Land Spirit Basics (Landvaettir Studies)
What Are Landvaettir?
The world around us is alive. The Web of Wyrd spreads out within, beyond and beneath everything, and in places, it knots up to create complex structures that are both part of and separate from the weave of the Web. Some of these knots are simple—foxes, cats, trees, chickens, bugs, even humans, but some of these knots are far larger still. Some of these knots are like gestalts, knots upon knots creating a larger conglomerate knot. These are the Landvaettir, the gestalt souls of things like all the trees of a forest or all the stones of a mountain. Even the life and hum of a city is, in itself, the whispering voice of a kind of gestalt soul for an urban conglomerate.
When I talk about Wights (Landvaettir / Land Spirits) in a Germanic context, I see them as individuals. Certainly, it could be argued that, like matter, the breath of önd or the conscious stuff of Macht (energy) is infinitely divisible into smaller components and infinitely combinable into larger and larger gestalts, but on a human level, a practical level of ritual and personal practice, Wight works as a term for the spirit of a tree, a stone, a pond, an animal or a human. Another comparable term is simply Vaettir.
Landvaettir, to me, are the larger entities that exist as gestalt spirits of physical spaces. These are the guardians of meadows, parks, hills, rivers and mountains. While the name certainly also, by its very definition, includes all Wights of the land, both great and small, I personally use it mostly to describe the larger land spirits, like those Landvaettir recognized as the great protectors of Iceland.
If you are new to the Germanic spiritual paradigm, then perhaps now is a good time to point out the inherent blurriness and interpretability of all of it. A healthy degree of openness and self-study is definitely required when it comes to finding your own path and finding what works best for you. As a further example of the blurriness, consider the fact that, not only are Wights and Landvaettir capable of being synonymous as terms (they even come from different Germanic areas) they are labels that can be given to any non-physical entity that inhabits a place. Alfar (elves), Thurses (giants), and Landdisir (female ancestors inhabiting the land) are just a few of the kinds of entities that can be considered Landvaettir, or spirits of the land.
Entire books can be written to pick-apart and precisely define Landvaettir as entities (and entire books have been written—my two favorite mainstream resources for in-depth knowledge are KveldulfR Hagan Gundarsson's Elves, Wights, and Trolls and Neolithic Shamanism by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera) but the purpose of this introduction as much about with what they are, as it is about how they are in their element. The best teacher is experience, and if experience is your goal, then you'll find all the tools you need to start in the paragraphs below. As part of my studies in Mystic Heathenry on Patreon, I am also in the process of detailing some case studies of my own experiences with Landvaettir as part of my own cultural observations in the field.
Instead of trying to provide any more idea of the philosophical mechanics of what Landvaettir are, let us just say that they are people. Sure, they aren’t meat-bodied humans, but they are as worthy of our respect and reverence as any other people are. Some of them were here long before humanity even existed. Some of them were human before they began to inhabit the land. Some of them were even our direct, physical ancestors who went into the land and became one with it. Some are Alfar or Disir, and some of those were also once human. The spirit of a tree and the spirit of a forest are both conscious, sometimes even far more so than your average human, and all are deserving of respect, consideration and kindness. Self-effacing reverence is optional. My ancestors did not grovel before anyone, not humans, deities or spirits of the land, but rather walked among them all as friends and kin. The treatment of Wights, indeed of all Landvaettir, should be respectful above all else, as respectful and loving as one should be to others. Even this requires a change in thinking—how do you treat strangers? How do you treat family? How should you treat them? Landvaettir generally ignore humans because humans generally ignore them, but occasionally, and especially if you seek out these spirits of the land, attentions collide and mix and respect becomes paramount. The next section of this article deals with the protocol for contacting and working with the Wights of the Land, but truly it is, at its core, about respect. You might even say that the protocol for dealing with Landvaettir really outlines how you should be treating anything and anyone you encounter in your life, regardless of how their physical body is configured (if they even have one.)
Remember always that these are complex, passionate creatures of land and spirit that are often immensely old, with none of the hangups and resistance that we have, bound as we are within the conditioning and strictures we’ve imposed upon ourselves for the sake of building and maintaining civilization. They do not typically speak in English words, or words of any human language. They speak in wind, in the crackle of fire, in images and concepts and intense emotions. Be open, absolutely open, and you may make friends the likes of which you could never have imagined.
Protocol For Contact:
Most of the case studies you will find on my Patreon are chronicles of learning through experience. In many ways, I consider the data I've gathered as a kind of guide of what to try (and what to avoid) told firsthand by someone who has made some rather childish mistakes along the way. Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned is the exact meaning of respect, and how unconscious ideas about the land and about the spirits of the land can taint us in such terrible and subtle ways. Never take the feelings, sovereignty or gifts of anyone (that includes Wights of the Land) for granted. The damage you do to yourself when you take entities of any kind for granted as something you can use for your ends far outweighs any damage you will do to those you use. Wherever you go, walk lightly, pay attention and stay open and receptive always.
To start, even before you go somewhere with the intent of contacting and/or working with an unfamiliar Landvaettir, think of the place, picture it in your mind, and put words to your intent. Do this for a moment, and meditate if you wish. Think about the place and put into that thought the intent within you that you’d like to meet the spirit of the land there. If you get a strong emotional reaction, especially if it feels alien or negative, make a note of it. Mostly what I get is a neutral reaction. If you get a neutral, happy or welcoming reaction, proceed to the next step. If you get a negative reaction or a clear communication that you are not wanted, ground yourself, breathe, and pick another place. Respect includes not interacting with Landvaettir that want to be left alone.
Next, before you go to a place, pack offerings. Try to pack with as little plastic and/or discardable wrappings as you can because some Landvaettir can be phobic about litter. Avoid metal containers. Glass, ceramic, etc. are generally okay. If you really have no alternatives to plastic or metal containers for your offerings, that’s okay, but for best results, consider the fears and feelings that seem to be quite common among Landvaettir about trash and metals.
When it comes to offerings, always consider the nature of the place you will be visiting, and the meaning behind the offerings. Offerings that show care and consideration (like organic things or things you grew in your own garden) are excellent. Meaningful things are also excellent. Things that nourish the body of the Landvaettir (the animals, trees, ground, etc.) are another excellent class of things to bring. If you can hit all three of these, you’ve got a great offering. As an example, I will often bring organic barley and flax as an offering, as these are the grains of my ancestry (making them meaningful), they nourish the earth and leave no pollution (being organic, they haven’t been sprayed with pesticide.) Occasionally, I will bring dried corn kernels from the family garden as an offering and out of respect for the Native American ancestors that surely still inhabit this land. Even though they probably didn’t raise corn where I live, I’ve never gotten the feeling that they didn’t appreciate the gesture for other reasons. Besides, making acorn bread is something I haven’t set aside the time to try to do yet. Sometime in the future, surely.
Of course, if you make contact with a Landvaettir before going and they ask for something specific (like mead, bourbon or cigarettes) listen to that recommendation and follow it as closely as you can (within the bounds of what is reasonable and legal.) If offering something like alcohol or cigarettes, be environmentally conscious. Don’t leave liquor bottles in the woods and make sure to tear the filters off cigarettes (or hand roll them) so that only the biodegradable parts are left and no animals are harmed by your offerings.
When it comes time to go out to a place and make contact with a Landvaettir, enter that place consciously. If possible, park outside and walk in. Reach out mentally (and with love and gratitude) to the spirit of the place and pay attention to its reactions (or lack thereof.) If the spirit shows you beautiful things that it knows you will like, pay attention to those things and express gratitude. Remember that you are not just within the Landvaettir’s house, you are inside its very body. Be very respectful, loving and gentle, as much so as you would want someone else to be if they were inside of your body, walking around and looking at all of your organs, etc. Treat the Landvaettir how you would want to be treated, and sometimes that can be all that is needed to make a friend for life. Landvaettir have thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams (and the ability to astral travel and affect things metaphysically) just as we all do, so keep all of this in mind when contacting them or working with them. If you harm part of the gestalt (stomping on bugs, killing snakes, spraypainting trees, littering, being an ass, etc.) the whole gestalt will react to it. Hurt or disrespect one Wight in an area, and you may find that the tone of your relationship with that whole area will change drastically.
If possible, let the Landvaettir lead you to a place where it wants to make contact with you. This can be any place in any area, so be open-minded and receptive to what it tells you, but also be safe. If the Landvaettir tries to lead you somewhere dangerous, offer to compromise on something safe for you or break contact and leave. Not all Landvaettir are safe to interact with. Some are hungry, vengeful or have other unresolved issues that might make them want to screw with you. Keep this in mind when meeting them in the wild.
Once you find the perfect place to interact with the Landvaettir, make your offering. If you want to prepare even more, pick up any trash you see along the way and dispose of it properly. This is a great aid to earning the trust of any nature Wight, big or small. Speak to the Landvaettir and make it clear that you are interested in friendship, in just meeting and getting to know the spirit. Treat it like any other budding relationship or friendship. Be open, but avoid being aggressive, demanding or jumping too far ahead too fast. Be cool, and let whatever happens, happen. There are plenty of Landvaettir in the world, and we need to respect that each one is an individual and must be treated with respect. Don’t propose marriage on date one, basically.
Next, get comfortable. Lay down, sit down, or lean on something. Close your eyes and open your mind. Embrace total surrender, total openness. Release all expectations and open yourself completely. Reach out for the Landvaettir, for the different little Wights of the land, but mostly, just be receptive and make it known (mentally project) that you are open for contact. If a spirit doesn’t want to talk to you, don’t force it. Open yourself, wait and be receptive. Wait as long as you want, or as long as you need to, but even if a Landvaettir shows up strongly and starts to just check you out, don’t go chasing after it if it turns out it doesn’t want anything to do with you. Be gentle, considerate and caring. Remember that these are spirits of the wild. If you get in their face, they are perfectly capable of tearing you up and tearing up your reputation with the other local spirits. Getting in the face of a spirit that wants nothing to do with you and ignoring its snarls and howls can leave you physically exhausted to a surreal degree, can leave you racked by phantom pains, or even earn you the disapproval of other spirits affected by the rage, fear or other powerful destructive emotions of a spirit that is stirred to tear its way around an area because you just couldn’t leave it alone. Some Wights just want to see what you are because, in a world of unconscious people, you are an anomaly. Let them decide if they want to make more meaningful contact with you beyond just the standard sniffing and staring.
If the Landvaettir is open to contact, again, take it slow. Respect that their language isn’t necessarily going to be the same as yours. Those Wights that speak in glyphs or sounds (like us) rarely speak English (in my experience in North America) and most of them do not speak in language at all. Runes, written words and spoken language are things that humans invented and use to communicate in the physical realm through vibrations, through ink on paper or through dark lines on computer screens. Almost all of the Land Wights I have interacted with communicate instead through the projection of images and strong emotions. Like playing a game of charades, you may have to (again, gently) spend some time sorting out what they’re trying to say by offering your own translations and then accepting the positive/negative (yes/no) responses they give.
Keep this in mind if you’re seeking to get a name from the Landvaettir that you can use as a convenient label to call it by. With all of the experiences I’ve had, I really recommend relaxing on the labeling. Make contact, accept the form of that contact and just keep it casual. After you have established a strong relationship, then maybe offer a name for the entity, and be respectful if it doesn’t like the name. In all honesty, if you’re just making casual contact with a Wight of the land, just have fun with it, enjoy it, and focus on casual conversation and the exchange of concepts. That, in itself, can be incredibly rewarding.
Once you’ve cultivated a comfortable friendship with a Wight of the Land, then you might consider seeking a name (a label, which in itself is like a sigil to call or contact that entity) for your friend for ease of contact and for ease of speaking about them (in my own example, Hummingroot is a much easier label to work with when talking about the tree and the Wight of that tree than “that big ‘ol black walnut tree on the south-east side of that big artificial meadow at the park, near-ish to the nature center.” It’s a convenience, like a nickname, but like choosing a nickname for a friend with a really long name, you still have to be respectful about it and obtain consent.
To label a Landvaettir with a name in a way that is respectful, you have to earn the right to do so. They will show you images of the way that they see themselves, and that, in itself, is like the idea of a name to them. If you befriend them and you find a good language name label to give them, they may accept it as your personal label for them. Their true name is almost always visual, pure sensation, or raw sense data, and no language or runic correspondence can ever really do true justice to the audio/visual sensations of who they are that is the closest thing they have to a name.
Last, but certainly not least, remember that there is a lot to be gained in cultivating the relationships you make with Landvaettir. Consider, for example, how you would feel if someone walked into your home unexpectedly and started making conversation with you, then left and you never saw them again. Sure, most Land Wights are used to complete strangers walking in on them (and they don’t have social hangups like modesty) so it’s not a big deal, like it would be with a human. It’d be odd (and maybe kind of special) if it happened to you, but who knows—great friends can be made entirely by accident. Sometimes Land Wights are lonely, and sometimes they really appreciate the attention that comes from people who actually stop to make conversation. Seeing them in this way, as people, instead of just as some curious external “other” that is less important than people (or treating them the way most people treat those who work in the service industry—as a nuisance or a barrier between them and what they need,) is important. Cultivating a friendship means coming back, making gifts, doing nice things that help the land (and its inhabitants) and making conversation. When you’re contacting or working with Landvaettir, you can’t frame the interaction with entitlement, like the spirit is at your beck and call. Instead, you must face it the way you would face someone you honor and respect. In my own experience, I know and am friends with a Landvaettir I’ve come to call Vinvindr. I know where they (they as a singular, non-binary pronoun) live and when I want to hang out with them, I’ll reach out (like a phone call,) get the okay and drive out to their “house” or “body” (the park.) I’ll park, walk in, pick up trash as a show of friendship and Vinvindr will show me neat things along the way, sometimes even offering gifts of their own. We talk, hang out and do stuff together (mostly hiking, önd/macht energy healing for the land [think Norse reiki with your hands on trees and in the dirt] and meeting other Vaettir) much in the same way that I would interact with any of my human friends. It doesn’t matter that Vinvindr is ephemeral energy laced into wind and leaves, existing as a gestalt soul of a park wedged between the river and the highway. Vinvindr is still a person in every way that matters, and so I treat them as such.
Going beyond my personal experience, truly deep and meaningful friendships with land spirits are possible, and their protection can be powerful. A friend of mine who cultivated a strong friendship / working relationship (physical and spiritual) with the land where her house is found herself not only guided by the spirit of the land out of the wildfire that leveled the nearby town, but also came back (hiking in, as the roads were blocked) to find that her house was untouched by the blaze, even if the land all around it had been charred/cleansed. Gardeners whose gardens give impressive yields without chemicals or sprays will often tell you about how they work with the spirits of the plants to get those yields, and even in Hawaii, there are stories of devoted priestesses of Pele (a goddess linked to the big island, in the same way that a Landvaettir is) whose houses were spared (even into our current century) by destructive lava flows that proceeded to level whole towns or subdivisions in the same area.
That’s just the basic framework of interacting with (and cultivating friendships with) Landvaettir. In short, keep it casual, keep it gentle and work on listening and accepting what comes. Be safe out there in the wilds and, if I might suggest, keep a log of your contacts. You can learn far more about yourself, the world around you and your interactions with (and within) it simply by taking time to review your observations as part of keeping and re-reading a log of your experiences.