I worry about the kind of Druid work (or similar in other traditions) that revolves primarily around the imagination. I’ve commented before that we may be too quick to assume that the fruits of our own minds are indeed full-on shamanic journeys, and to ascribe external meanings to internal desires. Paganism, in its various forms, is nature based religion. What happens if you explore that by staying in your living room and imagining nature? The odds are you get something safe, romantic and comfortable that conforms to your expectations, and derives solely from what you already know. If you don’t normally get out much, what you already know might not amount to much.
However, the flip side of this is that not everyone is in a position to go out. Not all places provide wild spaces to safely wander in. Not all people are equally capable of being out and about. Any good practice can flex to accommodate pretty much everyone who might want to use it, so an approach to Druidry that demands being under the open skies excludes those who really aren’t able to leave the house, and that doesn’t work.
Nature does not have to be ‘away’. There is a fallacy in viewing nature as something distant, exotic and separate from us. If you have access to natural light, and can see it, or feel it, then you are able to engage directly with nature. If you can hear, then an open window will eventually bring you bird song, in all probability. Even in cities, there is singing, and the sounds of wind and rain. There is something to experience and engage with. I’m lucky in that if I open my bedroom window I can hear running water and at night there are owls, loud enough to be audible even with windows shut in deep winter.
We can bring bits of nature indoors. Flowers, plants, pebbles, fossils, dried leaves, nuts, berries, feathers, bones, and so forth. It is not difficult to get nature into the living room. Once you’ve got it, there is something real to engage with, to study, contemplate and learn from. I took some willow wands from a fallen tree. The fuzzy catkins are opening, and tiny roots are forming at the bases of the stalks. Day by day I’ve watched the small changes, and I know things about this kind of willow that I did not know before. As ever, the sheer tenacity of willow inspires me. They do not quit, no matter what happens to them.
I’ve seen a lot of guides in recent years advocating that we imagine inner worlds of nature. We will only make what we know, and if we are encouraged to make those inner realms pretty, charming, safe and clean, then we will. What we too often build inside our own heads is a sanitised version of nature that has more to do with wishful thinking than the world as it is. Do we want escapist fantasy, or do we want to learn? Are we prepared for the shit, decay, pain, chaos and unfairness of the actual world? Or do we want a painting of a forest full of flawless flowers and eternal maidens where nothing ever takes a dump?
Indoor Druidry does not have to mean disconnection or self indulgence. It is entirely possible to keep it real from inside a secure space, so long as you use your imagination to bring in the real stuff, not to replace it.