by Joanna Van Der Hoeven
Sometimes one has to retreat from the world, in order to better understand it. Finding sanctuary, a sacred space where we can open our souls without fear, where we can simply be, is a glorious experience. It happens a lot less than we need in our lives, in my opinion.
A goddess of sanctuary, Nemetona is an elusive deity. Not much is written or recorded about her in Classical texts or history. Just the barest hints and place names, some tribe names and a couple of inscriptions. Who is this goddess to whom we can bare our souls, in complete soul truth, knowing that we are held?
In our modern day world, so often we feel we have to close ourselves off in order not to be overwhelmed – by people, media, technology. For sensitive souls, it sometimes is pure hell. We need to allow our soul truths to emerge, otherwise as caged birds we function behind bars, never truly spreading our wings and knowing what it means to fly. We feel we have to be careful not to be too open, too emotive, too sensitive to what people are saying or what is happening in the world around us. We are not allowed to be offended, we are not allowed to speak out without fear of being shot down a lot of the time. We are told that we shouldn’t be so sensitive. Our souls grow smaller with each experience of shutting down, never letting anyone or anything in.
That physical space around us, where we feel uncomfortable if someone we do not trust enters, is a valuable space. It is our personal nemeton, a space where our energy exists outside of our bodies. Many liken it to your aura. Some nemetons are strong and radiant, some wounded with gaping holes, others barricaded with steel. What we have to learn, or relearn, is how to open this space in love and trust – that is what Nemetona provides, often in a world wherein we feel no other human is able to provide this for us.
Creating sacred space is the way most Pagans know of to connect with her. Yet it is not always necessary – sometimes is it freeing to be able to open without the safeguards of the magic circle, the cutting off from the world some spaces offer. More often than not, it is other humans that we fear, therefore to open our souls out in the wilderness may seem like the first steps to freedom. With or without the creation of sacred space, Nemetona is always with you.
The trick is to allow yourself to feel her with you.
It’s not the warm embrace of the mother – it’s not really “motherly” in any sense. Nemetona challenges us to open ourselves in order to grow, and she offers us that space. That’s it. When the time is right, we leave that space – sometimes willingly, sometimes with a kick up the behind. We cannot remain within her embrace forever. Yet we can carry that sense of her with us wherever we go, knowing that if we need to, we can remind ourselves of our own soul’s freedom and truth.
Nemetona teaches us that it’s okay to be sensitive. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to feel hurt, outraged, overwhelmed, joyous, child-like and free. We don’t have to desensitise ourselves to the world. We simply have to be aware of our reactions to the world and, in doing so, be able to live our soul truths with honour and respect to all other beings.
Our soul truth is who we are, without ego, without soul scars, without bars to cage us in. Often it is likened to a return to the true self. It is like coming home. It is enlightenment and joy. It is delving deep into what prisons we have created in our own souls, and turning the key to unlock it and all that is holding us back.
Nemetona is there to guide us through that process, not necessarily holding our hands but offering us the space to explore it: the demons, the memories, the trauma, the good and the bad. She will not say whether it is good or bad, for it simply is. She will not take sides.
Taking a step back from the world, every now and then, to connect with this goddess and our deepest self, we are better able to work in the world again, with open arms and hearts, living lives filled with compassion and honesty.
And when we are ready, we rediscover what freedom really means.
To find out more about Nemetona, see my latest book, Dancing With Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space, HERE.