Editor’s Note: I am excited to announce that Anna Walther, who has been a contributor for a while now, has joined HP as a regular columnist. The name of her column is “Pagan in Place”. Please join me in welcoming her!
Pagan in Place is a column devoted to place-bound paganism. My goals are active engagement with my environment via meditation, walking outside, ritual, journaling, storytelling, and acts of social and environmental justice. Being pagan in place is about getting out of the house, putting foot to ground, and doing my holy work directly, at the closest creek, at my neighborhood park, at the community garden, and in my own backyard.
I’m a witch and a spiritual naturalist. My practice is grounded in the land around Austin, Texas, which lies in the subtropics. Here we have short, mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. Directly beneath my feet lies the edge of the Edwards Plateau, which is covered with juniper and oak scrub woodland and criss-crossed by clear creeks, where it isn’t covered with rapidly expanding city. The soil here is rocky, with a thin layer of topsoil and limestone underneath. To the east lies the Blackland Prairie, with its heavy, black clay soil and Austin’s iconic, gnarled southern liveoaks.
I am deeply, wildly in love with this place. I want not only to experience it, but to be an active part of its story.
Let us begin our song
with ocean, earth, and sky;
the Sun: fuel, fire, and light;
and the Moon: three-fold mirror and mistress of tides;
Their great and holy dance gives rise to
El Niño y La Niña, bickering twins;
and Polar Vortex, a trickster;
North Wind, a winter hag, blue and wild;
Green Rising, a spring maiden mild, and
the wildflowers that rise up where she sings,
beloved by the Lady of the Lake.
From earth rise the Liveoak Kings, attended by grackles;
in sky fly bats who birth under the Bridge,
in sight of Lady Liberty, an immigrant,
great-granddaughter of Pallas Athena,
who holds the five-pointed Star of Texas
over where river, prairie, and plateau meet.
White Buffalo and Gray Wolf, ghosts, roam
limestone hills and drink from
springs that babble at their feet;
From this very land they rise,
gates to memory and myth:
the clear creek, this green tree, that gray stone,
rough bark, cold water, smooth bone:
Hic sunt enim spiritus.
In subsequent posts, I’ll explore the meaning of place, its role in memory and myth, and the techniques I use to foster conscious interrelationship with my place. I welcome your comments. Where do you live and practice? What spirits of place do you honor?
(All photos by Anna Walther)
Anna Walther practices place-based paganism in Austin, Texas. Her practice is inspired by the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft and the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Anna’s interests include sacred spaces, ritual art, ecopsychology, biophilia, and environmental ethics. She attends First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin with her husband and children.