Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Residential History

Someone posted a question at one of the fora I frequent about the impact where we grew up has had on our present life as a pagan. I have written about the effect of my past on this blog before in "On Revelations", but I have not thought about the areas in which I resided as being significant.

I was raised in the tropics of the southern hemisphere. I did not know what a cardigan, sweater or jumper was until I was eight years old, when we moved to the sub-tropical capital of my state and temperatures dropped below 20 degrees celsius. We had two seasons in the tropics: wet and dry. Even in the dry season, you could count on rain in the afternoon at least once a week - it was daily in the wet season - the type of heavy, hot rain that soaked you through to your underwear in under two minutes.

As a child, my family lived in a tin shed on a remote island in the Gulf of Carpenteria amongst the indigenous people, though I remember little of this, on a tropical island getting about on Mini Mokes (based on the Jeeps of WWII), on dusty, vast remote cattle stations, at my grandmother's house in a railway oasis on the tracks to a distant mining community in the desert and on the edge of suburbia in a large, armed forces town. Mostly, we were never far from bushland and the dangers that lurked within (fears my mother instilled in me), and we had the odd poisonous snake cause concern, plenty of jellyfish to keep us from swimming in the oceans and a few spiders who liked biting people in awkward places.

What I remember most the places we lived was the stifling heat - sticky and draining. I remember we did not have air conditioning and the temperature was frequently over 32 degrees celsius and you could wake up in a pool of your own sweat in the mornings. I don't remember the cyclones, even though I've seen the pictures of me on horseback with the flood waters lapping at my sandals, though I do remember our neighbours losing their roofs. I remember playing in the gutters in the pouring rain, making boats and watching them go down the drain, which was big enough to fit five grown men. How we never went down it ourselves, I don't remember.

When we settled down in the southern, sub-tropical capital, the heat was less intense (we had three seasons); it rained with less frequency and sometimes it drizzled; but the storms increased. They changed to aquamarine-coloured, hail infested, thunderclapping bursts. Instead of the rain lasting for hours, you'd get a flash storm - one caused just as much damage as the cyclone we had experienced in the north and, though our house remained untouched, we had the possessions of neighbours (near and far) strewn about our front and back yards - rather than continous, pelting rain that lasted for hours.

Strangely enough, I come alive during a storm. I used to love watching them roll in over the ocean towards us, counting the time between lightening flash and thunderclap. Eventually, I would clamber home and listen to the tapping of rain on the galvanised tin roof. The smell was awesome, too. Heavy, thick and delicious. I never had a fear of them like others did.

The other place I felt alive was by the ocean. I have a fear of going in the water - the result of someone attemping to drown me once - but being on it or by it revives me. Most of my childhood was spent within 10 minutes drives of the ocean. Down south, there was only a wetland area between us and the beach and, if a storm was forecast, it was a two minute drive to the oceanfront. I still enjoy just wading in the sea, feeling the will of the waves as they hit my legs, listening to the sound of the ocean as it sings is soothing song. True, sometimes its loud when storms rip it up, but mostly its quiet and there is strength in its whispers.

For all of this, I never felt at home in the bush or natural areas of my homeland. Even less so in the cities, even though they have their own energies. I just knew I did not belong to that land; I was an intruder. Having watched many programmes made in the land of my ancestors, I knew that I had to try and emigrate in order to feel "at home". I wanted the experience of four seasons and the different energies of each. I wanted to spend time in those lush, green places and those wet autumnal woods, bursting with colour. I could almost sense the clean, crisp energy of frosty winters and I yearned for them. By the time I was fourteen years of age, I felt the overwhelming draw of the countries where my ancestors once lived. It would be eleven years before I made the journey, and another eighteen months before I found my footing, but I was home. Finally, I could start to seek out my true spiritual connections on the land of my ancestors.

So, did my childhood have an impact? Yes. Whilst I could work with the energies of the land of my birth, I always felt like I was stealing or intruding in some way; I felt alienated. I could never find a place where I was happy. Though there was one spot I felt to which I felt some connection, by the time I returned five years later, it had changed and, once again, I felt abandoned by the genius locii.

Once I travelled to England, Ireland and, finally, Scotland, I found the energies more familiar, and was able to expand my practices. That feeling of not belonging to the bush, the city and, finally, the country in its entirety was gone and I felt free to follow my own path without stepping on the toes of local spirits. Not only did I break away from the beliefs of my family, but I was able to explore my own spiritual leanings without feeling inhibited by place. I found myself opening up simply because of my location.

True, I work in the city, but I feel most at home in the countryside and more remote areas of the United Kingdom. Wild areas near the seas are still a favoured spot for me. If I can hear the waves, I am at peace. So, that connection from childhood remains, but I still prefer moodier weather, such as rain, mist, fog, freezing snow than the sun. Here, though, I am happier outdoors exploring the woods and wildlife than I ever was in my land of birth. The spirits seem to accept me.

I still get excited by storms, like the one of yesterday - so much energy just waiting to be absorbed - and I still feel the pull of the ocean and I know, one day, I will have to move so that I am right on the sea. For the moment, though, I can work with my current location.

My childhood experience has taught me the importance of place. I think I have an understanding of the sacredness of land, and the importance of relationships with the genius loci simply because of the disconnection I felt as a child to the spirits of my homeland. I think, too, that this alienation spurred me on to seek out the spiritual traditions of my ancestors, as well as the traditions of the area in which I live.


Miss Robyn said...

about 6 months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with an indigenous Australian who was a healer,a shaman... and i told him of my lack of connection with this land..how I felt like an intruder, an alien... he said that we ALL belong here, once we accept that, that is when we will feel like we belong.. so that is what I have decided to do... the past week, I have felt a strange connection, like I have to defend this ancient land.. I am even considering travelling to the Olgas... yes, it is hot but our sea is gorgeous in summer.. the best in the world... and those storms! even the wind... and where I live.. the land is ancient, quiet and wise.. alot of knowledge lays hidden here, I hope to tap into it somehow.
did you ever hear of A Sunburnt Country? describes Australia perfectly, I think :)

Ancestral Gael said...

Yes. There is that famous poem, "My Country" by Dorothea McKellar with the famour stanza:

"I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

I had a lot of contact with the indigenous population growing up, as my father had made great friends in various communities through his work. He still has many ceremonial items that were given to him as gifts. I was lucky to be given a rudimentary education in indigenous culture as a child. I have a great respect for the land and the people who've inhabited it for thousands of years.

There is a lot of knowledge there, but I know its not my place to siphon it. The gentleman you met may have given you that advice and it may be fine from the POV of his people, but I know from growing up there are many who would take a different POV, mostly because of previously bad experiences.

I'm not saying that I was made to feel unwelcome, not at all, but that something inside of me told me I belonged elsewhere.

I can honestly say I made the right choice for me.