Yearning For Wildness

Yearning For Wildness September 6, 2023

I’m yearning for wildness.

Those of you who know me in person are probably confused. Those who know me well are probably laughing. I’m one of the most order-obsessed people I know. I’m not afraid of risk, but I’m very good at assessing risk and knowing how to bet. Or more often, deciding I don’t like the odds and refusing to play the game. Chaos frustrates me. It’s not a coincidence that the only deity I call by name in my daily morning prayer is Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Justice and of Order.

To be honest, I’m a bit confused myself.

But the fact remains: I’m yearning for wildness.

photo by John Beckett
A path through a local greenbelt park. A good and helpful place, but not exactly wild.

I’m not looking for thrills. My teenage years are long gone and you couldn’t pay me enough to revisit them. Not that my teenage years were all that thrilling – I learned risk assessment at a very early age and I have zero regrets about being cautious. It kept me from making mistakes I couldn’t afford to make.

And in any case, this isn’t about taking risks. If it was, I could go to Las Vegas and gamble more than the trivial amounts I played with when I’ve been there in the past. Or I could go buy a fast car and take my chances with the radar guns… or go find a track and drive at speeds where one mistake would be painful on multiple levels.

This is more complicated than chasing an adrenaline rush. This is more primal than trying to beat the clearly defined (if not always well-known) odds in a game of chance.

If I’m feeling nostalgic about anything from my youth it’s having the woods 20 feet outside my back door. Yes, they were small enough I was never in any danger of getting truly lost, but they were big enough to feel wild. They were wild, in their own way: unmarked, unmanaged, uncultivated.

The paths through the woods in the local greenbelt parks are nice. But it’s hard to feel like you’re experiencing the wild when you’ve got the sounds of an expressway overloading you. I can’t see it, but I can’t help but hear it.

Something else I hear are my ancestors. They think I don’t know how good I have it. For them, “the wild” was a daily reality. Not just the randomness of life, but storms, animals, diseases, other humans – all those things that could come crashing down on you at any minute and injure or kill you, your family, your whole community. I benefit from the work they did to build the fences that keep wild things safely on the other side.

I’m thankful for their work. I’m glad I live in an era of antibiotics, vaccines, and general anesthesia, in a place that hasn’t seen war on its home soil in my lifetime, in a time that has the internet, intercontinental air travel, and air conditioning.

And I still yearn for wildness.

Our species is perhaps 200,000 years old. We’ve been civilized (literally, living in cities) for 10,000 years at most. Or at least some of us have. We’ve been living in an industrial society for 300 years, and in the “information age” for perhaps 50.

Evolution moves slowly – we are not yet adapted to civilization. The roots of the wild are still very much in us.

The wolf and the dog both howl at the moon.

photo by John Beckett
The Moon in Waite-Smith, Tarot de Marseille, Robin Wood, and Celtic Tarot

Is that what I need? To go howl at the moon? That may be a good start, but it’s not that simple.

I think part of it is Cernunnos. The God of the Wild only tolerates my obsessive orderliness for so long, and then he pulls me out of my comfort zone. He’s been quiet recently, even when His book finally came out earlier this year. But now I’m hearing whispers and rumblings, not of assignments being handed out but a reminder that there are relationships that need to be remembered, reaffirmed, and strengthened. Not because there’s an environmental crisis that’s being ignored (although there is) but because these relationships are part of who and what we are as Pagans, as witches, as humans… And also, because we won’t be able to do anything about the crisis without the relationships to sustain us.

Whatever the source, I’m yearning for wildness.

You can’t build a life based on order, in a society that demands order, and then flip a switch and have wildness show up on your doorstep. Well, I suppose you could, but the consequences would be severe. And at the end of the day, I don’t want to live in chaos. I don’t want to live in 1850. I certainly don’t want to live at the beginning of the last ice age (≈100,000 years ago).

I don’t need to regress from being a dog to being a wolf. I just need to find a better way to howl at the moon.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going here. But I know where I need to start. More time outside, even now in this blasted Texas summer that won’t end. More magic, especially the magic of stones and herbs. More divination. Tarot is a product of high civilization, but it connects to something far, far older. And more time in communion with the God of the Wild.

Beyond that? We will see.

This isn’t a crowdsourcing post – I’m not looking for suggestions. I’m definitely not looking for advice. But I might be looking for people who are feeling the same thing, more or less.

How are you feeling? What are you doing? How’s it working?

What does your body say you need?

What does your soul say you need?

How can you take a step in that direction?

As for me, I’m yearning for wildness.

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