The 'supernatural' is often considered the sine qua non of religion. Certainly the Gods and Spirits must be considered supernatural, yes? Well…not necessarily.
Greetings to all!
This is just a quick re-blog of an article I wrote about my experiences with mountain lions, lore & history, and the magic alive in being a witness, activist, and treehugger....
Imbolc, when the little snowdrops emerge from the earth, the first flowers, and the first sign that spring is on the way. Except if you’re dealing with floodwater just now, you probably won’t see them because they will be submerged. If you are a bit further north than I am, there will be no sign yet. People in colder climates can’t expect flowers at this time of year – my other half, who originated in Maine, continues to be perplexed by anything trying to grow at this time. Not everywhere has snowdrops, and not everywhere has winter.
There are no doubt a lot of Pagans out there who feel they should be celebrating Imbolc this weekend, because it’s the ancient Celtic festival marking the first signs of spring, and it’s here. Some will no doubt go out with scripts that talk of things which simply are not happening in their lives. I’ve done that myself. I stood in a hailstorm one year, trying to picture the gentle, generous spring maiden and her magical wild flowers, whilst getting cold, wet, miserable and confused. It was one of those key moments in my journey towards rejecting a dogmatic approach to dates and festivals.
As it happens, the catkins have been opening for a while now, and I saw my first snowdrops last week. The weather forecast is dire, and I do not fancy my preferred hilltop, in case we do get some of those predicted 150 mile an hour winds. I like to think the Druids of old had enough sense, and enough respect for the natural world not to be out in it unnecessarily when it might do them serious injury....
I wrote this letter as I worked on my recent drawing of you. As I sat to write this I kept asking myself, “What is my relationship to Gaia?” I know I think of you not as the Goddess of Nature but Nature or the Earth itself. Intellectually I know without you, my life as a human being would not exist. I know that without humans, you would happily exist for millennia.
Oh Gaia, when I briefly lived at the edge of the jungle and beach, I felt you most powerfully in my life. During that time, I felt overwhelmed by you. I knew that I wasn't ready to live so closely to you. I was so at home with the beauty and abundance you offered me Gaia. Yet I felt as though I was pitted against you every second. It was too raw for this aspiring ecofeminist. I was not strong enough.
Oh Gaia, I am still an urban Goddess lover. Though I still hold on to the hope of living closer to you. I want to feel what it means to be Gaia’s partner. As I hold this idea I meet other Goddess sisters that commune with you so well. They walk through the grass being Priestesses meanwhile I run for the comfort of cement. I know it doesn't help to compare Gaia but it’s challenging. Here I am dreaming of a life in an Earthship but can’t keep more than one plant alive in my house!
Oh Gaia, I believe you don’t value humans anymore than any other living being. Living with that belief is sobering. Oddly enough it also makes me want to be with you more . This isn't because it would make me more of a Goddess woman or a better Neopagan. It’s because you force me to be present. I can’t help but be conscious of what is around me-- be it gnats or gorgeous foliage. You make me think of balance, community, and being with the uncomfortable. You help me understand that dirt and bugs are a part of life. I am a part of something bigger. You, Gaia, are where everything dies and is reborn.
I feel as though you are going through the motions of shaking human beings up Gaia. During this difficult time, I want to live in harmony with you as much as I can. So I’m not ready to live in my Earthship right now but I can start taking baby steps. I was thinking of trying to sit on the grass without three layers of cloth. Though please Gaia, can we keep the bug bites to a minimum? :)
For me, Autumn is far less about the dying away, and far more about the stocking up. Granted, the leaves beyond my window are turning, shades of yellow and brown creeping in amongst the greens. It’s late this year, but then, so was the spring.
There is a subtle narrative that exists in the desert, where I meander through a series of washes that lead into canyons. I am nicely secluded, despite being in the middle of one of the West’s largest cities. Summertime in the Sonoran Desert is perfect for a solitary fox like me… I scurry and watch, quietly observing ripening tunas on prickly pear, and listen to the curve-billed thrasher chiming a sharp morning hello to fellow winged compadres. The air is hot, even at 4:30am. The breeze is close but discomforting in its stagnant hold of sand and baked stone. I take a seat on the granite, smoothed by monsoon water flow, and wait for a story to be told.
This is the wash where I have spent many hours. When I arrived in Phoenix in 2007, South Mountain Park, or Muhadag Do’ag, as the range is known by the O’odham nations, was my first taste of this unusual land of light and edge. I have met many wild companions during my solo hikes here. I have listened to the song of five coyotes as they created day from night – turning stars into saguaro blooms. This is the place I watched resident owls descent in twilight, swooping low from their granite and gneiss shelters and out onto the cityscape, into December’s near-chill nights.
In the dusty wash, I climb up onto an outcrop where a lizard (dreamtime) skitters behind the branches of a Palo Verde. I shift my focus to discover a spiral petroglyph, about 10 inches in diameter, carefully concealed by the new growth of the spiny, pale limbs. The glyph can be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand years old – here, it is tough to tell. I consider the spiral. I feel the maze of my own mind and body. The blood moves through my heart and across the fields and waterways of my being to animate my arms, my legs. I inhale – the air circulates through time. I think of the path I walk and the lifetimes of fellow walkers, all sharing the breath, movement. I have been feeling so disconnected lately. When I dream of the maze, I remember that I am never alone… only my mind is the great isolator, but life –
the rhythm of breath and circulation – brings me back to the world.
In my last post, I talked about how to sense nature spirits. Once you've found a way to sense them that works for you, the next step is to try communicating with them.
Except...why would you want to? And why would they want to talk back?
There are plenty of reasons. For one thing, spirits have insights that we may not have. They exist in a different manner than we do; some of them represent or embody natural forces that we can only observe and interact with in a limited manner. My work with animal, plant, and fungus totems is a good example. These beings are intermediaries between their species and the rest of the world, to include humans. When I work with them, I can find out more about the living beings that I share my world with. For example, I discovered when cleaning up the stretch of the Columbia River I adopted that while the totems of animal species like White Sturgeon and American Robin are concerned with litter that their physical counterparts could accidentally eat or become entangled in, plant totems like Black Cottonwood communicate to me more about water pollution that the trees and other plants can absorb into their roots through the soil....
So, let's start with the very basics, beginning with how to sense spirits. After all, if I'm going to be helping my readership work with spirits and totems and the like, I should make sure that you have a way of doing so. You might already have figured out a good option for yourself, but keep reading anyway if you like--maybe there's something in here you haven't considered yet.
I'm going to sidestep the issue of the exact nature of spirits, whether they're independent beings in a nonphysical reality that parallels our own, or unseen denizens of our world, or elements of our psyche that we project outward. Not that it isn't important, but I'll leave it up to you to decide exactly what they are; the how-tos I'm going to put in this blog should work regardless of your answer.
Yesterday I did what I normally do in the afternoon- bring the laundry in from off the wash-line. I reach for a shirt, and there is a spider that has spun a delicate web between it and another shirt. Grabbing a small stick, I carefully pick it off its web and place it on a branch. See, I’m not scared of spiders.
Getting to the final bit of laundry, I unpeg a long black skirt off the line and drape it over my arm. Out the corner of my eye I notice something large and greyish rubbing against me. I think nothing of it. As I plop the skirt in the laundry basket, the greyish thing moves and realisation dawns.
There’s a shrill scream of some choice ‘French’ and I do the heebie-jeebie dance one naturally does when an eight-legged mammoth has rubbed up against you. Ok, I’m scared of spiders- but only when they are the size of dinner plates (I’m exaggerating, the size of saucers). However, I didn’t kill it. I just grabbed a big stick, and from an overstretched distance, flicked it off on to the ground… and then grabbed my laundry and ran for the door. However, the Gods were not done with me yet…...
A few days ago, PaganSquare blogger Gus diZerega posted a blog post on nature religions within Paganism, a reply to a lovely post by Joseph Bloch. Paganism--as used by Gus--seems to include any pre-Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religion, and is separate from Neo-Paganism, which he classifies as 'modern revival of Pagan spirituality by people coming from within modern society'. The focal point of Gus' post was that, whether the ancient or modern Pagan cultures agree or not, they were, and are, nature worshippers. As such, reconstructionists of said religions are also nature worshippers. I'm paraphrasing here, so please, read Gus' words for yourself.
I disagree with Gus' conclusions, but I will not go into his writing here. I simply introduce Gus and his post to introduce PaganSquare reader Trine, who commented on one of my replies to Gus with a question I would love to dedicate a blog post to. Her post went as follows:
How might our Paganism influence our politics? A post I wrote before the election, was recently rebuked because I supposedly had no respect for nearly half the American people. Supposedly my views were alien to the Wiccan rede. I disagree as will be obvious, but my basic issue is not with the author, who I assume was sincere, but with a style of thought and the confusions it breeds. While this post begins with a political question to answer it I will take a journey through some theology and some philosophy.
How big a tent?
Two points argue for an immense political tent among Pagans and I agree with them both. First anyone can be a Pagan who claims to be one because there is no set of authorities to say you or I are or are not Pagans. That lack of authorities is a good thing in my view....
... and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on ...
-- Mary Oliver, "Bone"
Post-Jungian James Hillman writes that the "first task of psychology is to explore and give an account of subjectivity." But what are the limits of that subjectivity? Where do "I" end and the "other" begin? Hillman writes, "Since the 'discovery of the unconscious,' every sophisticated theory of personality has to admit that whatever I claim to be 'me' has at least a portion of its roots beyond my agency and my awareness." But just how far beyond?...
Nature is self-caused, both source and manifestation of all matter, all experience, all thought, all emotion, all life, and all death. We were not created by nature; we have emerged within it, as integral parts of it. In short:
We are nature....
November 6th the right wing attempt to take over the country shattered against the sea wall of our constitution and a damaged but still viable electoral system. I think their defeat will be ranked by future historians as their high water mark. They can still do great damage to our country, but their chances to rule us have collapsed. And they know it.
This development frees us from having to play defense all the time, allowing us to ask what positive values would we like to see better achieved in modern America?
Yule and the Winter Solstice are two separate events for me, with Yule being celebrated around December 21-25 just to keep up with family that celebrates Christmas, and the solstice being celebrated when it actually occurs, which for 2012 (5:12am CST) and 2013 (11:11am CST) is December 21st where I live. I wrote an article already explaining why I try to get so exact with the date/time of the celebrations, if you’re interested.
On the Winding Path, I have a couple of different rituals that are done around the time of Yule, besides the main one, because this is such an important time of year. Although I live in a climate where it’s unusually mild for this time of year this time around, there have been years of great hardship from harsh weather here. It is in the balance between all of those cold and mild winters that I place my mind when thinking of the Winter Solstice because it represents the breaking of the grip of winter upon the land. In northern climates, this was more true because they hardly if ever saw the sun around this time. There are symbols from the times of our ancestors which have been carried through to today, even by the usurpers of our traditions, like the use of evergreens, or celebrating for twelve days. On the Winding Path, we don’t celebrate for twelve days, but evergreens do play an important role in ritual and just a decoration because it reminds us and signals to us the promise of the return of spring.
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)
Proposition 37 is voter-mandated proposal in California to label products that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. If you are still unclear about exactly what GMOs are, and why they are bad, let’s have an explanation.
GMOs should really be called transgenic organisms. Humans have been modifying plants and changing their genetics since the beginning of agriculture. We do this by choosing seeds from the healthiest, best producing plants and growing them. But this is not remotely what corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta are doing. These corporations take genes from two organisms that would never naturally reproduce together (because the equipment would not even match up) and combines them together into one Frankenplant (or Frankenanimal).
When these plants get eaten by another living being, those combo genes enter that system. In the case of livestock, they don’t generally live long enough to show the damage that these combo genes cause, and if they did, I’m sure the owners of the CAFOs would do all they could to hide it. But there are enough studies that show that GMOs are dangerous for scientists to have spoken out against them....
When you live as rural as we do, surrounded on all sides by miles of forest and fields, you gain an appreciation for nature that I don't think I ever experienced when I lived in a city. I lived in Colorado Springs, a place which values it's natural spaces and proximity to fantastic recreational areas; it was even voted the fittest small city in the country. However, a lot of my time of living there involved driving back and forth to work through row after row of houses, watching entire neighborhoods and strip malls appear within weeks. I didn't feel the same closeness to nature I do now because it was something I drove to.
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).