For the last seven-plus hours, I’ve been driving a U-Haul truck through Texas and halfway across Arkansas. Surprisingly, the traffic everywhere was fairly light – but traveling below posted speeds. I’ll count that as a good thing. LOL While driving, I was trying to figure out what to blog about tonight when I got home. I remember that Robin Herne has some writing prompts in his book “Old Gods, New Druids” so I’ve located it off the shelves here in the office.
I really like this book because Herne provides practical questions on Druid theory, as well as exercises that help one to focus on some of those areas. I don’t agree with everything that Herne writes in the book or how he presents some of the material, but I’ve always found it useful when needing to look back on theory and processes that Have been far in the rearview mirror.
In the section “Ancestors and the Living Land,” Herne presents three good practical questions.
- What means would you feel comfortable using to try and sense the will of a spirit of a place?
- How far back can you trace your family tree?
- How do you view humanity’s relationship to the land? Are we its masters, its guardians, just one species among many, or something else again?
All three of these are tough questions to tackle, and honestly every single individual is going to have a different view of each – some neatly fitting together, and some nearly diametrical in opposition. However, I find each practical point in an interesting perspective to revisit for me, especially since I am moving from one distinct environmental area to a completely different one here in Arkansas. And in some of those, I am at a distinct disadvantage, since I’ve not been here long enough to really explore the environment in any significant manner.
Spirit of Place
So far, for me, sensing a Spirit of Place has been spending a short amount of time on my front porch. My enormous, multi-tiered back porch, I’ve not spent any time on it at all, particularly given the strong heat wave that’s currently occurring here. Couple this with the facts that the front porch is in shade the entire day, while the back porch is only in shade for a few hours in the morning. Well, you can see why I favor the front porch for the moment. For me, the pattern for sensing a Spirit of Place comes from listening to the environment. My neighbor used to be a heavily wooded forest area before all the houses were built. Ther are massive pine treesall over the neighborhood. So I sit and listen to the wind blowing through the pine needles, a very distinctive sound I remember from my Junio and Senior years of high school in Shreveport, Louisiana. There’s a lot of nearby road noise, as well as the occasional sirens of EMTs, fir personnel and their vehicles and police vehicles all running their sirens, as they move quickly to a nearby accident scene or to assist someone in distress. So, occasionally, I have to work through filtering all of those sounds out. There are crows, cardinals, squirrels, and an occasional fox call throughout the neighborhood. I try not to focus on these sounds either, since I am focused on hearing the Spirits of Place. Its not rained here since I’ve moved in, but I am looking forward to sitting on the front porch and listening to the rain fall, as well as the loud boom of thunder in the not-so-far distance. But to answer the question more directly, my means of determining the will of a Spirit of Place is to listen, to open my senses to everything that I hear, feel, and sense. In my experience, listening and opening one’s self to what is experienced is te key to finding things out. And it doesn’t take a single “listening” session. It takes time. Like anything else, it’s a process. Taking notes of what I experience is a fundamental part of the process, it helps me to find a pattern in what I sense. But there’s also a part of humility as well: realizing that what I feel is only a tip of what is there, and being in that depth – my senses and feelings can be wrong.
The Family Tree
In working with one’s ancestors, I understand the importance of knowing your family tree. My relatives came to te United States from Holland (my father’s side). A distant relative by the name of Arent Hoecke was the first to come to these shores – seeking a better life, like many did back in the mid-1600s. However, the hard part about working with my family tree is that many of my ancestors would not have been happy with my decision to work outside of Christianity. So, working with my Spirits of Ancestors does involve having to acknowledge the differences between myself and my very devout fundamentalist Christian family of yore. While I am happy to acknowledge my ancestors and what they have done in growing in their own lives, I also realize that getting in too close with them is like poking the bear. Sooner or later, the bear’s going to get pissed and fight back. Sadly, while I embrace the hard lives that my relatives did endure in those early days here on this North American continent, I also stay at arms’ length to avoid any unwanted incident arising.
Hernes’ last question is probably the most controversial. What role do we play in working with the land? Are we the Master, taking from the planet the things that we need without regard for what we do to the land? Many Christians believe that is what the Bible tells them. That the earth’s resources were placed here for our use until the day of rapture. We take because God makes us the Masters over all. Plus, with a looming deadline for the Earth to no longer be of use, its fairly easy to see the Earth as a soda can that we toss out our car window and litter the environment. That environment is not going to be of use after the rapture arrives…so who cares what we do to take the things we need right now? That’s a nice here and now perspective. There are others that see mankind as the caretaker of the planet. We tyr to give back to “heal” the planet over what we do to it.We work together to continue the give-and-take relationship we cultivate with the planet. There are some who see the Earth as not really needing humans to heal Her. She’s strong enough to do it herself. In fact, when we have negativity, we sink it into the Earth, where this ultra-healing planet will just deal with all that negativity as if it never existed.
I believe in a lot of the above, except that I also see the Earth as being capable to heal itself by ridding itself of the component that does it the most harm – us. Look, I’m a Libra. I see equality in every relationship out there. Including the relationship we have with the Earth. Sooner or later, the books will be balanced….and it might not be in our favor. When would this happen – IF it happens? Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t try to divine the future…I just live each day the best that I can. When it happens, IF it happens….we’ll know.
Tying it All Together
Herne’s chapter is titled “The Ancestors and the Living Land.” The idea of the strong ties to the Spirits of Ancestor and the Spirits of Place is one of the major parts of my Druidry. When I walk on a trail, I pick up the trash I encounter and carry it out of the trail to be thrown away. I don’t just do that to remove trash that never biodegrades or becomes food stuff for animals that encounter it – potentially killing them. That’s me striking my bargain with that area’s Spirit of Place. But I also do so to keep that area clean and enjoyable for others, to be an example for the younger kids that watch me….so that I live a potential legacy behind when I pass beyond the veil. It might be a small legacy, but you never know who is watching and how they might be influenced by your actions. I write a lot about “my Druidry”. Rituals are ok for me. I enjoy reading about the history and theory of being a Druid. I could care less about magick and spellwork. Being a good steward to the Spirits of Place is extremely important to me. Its an aspect of who and what I am. I can’t clean the whole world. I can’t even clean every trail in my neighborhood. But I can certainly do the best that I can. The effort is just as important as the end result.