I have a perennial (and quite possibly crazy) vision for an Order of Trashmonks.
Let me explain what I mean......
The other day I was in my car sitting at a red light. In front of me was a large vehicle with a pentacle sticker on it. The license plate had the word "hex" in it. This indicated the occupant, or at least the owner of the vehicle, as Pagan. I sat behind this vehicle and shook my head. A large, gas guzzling vehicle with Pagan stickers on it. I wondered if the occupant noticed the irony. Then, just as the light turned red, the occupant tossed a cigarette out the window and continued on her merry way. Had the light still been red, I would've jumped out of my ten year old econo car, picked up the discarded butt, handed it back to her while saying "excuse me! You dropped this!"
Pagans who participate in the destruction of Mother Earth through seemingly small acts like throwing used cigarette butts on the ground most certainly participate in the large scale destruction of our planet through tar sands and other human-made environmental catastrophes. This was the basis for my inaugural post, A Call to Action I was asked in the comments what resisting Keystone XL has to do with Paganism. My response: everything.
This is not the first time I've lamented about the lack of large scale participation by Pagans in the movement against climate change. Obviously the idea of living lightly on Mother Earth has not occurred to all Pagans. When calls have been made to step up and practice treading lightly the responses have been varied: from outright vitriol to pleasure the Pagan community is taking notice.
There are lots of environmental issues Pagans can involve themselves in: tarsands, mountaintop removal, unsustainable hydro, protection of crops amongst a myriad of others.
Jason Pitzl-Waters asked "But how far are Pagans, collectively, willing to go in defense of an Earth they call sacred?" It seems to me not very far. If Pagans can't make refrain from throwing cigarette butts out of their SUVs, I can't imaging them willing to risk arrest to prevent coal from mountain top removal in Appalachia being delivered to a coal fire plant in southern New England.
The call to action across the planet has been heard by many Christian sects. Already we are hearing about churches who are choosing to divest from fossil fuels. Yet I have not heard such a call from large Pagan worship centers such as Circle Sanctuary or Temple of Witchcraft or even the Reclaiming leadership. Small groups and covens have also remained silent. I find this terribly distressing.
Not all Pagans are Earth worshipers. So even if you do not worship the earth as a deity worship her as the only place we have to live: there is no planet B.
Paganism is often described as religion of “Nature Worship” or as “Earth-Centered”. Is it? Should it be? Is Nature, in how we use it, a euphemism for the wilderness, or the biological, ‘living’ part of the world, or is it a name we put on the world as a whole? Is Nature big enough for it to be a descriptive characteristic of our group spiritual life? Much depends on the definition of Nature. . .
Happy Earth Day, all! I have always had a special place in my heart for this celebration. For one thing, it shares the same birth year as me, 1970. For another, the idea originated with a Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson. (This courtesy of the Earth Day Network™, http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement) Finally, if you love nature– what better way to revere our Mother Earth than with a hike and a picnic?
As to locations, look into your city, county, or state parks and see who has the best trails. If you are lucky enough to live in a rural or woodsy area and own your abode, blaze a trail of your own. When you return for some hearty fare, stoke a fire pit in the backyard if it has cooled off.
Picnic goodie list:...
Friday evening I drove to Point Reyes Station to hear David Abram give a talk. Ever since I had read his first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, Abram has been on my shortest list of authors to read, reread, and recommend to anyone I meet. Including you, dear reader. (But unless you are a serious student of philosophy, skip chapter 2.) It was particularly fitting that I could hear him just a few days before Earth Day.
As a graduate student, Abram hoped his skills as a sleight of hand magician, and consequent heightened appreciation for how perception worked, would give him special entry into the worlds of traditional shamans. He traveled to Indonesia and Nepal to do his research, and found they were indeed interested. He also, as he put it, got in way “over my head.”
His second book, Becoming Animal, delves more deeply into the implications raised by his first, but for Earth day in some ways Spell of the Sensuous is the most important. (See here for my review of Becoming Animal. )...
What does religion have to do with a particular political party? Not much. Political parties are fluid, and politicians are more interested in power than in a particular moral stance. Reagan gave a nod to fundamentalist Christians, and they leapt to align themselves with the Republican party. But now the GOP is getting pressure from many of its members to change its stance on marriage. What will these Christians do then?
My fellow blogger here at Witches and Pagans, Gus DiZerega, would have us be convinced that being Pagan is quite incompatible with being Libertarian. I’m not convinced. Gus spent many years being a Libertarian and has offered considerable philosophic reading in his links. But ultimately, I didn’t come to my interest in Libetarianism through philosophy and scholarly study, but through politics and economics.* My interest in Libertarianism is that it is all about getting government to be smaller and less intrusive. This means fewer laws, and a trust that the market will be better for humans and Nature than will government. Since Gus brought it up, I started thinking more deeply about what spiritual values might underlie our political choices (if any). From there I considered the connections between compassion and responsibility, and personal happiness.
An argument can be good and valid on one level, without reaching deep enough to touch our core values. A great deal of political discourse falls into this category. A dictionary definition of “politic” says: shrewd or prudent in practical matters; tactful; diplomatic, or contrived in a shrewd and practical way; expedient. Spiritual values should certainly not be "expedient," and certainly not "contrived."...
There is a conversation topic getting a much-needed dust-off in recent days thanks to both the inaugural speech by US President Obama and a recent blog post by Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune; environmental activism. I've written about how I feel an undeniable stewardship of the planet because of my religious views, which include not only the environment as being sacred, but that as a matter of practicality and selfishness, this is the only environment we have and we need to do everything we can to keep it healthy enough to sustain us, which invariably means approaching our life choices as part of the system and not separate and superior to it.
The weather is turning crisp here and the falling leaves are brilliant shades of orange, red and gold. The afternoons are still warm but evening is coming earlier. The rains have not started yet, but winter's shadow is on the land. We are finally in October, which for me means the onset of the busiest season in my spiritual year: the season of the Wild Hunt, which begins now and reaches its height at Yule. Samhain forms a major milestone along the way, but for me (and among Heathens in general) the time when the veil is at its thinnest, and the Hunt at its most active, falls during the twelve nights of Yule. After January 1st, things calm down somewhat, although there are still occasionally forays during the springtime, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where our springs are often stormier than our winters.
As some of you may be aware, the story of how Odin claimed me is all bound up with the Hunt. Although I am not a hunter myself in an in-this-world way, the Furious Host seems to have lodged itself in my blood somehow, and two years ago around this time of year I formally agreed to ally myself with them and act as a doorway for them into this world.
Some of you are likely sputtering by now, reading this; I hope you haven't spilled your drinks on the keyboard! For those whose keyboards are safe (and are thus, I assume, unfamiliar with the Wild Hunt), the core of the legend is that a spectral band of creatures in hunting garb (be they dead, undead, never human, or all of the above) rampages through the night sky at a certain time of year (see above). This story seems to be deeply rooted in Indo-European culture, and most European countries have their own version of it; it is unaccountably ancient, and just as with the roots of Yggdrasil itself it's impossible to say exactly where or how it began. What this band is hunting is never completely clear in the folk tales, and can range from a woman, to a troll, to a kind of half-woman, half-forest creature known as a moss maiden. The leader ascribed to this band of ghostly riders varies with the country, but in Scandinavia, England and Germany the leader is traditionally Odin, and the Hunt includes, in this particular incarnation, the spirits of long-dead heroes and Odin's dead in general. The Hunt is accompanied by black dogs with red eyes, undead noblemen, and Odin's gigantic eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Jagermeister, Wilde Jaeger (Wild Hunter), Draugrdrottin (Lord of Ghosts), Valfather (Lord of the Slain)--these are all among Odin's many names that have to do with His function as Leader of the Furious Host. Most of the stories agree that it is dangerous for humans to see the Hunt or be seen by it. Some of the tales advise throwing oneself face down onto the path when the sound of the hunting horns is heard, others suggest various offerings--a piece of steel, a sprig of parsley--that might be useful in deterring the Hunt, or at least distracting it while you get to safety. At first glance and at last, this is a story to frighten not only small children but sensible adults too. The Hunt (along with the frigid Scandinavian winter) is the reason why Yule is traditionally a time for family to gather together behind closed doors by the fire, and to not go out after dark, and to allow the hospitality of one's home to visitors without question, especially during the twelve nights of Yule, when madness reigns in the skies.
A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).
I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.
Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.
I felt the need to respond to Literata’s latest blog, “Toxic Weapons.” I was laying in bed at 2 a.m. and it just wouldn’t leave me alone.
The issue of guns is a devisive one. I’ve been traveling this past week and the issue of gun ownership keeps popping up everywhere I go. I generally find myself hanging out with extremely liberal people. I am extremely liberal myself; I am an avid Pagan, a nudist and a polyamorist. But I am also a gun owner and generally have a different opinion on the matter than most people.
I grew up in a household with guns, and I don’t mean just one or two. My father is a serious collector of WWII rifles. Hunting, shooting, smithing and reloading are his life. So guns have always been a part of my life. I do not consider them to be toxic. I also don’t consider myself to be toxic because of them. (This is my father and this was a typical Saturday in my childhood).
In today's world, humans have become the major factor affecting our own environment - and I don't just mean ecology. Of course we are affecting the environment, causing creeping climate change and dramatic variations in weather. But we also have a huge effect on what's around us in the most mundane sense, the things that we work with and use on an everyday basis, what might be called our technological environment. One of the new things we've introduced to that technological environment is certain types of guns, and they're poisoning us from the inside out.
The mid-west is in a drought. Crops are dying and wildfires are flaring all across the Midwest. In this post, I will focus on the loss of crops. The primary crops for the Midwest are corn and soybeans. This year, corn planting is at an all time high at 96.4 million acres. Almost none of it is sweet corn. The vast majority is commodity corn, which will become feed for pigs and cattle, be used for the production of corn by-products, or to produce ethanol. None of these uses improve human or planetary health or well-being. In addition, between 85 and 95 percent of the corn planted in the afflicted states is GMO.* Corn is – by necessity - almost always rotated with soybeans. Over 90 percent of all soybeans are GMO.
How absurd that we tear up native prairie grasses to grow corn or soybeans to feed cattle. Such grasses are far more resistant to heat and drought conditions. Their roots, extending 15 feet below the soil line, literally raise the water table. As I have written in other posts, cattle are not designed to eat grain, and it is bad for their health and ours. They are designed to eat grass. In a wet year, such grasses also improve the soil’s ability to hold water. This reduces both flooding and erosion.
Rotational strip-grazing of cattle instead of commodity cropping would necessarily change how the market works. Cattle and pigs are finished in factory farms and fed corn and soy feeds for the convenience of the processors. The deplorable conditions that these animals endure, which are problem for any Pagan for which relationship matters, are a function public demand....
When I was a kid in the 70s, mom collected our newspapers and tin cans for recycling, and she and I would pick up trash by the side of the road. In school I saw a completely traumatizing film about a world constantly awash in grey polluted rain, in which a woman maintains a little green house. A green house that ultimately gets destroyed by a mob, desperate for a touch of beauty. I named myself an environmentalist with pride and did so up until I started studying sustainable food production methods.
That food production in this country spews vast amounts of poison onto the earth and water is not news. The fact that the larger environmental movement had more passion for spotted owls than acres of toxins was somewhat understandable. Food production was – and is – a political hot potato. The idea that modern farming methods saved millions from starvation was probably true enough for a short period of time - immediately after artificial fertilizers and DDT were introduced - but now that is the story that corporations like Cargill and Monsanto use to keep us convinced that they should be allowed to sell GMO seeds and pesticides. And the silence from the environmental movement is deafening. The focus on mega fauna and fortress conservation has separated the average American from nature. Nature is something we go to parks, or zoos, or media to see. School children are shocked and grossed out by the fact that vegetables grow from dirt. The same attitude that places Nature on a pedestal separates us from the source of what nourishes body and soul.
I often make references to grass-fed livestock. This would seem to be an obvious concept, a pasture full of cows is still something that my generation might remember from childhood, before livestock was banned from suburbia for being stinky and attracting flies. Mom and I used to buy our milk (and ice cream!) at the local dairy. You could watch the cows come in from the field and go into their spot in the barn. They would get their udders washed and the milker attached, and would stand munching hay while they were relieved of their burden. Then off they would go, back out to the pasture. These cows were clean and healthy. It was obvious when you looked at them. The farm was a transparent operation, and their handling practices were there for all the world to see.
And while this is assuredly a big step up from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), this is not quite what I mean by grass-fed.