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Category Archives: Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

The Good Earth

Astral bodies are incredibly vast. They can contain worlds and universes within them. You could spend an entire lifetime inside of some bodies and never see everything within. Get lost within a body, and you may never get out again.

Astral bodies can also contain relics of previous existences within them, the same way that we sometimes stumble across old ruins in the dirt.

I’ve seen it said that human bodies are like a sort of repository or record of everything you experience. And that the records may not contain only information about yourself, but of your predecessors and ancestors, too. I find this interesting, because astral bodies can be like that as well. But instead of keeping the information for only one lifetime, the body is storing away information from multiple lifetimes that exist along a single soul line within. So the same way that my human body stores information about my own existence here on earth, as well as genetic information from my parents and their parents, etc., my astral body contains information about earth bound me, and all of the other versions of myself running around on the astral as well as predecessors and previous incarnations of myself. Because astral bodies are vast.

Stumbling across one of these relics, one of these recordings of the past is incredibly interesting. I just so happened across one in the form of dirt one evening. But this wasn’t just any dirt. This was like dirt and glitter went out for a night on the town and had a baby. It was unlike any dirt I’d ever seen here on earth.

When I asked about this dirt, I was told that I was standing on a corpse. Beneath my feet lay the remains of a previous existence, a previous life form. I’m not entirely sure what this previous life form was or what it looked like, or even how it met its end. All I know is that the corpse that this dirt represented laid the foundations for new life to grow. Like plants springing out of the ground, or crops sprouting out of Osiris’ back, this dirt has given the nutrients needed to create new life.

As it turns out, the man I was walking with was one of the many end products of this fertile soil. And as it also turns out, this man was not very fond of his soul line’s predecessor, the entity that was now embodied by this soil. He and I had been working for months now to try and figure out how to fix some of the problems he was experiencing, and the origins for most of them lie in the soil we were walking upon.

It is very difficult to heal when you carry wounds and scars from your predecessors. I have a hard time healing because I still carry scars and wounds from my parents- my mortal predecessors. And my parents carry scars that were given to them from their parents, their mortal predecessors. Based off of the many discussions I’ve had about Akhu with fellow Kemetics, it is very apparent to me that having less than ideal family lineage is par for the course anymore. So many of us don’t feel secure in giving our ancestors the time of day because they were not very good people. It is challenging to build up any sort of solace or acceptance if it hinges upon people that have hurt you- blood related or not.

This is also true, I think, if the horrible predecessor is yourself.

Ever look back at things you said or did in the past and thought “Wow I was an asshole”? Ever learn that you’ve got really bad habits that need to go away, and that those habits have hurt people really badly? Maybe you’re one of those parents in the paragraph above, and you wake up one morning and realize you wrecked your kids for life. What do you do then?

That is the situation me and my companion found ourselves in. For this dirt that he walked upon was nothing more than remnants of himself. The predecessor that he hated so much was a previous incarnation of himself. And many of the reasons the work we had been doing was not sticking was because he couldn’t get over his own past, his own previous failings.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a horrible person. It sucks to wake up one day and realize that you’ve hurt or possibly ruined people. It sucks to know that you’ve fed into oppressive systems or perpetuated someone else’s pain and suffering.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a big bag of floppy dicks. That you’ve broken the main rule of Kemeticism.

I have struggled with this over the years in many formats. There have been times when I realize that I have been horrible to other people and have hurt them and I had to figure out what to do about it. There have also been times when I have been asked to help heal someone in the Unseen who has caused me pain in the past as well. It’s hard to help someone heal when you can’t overcome the pain that they caused you. It’s hard to help someone accept their own past mistakes if you yourself can’t even accept what they have done.

Life is messy like that, and in my short time both here in the physical as well as the Unseen, I can tell you that there are more people who have screwed up and hurt others than not. If you have been a bag of dicks, I can assure you you’re not alone in it.

Something else I’ve learned during my stint here is that just because you were a bag of dicks before doesn’t mean you have to be a bag of dicks now. Just because you screwed up in the past doesn’t mean that you are condemned to be horrible forever. Sometimes your old horrible self can become useful, fertile soil to create a new you, if you know what you’re doing. I say this because who better to teach others the pitfalls of falling into certain habits than someone who has had those habits themselves?

If you look back over your past and can see how you fell into the habits, situations, and destructive patterns that you did- it’s much easier to show other people what to look out for, what things to avoid, what things to do better. Because you’ve been there and you know the ins and outs of the behaviour, it’s easier for you to draw a sort of “map” to help others get out, too.

I try to tell the man that I am walking with this. I try to reassure him that just because he was prone to bad behaviour in the past doesn’t mean that he is always doomed to repeat that behaviour. I try to tell him that he can learn from his past and better himself, that he needn’t be chained to who he was. Every moment is Zep Tepi. Every moment is a time to start over and recommit yourself anew to whatever path you choose. This fertile soil that we walk upon could very well serve as the foundations for him to become someone better than he once was.

And the truth is, we are all this way. We are all our own cache of fertile soil that we can grow from. We are all able to become more than what we were, whenever we so choose to plant the seeds of change within ourselves. Even if you’ve screwed up or done things you regret, you can always choose to do better. Never give up on yourself. Investing in yourself is the best investment that you can ever make, and it is an investment that we should all be making regularly.

Do not deny yourself your new beginning.

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Devotees are Kinda Like Trees

I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in Arizona trees require a lot of pruning. Our trees are not known for growing very tall, but instead seem to prefer to grow out very wide and relatively low to the ground. This method of growth seems to cause our trees to be somewhat unstable as certain branches continue to sprawl out instead of us, causing issues with balance and weight. When one of these branches becomes too heavy, or when a good monsoon storm comes through, it’s pretty common for branches to fall down, or for branches to require cutting for the tree’s overall health.

Whenever I’ve seen a tree gets its branches cut, I often wonder to myself “does the tree feel that? does it feel any pain from the branch being cut? are we cruel for removing this tree’s branch?” And often these musings wander further into “well even if the tree does feel pain, the branch will grow back in time, and isn’t removing one branch worthwhile to make the tree stronger- even if removal is a bit painful?”

The more I thought about removing tree branches, the more I was reminded of painful shadow work that deities make devotees go through. And ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we are all like trees.

Think about it. A lot of pagans that I’ve talked to tell me that the gods often have ‘homework’ for them to do that involves self-improvement. Or you may start to participate in a religion, and a deity shows up and says “you need to fix this and this and this”. Often times, these changes and fixes are painful or difficult to achieve, and we get upset, angry or hurt when we have to go through the process, even if it’s ultimately in our best interest. I’m also sure that there are times when we go through these changes and think that we can’t handle the pain or strife of our current situation. We look at the gods and believe that they are asking too much of us, or perhaps wonder why they think we’re even capable of handling this amount of pressure or stress.

What if the gods look at us and see a tree? And they see some aspect of our lives that are not good for us. That perhaps we put too much energy into a particular branch, and it’s getting heavy and should be pruned before it damages the trunk of the tree. Perhaps when they are asking us to make these large or difficult changes in our lives, they are looking at it the same way that a gardener might- as though they are pruning us, and helping us to grow into more stable beings that will grow better with certain branches removed. While cutting the branch may hurt us, they know that we’ll survive the experience, and that we’ll develop more branches in other places- even if we don’t necessarily see it or believe them.

Now I think I should add the mandatory disclaimer that not all gods are the best gardeners, and it is possible to cut branches in ways that can actually stunt the tree’s growth. So it is important to keep some level of discernment when a deity asks you to make large or uncomfortable changes in your life (if they ask at all, because some won’t). However, viewing shadow work through the lens of trees, nature and growth has allowed me to be more tolerant and patient with difficult shadow work and changes that gods might ask of me. And the more that I watch the trees that got destroyed during this year’s storms, the more I realize that trees are resilient. There are trees around my location that fell over and were cut down to their base- and yet they are starting to grow back. Even in apparent death, there can be life.

Many of us probably don’t feel strong enough. During difficult times and changes, we might feel as thought we are going to collapse under the pressure. That it’s too much and we simply can’t deal. And in more extreme situations, we might even feel as though we will snap as a tree might. However, remember that we reflect the natural world that we live in, and that you are like a tree, too. You are resilient. You are able to grow back, even when cut down to the very base.

One of the most powerful phrases I have ever used in my life is “I am capable.” And if a tree can come back from near death, so can I.

Have the gods ever asked you do to things that you don’t feel you can handle? How have you handled those situations? Does the idea of being pruned help you feel better about such situations?

 

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“Strange” Devotion

I have found that when it comes to my relationships with Unseen entities, devotion is a strange two-way street where Unseen entities devote a large portion of their time to harassing requesting me to do something, and only after they have spent enough time bugging me about it asking for the thing to be done will I actually do it. They devote enough time to showing me it’s important to them, and then I will devote my time to performing their request as an act of devotion to them. And it seems that the stranger the request is, the more time that must be devoted to the cause before it gets done. Or something.

A perfect example of this occurred a few weeks ago.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was sitting on the ground surrounded by nearly every pair of shoes that I own. I hadn’t formed some type of shoe-cult at this point in time, though it might have been more entertaining if that was the reason for being surrounded by several pair of shoes when I’d rather be resting or working on something I deem “more important”. No, the reason in this case was rather mundane in that one of my menz had spent enough time devoted to nagging me that I finally agreed to polish all of my shoes. And it only took three weeks of consistent bothering to “convince” me to cave.

boot polish supplies

As normal as strange requests have become, this one was particularly absurd to me. As I wrapped the cotton cloth around my fingers and dipped it into the boot polish, I couldn’t help but think to myself “I wonder if anyone else has to put up with this sort of crap? I mean honestly, who dictates that you need to polish your shoes?” I slowly worked the polish into the leather and mused on the strangeness of it all. While I mused on it, I heard some type of guttural remark from somewhere else in the room. I looked up at what appeared to be an empty corner where one of my menz was sitting and watching me work. “Overseeing”, he’d say. His noises indicate that I’m not polishing shoes to his standards.

This is also normal. Once I have decided to devote my time to performing this request, many entities will often watch me complete their request and comment on my performance while I do so, because an audience makes everything better. In this instance, I stare back at my menz blankly before going back to the polishing. “He may not like my methods, but I am trying, and he will have to deal with that,” I tell myself before I go back to wondering how I ended up here, and whether anyone else has to deal with this sort of thing.

And when I say “this sort of thing” I mean the weird stuff that Unseen entities make you do in the name of “devotion” or “dedication”. I mean, I’ve heard lots of stories from many different people of some of the weird stuff they’ve been requested to do, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone being harassed to shine their shoes or iron their shirts by their astral partner or deity.

But isn’t that how it goes with the Unseen? You start off simple enough. You talk for a while, you leave out offerings, you say the prayers and hymns and it’s this nice little package that you can pick up and put down and it’s got its place and everything is fine. But then one day you wake up and find the Unseen leaking into your living room, into your weekend, into your sleep and before you know it you’re being asked, if not forced, to do some strange things in the name of devotion.

There have been many discussions over the years about what some people deem as acceptable in terms of offerings, devotional acts and things of that nature. And the longer I work at this, the more I really do believe that weird devotional acts that are off the map are par for the course, if not to be entirely expected. I really have no clue where these entities come up with some of the strange requests that I’ve gotten over the years, and I honestly want to know why they ask for such stuff. Is it seriously something that they want? Or are they simply trying to see how much weird stuff they can ask for before their devotee throws their hands up in the air and says “no more”?

Over the years I’ve been asked to do things that I might deem to be weird. I’ve been told to do more mundane things like go to movies, have a nice dinner, pick out a very particular baked good from the bakery rack or things of that nature. And while I sometimes have no clue what any of this has to do with showing a deity I care, or why a deity cares about what movie I watch or what I eat for dinner, I do it all the same because I don’t want to listen to the complaining if I don’t.

It may seem harsh to say that, but I would be lying if I said that I did everything purely out of love and some altruistic bent that I have. I only have 24 hours in the day like everyone else, and there are many times when I honestly don’t care about whatever some Unseen entity is trying to convince me to do. Much like an RPG, there are days when I don’t want to go hunt down every farmer’s lost goat, even if the XP is not bad. There are days when I don’t want to iron my shirts. When I don’t want to go stand outside and leave offerings. When I don’t want to make a circle of rocks next to a busy street just because some spirit told me to.

The entities that have been around the longest have learned that the secret to getting me to do bizarre or cumbersome stuff is all in the presentation (“it’ll be fun and amazing!” *jazz hands*) – and failing that – it’s about nagging me and bugging me until I do it for the silence that should follow. It may not sound very rosy and spiritual, but it is the truth. If one half of the spirit worker equation is that all spirits are like kids that scream mine, then the other half of the spirit worker equation must be that spirit workers don’t value altruism, they value silence. And it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the Unseen knows it. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve met that put off doing obscure, weird, or “strange” acts of devotion or offerings because, well, it’s weird and not a priority to us. If I stopped and instantly fulfilled every request a deity or spirit put in for me, I’d be broke and have no free time.

So in a way, the “two-way-street of strangeness” is a sort of filtering tool for determining what I spend my time on, particularly if the request is inane or down right bizarre.

How do you determine which offering requests to listen to or ignore? Do you have any sort of filtering criteria? Have you ever been asked to do some weird or strange things in the name of devotion? Did you end up doing them?

 

 

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We Reflect Nature, Nature Reflects Us

One of the main parts of practicing Shinto is to revere, honor and pay attention to the natural world around us. Many Japanese have received inspiration from observing the natural world around them, while also drawing strength and renewed vigor by taking a cue from nature.

Arizona isn’t noted for it’s seasonal changes. We really only have three seasons: room temperature, pits of hell and humid pits of hell, but there are still small changes in the natural world that I try and pay attention to and draw from. As I get older and pay more attention to my own rhythms and changes, the more I see similarities in the natural world in comparison to myself and other people I know. I don’t know if it matters to other people, but I honestly find that seeing that nature is a lot like us, and that we’re a lot like nature is kind of reassuring.

treeAn example of this can be seen with some recent weather in Arizona. We had a pretty heavy rainfall last week that brought down almost an entire year’s worth of rain (7 inches is standard for us) in a single night. The result was pretty intense. There was a fair amount of flooding and a lot of property damage. The water caused so many problems that most people couldn’t get to work the following day. Needless to say, we were pretty smashed up around here.

And yet, despite the strife caused by the storm, there is new growth everywhere you look. Trees are showing new growth. Seeds that got scattered on the wind have produced baby trees. The water soaked ground provided our birds with a bunch of yummy worms to eat.

Despite the destruction, growth is everywhere. And life can be that way, too. We talk about that with Set- who razes your building down to it’s foundations in order to make a bigger, better building. And that happens with nature, too. Humans and nature mirror one another with growth after destruction. It’s just that nature is less grumpy about it.

Another similarity I’ve noticed is cycles. We all have cycles- cycles of growth and cycles where we get nothing done. Periods of time where we flourish followed by periods of fallow. For those who live in more places where seasons follow the European “standard”, you’ll see that your period of decay and stagnation largely happens in winter. Everything freezes over and nothing grows- only to be hit by a new phase of growth and rebound come spring. For those of us in the desert, our seasons mirror that of Egypt where the stagnation and decay often happens in late spring when the sun burns everything to a crisp, which then shifts into new growth come fall.

I often see this occur in many places and many ways in my life. My ability to create art comes and goes. My desire to sew comes and goes. My spoon count comes and goes. Everything ebbs and flows (just like the moon and the tides, for another nature reference). This also shows up for many of us in our religious practice. I personally see this manifest as I try to balance myself between two deities. Set is known for being the predominant deity during the decay of summer, where as Osiris oversees the planting and growing periods of winter. And my religious practice mirrors this in a lot of ways, where I tend to be more Set oriented in the summer, and more Osiris focused in the winter.

And while sometimes when I’m in the thick of being more focused on one over the other (or finding myself unable to create anything worth a damn), I will fret about whether I’m doing a good enough job. But then I remind myself that everything has a cycle, everything has a season, and everything that slips away from me will likely come back to me in its own good time. I look out my window and remember that the hot hot summer will eventually give way to the cooler winter (and that the cooler winter will eventually end and bring back the hot hot summer). So too with life.

But not everything is all sunshine and daisies when I look outside at nature. I mentioned above that there is a lot of new growth from the seeds that were scattered in the storm. And while its true that there are lots of seeds taking off and growing, there are a number of seeds that are not, and will not ever form a tree. There is a lesson in this too, however. If you are the tree, and the seeds are endeavors to better yourself or the world around you- you’re going to not only have success, but also failure. However, despite some of these seeds not ever sprouting, that doesn’t stop the tree from producing them all the same. We have to remember that even when are we beset by failure, we must keep trying to move forward.

And I think that is one of the largest lessons I pull from nature. Despite how harsh the weather is down here in Arizona, nature keeps persisting to the best of it’s ability. Despite how much humans may try to control nature- where it can exist, how it looks and appears – nature continues to persist, despite our efforts. While this doesn’t give humanity a free pass to dick nature over, we all have to admit that nature is a persistent bugger that isn’t easily bested. And I take that lesson very close to heart. I remind myself that even when things are not looking up, or when life is rubbing me raw, I must do what I can to try and persist. We can see this mirrored in Egyptian mythology  by the company of gods and their persistent efforts to keep a/pep at bay. The balance between Order and isfet is very fragile and ongoing with no real end in sight. Life here is the same way – the sun cooks the ground into dust, and yet the plants still try to thrive. Nature tries to remind humans that we are tiny things that can’t control nature, and yet we try to anyways. Both sides continue to try and fight to live to see another day.

On days when I am not doing so well, I remind myself to look to nature, for I am a part of nature and a part of this planet. Despite the differences in appearance, humans and nature (or plants) are not all that different. Between our cycles of growth and decay and our ongoing struggle to survive, I am reminded that I am not the only one fighting to keep going. I draw some strength from the plants and animals working to survive in my own front yard and I remind myself that I am capable and will get through whatever I’m facing.

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The Importance of Netjeri

*Please note that the bulk of this post is entirely UPG and is a theory that I am currently experimenting with. This entire post has a large YMMV disclaimer on it.*

It is my understanding that Netjeri are the little guys of the Duat. While they can be powerful, well-known little guys, they are still under the gods in rank and typically work for the gods in some fashion or another (typically, I’m sure there are exceptions to the rules). And in a modern context, it doesn’t seem that many Netjeri get any notice from Kemetic practitioners, and on the by and large, they are pretty much unknown, or disregarded.

I question if this is a good thing.

When you think about it, the gods have Netjeri in their service. They command netjeri (often written as “demons”) to go do things for them. However, if their netjeri are receiving no sustenance from the Kemetics who know that they exist, or if the gods are forced to share their meager offerings with the netjeri in their service, it seems to me that all parties would be weaker or suffering out of a lack of support through offerings by devotees/practitioners.

I would like to share an experience that I’ve had recently as a form of reference for this line of thinking.

At the river, there is an offering table where I will place a variety of items that are specifically for Osiris or his entourage. Normally, these offerings are very simple- incense, water and bread. Usually, when I arrive at the river, I will leave offerings on the table and they go to… wherever they go to. Once I’ve returned later, I will find the offering table is clean, and the process starts over again.

One evening, I was bored and decided to sit down in front of the offering table and stare off at the river below. I noticed when I looked back down at the offering table that the offerings I had placed there earlier had disappeared.

Thus began the experimenting.

I decided to start small. I’d put a jug of water here. A few rolls there. And I’d wait.

And slowly but surely, each item would disappear.

So I slowly added more items of a variety of natures. I’d bring out the standard beer and water, fruit, cheese and bread. But after a while, I got even more curious, and I’d place out bowls of candy, chocolate and other junk foods.

Everything would disappear. It’s almost like the table was a portal, and on the other end, O’s staff was taking the offerings in and processing them. Jokingly, I stated that I hoped it wasn’t a netjeri who oversaw this, because O would return to find his staff incredibly buzzed off of a ton of beer and chocolate. It would be a mad house.

It’s from this experience that I really began to question if the gods have staff, and who or what feeds the staff that work for the gods. Is it our offerings? Is there sustenance that comes from the Duat? Is is ma’at (what gods are said to live off of)? Is it something else?

And with that- should we be considering a deity’s entourage when we put offerings out?

One of the most common ways that netjeri get mention in modern Kemeticism is under the question of “are you sure it was a god that you were talking to, or was it actually a netjeri?” This is commonly the response given when you have a weird experience with a “deity” or when you’re getting odd vibes or responses from your gods. You see, when the gods are out doing their thing, netjeri often pick up the phones and scribble down our messages for the gods to check later. They also like to sometimes pretend to be gods when they are obviously not. So we often get weird experiences from time to time at the hands of a bored or hungry netjeri.

However, if we were to start paying attention to netjeri, and leaving small tokens out for them, don’t you think it possible that they could become a useful part of your Kemetic toolbox? Perhaps if you were to show them that you notice that they exist, they’d be a little more attentive when they scribble down your message, and maybe they’d make sure that your message is the first to get to the god in question. Perhaps they wouldn’t have to pretend to be a deity in your presence because they know they’ll get something from you with or without the deity mask on their face.

Sometimes, paying attention to the little guy can bring benefit to you. It also brings benefit to the gods because their staff is actually being fed – and so the whole structure can become stronger for it. If you consider it in today’s standards- feeding only the gods is like only feeding our CEOs and hoping that the little people beneath the CEOs actually get something from it.

Because of this, every time that I go to the river now, I try to leave out a small bowl of candy for the netjeri. I make sure that there are enough rolls and other things for multiple people to survive off of. I try to make sure that I give enough that any staff or entourage may be able to partake in the food. I do this in hopes that the entire group may benefit from it, and to show my thanks that they continue to help make the cogs of the Duat turn and still help the gods with their tasks.

Have you ever worked closely with netjeri? Would you consider leaving offerings for the netjeri?

 

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Connecting with Land Spirits: An Alternate View

It took me a long time to realize it, but I’ve been working with land spirits since I was a kid. I think a lot of people who spend time outside are inadvertently working with land spirits and don’t even realize it. I’ve seen a fair amount of guides that discuss how to get to know land spirits via leaving offerings and such, but I wanted to explore an alternative method to learning about your local land spirits that doesn’t involve a single offering or shrine of any kind.

I can sum it up in one sentence: Go outside.

And when I say go outside, I don’t necessarily mean go outside once a month and sit in your front yard. I mean go outside a couple times per week and get off of your property (unless you’re lucky enough to have a few hundred acres) and pay attention while you’re doing it. It is amazing what you can learn about a land when you go out daily and watch the clouds and feel the weather change and notice how the wind blows in certain directions during certain times of the year.

You can only get to know your land spirits by going out and engaging the land that you live on and the environment that surrounds you.

This isn’t any entirely new concept. Blacker discusses in The Catalpa Bow about how many groups of Japanese will go and hike up various holy mountains as a means to connect with the local Kami- and the same goes for us. If you really want to learn about your local fauna, go outside and spend time with them.

This works for city dwellers, too. For example, I used to drive about an hour and a half one way to school every single day. I learned very quickly what patterns the freeway took. I learned about how our freeway system in Phoenix had cycles and patterns the same way that a person might have. You learn the timing of the lights on certain streets. You learn how certain streets get more traffic than others and how certain streets seem to always be temperamental with traffic. In a way, this is learning the “lay of the land”. That, to me, is the point behind working with land spirits- you learn the feel and energy that the landscape has. You essentially learn to work with the land, and in effect, become synched with it- you become one with it (I know, it sounds cliche).

So what are some things you can do to connect with the land around you?

Beyond going outside, here are some methods that I’ve used to connect with the land that I live in that you can try out where you live. Some of these things don’t require going outside, and some of these items can be done while driving around town. Feel free to experiment and see how they work for you.

Pay attention to the weather

This goes beyond knowing that we have four seasons (which Arizona actually doesn’t have). This is knowing about how the weather works in your location and how that can effect your living situation. Allow me to use AZ as an example.

I know that the optimal walking season in central Arizona is going to be late October through early April. Anytime outside of this range there will be an increased risk for running into snakes and other dangerous critters as well as having issues with heat stroke. I know that in the winter, our storms come from the Northwest and that in the summer, our monsoons tend to come from the South. Additionally, I can tell you that a monsoon will likely take one of two routes- it will skirt around the Eastern rim of the Valley and soak the entirety of Globe (and miss the Valley almost entirely) or the storm will likely run up the I-10 corridor into the Valley.

I can tell you that it gets humid in late June and will stay humid until late August. I can tell you that the weather will get hippy dippy in mid-September until November and that you won’t likely see consistent temperatures again until it’s almost Thanksgiving. I know that the weather will normally get all weird again come February and that the coldest times of the year only last between the middle of December until the end of January.

This comes from living here for 20 years. This comes from paying attention to the patterns that I see in the sky and taking notice of how the weather works. I can look at the clouds in the sky and tell you if the weather man is accurate or not. I can watch a monsoon storm forming and tell you if it’s going to hit us or not because I’ve paid attention over the past two decades.

Pay attention to traffic

The freeway system in Phoenix is fickle, but predictable. I have no clue if other freeways are or not- but ours certainly is. The freeway will be fairly tame for a couple weeks, and then all of a sudden we’ll have a couple of really bad accidents all in a row and the freeway will be a smattering of black and red for a couple of days straight. I don’t know why it works this way, but I’ve shared this theory of the freeway having monthlies with a few other commuters I know and we’ve all noticed the same trend.

So when the first major freeway shutdown occurs, I know that I need to anticipate leaving early or being late for the next week. I also know I need to drive safer during this time because its likely that the freeway is going to be grumpy for the next week or so.

This can also work for surface streets. Knowing where streets tend to buckle down and gridlock vs. which streets have smooth sailing. Certain areas in the Valley are known for bad accidents- and so you know to be careful while driving in those areas, etc.

Pay attention to the vegetation

I mentioned in my post about land spirits heading south that vegetation can be a huge indication of things going wrong. I’ve learned to keep an eye on the status of plant life when I walk to work every day. Monsoon time is particularly bad for Arizona because the harsh winds have a bad habit of knocking down hoards of trees in a matter of 20 minutes. When I notice this occurring, I always am sure to say some prayers for the location. If I see that an area is repeatedly hit, I start to look deeper to see if there is something bigger going on.

If you notice that vegetation is heading south (and its not from, say, the summer sun killing things off, or winter killing things off), it could be an indication of a larger problem.

Pay attention to the fauna

I think one of the reasons I do well with my current location is because I’ve built up a reputation around here for helping birds. I have the misfortune of working inside of a glass building. Because its reflective, many birds meet their deaths by flying straight into the glass. Unlike many of my coworkers, I will dispose of birds that have landed on the building’s balconies and any birds that are still alive, I will scoop up and take them to the local “bird doctor”. Helping out local wildlife can help you to connect with the land. It can also indicate if there are other problems being caused by other people. A good example of this would be other people poisoning local wildlife (such as pigeons or coyotes- both are common out here). If you can catch the trend or pattern, you might be able to do something about it. You can also notice migration patterns of the local wildlife which easily ties back into knowing the weather patterns and patterns of the land.

Give back to the land

I feel like a lot of people’s first reactions to land spirits is to leave out food and drink offerings to the spirits. However, I believe that one of the best things you can do is to actually actively give back to the land. What I mean by this is that you do actions that benefit the land around you. For example, you could pick up garbage along the road, plant trees, water grass, maintain pretty landscaping. While giving up food offerings is a nice sentiment, I do believe that getting out and actually doing something more physical for the land can go further.

Tied to the land is also the community. The connection between people and their land/community is reciprocal, and taking care of one another benefits the land which in turn benefits us. Helping one another to make the community look and feel nicer will lead to the land being more nourished, and therefore the spirits that inhabit the land to be more nourished. As they say, everything is connected.

What does any of this have to do with being friendly with land spirits?

I believe that learning the nuances of the land around you is paramount in forming a relationship with the local spirits. To me, stepping outside once or twice a month to leave offerings and doing nothing more is the equivalent to making your kids dinner and leaving them to eat alone at the dinner table. You are sustaining your children with meals, but you’re not taking the time to talk to them and get to know what they like or dislike, or who their friends are. When you move beyond simply giving offerings every so often and move into learning the patterns and motions of the land/environment around you, you’re learning about how the spirits behave and act. You’re showing that you’re trying to learn more about the spirits around you as they manifest through the local environment. The more you can learn about how your surroundings work and behave, the easier it’ll be to know when the local spirits are irritated and then how to calm them back down again. It’s the difference between “Everyone knows that women like chocolate and red roses, so I’ll get her that” and “I know that she loves Snickers and pink carnations, so I’ll get her that”. The more you get to know the specifics of your local spirits, the deeper your relationship can go.

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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

 

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Land Spirits Living in Suburbia Hell

I have spent most of my life living in suburbia hell. You know the setting- tract housing that all looks the same. Tiny little postage stamp yards filled with grass and shrubs. It’s pretty much the standard for Arizona after the housing boom of the late 90’s. Almost everyone lives in tract housing or shoddily built apartments that have paper thin walls.

This is probably also a standard living situation for most Pagans. I know it is for me.

When you live in such a cookie-cutter setting, how does one find the land spirits that are around them? Can you even find local spirits inside of a subdivision?

I believe that the answer is yes, you can. You just have to know where to look.

Luckily for me I have spent 20 plus years in the Valley of the Sun. I’ve driven thousands of miles on this city’s roads and I’ve learned the ins and outs of the land. And I do believe that even here, in even the most suburban portions of this city, land spirits do still hang around and mess with your sprinklers when they’re bored.

They exist within the very streets you drive upon. They get their kicks screwing with the traffic patterns and watching people get angry over it. They show you that they love you by giving you green lights when you need them most.

They exist in the monotonous landscaping that lines our streets and dots our medians. It’s the land spirit that leaves a $5 bill on the sidewalk where you happen to pass every day, or the sneaky little spirit that guzzles up the remains of the soda in the Thirstbuster that got thrown out of a passing truck.

They exist in the reflective surfaces of the windows that make up our office buildings, and they make faces at you when you use the window like a mirror to pick food out of your teeth. They bask by your pools in the summer and topple over your snowmen in the winter (except not in central AZ. We just bask by the pool year round down here).

You can see where they gather the most- around the person’s house with all of the birds outside of it, and you know that the lady with the big flowers out front probably has some spirit that fancies her- because they help to keep the plants growing strong. You can see them mourning when a tree is felled by a storm or when some stupid human decides that that tree is not in an ideal spot and cuts it down for no reason.

They play in fountains that adorn apartment complex entrances and harass your dog as you walk him at ten at night. They play baseball in empty lots in between buildings and stop kids from chasing balls into the street.

They are all around us, and most of us never even realize it.

Every day I walk a stretch of pavement that is about a mile long. Every day I pass by the same gravel, trees, and houses on my way to where I’m going. Every day I can see and learn about how the local spirits are doing purely based off of what I see around me. They leave me little hints on the ground in the form of dropped papers or knickknacks (my astral companions are guilty of this, too). Its almost like divining based off of what I find on the side of the road.

They also leave me goodies that I can use in my practice. This can be in the form of feathers, rocks, critters or random stuff on the ground (mirrors, cordage, spoons, hubcaps).

As I walk, I can see problems with human design affecting the land spirits and lay of the land by watching where traffic buckles and where wildlife tends to get hit. And I always make a point to stop and say a piece to anything I come across that has met its end by the side of the road.

I nod as I walk by a tree that was felled in a storm last year, but hasn’t been cleared away yet. Something still hovers over the corpse of the tree, watching as people golf nearby and traffic rolls along without a care. I often catch a glimpse of the “locals” at the community pool as they stare at their reflection in the blue turquoise of the water.

There is a coyote that sometimes can be seen meandering through the subdivisions of this neighborhood. I always make a note of when I see him- because I feel like its important somehow.

It’s the little things, the little movements of suburbia that give away where the spirits are and whether they are happy or not. A place that has spirit activity usually has some amount of wildlife activity. The plants grow and the traffic isn’t filled with fatalities every other week. You can stand at the end of a subdivision street and look at the houses and watch where your eyes drift. Odds are, where your eyes go- so too do the spirits.

While we often think of them as being only in the wild places like woods with no cell reception, the truth is- they do still hover around us. We just have to open our eyes to them.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

 

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When Land Spirits Go Right

Last week I wrote about when a relationship with your land spirits heads south and the problems that can occur with such a situation. For frame of reference, I wanted to write about a peculiar relationship I’ve developed over the years with another set of land spirits and some of the signs that show that my relationship with these spirits has gone right.

San Tan Mountains by Garry Wilmore via Flickr

I grew up in a tiny mountain range in central Arizona called the San Tan mountains. These mountains aren’t anything special, honestly. Compared to the Superstitions to the north and Picacho Peak to the south- almost no one knows that the San Tans exist. They really don’t catch anyone’s attention (until the housing boom in 2004), but they were my home growing up.

When I was younger, there was almost nothing out in the San Tans. We had no running water (we had to drive into town, purchase water, bring it home and hook it up to a pump to get it into our house), we had nothing but dirt roads, and when we moved deeper into the mountains in high school, we didn’t even have mail service. Needless to say, we were out of the way and pretty much off of the map. To pass the time in such a location, I spent most of my days running around the desert looking at stuff. I used to meander through washes and climb up various rock faces. It wasn’t very long before I knew a lot of the landmarks for the area and I felt more and more comfortable walking further from home. In high school, I spent hours outside every week trying to find some peace of mind with my situation.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was effectively bonding with the local land spirits.

I suppose it should have made some sense, for despite all of my adventures on the backroads of the desert, I always managed to escape trouble. I evaded getting cactus in me (unlike in the Superstitions. I can’t set foot over there without getting cholla in me). I managed not to get bit by any snakes. And when flooding occurred in high school, somehow my car managed to plow through the river of a road to safety. However, I never really noticed that me and the land had anything special going on.

Eventually, progress would seep its way into the surrounding lands. I’d watch as my favourite trees would be cut down for homes and acres of land would be cleared for track housing. Luckily for me, as this was happening, my family moved to another part of the Valley so I didn’t have to watch the destruction of my childhood happen in real time. After college ended, I’d move out of the state all together and I wouldn’t be back to the San Tans for a few years after the fact.

Despite that, I still get dreams of the location.

It’s like even after all of these years, me and that location are connected. Whenever I dream of the San Tans, I know that someone is trying to tell me something. Every time I go there in dream space, its like I’ve traveled to an astral version of the location, and I can watch progress occurring on the Other Side as spirits carve out a living for themselves. It’s been very interesting to watch.

Now that I’ve returned to Arizona, I sometimes go out and walk through some of my old favorites (though I now have to shimmy under barbed wire to get there. Yay, “progress”) and connect with the land I grew up with. I think the area has moved on from the trauma ten years ago, especially since the economy halted a lot of the growth out there.

Now that I live closer to the spirits, I get even more dreams about them. I feel them move and whisper when I go to my grandmother’s house. I also listen to her stories of evading problems with local wildlife and I see her picking up pieces of the landscape and leaving them in her house- signs of protection, as though the spirits are telling me that they are keeping an eye on her for me, even though I’m not around much.

To me, this is the result of being tied to a land and its local fauna. These are signs that I’ve somehow managed to connect with some of the spirits that live in the San Tans. And as a result, they help me out from time to time. I don’t know what I did to garner their support over the years, but I am certainly thankful for it. Every time I head out to the desert in the San Tans, it feels like I’m heading out to see an old friend. It’s a feeling that I wish everyone got to experience.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Land Spirits and Urban Spirit Work

 

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When Land Spirits Head South

Alternate title: Why land spirits are important

I feel like a lot of modern Pagan practices have an over-emphasis on the gods. Don’t get me wrong, gods are important, but I feel like local spirits and lesser known spirits are undervalued in our modern practices. I wanted to share a story about my own experiences with local land spirits as a way of illustrating why I’ve found that its important to consider them in your practice.

Early last year, I had moved to a new apartment. Usually, when I move, one of the first things I do is set up shop with the local fae or land spirits that live around me. I’m not sure where I picked up the habit of doing this, but its something that I’ve always found that I do. I thought I was lucky with this new apartment- I had two trees right outside of my balcony as well as a water feature that was always running just below my front window. It seemed like this was going to be a great location to work with the fae because of all of the greenery right outside of my house.

And at first, it was pretty good. There were tons of fae around my house. The offerings went over well, my spirituality was doing okay. Things were good.

But then the summer storms hit. I’ve have a very love hate with the monsoon since I moved back to Arizona. You see, the only real thing I love about Arizona are the monsoon storms, and it seems that someone somewhere has seen fit to ensure that I miss every large monsoon storm that occurs since I moved back. However, while I lived in this apartment, I was fortuitous enough to catch three large monsoon storms. And during each storm, I watched one of the trees outside of my house break off until slowly, no trees remained.

I should have noticed then that something was wrong.

Dead Plants by Kelly Sikkema via Flickr

 

Over the course of the rest of my stay at this apartment, my life would slowly stagnate, and in some places- unravel. By the time I moved from that apartment, there were dead birds every 50 feet or so along the road that led to my apartment complex. I also found that a lot of the plant life was suffering in the area, and most notably- my life itself was grinding to a halt in almost all areas.

And lo! As soon as I moved to my new apartment- things cleared up quickly. My job got better, my health and relationships improved- it seems like someone had broken a dam of things within my life. And looking back on it- I believe that land spirits played a role.

You see, I think that land spirits should be considered in every religious practice- regardless of which deities you worship or what path you’re on. This is simply because I have learned that if land spirits aren’t in your favor- they can actively cock block your gods or other entities from helping you. Its kinda like saying that your life is a house, and the gods have left some awesome presents in your mailbox that is at the end of the driveway, but the land spirits lock all of the doors so that you can’t get outside to the mailbox. They can, in my experience, cripple your endeavors to get ahead if they so choose to.

When I first arrived at my apartment, things went alright because we had active land spirits outside and the land was doing well. But when two of the trees snapped in half and one tree was wrongfully cut down (they should have put a series of supports under the tree and allowed it to recover- instead, they opted to just chop the whole thing down. This was the tree closest to my house), I believe that most of the fae and land spirits packed up shop and moved to greener pastures. I also think that its possible that what few land spirits remained were upset because of the state of the land around them- and possibly took it out on the residents still remaining there (despite my efforts to help quell the backlash from the tree being cut down).

Many polytheists and pagans look to the gods first for answers, but sometimes its not within the gods’ capacity to fix something that is off limits to them. When in doubt, sometimes its better to try appealing to something that is closer to home- such as the spirits and entities that live around you. Many times I have found that if you can keep the local fauna happy, in turn you will find that things run smoother for yourself in all areas of life. I’ve also found that my gods can open more doors for me, and my astral partners also have an easier time of things because there aren’t local entities barring my doors from being opened from the outside.

So the next time that you run into problems, perhaps try reaching out to local spirits. I’m sure they’d enjoy the attention.

 
 

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Hanami, Desert Style

There is very little that Arizona and Japan share in common. Japan is an island that has the standard four seasons. Arizona is in the middle of the desert and is lucky if it has two seasons (hot, and less hot). However, despite their differences, there is one thing that they share in common: Hanami.

Hanami means flower viewing. Traditionally, this could cover a range of flowers, but in the modern sense, it almost always is in reference to sakura- or cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms hold a lot of meaning to the Japanese people. These trees bloom very suddenly in the Spring, and the blossoms die out very quickly. In the short amount of time that the flowers are in bloom, thousands of people will flock to gardens, parks and orchards to view them and hold hanami parties.

The flowers themselves symbolize transience. Many times, it is said that soldiers were like sakura. They bloom suddenly, and die suddenly and beautifully on the battlefield. They are a symbol for our own existence- we live a short life, and our lives can be taken at any moment. It is best to enjoy the beauty of the here and now, because here and now is all that you have.

I love these flowers. They are beautiful and graceful. In the movie The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, the man who runs a very old sakura orchard mentions that sakura is a very empathetic tree/flower. It brings out of us what we want brought out of us. It reflects our own feelings. If you are sad, you will see sadness in the flowers. If you are hopeful, you will see hope in the flowers, etc. And for all of the people who lost their lives last year, many of them see hope in the return of the sakura. Nature continues despite setbacks, and so should we.

Arizona’s answer to the sakura is the Palo Verde (green tree). These trees are all over AZ, and usually they aren’t much to see. However, for a few brief months in the Spring, these trees light up with bright yellow flowers. Usually, the palo verde is mixed in with other desert trees, and you will see these swarms of yellow amidst a sea of green. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see a whole bunch of palo verde trees grouped together, and it turns into a sea of yellow.

I look for the sea of yellow every Spring. I personally feel that these trees are perfect for this time of year, because the Arizona Spring is beyond transient. We’re lucky if we get a Spring at all (usually, it goes from super cold to 100 degrees outside), and I think it definitely is in the desert dweller’s nature to relish in what few mild months (weeks) we get in any given year. I know that soon these flowers will die off, and in a matter of weeks I will not even want to step foot outside due to the heat. For me, this time of year is bitter sweet- because the weather is great, but it’s only a matter of time before the heat sets in, and I’m forced back into my AC driven house. Great Nature is always shifting, and so I shift with it.

I always try to spend a little bit of time every year enjoying these trees. Hopefully, you will enjoy them too!

(Ignore this, this is for Technorati: PSDYN7Q9DDVE)

 
 

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