By Laura Patsouris

Today I want to honor all those heroes whose struggles for freedom, justice and equality have given us the tools to carry our own struggles forward. Their bravery and eloquence lights the way:

"I think that an objective analysis of events that are taking place on this earth today points towards some type of ultimate showdown. You can call it political showdown, or even a showdown between the economic systems that exist on this earth which almost boil down along racial lines. I do believe that there will be a clash between East and West. I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation."

"If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."

"We declare our right on this earth...to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."

-Malcolm X

"I'm just a human being trying to make it
in a world that is very rapidly losing its understanding of being human."

-John Trudell

“Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to.”

-Mumia Abu Jamal

“The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.” 

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”

-Che Guevara

“The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.”

-Wilma Mankiller

We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.

-Wangari Maathai

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be
respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism. 

-Rigoberta Menchu

As our conquerors pray to exert religious dominion over us, let us not forget that, despite 500+ years of oppression and slavery, the indigenous mind continues to think and plan, the indigenous heart continues to heal and to love and the indigenous spirit may be bloodied but it is unbowed. Though they would like to take my freedoms and my choices away, today I choose NOT to yield to their pressure and manipulation. Today I choose to honor the faith and the strength of my ancestors and their sacred ways. Today I will NOT pray to the God of my enslavement.

Today I will honor my dead and I will honor the spirits of the land I walk on. I will honor my sacred stories, sing the songs of my grandmothers and pray to my Gods for the strength and the will to walk on this Earth with integrity, respecting the rights of all the inhabitants of Turtle Island. Today I will pray for the healing of Turtle Island herself…she has been brutalized and exploited and abused.

Today I will tear away the filter of Conquest and stop seeing myself as my oppressors would define me, but rather I will know myself as the walking embodiment of all the power of my ancestral lines. The time for silence is past. We owe it to ourselves, to the ancestors who gave us this life and to the next seven generations to stop this political and spiritual juggernaut of Biblical fascism that threatens all freedom loving people on this hemisphere.

(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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Plant a tree.
  10. 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 quite fundamental.

Hail Erda,

Hail Jord,

Hail to our mighty and fecund Earth.

May Your blessings flow;

and may You be nourished,

as You always have nourished us.