A Primer in Land Healing: Protection and Shielding for Healing Work in Damaged Places

The AODA's Sphere of Protection in a Tree

Another mountain is being lost near my home–a mountain that has lost already 50 feet or more of elevation and is being just eaten by machines and humans behind those machines.  It’s really hard to frame this any other way–I’m sure there is a coal seam in the bones of the mountain that these humans are desperate to mine.  Two centuries ago, men dug holes in the ground, felled trees and supported their holes with huge logs, and then went in and dug the coal out.  Today with modern technology, they find it easier just to remove the whole mountain, which allows them to then remove the whole coal seam, transport it to the local power plant to feed the ravenous beast of industrial civilization, and put money in their pockets.  With the mountain’s resources used up, they then pile whatever is left back up (with no topsoil) and do the bare minimum legally required, which involves plant some jack pines on top and scatter wildflower seeds that cannot take root in the shale and stone that is left.  They move to the next mountain and begin their destruction yet again, leaving the land fully depleted with every bit of life–including in some cases the spirit of the mountain itself–destroyed and gone. I’ve been at many of these sites that they have left and even 10, 20, or 30 years later, there’s still very little growing due to no topsoil and almost no spirit activity….they are certainly tremendous challenges for healing. This is the current age we live in–we are well past peak oil, and the fossil fuel reserves in many places of the world are dwindling.  Yet humanity’s thirst for energy continues to climb. Thus, with depleting energy options, industrialization has come to enact its due upon our mountain in the Allegheny Ridge and it does so at the expense of the billions of lives that live there. I knew about this site when the digging began long before I was able to find where it was on the landscape–in my experience, there is a particular kind of energy being released when a being that is over 400,000,000 years old starts to be eaten.  That kind of horrific act creates a ripple in the energy of the entire region that is hard to miss if you are paying attention.  And, from the perspective of land healing and being a healer, what does it mean to walk into a wounded, damaged place like this and offer healing? And as land healers, so many of us are drawn to these big cases, wanting to help even in a small way.

Places in need of healing are bountiful on my beautiful and damaged landscape....
Places in need of healing are bountiful on my beautiful and damaged landscape….

One of the big challenges with any land healing work is that wounded or destroyed places, or places that are in the middle of what I describe above, have a great deal of hazards both physical and metaphysical.  Engaging with the mountain and the energies of what is happening at this point is dangerous–and it is this danger and need for protection I want to talk about today. What happens on the physical plane nearly always has some metaphysical parallel: just as the mountain is being ground into dust by machines, so too have dark entities likely come to feed on the life and spirits there.  The more damage on the physical plane, the more damage on the metaphysical plane, and you are in a boatload of trouble if you go into a situation like this unprepared and unprotected.  This is true of nearly any land healing situation, but especially the ones that deal with the worst kinds of human-caused destruction and damage: toxic chemical spills, radioactive waste, repeated damage and pillaging, huge amounts of pollution, forests burned bare due to climate change, strip mines or mountaintop removal, any kind of mining, sites with a legacy not only of land suffering but of people suffering too….you know what your local sites like this are.  Our world is filling up with these kinds of deeply wounded and damaged places every day, and as industrial civilization continues to spiral down, we are seeing more and more large-scale destruction activities out of desperation to keep pumping more fossil fuel resources.

These terribly damaged sites are those that land healers may be drawn to, saying, “Is there anything I can do?”  The answer is yes–there is a lot you can do.  Witnessing and holding space and palliative care–there are many paths and avenues forward. Physically, I can’t even get anywhere near an active mountaintop removal site right now, so I make a mental note to check back in 5 or 10 years once they end mining operations–then I can go in on the land physically, scatter seeds, and offer healing and blessing ceremonies.  For now, I can do palliative care, working to support the mountain and the spirit of the mountain, offering passage to the trees and ecosystem that has died, and simply holding space for what is happening. But before I can even go down that path, long before I set foot on any damaged site, it is necessary to a good amount of protection.  This is because it is very likely that any kind of damaged site is likely to have malevolent spirits or energies that are completely unhealthy to you, and doing your due diligence to protect and shield yourself is a huge part of this work.

I feel like I argue with people a lot about this point–the need to protect themselves. The fact that damaged lands and human extractive activities breed bad spiritual energies–maligned entities but also just horrible energies–none of which you want to put yourself in direct contact with. I can’t tell you how many people think that land healing is all love and light, and if they just put love and light out, that will be enough. It will not be enough.  You have to protect yourself–and you have to have discernment and wisdom about what you can or can’t handle (or what you might need help from others in handling).

Protection and Shielding

Given the daily world we live in, protection for anyone who practices any form of magic or spirituality is a necessary part of keeping yourself safe and sane.  Think about it this way–a lot of people pretend and choose to willfully ignore the world of spirits around them.  This means that they are blind, but they also are often oblivious to the world of spirits.  As soon as you start working with energy, meditation, talking and engaging with the spirit world in any way, you will be drawing more attention to yourself than normal.  This can attract any manner of being, some good and some not good.  Thus, daily protection to me is the very first and most important practice that you can do. If you are going to work as a land healer and do any work at all with damaged sites (which, given the state of the world, are almost impossible to avoid) then it is doubly important that you attend to your protection.

I have a detailed post about protective work and metaphysical street smarts that goes into more depth about daily protective work and protective objects–how to establish a daily protective ritual, options for protection, and more about why you want to do it.  I strongly suggest you read that as it covers the nuts and bolts of daily protection and I’ll assume you understand what is in the post there for the rest of this post. Here, I will share some specific things about protection for land healing. As my metaphysical street smarts post suggests, daily protective work is the foundation of any spiritual practice–and a land healing practice is no exception. As a land healer, you may find yourself often unexpectedly encountering places or non-human people who need your help–so having a daily protective practice is vital.  About half of the land healing is not things I seek out, but things that come to me.  By going out your door each day already protected, you are ready to engage with anything you may encounter.

You can also layer protections when you are visiting sites like the mountain I described above.  If you know you are going into an area that has a lot of damage, you can assume you might meet angry land spirits, suffering land spirits, and/or malevolent entities feeding of the site and energies there, among any other number of issues.  Thus, you can layer protection when it gets tough:

  1. One or more daily protective rituals (my choice is the Sphere of Protection as taught and practiced by the Ancient Order of Druids in America, another option I sometimes use in addition is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, used as taught in JMG’s Celtic Golden Dawn system).  Do not use something like OBOD’s Light Body exercise–this is an energizing ritual, not protecting, and it will light you up on the etheric and astral planes…which is not a great idea in this case. You want something that is specifically protective.  Protective rituals that belong to specific traditions (AODA, Golden Dawn) are quite good because you have the energy of the tradition behind you (assuming you are a member in good standing in one of those traditions).
  2. Anointing myself with a protective oil.  I make a number of magical oil blends (I will write about this in the future) and I have one specifically for protection and land healing work.  My current blend includes a variety of protective plant, tree, and mushroom spirits with which I have relationships: mugwort, hawthorn, multiflora rose, and so forth.
  3. Carrying a protective sachet or herbs or a protective root.  I make this selection of root or herb blends based on what I’m doing and in conjunction with my plant allies. It may include things like multiflora rose, hawthorn thorns, mugwort, wood betony, and more. I based these blends on a combination of the doctrine of signatures, my own ongoing plant spirit work, and which plants I have longstanding agreements in place for healing and protection. (I also apparently need to write more about this in the future!)
  4. Carrying a stone that can absorb some negative energy: I particularly like black tourmaline or local black shale for this, but there are many others. Once your stone has absorbed some of the energy you aren’t interested in taking into yourself, you can cleanse it by 3 days in sunlight, 24 hours in running water, or using various ritual approaches.
  5. Working with protective spirits, dieties, and others who can lend support.  I like to think of this as my spirit team–a group of us that are dedicated to healing the land together, both physically and metaphysically.  Sometimes this involves other human beings with their own skillsets, but often it is just me on the physical plane along with my spirit team–protective plant, tree and mushroom spirits, spirit guides, and dieties.  These are people that I work with daily for a variety of spiritual work and whom we form reciprocal and caring relationships with.  I know they have my back and when we go out, we have rituals we do together to protect all of us before engaging in a difficult healing circumstance (like the one I’m talking about in the opening).

I don’t always go out with all of these layers of protection, but if I know I’m going into do something big, or I’m going to a site with lots of damage, I prefer to err on the side of caution and add a few extra layers of protection. I always go out with my daily protective ritual (the SOP) and usually have a stone on me and, of course, my spirit team by my side.  I will also note that this same kind of protection can be necessary if you live near a site that is being destroyed (e.g. they are cutting down part of a forest near your house).  Unfortunately, many times this is unavoidable even if we wish it were not the case.

Practicing Wisdom and Discretion

Lighting up the darkness on one strip mine operation
Lighting up the darkness on one strip mine operation

A huge part of land healing of damaged sites is recognizing what you can handle and what you shouldn’t engage with. Don’t assume you know more than you do, and don’t let your ignorance get the best of you. If you are new, start small.  Focus on building your own spiritual team of allies, the foundations of your daily protection, and certainly, your intuition and spirit communication skills.  Take some years to do this, start small (a tree being cut down, the backyard refugia you want to create) and work your way to bigger things. Don’t go to the really dark and damaged places until you feel you are ready. Use your intuition here and check in with your spirit team.  Use divination to see if the path would be a good idea or not.

If you have been doing any kind of spiritual practices for a while, you have great shielding and good intuition and a great team of spirit allies/deities/guides, then you are probably ready–with care–to take on some of the bigger stuff.  Again, use divination and your intuition to help guide your path.

I will also note that some places should never be handled by yourself as a single human being–find human and spirit allies to help you.  Even with my almost 20 years on this path, there are sites and magical work that I would not, and could not, tackle myself.  You usually can get a pretty clear sense of this–again, use divination and recognize what your intuition and spirits are telling you.  Don’t take on something you know you can’t handle.  To give you a sense of this, last year, a friend and I performed a major healing of a mountain in my home region, the mountain that I grew up on.  I did not do this work alone but with another advanced human practitioner–we worked for three years to ascertain the issues with the mountain, develop a plan and a ritual, trained in performing that ritual, and then protected ourselves, doing this work in the daylight in the light half of the year close to the summer solstice.  We stacked the decks in our favor, so to speak, to take on some really awful energy in the mountain.  And we were successful–but only becuase we were careful and took our time and prepared ourselves.  We also both learned a great deal through this and have a whole new skillset.

In time, you grow your experience and you will have a range of skills, protections, and methods to tackle things you couldn’t before.  And most of the time, that’s ok.  Land healing works on the timeline of nature, which is slow time and cyclical healing.

Working with Very Damaged Sites

Many damaged sites are cesspools of negative spirit activity.  I’ll again return to the mountain: just as the mountain is being physically consumed by humans and their machines to extract the resources (in our case, coal and iron), the mountain is also being metaphysically consumed by a host of negative spirits.  Not everything in this world is full of light and goodness–land healing often involves looking into the dark places where beings that feed off of life may be.

If you are doing any kind of physical or metaphysical land healing with damaged sites–especially really damaged sites–sites that are destroyed, poisoned, and so forth, it is vital that you take the time to protect yourself to the fullest extent possible.  The more damaged the site, the more layers of protection that you will want before you attempt to either go physically (if you can at all) or even connect metaphysically.  Metaphysical and distance connections can bring you into contact with the energies of the site as easily as physical connections, so even doing things like astrally traveling, a meditation on a picture on the site, and so forth all still require protection.

When I physically visit these sites, as I often do, I do the following: The Sphere of Protection (which is always my daily practice); I carry some vinegar water (which disrupts negative etheric energies), I carry a piece of protective root or a bag of protective herbs (I may create these specifically for certain sites, working with my plant and mushroom allies), and I usually carry a piece of black tourmaline or other absorbing stone.  And my spirit team and I prepare in advance–and we might do additional rituals or protections.  We choose an appropriate day and time–high noon in the summer, for example, at a time when the light is full in the sky.  Sometimes we don’t go fully in but stand on the edge or nearby, assessing the situation.

If I’m going to ritually connect to a damaged site, I do so with several layers of protection: I am on my sacred land, which has ongoing protections that the many residents of this land (human or otherwise) work to establish and reinforce daily.  On this sacred land, with having already done my own daily protective ritual, I open up a sacred grove using AODA’s Solitary Grove Opening.  If I feel I need it, I may add an additional layer of protection or two, such as a bowl of salt, stones, etc. And I always like to have a handy spritz of vinegar nearby.  Hopefully, I won’t need all of these protections, but if I do, I’m ready.

Announcements and Blog Hiatus!

Thank you so much to the Land Healers Network and the great questions and conversations that are emerging through those spaces–these conversations have encouraged some of my recent posts on the blog.

I wanted to share the latest appearances I have had and upcoming things I’m doing:

  • I was recently featured on the Plant Cunning Podcast talking about land healing! Please check it out and share :).
  • My newest article (on plant spirit journeying) is in Plant Healer Quarterly.
  • In mid-May, I will be at the MAGUS druid gathering doing a number of things, including co-creating one of our main rituals, offering a range of AODA initiations, and leading a natural ink-making workshop!
  • I will be sharing two workshops at the upcoming Hawthorn Botanical Gathering in early June: Creating Herbal Sanctuaries for All Life: Refugia Gardening and Rewilding for the Future on Friday Night + a Saturday Plant Walk.
  • I will also be presenting through the online OBOD Mount Haemus series on May 21st at 8 pm EST.  I’ll be sharing my 2018 Mount Hameus piece on the Bardic Arts–due to the pandemic, we never had a chance to present these till now :).  I don’t think registration information has gone out yet for it.

I’m also happy to share that my publisher, Schiffer/REDfeather, just accepted another book manuscript for a project I’ve been working on as a co-author with Nate Summers for about four years now.  We’ve written a book on Ecospirituality for the 21st Century and how to use nature spirituality to re-indigenize to place and help us build a brighter future. This book will likely come out in Fall 2025, and we now have the task of prepping the manuscript and working on cover and interior art.

I routinely take two blogging hiatuses each year–one in May and one in January.  Given all that I have going on right now, I’m going to take a little bit longer of a blogging hiatus from now until the end of May. I’ll see everyone in late May or maybe at one of these upcoming events!

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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  1. Dear Dana,

    I have been following your work for many years now and wanted to express my appreciation for your guidance in land healing. I downloaded all your earlier posts on the subject, and was overjoyed when you published your recent land healing book as I much prefer physical books to screens.

    I live in an ecosystem that was mined for blue stone over 100 years ago and while Nature has somewhat regenerated the now wooded landscape I sense a certain deadness and lack of diversity. The spirits of the land have encouraged me to tend it, communicating to me through dreams, occasional waking visions and flashes of intuition as I walk through the forest. Almost daily, I pick up garbage, listen deeply, visit the local stream, make offerings, and do a visio divina practice, etc.). Many of my practices have sprung directly from your posts.

    Have a fulfilling and fruitful hiatus from your blog!

    In deep gratitude,


    1. Hello Teresa, thank you so much for sharing! I would love to hear more about the practices that you developed to tend your ecosystem! It sounds like your work is deeply nourishing to the land! 🙂

  2. A couple of thoughts:
    – what do you suggest for those of us who are sensitive to the energies on the land, but not yet skilled / experienced / practiced enough to received specific communications from the land, or specific relationships with healing plants, etc (so not yet able to discern what or how to do)? How best to build those skills? (I have your Land Healing & Plant Oracle books, but am really just getting started)
    – How best to spiritually tend land that is experiencing ongoing unhealthiness, but no major new assaults, from humans? Specifically, I’m thinking of the land I/we “own” (ugh, hate that word) – 30 acres that is split by a freeway. Freeway noise is actually not bad but still drives me nuts sometimes, however, I originally felt – and still feel – really called to tend this land, and am doing a LOT of restoration work on it. The plant & tree life tell me about the stress of the freeway for them – they get a lot more of it than I do, as I’m on the far side – but I don’t know what to do spiritually for them. I’m planting a buffer zone(s), etc. but it’s an ongoing energetic assault for them.
    Thanks so much for your work; love it!

    1. Hello Janet D!
      Thanks for your comment :). I’m so glad to hear that you are interested in this work and wanting to do what is best for the and everyone who lives there. I don’t like the word “own” either, so usually I use the term “the land to which I belong.”

      1. I would suggest starting small and building relationships with specific beings on your land who may be more open to communication. Find the biggest tree on the property or some other stong natural feature and focus your energy on working with them. You can certainly use things like divination systems (pendulum is great for yes/no, tarot, etc) to help guide you.
      2. Based on what you are saying, I would also start learning how to protect and shield the space. Learning that skill starts with learning how to shield yourself. A regular protective ritual (I use AODA’s Sphere of Protection) is great–along with some other interventions.
      3. If I were planting a buffer, I’d consider plants that are skilled in such defenses (thorny plants, highly protective plants, etc.) If I were building such a buffer here, for example, I’d enlist the help of Allegheny Blackberry, Hawthorn, Elder, and even some of our very poisonous Poison Hemlock to help.
      4. Trust your gut and intuition. So much of spirit communication is all about quieting our minds and listening to the quiet voices of nature. Keep working at it and your skill will grow :).

      Blessings to you and keep in touch and let me know how it is going!

  3. I know how heart-breaking this is to see. The forest just above my home in central PA is currently being strip-mined. All the paths I memorized, all the sacred sites I found are being torn apart. Access to that forest was one of the top reasons I bought my home a couple years ago. I hope I can help bring some healing to the land, along with my local foraging club.

    1. Hi James,
      I am SO sorry to hear about the strip mining…it is truly the worst. You can’t stop it, but you can hold space and work with the spirits there, do ceremony, and simply support the land. But also, in doing this work, please take care of yourself. It is intense work to do. Where in Central PA are you? I’m currently in Indiana County in Western PA, and I grew up in Cambria and Somerset Counties in Central PA. Blessings to you.

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