The Beginning – The Land
We are all connected to the land. It is, at the very least, the one commonality we all share, whether we realise it or not. We are all of this land, of this earth. We all have nature in common. We all have that animating spark, the fire of the gods, within us.
From Emma Kathryn
It’s large, at least in comparison to my neighbours. It stretches around along the side of the house. It has two wild cherry trees, a small Cotoneaster, a huge common lime, two elder trees and a thick wall of ivy (it has taken over the fence that separates the front garden from the back). In the middle is a shrub I do not know the name of. Along the edges, beneath the trees, it is semi wild.
I awake early most mornings, am usually up and drinking coffee at about five in the morning – I don’t know why, I just wake up. I usually get up, make a coffee, chuck on some clothes, usually a pair of joggers and one of my partner’s jumpers – they’re massive on me, like a dressing gown, and I take my coffee outside.
It feels so different at this early hour, no matter the time of year. The lack of people, the feeling that it is just me, alone with the trees and the birds. It’s so quiet. Different than in the day, when the sound of traffic on the bypass, kids in the streets, dogs barking all drown out the birdsong. The quite whisperings of life unseen.
At this time of year, close to Yule, it is still night at this time in the morning. It feels like a different world entirely. Perhaps it is because the sense that we as humans most rely on is at a disadvantage, and so you are forced to rely on your other senses. Perhaps it is this that makes me feel as though I am closer to the natural world, to the otherworld.
Further from my garden, but not by much, is the playing field. We played here as kids, though back then, the field itself was bordered by more wild meadows. There was “the gypsy field,” so-called because every year Romany travellers would set up camp there for a few weeks. Us kids from the estate would watch them from the edges. They were so different, like us but not, the children so free. That meadow is now a housing estate, the trees pulled out, the earth flattened and concreted and tarmacked.
On the other side, there is still a small meadow. We called it the horse field, though really it was much like the gypsy field, but with no road access. People kept their horses tethered there to graze during the summer months. Before the industrial estate expanded onto much of this ‘waste’ land, there were dykes and ditches, and we would go frog spawning, or climb the monkey trees, so-called because they had low branches we would swing from.
Now though, it’s mostly just the playing field that’s left, and even that is in the process of being sold off by the local council, no doubt more houses will be built on it. It’s quite a large field, and at the edges it has been left to go semi wild. Blackthorn, hawthorn, elder, hazelnut, plum and apple all grow along its edge. In one corner, there’s a small wild patch, like a miniature wood. I used to think it was huge as a kid. Rabbits and foxes live on this field, as well as long-tailed tits, blackbirds, thrush and many other species of bird. At the back, there is a tree where one of the branches has grown horizontally so that it’s like a bench. I can remember the first time my mum showed me it, I thought it was magical! I used to show my kids when they were little too. Sometimes I still stop there, take a seat, and just sit.
If you take one of the alley ways that lead off the field, it brings you out on to the industrial estate. A five minute walk takes you to Devils Woods. Again, we used to come here as kids. When I come here alone, it always feels sacred. There’s an old air raid shelter somewhere, though try as I might, I cannot find it now. There are more foxes and rabbits here, and quite often kestrels can be seen hovering overhead. Hawthorn and silver birch grow here, elder too. I love to walk amongst the trees, the lichen covered trunks, the branches bare,reaching up skywards, my warm breath clouding in the cold air. If it’s dry, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. These are my woods, or I am theirs, or perhaps it’s a bit of both.
Ten minutes from the woods is the river Trent. Wild Datura grows here, wormwood and mugwort too. There are more hazel nut trees, more blackthorn and even sweet chestnuts and oak. There is so much wild life here too, swans, ducks, moorhens, geese, kingfishers, huge damsel flies to name just a few. The river isn’t huge, though many have died in its dark waters, and as kids, many a summer’s day was spent along its banks, a load of us kids from the estate enjoying the kiss of summer. The lads would jump in, and some of the braver girls too.
I guess what I’m saying is that the land is always there, always has been. We are connected to this land and I always feel this connection most at this time of year, at Yule. I know others may feel this connection more in spring, and summer still even more, but it is in these darker months when I feel the call of the wild most, the call of the land.
When everything else is said and done, the land will still be here. It might expel us first, kill off the self-destructive pest it has helped spawn, but I have no doubt the land will still be here long after we are gone.
In this modern life, sometimes, or even quite often in fact, I feel like even some Pagans forget the land. They may worship this or that God or Goddess. They practise their tarot and meditate and burn incense and light candles and all of the other stuff, the glitz, if you will, of the pagan lifestyle, but quite often, the land is forgotten.
This life throws so many distractions up, things that draw our attention away from the sacredness of the land, things that muddy the water, that just get in the way. We have to work so many hours, sell ourselves to live, when the earth provides for free. We argue amongst ourselves about politics. We hold grudges and judge others, other people and act on those judgements, even when they are foolish and quite often, downright dangerous. We organise ourselves into classes, into castes, into races. We argue over oppression, when we all agree it shouldn’t happen, we get caught up on the semantics, nitpicking over what others say, looking for any weakness we can use to rubbish what they have to say, all the time never getting anywhere in the battle for equality or for human rights, or animal rights. Never getting anywhere.
If you do anything this Yule, or whenever the connection to land is greatest within your soul, act upon it. Go out, walk, meditate or sit in those wild places where you live. build on your connection to the land in your locality. Remember what it was like when you were a kid, those wild places, those secret places that adults seem to forget or overlook amongst the chaos that is everyday life. You don’t need to take a bus or a train to find somewhere wild, or even semi wild, heck, just going out is a start. Become a steward of the land. Care for it. Love it.
The Earth is first. The land is the beginning.
When we truly respect this land on which we live, that gives us life, this land from which we all come, I truly believe it will help in the fight against injustice. We are all connected to the land, it is at the very least, the one commonality we all share, whether we realise it or not. We are all of this land, of this earth. We all have nature in common. We all have that animating spark, the fire of the gods, within us.
The land is the beginning.
However you celebrate Yule, whatever you call your festive season, have a good one, fellow seekers, rebels, witches and pagans!
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magick, of course!
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