Day 1: Earth-Centered Spirituality

If we were going to accept standard chronology instead of Pagan Standard Time, this exercise should have been done on June 22nd. Today is the 24th. It was attempted on the 23rd and again early this morning. Looks like the third time will have to be the charm.

That being said, this is the first of Roderick’s exercises. Now, that fact really didn’t need to be stated…but the particular contents of the exercise do. So many times I pick up a Wicca 101-styled book and notice that the very first thing they address is the ‘origins’ of the religion.

I hate that. I particularly hate it when the author represents Wicca as just the latest name for an unbroken chain of natural spiritual practice dating back before civilization itself. That’s just ludicrous. Anyone with an ounce of sense should be able to see that this is a completely unsubstantiated claim, and anyone who actually knows anything about Wicca knows that it is a thoroughly modern creation. It was largely formed around the early 1950’s due to the writings of Gerald Gardner (by most accounts a self-obsessed plagiarist) and Doreen Valiente (a woman of uncommon commonsense who brought thought to Gardner’s show). Moreover, anyone who has read the works of Gardner and Valiente will instantly be able to see how the Wicca of today–particularly in America–is vastly different from the Wicca of post-war Britain.

It’s made up! All of it! I’m not saying that’s a bad thing–in fact, I think that’s Wicca’s strongest asset–and I’m not saying that all of it is ungrounded–much of it is strongly inspired by what various historians, anthropologists, and folklorists said were different indigenous beliefs and rituals–but it would be beyond foolish to believe that your Isis ritual is precisely how priests in the fifth dynasty of Egypt revered her.

So, if you gave a quick glance at Roderick’s “Day 1,” you might think he’d have given me fodder for one amazing rant. The first sentence starts out invoking the “long, long ago” Neolithic past, for goodness sake!

Thankfully, outside of a tendency towards purple prose, I wholly approve of Roderick’s first day. Yes, he stretches back towards unsubstantiated pre-history, but he does so rationally. Consider this excerpt:

Long before religion became Religion, full of dogma, regulations, ceremonial figureheads, theme parks, and teleministries, there was simply nature.

Who could argue with that? Once the frippery of religion is deconstructed, all you’re really left with is man, his environment, and his continuing struggle to understand his place within it. What would life be like if you could escape all of civilization and be left to really fight against nature for your life, just like the rest of all her creatures? I’d like to think that the wonder and despair that currently inclines us to religious thoughts would be focused instead towards an appreciation of her awe-ful strengths, to the connections between her, us, and all the other creatures on the planet.

So I agree with Roderick when he points to the birthplace of spirituality being “in the dirt, in the soil, in the struggles and triumphs of everyday life,” and I whole-heartedly agree with him when he says that “getting started in this path requires you to settle down into the metaphorical dirt–the experiences of the world itself–and get your hands and feet muddy.” Spirituality requires an anchor, no matter what the system actually is, and there is no better anchor than the world and our experiences on and in it.

So we work to forge that “immediate and visceral connection with nature.” We work to find the divine in the mundane and the mundane in the divine. To me, that is the true origin of Wicca.

Exercise: Connecting to Earth

Sit somewhere in a natural setting: on a beach, in a forest, a field, or even in your own back yard. Breathe deeply and close your eyes.

As you sit, imagine that you have roots that extend from the base of your spine. These roots reach not only down into the earth, but out to everything on it. Imagine that this vast network of roots connects you to humans, animals, plants, objects. Take a moment to feel the pulse of your connection to the great All. Notice where your connection to things and people might be weak and where it feels strong.

Spend ten minutes (or longer if you can) simply feeling your connection. When you are finished, open your eyes. Consider the following questions:

  • In what way was my connection strong?
  • What do you suspect is the reason for any strong connections?
  • In what way was my connection to things weak?
  • What do I suspect is the reason for any weak connections?
  • What actions can I take that may strengthen any weak connections

Spend the rest of the day acting in accord with your heightened awareness to people and things around you.

I attempted to do this exercise on my lunch hour yesterday. Knowing I wanted to spend the bulk of it outside, I hurried to the closest restaurant (a McDonald’s…blech), grabbed takeaway, then immediately drove to nearby Geist Reservoir. I thought it would be nice to experience softly lapping water.

Oooh, boy…that was a mistake. Apparently there is no public access anything at Geist. The nearest I could even come to the water was to sit in a parking lot by the marina (the marina itself being restricted to boatowners only). I had an unsurpassed view of asphalt and litter. So I sat and ate my sandwich and watched an extremely obese golden retriever wander about. To top it off, the traffic was horrible. Even if I had been able to find a spot near the water, I doubt I would have heard it. Too many speed boats and cars zooming by. It was ridiculous.

So I headed back to McCordsville thinking I’d take a short walk around the cemetery there. Wrong! It was locked up. As was the elementary school playground just down the street. By that point, my hour was all but over. I had thought that perhaps I’d be able to sit on the lawn at Stanley’s…but they were blasting the muzak. Unfortunately, golden oldies do not particularly add to a communion with the earth. I tried the exercise again this morning in my back yard, but couldn’t shake the “I’ll be late to work!” feeling.

I could spend today–yet another long work day–feeling sorry for myself, but I’ve decided to try again. Yes, a lot of my obstacles have been human artificiality…but humans and their creations are part of this earth, too. As much as I’d like to run to Mounds Park and sit with my tree, I need to cultivate a connection to this part, too. Come lunch today, I’ll try again.

Later…

Well, at lunch today I took a little walk. I couldn’t take the music, couldn’t take the cars, so I started walking down 234. I eventually started walking in a cornfield, noticing the damage the recent floods have done to the crops. I watched a group of red-winged blackbirds alert each other over my presence. I couldn’t sit down, though. Seriously…I was practically on a public road. If I was a driver and saw me sitting in a middle of a corn field, I’d think “crazy lady!” So I went back to Stanleys and sat on the bumper of a truck, enjoyed the sun, and tried to ground. A no go. Later this evening, I sat on my back porch, watched the fireflies and tried again. The family bothered me.

Seriously? Should this simple exercise be this flipping hard?

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