Nature Spirits: A Message from Haida Gwai

“ As some of you know my work is to travel round the world and meet with elementals in all countries who want to work as equal partners with humans. Our group contains elves, brownies, trolls, devas, goblins and other various kinds. When Tanis and I teach an elemental workshop she and I help humans and elementals to form partnerships. 

Many humans who have always lived on the land, you call these people First Nations, are in contact with elementals as they have never forgotten us like you of ‘developed’ societies. One of the First Nations people’s that know us are the Haida who live in the Queen Charlotte Islands of northern British Columbia in Canada. Tanis and I were there to do a workshop and met many elementals there who wanted to share their story with you.”

Sa Lana, Power of the Shining Heavens,

I stand before you with clear mind and healthy body.

My heart is clear and open

My way is true to you

My life is to honor you

– Haida Prayer 

Nature spirits or elementals, as they are also called, exist throughout the world in all countries and cultures. They are the elves, goblins, brownies, leprechauns and what are generally called “the little people” in folk legends. They dwell in natural places in old forests, running brooks, deep oceans and high mountains. In some cultures these beings are well known and in others almost lost or forgotten. The Maori of New Zealand call them the ‘people of the mist’ and in Japan they are called ‘kami’.

The Haida

In northern British Columbia in Canada are the Queen Charlotte Islands that the Haida people refer to as Haida Gwai. I was invited to give a workshop there on the subject of nature spirits. While there I met many Haida people and spoke to them about their experiences with elementals. Although many have never heard of them, others have. Some have even had personal experiences. Captain Gold is a Haida who has spent his life studying the history of his people. He said that although he has never seen the little people himself that several elders have spoken to him about them.

“The little people live in the forest and are as high as this,” he said opening his left hand and pointing from the bottom of his wrist to the point of his middle finger— a space of about eight inches. They are not bad and are always trying to help us.  They have retreated from us because we’re walking the wrong path.  They watch everyone. ”

He paused before continuing. “I’ve never seen them, but my sister had something happen. It was in the mid 50’s and my older sister was in Charlotte with others on a hike. At least four of them got split up from the others in Miller Creek Valley.  They were a day or two in the bush.  While way up, and getting dark, they were panicking and trying to choose a way, when they came across a baby’s footprint in the mud. The footprint led them to a creek, which they were able to follow out to the road.”

“They look just like us,” Captain Gold said,  “but they’re small.  They live in amongst all the old trees and so they are not happy about the logging that is destroying the forest. Long ago in Haida Gwai there were grasslands and the little people have been here since trees started in the grass lands.”

He continued, “Haida believe that even trees have souls and I talk to trees before cutting one. Even rocks have a soul but their time, like that of trees, is different.  It takes a season for the chop to be felt on a tree.  The rocks have been here for thousands of years.  They move around, but much slower than us.”

“Are there any other elementals that the Haida believe in?” I asked Captain Gold.

“Another one, of what you call elementals, is Creek Woman. She is normal looking, actual human size, because our elders do not refer to her as over large or as tiny.  She lives at the head of creeks.  Out of her pours forth the creek, the river, the fresh water source.  That is how the salmon come back and are reborn. Also in the sea are ones we call devil-fish who have a society like humans under the water. They can change shape and become humans.”

Hearing him speak I was reminded of the Selkies of Celtic mythology. Selkies are seals who can take human form and marry humans. I said good-bye to Captain Gold and his wife Bernice.

The next day I was walking in an old growth forest when I felt myself called by the little people. A group of them approached me. They ranged in height from about eight inches to almost two feet and I was surprised to see how they were dressed. Some wore blue jeans, others had on yellow hard hats that loggers wear and some carried fishing gear. I commented on their contemporary state of dress and they immediately changed to forest green saying that they can dress any way that I or another human would expect to see. I could tell by their choice that they had either been watching humans closely and had chosen clothes that they had seen on humans in Haida Gwai.

“Why are you not known by many Haida?” I asked.

“They don’t believe in us so we disappear,” one of them replied. “Without their belief we become smaller and many of our races have died out. In fact, we lose the memory of what we were just as the Haida have lost the memory of who they are.”

“What do you remember,” I asked.

“We remember that we are related to the elementals in New Zealand just as the Haida are related to the Maori. The Haida being warriors turned away from the less visible realms and put their energy into mastering their environment. Because they had strong wills they choose the strongest animals such as the raven, eagle, grisly bear, shark, killer whale as their power animals and imposed these images unto the trees and then carved them into totems. As they did this they moved further away from partnership with us until they forgot about us.

“How could the Haida and all people start working with you again?” I asked.

“The Haida,” one of the elementals responded, “are natural leaders. Their strength, however, is in the outer world, which you call the third dimension, rather than in the more subtle realms where we dwell. Still there are ones among the Haida— and other folk as well—who can speak to us and we would welcome that contact.”

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