Blackberries & Spirituality

Rev. Patrick McCollum
Patrick McCollum
I was out driving today and I stopped to pick some wild blackberries growing on the side of the road. As I worked my way through the thorny brambles trying to get to the ripest fruit, it occurred to me that the process of picking berries was much like the process of seeking to understand the divine. If we intentionally avoid the tangles and thorns presented to us in our pursuit of our spirituality, we end up only getting an occasional sampling of what it is that we most desire, because in the pursuit of spirit like the pursuit of the blackberry, the periphery of both the berry-bush and the spiritual quest has been easily available to most everyone and everything for quite some time. And as a consequence of that fact, most of the ripe fruit on the edges has already been carefully picked over and consumed. (Hence all of the wonderful spiritual inspirations that have been initiated so far!)

We might get an occasional sweet morsel here and there, but mostly what we get is half ripe fruit with very little taste. It is not until we plunge deeper toward the center of the bush where only the most persistent and adventurous have ventured that we find where the untouched and sweetest of the fruits lie. And it is only here in this most vulnerable of environments that we begin to reap a harvest that is really worth having. In pursuing to pick the blackberries, I quickly noted that in seeking to negotiate the dangers presented by the thorns, spiders and other obstructions within in the natural maze, that I began to slow down and really take note of the nature of the bush itself. In doing so, I became acutely aware of the wonder and complexity of it all, and began to really understand its deeper nature and how to approach it successfully.

In fact once I slowed down, I was able to see that while the bush presented many prickly thorns to protect against rampant overeating of the fruit, that the whole of it was also designed to allow safe entry and access, if one moved slowly and really took note of the nature of the brambles. For example, I noticed that the thorns would only penetrate my skin if I plodded through them carelessly or reached for the fruit too quickly. On the other hand, if I moved slowly and with care, both the thorns and the branches would give way gently, giving me what I sought to possess. In the end, by honoring the sacredness and the inherent nature of the plant, I arrived at a place in the center where there were many dark delicious ripe berries to be had.

Blackberry Bush by jdnjd83 at
                                                                  Photo by jdnjd83 at

Later, in leaving the center with my reward in hand, I also observed that it required the same degree of respect and care to exit as it did to gain access, for to do otherwise, would leave one unquestionably damaged to say the least and also likely to lose all that had been gained as a consequence. And lastly when I returned home that day with hands obviously stained with the juice of my quest, all who saw me knew at once the journey I’d taken and intuitively perceived the likely fruit that I carried as a result. And in response to that possibility, some asked to share in the harvest themselves, and others of a more inquisitive nature, wanted to know the location and nature of the bush so that they could explore its mysteries for themselves.

I learned much from this simple experience and found it quite inspiring. I learned to take my time when seeking to connect with my spirituality and that the greatest rewards are those we reap when we seek to understand the creation, and not just to exploit it. I also learned that there is deep spiritual wisdom available right in front of us, and that we don’t have to go to a church, temple or a ritual to connect with it. In addition, I discovered that once you’ve made the journey, others will see the evidence of your experience and either want to share in it with you, or be inspired to make their own connections. And lastly I realized that jumping into life full on even in the face of danger, rather that riding on the fringes in safety, allows one to have experiences that both inform us of the nature of things and also inform us how to be safe in a chaotic world, and how to reap wonderful rewards in spite of it all.

Perhaps the pursuit of spiritual wisdom is well outlined in nature and we would all do well to take note of that. Our ancestors surely did, and at least those of us who profess to belong to nature religions should make a stab at it.

Blessings All.

H.E. Rev. Patrick McCollum is the Executive Director of the Patrick McCollum Foundation for Peace. A leader in the international Pagan community and interfaith chaplain, Patrick was inspired by the Great Mother to promote a sacred universal vision that respects religious and cultural diversity and advances pluralism. He is the author of Courting The Lady, A Wiccan Journey, Book One: The Sacred Path (Our Lady of the Wells Press, 2006).