The work I do at HedgeWalking is relevant to anyone who is looking to walk in the world in a way that’s consistent with ways of being and knowing that we think of as indigenous. There are two threads to this work, two dimensions:
All of us can benefit from a grounding in our ancestral traditions. For some of us, of course, it’s not always clear just where those ancestral traditions lie – many of us today are ‘mongrels’, with ancestry from a variety of different places. If that’s the case for you – if you’re not obviously Celtic, or Scandinavian, for example, then simply choose the ancestral line which draws you most. This isn’t about genetic purity, it’s about finding grounding and a sense of belonging from knowing that you are part of a long line of people who once, for generations, belonged somewhere, and it’s particularly important if your immediate ancestors came only relatively recently to the land where you now live (those of you in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, for example).
Ancestral traditions are great to explore, but ancestral practices – and especially ancestral divinities – really don’t always travel well. Use them for inspiration; don’t try to recreate them. Draw on native mythology for inspiration; love and learn the stories – but always steep your practices and devotions in the place where your feet are planted.
The place where your feet are planted
No matter how much you are drawn to the practices and mythologies of an ancestral country, if your feet are currently planted in a country which is different, it is critically important to develop land-based practices which make sense where you are right now. It is this landscape, and the creatures which inhabit it, that you need to connect with. It is this land’s dreaming that you need to fall into – not some longed-for land across the sea. To do otherwise is to be half-alive. But you can use your knowledge of ancestral traditions to help you connect in the place where you live. For example: if you are of Irish or Scottish descent, you might be drawn to myths and stories of the Cailleach – the Old Woman who made and shaped the world. And if you happen to be visiting Ireland or Scotland, you can indeed acknowledge her in the landscape. But you can’t export her to the New Mexico desert, or the Kansas plains. It makes no sense, because the Cailleach (like all Gaelic divinities) is absolutely immanent in the landscape here. This is the land she made and created; she is a creature of rocky heights and storm-soaked coastlines; she makes no sense elsewhere. But you can use that sense of ancestral belonging to the country of the Cailleach to help you find an ‘Old Woman’ archetype somewhere in the place where you live.