This one is kind of a no-brainer.
At least… Okay. I think that, in Earth-Based-Spirituality-Land, this is theoretically a no-brainer but winds up being something else instead.
I find that nature gets abstracted into The Concept Of Nature quite frequently by, well, just about anyone who’s grown up in a cerebral, mind-(over)-body split, culture like the one I’ve grown up in. Nature, the real thing gets on our collective nerves. We like it walled off in Preserves, we like it prisitine and untouched by human influence (not happening at this stage of the game, also: humans are part of nature, which we tend to (want to) forget). We like it to be wolf packs howling hauntingly in the night, we like it to be a magical moment of wonder when a dear appears at the side of the highway. We don’t so much like it to be icy roads, soggy summers mosquitos, dandruff, a bat colony filling up the attic, or flocks of pigeons taking up residence near our balcony.
And I don’t think that an abstract pastoral scene – deified or not – is really going to cut it at this point, no matter how long a tradition western neo-paganism has of doing exactly that.
See, I have a tendency to over-thing things. To abstract things. To talk about – and immediately see, and try to deconstruct – how things work, or why people do what people do, in theory. But it doesn’t change the fact that That Person just treated This Person really horribly. No matter how much their behaviour has been influenced by (just to pick an example at random because it was December 17th two days ago) sex-negativity and unspoken social assumptions about women’s bodies being public property.
Thinking about things in the abstract, while it may make me feel better (smarter? Or like I have some kind of control over the sitution, if only because I can deconstruct the why of it in my head? I don’t know), isn’t really going to get anything done.
I read books like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lavinia (which is a novel, but which also has a lot of well-researched depictions of pre-hellenized Roman (Latin) religion in it – it’s faboo) or Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless (another novel which is a retelling of a Russian folktale and which shows a lot of the anthropomorphization – not the abstraction but quite the opposite – of the non-human world as it was done in slavic folklore), and I see these depiction of human behaviour as it happens (or happened) when Nature is people you know (and people you don’t know; and people who, maybe, you have to be little wary of either way). Where Nature isn’t abstracted and idealized – maybe because you live in it and by it every day (and frequently die in it or by it, too) – but is your neighbours, your relatives, your home as much as anything else, where the stove is a person for a whole lot of reasons including, I don’t doubt it, the bit where the stove started out as tamed-and-contained fire – a creature that has a life and appetites all its own.
And I strive for that familiarity, that numinosity. I want the Nature that I venerate through my religious practice to be the Nature I walk through every day. To be the onions growing on my window sill; to be the little water spirits who populate my bathroom (assuming any of them chose to move with us, although the bathroom isn’t all finished yet so they may not be too thrilled with me right now); to be the squirrels and pigeons and starlings and crows of my neighbourhood. To be the big, black cat who lives at the rooming house across the street. To be the apple tree, with all its bounty, around the corner and the hawthorn next door to it that doens’t bear any fruit. I want to recognize the spirit in the bread dough who comes alive through grain and yeast and water and all the rest of it. I want it to be the sun that shines on me, the moon as I see her, the seasons as they turn where I live rather than how they follow in Oxfordshire.
There’s a blog called bioregional animism that has multiple contributors and focusses on rooting one’s earth-based religious practice in the actual land you live on.
This is what I strive to do.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.