Familiars, Tylwyth, Spirits of Place

This is a preview of one of the short courses Fiona Dove and I will be offering after Lammas. Keep an eye on Wye’s Woman Shamans for more.

Other traditions you may know more of all have these beasties but books most often tell us they call them Power Animals and Totems, they do also use the word guardians though. In our old British ways our beasties are our Familiar Spirits and our Tylwyth.

I love the idea of Familiars. the word come from family and that feels so good to me. It also has that lovely sense of intimacy, being familiar with someone, being close, love, warmth, affection, trust. I’ve always had familiars around me, not always those who work with me at first, my parents’ familiars would come to play and guard me when I was a baby, as would those of the elders I was babysat by sometimes. I was used to having spirits around, it was my normal … I had to do a quick gear-shift when I first went to school though when it was forcibly born in on me that other kids weren’t and didn’t! That’s one of the problems of being born into this work!

For us, familiar spirits choose us and come to work with us. Sometimes this is for life, like with my Scottish Wildcat spirit familiar, sometimes it’s for an incarnation as with the cats who’ve chosen to accompany me throughout my life. So the way we work with them isn’t like what core shamanism says. Actually, core shamanism doesn’t cover all eventualities, for one thing Harner never came and spoke to my people here in Britain, I understand he didn’t believe we exist – that’s a bit painful! we’re by no means the only folk he never spoke to though, my friends in the Basque, various parts of Germany, and my Italian friends all have their own ways and Harner never went into these either.

Tylwyth is an old Brythonic word that means “family”, the folk you come from. you may have heard the word in Tylwyth Teg, that means the Fair Folk – teg = fair, one of the names we call the fairy people of out lands. of course, we each of us have our own folk, our own people, those we’re a part of, and these are often not the blood-relations we know from everyday life. This course shows you how to make contact again with your own people, your own Tylwyth. They’re waiting for you to do this, they never, ever, push themselves on you but always wait for you to make the first move … and you’ll do that when you feel you can, when you feel ready.

Tree magic elen Deer
Coppiced Lime Tree holding the spirit of this place

Spirits of Place are again known all over the world. Every place, however small, has its own, and every place on the skin and body of Mother Earth is sacred! There are no un-sacred places on Earth, there are places we humans have seriously mutilated so their spirit is now sick and wounded and maybe dying. Not a good thought but one we all need to take on board if we’re going to change.

Each spirit of place (SoP) has its’ own ways, it’s own personality if you like, and its own needs. In the old ways we learn how to find these (by asking the spirit, of course!) and how to work with the spirit to help her or him achieve what they need. That means we un-learn making assumptions based on what we’ve read or previously been taught!

Example – I was with a group of shamans from all over the world a few years back; we were making a sacred fire for the evening ceremony and a couple of things happened that deeply shocked me. In our tradition, at that sort of do, it’s usually the youngest who lights the fire, a child. The little girl had a bit of trouble with the matches at first – my partner and I were standing by just in case but not interfering or taking her power from her. One of the Central american shamans rushed up and began to take the matches away form her and do it for her! We stopped him. The next day he tried to insist I give tobacco to the fire and I had to explain that actually tobacco had only been in Britain since Walter Raleigh and our SoP didn’t like it! so please, please, always ASK the SoP you work with what they need – never make assumptions!

Yew Tree 2
Ancient triple-stemmed yew tree that held the SoP of the village I grew up in

The old ways were practised by our ancestors all over the world. In each country the traditions were worked out between the people and the Spirits of Place of that land so they all differ. Geography, geology, climate and weather make a huge differences to places! They’re not just interesting “facts” discovered by academics – they’re about the skin and bones of the Land itself in that place, about its life-blood. Of course, that is going to make a difference to how they want the folk who live there to work with them.

In this short course we’re going to explore all these things and how to work with them. You’ll find – if you’ve been enjoying the Skills courses – that the way in to becoming familiar with familiars, tylwyth and spirits of place goes right back to our fundamental principles … Ask, listen, ask, listen, ask 😎

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