I Spy: Ehoah is a _____ Path

May 23, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections, Science & Spirit.

If you are unfamiliar with what Ehoah is, I suggest going to the official website prior to reading.

I have a lot of fun reading various interpretations of what Ehoah is. I’ve seen everything from animistic, pagan, and pantheistic to humanistic and atheist applied to its description. But amidst the pleasure of reading the variety, I realized that there may be confusion that may need some clearing. Ehoah can be all of these things, yet it is none of them at the same time.

If someone who is animistic finds that being a saegoah suits them and applies it to their way of life, it is very much animistic, for that practitioner. The same goes for someone of a pantheistic world view, and any other world view. Which is fantastic in that people from such diverse backgrounds can find common ground as saegoahs. That is the point in its design. Yet, to say that Ehoah is, as an example, a pantheistic path it isn’t accurate. Because it’s foundation isn’t animistic or pantheistic, or any other worldview or philosophy other than its own. It is merely open ended for personal or group use to what ever outlook. The only real way it can be described is as an environmental and secular path, but not much else. Environmental in that it revolves around the environment, and secular in that it is impartial. Developing around only what is confirmed through the scientific method – removing any potential for bias, and establishing an undeniable common connection.

I’ve come across writings from individuals who have found great appeal to Ehoah, but turn away the moment they find that the founder (me) is essentially an atheist in lifestyle, believing that it is an atheist path – its not. I try very hard not to project what I believe onto the development of Ehoah, while at the same time don’t want it to close doors to awesome potential of various world views – hence it being secular. Secular sometimes gets a bad reputation, when all it really is is not favouring one worldview over another – its impartial.

Everything in the Ehoah Path, outside of the Three Basic Tenets, is explicitly optional. Again, to open great potential that would otherwise be suppressed with rigid rules, and to encourage diversity – ideally interactive diversity or else it would become isolated pockets that could fall into dysfunction, like elsewhere in Nature. With interactive diversity there is resilience, adaptability, and harmony among it participants, as expressed throughout Nature.

I am very open about my perspective, being philosophically an empirical agnostic, which makes my lifestyle very atheistic in expression. But this is only an expression of myself, so I ask that my personal stance not be taken as the stance of the Ehoah Path. I’ve met Muslims, Buddhists, Druids, Pantheists and others who consider themselves of the Ehoah Path. And that is great. I have no intention to influence those individuals or resulting groups in the direction they deem best to go toward in achieving Ehoah. I only hope that there remains a collaboration of ideas that result that could benefit everyone who is involved.

You are welcome to ask any question that comes to mind regarding Ehoah, or even myself, in the comments below and I’ll answer to the best I am able.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Community Connections: Ehoah Ceremony Outline

May 2, 2013 by Categorized: Earthly Rites.

Here is the announcement of the Ehoah Ceremony Outline now available on the official website. It is designed around the natural rhythms and functions of nature as revealed through the scientific method. All things Ehoah are based naturalistically, being an outline each individual or group can build on top of it in their own way. Any questions, thoughts or suggestions are welcome.

 

Individuals are free to enter or leave ceremony at any time

Beginning an Ehoah Ceremony: Directions

  • Walk onto grounds from West in one full circle around perimeter (illustration as guide, red is the ‘center’ potentially being a fire)
  • On the second go around, gather in loose circular clump around center (children and pets can move freely about)
  • Once everyone is gathered, collectively do a verbalized deep Inhale
  • Hum led and stopped by designated organizer, stopping when the ‘feeling is right’ (or chant Eh-O-Ah thrice)
  • Acknowledge directions in open stances:

“I/We acknowledge the East, the direction we turn to, toward our host star at dawn and deep space at dusk.”

“I/We acknowledge the Sky (face nearest pole); from plants we have the ocean of air that envelopes us; Our shield, our breath.”

“I/We acknowledge the West, the direction we turn from, where we last see our host star before night, and deep space before day.”

“I/We acknowledge the Earth (face equator),

  • Place left hand on heart, and right hand on other kin (whether it be human, pet, plant, or soil organisms – by touching ground) (the resulting group position is called the Web of Life)

From star dust, a new star, planets – this planet; developing from its oceans, along a long lineage of life, now exists all current life on this planet; we are all made of this place we call home.”

  • Turn Eastward to face Nearest Pole or Center and begin ceremony focus (bonding, birth, diffusion, Solis Festivitas etc.)

Closing an Ehoah Ceremony:

  • Do Web of Life
  • Led Hum or Thrice Chant
  • Verbalized Deep Exhale

“As we go our separate ways, know that we are not.”

  • Leave toward East – the direction earth turns toward.

(Update: here is the link to the Ehoah Customs page on the official Ehoah Website that has this updated version and other rituals - http://ehoah.weebly.com/customs.html )

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Adventures of Theia

March 3, 2013 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

Being me is pretty awesome, thought Theia. And it was. Ze went where ze would, pulled a bit by gravity, pushed a bit by hir own momentum, but generally heading wherever fancy took hir. Ze orbited no star. Ze danced with no partner.

But gravity likes playing pranks, and one day, Theia realized ze was heading fast toward a planet. Ze struggled and strained, but ze couldn’t get away from that gravitational pull. “Hold on!” ze yelled to the planet. Then ze shut hir eyes.

illustration of Theia's impact with Earth

Tierra2 by Memomiguel, 2012, via Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

The impact was enormous. Pieces of Theia shattered and bounded, shivering into tiny shards or zooming into space. Ze tried to get up, gather what remained of hirself, and go on hir way, but ze was embedded in that planet. Ze groaned and wailed. Who was ze now, with so much of hirself disintigrated or lost? Who was ze, who had once wandered the galaxy, if ze was trapped in a planet? Despair filled Theia, and for a long time ze moped in solitude.

Slowly, ze began to notice that the planet was…looking at hir. Ze peeked around and realized she had plowed a very large hole into the planet’s surface. Ze blushed. “Um…hi,” ze said.

“Hi,” said the planet, sounding just as embarrassed. “I’m Gaia.”

“I’m Theia,” ze said. “I’m sorry I ran into you.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get out of the way.”

Theia tried to look around, but ze couldn’t see much, scattered as ze was. “Was it terrible?”

Gaia shrugged. “It hurt for a while. And a big piece broke off.”

“Of me, or of you?”

“Both.”

Theia felt around, but so much of hir was missing, it was hard to tell. “Where did it go?” Ze followed Gaia’s gaze into space, where a new form spun around, orbiting them, waving dizzily.

“Ze says hir name is Luna,” Gaia said. “I like hir. Things are…better, with hir around.” Shyly, Gaia added, “They’re better with you around, too.”

“But what about me?” Theia demanded. “If I’m up there with Luna, and if I’m in a million tiny pieces in you, where am I, really? Who am I?”

Gaia didn’t seem nearly as distressed by this conundrum as Theia felt. “Well,” ze said, “you’re you. Only…here.”

Over time, Theia’s come to admit that being here is…nice. Interesting things happen in Gaia’s neighborhood, things Theia never would’ve seen if ze’d kept on zooming through the galaxy. And Gaia hirself is excellent company, constantly creating new landmasses and lifeforms to keep them entertained.

Theia misses hir roaming ways sometimes. But then ze looks into space, and Luna waves, and Theia thinks, I was part of that. I helped make that. Then ze smiles, checks in on the little pieces of hirself scattered about, and settles down to wait for the next adventure awaiting hir here.
_________________

Tags: , , ,

Life, what is it? (The Seven: 1.01)

January 31, 2013 by Categorized: Science & Spirit.

Science and Philosophy and Religion are dedicated to the question: What is Life?
Has anyone came to a conclusive answer?
No, and never will.

Am I capable of providing an adequate working definition?
No. And here’s why.

Sprout! by Magic Madzik

Evolution of Human Thoughts on Life

I think what is said of the Tao of ancient Chinese philosophy can be said of life:

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery (1).”

However, Western culture has difficulty with such ambiguity — so tomes of philosophical, religious, and scientific manuscripts have been written on the subject and little consensus has come of any of it. As a result of this discourse, numerous disciplines and school of thought have emerged to give life meaning.

The ancient Greeks had many ideas about life, and gave us the foundation of much of western thought on the subject. In the 4th Century BCE, Empedocles deduced life consisted of four roots of fire, air, earth, and water (2). This sounds familiar because many modern pagan traditions are built around this idea and often include spirit, or something-of-the-like, to the equation. Meanwhile, back in ancient Greece, Democritus attributes the psyche composed of “fire atoms” (3). These ancient thinkers are two of the founders of the school of thought known as materialism, which is not to be confused with “being materialistic.” Further down the line, during the 3rd Century BCE, Aristotle was critical of Democritus and expanded the concept of psyche into what we might start recognizing as the idea of the soul. Uniting matter and form, he helped create the philosophy of Hylomophism (4).

Likewise, traditional Chinese knowledge has the Wu Xing consisting of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water (5). This concept and those in Western cultures all suggest that life, or spirit, or the soul, is comprised of physical and tangible material found in the natural environment. But fast-forward two millennia to 17th Century CE Germany, where the chemist and physician, Georg Ernst Stahl, planted a seed for the ideas of Vitalism. He concluded that the life principles of the soul were non-material (6). Now the idea of life has become more abstract and detached from the material world around us.

Since then, human knowledge has evolved into modern biology. In 2002 Daniel E. Koshland Jr wrote about Seven Pillars of Life. I am not a biologist, and so I will attempt to paraphrase what I understand of Koshlan’s statements:

  • Program is how the physical materials of a living organism interact together, including anatomy, chemistry, and DNA.
  • Improvisation is the way a living organism changes its program due to external environmental circumstances. For example human behavior adapted based on whether the environment was warm or cold.
  • Compartmentalization is how a living organism is bound together. This can be the microscopic organization of a cell within the membrane, or the flesh and bone of an animal.
  • Energy is the use of movement throughout the living organism. this can be a chemical reaction in the organism or neurological impulses that automate movement.
  • Regeneration compensates for change in the condition of the living organism. An example of this is when we cut ourselves and the tissue is able to heal itself.
  • Adaptability is when a class of organism changes over time and generations to survive their particular environment. This is how turtles have shells, insects have exoskeletons, fish have gills, etc . . .
  • Seclusion is the way a single living organism is able to processes and prioritizes information from its environment to respond appropriately. This is what is happening when you place your hand on a hot surface and immediately withdraw due to the pain.

Koshland’s focus is primarily on the individual living organism; however, I think his method can be applied to General Systems Theory (GST).  GTS is as an extension of biology interested in the bigger picture of how smaller systems interact with a larger system. GST seeks out patterns in the dynamic relationships between organisms, materiel, and environment. I find this thought parallels the idea behind the Gaia hypothesis as proposed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970′s (7). This is the idea that the Earth is an evolving system and this system comprises of many parts including animal, mineral, and plant (8).

The Xartus and My Take on Life

What do I think of all of these many thoughts on life and the nature of the soul?

Lao Tzu, Empedocles, Democritus, Aristotle,  Stahl, Koshland, Brown, Lovelock and Margulis all make intriguing claims that help to comprise a larger understanding of life and, perhaps with the exception of Lao Tzu and Stahl, help us grapple with the ambiguity behind the mystery of life.

Yes, that is all fine and good, you might say, but what do I think?

I like the idea of life being comprised of physical materiel around us, despite its ambiguity. At the same time, I like embracing the ambiguity of the nameless qualities of life. I like to think of life as a broad spectrum of intersecting patterns growing from the cosmos. Think of it like a giant infinite fractal that is comprised of infinite smaller fractals. The more you attempt to narrow your focus on the fractal the larger the fractal seems, and the more you try to observe the fractal as whole you attention is drawn to the smaller details.

YouTube Preview Image
The Infinite in Between (YouTube upload by minghaoxu)

The fractal analogy reminds me of  Ceisiwr Serith’s hypothesis of Proto-Indo-European religion, particulary the concept of Xartus. Serith describes Xartus as “the pattern of the universe” and brakes down the linguistics of the term:

“This word comes from the root *xar-, meaning “to fit together, particularly according to a pleasing pattern.” Both linguistically and ideologically Xartus is the root of the Vedic rta, and the concept is similar as well to the Germanic wyrd. The Xartus is the pattern of the cosmos, but not one that’s imposed from without. Instead it grows from the cosmos itself.”

Serith describes Xartus as a creative force which moves through The Tree of The Cosmos. The Xartus is that which forms the Cosmic Tree’s branches. It is a pattern and or process of creativity which reminds me of species evolution. Jacob Bronowski describes life as:

“a process of accurate copying….[It] is also and essentially an evolutionary process, which moves forward only because there are errors in the copy, and every so often one of these errors is successful enough to be incorporated as another step or threshold in its progression. (9)

I find this to be a scientific explanation of the ambiguity of life. In Bronowski’s words I find hints of the sacred in the beautiful flaws of the world around us. Without those flaws, the cosmos would somehow feel less whole, less complete, less real, and less alive.

What was my point again?

Now that we’ve gone around in ideological circles, I would think you, as am I, are dizzy from the experience. What was my original point?

Ah yes, I remember! The first statement in The Seven:

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

So, What the hell do I mean by all of this rambling?

Life is ambiguous, and we humans are not always comfortable with ambiguity. To offset our discomfort we like to give meaning to the ambiguity of life. In this effort we have many traditions, ancient and new, which struggle to give meaning to life. However, these philosophies, theologies, principles, musings, writings, ramblings, and what-have-you, is not life.

No one has the answer to life. Anyone who claims they do is naive or tying to sell you something you don’t need or want. We need to be discerning about the meaning we give the ambiguity of life, but should not hold tightly to our beliefs. Life is a mystery. Our minds and hearts will be better off by embracing the ambiguity of life as it moves through us.

It is okay to think about the meaning of life and what life is; it is one of my favorite past times. However, it is far more important to embrace life, with all its ambiguity, and that is a far more difficult thing to do.

General Questions

How does the ambiguity of life influence your spiritual practices and how does it play out in your interactions with the natural living-world?

When do you find it easy to embrace the ambiguity, and when do you find it most difficult?

Are there philosophies or traditions that have help you deal with the paradox and ambiguity of life?

Or do you think my ramblings are off base and I am a bit daft?

Sources Cited

1. Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching, chapter 1
Translatin by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

2. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (empedocles)

3. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (democritus)

4.  Aristotle’s De Anima

5. Nathan Sivin, “Science and Medicine in Chinese History,” 1995

6. A Cultural History of Medical Vitalism in Enlightenment Montpellier, Elizabeth A Williams 2003

7. Molly Young Brown “Patterns, Flows, and Interrelationship” ©2002

8. Lovelock. The Vanishing Face of Gaia. Basic Books, 2009

9. New Concepts in the Evolution of Complexity: Stratified Stability, and Unbounded Plans. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science #5 (March 1979)

Tags: , , ,

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?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

People of the Story: Carl Sagan

November 9, 2012 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred, Science & Spirit.

Today would have been the 78th birthday of American scientist, author, and all-around amazing man Carl Sagan. About a year ago, Lupa wrote a wonderful post on Dr. Sagan’s influence on her relationship with this world we are in, and I would be remiss if I didn’t add my own voice to the chorus of Pagans Whose Worlds Have Been Rocked by Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan. Photo by NASA via Wikimedia Commons.

I came late to the love-fest, sometime in my late twenties. If I could tell you the exact date, I would, because it strikes me as a momentous date. I just remember coming out of my bedroom one January evening to the sound of a man who sounded distressingly like Jim Henson talking about medieval monks (don’t judge me; my hearing has never been my greatest asset). The voice belonged to Carl Sagan, and this was my introduction to the Cosmos series. By the end of the episode, I was hooked.

Week after week, my wife and I would cuddle on the couch with mugs of hot chocolate and let Sagan lead us on an amazing journey of discovery throughout the Cosmos. I was familiar with some of the concepts; others were new to me; but pervading it all was a sense of the universe that I’d seldom experienced: a place, a thing, a being of such wonder and beauty in and of itself. Not worthy of reverence because some deity or other had made it, not worthy of care just because we live here. Inherently worthy simply by virtue of its existence.

That was, to badly misquote Tom Stoppard, “the crack that flooded my brain with light”. It turned my Paganism in a whole new direction, a direction more deeply rooted in now and here than anything I’d explored before. This in turn has brought me to a greater sense of commitment to both my place and my spirituality and is one of the bedrocks of my spiritual environmentalism.

My wife read the Cosmos companion book before I did; it is delightfully full of highlighted passages and dog-eared pages she wanted to draw my attention to. One of those pages is in Chapter 13, at a place where Sagan tells the entire freaking history of everything, from just after the Big Bang through the evolution of humankind, in the style of a religious creation myth. I absolutely will not subject you to all of it, but it starts like this:

For unknown ages after the explosive outpouring of matter and energy of the Big Bang, the Cosmos was without form. There were no galaxies, no planets, no life. Deep, impenetrable darkness was everywhere, hydrogen atoms in the void.

and it ends like this:

And then, only a moment ago, some small arboreal mammals scampered down from the trees. They became upright and taught themselves the use of tools, domesticated other animals, plants and fire, and devised language. The ash of stellar alchemy was now evolving consciousness. At an ever-accelerating pace, it developed writing, cities, art and science, and sent spaceships to the planets and the stars. These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.

Well, dang. Sagan’s work had inspired me again. That story, that reminder that epic tales need not be solely the province of heroes and gods, and that the amazing Mysteries of the natural world needn’t be conveyed only in dry, technical prose accessible only to scientists. I mean, seriously. Do you know what plants can do? What zany single-celled organisms living in ocean vents can do? What the human body can do? I’m not even a professional scientist, just an avid amateur, and still, every day I find something new; every day I am struck anew with wonder. With reverence. Carl Sagan, who believed that every scientist should approach their work with a sense of wonder, gave me that gift. Planted the seed that eventually flowered as “Restorying the Sacred”.

I suspect Dr. Sagan would be quietly, amusedly appalled by we, the small company of “Sagan’s Pagans”, who draw so much inspiration from his work. After all, he seldom had much praise to offer religion. And yet I like to hope that, ultimately, he might have come to some understanding that we share his reverence for this Earth, and this Cosmos, just with more candlelit rituals and less differential calculus. After all, in Pale Blue Dot he wrote:

A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

Though many of us build not from science alone, but also from the experience of our own senses, I feel–I hope–that we draw forth these reserves of reverence and awe in our Pagan practices. The ash of stellar alchemy has evolved consciousness. I hope we have done well by that gift–and by Dr. Sagan. Happy birthday.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Natural Theology: Polytheism Beyond the Pale

September 14, 2012 by Categorized: Natural Reflections, Science & Spirit.

Campsite AltarWhen exploring polytheism in an ecological context, we quickly find ourselves beyond the pale: out in the wilds shaped by natural forces of forest and river, sea and shoreline, wind and rain, the slow dance of erosion and the sudden violent shifting of tectonic plates. Where do the gods fit into this wilderness? How does our theology grapple with the realities of the natural world that transcend yet include human civilization and our familiar anthropocentric concerns? What does it mean to worship beyond the pale?

Deepen Your Relationship with the Gods

In theology, as in magic, words have a deep power. They define concepts and construct mental abstracts that we map onto the world, creating boundaries where once there was only the chaotic beauty of what is.

But certain words are particularly powerful. They invoke not only what they mean, but what they do not mean. Words like “fast” or “loud” have obvious opposites that jump to mind immediately. (Try your hand at the 30-second word test below for a great example.)

“Hard” is one of those words that is especially potent. When Pagans talk about “hard polytheism,” they invoke a theological framework which places hard polytheism in opposition to other forms of polytheism, usually referred to as “soft polytheism.” Soft polytheism might include anything from the duotheism of many Wiccans, to a Jungian theology of archetypes among humanist Pagans, from animism or pantheism, to panentheism, monism, henotheism or even syncretic monotheism. Most hard polytheists define their theology as “a belief in many individual deities as separate and distinct entities” and define soft polytheism as a belief that all gods are manifestations of a single Divine source or spirit.

But by choosing to draw this distinction using the language of a dichotomy between hard versus soft, they also evoke another pair of opposites: hard versus easy. There’s the unspoken suggestion (or sometimes directly stated opinion) that someone who is “soft” on polytheism (like a politician who is “soft” on crime) is somehow taking the easy way out, reducing a complex issue to an overly simplified solution.

In my post last month, I suggested that ecological or “natural polytheism” might provide an alternative to a theology of hard polytheism that struggles with complex questions of human and deity identity. Where hard polytheism draws hard and fast lines separating the gods from humans, from natural forces, and from each other, natural polytheism embraces a theology of interweaving and interpenetrating boundaries of identity. From a hard polytheistic perspective, this might sound a lot like “soft” polytheism: individual deities as expressions of the complex relationships and patterns of force and consciousness in the cosmic soup of existence.

But natural polytheism doesn’t have to be “soft” at all. In fact, you can be a hard polytheist and a natural polytheist — it’s just a matter of deepening your relationship with your gods and learning to ask the tough questions.

Start Asking the Tough Questions

In the introduction to his book, The Natural History of Puget Sound Country, Arthur Kruckeberg explores how a text on natural history differs from a guide book or reference book about plant and animal species in the region. His musings lay bare the revolutionary importance of ecology as a science of systems:

In probing the natural world, what kinds of questions do we ask? Easiest are the “what” and “how” questions. What is it? and How does it work? usually can be given direct answers. The unknown tree or insect gets a name and a place in its family tree to satisfy the What is it? question. Though more demanding of observation and thought, the How does it work? question also has ready answers. The literature of how things function in the world of life is the product of patient experiment and observation by plant and animal biologists. It is only when curiosity persists to the How come? stage that science reveals its tentative and ever-probing qualities. The answers to What for? questions asked of the color of a flower, the hair on an insect’s body, or the slime of a slippery slug, are within the domains of ecology and the study of adaptations.

For centuries, the hard sciences of physics, chemistry and biology have been absolutely essential tools in our exploration of the physical universe as we look for answers to questions like What is it? and How does it work? It’s only in the last few decades that ecology — the scientific study of the relationships living organisms have with each other and with their natural environment — has begun to bring these separate fields of investigation together into a more holistic understanding of the natural world. If we want to understand “how come” the propagation of palm trees affects the mineral and nutrient levels in the surrounding coastal waters of a tropical island, and why this in turn influences the fluctuating population of manta rays…. we need to understand not just biology, botany, chemistry and geology, but how all of these sciences work together as a single system.

Ecology does not reject the hard sciences that came before it, but brings together and expands upon them.

In this same way, natural polytheism draws on an ecological approach to theology to build upon the insights of hard polytheism, challenging us to deepen our relationships with the gods by asking more challenging questions about their relationships with us, with each other and with the natural world. Natural polytheism does not reject hard polytheism any more than natural history excludes hard sciences like biology, geology or chemistry by embracing ecology. But it does draw connections and invite us to think about the world holistically, as systems nested within systems, wholes nested within wholes. An ecological perspective can deepen our scientific understanding of the world by moving us beyond the questions “What is it?” and “How does it work?” to the more challenging questions, “How come?” and “What for?”

In the same way, natural polytheism isn’t content merely to name the gods and identify their associations, symbols and spheres of influence. It challenges us to ask: How did the gods come to be the way they are? How do the gods relate to each other, within cultures and across cultural boundaries? What is the cultural, physical or spiritual reason why this particular deity manifests in this way but not that way, embodies these associations or symbols but not those?

Why the Tough Questions Matter

During a conversation with a Pagan friend of mine recently, she mentioned in passing that Apollo wasn’t the Greek god of the sun as many people believe — the Greek sun god was actually Helios. For many reconstructionist or hard polytheists, this distinction is an important one and getting a fact like this wrong is a big faux-pas.

But from the perspective of natural polytheism, this kind of distinction is only part of the truth. It brings up many more fascinating questions that can deepen our understanding of deity far beyond just “Who is it?” and “How do they work?” For instance: What is the relationship between Apollo and Helios? Why is one a personification of a physical celestial body, while the other has associations not just with solar energy and light, but also with music and culture? How has the relationship between Apollo and Helios evolved and changed over time, and what might this tell us about changes in Greek culture (and aspects of our own culture today)? What might it tell us about our attitudes towards the sun as a physical object as well as a culture symbol? What does it tell us about our personal relationship with the sun, and with gods of the sun? And what are those relationships for?

From the natural polytheistic perspective, the question of whether or not Apollo is a “god of the sun” is not nearly as interesting as the question of how he is connected to the sun. After all, there is no plant, animal or ecosystem on earth that does not have some relationship with the sun as the planet’s primary source of energy — the real investigation begins when we start to wonder how an entity’s relationship with the sun expresses itself in ways that are unique to the local landscape, and how this relationship affects the ways that everything else in that landscape lives and works together as a whole. Accepting that beings in an ecosystem, and the ecosystem itself, have a relationship with the sun, or with global patterns of ocean currents or air circulation, does not make them any less unique or complex — quite the opposite! The same is true for natural polytheism.

Woods in FogNatural polytheism is polytheism beyond the pale: polytheism beyond the restrictions staked out by our grasp of human history alone, embracing instead the whole of natural history and the modern sciences that give us insights into our world in new and startling ways. Hard polytheism demarcates boundaries that separate the gods from each other and from the natural forces and patterns (human and more-than-human) that enrich our world. Natural polytheism does not reject or ignore these boundaries. Instead, it places polytheistic theology in a new, more challenging context and provokes our curiosity to discover more powerful ways of living out our relationships with the sacred. It forces us to ask not just “Who is this god that I have experienced in ritual?” and “How do I worship him?” but also: “Why did I experience this god in this way?” and “How does my practice itself shape my beliefs and my experiences of the gods?”

Natural polytheism embraces the science of ecology as a basic metaphor for theological inquiry. In other words, natural polytheism seeks to understand our relationship with the gods as an aspect of interrelated systems of being, consciousness and meaning. Its focus is, first and foremost, on the wildernesses that defy our carefully mapped boundary lines, that penetrate even the most civilized cultural centers and underlie our most cherished notions of what it means to be human.

Tags: , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , ,

What’s She Building in There?

December 4, 2011 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

(With apologies to Tom Waits.)

So, let me tell you a story. It’s Lammas, and I’m sitting in an area of the Mississippi River bluff known to locals as the “Giggly Hills”, listening to a very talented Witch spin a tale about Lugh. I mean to say, this woman can really tell a story. Yet I keep getting distracted by the carpet of clover, the industrious bees, the way the breeze rustles the leaves of the enormous burr oaks…and I think, Surely these are among the deities of this place. I want to tell their stories.

The Giggly Hills, Mississippi River bluffs

The Giggly Hills. Photo by Leora Effinger-Weintraub

That planted the seed of the idea that is growing “Restorying the Sacred”. The crafting of some new science- and nature-based myths to, if I may be so bold, stand alongside the ancient tales, to add the “here and now” to the “long ago and far away”, interspersed with musings on the what, why, and what next of such story creation. After all, as John noted in the comments of “S and R Dance On”, “Our ancestors put their understanding of the natural world into stories – we should do the same.” And at this time in the human adventure, science is one of the ways in which we understand the natural world.

It’s an ambitious project, possibly fraught with peril, and one danger is of confusing the “real” with the “unreal”. After all, bees and orchids never really made any sort of co-evolutionary “deal”, and the Outcast Star isn’t flying out of the Milky Way because it paid too much attention to its binary partner. Of course, one thing I’ve learned as a Pagan is that reality has many levels; we just need to stay on the appropriate level for a given situation.

So let us make a pledge, you and I who are embarking on this journey together. Let us say:

“I, [name of choice], being sound of body, mind, and spirit, do pledge by myself and by [Divine name of choice] that I will take the stories of “Restorying the Sacred”, and any stories of my own that may be inspired by it, as metaphorical truth, rather than literal. I promise that I will not anthropomorphize the nonhuman beings around me but will acknowledge that they have their own existence that, although connected to me through the Web of All Being, has nothing to do with me. So mote it be.”

There we have it. The groundwork laid for a new adventure. Let sacred story time begin in earnest.

Tags: ,

S and R Dance On

November 18, 2011 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

R and S were in love. No two beings in the history of the Cosmos had ever been as in love as they were; they were certain of it. They were so in love that they spent all of their time dancing with each other and shining brightly for each other. Since they were stars, they quite excelled at shining.

As they danced past wise Mother Earth, she called, “Spend time with other loved ones, R and S! No two beings can – or should – be everything to each other. You will lose sight of the Cosmos around you.”

As they danced past sweet Sister Comet, she called, “Explore other passions, R and S! No two beings can – or should – be everything to each other. You will lose sight of the Cosmos around you.”

But R and S cared nothing for other loved ones or other passions. They ignored invitations from planets they passed, and they didn’t even look at other stars, asteroids, and nebulae around them. They cared only for dancing, spinning around and around each other, and for shining at each other, so brightly that most other folks couldn’t even look at them.

Image of binary star system

Photo by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

One day, R said, “I feel a curious pull in this direction.”

“That’s nothing to do with us,” said S. “Dance on!” So they did.

Some days later, as these things go, S said, “I feel a strange push in that direction.”

“It’s nothing to do with us,” R said. “Dance on!” So they did.

Some days after that, as these things go, S said, “R, my love, you seem to be pulling away from me.”

R replied, “S, my only, you seem to be rushing away from me!”

For the first time, they looked around outside themselves and saw that they had come too close to the great black hole at the heart of the galaxy. “We will be sucked in!” R cried.

But the truth was much worse than that. For while R was, indeed, being pulled into the black hole, S had been just far enough away in their dance to be flung outward at unfathomable speeds, as though from a giant slingshot.

“My love,” S cried, speeding away, “how I will miss you! Dance on!”

“My only,” R called, sinking fast, “how I will long for you! Dance on!”

Other beings made a fuss over S – the first star ever to leave the Milky Way. “Such sights you will see,” they said. And amazing sights there were – but S cared nothing for them without R.

Other beings made a fuss over R, as well. “There’s not many as get to know what the inside of a black hole is like. Such an adventurer you’ll be,” they said. And such an adventurer R was – but none of it mattered without S.

Yet what could they do but dance on?

***

The 2005 press release from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on “Outcast Star” SDSS J090745.0+24507 and its companion. 

Tags: , , ,

Bee and Orchid • Eli Effinger-Weintraub

October 26, 2011 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred, Science & Spirit.

Bee and Orchid by Leora Effinger-Weintraub
Photograph by Leora Effinger-Weintraub

Orchid had to get a package across town, but she was quite stuck here, rooted by her obligations to the challenging work of photosynthesis and transpiration.

Bee buzzed nearby, and Orchid wagged a petal at her. “Sister Bee,” she said, “can you carry this package across town for me?”

Bee settled on a sepal. “I am headed that way; I suppose I could.” She took the package from Orchid’s stamens and flew away. And everyone was happy…for a time.

A few times Bee and her sisters carried messages back and forth for Orchid, but then she put her foot down. “All around, hither and yon, we carry your messages,” she complained. “What do we get for it, besides a hassle?”

“What do you require?” Orchid asked.

“Food,” Bee said. “Something sweet.”

Orchid went to her kitchen and concocted something delicious that Bee and her sisters couldn’t resist. She gave the recipe to her brother and sister orchids, so they could keep the bees contented at every stop on their journey. And everyone was happy…for a time.

But trouble began to brew. Orchid’s concoction was so delicious that other creatures wanted to taste it. But no other creature delivered messages and packages as faithfully as Bee. Bee and Orchid both disliked this change. “You let so many others carry your messages there is very little food left for us,” said Bee.

“I will think of something,” Orchid promised.

Orchid thought of something, but it didn’t work. She thought of something else, and that failed, as well. At last, Orchid arrived at a very good solution, but she needed a promise, too. For it had come to pass that someone had leaked the recipe for her delicious concoction, and now there were many flowers Bee could choose to carry packages for. “Bee,” Orchid said, “I want you and your sisters to carry only my packages.”

“I’m sorry,” said Bee, “but we can’t promise that, for we are too many for your kind alone to feed.” She thought, and then said, “But we can promise that, while you bloom, we will carry only your messages.”

“I accept,” Orchid said. Then she opened her petals and showed Bee the new solution. She had hidden both the food and the package where only Bee could reach them. Larger pollinators could not fit through the passage, and smaller ones would find the door shut in their faces. “There’s nothing wrong with them,” Orchid explained, “but they’re not the messengers for me.”

Bee and Orchid both approved of the new arrangement and benefitted from it greatly. To this day, we still see Bee carrying Orchid’s messages and packages all around, hither and yon. And everyone is happy…for the time.


Eli Effinger-Weintraub practices naturalistic Reclaiming-tradition hearthcraft in the Twin Cities watershed. She plants her beliefs and practices in the Earth and her butt on a bicycle saddle. She writes plays, essays, and short fiction (especially of the steampunk variety) and is attempting to wrestle a novel into submission. Previous works have appeared in Witches & Pagans Magazine, Circle Magazine, and Steampunk Tales, as well as at the Clarion Foundation blog, I’m From Driftwood, and Humanistic Paganism. Eli earns her daily bread as a comma wrangler. She shares her life and art with her wife, visual artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and two buffalo disguised as cats. Check out Eli’s corner of the Internet: Back Booth

Tags: , , , , , ,

News & Link Round Up: April 2011

April 25, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

Welcome to our first round up of links for nature & earth centred news, interest stories, blog posts, podcast episodes and much more!

 

A tornado ripped through the Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport in Missouri Friday night. The airport was mostly back to business this Sunday morning. The tornado also damaged many homes but oddly (and thankfully) caused no deaths or major injuries.

 

A new study shows that many children in England know very little about where their food comes from. Including thinking at pumpkins grow on trees and that cucumbers grow in the ground. Some are encouraging gardening to be taught at more schools.

 

The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Co. sells a unique product: Paper made of elephant poop. The owner of the company tells AOL news how his products are safe, sanitary and environmentally friendly.

 

The hole in the ozone layer is getting some news coverage lately. Researches have found that the hole in the ozone at the southern pole is having adverse effects on weather patterns in the southern hemisphere. Australia seems to be the most affected.

 

Plant life growing on planets orbiting red dwarf (dim) stars might grow black and grey foliage to help absorb more light.

 

Matt Walker, editor of BBC Nature Online wrote a wonderful blog post celebrating the humble mushroom.

 

A Coast Guard report has pointed the finger at poor training and lacklustre emergency preparedness contributed to the Gulf oil spill.

 

Professional chefs are creating ways to make their kitchens greener. Going beyond your typical recycling box, they are trying to reduce waster of all kinds, included wasted foodstuff.

 

The good people here at No Unsacred Place as well as at news sources all over the world have been following the debate over Mother Earth’s Rights.

 

Earth Day has come and gone. Wonderful coverage can be found over at the Wild Hunt Blog, Star Foster reminds us to love our Momma, Cam Mather encourages us to celebrate the day at home, and National Geographic posted 20 truly beautiful photographs in honour of the day. Discovery news also honoured Earth Day with photographs and stunning video.

 

On Earth Day New York state officials announced the purchase of Long Island’s pine barrens to be protected. This land will be preserved for naturalists, researchers and hikers. It is also a source of pure drinking water.

 

Science Daily brings us a story about how incense might be good for us. A team of researchers suggest this might mean a whole new class of medicine for depression and anxiety.

 

A disease that attacks wheat, called Wheat Rust, is causing some some serious concern. Wheat Rust has decimated harvest in parts of north Africa, the middles East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

 

The podcast The Pagan Homesteader posted a special episode on dealing with our waste safely and sustainably.

 

The CBC considers the pros and cons of green power projects in Canada and the hurdles they will face in the future.

 

Hundreds of small islands seem to appear … and then disappear. Scientists are now beginning to map this very phenomenon; some 657 new barrier islands have been counted.

 

Wildfires continue to rage in Texas. There is hope that the right weather might assist firefighters combat the flames.

 

Britain’s beaches have been found to be dirtier than last year’s survey. This is largely due to folks flushing small garbage items down the toilet.

 

Did we miss something? If you have found a noteworthy article, news item or blog post please post the link in the comments section of this article.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Inspiration of Science

April 18, 2011 by Categorized: Science & Spirit.

It was a late autumn evening.  The sun had long set and overhead the sky was filled with stars.  I felt a cool breeze against my face as I tilted my face upwards.  I located the constellation Pegasus, and then traced a path outwards from it, through the constellation Andromeda.  Over to that star, and then up to that one, and then – I looked at a faint smudge of light in the sky.  A casual observer would never have noticed it; others may have seen it but not given it a second thought; I knew it as the Andromeda Galaxy, a massive collection of stars similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy, over 2 million light years away, one of the most distant objects that can be seen with the naked eye.

I was not a Pagan when I first located the Andromeda Galaxy on a starry night many years ago, but the feeling of awe, amazement, and wonder that I felt that night remains at the heart of my practice of Paganism.  I was astonished that a faint smudge of light, barely noticeable if you were not looking for it, was an entire galaxy, containing millions of stars and planets and possibly intelligent life as well.  When the light reaching my eyes had left the Andromeda Galaxy, the ancestors of modern humans were just beginning to use stone tools.  Gazing upwards, I felt very small and unimportant indeed, but I also felt something else – I felt connected.

Until fairly recently in history, that smudge of light would have had little meaning to the average observer of the sky.  Even after telescopes were used to observe the night sky, most astronomers believed that it was a nebula, an immense cloud of gas located relatively close by in the Milky Way.  Not until the 1920′s was the distance of the Andromeda ”nebula” determined, and it was recognized to be another galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy is an example of how the discoveries of modern science can inspire and inform our spiritualities and religions.  When I gaze at the stars, I feel a sense of connection to the rest of the universe, knowing all matter originated from the same infinitesimal point in the Big Bang.  When I observe a deer in my backyard or a pine tree growing on a hill, I feel an even deeper connection, knowing that at some point in evolution, we shared a common ancestor.  Now, I may have felt connected to the stars or the deer or the pine tree even without science to back up my intuition and emotion, but the Andromeda Galaxy would have meant very little to me if I did not have the knowledge that hundreds of years of scientific study have discovered.

Science is important to me.  It is my area of expertise, and I am comfortable using the language and methods of science to describe and learn about the world around me.  When I first became interested in Paganism, I was drawn to it not merely for its respect for the Earth and recognition of nature as sacred, but also for its generally positive attitude towards science and scientific discovery.  I have long believed that science and religion do not need to be opposed.  Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world, and should be complementary, not contradictory.

Part of what I hope to do here at No Unsacred Place, and what I hope many of my fellow authors will do as well, is to share with you my love of science, and provide many examples to show how modern science can and should be a part of modern Paganism.  Modern science is a very effective tool for understanding our natural world, and if Paganism really is an Earth-centered spirituality, we would be fools not to use it.

Tags: , , , ,

Unleashed: Critter News Round-up

April 17, 2011 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Nature in the News.

After hearing repeated complaints from breeders, law makers in Missouri are planning on repealing a voter approved Puppy Mill Law. The main reasons they site for this repeal are the cost of implementation of the bill and that it could be used to punish good breeders. It is estimated that dog breeding earns $1 billion a year in Missouri. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States says:

“The effort in Jefferson City is a piece-by-piece dismantling of every core provision. It suggests to me that this is an industry that wants deregulation. They want to do things that they want and to heck with the people who care about dogs or consumers as long as there are enough dogs purchased.”

One of the stipulations of the law that outrages breeders most is one that disallows them from having more than 50 dogs in their kennels at any given time. Another requires that they give small dogs as much as 12 feet of space to live in and large dogs 60 feet of living space, previously dogs could be kept in cages no larger than 6 inches wider and longer than the dog itself.

Republican state Representative Mike Lair of Chillicothe is quoted saying that

“Dogs are property. Dogs don’t have rights.”

 

 

Humpback Whales love a good song, and will pass a catchy tune amongst themselves a new study reports. Researchers in Australia have been listening to Humpback whale song for some time now and have found that whale song will be passed along from one individual to another. This discovery will hopefully lead to a better understanding of whale communication and culture.

 

 

For the first time ever the USA Congress will be removing a species off the endangered species list. A budget bill singed by the President will strip protection from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana had to be cancelled last year as a judge ruled the animals were still in need of protection, but hunters will be free to hunt wolves come this autumn. Wolves in Wyoming may be taken off the list sometime in the future.

Animal rights groups are watching this turning of events with trepidation, concerned it may be setting a bad precedent.

 

 

The population of Antarctic Penguins has dropped as much as 50% over the last 30 years. A recent study finds that a shortage of krill maybe be the main cause of the population plummet. The warming of the air and waters in the Antarctic and the rebounding population of whales, who also eat krill, are the leading cause of the krill shortage. With less food available less and less penguin chicks have been surviving each year.

 

 

National Geographic recently posted images of a dig in Egypt. Archaeologists are evacuating what is known as the Dog Catacombs, a warren of tunnels and chambers dedicated to the god Anubis and filled with the bodies of dogs and puppies.

 

 

After a boon year with Vancouver/Whistler hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, the tourism industry took a nose dive. The Whistler branch of Outdoor Adventures, which includes a sled dog touring facility, ordered the kennel manager to cull roughly 100 dogs. After making a few weak and vain attempts to have that many mush dogs re-homed he set about killing them himself, without the required assistance and supervision of a veterinarian. The culling quickly became a slaughter with animals running off into the woods after being shot and having to be tracked down. At least one animal has its throat slashed with a knife. All this was one within sight of the rest of the pack of dogs before the culled animals were placed in a grave in the woods.

The slaughter of these dogs came to light when the manager Bob Fawcett applied for workers compensation sighting he suffered from post traumatic stress from the incident. A task force was assembled by the Premier of British Columbia to investigate the incident. The investigation into the slaughter continues and now that the ground has thawed the grave will be exhumed so investigators can find more info on exactly what went on as well as give the dog a proper burial.

Memorial vigils, walks and mushes have occurred all over Canada and the United States since the news story broke and new regulations are being proposed to avoid such a tragedy from ever happening again. A Facebook group called Boycotting Outdoors Adventures has bee created which updates regularly on the investigation and memorials.

I will update when more information comes to light through the investigation.

 

 

Another reason to not flick your cigarette out the window while driving: A fire that broke out in a horse trailer killed six racehorses on Friday. The horses were travelling on the Interstate-95 were en route to begin training at the Long Island horse track. Officials blame a flicked burning cigarette butt for the fire. Once they spotted the flames the two drivers tried to smother the fire but to no avail, one of them received minor injuries.

 

 

A pod of Killer Whales have researchers scratching their heads this weekend, after spotting the orcas eating fish rather than their preferred diet of seafaring mammals. The pod was spotted of the coast of San Pedro, California and researchers are asking fisherman and boaters to photograph the pod, for identification purposes, if possible.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Welcome to No Unsacred Place!

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

The Pagan Newswire Collective continues to grow and expand as new local bureaus take root all across the country and group blog projects bring together the experience and expertise of Pagans from a wide variety of traditions and communities to share their insights into subjects from politics to pop culture, and everything in between. The most recent addition to the PNC is No Unsacred Place: Earth and Nature in Pagan Traditions.

No Unsacred Place explores the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives. With climate change ever-present in today’s cultural and political discourse, and the realities of ecological destruction increasingly impacting our local communities and daily lives, questions about how we live as members of this jeweled, blue-green planet are no longer merely abstract philosophical musings or theological exercises. While cultures throughout history offer us examples of human beings in relationships of worship, stewardship, domination and exploitation of the Earth, modern Paganism is unique in drawing together the wisdom and ecocentric focus of ancient religions with the insights into the physical world afforded by modern science and technology.

No Unsacred Place draws inspiration for its title from the contemporary American poet and environmentalist, Wendell Berry, who wrote: “There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Berry confronts the assumption that “the sacred” can be cordoned off and separated from the mundane, and challenges us to examine our relationship to those places we consider to be “unsacred” — whether they are untamed forests and barren deserts, or human-made landscapes of metal and concrete — to discover how our attitudes and actions lead to desecration and destruction. Pagans today face the challenge of reconciling the lessons and influence of “dark green religion” environmentalist and conservation movements in contemporary society, with an ambivalence towards the wildness and wilderness of the Earth that is as old as Western civilization itself.

This blog features coverage and analysis of environmentalism and ecology in the news from a Pagan perspective, as well as essays and personal reflections about the role of science, environmental ethics, eco-friendly lifestyles, and an awareness of the land and its seasons, both in religious community and in the personal spiritual lives of modern Pagans.

Monthly columns include “Fur and Feather,” in which Juniper Jeni draws on her extensive background in homesteading and animal rescue to explore issues of animal rights, and “The Sacred in Suburbia,” in which John Beckett confronts the challenges of living sustainably and cultivating sacred relationship with the earth in a land of manicured lawns and strip malls; in addition, Ruby Sara writes on earth-based liturgy and ritual in her column, “Earthly Rites.”

Other participants of note include Alison Leigh Lilly, a Druid essayist, poet and author of Meadowsweet & Myrrh who writes on issues of deep ecology, environmental justice and earth-centered peacemaking; Pagan geologist and environmental scientist Meical abAwen, who teaches with Blackberry Circle; and Cat Chapin-Bishop, who writes on the practice and purpose of her environmental witness at her blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,