Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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Shawn Sanford Beck

Shawn Sanford Beck

 
The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not training priests, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at greenpriest@hotmail.ca
 

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So the snows have come, with the oats yet to harvest.  A month still before Samhain, but the Wheel seems to be turning early.  My forearms are covered with tiny scratches from the straw, as I pound the oat sheaves into the darkness of their threshing casket.  I had hoped for another few weeks of mellow fall weather before the winter sets in, but often the actual seasons of life don't match the liturgical calendar of feasts and fasts, worship and work, as the moons wax and wane.  

That's ok.  It used to bother me a bit, but after a half-decade now of living off grid on our old-fashioned farm, I have come to enjoy the reflections which are born in the tension between the symbolic and the real.  What does it mean that the snowflakes are falling in Lammas-tide?  Is it a sign that I've taken my ease for too long, putting off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday?  Is it a gentle reminder that the sabbath eschaton of the dark-half of the year is often prefigured, even pre-echoed, in the waning of the light-half?  That the root-tip of the yin is buried within the full-flower of the yang?  As I harvest our years' worth of oatmeal, sown in the spring with yesteryear's corn-queen, these and many more oracular hints occur to me.

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In medieval England, before the reformation, there existed in many parishes a powerful spiritual practice called “beating the bounds”.  Toward the end of the the Easter season, in rogationtide, members of the community would spend a day walking the borders of their parish (a parish is a geographical territory, mapped out by the church but used also for civil boundary measurements).  The parish priest would lead the people, singing hymns, saying prayers, sprinkling holy water, and “beating” the boundary line with walking sticks as they perambulated the area.  The purpose of this somewhat odd annual ritual was twofold:  it was a reminder to the people of what the actual parish boundaries were (maps were a bit iffy in those days), and it drove out any evil spirits which might have accrued over the long winter.

This spring, our own farm community tried it out!

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Long have I been fascinated by the runes.  Recently, my good friend Darcy Blahut and I decided to work together on a joint writing project.  Darcy is an accomplished poet, so I invited him to write a poem inspired on each rune verse and my own reflection on that particular rune.  I expect that this project will take a year or so, but wanted to share our first effort ... feoh.  Enjoy!

 

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In my recent Tapestry interview, I spent a few moments addressing the question of the relationship between magic and prayer. Since then, I've had several interesting conversations pursuing this particular question, and it reminded me of a short posting which I published years ago, in conversation with Adelina St. Clair, author of The Path of a Christian Witch. I'm re-posting that short essay here, and I'd love to hear from others about your thoughts on this topic.


One of the reasons I’m interested in this question of the relationship between magic and prayer, is that as a pastor and theologian, I often hear people talking about intercessory prayer saying something like 'well, it isn’t magic you know'. To me, it seems like that sort of statement misses the point of both magic and prayer. But it reveals that for many people (Christian and Pagan alike), intercessory prayer is about asking God to do something, and magic is making something happen praeternaturally, but without the direct assistance of God/dess.

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Hi there folks!  For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian radio, we have an excellent spirituality program on the CBC called Tapestry.  Recently I was interviewed for Tapestry about my ChristoPagan path.  I was extremely happy with the finished product ... here it is:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/not-doing-religion-by-the-book

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Advent ... Yule ... Midwinter ... Christmas ... whatever we choose to call it, this magical time of the turning year-wheel is essential spiritual fare for those of us living in northern climes.  Of course, it is easy to start mumbling and moaning about the evils of consumer capitalism and the temptations of overconsumption (which is true!), but really, do we need another grinch?  As for me, after a full year of fighting the man, I'm just about ready to kick back and enjoy the blessings of the feast.  Bring on the twinkly lights, the Christmas carols, and a whole army of Santa's elves ... the ice-crystal magic never dies.

From a ChristoPagan perspective, Yuletide is one of the most interesting times of blended spirituality.  Persian druids following a star, talking animals in a midnight manger, and a wild hunt-esque sled bringing presents to children around the globe all blend together with medieval carols, magnificat gospel narratives, and the Wyrd-made-flesh among us.  What's not to like?

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I say bring on the Christmas buffet. Rum balls, date bars, egg nog, ham. whatever your local dishes might be. Other people can k

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For the past half-decade, our family has been homesteading on an off-the-grid farm in Treaty 6 territory.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with Canadian history, Treaty 6 refers to a particular regional relationship whereby land was shared (not ceded ... a very important distinction) by the Indigenous Peoples with the Crown and its settlers.  The treaty was made in the late 19th century, and still holds today, though it has been bent and broken numerous times by the colonial government.  Today, our farm's direct neighbours are the First Nations of Moosomin (Cree) and Saulteaux (Ojibwe), as well as many Metis folk in the near vicinity.  For me, that means that when Samhain comes round on the Great Wheel, my mind turns to a very complicated ancestral inheritance.

As a Christian, and in particular as an Anglican priest, my genetic and spiritual ancestors  were responsible for some pretty reprehensible mayhem in this part of the world.  The residential schools were probably the worst of it, but racist colonialism has been an Anglican curse for several hundred years, and there's still plenty of it to go around.  In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has delivered a mandate of 94 “Calls to Action” ... concrete steps which can be taken by the Canadian government and other institutions (and individuals) to repent of the toxic legacy which has oppressed so many Indigenous people and torn our nation asunder.  Several of these calls to action are directed specifically toward the churches which ran the residential schools.  This one in particular has been haunting my conscience lately:

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