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