tree spirit helpers

I’m a believer in helping spirits—beings and energies that work with us to help us along the way. For some people, these spirits show up in dreams, in unbidden visions or quiet voices of advice and guidance. For myself, I have to remain aware enough to call on these spirits, or I can miss their powerful presence. It’s part of the loner in me to keep myself in my own head and heart, frequently forgetting to reach out to those precious, sacred, helping “others.”

This morning, I woke up thinking about helping spirits. I blessed them in my prayers, and gave thanks for all the helping spirits in my life. And it suddenly occurred to me that there are many, many more helping spirits that work with me than I commonly acknowledge.

Obviously, I recognize many animal spirits that walk with me—some for many years, some for just a moment or two when needed. Wolf, Elk, Hummingbird, Owl: These beloveds I know well. I’ve sat with them in formalized shamanic journeys, in quiet meditations. Sometimes, they show themselves to me in their physical forms, and I nearly shake with excitement in those moments…

Here in Indiana, I have come to recognize the helping spirits in the trees around me. They carry a strong, stabilizing presence when I allow myself to see them in a sacred way. I’m ashamed to admit that I can blunder through the forest wrapped up in my own stupid thoughts for long periods of time without really seeing and thanking the trees for being with me. Because they are not as dramatic a presence as a wolf or elk crossing my path, I can easily dismiss the presence of the trees, not seeing them as the steadfast, helping spirits they are.

Inside the house, I am beginning to recognize a host of ready helping spirits that I have never truly seen as such: The sourdough starter sitting on the counter, the pesto that lives in the freezer, the gurgling jars of fresh kraut in the fridge, the herbs I smoke for my asthma. Foods are helping spirits, just like totem animals. The nutrition and medicine we take into our bodies comes in the form of spirit energy, and has a personality in its physical form that is all its own.

sourdough spirit helper

I was explaining to a friend the other day about the process of maintaining the sourdough starter I’ve been nursing along on my counter the past few months. This starter makes a bread that is truly the food of the angels. The sourdough mixture requires regular feeding and attention. “Sounds like a pet,” my friend said. She was right. To keep that starter hearty and strong, I have to have an ongoing relationship with it. In particular, I need to remember it is there, on the counter, needing to be seen and tended. Like a relationship with any living thing, it takes time and attention. This is true with our relationships with helping spirits as well—they take time and attention.

I’m beginning to “see” this sourdough starter as a sacred friend and helper. I feed her and respect her and gives thanks for her, and she works with me to create a food that is healthy and healing for my family. I make my own sauerkraut for health reasons, and—like the sourdough starter—it is literally a living food, teeming with enzymes and good bacteria. I think I will start treating my krauts as sacred helping spirits, too. These humble foods bring healing energy into my life. Is this not a helping spirit? While not as majestic as an owl or a fully matured oak tree, these kraut spirits work with my family in deep healing ways.

kraut spirit!

So, I’m going to start talking quietly to the kraut when I take a heaping spoonful of her onto my plate. I’m going to thank her for her gifts, her wisdom, her healing. And I’m going to do that to the pesto I keep in my freezer, made up of the beautiful herbs that gave themselves to me so abundantly from my garden this year. The basil, the rosemary, the savory and sage—all are sacred spirits teeming with profound and ancient vibrations. Each had a personality in my garden all its own. Now, in a happy commingling of ice and oil, this food spirit rests in our freezer, ready to bring joy to my tastebuds and energy to my body. I thank the helping spirit residing in that pesto.

And I thank the helping spirit who shows herself to me in the form of bathwater springing hot and bubbly from ย the faucet, bringing healing to my achy body and a lift to my heart. She is a totem, too. A medicine teacher. A power animal in an elemental body.

The morning sunlight through my bedroom window touches the cherished red fleece blanket on my bed. I smile. Both are helping spirits.

Great, beloved Mystery. Thank you for reminding me this morning that the world around me is overflowing with helping spirits in many forms, all of them awaiting activation by the simple touch of my acknowledgment and appreciation.

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  1. Reisa Stone says:

    Susan, thank you for your wonderful post. What a lovely reminder of the spirit nature in all things. As a Ukrainian, I recognize that foods are spirit helpers. From this came the “meme” of witches brewing spells in a huge cauldron.

    Food is powerful. I talk about it in my book, “Baba’s Kitchen: Ukrainian Soul Food with Stories From the Village.” The narrator, Baba (Ukrainian for grandma), says, “Yizha dusha”, soul food, is powerful thing. Dusha, soul, is fierce vitality force. It is roaring flame you cannot put out, inside cage of thick flesh and hard bone. Not some kind airing fairy floating around like chiffon scarf. That is Nu Age barfola. Baba going to show you Old Age. Ha! Food is for create more life force, make nourish your soul as well your physical body.”

    May I send you a complimentary .pdf?

    Kind regards,
    Reisa Mary Stone

  2. Erin says:

    I think we all need to slow down and really see all that nature and the Universe provide to nourish our spirits. Most of us rush through our lives and forget to see, hear, and feel what gifts are there for us each and every day. By the way, would you be willing to share your kraut recipe? It sounds like it would be so good?

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Hi Erin: I make a few different varieties of kraut, but my signature—and favorite—kraut is this: Grate 2 heads of red cabbage, 5 red beets, 3-4 apples, 2 carrots into a big bowl. Add 2 or 2-1/2 tablespoons of salt. Mix up, mash hard with your hands or a potato masher or something until it gets really juicy (this will happen as the salt wicks moisture out of the veggies, and as your hands moosh the mess up), press firmly into a large glass jar or crock until there is about an inch or more of liquid at the top of the jar. Then, Google about kraut for the best way to “seal” your crock. There are several ways. I let this stuff sit about a week to 10 days, then eat eat eat! It is especially wonderful with fruit, or a spoonful on fruit yogurt.

  3. Aletheia mystea says:

    Susan this is so beautiful and I’ve been doing the similar awareness-ing as I’ve asked my team for extra help. It’s coming immediately in the most curious/creative ways to help keep me alert!!

    Thanks for this blessing today Aletheia

  4. Rosemary Garcia says:

    Susan, Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

    Rosemary Garcia

  5. Nice and beautiful ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can’t afford to take care of a companion animal right now, but I always talk to the wildlife outside, my plants and my other spirit helpers, of whom I have A LOT! Susan, can you please tell me what herbs you smoke for your asthma? I got no asthma but I may want to try out the asthma smoking blend for prayer. I should tell you about some of my spirit helpers and friends. Someday I’ll create a big facebook family album of all of us ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Wren says:

    hi susan, this is beautiful! i love and feel very close to the thoughts/feelings you express here, and it is heartwarming to hear about your relationship with the starter and krauts. you are right, of course, and what a blessing to be aware of these relationships. thinking of you and john with love,

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