Earth Festivals & Nature Practices
Healing Our Connection with the Planet and Ourselves - In Conversation with Glennie Kindred.
When it comes to the Wheel of the Year, writer and artist Glennie Kindred is one of the most inspiring and renowned voices; her work on our relationship with the Earth has influenced and empowered many.
Author and illustrator of 12 books, Glennie’s loving workcovers native tree lore, herbalism, alchemy, Earth wisdom and Earth’s cycles. I had a conversation with Glennie about the Earth Festivals, as she calls them, and how these simple nature practices can heal the collective wound of disconnect.
Glennie’s journey into the Celtic festivals began 35 years ago, when she first read about the Wheel of the Year;
‘I thought, that’s all common sense, that’s just our connection with seasonal flow, and I was particularly interested in the energy behind it - what is the energy behind Lammas for example? How is that resonating in me?’
In her first book, The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration (handwritten, illustrated, and self published in 1994), Glennie’s framing of the celebrations as simply Earth Festivals was refreshing and unique. From this first published work onwards, she has never used any pagan terminology, mythology, or the word pagan itself, allowing the festivals to be accessible to all, unattached to any belief systems.
‘All I’ve ever spoken about is the underlying energy. I don’t call [the wheel of the year] pagan - I wouldn’t call myself a pagan, I’m just a person connecting to the Earth, and that’s all any of us are.’
I asked Glennie how she would therefore describe the Wheel of the Year and its celebrations: ‘It’s a beautifully constructed system - it’s our year! I think of it as a way of tuning into the seasons and the seasonal shifts, and for us to feel part of the Earth, part of those shifts. And if you celebrate the festivals you have a realsense of the in-breath and the out-breath, the ebb and the flow of life.’
The Lunar Energies of the Festivals
Whilst the 8 festivals of the year have calendar dates, Glennie explained why for some of the celebrations, she goes by the moon, and not the prescribed date: ‘for me the calendar is a Roman invention, and the festivals are about the earth - they’re not about the calendar at all!’
She explained further; ‘the two solstices and two equinoxes are fixed planetary moments, but the fourcross-quarters are, if you like, constructs. They are the points in between,when the energy is just starting to shift. They’re the points at which, if you give yourself the chance to tune in, you become aware of the energetic shift.’
I asked what the correlation was between the celebrations and the moon – is it just a question of honouring the closest lunation to the festival? Glennie discussed the energetic distinctions between the times of year, and the mirroring of the lunar energy.
At the time of our conversation, the energy of Lammas is still lingering; ‘I always feel Lammas is a full moon festival. It has that energy of fullness and outwardness, almost like an achievement. It feels like the Earth has achieved, gone over, and now it’s coming into this fruitful time, and creating the seeds for next year’s harvest. Beltain I also always call a full moon festival – it’s a celebration of the spring, and everything coming out into the world.’
She then described the festivals which she associates with a new moon energy; ‘Samhain I would always celebrate on the new moon, as it’s very much a new beginning as we go into the winter. Imbolc too, I feel is still very inward; we’re still in the winter but we’re just starting to come out, like a new moon, just starting to grow and emerge. And they’re on an axis with each other as well, (as are Lammas and Beltain), which I think is very interesting.’
A Yearning for Connection
There’s an evident resurgence of people plugging into the Earth’s rhythms with these ancient seasonal festivals. What’s been the impetus behind this new wave of people connecting with the Earth in this way?
‘We’ve been seriously disconnected – and controlled really, to disconnect. We’ve been told that the Earth is of no consequence, that we can take what we like. The whole patriarchal system is all about take and use, and now we’re reaping the awful consequences of that.
‘It’s all about relationship, and we lost our relationship with the Earth. We lost the knowing that we were part of it all, and that whatever we did to the Earth we did to ourselves.’
In order to heal this wound of disconnect – Glennie asserted; ‘we have to take back our connection. We have to take back an awful lot of things, but we certainly have to take back our connection and our relationship with the Earth. And that’s certainly one of the things that will help us all to anchor ourselves, to ground, and feel ourselves be part of it, and not disconnected. It’s a healing - a big healing - one of the many.’
In the midst of climate change and the environmental grief felt by many, the benefits of this reconnection run deep – healing more than just our relationship with Earth, healing to our connection with self, in a way that is empowering, re-centring and elevating: ‘We have been controlled, and we need to re-find, reuse, and revalue those inner faculties - our intuition, our instincts, our inner knowing. We know all this stuff! We know how much better we feel when we take time out and spend a bit of time in nature. We know that makes us feel good.’
Glennie’s trust in our inner abilities and wisdom is a hopeful reminder that all we need and seek is within reach, we just have to dig a bit deeper within; ‘It’s the balance between the conscious mind and unconscious mind, and we’ve not given our unconscious mind attention at all. That’s the empowerment, that’s the power we get back. I think if more and more people connected, and really heard their own inner voice, their intuition and instinct, and really spoke up for what they were really feeling,things could change quite rapidly.’
Healing Our Past
The power of Glennie’s earthly wisdom is fortified with an unapologetic frankness. To truly heal, often one has to look to the source of the suffering, and where the illness really began. Glennie went on to penetrate straight to the cause and the source of the disconnect and grief of our current collective experience:
‘I think people are recognising now that the disconnection has caused this dreadful chaos and dreadful harm to the earth, we’ve completely wrecked all of those amazing intricate interconnected systems that have been built up over thousands of millions of years! Just wrecked! By men. And you have to say men, because it’s not the women who are building the dams! And that’s just one example, dam building…’
Beyond the abuse of our planet, a more insidious abuse has been at play: ‘our inner faculties have suppressed – make no mistake, they have been suppressed. and they’ve been suppressed for a reason.’ Glennie explained how the feminine energy within us all has been quietened and disregarded; ‘If we all listened to our feminine attribute of intuition more, we would have alarm bells ringing, going“let’s not do this!” but not only was the feminine voice of women squashed, butthe feminine attributes in men too. Not listening to their intuition, not listening to their instinct, but just ploughing on…’
It’s this abuse that has allowed us to become so far removed from our indigenous wisdom, Glennie emphatically explained, and therefore from our nature connection ,which is fundamentally intrinsic to our being; ‘all that was also a means to control the people, and the people then were into nature and nature connection. People had the connection, because it’s as natural as breathing!’
Thankfully, there is a growing movement of people relearning and reclaiming that nature connection; ‘I think now people are going ‘actually, why am I doing this? and why am I so disconnected from the Earth and the elements, and the beauty around me?’ People are waking up, aren’t they? So that’s why I think these festivals are having abit of a comeback.’
A Personal Practice
I asked Glennie how she personally works with the Wheel of the Year; what’s her practice?
‘For years I’ve had a personal practice of just taking the time out for each festival, writing in my journal,and just looking at where I am. I like to write it down, because you can forget. I often put aside a time for walking, particularly with trees, which are particularly helpful for grounding and feeling what’s going on at an inner level.’
Regardless of what we’re doing, there are ways to focus on the shifting energies of Earth, and to tune in: ‘I might be doing other things, but for that day I’m focused on the festival. What that means for me, what that’s bringing up for me, and I’m outside all day - that’s my criteria. And I think that’s what the festivals do for us – they give us a reason, an excuse if you like, to put aside some time for you and your relationship with the earth. And so we feel we’re a part of the Earth - we feel our connection to the Earth.’
Glennie’s ultimate suggestion to those keen to start connecting with the 8 seasonal shifts of the year is simple: ‘Sit with a tree, or sit by a river - rivers are also good for that because of the flow, they help your thoughts to flow. That would be my suggestion, and just to walk - if you’re in the city, then walk in the park - or by the canals, the canals are great sources of wild in the city. And just write. Write what’s coming up from your depths.’
Marking the festivals in this way also addresses our individual internal need for these introspective moments of timeout: ‘Life is not always about being full outwardly and achieving, and nor should it be. We need those times of going in and resting, and taking some time to listen to our inner, our inner voice.’
All we need to ensure is the right setting for true stillness: ‘Leave your phone behind for a few hours!’ Glennie adds; ‘Take the watch off (I’m old fashioned, I still wear a watch) leave the watch behind! Often it starts off with much busyness in the mind, but then just try breathing – it’s that whole thing of learning how to be still.’
Power in Unity
Community has also been a big element of how the festivals have been celebrated historically; ‘in the past all of these festivals were big community gatherings,’ Glennie notes, ‘I’ve been quite a lone connector, but I am part of a women’s group. There are 5 of us, and wedo meet together, and get out and go out at dawn - see the sunrise and all those sorts of things, just so simple but so so wonderful…’
Glennie goes on to speak about the power of community, and why we’re drawn to congregating at these moments of ouryear; ‘I think there’s great power in people gathering together and sharing their hearts, and their feelings about what’s happening to the earth. Whether it’s the grief or the wonder, I think it’s a very powerful thing to do.’
Her final word of advice is reassuring and affirming – Glennie reminds us that we don’t need elaborate ceremonies, rituals, or accessories to tune into the festivals; really, we have all the resources we need within us, and in togetherness:
‘I would say to people, get together - even if it’s only a few people - get together and share and create a ceremony, even if you don’t quite know what to do… I never knew what to do, I just followed my heart and my intuition. But actually, it is just a really natural thing to do. Share food, share feelings, share heartspace, and get out in the land. It’s so simple, isn’t it?! I’m a big one for simple things, simple connection.’
Francesca is a freelance writer and editor based in London.
Her interests have always kept her orbiting the realms of wellbeing, self development and community wellness, and she previously worked as a vegan chef, travelling around Europe and the UK cooking on retreats and events.
Francesca’s work is inspired by ancient wisdom and modern tools, patterns of the natural world and human nature, and a quest for holistic balance.