Earth My Body: An Essential Pagan Ethic
“Earth my Body, Water my Blood, Air my Breath and Fire my Spirit”~Neo-Pagan chant
Around nearly every Pagan campfire, during nearly every coven or grove meeting, at nearly every Pagan camp, this modern Neo-Pagan chant will ring out as we celebrate our link to nature. We recognise ourselves in the seasons, we see the cycle of our lives reflected in the silence of winter, the bursting forth of spring the business of summer and the slowing down and dying of autumn.
We see that we are not separate from the animals, birds, trees and mountains. Our gods walk in the sun-drenched valleys and the high hills, they ride proudly upon the clouds, and they pull behind them the sun and the moon. We are in love with nature, we remember how nature provides our food, our water, our air and endless inspiration from the glorious sunrise to the quietness of stars, the opening of countless flowers to the metamorphosis of the butterfly. We are not shy at the mention of death, we know that from death comes life, a continuous cycle of conception, birth, life, death and conception. Nature is beautiful
But are we as Pagans truly honouring that which we venerate? We are quick to sign petitions, and that’s great! Many of us will join marches and write letters, send tweets and campaign hard for change, and this is excellent! Keep it up! But there is a sad truth, that no matter how hard we campaign for corporations and governments to create change, they will always drag their heels. They will always take as long as possible to create the necessary and urgent changes we need to safeguard the future.
In the past I have been accused of being ‘holier than thou’ with my approach to ethics and Paganism, but as I sit here writing this, Antalya is burning amid an estimated 41 forest fires, Germany and the Netherlands areas along the Black Sea coast in Turkey have experienced the worst floods in almost a century, the United States is in the midst of its FIFTH lethal heatwave this year, central Europe is on alert for temperatures reaching 40C – 45C, another unnaturally deadly Typhoon is forming in the Philippines making it the 7th in a little over one month. Just two years ago the Amazon rainforest saw its worst ever forest fires and yet, each of these tragedies is swiftly forgotten whenever we are presented with the next, new, exciting thing.
I am not perfect, but I try. I cannot change the world, but perhaps I can inspire others to change their own lifestyles in order to live more ethically, to live in a more ecologically responsible way.
Who Holds the Power?
The true power for change lies not with governments and corporations, it lies with the people, with us. We have all the power in the world to force change. As I write this I’m sitting on a chair made somewhere in a factory which tosses waste into a hole in the ground, I’m working on an laptop which may well one day be taken to be “recycled” in the far east by children who even in their tender years suffer tumours and disease from the work. The chemicals from inside my recycled laptop may be emptied into a local water source to flow onward and join the ever increasing amount of toxic chemicals we so easily discard on a daily basis into the sea. Our home is fitted with water and energy saving devices and is powered by renewable energy. Jo and I shop locally and where possible organically, we also make sure to only buy food from Britain, not because of some sense of nationalist pride, but to ensure we are not paying into the pollution that comes from transport and bad farming practices around the world. We use reusable shopping bags, and we clean our home with natural products. Are we doing enough? I know we could be doing more, however there are always limitations.
When I was growing up it was CFC’s (chemicals used in old aerosols, fridges, freezers, polystyrene and other products) which were tearing giant holes in the ozone layer. These holes were allowing deadly radiation through our atmosphere and where the thin layer of ozone once protected us, there was reportedly an increase in skin cancer and an increase in global temperature. Smog, Acid rain, deforestation, oil spills, mass extinctions, road building, each century, each decade, each year brings a new challenge that we must overcome in order to help protect and heal the natural world and the list is growing longer.
It can be overwhelming. Every day when I open my email I have twenty or more new petitions to sign or letters to write and it’s easy to believe that I’m not making any difference at all. So how can we each take steps to fight against the growing tide of problems? There is a growing trend in food retail for minimising plastic packaging, or removing it entirely, this is not a choice made by retailers, this is a response to customers demanding change.
A growing number of people now carry their own containers to a shop and demand the store remove the unnecessary packaging off and dispose of it so that they can carry their food home in their own, reusable container. This places responsibility on the retailer to dispose of the packaging which in the long run would cost them money, so they work with the customers and find new and innovative ways to provide packaging free products. This is a great step forward. See the list of resources below for more information!
We are all consumers, we buy food from shops when we cannot grow our own, the choice is ours whether we buy locally produced, organic and/or Fairtrade products. Some of these can be a little more expensive than the regular products, but the more we buy them, the stronger the supply chain becomes, as demand increases, it affects how companies source their products. We also use water, electricity and gas and often we have a range of suppliers to choose from. More companies than ever are offering partial or total renewable energy, shop around and see if you can improve your carbon footprint by finding a new supplier.
Be careful here, some companies use the word renewable to mean nuclear, always ask what their source is! Wyldwood is hosted with Krystal (https://krystal.co.uk) who run entirely on renewable energy (you can find out more information on their source here: https://krystal.co.uk/newsletter/2017-09-15/), our business cards and flyers are printed on 100% recycled paper and card and when we produce t-shirts and hoodies, we always try to find ethical products, at the very least ensuring that they are not coming from sweatshops where adults and children work in exceedingly poor conditions for long hours and low to zero pay!
In the past I have organised litter picking events to clear up areas of local woodland. All of these are easy things to accomplish, and anyone can make little changes to their business, their home and if they do good research and find a good group to work with, they can create positive change in their community too! Even changing our who we bank with can bring positive change.
Many high street banks invest in fossil fuels, from North Sea oil drilling and Tar sands to the controversial practice of fracking. But there are alternative banks who have divested from fossil fuels, and I have linked two below in the resources section below.
Protecting the Sacred
Above is an image of Stonehenge, the morning after a solstice open event. Would Pagans treat an ancient monument like this? No, as Pagans we venerate our ancestors and the sacred landscape around us. I have attended Stonehenge open festivals and have seen many people climbing on the stones, chipping bits off, throwing their cigarette butts, litter and vomit on the ground without a care, these people are not Pagan. And I’ve seen it at Avebury, Castlerigg, the Rollright Stones and other places too. It’s horrific.
Perhaps when we visit ancient monuments and sacred sites, even when we take a walk in the park or local woodlands, we could help clear away rubbish. Take a small bag with us, even if we remove one piece of litter, we’re potentially saving the life of an animal or bird, we’re showing our respect to that place and to the spirits of that place. I have also seen offerings left at sacred spots which although left with the best of intentions, are often damaging to the environment or wildlife, such as full packets of cigarettes left in the nook of a tree, bunches of flowers with the plastic wrapping still on, chocolate or alcohol. Leaving an offering is natural to us and it’s a good thing to do, but we need to remain aware of the potential impact of the choice of our offerings.
So many of us use crystals, they are helpful to our healing work, they help us to focus our minds and they help create calm and sacred spaces. But where do they come from? It’s a sad fact that most of the beautiful crystals we can buy in new-age and Pagan shops are simply not ethical. They are often mind by children in unsafe conditions, many perish in collapses every year. They are sometimes extracted using noxious chemicals or explosives and these leave permanent and polluted scars on the landscape itself and on the community involved in the mining. Some crystals are even dyed to make their colour brighter and these dyes are extremely harmful to water sources and toxic to people and wildlife. Our ancestors used what was around them, in their local landscape.
There is a tendency to advertise exotic items as more powerful than the things we can readily find in nature where we live, and this is a bad practice. When working our magic, perhaps we can alter our practices to use what is local to us, and what is less harmful. Not only are we helping reduce damage to the natural world, but we are also bonding with the spirits of the land around us, which is an essential practice in any Pagan path!
Ritual is not enough!
“Earth my Body…” When we sing that chant, or any other Pagan song which speaks of our connection to the natural world, it would be best if we remember our impact on the elements as we do. We should remain conscious not only of the healing benefits of nature upon ourselves, but also how the actions we take affect nature and in the great cycle, affect ourselves in the long run too. If the Wiccan idea of the rule of three or the western interpretation of Karma are to be believed, then they are nowhere more prevalent than in how we affect the world around us, and by doing so, affect ourselves. I have been to many Pagan earth healing ceremonies and rituals, and these are great! They help us to remain conscious of the fact that the earth is in dire need of help and healing. Ironically, I’ve also been the last person to leave some of these ceremonies as I spend time picking up the litter left by the People performing them!
Ritual helps us from within, we draw on the physical actions to trigger our minds and emotions, however, rituals do not make plastic disappear from the ocean, they do not deplete the rising amount of mercury in the seas, they do not repair the damage done by mining coal, gold, diamonds, mica or other substances. Only physical action can do the hard work of healing, and while we cannot as individuals create enough change to heal the world today, we can as a community begin to heal the world for tomorrow.
Packaging Free Shopping:
The Zero Waste Shop (http://thezerowasteshop.co.uk)
Package Free Shop (https://packagefreeshop.com)
Renewable Energy Web Hosting:
Renewable Energy Suppliers:
Cooperative Bank (www.co-operativebank.co.uk) (Also the only bank in the UK to deny funding to weapons manufacturers!)
The Campaign for Ecological Responsibility (https://druidry.org/get-involved/the-campaign-for-ecological-responsibility)