Before we open our Fire for y'all to make your offerings, I'd like to share some seasonal thoughts. Thanks in advance.
I’ve been blessed recently with the opportunity to practice the Virtue of Courage. You see, standing before you here at the Center of the Worlds, surrounded by the folk and the Kindreds, is a scary place. There have been several decades of pagan practice here in this country, and sermonizing hasn’t taken a hold during paganism’s last half-century. So, it’s in the spirit of Courage that I stand here, in gratitude for the opportunity to practice, and for each of you who have come to our Fire. Thank you.
So many of our Neopagan and polytheist customs teach that this season is about a reconnecting to our land, celebrating in Her renewal, and first bountiful harvest. This time is also about harvesting the crops of our plans, prayers, goals, and agendas. If we look, we see that our very altar is filled with beautiful fruits, vegetables, and goods crafted by our own hands, or the hands of those near. The remarkable diversity in this altar is a blessing unto itself. It reflects the diversity that is in our community. It reflects the life of our land. It reflects who we are as children, adopted or native-born, of Colorado.
I suppose we city-dwellers think less of times and seasons than dwellers in the country, unless of course those times and season affect our day-to-day lives (Geez, it’s HOT! Geez, it’s COLD!). Those of us who were born, reared, nourished and nurtured among corn-fields, harvests, sowings, and reapings, are more likely to notice such things than those of us who are always engaged in mercantile pursuits, and think less of these things than rustics do. Isn’t it funny, though, that the names for our religious practice come from words that mean “country dweller” and “hick”.
In any case, if by necessity, we city-folk regard the ACTUAL harvest less than other folk, we shouldn’t get too far off course. Let us not be forgetful of times and seasons. There is much to be learned from them, for those times and seasons are the very words of the Kindreds.
Even our more nature-oriented Christian brothers and sisters say, “... what a wondrous temple this world is; for in truth it is a temple of God’s building, wherein we ought to honor him.”
However, we as a relationship-based religion do not see our land as the empty, albeit beautiful walls of a temple… we see each flower, stone, river, tree, and prairie as a living, sentient, teaching being. There is not a single flower in it that does not teach us a lesson, there is not a single wave, or thunder-clap that doesn’t have some lesson to teach to us, the Children of Earth. Every being in this world, regardless of species, has meaning, and is ready to be in right-relationship with you. It's no fanciful idea that there are "stories in stones"; for there really are stories in stones, and this world is intended to teach us through every being with whom we interact.
While we pagan-minded folk operate in this space regularly, it is easy to take divine meaning from those things that do not have a direct voice, and communication passes through the filter of our own minds and hearts. It is a far greater challenge to harvest meaning from one another, beings who have voices, speak our language, and share their stories in the same honest, personal way that the Kindreds share Their stories.
What I mean to say is this: if the Wights of the grass, for example, were brown, withered and suffering, we have the potential to hear their cries, and in seeing their needs, help them to regain their health and vibrance, yes? We, as interdependent sentient beings, have the power to help other interdependent sentient beings.
So, why do we, who have this relationship with trees and grass, the moon and sun, the corn and rocks, have different relationships with PEOLE who are suffering? Perhaps because we’re not in right-relationship with them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, "People are living lives of quiet desperation."
What does the harvest time look like to those who do not live in abundance? What does the harvest look like to Outdwellers? In the same way we simply can't dump a bucket of water onto a dying tree and say, “you’ll be fine”, we cannot do that to the other ‘plants’ in our ‘humanity garden’. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get something from the place of dying, rot, and decomposition to a place of life, health, and abundance… and that work is the very soul of transformation, not only for the recipients, but also for the givers. Reciprocity, y’all… dig it?
Lemme unpack this a bit more… here’s an excerpt from:
“The Gospel of Compost” by Holly Anne Lux-Sullivan, UUA
“Give me your moldy, your stale, your sprouting potatoes. Bring me that wilted, pitiful bag of salad you really meant to eat this time. Bring me your bananas too brown and mushy even to make bread with. Bring me your grass clippings and fallen leaves. Give me the wretched refuse of your teeming refrigerator, yearning to rot free. Give me these, and we will make life itself...
I love compost. I love the smell of it, the feel of it, the turning of it, the piling up of yucky stuff to make something beautiful. The first time I ate lettuce I had planted, watered, and fed with compost, I felt like Mother Nature herself. The miracle of compost is the miracle of life from death, of life and death co-existing — more than coexisting — needing each other. It is science and religion wrapped into one big dirty rich-smelling pile of formerly rotting food and yard scraps.”
You see, there are those in our humanity garden who have gone unattended, unloved, and who have lacked the great benefit that comes with right-relationship… the benefit of being understood. We’re not trying to create a homogenized blob of a community. We’re trying to create the biodiversity that comes from differences working together. Just like certain plants can be planted near other plants to create a healthier ecosystem for each, so too can we, in our own brilliant individuality, honor those of difference… but first, we must understand the importance of power. Where many of us are now is relating to power as having ‘power over’... I’m talking about ‘power WITH’.
The idea of “we’re all equal” discounts the struggles of those who have not been seen as equal... it jumps ahead (a typical maneuver of the privileged) Our siblings of color, our lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer siblings, or first-nations siblings… how do those of us who come from the dominant culture redefine the power dynamic so that there are no more Outdwellers?
I wish I had a clever answer.
Today, before our Fire, what I’ve got are these three things:
- In Courage, find those marginalized, and ask, “How can I help?”
- Remember that the history as told by Outdwellers sounds VERY different from our own.
- Like compost, some things are already “dead or dying”, but even then, we can be in right relationship with them.
Let’s start there, and gods be good, our next year’s harvest will be more rich and beautiful than this one. Blessings, y’all.