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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Beating the Bounds

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!

Our purposes however, were a little different.  Rather than driving out any lingering demons (who don't come around here anyways!), we walked the farm's boundaries in order to get to know the land better.  We walked and prayed our appreciation and our love for the land and all her creatures, and as we beat the bounds, we sent our blessings into the earth.  At each corner of the farmland, we buried a fragment of blessed bread (which had been grown, harvested, milled, and baked right at home!) and said this adaptation of the old Anglo-Saxon Aecerbot charm:

O Holy Mother Earth, 

May our Creator, and the spirits herein, let this land grow and thrive,

increase and strengthen with tall stems and fine crops.

May this sacred land be protected from harm and warded against all ills.

And may this gift of bread and blessed water seal the peace between us.

Amen.

The entire walking ritual took us almost three hours, but it was worth it!  The crocuses were in full bloom, the trees and grasses were starting to green up, the sun was warm and the wind was cool.  A perfect, magical, blessed evening.

Upon our return to the homestead gardens, we took the soil we had collected from the four corners, blended it together with the remaining bread and holy water, and dug it into the earth.  The beating of the bounds complete, we finished with the ancient collect of rogation:

Almighty and merciful God, 

from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: 

bless, we beseech thee, the labours of thy people, 

and cause the Earth to bring forth her fruits abundantly in their season,

that we may with grateful hearts 

give thanks to thee for thy providence,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

And that's how Christian Druids roll.  Blessed be.

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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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