Heathenry doesn’t generally classify itself as an ‘earth-centered’ religion and I think perhaps our ancestors might not have done so either. In many ways, given that the majority of them lived off the land, it went without saying. Of course one honored the land and this Goddess. Of course one laid out offerings to the vaettir (spirits) of the land. How else to ensure its bounty? Pierre Bourdieu, a very well known anthropologist wrote once that culture ‘goes without saying because it comes without saying;’ in other words, it’s unremarkable because it is what everyone simply does. It would be more unremarkable to not honor the land in such settings. Needless to say, we’ve lost that sensibility. Not only is it that we no longer live consciously dependent on the soil and climate, but many of us are city dwellers who have the luxury of buying our produce and meat at the local supermarket. We don’t have to think too hard about where it all comes from, though we should.
I remember when I was doing my undergrad work I had to take a class on nutrition. I don’t recall if I read this in one of our books, or saw it in a documentary, but Jamie Oliver, a well-known chef who goes into schools to try to teach about proper nutrition commented once that when he holds up a carrot, or celery, or a potato, many students don’t know what they are. Some don’t realize that hamburgers come from cows. Yet they all recognize the big M of McDonalds. We are terribly disconnected from Erda and Her blessings. This is just one sign of that.
Still, even for us city dwellers, there are ways to reconnect. There are some very simple ways to begin honoring the Earth, and rooting ourselves in that sacred connection.
- Pour out an offering to Her. Go outside and touch the ground. Feel its steadiness, its strength, its support. Put your hands on the grass or rock or soil and say thank you. Then pour out good clean water, perhaps a little alcohol, lay out cornmeal or tobacco, or a bit of the food that you are eating. Give something back, even if only symbolically, for all that we receive in return. Such reciprocity is a good way to begin fostering that mindful awareness.
- Make it a point to learn something of the history, geography, and folklore of the town or city in which you live. Who lived there before you? What are its sacred stories? Its weird stories? What is the current cultural demographic? What things of interest happened? What people of note walked its streets? There are sacred places everywhere we look. We don’t have to pick up and travel to some distant land. The earth right where you stand is holy, and its story can be fascinating. Take the time to explore and maybe to find your own sacred places.
- Then, if you feel so moved, reach out to the city spirit. Every town, every village, every city has a spirit. The name of the spirit is the name of the town, village, etc. It is alive and aware and we are part of it, as its awareness structures our daily living. We live on it and in it and it sustains us. Say thank you. Make an offering. Acknowledge it in some way that feels right to you.
- Buy local and buy organic. I realize that organic produce and meat is much more expensive than its non-organic counterpart. Not everyone may be able to afford to shop 100% organic, particularly in these horrid economic times. That’s ok. If you cannot afford to do this, pick one or two items and buy those things organic. I began by just buying organic strawberries, eggs, and milk. When I could, I’d buy vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Do what you can, even if it is something small. There really is no step too small to make a difference here.
- Start a victory garden. If you live in the city, either consider joining a community garden, or have a pot or two of herbs on your windowsill. Patiently tending a growing plant, one that will eventually nourish you in some way, experiencing the agricultural cycle in miniature can be very, very beneficial in really connecting to the land and its wisdom. It’s one way of healing the drastic disconnection that so many of us live with as our ‘normal.’ If you can have a full garden, a victory garden that supplies the majority of your produce, that is even better. If you are new to gardening and live in an apartment and have no idea what to plant, I suggest basil. It grows even when you don’t want it too and is very useful for cooking. Grow basil, make pesto and experience the pleasure of eating something that you have tended with your own hands. It’s a start at any rate.
- Consider composting. I really resisted this, even after my ancestors began to push for it. I’d only heard of composting that involved worms and I do not like bugs. Later I learned that it’s possible to do it without any bugs at all and finally I broke down and began. It’s cut my garbage in half and I’m much more aware of what I eat now. Most surprising of all for me, it really isn’t that difficult. There are plenty of websites and books on composting, so I won’t go into the details here, save only to say that even if you live in an apartment, it’s possible, with a little work, to do this. If you do live in an apartment and don’t feel you can compost, be stringent with your recycling. Every little bit that we do helps the earth.
- Commit one hour a week or month and go to the park or beach and pick up trash. Do this specifically as an offering to Erda or Jord.
- Look into ways to save energy in your home. This is a good site with which to begin: http://www.savewithces.com/365in2008.html. This benefits you and the earth.
- Plant a tree.
- Consider donating to an organization like The Big Sur Land Trust (http://www.bigsurlandtrust.org) or Scenic Hudson (http://www.scenichudson.org) or the Sierra Club (http://www.sierraclub.org), organizations that protect the environment and our coastlines.
Hail to our mighty and fecund Earth.
May Your blessings flow;
and may You be nourished,
as You always have nourished us.