Inner Landscapes

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down
And winter’s closing in

–Joni Mitchell

godswhisperI have recently begun to have regular contact with a new spirit guide. I think he has been prowling around at the edges of my consciousness for a long time — maybe for years — but it seems that the time has finally come for me to get to know him better. Ever since my first trip as an adult to the American West in 1995, I’ve experienced an intense longing to go back, to experience it more deeply. This longing has waxed and waned over the years, and sometimes it has disappeared entirely. I got a chance to indulge this longing with a trip to South Dakota last summer; and I found myself particularly affected emotionally by the herds of bison in the Black Hills, and most especially by one poster of a bison standing in the snow that I chanced to see in the gift shop in the Badlands. Its eyes seemed incredibly human and terribly sad.

A month or so ago, I was clearing out my house clutter as part of my physical manifestation overhaul when I chanced on a small stone carving of a bison given to us by my in-laws, who lived in Denver for a while. It brought on a surge of longing that was visceral, almost painful. Then, finally, a few weeks ago, I was driving my son home from school, thinking about these feelings, thinking about the bison, musing about it, when I realized that the bison was talking back — I had slipped into a meditative state and made contact with the guide.

Bison

All the guides I have regular contact with — Apollo, Bel, Paul, my anima, Cernunnos — are mentally agile, and very verbal. Bison is most decidedly not that way. He is extremely strong, solid, and grounded; his mind is as powerful as a glacier, and just as fast. His thoughts and feelings arise simply and forcefully, but with incredible richness of texture and vivid colors. So far his primary messages to me have concerned living more in the present, and taking one thing at a time, as it comes.

Now that the autumnal equinox is upon us, my connection with Apollo is growing weaker. Last year, he left me in the care of Athena while he went to sunnier climes; this year I think Bison will step into his shoes.

The Vivid Land

Working with Bison has got me thinking more about the inner landscapes of my visualizations and meditations, partly because Bison is so grounded, and partly because the landscapes in which he appears are quite different from the ones I usually visit when I meditate — though they’re no less vivid or colorful.

Bison stands alone in the midst of a vast prairie. Purple mountains are just visible along the western horizon. The sky is burning with sunset — the last lick of sunfire has disappeared behind the mountains, and the sky is striped with glowing gold and midnight blue. Bison doesn’t move or speak; he simply stares after the setting sun with an eternity of intensity, the dusk breeze playing with his beard.

By contrast, Apollo’s temple stands at the top of a grassy green hill, in full daylight, the air clear and cool, with a strong breeze blowing in from the sea. The temple is a small Greek affair, little more than a dome supported by columns, covering a small pool with water rippled by the breeze and dappled by sunlight through nearby trees. The temple is at the edge of a dark green wood.

The Wood at the Edge of the World

If you were to head into the forest, a footpath lined with damp autumn leaves would take you straight back along the ridge of the hill, deep into a wood of oak and birch. The words are pitted with hidden dells and valleys, waterfall-fed pools frequented by goddesses, nymphs, and less pleasant things. A web of footpaths weaves among the trees, and one can frequently find souls wandering along them — I have encountered ancestors, minstrels, a band of thieves, and a man who identified himself as Gandalf. In one hidden valley in these woods I encountered a huge mansion and surrounding gardens in the architectural style of Morocco, built next to a huge lake; it is a virtual home of Slade Roberson.

If you wander too deeply into the woods, you’ll come to an area where the path is lined with bricks, instead of leaves, but the walkway is riven with cracks and fissures that extend down into the earth; the light will fail and fade into dusk and darkness, but it will not be night — it is simply always dark here. Nevertheless, the tumbled brick path and twisted trees will be lit by an unholy, unwholesome blue light. At last you’ll find your way blocked by a great chasm, a bottomless abyss that radiates fear. This is the region I escaped from last year when I wrote the meditation on courage.

I’m sure there is a way across the chasm — I’ve been able to fly out of it, so I can probably fly to the other side — but it’s not something I am interested in doing. I always turn back at this point.

Let’s go back to Apollo’s temple, and explore in a different direction.

Over the Sea

Facing away from the forest, to the left the hillside slopes down rather sharply to a wide, sandy beach. The pounding of the waves is just audible from the top of the hill. A pier made of huge stones extends straight out into the water a couple of hundred yards. Occasionally, boatloads of people will arrive from over the sea, dock next to the pier, come out and wander around; they put up tents on the beach, they build ramshackle homes in the woods, and some of them travel further in to take up a semi-permanent residence on the other side of the hill. Apollo told me that these people are visiting my inner landscape by reading this blog…

If you walk out along the pier, you will find a small rowboat which can carry just one or two people. It will take you to a small island half a mile offshore, which I call the Isle of Smoke. It is breezy and sandy, and covered with thick pine forest. Near the center of it is a clearing where I sometimes go to light fires for intention manifestation. The smoke from the fire carries my prayers up to the gods, and I frequently find them gathered around me here, encouraging me and acknowledging my prayer.

A little further up the beach from the pier, there is a small region where the sun is always setting over the water, and a group of revelers are having a barbecue and playing Calypso music. Just beyond that is the entrance to the garden found in the free “meet a guide” meditation. Above the garden, at the top of the ridge here, I’ve visualized a dome home with the floor plan of the house that my wife and I would like to build someday; I come and explore it and reinforce it occasionally. Further along, the beach continues to follow the line of hills into regions I haven’t explored.

Go to Your Room

There is actually a cut, a notch, in the line of hills right near the garden, just before you come to the dome home. If you leave the beach at this point, and go through the garden, you’ll find a well-worn path that takes you up into the notch. Here, the ground is dusty and rocky, and the plants are scrubby beach-loving species. Before long you’ll see a huge building nestled between the hills here, just on the other side of the notch — only two stories, but long, looking something like a cross between a posh hotel and the Parthenon. There are huge tall windows all along it, which would give magnificent views of the sea. This is the home of my anima — built to her exact specifications — though she only stays in one room of it, right in the center. The rest of the building, which has hundreds of rooms, is the semi-permanent residence of many people who come over the sea. If you go in the building, you’ll be greeted by my anima — a slight red-haired woman dressed in purple — who will take you to your room and make you welcome.

Beyond my anima’s residence are wide fields of tall grassland. The fields are crossed by a few dusty paths, and streams come down from the hills and water the grass on their way to the Faerie Pool.

The Faerie Pool

This Pool is sandwiched between the grassland, the hills, and the Forest of Cernunnos, the Horned God. Where the Pool abuts the hills, there is a thin ravine, and a narrow inlet — no wider than a long jump — where the Pool joins the ocean. Water flows both ways through this ravine: toward the Pool at high tide, towards the sea at low tide. (Nevertheless, the Pool is freshwater — don’t ask me why.) Standing at the edge of the Pool, the water is dark and green, and the buzz of small insects can be heard. Fairies may be glimpsed darting between the trees on the opposite bank.

The Pool is some kind of link between this inner landscape and Source (or perhaps primal chaos). I’m going to quote an earlier article of mine, Meditation: at the Bottom of the Faerie Pool, where I describe it more fully:

It came to me that I should dive into the pool, and I did. It was dark, murky, and cold, but I had no trouble breathing, and the primary impression I had was womblike: that I was returning to a source, an origin. The water was thick and syrupy, surrounding me, holding me…

At the bottom of the pool was a hole. It was hard to see how big it was — certainly big enough for a person to fall into, and certainly big enough that the entire pool should have been long since drained away; but it seemed instead that water was flowing out of the hole. I swam as close as I dared and looked in.

It was full of stars. Here was a window on the universe: the swirls of galaxies, the hard sharp stars of vacuum, and the drifting nebulae, all visible in the hole at the bottom of the pool. It was cold and beautiful, and took my breath away.

But that wasn’t all that was at the bottom of the pool. There was also — I kid you not — an ape.

The ape appeared to be some kind of guardian or guide, and you can read more about my encounter in that article. On later trips I have made to the pool, the ape hasn’t always been there.

The Forest of the Horned God

Beyond the Faerie Pool is the Forest of the Horned God. This is not a thick, tangled forest — though I haven’t explored all of it — but a region of trees spaced comfortably apart, with grass and wildflowers growing between them, and plenty of light scattering over the forest floor.

Everywhere you look, fairies and small creatures are darting here and there, showing no fear of you. There are no paths in the forest — at least, none visible to the human eye — but any wandering traveler will be drawn deeper and deeper into it. At the heart of the forest is the World Tree itself, which I described encountering for the first time while Running with Cernunnos:

We were headed directly into a forest I had occasionally explored the edges of — one that I suspected was inhabited by fairies and other mysterious wild things. The woods were alternately dark and light as we dashed through thick underbrush and open glades.

…I could do nothing but follow after [him]. Now he picked up speed, and headed directly for the heart of the forest. I expected it to grow darker, but instead the trees thinned, and suddenly I saw it: a towering presence, magnificently gigantic, like a great wooden mountain — a tree that went up taller than any skyscraper, puncturing the heavens. The roots wound among the oaks and rowans of the woods at its feet like bus-sized snakes.

Cernunnos dashed straight up the tree, headfirst, like a squirrel; and I saw that his hind legs had changed to become squirrel-like. I was pulled up after him, up, up, and up, as fast as a climbing rocket; in seconds I could see the edge of the forest, the edge of my “visualization land”, and the great sea beyond it. We were far higher than the mountaintops. Then Cernunnos left me behind, zipping up and losing himself among the branches, and I continued to rise alone.

Unexpectedly I was at the top. There was no sign of Cernunnos. The World Tree tapered abruptly to the thickness of a rope, and ended in a strange twisting ascending spiral. The spiral tendril was wound around a bolt of yellow-white light descending from some unguessed height.

The top of the tree was somehow connected to — hanging from — drawing life from — pure energy from above.

Your Inner Landscape

What realms do you wander? What landscapes are hidden in your heart?

Is there a realm of fear, like my chasm in the heart of the woods? Are there regions of light, are there towers connecting you to the heights? Do you inhabit fantastic landscapes, like mine? Or is it a childhood home, worn permanently into your soul? Or is it a place you visited only once, a quick sharp branding?

Do you continually return to certain places in dreams? Do you feel yourself called to particular towns, countries, or climates? Does your heart resonate with forests, or echo in dry canyons? Is it the sea that calls you? Or rocky pinnacles?

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Comments

  1. Jeff,
    Don’t want to give us much to think about, do you? 😉 Thanks for a great post!

    What landscapes are hidden in your heart?
    I have a couple of places I’ve visited psychically, although I haven’t gone in years and I don’t know anything like as much about them as you do yours. One is so overloaded with obvious symbolism that I’m almost embarrassed about it 🙂 – in a deep, otherwise unbroken forest, there is a small hill that I fly down to; an opening just big enough to walk through leads to a flight of self-illuminating stairs that lead deep into the earth, to a cave where ancient books of wisdom are kept. ‘Nuff said.

    The other one is much more interesting, mostly because the experience of it was shared by several members of my old coven over the course of a few months – a high rocky cliff by the ocean, riddled with small caves where hawks nest, and a tall stone tower that I never entered, although some of the others did; I had a strong feeling that it wasn’t my time yet. The first time we all went there was during our first post-ritual meditation; not all the members of the coven had this experience, but several of us did (and almost all of us who did are still close friends, 15 years later).

    We were all fairly new at the magic thing, and were still very much in wide-eyed-wonder mode. Needless to say, as we (hesitantly) began to discuss our various experiences, we were more than a little shocked to find that they were not as various as we had assumed…

    Do you feel yourself called to particular towns, countries, or climates?
    I’m a confirmed and lifelong Anglophile. We spent two weeks in the south of England (mostly Devonshire and the Cotswolds) and Wales in 1999, and I’ve been homesick for it ever since; cool, damp and green is where I truly thrive. I’m sure this is partly the result of a lifetime of reading English books – I was raised on Paddington, Pooh and P. G. Wodehouse, country-house mysteries and so on – but sometimes I think there’s something more. (For some reason I feel a future post coming out of this!)

    one poster of a bison
    Interestingly, I have a poster that has a similar effect on me; it’s of a painting called “The Spirit of Niagara” by Evelyn Rumsey Cary, and you can see it here, although the scan doesn’t really do it justice. This painting captures so perfectly the animism that is increasingly coming to lie at the heart of my religious life (and it was very much in my mind, and guiding my experience. when we actually got to visit Niagara last year for the first time).

  2. I like Bison, he sounds fascinating. Definitely like to hear more about him 🙂

    Reading through the description of your inner landscape, reminded me of Homer’s description of Hephaestos making the shield of Achilles (Iliad: 18: 484-609). The design of the shield is like a living landscape. The rim of the shield is the world encircling Oceanos, and to me it reads like a creation myth, with the Lame god as the Cosmic Demiurge. His fiery furnace, the source of all things.

    I love your inner landscape and, unlike me, you’ve travelled so much terrain.

    Like your Temple of Apollo, I live in a lunar castle upon a hilltop next to a forest. The castle has the ability to shift locations. I’ve visited the control room only once and checked it out , but I haven’t taken the castle anywhere as yet. Apart from my bedroom, I also have a meditation room, and in the dungeon there is a pool of water. I’ve entered the forest on a couple of occasions, but I haven’t really encountered anything or anyone there yet. So far my inner landscape is pretty much unexplored.

    I’ve been contemplating the Cernunnos scene quite a bit of the past week or so. I wrote in a post a short time ago about the God’s antlers symbolizing the world tree, while the fruit (that is somehow magically hanging between the antlers. I began looking at the image from a Shamanic perspective, imagining the God himself climbing out of his head and then the antlers like the branches of the world tree to obtain the otherworldly fruit, which seems to identify with the pure energy that was somehow connected to the world tree in your meditation. It also makes me think of the mistletoe as the same otherworldly fruit that is said to grow upon the Oak, as well as the golden branch of Apollo, concealed within the grove of Diana, that must be obtained in order to travel safely the realm of Hades.

  3. Erik, me too; I’m from New England and visiting Old England really felt like home, like New England was a pale echo of the real thing. I intend (someday) to move to the UK, probably Wiltshire; that’s the place that really connected with me. Somewhere not far from the Ridgeway and the White Horse.

    And Jeff, good grief! Your inner landscape is way more defined than mine is, and I thought I had mine pictured in ridiculous detail! I find your “realm of fear” very interesting. I don’t think I have anything like this. I grew up with a lot of fear permeating my life, and I still have quite a bit of it. And so my encounters with guides and landscapes and Gods or Goddesses always involve a strong element of reassurance for me. It’s as if they know I have enough of it to deal with, that fear is something that has for a long time been so ubiquitous in my life that there’s no point trying to force me to deal with it, maybe because I have been dealing with far too much of it already, and so my inner landscapes and encounters have to be “safe”. If that makes sense; I’m not sure I’m articulating it well.

    Lately it’s all been about the cabin by the lake in the mountains, and the woods surrounding it. They are very New England-type mountains, probably more like the landscape in your part of Massachusetts than mine (by the coast). The landscapes of my visualisations do tend to look very local; I remember when I followed your Meet a Spirit Guide Meditation being absolutely shocked, I mean horrified, that the beach you described included palm trees! It’s just so very, very wrong. 🙂

  4. Great Post! Keep up the excellent word.

    Love & Gratitude,
    Tina
    Think Simple. Be Decisive.
    ~ Productivity, Motivation & Happiness

  5. Bison is awesome. Faerie is a welcome realm to the wise. This is the season of Cernnunos ascending. We are all in his hands.

    Peace,
    Anne

  6. Hi Jeff,

    I was recently visited by a one-horned ape in meditation. Can you tell me more about your encounters with the ape and if you have figured out any correlation to his presence?

    Much love,

    PK

  7. What I find most interesting about bisons is that if they can, they will find warm springs or hot springs and winter within them. I’ve never been to Yellowstone, but it gives me peace to imagine a herd of bison lingering near those steaming springs. Bison would be an excellent spirit guide who would lead you to warm sources of inspiration.

  8. Jeff Lilly says:

    Erik, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. As you say, the experience of your coven with the vision of the tower is extremely interesting! And it sounds as though it hasn’t played itself out yet… Your connection with England is also interesting. I was also raised on the same kinds of British mystery/Pooh/Paddington books — my mother’s family are all card-carrying Anglophiles themselves, and my uncle in particular sent me so many British books… (Did you ever read Milne’s “Red House Mystery”? A masterpiece!) And yet, oddly enough, I am not an Anglophile in particular. A strange thing for a druid to admit, isn’t it? 🙂 I do like England, certainly, but not unusually so. Scotland, now — there’s another matter… Or Scandinavia. Or Switzerland. Or Greece…

    The poster of Niagara is stunning. I’ve visited a number of times myself, since we lived in Buffalo for a few years, and it was always fantastic. I generally preferred going to the Canadian side — while it was more built up than the US side, you could see the US side, which you could almost convince yourself was in its natural state if you squinted at it…

  9. Jeff Lilly says:

    Mahud, I hadn’t heard of the shield of Achilles! Thanks for opening up that for me. I think you’re right — it does read rather like a creation story.

    Your tower is fascinating! Notice that it has a pool of water in the bottom of it, like the pool in Apollo’s temple? I suspect this is deeply related to the hole full of stars at the bottom of the Faerie Pool — a “thin place” where the veil of the meditation meets Primal Chaos. Let me know if anything ever comes climbing out of your pool! 🙂

    I was very interested indeed to read your post where you connected the horns of Cernunnos with the World Tree, and I’m very eager to see where that research takes you. In my meditation, there was a strong connection between Cernunnos and Ratatosk, the squirrel, as well… And the squirrel not only gathers the “fruit” of the oak — the acorn — but also is vital to the life cycle of the oak, since most oak trees grow from stashes of acorns that have been buried and forgotten by squirrels.

    Cernunnos and Bison have continued to stand by me as I’ve struggled through our family’s move and crises at work (which is why I’m only now getting to these comments 🙂 ). I certainly have more to say about them, and I’m delighted that you’re interested!

  10. Jeff Lilly says:

    Thalia, it’s interesting to hear that you haven’t encountered fearful places in your meditations. I will certainly affirm that visiting the realm of Fear is a lot easier when I’m not at a very high vibration; in fact, I find that the landscapes frequently match my mood (or vice versa!). However, once I’m in the meditation, I can visit any part of it I wish. If I’m in a particularly good mood, I can actually fly from place to place; and sometimes it’s hard to get my feet to stay on the ground… Regardless, I agree with you — I’m sure that your Gods and Goddesses are taking you to the places you’ll find most helpful. I rarely go to the place of fear in any case; I never learn much when I’m there.

    As for the palm trees by the beach… I’m sorry it was so jarring for you! I grew up in North Carolina, so for me beaches without palm trees look odd. 🙂 A couple of other people have had similar problems, though — my description jarring with their own visualizations. I want to stay specific, and add in lots of little details, since I think it helps the people who aren’t so good at visualizing; but for more experienced folks like yourself, I know it can be too much information! I need to strike a balance somehow.

  11. Jeff Lilly says:

    Anne, thanks for your comments. Bison has been a great source of comfort to me — he’s rather gruff and silent, but his presence is very palpable and warm. He continues to tell me to step back, relax, and return to Center. And always when I listen to him, I find myself waiting for me there. 🙂

  12. Jeff,
    I generally preferred going to the Canadian side — while it was more built up than the US side, you could see the US side, which you could almost convince yourself was in its natural state if you squinted at it…

    🙂
    That’s what we did as well – although I have to say that the area right around the hotel (a block or so from the park area where you catch the Maid) reminded me a lot of Myrtle Beach. (If you’ve never been there, it’s a lot like that area of Niagara… 😉 )

  13. Hi Jeff,

    I’m replying to the comment you left on my site to address my earlier question.

    Wow…this is very cool! My Ape is large and his energy is a kind of quiet, grounded strength and power. Very matured and reserved yet solid as a rock, something that can be relied upon to come through.

    I think you are right about the “masculine side”. It’s not an association I made but it is one that feels right.

    When I set him free he morphed into a white unicorn…whom I sensed was female in gender but that masculine energy of the ape was still there.

    I get the feeling that the unicorn represents the two energies “masculine” and “feminine” in balance…kind of a revelation of self in a way!

    That is totally cool 🙂

    Much love,

    PK

  14. So if you’re curious about your own inner landscapes, please drop me a line via the contact form. Tell me your name, and maybe let me know why you’re interested in this experiment, and I will meditate and see if I can see some of your inner landscape. I’ll also create a DJ-style landscape picture (up to 1200×900 pixels) that reflects that landscape, to the best of my ability.

    Jeff, I’d love to take you up on this. I’ve left a couple of messages for you through your contact form, but haven’t heard back. I don’t know if I’m just being impatient (which may very well be true; if so, I apologize) or if it’s some screwy browser-problem on my end. I have two old, obsolete web browsers that don’t always interact with the newer-fangled stuff properly. Do let me know, and thanks for the offer.

  15. Oh, and don’t worry, I can deal with the palm trees fine. It was just a kind of huh, whut? moment for me. 🙂

    I really think that fear is just such a big thing for me in my life (I think, if I were to name the challenge I’d set for myself this lifetime that would be it, fear) that my inner landscape of necessity has to be a place free of it.

    And damn, talk about browsers interacting badly, that first paragraph of my post above should be a quote from you.

  16. Another post in a row; but have you seen this? It’s a temple complex built underground in Italy by a visionary/crazy guy; the place is called Damanhur. I don’t know if I can imbed a link here and I hope it’s okay with you if I do: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=495538&in_page_id=1811

    but damn, you have got to see this. It’s unbelievably absolutely gorgeous. Stunning. And it’s exactly an inner landscape made manifest.

  17. Jeff Lilly says:

    I have to apologize to everyone for taking so long to answer comments — I have been utterly swamped of late.

    Erik: I actually have been to Myrtle Beach pretty often — it was a favorite beach destination for high schoolers in Greensboro, where I grew up — and you’re absolutely right about the resemblance! (For anyone who has never been to either Niagara or Myrtle: the resemblance is NOT a good thing. 😉 )

    Paula: I’ve never heard of the unicorn as a symbolic mixture of male and female before, but it’s a fantastic one! I’d love to hear more about that, when you find out more.

    Thalia: Poor Thalia! 🙂 I did get your messages and I thought I’d answered them, but perhaps something messed up on my end. In any case I HAVE done your meditation, and just as soon as I can I’ll write it up and send it your way! Thanks for taking me up on the offer!

    And Thalia: the landscape I saw for you was completely peaceful and devoid of fear, although there were a couple of disturbing elements.

    Finally: that link to the temple at Damanhur: absolutely amazing, totally fantastic! Talk about an inner landscape! It reminds me so much of a book I saw years ago — there aren’t many copies of it — a complete encyclopedia written in an invented language, if it’s a code it’s never been cracked, beautifully illustrated, reams of pages of fantastical botany, machines with no obvious purpose, alien architecture… Also by an Italian, I think! Something is clearly going on there!! 🙂

  18. Jeff Lilly says:

    The book I mentioned in my last comment: Codex Seraphinianus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Seraphinianus.

  19. There’s a coffee-table book out there on Damanhur; you can get it through Amazon for like $30. I know it’s on my gifts to myself list!

Trackbacks

  1. […] couple of weeks ago when I was spiritually depressed, one of the posts that helped lift me up was Inner Landscapes. I love the idea of combining meditation with visualization and travelling within a unique and […]

  2. […] meditation, in my own personal inner landscape, Cernunnos most often finds me in the Forest of the Horned God; he emerges from a patch of dappled […]

  3. […] techniques for remote spiritual healing, and was itching to do some kind of trade in exchange for a landscape reading and name […]

  4. […] often in meditation consists of a number of consistent regions. I’ve described them in detail in other articles, but in brief they […]

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