foxwood, David Spangler and R.J. Stewart. I highly recommend joining the online network to participate in monthly workshops, circles, and book clubs.
SACRED HOOP Magazine Guide to Shamanism Compilation- http://www.sacredhoop.org/Pages/FreeGuide.html
Owner Valeria Pearson lovingly created SOLE TO SOUL YOGA studio with a community focus. There are classes for all levels and events that lift the spirit. I am delighted to partner with her to offer a kirtan chanting circle once a month.
My friend and herbalist mentor, LAWRENCE BIRCH is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, plant whisperer and shamanic practitioner. If you need custom tincture blends or are interested in a wildcrafting apprenticeship, he is the teacher extraordinaire:
ROGER WHEELOCK and GAYLE RUTH are shamanic practitioners and teachers in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition. https://www.rainmother.com/ I am grateful to be able to take part in ceremony with them, and to support their love for the Peruvian people through the World Ayni Association. Roger has a practice in Asheville, NC https://www.communityshaman.com/
NEW WORLD KIRTAN = Kitzie's podcasts include interviews with artists and kirtan music. I love attending her weekly Satsang group and the New World Kirtan Band concerts -