Cascadia Druids: White Mountain Druid Sanctuary Blog

White Mountain Druid Sanctuary (WMDS) is a Druid inspired Pagan site in Trout Lake, Washington. This blog describes the planning and creation of the Stone Circle, Shrines and physical surroundings that are being built there.

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Encountering the Nature Spirits

One of the basic tenets of Druidry, and perhaps one of the ones that unites virtually all modern forms, is a reverence and respect for nature. This is reflected in the original meaning of the word ‘Druid’, which comes from the Gaelic drui, which has ties to the proto-Celtic word for Oak, dru. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote in the First Century AD that the Gaulish druids worshipped and performed sacrifices outdoors in sacred places in nature, most notably in oak groves.

 While modern Druidic traditions cannot claim an unbroken lineage to these times, most if not all modern Druids would likely agree that honoring nature forms a central part of their beliefs and practices. In fact, the most common stereotype someone might have of a modern-day Druid would likely be that of a robe-clad tree-hugger. Robes aside, there may be a kernel of truth in this for many practicing Druids, who would largely agree that they do worship nature to at least some degree.

But what, or who, are we actually worshipping or paying homage to? While some Druids are atheists or pantheists (believing that god and nature are inseparable and one), many are polytheists, with a belief in many gods, and many others are also animists to some degree, believing that all of nature is alive with spirits and spiritual forces. In polytheistic traditions, nature deities are commonplace, including the Gaulish horned god Cernunnos or the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis. For animists, there are no shortage of spirits in nature to work with—they are literally everywhere you turn.

In ADF Druidry, nature spirits make up one third of the Kindreds that are acknowledged and welcomed in ritual. These are said to include the spirits of all kind of living creatures and plants, as well as the spirits of inanimate natural forms, including stones, rivers, clouds and natural phenomena. Included also for many are the various races of Fae or elves that are found in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. In the Indo European traditions that ADF draws from, these may be referred to as the Aos Si, the Landvaettir (land wights), or dryads, to name but a few.

While the nature spirits are often given offerings during ritual, there are many ways we can connect them in our daily lives. Some druids may choose to meditate outdoors in a secluded, natural setting to connect with them, while others may find inspiration from the nature spirits and honor them through works of poetry or art. Still others may be motivated to take action to defend their wild kin and their homes through making changes in their daily lives that lessen their environmental impact, or through environmental activism. By making a conscious effort to be aware of their presence, we may find that there are many opportunities to connect with the nature spirits and to be more mindful of how our actions may affect them, good or bad.

At White Mountain Druid Sanctuary, ADF Druids perform ritual to honor the land and the nature spirits regularly, including them in each of the eight public rituals that are held each year. Additionally, the nature spirits are provided with their own dedicated shrine and tree-lined path along the grounds. Druids wishing to connect with them in this space can choose to sit in quiet reflection in this space, or light incense to commune with them and show their respects. However, this kind of reverence can be paid to the nature spirits virtually anywhere you may be.

 

If you have never made a conscious effort to connect with the nature spirits, the idea of speaking with the spirit of an animal, a plant or some other aspect of the natural world may strike you as being a bit odd or even awkward. This is perfectly fine! Like any relationship, it takes time to get comfortable and to build mutual trust.

A good place to start is probably the land you already reside upon, be it around your home or in your neighborhood. First, you’ll want to recognize the spirits the surround you and be able to call them by name. If you want to make friends with someone, it certainly helps to learn whom you are speaking to first! A trip to the library, or to Google, may help to get you better acquainted with the native plants and animals that call your region home. Take time to also learn about the climate, geography and natural history of your area—this will also help you to become more familiar with your local nature spirits, including those from the deep past.

After that, you may consider spending some time in meditation outdoors at least a couple times a week, inviting the nature spirits to make themselves known without demanding their presence. Leaving environmentally friendly offerings may help as well, such as flowers, pure water or even a poem or a song. Over time, you may start to recognize some familiar faces or sense familiar energies. Some may be more willing to approach, while others may hold back and be more reserved. Simply continue your practice and you may be surprised at how responsive the plants and animals in your area become!* 

 

 

 

*This is not to suggest that feeding wild animals, or otherwise altering their natural behaviors, is desirable. In fact, this can often cause animals to develop an unhealthy dependence on humans that can result in great harm. When interacting with the nature spirits, it is best to keep them in nature and as wild as possible. Look and appreciate from afar and use your best judgment at all times!

 

Photo Credit: Brian Ralphs

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We are Cascadia Grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). Our local Grove serves the Puget Sound area. We meet 8 times a year to celebrate the equinoxes, solstices and the cross quarter days (including Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). We also support the planning and building of White Mountain Druid Sanctuary in Trout Lake WA.
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