I have been writing at the new Patheos Pagan Chanel blog: A Sense of Place. It has taken me into a deeper exploration and understanding of my own connection to the geography around me, what constitutes “home”, and what various places mean to my spirituality and to my practice as a witch.
Because it was such a sunny morning here in Cork, I went out for a run. As I passed the gate, leading into the pasture where the Ring Fort lives, I noticed a sigh. “blah, blah, Cork County Council…blah, blah…..planning permission for..blah, blah, ….a residential structure.”
The man who bought the pasture– from the family whose relations originally farmed it and lived in our stone house (that pasture had once been part of the farm belonging to the house we live in), a family whose relations had preserved the ring fort in tact (a fate not shared by two others on this ridge)–was now giving it to his daughter to build a new house. Right. Next. To. The. Ring.
Several things flooded my mind as I read the sign. First, that the new owners show an incredible lack of regard for folk tradition. In years past, no one in their right mind would have lived so near one of “their” dwellings (ring forts were seen as dwelling places of the Good Neighbors, and there were/are many prohibitions concerning them). This seeming lack of regard immediately had me concerned for the preservation and welfare of the ring. Secondly, I felt the trauma of losing my family farm all over again.
I am sure I have written here before about growing up on a farm in Texas. My experience of and deep connection with that Place forever shaped my present incarnation. Many times I have admitted that instead of human parents rearing me, it was actually the land. Nature herself, in all her forms, took a wild heathen thing, who used to run barefoot from sunup to sundown, and shaped her into the woman I am today. When my father got control of the farm, he sold it: bit by bit. While I know his actions were influenced by his Bi-Polar disorder, the loss devastated me.
So today, reading a simple white sign staked into the ground by the stone wall, I was struck once more with my own Solastalgia (Albrecht, 2010a): my own grief, pain, and trauma caused by the loss of Place. My post on Patheos this week was about snakes and sovereignty–specifically musing on the very local and immediate connection the ancient Irish kings had with Place. The right to rule, here in Ireland, was bestowed by a female agency and was intimately bound to the immediate environs of that tuath (The tuath was the basic unit of society and was based on kin grouping. At one time, there were up to 300 tuath in the country.). The king, then, was sovereign over his very specific Place–and nowhere else, as each tuath was independent (apart from occasional alliances, etc).
I no longer have a place. Uprooted and tossed on the wind, like many in western culture, I am a migrant. I am forced to carry my Place within me. This is both lonely and liberating. I learned, out of necessity and natural inclination, the tools to connect with my surroundings. These have served me well, as I have traveled–moving from place to place–the entirety of my adult life. And it occurred to me, reading the sign today and feeling the instant desire to flee so I don’t have to witness the infringement on the ring, that I’ve been running from deep connection my entire life.
Maybe we all do. In America, society has become disposable. Forces outside our immediate control have power and sway over our lives. So, whether due to economic or political forces, many are compelled into a migrant lifestyle, seeking work or fleeing destruction (another shopping mall or parking lot, anyone?). In ages past, we were subject to the power of a chieftain or tribal ruler. But at least that king was kin, and his domain–our domain–the same Place our ancestors had lived, perhaps for millennia.
Now market forces rule, and kingship is given to the profit margin.
I hurt…and because I can’t bear the loss of another Place, I will migrate once again. My face is turned toward the city. It seems my Fate is intimately bound with it. My academic interests include the psychological stress of urbanisation. It seems fitting, doesn’t it?
Albrecht, Glenn. (2010, May 22). TEDxSydney 2010 was organised by General Thinking. Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/-GUGW8rOpLY