The Nature of Nature
Well, that’s presumptuous of me. I do not and cannot possibly know the nature of nature, but my mind dances in the smells and sights of spring. I eagerly anticipate and look for the haze, the mist of green surrounding the trees as they begin to green with new leaves. I check every day for the explosion of pink and white of the fruit trees. I check the earth for the points of crocus, hyacinth, and, thrills and happiness – daffodils!. Nature is exploding with life and color all around us and it makes us want to sing, to dance, to roll in the mud (maybe…), to play with our partners. Oh, yes!
Imbolc with its promise of the celebration to comes passed, and Ostara with the joy and glory of the new Turn is here.
I have been asked many times to explain or define Wicca. What is Wicca? There so are many definitions depending upon one’s point of view, but always, always it is a nature religion. Many forms of Paganism also define themselves in some way as nature religions/spiritualities. Why? More than one reason, but mostly because our religions now in some way are based on and honoring the pre-Christian religions primarily of Europe. Since these religions from what we know were based on the agricultural year and the cycles of sun and moon, so that’s what we do. And this feels natural to us. And we remember that we are a part of nature, not apart from it. The dominion over the earth doesn’t work.
The year was celebrated in the recognizable cycles: the solstices, summer and winter, the longest and shortest days of the year (shortest and longest nights of the year), and the equinoxes when days and nights were equal. Many also celebrated the the days equally in between. These became the cross quarter days. So:
Samhain (October 3, cross quarter)
Yule (December 20/21 winter solstice)
Imbolg (February 2, cross quarter)
Ostara (March20/21, spring equinox)
Bealtaine (May 1, cross quarter)
Litha (June 20/21, summer solstice)
Lughnasah (July 1, cross quarter)
Mabon (September 30/21, fall equinox)
These are celebrated differently by different Traditions, but all have basics in common; for instance Ostara is celebrated as the first explosion of spring. And exploding it is! No one can walk outside without being bombarded by birds (have you heard the baby crows cawing their little heads off demanding dinner?), assaulted by the incredibly powerful smells of fresh growth, and seeing everywhere the gray of winter disappearing under waves of green. So yes, let’s have a wonderful ritual thanking the Lady for this majestical display!
But the overall question remains. What truly is a nature spirituality? What does it mean, and how do we as Pagans live that? Is it just honoring then Wheel of the Year and holding ritual then whether solitary or group? As much as ritual is powerful and appropriate, it is but the tip of the iceberg. Many Pagans find trying to live in harmony with the Earth absolutely necessary to their commitment to their spirituality, their Gods, their community as humans.
While I agree 100% with this there are things I think we need to do, be, remember. As part of nature remember who and what we share the Earth with. It is not just about humans. It is about everything on the Earth and respecting that. That means understanding the connectiveness of all things and how the web is formed. Everything depends upon other things, including us. We eat and are eaten. Everything eats and is eaten. If someone chooses to be omnivorous, they still eat and eventually will be eaten. The same goes for vegetarians. The important thing is to be knowledgeable and respectful.
Hmmm, as a teen I once asked my brother if rocks were sentient and he began to give me a lecture on the definition of sentience. I said that that was our definition, what about the rock’s? Yep, respect the balance of everything. Respect is the word.
Care for the environment is a Pagan requirement. Some of us are very active in this, but all of us can recycle, buy sustainably, compost, put our money where our mouths are. I am restricted as to my physical activities, but I can support certain charities or organizations even if it is just a little bit. Find ways to be a part of nature.
I am a lousy gardener. I have the blackest thumb imaginable. I still like to try – although I’m not sure if the natural world appreciates it… but the action of preparing the soil (I have a wee little garden space in the front of the house who’s purpose seems to be to feed the deer, birds, and squirrels…). I like to get my hands in the dirt, clean it up. We buy plants at the nursery often because they look cool, and I plant them. I weed, water, talk, and sometimes I’m lucky and they grow and have a nice plant life. I don’t grow food any more. I kill things. The point of course is that I try and when I’m doing this, I am reaffirming my connection with this land that sustains me. I have always had plants in the house, too. I try and sometimes, something works.
I used to love camping as a child. I was lucky, my dad loved camping and it was not unusual form him to call Mom on a Friday afternoon and say pack the kids, we’re off. As we lived in Portland, that usually meant the coast (Cape Lookout was a favorite) or the mountains., but our all time favorite was Camp Creek in the Mt. Hood National Forest. It was just at the base of Mt. Hood and on the banks of the Zigzag River. We always stayed at the very last campsite right before the little pedestrian bridge that crossed the river. Dad was a tent guy so we always had the sounds of the river, the smells of the forest, and the freezing chill of the air around us. Frankly, I am not a very good camper, but I treasure the experience. I try to meditated every day, and I bring to my mind the glade in that forest with the magnificent Douglas Firs where I first knew on some level that I was Pagan.
I rarely get to a true forest these days – luckily I have trees all around me, but I can use my mind to be in that very special place. And that is also acknowledging that I am part of nature. Nature doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be something “out there”. It is us. How we honor that and honor nature is in our power. And as Wiccans, as Pagans, we are compelled todo just that.