Oil Spills on a Sacred Earth

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As the Gulf oil crisis continues, people are turning to religion and religious leaders for answers, guidance, and comfort. I’ve been keeping track of Pagan reactions to this catastrophe, and there are two new instances worth noting. First, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary is interviewed along with several other religious leaders by the Religious News Service. In the article, reporter Nicole Neroulias notes that nature-based religions are welcoming the growing recognition that our planet is sacred and that we cannot blindly continue down the path we’ve been traveling.

“Nature-based religions welcome this growing recognition that caring for the environment is a spiritual calling, and that the oil spill is “a wound in the earth,” said Selena Fox, a high priestess at Circle Sanctuary, a Wisconsin-based pagan resource center. Fox said she has been meditating and conducting outdoor prayers several times a day, lighting a pentacle of ritual candles to channel her energy toward five areas: stopping the leak, helping the cleanup, healing the impact, learning from the disaster, and hoping that people become more respectful of the circle of life.”

Meanwhile, at the On Faith site, Hindu American Foundation (HAF) co-founder Aseem Shukla weighs in on the welfare and value of animals affected by BP’s negligence and our country’s lack of regulation.

“For panentheistic Hindus, who with many Dharma faiths and Pagan traditions worship Earth as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess, divinity is found within every part of nature just as it transcends an earthly realm. The suffering animals endure in our blind pursuit of black gold to support a craven addiction will bear the brunt of the consequences of karma. It is empirical that every action has an equal and opposite reaction; while today the shrimpers and oyster harvesters are enduring for our collective sins, we must know that all of us will be affected as the dominoes of suffering fall.”

I think it’s encouraging that Shukla is expressing solidarity with modern Pagans in his column, and it hints at a possible fruitful alliance between Hindu and modern Pagan organizations in matters of mutual interest. Perhaps this terrible tragedy has caused some rethinking, even our president said recently he grew up with the notion that the ocean is sacred and that he “understands the emotional connection” people have to it. That kind of language, even in passing, hearkens to a time when America’s nature religion was more fully expressed in our leadership. We can only hope the (righteous) anger and concern evolves into a new ethic of care for our planet (and there is some evidence that this may be happening), instead of collapsing into cynicism and despair.

If you want to do something to aid the Gulf in this crisis, here’s a list of suggestions, and here’s one more. For those wanting to do spiritual work, Lorna Tedder has some suggestions.