Wednesday, June 5, 2019
When many people think of Paganism, they think of nature worship. They envision Stonehenge or ancient peoples gathered outside beneath the stars. They think of working with trees and the cycle of the seasons. They think of the outdoors.
And there are many people who feel the call to connect with nature, to feed their spiritual selves by going out of their homes and sinking their bare feet in the grass. But, there are just as many people who may are called to this path who keep the majority of their practice inside, either through need or desire.
I love nature, I really do...but I don't always get along with nature. I am apparently very tasty to critters, and pretty much can guarantee that I'll get bit by something if I go outside (sometimes I get bit just going to check the mail!). I suffer from allergies. I burn fairly easily (and by the time I put on sunscreen and bug repellent, I'm hot and sticky, before I even get in the sun!)
I also often don't have the means to really have privacy outside. We live in a small apartment, and we don't have any actual yard. We have neighbors who are often outside (both front and back), and quite curious, so if I am doing anything outside, there is a good chance that someone will ask what I'm doing.
I think that if I had a private back yard, I'd do more outside, but even with all the space and privacy in the world, the core of my practice would be inside. At my heart, I'm a child of the modern world. My home is the center of my practice, and that means doing things inside.
There is a bit of a sense of, not quite shame, but almost, when you practice indoors. This idea that you 'should' be doing stuff outside. That if you were dedicated enough you'd find a place where you can go and do things in nature. That 'all witches' should be growing their own herbs and making their own incenses.
Honestly...that's all bunk, and it doesn't do the community any good to put different styles of practice down. All it does is make newer people, ones who may not have learned how to adapt yet, feel like they are doing things wrong, like they just aren't good enough to walk this path.
There are many, many ways to practice, and being nature oriented is only one of them. It isn't intrinsically better or worse than any other way of doing things.
The thing is, we have access to all this technology, and many younger people grew up using it. They may be more comfortable finding modern ways to approach things than they would be out in the woods. I feel that Paganism and witchcraft both are living, breathing, growing, evolving practices, and just because something was done a certain way in the past, doesn't mean that is the best way to do things...simply what was.
Our ancestors were, by necessity, tied in closer to the land and to nature. Their daily lives depended on the weather, on the crops, on the plants and animals that surrounded them. Today, many of us are blessed to not be that dependent. We can drive to the grocery store and get produce in the middle of winter. Our homes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and protected from insects and wild animals. We don't have to make sure our crops grow to know we will make it through another year.
We may experience nature and natural things through more artificial means. We might use essential oils or even manufactured scents to fill our home with the smell of flowers or evergreens. Instead of hunting down an animal to observe and learn from we might watch a nature documentary or read a book about them. We watch the weather channel or check our phones to see what the weekend will be like instead of studying the signs ourselves.
One thing to remember is that our focus is different today. Our ancestors knew a lot more about many natural things, but we spend our time learning different skills. Instead of knowing when to harvest the plants, we might know how to fill out a spreadsheet. We have so much information at our fingertips, we don't need to memorize everything (and we know how to read and write, so we can keep our own notes).
You might even find that you are more open to trying things if you don't feel like you are obligated to do them. Tasks become fun again, they become an adventure, when they are optional. You may have dreaded the idea of having to go outside to gaze at the moon every month, but now you find yourself stepping out into the dark and staring up at the sky in wonder (knowing that next month, you can check in with the app on your phone). Or not...either is fine, as long as it works for you!
The majority of my practice is done inside. I use digital means, or artificial ones without shame, because they allow me to do things that I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. We don't have anywhere to grow things inside, and our cats like to eat plants I bring in, so I enjoy flowers preserved in jars or dried, or images on my screens.
And I find, that sometimes I do need to be outside...for small periods of time. I might spend that extra moment soaking up the sun when I take out the trash, or stop and gaze at the moon after coming home late at night. I also find that when I do have occasion to practice outside, like at a public ritual, I can enjoy it...because I know that I don't have to do it all the time. I don't feel guilty about doing my personal rituals at home, in the bedroom...because if I didn't do them inside, they wouldn't get done.
Whether you feel called to practice in nature or not is your choice, it is your path. You may seek out ways to be in nature occasionally, or you may never feel the call to do so. You might explore nature through modern means....or not. It is perfectly acceptable to practice inside, in the world that you know and live in. Just find what moves you, and do that.