tree spirit helpers

I’m a believer in helping spirits—beings and energies that work with us to help us along the way. For some people, these spirits show up in dreams, in unbidden visions or quiet voices of advice and guidance. For myself, I have to remain aware enough to call on these spirits, or I can miss their powerful presence. It’s part of the loner in me to keep myself in my own head and heart, frequently forgetting to reach out to those precious, sacred, helping “others.”

This morning, I woke up thinking about helping spirits. I blessed them in my prayers, and gave thanks for all the helping spirits in my life. And it suddenly occurred to me that there are many, many more helping spirits that work with me than I commonly acknowledge.

Obviously, I recognize many animal spirits that walk with me—some for many years, some for just a moment or two when needed. Wolf, Elk, Hummingbird, Owl: These beloveds I know well. I’ve sat with them in formalized shamanic journeys, in quiet meditations. Sometimes, they show themselves to me in their physical forms, and I nearly shake with excitement in those moments…

Here in Indiana, I have come to recognize the helping spirits in the trees around me. They carry a strong, stabilizing presence when I allow myself to see them in a sacred way. I’m ashamed to admit that I can blunder through the forest wrapped up in my own stupid thoughts for long periods of time without really seeing and thanking the trees for being with me. Because they are not as dramatic a presence as a wolf or elk crossing my path, I can easily dismiss the presence of the trees, not seeing them as the steadfast, helping spirits they are.

Inside the house, I am beginning to recognize a host of ready helping spirits that I have never truly seen as such: The sourdough starter sitting on the counter, the pesto that lives in the freezer, the gurgling jars of fresh kraut in the fridge, the herbs I smoke for my asthma. Foods are helping spirits, just like totem animals. The nutrition and medicine we take into our bodies comes in the form of spirit energy, and has a personality in its physical form that is all its own.

sourdough spirit helper

I was explaining to a friend the other day about the process of maintaining the sourdough starter I’ve been nursing along on my counter the past few months. This starter makes a bread that is truly the food of the angels. The sourdough mixture requires regular feeding and attention. “Sounds like a pet,” my friend said. She was right. To keep that starter hearty and strong, I have to have an ongoing relationship with it. In particular, I need to remember it is there, on the counter, needing to be seen and tended. Like a relationship with any living thing, it takes time and attention. This is true with our relationships with helping spirits as well—they take time and attention.

I’m beginning to “see” this sourdough starter as a sacred friend and helper. I feed her and respect her and gives thanks for her, and she works with me to create a food that is healthy and healing for my family. I make my own sauerkraut for health reasons, and—like the sourdough starter—it is literally a living food, teeming with enzymes and good bacteria. I think I will start treating my krauts as sacred helping spirits, too. These humble foods bring healing energy into my life. Is this not a helping spirit? While not as majestic as an owl or a fully matured oak tree, these kraut spirits work with my family in deep healing ways.

kraut spirit!

So, I’m going to start talking quietly to the kraut when I take a heaping spoonful of her onto my plate. I’m going to thank her for her gifts, her wisdom, her healing. And I’m going to do that to the pesto I keep in my freezer, made up of the beautiful herbs that gave themselves to me so abundantly from my garden this year. The basil, the rosemary, the savory and sage—all are sacred spirits teeming with profound and ancient vibrations. Each had a personality in my garden all its own. Now, in a happy commingling of ice and oil, this food spirit rests in our freezer, ready to bring joy to my tastebuds and energy to my body. I thank the helping spirit residing in that pesto.

And I thank the helping spirit who shows herself to me in the form of bathwater springing hot and bubbly from  the faucet, bringing healing to my achy body and a lift to my heart. She is a totem, too. A medicine teacher. A power animal in an elemental body.

The morning sunlight through my bedroom window touches the cherished red fleece blanket on my bed. I smile. Both are helping spirits.

Great, beloved Mystery. Thank you for reminding me this morning that the world around me is overflowing with helping spirits in many forms, all of them awaiting activation by the simple touch of my acknowledgment and appreciation.

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