“Why is it so quiet?” my son asked. “I don’t know,” I replied in a whisper, without knowing why. My children and I were visiting Seiders Springs, limestone artesian springs that lie along Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas. They’re framed by crowded city streets and two busy medical facilities, one on each bank of Shoal Creek, such that the quiet blanketing the path past the springs was arresting. Water babbled up through limestone to collect in shallow fern-framed pools. While we stood there listening, a couple of hospital workers walked by, chatting in hushed tones, enjoying the soft beauty and respite of natural springs in the heart of a bustling, rapidly-growing city.
My children stopped briefly to wonder at the improbability of water flowing from rock, then took off down the path, past the springs without me. I hastily gathered a handful of rocks and built a short tower on the ground beside one of the limestone pools. It was my way of saying,
I was here, I care, and Thank you.
Then I chased after my children down the path.
In my place-based, Naturalistic Paganism, I relate most often to nature powers. Humans around the world share the old, great powers: the abundance of the Earth, the strength and direction of the Wind, the Sun’s relentless fire. Other powers are younger and local: the bluebonnets that push up through the soil each spring, Central Texas’s many limestone creeks and springs, and even the water that flows through the tap of my own kitchen sink. I am always in relationship with these powers, whether I will it or not. (See the interview of Steven Posch on Penton for his discussion of nature powers and Elder Gods.) My goal as a Pagan is to cultivate mindful relationships with these nature powers. I do not believe that the springs in any sense needed or wanted my offering, but I was different for having made it.
Below are four ways in which I practice devotion to the powers of my place. These practices can be done quickly, discreetly, and economically; they require few materials other than what you find in your environment. None of the practices presuppose devotion to a personified deity; they require only simple wonder and worship of the world or nature itself.
1. Offer collected rainwater. Set a clean container outside when it rains. Use the rainwater you collect to offer libations to the land, whenever you’re out experiencing the weather, woods, waters, and celebrated sites of your place.
2. Make temporary art. Humans make art. It’s one of my favorite ways to offer conscious, human energy back to nature, and making temporary outdoor art can be a meditation on impermanence and change, too. Build rock towers or make mandalas from fallen leaves, while you’re out experiencing the weather, woods, waters, and celebrated sites of your place. The elements will receive and reclaim your work after you leave.
3. Pick up trash. Take an extra bag (and gloves if needed), and pick up trash at the next neighborhood park you visit. Leave the woods, waters, and celebrated sites of your place a little cleaner than they were before your visit.
4. Go outside, and experience the weather, woods, waters, and celebrated sites of your place. What phase is the moon in? Go outside and look, instead of checking your moon phase calendar app. (Takes one to know one.) What birds sing at dawn in your neighborhood? Go outside, and listen. Try to learn a few of their names and songs. What plants are growing, blooming, and dying right now where you are? What are the human persons around you doing? We’re part of nature, too.
It isn’t necessary to pray to an external entity in order to engage deeply with devotional practice. Acts of time, attention, and wonder are among the most precious gifts any of us mortals have to give. The practices above are just a few simple ways in which we can express, I am here, I care, and Thank you. How do you express wonder and gratitude for the world where you are? I’d love to see the list of devotional practices for Naturalistic Pagans grow.
Blackwell, Christopher. 2012. How do you say that in Witch? An interview with culture builder of paganistan Steven Posch. Penton. Accessed 5 Sept 2014.
Anna Walther is a wife, mother, writer (seeds.sunriseruby.org), linguist, and student of nursing. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she practices place-based paganism and attends First Unitarian Universalist Church with her family.
I love that you included trash collection as a devotional practice! It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve written more than one post on it. 🙂
Anna, good article. But what are me even happier you referred to an interview that I originally published in ACTION the official newsletter fro AREN http://www.aren.org then allowed my friend Damon Leff to republish in Penton the online magazine out of South Africa. So it was great fun to see how an article I got by interviewing Steve Posch, Minneapolis–St.Paul, got read in Texas by way of South Africa. I note by checking that Damon also knows as it is posted on Penton as well. http://tinyurl.com/m3zugcy
Reblogged this on Book of Eucalypt and commented:
“I was here, I care, and Thank you.”
Reblogged this on A Druid Companion and commented:
“My goal as a Pagan is to cultivate mindful relationships with these nature powers. I do not believe that the springs in any sense needed or wanted my offering, but I was different for having made it.”
Reblogged this on Terra Spiritus and commented:
A very nice, gentle reminder of simple ways we can honour and celebrate our relationship to the world and the energies that move within it.
I too am enthralled at building simple rock alters and careful arrangements of sticks
I love the one about bringing a bag (and definitely, plastic gloves!) and cleaning up during a walk through nature. I’m upset I never thought of it before!
What wonderful, simple and meaningful practices. It’s real, nature-focused things like this that get to the heart of what paganism or druidry is for me, and best of all, no “gods” required!
Reblogged this on Room of Roots and commented:
HumanisticPaganism shares some wonderful, simple and meaningful devotional practices to honour the powers of nature. It’s real, nature-focused things like this that get to the heart of what druidry is for me, and best of all, no “gods” required!
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Just wanted you to know you inspired me to write about four more devotional practices for naturalist pagans–thank you! http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pathsthroughtheforests/2014/12/01/more-devotional-practices-for-naturalist-pagans/
Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone! I’m thrilled this resonated with so many of you.
You simply showed how easy it is to have a relationship of nature whether you have gods or not. Sometimes we over complicate things and forget that simple is often better. Thank for showing us that.
Reblogged this on Sacerdotium.
This is a really nice & simple approach – I especially like the land art as a devotional act.
I’ve previously written a three parter on ritual & ceremony of a naturalistic saegoah The first is why, the second (linked below) is when & where, and the third is How and what I do.
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