Introduction to Spirit Journeying: Your Inner Sacred Grove

In the last two posts, we explored the preliminaries for spirit journeying: the preliminaries such as addressing issues like safety, believability, focus, and visualization and also doing an initial journey to find a guide that can assist you as part of your journeying work.  The next step is to establish a safe space, a “home base” if you will, which will allow you to journey outward, meet other beings, and so forth. In the druid tradition, we typically call this an inner sacred grove or inner grove.  If you did the spirit journey in the last post to find your guide, you already had a chance to go into one inner grove, but establishing a permanent grove is a bit different.

Different Forms of Spirit Journeying

In the Druid Tradition, spirit journeying typically takes a few forms.

Human-Guided meditation. Our first form, one that many are probably familiar with, is guided meditation, where someone will lead you carefully into the astral plane for a journey. The journey is done on a pre-determined path and one that is made safe by the human guide and their own helper spirits.  These can be very rich and rewarding experiences for people that are new to meditation. When someone talks about shamanic journeying, particularly with someone leading the journey, this is generally what they mean.

Spirit-Guided meditation. Another option here is that you are taken on a guided meditation by a spirit helper, deity, spirit ally, plant spirit, or other being that you explicitly trust. Rather than having a human guide, you have a spirit guide to lead you on a journey.  This is usually a more advanced technique as you need to build trusting relationships with spirits or deities for this to happen.

The Inner grove. The third, approach, which we are talking about today, is to establish your own inner sacred grove, which is a safe space you establish for yourself with help from your guide.  This inner sacred grove can then be your launch point for exploring the astral. I actually think that this is probably one of the most common; many druid orders teach this in some fashion.  Even druids not working through a druid order often eventually develop some form of this practice.

Pre-established systems, pathworkings, and other journeys. A fourth often takes place when you are learning a new system that is pre-established as part of your training or work in the system.  Typically these are carefully structured within a system, which includes ample protection and safety. For example, in the Celtic Golden Dawn system, a set of guided pathworkings have you journeying between elemental groves. I actually did this work and eventually created the Plant Spirit Oracle, where each plant spirit met with me, journeyed with me, and showed me a painting or image of how they wanted to be depicted in the deck. In another example, in the Plant Spirit Oracle, the deck is designed to have each card journeyed into, to meet directly with the plant spirit.  Thus, in the book for the Plant Spirit Oracle, I offer details for how to do this work safely. In either case, consists of doing this kind of work in an open sacred space on the outer world, and working with pre-established guardians on the inner, guardians that work within that system.

Dreaming and sacred journeying. Journeying into your dreams is another powerful form of travel.  Dreaming is another realm, and many traditional cultures believe that dreaming is just as real as the waking world. With practice, you can both remember your dream and lucid dream, which allows you to explore and experience different realms. For more on dreaming and lucid dreaming, you can see my earlier post.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I do think it covers many of the ways in which people use spirit journeying as part of their practice.  Spirit journeying can be a primary expression of nature-based spirituality, and certainly, a way to directly learn from the spirits, do deep self and shadow work, gain insights into the nature of things happening, and to deepen one’s relationship with the spirits of nature.

Your Inner Grove

Today’s post focuses on the practice of establishing an inner grove. The inner grove is your home base on the spirit world.  It is a place where you can start your journeys, meet with spirit allies, engage in magical work, or use as a launch point for other journeys.  It’s the equivalent of your home for your physical body–a place that is uniquely you, that you feel safe and comfortable in, and that you can spend a lot of time in. Establishing a home base allows you to practice spirit journeying skills in safety and gives you a place to begin and/or end your spiritual journeys. A lot of what is in the inner grove can also teach you different things about yourself and help you interpret what is going on in the world.

In AODA, we work with 7 directions: air, fire, water, and earth, as well as spirit above (solar), spirit below (telluric), and spirit within (lunar).  To frame the inner grove in elemental terms, I see the spirit within spirit within containing both both my own spirit and my inner grove. That is the place where I go to interact with spirits, to start spirit journeys (in many cases), and to learn from my spirit teachers. That is the place where I can do my deepest magic and regardless of what may be happening in the physical world, it is a place where I can find refuge when I need it.

Each person’s inner grove will be a unique reflection of themselves. Your grove will have features unique to you, and will likely grow and evolve as you use it.

One of the things this ritual does is establish keys for accessing your grove.  The key is not required, but it can be very useful as you can use it to  prime your mind for entering the sacred grove. In the first grove journey, you will thus ask your our spirit guide for this key.  If you aren’t able to get it on your first trip, you can go back later and ask again.  The key can be anything.  Common ways of priming your mind could be: humming or hearing a specific song playing, a hand signal or gesture, envisioning a specific aspect of the grove (such as entering on a path), having an object you hold in your hand, burning a particular incense, or doing particular kinds of breathwork.  Basically, this key will help you access your grove and each time you do it, you are priming yourself for entry.

Establishing Your Inner Grove

Worlds within and without
Worlds within and without

Your inner grove is not necessarily a circle of stones surrounded by trees deep in the forest. Your inner grove is a place that you consider to be most “at home” to you. Thus, someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Huron may envision their inner grove there on the beach of the Great Lake, while someone else who grew up in the desert may envision themselves in the desert foothills, with stones and cacti surrounding them.  Other people may leave the choice up to their subconscious and instead focus on the feelings that they want to have in that space–feeling at home, feeling secure, and being able to be their deepest selves.

Thus, to get to your inner grove, I suggest you start with some preliminary meditations or reflections.  Reflect on:

  • What natural places make you feel most at home?
  • Is there a place in particular that you would like to regularly visit?
  • What natural features do you find most appealing? (Oceans, rivers, large trees, stones, fires, etc)

Once you’ve done these preliminary meditations, you are ready to journey to your inner grove.  To do this, you will need to both create a safe ritual space (opening up a sacred grove on the physical plane) and also get yourself into a deep meditative trance state so that you can journey there.  If you are an advanced practitioner, you probably don’t need anything more than this sentence.  But for eveyrone else, I’ll walk you through the steps.

Preliminaries: Like any other ritual, take the time to prepare for it–be in a good state of mind, be awake, and have time to be undisturbed for this ceremony.  I prefer to do my spirit journeying after the sun goes down–I like to use very minimal light (just one candle), as the darkness makes it easier to journey to the spirit world.  You will also want to set aside enough time–sometimes journeying can take an hour or more, depending on what you do and where you go.  Finally, it can be helpful to record your journey, so have a journal handy.

Clearing yourself. As part of opening a space, I recommend cleansing yourself to rid yourself of any energies you picked up that may not be conducive to your journey. You can use a smoke-clearing stick, sound (drumming, a bell, etc), a bath, or another method you typically use.

Opening up a sacred circle/space/grove. The next thing you will want to do is open a sacred space in your usual way. I use the AODA’s Solitary grove ritual, which includes a full casting of the Sphere of Protection.

Call for support: Ask your spirit guide(s), deities, and other allies to join you to support you.  You can also call upon specific plants or other herbal helpers, for example, Rosemary for memory, Mugwort for visioning, and Lemon Balm for peace can be three allies that can support you.  Make sure that you offer something to them: a song, a stick of incense, or some other token of your gratitude for their help.

State your intentions: In the presence of your allies, speak aloud what you intend in your own words. Something like, “I intend to find and establish my inner sacred grove, with the support of the spirits. This will be a safe space for me to journey and explore the astral realms.”

Get comfortable.  You will be sitting or lying still for a while, so you want to find a way to be comfortable.  For me, I prefer to put my journeying blanket down (I have special sheepskin that I use only for journeying), and then a small pillow, and lay on the hardwood floor. This makes me comfortable, but not so comfortable that I’ll fall asleep.  You may also find it more comfortable to sit on the floor or in a chair.  This is an important choice, as you will need your body to fully relax as you enter the deep meditation/trance state.

Breathing: There are many methods to get into a trance, and most of them involve some form of breathwork and visualization.  Here’s one method you can use:

1. Begin by taking three deep breaths.

2. Move into four-fold breath, for at least nine full cycles.  Fourfold or box breath asks you to breathe in for the count of four, lightly hold for the count of four, breathe out for the count of four, and again lightly hold for the count of four. As you continue to breathe in this way, feel yourself slipping deeper and deeper into a relaxed state.

3. Transition to a quiet breath, where you are breathing naturally.

Visualization Journey:

1. As you transition, begin feeling yourself walking on a path to your sacred grove.

2. Continue to build the visuals in your mind, using your senses.  What does the path feel like under your feet? What smells or sounds do you experience? What does this place look like?

3.  Notice that your guide is by your side, walking with you on the path.  Pay attention to how they look in this moment.

4.  Continue to walk the path until you enter your sacred grove.  It could be just around the corner, or it could take quite a while for you to arrive. When you get there, spend time there.  What do you feel while you are there? What do you see? What do you experience?  Again, use your senses to explore this place.

5. Speak to your guide.  Talk to them about this grove.  Ask them for a “key” for accessing your grove (see point below) so that you can easily return.

6.  Spend any additional time here.  When you feel ready, walk out of the grove and back to your waking self.

Breathwork to return to the material plane: Once you have emerged from your grove, once again focus on your breath.  Take several deep breaths, and as you breathe, begin paying attention to your body.  Check in with each of your senses in the physical world. It can take time to come out of a journey experience, so take whatever time you need.

Documenting your journey: Take some time to document your journey–what did you learn or experience? What does your grove look like? What kind of ecosystem is it in?

Close your grove.  Close your grove, giving thanks once again to the spirits who guided you on the journey.  I recommend eating something to help continue to ground you firmly in the material plane after a journey.

On the Nature of Silence about Your Grove

A key to the grove
A key to the grove

So now that you’ve done your initial work with your grove and have established your grove, you can journey there anytime you like, using the methods I just described.  At a minimum, make sure you are protected in some way (either a personal protection ritual, protective smoke clearing ritual, or open a sacred space); call to your guides; do the breathwork to get into a deep meditative state; enter the grove using the keys you were given.  Since this post is getting pretty long, we’ll return to more advanced grove workings in next week’s post.  For now, I’ll conclude this one about the importance of being silent on the details and nature of your grove.

Being Silent on the Details of Your Grove. Your inner grove is yours and yours alone. You should not talk about it in any kind of detail to anyone.  Do not ever describe or depict it through words, artwork, and so on in any public way.  You can write about it in your journal or create private works, as long as those stay private and hidden.  Notice that even above, I suggested that you journal about your experience before you closed your grove, as an added layer of protection. Your grove is a sacred, secret place for you and your allies–and your silence ensures it is so.

There are two reasons why being silent about the nature of your grove is important. First, if you talk about it too much or describe it in too much detail, you can talk the magic out of the place.  This is a common problem we have at present, in this time of intense social media technologies–once shared, we lose control over what is shared, how it is shared, or even what happens to the piece.  The energy of that thing you are sharing gets swept up in this larger storm, and it’s out of your control.  This means that all that magic that should be contained in that inner grove is now lost.

The other thing is that spirit beings who may choose to be in the grove with you would not appreciate being talked about, described, or named unless they have given you explicit permission to do so.  They may be very private beings, willing to reveal themselves to you and work with you as a matter of trust.  Sharing about them without their consent violates that trust.

This leads to the second reason:  sharing or talking about it can create a safety risk–if you describe the grove in detail to others, then other people or spirits who may be hanging by listening in on the conversation will now know how to enter your grove.  If the whole point of the sacred grove is to create a space that only you and your trusted and invited guides can enter, then you’ve just lost the entire point of the grove.   Thus, by sealing your inner grove with your silence, you are literally sealing it from outside influence.

Now, with that said, sometimes things may happen in your grove where you need the advice of a trusted friend or mentor on the human realm. Before you go for advice, ask permission from the spirits–see what you can and can’t share.  Heed their guidance in this regard.  When you do share and seek advice, keep the details you convey to the bare minimum necessary.  You can seek advice without the specifics.

For example, at one point I had a natural-disaster-style event happen in my sacred grove. This was timed with some other powerful and intense events happening in my life.  While I didn’t share the details of this event much with them (and you’ll notice how unspecific I’m being here), I was very upset by what had happened and I didn’t know what to do. So, I did seek the advice of two trusted mentors and friends.  They were able to help me process what had happened and we considered the relationship between some outer things in my life and the inner experience.  This was the right course of action, and I was able to get my situation back on track.

Evolution of your Inner Grove

The longer that you work with the inner grove, and the more you work with it, the more the grove will evolve.  Things will change, grow, and deepen.  As you are working in the grove, pay special attention to anything that changes or is new in the grove when you enter, how you are represented in your grove (and how that may change), features of your grove, beings that live in your grove, things that are growing, and more.  The more time that you spend in the grove and work with it, the more that your grove will evolve to meet your growing spiritual journey.

Things to do in your grove

I’ll cover some of these further in next week’s post, but I wanted to share a list of things that you can do when in your grove.

  • Communicate and spent time with guides, allies, and spirit beings. This communication may be visual, audio, or energetic–there are many different ways to communicate.
  • Engage in rituals or meditations.  Sometimes there are benefits to working rituals or engaging in meditations on the inner planes.  It can be more difficult and require a lot more concentration and focus than doing a ritual in the material plane, but it offers different kinds of effects.  Rituals on the inner planes can work quite a bit differently from an energetic standpoint and are often very good for personal work.  Another reason you might want to do rituals on the inner planes is that there is not a safe space for you to do a ritual in the material realm (due to persecution, family issues, etc.).  I’ll share more about rituals and ritual work.
  • Explorations of your inner grove, seeing how things change or grow.
  • Healing work for yourself or others; your inner grove is a very safe space to do this kind of work.
  • Memory mansions and other mnemonic devices.  Some people choose to store memories in an inner grove that can be accessed in future lives.  I can write more about this if people are interested.

Conclusion

That wraps us up for today!  I hope this ongoing series is helpful to you–I’d love to hear from you in the comments about how you use a sacred grove and anything else you feel you can share (in a general way, of course, respecting the bounds of silence as described above).

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Dana, I would love to hear more about the memory mansions that you mentioned. I’m learning a lot from this series of blog posts. Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Tyler, ok! I will do a follow-up post on memory mansions sometime in April or Early may. They are a really great spiritual technique! Thank you for the request :).

  2. I am very grateful that you’re sharing this information in such a coherent and concise way. I’m sure many many people will benefit.

    1. Hello Zita, thank you! Happy to answer any questions you have or hear about your experiences in using these techniques :).

  3. You often mentioned “safety” and “protection”. What is it that we need protection from? Is there an evil spirit or energy?

    1. Joanne,
      If you go back to my first post in the series, I explain a lot of that here:
      https://thedruidsgarden.com/2023/03/05/introduction-to-spirit-journeying-preparation/

      Basically, not everything in the spirit world is kind, friendly, or nice. Some things out there are active predators, looking for people to feed off of, control, and so on. In the same way we have active predators in the human population: people who seek to steal, profit, mislead you, scam you, or worse. The spirit world is the same. Thus, in the same way we would protect our identity, protect our person, and lock our doors at night, we need to attend to the spirit world.

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