There is magic in good storytelling. In a world that can seem so woefully devoid of magic, we have a tendency to romanticize the writer, who is in touch with that magic in a deep, visceral way. But humans have been telling stories for as long as we've been human. Those who are lucky enough to call themselves professional writers have a particular set of skills and an admirable work ethic, but they don't hold the monopoly on good storytelling. The astrophysicist and the bank manager and the firefighter and the dairy farmer have stories of their own to tell. Storytelling at its root is a communal activity, something that can be shared by everyone. NaNoWriMo inspires us because it reminds us that storytelling is not about self-torture or perfectionism or asceticism, let alone popularity or profit. We can reclaim storytelling as basic human nature. We can recapture the creativity and imagination that is our birthright. We can push back against a society that would drain the world of its magic.
Signal Boost: Be Part of the Animist Blog Carnival!
Every month, the Animist Blog Carnival (organized by the devoted Heather Awen) gathers together essays and blog posts on a particular theme from writers all over the world who are exploring animism as an aspect of their spiritual lives. If you consider yourself an animist, you can join in! It's super-easy: just share your reflections, thoughts and experiences on the month's chosen theme on your own blog or website, and then email a link to your post to Heather (or that month's ABC host). And now's a great time to get involved. The theme for this month's ABC is Animism and Religion, and Heather shares a list of thought-provoking prompts over on her blog to get you started. Deadline: November 28, 2013
Meadowsweet & Myrrh is now Holy Wild
The blog is going through some pretty big changes, far beyond a whole new name and a whole new look. For all the information you could possibly want on how to stay updated and engaged, this post has just what you need, including: an updated RSS feed and new, improved newsletter; where to find me on social media; how to find out about online classes and book promotions; changes to the forums and comment policy; and so much more... I hope Holy Wild continues to be a place that provokes contemplation and welcomes conversation for anyone whose life is rooted in the soft soil and sturdy bedrock of an earth-centered spiritual tradition. As always, thanks for reading, and may the blessings of the holy wild be yours!
The Nature of Fog
It's a quiet, foggy morning here in Seattle, and I'm thinking about ontology — the philosophical study of the nature of existence. There is something deeply dissatisfying about a choice between reductionism and hierarchy, for both seem to me equally wrong. Although in naturalistic philosophy hierarchy no longer needs the divine sanction of a god to justify it, the supremacy of human culture and human consciousness remains unchallenged, the assumed pinnacle of evolution, with the masses of quarks, quasars, oak trees and elephants relegated to the same old mindlessness of mere objects, only so much stuff. But rather than go into any more detailed analysis of these dense and sometimes unwieldy philosophies, instead I want to talk a little bit about fog...
Totem Salmon: Hunting the River’s Ghost
Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species, by Freeman House, is a meandering journey through the natural history of the Mattole River watershed in northern California, with particular focus on humanity's changing relationship with one of its keystone inhabitants, the Pacific salmon. The structure of the book in many ways mirrors the homeward journey of the salmon itself, from the depths of a shared ocean of experience back towards the headwaters rising from the heart of a unique landscape. I picked up this book hoping to brush up on some of my fishy facts and local history, but what I discovered was a story with a great deal more to give. House is a beautiful storyteller as well as an experienced conservationist, and his work reflects not only the careful eye and practical mind of a hands-on community activist, but also the raw heart and brutal honesty of someone madly in love with the natural world.
Data, Identity & Community in the Digital Age
Jeff Lilly's most recent article raises a lot of questions about the assumptions we make when it comes to the relationship between knowing the facts and actually understanding what those facts can tell us. It turns out that huge stockpiles of consumers' personal information, known as "Big Data," might not be the Holy Grail that the tech industry would like it to be. Persistent cultural biases can blind us to unexpected interpretations, or even lead us to see patterns where none exist at all. But what does that mean for the rest of us? For those of us more likely to be on the receiving end of Big Data-driven marketing strategies and social media algorithms, the limits of Big Data are both a blessing and a warning. How will these new insights change the way we think about our online lives?
Invasives, Revisited: Warfare and Harvest
Different stories will inspire different people. For some, cooking and crafting is their way of fostering a relationship with the natural world, while others might be inspired by the greater call to serve the community on a global scale through conservation. If our efforts are effective and the stories we tell are inspiring, does it really matter whether we approach the work with the courageous heart of a fighter, or the gentle heart of a farmer? My post on invasive species provoked some really wonderful discussion from readers last week, reminding me once again just how diverse our attitudes towards the natural world can be. Even when we all agree on what practical actions we need to take, our motivations and reasons can be very different!
By Candlelight: Celebratory Ritual
When we light a candle in our ritual space, we ignite a flame within ourselves. When we pour water or burn incense as offerings, we offer ourselves as well, to soak into the earth or rise in gentle wisps of smoke towards the sky. Imagining these things is not enough — the work demands that we engage not only with our minds and hearts, but with our bodies. This is the original meaning of celebration: a gathering, a time of coming together. We've come to think of celebration as an occasion for happiness and enjoyment, because this sense of wholeness that we find in company with ourselves and with others is deeply nourishing and joyful for us. But celebratory spirituality also means being fully present to sorrow and suffering, and giving our whole selves as much to hard work and discipline as to pleasure and delight. Celebratory ritual is about our willingness to be fully present to the world and its gods.
I'm working hard to make Hipster Paganism a thing. Now that Pagan means Wiccan, and polytheist means Pagan, it's only a matter of time before the People We're Embarrassed By start calling themselves polytheists and recons. (It's already starting.) I for one am embracing this endless cycle by bringing "Pagan" back... but in, like, an ironic way. Read... Things Hipster Pagans Say
Embarrassment: An Invitation to Growth
Embarrassment has been a hot topic in the Pagan blogosphere this week, and it has me thinking about my own relationship with the Pagan community. But it also has me pondering my relationship with embarrassment itself. I learned early on that when others perceived my embarrassment, they almost always assumed that it was because I was ashamed of myself, and I was encouraged — in all the subtle ways that culture shapes the individual psyche — to turn a critical eye on my embarrassment and question how it might reflect my various flaws. Maybe this is because, in our culture, male embarrassment is more often perceived as a value judgment about others, while female embarrassment is interpreted as a response to personal failing.