When the wild gazes back

Often, the validation we talk about and seek in Druidry comes from other humans. Whether that’s through courses, being read, reading something that speaks of your experience too, being witnessed in ritual, or heard in conversation, we tend to look to each other for affirmation. While there are many people who perhaps also look to the gods for affirmation, often what happens with those experiences (based on observation) is that people bring them back to other people for substantiation. Otherwise what you have is ‘unsubstantiated personal gnosis’ and we tend not to feel that’s substantial enough.

The ephemeral, uncertain qualities of deity make them a bit challenging in this regard, and it’s hard to look around for someone who has seen and felt all the same things. However, deity is not the only non-human form of presence a Druid might encounter.

I’ve had a number of very intense experiences recently, where I gazed at nature, and nature gazed back. Urban foxes who made eye contact, or in one case stopped to have a wash, having acknowledged my presence and decided I was not an issue. Deer who are not afraid of me and stop to look, even when they have young ones with them. Several foraging sparrows who hopped towards me and got within a few feet.

There’s an immediacy to encountering a wild creature. Often it’s a significant blessing just to be tolerated for a few moments during which you can get a proper look at them. To have more than that – eye contact, more time, more interaction – depends on a number of things. You have to either be still and quiet, or moving gently enough that the wild thing does not see you as a threat. The more often they see you (as with me and the deer) the more relaxed they can become. They recognise you, and that’s a very powerful thing. Wild creatures have no reason to stay, to tolerate or to interact, unless we give them reason, or make it very easy for them. There’s a measure of how you are in the world to be found in the gaze of something that is free to leave.

In human exchanges we tend to look for word based affirmations. Non-human people won’t give us that, but they do speak with actions, body language and the fact of their presence. For me, this is something that creates a deeper awareness of myself as a physical presence in the world – I can tend to be too much in my head, if I’m not careful. The gaze of a wild thing reminds me that I too am a physical presence.

Once, our ancestors were wild things, too. In finding how to encounter non-human people, we can re-wild ourselves a bit.

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

6 responses to “When the wild gazes back

  • sylvien24

    So, just so, as when a thorn catches your sleeve, and brings you into the moment. Xxx



  • angharadlois

    This post took me right back to my London years, where I was struggling with city life. I got into the habit of walking as much as I could, and found that the longer I walked, the more urban wildlife I would encounter – and the less they seemed to view me as a threat. It felt as though, by walking, I could slip out of our world and be part of theirs for a while; though I suppose, really, it was more a case of moving from an anthropocentric mindset to a slighty re-wilded mindset, acknowledging that both of these worlds coexist, and learning how to establish honourable relationships between them. That was a definite step on the journey to becoming a druid.

  • susannablaauw

    “The gaze of a wild thing reminds me that I too am a physical presence”… This really connected with me (the whole piece did but especially this sentence) and crystallises a sense that until now I hadn’t quite been able to grasp myself.

    I love your thoughts and your writing and often find myself nodding along avidly as I read! Thank you for all that you share.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    In my case, there are certain quail that will eat seeds just a couple of feet from me under a near by bush as I am broadcasting seeds on the ground and at least one cotton tail rabbit that will hop down my yard just a couple of bounds ahead of me.

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