All of the cosmological, elemental Spirits must be in their full energies and in balance for the greatest amount of abundance and harmonious empowerment to be manifested. The universal balance and health of All That Is is dependent upon the unfettered interdependence of these elemental energies. If any one is held back, blocked or otherwise constrained, then those forces in nature must be brought back into balance. If these energies are out of balance in human community or within an individual, it may be necessary to do ritual to bring the energies back into harmony - but something must be done or ill health, disease and dangerous imbalances for all will become deeply ingrained in the people.
The Dagara cosmological worldview from west Africa is extremely helpful in understanding the call to uproot and destroy racism, sexism and the classism that capitalism and colonialism engender. When we look at the fundamental interrelationship of all the energies, it provides us with a powerfully functional metaphor for the interrelationship and call to unity of all people. The dynamics of unity in diversity come into focus here. Out of the presence of many different energies, forces and philosophies in any society or in the world, we understand that there must be a functional energetic balance that allows all of the people/energies to be in their fullest fruition, emotional balance and spiritual expression.
The pathologies of racism, sexism and classism, along with the negativities of white privilege, heterosexism and religious imperialism are all dangerous blockages to the full fruition of individual and communal human energies, let alone a serious disrespect and affront to the flow of nature's energetics. When we stand in the way of a person or people connecting to their Ancestors and abilites of vision, their full dream life and warrior traditions, we create serious imbalance and blockage of the Spirit of Vun, the element of fire. When we stand in the way of a person or people connecting to their purpose, their birthright, their ability to know their history and reason for living, we create serious imbalance and blockaage of the Spirit of Kusir, the element of Mineral ("stones and bones"). When we stand in the way of a person or people connecting to their own abilities to heal, to be in reconciliation, to peace and unity with themselves and their people, we create serious imbalance and blockage of the Spirit of Kuon, the element of Water. When we stand in the way of a person or people connecting to their true nature, their ability to fully manifest abundance and material reality in their lives and truly transform themselves for the advancement of culture, we create serious imbalance and blockage of the Spirit of Wie, the element of nature. When we stand in the way of a person or people connecting to each other, to being seen, being protected, to knowing their identity, their cultural identity, to being truly nurtured and held in compassion, to the very fundamental gift of being touched in love and respect, we create serious imbalance and blockage of the Spirit of Tenbalu and Tingan, the element of earth.
The destructive, dismissive, divisive and unjust social and spiritual pathologies of racism, sexism and classism and all the structures and behaviors and social systems that sustain them or are sustained by them must be summarily dealt with and wiped out if we are to be looked upon as respectable adults and then Ancestors by our children and their children's children. Future generations will look upon as unworthy of reverence if we do not seriously apply our spiritual technologies to the most vexing problems of modern society. They will inherit our social diseases and will have no faith in our Ancestral traditions. And just maybe they will see beyond our tragic mistakes if we don't set ourselves firmly upon the road to social liberation and the creation of universal systems of justice. Maybe the Ancestors (and we will someday be in that spiritual realm) will come burning through the polluted mist of modernity's oppression to speak truth and clarity directly to them if we have not successfully paved the way and their way on this challenged earth.
But we must fight these systems and structures of oppression like there is no tomorrow, unwilling to settle back into our morass of ignorant bliss and comfort. We cannot risk being an accomplice to the energetic imbalance that puts so many of us, women, people of color, gatekeepers in the LGBT community, indigenous peoples, oppressed peoples, in jeopardy, in ill health and spiritual, psychological and physical danger. If we love our goddesses, gods, spirits and the earth, if we love nature and our mandate to live in harmony with All That Is, with EVERYone that is, if we love our Ancestors and the traditions they have left for us to advance into a bright and beautiful and empowered future, we must seek out and destroy every small, every persistent, every gross presence of social, spiritual and energetic oppression so that true love, compassion, respect and joy can course powerfully and sustainably through the fibers of the Tree of Life, through the bloodstream of humanity, through every dimension of our sacred and universal presence in this multi-dimensional world.
May the coyote run free. May the warriors be reintegrated into the body of our communities, with stories of success upon their lips, able to lay down their weapons with confidence because we all did what we were truly sent here to do and have reinstated the unity of humanity in the spiritual complex of All That Is.
All of the genetic diversity found within humanity across the globe stems largely from our environment. We are designed as human beings to adapt physically to the land on which we live. We are in ongoing relationship with the earth. This gives us the breathtaking physical diversity found in our world, from Africa, to China, to Scandinavia, to the Americas and beyond. It is a mark of our engagement with the land. It is a magnificent example of partnership in action and has, over the past fifty thousand years, made our world a richer and more beautiful place.
So, if we are patterned to respond to the land, and we have desecrated, abused, and genetically modified our land, what kinds of adaptations will that breed in us? If we are slowly killing the land on which we live, (and we are) and weakening it, what does that mean for us, who, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, depend upon the land and its fruits for our survival?
Since industrialization, and especially within the last generation, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in cancer, learning disabilities, autism, allergies (severe allergies, enough to imperil children’s lives) and many other diseases and issues. 25% of society suffers from some form of mental illness (a percentage simply not seen within indigenous cultures). We have seen humanity grow weaker and weaker as they engage less and less. We have seen humanity embody and adapt to a diseased environment, one of its own making. This is what we are bequeathing to our children. We feed them poison as surely as if we were putting it in their mouths with our own hands. What we do to the land we do to ourselves.
Fundamentalist Christianity does not care about the land. They believe that their scriptures teach that Jesus will not return until no trees are left standing. They have enshrined destruction of the natural world into their dominant creed and have set about seeing that destruction brought to fruition with a vengeance. This is the birthright that is being left to our children and our children’s children. It goes beyond having abandoned our ancestors’ relationship with and obligation to the land, and into active destruction.
We must open ourselves to the agony of our world. We must learn again to hear the pain of the land as it is slowly being poisoned. We must learn to hear its cries and to re-develop the type of compassion that spurs us to respond. We must stop pissing on this treasure that was left to our care. ..not just for the earth itself but for ourselves, our children, and their children’s children too. Because in the end, that’s who we’re harming the most.
What we do to the land we do to ourselves.
(The following is a contribution by author and ancestor worker Laura Patsouris)
For thousands of years the indigenous inhabitants of this land lived on their Earth with a sense of Her sacredness, a respect for Her resources and the knowledge that they were responsible for maintaining balance within their environment. The game changed dramatically in 1492 with the arrival of Columbus and his agenda of conquest which extended beyond the savagery perpetrated upon Native inhabitants to a philosophy of subjugating the Earth Herself. While Nations would fight heroically to defend their land, the Earth and their way of being in harmony with Her, over the next several hundred years the continents of North and South America would be claimed by societies with a very different way of looking at the land and at humanity: commodities to be exploited.
During this Initiative, this time of prayer and reflection, I challenge the reader to ponder the fact that, although Turtle Island has been terribly desecrated in the industrial age, throughout most of Her history She was cared for and loved and regarded as sacred. I challenge you to think about the philosophy and ethics indigenous to this land. I ask you to engage with the Earth Herself in a way that would honor Her legacy of indigeny. Without Her, how do we live? Without fresh air, clean water and food, how can humanity sustain itself? She is more than a resource to be exploited and has more value as the Being She is than any mere commodity. The money-mind that views every Being relative to a monetary value has brought our Earth to the brink of environmental disaster and has produced one of the most inhumane societies the world has ever known. We need to reengage with what it means to be authentically human, with human values that go beyond temporary profit. Now is the time to heal ourselves, to heal Turtle Island, to heal each other.
If Turtle Island was not the original home of your forbears, if you are living from Her bounty now, you owe her and Her indigenous peoples a debt. A good start is to treat Her with love and respect and honor the traditions that predated the conquest and lend your voice to the cause of defending indigenous rights. Everyone who lives here could learn a lot by looking at how Native peoples relate to and care for the land. Learn how to be a steward of the Earth and walk respectfully and in balance. Learn to take only what you need in order to create a sustainable future. Counter the parasitic and sick mindset of the conqueror by rejecting inhumanity and false values that diminish the sacredness of Turtle Island and view the inhabitants of these shores merely as consumers or workers to be exploited or mined for profit. Reject the missionary mindset that seeks to strip all holiness from the land and seeks to subjugate the spirit of Turtle Island Herself. Pray that She may be strengthened and healed and that we as Her children may flourish. Pray that we may have the good sense to see that true wealth lies in being fully human and in honoring the dignity of all of our fellow Beings. The Earth is our Mother, we cannot sell Her, we cannot exploit Her and pollute Her without poisoning ourselves. ---by Laura Patsouris
In Heathenry, the Earth Goddess is known as Jord or Erda (depending of one is coming from a Norse or Anglo-Saxon perspective). We have surviving fragments of rituals wherein She was offered milk and bread as a blessing on the land in springtime, to ready the soil for planting. She is ancient, mighty, and very wise and even Odin at one point, sought Her out.
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.
If anyone else has any suggestions on things that the average person can do, without too much fuss, to help and honor the land, please feel free to post them here. Despite what our own cultural mores want to tell us, this is really not
rocket science and it really is
Hail to our mighty and fecund Earth.
May Your blessings flow;
and may You be nourished,
as You always have nourished us.