Once again, I’m writing about something that’s very close to my own heart, and as usual I would like to emphasize that while it might sound as if I’m stating “absolute truths”, I am very aware that these are subjective and entirely personal experiences and conclusions. If they don’t fit your ideas, so be it.
“The Power of the Land” – even the title will put some people off. What’s so powerful about this big lump of liquid and solid substances, racing through the universe at breakneck speed?
Well, first of all, it is a great mass, and every mass has gravity, as we know. Then there are phenomena like magnetism, and other very real “powers”, some of which science can already prove, while others remain obscure except to those with a sensitivity for them. As a pagan whose beliefs have strong animist and pantheist leanings, I also see the land as Mother Earth, the body of the life-giving universal mother.
All earth is one piece of land, a fact we tend to forget when we look at the oceans that seemingly separate one continent from the other. Actually it’s all the same piece, although climate and other environmental factors have shaped areas that are different from each other in character and energy.
It is my belief that it is always the land that shapes its people, not the other way around. I’ve heard people argue that man leaves his stamp on his environment, and that’s certainly true – but really, all our doings barely scratch her surface. I once read that if mankind disappeared, if we stopped maintaining our civilisation, buildings, streets etc., it would only take nature around 40 years to eliminate all signs of our existence. Then I look at people I’ve met, from different parts of the earth, and I see plainly the influence of the land, the characteristics from the area they’re from, carved into their very beings. Again, you are free to disagree!
How do you connect to the power of the land? My first suggestion won’t go down well with “book pagans”, people who like to read and learn everything and then maybe bring themselves to do a meditation in the safety of their room… My own practice couldn’t be further away from that, I sometimes call it the “roll in the mud” approach, and this is what I’d like to suggest: go and literally roll in the mud. Yes, I mean it! It’s important to get a feel for the earth. She is all body, all sensuality, and your senses are what you need to experience her with. Kneel by the side of a river and bury your hands in the mud. Trust me, it’s a wonderful feeling!
Next, lie on the ground, in the forest or on a meadow in the grass, and place the palms of your hands on her. If you have privacy and warm enough temperatures, do this naked, really feel her with your skin, with all your body. Wriggle and writhe a bit, caress her body with yours. Be playful: roll down a grassy slope, let yourself drop backwards into a bed of soft springy moss (but first check for stones!), jump off a small rock, climb a tree… Once you’ve (re-)familiarised yourself with her, you can go on to the next step.
A word of caution: The land, just like nature and life itself, may be stunningly beautiful in places, but it is never “pretty” or benign. It is true that she is the giver of life, but never forget that’s she’s just as ready to take life away when it suits her purposes. Nature, life, or the land, are never good (nor are they bad!). They just are; whatever happens is done purely on the principle of perpetuating life, and we cannot always understand why. There might be an earthquake, or a flood, taking away innocent lives. That’s the way it is, so throw out the rose-tinted glasses. Love her, but never underestimate her! I guess what I’m getting at is that a healthy dose of respect would do anyone good who deals with the powers of the land.
In the first part of this article, I talked about getting to know her in a hands-on way. Once you’ve done that, you might want to get in tune with her powers and energies. With practice, you’ll be able to find some kind of connection wherever you are; but in general, it is easier to start on a piece of land where you feel at home. In most cases, this will be the place where you grew up – oh, I can hear the protest from people who believe in the “blood” and heritage! Please don’t lynch me just yet, I’m saying “in most cases”, not all!
How could I, if my own “home” place is nowhere near the place or even the country where I was born. So how do you know you’ve found “your” place? The answer is, you just know. I apologize for sounding over-poetic or esoteric, but there really are no objective words for it. To me, it feels like I’m part of the bones of the earth when I’m in that place. I also have another place that I’m close to as well, if not quite as powerfully close, and that is a place where I spent six years of my adult life. I do believe it is possible to get used to, acquainted with, a certain spot.
But I digress. There are many ways to get in tune with the power of the land. Rites and rituals do help, but for now I’d like to suggest a very simple approach that almost always works for me. I simply lie down on the ground, flat on my back, and relax. I breathe deeply, then close my eyes and imagine myself sinking into the ground. I feel surrounded, held, protected by her. And I feel her pulse resonating through me. I guess this is how unborn babies feel their mothers’ heartbeat.
It is amazing what can happen once you’ve established a close connection to the land. Apart from the heightened awareness of what is going on around you, you may feel more grounded, able to tolerate more stress, and less likely to snap. It’s a peaceful state of being, even though it includes the awareness of possible elimination – a possibility which is around us every moment of every day. I adore this state of being.
Written in February 2006