I am fortunate, in my wild and peaceful Welsh sanctuary, to be able to observe the many birds and animals that make this place their home closely: they do not notice me as they go about their lives, and I have been struck by how much they celebrate and mourn at times of significance, just as humans do - or used to do when ritual practice was part being human. I have seen the triumphant first flight of fledgelings led from their nests by proud parents; I have heard the calling songs of flocks needing to gather for a final rally before their exodus; I have witnessed the summer visitors fly around and around their nesting sites to impress their energy there and give thanks for past and future abundance; I see every morning the bats returning from hunting and touching their home under the eaves three times before disappearing to sleep; I have watched stoats cry as their babies are taken; I have empathised as birds gather round a sick comrade as if in prayer for its well-being; and I have seen cats mourn the passing of a brother.
A recent scientific study has proven that birds and animals are aware of the death of a fellow and mark it, perhaps by gathering around the body as if saying farewell, or changing their patterns of behaviour for a while, as if in grief. They have their rituals both personally and collectively as do we. Sometimes, however, unlike the world of nature we forget to mark the smaller milestones in our lives or even to notice them, such as giving thanks for safe harbour when we leave a place, or honouring the daily arrival of the sun. Our ancestors knew this, and their ceremonies helped to connect them constantly with the land and the elements, and, indeed, with Spirit. It is time, like wildlife, to remember the old ways and what it means to be part of all that is.