Read this closely, it’s not what you’re used to hearing:
We are not merely spirits in a body.
It makes no sense whatsoever to rely entirely on “otherworldly” senses to make sense of the world, or merely spiritual acts like prayer, when our house is burning to the ground. And it is.The only planet we’ve got is undergoing its Sixth Mass Extinction and it seems our strongest collective response is, “Meh.” In many places around the world, the first fights in the future Climate Wars is already being fought: Syria, Ecuador, Standing Rock. Right here in my home, this summer, the strife boiled to the surface when algae clogged our waterways and then… What?
Prayers were done. A ritual or two was done. People talked and joined groups, posted articles and debated topics. Yet the curse of the disenfranchised is that our everyday actions aren’t sufficient, whereas a stroke of a pen in a boardroom can doom the sacred lands and water quality of thousands. We must go to greater lengths to achieve the same effect and we’re barely moving.
Our behavior and beliefs do not align.
Those who call ourselves pagans generally toss around a lot of words like natural, earth-centered and tree-spirit, but we don’t always walk that talk. We sometimes to through the arduous labor of growing plants for their magickal and medicinal power, but neglect native ones of great power and history. We wear crystals as jewelry and include them in our rites because of their energy or vibrations, but do not extend the same courtesy to every natural object that must surely have its own unique qualities. We behave like collectors of exotic curia, fascinated by a world we can consume for enrichment of the mind and soul.
Eight times a year we sometimes pause to celebrate some ancient Celtic holiday that bears little to no resemblance of Nature’s Dance outdoors. Even if the latitudes and weather align, what claims can we make about growing wheat and harvesting the fruits? But if our rituals are key to the orderly winding of the Earth, why aren’t there others? Where is the ritual to cleanse the river at its mouth, or preserve this sacred fairy hill from encroachment by developers? Where is the ritual to rejuvenate the worn out Mother of Fishes, or cripple fishing fleets with savage storms? We should scream when the Earth screams–feel its agony–just as we should feel Her love.
Are we not empaths? Every drill site for oil should feel like the prick of a needle, every mining explosion like a muscle cramp, every polluted river like poisoned blood. When fleets of deep-sea fishing boats scrape the ocean floor for any living thing to catch, our gut bacteria should experience die offs. When companies clear-cut healthy, productive forests, it should feel like a razor dancing our skin. And the constant pumping of greenhouse gasses should feel like we’re inhaling the smoke of our own burning flesh.
Are we not visionaries? Why do our readings say nothing of the world our children and their children will inherit? Why does every portent of doom not signify a broken ecosystem, or a new animal added to the extinction list? On the flip-side, why do we fail to see the beauty and grace that is threatened daily in this world? The millions of Einsteins or Curies that we’re dooming to childhood deaths and poverty? The 23% of true wilderness that we haven’t yet cut down, but might hold the cure for Cancer, AIDS, and more?
Those who’ll take refuge in their ancient, reconstructed pantheons, beware: Your faith and blood ancestors would be horrified of our world if they could see it.
Our minds and hearts are broken.
I do not blame you, or anyone in specific, but I do hold us all of responsible.
We were each born into our world without knowing what we’d encounter–and if we did, we chose this time and place on purpose. We were already indoctrinated by the time we could make our own opinions, and some of our elders refused to listen until we had bought into the system. For some of us, it took years of reprogramming and careful soul searching to regain our Promethean spark.
The problem is that in breaking the oppressive mold, we lost our definite shape. With every misguided lesson we received a road map from thoughts to deeds, rewards and experience gained marked clearly in the corner. Or we panicked and stitched our old shapes back together with “adulthood” and “responsibilities” to hold our shock/awed souls in place on the weekdays. Perhaps we used “pseudoscience” and obvious “quackery” to obtain the same result, ideas that keep us spending but stuck. I do not judge. We are all the broken children of this age, but I don’t think ourkind–neither gendered nor exclusive–can thrive in this world disjointed. The sickness we’ve inflicted on Earth is destroying even the foundation on which we stand.
It is time we remember that the map is not the territory and learn to mine our ancient pagan heritage for inspiration, not orthodoxy to soothe frayed psyches. Find within the still-beating heart of primordial Nature, savage and caring and magnificent. This flayed goddess is all that remains to us, now. The rest was cleared and mined away, dumped in landfills after ignoble lives. This is the bedrock of our faith.
Our healing is Nature’s healing.
It is common for the shaman’s initiatory ordeal to include dis-membering. If this is our diagnosis, then perhaps we’re all stuck somewhere in the process. Acknowledging our role and this new goal in the dream-state might help us emerge from chaos. The journey to piece one’s Self back together is personal, however. It is commonly known as re-membering and each act of piecing yourself back together will require deep thought.
Shed the dross that clutters the gold, sweep away what does not serve. You need pieces that match now, and those were crafted by Nature already. Find where the tall grass and rock intersect, follow the lines outward to the trees that hold up the skies and the clouds dancing overhead. Each of them connect to you: through breathing and drinking and eating, atoms of sky and stream and soil become you, while yours take up new roles in Nature; each living thing is connected in a long chain of love and struggle writ in our DNA, so though millions of years separate you from the proud standing people, kin can still recognize kin; finally, we become the Earth Herself, holding all beings in a delicate balance, providing shelter when conditions worsen.
Don’t let this be a balm; none of us are here to feel good. Let this be what binds you together, practice it until it does. Sketch out the roadmap from this radical Oneness to the actions you must take. Because our home is burning down, and complacency guarantees no safety.
“Know the universe as your self, and
you can live absolutely anywhere in comfort.
Love the world as your self, and
you’ll be able to care for it properly.”
Tao Te Ching