I fell into a frozen lake once.
It was winter, and we were on holiday from school. I was running ahead of my two cousins and my older brother, and I hit a thin patch. In no time, my tiny body was submerged.
The water was violently cold, and I was certain I was going to die.
When I was about 10, I went to a summer camp for kids who like horses.
While riding one afternoon, a fellow camper got thrown from her horse. She was dragged for at least 100 yards. Her body looked like a rag doll flopping about, with one leg stuck in the stirrup, and her other leg and two free arms flailing uncontrollably.
Her head was one horse hoof away from being crushed to tiny, adolescent pieces, and I was certain she was going to die.
She didn’t die either.
A few years back, not long after joining ADF, I was on the road, sleeping in a no-name hotel, and I had a dream.
In that dream I heard a voice, one that was deeper and more expansive than any human voice I’d ever heard. The voice spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, and while it spoke I saw in the blackness of my imagination a white doorway, beside which were standing two white hounds. The voice was like an earthquake.
I jumped out of bed, body trembling, most certain that I was going to die.
That time, I think I might have died just a little.
All things have their place, and there is certainly a place for the warm and fuzzy in Paganism. But I think it’s also necessary to remember that there are parts of nature, and aspects of the Kindred we worship, that can be violently cold, fiercely wild, and terribly awe inspiring.
I hear many people frame the human condition as being either a decision to live in Fear or to live in Love, capitals emphasizing the notion that these states of being are not simply human emotions, but rather that they are cosmic in some way. I like to think that things are more complicated and nuanced than that.
Even death, in its inevitability, is more complicated and nuanced than that.
I keep these things in mind today as I head up for a weekend camping trip in the National Forest. I won’t be riding horses, and the reservoir is far from frozen.
I will sleep, though…
While I’m away, I invite my diverse, thoughtful readership to sit for a moment and remember a time when you came into contact with an aspect of nature or your gods — either in a formal ritual setting or in an unexpected place — that was awe inspiring, or terrifying, or visceral.
When did it stop being an idea and start being something real?
I’ll return to the blog after the weekend, perhaps with stories of new adventures in the woods. When I do, I hope that the comment feed looks like a late-night round of campfire storytelling.