As we are all so fully aware, our lands are increasingly under duress in ways unprecedented in recent human memory. At least here in the USA, the systematic pillaging of every resource these lands have to offer continues unabated. And within this context, many individuals have recognized a problem and have taken up spiritual paths focusing on the earth itself in various ways. The question becomes–what can I, as one person, do? As you’ve noticed, a good deal of my time in the last year of blogging (or more) has been exploring this question from various angles and details. And so, I want to share a bit today of the different angles from which we might consider the answer to this question both energetically and physically–providing a roadmap for this kind of work and specifying its dimensions. This means we are going to delve not only into physical land healing through things like permaculture but also the frameworks of druid magic and ritual to understand the different kinds of healing that can be done.
This is the first in a larger series of posts. Please continue reading the series here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII.
The Idea of Healing
Its useful to start by defining the thing we are undertaking before actually undertaking it. And so, we begin with definitions of the word “heal”, compliments of Merriam Webster. For the word “heal”, we have three definitions:
- : 1 a : to make sound or whole <heal a wound> 2b :to restore to health; 2 a : to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome
- 2b : to patch up (a breach or division) <heal a breach between friends>
- 3 : to restore to original purity or integrity <healed of sin>.
All three of these definitions are directly applicable in different ways to the idea of healing the land. So, in definition one, we can identify that the land is in a damaged state, and we talk about that damage in various ways: its physically wounded, in ways we can directly see. But its also energetically wounded in ways we can sense. The land is in a damaged state, both physically and energetically (what I mean by energetically, I’ll get to in a minute), and in need of healing. This is really no different than thinking about a person who has been the victim of a violent crime–there are physical wounds you can see, but there are also mental and non-physical ones. The physical wounds have to be treated in a much different way than the non-physical ones, and treating only physical wounds will not make a person “sound and whole.”
This leads us directly to the second definition: to patch up a breech or division. With the maiming and exploitation of the land comes a loss of trust, a division between the earth and humanity on a systematic and large scale. We are certainly the earth’s children, but we have lost our way and in that process, violated the sacred compact between humans and the land that achieves balance and ensures everyone’s continued survival. Trust, then, is something that needs to be rebuilt. This can be done through a number of means, and I’ve found the best combination is working both physically and energetically.
And now we come to our 3rd definition, which is that healing is often about restoring something to its wholeness and completeness. That’s the ultimate goal of land healing, but its not necessarily something that we can do in every place at this time. This third definition is important to keep in mind as we consider the different types of healing we are able to do, given our challenged circumstances.
As Above, So Below: A Consideration of Planes
To understand fully how we might heal the land, and the options for doing so, we need to have a framework that accounts for the different levels of reality, commonly referred to in the western magical traditions as “the planes.” Nearly all spiritual practice and magical practice is based on the understanding (explicit or implicit) of the fact that realities and energies exist outside of what we can perceive with our five senses. This is, of course, something humans throughout time understood clearly, but something that has been lost and squashed in modern Western Society by scientific imperialism, materialism, and disenchantment in the western world). Understanding a bit about the nature of these different levels of manifestation, or what as known as “the planes” can help our healing work along quite a bit. However, just within the western esoteric traditions, the idea of “the planes” is complex, with a number of different models describing different kinds of planes. Each model we have for these different realms of perception and experience is an attempt to simplify and explain more complex phenomena–and so each model is with its limitations, but all are still useful as an illustrative tools. I’m going to use a fairly standard one in magical practice in the West to frame my discussion today. Drawing from Greer’s, Circles of Power, we can see some of these planes in this way (note that Greer presents a 5 plane system; I’m drawing upon the first three here for the purposes of this discussion):
- The Physical Plane (outer): What we can experience through our 5 physical senses. This is the physical reality of our existence. When we think about land healing, this is the physical nature of reality that we can see: cut trees, poisoned rivers, dead bees, starving polar bears, toxic waste, and so on.
- The Etheric Plane: Often, when people talk about “energy” in a room or space, they are sensing the etheric plane. The etheric is also experienced through our senses, but not the same senses that experience the physical plane. The ethieric is very closely connected to life on earth; Hindu Yoga would identify this as “prana” while Asian martial arts would call this “ch’i” or “ki.” From a land healing standpoint, our senses of the etheric helps us say, “wow, there is a bad feeling here” or a “heaviness” or “stagnation.” Its on the etheric that a lot of the “energy” work can be done.
- The Astral Plane: The level of our consciousness that transcends matter and although they manifest as imagination, emotion, memory, will, or intellectual facilities. This level, of course, also transcends what is inside of our heads. Much journeying work (whether its called astral projection, shamanic journeying, or pathworking) happens on this plane.
Both the etheric and the astral are considered “inner” planes (for a variety of reasons) and there are planes other than those as well.
The reason I present the planes here is that they are critical to framing any kind of land healing work. Part of this is because healing works along the lines of the hermetic adage, “As above, so below. As within, so without” (I’ve discussed this before, for example, my discussion of it in relation to waste streams) The principle of this adage is the basis of many spiritual practices and religious observance throughout the ages–and the adage is simple. What is on the outer reflects inward to the other planes, and likewise, what happens on the inner planes and within us reflects outward. This means, of course, if you are to do physical healing on the land, that healing work can work its way within and have an energetic healing as well (even if all you are doing is physical work). But even if you aren’t able to do physical healing work, you can do other kinds of energetic healing through ritual, energy work, setting standing stones, and the like, and you can have this more positive energy trickle outward, manifesting on the material plane and providing one of the tools for the land to heal. Understanding this principle is the key to understanding the entire framework of land healing that I am presenting here.
The Ways of Land Healing
Examining the above definitions and levels of existence has given us a roadmap of the kinds of healing that can be done on different levels. When we think about “land healing” this is a very wide category, and in it, I see a number of potential practices, some of which are direct physical healing, some of which are indirect, and some of which are energetic.
#1: Regenerating Land: Direct Physical Healing. This is the healing of the physical land on the material plane. These practices include a wide range of things: replanting, regenerating, tending the wilds, cleaning up toxins, river cleanup, converting lawns into food forests or organic gardens, and conserving and restoring wild lands. Lots of people are doing various things on this front, and certainly, permaculture design, as well as restoration and conservation activities fall into this category. A number of my recent posts have been in this area: my series of posts on refugia, weeds, healing hands, permaculture practices, etc. Of course, the land has to be in a damaged state, in the process of healing, or in need of healing for this kind of practice to be effective. I think that this kind of healing, combined with energetic healing, is one of the best things you can do to heal our lands–if you are able and if the situation warrants it.
#2: Healing human-land connections. An indirect method of healing the land, which can lead to work in these other areas, is working to build your own relationship with the land and to help others do the same. This includes everything from herbal practice to earth ambassadorship, creating community, or advocacy work. So here are two examples of this: a series of classes I’ve been recently teaching in herbalism, for example, not only empower people to take care of their own health but reconnect them with plants immediately in their landscape and help restore that human-land connection (and I also teach them the three permaculture ethics as part of herbal practice). A second way I’ve engaged with this work is by co-founding a permaculture meetup where we brought people together each month to talk about sustainable practices and reconnect with the land. Is this direct healing of the physical land? No, but it is working directly to heal the disconnection that has happened between the land and her children, and so I also consider this healing work. Its extremely important to heal these connections for long-term viability and stability, especially if we go back to the definition 2b under “heal” above.
#3: Energetic healing work. Now we move into direct healing that can be done on the non-physical planes. This kind of healing is a fantastic compliment to the two areas above (and ideally, healing of the land should include all of these firs three areas), but can also be done independently of direct physical healing work. Performing healing ritual and engaging in magical work to help heal our lands is a particularly useful tool where recovery and regeneration is a top priority. You might see this as a way to restore the energetic drain of a long sickness or weakened state–you are raising energy to help it recover. Lots of possibilities for this kind of energetic healing work exist. You might performing various kinds of ceremony, which can take place and connect to the etheric or astral planes, working with various currents of energy for healing work. You might engage in energetic healing like reiki, which works on the etheric plane. You might journey inward to speak with the spirits of the land to understand what physically or etherically needs to be done. I’ll be talking about these practices more in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!
#4: Energetic Palliative care. As an energetic land healer, its critical to understand the difference between healing and palliative care. Palliative care what we do to help soothe the suffering, to help the land sleep or be energetically distanced from what is physically occurring. Think about someone that you’ve known who is really, really sick, and who is in for a long illness or battle with a disease that is ongoing. You see them suffering, and the best you can do is try to soothe the wounds, let them rest until the worst is over. If you try to raise a bunch of positive energy on lands actively being damaged for the distinct purpose of healing, it can be like waking up that sick person. In fact, the whole reason I was motivated to write this post was to identify this distinct difference. In my experience in working on a variety of distressed landscapes (logging, toxic streams and waterways, strip-mined land, poisoned waters, oil pipelines) I know that healing can only take place where there is opportunity for physical regeneration. The whole idea of healing is to restore and regenerate–you can’t do that if there is active destruction taking place. You still can do energetic work, but you do not want it to be directed towards the purposes of regeneration or recover, but rather soothing the worst of the suffering. I’ll take a whole post to explore this subject in more depth in next week’s blog post.
#5: Shifting Actions: Direct and Indirect mitigation of damage. The last thing I’ll mention today is shifting actions. Shifting your actions to consume less and create less of a burden on the land is not a method of land healing, but it is a method of mitigation and prevention. You might consider this a kind of “preventative care.”This shift is the kinds of behaviors and actions that we do in order to mitigate further damage, reduce our impact on the land, and so on. This typically happens through various kinds of “sustainable” practices and earth-centered living: a lot of options presented to us by mainstream society fall in here (and many of the not-so-mainstream).
Of course, this list doesn’t include the work the land itself does to heal–and its doing that all the time. But here I’m focusing on the relationship between the land and humans–what we humans, as druids, as permaculturists, as people spiritually attuned, can do, here and today to heal our lands.
Readers–I invite you to help me develop this framework. Is there any kind of basic land healing strategy that I’ve missed in the above? How do you enact these or see these enacted? Thanks, as always, for reading!
Love, love LOVE the inclusion of palliative care and am very much looking forward to its discussion next week.
I think the argument can be made for activism as a form of preventative care–keep pipelines from being built, stop fracking initiatives, organize the local community to protect its lands from development. But I’m also not sure if that’s the direction in which you want to take the series. 🙂
Yeah, you are right. Activism can totally be #6. I was getting into that a bit with my post on Earth Ambassadorship a few months ago, but I haven’t talked about it enough yet :). Thanks for your comment, Cat! 🙂 Hope you are well!
Thank you for this article. Many traditions in the East and West speak of personifications of Nature with respect to land – landscape devas, spirits, egregoires and nature intelligences (cf. Perelandra) and utilize specific techniques by which one may “hear” from these forces that are in and of the land. Not quite religion, not quite science, it demands a unique orientation to those planes that you describe. Most importantly, there is a place and role for all of us working together according to the new Aquarian paradigm. So beautiful.
Thank you, Yvonne. If you are more interested in those subjects, you might want to check out my “druid tree workings” series of posts as well 🙂
I have enjoyed very much your blog. I see that you draw from shamanic and indigenous ideas about the earth. Living on a coast I am thinking today about water level rise and the long term effect on humanity, as well as the possibility that humanity’s consciousness may elevate and we can choose to stop this destruction. However, as you note, the nature heals itself, and whatever form this takes, it makes me more hopeful. Be well, and continue your wonderful teachings. FR
Reblogged this on Helgaleena and commented:
this is very comprehensive treatment of the subject.
Thanks for the reblog! 🙂
I have been exploring sporadically a healing practice of hearing and drawing down the starsong energy of Ursa Major into Her mirror image on Earth, places stones that take that alignment. As Earth seems to be energetically starved for this connection that humans used to make for Her through song and dance as members of various Bear clans around the globe. This was initially given to me from a land spirit thru a psychic friend, but Bear has over the years become increasingly present in my own life and healing, practices that energetically spill over and embrace Earth. I don’t know, but strongly feel, that there is a traditional practice in this teaching from Self. When I remember to do it and be open it feel wonderful, moving, heart. I still work part time professionally as a gardener (flowers) and lived for thirty years deep in the wood off the grid. I am much interested to see new thinking develop, like a new spiral on Findhorn and Peralandra principles.
Thank you so much for your comment, Kaymarion! The ceremony you describe is a powerful one. Bear to the Native Americans is a healing animal, often one associated with shamanism and healing work. Drawing on the energy of the stars (part of the solar current) likewise is a fantastic practice :). Wonderful!
When I went out to observe the Solstice last December, the county park I’d chosen to celebrate in (one of my Zone 5’s!) was unexpectedly closed. Sunset was on the way and I didn’t have time to get to another familiar spot, so I went someplace new to me; a cemetery just outside nearby small town.
I’ve been following the AODA curriculum for a year this month, although I can’t afford even the modest fee it would take to join. (I’m on disability.) In keeping with that, I’ve kept a druidic journal the whole time. The following is an excerpt from that journal, lightly edited for language. I’m putting it out there because you’ve made me realize that, despite my feelings of impotence that day, palliative care is more than “not quite nothing.”
–I drove toward the back about as far as I could go and walked around the edge, making my way to a little grove of old trees. The edge has a berm built up all around that side, thick with dead poke stems and still-green motherwort and (I think) mugwort. On the other side of the berm is a steep drop-off of maybe thirty feet and a lot of trash. Not the kind of household stuff people dump in the woods when they “know a good spot”, this was industrial stuff. I spooked a deer down there.
Then the berm curved away from the drop-off, marking off the finished part of the cemetery. It got a lot higher, too, so you could walk right up to it and not see over. Walking along that led to the grove I’d been making for, but I wasn’t so much interested in that anymore. I wanted a good look at what was behind that berm.
The fine-graded dirt roads in the rest of the cemetery turns into a crappy mud track where they have an opening back there, which is angled so people can’t see in. It was chained off (just like the park) with those piss-ant little gates everybody wants to use these days. They aren’t really designed to keep people out physically, although they are designed to break your headlights if you force your car through. No, they just send the message “you can’t go here” and depend on people’s conditioned obedience and automobile dependence to enforce it. And I’m sure those piss-ant little gates sell so well because that really is good enough.
Usually. I basically just walked right in. Part of me wished I hadn’t. I mean, I pretty much knew what I was going to see. The town is using it to dump the refuse from whatever work they do. It’s not new dumping, it’s not like “we’ll just stage it here until the new budget comes through.” It’ll be there until they have to expand the cemetery, and then they’ll still do the cheapest, easiest thing they can think of, whether or not it’s legal or right. I mean, I saw an open hole where they were burying insulation.
This was my Solstice observation. This wasn’t part of the plan at all. I was going to serenade the sunset, and an oak I’ve come to know, surrounded by a healthy, sleepy ecosystem.
This place is befouled. Not just the place I was at sunset, this is everywhere. If I had a sound body and a year (and permission, which would require acknowledgement, which wouldn’t happen) I still couldn’t detoxify that one place. What could I do in that place at that time?
I could walk away, shaking my head. Nothing, in other words. I wanted to, really. I was repulsed. But I found a tree, leaned against it, and got out my panflute. I played one tune; a melody of serenity and endurance. And then I walked away, having done not quite nothing. —
Thanks for sharing your story.
Palliative care is a critical part of healing work–and frankly–is one of the most important things we can do in certain places where physical healing is impossible. Its work that I’ve been taking up on a number of desecrated sites here–fracking wells, boney dumps, deforested areas (more on this in next week’s blog post!) Sometimes that’s all we can do, but its critical work none the less.
Music, as you’ve mentioned, is really powerful. I too have a panflute, and I have developed songs for soothing the wounds of the land. Nobody bothers you if you are simply playing music, and its a great way to do some of this healing work :).
Given that you are engaging in AODA practices, let me give you a few more pointers (I’ll also be sharing these in the next few weeks of posts, so stay tuned). I’m one of the Archdruids in the AODA and a Druid Adept in the order, and I have been using AODA’s frameworks and rituals as my primary magical working tools for over a decade. Once you have the hang of the Sphere of Protection, it works well for a ritual for these kinds of situations if done properly. Specifically, the Sphere of Protection banishes away negative energy and brings in positive energy, and that’s helpful to balance things in these kinds of spaces, even if its only energetic balance. If you don’t specify in your language what you are doing, but give some general sense of aiding the land, then the land can use the energies you invoke and banish as it needs. For example, for Air, you might say something like: “by the hawk of may in the heights of the morning, I invoke the air. May the blessings of the air come here for the good of this land/ I banish the negative qualities of air for the good of this land.” The last part of the SOP connects the energies of the earth (telluric, often times corrupted and problematic) to the solar through the invocation of the lunar. This helps bless and purify the telluric current, also engaging in long-term healing even if the physical places are desecrated. The other thing is that the seasonal celebrations (the ones in the Druid Grove Handbook, not the Druidry Handbook) also help bless the land in ways that can help do palliative care. Ok, lots more to say here, but there’s more than one upcoming post on this :).
So you have a number of tools at your disposal that can be used for that space :).
I know when you come to those kinds of spaces, they aren’t what you hope to find, and they can be hard to deal with (especially when you are trying to do a celebration for your own healing work, for example). But you were meant to find that space, meant to do that work there, and meant to see that. Part of what we do here is hold space, see, and acknowledge what is happening. Its part of the healing work that we do as druids, as those walking this path.
Like Catriona, I appreciate your distinction between land that can be physically regenerated and thus potentially receptive to energetic healing and land that needs palliative care. As a former hospital chaplain, I saw many patients and/or family members opt for heroic measures that prolonged suffering (thus making more $$ for the hospital), when hospice care would have allowed a more peaceful passage towards the physical death that was inevitable. Your palliative care metaphor really resonates!
As I mentioned in a comment to an earlier post, I’ve recently begun the process of regenerating a piece of land using insights from permaculture and restoration agriculture. I’ve also used extensive journeying to build relationships with and seek guidance from the land spirits, both on that site in specific and in the Hudson Valley region where I live. I feel the earth calling me (clamoring, really) to do this work as a kind of restorative justice. Your post has given me a deeper understanding of what is (and is not!) needed for the places I’m encountering.
Thank you so much for this blog. It’s rare to encounter someone who delves into the both the physical and spiritual aspects of working with the land in such a practical, roll-up-your-sleeves, grit-under-your-fingernails way.
Thank you, Karunateresa! Your discussion of your experiences as a hospital chaplain are also key here–thanks for sharing. I think the example of human suffering here is a bit more easily understood…a lot of people haven’t necessarily honed their inner listening skills (or don’t have those gifts) and can be flying blindly and yet attempting to do good. But the idea of “doing good” is all based on the specific situation and if the land is receptive to healing or if it needs something different. I learned this really from holding space for forests that were being logged, trees being cut down. I am a servant of the land, so I write the lessons she gives me :).
I’m excited to hear more about your work on your land in the Hudson Valley!
Do you have any advice on small, physical things we can do to help with the healing process if we don’t have much time or energy ourselves? Thanks 🙂
Yes, I do. You can make and throw seed balls: https://druidgarden.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/making-seed-balls-and-scattering-seeds-for-wildtending/
You can do energetic prayers and ritual (see the next blog post)
You can honor trees that are passing: https://druidgarden.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/druid-tree-workings-holding-space-and-helping-tree-spirits-pass/
It’s difficult to know where I’ll be useful, as a chronically ill person I don’t have much time/energy, and it’s hard to know what’s the best thing to put that towards. This will help a lot, thanks.
Siobhanwaters, I think the fact that you want to do something, and you are willing to do what you can despite the chronic illness, speaks volumes. I’d say to listen to the land, hear what she says, and use that as your guide :). I am certain she will guide you as you are to go, and every bit, no matter small, helps. 🙂
Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
Thank you, Dana! I especially appreciate the discussion of “energetic palliative care.” As you know, this is a topic that speaks to my heart, as well. Before “reclaiming ley lines” or empowering other energy centers, we would each do well to tune into the Land as a living, breathing, feeling Being. What does the Land request? Sometimes that request surprises. Sometimes the ease of suffering means quietly allowing and helping the Land to sleep until a safer time comes for re-awakening. Our own relationship with the Land helps us to know the difference between our own well-meaning agenda and what would feel most loving and kind the Earth. Individual situations widely vary. There is no one-size fits all approach for land healing. Thank you so much for articulating this!
I love your response here–no one size fits all response to land healing :). Thank you for the reblog 🙂
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Reblogged this on ravenhawks' magazine and commented:
Thank you 🙂
Reblogged this on The Crane Book of Wisdom and commented:
Posting this since it is Part One
Thanks for the reblog 🙂
I invite animals to help.
For certain! 🙂
Dana, anything used to accumulate heavy metals must be disposed of safely, but it can clean the soil and get it back to life. Concentrated takes less room. I read a treatise on cleaning up radioactive elements, wagh.
Shocking that anyone has done this, let alone so widespread!
Yeah, that’s what I understand as well. I’ve had limited first hand experience with this stuff yet, but it is good to keep in mind.
Reblogged this on EnjoyBliss.
Thanks for the reblogs! 🙂
Thank you that this exists. I’ve recently moved somewhere & strongly felt the need to heal the land. A coastal town, that has multiple incidents of massacre & exploitation. I’m excited to find ways to support healing.
Rachel–thanks so much for reading and for your comment. YES. Do something. Do anything–the spirits of the land will so appreciate you :).
Thank you Dana! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m so grateful for your blog! <3
I am grateful that you are grateful! Glad you are reading and finding value here. Blessings!
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