Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.
I've just come back from a busy trip to London, on a three-day signing and workshopping visit. Hosted by the gorgeous Treadwells bookshop, I met many new people, caught up with old friends and talked a lot about my own particular style of Druidry. Lots of anecdotes and a few practical tools. And I sold out of the copies of my book that I had brought (hurrah!).
Years ago, I studied at a University just outside London, on a site that sadly no longer exists as teaching space. I found a job and a partner and stayed for about 8 years, commuting daily into the Big City, to offices in St Pauls, Oxford Circus and other such bustling locations.
During this time, I discovered Paganism, then Druidry specifically, getting to know the local (and wider) communities and learning how to apply what I found to my daily life. From tiny meditations with a tealight on my lunchbreak, to active workings in my desk-space, I was soon exploring the streets around, looking beyond the shops and tourists to explore the history, investigate the green spaces and simply see more deeply what had always been in front of my eyes.
The dragon that flies down Fleet Street (above), over the site of the ancient, vanished river. The head of a King under Ludgate Hill, the sense of flow between the two up to St Pauls Cathedral and the Thames. And, of course, the Thames itself - an artery flowing through, sustaining and connecting the City for so many centuries...
I visited some of these again this weekend. Not just the ancient history - my own. The beautiful tree in Cavendish Square where I used to sit, chatting to him and sharing my lunch with the pigeons and squirrels. Nobody really noticed me then, and nobody did now. Londoners are famous for going about their own business, after all.
He was glad to see me, wondering where I'd been, but with a totally different sense of time's passing; for me, it had been just under a decade, which for a tree is a far shorter span to measure! But it was as much meeting an old friend as those human folk I'd been hugging and catching up with the night before.
On Saturday morning, I noticed that about a minute's walk from my hotel, on Tavistock Square, bunches of flowers were materialising next to a plaque. It was 7th July - Londoners were remembering the bombings that took place, the day after the Olympic venue was announced. I was at work in the City, responsible (in the absence of my boss) for guiding my colleagues to safety under the watchful eye of a mounted (horse-back) policeman, then helping where I could. I was so proud of London on that day, as everyone moved together to assist, from cups of tea for emergency crews and victims, to simply holding those in need, listening to the panicked, trying to reestablish connections to the outside world to let families and friends know that we were OK.
Speaking to another long-time Londoner and active Pagan friend, I remarked on how the energy of the City had changed since I'd left. You tend not to notice too much while you're living in the 'eye of the storm', but from a time when you could be physically breaking down in the middle of a street and be ignored by passers-by (personal experience), to today... when folk are chatting to each other in the street, in cafes, in shops. A sense of pride in the multinational flags, representing the languages and accents heard on every corner. London is smiling more, connecting more.
Perhaps it's the worldwide Recession, but something has 'crunched' - that terrible isolating cynicism that used to be so prevalent is waning, to be replaced by hope and action. While some are content to simply whinge or post trite overly-simplistic platitudes on Facebook, others are out there: doing, working, creating, helping.
There's no need to go 'outside' the urban centres, to the countryside of field and stream, to be an active Druid or Pagan. There are trees, grass, birds and creatures in the cities... and certainly those who need that connection. If anywhere needs an active Priest, it's the bustling places, where it's so easy to get lost (physically and spiritually).
We live in the 21st Century. We are Pagans of our time. How are we living that, what is our relationship with our land, our homes, our communities?
Our paths are those we walk every day. Don't disregard them because they're concrete - what's the Urban Jungle if not another form of wild forest?
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