[Pagan in Place] “Numina loci” by Anna Walther

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!

shoal creek

shoal creek

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.

one of these things is not like the other

one of these things is not like the other

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.

Numina loci

shoal creek liveoaks

shoal creek liveoaks

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:
numina loci.
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)

The Author

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.

See Pagan in Place posts.

See all of Anna’s posts.

9 Comments on “[Pagan in Place] “Numina loci” by Anna Walther

  1. Hi there! Reading this article makes me really excited to see what you’ll be posting in your column. I’m really interested in location-specific paganism and I like the idea of the practical actions you listed.

    I’m from Australia, where I’ve found that Pagans often struggle with the landscape being so different to the traditional imagery of Paganism.

    I’m still working out how I relate to place but in the past it’s involved artwork, walking in the bush and having special spots to visit, and right now learning plays a big role – I want to learn about how the creek and river systems connect, the local species, weather and history. I’m also planning to move to a different state in a year or two so I’m consciously planning my spiritual transplant by learning about and visiting that area. I often think about how a spiritual connection to a place is not something most people would plan for when they move.

    I look forward to reading your posts and hearing about your practice.

    • EarthBased, you might enjoy Circle of Eight by Jane Meredith, a ritualist who also lives in Australia. In that book she describes a process of developing local magic for her place, where few if any characteristics of the land and seasons correspond to the Northern European Pagan imagery. Thanks for reading, and blessings on your path!

  2. Glad to see you are now a regular columnist. I always enjoy your entries and agree one needs to connect with where they are planted. Love reading your out and abouts in the Hill Country. From your neighbor up north in Fort Worth.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Mary. Hope y’all are enjoying as lovely a wildflower season in DFW as we are here in the Hill Country.

      • The wildflower season has been quite decent. Our lakes are finally filling up.
        I hope Lake Travis is seeing some relief.

  3. Good to meet you, Anna! I am also very interested in practicing in place. I’m in North America, but the climate here does not “quite” match that of the Wheel of the Year. Not to mention there’s no farm around here! I’m in very typical suburbia, but am excited that we are beginning the process to change our drastically inappropriate landscaping for a native garden. I hope to feature lots of perennial edibles and bee/wildlife habitats. I can’t wait to have rituals inspired by the native world of my own yard.

    • When my family and I moved into our current home, our backyard was covered with English ivy. In Central Texas. On limestone, at the foot of the Edwards Plateau. Where the land has been in severe drought for years. Once it stopped receiving massive amounts of precious water, the ivy died, of course. We’ve since planted grasses, trees, and perennials appropriate for this climate. Now our backyard serves as a home base for my spiritual practice, where I can observe the change of seasons from the same location throughout the year. Enjoy your gardening! Thanks for reading.

  4. Yay! I’m excited to read more of your posts. We’ve just been granted a community garden plot and our family is really enjoying getting dirt under our fingernails. On our walk to and from school there are five giant trees that my boys and I greet with thanks every day (two yellow poplars, two elms, and one that I don’t know what is). This simple place based practice has done more to get me out of my head than almost anything else I’ve done. Thank you for your thoughtful writing, it lies directly along the path I’d like to take.

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