Minding the Spirits of Place

Minding the Spirits of Place | Land Spirits | Land Wights | Landvaettir | Pukwudgies | Elves | Dwarves | Mikumwess | www.WildSwanWoman.com

In Heathenry, we have land spirits. Depending upon your branch of Heathenry, you might be more inclined to call them land wights or landvættir, but we are talking about a type of nature spirit associated with a particular place. In some places, like Iceland, you may even find construction crews reluctant to move a rock if it is thought to be home to an elf.  If you are from more of a Celtic hearth, there are the Fair Folk, aka, the Fey, or fairies. Here in the United States, we have many types of spirits. Some that were native to this land, and others who travelled with immigrants to this land.

If we are smart, we try not to anger them. Over time, and depending upon the nature of the wight, it is possible for some to develop a beneficial, reciprocal relationship through giving gifts and offerings and showing respect. Then again, there are some wights which are just better left alone.

Back in my twenties, I had the luxury of walking in the woods almost daily. I had my favorite trails for hiking, plus a few favorite spots to leave offerings or perhaps weave a spell. Some trails had all of these. My walks were how I cleared my mind. It was also through these walks and offerings that I eventually reached what I can only describe as a tentative truce with the land spirits of those forests, which aren’t generally known to be friendly.

In southern New England, the pukwudgie is at best, a mischievous wight, and at worst, a child-snatching and/or murderous drawf-like creature. Several deaths, possibly accidental or suicidal, at “the ledge” in Freetown State Forest have been blamed on pukwudgie attacks. People who have been near the ledge have reported being attacked, being pushed near the edge of the ledge. According to local lore, pukwudgies might attack with small blades and spears.

In addition to these ill-willed dwarf-like wights, the forest has been witness to satanic animal sacrifice involving cows, drug-related crime, and multiple murders, beatings, and knife attacks over the years. The region, most of which lies within the so-called “the Bridgewater Triangle”, has an odd and dark past, including bloody battles, the infamous Lizzie Borden murders, the haunted Hockomock Swamp, and tales of murderous spirits in local lakes.

The New England Paranormal Research website, which details a number of haunted places in southeastern Massachusetts, claims “Psychics who have visited the area and Native American both claim the horrible crimes and hauntings will not stop until the tribe is given back the land.” Elsewhere around the internet, this claim is attributed to the Wampanoags, not psychics. Given that the Wampanoags had an unfriendly relationship with the puckwudgies for at least 350 years prior to the sale of land now known as Freetown State Forest and adjacent wooded properties ever since the pukwudgies either killed or chased off the Wampanoag’s giant/god, Maushop,  I doubt that 100% of the troubles of this land would magically disappear even if the land were returned to the tribe.

Minding Spirits of Place | www.WildSwanWoman.com

My first staff, decorated. These days, it is reserved for rituals where healing is sent to the earth.

I do, however, believe that there is a layer of anger and unhaelu over this land that stems from land disputes. I recently had my own message come through while at one of my “spots”, and will detail that more below. One of these land disputes was the sale of land now known as Freetown State Forest, which Wamsutta may not have had the backing of his tribe to sell it. However, unloading a cursed tract of land to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does kind of seem like a slick move. 

Just abutting the state forest is the Wampanoag reservation along the Fall River and Freetown line. The City of Fall River took by eminent domain approximately 100 acres of reservation land, representing half of the Wattuppa reservation belonging to the Pocasett Wampanoags, apparently to secure and manage the area surrounding the municipal water supply at Wattuppa Pond.

One of my favorite walking trails, the Tattapanum Trail, is out that way. It is a relatively short loop (about a mile long) with spruce, pine, birk, elm, oak, holly and stone walls. The occasional downed elm would give off a cinnamon-like aroma. My first staff was a downed branch from these woods. I always brought something, whether it be a little wine, oats, milk and honey, or occasionally some herbs which I had blessed to leave as a “thank you” for a safe visit and enjoyment of the trail.

The trail’s primary feature is a ledge overlooking the northmost tip of the pond. The trail is just long enough for a pleasant walk to clear my mind, while not taking up an entire day. This was close to my apartment back then, so a daily walk was an easy thing. This was a well-travelled trail, and on any fair-weathered day, I could expect to meet other people out for a walk, walking their dogs, getting their kids out in nature, and so on.

Time has passed, and after moving away from that neighborhood, two (unplanned) surgical births, and injuring my knee, I haven’t been walking in the woods anywhere. Also in that timeframe, my husband and I have purchased land far north of here in Maine. One of the things we always notice when we are there is how much better we feel. Literally, the amount of physical pain in our bodies from prior injuries is just less. We move better, we sleep better, and frankly, we feel younger. (Or maybe it’s that at our primary address, we feel older?)

Our Forest | Spirits of Place | Haelu | www.WildSwanWoman.com

A photo of part of our forest, near to where we will be setting up our god poles.

The land spirits native to our area in Maine are called the Mikumwessuk, and were known to the local Penobscots and other local tribes as benevolent forest spirits. That is, however, if you were disrespectful. Then like other “little people”, they could be dangerous. This race of dwarf-like spirits was said by the Maliseet tribe to be descended from a dwarf-like hero called Glooscap. Glooscap and his older brother, Mikumwesu, are both said to have magical powers. We have sworn to the spirits of this land, which not all seem to be native spirits (there is a definite presence of the Heathen gods here, but that’s a tale for another time), to keep this land hale. Any construction done must not take away from the health and holiness of the land. In truth, the land does not belong to us, but we belong to the land, which is a different and far more intimate relationship.

After a trip up to our property, and feeling much better from both lots of work I’ve been doing to make my knee stronger and from the infusion of good energy from our land, I decided to take up my old walk again. My husband came along, and we started up the trail. I admit, this once easy trail wasn’t easy for me any more. My knee made it, and I take that as a testament to my consistent work. But, there was something very different.

There were no other people walking the path, though it was absolutely perfect weather- bright and sunny, temps in the upper 60’s (F). On a holiday weekend, we should have run into other people. But, there was no one.

The woods felt different, maybe angry, but more sad, or some combination of the two. The only word that came to mind when I was walking the trail was “burden”. The forest felt burdened. We made our way to the ledge known as “East Look”. I sat down on the ground and put my hands on the soil and closed my eyes. It was almost immediate. In my mind, I saw swirling patterns and heard the message that “it all has to go”.

East Look | Minding Spirits of Place | www.WildSwanWoman.com

A former sacred space.

I interpreted that to mean all the construction and heavy machinery from the nearby industrial park that is constantly causing noise and destruction of the land. I don’t see how that will ever happen, but that’s how the message hit me first, that the area needed to be returned, not just to the Wampanoags, but to its original state, minus the construction. My husband, however, looked over the ledge and saw it had been treated like a garbage dump, complete with needles, presumably from heroine use which has become a major problem in the New England area.

Perhaps it was the abuse of this particular space that “had to go”. Either way, I don’t want to run into drug users out there. When I got up to leave, I got the distinct impression this may be one of the last, or the last, times I would ever see this place again.

I’m sure all the arguing in recent years over potential real estate developments, casinos, and the massive new construction and ripping out of trees to make way for the pharmaceutical industry isn’t helping matters. There is now a biopark in place, a new exit off the highway, and more land being sold off in huge lots of 100 acres each to the pharmaceutical industry. To add another layer to this mess, this article posits that the rock quarried from the ledge in Freetown State Forest is cursed, which was used is many buildings in this area, the Newport mansions, and even some buildings in New York. This curse is supposed to then be transmitted to every building that was built with rock from that quarry.

I don’t know if that’s true, but it would sure explain the luck of this area. For my part, I will be resuming my monthly offerings at this trail. Only, I will be doing so at the gate from the road for the time being.

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About the author

Freya Swan

Freya Swan is a Germanic and Celtic polytheist, animist, and witch. Freya's enjoys herbalism, healing customs, spinning and fiber arts, and seidr. She also practices martial arts as a devotional practice to the Morrigan, including krav maga, archery, and target shooting. Freya has been reading tarot and runes for over 30 years and is also a Reiki Master.

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