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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Environmental Debates within Paganism

Environmental issues have always been close to the hearts of many Pagans. This is probably because Pagans generally believe we sprang from the earth rather than being placed on it, they celebrate the divinity in the natural world.

However, that doesn’t mean they agree on environmental issues.

One of the longest running debates on this is, what I’m going to call: “The Vegetarian/Vegan Debate”. The pro-vegetarian/vegan camp argues that animals are as much a part of the earth as we are, and shouldn’t be eaten or commercially farmed. Their cause is further strengthened by the large levels of global emissions produced by commercial farming of meat products which is a huge contributory factor to global warming.

However, there is a counter argument to these beliefs which is no less compelling. Meat loving Pagans would argue that, humans are natural omnivores, the Gods don’t want us to stop eating roast beef anymore than they would want foxes to stop catching rabbits. A lot of them also point to the fact that the manufacture of soya products -(a popular meat/dairy substitute)- is causing real lasting damage to the environment, and the “food miles” associated with this , often GM, food source are a real environmental concern.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that soya is used in animal feed, so whilst the vegetarian/vegan camp shout “That shoots down your argument!” the meat eaters shout “That means we need to support the meat industry so farmers can afford more organic feeds”… And around and around we go.

Another topic that has led to some heated discussions is the proposed badger cull. A large part of the Pagan community dashed straight to the petition websites and on to social media, trying to stop the cull from ever happening. In their view badgers are native to the UK and they enjoy a protected status that should remain very much in place. They pointed to TB vaccines as an obvious reason as to why these culls simply were not needed. A lot of them saying that mankind has meddled with wildlife far too much and it should be left alone to recover.

However, there’s another point of view on this too. Some Pagans would point to the fact that the vaccine isn’t totally effective, and that the -(although limited)- evidence we do have, points to the fact that cases of TB do fall in areas where culls have been used. They also remind us that this isn’t an issue that just effects commercial farmers, and it shouldn’t just be about TB, many small holders who are at the fighting front of self-sufficiency and eco-living are devastated by livestock being attacked and killed by badgers. Although we my not like the idea of mankind meddling with wildlife, unfortunately we’ve been doing just that for centuries and we need to take responsibility for our own mess. Many other wild animal species are culled to help stabilise and maintain their population, why not badgers… And around and around we go.

Some people will read this article as a complaint, please don’t. If anything it is the opposite. One of the reasons I’m so proud to be part of the Pagan community is that they actually care enough to bother to inform themselves and form opinions they can stand behind, which ever side of the fence that opinion may be on.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Treasuring our naivety

I spent last weekend at a large MBS event at the Olympia in London. This was a much bigger event than we normally attend, and put me in contact with an entirely different set of people. Lots of the people approaching the stall were drew by the name "Hedge Witchery Books", and not having had any contact with witchcraft before wanted to know all about it. Answering their questions put me in a somewhat reflective mood, not about witchcraft or Hedge-Witchery, but about learning, knowledge and our attitude to it.

You see, unsurprisingly, there are lots of things I do differently after 10 years plus of magical/pagan practise than I did in my first few years. Had I started the websites and business now rather than then, I may have chosen to call it Haegtessa, to avoid the modern misconceptions of the practise. I may have written about the moons and festivals differently, tying them to the natural calender I now use, rather than the Gregorian one I used to, and still refer to in articles and beginners books. But in some ways I'm very thankful I started the site and business whilst I was still a little more green.

Way back when I was first starting out on this path, there is no way I could have worked to an entirely natural calender... it would have baffled me. There's no way I could have pronounced Old-English terms and charms... let alone used them. There's no way I would have felt comfortable using different names for festivals and celebrations, to the majority of people on a similar path to me... let alone go into details as to why the ones I use seem more appropriate.

Now I'm meeting people in the same position, just starting down their paths and looking for few helpful sign-posts and a way to make the journey easier.

Some people will say that I should only pass on the practises I practise now, that the reason I have evolved my practises over the years was because what I learnt earlier on was "incorrect" or "modern mis-teaching"... or in the case of one writer I had this debate with recently "uneducated". However, as all spiritual and magical practises have a personal relevance to each individual, this is not the case.

Hedge-Witchery.com has always been a "beginner friendly" site... and it always will be. Although we've recently started providing resources for people a little further down there path with the online and in person courses, we'll never -(I hope!)- lose the way absolute new-comers can jump into the beginners articles and books and find a way to practise that they can easily relate to and fit into their lives.

The lessons I learnt and the way I practised in the past is what enabled me to be comfortable and build skills in my path and what led me to where I am now. Had I not learnt those lessons I would not have learnt all the ones that followed. You will no doubt meet writers who have turned the first lessons they learnt, and the people who still pracise them, into negative things that they now point to as "inaccurate", wielding them like hammers to be thrown at new-comers they find disdainful and un-deserving of their self-supposed advanced knowledge, but, in my humble opinion, you should pay them no heed.

I will always hold onto the terms and practises I learnt in my more naive days, although I may not use them in all situations, they are still very relevant. They hold a certain magic of their own, a kind personal to me, a kind of energy that relates to wonder, excitement, curiosity and a desire to learn more. Who knows, another 10 years down my path and the terms and practises I use now may hold the same magic.