The Temple and the Hedge

My personal paganism is situated in two contexts: the temple and the hedge. I’m not fully, exclusively, a part of either. I’m not fully, completely, a part of both. I draw comfort and inspiration and instruction from both.

In the past I’ve been very hedge oriented, lots of outdoor time, lots of time spent looking at the sky and the trees and the dirt and the water. Lots of encounters with the wild things that go about their business without our knowledge. I miss the hedge, sometimes painfully. I miss how easy it was to step into the Otherworld when close to those powers.

These days I’m very temple oriented. It’s been this way for several years, since I’ve been living in urban areas in spaces with lots of other people in the same space. I’ve come to appreciate the fine art of altar keeping and the cycle of activity and rest that a temple keeps. There is some work that is exceptionally well-suited to temple spaces; my work with Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari Sodashi Kamakhya is one example. It would be hard to manage all my tools in a wild space and it’d be hard to maintain the fussy ritual purity that much of this work requires. (This isn’t to say that wild spaces are impure, but they have different energies and those energies are not always terribly conducive to this particular work at this particular time.) Additionally, the tantric tradition I’m a lay member of (that is, not initiated) has a strong temple orientation, based as it is on the Shakti Pitha system (though the pithas are typically natural formations there is a system of temples that has sprung up at these sites to accommodate the needs of worshipers). Yeah, there’s some tantra that’s performed in various wild and lonely places but I’m not anywhere near that stage with my practice.

I love the hedge. I miss the hedge. I miss the things that live there. (“The things,” said Ford, “are also people.”) My beloved plant allies are often on my mind which I suppose indicates that I’m still on theirs. There were several reasons why I stopped doing that work. A big part of it was being at college, living in a dorm, dealing with a part time job and a full time class load. Another significant part was being away from the plants themselves. I had a healthy crop of belladonna for a while and later a little datura plant but they gradually died. I have a mess of seeds another plant worker gave me a long time ago but I haven’t had much luck getting anything to grow; I’m going to try again in the next couple months, though. I also had to focus intensely on another very different aspect of my work and didn’t have the time or energy or attention for the kind of rigorous practice the plants require. Someday though.

I think about moving back to the country, back to the desert. I miss the dryness and the expanse and the unbearable light and the colors. Maybe someday I will live in a more rural area. I think I’d like it a lot but I’d have to work out things like reasonable employment, cell reception, reasonable access to the health care I need, and stuff like that. I’d also like to be not too far away from an urban center where I could go places and do things when I want to. I like cities – well, I like the one I live in at any rate – but I miss the country. I miss the hedge. It’s a temple of a different kind and I want to be there, too.

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