Fae, Spirits and Elementals…oh my!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreetings, dear readers, this is my first post of 2014 and what better way than to start the new year than to jot down my thoughts on the Fae, Spirits and Elementals. I think I’ve probably written something about this topic before but for the life of me cannot remember, so bear with me. Of course there are many ideas about these three groups and I’m going to paint a broad picture of how they sit in my own belief system and from my own experiences with them. of course many of you know that I follow a shamanic path so perhaps my thoughts may be a bit different to your own but each person’s experience is individual and I truly believe there are no right or wrong experiences….they are what they are. So let’s kick off with The Fae (or faeries/fairies).

Who are the Fae?

First of all I’d like to clear one thing out of the way first. I do not hold with the idea that the Fae are tiny winged creatures. This is a Victorian notion and actually does the Fae a great injustice. The Fae are actually what is known as the Tuatha de Danann (pronounced Tootha de Danarn), or Children of Danu. Now, Danu is the ancient Celtic great mother goddess and is not tied solely to Ireland. In fact she is a pan-Celtic goddess appearing in many places. For example, she is equated with the Welsh Goddess Don, and in the Rig-Veda she appears with the same name Danu. The River Danube is actually named after her too.  However, in Ireland she appears as Danu, and her progeny were known as the Children of Danu or Tuatha de Danann who were the fifth group of people to settle Ireland having wrested it from the Fir Bolg (According to a theory proposed by O’Rahilly: the Fir Bolg are linked to the historical Belgae tribe, known from Gaul and Britain, and to the historical Builg of Munster). The Tuatha were highly skilled in magic and working silver and had four magical treasures – The Dagda’s cauldron, the spear of Lugh, the stone of Fal and the sword of Light. However, eventually the Tuatha were defeated by the Milesians and unfortunately they were banished underground to the Sidhe (prounounced Shee) mounds, or hollow hills. Here they diminished and over time became what we now refer to as fairies/faeries/The Fae. Nevertheless, it is important to note the word *diminished* here. This word can be used to describe being reduced in size, or in power. If you’ve watched the film Lord of the Rings you might remember the elf Galadriel saying “we will diminish and go into the West”. She did not mean reduce in size but reduce in power – the elves time in Middle Earth was over. So too with the Tuatha, whose time of rule was now over. So the Children of Danu now reside in the Otherworld, and are often referred to as the Sidhe, or the Fae.

Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan

Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan

All that is…is Alive

Now we come on to Nature Spirits – those spirits/entities that inhabit the natural world. In Greek mythology they are often called dryads, dyads and nymphs. However, in my view this is restrictive. Through following a shamanic path I’ve learnt that nature spirits abound EVERYWHERE and are not necessarily tied to a certain place (although they can be). Every plant, tree, lichen, moss, crystal, rock and pebble is a nature spirit, every river and stream, every volcano and marsh is one and contains many of them. Even that pot of mint or rosemary growing in your kitchen is a nature spirit; and for those of you who collect crystals, just think how many nature spirits you have in your house. Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, some nature spirits are connected with a particular place. In fact it’s impossible to quantify nature spirits because they are literally everywhere – as we shamans are fond of saying…all that is…is alive!

The Forest of Dean Gloucestershire

The Forest of Dean Gloucestershire

It’s all Elemental my dear Watson

Finally we come to the Elementals. Now my view of them is slightly different from that of Wicca, which sees elementals as the guardians of the elements air, fire, water and earth. In Wicca the elementals of air are known as Sylphs, those of fire are Salamanders, those of water are Undines and those of earth are known as Gnomes. Instead I rather see elementals AS elements themselves and closely tied to weather patterns, air streams, ocean currents and so forth. Moreover, elementals never work solitarily but always in connection with other elementals. for example clouds are air and water, water always helps earth, volcanoes are earth and fire, fire always has the help of air, water spouts are air and water. Although some weather patterns such as tornadoes can be pure air, earthquakes are pure earth but you’ll usually find one elemental working closely with another one. I like to see elementals as the great movers and shakers of life and they are extremely powerful as us humans know only too well.

The great elementals

The great elementals

 

References

O’Rahilly, T. F. (1946) Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Ellis, Peter Berresford (2002) The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends

The Three Kindreds

5446_576954122314584_224581038_nI’m not sure if I’ve written about this topic before, my memory isn’t serving me too well at present and, well, I’m too lazy right now to be trawling through all my previous posts, but I thought I’d write something about The Three Kindreds. In my spiritual path I honour these three kindreds; the Ancestors, the Green Clan and the Shining Ones. Who are they?

The Ancestors really speak for themselves don’t they; all who have gone before. My blood relatives certainly but in fact ALL who have gone before and passed over from this earthly material realm, whether they be human or animal. In fact to distinguish between humans and animals is rather a moot point for me because we humans ARE in fact animals aren’t we. If we share 98% of our genes with orangutans and chimpanzees then yes we are animals. I can’t really distinguish between related and non-related human ancestors because all are my ancestors as we are always linked in the web of life, all share a common ancestor and all share the same emotions, feelings etc. My ancestors are your ancestors and I honour them for their wisdom, their knowledge, their struggles, their hopes and dreams. The Ancestors guide me, teach me and protect me. In turn I honour them by giving them the gift of remembrance and a continuity with the living.

The Green Clan are all the spirits of nature in all their wonderful diversity; the Fae, plant spirits, tree dryads etc. Why do I honour these? Because they impart to me spiritual wisdom that is superlative in its nature – a different kind of wisdom from that given by the Ancestors. Tied to the earthly realm but not of it if you like. They help to break down the human ego, assist in right living whilst I am still on the material plane. In return I do my part in trying to live with consciousness and mindfulness.

The Shining Ones are those who have reached enlightenment, whether they be deities or bodhisattvas. Their wisdom, knowledge and protection is beyond human perspectives as they are not of the material. Their true gift is helping humans to live as spirits in human form, and not merely as humans who have a spirit. In my understanding and experience they teach enlightenment but do not give it; we have to do our part. However we can call upon them with all our hopes, dreams, needs and sufferings and they provide everything at the right time – which is not the same as ours, as they work on a completely different spiritual wavelength to us. However, of course we can interact with them and they wish us to do so. How do I honour them? Each has his/her own likes and dislikes, just as we do. It is only by close communication with them that I learn of these and this shapes my gifts to them – spiritual discernment is the key.

A is for Animism

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My first post for The Pagan Blog Project 2013 is Animism (from the Latin anima, meaning soul or life). It is true to say that I am an Animist, as I believe, and have had experience of, many things in the natural (and non-natural) world being en-spirited.

According to Wikipedia, Animism is:

The religious world-view that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Specifically, animism is used in the anthropology of religion as a term for the religion of indigenous tribal peoples, especially prior to the development and/or infiltration of civilization and organized religion.

Basically, Animism includes the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and the physical (or material) world, and that all things have a spirit or soul, whether they be humans, plants, animals, rocks, mountains, rivers, places and so forth. I would even go so far as saying that man-made objects have a spirit (as they have been formed from natural materials – and all is just energy, just vibrating at different rates). Moreover, Animism is not just specifically limited to indigenous tribes. Many established spiritual paths and religions also believe in some form of animism, such as Shinto, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Paganism. My Celtic ancestors certainly believed in animism. For example, The Elder Mother who en-souls Elder trees – you cut them at your peril!

So how does Animism work in my own life? Well, as a shamanic witch I’m well aware of how the spirits influence my own life. They help me to be aware of the web of life and how all things are interconnected; how there are no coincidences but instead meaningful events of synchronicity. Moreover, knowing that all things are ensouled helps me have more regard for this earth and my impact on it, a higher degree of responsibility for my environment and what lives within it. I also derive more pleasure and wisdom – a flower is not just a flower for my sense benefit but a living sentient being that I can communicate with. My friends are not just within the human species but with all species and entities – I am never alone! Animism has truly broadened my horizons, not just sensually but knowledge and wisdom also.

What can you see?

What can you see?

Daily Om ~ Spiritual Imprints

Everything in nature contains the memory of when they were created and vibrates with that life force.

Everything in the natural world leaves its mark on the earth. The Australian Aborigines, who have one of the longest continuous cultural histories of any group on earth, know this. Dreamtime, the spirituality and culture of the Aborigines, explains the origins and culture of the land and its people. In Aboriginal Dreaming, every meaningful activity, event, or life process is believed to leave behind a vibrational residue. Aborigines speak of the seed power deposited on the earth that all natural life brings forth known as jiva or guruwari. As plants leave an image of themselves as seeds, so too do the oceans, the mountains, and the smallest pebble. Everything in nature contains the memory of when they were created and vibrates with that life force.

“Dreaming,” in Aboriginal culture, is comprised of the knowledge, faith, and practices derived from the stories of creation and the history of Australia. Dreamtime ceremonies, rituals, stories, and drawings describe the time when humans, plants, and animals were created. Often referred to as the time before time, it was during Dreamtime that the ancestral spirits came to earth in human and other forms, creating rivers, lakes, hills, and deserts. When their work was done, the ancestral spirits became a part of the earth, changing into plants, animals, land, and the sky.

The places the ancestral spirits traveled and where they came to rest was told to the Aborigines through Dreaming. Aborigines know that they do not own the land but are a part of it and that it is their duty to respect and look after the earth. Aboriginal Dreaming acknowledges that the ancestral spirits still reside in the natural world and their imprints resonate everywhere.  The past is still alive and breathing today, as it will be in the future.

N is for Nature Spirits

I’m sure we’ve all heard of Nature Spirits, or perhaps some of us haven’t. Well, this post is written from my own experience with them over many years. to begin with I always believed in fairies, even as a little child. Although how I imagined fairies was a bit different from the traditional ‘view’ of them. I tended to envision them as more like elves (probably because I was totally besotted with Lord of the Rings from an early age). Anyway, fairies, elves and all manner of nature spirits have played a big part in my imagination for a long time. However, back then I really didn’t know what they were really like, or what their purpose was.

It was only when I first stepped onto the pagan path did I begin to really learn about Nature Spirits, but of course they are not affiliated with any particular spiritual path or religion…they just are! They’ve been here way longer than humankind. During my studies I learnt about the different ‘kinds’ of Nature Spirits, although in reality (or should I say non-ordinary reality) they are very different from how we humans portray them. We amuse some of them actually with our humanoid portrayal of them. But others are quite annoyed by the fact that we give them arms and legs…and even wings. However, most understand that we do this so we can make sense of them from our limited human perspective.

The wonderful thing about Nature Spirits is that they are available to all, no matter what our creed or colour. They don’t care about what spiritual path we are on as long as it’s one of enlightenment; whether Christian, Muslim, Pagan or Hindu…or whatever else. It doesn’t matter to them! They say religion is all just a human construct anyway and has no bearing on true enlightenment. However, they don’t pull their punches and they can become very dismissive of us if we refuse to ‘get it’ – presumably their message for us.

There are so many different kinds of Nature Spirits it is unreal! Well, actually it is real but you get my meaning hopefully. One way of trying to imagine it is to think of how many different kinds of human beings there are – well, it’s the same for Nature Spirits too. There are animal spirits, plant spirits, tree spirits (who I call the Standing Sentinels), spirits of water (lakes, pools, streams, rivers, the seas), spirits of stones and crystals (who I call the Stone People), cloud spirits, weather spirits…and I could go on and on. Each one has a particular purpose and remit if you like. You could even divide them into hierarchies of a type although I really don’t like to.

Devas are nature spirits but can also be those of the angelic realm. The word ‘Deva’ means ‘a being of brilliant light’ (from the Sanskrit); as their name suggests they have no physical form and are pure brilliant light. They are not interested in the material, base form but in pure co-creation and expansion of consciousness. They have an instinctive knowledge of cosmic patterns and relationships. They have memory and learn from past experiences. however, they are only interested in their area of work (their remit if you like). So, an Oak Deva is only interested in the growth and well-being of oak trees. A River Deva is only concerned with the flow and well-being of rivers and so forth. I guess you could call them the supervisors of the Astral realm. Each ‘thing’ in nature has its own Deva.

There are of course elemental Nature Spirits, spirits that inhabit each plant etc. But really to classify Nature Spirits is to do them a great dis-service and is actually missing the point because in their reality they all blend and merge for the harmony and enlightenment of everything.

So, what about my experiences with Nature Spirits. Well, I’ve learnt to highly respect these entities because if angered you will surely reap what you sow. Have we ever thought about WHY we are getting so many storms, unusual weather patterns etc? Maybe we are being taught a huge lesson but it is up to us to heed the warnings. Unfortunately, most of humankind, right now anyway, isn’t bothering to listen.

How do you see a Nature Spirit? Well, first of all it’s not that you can decide to see them – rather they decide whether to communicate with you. And it’s not really about seeing but about communication. Some people ‘see’ them, some ‘smell’ them, or ‘hear’ them, or sense them in some other way. But from my experience, it is always the Nature Spirit that decides how and in what form they appear or communicate. Sometimes they don’t want to be disturbed and nothing happens. Or you might get a gruff sense of ‘go away’. The best way to ‘attract them’ (although they’re there already) is to be still, silent and completely receptive. This can mean entering a meditative or trance-like state, or even playing some kind of musical instrument, like a flute or whistle. Whatever way you decide on, be open, let your heart and mind be open, be patient, be gentle and quiet.

There is no guarantee a Nature spirit will communicate with you and you cannot force it to. But if it does it is a beautiful and exciting experience. It might possibly have a message for you, or you might decide to ask it a question, although be prepared for an answer you might not have expected – remember they do not work on the human level of understanding. you might need to ask for clarification. Or, they may have no message at all but are just willing to join with your energy and vibration for a while. Have no expectations! Only be open to receive what is…what will be! However, after the meeting, if you’re lucky enough to have one, always honour the spirit by leaving some form of offering as a mark of respect. You may ask the spirit what it would like. One spirit I have communicated with, that of a Beech Tree in my local park asks for me to pick up litter around the area where the tree grows. Another asks for a gem of some kind and I usually carry a small stash of Moss Agate stones in my bag for this very purpose. All nature spirits have different ideas about offerings so be open-minded.

Finally, always remember that if you should be blessed with communicating in some way with a Nature Spirit, whatever kind it is, remember that you ARE blessed and be grateful. They can teach us things we could never imagine, and can help us more than we could ever know.

Daily Om ~ The Unseen World

Exploring the unseen world can be well worth your while as there are many gifts awaiting you there. Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, although this is a common way in which people deny the existence of spirit guides, angels, and other unseen helpers in our lives. However, anyone who has encountered such beings can attest to the fact that they do, indeed, exist, just as our breath exists, keeping us alive, even though we can’t see it. The wind exists, too, but we only know this because we feel it on our skin and hear it moving the leaves on the trees. All around us and within us are things we can’t see, and yet we know they are just as real as the grass beneath our feet.

What we see and don’t see may just be a matter of perspective, like the ladybug who sees the leaf on which she sits, but not the tree the leaf grows on, or the person sitting beneath it. And the person beneath the tree may or may not see the ladybug, depending on where he focuses his attention. Still, all of these things, whether seen or not seen by the person or the ladybug, exist in reality. Some people are more gifted at accessing that which we cannot see, but given an open and willing heart, anyone can tune into the invisible realm and begin to find their way.

Human beings have always done this, and it is only recently that we have fallen into distrusting the existence of what we can’t see. If you have lost touch with the unseen world, all you have to do is resolve to open your heart to its existence, and it will make itself known. Closing your eyes in meditation and visualization, or engaging the unseen through the written word, are just two ways to welcome the invisible back into your life. Whatever you choose to do, cultivating a relationship with that which you can’t see is a time-honored human practice that can greatly enhance your life.

K is for…The Three Kindreds

In my spiritual practice there are three groups, or kindreds, who are very important to me. These kindreds give me a structure to my life as I battle with my own failings and shadow side. They’re not always pleasant to deal with however, but they’re always constructive if I allow them to be. You see, the onus is on me to accept their help and guidance. This is something I am not always willing to do and when that happens things go awry and then I only have myself to blame.

Firstly, The Shining Ones – the deities that I revere. Mainly these are my patron deities of course; Brighid, Cerridwen, Modron and Cernunnos. However this group includes all gods and goddesses, not just from the Celtic pantheon but from every culture. The Shining Ones are within and around us but also transcend us. They guide us, teach us, protect and bless us. They can be harsh as well as benevolent depending on what we need to learn. However, with the harshness come blessings as long as we allow ourselves to be guided by them. The Shining Ones also provide a map for us within mythology and legend. So we can learn an awful lot from reading the stories of old handed down through the years. In my spiritual practice I ask for their aid, protection and blessings and in return honour them. This honouring takes the form of deep reverence and regular offerings. It’s a ghosti relationship, they provide what I need and I reciprocate. I guess some might call it a symbiotic relationship and in this way they are kept alive and active.

Secondly, The Spirits of Nature, or what I refer to as the Green Clan. Of course this includes plant and tree spirits, the Stone People (spirits of stones, rocks and minerals of all kinds) and nature, spirits of place but also animal spirits both domestic and wild. In addition I include Elemental Spirits and The Fae in this group also. All these are spirits with whom I have intimate contact, are my guides in this reality and in other realities also. They show me a mirror in which I see all my parts and they help me integrate them. This kindred, for me anyway, tend to be the healers. I think that Spirits will provide you with whatever you need to learn, so will manifest differently for each person. Oh yes, and they shape shift constantly. The Green Clan really keep me on my toes and alert me to my own complacency. They can be tricky so one has to tread carefully, and if you don’t appreciate them they’ll be gone in a flash. So how do I appreciate and honour them? Well it all depends on the particular spirit involved and I usually ask them in person while doing a shamanic journey. Their requirements can be quite weird I can tell you. One once asked for raw steak!

Last but not least, The Ancestors. This group not only includes my own blood relatives but every person who has gone before because to me we are all connected no matter whether we are blood related or not. After all we all share a common ancestor don’t we – the first humans. However, mainly I work with my own ancestors and paying off the karmic debt that has been accrued. You see a lot of my ancestors are in pain and through me things can be made right again. The Ancestors walk every step with me, feel everything I do. Through them I have come to be so I honour them for giving me life on this planet. Within them resides the wisdom of the ages and so they are a deep pool of knowledge and wisdom. I treat them with respect no matter what they did in this Earthly realm. It is possible to respect the person and not necessarily the deed. Humanity, I feel deep down, commands respect even though there are times when I despair of the mess mankind has gotten itself into and feel that the human species should just become extinct.

So, these are the Three Kindreds in my spiritual practice and although I’ve given them an order here, in fact the groups are no more or less important than each other. They have their different remits and operate differently in my life but they are equally as important.  Acknowledging the Kindreds in my life has given me over time a great sense of belonging. There are times when I feel incredibly lonely but then I realise that I’m not ever alone, not ever, and it’s usually at times like these that I’ve been neglecting the Kindreds in some way and need to reflect on what I’m doing with my spiritual practise. But I’ve found that if I’m honest with them and turn my attention to them once more, their forgiveness is available because they don’t operate out of an ego position like humans do, although they are very aware of how we operate. And at times we truly do exasperate them!