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Harp! Sing For Me: Musings on a More Sustainable Future.
Week of: March 24th. 2013 ...
Women Walk to Heal the River
Week of: March 3rd. 2013 ...
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Four Thieves Vinegar: History, Uses, and Recipe
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Week of: September 12th. 2010 ...
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People Are Part of Nature Too
Article ID: 14078
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Paganism is earth based, especially Neo-Paganism. I realize that in this day and age, it’s easy to say that Pagan spirituality is based on the self, or higher non-physical forces, and is removed from nature. I personally believe this to be false. This is why:
The definition of Paganism has changed, will continue to change, and be the source of many debates. Originally, as I’m sure many of you know, it meant a ‘country dweller’ someone whose life and faith patterned after nature – usually agricultural workers – and was influenced by the land. While I am not saying that all pre-civilization or ancient people praised an Earth Mother and Sun God (because they didn’t) , I am saying that all old faiths were a part of daily life, and the daily life revolved around the land. Myths; careers; where homes were set; when one hunted, planted, harvested, and rested; These were all dictated by the cycles of nature, and morphed into depictions of natural phenomena represented by Gods, Myth, and Religion.
But this article is not about the debate of how earth based Pagans are (or should be) today. That is a debate I can’t possibly expect to go over within this article. This is rather to go over a few feelings I have that I think, in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, have been pushed to the back of our minds.
People are the land. People cannot really ‘own’ land and the land cannot own people, but they can have bonds with one another. Plants, animals, and humans are all connected in a web of life, power, magic/science, cause and effect, and many other things. I do believe that people are nature too – we are not separated, we are not abandoned by it, we grow with it, we depend on it, and we are not relieved of responsibility to take care of it. Because the earth takes care of us.
In many cultures, Shamans, Witches, Healers, Priests, Tribal leaders, and the like had a spiritual duty to the community. Not only did they oversee the physical and spiritual well being of other people, but also of the land as a whole. Though we may have food processing and shipping industries, our source of life and power still comes from the earth. But this is only half of the cycle – we still have to complete it and return energy and vitality to the earth in return.
Today, we sort of have it in our heads that the earth isn’t as much of a factor in our lives as it was. If the local farm hits famine, we can buy from someone else. If that corporation crashes, we can ship food in from another continent. But think for a minute instead: How far does that food come from? How much fuel was used to get it here?
If I added up all those resources, costs, and poor labor, would it be worth the extra dollar to buy a local organic box of berries? Also, think of your money as energy. What sort of energy are you investing in? Are you giving energy and profit to a local producer who you know grows local, organic, and adheres to labor law? Or are you giving energy to a company half way across the world that ignores personal safety of workers and safety in the food we eat? Is your energy being put to cut down natural forests for plantations? Or is your energy growing to plant crops in shade-grown areas, which will have a smaller short-term yield but improve the health of the natural surroundings in the long run? Where is your energy really going?
And let us not forget, the spiritual or magical side of things. The spiritual health of the land impacts us as well. After all, there is a reason that witches don’t use plastic flower petals in all their rituals. They feel synthetic and non-living – who wants a belief or magic or energy that feels synthetic and dead?
I firmly believe that as witches, we have a responsibility to use magic to make the world a better place. Not in a way that bends will, but in a way that heals. Heal animals. Heal the psyche; heal the body. Healing the environment and whatever spirits may dwell within the forests or the gardens. Helping the hungry. Giving inspiration and hope to other humans.
Because that is another vital component – nature makes us more human. Oftentimes, we don’t see much empathy in people. We see profit, a conflict between winners and losers, greed, and a thirst for power, blindness to cycles of life or balance, and others. I’m not saying humans are bad – but we do live in a corporate world, where often times we forget to feel human. Being human is found in nature. The way a mother will protect her children, and fight others for them, but the way she will also gradually care for them less, possibly fight them, and let them grow as an adult. The same way that being passionate about a space in nature that is humming with spiritual energy or otherworldly presence makes us happier. This is in the way that being around pets and animals is proven to decrease stress.
We see empathy in the earth. The way that systems co-evolve and change together, the way that somewhere along the line energy is returned and there is a biological unity, and a biological empathy, between all things.
So why not let nature make you those things? A few months ago when I felt cooped up in the house, my computer crashing was enough to make me nearly throw it through the window. Today, if my computer fails (which it has recently) , I can say ‘Oh well. I’ve been on the computer for an hour or two (or six) already, I might as well give it a rest and stop using the power’, and I can go on a walk. Taking just a minute to look at the way the light filters though maple leaves and pine needles is enough to make you a better person.
And though I will not preach this belief as the “end all, be all”, I do firmly believe that nature is a spiritual core to us. Yes, rituals and athames and wands are great – but you can get the same spiritual rush from watching a sunset, or climbing a tree, or feeling the grass and dirt between your toes for a minute.
So in that case, the cycle continues. We take care of nature; nature takes care of us. Humans can enhance nature, and nature enhances the experience of being human.
So take a few minutes every day to think about it. Notice the kinds of trees that grow around you, or if you see flocks of birds often, or pick up a look on local species or environmental preservation. Anything, no matter how small, is a start. In the sense that the Earth is our mother, in terms of caring for the earth we are still infants. We are still stacking building blocks and knocking them down, getting our hands on everything and not seeing all the potential in it (I restrained myself for using more vulgar metaphors on what infants can also do to the people and things around them) . In that regard, we are still learning. We have crawled to many places and we probably think we have seen everything. But it’s not until we get up and take our first steps that we see things differently. Though small in terms of the big scheme of things, your first steps are vital. I am sure that divinity knows that.
As for healing the earth, there are countless ways to do this – spiritual and physical. I don’t even know where to start, and I am only at the tip of the iceberg – if even that- so be aware: Your possibilities are endless. No matter who you are you CAN do something. If you have the money, buy organic produce or cage and hormone free meat. If you don’t have the money, stock up at Farmers markets in the warm seasons and freeze the food for later so you can buy while it’s cheap. If you don’t have the time to go out of your way, by Fair Trade shade grown coffee beans from Tully’s or Star Bucks instead of Free Trade sun grown.
Take 15 minutes a day to go to websites like Click and Give or FreeRice so that you can help animal shelters, preserve forests, and give food to the hungry with NO COST to you. If you have a green thumb, grow some of your own food, and use things like salt, boiling water, or vinegar to kill weeds and pests rather than sprays. Pick up trash on your walk home from work, school, or a simple jog. Donate your old clothes to charity, and maybe pick up clothing made in your country or of recycled fibers. Buy books used or printed from recycled paper. Buy school supplies made from recycled paper (and go for the cheaper brands. The more expensive an ‘eco-friendly’ notebook is, the more processing and shipping resources it went through to get there) . Use both sides of a sheet of paper.
Make regular checks to see that the lights are off when no one needs them. Use a fluorescent light bulb. If building or remodeling a home, use bamboo or compressed straw for building material; or you can look at counter top tiles made from recycled bottle glass; or use insulation made from recycled denim, which is more affective. Try watching Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, or Planet Green every now and then to see how modern technology is impacting the world and environment. Pick up a book on ecology or earth science (double points if you read this side-by-side with a book on The Sabbats or Wiccan cycles, getting you to see the earth in a new kind of glory) .
Use the water from warming up your teakettle in the mornings to water the garden or wash the vegetables. Meditate by a tree or the in grass. Walk around outside barefoot. Take the dogs on a walk. Try to study the moon, stars, or sky at least once a day for a few minutes. Give offerings to trees or tree spirits in times of abundance or celebration. Talk to trees. Walk in a natural setting. Notice the difference between the smell of an overgrown and wild patch of grass, and a freshly watered uniformly tended-to lawn. Look for birds, bugs, snails, or other natural life in yards or parks. Change your mind about a plant, animal, or view of nature.
These are things anyone can do, on any day. I bet you could pick one of these to tackle right now and do it. I personally try to do all of these things – I can’t do every single one all the time, but they are nice things to do, and they don’t take too much effort. Eating seasonally helps me stay in good sync with the earth and the Sabbats, and from eating local produce I can taste that the soil it made from was healthy, rather than tasting bad soil, poor water, wax, spray, and other residue from produce shipped across the country.
My point is to make some of these changes, or make your own list. I realize that to fully make a change, you usually end up making one or less changes per day. Some of us don’t have a ton of time, money, or options – but we still have a responsibility and I believe everyone can find something to help, even if it’s ‘small’. And that’s all right. Just keep in mind the cycle: we take care of the land, and the land takes care of us.
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