Graveyard Loot: Lightning Struck Wood

The other day I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the site of a lightning strike at a local cemetery. Based on the opposite branching pattern and bark, I am led to believe the jolt touched down on an ash tree. The find came to my attention after viewing a video of the smoldering tree that was shared in a Facebook group focused on occult subject matter.

A L’il Bit of History Repeated…

STS Peter & Paul Cemetery located on the south side of St. Louis is where the strike took place. Established in 1864, the graveyard is home to a large chapel mausoleum and tandem crypts, as well as many burial plots that were originally purchased by the STS Peter and Paul parish for interment of its German parishioners.

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Huge chapel mausoleum just inside the entrance to STS Peter & Paul Cemetery

Greeting The Gatekeeper

I pulled up to the open gates of the graveyard and noticed a sign just beyond the entrance that said the cemetery closes at 5PM. A quick glance at my car’s dashboard told me I was 39 minutes past that point. But the gates were still open, there was quite a bit of daylight left, and I am ever the opportunist.

Rum and pennies in hand, I exited my car and arranged the liquor and coins in front of the stone portion of the gate. Having done this somewhat on auto-pilot (because I usually leave a similar entrance offering whenever I enter such a place; I store tiny bottles of rum in my glove box for such an occasion), it was only on the short walk back to my car that I noticed the pattern of the pennies: Four of them, tails up, formed a circle around the small bottle of spirits at cardinal direction points, with the fifth heads up and directly underneath. It has not become apparent to me if this particular set up means anything. It’s just a detail that I recalled that struck me as interesting, really. My aim with the whole act was to respectfully acknowledge that I was entering a place inhabited by others that did not belong to me, much in the same way that I would knock and be granted entrance into a living person’s home; and with the intention to locate, observe, and collect. *

Access Granted. Now What?

With my offering to the gatekeeper of the hallowed grounds* out of the way, I proceeded to drive through the cemetery with the intention of locating the tree I’d seen in the video. When I tell you there were trees upon trees in every direction, mingled with headstones and winding roads, I am not exaggerating. It was then that I realized that I might have a problem finding this particular tree. I focused my intention on locating the tree as I rounded bend after bend and tried to key in on any inklings my intuition would have on the matter. My eldest son (he’d rescinded his initial declination of my invitation to join at the last minute after finding out his younger brother had excitedly planned to attend) asked me to turn the radio up, but I refused, as a token of respect for the dead, but also so I could hear any mental messages that would come through.

After mistaking several trees, I had the idea to review the video from Facebook for any clues that might lead me to the location. The name on the video’s nearby visible headstone was clear enough, but there really was no telling the difference between it and the headstones that were actually in front of me without a look at each single one. I re-reviewed the video and settled on scanning the tops and trunks of the trees for the large burn stripes, still unsure but hopeful. I rounded a third or fourth turn that took me near the back of the cemetery and came across a lone goose* among the graves to the left of the path I drove upon. We regarded each other in silence for a bit. I said, “Hello Goose” as I meandered past him, while his gaze tracked the movement of my car.

I continued to scan the trees, with my cell phone resting on my left leg, video open but not playing, both hands on the steering wheel. Suddenly, the video started to play again on its own. Not incredibly unusual given the known jankiness of Facebook and cell phones in general. But, I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and since I knew there was no way I could have started the video up again on my own, I took that as a sign to pay very close attention to the scene around me. Looking to my left again, I spotted a tall tree with stripes, and upon driving closer, I positively identified the tree as the one from the video. I was elated and excited to finally behold, in person, the awesome specimen.

At this point, words will not do a description of the site justice. Here are bunch of photos I took. Enjoy!

A Few Observations

  • I was nervous about stepping inside the ring left by the absence of the burned wood that had become a pile of ashes, hoping that somehow the ground wouldn’t give way beneath me and that I wouldn’t be transported to Narnia or some dark place beneath the Earth. Perhaps an irrational fear, but don’t judge me. The ground was soft like sand near a river where the ashes rested, and it really made me feel like that horrible thing could happen.
  • As I observed the area from various angles, at one point I got the feeling that there was movement behind me. Of course, when I turned I didn’t see anything, but I got the sense/mental impression of playful running behind me. And a sound that seemed a lot like laughter.
  • I fully intended to light the candle and incense seen in the 17th pic, but the lighter stopped working. There was a bit of wind, light but quietly persistent. After a while of trying and a broken lighter, I gave up, and figured that the tree was not interested in more fire, no matter how small. The impression I got was that the items left were sufficient in their un-burned state, given the circumstances.
  • At one instance, I placed my left (receiving) hand upon a burned part of the tree, and meditated for a moment. I let the wind blow around me, and allowed myself to revel in the experience of just being present in that moment, the charred bark hard and cool beneath my palm. I began to radiate thoughts toward the tree, and I let it know that I was sorry for it’s pain, that I wished it a speedy recovery and peace. Calmness continued to descend like an airy blanket around me, and I noticed a tingling in my left hand. The feeling then turned into alternating sensations of hot and cold that coiled around my wrist and upper forearm.
  • One grave in particular stood out to me, but I have not included its picture here. I was going to add it, but my intuition indicates I should not. It was the same one with the large headstone visible from the front in the video.
  • I left my ankle socks in the graveyard, by where my car was parked. Another intuitive inkling. Weird, but I didn’t see how it could hurt. Now that I ponder the experience, it felt like another show of respect, somehow, and it definitely felt like something I needed to do. I had a flash of thought of not bringing the dirt I’d tracked around in as I stepped through the graveyard and around the strike site into the car or back home with me as a way to ensure no one/ no thing  followed me home. I’d taken my shoes off once I got to the tree, and I put them back on before I left. My socks were filthy and could not easily be cleaned, unlike my shoes which only needed a few knocks to jar loose any debris. At the very least, it will be an interesting find for someone to stumble upon, I suppose.
  • I had no idea how many people just stroll through large cemeteries at dusk. Singletons, couples with pets, and someone pushing a stroller even.
  • Good thing I’d left when I did. As I made way for the gate in my car, I approached a small-framed woman in a pink sweatshirt and jeans. I just assumed she was another wanderer until she flagged me down. I was leery because, for one, I was in a graveyard (hello!), and, two, I had my sons  with me. I stopped long enough to hear her say the gates were closed and she would be there soon to open them and let us out. She was the groundskeeper! And to think, we almost got locked in for the night.

Correspondences of Lightning & Lightning Struck Wood

Lightning is associated with thunder and thus is linked to deities such as Shango, Oya, Indra, Zeus, Thor, Marduk, Set, Ba’al, Bel, Thunderbird, and Tlaloc. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. Chinese tradition has over 120 thunder deities alone!

By context, lightning is associated with the element of fire, which lends its energy to a fiercer or even faster working. Lightning struck wood can be added to any working for a boost in power, regardless of the type of spell, to harness the power of fire to transform, either by creation or destruction.

Different cultures have different beliefs about trees that have been struck by lightning. According to Navajo beliefs, for example, it is not wise to burn lightning struck wood as a source of wood burning fuel as it can cause illness and bad luck. Lightning struck wood is considered the property of the Spirit of Lightning and so it is avoided…

In Chinese folklore, a special divination system called lingqijing uses lightning struck wood as the material from which to make the divinatory objects. The word lingqijing consists of three characters – ling means ‘magic’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘supernatural’, while jing is simply ‘book’ or ‘classic’. Traditionally, the disks are made from wood taken from a tree that has been struck by lightning.

In Southern Hoodoo, wood from a tree that has been struck by lightning can be used in uncrossings. It can be added to mojo bags and gris gris, and it can also provide a serious boost to candle magick. 

(Data harvested from various sources)

Ash Tree Correspondences 

Element: Water, Fire, Air

Tarot: The World, The Hanged Man, The Sun

Theme: As above, so below.

Celestial bodies: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Neptune

Deities: Orunmila, Oshun, Inanna, Thoth, Isis, Ganesha, Saraswati, Eostre, Frigg, Hel, Minerva, Nemesis, Poseidon, Odin, Neptune, Meliaie, Enki, Erishkagal, Venus, Athena

Medicinal properties: astringent/ disinfectant, cure for warts, relief of gout and arthritis, diuretic, laxative, relief of kidney and urinary tract infections, expelling of intestinal parasites, treatment of liver disease and malaria

Types of workings: cleansing/ clearing, protection, love, sex, divination, spells that require the power of fire, water, or air, crafting of magickal items (staves, wands, talismans, amulets, etc.)

The Ash tree also has meaning in many cultures. For example, it is associated with Yggdrasil, the World Tree that connects the nine realms of Norse cosmology (the same tree Odin hung from for nine days to learn the secret knowledge of the Futhark Runes). It is also considered to be linked to the Divine Feminine and represents the creative, secretive Yin energy, a compliment and counterpart to masculine Yang energy. The ash in the presence of an oak and hawthorne is said to be the home of faeries. In Druidic themed astrology that corresponds to the Oggam Wheel of the Year, the tree is associated with the energies of the sign of Pisces and the month of March. In Celtic lore, the tree is associated with the Welsh Magician-God Gwyddion, who carries a staff made of Ash, a symbol of healing, transformation, and empowerment in matters of destiny.

Interesting fact: The Ash tree is historically known to draw lightning.

 

*I have a few other standing rules that apply to entities/deities/ghosts/spirits/whatever:
  1. Don’t fuckin’ creep me out. I’m skittish. I’ll run. If you want to say hello, or you need something, please approach in the least alarming way possible. I know my limitations and I embrace them fully.
  2. Don’t follow me home without my express conscious and willful consent. No stragglers allowed.
  3. Leave my family out of it. The adults will need to give their own consent for any involvement, and the children (who both see/sense spirits) are off-limits, period.
  4. If these personal rules are not honored, we’re going to fight. 
*The identities are different in many traditions, but the idea is the same. These are the watchers of the gates of the cemeteries, they who are believed to guard the paths between the living and the dead. Whatever your reason for visiting the graveyard, it is quite customary to pay some sort of homage to a gatekeeper, out of respect and to ensure a successful mission. Baron Samedi (Haitian loa of the dead along with his other incarnations/aspects  Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, and Baron Kriminel); Legba/ Eleggua or Elegba/ Eshu/ Exu (Haitian loa/ Yoruban orisha/ Yoruban orisha/ Quimbanda spirits); Oya (Yoruba orisha);  Lucero Mundo (crossroads mpungo of Palo Mayombe), just to name a few that I am personally aware of, though I’m sure there are many more.
*Interestingly enough, the goose is magickally symbolic of quests, guidance, safety, synchronicity, and treasure hunting. http://www.spiritanimals.com/goose/;  http://www.auntyflo.com/magic/goose; http://www.universeofsymbolism.com/goose-symbolism.html

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