Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum. Who Is the Greenest One?
Article ID: 15213
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: December 9th. 2012
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The idea for this essay came about more than a year ago, but the writing bogged down and it sat on my computer desktop for months. Eventually, I realized that maybe my approach to the topic was the problem. The solution came about in an odd way: I was working on a proposal for a science fiction convention panel on alternate futures in the 21st century. I thought, “Hey, some of the ideals in my future world building are a lot like what I really mean to say here, too”. So here it is: this was originally meant to be a single article, but I just kept realizing I needed more and more, so it will take a couple of submissions to get it all out.
I couldn’t resist the title. It comes with more humor than some other choices could have. However even if I’m taking a sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach to this topic, it’s one that has frequently gotten a quick and sometimes not-so-friendly “what are they thinking?” sort of retort. Being a green Pagan shouldn’t be a mindless set of feel-good actions. That kind of thinking tends to lead a person into some unwanted results. So that crystal in the wand you made came from a strip mine in Brazil that you unintentionally supported by just having to have one for your nature ritual? These kinds of unintended consequences make one want to pound one’s head against a wall in frustration.
Nor is this a strictly “Pagan” solution. There has been some thinking in the Pagan/Heathen community that nature reverence is a part and parcel of the religion. The notion is generally true given our pantheon of Gods, but don’t for a moment think that we own it. Reverence and good stewardship of the environment in the western tradition also goes back to folks like St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir and a host of other (mostly very Christian) people. Stealing it and claiming it is ours doesn’t help matters. In any case, this is an inclusive process, not an exclusive one.
So, the purpose of this essay is two fold: One part is a desire for Pagans and members of our spiritual community to recognize and give a bigger role to nature in our expressions of faith. My first point: this isn’t a “one size fits all” scenario. Being realistic, you have to take into account that this is about people, and people live in a variety of settings: rural, urban, and small town/suburban. Many Pagans worship deities that reflect various aspects of Gods with a strong tie to the natural world, but not all in the same way. This is meant to be an essay on the practical, not esoteric. I am not saying that we are striving for a utopia. Any future solution is not going to be perfect, but like all living things, a bit organic and at times illogical in its logic. Such is the human experience.
Before I rev this essay up any more, let’s start with some vocabulary. What does the term “green” mean and what is its relationship with the Pagan faiths in general? A very human problem starts with language because of political groups and their internt to identify their agenda with a brand label. Yeah, it’s marketing all right. So the Green political movement attempts to get people to follow it because it wants you to identify your personal desire to live more lightly on the land. With it, you get a social agenda that includes a platform of goals that the party wants you to accept as part and parcel with the label… even if it may have little to do with what a lot of would-be members actually really want. Sound like that cable TV contract bundle of channels you don’t really want, but have to take anyway, doesn’t it? Being a Pagan is more than a bundle of social politics under a brand label (though that is sometimes what it may sound like) .
So, how to tie together the desire to do well to our world, be a Pagan and not be taken as a complete loon with your views about being a good steward of the world you live in? Here is my call to action: Start from the bottom. Influence those local township and community councils that have a big effect on what is allowed in their community. We need to start by changing things locally to make them reflect sensible, environmentally sound practices that work for everybody (well, maybe not for land development interests) .
Do I need to say this next part? I guess I do. If you are considered the local crazy person, you are not going to influence people very effectively. Being Pagan is a spiritual choice, and should not be the first think people think about you when you express yourself. We live in a secular society after all where one’s personal faith is not the primary defining quality of one’s place in the community. Win minds, and shared values bring us together even in cases where our spiritual paths differ.
Many Pagans I’ve met call themselves “Kitchen Witches”. These folks are frequently Pagans or neo Pagan types who are more into little bits of the craft instead of high rites. Their practice includes folk remedies and Magik practices that hearken back to a more rural world. We need to keep even the little bits of this as an expression of a mindset and worldview that is intimate with nature. It is ironic that the term Pagan is derived from a Latin Christian term of derision meaning “rustic person”. I’m honestly proud to be a rustic, but I am far from unsophisticated. Nevertheless, I keep my garden plot and animals and feel that others like me out there can and should do the same. Herein lies a problem that we need to address.
It is insane when people can’t even keep a few fowl, or build a small pond to add to their land because of zoning laws designed to promote mass subdivisions treat this as a nuisance. Tax codes need to be amended too. Right now hobby farmers and other small, uneconomic agriculturalists are treated as tax cheats if they try to claim expenses involved in their lifestyle. I shouldn’t have to start a church to get legal exemptions to practice my nature loving lifestyle.
I am not the kind of person who has ever aspired to be a High Priest or head Druid. Leading a Coven or Druid grove ministry is not for me. From what I’ve seen from a number of people who’ve contributed to Witchvox, I’m not alone in this camp. I am passionate about my ties to the land however, and it is a big part of what defines my spiritual place in the world. Part and parcel with this is how I practice living on the land I keep. To me, being Pagan means living close to the land in some way. How one does so isn’t so much an issue to me as just doing it. Living close to nature is the best way to practice my spirituality outside of attending rituals.
So how does this tie into a call to action to help heal Mother Earth? What if we looked at people who practiced mini-agriculture as contributors to a set of cultural practices that are an integral part of our spiritual path? Another net result is that all these would add sources of food and lifestyle to the benefit of our local communities. In addition, besides managing our acres for small crops and animal husbandry, many wild animals thrive in small areas of habitat we keep too. So it matters even on a small scale.
Of course I’d be remiss if I failed to mention one more way that the more community oriented could make living closer to nature work. If you lack land, how about joining a CSA? (Community Supported Agriculture) Or if you have the means and want to involve your community, how about starting one? Of course, it takes a lot of capital resources to buy a large farm, and excellent management skills to keep one working, especially when dealing with a community based organization made up of many people. In an ideal world, we’d all have deep ties that keeps our hands dirty and us in intimate touch with the natural in Paganism. Nature is dirty, and sometimes callous, but it is what it is. Our Pagan Gods are intimate with the real world, and so should you be. I’m not saying to be a redneck hick, but being in touch with natural things tends to take the gloss off ones’ romantic vision of things.
The land and its natural habitat are our collective responsibility after all. We are the government of the land, not the politicians who represent us. However you choose to manage your land, be it a full scale farm, garden patch, or just letting it go completely natural; do it thoughtfully. This is a personal responsibility. Let the government manage those resources in our truly wild places to protect them, but remember only a relatively few places are actually under the stewardship of the National Park Service compared to those where most people actually live. The BLM and Forestry Service can do a good job as well, subject to the whims of the interests who control the policies they follow. I’ll leave that political can of worms alone for the time being though!
Ethical actions, or rather a Pagan ethic is also implicit in a lot of this. Exactly how ethics ties into a Pagan environmental view is subject for a further essay. When I try to tackle that one I’ll have to do so with some examples from specific Gods and Goddesses to make my point. This is a big topic and I’ll put my spin on it though I’ll admit that the whole issue is really too big for just my viewpoint. The purpose here is to add to a much-needed dialogue. I’m sure others will add their own spin on things.
Conversations with Tony Florio, retired Delaware State Wildlife biologist.
Biographical fact checking via Wikipedia and other web references on historical figures cited in article.
Zoning and animal husbandry issues raised were based on forum commentary posted in the "Backyard Chickens" forum
Copyright: c 2012 A. I. Mychalus
Location: New Park, Pennsylvania
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