Archives For Earth Day

TWH — Tomorrow marks the 46th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day. This holiday is considered to be the largest secular celebration recognized throughout the world, with “more than a billion people” honoring the day every year. It is considered to be “a day of action [to] change human behavior and provoke policy changes.” While Earth Day has always had its detractors and critics, it is regularly acknowledged in many diverse ways, both small and big, around the globe. And, in that way alone, it could be considered an Earth Day.

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

The actual celebration of a national Earth Day wasn’t marked until 1970 at the height of the American cultural revolution. Founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day was born from a buildup of tension and cultural events occurring over time. This began with the 1962 publication and popularity of Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring. 

More directly, according to reports, Sen. Nelson was personally propelled to launch his mission to create an Earth Day “after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.” A 2014 article at ClimateProgress explains how that one spill “changed everything.” The article explains, “The scope of attention focused on the spill grew along with the mess of oil […]” As reported, then-President Richard Nixon said, “It is sad that it was necessary that Santa Barbara should be the example that had to bring it to the attention of the American people …. The Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.” The article goes on to say:

In the years that followed, the lasting impression of the spill on the public, government officials, and the private sector led to coordinated action unheard of in today’s starkly partisan Congress. Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, which led the way to the July 1970 establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

As a result, the American Earth Day was born. Interestingly, Canada launched its own Earth Day ten years later, September 11, 1980, but neither caught on in global terms at that time. The Earth Day idea reportedly “limped along” with limited acknowledgement until the 20th anniversary of the American version in 1990. Nelson spoke to a crowd of “800,000 gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C.” and said, “I don’t want to have to come limping back here 20 years from now on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day…and have the embarrassing responsibility of telling your sons and daughters that you didn’t do your duty—that you didn’t become the conservation generation that we hoped for.”

Earth Day was then celebrated again in 1995, 2000 and, by that point, had garnered increasing international attention as climate change moved to the forefront of global concerns. By 2010, April 22nd had become internationally recognized as Earth Day. And, just as it was back in 1970, the celebration still has its critics. Is it all “just words?” Has the “holiday” become too commercialized, losing its purpose and activist roots?

[Image Credit: Beautygala.com]

[Image Credit: Beautygala.com]

Since its beginning, Earth Day was not propelled by global organizations and large advertising campaigns. It was grassroots operation, encouraging small local actions, cleanup events, and educational efforts, all created by a diversity of people and communities. That idea continues to this day.

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists have been participating in the Earth Day experience since its inception. Not only did the environmental movement and the modern Pagan movement in the Unites States come into being around the same time, but many Pagan religious beliefs are deeply Earth-centered, or at the very least, land-driven. This marriage seems logical.

Consequently it is not surprising that, over the years, Pagans, Heathens and polytheists of many backgrounds and traditions have closely worked within the environmental movement, speaking out, hosting actions and even attempting to contribute to the environmental stewardship movement within the global religious sphere. This has become particularly pronounced in recent years.

EcoPagan.com

In 2014, blogger and former editor of Humanistic Paganism John Halstead was inspired to bring people together to create A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment. Critics said that it could not be done. But, less than one year later on Earth Day 2015, the diverse group of internationally-based Pagans, Heathens and polytheists launched that statement. It now has 8,173 signatories from over 80 different countries.

But, looking back, is it all just a bunch of words?

We asked Halstead about the statement and whether he’s seen any tangible results stemming from its creation. While being involved with the process was “transformative” for him personally, Halstead said, “I hope that it has awakened or helped focus an ecological consciousness for those who have signed it, and even for some who haven’t.” But more tangibly speaking, Halstead added, “I have also seen signs that the statement is already helping to increase the credibility of Pagans in the interfaith environmental community, as evidenced by the interest shown in the statement by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and other interfaith groups.”

However, Halstead also said that he was disappointed by some in the interfaith community. “I had hoped that the Pagan Statement would be added to the collections of similar statements gathered by Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith.org, the Alliance of Religions & Conservation, and others, but so far we have not been successful. Unfortunately, some interfaith environmental groups are still only interested in working with certain religions. I think we Pagans still have work to do to improve our credibility with the interfaith environmental community.”

When asked what most surprised him about the statement project, Halstead noted the number of people who have signed the document over the past year, from well-known figures and organizations to “ordinary individuals” from every continent. The organizing group was hoping to reach 10,000 signatures by April 22, but Halstead said, “Even if we don’t meet that goal by Earth Day, we will soon.”

In conclusion, Halstead added, “Having said all that, [the statement] is just a statement of intention, and without corresponding action on our part, our words will be meaningless. It remains to be seen whether we Pagans will live up to the challenge the Statement sets before us.”

Greening of Religions Symposium

In early April, Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) took this Earth stewardship conversation one a step further and sponsored a symposium focused on the intersection of religion and the environmental movement. The keynote speaker was Bron Taylor, professor of Religion, Nature and Environmental Ethics at the University of Florida. Taylor is the author of several books, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future. The event was held from April 1-3 at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Dr. Wendy Griffin, CHS Academic Dean, explained why they picked this particular topic:

In 2015, the American Academy of Religion discussed the need for religions to become involved in the challenges we are facing because of climate change. There is much discussion involving rising seas and their impact on populations in terms of coming displacement, famine and war, but very little on the spiritual crises and needs we will be facing as these devastating events occur. We see climate change as the greatest moral issue to ever face humanity, as it brings into question our relationship with the entire web of life and its future. The greening of religion is a phrase that suggests the growing awareness of religions of our responsibility to and dependence upon nature.

As a seminary, we chose this theme for the symposium because scientists tell us there is a window of opportunity in which we can make some significant changes and prevent the worst of what may come. For this reason, we made the symposium an interfaith event, because it will take all of us together to take the necessary action.

Both Griffin and CHS Executive Director Holli Emore put together this unique Pagan symposium that attracted people from a number of different religions, backgrounds and countries. Griffin said, “For me one of the highlights was getting to meet, spend time with, and learn from people who are passionate and doing something about this issue. From the Salvation Army researcher in Australia to the Pagan scholar from Canada, there were many different approaches to action. All of them are needed. ”

Emore added, “For the first time, CHS hosted a truly interfaith and religiously-diverse event. At the same time, that event had firm footing in a Pagan seminary (with a public university), underscoring the importance of the ideas and values we Pagans can bring to the coming environmental crisis.”

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

As we reported in the past, Pagan attendees spoke highly of the symposium, its content and of its importance, but they also noted the low Pagan turnout. When asked why she thought that was the case, Griffin said, “To be fair, at least half of those attending we knew to be some form of Pagan, but the low response was a real disappointment for me.” Then she added:

Symposiums are intellectual forums, and even though we included a strong activist element, perhaps this appealed more to scholars, whose institutions  are reluctant to pay travel for small conferences. Perhaps the topic of climate change seems too distant (polar bears and Micronesia) or too huge and overwhelming to inspire people to attend. The fact that it was designed to be interfaith may have made it less attractive to some. People tend to argue that Pagans have no money, but we know that Pagans make choices in how to invest their resources and that their demographics are not that different from other people. […] A symposium on climate change doesn’t sound particularly fun or magical. And if people feel overwhelmed or helpless by the issue, it simply won’t attract, however vitally important it may be.

Emore said, “As Pagans, we accept that change is a given, but as humans we are seldom prepared for it, and still less often are we prepared to take action that will serve others experiencing change-related distress.”

Emore and Griffin will be evaluating how and if to move forward with the symposium in the future. More specifically, they are hoping to offer their unique standalone 3-hour environmental leadership workshop at other venues, Pagan or interfaith. In addition, CHS will be publishing the entire symposium’s content “as Cherry Hill Seminary Press, with Dr. Jonathan Leader of the University of South Caroline leading the editorial team.” That book will be available in paper and digital formats through CHS and other online retailers. The specific publication date is not yet known.

But, with only two weeks gone since the symposium ended, CHS has already made strides in the continuation of this dialog. The seminary has just announced the launch of a new Environmental Leadership Certificate program. Griffin explained, “It covers a range of information: human and non-human living systems, the science of denial, advocacy and organizing, earth congregations and nature spirituality, fundraising and nonprofit skills, leadership, and more.” CHS is currently taking applicants and, although it requires college-level work, students “do not have to have any kind of degree to take the classes, just courage and determination to change the world.”

But is it all just words? Did any tangible work come out of the CHS weekend event? Like Halstead, Griffin noted the important connections being made on an interfaith level. For example, she cited that she was able to “link up with the Green Seminary Movement.” She believes that “Pagans can make a unique ‘green contribution’ in Interfaith and in the events these communities sponsor.”

But, like Halstead, she also doesn’t believe that “we are doing enough.” Griffin said:

Many of us recycle, but that is just a very tiny part of what is needed. We need to make the issue of climate change, the causes of it, and the possible remediation actions more visible. Pagans are immensely creative, and we need to use that creativity in bringing the issues to the forefront. We can’t all make movies like “Avatar,” but we can tell stories and make music, create and share rituals, develop video games and children’s play, and a million other things. We need to make the discussion of climate change commonplace. And we need to march and lobby and petition.

That very concern was directly raised at the symposium. Halstead, who was at the CHS event, explained, “At the Greening of Religions conference in South Carolina last month, Bron Taylor asked the Pagans present whether there was a Pagan environmental network in existence.” The answer was no. As a result, a new group was formed. Halstead said that Taylor’s question “prompted Wild Hunt columnist, Manny Tejeda-Moreno, to create a Facebook group by that name (Pagan Environmental Network), which has taken the Pagan Community Statement as a starting point.”

Tejeda-Moreno explained further: “The keynote speaker said that there didn’t seem to be a group for intergroup dialogue […] so, I set up the Facebook group, added the conference attendees and then we started to add others based on suggestions.” This new group is small with the objective to serve as a “clearinghouse, link source and dialogue center for environmental issues and Pagan-centered responses to them.” Tejeda-Moreno added that they already have talked about migrating from Facebook when and if they grow.

As Earth Day approaches, global attention is being diverted to our planetary ecosystem and our role as stewards. Some of that attention is genuine; some of it is talk; some of it is purely commercial. Griffin said, ” Of course it is becoming commercialized. At the same time, it raises awareness. Personally, I’d like to see large public rituals on Earth Day that we design and lead.”

[Public Domain]

Roadside trash found during a cleanup action [Public Domain]

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are doing just that. They are preparing to celebrate or honor Earth Day, as well as the unique role their own spirituality plays within the larger interfaith environmental movement. From local communities to national organizations, actions, events, prayers and rituals are scheduled.

For example, in Michigan, the Ancient Faiths Alliance is sponsoring a “Plant Your Dreams Earth Day Event.” In Virginia, Spiral Grove is hosting a Saturday lake cleanup event, saying: “In addition to keeping the lake areas clean, the experience allows us to focus on the simple and natural education that the lake environment provides to both adults and youth.” And similarly, as we posted Monday, the Jean Williams London Earth Day cleanup action and picnic tradition will go on as it has in past years.

The New York Environmental Pagan Coalition has posted an article listing general New York-based Earth Day events for its membership to attend. In Wisconsin, where Earth Day was founded, Circle Sanctuary will be hosting a full moon circle Friday, and Rev. Selena Fox will offer a “Earth Day Every Day” Sunday Service April 24 at the Open Circle Unitarian Universalists in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

For those who are unable to join a live community event but would like to participate in the conversation, Pagan activist and author Starhawk will be speaking at a free online conference called Earth Day Summit 2016. The event, held Apr. 22, is described as “an unprecedented gathering of esteemed green experts, innovators, activists, scientists, visionaries and spiritual leaders coming together to unite their wisdom for you.” Registration is required.

You can also hear Starhawk speak about her environmental work with Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox on the Circle Talk podcast called “EcoPagan EcoMagic,” which originally aired Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT. Additionally, Rev. Fox has also offered for free download her “Nature Pathways guide with Environmental themed rites, meditations, actions.”

We welcome all of our readers to list their local, public Earth Day activities and events in the comments below.

Happy Earth Day from The Wild Hunt!

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

bcaa26b7f8aca9110e5f183331315fcb_400x400FLORIDA – While putting the final touches on its upcoming festival, Temple of Earth Gatherings (TEG) has found itself, once again, at the center of community controversy. TEG’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG) is a popular festival and has been one of the most well-attended Pagan events in that state since its inception in 1995. But, in 2014, the TEG board hit a snag, when it invited Yvonne and Gavin Frost, two teachers considered controversial, to present at that year’s spring event.

Since that point, FPG has be staged biannually without incident until recent months. In January, the Frosts announced that they would be returning to the festival circuit and attending FPG 2016, but the couple made no mention of offering any workshops. Their blog post went largely unnoticed. Then, two weeks ago, an anonymous person emailed an unpublished FPG 2016 festival booklet to a large group of people. The booklet listed the Frosts as workshop presenters, which immediately launched a public conversation, raising old concerns. Rumors and stories began quickly circulating.

When TEG became aware that the booklet was out, it announced that this circulating booklet had not been approved, nor was it official. Within one week, TEG published a new one that did not list the Frosts as presenters. The TEG Board would not confirm or deny any of the rumors and declined any further comment.

Sage. a former FPG staff member, told The Wild Hunt that he and several others resigned over this very issue. Until recently, Sage was the FPG workshop coordinator and he said, “I resigned largely because I was instructed that it was my job to keep secret certain workshops that the Board of Directors was aware would upset some portion of the community. This deceit came in direct conflict with my moral and ethical codes of conduct.” There are also reportedly some copyright issues involving the printing and publication of the two versions of the festival booklets, which have nothing directly to do with the workshop issue itself. Sage did add that he personally will not be attending the event.

At this point, FPG is still moving forward. Several of the scheduled presenters have confirmed that they will be attending after speaking privately with the board about raised concerns, and no protests against TEG are currently in the works. As for the Frosts, they typically communicate via “snail mail” and could not respond for comment in time for publication. But we will update this story as needed.

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AdflogoTUCSON, Ariz. – Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) announced the election of its new Archdruid Rev. Jean Pagano. Effective May 1, Rev. Pagano will “take the reins” from Rev. Kirk Thomas, who has been serving as ADF’s spiritual and administrative leader since 2010. Pagano said, “I am touched and honoured that people have chosen me to be their Arch Druid – it is not a challenge that I take lightly and I promise to be Archdruid to all members.”

This past Saturday, Rev. Thomas led his final ritual as Archdruid at Trillium. He said, “I think that it’s been a good six years, and it has always been my intent to serve ADF well, but it’s time for me to move on. I shall, of course, remain highly involved in ADF, and perhaps even hold some minor leadership roles in the future, but I shall also be taking more time for myself. I want to thank everyone in ADF who has supported me in my journey as ADF Archdruid, and I know that ADF shall continue to grow and thrive in the future.”

Rev. Pagano will served as Archdruid for the next three years. He was thankful to be chosen and said, “He added, I want to thank the Earth Mother, the Kindreds, and all of the people who have made ADF what it is today. May the Gods always provide.”

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Priestess Miriam with Aiyda [Courtesy Photo]

Priestess Miriam with Aiyda [Courtesy Photo]

NEW ORLEANS – Priestess Miriam of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple has announced the new location for her famous New Orleans temple. As we previously reported, on Feb 1, the historic building, which had been the temple’s home for twenty-four years, was destroyed by an electrical fire. At first Priestess Miriam had hoped that renovations would allow her to move back into the classic Creole cottage. However, that was not the case. Damage was too severe.

She began searching for a new location, which was reportedly “not an easy task in one of America’s most fastly gentrifying and expensive cities.” However, she was finally able to locate a space at 1428 North Rampart near its intersection with Esplanade. Witchdoctor Utu reports, “The New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple will begin a brand new era.” He also said that the temple is “not out of the woods yet.” Most of the renovations and moving tasks are complete but the setup and “sense of normalcy” has yet to return.

On behalf of Priestess Miriam, Utu added, “We cannot thank everyone enough who have contributed to the still existing GoFundMe campaign, this would simply not have been possible with out the beautiful people who continue to support, promote and contribute to the various fund raising efforts, much of it from around the entire North American Continent. Lots of work ahead but we continue to count our blessings and gratitude abounds. Soon enough we will be able to share some photos of the new building as it begins to settle into its new home.”

In Other News

  • Earth Day is coming up Friday, Apr. 22 and people around the world are planning their events. In dedication to that day, several Pagans in London are reviving a yearly tradition formerly run by Wiccan High Priestess Jean Willams (1928-2015). On Apr. 23, organizers and attendees will gather at 1 pm at the Highgate Tube Station, Priory Gardens exit. They will then walk from the “tube to the wood.” The group will collect “rubbish in Queens Wood till about 3:30 pm.”  After that, the group will picnic and a have an “attunement in the clearing.” Organizers look forward to seeing everyone come out for this London Earth Day tradition.
  • Similarly, Tuesday Apr. 19, Starhawk will join Rev. Selena Fox on her weekly podcast to discuss current environmental issues, climate change and ways to incorporate eco-activism in daily life. Additionally, Starhawk will talk about her “Earth Activist trainings, her permaculture work, and her visionary novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing and its long-awaited sequel, City of Refuge.” The podcast, titled “EcoPagan EcoMagic,” will air Tuesday night at 7 pm CT. 
  • The Troth is preparing to host its annual event called Trothmoot. This year’s four day camping festival will be held in Port Townsend, Washington at Ft. Flagler State Park. The organization writes, “Heathens from all over the world are invited to gather in the Pacific Northwest for a celebration of Heathen diversity and spirituality. Hosted by Hrafnar and Heathen Freehold Troth KAP Kindreds, and our Washinton and Pacific Northwest Troth members, come for fellowship, ritual, workshop, skaldship, and of course Northwest hospitality.” Trothmoot begins June 9 and runs through June 12. Registration is open on the Troth’s site.
  • On May 1, Heathens United Against Racism will be hosting Light the Beaconsa worldwide action calling “on all Heathens around the world who stand for inclusive, tolerant, and diverse practice to light a beacon in solidarity with all other Heathens who stand for these values in our spirituality.” HUAR asks participating individuals to light a candle, or some other form of light, at any point during that day. They also ask for photos of that light to be posted on the event Facebook event site. Organizers write, “Together we will ignite a fire in our hearts and homes that will push back the shadows of fear & ignorance, shine light on our honor, and rally the hopes of Heathens everywhere.
  • Athena: Sharing Current Research is still looking for presenters for its June conference in London. The site explains, “This conference will share current research on a deity that has been a topic of interest since the dawn of classical scholarship and through its various ‘turns.’ The event will appraise various ways to approach the goddess by drawing together current researchers from the UK, France, Italy, and, we hope, elsewhere.” Submissions are due by Apr. 30. The conference will take place on June 3 at the “Adam Room, Grove House, University of Roehampton, London.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

In 2014, an estimated 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York City and another 40,000 in London in the biggest protest to draw attention to global climate change. The protesters came from all walks of life to stand together to raise awareness and demand action. The landmark event demonstrated, if nothing else, the universality of the concern and the growing acceptance that climate change must be addressed now.

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit:  Groundswell Movement)

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit: Groundswell Movement)

However, for the average person, affecting real change can become overwhelming and discouraging. Where do I begin? What can I do?  Will recycling a newspaper or using cloth grocery bags actually help? In a past Wild Hunt article on fracking, activist Courtney Weber, co-founder of Pagan Environmental Coalition – New York City, said, “I can’t fight for bees, deforestation and the black rhino. Philosophically I can. But practically I can’t.” She recommended that people, ‘Pick what’s local. Pick what makes you mad.”

Unfortunately, even at a local level, there seems to be an overwhelming number of causes that can make “you mad” from polluted waters and the KXL pipeline to deforestation of rainforests, such as in Tasmania, and the near extinction of species, such as the Black Rhino. Where does a single person begin to affect real change? Not everyone can be a full-time activist.

In recent article for AEON magazine, writer Stewart Brand makes an interesting observation, which may help to answer this question. Brand claims that “the idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis.” He argues that many people focus on a single extinction or threat, and fail to see the bigger picture. He wrote:

No end of specific wildlife problems remain to be solved, but describing them too often as extinction crises has led to a general panic that nature is extremely fragile or already hopelessly broken. That is not remotely the case. Nature as a whole is exactly as robust as it ever was – maybe more so, with humans around to head off ice ages and killer asteroids. Working with that robustness is how conservation’s goals get reached.

Brand’s concept can be applied well-beyond species protection, in that he compares environmental conservation to human medical care. While one scratch or bruise must be treated properly, these smaller ills are either isolated issues, or indicative of a far larger health problem. Like human wellness, conservation work should focus its resources on identifying and solving the larger problem, and on the general, sustainable health of the entire system – in this case, the ecosystem.

In other words, Brand argues that conversation science and environmental activism should look to repairing and balancing our world’s ecosystems, rather than only focusing on small fixes. And, according to the article, this thinking seems to be trending. He wrote, “As the new science of conservation biology came into its own in the 1980s and ’90s, focus shifted away from concern about the fate of individual species and toward the general health of whole ecosystems.”

With this shift to holistic Earth health, humanity’s role as protector changes. Within that perspective, we become a functioning part of the system, from the micro to the macro. As such, it becomes easier to locate a working role in conservation efforts, both from a practical and religious perspective. John Halstead, editor of Humanistic Paganism.com, said:

Part of my morning devotional is to take a moment on my way to my car to squat down and touch the earth.  I reach my fingers through the grass or leaves or snow until I feel the dirt under my fingers, and then I recite a paraphrase of a poem by Mary Oliver: ‘The god of dirt came up to me and said ‘now’ and ‘now’ and ‘now’, and never once mentioned forever.’  This helps make my Paganism feel real. The feeling of wet or cold or just the “dirt-ness” reminds me not to romanticize nature.  It reminds me that my deity is not the Goddess of the Earth, but the Goddess that is the Earth, the Earth that this very real dirt is a part of.  And it reminds me that that my Paganism needs to mean something for the health of the very dirt under my fingers and everything it is connected to. 

Similarly, Pagan artist Lupa said, “My path is Earth Stewardship. Not in the sense of chaining myself to giant redwoods or yelling at people online because their environmental choices are not my environmental choices. Mine is a quieter revolution based on trying to model better behaviors, ones that I’ve come to through many hours of considering the choices before me. I try to live as though everything is sacred, because to me everything is nature and nature is what I consider sacred.”

Blue Ridge Mountains

[Photo Credit: JSmith / Flickr]

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, George Marshall wrote, “Our understanding of climate change is built on scientific evidence, not faith. The faith displayed in the churches, mosques, and temples on every street is built on a deep understanding of human drives and emotions. Only when we put these different parts of our psyche together can we achieve change; to say to anyone who will listen: “I’ve heard the science, I’ve weighed up the evidence. Now I’m convinced. Join me.”

When referencing “faith,” Marshall is speaking of monotheistic religious practices. He does not address Paganism, Polytheism or Heathenry, many of which already exist at his coveted intersection. As demonstrated by Lupa and Halstead, many of these traditions function with a crossover between the understanding of human spirituality (drive and emotions) and the literal and scientific understanding of place (nature). Editor of Polytheist.com Anomalous Thracian wrote:

“Place” is a concept that gets talked about a lot in Polytheist religion, especially in discussions about regional cultus. In my practice, discussions of “place” are not abstract, but direct and literal, referring to both the specific spirits and deities of that specific place, as well as the physical expressions of that place. Groves of trees, formations of stone and earth, flowing currents of water, are not mere aesthetic assemblage to assist in the desperate grabbing and reaching after mental balance or sense of inner meaninglessness, but instead are — in their vibrantly material presence — the cornerstones of it all, where belief and practice converge.

The personhood-of-place, and its hierarchical placement in literal consideration, realized relational configurations and intentional interaction within the dynamics of hospitality and recognized role, are how it all starts. The places within the natural elemental world are the places where the gods reach through first to touch our lives in raw and visceral fashion, and it is these selfsame places that must be guarded not as holiest of relics but as holiest of relations. The actively and directly engaged protecting of this world, as a collective whole and in its individual places, is paramount to the authentic and embodied expression of any Polytheist endeavor and identity, for without the humility to know one’s place in the natural world one can never hope to hold true piety at the feet of the blessed gods.

Similarly Rev. Selena Fox, who worked closely with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, on the very first celebrations, sees no distinction between her religious and environmental work. She said, “Environmental conservation and green living are essential parts of my life and work as a Nature religion priestess. In addition to tending shrines and ceremonial areas at Pagan sacred land, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, I am part of ecological restoration, research and conservation endeavors there. Our national Pagan cemetery, Circle Cemetery, is one of the first Green cemeteries in the USA —  …  Ecological activism is sacred work.”

Although Thracian and Fox practice very different religions, their personal sense of place within the greater natural system, and the health of that system are paramount to both of their beliefs and their daily work. One cannot exist without the other.

Lou Florez, rootworker and witch, also agreed, saying, “I collect trash from rivers and ocean beaches, specifically from the areas where I give offerings and do rituals. I’m also cultivating a small medicine garden to engage a more sustainable relationship. When we talk about Earth-based traditions we are talking about being in connection, investing ourselves in the health and well-being of the land that sustains us.”

The sense of place within the ecosystem, in some form, appears to exist within the religious and spiritual practices of many Pagan, Heathen and Polythiest communities, whether or not the practice itself is considered Earth-based from an environmental perspective. This correlates to Brand’s notion of affecting change through holistic Earth health. As such, Pagans, Polytheists, Heathens may be helping to bridge that perceived gap between religion and environmentalism, as noted by Marshall.

Within the interfaith movement, that already seems to be the case. As mentioned in an earlier Wild Hunt article, Covenant of the Goddess’ Interfaith Representative Don Frew “relayed a story on how the 1990s global focus on the environment led to a greater interest or support for Nature-centered religions within the international interfaith world. Unfortunately, interest waned after 9/11.” Frew added that this is once again shifting.

Co-writer of CoG’s Environmental Statement and Interfaith Representative Aline (Macha) O’Brien said, “My way of expressing devotion, to Earth, to Mother Nature, to different deities, is to chant or sing.” O’Brien relayed a story in which she led a spiral dance at an interfaith wedding using “The Pleiades Chant.”* She said, “Shortly after the wedding, at MIC’s annual interfaith prayer breakfast, my friend Sister Marion of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael came up to me and asked, ‘Now, how did that chant go?’ She said it had been running through her head and she’d really loved it and wanted a refresher on the wording. ”

Much of the work described, such as chanting, rituals and devotionals, are indicators of a spiritual connectivity between religion and place, from within the global ecosystem, rather than independent from it. While those actions alone will not heal the environment or balance the system, they do demonstrate a profound shift in thought. Courtney Weber said:

Turning this tide is tough work. Whether it’s denial, greed, or being overwhelmed by the problem’s size, somehow, the mere truth that we need to change our ways in order to preserve our species is not enough incentive to get enough people on board. Religion can hurt the environmental movement—particularly religions, which believe that a better life in a different world awaits humanity, or a desperately optimistic belief that “everything will work out as God/ess intended.” But religion can benefit the movement by instilling a moral imperative into its practitioners that preserving and improving our environment is a mark of grace and therefore, something that cannot wait.

Brand is optimistic saying, “The trends are favourable. Conservation efforts often appear in the media like a series of defeats and retreats, but as soon as you look up from the crisis-of-the-month, you realise that, in aggregate, conservation is winning.” The diversity and size of the attendance at the climate march is also sign of that favorable trend, as is the support for the “Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” Awareness is a beginning.

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Lupa agreed, saying “I want to invite others to retake their place amid the rest of nature, not as conquerors or guilt-ridden relatives or throwbacks to some dark age, but as members of a community. We’ve had plenty of doom and gloom about what will happen if we continue what we’re doing; I want to show people the benefits and joys of living closer to the land, whether that’s on a remote farm or (like me) in an urban apartment.”

Going back to the original question, “How can I help?” The big picture of environmental health can begin in very small ways, with the tiny ecosystems in our backyards, farms, empty city lots, terrace gardens or even public parks. If all these areas were regularly maintained as balanced, healthy ecosystems, they would, over time, eventually meet up, covering the world-over and, thereby, creating one big healthy, sustainable Earth.

 

* Author’s Note: “The Pleiades Chant” (via Aline ‘Macha’ O’Brien) “There’s a part of the Sun in an apple; There’s the part of the Moon in a rose; A part of the flaming Pleiades; In every leaf that grows.”

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”John Muir

Today is Earth Day, a moment when we as a people take notice of our interconnected relationship with the planet we inhabit, when, in theory, we take stock of our responsibilities towards good stewardship of the fragile ecosystems that allow the flourishing of life. A moment where we realize that the resources that we depend on for life are not inexhaustible or incorruptible. Originally a teach-in on environmental issues, Earth Day has since become a global point of focus for issues relating to environmentalism, ecology, and the preservation of natural resources. With climate change becoming an increasingly dire issue, it remains to be seen if we can escape the fog of politics and actually work to mitigate some of the worst effects while we still can.

Pioneer trail, Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl.

Pioneer trail, Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl.

While many contemporary Pagans today feel a deep connection with these issues, to the point where many now describe themselves as following an “Earth Religion,” that was not always the case. Nascent Pagan religious culture in the 1950s and 1960s  was more focused on what scholar Chas Clifton, in his book “Her Hidden Children,” calls “cosmic” and “embodied” forms of nature. This former dominant paradigm is underscored by a recent editorial by Fritz Muntean, who argues that hedonism, not high-minded environmental concerns, were the driving force in the community he joined in the 1960s.

 “The people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it’s true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed ‘all acts of love and pleasure’ as its sacraments.”

I think that Muntean’s assertions as to how the shift in emphasis from ‘cosmic’ and ’embodied’ ideas to ‘Gaian’ ones happened suffers from a selective and biased reading of our community’s history, and largely ignores how Pagans of that time were influenced by a much larger groundswell in the West around issues of environmentalism. As Clifton puts it, this cultural shift within Paganism largely happened without premeditation.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“I would stress that Wicca and other forms of new American Paganism stepped right into the opening created, without, so far as I can tell, any premeditation. In more than a quarter century of involvement in the movement, I have not uncovered any instance of any American Pagan’s saying, in effect, ‘Let’s position ourselves as the environmental religion.’ Risking an argument from absence, I think that the unconscious ease with which American Pagans embraced the terms nature religion or earth religion testifies to the strength of Catherine Albanese’s argument that nature religion does exist in the American worldview, whether as a scholarly construct, a way of organizing reality (her first description), or as the ‘spiritual source of secular passion.'”

It should be noted that within the larger Pagan movement, some individuals and groups have, in recent years, rejected labels like “earth religion” or “nature religion,” finding them not accurate descriptors of what they practice or believe. That said, support for environmental causes, a willingness to embrace modern scientific data on issues like climate change, and a general belief that preserving natural resources is a good idea, are still pervasive throughout our interconnected communities. A shift did happen in 1970, one that has changed our religious movement in a deep manner, to the point where environmentalism is often slurred with the epithet of “pagan” by some political conservatives.

“With the demise of the biblical religions that have provided the American people with their core values since the country’s inception, we are reverting to the pagan worldview. Trees and animals are venerated, while man is simply one more animal in the ecosystem. And he is largely a hindrance, not an asset.”

This slur, meant to shock Christians of a certain stripe, is increasingly losing its power in the face of greater ecological catastrophes. The main question now is, will outrage over local disasters, over poisoned resources, over under-regulated oil, chemical, and gas industries, gel into a national movement powerful enough to shift the political will as it did in the 1970s? Back then it took acid rain, rivers on fire, toxic smog, and widespread chemical poisoning of both people and our ecosystem before enough push-back solidified. How much damage, or more accurately, how much irreversible damage, will we as a culture tolerate? It’s clear we will need more than Pagans espousing nature religion, we will need a larger change in how we all encounter and experience the natural world and our place within it.

View from Spencer Butte. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

View from Spencer Butte. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

While I think that documentaries like “A Fierce Green Fire” (debuting tonight on PBS), “Monumental,” “Earth Days,” or Ken Burns’ love letter to the National Parks, can help raise both awareness and a longing for reconnection with nature, nothing replaces experience. Living in Oregon, surrounded by ocean, forest, high plains desert, mountain, and butte, one has only to pick a direction and walk to it. Since moving here some years ago, I have seen my own spiritual framework shift and change as I adapted to my new home. Here, people regularly climb to the summit of local buttes to break through the clouds that are our reality for several months of the year, where almost everyone owns hiking gear, where both REI and Cabela’s thrive in providing equipment for a number of outdoor excursions. As a result, “nature religion” is almost our default setting in a land where religious “nones” are a force to be reckoned with.

Not everyone has access to the lush splendor of the Pacific Northwest, but nature, and our desire to preserve its ability to support us, need not depend on forest or mountain. Pagans can oppose fracking in urban New York City, they can get involved in environmental law, fighting for nature in our courtrooms, they can call awareness to poisoned water supplies, they can stand on the front lines as activists, and perhaps most importantly, they can dig into the history of the land they are on, no matter where that is.

“Many of us look to the land to teach us various internal and external lessons. And most of us look to what has been built before us in order to better understand who we were and are. But we sometimes overlook the idea that the objects and structures that we have built can also serve as powerful lessons about the land itself. Lessons that our ancestors knew but in the present-day we have forgotten, lessons that the land may not be able to tell us quite so clearly, especially when man-made alterations have transformed the historic layout of a landscape.”Alley Valkyrie

I know that there will be many who will say that there is little they can do, that they already recycle, or conserve, or donate, as best that they can. That the problems we face are too immense, that we can simply face forward with stoic composure, or engage in “collapse” scenario preparations, and hope for the best. However, I don’t think that’s true, there is something we all can do, rich or poor, connected or isolated, and that is to stop being polite about the devastation. When the AIDS crisis hit, there were those who were more than ready to consign all who were hit by the disease with death, who readily villainized the sick. However, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to die quietly, and that they weren’t going to give up hope. They forced awareness, they pushed for new drugs, and they pushed for policy changes. As a result, there are thousands alive today who may not have been had they accepted their fate.

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

The way forward, especially for those of us who think terms like “nature religion” or “earth religion” matter, is to keep pushing towards a culture that cares about these issues. Where it is reported on in the news every day, where all politicians are forced to have a position, where every new statistic, every new disaster, every new setback, is discussed openly, even if it annoys some of your connected social network. If nature is sacred, if we are connected to that sacred nature, then “likes” are immaterial in the face of crisis. If we want global change, we must become that change. We must role model what we expect from our leadership, be that spiritual or political. Making every day “Earth Day” has become a cliche rejoinder, but we must instead make it a call to action that promotes a radical shift in our spirit.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”John Muir

A view from the top of Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon.

A view from the top of Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon.

Despite the fact that it has been co-opted for all sorts of bizarre and cynical purposes over the years, as a Pagan I still find Earth Day a worthy, and historically important, day. Originally a teach-in on environmental issues, it has since become a global moment where we collectively stop and take stock of how we are treating our home. Since before the very first Earth Day in 1970, many modern Pagans have embraced and incorporated the idea of being Nature Religions, in addition to religions of fertility or mystery.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.” – Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

“Pagans should be at the forefront of the environmental movement. We should put into practice the green living techniques learned over the last decades and show the world we take seriously what we preach: Earth is our Mother and we will honor Her by becoming green beacons for others to gravitate to.”

Lately, with extreme weather events making the headlines on a regular basis, and controversial initiatives like the Keystone XL pipeline spurring environmental groups like the Sierra Club to endorse civil disobedience, the call to fulfill the role-modeling and leadership many in our community believe we should be engaging with on these issues grows more urgent.

“We should know better. Here’s what I’d like to see in the Pagan community. I’d like to see Pagans across the world standing up to choose the sometimes harder road.”

When that call for civil disobedience came from the Sierra Club, I wondered if our interconnected communities would find a new, more expansive, consensus on the role of environmentalism, eco-spirituality, and “nature religion” within modern Pagan religions and modern Pagan organizations.

“This is a moment of challenge for those Pagans who espouse an eco-spirituality, who want to practice an Earth or nature religion. If the “safe” moderate environmental group says it’s now time for civil disobedience, do we follow suit? Do our leaders also say “enough” and call for civil disobedience? For direct action in the face of climate crisis? Such calls have usually come from “activist” Pagans like Starhawk, and her critics have often accused her of politicizing Paganism, but are we now at a different moment? Is this the moment where we move beyond recycling and buying the Sierra Club calendar, into advocating for direct action? Not just prayers and spells, but our bodies on the front lines? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps it’s time we had a renewed discussion about what, exactly, Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagan faiths that espouse the natural world as sacred and alive, should do in the face of a now impossible to ignore climate crisis. The Sierra Club has made a decision, and perhaps that should press us to collectively make one too.”

I’m still wondering, and I’d still like to see more robust discussion on what kind of leadership, or role, Pagans should engage in regarding our environment, our climate, our collective ecosystems. I’ve heard and read a lot of talk over the years about how Pagans would bring better stewardship to our planet, that our values are better on these issues, but it seems like only a small fraction of us are engaged in the work of becoming the models we say we naturally are. I include myself in that statement, knowing that I could do more, be more, sacrifice more, if I truly felt the sense of urgency that some eco-activists feel. So I don’t ask these questions to collectively damn us, but instead to use this moment of Earth Day to ask if we are collectively content with our current level of engagement, of activism, or if we should be more.

While we work on finding our place on these issues, let’s individually embrace nature religion for real, reduce our carbon footprint (and our water footprint), support small farmseat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, hold up those who act for the environment in our stead, invest green, vote green, and “go green.” Individual changes might not bring about some of the macro-changes the world so sorely needs, but small acts of leadership and courage can have effects beyond our doorstep, especially if we truly embrace the idea that everything is connected.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.” – Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

“No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in a way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains as to wilderness, as that which declares that the world was made especially for the uses of men. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.”John Muir

Despite the fact that it has been co-opted for all sorts of bizarre and cynical purposes over the years, as a Pagan I still find Earth Day a worthy, and historically important, day. Originally a teach-in on environmental issues, it has since become a global moment where we collectively stop and take stock of how we are treating our home. Since before the very first Earth Day in 1970, many modern Pagans have embraced and incorporated the idea of being Nature Religions, in addition to religions of fertility or mystery.

Pagan activist Patrick McCollum holding the Earth flag.

Pagan activist Patrick McCollum holding the Earth flag.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.” – Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

To Pagan elder and political scientist Gus diZerega, our faiths have a special role within the environmental movement.

“I think only spiritualities of sacred immanence are capable of doing earth justice, and I think that we, as Pagans, have a responsibility to act and speak in defense of this planet that has blessed us into existence.  If anyone can it is we who can argue for and sometimes introduce others to a direct experience of the sacrality of the earth. […]  Far from being anti-human, we need only enlarge that part of us which may be most unique, our hearts, to embrace what [Aldo Leopold] terms a “land ethic.” Such an ethic: ‘simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.'”

However, a sacred care for the Earth need not be solely a Pagan practice, no matter what some reactionary individuals believe, just look at the example of Sister Virginia (Ginny) Jones.

“In 1990 […] Sister Ginny’s own love of Nature took a new turn: she established the Eco-Spirituality Center at the Transformations Spirituality Center on the Nazareth campus. The Eco-Spirituality Center offers programs designed to increase environmental awareness and teach people to live in harmony with Nature. […]  One of the outgrowths of this work is Sister Ginny’s latest and most ambitious project: the Manitou Arbor Ecovillage. “We are forming a community of people who want to demonstrate how to live with the natural environment,” said Sister Ginny. […] “I would really like to see Earth Day become the kind of consciousness that focuses on our relationship to the natural world and to this Earth that we all live on,” she said.”

As the effects of climate change start to seriously endanger the lives and lively-hood of people in countries like Bolivia, an ethos of “wild law” is being formalized in hopes that “a new relationship between man and nature” can occur. As “green living” stops being an ethical lifestyle choice and starts becoming a fiscal and environmental necessity, I think ideas of immanence and interconnectedness will naturally develop alongside them. We require a positive narrative for the changes we make in our culture and lives, even if they are changes made because we have run out of other options. As this gradual shift happens, modern Pagans can become the philosophical, spiritual, and ethical leaders we have often supposed we could (or should) be.

“Pagans should be at the forefront of the environmental movement. We should put into practice the green living techniques learned over the last decades and show the world we take seriously what we preach: Earth is our Mother and we will honor Her by becoming green beacons for others to gravitate to.”

Today, with immense environmental challenges facing us, from climate change and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the impending fresh water shortages, the ideals and message of Earth Day are more vital than they have ever been.

Watch Earth Days on PBS. See more from American Experience.

Want to get active? Find out where you’re at, reduce your carbon footprint (and your water footprint), support small farms and eat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, invest green, vote green, and go green.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.” – Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

This Sunday is Earth Day. Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national“teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. So naturally, it is stalking horse for Pagan religion and must be stopped at all costs, at least according to Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson from Alexandria. In a response to conservative activist Sheila Kihne on Twitter, Rep. Franson said the holiday “absolutely infuriates” her, calling it a “celebration of a Pagan holiday.”

Nor did Rep. Franson walk back her comments after they gained attention from local press, saying that people should “honor and give thanks to God…not Earth” and “big deal, so I don’t like Earth Day.” Of course, this isn’t simply about not liking Earth Day, all sorts of people don’t like Earth Day for a variety of reasons. This is about the idea, the meme, that Earth Day is a religious holiday, a Pagan religious holiday. Conservative pundits, politicians, and activists have been describing environmentalism, and especially the belief in human-caused climate change, as a “cult” for years now. This has led to the inevitable environmentalism equals Paganism accusation, the purest expression of which comes in the form of a documentary entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon.”

In it the speakers make it plain that this is a spiritual struggle, a battle between competing religions. Christianity on one side, and the“green dragon” of pagan environmentalism on the other. Participating in the video series is a roll-call of conservative Christian heavy-hitters, including Bryan “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of Native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil ” Fischer, and David “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses” Barton. This view of the world reached a new height recently when then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused Obama of adhering to a “phony theology.” When pressed on what he meant by that, he elaborated that our president might just be worshiping the Earth.

“…a world view that elevates the earth above man … I was talking about the radical environmentalists. [T]his idea that man is here to serve the earth.”

So this idea seems deeply entrenched, and increasingly popular as an attack on any who would attempt to seriously address the many challenges we face regarding our environment. Will it always be so? According to Lisa Weaver Swartz, author of “‘This Is My Father’s World’: American Evangelical Ambivalence Toward Climate Change,” there is a “sharp decline” of this idea among evangelicals, “a reframing of environmental issues into existing evangelical frameworks.” This shift is typified by Rev. Richard Cizik, former chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, who works to encourage environmental stewardship among Christians.

“Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility — to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices. The Bible also teaches us that Jesus Christ is not only redeeming his people, but also restoring God’s creation. Obviously, since the fall of man and entrance of sin into the world, all of creation has yearned for its redemption from sin and death and destruction. That will occur with the Second Coming of Christ. But in the meantime we show our love for Jesus Christ by reaching out to and healing the spiritually lost and by conserving and renewing creation. Christ’s call to love nature is as simple as his call to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

But the environmentalism = Paganism meme dies hard, and the fact that it is still widely parroted by a variety of commentators, and entered into the 2012 presidential race, says that the tipping point within American evangelical culture, and conservative Christianity as a whole, is still a long way off. Until then, any who espouse a belief in climate change, who want stricter environmental regulations, who want to protect our national parks, runs the risk of being labeled an adherent of “radical environmentalism – a form of neo-paganism.”

Despite this, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, notes that this development is as “American as apple pie.”

“The remarkable language in the Ecuadorian constitution and in Boliva’s new Mother Earth law did not, however, result from indigenous Andean spirituality alone. They were also influenced by a generation of thinking and debate around the world about human responsibilities toward nature. In the U.S., much of this has taken place among philosophers and legal theorists, including in the landmark argument by Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment, which was first published in theSouthern California Law Review in 1972. Indeed, I contend that the recent developments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and within the United Nations are as American as apple pie: they are to some extent in the spirit of a diverse range of American voices that led to the pioneering Endangered Species Act of 1973 signed into law by Richard Nixon. Yet today, those who call themselves conservative are generally hostile to environmentalists, often considering them to be politically or spiritually dangerous socialists or pagans.”

The danger of this rhetoric is that we cut ourselves off from the simple truth of our place in the natural world, to the interconnectedness of all things. Acknowledging that, and the responsibility it places on us, is not theology, or pantheism. To engage in this smear-tactic, to make simple reality controversial is increasingly dangerous. Rep. Mary Franson thinks she is defending her faith, but in reality she is politicizing a topic that should be a major concern for all human beings on this planet. The longer we fight this false battle over “paganism,” an imaginary green dragon for crusaders to defeat, the worse things will actually be when we finally are forced to face the ramifications of our inaction.

Earth Day

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 22, 2011 — 7 Comments

“Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” — John Muir

“Mother Earth is the living dynamic system comprised of the inter-related, interdependent and complementary indivisible community of all life systems and living beings that share a common destiny. Mother Earth is considered to be sacred, as per the cosmologies of the nations of rural indigenous peoples.”The Law of Mother Earth, Bolivia

Today is Earth Day (and International Mother Earth Day). Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national“teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Earth Day also had a profound affect on modern Paganism in the United States.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.” – Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

The Pagan notion of a sacred and interconnected Earth still persists today, and continues to make some people, both Christian and secular, uncomfortable. Despite these qualms, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, notes that this development is as “American as apple pie.”

“The remarkable language in the Ecuadorian constitution and in Boliva’s new Mother Earth law did not, however, result from indigenous Andean spirituality alone. They were also influenced by a generation of thinking and debate around the world about human responsibilities toward nature. In the U.S., much of this has taken place among philosophers and legal theorists, including in the landmark argument by Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment, which was first published in theSouthern California Law Review in 1972. Indeed, I contend that the recent developments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and within the United Nations are as American as apple pie: they are to some extent in the spirit of a diverse range of American voices that led to the pioneering Endangered Species Act of 1973 signed into law by Richard Nixon. Yet today, those who call themselves conservative are generally hostile to environmentalists, often considering them to be politically or spiritually dangerous socialists or pagans.”

As the effects of climate change start to seriously endanger the lives and lively-hood of people in countries like Bolivia, an ethos of “wild law” is being formalized in hopes that “a new relationship between man and nature” can occur. As “green living” stops being an ethical lifestyle choice and starts becoming a fiscal and environmental necessity, I think ideas of immanence and interconnectedness will naturally develop alongside them. We require a positive narrative for the changes we make in our culture and lives, even if they are changes made because we have run out of other options. As this gradual shift happens, modern Pagans can become the philosophical, spiritual, and ethical leaders we have often supposed we could (or should) be. I’m very pleased that the Pagan Newswire Collective was able to host and launch a new nature and environmental-focused group blog in the weeks leading up to Earth Day, so that the conversations our family of faiths should be having are sparked and facilitated.

“When faced with natural disasters that wreak havoc on human communities, we often respond valiantly by pledging our time, money, energy and support. Are we as willing and able to do the same when confronted with man-made disasters that put ecosystems, landscapes and other nonhuman communities at risk? Do we engage in the difficult, daily work of establishing the cultural infrastructures and social organizations necessary to respond to environmental crises with swiftness and efficacy? Do we act on and live out our love for the earth that creates and sustains us through advocacy and engagement? Or do we continue to treat nature as a luxury? A regrettable loss, perhaps, but not worth the uproar or the effort?”

Today, with immense environmental challenges facing us, from climate change and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the impending fresh water shortages, the ideals and message of Earth Day are more vital than they have ever been.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Want to get active? Find out where you’re at, reduce your carbon footprint (and your water footprint), support small farms and eat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, invest green, vote green, and go green.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.” – Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

Earth Day

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 22, 2010 — 9 Comments

“Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.”John Muir

“Your descendants shall gather your fruits.”Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil)

Today is Earth Day. Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national “teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in 192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Earth Day also had a profound affect on modern Paganism in the United States.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.”Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

The Pagan notion of a sacred and interconnected Earth still persists today, and continues to make some people, both Christian and secular, uncomfortable. Despite these qualms, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Look no further than the mega-blockbuster movie “Avatar” being released on, and in conjunction with, Earth Day for proof of this.

2010 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and many special commemorations and actions are being planned. At PBS, you can watch the documentary “Earth Days”, which looks at the origins of the day, and the birth of the modern environmental movement.

Today, with immense environmental challenges facing us, from climate change and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the impending fresh water shortages, the ideals and message of Earth Day are more vital than they have ever been.

“For most of our history, we slept on the dirt, perhaps cushioned by a thin layer of leaves or animal skins. We rested on Earth as on the bosom of our mother. Until we polluted the lakes and streams, we sipped the water, our lives utterly dependent on it, as we sucked the milk from our mothers’ breasts. The food we require for life either grows directly from the soil or the waters or else consists of herbivores and omnivores who eat plant life and whom we eat in turn. Earth nurses us and feeds us as do our mothers, who themselves in turn are dependent on Earth.”Jordan Paper, The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology

Want to get active? Find out where you’re at, reduce your carbon footprint (and your water footprint), support small farms and eat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, invest green, vote green, and go green.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.”Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

We here at The Wild Hunt love to keep tabs on films that may interest (or concern) a Pagan audience, and today I have information on two films, one a documentary, and one a long-awaited sequel to a beloved cult-classic. We start off with the Robert Stone documentary “Earth Days”, which looks at the formation of the modern environmental movement culminating in the wildly successful 1970 Earth Day celebration.

“It is now all the rage in the Age of Al Gore and Obama, but can you remember when everyone in America was not “Going Green”? Visually stunning, vastly entertaining and awe-inspiring, Earth Days looks back to the dawn and development of the modern environmental movement—from its post-war rustlings in the 1950s and the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s incendiary bestseller Silent Spring, to the first wildly successful 1970 Earth Day celebration and the subsequent firestorm of political action.”

Aside from the natural interest many Pagans have in environmental conservation and activism, the movement that produced the 1970 Earth Day celebration also had a fundamental impact on Wicca and modern Paganism in America.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.”Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

“Earth Days” is scheduled to start hitting theatres on August 14th (today!), so be sure to check it out when it hits your neck of the woods (if it doesn’t hit your neck of the woods, don’t despair, it’ll air on PBS in April). Having seen some of Robert Stone’s other documentaries, most notably “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” and “Oswald’s Ghost”, it is clear he has a keen perspective of the cultural threads weaving in and out of America in the 1960s. For some early reviews check out this Salon.com critic’s pick, and three perspectives from The Daily Green.

We now turn to a film that takes an entirely different perspective on “caring for the Earth”, the long-awaited Robin Hardy-directed companion to the 1973 cult-classic movie “The Wicker Man”. That film “Cowboys For Christ” “The Wicker Tree” is currently shooting in Scotland, and Shock Till You Drop has an exclusive set report from Susan Granger.

After coaxing British Lion chairman and CEO Peter Snell out of retirement to become his producer, Hardy and Snell joined forces with Peter Watson-Wood and his partner, Alastair Gourlay, to bring The Wicker Tree to the screen for a tight $3 million budget. Last year, Hardy shot some exteriors in Texas and had preliminary talks with Christopher Lee and Joan Collins. Then Lee developed back problems when he tripped over a cable on a movie set in Mexico, leaving him unable to tackle the physically demanding role of Lachlan, and Joan Collins made other plans for this summer. So Hardy chose Scottish actor Graham McTavish (Rambo) who says, “I feel in some ways, a great responsibility to Christopher Lee, to Robin and to the legacy of The Wicker Man. As someone who was inspired by that film, it’s tremendously exciting and challenging to fill the shoes of Christopher Lee – and I only hope I can do it. For an actor, Lachlan is a role you seize with both hands.”

For those greatly disappointed by Sir Christopher Lee getting hurt and not being able to play the leading role of Lachlan fear not! According to the report he’ll still be appearing in a “pivotal” and “instantly recognizable” role in the film. Could this mean a direct connection to “The Wicker Man”? Could Lee be reprising the role of Lord Summerisle in a cameo? The thought of waiting till 2010 to find out seems torturous. I recommend reading the whole set report for some Robin Hardy quotes bagging on the horrid Nicolas Cage “Wicker Man” re-make (apparantly Cage is clueless as to why it failed), and some short interviews with some of the other stars of “The Wicker Tree”. Be sure to also check out the gallery of production stills.

ADDENDUM: Oh! How could I forget that Hayao Miyazaki’s new film “Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea” is out in theaters now!

With Cate Blanchett as a sea-goddess (in the English dub) how can you go wrong?