Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Go Ahead and Worship Trees

Seward Park, Seattle, WA
Out and about today, I saw a bumper sticker that said "Worship the Creator, Not the Creation."  And, as probably was its intent, it stopped my train of thought and made me consider it - but probably not for the reason they intended.

Occasionally when you identify as a Pagan (or Neo-Pagan, or follower of an "earth-based religion" - whatever flies your broom...), you'll get the question, "So does that mean you worship trees and dirt and stuff?"

Let's first look at the word "worship":

worship (ˈwɜːʃɪp)
vb, -ships, -shipping or -shipped, -ships, -shiping or -shiped
1. (Ecclesiastical Terms) (tr) to show profound religious devotion and respect to; adore or venerate (God or any person or thing considered divine)
2. (tr) to be devoted to and full of admiration for
3. (intr) to have or express feelings of profound adoration
4. (Ecclesiastical Terms) (intr) to attend services for worship
5. (tr) to honour
6. (Ecclesiastical Terms) religious adoration or devotion
7. (Ecclesiastical Terms) the formal expression of religious adoration; rites, prayers, etc
8. admiring love or devotion
9. dignity or standing

So essentially, to worship something or someone means to show or have respect/adoration for it. But really that question is more intended to mean "do you believe trees are GOD?" Which sounds silly when you put it that way, but that's what they're asking.

And when I think about it - the answer to both aspects is YES.  As a Pagan, I believe that there is a sacred/divine aspect to all of nature and what nature (including us) can create ourselves. If you consider God/Goddess/Deity/Spirit created everything in existence - and the act of creation is what makes deity, Deity -  then you cannot separate the Creator from the Creation.  If you wish to respect the Creator, then you must also respect the Creation.

It is this complete lack of respect for Creation that has landed our environment in such a perilous condition.  If your holy book says God put you in charge of what It made, gifting it to you, then where does it say that you should treat that gift like garbage? To overuse, abuse, and ruin it?  How does that show respect for the Creator? It doesn't.

If you want to show respect for an artist you like, you don't trash their work - you support it, purchase it, take care of it.  The work is not the artist, but the artist is part of the work. Similarly, our children are not us, but we are part of them.  The past is building the future, which is right now and everything else. All life is in a state of interdependent balance. There is an intricate pattern of life that must be acknowledged wholly - it cannot be separated simply to suit your own will.

So yes, you can say I worship trees and dirt and stuff.  I find the divine all around and within me, and my path is one of respect and responsibility.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In The Beginning...

It feels like another lifetime ago. (in a sense, it is...)
Tempest, circa 1999, photo by Anja Page

I'm not even sure how I managed to do it all.

In 1998, I formed a student group at RISD for Pagans. There was interest at Brown, just up the hill, and since we did have some crossover clubs, it was opened up to those students.  Then students from other local colleges wanted to come (RICC, URI, Bryant, Johnson & Wales, etc), so sure, the more the merrier.  Then folks who were college-age, but not in college or recently graduated wanted to come. And once you get past that point, you might as well open it up to anyone. And so the Cauldron of Annwyn Pagan Society came into existence. It became the largest open-path Pagan group in New England not associated with a church until it was disbanded at the end of 2001 (coinciding with my move to California.)  During that time, we had regular weekly and monthly meetings, rituals for esbats and sabbats, trips up to Salem, MA, held lighted labyrinths at Samhain in downtown Providence, organized the first RI Pagan Pride Day, and so forth. We worked with the print and TV news media to present Paganism in a positive light, and offered workshops and community outreach.

I also taught metaphysical classes, and built a tradition, forged from my own background and those I worked closely with.  I built a website to document it all and help others find their own paths.

And I was the Associate Editor of Crescent Magazine: A Pagan Publication of Art, Philosophy, & Belief - which involved writing, illustrating, curating, editing, and working with the business end of things. Through that, I attended the Pagan Leaders Summit in Bloomington, IN - which was an amazing event - I believe myself and the editor were the youngest folks in attendance.

I attended Starwood, Caduceus Rising, CUUPS Convocation, and other Pagan events/gatherings throughout New England and the Northeast.

All of this on top of finishing college, being married, working several jobs, and learning bellydance!

When I moved to California, I encountered a different sort of community.  Where Pagans in New England were dealing with a much more conservative/traditional environment, West Coast Pagans enjoyed more social acceptance in a relatively more progressive and culturally diverse region.

The more time I spent in the Bay Area, the more my overall personal focus shifted.  I missed my East Coast family/friends (and you can never really go back).  I was putting a lot more energy into my dancing and design, and I sadly burned out on working for the magazine.  Everything else I had in me went to making ends meet and trying to maintain balance in my relationships. I didn't feel I had anything else to contribute or anything more to give.  My spiritual path went from being very public to very internal and private - sometimes bringing elements into my dancing and on occasion helping out others with ritual and spellcraft.

In the last few years, my life began to shift again and taking root in a whole new way.  I've been inspired to create so much artwork and have changed much of my outlook on dance.  I look back at all of the information squirreled away on my website, and found there is much to share - as well as add to.  And so I have started this blog to share all of that information, thoughts, musings, and feelings...it's a new beginning.