Along dusty paths where trees darken the skyBeings dart beyond our eyeThe land gives voice through spirits songIn flowery fields they dance along
In other nations and on other continents there are widely held beliefs in magical creatures that dwell upon the land and give it protection. In Iceland there are boulders that are not to be approached or moved because trolls live there. The landvaettir are still honored and thanked for their assistance in the protection of the land and those who dwell there. In Ireland you do not take dead wood, stones, trees or plants without first asking permission and giving a gift. There are groves in Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England, Sweden and Denmark ( to name a few) that have been named for the gods and set apart as sacred spaces and the names are still with them today. You do not suppose to walk in these places without awe and never a careless word is spoken lest it resound throughout the worlds.
In this country (United States) no such reverence exists for the land because authority over all things, land included, was turned over to the christian god. To be fair, the majority of city dwellers in the western world have never heard of and pay no attention to land spirits or they consider them to be no more than childish fairytales. Lands are littered with concrete structures, man made materials and garbage; the soil suffers and refuses to produce, trees die, insects and birds die as cities continue to swallow up land. It is overused, neglected and poisoned and we have all but forgotten that our very lives depend on it.
In the heathen tradition there is a ritual land taking that is done when a family moves to or purchases a new property. Some see this ritual as a declaration to the landvaettir that they are now the owners of the land. Some see it as a ritual to set a protective perimeter around the property and ward off any honery wights. I see it as an introduction, a request and a welcoming between the land and my family. The land and the landvaettir will outlast me and the structures built on it. I am only a tenant and caretaker that seeks to work with the landvaettir in the health and prosperity of everyone. When the ritual begins all stand at the front door performing the hammer right and hallowing the entrance to the home. Many carry a fire pot with ritual herbs smoldering into every room of the home and then to the back door where the exit to the home is hallowed. The ritual pot, gifts for the landvaettir (flowers, fruit or bread) and meade are carried as they walk the boundaries of the property stopping at every corner post to hallow the boundary markers and leave a gift and a drink. This is done three times. Then all return to the back of the house and ask that the landvaettir grant them bountiful harvest and good health as long as they dwell there. Then comes a celebration of feast and drink and laughter. It is believed that if the landvaettir are honored they will guard and protect the land and the family that dwells there. It was also common practice of our ancestors to carve runes into the rafters of a home or barn and that magical staves be placed in the gardens. The Pennsylvania Dutch (though they had long since been converted) would place Hex signs over their doors and windows of the house and barn. These were beautiful pieces of folk art still in place today.
The relationship between land and families really goes deeper than that. When a family takes residence on a land, working to bring a harvest and raise a family, the land actually becomes a vital member of that family. Many believe, as I do, that land chooses us, that the land we live on is a reflection of us and grows as we grow. Those who fill their homes with plants know that the health of the plants is a direct reflection of the health of the atmosphere in the home. Have you ever walked into a house and had an uneasy feeling? The structure may be sound, it may be in a decent location and may appear to be okay but something is not right. I have experienced this many times as we looked for our homes. The process of house hunting can be an exhausting and frustrating for the spouse of a spirit sensitive person. It certainly does not mean that a home has to be perfect. As a matter of fact all of the properties that we have lived in or purchased have been in need of restoration, revitalization, nurturing and care; both the home and the land. They were beautiful in spirit but had been abandoned, neglected or left incomplete so all was needed was kindness, care and maybe some songs and chants. We make it a rule to leave every land better than when we came.
There are places in the land that make me feel the same way, sometimes I cannot get away fast enough. There are also places that welcome you as soon as you enter, places in the land that are so inspiring and beautiful that you just stand in silence and awe. You can and should create these sacred spaces on your own land and in your home. These will become places where the family always gathers to honor the gods and ancestors. The sacred space in our home is actually a sitting room with our hearth and wood stove. We have shelves of books, ritual tools, horns and knives along with a chair for reading and meditation. We are in the process of creating one outside on a portion of our land than was once a corral for horses. The land was barren except for one lone cedar tree and gradually we are reviving the land and soil so that it once again teams with life and supports wildlife which is a labor of love. In the center we have placed a pergola that will be encircled with stones and have a stone altar and will include benches so that we can go sit in meditation.
Soil is a vibrant living organism or at least it should be. Everytime we cut down trees, remove rocks and even turn the soil we are despoiling the natural functions of animals, birds, reptiles, insect, organisms and bacteria. All of these things are vital in creating a nutrient dense soil that will feed your plants and ultimately our bodies. At some point in time we have to take the time to restore what decades of damage have done to the land. If we do not then we see things like the great dust bowl of the 1930's and we also see catastrophic flooding because we have altered the natural pathways of flowing water and covered so much of the land with concrete and asphalt displacing natural absorption and causing massive runoff. We may not be in a position to fix city drainage or city planning but we can restore our own land. Simple little recipes and ritual can begin this process. Let us take the example of a small garden bed where plants struggle and do not flourish. Most of the time the reason is the soil is tired. It has lost its abundance of microorganisms and bacteria which keep the soil alive. There is a process called restoring biodynamics. In this process you reintroduce spores and ingredients that promote bacteria growth. This will take care of the physical aspect of the soil and your focus and intention will help to restore the spiritual aspect. Here is a simple recipe that was given by Mary Reynolds (a reformed landscape designer in Ireland) in her book "The Garden Awakening: Designs to Nurture the Land and Ourselves"
Take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with about 3 gallons of water Take a hand full of healthy woodland soil and place it in the bucket Add a tablespoon of molasses Place an aerator pump in the bucket and let it run for a couple of hours. Remove the pump and find a long stick or paddle I prefer a stick Sit with the bucket of water and set your intentions for health, restoration, vitality and envision a beautiful garden or strong healthy veggies. While you are setting intentions and visions, stir the water briskly in one direction creating a vortex. Keep that vortex going as you set all your positive energy and intentions into the water. Then allow the water to still and then stir in the opposite direction creating a vortex and setting intentions. Once this is finished sprinkle or spray the water over your garden area.
Results for any assistance and restoration given to the land is not immediate, as a matter of fact our plan will take 3-5 years but when it is completed the land will take care of itself.....and us...for generations to come. We have planted several trees this year as the land has shown me that it was once treed. We have allowed the natural plants to this region to grow such as brown eyed susans and rabbit bush along with other wild plants. When I place my hand into the soil, just under the sandy top layer is bark and plant parts and useful soil that just needed a rest and recovery time. Eventually it will be able to sustain native prairie grass, clover and assorted wildflowers along with shrubbery. In the meantime I spend time with the land and work on establishing a sacred space in the center of it so that soon it will be a sanctuary for all sorts of living things. May the landvaettir thrive as we partner together to restore land one little piece at a time and may our spirits soar with it! Hail the gods!