You Can Take a Druid Out of the Woods…

In the morning, after (almost) sleeping through a night of 28 degree weather, I headed to the edge of the water to make my offerings. Pumpkin seeds were what I had to give, for they were what I had to eat. I proceeded through the same ritual I outlined in my post last week, only this time I did it while standing in the morning sun.

When I’m in the city, I sometimes lift my hands up toward the ceiling of my bedroom, my office, or whatever sacred space I’ve constructed, and imagine that I’m feeling the warmth of the sun. I also imagine that my feet become roots and extend deep into the earth, deep into the coolness of the underground waters. This practice is a part of the Two Powers meditation, a grounding and centering meditation used by ADF.

Standing beside the reservoir, I thought perhaps I should do the Two Powers meditation now. So I lifted my hands up to the sky, and when I felt the warmth of the sun — the actual warmth, and not the imagined warmth — I was taken aback.

I opened my eyes and I saw the water. The actual water.

The Two Powers meditation felt a little silly to do at that point, ’cause I was in the sun and I could almost feel the water on my skin. I didn’t need to imagine anything.

Instead, my mediation would be to open my eyes, open my heart, and feel with all of my being what was around me; to recognize that all of this was the Earth Mother.

This weekend in the mountains gave me some perspective on my religious practice.

Druidism will be a living religion so long as it continues to focus on the living earth. As bookish as we Druids may be, the soil is our truest scripture. The work we do at home, the practice we develop in solitude, should — perhaps even must — inform our experience of the living earth, not simply the metaphoric earth.

One can make the sun into a symbol, or the water into a symbol, or just about any tree, bird, and plant into a representation of some human experience, but concordances which seek to place all of nature within a human framework (this tree represents this emotion, or that god is good for this human activity) are little different than a Catholic concordance of saints. Plus, they can trick the city-dwelling Pagan into thinking that the natural world is only metaphor for the inner human world.

It’s more than that.

The tree doesn’t always need to represent something. It can simply be alive, and beautiful.

I came back to the city with a real desire to return to the mountains; to be outside. I spend a lot of time in my head each day, but not near enough time in the dirt.

I need to find a way to bring an awareness of the living earth into my daily life.

The question is, how? (My husband says, “Weeding, sweetie. There is weeding.”)

So, I turn to you, friends. You showed up in droves to share your intense nature experiences, and I’m going to ask that you join in the dialogue again.

How do you do it? How do you bring an awareness of the living earth into your daily life? Do you do it by getting out into your neighborhood? By gardening? Do you volunteer with the park service? What do you do?

Or, if you’ve found yourself in a state where you don’t do this, what could you imagine doing to bring this awareness into your life?


19 responses to “You Can Take a Druid Out of the Woods…”

  1. […] Teo Bishop wrote a wonderful post about his experience of doing ritual in nature.  (Sometimes I think I should rename this blog “What I think about awesome things Teo Bishop […]

  2. The Wandering Zach Avatar
    The Wandering Zach

    Sadly, my experiences are a bit mundane. Usually, when I am on the road, I look out at the trees that pass by and just take in the beauty. During the day, I sometimes step outside and sit on the porch, watching the untameable grass that I fight with every non-winter month, the tall trees that do their best to swallow the nearby streetlight, and the critters that walk around.

    Sometimes, I don’t need to step outside. The simple smell of fresh air coming in through an open window, the potted plants we work hard to cultivate, and even simply our pets. Hannibal, my cat, is a dear to me. I watch him sometimes, watch how he reacts to certain situations, and try to think like he does. And in turn, I think he sometimes watches me for the same reason.

    We live in the suburbs, so we have a lot more nature around us than in a big city. We have a decent sized back yard that we can stand in, and the area behind our garage has a hill curving around it, thus naturally forming two “walls”. All we have to do is hang a sheet up on the clothesline and we have perfect privacy to perform our rituals.

    That being said, I don’t connect with nature as often as I should. And I think I’ll change that from this point on.

  3. Cody Kniceley Avatar

    I hunt. I know this is considered to be… not so good by a lot of contemporary society… but I’m a Bard in Alaska. I took my hunting when I became a bard and smashed them together. In doing this I think I’ve drawn a very fine line to balance on. I hunt to connect to nature, and let me tell you… nothing connects you to nature more closely than stalking a bear or moose through the wilderness. Or, as I recently experienced… BEING stalked by a bear!! I also hunt to feed my family. We use the animals though. My wife is Alaskan native and makes jewelry, clothing and other art from the various non-edibles. At any rate, this is how I connect with nature.

  4. C.S. MacCath Avatar
    C.S. MacCath

    I lived in the city for many years and found parks to visit, places to walk. Sometimes the call of the earth would be so strong that I would cancel my plans for the day and just go. I’m very fortunate now, though, to live in semi-rural Nova Scotia next to the ocean. So the living Earth is all around me, and truly, I don’t think I can be urban anymore.

    But to answer your question, I volunteer for a local wildlife rescue organization. I’ve rescued loons, released owls, driven orphaned, baby squirrels and raccoons cross-province to get help. I’ve even been in situations when I knew the animal I was rescuing was too wounded or sick to help but needed the release of a compassionate death. In those cases, I pray constantly over the box or crate in my passenger seat while I drive the animal in it to a veterinarian for euthanasia.

    Here are pictures of a Barred Owl the day I released him and a loon the day I rescued her. Might as well end my response on a positive note. =)

  5. Elinor Predota Avatar

    “they can trick the city-dwelling Pagan into thinking that the natural world is only metaphor for the inner human world.”


    I’m lucky enough to live in the country, surrounded by more non-human than human life, but I still contrive to spend most of my wakeful time buried in my computer or a book or my thoughts.

    Remembering that I am an animal is important to me, as is having non-human live-in companions (big dogs), and going out into the lanes and fields just to pay attention to and be with the corporeal and spiritual non-human beings of my neighbourhood.

    When I was a city dweller, gardens helped, pets helped, but it’s just not the same as being able to look out and see much more land and more sky than buildings.

  6. Éireann Lund Johnson Avatar

    I go outside each morning and say a traditional welcome prayer to the sun. I feel both sun above me and earth below me as I stand in my yard. Unless it’s raining; then I get wet. I also garden, which consists of planting seeds, listening to birds, watching wind in the trees, wondering what kind of bug is on my plant, tasting strawberries, watching the sun go down when I water in the evening, weeding, seeing if my rain barrels got full, emptying them, pruning back rampant bushes, tying up cucumber vines, staking the giant fennel so it doesn’t break off from tipping over, pinching back the basil, picking mint leaves for tea, and harvesting yummy food to process and eat. If I don’t get enough nature out there, I watch my chickens. They’re hilarious. Get some; you’ll never be bored.

  7. Miraselena Avatar

    The living Earth is the absolute reason for my chosen spiritual practice. It itself comes first… what it represents are just tools or gifts for me to use to connect, to grow and understand. So my awareness is always with the birds in flight, the lapping of the waves, the roots of the tree…. (Oh.. wait, you meant literally, I hike and I garden.)

  8. Jay Avatar

    Running and biking through my neighborhood. And not just limited my outside time to the warm parts of the year.

  9. nanamamamoon Avatar

    people watching without judgement is a good way to find nature in the city… it is harder than you may think…

  10. EmilyRaven Avatar

    I connect to the earth by getting out of the city to hike, but in the city I find just walking around my neighborhood and paying attention to trees to be beneficial. I also started an indoor herb garden on my window ledge.

  11. Kallel Peterson Avatar

    I try to get out in the open air as much as possible. I’m fortunate in that the park system where I live is pretty excellent, and the mountains still aren’t that far if I really want out of the city. I also try to remember the article I read on the ADF’s site that asserts that our urban environs are still a part of nature. I also bike around town a lot, so I get to exercise and pay my respects to Nature in that way too.

  12. Kilmrnock Avatar

    Oh well , i too garden . we have a smallish veggie garden , due to living in a townhouse . My backyard is quite small. But i do find working in the garden , getting my fingers in the dirt is very theraputic . growing and harvesting tomatoes is a good connection to mother earth and her cycles and to nature . My Cukes are done now , but hopefully for the next month or so we’ll still be getting tomatoes , and a few pumpkins are coming in now .Here on the Mid Atlantic East coast we have well defined seasons . We had a quite hot,nasty summer and i love the now cooler weather.the tomatoes love the heat i don’t tho.But Yes , gardening is good for the pagan soul , the closeness to the land and dirt is a quite good thing. Kilm

  13. Saule Avatar

    I am with your husband and the other gardeners. When I’m not so busy that I can truly tend my garden/yard I find it a great way to bring me closer to the earth. Growing a bit of food (say a pumpkin to pull the seeds out of) is a great experience of the cycle of life and the turning of the wheel of the year.

    But even then, as one whose heart lives in the forests and whose body lives in the city, keeping the living earth alive in my soul is forever a challenge.

  14. Pink Pitcher Avatar
    Pink Pitcher

    I agree with your hubby, weeding ; ) I do feel like Denver is such a blessed city in terms of the natural spaces here. I step out for my morning ritual and I am surrounded by trees and grass, flowers and herbs. Were I more adventurous at that hour ( ie. wanting to put on clothes) I could ride to a park for some pond and real sunshine practice. Even an apartment dweller can have a space to go dig in the dirt, and I believe everyone can benefit from some dirt time.

  15. Amanda Valley Avatar

    I garden as well. I’m not out there pulling weeds as often as I should, but having something that’s harvestable really helps me get out there more often. I love seeing what’s ready to be picked, what’s getting bigger, and seeing the things that weren’t there the last time I visited. It’s constantly changing. I have started going on walks every morning. I love being out in the cool morning air, greeting the sun. I live in a rural area, and there’s just something about walking down the road alone, surrounded by farmers fields as far as you can see. We also go on hikes often in our local state forest. We love to go off trail a little and just explore.

  16. Kat Emralde Avatar

    “The tree doesn’t always need to represent something. It can simply be alive, and beautiful.” I love this line. I feel like it’s something that some people always forget.

  17. Alan J Sheridan Avatar

    I garden, honestly. Pulling weeds out of the ground or pruning bushes so they don’t take over the house is a real in-your-face reminder of the end of life, and sacrifice to me. Harvesting tomatoes reminds me that patience and care can bring good things to pass, plus the sacred act of taking a cherry tomato off the vine and rinsing it off and immediately eating it while facing the sun and giving thanks is the *best* communion with nature I could have.

    Sometimes, I just need a moment with the grass beneath my feet and the sun in my face to remind me to breathe and enjoy the sacredness of life. Fortunately, I have a back yard for that where I can do it in relative privacy 🙂

  18. Sean MacDhai Avatar
    Sean MacDhai

    “after (almost) sleeping through a night of 28 degree weather” holy cow, it never gets that cold in Florida! you need to come visit, man! 😉 Great article!

    1. Kilmrnock Avatar

      Aye lad , but it does get HOT there in the summer and early fall months . A few yrs ago we had an oppertunity to visit Orlando , you know why. This was in mid Sept. when my daughter was still young . The temp was well over 100 degress that trip in the afternoon , every day. We were told this is normal in the summer. . My Celt blood has trouble with that kind of heat