Connecting with the Sacred Landscape
by Julie Brett
“For those who learn to listen, the land itself speaks…Modern Druidry in any landscape is a process of finding a personal connection with nature and spirit, and is a tradition that is evolving and changing as we explore…[O]ur only authority is our relationship with the Earth and with nature. That relationship is our guiding principle.”
This book is not just for Australian Druids! It will be interesting to folks practicing earth-based spirituality all over the world. It provides inspiration for how we can work with the land to alter spiritual tools and maps to make them more place specific and relevant to spiritual practice. Because the lands in the southern hemisphere of the Earth do not experience the same seasons that those in the northern hemisphere do, the rituals and celebrations that Druids partake in in Europe, for example, must be re-imagined in an Australian context. Australia itself is a continent with many different biomes; some Australians may experience different seasons depending on what part of the country they live in.
After years of observation, the author played with the Traditional Wheel of the Year followed by many Pagans to create something that more closely reflected the natural seasonal patterns in Australia. The Year of Two Life Cycles Wheel that Australian Druids have created in order to work with their seasons is fascinating. “As an overview, there are two stories. They are based on the mysteries of light and dark as balancing principles that are within each of us. They are not terms meaning positive and negative or good and evil, but rather relate to our attention being either outward, active and in the physical world (light), or internal, reflective, contemplative, or spiritual (dark).” For Australian Druids, ways of working with the dark and light child within throughout the year via festivals abound in this book. Wheels and examples of rituals that have been created for different regions in Australia are included. In addition, the author gives suggestions for ways folks everywhere can align with the land they live on to find patterns in nature that can be translated into new wheels and festivals specific to those parts of the world.
This book further expands into territory that will be familiar to shamanic practitioners that work with animal and plant spirit medicine and omens. The author provides some notes on what she has learned about the medicine of many animals and plants native to Australia. She also goes into detail about how to use nature diaries as a regular source of gathering earth-based knowledge and developing rituals that are appropriate to the land we are living on. In addition, she shares ideas for planning rituals for personal and group use both collaboratively with community or alone as individual practitioners. As someone who is involved in shamanism as a spiritual practice, I found this book to be extremely poignant and lacking in the preachy tone that many books on spiritual practice can have. The author does a great job of placing emphasis on listening to the land directly for knowledge.
One of the things that is so wonderful about this book is that the ancient knowledge of the Druids via their connection to the land transcends life in their place of origin. The author takes us through her journey as a Druid learning to listen to a new land. Instead of appropriating thousands of years of indigenous Australian knowledge, she stresses the importance of communing directly with the land itself to learn from the trees, rocks, animals and plants–respecting the personal messages they offer. She emphasizes respectful relations with local indigenous folks with tips on how to practice Druidry while honouring local traditions, protocols, and sacred places.
This book is extremely well written and organized. Readers can skip to the parts they find most relevant–easily using it as a go-to Druidic resource to keep on the bookshelf at home. I highly recommend this book. I will let Julie Brett end this review in her own wise words:
“In the end it is not about creating a system and then always using that, no matter what happens around us. It is about sitting with nature and openly asking, ‘What messages do you have for me in this moment, and how can I move into alignment with your energy?’ That is a much more connected way of approaching the seasonal festivals. In the end, the wheel is just a guide.”
About the Author:
Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.
Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:
“The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”
“Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”
“Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing”