WELLBEING | Witches Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

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I share my experience of visiting Routin Brig waterfall in Scotland and consider whether this historically significant and long-revered site, might have played a part in a powerful nature meditation I enjoyed there.

Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

Prior to a recent trip to Scotland, I zoomed in on the local area using Google Maps and spotted a waterfall not far away, making a note of the name and rough location.

Where Old Water and Cluden Water converge, just below a moss-covered stone bridge, we find Routin Brig waterfall, located in the parish of Irongray in Dumfries and Galloway and only a mile or so from where we stayed.

We spent time walking through the stunning woodland soaking up the atmosphere. In late April we saw the remnants of vast carpets of Bluebells, and beside them, a burbling stream, widening once joined by Cairn Water.

Before returning to spend some time beside the waterfall, we continued on through Dalquhairn Woods, exploring stone ruins and pebble beaches, all with the intoxicating smell of newly-flowered wild garlic hanging in the air.

How I meditate in nature

Everything I do and practice is intuitively led. This means the words I use for certain things may not be the same as those you might be familiar with, nor may they be conventionally held words or practices. I’m a strong believer in doing whatever works for you – whilst being culturally as sensitive as possible.

As we walked I noticed a small number of posies close to the waterfall, deliberately placed here and there. Pagan tributes? I wondered and made a mental note to find out more when I got home.

Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

Easily tuning into the energy of the place, I found a flat rock perfectly placed beside, and slightly above the waterfall, providing the ideal vantage point over the cascading water, and an ideal spot for some meditation.

Meditation is akin to moving into a hypotonic state, I tune down certain parts of my brain and dial up others. I’m no longer thinking 12 tasks ahead, I’m fully present and I’m gloriously rooted in the moment.

Reaching that state will occasionally elude me, often it can take many minutes and failed attempts, but on rare occasions, It can happen in an instant, without the need for the sometimes lengthy preamble.

In the right place, however (and only ever outdoors) I can will myself directly into a meditative state and it effortlessly happens. Practice makes perfect of course, and doing this as often as possible really has been the key to me being able to (sometimes) enter this state so quickly and simply.

Routin Brig waterfall was one such place. I sat, closed my eyes and held my intention to tune into the energy of the place close. A couple of deep breathes later, all at once my senses were overwhelmed by the sound of the rushing of water, the fresh, woody scent in the air, the comforting slightly warm feel of tree bark and moss beneath one hand and the cooler sensation of unyielding stone beneath the fingertips of my other hand.

Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

I felt an instant jolt, what I refer to as a knowing. To elaborate, this is a strong, intuitive feeling or belief brought into my conscious awareness that I know without any doubt whatsoever, to be true, correct or right.

Sat beside the waterfall a knowing came to me.

It’s as though a part of myself, wise and once dormant, awakens and whispers to me, like I fully tune into the energy embedded in a place.

Depending on your individual perspective, you might regard this as a simple insight resulting from the act of being still and thinking clearly without distraction.

It’s worth explaining however that these knowings don’t occur to me after conscious, deliberate contemplation. This is in stark contrast to the process of logical reasoning which is more typically the result of deliberate analysis.

I can identify intuitive knowing with ease. They are never the result of conscious, logical problem-solving efforts. They spontaneously happen, seemingly out of nowhere, exclusively when I am in a blank (meditative) state and almost exclusively, when I am in that state outdoors, surrounded by nature.

I might lose some of you here but I’m OK with that; because in that instant, my knowing whispered to me, but I was listening and so it felt like a shout:

You are water! You swim, you float, you crave and connect with water because you share the qualities of water. Water is soft, it provides life, it cocoons, nurtures and it protects. The feminine, light aspect. Water is relentless, harder than rock, dangerous. The masculine, dark aspect. Yet water is effortlessly both. It doesn’t switch between the two, it is all of those things at the same time, as are you. Those seemingly opposite traits, embodied in water are embodied and balanced in you.

Then, my conscious mind sparked, a smile formed on my lips.

Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

The nonsense of patriarchal gender narratives

Like water, we are all perfectly balanced, just as we should be. A mix of different energies. Those energies have traditionally been labelled and gendered, purely to control us, to shame us, scare us, to keep us in our boxes.

Although I’m a cis woman, I’ve too faced my own conflicts with gender identity. Not feeling feminine enough to be a woman, unbothered about the length of my eyelashes or colour of my lips, more comfortable being thought of as a tomboy when I was young or ‘one of the lads’ as an adult with few female friends, agonising endlessly over why my brain felt more male than female, finding more comfort in the harder, tougher aspects of my being, whilst actively repressing the softer, more emotional and nurturing side of myself. Ultimately, regarding one set of traits as strong, the other as weak.

Succumbing to the well-worn patriarchal narrative that feminine traits and women are less. Less valuable in society. Less useful. Less powerful. Less capable – when in fact of course, nothing could be further from the truth of the power of the divine feminine.

In that instant of knowing next to the waterfall, I realised the energies I embody are perfectly balanced, just as they are in water. That the gendering of energy traits is nothing but stigmatising and disempowering, and of course that goes both ways when we consider the culture of toxic masculinity.

Whispers From Routin Brig Waterfall, Scotland

Enlightened moments in nature

It took me a long time to reject societal brainwashing and consciously figure this shit out, and I’m mad about that.

The ongoing conversations around gender and equality, however, will hopefully help to ensure it doesn’t take others quite so absurdly long to realise and truly believe that they are perfect just as they are and that such labels are unnecessary and divisive.

The Witches waterfall?

The following day, I posted photos of the waterfall on Instagram. A commenter asked if I knew the history of Routin Brig, serving as a reminder for me to finally do some research into the location.

I learned that Routin Brig is a place steeped in folklore and historical turmoil. Thought to be the meeting place of a coven (read about the Witch of Irongray), there are also numerous accounts of witches linked to this place being condemned and killed, not to mention the persecution of covenanters, so there’s little wonder why Routin Brig crackles with energy and perhaps too, ancient wisdom whispered through the ages.

Could it be that this knowing is borne of the ability to tune in to the ancient knowledge or lore embodied within the natural energy of a place?

Perhaps it’s just a simple case of being in a more relaxed state that allows the subconscious to work through a long-held hypothesis, presenting the conscious mind with a logic-based conclusion without any conscious processing.

Regardless of the exact mechanism, not only does grounding and being present in nature make me feel happier and calmer, but moments of profound enlightenment, are more likely to occur for me during, or following nature meditation.

The more energetically powerful a place, perhaps the more likely we are to receive the greatest gifts of enlightenment if we’re just willing and able to tune in?

If anybody knows why so many little floral tributes were indeed placed around Routin Brig, I’d love to know more as I’ve not been able to find a definitive answer to that.

Finally, a wee lecture, if you want to leave a tribute here or anywhere, ensure you’re not binding flowers with ribbon or leaving behind anything that won’t naturally, quickly biodegrade. A small posy of local flowers picked from a grass verge is perfect.

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Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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