If we look at the story of Chernobyl from a shamanic perspective, we can’t help but be aware of the incredible human trauma that took place there and continued to be held by the earth in an imprint of fire, fear, rage and hatred. An imprint in the land will recreate cycles or patterns in the area that replicate aspects of the original trauma. This is similar to how trauma affects humans. A spiritually wounded person repeats patterns throughout their life that recreate the original trauma until healing of the trauma has taken place. For example, a woman who was physically abused as a child may in her adult life repeatedly choose partners who abuse her. In Chernobyl the imprint created an imbalance of the element of fire. Without any healing or intervention for the land, building a nuclear reactor on top this place literally added fire to fire. As a healer with a deep connection to the earth I have become acutely aware of how the earth is holding these imprints and the tremendous need to return balance to the land. If a place holds trauma, that imprint directly impacts those who live, work or interact with that place. To heal ourselves, to find peace and to create wholeness we must also heal the earth, these imprints and our relationship to the land. Here are some examples of how imprints manifest and show up as patterns in the landscape. There is an imprint when:
A specific place on a highway or at an intersection repeatedly has one fatal accident after another.
A building or home has an unusual, chronic history of fire or lightning strike.
A neighborhood in a city collapses under a repetitive cycle of crime and violence.
A region has been at war or under siege for decades or centuries and no peace seems to come.
A house has been used for ritual abuse or violent acts and anyone subsequently living in or passing through the house feels emotionally ill or angry.
Human activity on the land leaves not only a physical imprint but an energetic imprint as well. Human activity (both physical and energetic) done in harmony with the land maintains the sacred balance of place and can actually raise the vitality and carrying capacity of the land. The earth has an innate intelligence and is a complex living organism woven with an energetic matrix of vortexes, ley lines, energy fields and multiple dimensions which all work in harmony to support and nourish life. Earth healing is the co-creative process of working with the natural world and the divine to balance the earth’s energetic matrix and heal the heavy imprints left from unbalanced human activity. Here are some examples of land or places that need healing:
Land that appears unhealthy or has been damaged by development, human interference and neglect. For example, dumps, quarries, logging, poor land management.
Land that has an elemental imbalance (i.e. too much fire, water, air or earth energy). For example, a place that has a history of frequent fires or water damage.
Locations where violence or accidents repeatedly take place.
Places or homes that feel cursed, haunted, have heavy energy or bad karma.
Sacred sites, power places, vortexes or ley lines that have been dormant or disrupted by human activity.So how does one approach the complex issue of healing the spirit of place? Land healing combines physical intervention as well as spiritual intervention in the realm of the Middle World. The Middle World is where Spirit meets matter. Or another way of saying this, spirit from Father Sky above and matter from Mother Earth below converge in the Middle World to create the miracle of life.
The Middle World is the place where power is and where manifestation is made real – and where all realities, both beautiful and horrible, can be created. That power is very attractive and seductive and draws to it energies of all types. We live in a culture that has become unaware or careless about our correct use of power. In shamanic traditions true power is about balance and surrender to Spirit. In most Western cultures power is perceived as “power over” people or things. We have stepped out of living with the earth in a state of balance, shared power and reciprocity, or as the Q’ero of Peru call it, ayni. This abuse of power has created a tremendous amount of “spiritual pollution” in the Middle World in the form of ghosts, curses, and imprints in the land. Many people who have studied core shamanism are familiar with journeying to the domains of the Upper and Lower worlds. But in order to do earth healing we need to map and understand the cosmology of the Middle World – the spiritual level of the terrestrial plane. First we must understand the earth herself. The earth is constantly moving toward balance and harmony. From a tiny ant to a giant earthquake, everything that happens is a part of the weave of life moving toward balance, following a specific blueprint of creation. For example, a tsunami is the result of a shifting and re-balancing of displaced water created from displaced earth (an underwater earthquake) which was itself created by the tension being released between converging land masses. In a sense this is the earth healing herself. When something is excessive, it is responding to an equal imbalance that is simultaneously occurring. We cannot fathom the complexity of the earth system, for there are checks and balances actively working all the time. These need to be honored, even if their purpose is beyond our understanding or comprehension. As modern society has become more separated from the earth, humans have taken a self-centered reaction to nature’s balancing, almost as though it was a personal affront. Too many ants, a destructive tornado, abundant wildfires! We must move out of this self-focused perspective, step back and look at the big picture. A shaman knows these are messages and sees these events as signs offered by the Mother to be divined on because something is out of balance. There is a call being sent out to restore and heal some aspect of the land. In mapping the cosmology of the Middle World, there are two main categories of energies to be worked with – spirits and fields in the landscape. Spirits are energies that have an individuality and personality. They are more likely to have a voice of sorts and communicate telepathically in some form. The undine (a water elemental) of a bubbling spring may communicate a request to remove an obstructing stone. The spirit of an office building will have a distinct personality related to the history of that building. In comparison, fields seem to be devoid of a voice or personality, yet they emanate a unique quality which can be strongly felt and experienced. A mountain peak may have a quality of power and exhilaration. A vortex may have a quality of intensity or disorientation. Spirits and fields are layered upon one another, interwoven like a holographic image. The spirit of a mountain may communicate a message to you, yet simultaneously you experience the quality of its field which may be wisdom and power. All landscapes, both urban and wild, are comprised of this matrix of spirits and fields. These energies play a defining role in the balance or imbalance of a particular place, and understanding them is crucial to determining an intervention of healing. A series of more detailed definitions follows.
Spirits of the Terrestrial Middle WorldEntities, ancestors, ghosts: Discarnate humans (sometimes referred to as suffering ones) trapped in the Middle World, confused, lost or waiting to return to their proper place. Many cultures believe that when a person dies a part of their soul or spirit which has a consciousness and personality returns to the earth or to the divine. If this spirit does not return to its proper place, it may become caught in the Middle World, drawn to visit and stay in the places where he/she once lived (haunting) or attaching in some way to a living person (possession). Often unfinished business, such as an attachment to loved ones, unhealed grudges, or an improper funeral, keeps the spirit earthbound. Shamans from many traditions had ceremonies to take care of the dead. These ceremonies were done to heal and send the ancestors on to their proper resting place. The Tamang shamans of Nepal believed that the presence of the untended dead brought strife and problems to the living of the village. Energies (non-human): Often confused with ghosts or entities, energies in this context are a presence that was not ever human. These are demons and curses that may present as a menacing apparition. They can manifest as a spiritual possession or the haunting of a place and frequently have a distinct personality which is why they are often confused with ghosts. They can be created collectively by a group consciousness such as a satanic cult, by sorcery or by a repetitive destructive behavior (a torture chamber in a prison). Negative thought forms can create these demons by obsessive preoccupation with a particular thought or belief system. Imagine an abused child repeatedly told they are stupid or ugly. As an adult this individual may become obsessed with fears of their intelligence or appearance. This thought form begins to take on a life of its own, creating a spiritual possession in the form of a demon who perpetuates the voice of abuse. If this person dies, the demon may remain earthbound, haunting a building or place, affecting those who reside there. Energies are created by humans, but they are not human. Guardian spirits: Years ago I watched a lecture with an archeologist who worked to identify ruins that were uncovered at construction sites. The government required such findings to be investigated and construction to stop until the nature of the site was determined. A shamanic student himself, this archeologist discovered that native sacred sites tended to have a protective guardian spirit that presided over the area. These guardian spirits played the role of keeping out those who should not be there when a sacred site is disturbed. In essence, they protected the integrity of that sacred place. A guardian spirit may be present when odd mishaps occur that interfere with human disruption to a place that was a sacred site. Guardian spirits are created, or called forth, and placed on the land by the original human keepers of the site. Spirit of place: Every place has spirit or a spirit of that place. This is a naturally occurring energy that oversees the life force of a building, office, pond, farm, house, city and many other things. Guided by the overriding principal of balance and harmony, the spirit of place might be seen as a guardian angel whose charge is a location. Elemental beings – the wee people (nature spirits): Elemental beings are the little people who inhabit our landscapes and by their natures are tied to a particular element (air, fire, water, earth). Pixies, dwarfs, nymphs and fawns are a few of the names we call them. Elementals are considered spirits whose purpose is to carry out the blueprint of growth and development of life. They are form builders. For example, a salamander, which is a fire elemental, will preside over a compost pile bringing heat in the form of microbes and organisms which break down the organic matter. Certain traditions believe that all living things take their form through the activities of the elemental beings. The bends and twists of branches in a tree have been guided by that particular tree’s fawn elemental. Elemental beings play a significant role in the health and well being of any environment. Devas and overlighting devas (nature spirits): Deva is a Sanskrit word meaning body of light. A deva is an intelligent energy that works in conjunction with the elemental beings in an overseeing capacity. They are not tied to an element like the elemental beings are but play an organizational role in the development of living things. The deva of cattail would, in core shamanic traditions, be called the spirit of cattail. This deva/spirit of cattail carries the blueprint of what the cattail is, how it grows and what purpose it serves, then guides the elementals on how to create the form of cattail. The devas do not create form but are responsible for the activities of the form builders. Devas oversee a particular species like field mouse, monarch butterfly or white pine. If we were working with an invasive species like kudzu, we would first communicate to the deva of kudzu to find out why it is present and what imbalance it is correcting before we would determine an intervention. Overlighting devas oversee a region or area for that species. Where an elemental may have responsibility over the growth of an acorn, the deva of the oak carries the blueprint of what oaks do and the overlighting deva may have responsibility for the entire oak forest. In some traditions the term overlighting deva overlaps with the term spirit of place. Devas relate more to forms of nature, while the spirit of a place can include man-made places and structures.
Fields in the LandscapeElements: The elements of air, fire, water and earth are all a part of the terrestrial and cosmic plane. Different landscapes or locations carry different proportions of each of the elements to be in balance. Elements carry a particular energetic quality and have a field of their own. A particular element may become dominant in a landscape where there is an imprint or energetic imbalance caused by trauma. Ley lines: Part of the matrix of geomagnetic lines that criss-cross the surface of the earth. These are naturally occurring channels on the earth which appear to be aligned to contours of the land, underground rivers, places of power, as well as in some cases an orientation to stars, solstices and equinoxes. They are the earth’s meridians through which electromagnetic energy travels. When ley lines are disrupted by the construction of a large building or structure, an unbalanced buildup of energy will develop. This may manifest in the form of an element imbalance, such as an abundance of electrical grounding problems in a building (fire). Ceke lines: Cekes (a Peruvian Quechua word) are human-created geomagnetic lines and meridians used to establish an energetic connection to sacred sites, places of power (huacas and pacarinas) and places of high energy. Ceke lines at times overlap with ley lines. Shamans create ceke lines through intention, ritual and invocations. The ceke lines connect shamans to power places and one power place to another. In the Peruvian cosmology, all power places are interconnected by this web of ceke and ley lines. Power places are located where two or more of these lines intersect. Shamans of Peru actively keep these ceke lines alive in order to read the pulse of the landscape. Cekes stretch like a spider web over the land, and the shaman is like the spider who can feel the vibration of the web being touched. Shamans will create a ceke line to redirect a blocked ley line so the energy flow of the landscape is balanced, not unlike coronary bypass surgery. Huacas (sacred sites): A huaca is a Peruvian Quechua word for a power place in the landscape. Huacas are the places where there is a convergence (or gathering) of kausay. Kausay in Quechua means the vital, essential living energy that animates the earth and cosmos. Its meaning is similar to prana in Hindu or chi (qi) in Taoism. Huacas are located where ceke and ley lines intersect. These power places naturally draw kausay in from the landscape or kausay down from above. Locations of heightened power have long been recognized by indigenous and modern cultures around the world as places where the veils between the two worlds are very thin and access to the divine is heightened. Some of these places are naturally occurring, like cliffs, dramatic natural formations, mountains or high promontories on the landscape. Others are made by humans. Their heightened power has been cultivated by the regular visitation of humans and the repeated use of ceremony to awaken the spirit of that landscape or location, such as with sacred sites, burial sites, effigy mounds, cairns, temples, synagogues and churches. Often sacred sites are built on huacas to intensify the spiritual powers of the site. Pacarinas (sacred sites): A pacarina is a Peruvian Quechua word for a creation power place in the landscape. Pacarinas are places where there is an emergence of kausay coming from the earth, such as at springs, caves, waterfalls and natural formations. Birth and creation energy has often been a part of many shamanic cultures. The ceremonial ritualizing of birth, death, rebirth and renewal has often been tied to caves and springs. Because of this connection there are also many sacred and religious sites associated with pacarinas. For example, in 1858 a girl named Bernadette reported visions of the Virgin Mary at a spring that became the modern grotto Our Lady of the Lourdes in France. This spring became known for its restorative and curing powers. Kivas, which are human-made, are the symbolic pacarina of a cave, a place of emergence from the Mother. Vortexes: A place where the energies of two or more ceke or ley lines converge to create the conditions of an energetic whirlpool. Vortexes are a spherical field of concentrated energy that flow in or out in the form of a torus (a three-dimensional doughnut-shaped surface) and originate from magnetic, spiritual, or other unknown sources. Additionally they are considered to act as a portal between the spirit world and this world. Vortexes typically exist where there are strong concentrations of gravitational anomalies and can create the sensation of bending and shifting time or space due to this convergence of energy fields. Vortexes can be used to accelerate the healing and clearing of a place or to receive an abundance of energy. Imprints: An embedded energy or energy field on the landscape created by a strong patterning of an event or activity. Imprints can be positive if they affirm and revitalize life force. Labyrinths, gardens, landscapes and even buildings that are created in a sustainable manner and with the guidance of nature spirits will create a life-affirming imprint on the land. Imprints will also manifest in a more negative form in places where repeated violence (a home where domestic abuse has taken place) or a violent event (a battlefield) has occurred. The imprint can manifest as an overabundance of one particular element (fire in Chernobyl), as a site of frequent car accidents, or as the deadening of a natural landscape from pollution and land desecration. Dr. Masaru Emoto’s incredible work photographing water crystals subjected to different thoughts and music is a compelling example of how energy (both toxic and positive) can imprint the element of water.
InterventionsHealing the spirit of place involves balancing imprints by actively working with the spirits and energy fields of the Middle World in a co-creative way to rebalance what is out of balance, to bring back energy and life force which has been lost, and to return to its rightful place heavy misplaced energies which have created havoc on the terrestrial level. Most places that require land healing usually need a combination of interventions for healing to take place. It is important to track the energy and get an overall picture of what has occurred. Traditionally shamans track to the source and origin of a trauma. To be successful with land healing one must unhook the energy from where it began, upstream at the source, not downstream where the problem has grown exponentially into a huge quagmire. By healing at the source, you begin to unlock and clear all the patterns that flow downstream and create the opening for a long-term transformation. If you do not tap into the origin of the issue you may not have as successful a healing, and the problem could recur because the source of the imprint is still intact. For example, if a house has a history of domestic abuse which has manifested in most of its inhabitants, you want to track to the first incident that created the pattern. If the original problem is that the foundation of the house was built on a murder site, this is the energy you work with. Trying to address the problem through each of the subsequent families that resided there does not heal the source and creates a lot of extra work. There are a number of different spiritual and shamanic traditions that have created healing tools specifically addressing different types of problems. The following are some of the interventions which play a role in the healing of place. Psychopomp: The conducting of souls into the light. If a location is haunted, a clearing in the form of psychopomp is needed. Generally these places can be experienced as having dark, heavy, sad, angry or depressing energy. This is an atmosphere which strongly impacts those living in or near the location. The field which is affected can be a house, a building or an area on the land like a battlefield. These are places where discarnate entities (human) are confused and trapped in the Middle World. Their spirits need to be sent to the light for healing. Terrapomp: The conducting of energies back to the earth. These are ghouls, monsters, curses and other negative thought forms which have taken on a presence and personality of their own. Many of the qualities experienced in a place that is haunted by an entity can also be caused by an energy. The presence of an energy in a place will influence people to behave in a way that is patterned by that energy. Peculiar bursts of violence, anger, fear, anxiety or a sense of inexplicable danger may be felt in these places. These energies are human created by manipulation of earth energy and life force and need to be neutralized by being returned the earth. Grief rituals: A location where there has been severe violence or trauma often holds a powerful energy of unexpressed pain, grief and agony. This must be ritually expressed in order to release and free any trapped energy of the living and the dead who are connected to the trauma. This ritual will often precede any psychopomp or terrapomp work. The unquiet dead need the energetic witnessing of their suffering to release their attachment to a place and move on. Grief rituals are a shaman’s act of loving witness to a place where the imprint of a terrible event has taken place. Transmutation/transfiguration: This involves transforming toxic energies into more life-restoring forms through light and transfiguring into the divine. By embodying the Divine, the energy of a place is changed and healed. Transmutation and transfiguration can bring into balance environmental toxins caused by pollution and negative thought forms. Sandra Ingerman’s powerful work of transmutation through the embodiment of light and the divine is particularly useful in this context. This work can precede elemental balancing, making a place more hospitable for the reintroduction of life affirming nature energies. Transmutation can also follow psychopomp or terrapomp work to replace heavy energy with Light. Soul retrieval of the spirit of place: While the earth herself remains powerful and strong, there are places on the earth that have lost life force and vitality. Since every place has a spirit, the absence of vitality in these places can be a sign of soul loss of a place. In this context, soul retrieval is about restoring an aspect of vital essence to the spirit of that place. Elemental balancing: Elemental balancing brings the nature spirits back to a physically damaged place. When a location on the land has been traumatized and appears barren from mining, logging or toxic dumps, the nature spirits have left or have no place to reside. In these cases the land must undergo some preparation and healing before the elemental beings can be coaxed back in. This requires spiritual and physical intervention to revitalize a place for it to become habitable. The spirit of the land may need a soul retrieval or transmutation work. A quarry may need some topsoil before new plants (and their elemental partners) can grow. By bringing the nature spirits of a place back you are restoring the kausay (life force) of a place into harmony. Energy field balancing: Energy field balancing restores the flow of energy through ley lines, ceke lines, vortexes, huacas or pacarinas. By creating and anchoring new ceke lines, places whose natural energy flow has been disrupted by construction or other human influences can be rerouted so the landscape’s meridians flow in a healthy manner. Element balancing: When a location has too much or too little of one of the four elements, it may need element balancing. This imbalance may appear as drought, recurring lightning strikes, or uncontrollable water seepage in places where the problem should not be occurring. Imprints of trauma or the blockage of an energy field can often be an underlying cause to an element imbalance in a place.
Questions to Ask Prior to Determining an Intervention for Land HealingIt is not the questions we ask, but rather the questions we don’t ask that lead us astray from tracking to the source of a problem in determining an intervention for land healing. Begin with some ordinary reality information gathering prior to journeying for spiritual information. It is extremely important to look for repeating patterns which will reveal an imprint. Do I have permission by the owner/primary resident of this place to do this work? Even if it is extremely obvious that a place needs help, to do this work on a place without proper permission is an abuse of power and will affect the integrity of the work. If the answer is no, the time is not right. What is the history here? Ask about the history of the place and people. What stories have been important and memorable about events in this place? What are the traumas? Where is there sadness or grief? What is the problem that brought you here in the first place? How long has this been going on? Does anyone know when this pattern or problem began? When was it first noticed? Was there a particular event of importance that happened before all of this started? What was that event? Has it always been there? If it has, is there a way to get older history of this place prior to its current residents? If no historical information exists, such as with a very old imprint, you can do a journey to the source of the trauma. How are people affected by this place? Is there a pattern to people’s response to this place such as sickness, fear, anger, depression, aggression or anxiety? Do people get physically ill here? How does it manifest? Is there an area where this response is stronger than other places? Is the response consistent or does it fluctuate by time of day, season or time of the year? Is there an anniversary factor – an event that happened that carries a potency for a particular date? Is there an overriding presence of an element (air, water, fire, earth) here? In a building look for an excess of an element that doesn’t seem to be related to faulty construction. For example, water seepage, weird drafts, electrical short circuiting, frequent fires (even minor ones, like in a wastepaper basket), lightning strikes, a bulging foundation. In nature, an element imbalance will usually cover a micro or macro region. Droughts, fires and floods will appear where they usually don’t exist. Beware of projecting your personal idea of what a healthy element balance may be for a region, the earth may be doing a natural correction which does not need an intervention. What is the physical condition and health of the place? Look around. Does the place appear to be in disarray? Do plants look healthy? Do animals look healthy? Do people look healthy? If not, why and how? Is there obvious damage that has taken place like burn marks from old fires or dents in a wall from objects thrown in a domestic fight? On the land are things growing well or are there telltale barren areas on the ground where chemicals have been dumped? What is the health of the leaves and the trees? Are there any birds or signs of animals? What is the energy of this place? Check your gut reaction. For lack of more descriptive words, does it feel icky or yucky? Is there fear, grief or sadness in the atmosphere? Does it feel heavy and suffocating or airy and disorienting? How strong are these sensations? Is there an area where the energy is stronger than others? Has this place been known to be a sacred site or is it next to a sacred site? This may require a little historical research worth pursuing if there are signs a guardian spirit presides over the place. Are there any ordinary reality circumstances that could be contributing to the problem? Sometimes the main source of a problem is a very ordinary one. If people in a large sprawling office building are continually getting sick and feeling cranky, it could be an overload of mold from air ducts that have not been cleaned in thirty years. Don’t become so enchanted by the spiritual aspects of healing that you overlook plain, everyday factors that may be creating similar symptoms. What are the repeating patterns that have taken place here? By this time in your line of questioning, you will notice repeating themes. Where there is wounding, there is a pattern of repetition. Explore the nature of these patterns and categorize them. Are they spiritual, physical, emotional, elemental or energetic? Is there a focal point where the pattern or imprint is strongest? The qualities of this imprint should have some similarities to the spirits or fields listed above. Use this to help determine what you are dealing with.
Diagnosis JourneysOnce you have gathered the ordinary reality information, you are ready to turn to the divine and ask your helping spirits to guide you toward a healing intervention. In doing this, it’s important to be in a state of absolute communion and clarity with your helping spirits. After all, they are the eyes, ears and voices that guide us through these spiritual domains. Here is the process:
1. Go to the spirit of the place. Ask the spirit of the place for permission to help with some form of intervention.
2. Ask if this is the right time to do an intervention (and if you should be the one to do this). If not, ask for what needs to be done first.
3. Go through the above questions both with the land spirit and your helping spirits to get a picture of what is going on.
4. Ask to be shown what type of intervention or ritual would be most helpful to heal the place in question. Make sure it is a ritual that you can realistically carry out. If it is beyond your abilities, do not agree to the ritual. Renegotiate how the ritual is done. Only agree to what you can do, and keep your promises.
5. Do not do a healing on a place that is going to be re-traumatized. For example, don’t heal a quarry if it is still being mined and excavated. Be ethical.
The healing of place is often a job too big for one person alone. Land, buildings and war zones are all huge energy fields that are best addressed by groups of people working together in group ceremonies. Each intervention for the healing of place will have the unique features that address what the particular needs of that place are. The nature of the rituals and ceremony, who is gathered, and the order of the work will largely be guided by Spirit. Including the owners, occupants or workers in the ceremony is important to the long term success of a healing. By directly involving those individuals who have been affected by a place in the intervention ceremony, the momentum of the healing increases because they have a personal investment in the continued wellness of the place. In addition, their ongoing presence, long after the ceremony is performed, helps anchor the healing which has occurred. Of course, one would only ask those comfortable with participating, but even one or two people will make a difference. If you are working in a group, make sure you have a strong core of experienced practitioners who can hold the energy of the group. If there are owners, residents or workers participating, take time before the ceremony to teach some basic concepts and create a comfortable level of understanding for those involved. After the ceremony allow processing time for the participants. Most importantly, listen to the guidance of your helping spirits. I often tell people that I believe the earth is very strong and takes care of herself. This prompted a friend to ask me, “Well, if the earth is so strong and can heal herself, then why do we need land healing?” Perhaps my answer surprised her. This isn’t simply about saving the earth, this is about saving humanity. The more we damage the land, the air and the waters, the greater a correction She needs to make to bring things back in balance. The more we poison the environments we live in with imprints of violence and destruction, the more we kill and destroy each other from the momentum of those imprints. If we refuse to come back into harmony with the natural world and treat all life with respect, the earth will shed us with a correction to the environment that will make it impossible for our species to survive. The Creator placed us here, not to have dominion over the earth, but to be stewards and caretakers of the earth. If there is any chance of saving our species we must return to our original promise of being caretakers.