Posts Tagged ‘land’

There are several tree stumps  in my back yard. At one point, there was a grove of trees in the back corner. Last year, our first full summer at our new home, I decided to observe everything growing there in order to decide how to proceed our approach to that area. Given that we only have a quarter of an acre, we have to find a balance between leaving the land alone and transforming it to make our dreams a reality. I watched and studied to determine what were invasive species, what was healthy, etc. I watched the stumps as they continued to send out shoots, fighting for life. I was tempted to let them grow, but my research lead me to reconsider. The odds are against them growing into strong trees once more. If the scrawny branches ever get very high, they will be weak and prone to wind damage. Removing a layer of last year’s oak leaves revealed that the stumps themselves are rotting. Fungi grow there, and various decomposers are making the wood soft despite what the roots are striving to do. It made me sad; the trees are dying and yet, like people, doing anything to live. Perhaps they should be put out of their misery? And so, I promised the land I would reforest the area. While I trimmed the green shoots, I prayed and chanted quietly.

Soon, we will start a new grove, starting with birch and mountain ash (rowan). We also hope to get some apple trees.

While we prepare that corner for reforestation, I decided the branches, which are mostly oak, should be put to good use rather than discarded. I chose some thick bits to dry for a future ogham set. The rest, so tender and pliable, inspired me to try something I’ve always want to do: make a wattle fence.

Well, it’s actually a garden border in what is becoming our forest/shade garden. The bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley are just coming up. I really like how the border turned out despite my inexpert hand. It adds to the woodland character of what we hope will be a quiet contemplative space full of native species. (I recently planted some wild ginger rhizomes out there below the pines.)

The border was especially fun to make since the wattle method is very old. Our ancestors used it to make fences and even construct buildings. Trying my hand at it gave me appreciation for the dead. It would have been so easy to buy a premade border, but the land provided this material. It was grown here and, eventually, it will go back to the land right here. While a part of me will always feel sad about cutting them from the stumps, this is the essence of working with the land.

My first attempt at a wattle border. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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It’s interesting to look back to last summer. At this time, we were preparing to make an offer on our home. We were heading into new territory and some of the worst stress I remember experiencing. It was a lesson on patience and austerity, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Here we are, a year later, transforming our yard into beautiful gardens, shrines, and pollinator habitats. (And a few play areas for the little one!) Last summer was all boxes and uncertainty. This summer, as I stand on my porch to gaze at the small batch of abundance I’ve been cultivating, I feel a sense of peace. I feel that I’m  rediscovering my niche after a long period of stress and flailing.

My nasturtiums are very happy in their herb spiral garden home.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Having the freedom to garden as I desire has been wonderful. Even when I returned home from work riddled with stress and fatigue, a little time in the garden always restored my connection to the Kindred and my own sense of self. Working to form a lasting relationship with this new land has been rejuvenating. It’s reawakened my love of herbalism, and I’m throwing myself back into my casual studies with gusto!  Just a couple months ago, it seemed summer was a distant dream.

I inherited my late grandfather’s map of Ireland and related books.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I’m looking forward to furthering my Druid studies this summer. When I visited my family in the Utica area, these heirlooms from my late grandfather seemed to further point me toward that. He worked tirelessly on my family’s genealogy, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older and started to honor my ancestors. My sister told me she felt my taking these would make him happy, and as I walked around the hallow home where he lived and died, I spoke to him of my intentions, and I got a strong sense of approval.

In addition to the map and books, I also picked up some old artwork for my home, and was given permission to transplant some plants in my garden. I brought some of my grandmother’s lily of the valley for the shade garden, and some comfrey for my herb garden. The lilies seem to be taking well. The comfrey looks a tad wilted with the stress of the move. I’ve not lost hope, though. I’ve read they are quite prolific, and even a little section of root can grow. This particular plant is one of the first that my grandmother, an herbal enthusiast herself, taught me about, so if I can establish a patch from her own garden, it would be very meaningful to me.

Burning grove offerings in my backyard fire pit.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Speaking of Druid studies, my grove is growing strong! My friend and grovie, Cassandra, lead our Summer Solstice ritual. We honored Manannan, and asked him to help us as we reestablished our open doors to communities who need safe places, such as the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. It was a moving ceremony, but also one with much joy and laughter. Some of our members identify as part of the former community, including one of our elders who proudly told us about some of the first Gay Pride marches he attended.

It was a rainy day, so we held the ritual indoors. I brought many offerings meant for the fire to my home, and I made sure they got to their intended destination last night under the light of a waxing moon. I poured a libation to Brighd to help me with the work – the work of a Senior Druid. Hearing the way Northern Rivers Grove has positively impacted people gives me so much hope. I’m working to improve my practice so that I can serve my community.

As I reflect on where I was at this time last year, I feel excited for the relative peace this summer promises.  I will continue to work with my new plant allies and the land spirits.  I will throw myself further into my Initiate Studies with ADF.  Right now, I’m working on Trance 1 and Divination 2, but I know I will have to augment some of the previously completed courses as the whole study program is undergoing change.  It’s all good, though.  It will all help me become a better Druid and a better person in general!

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I’m an English Druid, this soil very much part of my psyche, and the rivers of my home feel like part of my blood. A sense of connection to the land itself is absolutely intrinsic to my Druidry, and if asked to explain what I do ‘priest of the land’ is a description I feel comfortable with. The landscape of the British Isles can seem to be hardwired into what the word ‘Druid’ means. Tara and Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury, Anglesey… these settings evoke Druidry. Orders from beyond these shores claim Welsh, Irish and Avalonian influences even though they are far from the ‘motherland’. You could be forgiven for thinking that to be a Druid is to be a priest, very specifically, of this landscape, and that to live beyond these shores means having your work cut out. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

I’ve been to America twice. The first time, I remember those early views of the landscape as I flew in over the east coast and the absolute sense of enormity. Looking at maps gives a person no sense at all of how huge America is. England has been densely populated for a very long time. We don’t have much in the way of untouched landscapes, but America does. The sense of wildness, and vastness, struck me.

A few days after that landing, I was on a beach, attempting a bardic initiation. Planning it from the comfort of home, I’d rather arrogantly imagined it would be easy. I knew from the moment my feet touched soil that I had a very steep learning curve ahead of me. This was not my land. It was not in my bones, and my ancestors were not part of it. I did not have the rivers in my blood. I had never heard the voices of the spirits of place. The sense of being a small thing in a big place and totally out of my depth, was educational to say the least. I was lucky, though, the beach was used to people, and welcoming enough, tolerant of a lone Druid from another place who had not got sufficient time to really learn to feel any of it properly.

To be a priest of the land, is to be the priest of the specific bit of land you are engaging with. I’d say as a general rule it’s probably wherever you can walk to from where you live. You may find there’s a core, that you really belong to, a wider landscape where you feel passably at home and a point somewhere beyond that where it all starts to get a bit alien.

Every landscape has spirits. Every land has power, sacredness and a need for service. What your landscape may not have, is stories. One of the things that makes the iconic places of the British Isles seem so powerful, is the number and richness of the stories attached to them. However, most of the UK is not in the Isle of Avalon and doesn’t have a stone circle or other mythic place in easy walking distance. I spent a decade in a more industrial landscape where stories of place where few, and I found engaging with the land hard work. I grew up in a place rich with story.

It is through stories that we connect to the land. If your landscape doesn’t have the kind of mythic, powerful tales to make it equivalent to Stonehenge, the answer is simple: Make them up. Invent them. All stories were made up by people, either out of pure imagination, or based on shreds of history, or weaving the two together in ways absolutely designed to give future historians nasty headaches. If your landscape does not have myths, then the greatest service you can perform, is to invent a few. Getting into the details of how to do that would need another blog in its own right, at the very least, but I wanted to seed the idea, because I think it’s a very important one.

Druidry is an international movement. No one outside the UK should ever feel that their landscape is somehow less important, or that their connection to the land less meaningful. Wherever your land is, that’s where you are a Druid. And in truth, there is no definite historical connection between the ancient Druids and most of the UK sites associated with them, although I think a pretty decent case can be made for Anglesey. It’s just stories. Future Druids, wherever you happen to be, can have stories of Druidry in your landscape, if you create them. Listen to the land, and the stories will come, because that’s very much in the nature of stories. They turn up when you’re paying attention, and sometimes when you aren’t as well.

Anyone interested in exploring the subject of modern Druidry’s relationship with ancestry, I’d like to point you at my book Druidry and Ancestors.

I also blog most days at www.druidlife.wordpress.com

By Nimue Brown

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