The wildness of the Devon countryside is perfect for invoking the powers of the Ancient British traditions for shamanic healing. With its old trees, clear rivers, rocky Tors, wild herbs, Dragons and portals to other realms, it is the perfect place to gather power and learn about shamanic healing and magick.
The British tradition of shamanism, healing and magick centres around tree spirits as the first guardians of the threshold between Worlds, which lead us to the Faerie worlds, and to Dragons. There are many other spirits found in the wild, which help on our journey of initiation and healing. Trees are easy to start with, as they are very communicative, and you don’t need to be able to see spirits to start with. In the British tradition, we use a system of 13 trees, each one guardian of the threshold at a different full moon, so we use a lunar year of 13 moons to open to their teachings and magickal gifts. This cycle closely connects with our cycle of conception, birth, maturing and death, and provides great healing to traumas and problems that occur on our journeys.
We start with Birch, the tree of conception. The soul can experience trauma at conception, if the parents are not in a positive state. This can block one’s ability to conceive new ideas. The Birch spirit can heal this and restore full creativity. Likewise, each tree spirit in turn can heal the difficulties that occur at different stages of our development. The Ash is linked to the intuition with which a mother guards her child. Rowan is linked to quickening. Alder connects with birth. Willow helps dreaming. The time a small child spends dreaming is an important part of its brain development, and disturbance in its dreams can threaten its life. Whitethorn supports the time of adolescent awakening to responsibility. Oak supports the maturing of the ego. Holly is known as a tree of sacrifice, as it supports a stage of inner change, when small goals are sacrificed to greater goals, male dominance to feminine intuition. Hazel supports psychic development. Blackthorn provides protection from any occult forces one may open up to. Elder develops wisdom. Yew prepares for death by making our spirituality more real.
In shamanism we have several ways of working with tree spirits. First, meditating under the appropriate tree. The most powerful and magickal way is to cull special healing wands, under the cooperation and guidance of the tree spirit. The spirit of a tree (called a Dryad) can sub-divide, putting a spirit into one branch, which it then guides us to cut and prepare. This small tree spirit is not like a child, but has all the wisdom and experience of its parent Dryad. This can be thousands of years old, as a Dryad is not limited to one tree, but grows and sheds trees like a snake shedding its skin. The livewood wand is then brought home to be trained. This is done by more experienced tree spirits that are familiar with human needs. My home is like a training college for new tree spirits, which tend to get excited and enter a period of learning as soon as I get them home. The training is to prepare them for human interaction. Dryads have great dominion on the astral plane, but don’t understand human limitations. Once trained, they are of fantastic help in shamanic healing, as they access forgotten memories, remove psychic parasites, evolve the soul and produce all kinds of deep and wondrous healing. The wands are used in Shamanic Healing sessions to aid regression, soul retrieval and healing of trauma.
It is actually very easy to learn to communicate with tree spirits, as this is something perfectly natural that has been forgotten. As you allow the tree spirits to heal and open you spiritually, your communication with other spirits naturally follows, as your spirituality and intuition come to fruition.
The next important spirit we find on Dartmoor in Devon is the Dragon. These are very real spirits, of great power, that help balance the earth, protect nature, help evolution and boost spiritual power in many ways. There are spots on Dartmoor which act as portals through which the Dragon’s breath rises. Using spells to raise this breath, it can be used for healing, or manifestation of one’s desires.
In nature, we can also work with the elementals. The spirits of air (sylphs), fire (salamanders), water (undines) and earth (gnomes). These elementals have an important role in feeding nature from the ethers, and can boost your vital energy, your mind, your spirit and your emotions.
As we connect with the sacred nature of the land, we also come into contact with Old Gods. When I have run secluded retreats in the forest, participants have made a very strong connection with various Gods and Goddesses. Some very old deities of the land, but interestingly, Norse Gods have also turned up. They seem to have made a home in our wilderness since our ancestors learned to invoke them. The Norse tradition has indeed got mixed into the Ancient British tradition of Shamanism and Healing. This also reflects in our use of Runes in healing.
The Gods and spirits also have a strong bond with the wild plants in our land. When understood spiritually, the real power of healing opens up. Apart from the physical healing provided by herbs, they also hold strong spiritual powers, which can be further enhanced by honouring the deity that guards them. This is often done by making offerings in the wild, and a traditional ritual called an illumination, in which candles are lit, lighting up the darkness of the forest. (Of course, one should never leave the candles burning unattended. Starting a forest fire would not build a good relationship to the spirits that live there!)
There are several ways to select a plant for its healing powers. First, the environment in which it has grown has caused it to develop particular strengths, which may be the very strength you need to get through a similarly difficult environment. For example, the pineapple mayweed grows most vigorously in gateways where it is trodden on. This can be very strengthening to those who feel constantly trodden on. The alfalfa grows a very deep root in order to find the nutrients it needs. This can deepen ones root to the earth, to make one more centred, and receive more energy from Mother Earth.
Another kind of spiritual energy plants can provide is what is called Orlog. This is a spiritual energy, more rarefied than the vital force, and is more linked to our emotional, mental and spiritual development. Often Orlog is translated as Karma, but we do not view it as a system of reward and punishment. Rather, it is the development of positive energy and conscience, which gives you the clarity to better manifest your dreams. Positive Orlog produced by good and noble actions was called Hamingja. This energy can actually be borrowed from plants, to help boost our positive energy, release karma, and thereby heal disease. Compare this with the use of Bilva leaves in Hindu rituals to remove karma, or psalm 51 which says “cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean”. Hyssop is a plant we can use to release shame and guilt.
One useful tool that brings all these powers together into a workable system is the practice of Runes. In the Shamanic Healing Course we teach these through body postures, that also correspond to kinesiology muscle tests, which enables these muscle tests to be used to test the integrity of the runic energies in us, which shows us where spiritual strengths are lacking, where there is still trauma to release, as well as the health of the body. For example the Ken rune posture corresponds to the muscle test for the Stomach meridian. Weakness here usually shows emotional overwhelm, and often goes back to overwhelming events in puberty. The traditional poem for this Rune says:
A sixth one is mine: Should a warrior hurt me
With the roots of soft wood;
This warrior who awakens the hate within me
Shall be struck before it gets me.
This rune signifies the strength to prevent that overwhelm, the quickness to stop problems before they overwhelm you. It is essential to call this power in, in order to heal overwhelm, where faith in oneself has been lost, if one is to completely heal the effects of this. Channelling runic power, amplified by the appropriate tree spirit, during shamanic regression can produce dramatic healing in the patient, and produce positive transformations that would normally take years.
I explain the Runes and their use in shamanic healing and magick in greater detail in Healing through the Runes.
My next shamanic healing training in Devon is “Tethatu Shamanic Healing Shamanism Training” a ten weekend course starting 14 -15 September, 2019.