Updated: Dec 31, 2022
The clouds were grey and heavy, rain imminent; the wind, sweet and light as I threw on my pack and quietly stepped onto the gravel path. My mission to bring Jul offerings to spirit friends had begun AND it was the day of the sun’s death. Winter solstice. What I didn’t realize as I breathed salty air and took stock of the forest ahead was that today, I would face my own invitation to die.
My journey took me on the Pomo Canyon Trail. An ancient trading route cultivated for thousands of years by the indigenous people of these lands. This is a sacred place where every plant, water, and forest spirit— everything— vibrates with personality.
Deep in the redwood--forested canyon lives a water spirit, one that has aided me throughout the year. She’s generally open to speaking and exchanging. But today, I don’t want to exchange anything. I only want to give her my best offerings. Before reaching the home of her fresh water spring, I knew something was wrong. The creek, though mid winter, flowed in a trickle. Water worn rocks and redwood roots exposed in places normally submerged. It was a signal that the drought persisted, threatening the future of the redwood giants that lived here.
As I crept closer to the water spirit’s domain, the blanket of heavy quietness, so much a part of this forest, turned to a loud buzz. Not the buzz of insects but a buzz inside my own head. It was so loud I could hear no birds or moving water. It was a warning.
I stopped at an old hazelnut grove to quiet my mind and give an offering to these great beings. The yellow leaves that covered the ground brightened the whole forest and I could almost see the little people playing amongst the patches of fern and oxalis beneath the hazel boughs. I breathed, and yawned and slowly the buzzing drifted away. I poured my offering for the hazel and her community.
I ventured down the trail until I came to the portal that marks the water spirits domain. A massive tree arch formed by a fallen tan oak. Once through the threshold, fallen logs covered in witches butter mushrooms met my eyes with their strange color. They seemed so alien and yet so perfectly placed on that forest floor.
I reached the base of the waterfall and saw virtually no water splashing over the rocks and downed redwoods. A tragedy in the making. I climbed up toward her spring; always a tricky endeavor as large algae covered rocks plus deep pools meant a badly timed slip could render me broken and submerged.
I reached her home, a pool of water deep within a water dug cave. Above, large sleeping stone giants leaned against each other forming a small crevice for upstream water to gently splash down into the pool. At this point, a sense of grief began to consume me. The lack of water was not right, and the spirits here yearned for more rain. They knew as well as I that the great redwoods will die without it.
I crushed a handful of mugwort into a ball and anchored a message of rain for the sky spirits. I imagined a winter storm falling here--- on this forest, the creek flowing, and the waterfall raging. I gathered my memories of this place when full of water. I could hear the crashing, the bubbling, the gurgling, and feel the mist on my face. I attached all of this to the mugwort bundle and lit it aflame; willing the smoke to reach high into the sky and draw down the rain. Draw Down the Rain. DRAW DOWN THE RAIN.
Now it was time to fulfill my main mission. To call upon the spirit of this spring, this creek, this magical forest. It was to time to offer her my best. I pulled out my blood colored raspberry mead, the first bottle of its kind and stepped to the edge of the pool…
I grounded myself, taking inventory and opened to the spirit world. The moment I opened the mind room I was hit with a sense of great power. I was greeted not by one water spirit but many. They seemed like Näcken but all were female. A whole community of Nixie’s. Their bluish--green scaled skin reflected the pool of water.
They quickly shifted, forming into beautiful well maidens with flowing white gowns and braided hair. They frolicked in the waters edge inciting me in for a swim. I declined and instead drew out a large golden pitcher filled with my mead. I offered it to them.
Instead of receiving my gift, they brought out their own golden goblets and golden bowls laden with food and drink. A feast befitting a king and they offered it to me.
It felt like something was off about this.
I declined again.
I explained that today I was only making offerings in honor of them and there was no need for exchange. Their golden bowls disappeared and suddenly, the pool at my feet turned a blood red color, swirling violently counter clockwise.
The maidens shifted form again becoming even more beautiful. They swam and sang to me in otherworldly voices. They splashed at me and called for me to jump into the moving red waters. They showed me images of a deep peace. Reminding me of a longing to rest I didn’t know I had.
It WOULD be so nice to lay down here.
They shared images of taking me under the stone into great halls where I could stay with them for eternity. I could swim in the depths of their waters, feed from their great feast, and frolic amongst their beautiful bodies. This they told me and more…
I gently swayed at the precipice of my sanity, at the edge of those blood red waters, at the threshold between life and death.
I was still holding the mead offering in my hand. Their invitation to sleep under the mountain felt so peaceful, so freeing, so joyous, but tears cascading from my eyes reminded me of something. The grief stirring my fervency for life.
Their songs grew louder, more desperate and… I resisted. I resisted. I resisted.
A greater presence then unveiled itself. It was in the large stones above, and this forest was ITS domain. It was old— an ancient spirit— a massive Troll.
I was shook by its presence and offered the mead to the Troll. It spoke to me in a slow booming voice, “ Submerge into the water below and your offering will be received.”
The red pool roiled.
The maidens sang.
The troll pointed--- commanded.
I stood paralyzed.
It seemed that the only way out was to jump into the water, to join these spirits, to leave my body behind. To find peace.
Maybe I should let go…just let go. Let it all go and rest...
But, In that moment, something golden stirred from my chest. A light as warm and life giving as the sun. Ah! Then I remembered… I already carried death with me. The Sun’s death. And I carried it with reverence. Just the night before I had created a talisman to remind me of life, of death, and the great wheel.
To remind me to live as though I’ve died already.
The light grew stronger from my talisman and I no longer felt the urge to jump into the pool. I grabbed the plaited straw spiral at my chest and felt the sun charge me with its life. I was carrying the sun itself now. A midwife to the solstice suns passing and to it’s rebirth.
The Nixie spell was broken.
I was anchored to life.
I poured my mead into the water. The blood of the land— the raspberries, mulberries, and honey, the tiny yeast spirits— mixing with the bloodied water of the spirit realm. The moment the liquid hit the swirling pool, the color of the water changed from deep red to turquoise green.
The invitation for my death evaporated. The water spirits swam and drank from the pool, no longer interested in my mind. The Troll became as silent and still as stone.
I had stepped into the world of spirits. I had faced nixie’s and trolls. I carried death and the promise of life in my hand. And now… I felt more alive than ever. The green and yellow hues of the trees were brighter. The kiss of the wind sweeter. The firm earth beneath my feet more receptive as I walked down the trail and left.
A bobcat crossed my path and stared at me. We just smiled at each other. It stepped mere feet from the trail laying down like a lazy house cat. It watched as I passed as though I was any other animal of the forest. As though I was as a part of the family.
And— I was.
The shortest day waned and it was time to make an even greater offering; to spirits more important to me than the Well Maidens and Trolls.
It was time to head home.
It was time to make dinner for my family.