In the last three posts in this series, we explored spirit journeying: preliminary and preparatory work, connecting with a spirit journey guide, and establishing your inner grove. All of these things were meant to set you up for the journeys to come–where the entire realms of spirit are open to you and the sky is the limit to what you can experience, travel, and accomplish. In the final post of this series (at least for now!), we now deepen our work with the inner grove and expand into other areas.
Journeys far and Wide
Once you’ve established your inner grove, have a guide who can support you, and have some basic understanding of how to protect yourself, you can now journey from and to it in a multitude of ways. There are so many different ways to explore the inner realms, so I’ll just list a few to give you some ideas.
- Established pathworkings and spirit journeys. A number of spiritual traditions have safe paths and safe passages established—a core part of pathworking in Golden Dawn traditions, for example, is to visit the different spheres of the tree of life and journey between them. Thus, you may be traversing between the spheres many times, but each time is different. Another example of this work can be found in R.J. Stuart’s series of books on the Underworld, such as Underworld Initiation and Power within the Land. These books offer safe, effective journeys into the underworld, the land of the fae and spirits. There are many other examples, but these are two that I have direct experience working with and thus can recommend.
- Journeying into images or paintings. This is a favorite of mine and something that I like to do both as an artist and as someone who engages in a lot of spirit journeying. Magical paintings, such as those in tarot or oracle decks, can be portals to other places—almost any work can be journeyed into and explored. It can be deeply rewarding to engage in these kinds of journeys, as they can open up many worlds. Paintings with high amounts of symbolism may offer you teachings, inner growth, or a deeper connection with your spiritual tools. They may also offer many unexpected experiences and knowledge.
- Journeying to meet or with specific spirits of nature. Another favorite of mine is to journey to meet a plant spirit or allow a plant spirit to take you on a journey. Reach out to the spirit of dandelion, apple, oak, or mint and see what wisdom they have to share. The good thing about this kind of journey is that plants are established teachers and have millennia of working directly with humans in many capacities: as healers, teachers, and guides. Thus, they are really excellent to get to know. Start with safe plants (the kind you’d consume or grow in your garden) before moving on to those that have less established relationships with humans. One of the key practices with journeying with plants is that they may take time to offer all of their different teachings; thus, it may benefit you to do a larger sequence of work with them: learning about them, cultivating them or finding them in the wild, learning how to prepare them, honoring them and offering gratitude, and journeying with them to discover their deeper teachings. I offer more insights on these approaches in my Plant Spirit Oracle book.
- Journeying to places present. You can always engage in an astral journey to any place that exists—whether or not humans can actually travel there. For example, I love to look up at the sky, pick a star or a planet, and then journey there.
- Distance land healing and spirit journeying. Since a core part of my own spiritual practice is healing and caretaking the land, I also use spirit journeying to do distance land healing work, where perhaps we have a disaster or something awful happen, and I can spirit journey there and do ritual or offer support and healing. Or perhaps there’s a place I can’t visit physically for whatever reason (e.g. private property, too far away), I can still visit this place via spirit journeying and lend a hand (and this can be combined with rituals on the inner planes, see below).
- Journey to places lost. Another thing that I have done, specifically as part of my own healing and land healing work, is to journey to places and individuals that are in my past and that I’d like to speak to again. For example, when I was a child there was an old apple tree that I spent a lot of time with—she was cut when I was about 13, and I’ve always felt her loss. Spirit journeying back to visit with her was one example of this kind of work. Because I formed a connection with her, that connection remained and I could still visit and talk.
These are just a few of the many different possibilities for spirit journeying. What I hope that you take away from this list is that the sky really is the limit. Just like any other travel, part of what you will want to do is ensure that you ensure your own safety when engaging in any such journeys (using material from this post series, daily protective workings, etc.).
Ritual in your inner grove or on the inner planes
One of the things you can do once you’ve established an inner grove or set of places that you visit regularly is to perform rituals. Rituals on the inner planes take on a different energy and meaning. This kind of work requires that you have sufficiently strengthened your own visualization and concentration skills—if you lose your focus in a ritual you are performing on the physical plane, you can simply take a moment to refocus. If you lose focus on an inner planes ritual, you might end up getting booted out of the astral and then you’d have to get back in and then refocus.
The second thing to say about rituals on the inner planes is that they often appear very different and can be extremely potent. Here’s what I mean. If I am opening up sacred space on the material plane, I would call to each of the elements, observing them in the world as they manifest in nature, visualizing their appearance, and feeling their energy coming into the space. When I do the same thing in the astral, the elements show up very visually and powerfully in ways that are not limited by the laws that govern the material planes.
In terms of what kinds of rituals you want to do, this is all up to you. For a long time, I was living in a situation where it wasn’t ok for me to do physical rituals in my home due to tensions surrounding my spiritual path. So even for things like seasonal celebrations, I might go into the bathtub, open a sacred space, and then do my seasonal celebration on the inner planes. That way, I was still able to celebrate it and did so in private (and with the cover of taking a bath). Living circumstances aside, there are many other reasons you might want to do a ritual on the inner places—inner work, working with plants, or even distance land healing are just a few examples.
Spirit Journeying Far and Wide
The safest kind of astral journey is one where you have a home base. Think about this like any other exploration–if you exploring the wilds you might set up a camp (or take your camp with you). Most traditions that use some form of spirit journeying using this technique: start in a place of safety, journey somewhere, and then walk back to the return (or end somewhere). You can think about these start and end points as part of how to safely enter and leave astral space.
Your Astral Body and Shapeshifting
One of the things you might take a look at is how you appear physically on the inner planes. Unlike in the physical plane, in the astral plane, you are now bounded by the confines of your body, including your body’s abilities, limitations, or challenges. You are free to be anything you want to be. Usually, your body has a base appearance. You can look at yourself and pay attention to how your body looks.
Another thing that you can learn to do with the help of your guides is shapeshifting, where you transform into some other form. This is a whole other post, so I’m not going to share details here, but I will simply mention that it is possible and can be another part of the astral travel experience.
Spirit Smarts: Meeting and Working with Spirits
As part of growing up in a culture, we learn how to identify and avoid trouble, keep ourselves safe, or call for help if we need it. One of the challenges of spirit journeying, particularly beyond the safe spaces we establish, is that many people don’t have these “street smarts” (I’ll call these “spirit smarts.” The problem is that unless you grew up in a tradition that taught these skills, many of us new to this work are unprepared and ill-equipped–we do not have the “spirit smarts” to navigate these challenges without help. A big part of why I’ve spent the first three posts in this series offering the information I did in the way I did is about safety. Just like going anywhere in the material plane, it is useful to use some common sense and good judgment.
Spirits of the inner planes are extremely varied, with their own lives, perspectives, desires, and personalities. They are not there to serve you, work with you, teach you, or do anything else. Some are teachers and guides and are happy to work with you. Others may see you as breakfast. Still, others could be curious and mischievous. I have some general advice to develop spirit smarts. For this section, I am indebted to my Anishnaabe teacher, Lillian Wolf, who taught me a great deal about safety in the spirit world.
- Always make sure you have a guide with you–someone that can help you discern the intentions of other spirits. Eventually, you can develop your own methods of doing this, but even if you already have such methods or sight, it is good to have a backup plan.
- Recognize that how a spirit appears, and even what it says can be deceiving. If you see an angelic being, for example, it doesn’t actually mean it’s an angelic being. It means it is appearing to you in that way. Sometimes spirits
- Be extremely cautious of asking for or taking anything from spirits. They have different rules, and for myself as a general rule, I only give and receive gifts from long-term spirit allies, those with whom I’ve built trusting relationships with over years.
- Similarly, be cautious of using or asking for names. Names have power and can be used against you. This is very contrary to many cultural values (where you tell someone your name when you meet them).
- Always engage in respectful interactions with spirits. I’ve found that respect gets you quite far. Respectful interactions mean that others will also treat you with respect. Even beings who might be a bit cranky or mischievous are kinder and friendlier when you treat them respectfully. Basic respect includes saying please and thank you, in other words, always asking permission and always offering gratitude. Respect people’s boundaries and honor them. Beyond basic courtesy and polite interaction, one form of respectful interaction is not to assume anything about a spirit. Don’t assume a spirit wants to teach you just because they come to say hello.
- A lot of spirits will test you. Just as you are right to be wary of a new spirit’s intentions, they also are right to be wary of yours. I have found that tests often involve respecting the sovereignty of other beings (e.g. honoring a “no”) and also finding ways of setting my own firm boundaries.
These principles can go a long way to protect you.
At this point, I’ve offered some fundamentals to help you spirit journey far and wide, meet guides, learn, and grow while visiting your own inner grove and exploring the realms beyond it. If there are questions I did not answer, please ask. I would love to hear how you are using this material and/or other ideas you have to share. And as always, may the blessings of nature be with you!