Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Drinking the forest
From Tallinn to Palmse to Riga
Birch and pine, forest and sea. I am driving with some of my new Estonian friends along the northern coast. Ma naen und, says Urva, "Ī see a dream." It strikes me, again, that this is a much more satisfactory way of reporting a dream than the limping English expression, "I had a dream."
Her dream is of the sea eagle, rarely seen in ordinary reality along this coast, but a frequent companion in her visions, sleeping and waking and in between. She describes how she and a whole group were amazed when a sea eagle appeared on a nearby birch branch when she was drumming for a shamanic journey, then came even closer until it was watching her from perhaps three yards away. The powers of the deeper world are hunting us, we agree. I recall how I knew the sea eagle in my boyhood, in Queensland, and how it has come to fly me back to my native country when there is something there it is urgent for me to see, and how the sea eagle was also a companion spirit of ancient shamans in the Orkney islands off the north coast of Scotland, the land of my fatherš ancestors.
We pause at the site of the prehistoric hill fort of Muuksi, and pick dark-blue juniper berries from the trees. It takes three years for juniper berries to ripen to this point. They have a slight aniseed taste on my palate. The Estonian wise women burn the berries and use the smoke for spiritual cleansing. I recount a dream in which I saw a circle of European women burning the juniper berries, together with oak, in order to produce a medium for visioning as well as a psychic shield. I promise to send the full details. It seems that yet again, waking life is catching up with one of my old dreams.
On to Palmse, and a work around the yellow 18th century manor where once Baltic Germans lorded it over the local population, treating Estonian peasants as serfs. Lunch at the nearby korts (tavern) where the home-made butter, slathered on black bread or oat cakes, is the best I have ever eaten.
Next we drive south and west to the home of an Estonian shaman, Tonu Talimaa, who has created a magical world of stones in the midst of the forest. Concentric circles of stone, approached through a wooden gateway, define the pattern of a a cosmos and a place where people can bring the parts of the soul together. Deeper in the woods is a spiral path, defned by stones, climbing upwards in tight loops. "Space isn't straight here," says Tonu. "It spirals."
We drink tea in the afternoon sun and discuss the many kinds of gates, including how I teach people how to use dreams as personal doorways to the world-beyond the world.
Time to head south, along country roads, to the summer beach resort of Parnu and on to Ilka and the Latvian border. Yana, who is coordinating my workshop in Latvia, greets me with a big jug of birch juice, which she has tapped from one of the birches at her own place in the forest. The birth juice is very faintly sweet and smells lightly woody. Itš good to be drinking the forest.