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Connecting with the spirit of place - a relationship with here and now

How to connect with the spirit of place? Touch the earth with your feet, feel the wind on your skin and hear the song of the land in your heart.

I was lucky enough to have spent all but the first three years of my childhood in a small country town with plenty of countryside. My connection came from long walks with my dog out across fields, whatever the weather: beneath clear skies or in rain, wrapped in fog or sunshine, with thunder rumbling and lightning crackling the sky, or just the drumbeat of my feet on the ground, the twitter of birds and the sound of grass being munched by the cows; sometimes by day, sometimes beneath distant stars...

I never really felt a deep connection with the town itself. Nothing against it: it was a nice town, decent people - it was home. But it was out in the fields that I met my soul. And looking back, 20+ years on, I know this early experience shaped my Druidry today.

In my early adulthood, I moved around a lot, living in Wales (the beautiful Gower peninsula), Germany, Russia, Somerset, and now East Anglia. In each new home, I always felt the need to walk the land to connect, to greet the spirit of the place. And each place has been the same, and different - all on and of the Earth, and so sharing that in common, but also each place a unique expression of the Earth's energy. The energy of a field of wheat is different to the energy of the woodland next to it.

When I arrived somewhere new, I would let my feet do the talking, just feeling myself connect as I walk. Words may come but, if not, my heart would just connect and I would bow respectfully to the spirit of the place, thank it for its welcome, and either dwell for a while or wander home. This always seemed to help me to re-root into the new earth - like a plant taken from one pot and put into another. (In fact, even though I have lived here for many years now, I like to reconnect whenever I step into the garden, or take a walk into the fields, or visit one of the nearby Woodland Trust woods.)

Interestingly, I also found I would connect with a deep human layer of place - in Wales I found myself beside the sea relating to Manawydan - I tried the sea gods of other pantheons, but the connection was weak; in Germany, Donar and Wotan came through loud and clear. But I have found that by relating directly with the spirit of a place, honouring it in its own right, seems to connect more directly, past the filter of attempts by earlier humans to personify natural phenomena. The sea is the sea, the sun is the sun, the thunder is the thunder, the land is the land, the wood is the wood - each with its own spirit, in its own right, not human and yet made, ultimately, of the same stuff we are made of.

When I greet the sun, I remember that it is this huge, amazing, dynamic ball of interacting gases that dwarfs our tiny, but beautiful, earth, which dwarfs this minuscule me - and I find it much easier to connect deeply in that knowledge than through an anthropological filter. And when I do so, the miniscule me disappears - the walls of the ego fade and I feel both infinite and infinitesimal at the same time, part of something much greater than this small life that often seems so very important. It's really quite liberating.

Indeed, connecting with the land can be just as easy in a city. I used to engage in a walking meditation from the bus station to my place of work and discovered that, despite the busy-ness of rush hour, if I walked at a good enough pace not to be late, but mindfully, I connected with the spirit of the city beneath the outer hubbub, then going deeper, I found I connected with the spirit of the land that the city - before it was even a tiny hamlet of a few homes - was built on. Suddenly, in my mind I was in the countryside, although still aware of the bustling city around me. It turned the walk into a meditation and I arrived at work feeling more real, calm and connected with my deeper truth.

Then, if I felt a little depleted during the day, and was unable to get out to the park, I would shut my eyes for a moment, there in the office of brick and glass, reconnect and feel my energy revive. We might forget our connection with nature in the busy-ness of the day, but the connection is always there - nature never leaves us. We need only remember, and we reconnect.

There are many layers of place to which we can relate and our experience of the spirit of a place depends on what, in our hearts, we take with us, regardless of whether we are among towering trees or towering office blocks.

We connect as the person we are at the time with the place we are in at the time with the people (living beings generally) we are among at the time - that, for me, is Druidry. We can relate on many different levels, and these "levels" are all circles within circles within circles. 

In conclusion, I think that, although I am happy to connect with a land through its gods and goddesses, I have found over the years that I connect more deeply with a place by doing what I learned on those long walks with my dog so many years ago: touching the earth with my feet, feeling the wind on my skin and hearing the song of the land in my heart.

This arose out of a reply I wrote in a discussion on the Druid Network forum in July 2013


Comments

  1. If I had written that, there would have been barely a changed word.

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