Better Paganism Through Composting and Tree Planting

Is environmentalism part of Paganism? Part of Wicca?

Many Pagans believe strongly that environmental conservation is a necessary part of their devotion to the Goddess. However, if you go to Pagan festivals where there are many traditions represented you’ll find that others do not.

I was going to write this all not-judgy, and neutral, analysing the difference based on whether people believe in the Gods as literal beings or abstract concepts, or whether you are a religious Pagan who integrates your spirituality into your everyday life, a ceremonial magician interested primarily in energy workings and magick or a celebratory or ‘mead and cape’ Pagan. This is true, but in my opinion, not very interesting.

The thing is, I’m very solidly in the religious, the Gods are real camp and so it’s hard for me to understand how someone can sincerely believe the Earth is sacred but not feel the need to make their actions both inside and outside sacred space match those beliefs.

If find that I am much more motivated to do a thing if it’s part of a devotional practice. In service to Mother Earth / Gaia, I compost everything I can, participate in my city’s recycling program, have a solar panel on the roof of my house that heats water for bathing, and abstain from using household or yard chemicals that are harmful to the water and soil like bleach and pesticides. I believe my religion requires this. I have chosen not to birth any children, which saves our overpopulated Earth from lifetimes and generations of human consumption.

But I’m also a bit of a hypocrite. I eat meat, which is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions (particularly beef, because cow burps contain a lot of methane). I also drive a gasoline powered car, albeit a gas-sipping smart car.

All of us make choices according to our values and our willingness to sacrifice for our Gods.

I think its far better to start and be imperfect, than to do nothing at all. In that light here are some environmental devotions for Pagans to start with:

Plant trees – Plant trees in your yard or other land you have access to if you can. It could be a live Yule tree you ritually plant each spring. Growing plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, preventing it from contributing to global warming. The trick is, though, that when those plants rot or burn, they release the carbon dioxide again. In order to keep the carbon dioxide out of circulation as long as possible, plants that will live a long time and therefore have a body that will not rot for a long time are best, making trees a good choice.  For every bonfire or campfire you have, make sure you take responsibility for that CO2 you released by  planting a fast growing tree to remove it again.

Compost – How the plant and animal matter you discard rots makes a difference to what kinds of gasses are released and therefore to how harmful that rotting is. Composting releases CO2 (carbon dioxide), which contributes to global warming, but that same plant or animal rotting in a landfill, where it is usually buried underground without oxygen, rots in a different way that releases methane. Methane does a lot more harm from a global warming persective. Think composting is a lot of work? Check out my composting for lazy people post.

Planting and Composting are Very Pagan

There are lots of things you can do to honour Mother Earth, but I find planting and composting to be a good fit for Pagan devotional practice. Tree planting works well for new beginnings magic, atonement, recognizing births or prosperity magic. Composting connects us to the life-death-life cycle, and the recognition that what we let go, can come around to nourish us. It can also make concrete the process of letting go of what  no longer serves us and ties us back into the full circle of nature.

Creating a Beltaine Ritual for Lovers

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Beltane_Bonfire_on_Calton_Hill.JPGBeltane is a Pagan/Wiccan festival of sexuality and fertility, usually celebrated on the evening of April 30th or May 1st.  When celebrated in a group, the sexuality is usually symbolic, represented by dancing around the May pole – which yes, is representing just what you might think that is meant to represent, and the ribbons encasing it, also, exactly what you’d think. Similarly a chalice and blade may form the central imagery in other rituals. While the traditional imagery is heterosexual, this imagery can be adapted to any configuration of humans you enjoy, again, *all* acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.  When celebrated privately, with just you and your lover, spouse or partner, the symbolism can be more direct, and can be customized to the bodies involved.

Celebrating Beltaine with a Partner

Celebrating Beltane with a partner can be beautiful, sacred, magical and smoking hot all at once. Connecting energetically/psychically and physically with a partner in sacred space and in the presence of the Gods deepens the experience, and can raise energy for a goal of your mutual choosing. If you’re new to Beltaine with a partner, here are some good places to start in planning your ritual.

Setting the Space for Sacred Sexuality

You can site your ritual either out in a growing field or forest, as is traditional, or within your own bedroom. Outside can be tricky to organize, unless you have private access to an outdoor space that feels right for you. Indoors, it’s a good idea to also ensure privacy and to adapt your bedroom or ritual space to fit the sacred space you’ll be creating. Some ideas for location can include:

  • On a blanket-altar on the floor in the living room or other ritual space
  • Inside a tent decked out as a temple in the outdoor location of your choice
  • In your freshly cleaned and tidied bedroom with candles and an altar on a bookcase or dresser and some wordless ritual music playing
  • On a blanket in the sun warmed soil of your garden before it is planted, or after seeds are in the ground (but not sprouted yet).
  • Under a particularly sacred tree.
  • In a cave (you may want to bring a heat source).

In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

If you are getting up to sacred sexuality, I assume you already know how to cast a circle, call the directions, and invoke the Gods. I suggest casting a nice formal circle, and call the attributes of each direction or element that fit the themes of love and or fertility (if you’re trying to make a baby). As a priestess of Aphrodite, I almost always invoke Her when celebrating Beltaine, but your own matron or patron god is also a good choice. If you are celebrating with a partner who is willing to have ritual sex with you, but isn’t Wiccan, it’s a good idea to ask whether they feel comfortable with you invoking your gods, or to invoke the gods as qualities such as Love, Life, the Sacred, or Joy.

Purification

A ritual bath before casting the circle is a lovely thing to do. You can also anoint one another with oils that smell good to you or massage or bathe one another.

Five Fold Kiss

The five fold kiss is when you consciously and ritually kiss your partner on feet, knees, genitals, heart and lips. I’ve also seen it done as a 7 fold kiss on each of the chakra points. This is a good way to bless the other person’s body and can be done as slowly and thoroughly as you both like.  You may wish to say a blessing phrase with each kiss as well, such as “I bless your heart, which loves so bravely”.

Dedicating the Energy

After that make love in whatever way works well for you both, with a focus on being and staying present, staying open to one another’s energy, and touching one another with both love and pleasure. You may discover an extra energy dimension to your love making that may not have been there before. If an orgasm or two, or three happen, you can dedicate that raised energy to a goal you both agree to in advance.  If that’s not going to happen, the sacred care, attention and connection is the sacrament.  You get out of this kind of ritual the care, attention and love you put into it.

Devoke and ground

It’s a good idea to have some food and water available for after and to devoke the circle, even if you are planning to sleep, or perhaps to make love again after a rest.

I wish you and yours a blessed Beltaine. May all bodies and spirits be blessed.

 

Further Reading on Sacred Sexuality

A good accessible source for more information on sacred sexuality and designing sexual ritual is the book Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century  .

Imbolc, Music and Priestessing a Song

On how sacred attention is everything

Crosóg Bríde: Drumnalost (Bridgid's cross)
Crosóg Bríde: Drumnalost, (c) Louise Price

The Pagan choir I lead was working on a new song for Imbolc a few weeks ago, Lisa Thiel’s Imbolc, from the album Circle of the Seasons. It’s a song for Brigid (pronounced Bridjid or Breed) with the following lyrics:

Blessed Bridget comest thou in
Bless this house and all of our kin
Bless this house, and all of our kin
Protect this house and all within

Blessed Bridget come into thy bed
With a gem at thy heart and a crown on thy head
Awaken the fire within our souls
Awaken the fire that makes us whole

Blessed Bridget, queen of the fire
Help us to manifest our desire
May we bring forth all that’s good and fine
May we give birth to our dreams in time

Blessed Bridget comest thou in
Bless this house and all of our kin
From the source of Infinite Light
Kindle the flame of our spirits tonight

There are several different kinds of Pagans in the choir I lead. Some are experienced singers with little experience priestessing, some are experienced priestesses with little experience singing and performing and some are less  experienced in either.

However, all are game for an experiment, and Pagan music being a largely oral music tradition, we do a lot of experiments with different ways of arranging and mixing the songs to make them more layered and interesting. However, this most recent experiment was quite powerful.

I paired up the members including myself set us each to sing the song in pairs, at our own speed, as if it was (and is) and invocation of Bridgid.

Myself and one other singer, who is a professional singer, very experienced as a singer but less as a priestess,  went into a separate room, grounded and began to sing it, trusting Bridgid to guide us. I asked my partner to sing the song as if she was calling directly to Brigid and invoking the song as a spell. And magic happened. We connected to the energy of the song and inprovised a winding, tight, almost Baltic harmony as we sang the song. I could feel the power of Her flow through both of us an we just followed it.

Encouraged by this success, I went back into the choir room, and we all switched singing partners. My second partner was an experienced priestess whose singing is understandably quite a bit less polished than my first partner. For her my direction to sing the song as an invocation had a quite different flavour. A dedicated and devout priestess, the instruction to sing the song as an invocation to the Goddess Bridgid had the effect of pulling her deeper into the song, making the song real and rich and deep, as if it had been in one dimension before but now was in three.  Her tone was better, her volume and tone varied with the meaning of the song, and it had the meaning she brought to it by her devotion. It was transformed by the presence she brought to it.

I think the lesson in this, from Bridgid, Goddess of Bards after all, is that sacred presence makes everything better, and that when songs (and life) mean something and you really attend to that meaning and connection with the sacred, it transforms what you do.

After we finished singing, we thanked and devoked Bridgid, because She was definitely present.

Imbolc Blessings Everyone.

 

Mabon – practical letting go of magical, symbolic and ritual objects

  • Date: Sept 20 1017
  • Moon phase: two days past new, waxing
  • Season: day before Mabon

When I attend a Pagan festival, a public or coven ritual and other events I often walk away with some sort of beautiful and hand made token. It’s something that either I or the organizers have imbued with a positive, hopeful or seasonal energy. Some of these items I keep as a reminder of the experiences I had, and and some I completely forget the context or purpose.  These items are sometimes on my altar for a short while, or they end up in a cabinet I store special treasures in.

But when is it time to let these magic pieces go? And how best to do it?

I came across the graphic at right about Mabon, also called fall Equinox, or harvest, which nicely summarized what the core magical work of the festival is.  Celebrating and enjoying what you have grown, surrendering those things whose time has past, as the trees do their leaves, and expressing gratitude.

And then, as we do, without really intending to, I found myself sorting through my little magical items, reaffirming the continuing need for some and finding a home for it, such as the iridescent marble I received the day I dedicated to Aphrodite, and releasing others.

At the end of my sorting, I had several tokens from various festivals and rituals along with some sacred art I’d made, and some broken shells that had been part of the water section of my altar for several years. Putting them in a cloth bag, today I decided to head down to a beachfront park to release them.

Before I left I checked the moon phase. Two days past new is not a great time for releasing anything. It’s the time of new growth and increase. So instead of focusing on the releasing aspect of what I was doing, I thought about all the good will, good intentions and good magic still contained within these items, and focused on releasing it into the world to act with gratitude.

As I was leaving my house, as often happens, I had an instinct to bring something else – a symbolic art piece I’d done to love and accept all the pieces of my life I felt I’d failed in some way or which represented a failure. I’d created a beautiful ‘nest’ for these puzzle pieces, to surround them with love. And now, apparently, it was time to let them fly free.

When I reached the park I walked along deosil along a path that encircled the space and which led me toward the water. When I reached the shoreline, I had an impulse to walk down the rocks and look at the water. It was there I left my nest.  I looked at all the pieces, and realized that the love and compassion I’d put into them as I’d placed them originally in this nest really had taken effect.  I realized that there were ways that these roles of partner, activist, musician, and family member are being reinvented since then and, outside my conscious fretting about them, are transforming.  So I left my biodegradable nest on the shore line and went on.

The rest of the items became a kind of decorative shrine at the base and branches of a tree I chose near the shore. The tokens on strings I hung in the branches  to twirl in the fall wind and the rest I placed around the base. I’d held some of these items for over twenty years, like the little canoe and bowl commemorating a Samhain ritual vision I’d had. I found myself feeling grateful for the memories and energies each item represented, as I laid it down at the base of the tree in blessing.

Then I continued walking around the park till I’d made one full circle, and then walked it briskly one more time to empower my intention, that the items I’d laid there with gratitude release their loving, hopeful and good energy into the world to increase in my life and the lives of others. And then I opened the circle.

It seemed like a very good way to celebrate Mabon.

Blessed be.

PS: What ways do you use to release magical or important objects well?