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Hail to my Lady of the twilight, of stillness and sanctuary, who calls and welcomes me into her cool embrace, offering shelter, comfort, stillness and the freedom to simply be. You of the sacred grove, of the temple, of a quiet room, of calm in chaos; I honour you with all that I am.


Little is known of Nemetona, a goddess whose veneration was once widespread around the area of Trier, Germany by the people known as the Nemetes. An altar to her was also found at Bath, England. She may have been known to the Gaulish people, as at her altar in Bath states, the maker of which had completed his vow (he or she being of the Treveri tribe). The word Nemeton is translated, for the most part, into “sacred groves”. There are many place names in France that contain this word, and even one in Spain. Three place names can be traced to this word in Britain as well, though they are now known as Willoughby, North Tawton and near Strathclyde.


Nemetona, for me, is a goddess of sanctuary. She is present within the home, within our sacred groves and rites, in all the spaces that we hold dear to our hearts. She also lies within, allowing us to feel at ease wherever we are in the world, though it’s not an easy task. She holds the stillness and quiet of a perfect day; she is the stillness at the end of it, when the blackbird sings to the dusk. She is the spirit of a home, a place, an idea. Without her I would go mad.


She waits for me as I come home after a long day at work. Pulling into the drive, turning off the headlights, I feel her call, see her at the door with welcoming arms. As I put my keys in the lock I breathe a deep breath, and feel the weight of the day slipping from my shoulders as I step across the threshold and into Her space. She can equally be found in a back bedroom, away from the household noise, and indeed, in the office loos – when you need to get away from everything and everyone and know that you won’t be disturbed there! A soft prayer upon entering the home honours all that She is. A few words to Her upon going to bed, or rising in the morning, deepens our connection with Her. She holds us while we sleep, She greets us when we wake. Within the walls of our home, She offers us shelter from the elements, comfort with the aid of fireplaces and central heating, nourishment from food and simply her presence. She is the sound of the breeze through an open window, the creak of shifting floorboards and the electric hum of the refrigerator. We all need a safe space to retreat, to retire to. For most of us, our homes are that space. A house is not a home unless we feel this connection to both it and the land. A house that is filled with the spirit of sanctuary greets guests and residents alike with a warm, soft feeling of comfort.


This feeling, this sanctuary, extends to our outside spaces too. For me, my garden is also my sanctuary. I miss her desperately at times when I cannot go and find that sanctuary in the back garden. For brief moments outside, when all is quiet and still, I honour her in the garden. The trees that offer shade in the hot summer sun, the shadow of the house slowly moving about the lawn, the quiet of an autumn morning in the mist – these are all Her.


She is a liminal creature, who is at her most powerful at dawn and at dusk. She holds the space, usually a circle, when in ritual or simply sitting out. She is that which lies between – she is both of this world and another. The blackbird if often her messenger, singing to her in the still softness of dusk. She is both peaceful and powerful, slight of built yet shining with a deep strength that can hold at bay that which you seek respite from. She has long, shining black hair that falls straight as shadow along her back, her skin a luminous white. To me, she appears young and lithe, with black eyes that hold the wisdom of thousands of years.


When we feel safe, our souls can expand to almost nothingness, as we become entwined with the world around us. I feel myself melting into my home when I am most happy, or sinking slowly into the moss by the pond in my backyard, becoming one with Her. I can physically feel my soul shrinking back into my own nemeton every time I step outside my front door, for here sanctuary is not guaranteed. Little shrines to Nemetona help me to connect to her – I have an altar in my back room, and also one outside in the back garden. I also have one on my desk at work, to remind me of the relaxing feeling that she brings when I walk outside during lunchtimes in the forest.


She is a very important goddess to me, and I honour her with all that I am. I encourage you to find her as well, both within and without.


– contributed by Jo

Dancing With Nemetona: Working with Boundaries

Having danced deeply with the goddess Nemetona, the Lady of Sacred Space and Sanctuary this year, the issue of boundaries returns to me again and again in relation to human interaction, in every day life with people that I share this journey with.


Nemetona is an elusive goddess; not much is written historically about her. Place names exist that contain her name, altars with her inscription in various places, tribes named after Her. However, as a goddess she is an experiential deity – not one to be thought about so much as one to be experienced. It is through practical working with Her that we come to know Her.


Our own personal nemeton, that space around us that we do not allow anyone but those with whom we are most intimate with, expands and contracts with each person that we meet. Some we might shy away from, some we might fling our souls wide open to. What I have learned is that boundaries must be kept, in order to keep the nemeton intact.


This is difficult for me, as I enjoy ecstatic relationship –I crave it in my Druidry, in my life. Yet I have learned with whom it is appropriate and with who it is not. To utterly dissolve into the moment of the sunset, or opening my soul to the bluebell wood as I lie beneath the gently swaying branches of oak and sycamore, or deep within the heart of ritual where transformation, celebration, integration take place – these are the times when it is not only appropriate, but relatively safe to do so. I know that the bluebell wood will not harm me, will not abuse the relationship. Sadly, this is often not the case with many humans that we meet.


Perhaps that is why it is so much easier for me, as a Druid, to find relationship with the beech tree at the bottom of the garden, or the badger that comes looking for birdseed and peanuts, than the average human being. I have not been hurt by these creatures – even when my soul is laid bare, I have not come to harm. The seaside has not taken advantage of that moment when we are soul naked, seeking deep ecstatic relationship. Perhaps this is because the sea does not want, does not need as we humans need.


Human relationship is so very different, for so much of it is heavily dependent on need, on desires. We seek a ‘give and take’ in our relationships, if they are to be healthy. When there is not balance, it is unhealthy, and often advantage of another is occurring.


Saddened by and a little wiser by past experiences, I have to relearn again and again where my edges are and where they meet with others. Telling myself over and over again that I will not be hurt by certain people, or that I will allow love in from others – this is what is so very important. This is what Nemetona teaches me each and every day.


By becoming aware of our own boundaries, we can then act honourably with other humans we meet, and indeed with all of nature. Sometimes it is wholly inappropriate to fling our souls open to the lake at moonrise – that is why in Druidry we ask permission to share our soul touch with others. Maybe this is what is lacking in much of human interaction – that permission is not sought. It is either given when not asked for, or taken even when it is not sought.


In the midst of all this, all we do is dance with Her as best we can, sometimes ecstatically, sometimes deep within our boundaries, ever awake and aware of our relationship to Her and to the rest of the world.


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid and author of several books, including Zen Druidry and the upcoming Dancing With Nemtona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space (available through Moon Books and Amazon). Her philosophy on life is simple – live it. Fully and as aware as you can. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow itself. 

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