Category Archives: Natasha D

Enchanted Landscape

The forest is quiet. The soothing, earthy scent of decaying wood and leaves drifts up from the well-beaten path. We tread softly here, like strangers unsure of ourselves. These woods are familiar to us, practically in our backyard, and yet we feel almost like trespassers. The sunlight dapples through the trees, creating dizzying patterns on the forest floor. I hear a bird chirp in a nearby tree, and suddenly the air is filled with sounds: the cheerful rustle of leaves, the creaking of branches, the chirping of birds and the scurry of squirrels, and underneath it all, as I strain to hear, a deep and almost imperceptible hum.

As we venture further into the wood, the path becomes narrower, rocky and uneven. I grow less sure of my footing and look nervously about me. Just a few steps to either side of us the ground falls away steeply, dense trees on one side and a murky green pond on the other. It is like we are crossing a bridge to another world, and with any misstep we are in peril. I feel a reassuring hand take mine, and Doug guides me further along the trail. We crest a small hill, follow a bend in the path, and suddenly a great tree looms above us. It looks dead, and yet something powerful and unsettling emanates from it. I stare up in reverence and awe. We don’t get closer to the tree – we aren’t welcome. We touch our hands to our hearts, instinctively, to show our respect before moving on. Then we turn, and go down a steep hill into a softly lit grove.

In the middle of the grove stands a large gypsum rock, which I’ve come to call the Fairy Castle. It glitters oddly in the sparse light. Something flickers as I approach it, so quickly I almost don’t take notice. Suddenly I know I am somewhere important, somewhere special. I am in a sacred place and I can feel there is a presence of something greater than myself at the edge of my perception. We begin to unpack our offerings…

Our local landscape is as enchanted as any haunted wood in a fairy tale. Our land is full not only of its own history, but also of its own spirit and sacredness. As pagans, especially those seeking the wisdom of our ancestors, we often dream of sacred sites far away, of ancient myths and gods of other lands. Few of us work directly with the land on a day-to-day basis, and when we do it rarely extends beyond our own backyard gardens. I believe this has rendered many of us – myself included – at times unable or unwilling to engage the spirits and gods in our own landscape. There are many local natural places I find personally and spiritually significant. As the good weather returns, and as the world grows green again, I am excited to visit and re-visit them with my family. Perhaps I can do so again with fellow pagans – other people who may appreciate the spirits of the place, and understand the importance of offerings.

What are some local places you consider special or sacred? Have you ever encountered or experienced the presence of gods or spirits in your natural landscape?

page-breakNatasha DNatasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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Hopes and Impressions

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I don’t know what it is (maybe the fact that I’ve been too busy to think about writing recently), but I had an incredibly hard time getting a piece finished for this week! After scrapping several drafts, and finding myself unhappy with everything I was writing, Doug kindly encouraged me to restart and write about something simple. He said, “Why don’t you write about OBOD?”

The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) is a Neo-Druid order founded in the UK about 50 years ago by Ross Nichols (and revived in the 1980’s by the current chief Philip Carr-Gomm). The OBOD offers a correspondence course divided into three grades: Bard, Ovate and Druid. Each of these encourages students to fulfill their creative potential, commune with the powers of nature, and seek out spiritual wisdom.

As a modern nature spirituality, Druidry has always been attractive to me. Lack of time, money or both had prevented me from taking the course until recently. I haven’t yet progressed beyond the first few lessons, but I already feel more at peace and spiritually grounded. One complaint some people make about the course is that it isn’t focused on an academic understanding of Druidry or Celtic paganism, and some think its ritual and symbolism is too close to Wicca. I admit that I was concerned about this as well – but I find OBOD’s approach is refreshing and appropriate. Rather than being overly concerned with historical authenticity, OBOD balances inspiration from the past with relevance for the present and innovation for the future. Having been so put off by rigid reconstructionism in Heathenry of late, this is a very welcome change for me.

My hope for the Bardic course is that it will help me discover myself, be more creative and connected with the world around me, and deepen my connection with my ancestral past and with Nature.  My goal for myself and my family is to bring Druidry’s focus on peace, healing, creativity, wisdom, and connection with the great web of life into our daily lives.

Last week, Mike wrote about prayer, and I wish to leave you with another:

The Druid’s Prayer

Grant, O Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences
the love of Earth our mother and all goodness.

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Natasha DNatasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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Blessings

Next weekend, my almost six month old son will be baptized in a Catholic church.

I admit to having been uncomfortable with the notion at first. It seemed, somehow, morally wrong to allow my son to be baptized in a Christian ceremony when both of his parents are pagan and object to some Christian teachings. Perhaps we couldn’t in good conscience allow it, and we certainly would never lie during the rite itself (stating our belief in and alliance to the Christian god and church, for example). It seemed too important to many members of our families, however, and eventually we relented. I realized that our efforts to protect our son from the disagreeable aspects of Christianity might be counterproductive.

Doug (my partner) and I agreed we wanted to raise our son in a pagan household. We sincerely believe what we are doing is right and good and worth passing on. How could we believe something was acceptable for us, if we didn’t think it was for our children? It only makes sense that we would include our children in our spiritual family life, in the hope they would gain some sense of what we consider sacred and good. It is our hope our children will celebrate pagan holidays with us, learn about gods, ancestors, spirits of nature and pagan ethics, and be a part of a wider, healthy pagan community.

We also want our children to have a choice. I feel very strongly about this, because I was not given a choice (although I made one anyway, however unpopular it is). The last thing I want is for religion to become a source of bitterness and tension between us.When my son is grown, I hope he will be capable of deciding for himself what is right and good, and what spiritual path is best for him. He won’t be able to do this comfortably if I have shut out other religious teachings from his life, especially those of Christianity. I want him to be able to understand the spiritual tradition of his grandparents and other extended family members, just as I want him to understand our own spiritual tradition without feeling forced to follow either.

A blessing is a blessing. My family want my baby son to be baptized out of love for him and concern for his spiritual well-being, and the ritual itself is well-meaning. Is there really anything wrong with accepting the blessings of the Christian god and church? It may not be part of my own spiritual tradition anymore, but it was at one time and it remains important to our extended family.Christianity is a part of our heritage, whether or not we accept its teachings. This is so for many pagans.

As people concerned with respecting ancestors, reaching back into history for spiritual inspiration and being tolerant, perhaps we should strive to maintain more respect for our Christian, or other, religious heritage. And, in this hard world, perhaps we should more willingly accept all the blessings that can be bestowed upon us.

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Natasha DNatasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

 

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Take a Dose of Nature and Call Me in the Morning

As a new mother and Pagan, I often find myself worrying about how my actions and inactions will affect my child’s future. Like many parents do, Doug and I often talk for hours about how we want to raise our son, and what we consider the most important lessons for him to learn from us. We are both firm believers in the concept of Wyrd (well, Wyrd as we understand it) – all things are interconnected, and our individual threads weave together to shape our fates and the fates of everyone and everything around us. With this knowledge in mind, I am keenly aware that I want to set a good example for our son and the best way to teach him strong, noble values and how to be a good human being is to embody those values and be a good person myself.

One thing that Doug and I are very concerned about is our family’s connection with nature. Doug, a long-time member of the Scouting movement, loves the outdoors and is nowhere happier than in the woods. I am a fierce lover of wildlife and I am endlessly fascinated by the biology and chemistry of living things. Nothing brings me such peace as I feel in the forest or on the beach, surrounded by trees or waves and hidden creatures. Nature is an important part of our spirituality – for us, it is the basis of our spiritual beliefs. And yet, despite considering ourselves nature-loving pagans, we are as guilty of crimes against nature as much of humanity. We drive a gas-guzzling minivan, we don’t recycle enough, we spend more time surrounded by technology than surrounded by nature, we aren’t active enough in environmental conservationist efforts, we don’t always buy local and support good farming practices….the list goes on. Every now and then we are reminded that we must become part of the solution, not the problem, and nothing has driven this point home to us more than becoming parents.

I’m not just a new mom and Pagan – I’m also a registered nurse. At work, I see suffering, sickness, despair and death on a daily basis. I also see extraordinary love, strength, kindness and compassion. The hospital where I work has a healing garden – a beautiful outdoor space accessible to patients and their families which serves as a place for them to “recharge” and, well, heal. I see it in patient’s faces when they come back from a trip to the healing garden – they have just a little more hope, a bit more strength, a happier glint in their eyes. It makes me wonder how much healthier we all would be if our doctors prescribed more nature in our lives. Take a dose of Nature and call me in the morning.

We’ve decided that, to start incorporating more nature in our lives and impart a love of it to our son, we are going to take one dose of Nature per day. Ideally, we would get outside every day and appreciate the land firsthand. We could take a hike, sit on our back porch and watch the clouds, feed the birds, plant a garden, visit the zoo, or clean up a park or roadside. At times when being outside might not be possible or desirable (I can hardly be expected to take my 3 1/2 month old outdoors in a blizzard), we will try to incorporate nature into our daily routine in other ways: watch a documentary, read about nature, buy local produce or meat, recycle, donate to nature conserving organizations, or talk/write about it. I will be documenting our progress in a special family journal, describing our daily doses of Nature as well as how this challenge is affecting our family. I welcome any of you who choose to join us in this challenge.

How do you incorporate nature into your lives as followers of earth-based spiritualities? How do you teach love and understanding of nature to your children? Share some ideas with us about ways to get our daily dose of Nature.

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Natasha D

Natasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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More Good Things to Come

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Even now, I can sit in front of our Yule tree for hours gazing at the twinkling lights, the sparkling glass ornaments, and the shimmering ribbons and bows, lost in Christmases past. As a child I loved to sit at the foot of the tree, among the presents, daydreaming as I basked in its glow. Christmas was much more to me than the acquiring of gifts. It was, rather, a magical season ripe with wonder and warmth. There was sacredness to Christmas time that I understood deep within.

Today I celebrate as a Pagan, but the Yule season has lost none of its magic for no longer being centered on the birth of Jesus. It is no secret that Christianity borrowed many traditions from pagan winter celebrations. I am very glad they did, for this beautiful blending of pagan and Christian tradition is what makes it so easy for my family to enjoy the holidays together even though we are of different faiths. While most of my family remains Christian, and my partner Doug and I are Heathen, we still find meaning and enjoyment in common symbols, customs, songs and rituals. We can still share Turkey dinner, exchange gifts, sing carols and enjoy our time together as a family.

In our household, we observe the twelve days of Yule from December 21st to January 1st. It begins with Mother’s Night (inspired from traditional Anglo-Saxon paganism as well as the Norse Disablot) and at this time we honour the mothers and matriarchs of our families, living and dead. In Heathenry, the idises or disir are powerful female ancestral spirits often thought to be guardians and guides to their descendants. This Mother’s Night is especially important to us, as it is my first as a new mother. We continue to keep Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mostly as they were, with Christmas Eve being a time to spend with family watching movies or playing games and staying up late to catch a glimpse of Father Yule, who brings gifts and blessings, while on Christmas Day we open presents and feast. On the night of December 31st, we drink to the Wild Hunt and pray that it passes us by without taking us, as it sweeps up the remnants of the old year in a cold wind, and the dawning New Year follows in its wake.

There are many wonderful traditions and enchanting myths which surround Yuletide, and though I adore all of these, the whole sacred season culminates to this (cheesy at it may be): love of others and the potential for good. Spreading goodwill and cheer, being charitable and kind, reaching out to family and friends, setting differences aside, showing our appreciation of others (human or god, living or dead) with gifts and ceremony, feasting and reveling together and wishing to spend the next year in each other’s company – these are all things which we can share, whether we are Pagan or Christian or Atheist or something else. And we can all feel the special magic generated by these good things, and the potential for more good things to come.

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Natasha D

Natasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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