[Author’s note: this was originally published in the Hearthstone Community Church newsletter, 02/2015]
There are a number of practices, available through books or association, that have specific sacred wilderness activities.
If you are lucky enough to have an established and specific practice you may need no further information.
But if you are interested in adding a sacred wilderness practice to your path I can offer some practical suggestions.
First and foremost, put safety first. As I am fond of saying, having heard it from my first high priestess, “Above all witchcraft is a practical religion.” I’m not sure where she got it but those are words to live by.
Always carry drinking water, more than you think you need. Dress in or carry layers. Carry a first aid kit that you know how to use. If anyone asks you about hiking with the sacred here in Colorado, start with those three things.
Do less. A sacred wilderness practice presumes that you are trying to be in communion with the Divine and not trying to set a personal best for hiking. Both are great but very different goals. Put your effort into getting up before the sun or making sure you have a good first aid kit, or getting like-minded others to join you.
So choose a hike that seems easy for you, one with trees, and possibly a river or creek nearby. You may need to get up before dawn or go on a weekday to get a little privacy but it will be worth it.
Find, or return to a spot that you feel good in. This could be a scenic overlook, a picnic table by a river, or a comfortable place at the base of a tree.
Stop there. If you have some invocation that offers you protection or opens you up to your connection with the Divine then this is the time to pull that out and read it, or recite it from memory. A practical effect of this is that it helps the symbolic mind to shift gears.
Take a deep breath and begin to notice without judgement all of the aspects of this place. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Be fearless. Reject nothing. If you can see power lines, so be it. If you can hear traffic, be aware of that. This place is sacred, just as it is. If you like, close your eyes and become aware of your own feelings as you settle in this natural space that you are a part of. If you are feeling grounded and comfortable become aware of that sensation so that you can draw on that memory when you need some grounding later.
Spend as much time as you like in this space, as long as you are comfortable and safe.
When you feel ready, you can read or recite a closing invocation or expression of gratitude, or of connection. Close your sacred experience like a well loved book so that you can carry it back with you into your mundane life, and be appropriately alert on the trail returning.
Either while you are in your sacred practice or afterward drink some fresh water and have a trail snack. As we nourish and care for ourselves we nourish and protect the world we live in.
I suggest that you not go alone and that you make sure that someone who is not going with you knows where you intend to go and when you intend to come back.
I hope that this helps open the doors to adding our magical connection to the natural world to your own magical practice.