Shamanic Practice Outdoors
Making offerings is a valuable part of building a relationship with the Spirits of the Land where you live. Everything has an energy signature. When you give an offering, you are giving energy. If you are out in the countryside eating a flapjack, you might break a piece off and leave it as an offering. This differs from putting food out for the birds because of your actions and intentions. The energy created by your actions and intent changes if, when doing this, you were to say a prayer to Mother Earth, and state that you are giving the food as a gift of love to your brothers and sisters, the animals and birds. Your intent is passed on in the form of energy with the gift. Of course, you could also do this when putting the food out for the birds!
You may choose to leave a gift for the Nature Spirits in the form of a crystal which you have held long enough to imbue with your energy, your love, appreciation and gratitude. This is especially nice to do at sacred sites or places with a particular meaning to you. You may address the Beings of Place at the site as you give your gift.
Offerings can be much more elaborate and involve ceremony. In the past, I have studied and practiced in the tradition of South American Shamanism, and I still love to make Despachos. These offerings are made to honour the Spirits of Place in Nature and show gratitude. Sometimes they are used for specific purposes. I have adapted the way I make them to incorporate a British focus, using British plants and symbols. Make the offering in Sacred Space after invoking the Wheel of the Year. Gather everything you will need before you do this.
Start with a piece of white paper, at least A3 size, tissue paper is good, but use several layers so that it does not tear. Lay it flat and everything you add is laid upon it. Every item you add is done so with focused intention and a prayer of offering, if only with a word or two. First, a half-shell is placed in the centre, like a bowl. This represents Feminine energy. Then place a cross over or in the bowl of the shell. Place the horizontal line first, this is ‘Water’ and Feminine energy, and the vertical line is ‘Fire’ and Masculine energy. Use stems, twigs, etc., for this. The cross also represents the four directions. Now you make a circle of leaves around the edge, but inside the paper. In South American despachos, there are eight groups of three leaves for Mother Earth and twelve groups of three leaves for the Masculine Spirits of the Mountains, or Father Sky. In Britain, I use Sage leaves. Each leaf is placed with care and a strong intention. For every group of three leaves, hold it up and use your breath to breathe in your prayer or intention. Place the leaves moving clockwise around the circle. I usually make my offerings with four groups of three leaves, for each of the three moons and gateways in each of the four directions of the Wheel of the British Year. Next you will add flowers. Traditionally, red flowers are offered for Mother Earth and white for the Masculine Spirits. Other colours are fine, however. From this point, what you add is up to you. Consider whether it is your intention to burn or bury your offering. As you place each item, breathe your intent into it, say a prayer and be mindful of the reason you have selected it. Here are some ideas:-
White cotton for clouds.
Coloured threads or wool for the rainbow.
Silver items for Feminine energy and the Moon, and gold for Masculine energy and the Sun.
Seeds, grain, herbs, tobacco, sweets, rice.
Alcohol. Water. Milk.
Crystals, small stones, iron-rich or magnetic rock in particular is powerful.
Feathers, animal fur.
Cut-out symbols or images you have drawn to represent your focus or purpose.
As you put your offering together, it is like creating a work of art. Think carefully about what you are doing and
where you place each item. Make the process of construction a meditation. The energy you use is a very big part of the gift you are creating. When you are done, ‘close the mouth’ by folding the paper
over. You may fold the bottom up, then the sides in, then the top down, or bring the four corners in to the centre. Then tie it closed with a red string or yarn for Mother Earth and white for the
Masculine Spirits, or any other colour for your own reasons. Hold the bundle to your heart and ‘intend’ your energy into it before offering it with a final prayer by burning or burying it. Burning is
good to send the energy upwards, and burying to send it downwards. Once you understand the principles, be creative, go with the heart and you cannot go wrong!
There are places within the Landscape that are a powerful focus of energy, that connect in a network with other sites. They are Landscape Altars. Make a Shamanic journey into the Under- or Upperworld with the intent to become a Landscape Guardian for such a place, and see which location calls you. As a Landscape Guardian, your role is to work with the energetic qualities of the place by means of visualisation, prayer and physical effort. You may pick up litter, plant trees or flowers, whatever feels ‘called for’ by the Nature Spirits at the site. Visit the site taking sounds (drum, rattle, bells) to raise the energy. Pray and meditate to strengthen the energy and imbue Nature’s helpers and workers at the site with power. Dance, sing, chant. Visualise Pure Divine White Light pouring over the site. Visualise a bubble of protection or invisibility if it is attracting the wrong sort of attention from others. Give offerings to the site, to the Overlighting Landscape Being, to the trees and plants, to the Nature Spirits, to the animals, birds, creepy crawlies and creatures of water. As Landscape Guardian, it is your job to keep the portal open and allow the Divine White Light to flow between the dimensions at this Sacred Altar within the Land.
It is not necessary to be at the site physically for all this work. Sometimes, we are called to be Landscape Guardians for a place when we live hundreds of miles away. So, set aside a time to enter into an altered state by breathing and relaxation, then visualise yourself at the site, raising the energy, talking to the Spirits of the Place, and doing all the things and more that you could do physically. Next time you go back to visit in the flesh, you will notice a difference.
You can work in a similar way with any place in Nature. By doing so, you will increase the energy and help Nature to flourish.
You may take your rattle or drum and go to any place where you feel the energy needs raising. Rattle and drum in the vicinity with the intent to clear the energy. This is useful to do at a place where something unpleasant has happened and to improve the vibrations of your local area.
For a Shaman, working outdoors is a must. All times of year and all weathers are embraced, they are all beautiful and have their purpose. You do not need to make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself, so go with the right clothing and gear. Sometimes, even in Britain, survival can depend on this wise approach.
You will need to consider privacy and discretion and comfort. You will not get good results if you are feeling edgy or unhappy or unsettled. There is a time and a place for everything!
At some point, the experience named ‘Vision Quest’ from the Native American practice may be considered. Even though we cannot be absolutely sure, I would expect this important process to have been a must for all Shamanic traditions, and therefore, likely to have been experienced by our British ancestors, possibly using caves and later in long barrows and chambered cairns.
This may start with a mini-version of one night, or be up to a week or more out-of-doors, experiencing Being With Yourself in Sacred Space. This is like a Shamanic Journey with knobs on! The only way to do a Vision Quest properly is under the tutelage and guidance of an experienced Shamanic Practitioner. There are a few such people around in Britain who offer it. Your teacher will spend time preparing you for your quest, helping to focus and hone your energies and purpose for the time you will spend alone with Nature and Spirit. The teacher will help to hold the energy of your intent whilst you are away on your own. And very importantly, the teacher will help you process and integrate the experience afterwards, and prepare for your return to the everyday world.
Helping Animal Spirits
Helping animal spirits is different from working with Spirit Animals. Spirit Animals are the animal archetypes you can meet and talk to on your journeys and they help you with your goals whilst travelling in the Otherworlds.
Animal spirits are the spirits of living animals that have died. These are sometimes encountered at the side of the road when an animal has been killed by a vehicle. Such a sudden death can be a shock for the animal, and it may still be hanging around and need some help to move on. When you encounter a dead animal, if you go to a still place inside yourself, you may ‘sense’ the presence of the animal spirit. It is usually in an agitated or confused energy state. If your sensitivity cannot detect the spirit, you might want to use this technique anyway, just to make sure.
There are different ways of doing this, but the intention is to help the animal spirit pass on. I like to send out a call to the Lord of the Animals. He is the Horned God, the Overlighting Spirit Being of the Animals, Pan, Cernunnos. He appears with stag antlers on his head. I then direct the animal to leap towards his heart chakra, and ‘see’ the animal doing so. Quite often, the animal does not have to be told, but goes straight to him. The animal spirit disappears into his body as though there is a portal to the other side.
You don't even have to be at the site of the dead animal to do this because you are using your mind and your solar
plexus (like manifesting in the section 'The Child - Secrets of Manifestation'). If you are in a car, zooming past the spot, it doesn't make any difference, just focus on the animal and call
the Horned One, as time and space do not get in the way of success.