Further Down The Path (Week 34)

For the week of November 24th to November 30th

I think this is week 34. I tried to go back and count the weeks since I started working on my Dedicant’s Path, but math of any kind confuses me. …I think it’s been 34 weeks. And if not, it’s as good a number as any.

Nature Awareness

I have always been aware of nature. I can spot a caterpillar on a leaf in the top canopy and quickly find the hidden acorn beneath the dead oak leaves… I know my trees, my plants, my fungi. Or did. That knowledge was amassed over 29 forest-filled years, where I lazily absorbed facts and bits of lore as I strolled through the woods with friends and family. The age of technology made it easy whip out my smartphone and Google for an ID when my memory failed me.

But this was in Canada. And now I’m in Australia.

I’ve gone back into student mode. I no longer go on trail walks, teaching and talking of the plants. I no longer know the native mythology or have anecdotes about a particularly wonderful spot for collecting low bush blackberries. I walk this land as a stranger. The talismans of Australia, the gumtrees and eucalyptus, the kangaroo and the koala, the blinding sunlight that comes from the north and the cool winds that come from the south.. this is all I know. They are the first to greet you when you arrive, and like any patriotic talisman, stay with you always. But everything else is shy, scared even, of new arrivals. You see, history has taught the flora and fauna of this isolated island continent to be afraid. Ignorant and single-minded colonists brought plants and animals alike that were (and still are) harmful to this land, causing the death of irreplaceable indigenous life. Me? I did no such thing, but still wild Australia hides from me.

I spend time every day sitting quietly, as open as I can, just letting everything flow in, around, and through. I touch the earth gently and let the woods smell my skin. I present myself demurely so not to offend, much like one would approach an unfamiliar animal. In return for this respect, I have been blessed and even visited. A giant red kangaroo stood not 10 feet from me and held his pose so I could study him, his musculature and impressive stature. A wild fox ran before me, the first I’ve ever seen, and the exhilaration left me tingling for hours after the encounter. And on a clear, cold night, with a light frost settling over these Highland hills, I saw the cosmic cloud that is the Milky Way.

Red Kangaroo - November 2013, Eira Silversage.

Red Kangaroo – November 2013, Eira Silversage.

Introducing myself to Australia is taking time. I feel the Sidhe are keeping their distance, where as in Canada they were always so close. There are even times that I even feel sinister energies, like in a sudden, strong gust of wind or in the tension before a storm, their messages painfully clear: you are not of this land. And although I am physically here, maybe it’s the lingering spiritual pain that I’m feeling that’s keeping me from connecting. Maybe this land knows it’s not my first choice and is resentful.

And it was this thought I was pondering around the time I met the fox. The fox, who I have always loved but never met, despite living in the land from which I come. It reminded me of why I first fell in love with foxes, back when I was 3 of 4, when my father read me The Little Prince. And like so many other times in my life, the wisdom of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put my problems into perspective.

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

Summer Solstice Preparation

The Summer Solstice is in 21 days, just in time for my in-law’s to be celebrating Christmas. This is such a strange concept to me that for the first time in recent years I don’t feel like I will be sacrificing any of my celebrations. The Summer Solstice has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, and unlike Yule and Christmas which can often get muddled, I can attend familial celebrations without feeling conflicted. But how to celebrate the Summer Solstice in this new land?

Trance Work & Meditation

Since being here I haven’t been able to reach a truly deep meditative state. I’m able to work with the Two Powers meditation, but it doesn’t progress beyond a guided energy building exercise. I think this has a lot to do with the environment I’m in. I’m staying with my in-laws, and despite the beautiful country surroundings, I’m never fully alone outside, and therefore I can never fully relax. Inside, I’ve become so accustomed to certain ritual elements to facilitate a trance state (incense, silence, certain temperature) which I cannot currently replicate. Because of this, I’ve been using the meditative skills I’ve developed along with certain breathing to help control my stress levels. When we’re in our own home, I will resume trance work.

ADF Studies 

I finished reading Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon as part of my DP coursework and wrote the review. Go here to read the review. Next book on my list is The Mabinogi. I am very familiar with these stories and legends, but have always listened to Bardic tellings and read poetic interpretations for pure enjoyment; I’ve never read this compilation cover to cover with the aim of academic interpretation. I’m very much looking forward to this. Honestly, I was saving it for after Drawing Down The Moon, as a sort of incentive 😉

I’m also working on my virtues, especially Hospitality. I’ve been thinking on this quite a lot lately, as it’s been a virtue I’ve been lacking in some areas. Reflection is definitely needed.

Finally, in my spare time, I’ve taken up knitting. I’m practicing the techniques I’ve learned (mostly self-taught) and am making a series of prayer shawls for ritual use. I’m finding that having a hobby that uses my hands and not my mind a lot more beneficial than I originally thought. I sit quietly, in almost a meditative state, and just channel my energy into ritual items. Sometimes I listen to DruidCast (the OBOD podcast) and sometimes I sit with music on gently. The work allows my mind to wander, and I’m finding myself inspired and creatively charged by the activity. I was surprised that this turned into a Druidic-centric activity, when really I started out just wanting something to do to unwind. But even as I wrote that last sentence I knew it to be untrue; I’m sure the majority of Pagan’s will agree that it’s a lifestyle and not just a religion. There’s magic in everything, even in a lonely girl’s scarf knitting on a cold spring evening.

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I’m Still Here

I spent the Spring Equinox in my new home, the upside down and slightly backwards land of Australia. Funnily enough, the transition was easier than I expected. I was worried I wouldn’t bond with this strange place; that the spirits and I would speak a different language, that the reversal of seasons would leave me feeling off kilter, that the totemic Cedar and Raven, Pine and Bear, wouldn’t exist in this land, and I would be left drifting in a spiritual purgatory. And for a while I was. And still am. But it’s not a constant, and for that I am so deeply grateful that I often find myself casting toward the sun like a greedy flower, in prayer and appreciation.

I’ve already celebrated Beltane in the northern hemisphere this year. At that time, I re-familiarized myself with the lore and wrote my essay. I preformed the rite, ADF style. I learned a lot. It’s six months later and I feel I should be quieting down in preparation for winter. Samhain just passed, or would have passed, were I physically where I am spiritually lingering. Yet, despite what my soul is saying, it’s clearly spring. And it feels a little strange… the notion of re-celebrating Beltane. Back in September, when the Spring Equinox arrived down under, I sat amongst the plants and ponds in this home’s cottage garden with sticks of lemongrass and sandalwood incense burning (a combination that I alone seem to love), and I welcomed back the sun. The moment was perfect, like I was introducing myself to a new perspective.

And isn’t that really what it’s all about? A new perspective? The earth turns and the seasons change and the Wheel of the Year moves ever on, and all the familiar elements of ones home become incorporated into ones practices and overtime get labelled as tradition. From the first time a family brought in evergreen boughs and called it a Yule tree, or apples were left out on Samhain to feed the travelling souls, these acts gathered speed and eventually were adopted by others. The paganism that I know is of the northern hemisphere. The trees, plants, animals, smells, sounds, stones, clouds, winds, rains, etc… have all become elemental and irreplaceable in terms of worship. Does my soul stir when I gaze at a hill covered in gumtrees and eucapyltus? Yes, a little… but nothing like the snow capped, mist veiled mountains of my home. But my home was my paganism, and not the home of the Celts, who are the authors of my tradition. How much of what I believe is based on genetic memory, personal preference, inability to adapt, or a rose-tinted image in my mind that really has more of a feeling of religion than actual practice?

I don’t think the Celts would have known what to do on the west coast of British Columbia any more than I know what to do in the highlands of Victoria. But they would have learned, and added new traditions, and adapted ones that were no longer applicable.

I am of a nomadic heritage; a people walked to new lands and who brought with them what was sacred. This is what I’m clinging to. I say it to myself as a mantra as I walk the new trails of these alien forests and find myself missing the mist-drenched moss, fern, and cedar. I tell myself I’m forging a new path, one that includes the knowledge of many lands. There is room for gumtree and eucalyptus on my altar as well as oak and willow. This continent is covered in what the Aboriginals call Songlines, and while I don’t pretend to understand their version of paganism, I do understand feeling Spirit and sacred life in every single rock, tree, animal, and blade of grass. I am honoured to be here, walking this new path, in a land so sacred.

So, while I’ve been working through these heavy ideas, I haven’t been performing rituals. I’ve gazed at the full moon and, on a darkmoon night, caught my first glimpse of the Milky Way. I carved pumpkins with my sister-in-law for Hallowe’en, and on the same day, threw a handful of sage leaves and apple blossoms into a fire as a Beltane offering. That was all I did, but it felt like it was enough. Cerridwen and Cernunnos can still hear me, Boudicca tells me to walk tall and strong, and Nehalennia sees me safely on my travels. I am blessed and connected to the Source and feel the Spirits of this land slowly emerging from their secret homes to introduce themselves to me.

I am still here, on this path. Ready for more.