Do we, as pagans ( I use the term loosely here), actually do anything about the state of our environment? I don’t mean shallow gestures like recycling (which have their own value in other ways) but in a deeper, more authentic, fashion?
When was the last time you engaged with your landscape? Not the last time you visited a stone circle (well maybe for a lucky few!) but, the trees nearest to where you live, the watercourse at the back of your street, the highest viewpoint within walking distance of your home? Or, casting our net slightly wider, the last time you went out into Nature (suitably equipped of course) for a few hours?
What did you do there? Did you go with others, or for a solitary experience? Did you pay active attention to the sensations of heat and cold, of smells and sights, textures of ground and tree? How many species of plant/bird/small furry creatures did you see and put an accurate name to?
Drifting off on a drumbeat led vision quest is all very well, I enjoy it as much as the next shaman, but unless you have spent time in a real landscape, your inner landscapes will fail to have a certain ring of solidity to them. Trees and plants in an abstract screen of green leaves way are ok, but putting shapes you have seen recently, smelled touched and tasted, makes it all come alive and the magick flows from that.
Feeling a genuine direct love for one’s world in its physical manifestation, cannot be bettered as a means of worship/spirituality/sound psychological practice. Our actions and behaviours may be modified by intellectual bits of knowledge, but it is upon the foundation of what we Want, that we choose to Do.
Fear likewise motivates us, often to not do, but conjuring further fear into oneself does not strike me as a terribly sensible move for many people; a bit of Omg did you know…? type awareness goes a long way, and rapidly tips over into paralysis and stagnation. Magicians aim for self determination, self engineering, to some level; instead of leaving all this to others outside us, or to processes that lurk beneath the verbal awareness of our narrative, we decide whether to add fear or love to our worlds.
What criteria do we use to choose? Results, or personal functionality? Would the world in fact be better off, objectively, without me using the internet, consuming more than the bare minimum of subsistence food, and generally using things up? Subjectively from my own point of view, that sounds like a terrible idea. Which do I choose? Which do you feel drawn to?
What have you done today; have you fulfilled your species specific function of communicating with your fellow creatures, moved bits of the world around to form interesting patterns? Have you relished the presence of your physical body in the universe, the amazing jolt of life hitting you at a moment of intense immersion in the Now? Or, have you needed to rest and recuperate, in a state of fatigue having engaged with a part of life a little too much recently? Some of this Being Alive can take its toll upon the organism, for sure.
Whatever your particular state on this day, as a person interested in your own perception of the world, your own place in it, your role in constructing what it looks like tomorrow and for ever afterwards, I have another question for you. Can you do more? Can you look deeper into the life choices you make, from which brand of cornflakes you buy, to determining for yourself how to spend your waking hours each day. What shapes those choices; do you have, individually or collectively, any influence upon how those limitations get framed?
Asking questions is a rather under-rated pastime. I ask questions a lot when I go out, I ask whatever is within earshot about all sorts of things. Mostly, I get no answers save from the echoes inside my own skull. Then, on occasion, once I have stopped ranting, and sit with the facts of the real world all around me, I might hear the sound of answers.
So in case you don’t yet go out to your own landscape, may I encourage you to do so this week; that scruffy patch of wasteland has a genius loci just as much as Westminster Abbey, although of course the two spirits of place might have distinct differences of qualities between them. Learn how the moods shift with the seasons, do you know where the sun rises and sets on the horizon at the summer and winter solstices? If you have lived there for a year, you should have an idea of the change in northsouth direction of these times of year.
Whatever happens to our environment next, and forever afterwards, our best chances of noticing the reality and our own possible choices towards engaging and choosing the ways, can only start to reveal themselves from direct gnosis of our locale.
Oh, and perhaps, include the other humans of your area in your wildlife observations too 😉