Living in Land, Sky, and Sea

A view from the public access point at Hyde Lake in Theresa, NY. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2012.

Druids incorporate the old tradition of land, sea, and sky into their rituals.  Many interpret them as the “Celtic elements,” and indeed, it often seems that the world is made up of them (the “sky” incorporating both the fire and air of the classical elements).  Others may think of them as the realms – sky for the Upperworld, land for the Middleworld, and sea for the Underworld.  Finally, there’s an old way of making oaths in which a person swears that if he or she does not meet a condition, ” may the sky fall down and crush me, may the earth open and swallow me, and may the sea rise up and drown me.”  These realms, representing the powerful forces of creation and destruction, are to be taken seriously in Celtic-inspired traditions.

But sometimes we take these teachings for granted.  Sometimes we relegate them only to our times of ritual so much so that they become almost meaningless words uttered.  I believe that, if you really want to live your path of Druidism, you must go outside and really experience these forces on a regular basis.  You must be mindful of them as you do this.

A monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed nectar near Hyde Lake. The butterfly is a spirit of the sky, the flowers are of the land, and the nectar is the sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

One of my favorite ways to connect with the realms is to go to liminal places where the three are present.  Not living near the ocean, the “sea” for me usually equals freshwater lakes or rivers.  Today we went to nearby Hyde Lake for some kayaking and swimming.  It’s a beautiful location featuring wildlife, calm to choppy water, high cliffs, and lovely views.  The sky seems to look into the lake as if it were a mirror.  The lake fills the land, shaping it.  The land cups it, raising it to the sky like a cool drink.

While kayaking or swimming, I feel the sky.  It is warming and life giving but it is also blinding and burning.  It brings the butterfly but also the biting horsefly.  I rejoice at the plant life it nourishes while donning sunglasses and natural sunscreen to protect my pale complexion.  The water is cooling and life giving but it is also violent and suffocating.  My skin celebrates the relief splashes of water bring, but I balance my boat and use my oars to keep the current from pushing me into barely-hidden rocks.  The land houses and nourishes me but it is the source of the rocks, the cliffs, and the logs.  The lake is filled with jagged rocks and I failed to pack adequate footware.  Needless to say, my tootsies were not happy!  I find the balance between the nourishing and dangerous aspects of land, sea, and sky and, in doing so, I find the beauty and fragility of life.  There is joy in that.

Frogs bathe and sun in Hyde Lake. Frogs are liminal beings as they spend time in water and on land, often feeding on bugs flying through the sky. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

So I urge you, fellow Druids and Pagans, get out there and live in the land, sky, and sea!  Find them.  Feel the tension and the balance.  Humble yourself on those jagged rocks and feel the childlike excitement as you spot fish in the shallow water.  When you next meditate and pull the Two Powers into you, I promise you will be better able to feel them because you have felt them before and can see them in your mind’s eye.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

3 thoughts on “Living in Land, Sky, and Sea

  1. Well said. A path is spiritual if it is lived every moment, otherwise it is mere dogmatic religion.

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