I’ve borrowed my title from a post by Nimue at Druid Life in which she writes feelingly of this sense of belonging as a distinctly Druid idea and as a basis for ethics and practice. “If we belong first and foremost to the land,” she writes,
… then we do not belong to our human communities above all else. We are not the property of the state, or owned by our employers. This affects how we perceive ourselves and our human relationships. We are not owned by the job, or by the demands of human expectations. We belong instead to the land, and consciousness of that allows us not to be ruled so easily by misguided cultural norms, or social pressures. We are also less inclined to see the land itself or anything that lives upon it as property to be owned by humans. We belong to it, it does not belong to us.
I’m not sure I would agree that the sense of belonging is the defining characteristic of Druidry, but I certainly agree that it’s an important one. What I want to point out here is that Nimue lives in Gloucestershire, in southwest England, and I live in Maryland, in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., in North America. The land to which Nimue belongs is not the land to which I belong. The United States of America is an enormous land compared to the island of Britain, but while I have travelled some, I have never lived anywhere but this one city, in this state, not too far from the western edge of the Atlantic.
I think there is a challenge for those of us who are Druids in North America, Australia, South America, or indeed any place but Northern Europe and the U.K. to belong to the land we live in and not imagine we belong to the land our traditions come from. At least, I know it’s a challenge for me, and I imagine I’m not alone. Many of the trees of the Ogham grow in North America as well as Europe, but they are not the same species. The British holly and the local holly are not identical; the British robin and the American robin are two entirely different birds, alike only in their orange bosoms.
I dream of visiting England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. I imagine that I might feel more at home there than I do here, in the only place I’ve ever lived. But unless I actually move to the U.K. (not bloody likely), the land to which I belong is the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and my Druidry has to work with that fact. So I’m working on it.