My sweetie and I sometimes talk religion together. In part because we’re both interested in this stuff, in part because our various philosophies have a lot of overlap, and in part because she’s got a few things she’s struggling to reconcile in her life and spirituality and a sounding board is a Very Good Thing for her to have at this time.
In that vein, we were talking the other night about the core elements of our cosmologies, and I said this:
If I were to boil down my faith to a couple of specific words, I think they would be:
Gratitude is probably the biggest one.
Part of that, of course, is that I’m an omnivore. As such, when I eat animals, I do it with an awareness that this person had a life, and so work to against dishonouring their death by not wasting their body. It also means that I try, in various ways, to mitigate the suffering any given animal goes through on the way to being my dinner (I’ll talk more about that later).
Part of that is because I’m a gardener and a forager (and a canner), so I’m very aware that my fruit and vegetables come from plants, not grocery store shelves. Knowing that, when the butternut and hubbard vines give me a LOT of squashes, we will have good-keeping vegetables through the winter, means that I’m thankful when the squash plants fruit a lot (and even when they fruit only a little, because every little bit helps). Being a broke-ass omnivore also means that, yes, I am grateful for the grape vines that go ignored on local properties; for the fruit-laden cherry branches that overhang neighbourhood parking lots; for the service berries, crab apples, hawthorn trees, and rose bushes planted by the city in parks and along road-sides; and for the apple trees that grow wild in the scrub land near my apartment building.
Part of that is because I know my gods and my ancestors and the various other spirits who hang around my place are, more often than not, looking out for me and bringing me help, learning experiences (“learning experiences” ), and Good Things as I need them and/or as they decide I need them (see above re: learning experiences, ). When I do boiled water offerings, I’m offering my time and energy and recognition (see below) in gratitude as much as I’m offering the water. Y’know?
Connectedness pertains less to the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain concept of “one soul” or “that, you are” and more to a connectedness with all the people of a given place; connection with the land that feeds me and by-which I survive and thrive. This comes through watching the locals, greeting my (human and non-human, corporeal and non-corporeal) neighbours, paying attention to what wild (and domestic) foods are available in my neighbourhood, but also in my city-region and my bio-region at any given time.
There’s a thoughtfulness that comes with these two things – that which I call Recognition, but which might just as easily be called Mindfulness. Because I recognize the person-ness of the land, the plants, the non-human animals, the mushrooms, and everything else, I need to watch what I’m doing. It’s all the Little Things – and I admit that I’m sporadic with this stuff at best – that go into actively recognizing that Person-ness and those other people in the world, and acting appropriately towards them. Some of this is done through making offerings, through greeting my gods at various places around town or various points during the day, or what have you. Part of this is noticing sunrise and moonrise, moon phase, seasonal changes, and so on; Part of this means knowing which plants are in season; Part of this means using cloth bags, buying drinks in glass bottles or in cans rather than in plastic jugs or tetrapaks. Part of this means knowing how to make, and making, my own soaps and preserves; or using beeswax and soy wax candles rather than paraffin ones. Part of it is (er) remembering to water the container garden on the balcony instead of just relying on the drip-line to do it for me (see above re: sporadic, um…)
My sweetheart and I talk about the concepts of “non-violence” and “do no harm”, and both of us struggle, for different reasons, with how to live those ideals and how to reconcile them with the way we actually live.
Being a broke-ass omnivore means that, yes, I’m eating people who have suffered horribly in life but, through choosing BIG domestic/farmed animals (turkeys rather than chickens, but even more-so cows and pigs, rather than birds), through barter with hunters, through (eventually – it’s been a long time since I last did this) fishing for myself, through choosing to buy eggs laid by free-run hens or dairy from small-scale, organic farms, I can mitigate that – to a degree – in various ways. The more chances I get to do this, the better, as I tend to feel more rooted in my place, and better about where I stand in the world, when I live like this. It’s something I strive to have as the norm in my life rather than the exception.
Anyway, those are my thoughts for the moment. Stay tuned for a further post on “Do No Harm” and the definition of “violence”.
Meliad, the Birch Maiden