Creating inner landscapes

The Druid meditation of The Sacred Grove is, in part, about creating an inner landscape. Other visualisations exist within OBOD and the wider Druid community that also have that inner landscape aspect, and any pathworking will deliver it too. Inner landscapes can be important tools for reflection, exploration and spiritual experience. There are some who feel they connect us to other worlds, and they can be a useful barometer for how we’re feeling, as well. The limitation is that we construct them fairly consciously, and so they are as likely to reflect our desires as anything else.

Bears, I have noticed, tend not to shit in people’s inner woods so much.

In my late teens and early twenties, I had an incredibly strange and vivid inner landscape when dreaming. There were places I was able to visit repeatedly as well. During my twenties, I lost this, pared down to a tiny inner landscape that was a twisted version of the place I’d grown up. I did not dream widely, or wildly for a long time. If I’d allowed myself to take it seriously, I would have realised what a mess my life was in a good deal sooner.

Over the last few years, the less conscious bits of my mind have started constructing landscapes again. Big, wild landscapes full of detail and possibility. Some of which I am revisiting regularly. It feels like my mind starting to work properly again.

What are these inner landscapes? Some of it, for me, is about relationship with the land I live on. If that relationship is not good, if I am not rooted, then I won’t dream the place. When things are good, strange but familiar versions of the places I spend time will show up in my dreaming. Some of it is to do with my emotional inner landscapes. This is not unrelated to my relationship with the land. I can’t be at ease in a place where I feel no connection and no sense of belonging. How much inspiration I have and how well my imagination is being fed and is able to flourish also contributes to my making of inner landscapes.

Work that focuses on interpretation can encourage us to pull out a few key features and try to decide what they mean. What was that creature in the sacred grove, and what was it doing, and what does that kind of creature signify? As we have, on some level constructed our inner landscapes, be they dreamed or visualised, treating them as a code to crack may be reductive to say the least. If we take a more holistic view of them, they may make more sense. To go into an actual wood and ask ‘what is the meaning of my seeing a deer here?’ is to miss out the deer’s relationship with the wood, the seasons, the food supplies. To take the deer out of context in search of personal meaning can, in real life, allow you to miss what was actually happening. Deer have their own reasons.

To take a deer out of a dream landscape as a symbol, may be interesting, but there are no more guarantees that the symbolic potential was the important bit. Maybe it’s more important to note that your inner wood now has creatures in it. Inner landscapes offer us the potential for a bigger picture, and it pays not to pick them apart and lose our sense of the wood by staring too hard at the trees.

More thoughts on interpretation and dreams here.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. 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 “Creating inner landscapes

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I have weird dreams all the time, often in city settings that are no relationship with places I have been or know about. But they are not dreams that I have understood, but perhaps twice in my life.

    What is curious is some of them put me into what would seem to be dangerous situations and yet I am not ever bothered by the danger, nor particularly worried about it.

  • janecolbourne

    I love the term “inner landscape”. It reminds me of a story I read once about a classroom of children in Australia. They were asked to draw a self portrait. All the white kids drew a face and the Aboriginals all drew a landscape. My inner landscape gives me a good indication of my state of health, energy and also what my needs are at any time.

  • Gwion

    I had a revelation a couple of weeks ago when I read about “anaphasia” and discussed it with my wife. Anaphasia refers to not having a visual memory. The “self-assessment test” given involved closing your eyes and imagining a close friend, then describing how clearly you could see them, what they were wearing etc. I’d always assumed that “visualisation” was a largely metaphorical term, after all when you close your eyes you don’t actually see anything, you just think about what you would (like to) see. Closing my eyes and thinking of my wife of 40+ years doesn’t actually bring a picture into my mind: I only see images with my eyes open. Of course I could describe my wife – I’ve actually known her for almost half a century. It was only when discussing this with her that I realised that she actually meant she could conjure up a “real” picture – apparently even with her eyes open!! The idea that people could imagine “real” pictures was a surprise, I’d just never had occasion to discover that people really meant it literally when they spoke of a mental image.

    No wonder the “sacred grove” meditation doesn’t really do anything for me. Since I can’t bring up pictures of objects I’ve only just been looking at, it’s hardly surprising my mind can’t create whole (imaginary) landscapes. Perhaps it’s just as well I took the OBOD course no further than the introductory pack as I get the impression that visualisation is a standard teaching tool for the course; as it seems to be for much druidic practice. I’d thought the construction of a sacred grove must be similar to the way I remember any image – by describing it to myself mentally in words until I’ve memorised the description. How much easier if one could actually “see” it.

    I do wonder how others who, like me, don’t create “imaginary” images practice their druidry – and how they get on with courses designed for those to whom visualisation seems to come naturally.

    • Nimue Brown

      I have much the same issue, but I did manage to do the OBOD course – not that I could ever really visualise a grove, but I can work imaginatively with other senses a bit, and this last year I’ve settled on a feeling that I am now calling my sacred grove! But yes, it does make things challenging. Many thanks for the technical term – I had no idea there was one.

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