Postcards From Paradise: Animism & Jungle Land

by Nate

We’ve learned to trust divination (tarot), even when we don’t understand all the details of a reading in the moment. The future unfolds in ways that we would never expect but that conform to the shape of what’s described in our readings, time and again. Certain cards appear repeatedly for months at a time, representing the situation we’re living through in reading after reading. Synchs abound when you read Tarot on your own future.

After a few really uncanny and convincing experiences in the months leading up to our move (to Mexico) we decided to simply trust what the cards tell us, especially when we don’t like the answer. After all, if you can feel the uncomfortable truth in a reading, even if you don’t completely understand it, you already know enough to take action.

tarot tableau spread
There’s a lot to unpack here…

We’ve been on the hunt for land to buy here in Quintana Roo, Mexico since we arrived in the middle of July. We’ve driven into the jungle to look at pre-construction lots several times, toured a few homes, and poured over many listings, but we’ve not found the right place -yet.

It’s not that there’s a shortage of real estate available in the area. Far from it, but the specifics of our dream (a tropical homestead, close to the beach, but not too close to the city) make it more of a challenge to find.

Whenever we hit a wall, we turn to the cards to figure out next steps, so to the cards we went.

Our best deck for divining the twists and turns of this project (building sanctuary and living regeneratively in a tropical paradise) has unquestionably been UUSI’s Pagan Otherworld’s Tarot. The cards feature dreamy coastal and lush organic themes in pagan / shamanistic imagery -visual language that speaks of faraway places and imaginary realms.

Emperor (authority) at the center, between the idea of home and the finished project.

After a series of readings featuring The Emperor, we were left with the impression that our progress was stalled by some external authority. We theorized that maybe the government was going to implement restrictions again, or that the right land for us wasn’t on sale yet, but weren’t sure what it really meant. It wasn’t until a few days later that I figured out that the authority the cards were describing was nonhuman.

We’ve been working magic with bottled dirt for months, remotely at first, and then here in Mexico to find our future sanctuary in paradise. It’s an experimental process (not something I read out of a book) but our goal is to avoid repeating the mistakes of colonial thinking by engaging the local land spirits as part of our search. We want to gain their blessing on our venture and open a dialogue for working with them in the future.

This clicked into place for me a few days after that tarot reading and I realized the missing piece of our search was appealing to the local spirits who guard the area where we want to move for blessing and good fortune in our search.

Deciding what to do with this information was less straightforward. From various sources, including Rune Soup and Charles Lecouteux, I surmised that the best way to open dialogue with spirits of place is by leaving gifts and generally making ourselves known. From there I imagined a series of steps to build rapport and establish regular communication, followed by some kind of petitioning for support (my thinking on this has since changed a bit).

So began a new weekly tradition; a somewhat awkward trip into the jungle to a feral, overgrown crossroads in the middle of the nowhere, barely visible on Google Maps if you zoom all the way in.

We drive 35 minutes from our rental in Playa del Carmen to a dirt road off the highway and into the jungle. Then, very slowly, we drive a quarter of a mile down the canopy covered road, over rocks and around potholes and puddles, until we intersect with two tire tracks heading off at a perpendicular angle into the trees. We park there and walk in a football field’s length to a wide path cut through the jungle for power lines, forming two trails intersecting at 90 degree angles. A crossroads in the jungle…

A flat stone lies with its top mostly uncovered in the dirt at the corner of the lot we’ve come to visit at the far side of the intersection in the jungle. This is our “altar”, where we leave our gifts and send our intentions to any land spirits that might be listening. We do this and then we head back to the car, explore the “neighborhood” a bit, and head home.

At home, a bottle of dirt, purchased from this same crossroads, lives on our altar and we attend it regularly with libations, suffumigate it with (handmade) abre camino incense, call to it (conjure its spirit), and attempt to communicate with it. It does not respond directly, of course, but in the course of the following moments, hours, and days strange synchronicities occur which I believe qualify as some type of dialogue.

This is where we’re at currently, as of the time I’m writing this post, except that we’ve adjusted our approach with the land spirits, after a frustrating couple of weeks of mixed messages and stalled progress. Lecouteux’s work, and some thoughts that popped into my head suddenly during Hekate devotions, have pushed me away from the concept of petitioning over to bargaining. I think our approach has been too timid since the response has been elusive and condescending.

This is uniquely difficult to articulate as the experience is still happening in real-time and requires operating at the fringes of sanity. Place-based magic isn’t governed by complex rituals like goetia; it’s free-form, fluid, and imaginal. It’s awkward, like learning to ice skate in Texas; unlike anything we’ve been exposed to before.

The purpose of these postcard posts is to give a peek behind the curtain into our, often awkward, process. This isn’t a smooth ride. It’s a ride with many bumps -and why shouldn’t it be?

It is, after all, an enchanted ride into the jungle on a magical adventure.

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