Taking off my shoes and socks, I place my feet cautiously upon the dew-wet grass. The cold against my toes surprises me, on this bright morning; early autumn, with the lingering golden light of late summer.
I reach down to touch the earth, and whisper words of thanks and blessing. Then, I lie down in the long grass and clover (needs mowing, my brain reminds me), feeling the damp dew soaking into my t-shirt and trousers. Closing my eyes, I feel the breath of the autumn breeze, and the warmth of the still-low morning sun. I hear the whisper of leaves in the trees, sounding drier and more urgent now as they lose their moisture and prepare to turn yellow and red and fall to the earth. I‘ll have to rake those up soon, I think.
I turn my attention to the earth beneath me and all around me. The soft, rich soil, the worms and beetles and other creatures that make their homes under the ground, the roots of grasses and trees snaking through the earth, drawing nutrients and Nwyfre into themselves. I breathe slowly, and practice my meditative exercises, feeling the earth’s Nwyfre mingle with my own and refresh me.
I inhale, the earth exhales. I exhale, the earth inhales.
Connecting with nature is, for me, the heart and centre of my Druid practice, and one way to do this is to connect with the four “classical” elements, each in turn.
The concept of the four elements is not necessarily *authentic* or historical in Druidry. It probably came into Druidry during the 18th century Revival, via the western mystery tradition and perhaps originally deriving in Greek philosophical thought. The Celts, as we know, tended to think in threes, and their three element system was that of Land, Sea and Sky. Yet, as Graeme Talboys writes in The Druid Way Made Easy, “Fire is also present, but not regarded as separate. Rather, it is the spirit that inspires the rest of the world”. So there is a clear overlap between the systems, and about 300 years of tradition in using the four elements in a Druid context, so that’s good enough for me.
The elements in Druidry are not to be seen in the same way as the scientific elements of the periodic table. Nobody today thinks that everything is literally made up of just four “bits” of earth, air, fire and water. But they are symbolic and deep representations of the major forces of nature in which we live and move and have our being.
Currently, I am spending a good deal of time learning to connect more with the earth. In practical terms this means exercises like the one above, as well as walking my local woods as much as possible, growing herbs and veg to use in cooking, and keeping an eye out for the local creatures with whom I share this small space of land: the squirrels, hedgehogs, mice, voles and the like.
In esoteric terms, the earth is associated with the body, and sensuality. So I’m also trying to eat healthier and move more. It’s also linked to practicality and the sort of honest-to-goodness qualities we still describe today as being “down to earth”. I tend to live n my head, so trying to be more down to earth is good for me.
Autumn seems like a natural time to connect to the earth, though of course it is all around us (indeed, it is us) all year round. But in the Autumn, with the leaves falling and crunching underfoot, the smell of decay in the air, the start of the chill in temperature, the final harvest of nuts and berries, the animals stocking their larders for winter, and of course my favourite holiday, Samhain (Hallowe’en) bringing to mind the dead who lie beneath the earth, “earthiness” is pretty much everywhere right about now.
Of course, connecting with the earth doesn’t stop at meditations and nature walks. Recycling, eating local and seasonal food, switching to a green energy supplier, supporting the Woodland Trust or other tree-planting charities, protesting against fracking and environmental destruction; all of these can be seen as sacred acts to honour the earth, our only home.
Connecting with the earth, with the practical, grounded nature of reality, can also help to bring Druidry out of the realm of ideas and root it in daily life, in the world of work, and housework, cooking and chores. Now, this can be very difficult, but on those rare, good, days when everything fits into place, each simple task can be seen as an expression of Druidry.
And with every breath, the earth exhales.