A Pub Walk, Ancient History

The ancestors are all around us. Traces of the ancestors of the past, of those that lived upon this land, whose stories are heard upon the wind, whose lives are still reflected all around us can be still found if we simply open our senses to them.  At this time of year, as at any other time of the year, I walk with the ancestors, yet when Samhain approaches the urgency of their presence seems to fill my mind. I feel such a strong connection to the ancestors, of past, present and future.  A simple walk to the pub reveals the very real existence of the ancestors on the land where I live.

The Suffolk landscape is often synonymous with Saxon culture and history, from the graves at Sutton Hoo to the palace/village/town found in Rendlesham forest. But echoes of those who were here before the Saxons, the Celtic tribes still remain.  Though the term Celtic is currently undergoing much investigation, there is still much evidence of Iron Age life (and even before that) in this landscape from those who lived here, fished these rivers, walked this sandy soil.  When we think of the Celts today, we most often think of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  But here in the East of England the ancestors are all around us, from the history of Boudicca’s uprising to the gentler, untold stories of daily life in the marshes and heathlands that abound in this land.

A simple three mile walk to the pub can reveal a very deep connection to those who have gone before, and who are still present all around us.

With every footstep, we walk with the ancestors.

With every footstep, we walk with the ancestors.

“Hill” where Iron Age burial mounds overlook the heathland

Buried beneath this farmer's field is a henge.

Buried beneath this farmer’s field is a henge.

View of the heath from burial mound.

View of the heath from burial mound.

Site of Iron Age village, half a mile away from the burial mounds and sitting atop a hill, now a farmer's field.

Site of Iron Age village, half a mile away from the burial mounds and stitting atop a hill, now a farmer’s field.

Walk lightly in Spring, for the Earth is pregnant

The light is growing – each and every day, the sun sets a little further along the horizon.  Though it’s still cold, it’s nice to drive home in the light – and light enough to still be able to go for a walk when I get home.  Though walking in the dark is nice, it’s a little difficult where I live unless you carry a torch – there are no lights, no light pollution. It is complete darkness.  Torches kind of spoil it, but they do prevent you from falling in ditches…

I’ve always loved going for walks.  A chance to be alone with nature, to listen and smell and feel the earth beneath my feet.  To walk under the shared space of trees, roots curling around stones hidden beneath the ground.  Feeling the breeze on my face, in my hair.  It’s a form of prayer.

I usually go for a walk a couple of times a week, on my “days off”, ie. days when I’m writing or preparing my dance classes, workshops or performances.  I’ve decided that I’m going to try and take a walk almost every day after work – Mondays and Thursdays are a little tricky sometimes, with work and then classes the same day – but I’m still going to give it a go.  Daily sitting meditation has worked well, and now will try daily moving meditation.

Like my sitting meditation, it is a time to be fully in the moment, to be present in this space and time that I am occupying.  Unlike my sitting meditation, this seems to involve more things, more stimuli, more interaction.  Instead of just sitting on my cushion in front of my altar, listening to the sounds of the house, focusing on my breath, hearing the birds outside, feeling my spine relax, the outdoor walking meditation involves even more interaction, with so many more beings.

Connection is integral to Druidry.  A walking meditation, or an outdoor meditation, for me is the best way to establish this connection, which to me is also a form of prayer.  Prayer is communion, and communion with nature is what it’s all about.  I can walk with compassion through the landscape, honouring the land upon which I live, honouring the people that share that landscape – neighbours walking the bridleway, the dog that always barks as I walk past his domain, the hazel hollow that is dark even on the brightest of days.  Doing this daily is a great opportunity to see the community and landscape as it changes throughout the seasons, and even day by day.

It’s also a great way to de-stress, and centre yourself before you come home.  Doing something physical, even something gentle like walking, will do your body a world of good.  Even only 15 – 20 minutes a day is beneficial.  Yesterday when I entered my home, touching the doorway and saying a prayer as I crossed the threshold, I entered in a completely different frame of mind than if I had just gone from my car to porch.  Tired from work, working through anger in issues of human nature, that walk helped me to resolve everything and made me feel more refreshed and relaxed at the same time.  Simply breathing in fresh air after a day in a stuffy office, the scent of warming earth and woodsmoke on the wind, blew away the cobwebs and gave me inspiration on multiple levels – I now had the way to deal with difficult human problems, as well as more mundane issues.

I am reminded of the Native American proverb – “Walk lightly upon the Earth in the Spring, for she is pregnant…”  We must take care of our planet, our minds and our bodies, and walk with compasion.

I look forward to my walk tonight.