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Religion and Culture

Religion & Culture | Nature spirits: Working with God’s creation for the greater good (Pt 1)

Published:Sunday | April 21, 2019 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
Glenville Ashby with animist Houetchi Agbon outside the sacred forest of Ouidah, Benin Republic.
Glenville Ashby

Recently, Trinidad was more entertained than frightened by the tale of a family pestered by a spirit referred to as a buck. The distraught family went to the media detailing the buck’s impish and threatening behaviour. It appeared and disappeared, ate food from the refrigerator, tossed items around, and even stole the family Bible.

On an island still enthralled by fantastical folklore characters, the appearance of this mysterious being gave nationals much-needed comic relief during a time of political, economic and social anxieties. Pastors and holy men flocked to the home of this family, and after scores of failed attempts, the buck was vanquished by Eric Pugh, an American national and self-proclaimed expert in poltergeist phenomena.

Of his latest conquest, Pugh told the Trinidad Guardian that he used energy to rid the creature from the house.

“You have to track it and pin it. That’s what I did. It was good that everybody tried to help that family. I isolated it and used energy so that I could make it talk. We were actually getting information from it. It is a spirit which can transform from the spiritual dimension into the physical,” he said.

He later added: “When I went there with my crew, it was very strong. The spirit went out of the house and ran up into the wooded area. I asked it who sent it and it told me.”

Pugh said he was happy that the family was now sleeping well.

“I check on them to make sure there is no backlash. I have exorcised 1,400 demons,” he said. “This one was not that hard. I dealt with it using energy.”

Clinical psychologists will no doubt scoff at Pugh and attribute these sightings to conversion hysteria or psychological stress that manifests in the form of audio and visual hallucinations, weeping, and laughter. There are many recorded cases of hysteria. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that this so-called psychological disorder gripped a school in Albany, New York. (

But what if Western mental health professionals are wrong and Eric Pugh is on to something?


Both explanations are credible. Hysteria as a psychological disorder does not negate the existence of nature spirits. Every culture has courted folk characters with physical oddities and magical powers. Their natural habitats are forests, rivers, fire and air. In Western occultism, they are referred to as sylphs (air spirits), salamanders (fire spirits), gnomes (earth spirits) and undines (water spirits). Those who control them are called animists or magicians.

Do these beings really exist or are they figments of a collective imagination passed down through the ages?

I cite the scholarly observation of Max Heindel:

“The old-folk stories are now regarded as superstitions, but as a matter of fact, one endowed with etheric (spiritual) vision may yet perceive the little gnomes building green chlorophyll into the leaves of plants and giving to flowers the multiplicity of delicate tints which delight our eyes.

“Scientists have attempted time and again to offer an adequate explanation of the phenomena of wind and storm but have failed signally, nor can they succeed while they seek a mechanical solution to what is really a manifestation of life. Could they see the hosts of sylphs winging their way hither and thither, they would know who and what is responsible for the fickleness of the wind; could they watch a storm at sea from the etheric (spiritual) viewpoint they would perceive that the saying ‘the war of the elements’ is not an empty phrase, for the heaving sea is truly then a battlefield of sylphs and undines and the howling tempest is the war cry of spirits in the air.

“Salamanders are found everywhere, and no fire is lighted without their help; but they are mostly active underground. They are responsible for explosions and volcanic eruptions.” (

According to this categorisation, the buck that troubled the Trinidad family falls into the category of gnomes or spirits that live in forests and wooded areas.

Interestingly, it is in no less a book than the Bible that we learn of these spirits. Yes, the wisdom of Solomon had nothing to do with mundane knowledge. It is in the Testament of Solomon, a pseudepigraphical work written in early 1st century CE (some biblical books were dated much later), that we encounter a Solomon that is openly magical and mystical. Solomon constructed his temple by commanding elemental spirits, a feat made possible through a pentacle ring entrusted to him by one of the angels.

The Holy Koran adds to this intriguing narrative:

Islam’s holiest book explicitly states that Solomon commanded nature spirits (34.012 – 013):

“And to Solomon (We made) the Wind (obedient): Its early morning (stride) was a month’s (journey), and its evening (stride) was a month’s (journey); and We made a Font of molten brass to flow for him; and there were Jinns (nature spirits) that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord, and if any of them turned aside from our command, We made him taste of the Penalty of the Blazing Fire. They worked for him as he desired, (making) arches, images, basons as large as reservoirs, and (cooking) cauldrons fixed (in their places.”

So I ask, why are we so fearful of God’s creation? Why do we ascribe evil to anything we don’t understand? Why are we timid, so petrified at our own shadow? Why do we ignore the clear biblical pronouncements that we are gods? (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34)

Aren’t we only a little lower than the mighty angels? (Hebrews 2:7)

So why is our spiritual understanding so pedestrian?

And, didn’t Jesus say that with faith, we can even outdo him in feats? (John 14-12:14)

Sadly, we have become religious prisoners of our own making; and who dares think outside the box is challenged, bullied from the pulpit. So we resign to our self-imposed fate, sheepish, never to know the full wonders of God’s creation.

In Part Two of this series, I will share my experience working with the spirits of nature in the sacred forest of Benin, West Africa.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the award-winning author of the audiobook ‘Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity’. Email feedback to and, or tweet @glenvilleashby.