As we watch Russian armies create havoc in Ukraine, our hearts and minds are drawn to the widespread suffering of the Ukrainians and their land, the latest chapter in a long history of repeated invasions and destruction. SSP board member Ana Larramendi’s article on land healing, originally published in the Spring of 2010, is worth reconsidering as we watch the land, the cities, and human lives being destroyed. We are not republishing the article as a “call to action” for Ukraine but as a guideline for thinking about the principles and practices that should inform shamanic land healing wherever we are called to engage in it. We hope Ana’s article will inspire readers to be more cognizant of their responsibilities toward all landscapes and their communities of life.
Originally published in the Journal of Shamanic Practice, Volume 3, Issue 1, April 2010
During the Second World War, the Nazis invaded a town in the former Soviet Union near the border of Belarus. After gathering all the Jews into the local synagogue, they ignited the building, killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. A decade later, the Russian government built a power plant with four nuclear reactors over the synagogue. In April of 1986 technicians at a nuclear power plant in Sweden noticed disturbing signals on their monitors indicating abnormally high levels of radiation. At ﬁrst they feared a leak in their plant, then they determined that the radiation came from a strange cloud slowly drifting across Europe. Only then did the Russian government reveal that an explosive meltdown had occurred in a nuclear reactor built atop that long-forgotten synagogue in the town of Chernobyl.1
Considering this narrative from a shamanic perspective, one realizes that the human trauma held there for so long created a strongly negative imbalance. A spiritually injured person may repeat patterns of wounding: such as a woman who is physically abused as a child may repeatedly choose partners who abuse her. Similarly, the land in Chernobyl held the imprint of fear, hatred, and ﬁre.
Any landscape that holds trauma impacts those who live, work, or interact there for many years. Saddam Hussein used the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq for torturing prisoners. The negative energy from this state-sanctioned brutality carried such potency that when U.S. troops took over the prison, they repeated the trauma.
We live in a society in which many people perceive power as “power over” rather than “power with” other beings. This has created a tremendous amount of “spiritual pollution” in the form of ghosts, curses, and imprints in the land. As a result, humankind has stepped out of living with the earth in a state of balance, shared power, and reciprocity, or as the Q’ero of Peru call it ayni.2 To heal ourselves, to ﬁnd peace and create wholeness, we must heal our relationship to the land and our built environment. Negative imprints that need to be healed occur when a building is used for ritual abuse, when a home has a long history of ﬁres or lightning strikes, when many fatal accidents occur at the same intersection, when there is a cycle of crime and violence in a neighborhood, and when a nation experiences seemingly endless war.
I was introduced to the way that natural and human locations can hold trauma by Myron Eshowsky. The powerful narratives he told us during his Healing of Place workshop propelled me into a multiyear journey during which I realized that the earth is a woven energetic matrix that can work in harmony to support and nourish life. Shamanic earth-healing is the co-creative process of working with the divine and natural world to balance the earth’s energetic matrix and heal the damaging imprints left from unbalanced human activity. Examples of places that need healing include land that has been damaged by human interference and neglect of sacred sites. Land healing combines physical intervention with spiritual intervention in the realm of the Middle World.
The Middle World
The place where Spirit interacts with matter in many shamanic traditions is the Middle World. Earth-healing requires that we map the cosmology of the spiritual level of the terrestrial plane. From a tiny ant to a giant earthquake everything that happens is a part of the weave of life moving toward balance. A tsunami is the result of a shifting and re-balancing of displaced water created during an underwater earthquake caused by the release of tension between converging land masses. When something is excessive, it is responding to an equal imbalance that is simultaneously occurring.
As I began mapping the cosmology of the Middle World my guides showed me two important forms of energy: spirits and ﬁelds. Since spirits have individuality and personality they may communicate telepathically. For example, the undine,3 the water elemental within a bubbling spring, may communicate a request to remove an obstructing stone. The spirit of an ofﬁce building manifests a personality related to the history of that building. Fields, on the other hand, while they seem to be devoid of personality, emanate a unique quality that can be strongly felt. A mountain peak may exude power and exhilaration while a vortex may exude intensity or disorientation.
Spirits and ﬁelds are layered upon one another and interwoven like a holographic image. The spirit of a mountain may communicate a message to you, yet simultaneously you experience the quality of its ﬁeld, which may be wisdom and power. All landscapes, both urban and wild, are comprised of this matrix of spirits and ﬁelds. These energies play a deﬁning role in the balance or imbalance of a particular place, and understanding them is crucial to determining a healing intervention.
Healing the spirit of place involves working with the spirits and energy ﬁelds of the Middle World in a co-creative way to rebalance what is out of balance, to bring back life force which has been lost and return misplaced terrestrial energy to its rightful place. Most imbalanced places need a combination of interventions for healing to take place. Traditionally, shamans track to the source of a trauma and unhook the energy where it began upstream, not downstream where the problem manifested. Healing at the source creates an opening for transformation.
If you do not tap into the origin of the issue, the imprint may remain intact. For example, in the case of a house with a history of domestic abuse you want to ﬁnd the ﬁrst incident that created the negative pattern. If the original problem is that the foundation of the house was built on a murder site, this is the energy you work with. When I conduct a ceremony I ﬁnd that by tracking to the original trauma and working with it, the imprint is released and it is not necessary to go through each of the subsequent people that resided there to heal the pattern of abuse.
Ethically, a practitioner should only work where he or she received permission. It is also vital to create boundaries when performing a healing ceremony. My guides showed me how to build a multidimensional quarantine ﬁeld that encapsulated the property, including above and below ground. This ﬁeld protects the space from outside intrusive energies while the work is being done.
At the beginning, I call in Archangels and high vibration spirits to set the quarantine and ask that they only let in energies related to this healing. Once when I was asked to do a space clearing, my ceremony attracted souls from far away. Soon the room was ﬁlled with hundreds of suffering beings anxious to move to the light, as well as some rather disruptive spirits which created energy bordering on chaos. Now I always quarantine the sacred space before conducting ceremonies. If a location is haunted by discarnate spirits, psychopomp work may be needed. I experience these places as having dark, heavy, sad, angry or depressing energy. This atmosphere strongly impacts those living in or near the location. The ﬁeld that is affected can be a house, a building, or a battleﬁeld.
On one of my journeys, my spiritual guides showed me that some energies originate on earth and need to be returned to earth. These are ghouls, monsters, curses and other negative thought forms that have taken on a presence and personality of their own. Many of the qualities experienced in a place that is haunted by an entity are also caused by an energy. The presence of an energy inﬂuences people to behave in a way that is patterned by that energy. We may feel peculiar bursts of violence, anger, fear, anxiety or a sense of inexplicable danger in certain places. I call this terrapomp work, referring to conducting the energies back to the earth.
A location where there has been severe violence or trauma often holds a powerful energy of unexpressed pain, grief and agony. This must be ritually expressed in order to release and free any trapped energy of the living and the dead who are connected to the trauma. A grief ritual should precede any psychopomp or terrapomp work. I was once called to do a healing on an apartment building whose owner could not attract or keep tenants. When I went there and journeyed my spirit helpers showed me that the building was located on a massive Native American massacre site where hundreds of men, women, and children had been killed. Since the area covered many city blocks, I enlisted a large community of practitioners to help in the healing. We performed a massive grief ritual on the site. By witnessing the suffering that had happened, and honoring the aggrieved spirits, we were able to help hundreds of souls cross over. Months afterward, the landlord told me that not only could he now get and keep tenants, but crime in the neighborhood had decreased.
Transmutation and transﬁguration can bring into balance environmental toxins caused by pollution and negative thought forms. Sandra Ingerman’s powerful work of transmutation through the embodiment of light and the divine is particularly useful in this context. This work generally precedes elemental balancing, making a place more hospitable for the reintroduction of life afﬁrming nature energies. Transmutation can also follow psychopomp or terrapomp work to replace heavy energy with light.4 While the earth herself remains powerful, there are places on the earth that have lost vitality. Since every place has a spirit, the absence of vitality may be a sign of soul loss. In this context soul retrieval restores an aspect of vital essence to the spirit of place.5 Elemental balancing brings the nature spirits back to a physically damaged place.
When a location has been traumatized by mining, logging, or toxic dumping and appears barren, the nature spirits may have left. In this case the land must undergo some preparation and healing before the elemental beings can be coaxed back in. This requires spiritual and physical interventions.6 The spirit of the land may need a soul retrieval or transmutation work. A quarry may need new topsoil before plants can grow. By bringing the nature spirits back you are restoring the kausay (life force) of a place.
If a place has too much or too little of one of the four elements, it may need element balancing. The imbalance may appear as drought, recurring lightning strikes, or uncontrollable water seepage. Energy ﬁeld balancing restores the ﬂow of energy through ley lines, ceke lines, vortexes, huacas or pacarinas. (These terms and others are defined and explained in the section “Fields in the Landscape” at the end of this article. Ed.) By creating and anchoring new ceke lines, places whose natural energy ﬂow has been disrupted by construction or other negative human inﬂuences can be rerouted so the landscape’s meridians ﬂow in a healthy manner.
It is not the questions we ask, but rather the questions we don’t ask that lead us astray when we track to the source of a problem. I begin with gathering ordinary reality information prior to journeying for spiritual information. Since it is important to look for repeating patterns that reveal an imprint, I ask the following questions before beginning my healing work.
Do I have permission from the owner/resident to do this work?
Even if it is obvious that a place needs help, to work on a place without proper permission is an abuse of power and will affect the integrity of the work. If the answer is no, the time is not right.
What is the history?
What events have taken place? What are the traumas? What is the problem that brought you to the area? Was there a particular event that occurred before the problems started? Is it possible to obtain a history of the place prior to its current residents? If no such information exists, you can undertake a journey to the source of the trauma.
How are people affected by the place?
Is there a pattern to people’s response to the place such as sickness, fear, anger, depression, aggression, or anxiety? Is there a speciﬁc area where this is stronger? Is the response consistent or ﬂuctuating according to time of day or annual season? Is there an anniversary factor? In other words, an event that happened there that carries potency for a particular date.
Is there an overriding presence of an element (air, water, ﬁre, earth)?
Look for an excess of one element in a building: water seepage, strange drafts, electrical short circuits, frequent ﬁres, lightning strikes, or a bulging foundation. In nature, an element imbalance may manifest as droughts, ﬁres, and ﬂoods. Beware of projecting your own ideas about what a healthy element balance may be for a region. The earth may be undertaking a natural correction that does not need an intervention.
What is the physical health of a location?
Do the plants, animals, and people look healthy? Are there signs of damage like burn marks from ﬁres or dents in a wall from objects thrown in a domestic ﬁght?
What is the energy of the place?
Check your gut reaction. Is there fear, grief or sadness in the atmosphere? Does it feel heavy and suffocating or airy and disorienting? How strong are these sensations? Is there an area where the energy is stronger than others?
Was this place a sacred site or next to a sacred site?
This may require a little historical research but it is worth pursuing if there are signs a guardian spirit presides over the place.
Are there any ordinary reality circumstances contributing to the problem?
Sometimes the main source of a problem is a very ordinary one. If people in a large sprawling ofﬁce building are continually getting sick and feeling cranky, it could be an overload of mold from air ducts that have not been cleaned in thirty years. Don’t become so enchanted by the spiritual aspects of healing that you overlook plain, everyday factors that may be creating similar symptoms.
What are the repeating themes?
Explore the nature of these patterns and categorize them. Are they spiritual, physical, emotional, elemental, or energetic? Is there a focal point where the pattern is strongest? The qualities of this imprint should have some similarities to the spirits or ﬁelds listed above.
The Diagnostic Journey
Once you have gathered this ordinary reality information you are ready to ask your helping spirits to guide you toward a healing intervention. In doing this, it is important to be in a state of clarity with your helping spirits as they are the eyes, ears, and voices that guide us through the spiritual domains. Begin the process by going to the spirit of the place and asking for permission to help with some form of intervention. Then ask if it is the right time to perform a ritual and if not, ask what needs to be done ﬁrst. Next ask to be shown what type of ritual would be most helpful to heal the place. Make sure it is a ritual that you can realistically carry out. If it is beyond your abilities, renegotiate how the ritual might be done. Only agree to what you can do and keep your promises.
Use caution if you plan to heal a place that is going to be re-traumatized, such as a quarry that is still being mined. Consider what spiritual work can be done with the site and adjoining area that can shift the momentum of the on-going damage. Hold the spirit of that place and its human keepers with compassion. Be ethical.
The Healing Ceremony
The healing of some places can be too large a job for one person alone. Some locations are huge energy ﬁelds that are best addressed by a group of people working together in ceremony. Each intervention for the healing of place will have the unique features that address the particular needs of that place. The nature of the rituals and ceremony, who is gathered, and the order of the work will largely be guided by Spirit. If you are working in a group, make sure you have a core of experienced practitioners who can hold the energy of the group. Including the owners, occupants, or workers can be important to a healing ceremony’s long-term success. By directly involving the people who have been affected in the intervention ceremony, the momentum of the healing increases. In addition, their ongoing presence, after the ceremony, helps anchor the healing which has occurred.
One should only ask those comfortable with participating to attend. If there are owners, residents, or workers included, take time before the ceremony to teach them basic concepts and create a comfortable level of understanding. After the ceremony allow them enough processing time.
I often tell people that I believe the earth is strong and takes care of herself which prompted a friend to ask, “Well, if the earth is so strong and can heal herself, then why do we need land healing?” Perhaps my answer surprised her. “This isn’t simply about saving the earth, it is about saving humanity.” The more we damage the land, air, and water, the greater a correction the earth will need to make so as to bring things back into balance. The more we poison our environment with imprints of violence and destruction, the more we destroy one another. If we refuse to come back into harmony with the natural world and treat all life with respect, the earth will shed us with a correction to the environment that will make it impossible for our species to survive. Since the Creator placed us here to be stewards and care-takers of the earth, we must return to this task to save our species.
FIELDS IN THE LANDSCAPE
Elements: The elements of air, fire, water, and earth are all a part of the terrestrial and cosmic plane. To be in balance, different landscapes or locations carry different proportions of each of the elements. Elements carry a particular energetic quality and have a field of their own.
Ley lines: Part of the matrix of geomagnetic lines that crisscross the surface of the earth, ley lines are naturally occurring channels on the earth that appear to be aligned to contours of the land, underground rivers, and places of power, as well as having orientation to stars, solstices, and equinoxes. They are the earth’s meridians through which electromagnetic energy travels.
Ceke lines: Cekes (a Peruvian Quechua word) are human-created geomagnetic lines and meridians used to establish an energetic connection to sacred sites, places of power (huacas and pacarinas) and places of high energy. Ceke lines at times overlap with ley lines. Shamans create ceke lines through intention, ritual, and invocation. In Quechua cosmology, all power places are interconnected by this web of ceke and ley lines, and are located where two or more of these lines intersect. Cekes stretch like a spider web over the land, and the shaman is like the spider who feels the vibration of the web. Shamans may create a ceke line to redirect a blocked ley line so the energy flow of the landscape is balanced, not unlike coronary bypass surgery.
Huaca: A powerful place in the landscape where there is a convergence of kausay. In Quechua, kausay is the vital living energy that animates the cosmos. This is similar to prana in Hindu or chi (qi) in Taoism. Huacas are located where ceke and ley lines intersect. These places draw energy from the landscape or sky. Locations of heightened power have long been recognized as places where the veils between the worlds are thin and access to the divine is heightened. Some of these places are natural—like cliffs, dramatic rock formations, mountains, or high promontories—others are made by humans. Their power has been enhanced by regular visitations and repeated use in ceremony to awaken the spirit of the landscape, as with sacred sites, burials, effigy mounds, cairns, temples, synagogues and churches. Often sacred sites are built on huacas to intensify the spiritual powers of the site.
Pacarinas: A pacarina is Quechua for a creation place in the landscape. At pacarinas there is an emergence of kausay from the earth in springs, caves, waterfalls, and natural formations. Birth and creation energy have often been central to many shamanic cultures; the ritualizing of birth, death, rebirth and renewal has often been tied to caves and springs. Because of this connection there are many sacred and religious sites associated with pacarinas.
Vortexes: A vortex is a place where the energies of two or more ceke or ley lines converge or where a mineral deposit exists that creates the conditions of an energetic whirlpool. Vortexes are spherical fields of concentrated energy that flow in or out in the form of a torus (a three-dimensional doughnut-shaped surface) and originate from magnetic, spiritual, or other unknown sources. Additionally, vortexes can act as a portal between the spirit world and this world. Vortexes typically exist where there are strong concentrations of gravitational anomalies and can create the sensation of bending and shifting time or space due to a convergence of energy fields. Vortexes can be used to accelerate the healing and clearing of a place, or else to receive an abundance of energy.
Imprints: Imprints are energy fields created by an event or activity. Imprints can be positive if they affirm and revitalize life force. Labyrinths, gardens, landscapes and even buildings that are created in a sustainable manner and with the guidance of nature spirits will create a life-affirming imprint on the land. Imprints can also manifest in a more negative form in places where repeated violence has occurred. The imprint can manifest as an overabundance of one particular element, as a site of frequent accidents, or as the deadening of a natural landscape. Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work photographing water crystals subjected to thoughts and music is a compelling example of how energy (both toxic and positive) can imprint the element of water.7
1. Eshowsky M. Spirit of Place and the Healing of History. Shamanism 14, 2 (Fall 2001): 6-7.
2. Wilcox JP. Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge: The Mystical World of the Q’ero Indians of Peru. London, UK: Vega; 2001, 281.
3. Pogacnik M. Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings: Working with the Intelligence of Nature. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press; 1996, 136-144.
4. Ingerman S. Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins. New York: Three Rivers Press; 2000.
5. Ingerman S. Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. New York: Harper Collins; 1991.
6. Pogacnik M. Healing the Heart of the Earth: Restoring the Subtle Levels of Life. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press; 1998.
7. Emoto M. The Hidden Messages in Water. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words; 2004.
In addition to published material, I sought information from my helping spirits human teachers: Myron Eshowsky, Jose Luis Herrera, Sandra Ingerman, Marko Pogacnik, and Alberto Villoldo.