It was while I was journeying through the Bardic Grade, channelling Awen and integrating with the wild elements that I began to have clear conversations with the Trees and the woodland. Integration with the elements supported me in deepening my relationship within all of nature. Let us take a walk through the seasons, cardinal directions, and timelines and make a pilgrimage to the wild elements.
Spring time in Druidry is recognised through the cardinal of the east and element of air. Spring and the element of air sings of the morning of our experiences. Our birth, childhood and teenage years are held here. For the airy pilgrim, this time of year offers the gentle yet full bodied wind of inspiration. blowing in and around the senses, offering untold delights of creativity and new experiences in the budding of life. Something inside is moved to awaken early and venture into the woodlands with a flask of tea and watch the sun make her entrance. Realise or rather remember Pilgrim that early morning, especially in spring time, the mind, body and spirit enjoys the suppleness of a since past youth. As the day progresses, so does weariness and the gentle being ages rapidly. Make the most of this time. The element of air speaks to us of the winds of remembrance, precious parcels hold memories that seem to drift on an eternal breeze that never lulls.
As we turn the wheel we discover summer blazing in the south, the element of fire and mid-day speak to us of long hot days, flooded with light as the sun turns it's gaze upon all life. Enquiring as to the success of our endeavours. Here we are held somewhere in young to mid adulthood. We may still have ambitions wants and desires. We are driven by our will and still creating here. There is a curious quality in the texture of the element of fire. We are in our prime. Architects of life. We assume a sense of control, that life is for the making and taking. Driven by needs and expectations, here we do much of our baking and our mistake making. Dreams live here too. Some dreams will be achieved but unbeknown to the pilgrim of fire, some are already burning.
We journey on and our noses are filled by the smell of chimney smoke in the autumn. We are held in the steady gaze of the setting sun over the ocean and we are met by the element of water. Life seems to have slowed here in our twilight years as we move through mature adulthood. We have curated our life. Gained wisdom. Yet we have so much more we want to experience. We become the seeker of life. Our well is once again filled as awen pours into us a river of new possibilities. Some dreams rise up from the deep, they have been waiting for this very moment. We drink from our sacred well and are rejuvenated. Let's buy a Camper Van hit the open road and write that book!
We continue on this well worn path of ours, we have made this journey many times and in many ways. We head north and continue into the deep freeze of winter. Our faces reflect the map of our lives. Here we experience the long night. We find companionship with the wild animals, as they turn inwards. The earth welcomes her beings into her womb. Their long sleep approaches and we prepare for such a journey. We are wise elders now. Our eyes blaze with blinding truth and our hearts hold the village. We still have some much to do and all the time we need. Just as the crumbling soft humous of a once might trees dissolves into the earth and those living roots of it's offspring. So do we share all that we know with our kin, such is the richness in the quality of our medicine. We hold all of the seasons within us and thus all of the elements. shamans, walkers between worlds. When our time comes we will return to all of those elements that create us.
What Part Do the Elements Play in Druidry?
The Elements play an integral role in Druidry. Through attuning with earth, air, fire and water, the Druid practitioner will experience a deep integration of these elements within their being. R. Ogilvie Crombie (Roc) author of Encounters With Nature Spirits experienced encounters with the nature God Pan and his elemental subjects, a direct result of Roc's own integration with the natural elements. During the beginning of WW2, due to a health condition Roc was exiled from Edinburgh by his doctor to live in a rural cottage in the wilds of Scotland. He stayed there for 10 years and each day would lay naked on the earth under the sky. Much like the story of how Roc came to see Pan, through his own elemental integration. Druids also understand that practicing similar elemental integrations, will foster a deeper relationship within nature and a clearer understanding of nature spirits.
Druids include and experience the elements in their lives in many different ways. Elemental focused altar displays or sacred spaces are one way in which Druids acknowledge, honour and invoke the elements earth, air, fire and water. They may also carry a Crane Bag, a special bag of natural curiosities that have been collected while out on walks such as shells, stones, seeds and feathers. The elements are invoked in sacred practices. Such as in casting a protective circle by calling on the four cardinal directions and their corresponding elements. Sacred circles may also be blessed and cleansed with water and fire or smoke. Other druidic practices may include journeying within the elements through animal spirit such as becoming birds and soaring through the air over the snow peaked mountains or becoming fish and diving deep into the emerald salty seas. The elements weave a fine tapestry permeating all areas of druidic practice. They are the foundation blocks, the corner stones on which druidic practice is forged.
The bardic grade is a course offered by The Order of Bards, Orates and Druids (OBOD) and focuses intently on acquainting and attuning the student with the wild elements in nature. Through exercises, ceremonies and rituals the student becomes competent in understanding the nature of the elements and how to safely experience them. My own practice of this course was for me a life changing experience, and one that continues to live deep within me. A course I completed twice just for the hell of it because it was that good. I wouldn't hesitate to go through the whole course again. The Ovate's grade, another course that further deepens the experience of the Bardic grade and extends the elemental integration through continued journeying with animal spirit guide and through initiation into the realm of plants and nature spirits. The OBOD courses echo Roc's experiences and beliefs by illustrating the importance of enhanced elemental integration as necessary for communing with nature on deeper shamanic levels.
Through my own integration of the elements through the bardic grade and from my own life long integration and relationship with the Trees and woodland. I began to hear the voices of the trees speaking to me and a new path on my journey opened up. A path filled with deeper, richer textures of being. Deeper, richer textures of nature spirits. While I don't subscribe to the view that you must complete a course or indeed receive training from someone outside of yourself to advance your abilities or to integrate with the elements and commune with nature spirits. I believe we already have within us all the tools we need for that purpose and have only to turn our awareness inwards. I do think that those tools we already possess can be finely tuned, polished, sharpened, the use of mastered. There may also be other really nice tools that we can acquire and add into our kit. Other tools that teach us other skills, practices, rituals. We can always learn new more, expand our knowledge, our understanding. Like the mighty tree that has become rich humus that now nourishes the earth and roots of it's offspring, we to can benefit from the rich wisdoms passed down by our experienced elders.
To become advanced, to know more, experience more, one must practice, grow and deepen in experience at every turn of understanding. We are fortunate to have courses available such as those offered through OBOD. Courses that inspire, inform and teach us in ways that only strengthen and deepen what which we already have within us. Courses that are created by the elders of tribes that we belong, support us in living in harmony with nature, closer to our land, our rivers and woodlands, animals, plants and trees. And set us on the old path of our ancestors. Set us on the path home.
Yours in the heart of the woodlands.