By Heather Awen
Lupa’s anthology “Talking about the Elephant” and her eco-pagan awareness came to me after 27 years in Neopaganism. At age 40 I decided I was done with nature-worshippers who drove SUVs, wore poisonous fragrances, used plastic forks and paper plates, spent their time on the astral plane and knew about Coyote but not coyotes. I want to thank Lupa for inviting me to write for No Unsacred Place, as I have long admired her work.
If you read my blog Adventures in Animism, you know that I recently was poisoned and got multiple chemical sensitivity and cannot, without a risk of death and certainly without risk of anaphylaxis and/or seizures, be around any petrochemicals. Which turns out to be anywhere on Eaarth, Bill McKibben’s name for this new planet, changed by some very stupid human mistakes, or near any humans with their pot smoky or shampooed hair, pesticide-grown clothing, and books with toxic ink. A hospital, as a chemical cesspool, is where I would be mostly likely to die.
MCS forced me to speed up my thinking about modern nature-based religion. Nature and I are one, something I “knew” and now know. I’ve had to relearn natural, without any greenwashing. If I mess up, I faint, vomit or get a migraine. I have to dye my own fabrics and make my own soaps, all within a bubble of air purifiers, water filters, and safety zones where receipts, mail and other inky nightmares are stored and electronic are left constantly on until the chemicals burn off their circuits. The eco-purist lifestyle I wanted I now have, or I will die. I used to make the excuse that on SSI’s $700 a month, $200 food stamps, no subsidized housing, and being differently abled with cerebral palsy, ADHD and PTSD there was no way I could live my values. MCS demanded “Live them or don’t live at all.”
Always an intellectual, I used to be a big fan of theory, of cosmology, of ideas. Now all I care about, with my limited energy, high levels of pain, low income, total isolation, is “Does this work?” The sciences became my Book of Shadows and common sense my 6th sense. There is no time for self indulgent woo woo, attracting Porches and finding power animals to solve my father issues. Like my ancestors, my daily struggle is to survive. This is also nature’s struggle. Nature and I need the same things. My “special needs” are fresh air, safe food and pure water. Those needs bar my access to any store, any meeting, any party, any healers, any park. Nature drafted me and I cannot turn away when the going gets rough for nature as I am constantly reminded that I am nature.
In my No Unsacred Place writing I intend to share how-to ways to be in harmony with what the land needs in ways my ancestors, original Pagans, did. I have no cattle to move from winter enclosure to summer fields so I have no need for a smoky Bealtaine fire to remove their parasites. I do however have fears about nuclear radiation and worry about how we have no ceremonies for managing a manmade being that will outlive all of us many times over. Still good at magic, now that everything at an Earth-based spirituality store is too toxic for me, I have to find new ways that do not harm me or Eaarth. Instead fearing the ice giants, I welcome them with joy because northern Vermont is supposed to be cold and snowy and ice filled for 6 months a year and with Global Weirding it hasn’t been.
I also hope to share ways I find to keep us encouraged as we feel the despair of the reality of Eaarth. 200 species go extinct each day. What are the rituals for losing that much kin in a global daily holocaust? Every scientist and indigenous person I have talked with told me it is too late. Humans have doomed a planet, with wyrd, the laying down of patterns, now grooves of paths of least resistance, and it will take monumental efforts to create a new wyrd, an undertaking that no individual can change and one I do not believe with happen collectively. These are rough times and they will get rougher. As Monsanto (Monsatan) controls the world’s food supply with GMOs, killing bees, and crazy amounts of pesticides and cell phone companies pay schools and nursing homes to house cell phone towers, we can only expect cancer rates, autism rates, mystery neuro-endocrine illnesses like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and MCS rates, diabetes rates, heart disease rates, and “mental illness” (caused by heavy metal toxicity, poisons, and severe nutritional deficiencies) rates to climb higher. Wars for nature resources, manmade natural disasters, pandemics created by those disasters, and famine from the new two seasons – flood or fire – will continue to destroy human lives hand in hand with making Eaarth. How do we handle this truth without numbing out in addictions or homicide/suicide? Maybe you are protected from the collapse somewhat right now, where I have already fallen thru into the new world, like half the world’s humans, walking miles for fresh water, or wearing a mask to breathe, and all the world’s flora, fauna, fungi and elements.
Earth-based spirituality seems to be now rooted in nature as a glamping vacation spot to renew the soul with shrooms and a drum circle, filled with sexy Goth Fairies and Disney made ley lines, celebrating the beginning of spring in a February blizzard or the first frost of Samhain while the mountains rage in forest fires, with some heterosexual porn stars as magic ATM machines.
Eaarth-based materialism is rooted in the knowledge of nature as nature is, not as we read it to be, with ceremonies related to here and now, based on survival as the world changes drastically over a short period of time none of us can expect to survive without threats of illness, homelessness and trying to decipher fact from fiction, and finding ways to emotionally process the great personal and communal changes so we do not become passive victims/abusers.
In my eco-pagan world, a shaman is someone who risks hir own life fighting evil spirits trying to destroying the tribe. Landless peasants in revolution, young people chained to trees, elders who refuse to leave their homelands, these are my “shamans” seeking to restore harmony and health by defeating greed, lies and consumerism. My elders about right lifeways and ceremonies are scientists, not the ones paid to promote greed, lies and consumerism, but those who have ethics (and probably already paid off their student loans working for a military-industrial complex). My magic is the magic of hoodoo protection against slavers, Aradia cursing the land-owning Priests, food as medicine, liberation theology, and complex relationships with Deities, the helpful dead, natural forces, other-than-human persons and other humans who know we are nature to help me do our mutually beneficial work.
I hope you enjoy joining me in the trenches of Eaarth-based religion. Pockets of humans will survive and even thrive based on what we do now to regenerate the land, protect the endangered species, and clean out the waters. As Alice Walker wrote, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”