I have studied the core shamanism of Harner for over a decade now, and it is easily one of the most spiritually fulfilling “pagan” practices I’ve tried to date. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve come to find out that a lot of the standard practices are lacking in a direct perspective sometimes. You see, when working with Spirits of the Land, or Goddesses of Nature, a journey to the upper or lower worlds is rarely the most direct route.
When working with Our Lady Florida, you will want to stay within this middle world and find her here. It’s not like Sacred Mothers, like Florida or Cybele, lack reach and jurisdiction in the worlds below and above. They are often involved with the clouds and rains, as well as departed souls’ journeys to the Beyond. But the heart of their being is squarely within the middle world, so often skewed by shamans and other mystics.
I do not think this forgetting is intentional; I think it has all to do with lack of relationships in the so-called mundane world. Relationships here are key.
The goal of spirit journeys and trance is to break down the objectification of things and begin to build a relationship with subjects. The shaman–for lack of a better term–alters their consciousness in order to make these leaps of understanding, relating to an herb or feather or shell on the same level as a person. This broadens our web of relationships, and what actors we perceive to act within the world. Thus, building trust, we can enlist them in healing and divination, in a myriad of fascinating ways. In turn, we support these spiritual agents in their own endeavors.
Now imagine entering into such a relationship with a God/dess spanning about 100,000 square miles! Where else shall we find Florida but in the Land itself? Thus, we explore the landscape and seek to hear its voice. Each nook and cranny has a different story to tell; listen closely, record it. If there are no songs there presently, listen deeper in time or forward to the future. Or, perhaps, you’re within a small piece of a greater landscape; take all of its physical dimensions into account. Always, these journeys are aimed within this world.
In the case of Our Lady Florida, it is always fruitful to focus within some of her greatest natural features: The natural springs (if you’re in/near one), or remotely to Lake Okeechobee or the Everglades. (It is often best to be physically present at the place you wish to connect. It’ll vastly increase your chances and boost your connection.) As we read in the previous myths, the Lake can be considered her Heart, and is thus very significant. The Everglades have sometimes been compared to her kidneys, because they purify the life’s blood of the ecosystem flowing southward. The natural springs, because they reach deep into the aquifer can stand for a variety of aspects, but I personally consider them part of her central nervous system. Great secrets of the remote past are hidden within–artifacts of her most ancient worship!
My first indication that my local landscape was populated by more than just the titanic spirit of Our Lady Florida was while meditating early one morning on the docks over the Intercoastal Waterway, at the end of Clematis Street. I was seeking the Underworld as my astral form (or spirit) plunged through the chilly, murky waters below me, when suddenly I was approached by a being that swam like an otter, yet gave the impression and power of a wurm/dragon. It was playful and immediately sought communication, which is why I paused and honored its request by broadening my mind enough to “capture” its speech.
Takeosin is the closest way I have to transcribe his name, though I am vaguely aware of tildes and inflections I have no idea how to represent in our language. It most closely identified itself as the spirit of the Lake Worth Lagoon, but was now transformed by people into a bigger creature. It felt ungainly and awkward with its longer body, the changing levels of salt and freshwater flowing through it, and its very explicit connection to the Atlantic Ocean. It once had otters and swam with them to the shores to catch the wild, tropical fruits that would fall in its waters.
Since that time, I have always paused a moment to acknowledge and connect with this spirit at its shore, or the bridges that cross over its water, or at the little islands rising among it. I asked if I could bring rituals to its area, if it would participate somehow, offer protection during protests, and what it would like as offerings… “Supermarket fruits,” it said, grinning. Whenever I step on that same dock, the gentle waves rock it back and forth (with or without winds or boats passing by). People I’ve brought to the area have commented on his friendly/protective presence. I give him fruits, as requested.
These smaller spirits are scattered across every landscape. A lake, a mountain, a particular forest or desert–you’ll find them there. They have often been altered, for better or worse, by the coming of humans into their realms. They might be friendly or they might be territorial. They might even be dangerous–I’ve heard stories of this. If you ever feel the hairs at the back of your neck and arms stand up, you might be in their sights. It is best to always arrive in the spirit of humility and compassion, and if they reject your approach: leave.
Great or small, spirits of the Land know each other because they all exist within the middle world. Ask for introductions, be open to the possibilities. Bring offerings–fruits or cakes are a good default–but keep your wits about you. Just as they are subjects and agents within the landscape, so are you! Maintain your personal autonomy and look after your safety. Partner with the ones that will reciprocate and truly help you.