Belonging to the land

Talking about druidry on this blog recently, I suggested the idea that what defines druids as distinctly different from other pagans, is that druids belong to the land. There was a lot of affirmative feedback on that, so I wanted to come back and consider what that means.

The land is the source of all life, and the basis of most ecosystems (oceans aside). So by focusing on the land we are called to take a longer perspective over living things, ourselves included. The long term wellbeing of the land is essential for all life. You cannot mistreat the land and hope to have life continue unchanged. Mistreating the land is something humans do continually, with no eye to the long term and little sign of any enlightened self-interest even. To be a druid is to speak for the wellbeing of the land, to act with that in mind, to see the deeper connections and the longer time scales.

Belonging to the land also places us specifically in the land we inhabit, along with all of its flora, fauna, history and human activity. Wherever we are, we belong, and it doesn’t matter how often or how far we move, while we are living on the land, we have the relationship and we can hold it consciously. It gives us a starting place from which to explore all the relationships we can have with other inhabitants of the land, and with its history, and future. Belonging grounds us – literally. We have a place to stand – literally again. It is the kind of knowing that gives strength and the ability to endure.

I think the idea of belonging to the land also leads us to relationship with much more immediate manifestations of deity rather than big, distant concepts. We’re more likely to take an animist approach, seeing spirit in all things, to look for the spirits and deities of our places, and to honour deities connected to the land we know. The sacredness of our land and the spirit of it is present to us, however we choose to understand it, and this immediacy feeds into a sense of direct involvement. God is not distant and inaccessible. The gods, the spirits, the divine is here, present, now. It can speak to us with the voices of wind and stream, from the roots of trees and the soil itself. We can glimpse it in the running hare or the soaring bird. These too belong to the land and are part of the same magical relationship that builds reality from one moment to the next.

If we belong first and foremost to the land, then we do not belong to our human communities above all else. We are not the property of the state, or owned by our employers. This affects how we perceive ourselves and our human relationships. We are not owned by the job, or by the demands of human expectations. We belong instead to the land, and consciousness of that allows us not to be ruled so easily by misguided cultural norms, or social pressures. We are also less inclined to see the land itself or anything that lives upon it as property to be owned by humans. We belong to it, it does not belong to us.

You can build a whole ethical framework from the principle of belonging to the land, and have that shape everything that you do. Equally, it is a viable basis for belief. The land does not require our belief, but the idea of its sacredness does, especially when we’re surrounded by people who see only resources to exploit and potential for profit and economic growth. A man on radio 4 this morning described the creation of jobs and wealth as a moral imperative. To me, that’s an absolute nonsense. Making sure there is sufficiency and sustainability are my moral imperatives. That we should have enough, and take no more than constitutes enough, and be careful to properly understand what ‘enough’ means is an ethos far more in line with belonging to the land, than imagining we own it.

I’m barely scraping the surface here but the more I look at it, the more I feel able to define my druidry in this way.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Belonging to the land

  • Belonging to the land « Confessions of an Urban Druid

    […] borrowed my title from a post by Nimue at Druid Life in which she writes feelingly of this sense of belonging as a distinctly Druid idea […]

  • Helgaleena Healingline

    When I married a Native American, and had my offspring baptized into the Native American Church, I felt that it was the Druid thing to do. They belong to a Nation that was ‘removed three states away from their ancestral lands, from which their mythology asserts that they emerged, at the Red Banks of Green Bay. They have no ‘reservation’ here because they continually returned, often being shipped away again at gunpoint, until they managed to homestead their original lands bit by bit. All tribal lands in our state have been purchased by tribal members and donated back to their Nation.

    What drove them to this behavior? It is extreme sense of belonging to this particular landscape, to these bluffs and forests and waterways, for thousands of years.

    When I was a little child, I belonged to the land of my grandparents, which was a dairy farm. Now when I go back there, it is no longer my land. I have eaten and drunk too much Wisconsin water and produce grown on Wisconsin soil. My land is where my Grove is.

  • Solitary Druid

    “Belonging to” might not be how I would say it, but I couldn’t agree more with the premise. Thanks.

  • Ştefy

    Amazing!!Simply amazing!Yes we belong to the Earth not the Earth to us.It pisses me off when someone says “This land is my property” and also the laws which those in poweruse to control us annoy me to the bits.What do you mean we have to get passport and pay if we want to travel across the seas and the mountains or if we want to move to another side of the planet?Birds are free to fly,so are insects.We are slaves to the governments,to those in power.Belonging to the Earth is freedom,whereas being controlled by the govts/system is slavery.I wish and pray people would wake up to their true nature,that of Earth’s children,and return to the old and sacred ways of living.

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