Relationship with the Land

I wrote recently about the concept of “re-enchanting the Earth,” and what that means for many modern Pagans. But why is a relationship to your landbase important to Witches?

I think that one reason why it’s worth the time to cultivate a relationship with your landbase is that magic is stronger — and spiritual practice in general is stronger — when you involve the Earth in it.

Why do I often say “landbase” instead of “Earth”? You can see that picture from the Moon of the Earth and feel a lot of things about the whole Earth and realize that that is exceptional. But just as like when we say, “Oh I love humanity!” that’s fine — but how about the person who lives next door to you? How about the person who works in the cubicle next to you? We can say, “Oh, I love nature,” but what about the dandelions in your yard? What about the river that overflows its banks? Being aware of and having your magic strengthens by “the Earth” is, to me, hugely about, not 100%, but hugely about the Earth where you are.

So why is there a need for “re-enchanting,” for re-establishing a relationship with your local landbase?

We sometimes say, “Oh well people today move around a whole bunch and that’s one reason why it’s hard to be in relationship with a place because you might only be there for a little while,” and, yes, we do tend to move around — many of us –but so did a lot of our ancestors. Some of our ancestors were nomads. Some of our ancestor might have lived in the village during the Winter but moved up into the high meadows to herd the sheep in the Summer. Some of our ancestors did a lot of hunting or hunting/gathering. Some of our ancestors were merchants who got in their ships and sailed around the edges of Europe, or Africa, or South America. So the idea that we can’t be in relationship with our landbase because we move is false. We may have to work a little harder sometimes. We may have to learn a set of sills for how to move to a new place and introduce ourselves to the Earth. But its something we can do.

Do you ever introduce yourself to the land? If you travel and will be somewhere for a few days, do you ever bring an offering to the new land?

Picture of Earthrise found here.

(Belated) Monday at the Movies

The mystery isn’t the most carefully-crafted one I’ve ever seen, but the role played by elves who oppose a building project makes this worth watching.

Re-Enchating

A friend asked has me thinking about the concepts of being in relationship to your landbase and being a Witch.

We Pagans often talk about “re-enchanting the Earth,” but, or course, the Earth, the land, hasn’t changed. The land has always been alive, enchanting, approachable. We’re the ones who’ve changed. Many in modern culture have fallen out of touch with the living land. What I believe we actually mean is that we need to rekindle the relationship that people once had with the land.

Our ancestors, from wherever they came, and the people who once lived on this land almost certainly, at one time in their history, were more aware of the life in the land than many modern people are today. So people knew that rocks, and clouds, and trees, and animals, and bodies of water all had their own lives and their own intelligences. And there were times and ways in which humans could interact with those. But then, gradually, due to Christianity, and the Enlightenment, and colonialism, and the Industrial Revolution, and patriarchy, and a number of other factors many people have become less and less aware of that.

And so, re-enchating the Earth is, to me, a process of becoming more aware myself and helping other people to become more aware that the Earth is alive and everything in it is alive and that we can live in relationship with that rather than living all alone.

Living all alone is really kind of sad. If you have a whole bunch of cousins, and neighbors, and people you could be friends with, and get to know, and have your life be enriched by, and get help from, but instead you stay inside your house and never even think of going out to interact with them, well, that’s kind of sad. That doesn’t mean that every cousin or neighbor is going to be your best friend or is going to be the nicest person you ever met, but even that’s worth knowing about and taking into consideration in how you do things.

Do you agree? What does re-enchanting the Earth mean to you? Do you know how your ancestors or the people who once lived where you live interacted with the Earth?

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And So It Begins…Again

One of the positive follow-on effects of the pandemic was a dramatic decline in mass shootings in the US. Kids weren’t in schools. People weren’t gathering at churches or synagogues or nightclubs or music festivals or movie theaters or office buildings or malls or anywhere else. So there were few masses present anywhere for disgruntled white men to take aim at.

Yes, suicide attempts were up, and domestic and intimate partner violence has been as well, and all of those things are FAR more deadly when firearms are present. And cops are still shooting Black and brown folks for little or no reason.

But at least we had a brief respite from the unrelenting horror of large numbers of people getting shot by (largely) white men who decided to take out their bullshit grievances on innocent bystanders.

No more.

Here’s the thing. The US is never going to be Canada or New Zealand or western Europe. We are, to quote the Ben Franklin character from the musical 1776: “Rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined.”

We have a different national character, different founding stories and myths, different canonical documents. (For a rigorous yet accessible explanation of all this, see Seymour Martin Lipset’s masterful work of comparative politics, Continental Divide.)

But this senseless mass death cannot continue.

And we know what works to reduce gun violence.

There are a variety of sensible gun safety protections that need to be enacted at the FEDERAL level. The Federal Assault Weapons ban that was originally signed as one of the few good parts of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill. Background checks, and closing the private sale loophole. Limits on high capacity magazines and alterations like bump stocks that allow shooters to fire additional shots from their guns more rapidly. Taking guns from domestic abusers, and removing the “boyfriend” loophole. Requiring responsible gun storage. Limiting the number of guns one can purchase in a given period of time. Red flag laws, which also protect people from themselves.

We can also provide more resources for mental health interventions (which relates to the movement to reduce funding to police and direct those resources elsewhere). We can believe women who report domestic or intimate partner violence and demand that law enforcement take action rather than just shrugging reports off with “he said/she said – who can tell?” nonchalance.

We can work to elect candidates who support all of the above.

We’re never going to convince all the gun owners in the US to beat their swords into plowshares. But we shouldn’t have to put up with this madness, either, particularly when we’re still far from out of the woods on a pandemic that has killed more than 565,000 of our fellow Americans over the past year and a half.

Graphic found at Moms Demand Action. And if you care about this issue, you need to go visit their site, find your local chapter – they’re everywhere – and get involved.

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Words for Wednesday

Tired

~ Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting,

Aren’t you,

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind?

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two –

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.

Traffic Wardens

I’m not the first person to suggest this, but one aspect of reforming the police should be rethinking what jobs actually need to be done by the police. In some cases, we’re asking the police to do jobs that could better be done by others. Handing domestic complaints and mental health crises are two frequently-cited examples. Social workers and counselors may be more appropriate for those kinds of situations. Similarly, in light of recent murders that occurred following traffic stops, people are considering whether we really need to use the police to enforce things like broken headlights or minor traffic violations.

Maybe unarmed traffic wardens would do a better job. Things like expired tags or a turn signal that’s not working could probably be handled by a picture and a mailed ticket rather than a stop, at least in the first instance. (We already use that system for failure to stop at traffic lights.) There are things that call for a traffic stop such as drunk driving or serious speeding. That’s because those behaviors can immediately endanger others. But even those stops could be handled by traffic wardens. If a driver won’t pull over, THEN you can get the police involved. But the vast majority of people would stop, especially if that meant dealing with unarmed traffic wardens rather than the police.

Getting police out of the traffic-stopping business would have other benefits. For too long, making a traffic stop and then “thinking they smelled pot” has been an excuse for police to hassle and arrest African Americans. Especially as we move towards legalizing pot, that nonsense needs to stop. And taking the police out of the business of enforcing minor traffic laws would allow them to do the jobs that actually require police — investigating murders, rapes, and robberies.

In general, patriarchy assumes that every situation requires a use of force, implied or actual. But many situations can be handled with a mix of modern technology and professionalism, rather than force.

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies (with Our Ancestors)

PBS is doing a series that will be of particular interest to anyone who works with their ancestors. (You can watch it on the PBS website if you don’t get PBS on your tv).

Preparing for Re-Entry

On Wednesday, I finally got shot #1.

In common with many locations, my city is not getting NEARLY enough vaccine to accommodate demand. Given the supply we’re currently receiving, by my calculations, it will take us until WELL into the fall to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated.

The city is running a preregistration system with a lottery, and when your group comes up, you get included in the pool. And I was preregistered, but as someone who is NOT a senior, NOT an essential worker, and has no pre-existing conditions, all I could think was: “Some unlucky person is going to be last in line, and I’m betting it will be me.”

Thankfully, one of our neighboring locales scored a FEMA mass vaccination site, and their local leaders decided to open it to anyone because, to quote them: “It’s a federal resource.”

Hence, shot 1 of the Pfizer vaccine (thank you Ugur Sahin, Ozlem Tureci, Joe Biden FEMA, and Larry Hogan).

So now, we wait.

My spouse, who does have pre-existing, got J&J a few weeks ago, but we had decided before either of us had even scheduled an appointment that there would be no behavioral changes from our past 15 months of lockdown until BOTH of us were at max immunity. An additional complicating factor is that we podded with another couple last fall, and one of our foursome has still had no luck scheduling an appointment, so her comfort level sets the rules for all of us until then.

The thing is, even when my immunity kicks in in mid-May and our fourth is vaccinated, we’re not just going to be able to jump right back into our pre-pandemic life. For one, lots of things are still closed, or only partially opened.

But there’s also anxiety to deal with.

My spouse was chatting with his mom, who is in her mid-80s, last night, and, as he reported: “I think the pandemic is REALLY getting to her at this point.” She’s not a big traveler or arts patron or anything like that, but she was, prior to COVID, a very active volunteer (library, Audubon Society), active in her church, and a dedicated member of a book club. Without access to all that, she’s struggled with feeling a lack of purpose. But she’s also now struggling with fear of resuming those activities. She’s not alone.

I suspect, when the rubber meets the road, a surprising amount of us are going to find ourselves in the same boat. I haven’t eaten – even outdoors – at a restaurant in over a year. I haven’t gotten on a plane in over a year. I haven’t been to the theater, or to hear live music, or to the gym, in over a year. I haven’t been in someone’s house (other than our podmates) – or had someone in mine (same) – in over a year.

Right now, spouse and I are talking about things like what restaurant do you want to go to and what destination do you want to pick and whatnot, and it’s all still kind of theoretical, since I don’t even want to schedule anything until I hit that mid-May date, just in case. But it’s also bringing up some anxiety for me.

We’re all going to need to make a plan for, as the Washington Post reported this week, “exposure therapy.” It’s going to require things like being honest with ourselves about our own anxiety levels, having open conversations with friends and family about what we are – and aren’t – comfortable with, setting priorities, making some concrete plans, and realizing that there’s some potential unpleasantness ahead that we’re just going to have to push through.

Which is kind of hard to deal with, to be honest. Many of us have spent the past year pining for the things we miss and picturing ourselves running out, all Mary Tyler Moore arms open wide, to embrace our lives once again.

The reality might – probably will – look very different. And it’s important to be compassionate and patient with ourselves and our loved ones as we work through that.

Image by user SCOTTMLIDDELL, RGBStock

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Potpourri

I’m reading a heavily-blurbed book on dreamwork. Every blurb is written by a man. Come on, it’s 2021. You wouldn’t have a panel of all white people or all men, would you? (Please tell me you would not.)

One habit I started during COVID was to put away the computer around five o’clock, make a cup of tea, and take out a real book. Now that the weather’s nice, I go sit on the porch for this little ritual. I think this is one thing I’ll try and keep doing. Do you have rituals you plan to bring forward?

If you took a break from politics after the election, now’s a good time to begin to get your toes wet again. I suggest picking an area of local politics. Does your town councilperson tweet? Can you name your local attorney general? What do you know about them? Is there a local issue that matters to you? If you live in a very blue area, consider what kind of outreach you can do.

I will die on this hill.

Picture found here.

Words for Wednesday

Children, It’s Spring

~ Mary Oliver

And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
Ms. Violet
in her purple gown

Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits

To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially

To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.

We, the older ones,
Call it Spring,
And we have been through it
Many times.

But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
Such happiness
In their small hands.

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