About this time last year, I had a profoundly powerful dream: one which I am still unpacking, and have every reason to believe I will continue to unpack for quite a long time to come. At the time of the dream, I was reading Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft- Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche and had begun learning about the different ways to live a more soul-guided life. As a result of my reading, I began to work on my dream, while simultaneously cultivating an appreciation for ceremony and ritual; practices that Plotkin puts forward as symbolic ways to communicate with the sacred other. I performed my first, self-designed ceremony in response to the dream I had, as a means to bring the symbolism of the dream into my waking life, and to send a message back to the source of the dream: the unconscious, or the realm of the soul. The experience was incredibly moving, and even today, continues to guide me in the direction of soul. I believe ceremony is a powerful way of dialoguing with the sacred other, and a means to express something that is otherwise not tangible: almost as a way of completing a circle.
Today I performed another personal ceremony: although this time it was not in response to a dream. Lately, on my regular walks though the forest, I have been highly attuned to the sacredness of nature, almost as though experiencing it in a heightened state of awareness. These experiences have been dominated by intense feelings of awe and wonder at the magnificence of all that surrounds me, to the extent that I almost feel as though I am wandering through a magical forest on a planet never previously seen by the human eye. I have felt a strong spiritual connection with the natural world and today I felt the need to open a dialogue with it, by performing a ceremony to honour its sacredness.
So I set off through the forest along a scant kangaroo trail, and along the way I picked up things that I was drawn to: although I was not entirely sure what I was going to do with them. I gathered up a long, narrow paddle of sun-hardened bark from a messmate gum, followed soon after by a slightly curved scroll of manna gum bark, and two fine-grained sticks: bent in an arc and worn smooth by the forces of nature and the passage of time. All the while, I stopped here and there, feeling the forest through all my senses and marvelling at the lavish display of fecundity spread out all around me. I came to a clearing, of sorts, where tall stands of grass were in places bent over in waves, and where they fell, at the base, they were matted and moulded smooth by the bodily contours of kangaroos, when they nestled there, resting in the warmth of the sun.
It was here that I stopped, threw off my pack, and lay my findings down across the width of two long, weathered logs, bleached almost bone-white by the sun. I knew then that I was going to make a wrapped bundle with my findings: a sacred offering of nature’s bounty to be sent back to the source, encased with prayers of gratitude and exaltation. I lay the rigid bark-paddle down first, then placed the scroll of bark on top. On to that, I lay the curved sticks, followed by a bunch of Lomandra stems: their tips the colour of early Spring, and their ends white and bulby like Spring onions.
I snapped off a small branchlet of eucalyptus, its soft new growth attracting the first caterpillars of the season, then wandered off through the trees to find an offering of wattle and a sprig of cassinia.
Lastly, I added a dainty little spray of hovea: the vibrant purple bouncing off the glow of the wattle. I gathered some long strands of grass and began saying my prayers of thanks as I bound my little parcel together, securing my words firmly into the fibres as I went.
When my bundle was complete, I marked off a quadrant of ground: as flat as I could find, and bordered it with some weathered logs: each corner facing a cardinal direction.
I stepped inside the quadrant and began a slow, moving meditation (almost like Qi Gong), to the sound of Native American Indian chanting from my ipod. My movements were fluid and sensual: an expression of how I felt about the wildness and sacredness of nature, and I felt myself unleashing my desire to interact with it on an almost primordial level. As I danced, I gave thanks to all things around me that were other-than-human, and acknowledged how truly precious nature is, and how much it nourishes my soul.
When I was done, I gathered up my wrapped bundle and placed it gently in the fork of a weathered gum tree: in a slightly cavernous space where the trunk split in two, and where darkness spilled forth into the light.