Tending to the village membrane includes establishing a shrine to help you do that. This shrine becomes a focal point which, once activated and worked with, establishes its own nexus of energy for the community at large. In the Dagara tradition from West Africa it is called the “Tengan shrine” and is often a tree. In the Italian Strega and Janarra tradition it is often called the “hallow” which is located in the center of a grove, preferably in a wild forest.

Another way this is articulated is a medicine wheel, a concept from the Native Americans, which utilizes the four cardinal directions as a way too honor location and sense of place.

In the United States the Tengan shrine of the Dagara people is often translated as the “earth shrine.” This is how I was taught it. It took me a long time to understand that the earth shrines in the Dagara tradition actually speak to what we in the west call “the land.” The land on which we live, the land that our village is on, the area of land where our specific communities are gathered, our local ecosystem.

July Online Class – The Village Membrane: Learning to care for the spiritual well-being of your community and ecosystem

The Dagara Tengan shrines

As stated above, in the Dagara tradition these “earth” or “Tengan” shrines which hold the village membrane are often trees. Once activated, the tree opens a vortex extending above and below itself on the land and into the sky, surrounding the local land that it is concerned with in a membrane. The Tengan shrine oversees all life and events in the village, including planting, building, and human movement.

The keeper of the earth shrine, the “Tengan sob” is the human who is overseeing this and in active communication with the shrine, the land and the community.

I describe this in detail in my book, Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World, chapter three.

For me the tree as the shrine for the village membrane is very effective. Because trees are keystone species for most ecosystems, they are often the ones to create the village membrane. With their interconnected root systems and chemical communication pathways, trees continuously care for the village membrane through networking and biofeedback loops.

The tree I am currently in relationship with for this role is located in a local park. I do not “own” the land or the tree. I connected it to a tree on the property where I live, but I like that it is in a community space and in touch with the “public.” The tree already had many friends and was in intimate relationship with many other humans before I met it. This also felt like a positive characteristic. It was already a community nexus.

Read my previous post about the Village Membrane: The Village Membrane: Caring for the Spirit of a Place

Therefore, this tree seemed the perfect ally to help me hold the village membrane. You may find that you are already in relationship with a tree that holds some of these characteristics or that you know right away is already holding the village membrane. Once you identify the tree, it is proper to go and ask the tree if it is willing to be the shrine to help you with the role of holding and caring for the village membrane. Would this tree be willing to collaborate with you, to help you listen to and care for your community?

If you receive a yes, begin to make offerings to this tree. You can begin with your quiet presence, then offer some water at the base with a prayer and invocation stating your intentions. Let the relationship develop, bringing more offerings as you see fit. Remember to keep them all organic and safe for the local animals. As you listen, you will develop your own way of interacting with the tree and the spirit within it.

Come to the July Online Class: The Village Membrane: Learning to care for the spiritual well-being of your community and ecosystem

You may find other places in your local ecosystem you wish to introduce the tree to. You can do this by taking some of the soil from each place to one another. As you offer the soil, tell the story of where it came from, introducing them to each other in this way. You can even do this when you travel, especially to other places that are dear to you and know you. Take caution to not transport pests. Leaves may not always be the best option.

You can also begin to connect your chosen tree to other ones in the near and far landscape, asking them to connect and be in touch with one another, to help hold the village membrane with extended communication. Offer water at the bases to open the lines of communication between them.

After a time you will begin to feel that you really “know” this tree and are beginning to get the feel for the membrane it is holding. That is when you know that it is time to activate it as a shrine. Now you can collaborate. You are able to listen to what the tree has to say about your village, its health and its needs, and the tree can also listen to your concerns and prayers. Offerings can be made for specific care. Rituals can be carried out  to address certain issues and energies, activations can happen around wishes and intentions, ceremonies can be held to honor and abet. You can hold this shrine alone or with other humans. Know you are always interacting with other biological lifeforms and the spirits of the place. You are never really alone.

To activate the village membrane shrine at a tree:

  • Go to the tree with the intention of activating it as a shrine for the village membrane
  • Invoke the tree, the spirit of the tree and its network of roots and canopy of branches. Call upon the spirit that oversees the community. This is usually a sky being that shows up as a large white bird. Ask this being to spread its wings of protection over your community and hold all in benevolence and grace. You may be specific or general in your invocation. An open heart is what is most required.
  • Offer one cup of milk (any kind) at the base of the tree as you do this.

Use the same method for the hallow. If you choose to create a medicine wheel as your village membrane shrine, this process is fully explained in the book Membranes of Hope, chapters 12 and 19. There are also chapters on invocation and the purpose of shrines.

For more information on all of this, my books Membranes of Hope: A Guide to Attending to the Spiritual Boundaries that Keep Life Systems Healthy from the Personal to the Cosmic, Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World: a Handbook for Spirit Workers and Teachings from the Trees: Spiritual Mentoring from the Standing Ones are all great resources.

© Theresa C. Dintino 2024

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