November 27, 2011

Why Being a Naturalist Makes Me a Better Witch

Guest Contribution by Cynthia Menard of withywindleblog

Let me first say that I don’t mean that my profession makes me a better Witch than anyone else - only that it makes me a better me. My choice in profession wasn’t deliberate – I sort of fell into being a naturalist. For years, I worked in the pet care industry before going to graduate school and getting a Master’s of Science degree in Conservation Biology. When I finished school I knew I wanted to work outdoors, and through a series of jobs and experiences, I discovered that I was well-suited to being a naturalist.

If you don’t know what a naturalist is or does (hint – it doesn’t involve being nude. Not usually, anyway) I’ll give you my take on it. To me it’s two-fold: it is being out in nature walking, tracking, birding and generally studying what I observe. I ask questions, and if I can’t figure out the answer though my own observations, I research my query when I get back indoors – usually with the help of field guides (which I usually don’t bring into the ‘field’ anymore) along with my personal library.

The other half of my work is sharing what I’ve learned over the years. I was surprised to discover, at the beginning of my career, just how passionate I am about this (I really had no desire to be an educator when I began). I realized quickly that learning for my own edification just wasn’t enough – I needed to pass that knowledge on to others. I love being out with a group of participants and getting them as excited as I get when I’ve observed something new or fascinating. I try to give others the tools to figure out the natural world for themselves (see my blog post on Coyote Teaching) so they can continue discovering on their own after the program is over.

So how does this tie into my practice of Witchcraft? I won’t cover my history with the Craft here, but I will say that I believe being a Witch means you should make every effort to live as close to the Earth as possible – She is our Mother, after all. For some people this means being good stewards of the Earth by reducing consumption, reusing materials and recycling as much as possible. To others it means growing an organic garden, and to yet others it might mean living as self-sufficiently and sustainably as they can. In other words, there’s no right answer to what living close to the Earth means, so long as you’re making an effort.

Here’s where being a naturalist and a Witch really combine:

•       I know more about the plants and herbs I use, for healing and magick, than just their healing or magickal properties. I can walk through the forest or field, identify a plant, and know the role it plays in its ecosystem. This helps me feel connected to the (once) living materials I use in my practice.

•       I feel at home in the natural world; I know how to see (and hear, and smell, and feel) what is happening around me, and am constantly learning from my experiences. Witches were once the keepers of knowledge about the natural world for their communities, and they shared this knowledge through teaching and healing. I am continuing this tradition, even if my program participants don’t know it!

•       We need more people to care about the Earth – whether they believe in Goddess religions or not. Bringing people outdoors on a regular basis helps them connect with, and want to make better choices for, our environment. That is such a critical component of my work.

•       Being an advocate for the Earth has helped me to be more aware of being an advocate for my faith, and in raising my children (yes, I am raising them to be Witches). My spirituality is very important to me. The fact that I work at a profession that keeps me in tune with my beliefs and practices in Witchcraft is – and isn’t – a coincidence. I didn’t choose to become a naturalist because I thought it would make me a better Witch. Needing to be outdoors and in touch with nature is just a very basic part of who I am – it’s a large part of how I know I am a Witch.

Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your insight and passions with our readers!


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