February 4, 2023

Speak To The Spirit – Living The Animist Way


It’s a beautiful day and I’m driving on a highway I’m unfamiliar with. The scenery is stunning – this road wends its way through a wide and ancient volcanic valley, and in each direction I look, there are mountains, the Fiordlands to one side of me, the Takatimu range to the other.

These mountains are named after the Takitimu waka (canoe) which was wrecked in nearby Te Waewae Bay. Legend tells of three gigantic waves, named O-te-wao, O-roko and O-kaka, and these waves hurled the waka inland, where its upturned and broken hull forms the Takitimu Range.

But my attention is focused mostly on the road. When we cross a small stream, I look for the peg at the side with the highway number on it, to make sure I have the right one when I speak.

Greetings to you, Spirit if Highway 94,
I am glad to be travelling your way this day.
I honour your spirit embodied in this road,
And ask that you lend your kind awareness to us
As we travel today, and keep us safe while we follow your way.
Blessings to you, Highway 94.
Greetings and blessings.

I finish my karakia (prayer or incantation) and let my spirit reach out to touch that of the highway. My lips curve in a smile at the highway’s surprise in being greeted and acknowledged – this is no longer usual for her. I tip my head in a small bow and introduce myself. From now on when travelling this way, she and I will greet each other.

Eventually, I’m back travelling the way of my old friend State Highway 1, which runs from one end of
Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island to the other, and continues along the length of Te Ika ā Māui, the North Island. The spirit of this road has become a good friend of mine, after we exchanged introductions and I greeted him each and every time I travelled the road between Southland and Dunedin. This spirit is a distinctly male presence, and when I see him, he has the torso and head of a man – usually grinning with wild pleasure, hair blown back in the wind, and legs that either are wheels, or are running so fast that they are blurred like spinning wheels. I laugh when he appears and ask him how his wife is – she’s the spirit of the North Island highway, and I’m sure, if I ever meet her, that she runs the length of her road with similar wild abandon.

I’ve come to Dunedin to visit one of my sons, who lives in a house built in the 1870’s, and which could do with more than a little tender loving care. I remember the night we’d stayed over after helping my lad to move in, and I went quietly seeking the spirit of this old place.
How surprised he was to be sought and greeted, and it took a while for him to wake properly – for no one had taken the time to greet him, or even take good care of him for a very long while. Soon, however, we were having a good conversation, and I was asking him to take care of my son while he lived in within his shelter.

The spirit of the house agreed, but asked for something in return. A vessel, that he may hop in and out of, and a focus for offerings. There was a shop nearby, a second hand store, and I would find something suitable there. I nodded, and the next day I went to the shop, certain I would find exactly the right thing. I envisioned a small statue or figurine, something that would happily embody the spirit of the old house. Perhaps a turtle, I imagined. Something we could pat fondly as we came and went.

I got a shock when I went inside the shop. There was barely anything there – everything had been cleared or sold, and not restocked. This was a disaster, I thought, shaking my head. I’d never find anything amongst the few bits and pieces left. Some cutlery, a few books, some old clothes.

But there, right at the back, standing in lone glory on a shelf, there was the exact thing I needed. I smiled as I picked up the glazed tiki cup, turning it over in my hands, looking at its face.

I had a feeling the spirit of my son’s new flat owned a grand sense of humour.

When she walked, it was with eyes open to spirit and the physical. Once, she knew, there had been no veil between the worlds. Once, magic had been part of life, as near as one’s own breath. There had been no seperation between the world of spirit and the physical realm. They had lived then in full awareness of both. Every living thing had soverignity, spirit, dignity. 

Everything sang. Roared, dreamed, spun magic. Every frog, every leaf, every stone.

Every tiger, wolf, sandpiper. 

Every human. 

Morghan, The Gathering, Ch 49

Katherine Genet is the author of the Wilde Grove mythic/visionary fiction series, as well as complementary non-fiction. She has been walking a pagan path for 30 years and is a shamanic Druid, spirit worker, and priestess of  Elen of the Ways.

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  1. Amanda Beddingfield

    I want to learn more on how to live such as you do…it appears to be such a natural way to be.

    • Katherine Genet

      It’s a fulfilling, less stressful way to live, because it’s fully in relationship with the world.
      And there’s always someone to talk to! But seriously, the Wilde Grove books are all about this sort of living, and I’ll be writing more – here, and in the books. We will be talking about this sort of thing when I get the community Grove up and running in a couple months too. ?

  2. Kailia

    I look forward to joining that community!


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