Tag Archives: Native American spirits

Reply to a Reader: Respect for Sites

I had the following comment from a reader and wanted to take a few moments to post something in reply:

I’m . . . visiting Superstition Mountains this weekend. I’m not interested in gold, more interested in learning more about vortexes and cryptozoological sightings. I’d like to do so in a respectful, cautious, and open-minded manner.

First of all, thank you for your comment and your question. The very fact that you have asked the question likely means that you are in no serious danger of doing something disrespectful that might get you in trouble. Respect starts with awareness and you seem to have that already.

Specific to the Superstition area, while I am sure there are vortexes (areas where one or more ley lines intersect and cause a power center), I did not encounter any in that area. That’s not to say that they are not there, just that I did not happen to walk into one, nor am I aware of anyone having surveyed and mapped vortexes in that area. Sedona, a little farther north of the Phoenix area, is famous for its vortexes and there are maps aplenty of those, some of which you can find online.

There have been some Sasquatch type sightings on the Mogollon Rim (again, just north of the Phoenix metroplex) and I believe that there is at least one in the area just to the south of the range so a cryptozoological encounter is not impossible but not as likely as it would be further north in AZ.

As I mentioned in my post on the Superstitions, the area is sacred ground to the Apache. Much of your experience will depend on where you go. If you stay on “the beaten path”, then my impression is that the spirits of the place will more or less leave you be. They have grown accustomed to people wandering through their demesne and, while they will keep an eye on you (that feeling of being watched) in some places, that is no cause for concern.

Where you have to be more careful is if you choose to leave the designated trails in the area, particularly if you are going to be over-nighting. If you are going to bushwhack at all, look to your physical safety first: travel with a partner, or if you are alone, at least be sure someone knows where you are and when you should be back. Carry a good first aid kit (many slip and fall hazards in addition to snakes beginning to move around this time of year) and more water than you think you will need. The desert is DRY and it dries you out more quickly than you might think. Supply lists can be found on many backpacking sites and how much you carry will depend on how long you are going to be out.

On the psychic/spiritual level, my biggest advice is to maintain your attitude of respect and, as I mentioned in the earlier blog, listen carefully to your gut. If you happen to wander into one of those “dead zones” that I describe in the article, then back out slowly. If you feel that something is not right, that some place might be dangerous, that you are being watched and the feeling becomes oppressive or if you feel presences you are uncomfortable with then my best advice is to leave whatever area this occurs in. If this means a detour then so be it. Do not let your route dictate your safety and, if your navigation skills are not up to plotting such a route, simply go back the way you came. Discretion is the better part of valor in this area.

Apache people traditionally make offerings and do blessings with cornmeal so it might be useful to carry some with you. If you stumble across anything that you fear you might have offended, leave a pinch of cornmeal on a rock or the ground, explain quietly that you meant no disrespect and leave the area. This same technique can work if you come into an area with “friendlies”. Offer a pinch of cornmeal, explain that you have come in peace to learn about the area and its inhabitants both visible and invisible and ask to be introduced. Sit quietly, turn your attention inward (meditate if you are of that bent) and see what manifests. You may see nothing, you may see things with your inner vision or you might be lucky enough to see something with your physical eyes. I’ve had some encounters in that area with beings that appeared solid but were definitely creatures from Southwestern myth.

One other thing in the respect realm: there is an old backpacker saying – leave only footprints, take only photos. This applies doubly in this wilderness area. Not only is leaving trash around ecologically unsound, it is extremely disrespectful of the local supernatural fauna. How would you feel if someone walked into your home and left their candy wrappers and cigarette butts laying on your carpet? Be sure to pack out everything you take in and, if nature calls, use proper wilderness disposal techniques. The discourtesy that some people have in the wild provides you with another ‘offering’ you can make to the ‘locals’. I used to take a bag with me when I went into the mountain ranges around Phoenix so that I could pick up trash and cigarette butts along the trails. You would be amazed at the amount of good will this generated in the Otherworld.

In summary, your best defense in this area is an attitude of respect. I can almost guarantee you that, if you walk softly in the area, make some offerings as suggested above and listen with all your senses, you will come away from the experience with some stories to tell. Enjoy your time in one of the great wilderness areas of the US!

Stormeye’s Real Life Adventures: Superstition Mountains

I mentioned in my last post that there are places in the world where humans are not welcome. I thought I would expand on that thought in this post.

I lived in the Phoenix, AZ, area for 13 years in my late 20’s and then into my 30’s. Looking back, I can see that my sojourn in the desert was Spirit’s way of stripping me of a lot of the emotional baggage that I carried with me from my youth. I really began my spiritual quest while I lived in the “Valley of the Sun” and that quest took me to some interesting places both spiritually and physically.

Anyone who has lived in the Phoenix area for long, and particularly in the East Valley suburbs like Tempe and Mesa, knows the location of the Superstition Mountain range. The Superstitions, as they are called, are a directional touch stone – look up, find the Superstitions and you will know which way is east on that vast desert floor. There are also mountains in the south (South Mountain), west (White Mountains) and north (forgot the name) but it is the Superstition range that really attracts the attention in the East Valley.

The Nde or Ndee as the tribe known as Apache call themselves believed that the Superstition range was home to their thunder beings, called the Idnahin if I remember correctly). If you have ever lived through a desert thunderstorm in that area, you will quickly understand why – storms often come up over those mountains and then move out over the valley floor. If you have never seen the Superstition range, here is a travel blog with some images. While they are not incredibly tall, these mountains epitomize to me, the jagged, spare beauty of the desert.

I spent a lot of time hiking in AZ, getting outdoors to clear my head, commune with Nature and generally try to establish some sort of spiritual practice tied to the Land. My hikes took me into many of the mountain regions of the area, from the urban fitness trail at Squaw Peak – in the middle of downtown Phoenix – to the more isolated Pass Mountain Trail in Usery Mountain Park. I can not say that I had a favorite spot but my first hike up the Peralta Trail to a structure called the Anvil in the Superstitions really hooked me. Although it was something of a drive out to the Superstitions from where I lived, I tried to make it out there as often as I could.

Now, those who know something of the history of the place know the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine. That story is easily accessible on multiple sites and I will leave it to the reader to research the tale if he or she is curious. The interesting thing to me about this tale is the notion that no one is ever going to find this gold mine since it is protected by vengeful Native American spirits. Those who seek the mine are insured of a disastrous outcome, either meeting their deaths on the mountain itself or by cursed bad luck elsewhere. Most people shrug this off as “superstition” but that does not stop the locals, who have been there for some generations, from whispering about unexplained disappearances in the area.

My experience of the Superstitions seemed to bear out this caution from the locals. On my first couple of visits, I stayed on designated paths with other people nearby and, other than noting a distinct sense of being watched as I passed near some rock formations overhead, nothing really gave me the “willies”. As I became more experienced in those mountains, however, I would at times follow game trails or other natural walkways off the beaten path so that I could enjoy the solitude of the desert.

It was during one of these sojourns that I first discovered that this land was not as friendly as it seemed on the tourist trails. I had hiked in some distance on one of the major trails when I noted a game trail running off to the right into a small canyon. This looked like an interesting place to explore so I followed the little trail. I had rounded some rocks about 25 to 50 yards in and so was out of sight of the main trail when I walked into a wall of darkness.

I mean this quite literally. One moment, in my perception, I was walking in bright sunlight and, the next, the light had taken on the dim filtered aspect of a cloud covered day. I stopped, feeling a little chilled, despite the warmth of the day (it was already in the high 80’s and headed for a high in the 100’s) and looked behind me. Everything looked normal except that I had the perception of looking through dark glasses and my hackles were standing up as though I had just heard the growl or a cougar at close range. My inner senses were shouting “danger” but I was not “seeing” anything that would provoke that sense.

Nonetheless, I began to back slowly out of the little side canyon, talking quietly to whatever might be there and letting it know that I meant no disrespect and that I was leaving. An oppressive stillness filled the air, the air of expectancy that fills the atmosphere before a storm lets go with its full fury. I backed around the rock outcropping that seemed to be the demarcation point and moved into warm clear sunlight. It was as though nothing at all had happened and, for just a moment, I wondered if I had somehow fallen asleep and had a nightmare. I walked up to the rock outcropping and looked around the corner. In my perception, despite the bright sun in which I was standing, it was darker in the canyon than it should have been. Just to be certain, I stretched out my hand. I could feel the “barrier” of cold and hostility. There was nothing more that I could do and I certainly did not want to tangle with whatever was in that canyon so I hiked on.

In Scottish faery lore, there are two courts of Sith (Sidhe in Irish Gaelic – the faery folk) – the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. The Unseelie were those faery beings who were actively hostile to humans, for whatever reason, and they and their haunts were avoided like the plague. I make no claim that what I encountered that day in the Superstitions was an Unseelie court faery but it certainly was a nature spirit that appeared to be aligned to the destructive aspect of storms and it was not happy to have a human encroaching on its space.

My advice to those who would like to visit this lovely places is to travel in groups, stay on the main trails, camp only in designated areas and be sure to have camp set up and light sources available before dark. Also, if you have that experience of hackles rising or any bodily feeling that you associate with danger, whether you see anything or not, clear the area.