Its Imbolc eve the snow is melting on the ground and the snowdrops have been visible and with us for a couple of weeks now; this is early here in the heart of Scotland.
This morning I walked the land enjoying the wind across my face and the moments of sun breaking through. It is cold and as I walk, I am seeking inspiration. I am aware of a feeling of peace within as I connect to this familiar land and yet also, I am with a deep upset-I walk on with this conflict within me.
I recall spending some time with a man whose ancestry was of the original peoples of America. He stopped as we walked and pointed out across the beauty of the Highlands out to the Cairngorm mountains on the horizon and said: “our wellbeing is dependent on our relationship with the earth its that which keeps us all alive”
I knew this and somehow have always known this ever since I was a young child. To hear this from him was affirming for me. I imagine people attracted to Anima Monday will understand this also. I do believe though we each know of this, somewhere within our being, we all just know this.
Tonight, I will enter a time of Imbolc ceremony as well as celebration with some practices that come through my tradition from my Celtic ancestry as well as ways that have emerged personally over time from working with natures rhythms as the year unravels.
Acknowledging and celebrating in this way does bring me closer to a deeper relationship with the natural cycles and without doubt as my American friend spoke of, does bring me a greater wellbeing and closer relationship with the rhythms of nature, bringing my own nature to emerge but today as I said as I walk, I am with my upset and a conflict.
I walk amongst my old friends of the trees, some of these I have sacred partnerships with. Trees that I sit with for insight and guidance, some I pray with as well as sing with and for, here I am inspired and feel connected to life, here I am at peace and this connection is able to hold the distress I carry.
This distress came from seeing the headline in the local news of action being taken to address the “damage” caused by the homecoming of the beaver to this land. In May 2019 after much debate and campaigning the beaver the second indigenous species to return home here in Scotland -the other being the White-tailed Sea Eagle- became protected in Scottish law.
As ever though the laws protecting them are inadequate and as the Beaver is spreading so is the call to “manage the damage they do” or depending where you are with this you could say to annihilate them! There seems to be an attitude of this is good just not here!
So, as I go to the woods, I carry the question in my heart that I first asked when I learnt about the destruction of the rain forest back when I was maybe 7 or so. Now here 45 years later I still ask myself and now I am able to ask it and listen of spirit “what is it I if anything I can offer to this?”
As a young child this question overwhelmed me and the journey onward had been a tough and isolating one. Today there is an environmental awakening happening with amazing projects and people coming together addressing this issue that has been with me all my life-I and we are no longer alone.
If you are reading this then you may see yourself as part of, as I do of myself, with this awakening. Yet the beaver that have made their home in our village are not welcomed by all and seen by some as a pest that has to go. Yet this was their home way before humans arrived here and started to shape the land.
At one level in spite of legalisation and growing knowledge maybe us humans have not been able to resolve the conflict of how to share the land with nature. Maybe we can open to that on another level that we are nature and what we do to nature we do to ourselves.
Nature will find a harmony and balance If given space to-I see all life has a part to play in this possibility- the beaver will bring much benefit to the land as indeed humans can and have the potential for as well.
We too I see as having an intrinsic nature and if again given space to this a more natural and harmonious life can unfold bringing with it our own and unique contribution to the whole.
I do believe that somewhere in us all we understand this and this gives me hope! Our ancestors knew of this relationship with nature so this memory will be alive within us too.
Maybe it is this ancient memory that is feeding the environmental awakening that is happening. Yet today in our land the beaver is still seen by some as a pest and this is still the beaver’s land as well as now being humans land.
How are we going to share this land and how can we resolve this conflict that we humans hold? I do not see it as an issue for nature to resolve as nature holds an intelligence for the flow of life. I see it as one that humans can only resolve and have a responsibility to becoming with this flow of life, moving from isolation to re-connection.
I am aware that the world I wish to live in starts with me. I seek to live my life with ecological awareness and responsibility. In many areas I am making progress and in other areas I have work to do. With knowledge and awareness and support along with a willingness to live aligned with my heart, these areas I need to address in how I live and serve the earth are being addressed and worked on as part of my own evolution.
This includes both inner and outer work attending to my inner landscape as well as my outer landscape as I see the two are inter linked and mirror each other.
I spoke once to someone of a love of the earth and was told abruptly to not use such words and to talk of a respect for the earth, though it is a love I hold for the earth; it always has and I hope always will be this way and this is why I care to do this work.
This is what supports me and gives a strength to uphold the commitment and vow I have made in ceremony as an adult and as a child to the earth to be a voice and work for her.
How can I be a voice for the beaver to those that think of them as a pest how do I credibly speak to the memory within us all that knows what we do to the earth we do to ourselves. I see questions as openings and by asking I trust an answer if there Is one will come to me-my task once I have asked is to listen for the answer.
As a shamanic practitioner in the workshops I lead its easy to speak of these things to a willing and open circle, as a druid I can honour the earth alone and within a circle of people and this does make a difference; I know that as it all feeds the collective whole.
So how do I find the words and ways to speak to the memory within those that see the earth as a “resource for humans” while still holding respect, honour, truth and compassion? In the way I live my life yes, in the actions I take yes, in the words I speak yes and with all this sometimes I fall short while holding myself with kind compassion in my failings, as I go on ever evolving as a human.
A situation came last year where I did become a lone voice for two colonies of bees within a group of people and I put forward the bees needs and right to be free and wild as well as what the bees were showing and teaching us and sought a credible language around this.
The experience caused me much distress and I and we were unable to find an outcome that supported all for the land, the bees and people.
The outcome of this process was that the bees became once again a resource for humans. Some, the majority, met my attempts to speak for the bees with silence, others tried to understand but the human group voice became the bees are a resource and a dangerous one at that!
I learnt an awful lot about myself my strengths and shortcomings as well as people and opportunities came to me as a result of speaking for the bees, including a visit to someone who I looked to for support.
I was introduced to a garden influenced and shaped by bees. It was amazing and I felt such a learning from being there. It was such a harmonious and literally buzzing garden and I left inspired and aware of the positive impact allowing bees to just be with minimal human input will have for humans and land.
Today I write with frustration love and concern for the beaver family I share our village land with and I ask in prayer to open myself to find if there is a way, I can act for them and ask that the spirits of the land will support them also.
I imagine there can be few that have not been touched by natures great beauty and as we see this, we see ourselves as this memory of our place and connection with nature is awoken.
I know I love the earth and feel a kinship with it and very much a part of it and feels its joy and pain and when I am in harmony, I feel alive creative and in right relationship, then this is stronger than the distress I feel. As long as I give space to let this grow, I can open myself to solutions with the resources and skills I have, both practically and spiritual to the challenges I will meet along the way.
The ancient wisdom and traditions have a place in the modern world for me this is shamanism and Druidry which are very much linked and support each other in my world view and practical living and are both very much of this time and of this environmental awakening.
I open up to let them walk with me as my own unfolding goes on. May I and we continue to bring them out into the world and may the ancient memory awaken for the blessing and evolution of all life on earth today and in carrying this hope I know I am not alone.
Brian Anderson is a shamanic practitioner working for people, land and animals in central Scotland just outside the city of Perth where he offers 1:1 sessions, workshops and sacred activism events, he also is a member of OBOD. He sees shamanism offering new hope and vision for individuals as well as our society as a whole, for as we individually change, everything around us changes as well. Thus seemingly small actions have an impact on the collective. He loves the wild ancient and magical land where he lives and is inspired to deepen this connection and share this with others. To find out more about his work see www.oakenleaf.co.uk