Temple of the Tree

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Paganism and Spirit Shrines

Posted on September 7, 2016 at 9:30 PM

Paganism and Spirit Shrines

"Just to awaken in the night from a drowsy slumber, to gaze out through the window upon the glorious rounded full moon. Silently flying and all is still outside, for a moment awake I sit transfixed by that serenity, almost captured within by those moon beams, and the lustrous magnificence of that disc that rules the night."


Even without those rituals, being in the experience directly is oh such the more powerful. As a child my spiritual and supernatural experiences were dynamic. Much was /play/. But a lot came naturally, the way of interaction with these other forces and realms was almost child-like; meaning that there was no hindrance in the activity, and as a child one is pure of cognitive filler, so it comes easily. Not having the long drawn and complex ceremonial procedures, by having that child-like direct experience or contact, with that divine entity leaves an impressionable memory upon the individual that strengthens the bond therewith, and leaves the gate open wide for further dynamic, creative rapport and experiences, even say, in hallowed places where the nous may be dreadful and terrifying rather than kind and benevolent.


As a child I was having these very real, direct experiences with supernatural forces of nature by doing simple child-like things, or ways of interacting with them. I believe paganism could be related to this way, in that matter. There were no rules or order on how to approach any such spirit or thing, so it was all very real and subjective, and fluid. There were many different beings, not even any sort of hierarchy. I all thought of it as very "together", that is, all very on the same plane. It wasn't very hard for me to understand as a child, because a lot of what I was doing were things a child could understand. I didn't need (or have) any system that I interpreted these things through, so it was all very personal, and the way I had gone about things was direct and there were many ways of having these interactions. Incidentally which is a reason why I believe paganism is "child-like" - not in the regard of not being developed or any such manner - but because there are no restrictions upon spirituality, the supernatural is very much dynamic, and many-faced. Such are the ways of paganism.


I find myself even now interested greatly in the local and wayside shrines and spiritual and hallowed places. It seems as if many of these beings that reside at these places had their origins in some small local deity of supernatural figure, which through time concreted and into the form which it is venerated today. Perhaps many of these figures had their origins within the brains of that child-like paganism, manifesting from the endless ways that nature mysteriously does, and nothing is homogenous because of it. So we see hundreds or even thousands of these very specific, highly individualised spirits and beings.


These local and very personalised entities preoccupy the world with the living. They are given physical images and forms, vehicles or vessels of manifestation. And regardless if an individual does not believe in these entities themselves, they still exist regardless, in their forms or concepts.


I made an effort to seek out some of these local shrines and spirit-enclosures. Of course, as one would probably suspect, living in 2016 in California, you aren't going to find many places. Beyond the Temples and Sanctuaries for the religions of the non-abrahamic kind where one could usually find shrines and spirit houses, I could not locate a single one. Wayside memorials are a kind of shrine, but it is not in my interest to visit every roadside accident! Even though I do pay my respects to them if I happen to pass.


I was interested in those strange and country-located spirits. The small altars and places where local divinities or forms happen to be located. Much of the population here in this area is devoted Christian or Catholic. And considering that my particular town has over seven churches in it's 3 mile radius, there aren't many people who would keep up these shrines or so publicly admit to where they are. So I was off on my quest.


I was led into the rich history of my local area. I learned about the local indigenous tribes and their cultures. I even wrote to one but elicited no response. From my own research I had discovered that sacred places were seen as numerous, before the arrival of the colonists and white settlers; apparently there were many springs, and lush vallies, etc. - many places of unusual configuration deemed sacred. But the emproachment of the foreigners and the forced conversion of their peoples quickly wiped out much of the surrounding lore.

What does exist is fragmentary.


I started to ask around from people I knew. Some said they knew not a clue, others recommended haunted houses or other-such-locations. But I was not interested in communing with the ghosts. I had researched about my particular county and discovered that there were many former settlements in the area which are no longer on modern maps and are no longer maintained by the county. But there was little to no information either save for the place-names and locations.


In lieu of having little to no avail in my search for the more mysterious spiritual shrines, I decided to construct one, myself. On the banks of Stony Creek at the base of an old dead tree is a small enclosure made of loosely stacked stones taken from the creek bed, into a circular shape, with a gap as the 'entrance' and only standing maybe 8 inches tall off the earth. Inside the little enclosure sits a red jasper stone (a 'heart') on which is a small figure fashioned of creek mud and rocks, representing the spiritual force or presence of the area. It gives the spirits in the area a place to localise and humans a way to interact with them.

The small shrine at the base of an old dead tree.

I'm observing the status of the shrine as time progresses. If anything is amiss, I replace it properly, and patiently. So far nothing has been strewn or destroyed, about a week later. The note I had left remains, and the small footpath leading up to the shrine seemed more tread, as if people had stopped to see the curious feature. I have yet to see others leave offerings or votives.


When the more "popular" and well-known spirits, saints and entities have their due shrines and places of veneration, but those almost primal - natural, and primitive - spirits don't have a chance - why not give them their own respective shrine? Distinct from the the new age 'nature-shrines' - creative arrangements using natural objects, which are more of spiritual expression rather than contact with a local nous - in a place where perhaps these spirits have never had shrines or places of veneration themselves, it is curious to see that innovation - giving the spirits a voice themselves, will go in an area where it has never been.

Another view of the shrine.


Truly, I believe this very creative process of making a proper shrine to a local spirit, is the very fabric of what paganism is, or can be; it is the fluid and dynamic development of spiritual forces and entities, the act of giving manifestation to these natural presences. It allows for an intimate, deeper and profound connection with the forces of nature and the local "feeling" of a place. Without rigidity, or structure, this very direct connection with the spiritual force of an area gives a different dimension of understanding and the relationship one has between themselves and that place more intimately, and more broadly the forces of nature.

The creek-spirit's form.

Categories: Shrines and Spirits, Articles and Dialogues

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