What is a Healing Ally? Connecting With the Spirits of Nature for Wellbeing

I am not only a witch, but an animist, which means I believe that all the beings around us have a spirit.

Rocks, plants, trees, animals, the elements- to me they are not resources to be consumed, but beings in their own right. They live alongside us, and yet as humans we can often be oblivious to their whisperings and invitations to cultivate an actual relationship. This is in part because we are conditioned to dismiss our own innate ability to feel their energies through our heart wisdom.

For many folks, connecting with the spirits of nature came easily to us as children, but as adults, we feel it’s weird or silly to talk to trees, dance like animals or pray to the elements to bring healing or transformation.

For animists, however, it is part of our practice and lifestyle to activate that childlike wonder, to communicate with nature through our heart-wisdom and to awaken our ancestral memories of living in deeper relationship with the spirits of the land.

Since ancient times, animism has been part of many belief systems all over the globe. Beliefs vary from culture to culture, however traditions and folklore around animals, trees and rocks that acknowledge the unique spirits of these beings are common pretty much everywhere. 

Since we are no longer living in such intimacy with the land and each other as we may have in the past, It’s easy to feel alone in this modern world. We forget that we are never truly alone, that we are surrounded by the spirits of nature, just waiting for us to remember our kinship with them.

Reclaiming our childlike wisdom

My daughter running through the Scottish Highlands

We can cultivate our childlike wisdom and remember our kinship, if we choose to.

But why would we want to do this? Well, life can get pretty small and dull as we get older if we don’t. But we aren’t doing it to revert to some childlike state or to escape reality.

In cultivating a relationship with the spirits of nature, we can better understand and manage our human experience. We can see ourselves and our place in the whole. We gain perspective and reconnect to the great web of life again. A sense of meaning and purpose is restored. We can heal old wounds, feel more accepting of ourselves and regain a sense of power-with rather than power-over that our colonial paradigm encourages.

Did you have an ‘imaginary friend’ as a child? Did you believe in faeries, mermaids, dragons or other creatures? Did you ever talk to plants and animals as friends, wish upon a star, or feel awe every time you looked up at the sky?

I know I did. I still do. But sometimes I’ve had to de-condition myself out of the adult mind that dismisses my heartfelt truths and judges my intuitive perceptions.

Take a moment to remember being a child and feeling that awe, that magick. What does it feel like to remember?

We adults like to think we have this world figured out if we can name, describe and identify things on a physical level. This is useful and valuable, yet, this level of understanding is only one level. When we were children, we were more open and receptive to what is beyond the visible. In order to feel it, we need to be open to it. It is kind of like that in connecting to the spirits of nature. Receptivity and openness is key.

What makes a tree, an animal or a flower a ‘healing ally’? What wounds are we healing?

I feel we know deep down that we are not meant to live in a chronic state of anxiety, competition, insecurity and fear, which modern life encourages. We know we’re meant to feel a sense of love and belonging in life, not loneliness and struggle.

I feel we collectively carry a wound of isolation. Healing this comes from remembering. Remembering our true nature, of being at one with existence. This state is sought by spiritual seekers in many ways- some healthy and some unhealthy or escapist. However, in cultivating a meaningful relationship with the spirits of nature, with the land we live on, we can stay grounded, healthy and present in this world and are less likely to want to escape it.

The beings of nature are healing allies, because they help us heal from the feeling of isolation and disconnection modern life creates.

This is the healing in a general sense, however, allies all carry their unique energies and can help us with unique issues. In Indigenous cultures the term ‘medicine’ is often used in recognition of the unique healing energies plants and animals carry. A plant does not have to be made into a tincture or capsule to be considered medicinal.

For instance, a certain rock or crystal can ground us and help with anxiety, like a local beach rock, jasper or tourmaline, while others facilitate communication with other realms, such as labradorite or celestite.

Spending time near water can help us process grief or help restore a sense of trust in the flow of life, while spending time with trees can help us stand strong in our power and provide stability.

Herbs each carry their unique energies and personalities. Lavender may come to us when we need to cultivate peace of mind, Mugwort may show up when we need to navigate the wisdom of our dreams or receive guidance from our intuition.

Animals are also amazing allies to work with. You might find your own pets to be a balm to your soul when you’re stressed. You may find working with a specific bird, like Crow can help you heal wounds around speaking your truth, or the Mountain Lion can help you heal wounds around confidence or self-assertion.

How can we discover our healing allies? How can we connect with them?

There are many ways to begin this journey. Take into consideration your own cultural beliefs and practices when connecting with healing allies. There are many ways of perceiving and practicing connection, so keep in mind that my example may not necessarily align with everyone, and your relationship with an ally may be different than someone else’s.

Allies may show up in our dreams, visions, through repeated symbols popping up in our daily life, or we may seek out a relationship more consciously.

An ally may be meant to work with you for only a short time, while others may become long-time friends that continue to provide support for you for decades!

Here is a step-by-step example of how to intentionally find and begin a relationship with a healing ally:

  • Visit a favourite spot outside, like a forest, garden, park, hill or shore where you feel your energy restored and like you can simply ‘be’. This is a clue that it is a place you may find a healing ally.
  • Ask your spirit guides/deity to lead you to a healing ally. Think about what is troubling you. Open your heart, speak your truth to the land and ask for support.
  • Go for a walk in your favourite place. Be open and receptive. Notice if you are drawn to certain trees, plants, rocks or just an area to sit and be. Trust your instincts and don’t force anything.
  • An ally could be a bird or other creature you see. It could be water, land, sky or the sun. It could be a tree, rock, plant or flower. When you find what you feel is an ally, spend some time with it. It is customary in many traditions to give the beings of the land an offering as way of saying hello and inviting it into relationship. An offering could be animal-friendly food or herbs. It may be tobacco, if you reside on Turtle Island (North America) and this is part of your practice. I also sometimes offer a prayer, kind words or a song. There are many types of offerings, just be aware of the safety of your offering in the environment.
  • Take time to simply receive and listen to the wisdom of this being. If it is a tree, sitting with your back up against it or placing a hand or even hugging it are ways to feel its energy. See it as a living being with a personality and a soul. Listening is more important than speaking, especially at first.
  • Notice what you are receiving. Take your time. Notice how you feel in your body in the presence of this being. What sensations do you feel? Have your emotions shifted? Did a new idea or vision pop into your mind? You can then converse with it- ask it a question about itself. Ask it something about your life. Feel for its answer. Or perhaps you feel silence is sufficient.
  • When you feel your energy shift from being with this ally, you can decide when it is time to say goodbye and go on with your day. Give thanks, maybe tell it when you’ll be back and send it some love, or give an offering.
  • I feel it is very important to be respectful, just like you would with a human friend in terms of taking anything. If your ally is a tree or plant and it offers something to you, and you take it- always give thanks, whether energetically or through an offering.

*Remember that while our heart wisdom is very important, it is also important for safety reasons to balance this with scientific knowledge, because some things are meant to be worked with energetically, but not physically. For instance, do not attempt to ingest herbs without first finding out about its safety and whether it is appropriate for your body. Some plants are meant to be connected with energetically, but not ingested! Same goes for crystals- don’t put them in water and drink the water before researching whether they are toxic. It is a good idea to do some research on your ally alongside connecting with it through your heart wisdom.

Nature rests through most of the harsh Canadian winters

The above is an example that works well especially during the warmer months of the year, but it can be a bit challenging over the long, harsh Canadian winters. If nature is sleeping or inaccessible, we can still access the spirits of the land, plants and animals through a guided meditation journey, or another form of inner travel.

I provide this form of connection in my Reclaim Your Magick sessions, alongside physical connection with the ally in different forms- such as dried, essential oil, energetic remedies or symbolic representation, which are accessible all year round.

Beings we cannot access physically + Cultivating a reciprocal relationship over time

Our healing allies may come and go during different phases of our life. They may be beings that do not live on the land we live on, or even in our physical world. They may only be accessible through meditation journeys, dreams, photos or other symbolic representations.

For instance, I had a mermaid ally for a long time, and still feel very connected to merfolk. I have never met one in person, of course, but I have spent lots of time with them in my journeys. Over time, my relationship with the merfolk has faded into the background, however they are always there if I wish to reconnect. I am often reminded our relationship during the summer months while swimming, or when someone notices my mermaid tattoo, which I got to support my healing process with them. Being with mermaids enhanced my relationship with the water element and deepened my respect for it which will last a lifetime.

my mermaid tattoo by Jenn Liles

An ally that is not physically available to us does not diminish its healing power or importance in our life. It is also normal for our relationships with allies to shift over time. Old ones fade, new ones come. This means we are growing!

Cultivating relationships with the spirits of nature is probably the most healing thing I have ever done for myself. It not only helps me feel supported, loved and connected, but has helped me to make big shifts in my mental, emotional and physical health. Working with healing allies have healed everything from stomach aches, extremely severe menstrual cramps, depression, anxiety, heartbreak, ancestral trauma, and more. I am forever changed and enriched by these relationships.  

Do you have any healing allies in your life? How do you connect with them? How have they helped you?

Thank-you for reading,

xo

Serena

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.