A week ago I started defining local spirits and what gets lumped as them. This week I’m going to talk about sadak and shidak in more detail. Last time I mentioned that the Tibetan terms for local spirits are sadak (ས་བདག་) and shidak (གཞི་བདག). Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but there is a difference. This might be a bit long, but there is no good place to divide this into multiple posts.
Sadak means Earth Lord. As a spirit the sadak tends to be very limited in scope, and very rooted into the land. While any local spirit could be upset if you started to dig without asking permission, a sadak is so rooted into the land that it thinks of the land as its body, and when you dig you’re actually pulling it apart. If you think of the soil as literally being ensouled, then that’s a sadak. I’ve never heard it said how big sadaks are or could be, but I’ve never encountered one that embodies an area bigger than a house property or two in the city. The average person could stand in the centre of a sadak’s influence and throw a tennis ball well beyond their control. I would also say in my experience that sadaks are not that intelligent, far closer to an animal than a human. (Yes, humans are totally animals, you know what I mean)
Shidak means Ground Lord, and is probably closer to what most people think of as a genius loci. A shidak lives in a certain area, and as a certain area. While tied to the land, they don’t tend to identify in and as the land in the way that a sadak does. The human analogy would be that a sadak is a person who thinks they are their body, and that’s it, while a shidak is a person who knows that the body is a part of them, but one of many.
The shidaks really are a soul of a place, a spirit that lives in and permeates an area. They’re the energy that envelops a region. A shidak is immovable within an area, or perhaps can only move slowly as the land itself changes. Saying they live as an area is meant to imply the level of connection they have to it. While the shidak could be considered the soul, and the area the body, you have to understand everything that makes up the “body.” It’s not as simple as the dirt, any more than our bodies are just as simple as a lump of flesh. The lay of the land, the positive space of hills, and the negative space of valleys are the body. The water of the area, the wind over the place, everything is part of the shidak.
Odd fact about the human body: We’re composed of roughly 1 trillion cells per kilogram, but our gut contains roughly ten times as many bacteria cells as are in the rest of our body. Meaning by the numbers our body is more composed of cells that aren’t us, than cells that are, by the numbers we’re more inhuman than we are human. This is another human parallel. The shidak is the land, the water, but they’re also the grass, the plants, the trees, but one step farther the shidak is in many ways all of the living beings within the space. The shidak is the insects crawling in the dirt or buzzing in the sky, the squirrels and raccoons in the tree, and yes, even us.
This is where a lot of people have issues thinking of shidaks, but we’re part of them, and they’re part of us. I don’t mean we’re an expression or incarnation of the shidak, but when we live in a place we’re connected to it, we’re symbolically linked, and while you might think of yourself as flesh and the shidak as dirt, the division between us can be really hard to find. If you have trouble conceiving how this works think of the shidak as the energy field of a place, rather than a sentient spirit. The energy of our neighbourhood transcends us, it moves through us, and shapes us, as we shape it. We draw on this energy, and we release our energy into it. In a lot of ways the “vibe” of a place is an aspect of the shidak. The bacteria in our gut has different DNA, it’s not us, but it’s in us, and we “feed” it when we eat, and they break down our food so that we can process the chemicals in it to fuel our body, and that makes it oddly tricky to clearly divide us. This isn’t a perfect analogy, as shidaks can and do survive without people, but it illustrates the level of connection we can have, and I feel that there is a quality to a “living” shidak that has an living biological component, and ones that are more barren of life.
Now to make shidaks a bit more nebulous, they come in different sizes and placements. So while only one human can occupy a single point in 3D space, more than one shidak can embody the same spot. I don’t necessarily mean a complete one for one, but an overlapping pattern. It’s less a clear cut map, and more a sequence of catchment areas. A shidak has a “core” area, but along the fringes, where their presence is less defined they can actually overlap with another shidak, both living in and as the same place. To go back to the human analogy, while physically only one person can occupy a single space, if two people are standing near each other their auras (or radiant heat) will have an area of overlap. So in the same spot you can actually be able to engage several shidaks of the same magnitude.
Magnitude? Did I just introduce another layer of complexity? Damn straight. Not all shidaks are the same size, and there is even more overlap when this is taken into consideration. Shidaks can be as small as single plot of land, or as large as a continent, and everywhere in between. So it’s not a simple matter of similar sized spirits overlapping in influence, but also larger and larger spirits controlling more land which encompasses even more shidaks. Think of it like a piece of paper with all sorts of different circles on it, different sizes, some overlap, some big circles contain an entire smaller circle, or only part of that area.
In this sense shidaks can be like the Russian nesting dolls, each one contained in a bigger and bigger version. Another way to look at it is place and identity. (Sorry for all the analogies, but it’s the easiest way to make the sense of this clear) Depending on scale, I could say I live in Canada, or Ontario, or Southern Ontario, or the St. Lawrence Lowlands, or the Golden Horseshoe, or the GTA, or Toronto, or Scarborough, or the Bluffs, or my street name, or my house number. All of these are right, it’s just an issue of size. Shidaks have a similar thing of overlapping each other in scale.
But while the larger ones are bigger and more “powerful” in that sense, they’re also less present. The larger shidaks are spread over so much that they’re hard to engage or sense, because you’re always in them and they cover so much, the smaller shidaks are more accessible. Like getting help, in a big city you have a politician in charge of your ward, who reports to someone above him, who reports to someone above her, who reports to another person and so on until you get to the mayor, but then above mayor is the Premier, and above them is the Prime Minister. Well if there is an issue with zoning in my area I can’t complain to the Prime Minister, he’s too distant (and he’s a worthless zealot Christian robot), but my local politician could help. Depending on what you’re doing with shidaks, you might be below their notice or reasonable ability to influence, and if you want something they may be too far removed to be of us, so the smaller more local ones are more practical to engage and sense.
Next week I’ll talk about why it is useful to deal with shidaks, and how to do so. I also plan on touching on the structure of shidaks, and more detailed methods of working with and influencing, and working with shidak and drongdak (the city spirits) in unison, as well as some of my personal work with them.