Posts Tagged ‘Land Sea and Sky’


Since my Ancestors’ shrine moved and is looking much better, I thought it was only right to give the Nature Spirits’ indoor shrine a facelift! After dusting, I started to find places for the various bones, shells, feathers, crystals, etc and realized that I should place things according to realm – land, sea, and sky!  Or, as you see from my photo – sea, land, and sky.

Land, as the “middle realm,” is in the center.  There’s a small wooden bowl for offerings, a variety of stones, minerals, and crystals, a lynx figure, a felted stone made of wool, an acorn cap, deer candle holder, and a variety of bones – all found in the forest and happy in their new home.  To the left are representatives of the sea – the watery realms.  There’s a large abalone shell that I adopted after its first human caretaker decided to give it away.  There are also other seashells, including some from local mussels that I found.  I would like to improve upon the shrine and add a bowl of water, but I’m waiting for just the right container to make itself known.  To the right are the spirits of the sky and the upperworld.  A sun candleholder, an incense holder, and a variety of feathers from “game birds.*”  I wanted to display the feathers, and I discovered that corks from old wine bottlers are perfect for the job.

I’m very happy with this setup, and I sense that the Nature Spirits represented are as well.

* Game bird feathers and bones are legal to possess.

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A view from the public access point at Hyde Lake in Theresa, NY. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2012.

Druids incorporate the old tradition of land, sea, and sky into their rituals.  Many interpret them as the “Celtic elements,” and indeed, it often seems that the world is made up of them (the “sky” incorporating both the fire and air of the classical elements).  Others may think of them as the realms – sky for the Upperworld, land for the Middleworld, and sea for the Underworld.  Finally, there’s an old way of making oaths in which a person swears that if he or she does not meet a condition, ” may the sky fall down and crush me, may the earth open and swallow me, and may the sea rise up and drown me.”  These realms, representing the powerful forces of creation and destruction, are to be taken seriously in Celtic-inspired traditions.

But sometimes we take these teachings for granted.  Sometimes we relegate them only to our times of ritual so much so that they become almost meaningless words uttered.  I believe that, if you really want to live your path of Druidism, you must go outside and really experience these forces on a regular basis.  You must be mindful of them as you do this.

A monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed nectar near Hyde Lake. The butterfly is a spirit of the sky, the flowers are of the land, and the nectar is the sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

One of my favorite ways to connect with the realms is to go to liminal places where the three are present.  Not living near the ocean, the “sea” for me usually equals freshwater lakes or rivers.  Today we went to nearby Hyde Lake for some kayaking and swimming.  It’s a beautiful location featuring wildlife, calm to choppy water, high cliffs, and lovely views.  The sky seems to look into the lake as if it were a mirror.  The lake fills the land, shaping it.  The land cups it, raising it to the sky like a cool drink.

While kayaking or swimming, I feel the sky.  It is warming and life giving but it is also blinding and burning.  It brings the butterfly but also the biting horsefly.  I rejoice at the plant life it nourishes while donning sunglasses and natural sunscreen to protect my pale complexion.  The water is cooling and life giving but it is also violent and suffocating.  My skin celebrates the relief splashes of water bring, but I balance my boat and use my oars to keep the current from pushing me into barely-hidden rocks.  The land houses and nourishes me but it is the source of the rocks, the cliffs, and the logs.  The lake is filled with jagged rocks and I failed to pack adequate footware.  Needless to say, my tootsies were not happy!  I find the balance between the nourishing and dangerous aspects of land, sea, and sky and, in doing so, I find the beauty and fragility of life.  There is joy in that.

Frogs bathe and sun in Hyde Lake. Frogs are liminal beings as they spend time in water and on land, often feeding on bugs flying through the sky. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

So I urge you, fellow Druids and Pagans, get out there and live in the land, sky, and sea!  Find them.  Feel the tension and the balance.  Humble yourself on those jagged rocks and feel the childlike excitement as you spot fish in the shallow water.  When you next meditate and pull the Two Powers into you, I promise you will be better able to feel them because you have felt them before and can see them in your mind’s eye.

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Learning to perform the Two Powers Meditation was not difficult for me.  As a former Wiccan I was often exposed to different meditations and guided visualizations.  One of the most common meditations, the Tree of Life, shares some characteristics of the Two Powers Meditation of ADF.  Each asks us to reach into the upper and lower realms and absorb some of that world’s energy.  It wasn’t until I started working with the ADF model that I began to consider the symbolic implications of such an exercise.

Regardless of whether I stand or sit, I first feel myself firmly on the Earth’s surface.  I take three deep breaths to establish a mindset.  In this way I am telling myself that it is time to work and think in the symbolic world – the spiritual world.  I feel myself connected to the middle realm – to Midgar, if I may use the term from Norse cosmology.  Two Powers or Tree of Life, I think of myself as the world tree – as Yggdrasil or the Bile. I am suspended between the depth of the underworld and the sky.  I am of the earth and live in a realm of plants, soil, and animals. Whether I see myself as a human being or the actual tree, I am still very much a being of the middle world, pressing my body into the underworld and stretching up to the upperworld.

I imagine that the powers of the underworld are always available to us.  They are deep beneath the surface for spiritual taproots to drink up and they undulate across the earth to seep through our feet.  I experience the energy as a pulse or vibration that crawls (and sometimes shoots) up my legs.  It spirals in my loins, heart, and skull.  This power is both chaotic and ordered.  I imagine the first current as water.  It has the disruptive potential of a tsunami or raging rapids, yet it is also the same calming, healing, and organized power that trickles out of the earth in the form of sacred wells and rivers – the same forces that determine where many settlements are located.  It is the playfulness of the otter and the wisdom of the salmon.  The energies of the underworld are therefore powerful and deep, calming and healing.  Because of the underworld’s association with the dead, this current has a connection to such energies – the potential for rejuvenation and transformation.  The energies are the mysteries of Hades and the creative potential of dwarven smiths.  It is as masculine as the cauldron of An Dagda and as feminine as the holy waters of the Boyne.

When I lift up my hands, fingers outstretched, I call on the energies of the sky – the upperworld.  I reach to the sun and guiding stars.  I cannot say that I feel a temperature from the underworld current but I definitely feel a heat from the upperworld.  It is subtle but there.  Like the first power, the second pulses and sometimes shoots through my body, spiraling in my skull, heart, and loins.  I see it as fire.  It is the chaotic energy of a wildfire or an explosive star, yet it is also the protective campfire and meditative candle.  It is the transformative flame of the alchemists’ lab and Ceridwen’s cooking fire.  It is the passionate energy of lovers, the rage of a warrior in battle, and the inspirational fire in the head.  It is the might of dueling dragons and the all encompassing sight of the high-flying eagle.  It has the masculine energy of Helios’ chariot and Lugh’s spear, but the feminine energy of Brighid and Vesta’s sacred flames and protective hearth fires.

I believe that the primary difference between the Two Powers is that one is more visible and accessible to us.  The powers of the upper world are equated to the sky.  Although the numerous stars that appear at night are distant to us, we can see them and we know our place within the vastness of their territory.  The sun and moon, which are even more noticeable, determine our daily routines.  A layman can look up and try to predict the weather.  The underworld, on the other hand, though equated with water (something very visible to us) seems more concerned with what lies below the land and the surface of the water.  It is very mysterious to us.  The plants grow out of it, caves delve deeply within it, and we bury our dead there.  We cannot quite grasp it in the way we can the upperworld.  That is not to say that the heavens don’t offer any wonder or mystery, but the underworld is certainly more hidden and, I think, spiritually harder to access in a comprehensive way.  This is why the ancients were both amazed and fearful of their blacksmiths, the priests and artisans of the underworld.

When I perform the Two Powers I am able to concentrate on and experience the deep symbolism of the energies.  I believe that the exercise is called the Two Powers because we call on the energies of the upperworld and underworld into ourselves, we being of the middle world – a third power.  Yet as beings familiar with the middle world, it is the powers of the upper and lower realms that truly inspire, empower, and awaken us, hence two powers rather than three.  We are already the third and we seek union with the other two.  By connecting with the upperworld and underworld, I am essentially recreating the cosmology I believe in and thus deepening my spiritual understanding of the other worlds.  The Two Powers not only connect me to the literal realms of upper, lower, and middle worlds, but to the spiritual realms of the Three Kindreds.  This is a wonderful exercise for simple meditations, and it also works well in ritual as it reminds all who participate of our interconnectivity with the realms and Kindreds.

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