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Jesse Wolf Hardin's Earth Magic


Jesse Wolf Hardin



 Gaia Eros


Kindred Spirits



Waking To Animá Connecting Deeper To Self, Purpose & Place

“A working religion might be one that binds together the many rhythms that affect us by creating techniques— rituals— that attempt to synchronize the three dances, the personal, the cultural, and the cosmic.  If the technique works, the reward is a new dimension of rhythm and time — the sacred.  -Mickey Hart    

There is one near-constant in the canyons of the Southwest.  To some it seems like an adversary and to others a friend.... the breath of Earth, the wind.  It blows most of the year, from a gentle and delightful breeze to  furious gusts that threaten to down the weaker trees, lift the roof of our cabin, and bring even the most arrogant of us to our knees.  Most often it is a soft nuzzling, just enough movement of air to let us know it’s there.  There can be midmorning moments of absolute stillness, but even they seem somehow taut in anticipation of when the winds might begin again.

It is the wind that blows caves into the tufa and limestone where no water can reach, that carries the scent of the unwary hunter to the flared nostrils of the deer, and that grabs the attention of even the most distracted– reminding them of the world as it is right now, right here.  Wind that dries and cracks the ground, and wind that brings the rain.  If a sapling is strong it’s not so much from the tensile of its fibers as the periodic testing of the wind.  Wind that tugs at our clothes like a teasing lover, or whips the sand into our eyes. Wind that at least temporarily blows the clutter of words from our burdened, racing minds.

Even the most educated and sophisticated of us walk down this river canyon changed,  refined not reduced, simplified into beings that hunger and love, that sense cold and heat, that notice the winds passage and sing without provocation.  Into curious primates, kindred creatures to those furry and feathered ones that share with us this home.  To even the most jaded and predisposed, all the canyon seems energized, alive.... and inspirited.  Spirit in the myriad plants and animals, vibrating within volcanic rocks, glowing in the light of a setting sun.  Spirit in taste and scent, struggle and fun.   Spirit in the life giving river, and in the giddy intercourse of evolving life forms.  Spirit in those small and plain things our society so often scorns.  Spirit tracing its own movements, in graceful designs in weed lashed sand.  Spirit empowering every helpful hand.  Spirit in our daughter’s hopeful face.  Spirit in the hearts and deeds of they who serve love, truth and place.  Spirit singing out from pink and gold cliffs, in the voices of those russet ritualists who came before.  And spirit emboldening young cottonwoods and willows to do the “impossible”– extending determined roots into what is an always shifting shore.  Spirit that seems to writhe like a river within, spirit as indomitable wind.

Throughout history most cultures and religions have made some reference to wind as a manifestation of or metaphor for spirit.  To the Greeks, Anima meant both “courage,” and wind or breath.  In the Taoist tradition ofTibet andNepal, passing through nature and life fully present, conscious and compassionate is called “lung-gom,” the way of the wind.  The original meaning of the word “spirit” was “breath:” a clear volume of energy that one can best feel when it moves, alerts, prods or pushes, seduces or agitates.  One way to think of spirituality then is as an act of tireless respiration, rhythmically and reciprocally taking in and giving back in equal willing measure. 

Students and seekers come to this canyon from all over, each riding astride the currents of their own personal winds of change.  Whether they have a language for it or not, most people come here for more than to just spend time at a wild and beautiful retreat center.  They come to get in deeper touch with that place within themselves that is still just as beautiful and alive, free and untamed, passionate and purposeful.... to visit what usually proves to be a vast, uncharted and hope-filled savannah within.  They are often at a crossroads in their lives looking for the necessary signs to help them decide, or on the edge of some precipice from which they must either fall or fly.  Their journey begins not with the booking of a flight to New Mexico, the long drive from Albuquerque in a rented vehicle, or even the mile and a half walk to the refuge from where all cautious cars park.  It begins with an awareness they cannot suppress, insights they’re unable to ignore, distraction and dishonor we can no longer tolerate.... and sometimes a calling that just won’t let us be.  It is furthered with our grounding in authentic self, service and place.  It involves conscious mystical connection, interdependence and interpenetration; expanding empathy and heightened sensation; contact and contracts with the inspirited land, its creatures and plants; energies, entities and insistent inspiriteurs. 

Whatever one calls it, there would seem to be a dynamic power that courses through this planet and its wind-filled atmosphere– a vibrational unity, an underlying if in some respects incomprehensible pattern, an entity or energy of inclusion that animates, inspires, enlightens and fuels the best of what it means to be human “kind.”  It is this sense of lasting integral beingness that we cleave to, whether envisioned as a male God or Yahweh, a female Goddess or Mother Earth or a formless force for balance or good.  And whether recognized by Christian or Jew, Buddhist or Pagan, reformed urban cynic, or man and woman of the woods.

Awakening to the experience of being and belonging can be both transformative and blissful, a state of self-realization and intense mindfulness known in the East as “satori,” “samadhi” or “enlightenment.”  But one of the things that nature and this canyon seem to make clear, is that such states are not so much about transcending matter or flesh as reimmersion in the depth and breadth of embodied reality.... as experienced right here, right now.  Deep seeing, deep tasting and smelling, deeply dreaming.  Touching  the universe through the world that is not “ours” but “us.”  A world again and again made sacred, not less, through devotion, hands-on care, ceremony and prayer.

The natives who maintained this bend in the river as a ceremonial site, no doubt consecrated their actions by pledging them to a greater good.  By setting set aside a special time and place for ceremony, they invested both with even greater import than they might otherwise have enjoyed.  Severance with ordinary reality served as the jumping off point for the priests or “medicine men,” triggered by feats of silence or purposeful fasts, spurred by long vigils or successive nights without sleep, propelled through ecstatic dance or chant.  The deeper levels of reconnection were encouraged with the burning of sage or cedar smudge, with the presence of precious natural objects, or by our going outside to a place conducive to a special spiritual or magical purpose.  Like their Zuni andPueblo descendants, they may have worn totemic masks that obfuscated the mundane persona and spoke for the will and needs of other lifeforms.  It is as true in therapy as in indigenous shamanic practice– to metamorphose into a new, more complete being there must be always be a breaking with the habits of old, a shedding of the stiff and brittle exterior the way a snake sheds its skin.  For this task many cultures have formalized the burying or burning of those items that represent previous constrictive ways of being, and the untying of knots that stand for our rigid innate resistance.  They cleanse themselves of the echoes of earlier behavior and the negative vibrations that cling like persistent memories, with a sweltering sweat lodge, or by washing with pure water from mountain rains or a consecrated spring or well.  We enter into ritual relationship with the leaving of offerings, the gifting of tears, the attention paid to vested objects or a place of power.  With the building and tending of an altar made up of those natural objects that have come to us with obvious or implied significance.  With sacrifice, service and celebration. 

The nature based spirituality of primal peoples tended for obvious and practical reasons to include a reverence for life, diversity and that quality we call wildness.  This sensibility and intrinsic, organic ethos can still be found in a child, saddened by the sight of a butterfly bounced off a windshield onto the shoulder of some numbered road, and in an old woman finding reason to go on living in the slow opening of a window-box flower.  It’s voiced in the sermon-scream of falcons feeding on pigeons in downtownNew York City, in the spontaneous living prayers of outlaw dandelions erupting in the cracks of every aging sidewalk, in a liturgy recorded in the spiraling reggae of the DNA helix and the twisting samba-line of ants ascending a gnarled cottonwood.  It’s only commandments are “written in stone” in the many “rocks of ages,” a testament in limestone, granite and quartz, a demonstration of and demand for authenticity and substance, a demand on our hearts and souls with the substantial weight of commitment to place.  And today as those long ago yesterdays, the rocks still seem to say, “Be real.  Be here.  Be beautiful.... like this!  Bear and express life’s suffering and challenge.  Embody wholly your purpose, your gifts, your bliss.”     

We, even more then the early human tribes, can benefit from ceremonies that are vested with intent and focus, with empathetic engagement and glorious celebration.  We are made richer and more complete with the ritual commemoration of birth, of first menstrual blood, first lover, harvest and feast, the success of every battle with the tyrants of ego, the removal of obstructions from within or without, the opportunity for forgiveness, the giving of important gifts, the acceptance of instruction or completion of assignment, the grieving over the death of friends and family and of entire other species, the marriage to each other and to the land.

Our early ancestors believed and acted as if the world would end if ever they failed to properly carry out their rituals on time.  And in essence it was true, for these ceremonies grounded the people in right relationship with the Earth, without which understanding, reciprocity and deference the people could not long survive.  A people divorced from the ways of Nature risk perishing as a result of this estrangement, and then for them at least, the world would have indeed come to an end.   The first body of evidence indicating human ritual activity dates back to the proto-neolithic.  Caves inGermany, Switzerland andFranconia  feature the skulls and bones of giant cave bears stacked in a way that suggests they served as altars to the spirits of the great bruins.  Another cave at Shanidar in the mountains of northernPersia hosted a chamber full of Neanderthal skeletons, the first indication of a system of care for the deceased.  One large fellow was laid in a bed of flowers, their story of honoring retold in the ancient pollens still present in the soil.  Even more amazing, further analysis indicated that the flowers were all from species known to have specific medicinal uses in the pharmacy of subsequent inhabitants!  From that moment on if not before, ritual became a sharing of reverential responsibility. 

In time these came to include the protection of the land, the honoring of the other life forms, the giving of thanks and the celebration of existence in ceremony and ritual.  These ancestral exchanges were synchronized with the ritual passage of the seasons, entrained with the movements of the sun, moon and stars, the arrival or departure of the plants and animals they sustained themselves on, the arrival of their children and their coming into manhood and womanhood, the elevation to elders and the passage of the aged into the cauldron of the afterlife.  Their rituals were performed in the ideal environment for each, next to a cascading waterfall, on birthing grounds and burial grounds, in a cluster of boulders that align with the rising of the sun on the Equinox, in a grove of quaking aspen or beneath a certain ancient oak, in the spot where battles were raged or miracles witnessed, ground made hallowed by the spilling of blood or the ritual devotions of earlier peoples.

That the Earth is alive, inspirited and even sentient, is one of the most ancient and universal of spiritual understandings.  This “perennial philosophy” recognizes an interconnective fabric of consciousness in all things, and often associates the fecundancey and restorative powers of the planet with a “Mother Earth,” whose ritual image may be archetypal mother figures found in caves and digs throughout the Eurasian continent.  The well known “Willendorf Goddess” or “Venus of Willendorf” was carved from bone some 32,000 years ago, and was long held to be the oldest verifiable human artifact.  Similar sculpted images date back to the Cro-Magnon Aurignacian peoples if not the Neanderthals and before.  One made of quartzite was recently discovered in a 400,000-year-old deposit near the ancient city of Tan-Tan in Morocco, alongside stone tools attributed to Homo Erectus.... and a female figurine recently unearthed in the Golan Heights has been carbon dated at between 232,000 and 800,000 years old!  This latter “Acheulian Goddess” with her milk laden breasts and venerated vulva, predates the so called Willendorf by an astounding quarter million years!  This sets the date for the beginnings of human culture and what may be the earliest recognition or honoring of a “Sacred Mother” or divine feminine back to the Paleolithic, and thus the very roots of definably human experience. 

Depending on the tongue she is Mother Earth, Cybele, Mami Aruru, Nu Kwa or Terra.  She is known as Assaya in Yoruba, Kunapipi to the Aborigine, the Hindu say Prithivi– and to the indigenous people ofPeru she is Pachamama, from whose body we sprout and grow like limbs or appendages.  To all cultures in touch with the natural world, any attempt or tendency towards separation would deny humanity the blood and nourishment of the Earth, and thereby insure our doom.  It’s believed that our environmental crisis is a direct result of our neglecting or ignoring our connection and duties to her.  To quote Homer, she is “the eldest of all and mother of all the Gods,” the lap and cauldron we tumble back into when we die, the flesh and the prayer from which we arise.  It is in fact from the ancient Greeks that we get her name “Gaia,” (lately pronounced so as to rhyme with “maya”).  In their version she is created from light and love out of the encompassing chaos.  Her first born was Ouranos, the heavens.  Fertilized by the energies of Eros, she bears the many forms that spirit takes as well as the continents and oceans, the animals and plants.... and us.

Our complex human physiology begins with a single fertilized zygote cell ecstatically splitting into two, and then diversifying to fill all the roles of a functioning organic system.  And just as the cells of our body are related, organized and cooperative, so do all living and so called “nonliving” things in nature work together harmoniously for the manifestation, health, balance, diversity and fulfillment of the entire planet.  Many time throughout history and in many different languages the medicine people, priests and priestesses, healers and visionaries have felt the need to speak about the necessity of honoring the Earth as ourselves, and the consequences of doing any less.  They spoke to their people and in another way they speak to us now, explaining how we are relatives, organs and extensions of that vital whole that some now call Gaia.  Gaia carrying in her bosom every potential, Gaia seeding the universe with the urge to live and the reverence for life.  And we too may find in this ancient mother symbol not only the place of our birth but a cause for caring, a reason for acting, and a source of hope.  

“The call to power necessitates a separation from the mundane world: the neophyte turns away from the secular life, either voluntarily, ritually, or spontaneously through sickness, and turns inward towards the unknown, the mysterium.  This change of direction can be accomplished only through what Carl Jung has referred to as ‘an obedience to awareness’. -Joan Halifax 

Animá is a growing contemporary study, practice and way of life intended for all deeply feeling, intensely seeking people... rooted in ancient ways of knowing and being, in connective New Science as well as the lessons and revelations of the natural world.  While grounded in the deep experience of magical connectedness and spirit, in the lessons of nature and place, Animá cannot be accurately described as Pagan or any other existing belief system.  Animá teaches no particular cultural tradition or bias, although it shares many “knowings” in common with the various ancient earth-based cultures who tapped the same source and wellspring, including certain Native American and Sami tenets.  It does not promote any particular economic system, other than our active participation in the natural cycles of reciprocity.  It recommends no political party and takes no political stance... only an ethos of courageous wholeness and direct action, in which each person must find their own best ways of employing and making real their beliefs, gifts and visions.  Drawing from the source and ground of all knowing and being, it’s possible for Animá to inform– rather than compete with– existing religious, indigenous, magical and philosophical traditions. 

For over thirty years now I and my partners, apprentices and students have worked to hear, compile, and be true to the seldom comfortable truths that inspirited nature, especially through a certain natural Place Of Power, have gifted.  The result has been five published books to date including Gaia Eros and Home, over five-hundred magazine articles, columns by my partners Kiva and Loba in SageWoman, and an ever broadening curricula available through online Animá correspondence courses.  As a study, Animá can deepen understanding of our genuine, able selves, in interrelationship with each other, our human communities, and the community of all life.  As a practice, its insights and the wisdom it inspires in us can be manifest, utilized, applied for the betterment and wholeness of ourselves and the world we are each a part of.  Any one of its lessons can be independently employed, but for people of strong intent and focus, Animá becomes a way of life... living every moment of our lives consciously, deliberately, purposefully and fully.

It is possible through the Animá practice – or as we believe, through any truly intimate, reciprocal engagement with the inspirited natural world – to deepen one’s sense of presence and enjoy increased mindfulness.  To better orient ourselves in the physical world, and explore our personal direction and spiritual or magical path.  Deepen our awareness and understanding of natural authentic self.  Awaken our bodily senses, learning to better sense the world we are an integral part of, see more pattern and beauty, hear more exquisitely, taste every nuance of our food, savor even the mundane details of our mortal lives.  Explore our so called “sixth sense,” including resonant empathy and innate intuition.  Tap into bodily knowing and primal instinct.  Deepen our sense of place... of family, home, land, ecosystem and bioregion.  Further our awareness of and active relationship to the natural, revelatory world.  Recognize the intrinsic nature of and animating force in everything, and every thing’s intrinsic value apart from human use.  Increase our sense of self worth and confidence, based on our true abilities rather than imposed or imagined characteristics and gifts.  Come to better understand our fears, and how to use them as markers for what needs our attention, as fuel to act, to change what needs changing.  Realize that we are a co-creators of not only our reality but our world, and commit to acting accordingly.  Discover how to give back to the earth that provides and inspires.  Learn how to grow from every mistake or misdirection.  Get beyond victimhood and attachment to escape or distress.  Detach from unhealthy habits, expectations, judgments, and ways of thinking.  Develop healthy attachments to life, spirit, values and missions.  Make every moment a decisive moment, and take responsibility for what we both do and don’t do.  Reawaken a childlike sense of wonder and connection.  Learn how to best utilize our gifts and skills for the good of ourself and the world.  Discover how to actively fulfill your most meaningful purpose.  Learn to better celebrate and deeper savor.

Animá was developed as a contemporary opportunity for us to be vitalized, and to make more vital the towns and cities we call home.  To bring the arts of reconnection into our daily lives, our relationships, careers and communities.  To positively affect, even in small ways, everyone we meet.  To make our environs more healthy, beautiful and natural, as we heal, express and manifest our natural selves. 

But regardless of how we come by it, once we sense at the deepest levels that we are connected to all that is, we can experience helping the world as aiding our own extended selves.  While each person is unique, the  animating spirit of nature can take us to our core, beneath the edifice and habit, and to a place of core agreements and values.  In the condition where we are most alive, that we are also most connected, empathic, grateful and caring.  Learning to open to the pain of separation and imbalance, simultaneously expands our capacities to feel excitement, awe, love, inspiration, satisfaction and bliss.  And all of our life’s actions, I hope, will arise from this.

Jesse Wolf Hardin is an acclaimed teacher of Animá earth-centered practice, the author of five books including Gaia Eros (New Page 2004), and performs on the GaiaTribe CD “Enchantment” <>.  He and his partners Loba and Kiva offer online Animá correspondence courses, as well as host students and guests at their enchanted canyon and true ancient place of power.  Opportunities include weekend  retreats, personal counsel, shamanic vision quests, resident internships, and special Apprenticeships for the most dedicated.  Annual events include the Wild Womens Gathering, and the Medicine Woman and Shaman Path intensives.  Contact: The Animá Wilderness Learning Center & Women’s Sanctuary, Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830 <> <>.

©Jesse Wolf  Hardin 2005-2006 Reproduction in any form is prohibited without express written permission from the author.