Archives For Global Warming

“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.

[The following is a guest post by Zay Eleanor Watersong. Zay Eleanor Watersong is a teacher in the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft, community organizer, and law student.  She got her start in Reclaiming with the Ithaca Reclaiming Collective and the Pagan Cluster, sharing priestessing roles in Pagan circles internationally and Reclaiming circles nationwide since 2003.]

“Anthro-arrogance is not an option,” stated one of the law student organizers for the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon in Eugene as they opened the conference on February 27.  “This conference, this planet, expects action.”


University of Oregon students took this to heart and continued a long history of protest at the conference with a 100-person walkout shortly thereafter during one of the keynote addresses, protesting the speaker’s anti-transgender stance.  It was an interesting echo of the controversy at PantheaCon in 2012.  Hopefully PIELC too will learn from the experience.

photo (1)This conference, now in its 32nd year, has a long history of bringing together legal scholars, lawyers, activists and organizers to discuss the pressing issues of the day and weave synergistic relationships to address them. It brings together so many who are working at the leading edge, whether in blockades or in the courtroom, to protect the earth which we hold sacred.  There is a deep magic in being able to see the web of laws and policies that hold the current system in place, and seeing the points where if we push just a little bit, things can shift.  Practicing law and practicing spellwork are not that different.

This year’s theme was “Running In to Running Out”.  It could be easy to come away depressed by power of the oil and gas industry, which is extracting resources as fast as it can and using more and more extreme ways to do so, with absolutely no consideration for the impacts on the environment, and very little reigning in by the government.  In fact, it turns out this industry is exempt from most of our environmental laws. And as former NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen explained, if the oil and gas industry is allowed to extract and burn all that they wish to, we are looking at a 6° C increase in global temperature, blowing past the 2* C limit that scientists and governments worldwide have agreed is the absolute upper limit to prevent catastrophic climate change.  What was that we were saying about anthro-arrogance?

There is no doubt we are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, put the current situation into perspective with a baseball analogy: “A player taking steroids increases the chances of more and bigger home runs.  You can’t point to any one home run as caused by steroids but overall, you know where the credit lies.  The climate is on steroids now.”  The weather is getting more extreme, more frequently.

"Outlaw party" during PIELC.

“Outlaw party” during PIELC.

Yet, the conference was a testament to the deep hope and commitment to action of the environmental movement.  The camaraderie and energy was palpable at the “Outlaw Party” thrown on the outskirts of Eugene by the Cascadia Forest Defense, where anarchists, organizers, and lawyers alike danced our love of the earth in the mud and rain to excellent bluegrass and let our primal nature run free around a rather spectacular effigy.  As the Pagan Cluster and Free Cascadia Witchcamp know, a little bit of ritual goes a long way towards feeding the soul and avoiding activist burnout.  These direct action activists –such as the 398 arrested at the White House on Saturday protesting the Keystone XL pipeline- who put their bodies and freedom on the line to make a statement about the failure of the administrative process deserve our thanks, and our spiritual support.

Just as important are the lawyers, advocates, and citizens that watchdog the bureaucracy, read and digest long tomes of environmental impact statements, and spend their days paperwrenching with public comments and lawsuits.  Theirs is an effort of endurance, particularly when environmental laws no longer protect the environment.

Mary Christina Wood

Mary Christina Wood

“At every level, agencies have turned environmental law inside out,” explained Mary Christina Wood, professor at the University of Oregon and author of the new book Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age.  Her keynote address Saturday evening followed Dr. Hansen’s dire predictions and painted a visionary method for the profound legal paradigm shift needs to happen.

“We’ve been running around putting out all these fires,” Wood explained, “but what if we can stop the pyromaniac?”  Wood is one of many legal scholars around the country re-invigorating an ancient judicial concept known as the Public Trust Doctrine.

It’s a basic idea: that there are certain natural resources that are so important for society as a whole that the government has a responsibility to protect those resources for everyone’s use.  The key case that brought this doctrine from ancient Roman law and English common law into U.S. Federal law is Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Illinois (1892), where the courts determined that the shoreline of Lake Michigan was held in public trust by the states and could not be given to a private railroad corporation.

A more recent case was Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2013) where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that legislation removing many regulatory hurdles for the fracking industry violated the public trust doctrine, which Pennsylvania voters amended into their constitution in 1971.

Wood and others are taking the public trust doctrine one step further, with atmospheric trust litigation, arguing that the atmosphere itself is one of those resources that must be maintained for us all.   Youth are filing lawsuits in every state, to hold the states and federal government responsible under the public trust doctrine for developing carbon recovery plans to meet the 6% annual reduction in carbon emissions that scientists agree is necessary to stabilize the atmosphere.  They’ve put together a wonderful video explaining the idea.

Is it a coincidence that so many of us have heard the call of Goddess at the same time that the earth, air, and waters that we honor are so threatened?  Gaia is calling us to action.  Our descendants are calling us to action.  What has been done in your state?  Does your state constitution include the public trust doctrine?  Do you have children who want to be part of the fight for their future?  When it seems like government at every level is failing us, and failing the climate, the positive action of the people working on atmospheric trust litigation is truly a breath of fresh air.

It’s time for the Pagan hysteria watch, where we spotlight some stories and editorials that get a wee bit over-excited in their rhetoric. Let’s start with an obvious source, conservatives defining environmental activism, and agreement with the scientific consensus concerning climate change, as a “new paganism”.

“As many commentators and “global warming skeptics” have observed, climate science has metamorphosed into a religion—or, more accurately, a cult in religious dress. It has its high priests (Al Gore, David Suzuki, James Hansen, Rajendra Pachauri), its sacred texts such as computer models whose inconsistencies and disparities are blithely ignored by the myriads of true believers, its prevailing orthodoxies that cannot safely be questioned or violated…”

Yes, it must be a “religion”, because “more and more evidence is surfacing against global warming claims”, even though the majority of that “evidence” has been overblown and distorted in the media, and the scientific community is being increasingly bullied by activists and politicians for not changing their position on global warming. Maybe they want to prove it’s a religion by producing martyrs? In any case, while times are tough for Al Gore (a “high priest” of the “new paganism”), our current President doesn’t escape accusations that he’s involving us all in paganism!

“For some Americans, Easter is a religious holiday to pay homage to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom they consider to be the Son of God. But for President Barack Obama, this is a day to worship the environmental pagan goddess of ‘Mother Earth.’ No word yet, on whether the government-sponsored pagan worshippers at the Air Force Academy have been invited to attend ceremonies at the White House Easter Egg Roll ceremonies this year.”

When did the traditional White House Easter celebration become a ceremony for Gaia? Apparently when he decided to use environmentally friendly easter eggs in the ceremony! Gasp! Choke!

“A White House announcement Monday said the eggs at this year’s April 5 roll will be made from paperboard that contains no wood fibers from endangered forests, is recyclable and features vegetable-oil based inks and a water-based coating.”

Not paperboard! Nooooo! It’s like “The Wicker Man”, only not.

Of course “pagan” hysteria isn’t relegated to politics or scientific theories, real-live actual Pagans  also spark it. Just look at this bizarre story in the Queensland (Australia) Southern Star, which brings us the shocking story of two Pagan teenagers getting married … with the consent of their parents!

“A TEENAGER plans to marry a schoolgirl in a pagan ceremony next month with the bride’s mother officiating … Holland Park High School student Jenni, 16, said of the handfasting: “We’ll just see how it goes.” Jenni’s mother and pagan high priestess Sue Birch, of Lawnton, will perform the ceremony.”

Shocking! Wait, why is this a story again? Don’t teenagers get married with the consent of their parents all the time? This is obviously not meeting the desired hysteria quotient, better bring in a rabid anti-Pagan nutter to close out the article.

Pagan marriage is not recognised under Australian law, which stipulates those marrying must be 18 years or older. Christian Democrat Party leader and anti-pagan campaigner Reverend Fred Nile said: “(Handfasting) can’t be in any way acknowledged by the state and should not be listed as a genuine wedding. Our party will do what it can to stop pagan weddings and witchcraft or Wicca activities.’’

There we go, that’s better. We wouldn’t want things to get too reasoned and uncontroversial around here. But even if Wicca becomes utterly useless in drumming up hysteria, we’ll still have Santeria and Vodou to exploit.

“Raised in violent ghetto neighborhoods, Ramirez grew up despising his father for his careless disregard of his family. He learned to live like a street animal to survive the cold, harsh streets of the South Bronx. Looking for love and validation, he eventually found it in a new “family” of witches and warlocks who groomed him to become a high priest in their occult religion. Ramirez’s plunge into the dark side reached a boiling point on the night he sold his soul to the devil in a diabolical, blood-soaked ritual. With renewed fervor–and the mark of the beast now cut into his right arm–he actively recruited souls into this “unholy kingdom,” haunting the bars and clubs of NYC by night to find his next victims, including those who professed faith in Christ. His life continued on this dark path for 25 years until God intervened through a larger-than-life dream, revealing Himself for who He really is and snatching Ramirez back from the pit of hell.  Out of the Devil’s Caldron walks you through the dark alleys of the occult religions of Santeria, Palo Mayombe, and espiritismo (spiritualism) while exposing the hidden secrets of darkness.”

There’s always a new “other” to point the finger at, another form of “paganism” to demonize, wouldn’t want the fear and hysteria to die out would we? If we start having civil discussion about these issues, who knows what could happen? Maybe we’d all become Pagans?

I have a few news stories I wanted to share before tomorrow’s Winter Solstice, starting with a look at the annual pilgrimage for Saint Lazarus in Cuba, that not only draws devout Catholics, but devout adherents to Santeria as well.

“Several thousand people walked to the church during the morning clutching bunches of mauve gladioli, pink bougainvillea and fat cigars to leave as offerings to the saint, who also symbolizes the deity Babalu-Aye in the Afro-Cuban Santeria faith. Experts explain this fusion of Santeria and Christian figures by saying that African slaves in Cuba originally pretended to worship the Catholic saints of their Spanish masters while secretly paying homage to their own deities.”

The Reuters article notes that religious expression, particularly Catholic religious expression, has become more pronounced in Cuba since the Pope John Paul II’s visit in the late 1990s. However, despite this relatively recent religious openness, Cuba is still rated as the least religiously free country in the Americas by a recent study of global restrictions on religion released by the Pew Forum. Santeria was initially suppressed by the Communist government, though those restrictions have lapsed over the decades, especially now that the faith draws in tourists interested in witnessing rites, or receiving initiations.

Over at the Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith religious blogging brain-trust, Starhawk weighs in on whether action regarding global warming is a moral imperative.

“Responding to climate change is the moral imperative of our time, and people of spirit and faith can play a vital role in helping us make this crucial transition. God, Goddess, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Krishna and the Great Spirit know that the politicians aren’t doing it! Watching the manipulations, stalling and deceptions going on in Copenhagen is enough to make us wonder if the Goddess really knew what she was up to in involving human beings–or if she simply didn’t finish the job … we need real commitments. What if every church, synagogue, mosque, temple, and Pagan grove committed to reduce their carbon footprint by the 90 percent that we truly need to reach by 2050? What if they started study groups and chevras and support groups to help people learn the skills and fund the projects and make the changes together?”

In addition to calling for stronger leadership on this issue within religious communities, Starhawk will also be attending the upcoming Gaza Freedom March along with 1300 other activists and notables, including Alice Walker and Roger Waters. You’ll be hearing more about her participation in this event soon. It should be interesting to see what ramifications, if any, her 2008 deportation from Israel will have.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald conducted a Nielsen poll concerning religious belief, and found that 6% followed “obscure faiths” like Wicca, while 22% of the total population believe in the existence of witches.

“Committed Christians are even more likely to believe in witches (35 per cent). This may surprise many, but not Pastor Daniel Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries, who in October this year organised a prayer offensive on Mount Ainslie after the discovery, it seems, of an altar for black masses. It was, said Nalliah, “the work of dark forces wanting to cast spells on Australia and Federal Parliament [which Mount Ainslie overlooks] – witches have been at work to tear down the fabric of the robust democratic system of Australia through spells”. The offensive appears to have worked.”

The manner in which the survey and the results were conducted and reported didn’t please some local Pagans, who didn’t like being lumped in with UFO-believers, Jedi, and other “obscure” religions. That the 22% who believed in witches weren’t superstitious, just “informed”.

“…the 22 per cent who said they believed in witches are not necessarily superstitious but just informed. In the last Australian census more than 22,000 people admitted to following a pagan religion, many of them Wiccan or witches. To put this in perspective, this is more people than the Australian followers of the Jains, Ba’hai and Sikh religions combined. At the recent World Parliament of Religions hosted in Melbourne, witches and other pagans had their own educational stream just like the Christians and Buddhists. As for the 78 per cent who don’t believe in witches . . . I don’t believe in you either.”

That’s all I have for now, have a happy Solstice tomorrow. If you are looking for some Pagan-friendly holiday music, why not check out my just-posted A Darker Shade of Pagan 2009 Winter Holiday Music Special. It’s sure to put you in a proper Winter-feasting, welcoming-the-light-back sort of mood.

Even though negotiations for a new global climate accord at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen seem to be rapidly deteriorating, with frustrated demonstrators trying to force their way into the talks, you wouldn’t know it by reading the (largely) right-leaning pundits. They all seem convinced that global environmental-pagan-cult rule is only days away. For example, we have this little gem from Joe Soucheray.

“It is a religious gathering in Copenhagen, nothing more and strikingly pagan in nature, but religious. They might as well be wearing hemp cassocks and green vestments, with a glittering crown of recycled pop-can tops for their spiritual leader, Al Gore, who is trying to pioneer the theological mischief known as plenary indulgences, only this time you can use gasoline to sin in St. Paul if only you plant a tree in Keokuk after first paying a middleman.”

The environmentalism = paganism rhetoric ranges from conspiratorial to spectacularly florid. It makes the usual climate-accord supporting disclaimer by Pope Benedict XVI seem so understated and reasonable.

“The final point of the Pope is dedicated to challenging those notions of man’s relationship with the environment that lead to “absolutizing nature ” or “considering it more important than the human person”, as it eliminates the “ontological” difference between the human person and other living beings”. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.

You know discourse on the topic has flown off the rails when the Pope’s “beware of paganism” boilerplate seems like a breath of fresh air. Amidst the accusations that we’ll all soon be worshiping Gaia in an imaginary socialist utopia, there’s still the issue of if the world can actually move forward on an issue that hundreds of institutions and thousands of scientists have a broad consensus on.

“The fundamental question is who are we as human beings if at some future date the next generation lives in a world with declining prospects and no possibility of reclaiming the beauty of this planet. They will look back at Copenhagen and ask why did you let this fail? What were the arguments? Didn’t you realize that we were at stake?”Al Gore at Copenhagen.

With all the hot air over the “climategate” e-mails, and the lockouts and walkouts at Copenhagen, I have a hard time believing we’ll be forcing Michelle Malkin to sing “we all come from the Goddess” anytime soon, let alone see a comprehensive accord from the world’s nations that is anything more than a face-saving fig-leaf at this point. Then again, who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky (about the treaty part, not Malkin singing goddess-chants). As for tarring anyone who supports forward movement on climate change as a pagan cultist, I suspect the meme itself will never die, but that it will grow increasingly hollow as the world’s  (non-Pagan) religions increasingly see the need to engage in “climate justice” for their global flocks.

Top Story: We are still in the midst of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, but that event seems to be increasingly haunted by the upcoming/overlapping UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen. This reality was noted by Reclaiming Witch and community organizer Zay Speer at the Pagans at the Parliament blog.

“The Parliament may be taking place on the other side of the world from Copenhagen, but Copenhagen is not very far from peoples’ minds. There are at least eight talks here with “climate change” in the title, more in the descriptions, and it is appearing as a persistent subtheme throughout the conference, from all traditions. Despite not having a voice on any of the Ecology panels, we Pagans are working it in too. The Community Night Pagan ritual hosted by Melbourne Reclaiming ended with an activist-style raising of energy for the healing of Mother Earth, ‘all the way through to Copenhagen!'”

Can religious groups influence the debate over a new global climate pact? U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon seems to think so, saying that religious leaders “can have the largest, widest and deepest reach”, and hundreds of religious folks are coming, some directly from the Parliament, to make their voice heard.

“[Sister Joan Brown] will be among numerous preachers, rabbis, ministers and other faith-based figures who are bringing a spiritual presence — and, often, a strong point of view on the political issues — to Copenhagen. At a time when political leaders are struggling to pass environmental legislation in the USA and elsewhere … as many as 100 religiously affiliated representatives from the USA plan to attend the summit, estimates Tyler Edgar, assistant director for the environmental arm of the NCC. Worldwide, she says that number will likely run ‘in the hundreds.'”

What will these mainstream religious voices for a tougher climate change pact at this “Woodstock of the environmental movement” say? According to reports from the Parliament, they may sound amazing like Pagans, even if the Pagans weren’t invited to most of the panels on climate change and the environment (with one exception). Don’t believe me? Check out the blog of a Franciscan Nun heading to Copenhagen for a beautiful evocation of sacred Earth. We may not be there, but the nature-reverent ethic many of us hold does indeed seem to be traveling “all the way through to Copenhagen”.

In Other News: We turn once again to the international epidemic of witch-hunting. Some think I’m trying to equate Western Paganism with innocent folks accused of sorcery and witchcraft in Africa and the Middle East, but my reporting isn’t about questions of identity, but about a simmering religious and cultural phenomenon that won’t be contained much longer in the mostly-ignored developing nations. This isn’t merely about controversial blessings, or even American-funded witch-hunting churches, but of this madness spreading right to our doorstep.

“An evangelist church leader who tortured his 10-year-old daughter and kept her prisoner for four days with no food because he was convinced she was a witch was jailed for eight-and-a-half years today. The twisted 39-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, dripped boiling hot plastic over his terrified daughter’s feet and beat her senseless after she became ‘possessed by evil spirits’. The girl was held prisoner and force-fed olive oil and milk for four days after the man became convinced she had powers to make people fall asleep, Coventry Crown Court heard.”

Even when it does happens “here”, some may be tempted to write this off as an “immigrant” problem, but that ignores how easily we “rational” and “civilized” folks in affluent first-world nations drift into the same madness when certain triggers are pushed. We need to address this problem, not because the accused “witches” are Pagan, but because hysteria is an easily exportable commodity, and some very prominent people here at home seem to be very tempted to see if it can make them a prophet profit.

Turning to my ongoing coverage of the Pagan presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, I present an audio interview with Reclaiming Witch and community organizer Zay Speer. Speer works with the Onondaga Nation, part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, on environmental and interfaith issues. We talk about how she came to be a part of the Onondaga delegation, what the Onondaga hope to accomplish at the Melbourne Parliament, working to end the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and her own experiences as a Pagan at the Parliament.

If you are a Pagan podcaster, or host a Pagan-friendly radio show, you are welcome to download this file to play on your program. Be sure to credit the Pagan Newswire Collective as the audio source. For more Parliament-related audio, check out my discussion with Ed Hubbard, a PNC correspondent, and my interview with Pagan Scholar Michael York. For more great Parliament coverage, stay tuned to the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest news. gives some more coverage to the upcoming documentary about Norway’s black-metal scene “Until the Light Takes Us”, which I’ve mentioned here before. Movie critic Andrew O’Hehir wonders if the documentary-makers went too far towards making controversial figures like Varg Vikernes seem like “misunderstood Robin Hoods” instead of  “Satanic church-burning maniacs”.

“Do Aites and Ewell owe the viewership a clearer explication of Vikernes’ ties to white nationalist groups, his long record of troubling racial, sexual and religious rhetoric and his public flirtation with Nazi ideology? You won’t learn this in the film, for instance, but Vikernes is viewed as the philosophical father of the musical-political subgenre called “National Socialist black metal,” or NSBM. Or is it fairer to this disturbing and complicated figure to present him on his own terms, without recourse to prejudicial buzzwords? (For the record, Vikernes has not called himself a Nazi since the late ’90s, preferring the invented term “Odalism,” said to signify “paganism, traditional nationalism, racialism and environmentalism,” along with an opposition to modern civilization in all its forms.)”

I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment, but it does seem like a calmer, even friendlier, tone may be welcome after the waves of sensationalist reporting and media on the topic. I certainly couldn’t see the film-makers gaining the trust of the local black-metal scene had they gone in looking to portray “Satanic church-burning maniacs”. Again, whatever its flaws, I still think this will be a welcome asset for those wanting to explore Pagan and Heathen spirituality in underground subcultures.

In a final note, according to Cumbrian Witch Marcus Katz, Wicca is no stranger than pigeon racing.

“We offer a very open, authentic and down-to-earth approach. We don’t consider it any stranger than people joining a pigeon-racing club, which is something I find bizarre!”

So there you go. Wicca is equal-to or less-strange than the sport of pigeon racing. Please take note.

That’s all I have for now, don’t forget to check the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest updates and links from Melbourne,  and have a great day!

On a random whim I signed up for the yearly Blog Action Day a couple weeks ago, mostly because this year the theme was climate change/global warming and where better to talk about the environment than a blog that services many faiths that describe themselves as “earth-honoring”, “earth-centered”, “nature religion”, or even “Gaian”? However, I realized I had nothing new to say, despite helpful prompts from the Blog Action Day people like “Global Warming Facts and Figures”, “Top 100 Effects of Global Warming”, and “10 Solutions for Climate Change”. So instead of attempting something entirely new, I’ve decided to link and excerpt several past climate change and environmentally-themed posts here at The Wild Hunt. Think of it as our “greatest environmental-themed hits”.

Nature Religion For Real (A Review of “National Parks”)

“However, we’ve come a long way from the nature-loving hunter-conservationism of Roosevelt, and his party is more often the party of “drill, baby, drill”. Will “National Parks” ignoring almost the entirety of the modern environmentalism movement really galvanize bipartisan support for a new ethic of conservationism? Was it responsible for this love-letter to not even mention climate change, and the terrible damage it’s doing to the parks?”

Earth Day

“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.”

Winning the Battle of Stanton Moor

Emily Dugan of The Independent profiles the tree-sitters and eco-warriors who have spent nine years living in the trees at Stanton Moor in the Peak District National Park. Their goal? To stop the planned re-opening of two mines that threatened the Nine Ladies stone circle.

Pagans and the Environment

“Often when people talk about modern Pagan religions terms like “earth-centered”, “earth-honoring”, and “nature religion” get used as a descriptor. These terms mean different things to different people, and some modern Pagan faiths reject such terminology altogether, but few can deny that modern Pagan religions have long been tied to environmental causes and concerns.”

The Limits of Earth Worship

“Now that scientific consensus is a close to unanimous as anything gets nowadays, we need leaders and governments who will take on the problem of global warming as a top priority. Any candidate (from any party) who runs for president in 2008 needs to have a robust plan regarding climate change if they want to be taken seriously as a world leader. As awareness and a desire to stem the tide of global warming start to spread (especially in the face of more Katrina-esque disasters) those of us who claim (in some fashion) to have a spiritual connection with the earth need to step forward and become the moral voice for environmental responsibility we have been claiming to be since 1970, and help guide the secular political actions that are to come.”

That’s all I have for now, be sure to check out some of this years Blog Action Day posts, and have a great day!

Blogger and classicist Mary Beard reports back from the annual Classical Association conference and relates her experiences at a talk by noted author Richard Seaford concerning the ancient Greeks and what they can teach us concerning wealth, our environment, and global warming.

“The modern world had bought into the idea of the limitlessness of money, he suggested. The Greeks warned about just that aspect with instructive mythological exampla. What is the myth of Midas except the terrible story of a man whose whole aspirations are focussed on the ‘sign of money’. Greek culture, as Seaford sees it, insisted on the culture of limit. And that has implications for environmental issues too. The modern disregard for the signs of global warming is reminiscent of Greek stories of those who allow their limitless desires to bring about their own destruction (sometimes even when they know what the consequences of their desires wlll be). One of these is the myth of Erisichthon, who first of all destroys a tree in the grove of the nymphs, in such a way that it brings down most of the grove — and then, in punishment, is afflicted with insatiable desire for food in the midst of a famine and ends up consuming his own body. So what can Greek culture do for us in our present dilemmas? It can allow us to see alternatives to our own culture (and cult) of ‘the unlimited’?”

These attitudes shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with ancient Greek culture and religion, after all, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription “Meden Agan” (nothing in excess) and the ancient myths are full of punishments for those who are overly greedy or unthinking in their acquisition of wealth, land, or power. Certainly there were/are permitted times of excess, but these are again placed within certain limits, and balanced by forces of order and sobriety. The question remains if we can embrace a new narrative of “limit” regarding our environment in order to avoid a future straight from a Greek tragedy.

ADDENDUM: More on this talk from The Guardian.

David Cox, writing for the Guardian, discusses the “religion” of environmentalism and the limits of such a faith.

“…environmental sanctity clearly provides harmless succor to those in need of it. Moreover, surely, it might save the human race from extinction. Here, however, is the rub. The religion that global warming has spawned has become an obstacle to the cause it appears to enshrine. The trouble with religions is that their adherents’ prime concern tends to be securing their own position among the elect. Often they feel that pursuing personal salvation by faith and works is all that is required. Thus, our new environmentalist congregation is happy to chant dogma, make (some) sacrifices in its name and denounce 4×4 drivers and long-haul travelers. Unfortunately, this will not be enough to defeat global warming.”

In Cox’s view, no amount of small-scale personal sacrifice can effect the changes that are needed to avoid major environmental catastrophe. Only rigorous political action to sway the world’s governments hold any hope of real change (a view held by some environmental activists as well).

“At present, these governments have yet to rise to this challenge on anything like a sufficient scale. It may be that they never will. However, if they are to be prodded into taking the necessary measures, more will be required than the piety of a sanctimonious few. It will take relentless political action. Sadly, politics enjoys none of the charisma that once more attends religion…Earth worship may make the worshipers feel better. The Earth, however, needs something more.”

While I don’t appreciate Cox’s smug superior tone (and a lack of suggestions on how to enact that “something more”), he does make a good point that needs to be discussed, especially amongst those of us who follow some permutation of “Nature Religion”. Personal lifestyle changes, while admirable (and needed), can’t replace political action. But what kind of political action? Taking to the streets? Funneling money to lobbyists?

Now that scientific consensus is a close to unanimous as anything gets nowadays, we need leaders and governments who will take on the problem of global warming as a top priority. Any candidate (from any party) who runs for president in 2008 needs to have a robust plan regarding climate change if they want to be taken seriously as a world leader. As awareness and a desire to stem the tide of global warming start to spread (especially in the face of more Katrina-esque disasters) those of us who claim (in some fashion) to have a spiritual connection with the earth need to step forward and become the moral voice for environmental responsibility we have been claiming to be since 1970, and help guide the secular political actions that are to come.