This bush is on fire, and we have misplaced god.
We draw a line around what is sacred, to set it apart as special. We imagine the planet as a precious blue marble floating in space, so small and far away we cannot see the delicate contours of our own faces turned upwards towards the night sky, doing the imagining. We worship the lands that give us life, the earth that sustains us with its salty waters and wild winds, its mud and grit. We encircle the world in the darkness of outer space, and it shimmers all the brighter. But when we're not paying attention, the lines we draw around the sacred can cut us right through the middle.
When it comes to questions of how to respond to the cultural demand to "honor the soldiers who died for you," I find that the problem is not so much that I do not want to comply, but that I literally do not know how. Assuming, of course, that our honor and memory should take a form other than silent complicity in the continuing violence and militarism of our government — what should my honor look like?
Some modern Druids and Celtic polytheists celebrate Samhain on the day of the first frost. And so the first morning in autumn that I wake up to find the land crisp with crystallized mist clinging to each blade of grass, edging each fallen leaf... that is a sacred morning.
Jeff asks, "With recent discussions in the news about human beings one day traveling to Mars and setting up colonies there, I was wondering: What would Druidry on Mars look like?" Can you even do Druidry in space? One of the lessons that Druidry teaches is that every apparently empty "space" is already a place even before we arrive, brimming with its own qualities and communities that will inevitably draw us into relationship and change us. If the Star Trek: Original Series declaration to boldly go "where no man has gone before" is overtly sexist, the Next Generation's revision to go "where no one has gone before" is equally problematic...
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...
What were you expecting? A tame goddess who can be bribed with easy offerings? A pleasant springtime girl who asks for nothing but your adoration in return? An owl-feathered maiden of the forest to indulge your taste for the exotic and the dark? Were you hoping for a bedtime story with a moral at the end? Blodeuwedd's story isn't over. It is on-going. It is forever unfolding in every moment, in every place where nature and culture conflict and comingle, in every breath that weaves us as human animals into the more-than-human world. It would be too easy to approach Blodeuwedd through mythology and ritual alone, to disconnect her from the messy, erotic, death-riddled real world of broom blossoms and barred owls.
We want so very much to understand our gods, to know them intimately, to see how they work in our lives. It is tempting to dissect, to analyze, to categorize. And sometimes, it is necessary, even beneficial. We are categorizing creatures, we human beings. We pick out patterns as a matter of survival. When it comes to our gods, we reach for them not only with our prayers and offerings, but with our reason and our intellects — we would know them with our whole selves, in all their parts, in part so that we might know our own selves better in all our parts. The challenge is to delve into theology without killing its subject, to try our hand at analysis and critical thinking without pretending that the numinous divine is a dead thing that will hold still beneath our careful knives. Theology is not dissection. It is much more gruesome than that; it is vivisection.
If it seems like I've been rather quiet here lately, that's because I've been making a lot of noise over at Faith, Fern & Compass, a new podcast project launched earlier this month. I'm super excited about the project, and I've been putting in long hours for the past several weeks to get the website up and the first few preseason episodes out! Faith, Fern & Compass is an interfaith podcast rooted in love for the earth and hope for the future. I am just so thrilled to be working on it, and I hope all of you who read this blog will go check it out! The official first season starts on May 2nd, but there are already some episodes available on the website — or you can subscribe on iTunes.
There are more of us out there than you think. We may not always be flashing our Pagan flair — sometimes we're wearing worn old hiking books and mud-spattered rain coats instead of shimmering ceremonial robes, sometimes we put aside our pentacles and wands for a good pair of binoculars and a sturdy walking stick — but we're out there. Walking the walk. Doing the work.