Cultural Quandaries: Death

November 7, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Earthly Rites, Natural Reflections, Restorying the Sacred.

It is late autumn/early winter here in borealis, the northern hemisphere, and it is in this portion of the world right now that we experience the shortening days and lengthening nights with the northern pole tilting away from the sun. Life that are able to migrate move southward with the view of the sun, some migrate up rivers lay eggs and perish, much of life that remains goes dormant, and the vegetation withers into the ground. The fields and forests become quiet and much more empty. Leaves of deciduous trees have fallen leaving the trees bare, revealing the skeleton that was once obscured not so long ago. Many cultures throughout borealis have a common response to these stark changes this time of year. A response of contemplating the inevitable point in time when life quiets and dissipates like this season, death. Death of those who have come before us, who have recently died, and our own demise.

Dead Salmon in Creek. Image Credit: Rua Lupa

Death is often an uncomfortable topic and thus is little discussed. Unfortunately this can lead to unintended consequences, namely what to do about a loved one who has died leaving no will of their wishes once they’ve gone. A result of both the individual and those around them not taking the time to discuss the inevitable. Once tight friends and family can be fractured and bitter when attempting to resolve the situation of what to do with the body and with what their beloved has left behind. I think that if you love your friends and family you would take the time to discuss it with them and have everything prepared ahead of time and so the topic must be breached – how to deal with death?

There are a great many ways of approaching this, but I think it best to keep to what is confirmable.

All life dies, and that is part of the circle of life. What does that even mean? Isn’t life linear? You’re born, you live and you die? Well no. Death is just one part of the cycle. So how does it then connect to life again? Perhaps it is best to start with life and how life is able to be.

You, me, the birds, those trees, that bug, are all alive, but how? What sustains life? To live we must obtain sustenance with the right proportions of nutrient to be healthy, not to mention being active. Each organism, including ourselves, requires a specific set of nutrients to function, without these essential nutrients life becomes susceptible to disease that lead to death. So for us humans, we need carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water. Where do we get it? Water we usually get directly, otherwise and everything else is mostly from other animals, and plants – killing and eating plants and other dead animals to sustain our own lives. But without plants life on earth as we know it cannot exist.

Life Energy. Image Source: field-studies-council.org

Plants are the primary producers that feed base nutrients and all energy into the earth’s ecosystem via harvesting the energy of the sun and taking in nutrients from its surrounding environment. Eventually being consumed by other life forms which they themselves become consumed by other life. Plants obtain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air while every other essential nutrient required by plants are obtained from the soil. Being the primary macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K); the three secondary macronutrients: calcium (Ca), sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg); and the micronutrients/trace minerals: boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni). So without these nutrients in soil or water, plants wouldn’t exist and the majority of life on earth wouldn’t exist. So where does soil come from?

From Death to Soil - A Salmon's Body Found By A Creek. By Rua Lupa

From Death to Soil – A Salmon’s Body Found By A Creek. Image Credit: Rua Lupa

All soil is rotted material of dead plants or animals – that’s right, that soil under your feet is from dead stuff. What gardeners who cultivate this rotted dead call compost. But it is also the most diverse and complex ecosystem on the planet. There are at least 50 million genus of bacteria and 50 million genus of fungi in the soil which break down the dead matter and make the components accessible to other life forms. Plant life is then able to draw up these nutrients from the dead, sustaining itself and other creatures both of whom eventually die themselves, continuing the cycle. So without the dead, there wouldn’t be soil, without soil there wouldn’t be plants, without plants the majority of life on earth wouldn’t exist, ergo without death there would be no life as we know it.

Beyond all this there is an additional component often forgotten in the process. The sun. Without the sun the plants wouldn’t even have a source of energy to tap into in the first place – which started the whole evolutionary path that we are on. We rely on solar energy to be alive just as much as we rely on water and the nutrients of the earth to be alive. And beyond that, the nutrient rich earth, with its water, and the sun would themselves not be here if it weren’t for previous earlier generation stars exploding, scattering their enriched components into the cosmos.

From a dead ancient star (a nebula) to our solar system. Image Source: plymouth.edu

Components made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These components gathered in dust clouds that condensed to make up the celestial bodies in our solar system. So life wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the death of stars.

It is then ultimately that in the death, new life is supported through the components that had made it up. Just as our own lives are supported from the components of the dead plants and animals we consume. Cycling again, and again and again forever more and those components can spread throughout, not only our region, but the whole planet and even into the rest of the cosmos.

 

The Circle of Life. Image Credit: TaintedEnterprises

The components that make up you and me and everything else around us was once part of something else, somethings that were alive and all of which from the stars and may eventually become stars again. Death is a beautiful thing.

And it can remain a beautiful thing in our ceremonies and rituals for the dead. Unfortunately this fantastic part of the life cycle is often repressed in our current modern customs. Embalming the body (suffusing it with toxic substances so that bacteria cannot break it down and killing the bacteria that are there) and placing it in a reinforced coffin is common practice which further prevents decomposition and not to mention taking up a lot of space in the ground. Although cremation takes up less space and can spread its components, it also releases the toxins dioxin, hydrochloric acid, and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It also takes a lot of energy to super heat a cremation oven for 3 hours and the majority of its potential nutrient to the earth is lost in this alteration processes. So that isn’t really an ideal option either. (for a deeper look into these and virtually every other option out there follow this link, a number of which won’t be mentioned here but are solid options)

Image Source: naturallyearthfriendly.com

One of the most ideal options is the most ‘old school’ way of doing things – burying the dead as they are. Thus encouraging the natural decomposition process. There are various ways of approaching this, some of which being, wrapping the body in a shroud or favourite blanket and/or placing the body in a felt, wicker, or wooden plank coffin. Ideally the body would be buried in a place that allows for a tree or other vegetation to be planted or let grow over the burial mound. There is an increasing number of resources and options for such burial grounds – often called green or natural burials. You can even have the burial on private property with a permit – also known as home burials (search ‘burial permit’ for your area). These methods of approach are the most affordable and simple way of going about death. A very poetic touch would be to grow a food producing plant on top of the burial to enable direct participation in the circle of life.

Promession is another, arguably the most environmentally responsible way of disposing the body. It involves dry freezing the body, shattering it to dust, removing medically added components from remains which can then be recycled and thus not waste the material or contaminate the soil, and scattering/burying the rest in top soil – becoming completely decomposed into soil in as little as 12 months.

Natural Burial Ground. Image Source: beatree.com

So consider your death a positive adventure as exploring and finalizing what you want for yourself can be a very fun and creative experience, and by having it ready keeps peace of mind for you and loved ones when the moment comes.

 

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Wordless Wednesday: Amur Leopard

November 6, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Amur Leopard, by Katy


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ADDENDUM to We Are In Space: Spinning In Space

November 1, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Natural Reflections.

ADDENDUM to We Are In Space

Here is a short film of earth spinning in space from an on earth perspective.
It is fun while watching to figure out which direction the earth is spinning -
it creates a new appreciation of our view from our planet.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Fuzzballs

October 30, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Fuzzballs, by Sara Bean


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Festivities of Natural Annual Events: Midway Equinox & Solstice

October 29, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Earthly Rites.

F.N.A.E. articles are written with Ehoah phrases

Ehoah Phrases

What is Seasonally Occurring

The southern hemisphere is tilting toward the sun, making the sun’s rays hit the southern hemisphere more than the northern hemisphere. Therefore…

In Australis the days are getting longer with the daily turning view of the sun becoming higher along the north horizon. Spring has arrived. Migrations have moved southward and started the avian mating season. For most of Australis the dry season is ending with the arrival of the tropical rain belt, heralding the growing season.

The equator will be seeing the daily turning view of the sun further south. This is when the Tropical Rain Belt is moving southward past the equator moving toward the Australis Sol Axis.

Rainbelt-Temp_Australis-Translux

In Borealis the days are getting shorter, seeing the earth’s daily turning view of the sun lower on the southern horizon. Deciduous trees have leaves changing colour and are loosing, or have lost all their leaves. Wildlife are either migrating or preparing for winter by storing food in their environment or body fat, the later doing so to prepare for hibernation. Hibernating species may already be hibernating, and migrating species may have already left in the cooler and more nothern regions. Depending on crops, weather and climate, most regions in borealis are already done their major annual harvest.

Seasonal Customs

Australis is celebrating spring – new growth and life. Flowers blooming, birds nesting, and pollinators abuzz.

Australis activities around Translux include: Watching the ti kouka / cabbage tree to see if a good flowering would occur, if so it is said to be a sign that a long, fine summer will follow; Wildcrafted flowers would be put out in a mandala display; Flower costumes (especially floral crowns, necklaces, and wrist/ankle bands) and costumes themed on wings of butterflies, bees, or birds; Bird, Bumble Bee and flutter bug themed kite flying; making ‘seed bombs’ and dispersing them in the area; Making butterfly and bird landart that can be posed with (like snow angels); Chocolate eggs are gifted to friends and family; simple origami flutter bugs decorate public spaces that can have notes of hopes for the year and some seeds to sprout from them when they inevitably disperse; bread buns in the shape of chicks are made; opening ceremony of ‘pollinating’ each other with yellow powder; children paint hands as pollinators and ‘pollinate’ punch box flowers to get a seasonal treat.

 

Borealis is celebrating the end of harvest, the year’s hard work and giving thanks. As the nights are longer lights are brought into celebrations and symbolisms along with that light. The darkness and now dormant vegetation brings considerations of death and so death is also themed in events.

Borealis activities around Transnox include: Feasts from the harvest: North America typically having turkey and pumpkin pie, with apple pie being the most accessible throughout Borealis; Giving thanks for the harvest and preceding year; Remembering those that have died through various expressions such as tending graves or making the deceased’s favourite meal, some traditions involve inviting ancestors to the feast; pasture livestock are brought back down from the summer pastures; Livestock are slaughtered for the winter; Bonfires, lanterns, fireworks, and other various light displays to lighten the earlier nights; Colouful rangoli art in open areas in and out of the home; hair put in fishtail braids as a reminder of the salmon’s sacrifice for the prosperity of future generations; seed exchanges made from the year’s harvest and the seeds that need winter stratification are planted; earth looms that were hung over or by the threshold is placed in garden/forest to rot away and as a practice of ‘letting go’ since nothing stays the same forever; feast themed on the circle of life where the food is depicted as dead creatures to remind feasters of how death sustains life. Those depicted in human forms being a reminder that those who have died in the past have dispersed into the land and the food in the area that is now being eaten; and floral and mycelia facepaint is donnned as symbolism of own eventual dispersal.

 

 

BOREALIS

CELEBRATION

GENERAL DATE

SPECIFIC DATE

CALENDAR

REGION OF ORIGIN

CULTURE

Thanksgiving

Late October to Late November

2nd Monday in October (Canada);
1st Thursday in November (Liberia);
4th Thursday in November (USA)

Gregorian calendar

North America

European Settlers

Labor Thanksgiving Day

勤労感謝の日

Kinrō kansha no hi

Late November

二十三日 (nijūsan-nichi) 十一月 (jūichigatsu), 23rd of November

Japanese calendar

East Asia

Japanese

Transnox

Early November

Midway Equinox & Solstice,

Artiodactyla – Cervid 15/16, November 5/6

Ehoah Year Wheel – Gavia, Borealis Kalendar

Earth

Saegoah

Samhain

Late October

October 31st

Gregorian calendar

Wheel of the Year

North Western Europe

Celtic

AllantideKalan Gwav, meaning first day of winter, or Nos Kalan Gwav, meaning eve of the first day of winter

Late October

31st October

Gregorian calendar

North Western Europe

Cornish

Deepavali

Diwali

festival of lights

Late October – Early November

13th day of Ashvin

अश्विन् to the 2nd day of Kārtika, November 3rd, Correlates with 2nd New Moon after Equinox

Hindu Lunisolar calendar

Southern Asia

Hindu

Día de Muertos,
Day of The Dead

Late October – Early November

October 31st to November 2nd

Gregorian calendar

Middle America

Mexican

 

AUSTRALIS

CELEBRATION

GENERAL DATE

SPECIFIC DATE

CALENDAR

REGION OF ORIGIN

CULTURE

Beltane

Late October/Early November

October 31st/ November 1st

Gregorian calendar

Wheel of the Year

North Western Europe

Celtic

Whiringanuku

Late October

Whiringa-ā-nuku / Oketopa ? , Midway Equilux and Nox

unknown

Oceania

New Zealand / Maori

Translux

Early November

Midway Equinox & Solstice,

Artiodactyla – Camelid 15/16, November 5/6

Ehoah Year Wheel – Sphenisci, Australis Kalendar

Earth

Saegoah

Please let me know about any relevant celebrations that were missed

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The Refinery

October 28, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Why do we feel removed from nature in a refinery? Is it all the metal? The concrete? The noise?

The Elements are all present, and they don’t care what we think.

Earth lies as she always has, beneath our feet; the concrete is just a minor elaboration of Her solid nature.

Air swirls around as it does, over and above and beyond and carries the heat and sulfur just as it does around any volcano.

Fire is present in its potential everywhere in a refinery, just as in the ‘natural’ world. It is to be respected for its role in our world, and avoided whenever possible.

Water flows everywhere. Steam flows and billows and drips. Refineries are wet places, even when it isn’t raining.

So, what is it?

ExxonMobil oil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seen from the Capitol tower.

I think in part it’s the preponderance of potential energy; fire in its most influential form. The fossil fuels are born of the sun, and contain its energy. They’re burned to fuel a refinery and form the feedstock and, in more rarified forms, its final product. And it’s the steel; steel is rarely possible when it’s not man made. There’s so MUCH steel here. And given the total lack of anything that converts solar energy, it’s the heat. The sun just fries a refinery.

It’s the segregation of the Elements too. Water is present in vast amounts, but as pools it lies outside the working areas of the refinery, in tanks and ponds and canals. Earth underlies all, but it’s covered up by a man made earth that all looks and feels unlike ‘rock’.

So, it’s a lack of balance that makes me uneasy. It’s a focus on Fire’s potential and Steel’s rarity. It’s the segregation, the ‘refining’ of the Elements so that they only interact with man’s intervention.

It’s the removal of one from the other; the lack of communication by exchange of materials. It’s a stasis that is rarely present in our world, and thus uncommon in feel and touch and smell.

In the end, it’s the refining approach to working with our natural world that I don’t like. It’s too refined, not messy enough, not enough like the ‘real’ world. In sum, it’s too much of a good thing.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Sunset

October 23, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Happy Sunset, by Natan Estivallet


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Ritual & Ceremony of a Naturalistic Saegoah Part 3 of 3 – What & How I Do Ritual and Ceremony

October 21, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Earthly Rites, Natural Reflections, Restorying the Sacred.

The third and last question of this series, and my favourite to answer for myself – What do you do? (The previous two segments can be read here – Part 1, Why I do Ceremony & Ritual; Part 2, When and Where I do Ceremony & Ritual)

Rua Lupa, Searching for Apples

Rua Lupa, Up in an Apple Tree

There is a whole lot I can cover here that could very well make up a book. As I was writing this piece I had to remove large portions as I went because it was getting too in-depth and much too large; So it will be more of a glancing summary instead which I feel doesn’t really do justice to what is covered. Over time I hope to present each one in full proper detail.

From here, what is viewed as ritual and ceremony can differ greatly, which is mostly why I prefer to refer to it as customs. I don’t really go for pomp and pizazz when it comes to personal acts. I find that sort of thing is most appropriate at major events for keeping a crowd’s attention. For when it is just me, it is simple actions and acknowledgements in my mind in that dedicated moment. Most simply as a basic meditation where I just take a moment and let it all sink in. Sometimes words or gestures come to mind that seem the most appropriate and do them. Over time this can get refined, but I try not to let it become a solid set of actions or routine as I feel that can take away from the experience of the moment. Having things come up unexpectedly and going through as it comes makes it always feel fresh, new and as a result am more awake and aware of what’s involved. In so doing I get a greater sense of connection, relevance, and fulfillment. That way I avoid the “going through the rhythms” rut that many rituals and ceremonies can find themselves in over time. Meaning is often lost in rigid rituals and reasons for doing them can then become lost too. More fluidity and adaptability to new encounters is something that I feel helps a tradition grow and blossom. That is where customs come in.

What is found to be a small consistency becomes a custom that can come to be expected, but not mandatory. As examples here are some of my daily customs: Moving snails, worms, caterpillars, and june bugs off the sidewalk;

Hornet Nest on Stairway. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

Hornet Nest on Stairway. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

For my morning walks, sitting a moment in the bend of the creek taking in the surroundings in an awareness meditation; Document my local environment through the seasons and weather events with photographs and journaling; Collecting dead specimens found during my excursions and presenting them in a shadow box to share in the diversity of life around our immediate area; Picking up trash on our way to school is a custom my child and I partake in, as well as looking into the creek and seeing what we can find on our way back home later in the day; Observing the hornet nest each time we go by it to see if anyone is home and counting them (They’re quite friendly. Had even pet one – it seemed to have thought the act undignified. So long as you don’t disturb the nest or try to harm them hornets can co-exist with humans, just like honey bees, with the exception of ‘aggressive’ species i.e. Killer Hornets. These non-aggressive hornets are great as they’ve kept pest species down in our little garden and pollinated the flowers). But these customs are not always done, just more often than not and sometimes are expressed in different ways. Such as doing a walking meditation or leaning against a tree for my morning meditation instead of sitting, or looking for the hornets in the garden instead of in their nest.

The biggest custom I have is following The Three Basic Tenets of Ehoah,

The Three Basic Tenets of Ehoah (Complete Harmony Within Nature)

The Three Basic Tenets of Ehoah (of Complete Harmony Within Nature)

Thus I actively endeavor to ensure all my connections within Nature are harmonious; in everything I do and use; maintaining an awareness of and respect for our interconnections; and creating a lifestyle that reflects this. It being a process that is continually improved upon with no end point. The expression of The Three Basic Tenets can develop in various ways and gradually change over time, but the prevailing undercurrent would remain as a recognizable custom. With respects to this I’ve recently acquired a Permaculture Designer Certificate so that I can better accomplish harmonious connections within Nature.

Energy of Fire. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

Solar Energy of Fire. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

Energy transfer, as mentioned in the second segment of this series, is a prominent moment for ritual and ceremony. One such moment that is highly valuable to us is fire. Fire is a popular representation of energy because it is itself the release of energy originating from the sun. For when I’m about to start a fire, if the participants are unfamiliar with energy transfer, I like to have a small unscripted teaching on the energy pyramid, ending with, “This wood that is about to burn was once a living tree that harvested the energy of the sun. So when this wood burns, it is not the fibers of a dead tree being consumed. It is the fibers of a dead tree releasing the energy of the sun.” Once the fire is lit I like to say this little poem that expresses how we are connected to what we are witnessing, “Light from wood is light from sun. This energy, within everyone.” So yes, we are in essence solar powered.

The most direct way we personally experience this energy transfer is eating – taking in solar energy to power ourselves. But prior to eating is much opportunity for ceremony. The first being harvesting/foraging.

Picking Apples Up In An Apple Tree.

Climbing Apple Trees to Pick Apples

So a garden (potted indoors and raised beds outdoors) and maintaining that garden is part of my ceremony and ritual. Along with that is forays into wilder areas where I can hunt and forage as I go, incorporating an awareness meditation throughout my excursion. In peak season I often go out just for that purpose – lately being apple and choke cherry picking. For foods that I am unable to grow or forage for I skip to my local farmer’s market buying what will be soon eaten and stock piling what I can for off season. Just the search for local, sustainable food sources is part of my ritual, and always continue that search to replace what is of yet not local or sustainable. This comes with experiments in homemade goods, another ritual of mine, of which goes into the second opportunity for ceremony prior to eating – preparing food. While working with each ingredient (I also do this for everything else I make, such as clothing and equipment. For clothing I’ve been experimenting with local alpaca fibers) I meditate on where each comes from, how it was grown and gathered to end up in front of me, and how it will soon be very much a part of me. Then the last part – Eating. Before every meal you can say or do a little something to acknowledge the energy transferring from what is dead before you to be energy you use. Below are two examples of words that can be said before a meal, one more casual, the other more involved.

Appreciation Of All
“Before we eat, lets embrace in a web of life in a moment of silence to appreciate this food, where it came from, the effort taken to prepare it, and those we’re sharing this meal with.” … “Let’s Eat!”

We Are The Land
“When we eat food, we are eating of the land. What we take in becomes part of us and in turn we become part of the land our food comes from. We are not separate from the land, we are the land. When we speak it is the land speaking. Each, one voice among many, singing the land’s song. Let us all respect ourselves by respecting the land, remembering our connections and being grateful for them.”…”Connected to All”

This solar energy is continuously transferring from one organism to the next, and that means organisms are continuously dying in the process of sustaining the living. I live in a cold climate that has a short growing season, so I can’t grow or source vegetative food locally year round and neither am I able to obtain all my sustenance solely from vegetation. Therefore I consume some meat now and then to be healthy and I take my part in that process very seriously. I grew up on a farm that raised and butchered its own meat; I can’t do that where I am now so I get my domestic meat from a local farmer who has free-range livestock, and is just as serious as I am about the matter. My significant other hunts – I have yet to obtain my hunting license and plan to rectify that as soon as reasonable, but we both shoot traditional bows, having little interest in guns.

Hay bale Winter Target Practice. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

Haybale Winter Target Practice. Photo Credit: Rua Lupa

From the words of my spouse, bow hunting forces you to engage in greater depth to be successful in your hunt. You have to learn the behaviours of the animal you are pursuing and be ever more patient and skilled just to get close enough to have a shot (unlike in gun hunting where none of this matters so much). My spouse feels that this is very connecting to our part in the circle of life – you are now a direct participant, instead of just a consumer disassociated with where your meat comes from.

It can easily be considered a sacred act and very involved ceremony, where you have to change your sleeping pattern to be where you need to be at dawn and dusk; You dress in your ceremonial garb to better perform your part; You’ve practiced your role in order to execute the ceremony with propriety and there is the classic sacrifice at the end. The sacrifice of one life to sustain another. For hunting or butchering there really are no words that can be said when directly participating in this part of the life cycle. There is just silent acknowledgement of what is done, a very solemn moment.

This subject of death relates to our own life stages. For the easily determined life markers I’ve only so far developed two of the five – Bonding (Wedding Ceremony), and Dispersal/Burial.

In the Dispersal/Burial Ceremony the body is buried – no cremation, no embalming, no metal casket, nothing to prevent decomposition – as to allow the energy in the body to be consumed by other life, just as the person that had lived had consumed the energy from other things that once lived – continuing the cycle. Having the body wrapped in a shroud, or in a simple wooden or wicker casket, or buried as is are simple (not to mention affordable) ways to bury the dead that allows for the body to disperse. The words of the ceremony elaborate on this cycle of life and death and how without death there would be no life. Instead of a tombstone a tree is planted in memory – ideally of a species the departed was fond of. If a marker with a description is still desired a small engraved boulder or a small pillar can be used along side the tree. Burial grounds would reclaim old fields and reforest them.

The Bonding ceremony involves planting a tree at the ceremony and a year after it where you live to commemorate your love and watch it grow as your love grows beyond the ‘honeymoon’ phase. The focus of the ceremony itself is on the teachings of the seasons as a reference for the events in a relationship: The warmth and long days of summer, as love coming easy; The fruits and harvest as the bounty of sharing a common goal; The cold and long nights as the trials and struggles that need to be overcome; and new life and play of spring, as rejuvenation in the love for each other. For the Bonding Ceremony there is a public and personal option to choose from.

The ritual and ceremony of the other easily determined life markers, Birth, Puberty, and Conception, are not yet developed in my practice and tradition when it comes to personal events. But is forming gradually as I personally experience and study these events through what is revealed through science and the different customs and cultures throughout the world. Even the Dispersal and Bonding ceremony are liable to change as new information arises along with developing for global function.

Each of the eight solar ceremonies touches on one of the life stages for public ceremonies.

For public ceremonies I have no “closing the circle” or other such forms of beginning a ritual or ceremony. And without that there is an interesting effect – there is no inside or outside, and with that there is little of “us vs them”. There is a lot of the sense of inclusion and openness to passer-bys. So my ceremonies and rituals are always striving for that open and inclusiveness, which being in such a way makes it have the potential for a great deal of variety. The most common form is a loose gathering with either a central or polar focal point.

As mentioned in the previous installment the solar events are described as the cycle of night and day along with involving the life stages most applicable to these events. The following is a summary of these interrelations and what is done during these solar events:

Symbolism (Symb) and Actual Activities (Act)

Equilux: Birth & Infancy
Symb: Day and night is equal and going into longer days symbolizes the dawn of the year. Dawn itself being symbolic of new beginnings making it a moment to celebrate those experiencing new beginnings. Especially expecting mothers/parents and possible new arrivals.
Act: Providing nest building materials for Birds and small mammals having offspring. For humans, baby clothes and other family products are gifted to expecting parents to prepare homes for family life. People with new homes have house warming parties, and those who are renovating may receive care packages that assist in the project.

Translux: Children
Symb: The morning of the year, when the day is young and life is abundantly active. This is reminiscent of young life.
Act: Most every other animal who hasn’t already given birth are doing so at this time. This would be the time when human infants would be born in the Kalendar for most regions of the world if procreation was commenced after Transequinox. It is encouraged to take quality time with children by together learning through discovery – of surroundings, the environment, the world, and beyond.

Lux: Puberty & Youth
Symb: The year’s noon. The brightest part of the year with the longest days, evoking the energy and fervor of youth. This being the moment of most light in the year, themes on light and what we can see are abundant such as optical illusions and rainbows.
Act: In youth comes puberty, the mark of entering adolescence – becoming a young adult, making it a moment for discovering and celebrating self expression in whichever form it may take, especially gender expression. Youth are provided opportunity for self discovery and preparing for adulthood responsibilities. Trick of the light/optical illusions are presented to challenge young minds to question everything they see before accepting what ever is presented in front of them as reality. And therefore be better prepared to engage in the world, learning about the world, and not falling victim to those who would take advantage of ignorance. Because even if ignorant would be capable to engage in such a way to enlighten themselves without assistance or having to learn the hard way. Dressing up in a rainbow of colours is a fun expression for this time of year.

Transequinox: Young Adult
Symb: The year’s evening, and the warmest part of the day and year, bearing the first fruits and maturing life. Represented as the evening it is considered to be a moment for togetherness, companionship and wooing; as well as celebrating the development of strengths and skills of young adults – those maturing in life.
Act: Competitions are held of various skill sets and strengths – involving creative, physical and mental challenges. Fledging youth “test their wings” by “leaving the nest” and striking out on their own; Courtships are had during the competitions; Young adults are encouraged to take these moments to bond with a significant other, and there are Bonding Ceremonies (weddings) for those who find themselves ready to announce their commitment to each other. Those prepared for starting a family actively procreate between Transequinox (Young Adult) and Equinox (Middle Age) in order to have child around Translux (Child) when the weather is more gentle on the young.

Equinox: Procreation & Middle Age
Symb: Half daylight, halfway through life. The Dusk of the year.
Act: Those prepared for starting a family actively procreate between Transequinox (Young Adult) and Equinox (Middle Age) in order to have child around Translux (Child) when the weather is more gentle on the young. Individuals of this age group celebrate achievements and hard-earned knowledge by passing what they’ve learned down to others. Sharing knowledge (tales of skill gaining, and learning through failure) especially for the Nox Mensis (dark months), engaging the younger in mind games so that they may gain wit, and providing a knowing hand in preparing for tough times. Apprenticeships can be started and those with the experience house and teach students.

Transnox: Old Age
Symb: The days are shorter with nights growing longer – the late night of the year and late years of life.
Act: This is a moment for acknowledging old age (‘Getting mossy around the edges’) and beyond. The skeletal character Virid-os (“Green Bones”), its bones overgrown with vegetation and colonized by small creatures, uses dark humor to bring up uncomfortable topics such as death and decay. The character is somewhat apathetic, but takes pleasure in its potential to nourish other life, sometimes offering up parts for use. Transnox encourages discussion about typically uncomfortable topics; to consider those who have come before us and what they have imparted on the next generation; and for really thinking about things that you may have not considered before – this is done to think and act on things you want to do before your death. Elders reminisce and youngers listen to learn what they can. Prepare for your own death with funeral plans and wills. Celebrations focus on the death phase in the circle of life by having the harvest feast themed on how the nourishment from them is sourced from what has died.

Nox: Death & Conception
Symb: This is the longest night of the year, and death is considered the “darkest time” in life. This is also when the days begin to get longer so new life is celebrated as well. The subject of death and conception connects to the subject of deep ancestry, the origins of life and the celestial bodies that life depends on.
Act: This is a solemn moment to remember those who came before us, whose bodies have provided the earth with nourishment. That nourishment providing a richer environment for new life. Those who have successfully conceived since Transequinox, now being past the first trimester when pregnancy is most at risk of miscarriage, announce the news and are celebrated along side those who have dispersed. The cycle of life and death renewed. The Cosmic History is retold and celebrated during these longest nights of the year when you can take a moment to look up at the night sky and appreciate what is before you.

Transequilux: Gestation
Symb: The days are getting longer, making it a moment to prepare for new beginnings of the up coming symbolic dawn of the year – Equilux.
Act: As the year is about cross into the ‘day’ part of the year, there are many themes on preparing for the new beginnings. Households begin to thoroughly clean out the old and unused to donate, reuse and salvage as well as downsizing in how much you own to what is truly used and needed. This is especially done for those that have conceived, preparing their home for the new member of the household. The arts are celebrated with art shows, performances, and craft fairs to fill in the still long nights, and is an opportunity for apprentices to show what they’ve learned in the past few months and sell some of their products. This is also a good time for crafting items for expecting parents.

A lot of the details are exempt from this summary, and some are still in development – being slowly tweaked and built upon over time to function on a global scale yet be open enough to adapt to regional differences. Hopefully I’ll be able to express each of these in greater detail through the coming seasons so that those interested would be fully able to participate as the solar event comes around.

When it came to making rituals and ceremonies it forced me to ask myself a few things beyond the five I’ve presented in this series that really helped me come to be comfortable in my skin, grow as a person and act on my beliefs. I still ask these questions and I still learn from their answers and develop from them, and sometimes those answers change in unexpected ways. I also think its important for everyone to ask them too.

What do I believe? How and why did I come to those beliefs? Should I reconsider what I believe? Do my actions reflect my beliefs? If they don’t, what beliefs do my actions express? Should I change my beliefs to reflect my actions, or should I change my actions to reflect my beliefs? (if changing actions) How can my actions be meaningful? What would the desired outcome look like? Do I need to reconsider both my actions and beliefs toward something else entirely?

 

What really motivates me to not only do this, but to share it has been well summarized by the last set of quotes from the short documentary “OVERVIEW” by Planetary Collective which I’ll close with,

“We are seeing very clearly that if the earth becomes sick, then we become sick. If the earth dies, then we’re going to die. People sense that somethings wrong, but they’re still struggling to go back and find what the real roots to the problem are. And what I think needs to come is a realization its not just fixing an economic or political system. But its a basic world view. A basic understanding of who we are that’s at stake.” “…and a part of that is to come up with a new story, a new picture, a new way to approach this, and to shift our behaviours in such a way that it leads to a sustainable approach to our civilization as opposed to a destructive approach.” “On a grand scale basically we’re all living in this one ecosystem called earth, and everything you do on one side of the ecosystem effects the other side and that is a new way of living for most of humanity.” “We humans are responsible for ourselves and we are endangering our future. Then we got to learn how to do it differently and to go forward into a sustainable period; And right now that seems very difficult, very difficult to see how that’s going to be. But we got to work on it.”

 

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A Call for Urban Greening

October 17, 2013 by Categorized: Nature in the News, The Sacred in Suburbia.

A while back, I read this article on a community who came together to green a formerly filthy, crime-ridden alley in an impoverished neighborhood. Funded by a grant, one resident got the ball rolling on transforming the alley into a sustainable garden. This in turn invited other residents to participate, and eight years after the effort was begun the alley is now an urban oasis with loads of food-producing plants and flowers.

The top image shows an alley similar to that in the article prior to its overhaul. The bottom one shows the featured article as it is today. From the Daily Mail.

The top image shows an alley similar to that in the article prior to its overhaul. The bottom one shows the featured article as it is today. From the Daily Mail.

The effects have been pretty dramatic. Apart from the physical overhaul of the alley itself, the people living along it now feel more comfortable spending time outdoors among the green, growing things. Being outdoors has a number of psychological health benefits, and given that impoverished places are often disproportionately more likely to be affected by pollution and other environmental ills, it’s heartening to see this blossoming in a poorer area rather than being limited to a wealthy suburb.

Too often environmentalists look at cities as sources of evil. However, with the human population as high as it is, and unless and until we voluntarily lower it through better access to birth control and more education on overpopulation, we need to find greener ways to house and care for the people who are here. There are more people living in cities than in more rural areas, and this is unlikely to change. This is not a bad thing in and of itself. There are some definite environmental benefits to urban living.

For one thing, they take up less space than if all the people in them were living on several acres per family out in the middle of nowhere. My apartment complex takes up less than an acre of land, and yet there are several dozen people living here in a dozen apartments. There could be even more on this one plot of land if the building was more than two stories high. Building up, not out, is key to land preservation as the population remains as high as it is. And the less land we occupy per person, the more land there is for wildlife to roam unfettered.

Plus when we live closer together, with grocery stores and other resources close by, we use fewer fossil fuels to get from place to place. I grew up in a small town with no public transit, and everyone drove everywhere. Sometimes you’d have to drive to the next town over, or the next, to get what you needed. Here in Portland, I can walk to one of three grocery stores (if I want to walk a mile), along with a movie theater, several restaurants, a low-cost medical clinic, and stops for three major bus lines. If I’m not carrying anything heavy (like five bins of artwork and all my gridwall and other display materials, for example) I don’t even need the car my partner and I share.

But this also brings up another issue of inequity. I live in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Portland–nothing really fancy, but certainly not one of the marginalized slum areas. I don’t live in a food desert, and I live down the street from the community garden I have a plot at. I can live green because I am fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood that has the right resources for it, and I have an income that allows me to take advantage of some of these resources.

If we’re going to green the cities, then we need to not just limit it to the “nice” neighborhoods. I benefit from the fact that urban developers and corporations poured money into this neighborhood, but in the process they caused housing costs to rise and drove out poorer people. In the article I linked to above, it took one resident taking the initiative to get a grant and put in countless hours of cleanup to make any change occur. Even today, eight years later, the alleyway is still cared for by residents. And it’s still a poor neighborhood–at least unless gentrification occurs. The efforts to green impoverished neighborhoods are largely left to the residents themselves, and a few nonprofit endeavors.

Part of what frustrates me about the “back to the land” movement is that it can sometimes promote the abandonment of cities–and the people who stay behind in them. Not everyone is willing or, more importantly, able to live rurally. People with some physical disabilities, or who don’t have the money to move to a new place, or who lack the skills and resources to grow their own food, are all just a few examples of those who may be better off in the city. But these are not bad people who want to ruin the earth; they’re just as deserving of the opportunity to live greener and have healthier lives because of it.

And that’s why I love actions like those in the article above. It didn’t take much to completely change an entire small community. The amount of money it would take one family to buy a plot of land big enough to homestead on, plus all the resources and supplies necessary, could revitalize an entire urban neighborhood. And given that it was the efforts of one woman which sparked this change, imagine what a whole family could do–or, for that matter, all the pagans who daydream about going and buying “pagan land”.

Sometimes the solution isn’t to scrap everything and start anew. Perhaps it is more eco-friendly to make changes to the existing infrastructure–to apply reduce, reuse and recycle to our communities as well as our resources. What can you do in your community to green it for everyone?

Wordless Wednesday: Tree of Life

October 16, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Tree of Life, by Erika Uzmann


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