Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times July 2019
It is almost Summer Solstice, and I realize I get to pick the topic as there is no Sabbat next issue!
Well…we are getting a lot of rain in Central Ohio, and on one hand, my plants just LOVE it, and it means I do not have to water them. Do those of you who garden notice that plants prefer being watered by rain than hose watering?
So, on one hand, I cannot really complain, but SO much rain! I remember some years ago, one June, it rained for nineteen days straight. NINETEEN. I am seeing stories in the news about flooding taking place in other towns, and mine does not have flooding issues because we have the Hoover Dam a few miles away as well as some very well built and well-maintained sewers in my town.
I’m feeling pretty thankful for that right now. I’d pack the dog and cats on my back, and swim away if this place flooded!
While rain is something people prayed for since as long as we can remember, flooding is NOT!
I can only imagine how people felt in days of yore when there was a flood. Back before electricity and automobiles to drive us to safety, ship in supplies for rebuilding, and before TV forecasts helped alert people to evacuate. Lore exists that flooding was sent from some deity for some reason. The most famous of these stories is the one of Noah and his Ark.
(Woodcut of Noah’s Ark from Anton Koberger’s “German_Bible”)
I grew up listening to how mad the god of the Hebrews was at humanity, and decided to destroy them all- except Noah, who pleased him. So, he warned Noah to build a huge boat for his family, and all the animals, and go inside. He tried to warn his neighbors anyhow, and they laughed at him. Well, the story goes, when Noah was done, and his family and one male and one female of all the animals were safely inside, the rain started, and it rained so hard, the neighbors begged to be let into the boat. The door, however, was shut fast, and they could not let anybody in. For forty days and forty nights, Noah, his family, and the animals were safe in the ark, and eventually, the rain stopped, and they were able to go out and start life again. In the story, their god was sorry for destroying humanity, and sent the rainbow as a promise he would never destroy humanity with a flood again.
To me, it’s always been just another lore story, trying to explain floods. People believed it an act of a god, not an act of nature. What I did not know, is this story comes from even OLDER stories from non-Hebrews, but polytheistic Pagans!
Experts call these Deluge Myths, or Flood Myths, and while such stories exist in Hinduism and ancient Chinese sources, I am going to focus on Mesopotamian sources.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, dated to 7th century BC. It tells us that the god Enlil becomes tired of the noise humanity makes, and decides to destroy all of them. But the god Ea, who created human beings out of blood an earth warns the human named Utnapishtim, telling him how to build a great boat so humanity may survive. Bits of this are contained in a marvelous book titled Near Eastern Mythology by John Gray, and here is an excerpt of what Ea told Utnapishtim:
“Give up possessions, seek thou life.
Forswear worldly goods and keep the soul alive!
Aboard the ship, take thou the seed of all living things.
This ship that thou shalt build,
Her dimensions shall be to measure.
Equal shall be her width and her length,
Like the Apsu that shalt ceil her.”
Then, after the ship is completed, the story further says:
“With the first glow of dawn,
A black cloud rose from the horizon.
Inside it Adad thunders,
While Shullat and Hanish go in front,
Moving as heralds over hill and plain.
Eragal tears out the posts:
Forth comes Ninurta and causes the dykes to overflow.
The Anunnaki lift up their torches,
Setting the land ablaze with their glare.
Consternation over Adad reaches to the heavens,
Who turned to blackness all that had been light.
The wide land was shattered like a pot:
For one day the storm wind blew,
Gathering speed as it blew, submerging the mountains,
Overtaking the people like battle.”
Clearly it is not ONE god, but those named working together to make this great flood destroy life.
Another myth from Sumeria about a hero king named Ziusudra relates a deluge as well. The writing is dated to the 17th century BC, and follows the same basic story-line as the Noah, and Gligamesh deluge with only a slight differences.
I was able to find an incredible video explaining how the Tigris and Euphrates region flood every year and how it creates floods that devastate some years. Basically, there is snow on the mountains located nearby, and every spring, the snow melts, bringing with it fertile soil from the mountains, which make the farmlands great for growing things. Unfortunately, WHEN it happens is not always at the same time. Furthermore, HOW much water comes is unreliable also. Sometimes, you get almost no water or silt, and if this happens a few years in a row, the famine devastates. Other times, just the right amount of water comes, and it’s fantastic. Other times, WAY too much water comes, and sweeps away everything in its path, wiping out homes, farms, and pretty much ‘destroying the world.’ Many believe the story of the great floods possibly came from such an event.
Here is the video you can watch that explains the flooding cycles:
Beyond that, more than one expert in the field is convinced they can find exactly where that great deluge happened that inspired the stories, a researcher named Robert Ballard for one. A retired US Navy Officer, and professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, he is most famously known for his groundbreaking research of the USS Titanic, was convinced he can find where Noah’s flood was. Back in 2012, excited articles ran, stating he found a flooded shoreline, and was looking into that a lot. Nobody has inconclusively proven THE event that triggered all these myths, but one can understand how an entire shoreline being washed away and becoming permanently submerged in a catastrophic event that killed many triggered these stories. Here is one of the articles I read about Ballard and his research on the topic.
So What Now?
What does all of this mean to people today? Well…with Global Warming, rising sea levels due to polar ice cap melting, the easy to see demise of animals in Polar regions, and the warnings we have gotten from scientists, I am not convinced we won’t see another great deluge.
I hope we won’t, and I am convinced we can prevent it, but we have to start now, and never let up.
First off- WHAT is causing it?
Well, people. Naysayers will claim climate change happens from time to time anyhow, and refuse to believe humanity has the power to create it, but science states different. Temperatures are rising and that is making the ice melt. We are causing it in many ways, one of which is with our emissions from cars and energy use. While we are not going to just scrap technology and walk everyplace, or ride wagons or horses again, we can make a difference.
Instead of a spell or Sabbat rite, I am including a list of easy ways you can make a difference. BIG things can be done, and are being done, but most people don’t know the little things they can do at home that make a big impact.
As we are earth based, and worship the great mother, the earth being one of her embodiments, one of the best ways to worship her is to tend the earth.
Ten Small Ways to Fight Climate Change
- Reduce Trips- Reducing trips will reduce the amount of gas you use, thus reducing your emissions. My mom would bunch all the errands into one trip and go in a circle from the house, calculating the shortest possible trip, thus saving gas. Back then, it was about saving money, but it saved the air too. Carpool if you can, and instead of long rides places, go for walks in the park or in your neighborhood. There are many ways you can reduce trips, and thus save yourself from using more fossil fuels.
- Use less power at home- Shut the lights off in the rooms you are not using, and when it is time to buy a new appliance, buy the most energy efficient one you can afford. Also, take a look at your insulation and windows. Do those need an upgrade? Our sliding glass door lets air leak out, and in the next year or two we are getting a new one- it is 50 years old, after all, as are the windows!!!!! Our insulation was redone last year, making me need to run the thermostat way less. We also dress FOR the season, meaning we do not crank our heat up to 80 in winter and run around in shorts. I like to run the air conditioner cold, and am working to turn it higher. We also do what our mothers said and do not “run in and out the door” letting the air out!
- Plant things- Yes. Cultivating the earth keeps it healthy and producing. Planting native plants does wonders for your ecosystem, supporting insect and animal life. Unless you are allergic, plant as many bee and pollinator friendly plants as possible, and grow some fruits, herbs, and veggies. It is also a good way to get you closer to mother earth and in sync with her seasons. Take good care of your plants, and don’t neglect them. This will also get you outdoors more, and acclimated to the outside temperature instead of being cooped up in a climate controlled box.
- Buy secondhand- Not only does this save money in the long run, but it helps keep things from rotting in the landfills. An added bonus is this ensures you are always finding interesting things, and your home will be filled with unique conversation pieces!
- Donate- Don’t throw away the good stuff! It can be somebody else’s treasure, raise money for a charitable thrift shop, and keep good things from rotting in the landfill.
- Reduce- They used to ask us all to recycle before discovering the energy used to do so causes horrible pollution, and about 1/3 of our recycled good rot in landfills or get dumped in the ocean. #4 and #5 denoted suggestions of how to reuse- but we also have to reduce what we use to begin with. If there is less demand for more to be produced, that reduces emissions are factories, saves YOU money, is a win- win for us all. The main thing people are currently focused on is using less single use plastics, but I would go a step further. Do you really need to buy that thing on sale when you have two of the same at home? If you have plenty of clothes, why are you buying more? How many tubes of pink lipstick do you need? Get in the habit of living with less in as many ways as possible. It becomes habit and spills over into all aspects of your life after a time.
- Do the local thing- It’s become a cliché saying these days, but it is true. Support local businesses as much as possible. Buy goods and services that have been produced nearby as often as possible. It’s not financially doable for some things- I cannot afford $10 for local honey when it would be $4 for the same size honey from the grocery, but maybe you can buy tomatoes at the farm stand all summer instead of the grocery, or maybe even once or twice. Maybe local food is not doable, but hiring a local contractor instead of somebody from out of town is. That would mean less gas is used for the professional to come do the job. You can also try to get them to use local materials if at all possible, and tell everybody in your town what good work they do, giving them future references so they get hired more.
- Do the local fun stuff- Like buying local, instead of heading out of town for every vacation of long weekend, why not check out the goings on in your own community? I worked at a local cavern, and I cannot tell you how many customers came in, said how much they loved their visit, and said they had lived nearby all their lives and never bothered to stop in. BUT they had gone to caves and caverns out of town. Why? Unless you live in hometown nowhere, and are dying to get out, check out the local scene. My hometown, for example is Westerville, Ohio. In my town, all Friday nights in late Spring through early Fall has something called Fourth Fridays in the historic district where all shops and restaurants have open houses. There are street vendors, shows, and art and handmade food and goods are everyplace. There is something similar 20 miles away and in other towns an hour or two away, but I can go two miles and do it all close to home! You would not think such a small town would have such fun goings on, but as people like to have fun, most towns certainly do.
- Share what you do- I don’t advocate proselytizing or preaching at people, but when everybody is talking about their lifestyle, share yours. If there is a program or even a website you know of that gives suggestions and resources for how to reduce emissions and fight global warming, talk about it when the time is right. Teach your children, and friends about it, and keep the good things going.
- Vote- That’s another cliché piece of advice, but if we vote fpr people who have a track record of putting things in action that combat global warming, they are going to be in the position to keep doing it. Many people I know insist they do this by voting with their pocketbook. If they think a company is doing horrible things, they don’t buy from them, and they tell everybody else not to buy there also. A lot of people boycott Hobby Lobby or Chick Fil A due to disagreeing with their values. But that in, and of itself is simply not enough. You have to also buy from the people who uphold what you DO value. Still, that is simply not enough. As we saw from the campaign in the 20th century to “Buy American Made Only”, it did not stop companies from sending jobs and manufacturing centers overseas anyhow. As many people boycott Chick Fil A and Hobby Lobby, they are still open, and nobody can change how the owners and CEO’s operate, and none of us can control all the throngs of people who agree with them. We must demand through voting politically, that our lawmakers create change, and just boycotting one store or one product is not going to fix it all. People get very angry with me when I say these things, but the issue is not ONE store or restaurant. It is a system we have in place which allows things like this to happen. We have to dismantle the system instead of bitching about one store or one cause. Say you are against slave labor and low wages. Do you know how many companies literally use it? Nestle, Nike, and Starbucks for a few- and Nestle is responsible for approximately 2,000 brands in over 150 countries. Most Americans use Nestle goods. They are just one of many corrupt organizations that has a lot of things out there drawing business. We have to have people in lawmaking who get the power away from companies and individuals to make these horrible things happen to begin with.
If you want an idea of how big Nestle is, look at this Wikipedia list– I bet you have some of their products at home!
The earth will be better off once humanity goes extinct, some of us say! But I don’t know if that is ever going to happen, so we have to do the best we can to turn things around as well as we can.
As I finish writing this, a major downpour just finished at my condos, and my cat hid out someplace until it eased off, then she came home soaking wet to treats and cuddles. If our home was swept away, where would she have to come in from the rain? Our pets, children, and all our loved ones are depending on us to protect them and to prevent disasters from global warming.
May the rains bless us and be all we need, but not too much, and may we make it be so.
About the Author:
Saoirse is a recovered Catholic. I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.