In modern paganism, we are taught to honor the gods and the ancestors in our spiritual practice.
Over time we begin to forge a deep connection with our chosen gods. We learn their mythologies, energies, and stories. When we call them in our rituals and ceremonies they bless our space and give power to our magick. We build a personal relationship with that that cannot be broken. They are in our minds and hearts constantly. Whenever we need the aid of the gods and ancestors, we only need to call on them and they come to our aid. But what about the spirits of place? Who are those spirits and how do they benefit us?
The spirits of place, sometimes called genius loci, are the spirits that naturally inhabit the land or space where we work our rituals. When we hear a Native American Shaman refer to “the spirits” the spirit of place is one of those spirits that they are calling. The earth is inhabited by many spirits. We have spirits of the forest, the oceans and lakes, spirits in the mountains, and the spirits in the vast deserts. They take many shapes and forms and not all the spirits of place look the same. With each location, the spirit of place will look different. They may take human form, animal form, or a combination of the two.
So what is the benefit of working with the spirit of place? One of the major reasons we work with the spirit of place is we must honor the spirit’s natural habitat when working out door rituals. One would never walk into a stranger’s home and say, “Hi. You don’t know me, but I’m going to do a full moon ritual in your living room.” We have to give the spirits of any outdoor space the courtesy that we give anyone. Before doing a ceremony with my circle, I will often establish a relationship with the spirit of place before the day of the ritual. If I do not have time do go before ritual, I will certainly take a few moments to connect with the spirits who live on the land and give offerings.
Another reason to work with the spirit of place is that they will give you protection and guidance while you are working your ritual. Once the spirits understand who you are and what you are doing on their land they will do their best to make sure you are not disturbed. A usually busy park or forest preserve will suddenly stay quiet and not a soul will pass by. Likewise people strolling through will go out of there way to go around your ritual space.
The spirit of place can add strength to your ritual. If they are inclined, they will help open the veil that separates the worlds and act as an energetic battery giving your ritual much more power than usual. When you give the spirit of place offerings and recognition you will establish a relationship with them and they become a member of your circle; at least while you are in their space. Whenever I do not connect with the spirit of place I can feel their absence. Yes, they are still there observing you, but the lack of energetic connection and participation is felt. It’s as though a member of the family is missing.
So what if you try to establish a connection with the spirit of place and the answer is no? How this happens is when you talk to the genius loci, tell them your intentions, and give offerings and you get the very distinct impression that you can NOT perform your ritual in that space. If this is the case LISTEN! Yes, it may simply be the spirit does not want to be bothered and it feels that you are trespassing on its land. Other times, there are energetic and magickal currents at play and your ritual may disturb them. I have had experiences when the spirit of place told me that we could not do ritual in a particular area of the park only to find our later that there were crimes taking place there. Police lights and sirens are a sure fire way to kill any good ritual.
To connect with the spirit of place is very simple. First, you will want to bring offerings with you. This could be wine or mead, fruit, bread, milk, honey, or some sacred object. Go to the ritual site and take a few moments to connect to the land and the natural environment. If you are in a wooded park, connect to the earth, the trees, and any nearby water formations. If you are in a desert location, connect to the earth, the rocks, the winds and life nearby. Open your heart chakra and reach out to the local spirits. Open yourself up enough so that the spirits can “scan” you. When they do this they will know your intensions are two honor the land and the stars. Allowed or silently, ask the spirit of place to allow you (or you and your circle) to perform your ritual. Wait a few moments to receive an answer. If you feel that the answer is yes, leave the offerings and proceed with ritual. If no, find another space and try asking again.
Once you receive the go a head to perform your ritual, give the offerings and spend a few moments connecting with the spirit of place. Close your eyes and try to see what he/she looks like. Ask a few questions about them if it is appropriate and allow them to ask you a few questions. Establishing a relationship with a spirit is similar to establishing relationship with a living human. It’s really not much different. Some spirits, just as some people, are more talkative than others. I have had many spirits give me permission to do ritual, but really did not want to talk much. This is completely fine. Sometimes they will open up more the more they get to know you.
This simple technique can be used to connect with any outdoor spirit. I personally do this every time I’m in new and unfamiliar place. It is interesting to me how different the spirits are place to place. Spirits on the ocean coasts feel completely different than those in the mountains. Once, when I was in the mountains near Palm Springs, I was connecting to the spirit of the place when I discovered the spirit of an ancient shaman. The shaman told me that he had been banished to the mountain by his tribe because he had fallen in love with a girl promised to someone else. He had enchanted all the flowers in the area to make her think only of him when she smelled their fragrance. When the chief found this out, he tribe’s council banished him to the mountains. There he stays echanting all women who come by with the magickal fragrance of the flowers. By connecting to the spirits of place you will be embodying one of the core spiritual practices of the ancient pagans-the act of connecting to the earth and its spirits in a deep and profound way.