My Spiritual Home, at Last
You might call me a Green Witch. I have chosen to call myself a Daughter of the Earth (or Earth Child), which came to me this morning after searching and searching and searching for a name that works with my newly recognized Earth-based spirituality. I say “newly recognized,” because I’ve realized it’s always been here in me. The forest has always been my refuge. My hands connected to the soil have always brought me healing. The smell of the earth has always made me breathe deeper. Nature is my peace.
Animism says that everything on this earth has a soul. Pantheism says that divinity is found in that everything. I’ve always felt this deep in my heart. And I am happy to come home to it.
Recently, I did an ancestry test. I never felt the need to do one before, because I had been told by my parents that I had three heritages—English, Scottish, and Polish. And then, as I headed off on my first trip to Scotland and England my mother said to me, “What makes you think you have Scottish heritage?”
No comment. As Thumper says, “If you can’t say some somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
As I’ve felt drawn to look at my ancestral roots, to find some sense of belonging in this new, ancient spirituality, I decided it was time to discover the truth—who were my ancestors? I had expected and hoped that I might find some Native American DNA in me because I am drawn to their ways.
Disappointingly, I have not a lick of Native American blood. I have Anglo-Saxxon/Western European (which is rather broad and includes English, Germanic, and Norman peoples), Welch, Scottish, Polish, Danish, Swedish, and a small amount of Irish and Norwegian ancestry. A true mutt.
I thought I would feel more of a connection to the UK when I was over there, especially in Scotland, where every time I see a photo of the land there, I get a feeling of “home.” I felt a connection to Stonehenge in England the most, perhaps because it is an ancient, earthly, spiritual place. I have looked into Celtic and Norse pagan beliefs (pre-Christianity), and Druidry, and I like the idea of their gods and goddesses as archetypal energies (more on that in a still-to-be-written post), but I don’t relate to gods or goddesses, per se. I don’t relate to group rituals, either. I do my own, like facing the four compass points and calling in their energy to help me through the day—groundedness (N), clarity of thought (E), strength/energy, and the courage to live my truth (S), and walking in kindness (W). And I do resonate with living the Wheel of the Year and have just begun to do so. Bits and pieces of these ancestral spiritualities resonate. But not the whole ethos.
I think that’s what I like about the Green Witch label (as much as I don’t like labels, they do help give some sort of definition to who you are, especially to others). I don’t like the term “witch” because it’s loaded, but Green Witches (a modern label, they were called healers in days of old and were labeled witches by their persecutors) are more about relating to the plants, creating healing “potions” for others, putting intention into their medicine (a spell of sorts), and feeling the energies of the natural world and a strong connection to the land. That’s me, truthfully.
But, what is this Native American connection I feel? The pull is strong! The other day I had an epiphany and it goes along with the connection to the land I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I did a tarot card reading, and like the “Remember, Human” card that I wrote about in an earlier post, my eyes fell upon another card in the deck when putting the cards away. I was gobsmacked. The card represents a version of the Native American creation story of Turtle Island. Turtle Island represents the earth, but it is also the name of North America.
My epiphany was that Turtle Island is my home, too. Yes, my ancestors came here and colonized this land, and not for the better, imho. And I’m not surprised, because looking into my ancestry, the whole world has lived the story of one people dominating another people and invading and integrating into their homeland. (My ancestors were both conquerors and the conquered.) Rinse and repeat. It’s a dark part of the human species. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want us to all be one and love each other and I don’t know how to get that to happen or if it’s even possible in this earthly realm, where the life of one creature depends on the death of another (I’ve transitioned to a food analogy, here). Moving on….
So, I’ve lived on this land, and I’m sensitive to its energies, which contain the memory and soul of the Native American people who lived here before me (the Nipmuc, in Princeton and the Massachusett, in Winchester). I’ve walked in their forests, climbed their mountains, and settled on their land, choosing to stay in this state as I entered adulthood. I grew up across the street from a great forest (the Fells Reservation) and would stand on a rock (now called Indian Rock) where a female sachem (chief) looked out upon her land and people. Standing there, I would imagine what it must have looked like back then as I was viewing my hometown of Winchester, below. I picnicked in that forest. I skated in that forest on frozen Long Pond. I cross-country skied in that forest. But, most of all, I ran into that forest when life was hard, letting the sun lead me down paths until I would find a spot that called me to sit and be still in the quiet, healing energy of the land.
When I was older and settled into Princeton (the town is one large forest), I would hike Mount Wachusett and walk by an ancient tree and think, “Native Americans must have walked by this tree. I am walking in their footsteps.” It felt like a holy place. One day I came to the spot and the tree had fallen. I mourned that tree. But, over the following years, I watched as it slowly returned to the earth. Its skeleton remains, sinking ever-so-slowly into the ground, but that grand tree is still a presence on the mountain.
Another time on the mountain, as I was hiking a trail, I felt the presence of the spirits of people walking in a line in the forest, beside me. It was one of the oddest sensations I’ve ever had, but also filled me with wonder. Why did I feel them? Did they want me to know something? Or was it just that this was their land that they walked, just as I was walking, and they were saying hello?
Another time I was walking on the mountain and felt the energy of a tree as I walked by it, calling me to notice it. I turned around, put my hand on it, and said hello. I feel from these experiences on the mountain that there is an unseen world we have been conditioned out of, for whatever reason, and I have woken up to the magic. And, with that, I’ve realized that I don’t need to “find” or adopt the spirituality of my ancestors, I just need to stay connected to this spiritual place where I live. It will guide me along the path.
When I used to call God “God,” I once went to the bird sanctuary in town when I was really upset, to have some time alone. As I sat on a bench, black flies started swarming about me. I complained, “God, I came here for some time with you and I won’t be able to stay here with these biting flies attacking me.” At that, a strong breeze came and blew the flies away, I had my time alone with God, and when I felt ready to return home, the wind died down and the flies came back. This story continues to amaze me. I will always believe God is real, no matter what people choose to call him/her/them.
So, this Earth Child/Green Witch is just coming into her own. I am not sad, anymore, about leaving my religion of origin behind. It had to happen to return to myself and hear my calling to what I’ve always believed—that the earth is alive and divine, that God/the Universe/Spirit/Gaia is the energy of creation and love, and that the forest is my church. No more apologies, self-doubt, worrying about being different. Because this way of being makes me happy.
May we all find our place and open our hearts to the lessons it is waiting to teach us.
Directional Marker at the summit of Mt. Wachusett is no longer there, it’s further down from the summit near the parking lot.