I don’t know about you, but one of the most common questions I get from non-pagan folk is “What do you actually do?” There’s a Pagan version of this question too that goes something along the lines of “What’s your practice like?” The inquiry might seem simple enough, but the answer is a bit more complicated and nuanced. I hold that everything I do is part of my magical practice and so how do I parse out which pieces are more magical? How would I start to define my practice? What might I share with someone new to Paganism and what would I choose to keep silent about?
A big part of my practice revolves around telling stories. I love telling stories. I tell stories about the gods. I tell stories about the magical adventures I find myself wrapped up in. I tell stories about workshops and rituals and WitchCamps and festivals and that one time at Pantheacon in the Green Fairy Absinthe suite when…Well, you get the idea. Stories are kinda my thing. If you’ve got five minutes, and by five minutes I mean an hour, I’ve got a tale to tell you that has something to do with Magic.
Interestingly enough, I don’t just share these stories with people. Several years ago I started sharing my adventures with my local forest. It’s become a treasured part of my regular practice. Here’s how it goes.
I visited the Boreal Forest in Alberta, Canada this past September. The trees are quite different there than what I’m used to in Northern California. Maples, Birches and Trembling Aspen. Cottonwood, White Balsam and Poplar. There was a mossy undergrowth that was so thick, it felt like I was walking on a sponge. The trees appeared to grow in neat, well-spaced rows. I could peer deeply into the woods. The orderly nature of the trees can be deceiving though, I walked just a couple of hundred steps and everything began to look very much the same. There wasn’t that one, big Redwood stump or fallen Oak tree to use as a landmark. The woods closed around me pretty quickly.
I made a promise to the Boreal forest that I would bring their stories back home with me and that I’d share them with the trees I know. Here’s how that part works:
I walk in my favourite wooded spots. I describe the trees that I met. I share what I’ve been told, what I felt in the moment, the colours of the leaves and bark, the rich scents of the duff, the sounds of the birds and critters, all of it. I say it out loud, just like I would if you and I were having a conversation about a mutual friend I’d just visited.
Call me an eccentric romantic or tree-hugging weirdo or whatever you like, but I have a sense that the trees enjoy my company too. I often come away with the notion that I’ve heard “Gwion! Good to see you again. Where have you roamed since the last time we talked?”
As long as I’m hearing from the trees, I’ll keep telling stories. After all, one never knows what one can learn, just by sitting and listening to those we find ourselves in the company of.