Snowshoeing opens up possibilities for exploration that ordinary hiking can’t. With a sturdy pair of snowshoes and eight feet of snow, winter is the perfect time to rise above ordinary obstacles and move deeper into the heart of the forest.
To walk is itself a kind of ritual, a practice that changes us in subtle and significant ways. To move through the land, we have to be attentive and responsive to it. To survive these cold months, it’s not enough to stay hunched in front of our computer screens all day long theorizing and debating. We must become apprentices of this goddess, Winter — to truly know her and her work, we must go out to meet her beneath the trees.Read More
As I continue to work at my on-going exploration of anthropocentrism and its influence on modern Pagan theology and ritual, time passes here in the damp and half-wild city of Seattle as winter slow-dances with spring. This past weekend, we were blessed with a dusting of snow, followed by the hushed drizzle of overnight rain. The daffodils in the front yard are lifting up their little green hands in prayer, and the neighborhood hummingbird perches as sentinel on the highest twig of the lilac tree, flashing his breast in the sun. And everywhere, the damp plush moss!
It’s that time of year when I am restless to be outside… and sometimes restlessness gives way to snark. So while I’m off wrestling the hobgoblins of cabin fever, dear reader, here is a touch of silliness for you to enjoy.Read More
It all started this past winter solstice when Jeff’s youngest daughter told us that she was going to be a dentist.
Actually, what she said was that she guessed she’d have to be a dentist, because everybody knows you can’t make a living as an artist.
Our heads kind of exploded at that point, so what happened next was a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember sitting her down at the kitchen table and asking her why this sudden about-face — she’d been talking about wanting to be an artist for the last several years which, for a nine-year-old, is almost a lifetime. I remember treading carefully, lest I inadvertently suggest that being a dentist wasn’t perfectly okay, too, if that’s what she really wanted. The world needs good dentists, after all. But what the world doesn’t need is a grumpy, jaded dentist who’s secretly always wanted to be an artist instead. That doesn’t end well for anyone.Read More
Where does our anthropocentrism come from? Some scientists cite evolutionary pressures as one possible influence among many. But others point to instinctual cognitive processes to explain just the opposite, suggesting that the anthropocentric worldview is actually a rejection of the human instinct, not its inevitable consequence.
Even if anthropocentrism isn’t instinctual, for many of us it is deeply ingrained. To a man with a shovel, it can be hard to imagine any other solution but to keep digging our way out of this anthropocentric hole we find ourselves stuck in. Western society has spent a long time convincing us that the shovel is the only effective tool we have. Are there alternatives? How do we learn to think beyond the biases of anthropocentrism and reconnect with the more-than-human world?Read More
What is anthropocentrism?
Turns out, there is no single, simple answer to this question. (Just among the nearly fifty books on environmental ethics and deep ecology that I have, only one actually offers a definition of the term, despite almost all of them referring to it in their discussions. As with many words, its meaning often has to be teased out and inferred from context.) In my earlier post I hinted at the beginnings of a definition when I referred to an approach to ritual that “takes for granted a worldview in which humans are the only measure of what is real.” The question of how our idea of “the real” and our practical responses to it (for instance, through ritual activity) influence our underlying values and where we locate (or create) meaning is a complex conversation in its own right, and it is in this particular theological meadow that I’ll do much of my lingering and bee-gazing in the following posts.
But for now, it’s probably more helpful to sketch out a basic definition, one we can use as a kind of measure against which we can hold up more complex, fidgety ideas later in the conversation…Read More
On the same day I published “Gods Like Mountains, Gods Like Mists,” Irish animist Traci Laird also shared a piece in which she confronted the issue of anthropocentrism in modern Western Paganism more directly. She points out, very rightly I think, that “the belief that human-persons are the most significant species on the planet, plays out within paganism in subtle and tricky ways.” The response to our two posts has been incredibly varied, with writers across the Pagan blogosphere grappling with notions of anthropocentrism that range so widely at times it seems they’re hardly talking about the same thing at all.
The more responses and reactions I read over the past couple weeks, the more I realized that the issue of anthropocentrism in Paganism is incredibly complex and at times very confusing. Subtle and tricky ain’t the half of it! And so I wanted to spend some time teasing apart some of these ideas about anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism in Pagan ritual and theology.Read More
It’s been two weeks since my piece “Gods Like Mountains, Gods Like Mists” set off a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion about anthropocentrism in polytheist ritual and theology. In case you were wondering — yes, I’ve been busy reading, thinking, digesting and working on a follow-up post (or six!) of my own that I’ll be sharing here soon. In the meantime, I wanted to point out some amazing writing elsewhere in the blogosphere.
Featuring posts by Sara Amis, Joanna van der Hoeven, Heather Mingo and more!Read More
There is ice in old Earth Mother’s blood these days, and everywhere the ground is as hard as unyielding stone. The winds are biting cold. The sunlight, though still low on the horizon, is bright and sharp. It glints off the edges of every surface, refracted, scattered in a thousand directions. I sit in the shadow of a great evergreen tree outside, struggling to root, straining to bring the manic energies back into balance.
The whole world seems to be cold fire and frenzied air.
This won’t do. I have to find another way…Read More
My gods are not tame. They do not always come when they are called. This is not a failure of ritual or a weakness of belief. It is the nature of my gods. I would no more expect a god to “show up” in my ritual space than I would expect to be able to call a mountain into my living room. That is simply not the nature of mountains. If I want to meet a mountain, I am the one who must move.
Because I do not believe that humans are the only beings with agency in the world, I do not expect my gods to express their agency in the same ways that human beings do. There are gods who forever remain elusive, whose identities shift with the landscape, the seasons and the stars. And there are gods so intimate that they are never really absent at all, and meeting them is not a matter of inviting their presence but rather of quieting my own expectations and learning how to listen. There are gods whose presence looms like a mountain range on the horizon, and gods with(in) whom I walk with grace, my footsteps just one more melody in the great pattern of their being. What does hospitality look like to a mountain? How does a forest speak its mind? What does it mean to invoke a god of mist and sea on a mist-strewn shore?Read More
Because I’m such a Hipster Pagan that I’ve come full circle, in recent years I’ve stopped disparaging New Year’s Resolutions for being “too mainstream” and decided to re-embrace the practice. After all, the word resolution is a vast and complex universe in itself. Like words such as integrity, balance and attention, resolution can mean many things, and spending some time considering its nuances bears some surprising (and surprisingly delicious) fruit.
So for those of you who might be on the fence about making resolutions for the coming year, here are some thoughts on what resolution means to me.Read More