By David Spangler, Art by Julia Jeffrey
I was deeply moved by Claire Blatchford’s recent Lorian blog, “Meeting a Solitary Neighbor.” Her description of her Sidhe contact Talus struck many familiar notes with me. There is a park not far from my house; part of it is open meadow and wetlands, the other part is a small forest. When I walk the paths among its trees, it’s like being in some deep wilderness, even though it’s surrounded by houses. It’s here that I met a being who very much resembled Claire’s Talus in appearance and demeanor save for one prominent feature. He had antlers like a deer.
When we first met, I had recently been working with my other Sidhe contact, Mariel, on the project that became the Card Deck of the Sidhe. So I was attuned to their vibe, so to speak. Where before I had walked the paths of this little forest park many times and been aware only of the occasional nature spirit, this time something in me was open and resonant to the Sidhe. It was on one of the interior paths that he appeared. In height he was perhaps six and a half feet but the antlers, beautiful on his head, made him appear taller; he was broad-shouldered and seemed to radiate strength and power. His hair was white. He was truly the last thing I expected to see.
He introduced himself, and like Claire’s Talus—or for that matter, like Mariel—his name was not pronounceable in English. However, he gave himself a title. He said, smiling and with no trace of irony, “I am the lord of this forest.” That this was a pocket forest in the middle of suburbia made no difference to him or to the responsibility implied by this title; in fact, I had the strong sense that to him, the physical forest I was in was only an outcropping of a much larger and more magnificent wooded wilderness that existed in his world.
There was no arrogance in his demeanor, only a dignified kind of love. Announcing himself a lord of the forest was not a boast, but a statement of service. In fact, he demonstrated this for me almost immediately. We were in a part of the woods where the path sloped rather steeply uphill, and I was beginning to pant and puff from the exertion of the climb. After years of asthma, my lungs aren’t always strong at the best of times, and I was feeling a familiar constriction of breath in my chest as I struggled up the path. Immediately he stepped into me. There’s no other way to describe it. His whole body enveloped mine and then it was as if he melted inside. Immediately, I felt this surge of strength, my breathing cleared up, and I found myself charging up the slope as if it weren’t there. When I reached the top and everything leveled off, he stepped out of my body and was beside me again. “Thank you,” I said. “You were in my forest and you were in difficulty,” came his reply. “I wanted to see if I could help. I’m glad it worked.”
When we reached the edge of the wood where the meadow took over, he said goodbye and disappeared. I left the park soon after, still feeling highly energized, a sensation that lasted for several hours.
The next time I came to the park, he met me on the walkway between the parking lot and the forest and escorted me into the trees. As before, as we walked side by side, I could feel him absorbing information from my presence just as I was picking up on his own energy. Very few words needed to pass between us for there to be a sense of a conversation going on. Unlike with Mariel, there was no sense of a purpose in our meeting. It was more like two old friends out for a stroll in a companionable silence. I felt the age of the land around him, as if he had been present in this area for a very long time, far longer than the suburb that lay about us.
I think of him as my “wild Sidhe,” and Mariel, the Sidhe priestess who instigated the card project, as more “civilized,” though even as I write this, I realize how meaningless such distinctions are when dealing with these beings. I think what I mean is that he felt deeply a part of nature, both his own and ours, whereas Mariel feels to me as an agent of civilization, one who seeks to serve her people and their culture, but who also is trying to build bridges in ways that will help us serve our civilization as well and draw our two species together.
The antlered Lord of the Forest and Mariel are really the only two Sidhe with whom I’ve had any kind of consistent contact, and most of that has been with Mariel. A sampling of two hardly qualifies me to arrive at any conclusions about these beings. But I have no doubt they appreciate our acknowledgement as well as any efforts we may make to be more Sidhe-like in how we engage our world. They are a peaceful people, a loving people, a nurturing people, and they encourage us to be the same.
An important concept to Mariel has been that of anwa, which is more than just the spirit of something but also its place in the world, its connections, its functions, its “activity of being.” She refers to it often, as do other Sidhe whom I have briefly met. Here is what she said when she first introduced me to the idea in the context of talking about the Sidhe as shapeshifters. I’ll let her have the last word in this blog:
Greetings and Blessings! Let me describe what shapeshifting means to us. It can under certain circumstances mean an alteration of our actual form, the change from one shape to another. This is more prevalent among Sidhe who are younger, who are our children, who use this ability for fun and sport or, yes, even for mischief. But as we mature, we discover other, deeper uses for this capacity, uses which should not be so literally translated as an actual changing of physical shape. It becomes instead a resiliency of consciousness, an ability to take on and share the inner shape of something or someone in our environment. In fact, I am using this capacity now to communicate with you.
You might call this ability to shapeshift attunement, and it is this, but it is more. In fact, the word “shape” is misleading here, for this ability is not simply one of mimicking a form different from our own. The true shape of anything isn’t what it looks like but what it is as an activity of life. You do not have a word for this. It is something’s function, yes, but also how life moves and flows within and around it, and the intentionality that powers that movement. You might use a word like “spirit” but it is not truly the spirit of something. Rather it is the moving pattern that the spirit imparts. We call this the anwa.
If we see a tree, we are aware of the spirit of the tree and also of its form, its trunk and branches, how its roots go into the earth, the shape of its leaves, and so forth. The anwa stands between these two things. It is the shape of the tree’s spirit’s intent and the activity and functions that flow from that intent. When we shapeshift, we use our anwa to enter into and hold within ourselves the anwa of the tree. We become this anwa. We do not become the spirit or the identity of the tree; it’s important to realize this. Rather, we take on in ourselves, in our own energy field, the movement and flow of the tree’s life. We fill ourselves with “the activity of tree”.
It might be possible under the right circumstances for us to assume the form of the tree so that if you were looking, it would seem to you that you saw two trees, not one. But this accomplishes nothing. The form of the tree is not its life, not its anwa. We are no closer to the tree if we take on its form than if we take on any form, including our own. Do you understand?
For us, shapeshifting is not about form but about connection. It is how we connect. I am taking on something of your anwa now in order to communicate with you, and you are taking on something of mine. So we are shapeshifting now, are we not?
We blend with the anwa of the things in the world around us in order to better know them and relate to them; you might say we attune, but attunement for humans often has too mental a connotation. It is that our anwa, our activity, comes into harmony and blending with the anwa of another, and this is more than a mental act or an imaginative one. It is an act of loving respect and honor. It is an act of shared life. Love stands behind our shapeshifting.
For more insights from Mariel and the Sidhe, take a look at David Spangler's book Conversations with the Sidhe, available in the Lorian Bookstore. Special thanks to Julia Jeffrey, creator of the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, for granting us permission to use her images.