It is cold this winter. Too cold. I feed a couple of outdoor cats and I stopped seeing one of them in mid-December. It is now the end of January and I fear the worst for her, although I remain always optimistic for her return. The life of an outdoor creature is a difficult one anytime of the year. It is especially difficult now.
Everyday, I put food out for my outdoor cats. Every evening I do the same. My other outdoor cat, Ghost or *Ghosti or Ghost-y, comes everyday, often twice, and dines on the offerings I put outside. After the first cold snap in Dec ember, I became worried for these gentle creatures.
When I have a concern, especially beyond the ability I have to care, I turn to the Earth Mother or the Kindreds for help. I thought that if anyone would understand the plight of outdoor animals, it would be the spirits of nature themselves.
I believe that the spirits of nature are instrumental in teaching us about the cyclical nature of reality in our world. They are born, they grow, the flourish, they diminish, and they pass away. Like us. Some of them go through these cycles on an annual basis; others go through it over the course of time. Like us.
While I put out food and shelter for the animals in my world, I begin to think of the other kindred spirits who are struggling with this weather like my friends do. What can I do to help on a grander scale than my offerings of food and shelter on the front porch? I know that my animal friends are not alone in this harsh season. I know there are others, just like mine. I act locally by the things I do here, but I truly feel that by calling upon the ubiquity of the Nature Spirits, that I can help not only my own friends, but all of the other creatures that may need.
Will my offerings be enough to change the reality for millions upon millions of outdoor animals? Probably not. I may help one. I may help a few. I may help an ever-increasing number. Yet, through my practice, I can only do so much. Therefore, I put together a prayer that I say during my daily devotionals (they keep growing!) and I wanted to share that prayer with you.
Here it is:
Hail, Nature Spirits!
I call out to you today,
In this time of cold
And harsh weather.
Please, watch over
Those Nature Spirits who are
Least able to fend for themselves:
Give them food,
Give the shelter,
Protect them from harm,
I pray you, Nature Spirits
Accept these offerings from my hands,
Into the places where they will do the most good.
The offerings I made were ones of food and shelter. I felt that these were offerings of immediacy and speak to the matter at hand. In my prayer, I ask for the Nature Spirits to protect the at-risk animals from harm – this is where the magical protection comes into play.
What exactly can the Nature Spirits do? Will they keep all animals safe from harm? I think probably not. But I do believe, in my small corner of the world, that perhaps the animals at risk will find a place where they can stay out of the elements, either those that I have created, or those small, out of the way places where animals may find shelter.
I believe that offerings and prayers are the things we can do to nudge the universe. I believe that the magic that the Nature Spirits can do is to nudge the physical universe in small ways as to make passage ways open, to make safety and shelter available, where it was seemingly not available before. This is my belief.
It is not difficult for us to relate to the Ancestors – we all have someone that has passed from this world into the next. We can still remember them, we can still recall our interactions, we can still feel their presence in our world. They were there, and now they are not.
It is not difficult for us to conceptualize of the Gods and Goddesses, the Shining Ones. When we first experienced need, or wonder, or piety, we put a face, a feeling, a sense to those entities that we call the Gods. We may not be able to picture them in our minds, but we have a sense for who they are.
It is difficult, I believe, for us to conceptualize of the Nature Spirits. They are the entities closest at hand to us. They are here, living with us in this middle realm, our Earth. The Earth of the Nature Spirits and the Earth of we humans is here together, yet we may never see them. We may find that the unseen among the Nature Spirits are hard to fathom, are just beyond our understanding. Yet, I feel that they are there, waiting. By offering them the hospitality of your home or your environs, you acknowledge them and allow for a deeper relationship to blossom and develop.
The Nature Spirits, in my mind, know those secret and hidden places that our animals friends can use to survive in this harsh time. The Nature Spirits cannot help alter the weather, but I truly believe that they can help other animals endure the weather and flourish. I will make my offering and my prayers. I remain optimistic.