“Underneath the everyday, our daily concerns, and cultural routines, each of us is wild inside,” writes Danu Forest, a traditional Celtic wisewoman, in her book Wild Magic: Celtic Folk Traditions for the Solitary Practitioner.
She goes on to say, “Our consumerist lifestyle strives to take more and more for itself to fill a void within each of us – a void made by our movement away from the wild within ourselves for which there is no compensation.”
The aim of this article is to help you take a step closer to that wilderness and to use the Celtic approach to nature – an inherent respect for the natural world and our place in it – to bring harmony into your life.
Let’s dive in.
1) Build a relationship with the land around you
If there’s one thing you should know about the Celts, it’s that they believed the spiritual and the material world co-existed.
What’s more, nature wasn’t something independent of humans – on the contrary, humans were an inherent part of it.
This is why Forest recommends that you build an intimate knowledge of the natural world in your vicinity, be it the hills behind your house, the park closest to you, or a nearby forest.
Of course, wild and remote places are best because they allow you to form a stronger connection to the wild spirit of nature.
“Really take time learning about the land around you, its flora and fauna, how rivers and springs travel across the land if any, how it changes through the seasons and its patterns of growth and decline, how it responds to different weather and of course, how different areas on the landscape feel.”
The point is to let each bit of land show you its character and energy.
Therefore, you can perform this tradition both by seeking knowledge about the natural world around you and by gaining firsthand experience in nature.
2) Cultivate your awareness of nature
Speaking of firsthand experiences, this second tradition is all about cultivating your awareness while you’re surrounded by the natural world.
The Celts had many nature-related rituals, many of which are lost to time, but they wouldn’t have been able to perform any of them if they didn’t have a strong bond to the land around them.
“Sit out in a spot in nature and try just being there in silence for twenty minutes. Take that time to be still and notice every living thing around you – every plant and tree, every animal and insect. Repeat this once a week or once a day, and repeat the exercise throughout a whole season, or even better, a whole year.”
She explains that once you learn to sit in silence and become aware of the nature around you, the nature itself will get used to your presence, and you’re more likely to see various animals and insects.
And since you’ll be meditating at the same place every time, you might begin to notice that certain birds prefer certain trees, that the movements of animals change with the seasons, and that the forest is brimming with life.
This way, you’ll start to feel like you’re one with nature. It sounds like a simple exercise, yet it will bring a lot of harmony into your life if you try it for long enough.
3) Plant an oak tree in your garden
A famous Celtic symbol is the Tree of Life, which speaks of the inherent balance and harmony of everything in nature. The Tree of Life also symbolizes wisdom, strength, protection, and durability.
This tree is typically an oak tree, which lives for an incredibly long time and has a very strong trunk, and so the Celts would often see oak trees as sacred and treat them as such.
By planting an oak tree in your garden or in the countryside nearby your house, you can replicate this Celtic tradition and remind yourself every day of how important balance, harmony, and inner strength are.
4) Bathe in fresh spring water
This may sound like a strange one, but hear me out. The Celts considered fresh wells and springs to have healing properties, and they often associated them with local spiritual entities.
When you bathe in fresh spring water, you’re drawing in the healing energy while simultaneously enhancing your relationship to true nature.
According to Forest, “We are sensuous, vital beings, yet often the modern world locks us away from the intimate connection between ourselves and the land around us. Reengaging with water sources in a sacred way can return us to this blessed natural state.”
Harmony is all about reconnecting with who you are deep down – and inside each of us, there lies a strong connection to the natural realm and to the way we lived back in hunter-gatherer times.
Bathing in fresh spring water may help you find that harmony within yourself.
And if you don’t feel like bathing, how about meditating next to running water?
Ancient druids used to seek wisdom in the spiritual world by doing exactly that. The sound of running water was thought to tune out the conscious mind and help you access what lies beyond.
5) Learn to forage
One of the best Celtic traditions to bring harmony into your life is to forage for various herbs and make herbal teas, ointments, and essences.
Foraging is a very rare skill nowadays, yet it’s what may help you connect to your roots more than anything – after all, humans used to forage for thousands of years before agriculture was invented.
However, you need to be very careful when foraging. Similarly looking plants may have completely different purposes, and you must always watch out for anything poisonous.
What’s more, try not to take too much at a time so that the nature around you can stay in its harmonious state.
6) Honor a place of your choosing as sacred
Toward the end of Wild Magic: Celtic Folk Traditions for the Solitary Practitioner, Forest describes a beautiful way to connect with nature:
“Find a power place on the land near you and honor it as sacred, even if you feel it isn’t. Clear away rubbish. Protect it from development and pollution. Make ceremony. Treat every living thing in an area as a miracle….”
By turning a seemingly ordinary piece of land into something sacred and worthy of worship, you are acknowledging the power and importance of nature as a whole.
Moreover, your sacred place can become a safe space where you get to meditate, rest, journal, and get to know yourself better.
7) Celebrate the shift between light and darkness
Lastly, ancient Celts used to perform various rituals to celebrate the turn of the seasons.
Solstices and equinoxes played an especially important role because that was when the Celts got to celebrate the shift between light and darkness and the balance of the natural world.
For example, you can cut a mistletoe from an oak tree and offer it as a blessing on the winter solstice. Summer solstices are often celebrated by lighting bonfires, and the spring equinox can be acknowledged by creating an altar.
And if you want to know more about Celtic traditions and Celts themselves, what better way than to read fascinating books about them?
Apart from Wild Magic: Celtic Folk Traditions for the Solitary Practitioner, you can try The Celts: A Very Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe or The Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis.
The best way to reconnect with the Celts and yourself, though, is to spend more time in nature. So put your shoes on and enjoy the great outdoors!