After my recent anti-nidstang magic, aimed towards connecting with the local land spirits, some pretty amazing developments have occurred.
There is a stretch of beach near my home at the foot of a sea cliff. The rock is layers, smooth, black and red-brown. I’m no geologist but I think it is mostly layers of igneous, volcanic stone.
Piles of black angular boulders litter the beach here. At high tide they slip from view, only to stubbornly emerge as the sea gasps its last and recedes.
There are mysterious outcrops and places here, including a depression in part of the rock wall which looks like a door to another universe – and from which runs a huge thick vein of red rock that stretches into the ocean.
Last week while wandering among the rocks at low tide I stumbled over a rock formation that offers a perfect “throne”. Somehow the rocks are positioned perfectly for one to sit on in regal style. Even though I have seen these rocks many, many times, I had never before recognised the gestalt of their arrangement.
I sat on these rocks and it felt not unlike how I would imagine a mound sitting, albeit a very royal mound sitting. It felt as though I was being privileged with noticing this seat, as though it were hidden from view unless it wanted to be seen.
And as I sat there, just briefly in the corner of my eye, I saw a mysterious being for the briefest moment.
As a child I read a number of books about Aboriginal mythology, and one of the staples were tall, jet-black, angular land spirits, beings with flaring ears, pointed nails and sinister airs. Australia is no land of spandex-wearing faeries or cute little elves and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now I can’t speak for someone else’s spiritual tradition, but what I saw in the corner of my eye as I sat in that throne was the spitting image of one of those spindly black land spirits. It was tall, and the surface of its body was like a sinkhole to light. It was watching me with a wary curiosity and its eyes glowed a deep red.
Unfortunately as I turned suddenly to get a better look it was gone. But I hoped this would not be our only meeting and I was not disappointed.
A few days later I returned to the rock throne. This time it was just past high tide, so the water almost lapped at my feet. I sat and I called, and made animal noises and shrieked as spontaneity dictated. Eventually I got a response.
Having handed over my actions to my unthinking reflex-mind I was soon exploring the rocks, as an inaudible voice guided me first to this nook, then that cranny. It was as though I was being educated about the secret life of the cliff and boulders, as though I was being shown the insider’s point of view on this place.
I spent quite a long time leaping and bounding, climbing and jumping, until I think I had a pretty good feel for the place. But no spirit. No spectral presence, not even when I sat once more on the throne.
I was starting to get frustrated because I really couldn’t see the point of all this stone ballet. Then I noticed something odd.
Sitting further out from the main boulder area is a single huge, flat-topped rock. This boulder was still water-bound by the tides.
Sitting on the boulder was what looked like the much rusted blade of a saw. Since I had just been about ready to leave, I debated with myself whether to examine this strange sight. But I knew that I had to. I hated the idea of leaving without having made some kind of connection with the being I saw amid the rocks and cliffs.
So out I went, narrowly avoiding getting very soaked. I clambered up onto the boulder and discovered that it was indeed a severely corroded saw blade. This saw had been swimming in the ocean for a very long time, from what I could see. The blade was so rusted that it virtually crumbled in my grasp. No more cutting for this one!
The waves started lashing much higher as I inspected the saw, and I had the strangest feeling that someone was laughing at me as I realised that I had to move quickly before this new watery assault had me soaked. Carefully and swiftly I clambered down the rock and back across the slippery surfaces to the main boulder area.
As soon as I was back to safety the waves resumed their steady seaward march – so it seemed anyway. I didn’t really understand the meaning of the saw, other than perhaps bait to lure me onto the rock where I could be the victim of a wet prank. Oh, and I cut myself lightly as I escaped the seas clutches. “Blood sacrifice” I thought to myself.
After some deliberation I dumped the saw. I figured it was so badly corroded that it was about ready to disintegrate – indeed, it was disintegrating – and that somehow it belonged among the boulders. With that I headed back across the rocky space and off home.
As I neared the edge of the boulder area I heard a noise behind me, I turned to see the strange being, this time in a small rock alcove behind a boulder – another obvious feature like the throne that I had somehow never before noticed. Then it was gone.
I ran over the rocks to where the spirit had stood. I picked among the boulders, finding more hollows and secrets, mystified. Now I knew that it was watching me, but still things seemed rather opaque.
Eventually, no more enlightened as to the being’s purpose, I turned again to leave. This time I stumbled over an iron bar, as long as my forearm, also corroded to the point of disintegration.
As I tested the bar’s heft my mind wandered to an article I recently read about how prehistoric humans made chimes out of resonant stones that would sing when struck. I decided to test some of the local boulders for their tuning.
The rusty bar was not much of a drum stick, being heavy and soft, but to my surprise the rocks sang clear and true! I amused myself for a few minutes recapitulating the prehistoric version of rock stardom before this discovery too seemed to reach the end of my attention span.
I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something. Then the connection became clear – the rusted saw, the rusted bar, my blood and the veins of iron oxide that run through the rocky cliff face. The being I had seen was the spirit of the Iron here!
With that realisation it began to speak to me in my mind, its voice slow and heavy and clanking. It told me that once all had been hot and liquid and it had danced joyously.
But now for untold stretches of time it had been cold and rigid, bound to the cliff and the boulders that had once been like water. And slowly the sea ate away at the rock, stripping out the veins of iron ore and dissolving even their hard shapes.
The spirit lived a lonely life here, with few for company and an inexorable oceanic aggressor at its doorstep. I felt moved to ask it if it could travel somehow – perhaps it could ride the iron in my blood? Then it presented its own solution – a small-shaped piece of corroded iron that had been wedged between two rocks for what looked like a very long time. The spirit told me to take the iron so that its awareness could travel wherever I took this adopted piece of its form.
It also led me to a beautiful shell hidden among the rocks, a gift it said.
Now it was finally time to head home.
On my way it spoke to me a little. It told me that I am the first European-descended person to have noticed it or been able to engage with it. It told me that what made the difference was my connection to my own spiritual heritage.
It told me that most white people in Australia are completely addled and befuddled when it comes to their spiritual identity, that they don’t know themselves and therefore are unable to go beyond their own context to meet the land and people.
It indicated that my anti-nidstang ritual had specific importance in allowing me to interact with me, and that my ability to perform this ritual was one example of the kind of self-knowledge it feels is required.
Strong words from an Iron Spirit! And as always with such experiences to be taken with caution. But as I sit here with the spirit’s mobile iron “transmitter’ on my lap I cannot help but wonder where this will all lead. At the very least, I hope to learn from it and I hope to offer it the chance to explore the world beyond its harsh and wet home.