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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Sacred Defiled Places

June 8, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections, Restorying the Sacred.

The Witch’s Craic by Sir Hectimere

Last weekend I had the privilege to participate in a spiritual retreat at my UU church. The first day of the retreat there was a lively discussion about sacred moments. It turns out that a large portion of the group had been to Hana, Hawaii. Listening to each person’s story, it became evident to me that the key feature of each was the place. It got me to thinking about a profound sacred space I stumbled upon during my service in the military.

I was stationed in Italy, and during an excursion to the mainland, I broke away from the group and began exploring a small city on my own. The city had been built around this large hill, and my curiosity as to what was on the top of that hill grew unbearable. I began winding through the streets, getting closer to where the city ended and the foliage began. Towards the threshold between the city and the rest of the hill was a small cathedral. I remember the sense of awe as I stood within the marble structure and gazed as pink light splattered through stained glass upon marble statues. On one side were representations of Catholic saints, and on the other side Roman gods. I found this peculiar and interesting, and somehow more determined to explore the hill.

I left the cathedral and began on the winding path into the hill side. The vegetation was lush and the green canopy of leaved branches protected me form the Mediterranean’s summer sun. With each step the land felt more alive and thriving. Yet a solemnity hid within archways and caverns that scattered along the way. I dared venture into some of them, but only a few steps and the darkness overwhelmed me and I hurried back out to the shaded canopy of the road.

On the top of the hill was a small museum. Unfortunately, my Italian was poor, and I could not understand what it was about. I later brought a friend with me who spoke Italian. He said the museum was dedicated to the temple of Apollo. My friend also said the place was used as a torture chamber during Mussolini’s rule. This explained the strange mixture of the sacred and the defiled I sensed when first exploring.

While telling my story, the minister picked up on the mention of the sacred and defiled, and said they often come together. I now think about the moments where I have stood on blood soaked ground here in the Palouse, where both Nez Perce and Euro-American blood were spilled. There are often two sides to the story depending on who is telling it. There is the narrative of the glorious expansion of manifest destiny on the Euro-American side, and the tragic loss of life in defense of their home on the side of the Nez Perce. To the local Euro-American culture these places are forgotten, but to the Nez Perce traditionalists the sacred and defiled are a potent mixture that cannot be ignored or forgotten and which they draw power from.

Since we are called No Unsacred Place, I thought this topic particularly relevant to our discussions. In the tradition of Cartesian dualism, western society often views the sacred and defiled as being on two ends of a spectrum, leading to the assumption they are mutually exclusive. However, as my experience teaches me, they co-exist in the same place and even harmonize together to create awe and power of their own.

What are some of the sacred defiled places you have encountered?

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For None but Itself

May 24, 2013 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

I approach the water carefully. The path is steep and covered with loose rock cover. Never one of Nature’s most graceful creatures, I am especially cautious here. I stick to the trail today. Though it’s hardly the thickest wilderness beyond, suddenly the trees overwhelm me with their thick, unruly exuberance.

Many of us raised in Judeo-Christian traditions inherited a lesson of “Nature for us”. God gave humans dominion over the plants, animals, waterbodies, mineral resources, and airspace of Earth, and as long as our actions furthered God’s glory, we were free to do with those other beings as we saw fit. Even those of us who embrace an ethic of Nature reverence as part of our Paganism sometimes struggle to break the habit of seeing Nature as our own neverending supply store. Every Pagan book I’ve read that deals with plant magic exhorts me to ask a plant’s permission before harvesting any part of it for spellwork, but few entertain the possibility that the plant might say no. And how many of us have found ourselves hurt or surprised when a flesh-and-blood individual of an animal we consider a spirit guide disdains or runs from us–or even hurts us? We sometimes act like the coolest kids in school, never considering that anyone wouldn’t want to join our cool kids’ club.

photo of a steep path to a river

Chopwell – Path to the River by immarkcz under Creative Commons, 2008. Some rights reserved.

And so I choose the steep, rocky path to the river, though I know of flatter, easier ways nearby. Being forced to approach this ancient and powerful Mystery slowly and uncertainly helps me stay respectful and reverent. When I come to the Mississippi River by a tricky route, the need to concentrate on not falling on my face pushes all other thoughts from my mind, and I arrive focused solely on the river, on how long it has been here before my feet needed a path to it, and how long it will be here after.

The sacred places in our lives are not here for us, but they are part of us, and we are part of them. If we approach with reverence, humility, attention, and care, if we see ourselves as co-creators of the Story, not just its tellers, we can develop and deepen a relationship which sees each life as both whole unto itself and interdependent on all other lives for survival. We can take what we need without entitlement and give back what is needed from us without resentment. When we can be partners with those other lives around us, we can approach every interaction with reverence and respect, no matter how steep the path.

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I Spy: “Look, Nature”

April 12, 2013 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Natural Reflections, The Sacred in Suburbia.

About a year ago I was enjoying the only provincial park at the time on Manitoulin Island, Misery Bay. It has an interesting story to its name, someone was charged with surveying the water body names of the Island, asking the locals what they call them. Coming on this bay in spring, there were lots of mosquitoes about and someone working with a tangled net on their fishing boat. When asked the name of the bay they responded, “MISERY”. And that is how Misery Bay got its name, so the story goes.

Actias luna, Lunar Moth. Photo by Rua Lupa

But this post isn’t about that. It is about a fine summer day on the trails observing the varieties of wildlife about. Tourists to the island visit the park often, and on this morning one such family did and their child upon seeing a butterfly had hollered, “Look, Nature!” To my surprise, I was startled at how this child only saw nature when viewing a butterfly. Why would this be so? There was the sky, the rocks, the trees, each other… why was only the butterfly noted as ‘nature’? I could only imagine that it was likely the cultural perception that only wildlife in the form of an animal was “truly of nature” to this child. Nonetheless there was wonder there. I got the sense that this child had the thought that they traveled this far just to see it. That worried me more than the disconnect of what nature was.

I wanted to say something, but in my mild disorientation of trying to wrap my head around the thought left me with only more to think. I still had wondered what the best thing to say would be. Currently, this is what I think would have been a good thing to say,

” Look at your hands, what do you see?… Look at the tree bark, what do you see?… There are patterns like this everywhere if you just take the time to look. It shows how each and everything is part of nature. Including cities. The only difference between how cities are now and parks like this is the number of different life forms that live in it. But cities can become just as beautiful as this park by helping there to be more diversity, and so butterflies can call it home too.”

 

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Cultural Quandaries: We Are In Space

March 4, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Natural Reflections, Restorying the Sacred.

Earth and Sun from Space
(Image Credit: NASA)

This is a continuation of the “Referencing the Sun” post. Many views were expressed there after and some excellent points made. This post will take the extra step out to describe the bigger picture of our relationship with the cosmos, and hopefully better describe what I had been trying to express before with better understanding thanks to the responses made.

Many have expressed that speaking of the sun rising and setting is completely fine in that is how it appears to us on earth. This takes a very regional outlook, you are here and this is how you see things. Everything else is out there and the happenings out there are not something to overly concern yourself with because it doesn’t impact you. Well, I’ll argue that because it is out of our purview makes it all the more important to bring it in our view; because what happens with the moon, sun and the other side of the earth does impact us. On the largest scale this becomes all the more apparent when asteroids are poised to strike our planet, on the smallest scale the spinning of our planet causes winds, winds that carry everything that we express into the air. Winds that all creatures share in breath. That from earth the sky looks vast and seems impossible to fill it with things that change it. Which from space this ocean of air looks extremely fragile – seen as a thin line that just barely covers the surface of the planet, protecting everything on earth from certain death of the harshness of space.

We often have the perspective of being on earth and everything else in the cosmos is out there, far in the distance. But not only are we of the cosmos, with our molecules originating from the “chemically enriched guts” of an exploded ancient star, we are very much in Space right now. Some describing this as being on Spaceship Earth “…finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.”- Carl Sagan

Knowing all this it seems awkward to not describe our relationship with the cosmos in a way that reflects this.

To engage in a way that brings all these interconnections into focus aids in not only feeling that connection, that is described in many various ways through philosophy and religion; but in this feeling brings to the forefront a need to work interconnectedly for the well being of ourselves through the well being of the planet. That is the root reason for the topic of ‘referencing the sun’ to establish that interconnection of the cosmos beyond the experiences of our immediate location. “The beauty of seeing earth as a planet as opposed to being down here among it is a wonderful experience – to then start to get into what we call the big picture effect or overview effect.” – Edgar Mitchell, Apollo Astronaut. The overview effect has been described as follows, “to see things that we know but don’t experience which is that the earth is one system, we’re all part of that system, and that there is a certain unity and coherence to it all.” – Frank White.

 

ADDENDUM
(11 Artiodactyla 7 A.E. – 1 November 2013 C.E.)

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.

 

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Colloquial Quandaries: Referencing the Sun

January 8, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections, Restorying the Sacred.

This is a new addition to a set of non-linear series first addressed in Blog Beast. Colloquial Quandaries is a sub-series of Cultural Quandaries in that it specifically addresses the colloquial in our culture – our way of speech.

East Bluff Dawn by Rua Lupa

In this addition of Colloquial Quandaries the topic of referencing the sun will be discussed, particularly the common phrases ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’.

The Cosmos series narrated by Carl Sagan in episode 10, minute 44. (It is best viewed from minute 32 to have a good understanding of the circumstances of the time in reference and its influence in modern times.) Tells of how a Greek philosopher by the name of Aristarchus (310 BC – ca. 230 BC) deduced that the earth turns on an axis and goes around the sun along with the other planets. But the people of the time suppressed this revelation which later had been brought up again and credited to Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) which referenced Aristarchus in his manuscripts, but suppressed the reference in the published version. It has been 2200yrs since Aristarchus’s time and we still reference our world as if the earth is the center of it. We talk of the sun rising and the sun setting. Our language still portends that the earth does not turn.

Am I making a big deal out of nothing? That is a possibility. Yet I argue that terms and their associations can have unintended profound impacts on society. History already shows this with Aristarchus and the lack of acknowledgement of his findings – ‘the sun rises, everyone knows that’. Its not too hard to imagine this to occur again when so many people already easily forget world influencing history. History has a habit of repeating itself when not ingrained in the cultural memory. Sunrise and Sunset is what is still ingrained in the cultural memory. Most everyone under the age of 13 (perhaps even 14) believes that the sun rises and sets, and don’t question otherwise because that is what everyone around them says. There are also a surprising number of adults who have forgotten this not long after their school years, slipping into accepting what is said – the sun rises. Hypothetically, if there were to be a sudden global catastrophe (i.e. An asteroid) or societal crash (i.e. The Dark Ages) where society would have to build up again like that from the loss of the Library of Alexandria, at least there would be less to build up from if the colloquial terms are accurate to reality. The commonality of these phrases in our language make it another hurdle in learning about how our world works. And it is an unnecessary one.

I believe that a new phrase or term, what ever it may be, that is true to the nature of things will greatly aid in our society connecting to the greater world and universe. Having a better intrinsic understanding from early on in life gives an early start to being able to grasp the bigger picture – one less wall to climb in having to reassess our world view of how things work. There is much more to gain than lose in such an endeavour.

Should we not try to encourage our language to be accurate to what is really happening?

What word or phrases could we use instead?

Are there other terms used with regards to the sun, earth, day or night, that are misleading?

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Directional Invocations, Palouse Style

December 17, 2012 by Categorized: Earthly Rites.

This last week, along with Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse‘s new minister and  the Green Sanctuary Committee, I’ve been busy devising a Winter Solstice Celebration. It has been a few years since our church has hosted such a celebration. The last time was an attempted fusion of religious naturalist sensibility with neopagan structure with an injection of local ecological awareness.

Warm Winter Sun Bath from Wikimedia Commons

This year, the minister is taking the lead with a focus on the darkness and with children participating to “return the light.” The service will be more universalist in approach and should prove to be a new experience for anyone who has attended our past Winter Solstice Ceremonies. If any readers are in the Pullman, WA & Moscow, ID area I encourage you to attend. (More information is available here.)

We still have some logistics to work on, and my part is the acknowledging of the directions. This is a tradition I have adapted and adopted over the years. Unlike many neopagan traditions, the directions are not assigned to any color, season, element, or gender; instead, the focus is on how the directions relate to my life-place (in this case, the Palouse). Most times I improvised these acknowledgements, but I felt a more formal touch was required and have written a variation for the upcoming service:

East

Called by impulse to survive,
the salmon lay eggs in the east
the mountains give birth to
sacred rivers cutting pathways in the earth.
The Palouse stretches into the east
where the sun bursts each morning.

North

Called by impulse to survive,
the geese fly from the North.
The north brings us the snow
wrapped within the sacred darkness.
The Palouse stretches into the north
with the cold embrace of transformation.

West

Called by impulse to survive,
the salmon swim from the west.
Clouds come from the west,
carrying sacred rain in their bosoms.
The Palouse stretches into the west
where the sun sinks each evening.

South

Called by impulse to survive,
The geese flew to the south.
The south awaits patiently
for the return of the sacred brightness.
The Palouse stretches into the south
with the warm embrace of transformation.

Humanity

We mourn with the land
as our industry confuses the seasons;
as our neglect threatens the survival of many species;
as our ignorance has blinded us from our deep humanity.
We gather here to touch our deep humanity through celebrating
the land as our flesh and the sky as our breath.

One thing the keen observer might notice is that I start in the east and go counter-clockwise instead of clockwise as some might expect. The reasoning behind this is to follow the path of the earth around the sun and not the perceived path of the sun in the sky. Given our understanding of the Earth’s gravitational pull around the sun, I feel counter-clockwise is more appropriate.

Anyone with knowledge of Pacific Northwest ecology might identify with the imagery I’ve invoked:

  • On this side of the Continental Divide, rivers flow east to west.
  • Salmon are a vital traditional food staple of local indigenous people and restoring salmon population is an important conservation effort.
  • The geese have prominent migration patterns during the changing of the seasons.
  • The warm winds often come from the south, and the cold winds often come from the north.
  • The semi-arid climate of The Inland Northwest is a product of the Cascade Rainshadow which results in cold air on the west of the range pushing warm air over to the east.

I felt it necessary for the closing to speak directly to the impact of humanity in the environment, but to end with a positive focus of re-cultivating humanity’s sacred place within the ecosystem.

I hope this serves as a practical example of how sacred ecology builds new rituals, ceremonies, and traditions from the landscape and local ecology where one lives. Also, it can be easily applied to already existing traditions. The idea is to ground religious events with local ecological awareness.

Six Seeds by Alison Leigh Lilly

I would be delighted to hear others’ comments on:

  • How do you integrate local ecological awareness and identity into your ceremonies, rituals, traditions, and celebrations?
  • If you where to use the above example as a template what features of your life-place’s unique landscape and ecology would you be compelled to include and why?
  • What role does local ecology play in your personal spiritual identity? (Whether it be Wicca, witchcraft, neodruid, Asatru, religious naturalist, Unitarian Universalist, deist, polytheist, neopagan, or any other philosophy or spiritual system.)

For me, the key to 21st century sacred ecology is to combine creative inspiration with practical knowledge of your surroundings. If you feel so moved and inspired, be free to take my words and rewrite them to be specific to your life-place and your relationship with its unique ecology. Or share a unique short sample of poetry, prose, or prayer you have created to express the intimate relationship you have with the land around you.

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The Seven: A Personal Gnosis

December 10, 2012 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Natural Order by Greg Harder

Inspired by the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, I wrote the following a few years ago as a manifesto of my personal beliefs. They have appeared in different places on the Internet in the past. They have evolved as I have grown. Thinking of what I can contribute to No Unsacred Place, I remembered a charge a friend gave me to write more detail about The Seven, which I sadly never pursued. Now might be the time to explore these more in depth. They are as follows:

ONE:
Life is not dictated by “ism”s, practices, doctrines or dogmas. Life is expansive, inclusive evolutionary creativity, and therefore sacred.

TWO:
Spirit and matter are the same. The flesh of our body is that of the land. Life on Earth shares one breath which is the atmosphere. The universe, of which we are a part, is life experiencing itself.

THREE:
The land is the source of our being. Our molecules and DNA consist of where we are, have been, and will be. There is no separation between those who exist within, above, and upon the land.

FOUR:
“Person” is the inherent worth and dignity that is not unique to humans and essential to who we are collectively in relationship with ourselves and the land.

FIVE:
There is one soul shared by every incarnation of life that is, has been, will be, and imagined. We are not isolated and fighting for survival. We are a collective entity of many parts with a creative responsibility toward life.

SIX:
Traditions are extensions of our relationship with the one-soul, life, and the land. It is unethical to steal relationships from the people, time, and place of which they belong. We must forge a unique and respectful relationship with the land as sacred life-place.

SEVEN:
Where we stand and breathe is where we live, and the frequency in which we create within the universe. Without it we are listening for our own echoes in a void.

Beginning to Open by Greg Harder

What I would like to do from here is go through each one separately and try to explain in more detail what they mean in general and what they mean to me personally. After this has been done, I am thinking of expanding the concept into a set of core values which correspond with The Seven. The final and third step will be about implementing both The Seven and their corresponding core values into daily action through both interaction with my community and through personal spiritual practices.

What has promoted this project is a realization that I am human and imperfect. I know that I have failed to live up to these words which have inspired others. I acknowledge that I will falter on my path, getting distracted and sidetracked from time-to-time. In pondering this reality, I realized The Seven where not complete. For them to be fully integrated into my life, they needs to be backed by my values. This means I have to discover what those core values are; once those values are discovered, I need a guide in implementing the beliefs and valuses into my life with meaningful intent. The goal is to make them a part of my being and act on them in responsible ways which reflect my values and to live a life I can be proud at the end of the day.

This project is also an act of forgiveness for breaking covenant with the land; an acknowledgment of my deep humanity; an offering to the world in hopes it inspires others to take on similar projects, taking what they need from my own words and experience; and a guide for myself and whomever else needing healing and reassurance when living in a modern world that works against the interests of our deep humanity, the planet we live, our life-place, and all those whom we share it with.

Moss & Alter by Greg Harder

I am excited and looking forward to sharing this experience with the writers and readers of No Unsacred Place, and can’t think of a better community to be a seed bed for growth and sharing in the sacred qualities of the living world.

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Rainbows: a love story

August 17, 2012 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

You wouldn’t know it now, but time was, Light and Water didn’t get along at all. Light thought water was a show-off, racing through the air, messing with its matter-state, and splashing everything. Water thought Light was a wimp: it couldn’t decide if it was a wave or a particle; lots of things were too dense for it to shine through; and it was plain, boring white. Each understood the other’s importance in the life of Gaia, but they stayed away from each other’s as much as possible, especially during a rainfall. Light faded while Water painted Gaia’s surface with its droplets, and when Light came back, Water evaporated up to the clouds to avoid it.

One day, a steady rain had begun to fall when Light realized it had forgotten something dreadfully important on the ground. It turned itself on to see the spot and ran into Water in its tumble toward Gaia’s surface.

“Hey!” Water shouted as it fell, “what’s the big idea?”

“I’m sorry,” Light said, “but I desperately need something down here, and I must be able to see.”

“You’re in our way!” Water said.

“Maybe,” Light replied, peeved, “if you didn’t take up so much space, you wouldn’t be in everyone’s way, and we wouldn’t run into you.”

“I am part of almost everything,” Water said. “You’re in my way!” Water sent a big, round droplet careening into Light.

The collision pushed Light in a different direction, deeper into the raindrop! Light felt all broken up, no longer the strong, steady presence it prided itself on being. Now it was colors, bold, dazzling rays of color, racing toward the back of the droplet.

But it didn’t escape out the back. It bounced again and zoomed off in a different angle. I could end up bouncing around in here all day! Light thought. It concentrated all its might and pushed itself through the side of the raindrop it had come in through.
diagram of light refraction and dispersal inside water droplet
Light quivered in relief at its freedom. But it hadn’t come through its journey unscathed. On the way out, it had refracted further, pushing its colorful rays further apart. How embarrassing, to be seen in public this way! Light tried frantically to pull itself together.

“Light?” Water sounded confused. “Is that you? You look…different. Beautiful.”

“I’m beautiful all the time,” Light said.

Water considered this. “Yes,” it said, “I suppose you are. But I never truly noticed before. The colors are amazing. May I do that again?”

Now that the shock had worn off, Light had to admit it had enjoyed the adventure. And the colors were lovely. “All right,” it said.

They chased each other about, Light beaming into Water, Water splashing into Light. Light dazzled Water with its color. Water left Light breathless with every tumble.

Fern looked up to see what the fuss was about. “Light and Water,” it called, “look what you’ve made!”

They had made a giant arc of colors, stacked on top of each other, seeming to stretch from one horizon to the other. It was glorious.

Light and Water smiled at each other. “Look at that,” they said. “We make a pretty good team.”

rainbow in Brattleboro, VT

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Earth and Nature Holidays – April 2012

March 31, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

~

International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

~

Keep America Beautiful Month

  • “In 1953 a group of individuals formed an organization called ‘Keep America Beautiful‘ aimed at reducing the amount of littering on public lands, highways and waterways, encouraging Americans to take pride in America. It is the nation’s largest volunteer based community action and education group. Since its conception, it really has grown in leaps and bounds with campaigns and promotions such as:
    - ‘Close the Loop, Buy Recycled’ U.S. EPA partnership
    - Web-based educational tools, including Clean Sweep U.S.A
    - ‘Back By Popular Neglect’ PSA campaign

    “Each April is Keep America Beautiful month drawing attention to the campaigns and research done by Keep America Beautiful and their three primary areas of focus: litter reduction, waste minimization, and beautification.” (from ecofriendlydaily.com)

National Garden Month

  • “Every April communities, organizations, and individuals nationwide celebrate gardening during National Garden Month. Gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us: attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows. Join the celebration and help to make America a greener, healthier, more livable place!” (from the official website)

~

International Holidays

  • April 7World Health Day
    “Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of concern for WHO. The topic of World Health Day in 2012 is Ageing and health with the theme “Good health adds life to years”. The focus is how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities. Ageing concerns each and every one of us – whether young or old, male or female, rich or poor – no matter where we live.” (from the official website)
  • April 12Yuri’s Night
    “Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held on April 12 every year to commemorate space exploration milestones. The event is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In 2004, people celebrated Yuri’s Night in 34 countries in over 75 individual events. Locations have included Los Angeles, Stockholm, Antarctica, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and the International Space Station. The goal of Yuri’s Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by space-inspired artistic expression and culminating in a worldwide network of annual celebrations and educational events, Yuri’s Night creates a global community of young people committed to shaping the future of space exploration while developing responsible leaders and innovators with a global perspective. These global events are a showcase for elements of culture that embrace space including music, dance, fashion, and art.” (from Wikipedia)
  • April 15 – 21World Creativity and Innovation Week
    “World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 – 21 is a celebration of our ability to get new ideas, use imagination and make new decisions to make the world a better place and to make your place in the world better too. Do what you can, do what you like. There’s only one rule: do no harm.” (from the official website)
  • April 15 – 21International Dark Sky Week
    “International Dark-Sky Week (IDSW), held during the week of the new moon in April, is a week during which people worldwide turn out their lights in order to observe the beauty of the night sky without light pollution. This event was founded in 2003 by Jennifer Barlow of Midlothian, Virginia, and its popularity and participation increases every year.” (from Wikipedia)
  • April 18World Heritage Day
    “World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.” (from the official website)
  • April 22Mother Earth Day

    “The proclamation of 22 April as International Mother Earth Day is an acknowledgement that the Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenance. It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity. International Mother Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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The Work of Oy Cho: Simplicity and Inspiration of Mother Nature

March 7, 2012 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

This week, I’m pleased to share with you selections from the work of Oy Cho. The artist of one of our earliest “Wordless Wednesday” posts here on No Unsacred Place, she has been an active member of the Pagan Newswire Collective group on Flickr since its inception last fall, where she has shared nearly forty photographs showcasing the simple, inspiring details of her spiritual practice.

Oy Cho practices Wicca and describes her spiritual path as similar to hedgewitchery. She connects strongly with the old saying, “Nature is my church,” finding inspiration and guidance in the beauty of the natural world around her. Through her relationship with the Earth and her study of theory, history and mythology, she says, “I try to improve myself every day through my craft.”

Although she does own a digital camera, most of her photographs are taken with her iPhone using the simple (and free!) app, Instagram. “I don’t use an expensive digital camera for my shots (though I’ve got one) and I have a reason for that: I catch the moment and there is just no time for taking my camera and setting the required settings. My phone helps me to capture the moment of inspiration.” That inspiration has its source not only in the never-ending ideas sparked by nature, but also in the creativity of other Pagans and their work.

Below, Oy Cho shares some thoughts on a few of her photographs. You can find more of her work on her Flickr page.

Witch bottle altar

Witch Bottle Altar

“Handicraft is a very important part of my life. I like to make things with my hands, and I like to put them on my altar in gratitude to the Goddess for the inspiration.”

Casual ritual

Casual Ritual

Apple pentagram

Apple Pentagram

“I try to find ‘magic’ in my everyday life and to make it inseparable from my routine. It is a part of me and in my photos I want to show that there are no such boundaries in witchcraft as cities and highways. People can worship nature and perform green magic in their houses even when there isn’t a regular possibility to go to the woods and dance under the moonlight.”

Milk&Egg

Milk & Egg

Roses

Roses

As a thanks...

As a thanks…

“I like to perform small rituals like putting a ribbon on a tree as a thanks for its gifts. I like not just to do this little magic but to understand the meaning of it, its roots and prehistory.”

Yule

Yule


Share your nature photography and artwork on the Pagan Newswire Collective Flickr group. For more information, check out our submission guidelines.

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Earth and Nature Holidays – March 2012

March 2, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

~

International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

~

International Holidays

  • March 14International Day of Action for Rivers
    “March 14 is the International Day of Action For Rivers and Against Dams. Every year hundreds of people around the world lift their voices to celebrate the world’s rivers and the thousands of people who struggle to protect them. The International Day of Action For Rivers is a day to celebrate victories such as dam removal and river restoration. It is a day to take to the streets, demonstrate and demand improvements in the policies and practices of decision makers. It is a day to educate one another about the threats facing our rivers, and learn about better water and energy solutions. Above all, it is a day to unite – by acting together, we demonstrate that these issues are not merely local, but global in scope.” (from the official website)
  • March 20Vernal / Autumnal Equinox
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the autumnal/vernal equinox as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons.
  • March 22World Water Day
    “International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. On this page, we present a brief overview of the different themes that have been the focus of World Water Day celebrations.” (from the official website)
  • Mrch 23World Meteorological Day
    “The United Nations’ (UN) World Meteorological Day is annually held on or around March 23 to remember the World Meteorological Organization’s establishment on that date in 1950. World Meteorological Day often features various events such as conferences, symposia and exhibitions for meteorological professionals, community leaders and the general public. Some events aim to attract media attention to raise meteorology’s profile. Many countries issue postage stamps or special postage stamp cancellation marks to celebrate World Meteorological Day. These stamps often reflect the event’s theme or mark a country’s meteorology achievements.” (learn more here)
  • March 31, 8:30 – 9:30 PMEarth Hour
    “Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history – Earth Hour.

    More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011 alone, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet. Without a doubt, it’s shown how great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

  • March 1Baba Marta (Bulgaria)
  • March 1International Day of the Seal (USA)
  • March 1National Pig Day (USA)
  • March 1Mărţişor (Romania)
  • March 1St. David’s Day (Wales, International)
  • March 3Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) (Japan)
  • March 4 – 10Sea Week (Australia)
  • March 5National Tree Planting Day (Iran)
  • March 11 – 17National Groundwater Awareness Week (USA)
  • March 12Arbor Day (China, Taiwan)
  • March 14Dita e Verës (Summer Festival) (Albania)
  • March 17St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland, International)
  • March 17 – 23National Water Week (Nepal)
  • March 19Tree Hugging Day (USA)
  • March 20World Frog Day (USA)
  • March 21Nowruz (Persian New Year)
  • March 21International Day of Tree Planting (Belgium)
  • March 21National Tree Planting Day (Lesotho)
  • March 21Festival of Trees (Netherlands)
  • March 21Arbor Day (Portugal)
  • March 22North American Wildlife Celebration (USA)
  • March 24National Tree Planting Day (Uganda)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Our Thoughts About Animals

February 27, 2012 by Categorized: Fur and Feather.

While I polish up my next instalment (or two) on our Lord of Animals series, I thought I might share with you some insightful and interesting articles about our relationship with animals from the Pagan blogosphere … and maybe an episode of a podcast or two. (Yes, I know some of these are older posts; don’t we have a short attention span?)

If you have written a blog post on the matter, or know of one that you would like to share, please post the link in the comment section.

 

Familiar Spirits and Animals– dedicated to Aszdra and her successors

At Walking the Hedge, Cyne shares some personal reflection on working with familiar spirits.

 

Animal Sacrifice in Modern Paganism?

A contemporary Druid takes a look at animal sacrifice in modern Paganism.

 

Familiars and Familiar Spirits

Here is another look at familiars from an American Folkloric Witchcraft perspective.

 

How I Accidentally Became A Toadwitch

One Traditional Crafter recounts her reluctance to become a Toadwitch and how it happened anyway. There are some follow up posts on this blog (Root and Rock) about sacrifice and the toad Rite that might interest you as well.

 

High Performance Symbolism: The Jaguar

Rebecca takes a look at the symbolism of the Jaguar.

 

The Naturalist’s Altar

Sarah Lawless shares some wonderful images and ideas for natural and animal centric altars.

 

A Dog’s Perspective on Paganism

Star foster is inspired by two puppies she is caring for.

 

Blog Post 121 – Watching Birds

New World Witchery studies the connection between birds and divination.

 

Episode Seven: Coyotes in the City

Did you miss this episode of Standing Stone & Garden Gate? We talk about urban wildlife, coyotes to be exact.

 

Pagan Centered Podcast – Episode 124 – Lukumi Trad + Animal Sacrifice

The Pagan Centred Podcast weighs in on the issues of animal sacrifice.

 

How to Save the World: Seven Pillars of Vegetarianism

A while back, our very own Allison wrote about vegetarianism.

 

Q of the Week: Animal Rescue

Dr. Myers asks some tough questions about animal rescue.

 

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The Story of Dog

January 22, 2012 by Categorized: Fur and Feather.

Once upon a time …

Long ago, when the Human race was still young and new to this world Humanity lived in caves and in tents made of wood and animal hides. Humanity had learned to harness the power of fire and to control it. Humanity had learned to kill the other creatures of the Earth and to use their body parts for more than just food. All the other creatures of the Earth had learned to fear Humanity, for Humanity had become a mighty hunter and had begun to range far and wide over the landscape.

Mother Earth loved all her creatures but She loved Humanity best. For through Humanity could She perceive Herself in all Her glory. She could watch the Sun rise through Human eyes; feel the wind blow against Human skin, taste meat and fruit with Human tongue. She could feel what it was to make love, experience the thrill of the hunt and She learned about the fear of death.

That the Mother loved Humanity best also caused the other creatures to fear them. Many creatures learned to run at the sight or smell of Humanity but some did not. Some creatures liked the taste of Human flesh and others would fight Humanity if they should try to hunt them.

Wolf feared Humanity. Much more than that, Wolf feared Humanities fires. The thought that Humanity dared to bring fire into their dens filled them with fright. Fire was far too dangerous to have in one’s den! Wolf learned to stay away from Humanity.

One day, however, a young she Wolf was walking through the woods and caught the scent of blood on the air. She was very hungry, for she carried pups in her womb. Her pack mates had been killed by a bad Winter and she had no one to help her hunt. She followed the delicious smell, her stomach rumbling with hunger. When she saw where the smell was coming from she shivered with fright, for the smell came from just outside a Human den. The smell of meat was so strong she could not turn away. So she hid and she watched the frightful Humans.

She watched Humanity carve hide and flesh off a kill and divide its parts amongst them. She watched with horror as they burned flesh over a large fire. Yet she stayed, for the smell of the meat made her pups move within her. She stayed out of hope. Then she watched as one Human took some bones, scraps and other things out of the Human den and walk away from it. Silently she stalked the Human, watching his every move. The Human took the scraps and placed them into a shallow pit a ways down a Human trail from the Human den. Then, he left.

The she Wolf waited as long as she dared, to see if any Human would return to the pit. She whined. Fear and hunger waged a war within her; finally the need to feed her pups won and she slunk out of the bushes and into the pit. There she found and snatched a bone that still had meat clinging to it and ran off, back into the bushes. She did this three more times through the night until at last, her belly was full.

Wolf made a den not far from the Human scrap pit and she stole food from it late at night. Then as the Moon full and high in the sky, she gave birth to five pups. Wolf ate the placentas and cleaned the pups; she fed them with good milk thanks to the food she had gotten from the Human pit. Once her pups bellies were full and they slept, she snuck out of the den and went as far from them as she dared, to mark territory in the way that Wolves do and to gaze up at the Moon. She spoke a prayer of gratitude to the Mother for her healthy pups, her safe den and the Human pit.

Wolf taught her pups how to steal from the Human pits and they also learned how to stalk Humans as the Humans stalked their prey. Wolf and her pups cleaned up the Human kills once they returned to their Human den. Wolf’s pups and their pups grew to understand Humanity more as they watched them. They grew to fear them less and less. They made their dens near the Human den.

Then another bad Winter came. The freezing cold brought sickness to the small Wolf pack and many died. Only a few pups who had just begun to be weaned survived. They cried and cried for their mother but she never came. One by one, they began to die themselves until there was only one. The last pup dared to climb out of the den in search of her mother and cried for her. She was so very, very cold she knew if she had no warm mother soon she would die. Then something came towards her and she cowered in fright. The thing picked her up and held her close. The smell of a Human scared the Wolf pup greatly, but then she realised she was warm, snuggled within the furs the Human wore. She found herself being lulled to sleep by this warmth and by the sound of the Human’s heartbeat.

The bad Winter had also not been kind to Humanity. The sickness the Winter brought had taken a child from this Human woman and she had walked the woods in mourning. When she heard the cries of the pup she had been filled with the power of the Mother and could not turn away and leave the pup to die. The Human took the pup back to her den.

The other Humans were afraid, for they feared Wolf. But the wisest Human among them saw the Mother within the woman who had brought Wolf into their den and spoke on her behalf. The woman took the pup into her part of the den and she cared for her. She fed her scraps of meat mixed with her own milk, milk she had no child to give to. She raised her as if she was her child and grew to love her.

As the pup grew into a Wolf she began to leave the Human den more and more, answering the need to be a Wolf. However something magical had happened, for in the time the pup was in the Human den, Humanity had learned about Wolf and Wolf had learned about Humanity.

This Wolf remembered the love she had been given by the Human woman and she taught this love to her own pups. Those pups were less afraid of Humanity than any other Wolves had ever been, for they knew how to love a Human and not to fear Humanity. Their pups grew even bolder and so did their love for Humanity. Humanity learned not only to respect and fear Wolf, but also how to love Wolf.

Mexican Wolf

From Greg Harder at the NUP Flickr group

 

 

Eventually the Wolves of the Humans were free of their fear of Humanity and only full of love for them. Humanity called these Wolves “Dog”. The Dogs changed their shapes, colours and sizes to better suit Humanity and Humanity grew to love Dog as one loves a best friend. Dog’s love for Humanity grew so great that of all the Mother’s creatures, Dog’s love runs the deepest, even deeper than Humanities’ love.

With this love and with the remembered gratitude of the Wolf who was hungry and the pup who was cold, Dog has ever served Humanity. Dog freely gives up life and limb, freedom and the woods to be in the company of Humanity.

Without the service of Dog, Humanity would have struggled even harder to learn to herd animals, to protect crops and their dens. Humanity would not have a warm Dog to snuggle when the Winters are bad. Without the service, love and loyalty of Dog, Humanity would not be what it is today.

Above all this however, the greatest service Dog has ever provided Humanity is the ongoing lesson of unconditional love.

The end

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Earth and Nature Holidays – January 2012

January 1, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

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International Holidays

  • January 1New Year’s Day
    Many cultures celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new around the time of the winter solstice, with festivities around the world focusing especially on the final day of the internationally accepted civil calendar.

    New Year’s Eve also corresponds to the annual date of the zenith of Sirius, the brightest visible star that can be seen from earth. Sirius reaches its highest point in the sky around mid-night (half way between sunrise and sunset) on the eve of the new year.

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National Holidays Around the World

  • January 1National Tree Planting Day (Tanzania)
  • January 2Ancestry Day/Forefather’s Day (Haiti)
  • January 2 – 4Cassé Gâteau (“Breaking the Cakes”) (Vodou)
  • January 10Save the Eagles Day (US)
  • January 14Makar Sankranti (Hinduism)
  • January 25Pusiaužiemis / Kirmeline (“Day of the Serpents”) (Lithuania)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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This Gift, This Sacrifice

December 5, 2011 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

 

Held high in the candlelight, the knife flashes. Words are quietly spoken, words of sacrifice. Hecate, I offer this small, white dog to you. The knife comes down. Slicing through marzipan and almond paste shaped into the likeness of a canine. The head is removed and placed in glass bowl on her altar.

 

We no longer worship in great marble temples. Real dogs do not die on Hecate’s Night, their burned bodies buried at the crossroads, a gift for the dread lady. We no longer make animal sacrifice. We no longer spill the blood of animals upon our altars. (With certain exceptions, but let’s open that can of worms another time) Yet, we remember these things. We find some way to pay homage to them. We honour an ancient deity’s connection to certain plants and animals, to the sacred land.

 

Even sitting in a room of townhouse in a typical Canadian urban neighbourhood (that’s where I’m living right now) we can pay respects to the connection between Nature and the Divine. Designs made with powdered minerals and ground herbs can be carefully drawn upon the altar or on the floor or ground. Offerings of food and incense are more than bribes, stage setting and correspondences.

 

Hecate’s wheel, her crossroads, was drawn with flour, salt, brimstone, mullein, red ochre, belladonna and mandrake (some of those are baneful btw). Other plant matter, such as cypress and garlic skins, was blended with incense. It was burned in her honour and to please her.

 

I also always add a small amount of dog fur to the incense I make for her night. Dogs are so sacred to her that we once sacrificed and reverently ate them to honour her. Well, the least I can do is offer some dog fur from the pooch that I love.

 

Gifts of garlic, honey, wine and steak are offered up to Her. Ancient hymns translated from the Greek to modern English are recited. The witches who gather at the crossroads, who laid out the altar and furnished her throne, wear blue jeans and hooded sweaters.

 

Candlelight flickers. The air smells of smoke and the woods and earth and spice, a hint of singed fur. The feel of dried herbs in my hand, I rub the leaves and stems between my fingers. Plants once burned in those marble temples are now held in my hand. A moment to offer a prayer of thanks to the spirit of the plant before it is made sacred: given up as sacrifice.

 

I delight in the feel of the red ochre, silky and earthy, the kind of texture that recalls the discovery of wet clay and warm mud. Some of the oldest art made by man often had red ochre traces it for archaeologists to find. The oldest burials, the oldest of the sacred places … red ochre.

 

My favourite is flour, the very essence of bread. Do I really need to start singing about corn and grain, corn and grain? When is flour ever not appropriate? Especially if you can find/afford the nice, ethical, whole grain, organic stuff. Have you ever plunged your hand in a bag of flour? Then made some design of … power, purpose, devotion, thanksgiving? Have you ever held up a fistful of it in the wind, watching it scatter into a field of wheat or barley?

 

Do you know the smell of sulphur? Have you ever watched it crackle when blended with self igniting incense?

 

Have you ever applied red ochre or woad to your body?

 

Do you carefully choose a food offering with consideration for that spirit or deity’s connection to the sacred land?

 

Do you know the feel of herbs in your hand, the smell of watching them burn, the choice to give it to the unseen?

 

Do you treat the plants, minerals and animals you use in ritual like nothing more than tools? Just ingredients?

 

Have you ever thanked the sage in the smudge stick you are burning?

 

Next time you perform ritual, do it with a bag of flour. Then, be grateful that you can “waste” such a food staple in such a way.

 

Some of the greatest sacrifices I have made were food. Food when I had next to nothing. Have you ever shared the last cup of rice (the last food in the house) with the gods? A cup of tea offered to the gods, yet I was too poor to buy sugar or milk for it. Now, when I can pour flour on the floor and create sacred designs I do with reverence and joy … and gratitude. I stop and think about what I am doing. It means something to me.

 

What might it mean to you? What might it mean to your gods?

 

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Earth and Nature Holidays – December 2011

December 1, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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International Holidays

  • December 5International Volunteer Day
    The United Nations celebrates the thousands of volunteers working across the globe to help foster sustainable human development, many of whom are involved in environmentalism and conservation.

    “IVD [International Volunteer Day] offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions – at local, national and international levels – to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Over the years, rallies, parades, community volunteering projects, environmental awareness, free medical care and advocacy campaigns have all featured prominently on IVD. Apart from mobilising thousands of volunteers every year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme works closely with partners and governments to establish national volunteer programmes to create structures that foster and sustain local volunteerism in countries. Through the Online Volunteering service volunteers can take action for sustainable human development by supporting the activities of development organizations over the Internet. Every day thousands of people are volunteering, online or on-site, contributing to peace and development and working to achieve the MDGs.” (from the official website)

  • December 10Human Rights Day
    As the #Occupy movement has spread world-wide, environmentalists and protesters alike see the relationship between protecting the environment and upholding basic human rights. Celebrate 63 years since the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    “This year, millions of people decided the time had come to claim their rights. They took to the streets and demanded change. Many found their voices using the internet and instant messaging to inform, inspire and mobilize supporters to seek their basic human rights. Social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe – from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York – at times in the face of violent repression. Human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. As a global community we all share a day in common: Human Rights Day on 10 December, when we remember the creation 63 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (from the official website)

  • December 11International Mountain Day
    “International Mountain Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands. This year’s International Mountain Day theme will focus on Mountains and Forests. It aims to raise awareness about the relevance of mountain forests and the role they play within a Green Economy as well as in climate change adaptation measures. Healthy mountain forests are crucial to the ecological health of the world. They protect watersheds that supply freshwater to more than half the world’s people. They also are the home of untold wildlife, provide food and fodder for mountain people and are important sources of timber and non-wood products. Yet in many parts of the world mountain forests are under threat as never before and deforestation in tropical mountain forests continues at an astounding rate. Protecting these forests and making sure they are carefully managed is an important step towards sustainable mountain development.” (from the official website)
  • December 20 – 25Winter Solstice / Summer Solstice
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the winter/summer solstice as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons. Many holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, are heavily influenced by the seasonal tides and have given rise to local customs such as Las Posadas and the Night of the Radishes in Mexico and Guatemala, and Junkanoo in the Bahamas.
  • December 31New Year’s Eve
    Many cultures celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new around the time of the winter solstice, with festivities around the world focusing especially on the final day of the internationally accepted civil calendar.

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Green Holidays Around the World

  • December 3World Conservation Day (Autralia)
  • December 4Kamolo Day (Thanksgiving) (Marshall Islands)
  • December 6Farmers’ Day (Ghana)
  • December 8Blessing of the Waters Day (or, Beaches Day) (Uruguay)
  • December 10Ganga-Bois (Haiti)
  • December 12 – 14Agou-Arroyo (“Feeding the Sea”) (Haiti)
  • December 31Hogmanay (Scotland)
  • December 31Ōmisoka (Japan/Shinto)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Walking It Out • Crystal Tice

November 9, 2011 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

I took a walk this weekend. More than one, truthfully. In my busy schedule, I don’t often make time to just go out and walk. I know I should, and I feel oh so much better when I do, but like so many other things, it just doesn’t get done.

I got home Friday after work and realized I had forgotten to pick up my allergy medicine. It had been a crappy day at work and a crappy couple of days in general. We recently lost a family member and my tween kiddo was having trouble in school. I was irritated and ready to tear into someone. Grabbing the keys, I decided getting out of the house was probably the best idea I had had all day. As I opened the door to the car, I looked across the empty lot next door at the clinic that housed my pharmacy.

The keys went back in my pocket and I trudged away across the grassy plot covered in fallen leaves. They crunched beneath my feet and fluttered in front of me as the wind whipped through the trees. On the sidewalk, the sun shone down between the clouds and warmed my hair. As I waited for the street light to tell me I could cross the street, I took a deep breath and let go.

The strong breeze blew right through me, taking away the frustration and confusion. It left me scoured and clean, able to move on beyond the hardships and start over. It also left me able to laugh with the clerk when she had an eleven year old address on file for me. If I had driven, I probably would have snarled at her. But those brief moments of connecting to the breath of the planet let me behave like a civilized being.

The next day was just as breezy and I made the kiddo go out walking on a couple errands with me. I was enjoying the beautiful leaves and trying to identify the fallen ones while he was grumbling in a version of my previous mood. By the time we got back to the car, he was joking and smiling once again. Without meaning to, he took in the same cleansing breath of wind as I had and reconnected with the earth beneath his feet.

None of my walks took longer than ten minutes, but those few, precious minutes made a world of difference.


Crystal Tice is a writer, poet, crafter, single mom, and pushes all the buttons in the toy aisle. She works full time and volunteers with her local arts group, Ames C.art, encouraging creativity in her community. Crystal lives in Iowa with her kiddo, a rabbit, and a house full of gnomes. While she has tried different flavors of Paganism over the years, she always ends up with her first love, the gods of Ancient Greece. Finding time for ritual is difficult, but she finds her spirituality and inspiration everywhere. She runs two blogs, one sharing her creativity and writing at Mused, and the other featuring her spiritual ramblings at The Gods and I.

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The Shape

October 27, 2011 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

(Originally written for my blog two years ago. Images courtesy of wikimedia commons)

 

As I cross my fingers and toes and murmur “Safe, safe, safe” to myself the airplane lifts, we take off and rise up abouve the river valley, passing over low mountains once as tall and mighty as the Rockies … or nearly so. Now they are withered and wind scored, worn down to their very bones. Overgrown with dust and sagebrush, bare rock thrusting out of the crust of the Earth and into a perfect Indian Summer sky.

I know this Province like I know my own body. I recite the names of rivers and lakes, peaks and towns like an invocation as we pass over. There runs the North Thompson River winding up a green valley surrounded by brown hills and low mountains. There is Salmon Arm; the Monashee Mountains give way to the Kootenays before we pass over the Arrow Lakes stretching up to the North and out of sight.

The Land grows greener as we move east. The green glorious peaks of the Kootenays give way to the snow caped Rockies. Rising up like great waves upon an angry sea of earth, stone, snow and forest, the Rockies are an impressive sight to behold whether you are flying abouve them or standing at their roots, in the shadows of the great mountains.

Along the way one shape stands out to me. Repeating again and again. This is the shape of a streambed reaching out and through the land, the shape of the tops of ridges, of tree branches. This is the shape of the valleys far below, cutting their way into a mountainous landscape.

I touch my heart, my lungs. I trace my circulatory and nervous systems. Finding within myself the same shape reflected and repeated. This shape, this sacred geometry, this doodle of Nature reminds me that my beating heart is made of the same stuff as the Land below. Created by the same Hand, born of the same Womb. I feel as if I can trace those distant streambeds and ridges with the same intimacy as I would follow the course of my blood from heart to fingertip and back again. This shape repeats itself, passing before my sight, upon the land, and within my own flesh.

I lean against my window and allow myself to drift into a light doze and then find myself slipping into a dream state, I dream of being handed a white branch of cold flame. Is it the shock of the searing cold of this silver flame that wakes me, or the turbulence that sends my forehead smacking against the window?

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Earth and Nature Holidays – October 2011

October 4, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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Energy Awareness Month

  • “The 2011 Energy Awareness Month theme is Turn Words into Action; Turn Action into Results. Wise energy attitudes, behaviors, and organizational decisions ensure results. Take time to review your daily routine to conserve energy, empower others to take action, and join together to save energy and money. Participate in site-specific energy action programs, expand existing activities, and align efforts with your agency’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP). Now is the time to act with urgency to achieve a clean and secure energy economy and save taxpayer dollars. Turn awareness into action. Turn intent into investment. Turn opportunities into outcomes.” (from the official website)

World Vegetarian Awareness Month

  • “Make a difference this October by informing others about the benefits of vegetarianism. You will be helping to create a better world because vegetarian diets have proven health benefits, save animals’ lives and help to preserve the Earth. It’s easy to get involved. Display our free, colorful, informative poster in your community. You can post it at a local store, office, coffee shop, library, school or other suitable location. Use it as a great way to start a discussion about the benefits of vegetarianism with the people in your life.” (from the official website)

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International Holidays

  • October 1World Vegetarian Day
    “World Vegetarian Day was established as an annual celebration to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism. The day was originated by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. October 1st is the official date, however if necessary, individuals may schedule their event on a nearby date instead.” (from the official website)
  • October 2World Farm Animals Day
    “World Farm Animals Day takes place on October 2nd, which honors the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an outspoken advocate of non-violence towards animals. WFAD observances are hosted by volunteers in communities in all 50 U.S. states and 2 dozen other countries. Participants include animal advocacy groups and individual activists- anyone and everyone who cares about animals is encouraged to join us in this global outcry. In addition to promoting a vegan lifestyle, the 2010 observance will reveal the ways that animal agribusiness manipulates the government, institutions, and a well-meaning public in order to sell more cruel products.” (from the official website)
  • October 3World Habitat Day
    “The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. This year, World Habitat Day will be celebrated on 3 October 2011 and the Global Celebration will be hosted by the Government of Mexico. The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. The United Nations chose the theme Cities and Climate Change was chosen because climate change is fast becoming the preeminent development challenge of the 21st century. Indeed, no-one today can really foresee the predicament in which a town or city will find itself in 10, 20 or 30 years time. In this new urban era with most of humanity now living in towns and cities, we must bear in mind that the greatest impacts of disasters resulting from climate change begin and end in cities. Cities too have a great influence on climate change.” (from the official website)
  • October 4World Animal Day
    “World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. Since then it has grown to encompass all kinds of animal life and is widely celebrated in countries throughout the world. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It is intended as a day of celebration for anyone in the world who cares about animals. It is not restricted to any one nationality, creed, religion, political belief or ideology.” (from the official website)
  • October 15International Day of Rural Women
    “The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This new international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes ‘the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.’ At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 it was suggested that 15 October be celebrated as ‘World Rural Women’s Day,’ on the the eve of World Food Day, in order to highlight the role played by rural women in food production and food security. ‘World Rural Women’s Day’ has been celebrated, primarily by civil society, across the world for over a decade.” (from the official website)
  • October 16Blog Action Day
    “Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. For 2011, our Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, so our topic of discussion for this year will be food. We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living. Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.” (from the official website)
  • October 16World Food Day
    “Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty. FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable. On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society.” (from the official website)
  • October 17International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
    “The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the General Assembly, by resolution 47/196, designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries, particularly in developing countries – a need that has become a development priority. 17 October presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognize that poor people are the first ones to fight against poverty. Participation of the poor themselves has been at the center of the Day’s celebration since its very beginning. The commemoration of 17 October also reflects the willingness of people living in poverty to use their expertise to contribute to the eradication of poverty. The theme of the observance this year is ‘From Poverty to Decent Work: Bridging the Gap’.” (from the official website)
  • October 27World Paper Free Day
    “Paper is a costly crutch and one that may be handicapping your office more than helping. Research shows that we will have close to 10x more information in 2011 compared to 2006, which means that organizations with paper based processes and archiving will drown in paper. Going paperless will therefore not only help the environment, but make an organization more efficient with easier and simultaneous access to valuable information from across the organization. Last year over 57,000 people participated in the first World Paper Free Day. Grow this group and bring your office into the 21st century without the paper trail.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – September 2011

September 1, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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National Honey Month

  • “Americans consume nearly 1.5 pounds of honey per person annually – mixing it into sweet and savory recipes, adding spoonfuls to tea and other beverages, and drizzling it over biscuits, toast and muffins. Consumers can choose from hundreds of honey varieties, each with a special flavor characteristic. These varietal or “mono-floral” honeys result from the bees gathering nectar from flowers of only one type of plant. Honeys may range from clover and eucalyptus to orange blossom, buckwheat and sage. Generally, lighter colored honeys are milder in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust. Local beekeepers are a great source for single varietal honeys, selling their products at farmer’s markets and specialty stores. Visit the honey locator at www.honeylocator.com to find a floral source specific to your area. Explore honey’s versatility, benefits and deliciousness, and have a sweet National Honey Month!” (from the National Honey Board website)

Organic Harvest Month

  • “In 1992, the Organic Trade Association implemented ‘Organic Harvest Month’, a widespread promotion of organic food and agriculture through regional and local events. The objective of Organic Harvest Month is to highlight organic agriculture and the growing organic products industry. September is also an ideal time for consumers and retailers to celebrate the bounty of the organic harvest. Events and celebrations of all shapes and sizes take place across North America, in parks, schools, stores, farmers’ markets and at restaurants. Events in the past have included Gastronomic Walking Tours, Organic Country Fairs, organic-themed barn dances, special displays and tastings at supermarkets and special pull-out sections in local newspapers.” (from the Organic Trade Association website)

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International Holidays

  • September 16 – 18Clean Up the World Weekend
    “The campaign’s flagship event is Clean Up the World Weekend, held on the 3rd weekend in September each year. In addition to uniting millions in global environmental action, Clean Up the World Weekend serves as a celebration of participants’ year round activities. By promoting their achievements internationally, Clean Up the World focuses public attention on global community concerns for the environment and how each individual can make a positive contribution to a cleaner and healthier world.” (from the official website)
  • September 16International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
    “In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (resolution 49/114). States were invited to devote the Day to promote activities in accordance with the objectives of the Protocol and its amendments. The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet.” (from the official website)
  • September 17International Coastal Cleanup Day
    “Over the past twenty-five years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries and locations have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day each year. They have recorded every item found, giving us a clear picture of the manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies. As our 2011 report demonstrates, the body of data from the International Coastal Cleanup has inspired action to rid the ocean of harmful trash. During the amazing signature event each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from countries all over the world spend a day picking up everything from cigarette butts and food wrappers to lost fishing nets and major appliances. Because trash travels to the ocean by way of storm drains and waterways, they don’t just work along ocean beaches; these dedicated folks slog through mud and sand along lakes, streams, and rivers, too, often working far inland.” (from the official website)
  • September 18World Water Monitoring Day
    “World Water Monitoring Day is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. In 2010, over 200,000 people in 85 countries monitored their local waterways. Celebrate with us on September 18, or host your World Water Monitoring Day anytime from March 22 until December 31!” (from the official website)
  • September 21International Day of Peace/Peace One Day
    “In September 1999 I [Jeremy Gilley] founded the film project Peace One Day to document my efforts to create an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed calendar date. In 2001, Peace One Day achieved its primary objective. United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/Res/55/282) was unanimously adopted by UN member states, formally establishing an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace, fixed in the global calendar on 21st September. With the day in place, Peace One Day’s aim now is to institutionalise Peace Day across the world so it becomes self-sustaining. Not only has Peace Day been proved as a catalyst for broad-ranging civil society action by individuals and groups in every country of the world, but also for life-saving activities. As a key driver towards the institutionalisation of Peace Day, Peace One Day is calling for and working towards a day of ceasefire and non-violence on Peace Day 21 September 2012 – a Global Truce. We hope this will be the largest reduction in global violence in recorded history, both domestically and internationally.” (from a letter from Jeremy Gilley, on the official website)
  • September 22 – 23Autumnal / Vernal Equinox
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the autumnal/vernal equinox as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons.
  • September 22World Car-Free Day
    “Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to “normal” life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars. Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year.” (from the official website)
  • September 24Moving Planet: A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels
    “The goal is to get moving beyond fossil fuels—both symbolically by pouring into the streets in the thousands on foot, bicycle and other means of sustainable movement, and politically by bringing powerful demands to our leaders that day to move beyond fossil fuels to a 350ppm world. Mobilizing for individual and community solutions will continue to be important—but one of the main goals for Moving Planet is to demand government action, especially in places where governments are stalling on climate action despite the overwhelming urgency of the science.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – August 2011

August 5, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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International Holidays

  • August 1Lammas/Lughnasadh
    During the month of August and the late summer season, religious and spiritual traditions the world over celebrate sacred festivals of ripening and harvest. In modern Pagan traditions, the most widely known in the northern hemisphere are the Wiccan festival of Lammas, the Celtic/Druidic festival of Lughnasadh, and the Norse holiday of Freyfaxi, all of which fall on August 1. Among the indigenous peoples of North America, the Green Corn Ceremony marks the ripening of the corn harvest with dancing, feasting, fasting and other religious observances. (In the southern hemisphere, many modern Pagans celebrate Imbolc on the same date.)
  • August 9International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
    “The focus of this year’s International Day will be Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future. This theme highlights the need for preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures, including their art and intellectual property. It can also be used to showcase indigenous artists and cooperatives or businesses who are taking inspiration from indigenous peoples’ customs and the indigenous communities who may have participated or benefited from this.” (from the official website)
  • August 20International Homeless Animals’ Day
    “Organizations around the world come together on the third Saturday of August to raise awareness about the pet overpopulation epidemic. International Homeless Animals’ Day activities often include candlelight vigils, adopt-a-thons, microchip clinics, blessings of the animals, and heartfelt speeches given by council members, local veterinarians, humane officers and shelter personnel. Other activities include slideshows, rallies, dog walks, open houses, award ceremonies, live music, raffles, and games. To read about previous International Homeless Animals’ Day events, please visit our Newsletters page on our website.” (from the official website)
  • August 20 – 27World Water Week
    “From 20 to 27 of August, 2011, the World Water Week will take place in Stockholm, Sweden under the overarching theme “Water in an Urbanising World”. The World Water Week in Stockholm, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, is the leading annual global meeting place for capacity-building, partnership-building and follow-up on the implementation of international processes and programmes in water and development.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – July 2011

July 2, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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July Belongs to Berries Month

  • The month of July is a time to celebrate the exquisite, juicy flavors of berries of all kinds — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, you name it! Take some time this month to appreciate the nutritional and culinary benefits of berries. Add them to salad for a splash of color, eat them fresh (or frozen) for a sweet snack, or bake them into a pie for an amazing summer treat. Seek out local and organic sources of berries and get to know which berries grow in your bioregion.

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International Holidays

  • July 11World Population Day
    “World Population Day is an annual event, observed on July 11, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989. It was inspired by the public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, approximately the date on which the world’s population reached five billion people.” (from the Wikipedia page)
  • July 18Mandela Day
    Though Nelson Mandela is best known for his social justice work, Mandela Day is celebrated around the world as a call to action embodying justice and kindness of all kinds, and has grown to include conservation and environmental efforts as well as education and community service. “Mandela Day on July 18 is an annual international day adopted by the United Nations. It is more than a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to take his life’s work into a new century and change our world for the better. Mandela Day asks us all to embrace Madiba’s values and honour his legacy through an act of kindness. Who knows, it might leave you inspired enough to make every day a Mandela Day!” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

  • July 1David Bower Day (USA)
  • July 7Tanabata – Star Festival (Japan)
  • July 14National Tree Day (Mexico)
  • July 16World Snake Day (US)
  • July 19Marine Day (Japan)
  • July 22National Tree Planting Day (Central African Republic)
  • July 24 – 30Coral Reef Awareness Week (USA)
  • July 25Hurricane Supplication Day (Virgin Islands)
  • July 31National Tree Day (Australia)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Which Potato Would You Rather Eat?

June 23, 2011 by Categorized: Earth Matters.

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Nature Observation

June 16, 2011 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Several years ago I purchased a field guide to the butterflies of my province.  Until then I had been aware of perhaps only a handful of different butterflies: yellow ones, white ones, orange and black ones, and the yellow and black striped swallowtails.  Opening my new field guide, I discovered hundreds of butterfly species: several different swallowtails, dozens of sulphurs and whites, tiny blues and coppers, fritillaries, checkerspots, alpines, skippers, and others.  Even more astonishing, I began to see butterflies everywhere that I had never seen before.  Of course, these butterflies had not just suddenly appeared; what had changed was that now I was looking at them more closely, and I was seeing things that I had not seen before.

Field guides are an aid to the observation of nature.  By illustrating details that are not immediately apparent to the casual observer, they help us to observe more closely and see more clearly than we would otherwise have done.  This is why I suggest that a good set of field guides should be an essential part of the modern Pagan’s tool kit.

When we observe the natural world more closely, we begin to see patterns that can shape our lives and ground us in the place where we live.  The cycles of nature mark the seasons.  Around here, the arrival of robins and then swallows is a sure sign of spring, while my first sight of a swallowtail butterfly winging its graceful way across the yard marks the beginning of summer.  The heady scent of violets fills the air in spring, while asters bloom late into the fall, an important nectar source for late-flying butterflies.

Other patterns also reveal themselves.  We notice that certain types of trees (western redcedars around here) grow at the bottoms of slopes, where ground is wetter, while others, such as ponderosa pines and Douglas-firs, are found further up, where it is drier.  Glancing around at the predominant vegetation on a site, I can make some fairly good guesses as to the climate and moisture and nutrient availability on that site.  An open stand of ponderosa pine with bunchgrass and sagebrush is probably a dry, hot site, while a dense stand of western redcedar and hemlock with devil’s club in the understory and lots of ferns and mosses is probably much wetter and cooler.  Pussytoes and many invasive species grow on sites disturbed by grazing or human activities, while other species only grow on sites rich in nutrients.  Knowing this kind of information grounds us, and makes us feel at home on the landscape, makes us feel that we belong.

Field guides help to make these sorts of patterns easier to see.  But there are some people who dislike the use of field guides, who feel that trying to put a name on everything they see detracts from their appreciation of nature’s beauty.  I can sympathize with that sentiment, because I know that it is easy to get so caught up with identification and making lists of species observed that our initial sense of wonder fades.  But I like names, myself.  Just as whenever I move into a new neighbourhood I feel more comfortable if I learn the names of some of my neighbours, so I feel more at home if I can name some of the animals and plants that share this land with me.

The careful observer will still be able to notice the patterns that I mentioned earlier, even if they do not know the exact names of the plants and animals that they are observing.  Even if you don’t want to be able to identify every organism that crosses your path, field guides are still helpful in honing your observations.  When all I knew were white butterflies, yellow butterflies, and orange and black butterflies, I didn’t look much closer than that.  Now that I am aware of the great diversity of these butterflies, I look more closely, even though I still can’t identify to species most of the sulphurs and fritillaries that I see.

Observing nature closely and being aware of what we see is one way in which we as Pagans can honour and show our respect for the land on which we live.  Perhaps as we learn and observe more we will speak not of trees but of pines, spruces, maples, oaks, and eucalyptus.  We will time the celebration of our festivals to the movements of animals, the blooming of flowers, and the changing colours of the trees.  Our religions will be firmly rooted in the landscapes in which we live.  And we will feel truly at home on the land.

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