There is something magical about putting your hands in the soil. The cool, damp feeling, the smell of earthy loam, the crumbling of the loam between your fingers. Touching soil, the building block of life, grounds you in a way that is indescribable. Putting your hands in the earth, to plant, to heal, to grow food or medicine, is always a balm for the soul. Especially when it is rich, nourishing soil. Everything in the world has energy (or in scientific terms an electromagnetic field) and I think we can intuitively sense when that soil has soul.
In the last month or so on the Druid’s Garden blog, we’ve done a deep dive into soil. In my first post, we’ve explored what the soil web consists of and how magical and incredible the soil web of life really is, how we can learn more about our soil and the land use history where we live, and in last week’s post, we explored a range of techniques to build good soil in ways that work with nature and honor nature’s processes and soil builders. In this final post in the series (at least for now), I want to move our discussion into the metaphysical realm and consider how we might honor the soil web in ceremonial ways.
I started this series because I’ve been thinking a lot about soil right now–after all, this is literally the thing that supports and grounds us, what is there beneath our feet every day. The fall for me is “soil time” as this is the time we put the garden beds to rest for the winter months and do ceremonies for them. This is when we stack our compost pile up high and let it slowly transform into soil, and this is when last year’s pile gets spread on our garden beds. This is when the bare soil is visible again as the plants die back or retreat into their roots. So why not apply some druid magic and mysticism techniques to deepen our relationship with soil even further?
Getting to Know Soil: Observe and Interact
The first practice to spiritually deepen your relationship with soil is to simply spend time with soil. I think that a lot of us who practice nature spirituality may spend more time looking at everything growing out of the soil rather than the soil. We obsess over trees, healing herbs, and mushrooms–and while this is amazing (I do it too!) taking time for the soil is also very good. Thus, I suggest you spend time to: observe the soil and soil web in action. Take time to see what soil looks like in different places you go. Spend time just being present with the soil. Get your hands in the rich soil. Pay attention to the soil that is being transformed in the forest from old moss-covered stumps. Pay attention to how more domesticated spaces like your vegetable garden have different kinds of soil than wild places. Pay attention to the mycelial networks that run through the soil. Just being present with the soil and observant allows you to unlock the deeper, wild magics of the soil.
Soil Connections & Spirit Journeys
With observation and interaction gives you the opportunity to begin to build connections and sense the energy in the soil. Sensing the energy of the soil can be quite simple–your body is your best means of experiencing this energy. You can simply use your intuition to do this–check in with how you are feeling around different kinds of soil. What does your “gut” say? How does it nourish you, stabilize you, energize you, or refresh you? Most of the quiet lessons of nature can be experienced in this way.
If you are adept in spirit journeying, you can explore a different kind. of connection. Using the techniques I’ve outlined in my post series on spirit journeying (preliminaries, meeting and working with your spirit guide, inner grove, and deeper work), you can travel to visit the soil web and sense the connections. The good news is that you can do this work anytime, although right now when I’m publishing this, as we are leading up to Samhain, is a particularly good time as so many perennials are retreating into their roots for the winter, so the soil is literally pulsing with so much energy and life!
The way that I’ve done such a journey is one of three ways.
- The first way is to enter my sacred grove first (using the “inner grove” described in my previous post) and then from there, journey into the soil and meet the many beings who live there.
- The second is to journey from a specific spot–looking to meet the spirit(s) of the soil. So this might involve me laying a blanket down in the middle of my meditation garden path and spirit journeying into the soil right there. This has allowed me not only to connect with the fungal web of all life but also the genius loci of the land through the soil.
- The third way is to follow the soil web of life–journey by traveling the web. Take any spot as your jumping-off point and then ask the spirits of the soil if you can travel the web and learn from them. And be ready fro a really interesting and wild ride if they agree!
Singing and Creative Practices to the Soil
Another way to connect with the soil more deeply is to engage in creative practices that honor the soil and also perhaps reflect that reverence in the broader world. In this post, for example, are several paintings that I’ve done over the years to share about the beautiful and magical nature of the soil web of life and the power of the soil. These paintings were shared in my broader community in various ways as well as online, which I hope helped share the messages.
Another thing you can do is just to sing to the soil, dance with your bare feet on the ground and express your gratitude through that song. When I am working with the soil in the garden, I will often do this–go barefoot, feeling the earth beneath my toes, dancing to send that reverence into the earth. Or, I will sing as I carefully dig holes in the soil to plant new plants for the year.
Hearing the Song of the Soil
Just as you can sing to the soil, so can the soil sing to you. Place your hand on the soil, hear the songs that emerge from the living earth. To do this, you need to be open and receptive. My approach to hearing the song of the soil is to do some physical work with the soil (gardening, sitting and observing) and really rooting myself to the soil in the physical plane. Then, sit with your body touching the earth, hands in the soil, and draw some of that energy up into you. Then, begin humming (or play any instrument that you already know). Don’t worry about the melody, just let the energy of the soil web guide the melody. As you hum or play your instrument, a tune may come up into you–go with it. If you like it, record it and turn it into something that you can sing back to the soil at a later point. Work that song into your practices or repertoire, and share it. There are so many such songs waiting for you to hear them!
Soil Healing Ritual Mandala
A final set of approaches that you can do visualization for a healthy soil web and healing energy for the soil web of life. For this, I like to create and then empower offerings that can be put right into the soil or build a mandala Like many of the rituals I talk about and that I use in my practice, they don’t have to be scripted, just sound and safe from a magical perspective and set with the right intentions. I will share my approach to a soil healing mandala, which you can use to honor the soil, give gratitude, and provide healing. Here are a few preliminaries:
1. Ensure that the ritual you are going to offer is welcome by the soil web where you are. Work locally and ask permission before you proceed.
2. Consider the importance of sacred timing–when do you want to offer a soil healing or blessing? I always like to offer such a blessing as I am putting the garden beds to sleep for the season. Creating a mandala of leaves, sticks, and flowers allows the energy of that blessing to sink down into the soil, rotting over the winter, and provides great energy for the coming year. It is very much like a “thank you” for the abundance that we have gained.
3. Consider your intentions – is this healing for damaged soil? A “thank you” and a blessing for the future? Are you co-creating intentions with the living earth in this way?
4. Consider the materials you might build your mandala out of and ensure that A) they can go back to the earth and B) they can remain in place to break down and be part of the soil. The one I share here (with beans, leaves, pumpkins, and gourds) was built and left in place in our garden, and any seeds or plants that sprouted from the beans, pumpkins, and gourds were allowed to grow for the next season! (So yes, we had a bunch of cute mini-pumpkins in that spot the following year). The other one I shared here was made from cornmeal and able to break down naturally in our sacred grove. I think for a soil honoring mandala, in particular, you create something that can be broken down over time, so that the blessing can be worked into the soil web through the soil web’s own sacred procsesses.
With those preliminaries, you can begin to build your mandala. You can do this entirely intuitively using the approaches I am sharing above. Here’s how I go about it. First, I’d work to open a sacred space in the area where I will be working if possible (and if not, such as if I was in public lands, I at least make sure I’ve attended to my own protections). Then, in a reverent way, I seek permission from the earth both to gather materials and to create a mandala. I co-create intentions with the land so that I can provide what is needed at the moment. From there, I gather materials in a basket and use my intuition to select a place to offer the mandala. I gather joyfully, singing, dancing, and frolicking (as I believe joy should always be part of this kind of work). Then I begin to build the mandala, sharing my gratitude for the soil web, the land that has birthed me, the land that sustains me. I share my hopes for the future–healing, growth, vitality–and build the mandala. When the mandala is complete, I sit with it for a time, perhaps offering a drumbeat and/or song, and then I also sit in meditation to see if any additional messages or requests are made. When I feel the work is done, I leave the mandala and space alone (usually for quite a while) so that the mandala can return to the land.
I hope these ideas for honoring the soil web of all life, seeking creative inspiration, and listening to the songs of the soil inspire you! This is just one other way to connect deeply with the living earth and reciprocate blessings, abundance, and love for this beautiful planet.
I’ve written a very comprehensive article titled “Plant Spirit Communication in Herbalism Practice” in Plant Healer Quarterly Fall 2023 Edition. It draws from many practices shared on this blog in different posts as well as some new material. I’m joined by a wide range of wonderful work by other herbalists–it is truely a gem and comes in over 230 full-color pages! Each quarter I love sitting down with Plant Healer and I feel really honored to be able to contribute as an author and illustrator :).
Blog on Hiatus: I am in the process of proofing my new book (set to release next March), as well as wrapping up the harvest season (the busiest time of year), so I will be taking a few weeks’ hiatus from blogging until the proofing and end-of-season work is complete. Thank you for understanding and blessings of this wonderful harvest season!