It’s been really interesting moving from the beaches to the mountains. My family and I moved up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains from the Northern Beaches of Sydney recently. It’s quite a change. I was brought up with the beaches. It was my sacred land – still is I guess – but now I’m learning the magic of a new place. Instead of finding peace in the pounding ocean waves that washed away the stress and left me feeling competent and ready to deal with any of life’s challenges, now I feel a similar sense of the power of the bush, the beauty of the rain and the waterfalls, the power of the wind and the immense cliffs and vast views into the distance. I feel the stresses of life eased with the cool breeze and being immersed in the forest, and the sense of competency now comes more from my work in the garden, or my bushwalks out into the wilderness. I had these feelings near the beaches too. There was a lot of bush there as well, but with the lack of the ocean I’ve had to find an even deeper relationship with the forest and its been lovely.
The journey is also being deepened by the chance to start studying the local wheel of the year here in a new place. It’s exciting and I am finding myself in much the same place as I was when I began my research for my book Pagan Portals – Australian Druidry: Connecting with the Sacred Landscape. It’s a journey of discovery that will take many seasons and many cycles to uncover. In my book I have explored ways that we can work on creating a local wheel of the year of seasonal celebrations. By exploring the cycles of our local plants, animals and weather patterns, we can come to find ways of celebrating nature that are unique to our own little part of the world.
Living on the Northern Beaches most of my life, I came to have a good understanding of it’s cycles and seasons and the nuances that occurred in drought times and times of rain. I developed an in depth Wheel of the Year that I share with you in the book. I believe that wheels of the year like this can be made for any part of the country, and indeed the world. Every location has its story to tell, and by recognizing that story and choosing to move into alignment with it through ritual and celebration we can find healing and direction in our own lives.
So, here in the mountains it has been really different! I think the seasons as I knew them well have been at least three months out of alignment. There is a much longer winter here and summer, so far at least, has felt more like spring on the northern beaches. In my coastal wheel of the year this is a time I call Barkfall, moving into the Fire Festival. Barkfall is marked by the shedding of the bark of many of the eucalyptus trees, particularly the angophoras or Sydney Red Gums. Here in the mountains however, I haven’t seen any bark fall yet and at times the weather has been pretty chilly. Tomorrow we are expecting a top of 14 degrees and it’s nearly the summer solstice!
There’s a lot to learn about a new place. There are new kinds of trees and animals to become familiar with, new seasonal changes to experience, different kinds of foreign plants and trees too as well as the different native varieties. The wind can come from a different direction. The seasonal dangers change and also the things we are grateful for. This all means a shift in the kind of rituals we might need to practice. It’s all a journey of learning and of relationship with the land, and it’s one I’m very glad to be on at the moment.
This last weekend I held my first circle for Druids Down Under in the mountains. I wanted to spend a few months getting to know the spirits of the land here before I held a group ritual, so it has taken me quite a few months to get back into holding circles. It was a lovely group and a nice afternoon in the community gardens here in North Katoomba. We celebrated both the sense of the sun’s heat bringing dryness and a need for renewal, as well as the flourishing life of the fruiting trees and gardens around us. We asked for cleansing through fire energy as symbolized by the bushfire season, and in our ritual we used incense to clear our energy, as well as drumming and some beautiful hand painted clap sticks. We each took a turn to be cleansed and meditate on the inspiring energy of the sun as the solstice is just around the corner. The sun representing light, inspiration and insight. It was lovely to feel into this new space with a group of people -some old friends, some new. I’m looking forward to the next event I will hold here in February. See the Sydney Druids Down Under Facebook group for details if you’d like to join us in exploring the season.