Always room for another

I feel like this time, I was followed home.

Although really, I noticed while I was out that there was a long piece of leaf/twig from a Western red-cedar that had somehow got caught in my scarf, and I looked at it and had thoughts about how perhaps /someone out here/ wanted me to have this.

. . . I.

I don’t even know. It seems so ridiculous. “A land spirit followed me home;” no, more like, hitched a ride. Informed me of its intentions and I went “oh okay then. I’m sure there’s space on the altar for this.” (I really am a bit baffled by how I got that piece not just caught on my scarf, but -tucked in underneath- parts of it.)

What is wrong with me. What do they all want.

I’m very tired, and it’s affecting my writing style.

It was cold out, very cold, I’ve never been out hiking in those temperatures – I was quite well dressed, though anytime we stopped for any length of time, I could feel the chill seeping in, but it wasn’t that terrible.

I was glad I went out – I grew up in a rural environment, and I got used to seeing seasonal changes in the land in ways that I do not see them in the city.

There was a creek across the street, and we’d go over there and marvel at how the water froze.

The ground got crunchy. The land is just different when so much of it is alive and soft in ways that cities aren’t, in ways that aren’t obvious even in a garden in a city, because gardens are so small, they aren’t as obviously a part of a natural system.

The place was one I’ve never been to before – an area that was once heavily logged, with many steep hillsides, and lots of roads to support the logging . . . and then about 20 years ago, there was a major storm event: rain on snow, lots of rain, and roads got blown out (culverts clogged, or couldn’t handle the volume of water) and destroyed by many landslides. So the roads in this area were all officially decommissioned (having largely been decommissioned by the weather and land already), and the Forest Service spent a lot of effort to doing actual restoration of the area, to improve fish habitat, among other things. The hike was to look at some of those sites, and see what roads look like after not all that many years of non-vehicular use (hint: hiking trails).

I’ve been out on several group hikes this year, but this was the first time I really had a strong sense of any land spirits. The first time on a group hike, I wasn’t sure what might happen – would the spirits poke at me because they could tell I would be able to sense them, or would they all be quiet because of the group? I still have no idea why no one said “hello” on any of the previous hikes, or why this time was different.

There was a point along the trail where everyone was either well ahead of me or well behind, and I saw that the ground was covered with stones, or fallen wood, or both, and all of it was just covered with moss, there were few leafy plants. And I could feel that there were people there. It didn’t feel like a single spirit, but like a group. I acknowledged them, but didn’t feel inclined to stay longer (I’m nervous meeting new folks, and after I could tell they got my acknowledgement, there was no sense I should stop and chat), so I moved on.

There were a few other places – looking up from the water’s edge and admiring the tumble and flow of the icy water, and the amazing ice shapes on the rocks, and on the mosses as they draped down towards the water, a few trees, another smaller creek . . . I really noticed a lot of water today. Much of it frozen. There was a lot of frost, especially in the earlier part of the day, but I could tell where the ground had heavier pockets of moisture because all the small plants nearby were rimmed with delicate, but dense, clusters of frost crystals. And the formations where there was flowing water were just fantastic!

I don’t know how much was my attitude and how much was the land, but it felt like a friendlier, more welcoming place, than other areas I’ve been hiking (none of them have felt -hostile-, and I can’t say I’ve felt anything but happy to be in any of them . . . so maybe I was picking up on something about the area). Maybe it was just reacting to my appreciation of the landscape, or the group’s general attitude towards the previous poor uses (well, and some current bad use: there was a fair amount of trash, and one place where two very large Western red-cedars had been horribly mistreated, with several square feet of bark hacked off).

I had some good talks with a couple of the other people on the hike, mostly about landscape restoration work. I don’t know where that train is going, either, but I keep doing little things to advance that cause, and complaining a lot about how I don’t know where it’s going, etc.

Land spirits.

I like them.

I don’t know what any of them want, in the long-term.

The land spirit I grew up with showed up the other day – that was a surprise. He (the image I got appeared male) wanted to know when I’d be coming to visit again. . . . I swear. My mom wants to know this all the time. Now I’m getting the “I miss you when will you visit” from the land spirit, too. (The land spirit I know best out here shows up fairly often these days, too, which really surprised me the first time, because I figured land spirits wouldn’t go visiting very far from their homes. Well, I guess they can reach out other places if they feel like it.)

I like them. But it can be a bit unnerving. They are very different, in general, from dealing with deities, which becomes more obvious once I’ve had more than a few conversations with any one of them. It’s so very disconcerting to really, really feel like I’m dealing with someone who is really not human, and has very different cultural values and approaches to the world and etc. I don’t want to cause the equivalent of an international incident, but I have fucking no idea what sorts of cultural protocols to keep in mind, other than the most very basic “be respectful” kinds of things, like “don’t litter” and leaving offerings and things. (The land spirit I know best has taken on something like a teacher role, in part, though I don’t know how much is for my own long-term use and how much is so I can use these things for . . . whatever it is -she- wants out of the relationship.)

It’s so very strange.

I don’t know, most of the time, what I am meant to do with the items I bring home – some are clearly tools (not that I have taken much of a look at several of them) – but, like, should I reach out and say hello more often, more intentionally? My home land spirit showed up when I got to tending the land spirit altar. I’d barely even touched the space and then I could tell someone wanted my attention, I tried to leave the room twice to get things, but I’d get my head “buzzed” when I got near the door, and when I sat down and asked who it was, I got his name. So okay then. I guess it can work like that.

I put today’s tree piece on the altar – now what? Should I do some divination to find out wtf the plan is here?? Drawback: I might need to Do Something. But would it be rude to put that off? How long can I put it off before it becomes excessively rude? Maybe I’m not meant to do anything, and someone from that place will just show up some day, “remember me? HI.”

I have so much going on. I want to know, but I don’t, because then I’d feel obligated to Do Something, because I have a work ethic that gets in the way of not taking too much on.

Part of me feels like, I’ll do divination, and it’ll be clear that I’m completely off-base about any/all of today’s events, that it was Loki nudging me here and there, not any land spirits, and then I’ll be annoyed but move on – but the other reason I am nervous of doing divination is that it will fucking confirm things.

*eyes altar* *looks to runes* *looks away* Crisis averted.

30 seconds later: *cursing curiosity*

Well I guess that’s staying where it is.

(I am also remembering how Loki told me, after the coast spirit first said hello, “Now that they know you’re here, this will happen more,” and I scoffed because I thought He was winding me up. And then a human person told me the same bloody thing, not knowing what Loki had said. And now this.)

One of the most distressing thing about this whole situation (situationS, plural?) is that I don’t see many people writing about working with land spirits. I’ve seen some good posts out there recently, but largely, everyone I interact with is more deity-focused. And, to a large degree, I am, too; while the one land spirit shows up several times a week, most of my focus is on Loki.

I don’t know if I haven’t looked in the right places, or if this is one of those kinds of things where, once people get deep enough in it, they don’t write about it.

I’ve seen a lot of other Lokeans write about how they don’t feel like they have much in common with other Lokeans, how it’s not really a community in the sense of really sharing a religious practice/tradition, and this is something I’ve thought often myself, because when I look at what’s going on, spirit-wise, in my life – yes, Loki’s the main focus, but in the bigger picture, most of the deities I honor here are Jotnar, and most people I know online are more Aesir or Vanir-aligned – and then throw in this whole land spirit piece, which seems like a fairly major, long-term thing, whatever it even is (though who knows, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s all fairly temporary, I don’t even know that), and suddenly I have very little in common with other Norsey people.

I don’t like feeling isolated and lonely like this. As much as I’m an introvert, it’s distressing to have no one to talk with about this at all.

No one human, anyway.

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About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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6 Responses to Always room for another

  1. Tom says:

    /The land spirit I know best has taken on something like a teacher role, in part, though I don’t know how much is for my own long-term use and how much is so I can use these things for . . . whatever it is -she- wants out of the relationship./

    Why can’t it be both? I mean, clearly she wants something from you, but you can also learn from it as part of your own personal thing that you can use in other interactions. Relationships in general can be translated between different kinds.

    I don’t do a lot of intentional work with land-spirits myself (unless you count fictional land-spirits, which is complicated for me to talk about), but that’s partly because the place I live in is one I’m trying to leave as soon as possible and it seems almost rude to form a relationship and then drop it quickly.

    The funny thing about Jotnar for me is that I kinda see a lot of them as really really big land-spirits themselves in a sense that somehow end up gaining a higher status of some kind. They seem to be more connected with the elements and land than other deities to be honest, so it makes some kind of sense to me. So I think about land-spirits a lot. I just don’t talk about it much.

    • Oh, it could definitely be a “both” situation. :| I am just, as always, frustrated by being unable to know more about the purpose/intent/etc. The techniques seem to be pretty basic sorts of “here’s how to make certain kinds of energy things,” it’s the application of them, the -why- she’s teaching me -these- things that I want to know. (I asked how to use the first thing, and the impression I got back was: ha ha go figure it out. As if I don’t get enough of that from Loki.)

      I haven’t tried contacting whatever land spirit is most local to me, like whoever has my yard, because I moved to my current place under the impression it would be a pretty short-term thing, and I had similar thoughts as you: why start a relationship when I might be -gone- in 3 months? (Now it’s been over 6 . . . and I feel awkward about it.)

      Yeah, the division between “big land spirit” and “deity” can be unclear if you’re talking about the resident spirit of a specific place. There are a few mountains here that the original tribes said exist because there were some gods fighting over a goddess, and -another- god turned the three of Them into these mountains. I think most of the Jotnar I deal with are concerned with universal/world-wide natural/elemental forces rather than specific places, which I suppose is part of what makes Them deities, though I know there are non-deity spirits of various kinds of non-place elemental forces, too.

      • Tom says:

        The deities and other entities I work with teach like that too, though I don’t find it particularly frustrating in my case because I like figuring out things on my own. Also I tend to enjoy learning things just for it’s own sake rather than for any kind of purpose. Usually they end up being useful in some way though. I just can’t predict how.

        (My gathering of knowledge about how weather and rivers work as a child seem to be helping out a lot now funnily enough.)

        I’m actually really familiar with the area I live in, more than I had realized before I started walking again, but I’ve lived here long enough in all honesty and I haven’t had enough spoons to really work at forming a relationship with the spirits around here.

        (Also the area I live in is…weird to the point that a fair amount of sensitive people avoid it. We also have a lot of ghosts.)

        I think in the case of Jotnar that some of them can start off as more local entities and as word of them spreads around of how they favor people, they can gain influence and territory. But that takes a long time and a lot of people and an environment that is more friendly to polytheistic thought. Then again, this is how I think a lot of deities became more well known by starting off as local or tribal entities.

        • I don’t mind figuring things out on my own, but I hate not knowing, like, basic things I would know out of other working-type relationships, like “what is the bigger picture here?” What do you /want/? What is the “job description” and what are the tasks? How am I supposed to know if I truly even -want- to do this when I don’t know what “this” even is?? (Throw in the bit where Loki is involved, and I am also often skeptical about whether the task is a real task vs. some part of a larger-picture process to work on me psychologically, and I hate feeling like I’m basically being strung along.)

          “I think in the case of Jotnar that some of them can start off as more local entities and as word of them spreads around of how they favor people, they can gain influence and territory. ”

          I’ve seen at least one person write about how some “land spirits” are spirits from Elsewhere that basically set up a residence -here- to act as the resident spirit-of-place, and I wonder how often that happens vs. the spirit-of-place being the/a native spirit vs. what happens when the spirit-of-place gains enough power to become deity-level. (And like, if the spirit-of-place is actually native to another realm – what happened to the original spirit-of-place? Was there none to begin with? Did it die? Move on to let someone else come in? Get displaced?. . . ????)

  2. HAwen says:

    I agree. Heathen Hearth did a great piece Animism and Heathenry in the last ABC asking where the land wight relationships went. As an animist and polytheist I personally find it easier to connect to Deities when inside as opposed to land spirits. I don’t know how many Neopagans actually interact with outside their home/head.

    • That sounds like an interesting read! I know some Heathens I’ve read had said that the relationships with your ancestors and land wights -should- be of higher priority, or occur more often, than relationships/worship of the gods, but I haven’t seen many of them writing about what those relationships are actually like. :|

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