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Nature Awareness

I had difficulties addressing this topic, since the words don´t translate to my native language meaningfully. At first I wanted to address “nature awareness” and “environmental awareness” separately, then I chose these entries from my diary to cover both at once.

In the Heart of the Concrete Jungle

Where I live now is one of the northernmost suburbs of the capital city. Contrary to the idea, the suburbs are actually rather alive. We had some nasty pigeons make a nest on our balcony and you can see the kestrels raised at the nearby airport hunting down the ravens, who leave pretty black feathers that I can collect. The interactions of our cat with the birds and insects are amusing enough. Squirrels run down the trees and sometimes, when you´re lucky, you get to see even hedgehogs and rabbits, who are prone to scare off the last-nights walkers, because they tend to go out after sunset. I can just sit at the balcony, watch and contemplate the food chain... the chain of life.
It gets pretty windy here, from the North and the air is much better than in other parts of the capital, which is one of the main reasons I like it here. (The second being it´s close to the subway.)

The real mystery though, lies right in the heart of the concrete jungle of the Communist era tower houses. Not far from our entrance stands a majestic oak tree which must be several hundred years old. Older than anything in the sight, I bet. There´s a sense of quite dignity around it and a sign marking it a Memorable Tree. I cheer it every time I pass around.

Communicating with the Nature Spirits

We should definitely practice positive communion with the Earth and local nature spirits and they´ll probably be very grateful if we care well for land where they dwell. I can feel this sense of gratefulness in gardens that are taken good care of. Sometimes an abandoned and seemingly ugly tree (judged by our, human standards) can return much favour for your attention, just like a forgotten elder. Other nature spirits commonly called elves on the other hand are completely apathetic to human matters and dealing with them requires a good amount of cunning arts.

I have a rather animistic world view and in Neopaganism I miss remarkably the notion that it can sometimes be poor idea trying to enter into communion with nature spirits. You too don´t like strangers knocking at your door at midnight, right? On the other hand, as a Witch I believe that good intent protects from harm (well, mostly). From personal experience I also know that there are places where such practice is not appropriate, even hazardous. Theologically speaking, it´s the realm beyond the authority of the boundary spirits, where household spirits and land-wights become Outdwellers.1 The steep hill where people have died, the site of the burnt village, the ill wind blowing through the birches that cover the mass grave. The instinctive warning not to enter radiates from there, you just don´t feel unwelcome.

Who did not feel for once the sacred horror? It makes the the complementary side of the feelings of divine amazement and gratefulness that most Neopagans tend to concentrate on. Unfortunately, that is not the Terra Mater who speaks to me. I suspect this makes me a Dark Pagan, *sigh*.2

Environmental Awareness

It is difficult for me to relate to the sentiments that predominate the Neopagan movement when writing about this topic, since my own history of experiencing the environment is rather different.

I have witnessed an immense resurrection of Czech landscape after 1989 when the Communist megalomaniac heavy industry begun to decline. Being only two years old when the regime changed, I can clearly remember that it wasn´t all that common to see certain animals and plants some years ago, which are now in abundance. I have witnessed filthy rivers to get alive full of fish when water filters were built. I could see new reserves and National Parks being opened in the former military areas where nobody would be allowed to enter before. This experience was so deep that it´s rather difficult for me to identify with the sentiments of western Pagans.

We have one of the highest percentages of woodland coverage among European states (33%). I suspect since England has the lowest and a lot of woodland is private owned, that makes a vastly different attitude among English Neopagans.

I have a general suspicion that life is more wasteful in the States. The capital city of Prague has a sophisticated system of waste dealing. Every citizen with permanent residence in the area is entitled to dump a certain amount of old furniture, construction site dust etc. in at “collection point (yard)”. Besides that, large containers are available at certain spots regularly where you can dump stuff at no cost. Coloured containers for assorted waste (glass, paper, plastic) are available within a minute of walk. The public transportation network is dense and reliable. There´s some kind of recycling tax placed at electronics.

Making the Difference

It is my belief that our greatest potential in making positive environmental impact lies in two social roles that are, in my opinion, grossly undervalued in the Neopagan movement.

irst, our role of the consumer which is, I believe, perhaps the most significant social role of today´s Westerner. It is the economical power, not he ideological or military one, that rose to become the prominent force in our world. Our choice what to consume is the most important difference we can make. In order to do so, it´s good to be reasonably wealthy and successful, to have the economical power to make wise choices that really matter. (A notion that is, unfortunately, ignored too.) Take, for example, organic and fairly-traded food. Here in Czech Republic it´s luxury goods.

On the other hand, plain customer awareness often reveals surprising facts, such as that some environmentally sensible goods are actually cheaper3 or cost less in the long-term range.4 Our role of consumers is so determining to our lives that it would only be beneficial if we learn more about it.

Then there is supporting environmentally sensible companies, which brings me to the second important social role, and that is one of employee. Do you know who are you working for? What software you use? Where do the goods come from? Is there any sort of exploitation going on? These can be pain in the ass questions, since I have seen too many Pagans working in the worst of the corporate circles and cartels.

I believe that if everybody concentrated on these two roles in their lives, more would be done for the environment than one can imagine. This sort of awareness implies cultivation of Integrity, since we must live up to our values, Hospitality which gives us the right measure of giving and receiving and Vision to see through the true nature of the systems.

  1. Actually, one of the remarkable features that drew my attention to ADF, was that its theology incorporated the
  2. For a good overview what this approach to Paganism consists of, see <http://www.waningmoon.com>.

  3. A soap-based washing powder we´ve discovered recently.
  4. Such as class A electronics. (The most economical ones.)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
>Who did not feel for once the sacred horror? It makes the the complementary side of the feelings of divine amazement and gratefulness that most Neopagans tend to concentrate on. Unfortunately, that is not the Terra Mater who speaks to me. I suspect this makes me a Dark Pagan, *sigh*.2

This *does* sound like a view that would fit better with those of ancient peoples, on the whole. I wonder if the modern "nature is bright and loving and good" view, which may have started with Rousseau and the Romantics, has been fostered by the general optomism of the American attitude, and the American view of wild nature as a place you *do* want to experience (and for some, conquer!), rather than a place you want to avoid. I've heard the English view is different, where Romanticized nature is more associated with pastureland (still partly amenable to humans) than with wild, pristine nature. It may also be that New World colonists, migrating at a time of scientific advancement, were able to break away from many of the old traditional places of dread, and make a fresh start in the New World free of those old "superstitions" bound to scary places. Thus, less inclination to view wild nature with such "sacred horror."

Although many such traditions did in fact spring up, such as the Sleepy Hollow tale of the Headless Horseman.

Just thinking aloud here... ;-)
Sep. 25th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
I am personally uneasy with the common Neopagan view of Nature and especially the worship of Gaia and the pseudoscientific Gaia theory... [oh, I hate it so much when science gets mixed with spirituality or ideology...] I cannot help myself, i just roll my eyes over most writings on the subject. In the discussions I have discovered that it might be the cultural difference, in fact, that makes me feel so uneasy.
Sep. 26th, 2008 05:20 am (UTC)
Without disagreeing per se,

how can you have science without ideology? Science is its own ideology. An ideology that I agree with, mind you, but an ideology nonetheless.
Oct. 1st, 2008 06:59 am (UTC)
Yes, the ethnocentrism, for example... or other ways of imposing our culturl standards upon others. Like when we expect the Muslims to treat the Qu´ran the same way we have critical Bible studies, just one example that pops into my mind after getting back from the Ecumenical youth conference I´ve been to.
Oct. 1st, 2008 08:04 am (UTC)
Yep. I hadn't thought of that particular example. Thanks. ;-)

That must have been an interesting experience. (the ecumenical conference, I mean)
Oct. 1st, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)
You bet... I will certainly make an English report out of it.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )