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In Praise of My Land

I sleep in the belly of the mountain: mount Beacon, whom the Native tribes here once called Mattewan. His eyes are old and wise, this great dragon of the mountain, and he has seen eons of human folly tumble past. Once he was the glory of this valley, he and his brothers and sisters; now he is crawled upon by tourists and hikers who don't even bother to learn his true name. he doesn't seem to mind though. I think he likes people. He's friendly and being of mountain etin stock, I can tell you that's not always the case with mountain spirits. I've met mountains, these ancient memory keepers, whose power, ferocity, and grim anger at man has driven me to my knees. They're right to be angry. 

Mount Beacon, for all his age, is kind to those who seek him out. He honestly seems to like people. I carry his bundle and when chance arises, as it often does with spiritworkers, I introduce him to other mountain spirits. I give other spiritworkers a token from his bundle to take to their mountains, to facilitate the connection, and they do the same for me in return. We tell our mountains about their kin in far away places. We facilitate the connection. This is what our ancestors did and its time that communication between powers was fostered again. 

I gift him often. I"m not able to ascend his peak. I am far too injured for that, but he does not mind. He accepted me as bundle carrier anyway. I sleep in his watershed and from my bedroom window, I can see his peak. There are lights there, some remnant of a trolley that used to run to the top of the mountain. Those lights wink at me. I love this mountain. 

I live in the Hudson Valley, in a little town called Beacon. Lady Beacon is very, very gracious. She has given me a home, nestled on the bedrock her mountain companion extends. She has welcomed me and this town is my haven. It's an intensely creative town crawling with artists of every stripe. She likes that energy and that energy nourishes and inspires me. I've grown so much more creative in so many unexpected ways since moving here and this, I think, is one of her blessings. She looks after me and helps me navigate an every day world that is often confusing. 

She had her hundredth birthday this past May, just a few weeks back. I bought her flowers--the biggest, prettiest peonies i could find in the most glorious shade of pink, and good wine, and food and laid a feast for her behind my house. The town gave her a parade. I honor the spirit of New York City too because I lived there for 16 years and he has been very good to me. I've not had much direct contact with the spirit of New York State.

There are five cemeteries equidistant to my house that I tend. As an ancestor worker I really had no choice. They called to me. One is rather snooty, and i do little else than lay the occasional offering there. They're not the most welcoming of folks. One right next to it is mellow and calm, well tended with a section for military veterans. As a shaman, I speak for the military dead so I go there a lot. One Samhain, i visited and this old, old lady, someone's great grandmother--or her spirit at any rate---was grinning proudly at the huge plastic jack o lantern of candy her descendants had given her, propped with decorations against her headstone. It was cute. This cemetery needs very little tending. The only thing I usually do is visit and make offerings to the military dead---they could get more than they do from folks now, but all in all, it feels good. It's a mellow, sleepy place.

The third cemetery is huge and there are a couple of rambunctious souls there. they are trouble makers and i like them a great deal. The same goes for my favorite cemetery--there are some talkative guys there and we often hang out. They're allies and friends. the final cemetery is a pre-civil war African American graveyard and i am not the only one in my town working it. There's a wonderful hollow tree right in the middle of it and what that tree has seen! let me tell you, i've seen the remains of some hefty charms in its cavernous belly. There are many spirits that hover there sometimes, and the cemeteries themselves have land-spirits, genii loci that are quite aware.

There are things I don't like about my landscape. The ticks here are rampant and it's ground zero for Lyme disease. Everyone worries about it. The spiders are huge and though my partner is allied with spider, I am terribly arachnophobic and living by the water and woods as i do, I am frequently given cause for terror as they seek shelter in my home. The abundance of deer and lack of large predators make the deer an absolute menace to drivers. 

still, i love that there are foxes about, if one looks hard enough (I saw one once with two kits), and skunks, and other little critters. the raccoons are fierce and the groundhogs the bane of every gardener. Once we had a moose wander down from up north- looking for love in all the wrong places--and a couple of towns over, in a more rural area, there are bears. My little god daughter lives in hope of one day seeing a bear. So far, her hopes have been vexed. 

We're in high summer here, which means it's hot and humid and nasty. I really detest summer. I talk constantly about the oppressiveness of green. Everything is green, varying shades of green. the flowers are lovely, there are bees and butterflies everywhere and I like that. It's just the heat and the unbroken green that bothers me. Autumn is my time, when the days turn grey and the nights turn chill and the land breaks out in a riot of rich color. I have been contemplating beekeeping. I have a local friend who might teach me. Winters are hard here but lovely. The Gods of ice and snow use my part of the world as Their ballroom and they dance and dance. Winters are breathtaking here. Frost is an artist extraordinaire and this land is no stranger to His genius.

I don't do much work outside, but I grow mint and mugwort, an assortment of flowers, and various healing herbs. I pour out offerings to the land regularly, and to the spirit of my home. I have lilacs that are only this year starting to bloom properly. They give me such joy. My grandmother loved them and they remind me of her and the rare pleasant moments of my childhood. I have a butterfly bush for my god-daughter and it lives up to its name. Hemlock, rose of jericho. a small japanese maple, and too much forsythia mark my territory. I'm going to be planting roses soon. I love them and associate them with Sigyn. My friend Mary ann, who loves to garden, is going to help me. She doesn't fear spiders. 

Fishkill creek runs behind my house and this is a mighty river spirit. She flows into a magnificent waterfall about half a mile or so from my home. My house sits on an outcropping of bedrock, and more nimble folk than I can run down to the creek bed to make offerings right at her shore. I treasure her waters.

We're in the waning moon now. We just this past Sunday and Monday had a glorious, absolutely glorious supermoon. I honor a moon God Mani and He is lush and sensual, intoxicatingly beautiful, and I adore Him. Going outside and seeing that blazing golden moon hanging so very low in the sky took my breath away and more than once I found myself dropping to the ground in prostration.

I don't know what else to say. This is my place, the land upon which I live, the spirits which are my alliances to tend. This land nourishes me. It feeds me and keeps me going in ways I have no words to describe. I am rooted here. 

 

Tell me about the places you love and the places you're rooted. Tell me about your land and all the spirits that live there. 

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 Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, author, and Northern Tradition shaman. She holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is currently working toward a PhD in Classics. Galina is the author of several books including “Essays in Modern Heathenry” and “Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi.”
(Photo by Hudson Valley photographer Mary Ann Glass.)

Comments

  • Brandie Flowers
    Brandie Flowers Friday, 28 June 2013

    This is something I am currently working on. I am not really rooted as of yet anywhere. So I am doing my best by things. Learning the likes and dislikes and what they want. Learning to 'listen'.

    Thank you for the words. You give them hope you know. :) Keep up the wonderfully good work you do.

  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider Friday, 28 June 2013

    The land I live on is in the middle of everything but nestled near to farmland. Behind us is a great expanse of land, and we have several trees, including box elders, maple, mulberry, and a young oak my Dad planted when we first moved in. Wild grapes grow along the back of our property along the fence, and we have two gardens, one big and one small. We have two asparagus patches, one big one next to the big garden, and one in front.

    I have been given a space in our grove of trees, and my brother and I have been given space to honor our Egun. The land here is warm, generous, beautiful, simple, and bountiful. We have rabbits that frequent our yard, deer that roam about behind the fence, and very rarely in our yard, and coyotes who howl at nights sometimes. There is a barn owl living in our neighbor's barn, and when we grew corn it drew the raccoon to our garden who, being the little imps they are, would take down one ear at a time, take a bit, and leave it on the ground for us to find. Our yard has several bird boxes in it, home mostly to bluebirds and finches. Occasionally there are turf wars between the bluebirds and the sparrows. Crows are always near, especially in the nearby trees and on the barn, and they tend to come two at a time, cawing loudly.

    The land is very much alive, and the landvaettir are our friends even if our Dad does not say as much. The land treats us well and we in turn work to treat it well. Our home, the land, and our relationship with it is precious to us.

  • anita edmonds
    anita edmonds Saturday, 29 June 2013

    I am just outside Asheville, in the Blue Ridge mountains—an old, old land, filled with spirits and the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. I don’t walk as much as I’d like to (arthritic knees have arrived with age), but I can go down to the Swannanoa River and talk to the Lady there, and maybe see the heron stalking dinner and watch the water tumbling over the rocks; and I can look up, since I am in the Swannanoa Valley, and see the mountains all around and the clouds overhead, and watch the shadows play over the landscape.

    The land I care for is two and a half acres—one acre contains the house and what used to be the garden, but since my husband died last year, I am planning a hedgerow and meadow with blackberry vines and blueberry bushes, and a few raised beds for summer vegetables. At the moment it’s mostly Spanish needles and pokeweed, but (as do all gardeners) I’m planning for next year, and the next . . . The other acre and a half is woodlot; we used to have a dozen or so goats, but most of them were young and frisky, and I am neither, so now there are only the two oldest. The woodlot holds trees and underbrush, woodpeckers and squirrels, and a growing population of feral game chickens escaped from a neighbor and reproducing happily. There are big old trees all around the house—40 or 50 years old, not ancient, but still respectably aged and wise in the ways of elder things. Grandmother Maple is firmly planted outside my bedroom window, spreading her branches and her protection over the south side; Old Pine is on the northwest above the driveway. He has a double trunk and I had thought it would perhaps be wise to take him down before he fell (on the house, or the powerlines, or my car . . . ), but Odin tells me it would be better to make offerings and talk to his indwelling spirit before doing anything, so that’s what I’m planning for this weekend.

    There are other trees, and lots of little spirits—I don’t know Who they are yet, as I am new to this, but I can feel their protection when I come in from the World Outside. There’s always a wonderful feeling of homecoming when I pull into the driveway and close the gate behind me. Part of that may be the animals—we have many cats (thirteen!) ranging from six months to fourteen, a couple of elderly handicapped dogs (Trisha is deaf, and Bella has only one eye), a small flock of mostly-tame chickens plus the wild ones, the two goats, and four beehives—but I think it’s mostly the plants. I don’t have any lawn; it’s all flowerbeds that have sprawled over everything and grown up (the phlox are headhigh and beginning to bloom; the milkweed must be seven feet tall this year), so I clear a path periodically down to the chickenhouse and woodlot and leave most of it for the bees and the little pollinators, and the occasional raccoon or possum to hide in, and the birds to eat the seeds from. And there are herbs I can use in all the tangle (plantain, chickweed, burdock, oregano gone wild, mugwort), and a stand of wild black raspberries, and bush cherries in what I hope will be the hedgerow, and Mother Chestnut above the driveway. They all have spirits, though I haven’t met them yet, and it came to me the other day that ‘a place with trees is warded,’ especially if you love the trees.

  • Elaine Blakely
    Elaine Blakely Sunday, 30 June 2013

    I am a Cliff Dweller by the Sea
    Ripped from the Woodlands by Wyrd;
    Cocooned that I may Heal from that ungentle surgery -
    Rootless as I rest in this Sea-Salt Womb.
    Mani by Night peeks in on me...she's Ok, let her be.
    Unn refreshes Cell and Soul as She Ebbs and Flows, breathing New Life into me.

  • Daniel FitzGerald
    Daniel FitzGerald Wednesday, 03 July 2013

    This article made me smile so much, expecially because I've got close ties to the Hudson Valley. My wife lived in Fishkill for years, and we drive around Mount Beacon whenever we go into Cold Spring for beading supplies. I've long considered Beacon a potential home for me if my job ever transfers me down to Poughkeepsie.

    Today, I've made my home upstate in Binghamton, and this area is unlike any other I've lived in. People here are different, and are often quite strange. Rod Serling got a lot of his ideas for "The Twilight Zone" from his childhood growing up here. So it should come as no surpize that the whole town is brimming with energy. A suprizing number of large Roman Catholic and Byzantine Churches dot the hillsides, the latter sporting gold and blue onion domes, while the area is also home to a large and active Pagan community. The Norse Gods in particular have a strong presence around here, and there are a number of local groups which have dedicated themselves to them.

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