primitive camping & survival

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primitive camping & survival

Postby greygreen » 13 Nov 2012, 22:29

i'm an avid primitive camper (it just means no water / electricity hook ups), trailrunner and have even done some long distance bicycle tours (3+ months, 100km+ / day at times). recently i've started gaining formal training at a survival, primitive skills and wilderness scouting school. i was interested to here thoughts about how living in the wild affects druid practice.

personally, nothing is more enriching to me. being out in nature is one thing, but to spend extended periods in the wild with nothing but the clothes on your back and whatever shelter and tools you can make puts me in such a great headspace. recently, i was on a three-day excursion: just a simple sleeping bag, a container for water and a knife. i learned a bit of cord making, trapping / snares, scouting and lots more. at night, i read some of the Gwersi under the boughs of a big tree and slept in the open. it got me thinking: isn't this a great way to experience druidism? granted it's always changing and growing, but the ancient parts of the Path were first created by people living with very little, and making do with what was around them. Their tools and trappings had to serve a practical purpose, like their rituals and stories.

No specific insights on this, beyond this: after three-days of dehydration and hunger, roaming the woods and collecting wild persimmons and cactus to eat, spending literally hours to move a few hundred meters completely silently, building fire from scratch and tracking people and animal movement through bird song and trail ... all this druid stuff gained another dimension. I'd love to know what others have to say on this subject!
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby samurai » 15 Nov 2012, 19:27

Me and a friend of mine use to go away gfor a week with just a polythene sheet, knife,and firelighter(flint and steel),plus two lurchers and survive of the land, and live by his Grandads maxim " a man can never starve in England". We did good.

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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Whitemane » 15 Nov 2012, 21:43

I'm a too old :old: and soft to try living that way, but I think it's an absolutely marvelous way to create the bond with the earth. :yay: It must give you such an understanding of the relationship between our Iron Age forbears and the land.

More power to you.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby ShadowCat » 16 Nov 2012, 07:24

I've spent an retreat-week in France two months back, alone in a simple loam cabin deep in private woods. I took relative luxaries like a coleman lamp and a sleeping bag with me, due to my health, but still. Nothing beats diving (naked ande barefoot) into an icy mountainstream in the morning mists, while there are deer drinking further down the stream. I took some basic foodsupplies as well: eggs from my own chickens, dried fruit from my own trees. Herbs and greens were gathered. I felt deeply at peace there. I'm longing to learn more wildcrafting/survivalskills, but our part of the world is so crowded that it's almost impossible to live of the land here (I don't count raiding farmland as living of the land, it's theft). On the other hand, I still have to go on a walk that doesn't provide me with something, I always find and collect: food, berries, plants, seeds, moss, wood, herbs.

The underlying idea: that most often ritual items were also practical, is something I feel deeply. Most pagans weren't rich enough to have a special knife/staf/sword etcetcetc to only use in ritual. It were items to be used for defence, foodpreparation, and ritual. In a way, defence, hunting, cooking, are the most primal rituals and deserve due respect. In my ritual practices I always try to use what's around. In the home, my favorite handmade winecup is used to sip wine on a restful evening, but also as a chalice when needed. My swords and knives (I collect them) are almost al pure tacticals, functionals, that are also used in ritual. When I've taken a knife in to the woods with me and used it for dirty work, I just clean it, cleanse it, do a short blessing and use it in energywork as well. When I'm outside and I work with quatre-calls, I also invoke the energy of the place. So, if there's a lake to my north, than that represents my waterelement for that day, not the textbook-directions of "water=west".
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Serenity » 16 Nov 2012, 10:04

Primitive camping where I live means dealing with poisonous snakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, biting ants and leeches. The first two generally keep well clear of humans but the ants and leeches don't discriminate! Snakes have been known to creep into sleeping bags for body warmth. Camping last weekend and even the baby in the camp next door acquired a leech. At the very least I need a swag or sleeping bag that I can zip up and a fire that is kept burning through the night.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Explorer » 16 Nov 2012, 10:14

I did a vision quest 2 years ago. 8 days in the woods, of which 4 days solitary without food with just a sleepingbag, a plastic sheet and water.
To be honest, the vision quest itself didn't bring me much. Except the knowledge that 4 days without food isn't physically that hard. Boredom was the real challenge.

But to prepare for that, I did something that took me much and much deeper. I called it a 'shadow walk'.
I went into a part of the woods that I know very very well. At sunset I left my backpack under a tree and started walking. I didn't bring anything, except a bottle of water. No light, no map and compass, no phone, nothing. (well, not entirely true,I brought my camera, and recorded it as a movie)

I expected to simply hike and meditate, but it turned into quite an adventure...
I tresspassed into the part of the woods that is used by the military. I knew that it was forbidden, but I didn't think anybody was there. I was wrong. I heard voices behind me, and dived into the bushes. Soldiers, and they had heard me, and were looking for me, I saw their silhouets above me against the darkening sky, a meters away. But they didn't find me, and must have thought it was an animal. I stayed down for half an hour, and then got up and started moving. That is how it started. A nightly military exercise had started, and they were all around me. Patrols, road blocks on every road and path. I was trapped... and then strange stuff started to happen...

I got into this super focus, I really really wanted to escape, because I kind of guessed what they would do to me. About the same what we did with tresspassers when I was in the military 25 years earlier in the exact same part of the woods. I was very worried that I would step on a booby trap, or that they would see me with night vision. But I quickly discovered that these guys didn't know the woods at all, and it started to feel that I was becoming part of the woods. I did the druid thing, asked the spirits of the woods to guide me, the animals to help me out, the trees to hide me, the stars to show me direction. And nature began to respond to that.

I had all night, so I could walk extremly slow without making sounds. I heard the sounds around me, wild boar, roedeer, red deer, the wind. This all sounds like breaking twigs, but all a bit different, and different from a human boot. I could hear that, but the soldiers didn't. They talked among themselves, instead of focusing on the woods around them. So I could walk up to them, so close that I could listen to their conversations and recognize their accents as 'city folk'. And I passed the roadblocks that way.

I got a bit lost, because it was pitch dark and I mostly had to feel and sense my way. But I can navigate on the stars, and knew that I would find a bike track to my north that would lead roughly in the direction of my backpack. But I mostly used my intuition. When I felt a gust of wind, or heard the bark of a roedeer, or the hooting of an Owl, I changed direction or hid myself for a while. I let myself be guided my nature that way.

At the end of the night, the moon came out, and it had become foggy. By then I was quite bit in a trance, and very very confident. I 'knew' that the soldiers couldn't see me, not even with their night vision equipment. And if they could, they couldn't catch me. I had changed tactics by then, I had left the paths and just walked through the woods and heather without trying to be quiet. They would take me for a deer or a wild boar. I even passed closely by their camp by simply stepping into a thick layer of fog. I could hear them talk, and I knew they could probably hear me walk by, but they couldn't see me and I was confident that they wouldn't recognize me as 'human'.

I even found my backpack. Which was perhaps the thing that amazed me the most. Because I followed an Owl for that, and suddenly I was in the small clearing that I recognized. Near dusk I was lost again, this time because of the thick fog. I knew I was on the heather, but I was looking for the hillgraves that I associate with my ancestors, because I wanted to be there at sunrise. So I did the druid thing again, asked my ancestors to guide me. In a hunch I took a 'random' direction and minutes later I climbed out of the fog and found myself between the hill graves.
What I saw then was very strange. This is a flat land, no mountains, just area's of heather and forest. But the hill graves are only a few meters above that, perhaps 10 or 20 meters. But all the land was covered in that thick fog, except the hill graves and the tops of the trees. It was like I was somewhere else, in the otherworld, and then the sun rose above all that.

I stayed in the woods for another day and night, sleeping, recovering, integrating the experience by doing by doing some rituals.
I was joined by my love in the evening, who had her own challenge of travelling alone to the woods, and into the woods, and trying to find me, before it got dark. I had told her that I would be silent as a mouse, even if I would see her pass by. She had to find me by her own accord, and she did.

I didn't do all this for the fun of it. My life had been in turmoil for a few years, and the Vision Quest was an attempt to get out of a depression that I was sliding into.
But it was this 'Shadowwalk' that allowed me to reconnect. That night there was no space to think about loss and sadness. There was only space to connect my body, mind and soul deeply to the woods and nature around me.
The next morning I sensed this huge relief, that I could still experience that. I grabbed that as a rope, and indeed dragged myself out of the pit with that. And now, over 2 years later, I am fully back on my feet. And I am still amazed how 1 night of such simplicity can make such a difference.

The Vision Quest came later. It was complex, intense, very expensive and I'm sure it was high quality. I went quite deep there also from time to time, but it was different. It was staged, pre-programmed and it didn't connect me as deeply as my Shadowwalk has done. But that was okay, if I hadn't done the Vision Quest, I wouldn't have done that Shadow Walk either.
And the day after I came out of the Vision Quest, I got in the car and drove to lapland in north sweden, and spend another week hiking the wilderness. But that's another story.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Bracken » 16 Nov 2012, 11:59

You may be interested in THIS recent seminar by Dathi.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby greygreen » 16 Nov 2012, 17:41

... it started to feel that I was becoming part of the woods. I did the druid thing, asked the spirits of the woods to guide me, the animals to help me out, the trees to hide me, the stars to show me direction. And nature began to respond to that.
This is all really great stuff - i echo the earlier concerns about scorpions and snakes: i live in south texas (rattler and scorpion heaven, not to mention the brown recluse and black widow spiders!) and i've camped near death valley several times. On the subject of "the woods guiding you" above ...

A big part of my training has been pursuing scout training which teaches you to move silently through nature using every sense to track and move in conjunction with nature. A couple weeks ago, i was doing some wilderness scouting and i could actually track the movements of people around me through bird song. if you let nature affect you through all your sense, you will hear birds change their tunes to alarm calls when people are near. then they begin moving away. simply look for the negative space in the calls, and there's your human tromping through the woods.

I'm still working through my Bardic grade, so I am by no means an authority on this (or anything else). but it seems to me that it's easy to think of druidry and similar practice as a way to gain some insight into nature - "i'll do this ritual so that I can commune with birds" or something. but the reality is that by placing yourself in nature and learning to live with it, which comes with these seemingly supernatural qualities (smelling prey like a dog, moving quietly like a snake, spotting details like a hawk), really point the way to a philosophical path.

I completely agree with the earlier sentiment about "practical" ritual items. my altar is a few simple flint stones I use for primitive cutting edges, some tender wrapped in cord made form leaves, a stoneware bowl of water, a simple, hand held cast-iron cauldron for incense / cooking, and some simple necklace tokens to represent air. i always have a knife with me in the wild, so that's there, too. and, personally, using these things as tools in the wild IS consecrating them. I could meditate over my little cauldron, but putting it over a fire and cooking my food in it, allowing it to nourish me? it informs my ritual in a way that is very deep and connected, as the introductory Gwersi stress, in reality not fantasy.
Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. - A.A. Milne

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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Explorer » 16 Nov 2012, 20:17

A couple weeks ago, i was doing some wilderness scouting and i could actually track the movements of people around me through bird song. if you let nature affect you through all your sense, you will hear birds change their tunes to alarm calls when people are near. then they begin moving away. simply look for the negative space in the calls, and there's your human tromping through the woods.
And not just humans. I once tracked something moving around me that way, by following alarm calls of birds. But it was going to fast and quiet for a person. I kept very still and watched in the direction where I suspected something to come into the clearing. And there I saw a fox watching me.
I'm still working through my Bardic grade, so I am by no means an authority on this (or anything else). but it seems to me that it's easy to think of druidry and similar practice as a way to gain some insight into nature - "i'll do this ritual so that I can commune with birds" or something. but the reality is that by placing yourself in nature and learning to live with it, which comes with these seemingly supernatural qualities (smelling prey like a dog, moving quietly like a snake, spotting details like a hawk), really point the way to a philosophical path.
I think it can go both ways.
Like you, I came from the direction of the wilderness, not from the direction of spirituality or religion.
As a hiker I have made many trips into nature, usually lasting a few days to a week. And sometimes you then run into stuff that is so much bigger than you.
Usually triggered by a combination of fear, pain, exhaustion on one hand, and a sense of joy, gratitude, freedom and connection on the other hand.
It gave me a lot of balance, confidence and a sense of purpose and belonging. But also some sadness, because I had no words for it, and no people who understood what I was talking about.

It was a bit strange to discover that what I saw as my starting point, was actually one of the goals of the course. Empowerment and connection. I discovered that there are words for the stuff that I experience. Peak experiences, spirituality, empowerment, even spirits. And I even worried that the course would affect the purity of my experiences, which is why I always stayed very critical and careful with what I took onboard.... up to a certain point at least.

I didn't gain a lot of insight in nature by doing a course in druidry. I didn't go into nature because of the course. I took the course with me into nature, litterly. My Sacred Grove is a real place in the woods, where I still go on my days off.
And there I learned so many things, mostly about perception, about how our minds works, and what we can do with that. Like how we can use ritual, symbolism, myths as a kind of spiritual language to communicate with ourselves, with the natural world, with other people.

But also about my own past and present nature experiences, how that relates to well known spiritual practises and psychological phenomena. And I started to connect to things like shamanism, ancestors, other people, community.
And all that did deepen my layer of nature experiences also. The shadowwalk experience was just one example, but there were many of such experiences over the years. And at some point there is some kind of 'critical mass' of experience, after which one has to admit that things do often work slightly differently than previously thought or thought possible ;-).

On the other hand... I also discovered that most of our druid collegues do not really go into nature. Many only seem to read and meditate about it, and then lack a certain... ehm.. clarity? Like they don't really distinguish between imagination and experience. (Somebody once got mad at me because I peed against a tree, because that insulted the spirit of the tree... ehm... right... you know what I mean?).
And that clarity and real experience seems to be missing in the course itself also. It can sometimes switch back and forth from extremly silly to profoundly wise surprisingly quickly. It seems to be written for and by city dwellers, not for hardcore nature types.

But that's okay. In fact it is very okay. As I described, we can learn a lot from it. But what is perhaps just as cool, we can add our own experiences and insights to it for others. And if it makes sense, which it does, then at some point it does make its way into our tribe, and even into the course. I've seen that happen.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby greygreen » 16 Nov 2012, 21:03

Like you, I came from the direction of the wilderness, not from the direction of spirituality or religion ... sometimes you then run into stuff that is so much bigger than you ... It gave me a lot of balance, confidence and a sense of purpose and belonging. But also some sadness, because I had no words for it, and no people who understood what I was talking about. It was a bit strange to discover that what I saw as my starting point, was actually one of the goals of the course ...

But that's okay. In fact it is very okay. As I described, we can learn a lot from it. But what is perhaps just as cool, we can add our own experiences and insights to it for others. And if it makes sense, which it does, then at some point it does make its way into our tribe, and even into the course. I've seen that happen.
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Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. - A.A. Milne

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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Serenity » 16 Nov 2012, 22:24

I don't live in a particularly big city but I find if I go for long periods without touching base with nature I start to get cranky and unsettled. I am not a primitive camper but it's still possible to live closer to the ground even under canvas. Explorer described it beautifully - connectedness and empowerment and the "unfiltered" experience of the natural environment. The challenges to our perceptions, habits and attitudes come in unexpected ways - a friend commented that our responses to leeches came from our disconnectedness to the rainforest and needed some examination - we had to share the place with them, if we wanted to stay there.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Dathi » 16 Nov 2012, 22:42

Hey, this is all brilliant stuff, and it's great to hear other people echoing my strong feelings about this. The various stories above strongly resonate with me (+ interesting to read). I've commented on some of these posts on the other related thread, and rather than repeat myself or derail the momentum of these discussions, I've just linked them: http://www.druidry.org/board/dhp/viewto ... 6&start=60

And hey, what about some photos too? Your collection, Shadowcat, and your countryside, Greygreen and others.

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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Serenity » 18 Nov 2012, 05:47

!i just saw the definition of "primitive camping" at the head of the thread - no electricity and no water. I am a primitive camper! We frequently camp without electricity and carry in all our supplies.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Explorer » 18 Nov 2012, 17:54

And hey, what about some photos too? Your collection, Shadowcat, and your countryside, Greygreen and others.
I took some pics during the adventure that I described earlier in the thread...
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby Badger Bob » 19 Nov 2012, 12:38

I like to get away two or three times a year in the Peak District. I travel light but I do carry a bit of food, a stove, a sleeping bag and a tarp or bivvy - mainly because trespassing is not that serious but lighting fires or poaching becomes a criminal offence. It is far easier to stay hidden when you don't light a campfire, if nobody can tell you have been there the rangers generally turn a blind eye, light even a small fire and they are not so easy-going.

The best trips are in the middle of winter for me. Short days and drizzle or snow can make it less comfortable than summer but the absence of people and the general eeriness of a winter forest are hard to beat. It is easier to spot wildlife in winter as well without the dense summer cover of hedgerow and woodland. I have been doing this since I was in the Scouts so I have a few favourite routes and places to stay now and I generally have a destination in mind so that I am a traveller rather than a tourist. I don't know why it makes a difference to me, not being a tourist, but it does somehow. Wandering aimlessly seems like wasting time compared to travelling to get somewhere.

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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby DaRC » 19 Nov 2012, 17:44

All good thoughts - thanks :applause:
Somebody once got mad at me because I peed against a tree, because that insulted the spirit of the tree... ehm... right...
:grin: I thought (perhaps the spirit of a tree told me) that it was performing a ritual of thanks to the tree; providing it with nourishment and water.

I don't have the opportunity to bivvy out as much as I'd like but I came to Druidry via a search for a nature spirituality that came from my experiences out in nature. It's that connectedness that's important. I'm not bad at keeping that natural eye out - the one that notices the small things in the hedgerow, hears the warning cries of the blackbird or squirrels etc... I have a friend who is much better but then he's a country fellow who was a poacher in his youth!

I've always thought bracken (for the non-asthmatics anyway) makes some of the most comfortable bedding - last week I was watching a program about Dorothy Hartley (someone who captured in her book 'Food in England' that pre-industrial country world) where she mentioned the traditional uses for bracken. I'd never realised it was so useful.
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Re: primitive camping & survival

Postby greygreen » 20 Nov 2012, 17:27

the first two here are from trail runs, the last a camp site from a couple weeks ago made out of a rain poncho and some 550 cord.

mama nature's cobblestones http://b6f1fd8c6bd00ed794b5-13216cdc61d ... py%204.JPG
texas trees: http://b6f1fd8c6bd00ed794b5-13216cdc61d ... py%203.JPG
some poncho-camping: http://b6f1fd8c6bd00ed794b5-13216cdc61d ... 20copy.JPG
Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. - A.A. Milne

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