Monthly Columns

Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living

 

I’m excited to announce that my new book about environmentally kind paganism is just about finished, and I hope to have a publication date soon! This is an absolutely exclusive peek at the brand new book, never before seen, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

Earth

The smell of the spring

Is a wondrous thing

Air simply alive

With bacteria sporing

That warm rainy smell

That’s the time you can tell

That the wheel has now turned;

On the flip side we dwell.

Day outlives night

The warm golden light

Gives way to the stars

And the nocturnal sight

Of the moon and the owl

And the fox on the prowl

And the cats start to sing

As the dogs start to howl

That the earth is alive

From the snow we survive

Green and strong, we belong

To this world -and we thrive!

Dig my toes in the mud

Plant myself if I could

To be part of the web

Of life, stone, sap and wood.

 

When we think about environmentally friendly spirituality, the Earth is often the first thing that comes to mind. After all, this aspect of our work is primarily abut protecting the planet we walk on: the rocks, the mountains, the plains, the deserts, even the freezing Arctic wastes. The Earth is our home, and as an element, is it any wonder we often associate it with steadfastness, courage, and a warm and loving hearth?

The Earth is, in a way, the primary element. Fire grows within the earth, in the core and in the hearts of volcanoes. Air flows through every tree, around every hill, and into every person’s lungs. Water covers around 71% of the surface of the planet, in oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, even those tiny springs that pop out of the side of grassy hills, just waiting to be discovered by thirsty hikers. Earth is the home to all of these, and understanding this helps to see how all the elements, or aspects of our planet, are intrinsically linked and work together to create a world that is uniquely suitable for life.

Despite knowing how deeply intertwined elements are, we love to separate things and honour them separately. Earth often becomes the direction of north, the colours brown or black or green, animals like the bear or the owl, or entities like the great oak tree. For sacred spaces, Earth can be represented by stones, crystals, salt, or icons and symbols that speak to us of our own personal connection to the planet we walk on. Consider adjusting the way you honour Earth with the following environmentally kind tips:

    • Use natural altar decorations you have found yourself; more on this in the chapter on Sacred Space
    • If you do take objects from the wild, for example the woods or seashore, make sure it isn’t a home for someone. I once picked up a shell out of the surf, and tiny claws poked out around the edges and out popped a very disgruntled hermit crab! Even rocks can have a multitude of life living beneath them.
    • Salt is a fine symbol for earth, and is also used in protection, sacred circles, and any number of other spiritual purposes. However, salt can be harmful to plants and some animals, so disposing of it becomes somewhat problematic. If the salt is in a container and hasn’t been contaminated (e.g. with oils, incenses) you could donate it if your spiritual practice approves of this. You may also be permitted in your practice to consume the salt yourself. Some waste management sites have facilities to deal with salt. You can save it and use it for salting a pathway or driveway to make it safe in icy weather. Or you could have the same salt that you always use for ritual purposes. Keep this in an airtight container away from moisture to ensure longevity.
    • If you use paper in your practice, make sure it is recycled or recyclable. If you plan to burn paper, a common practice for some types of spell work, consider what you will do with the ashes. Ash makes a great addition to compost. If I were petitioning Hekate, I might leave the ashes scattered across the roots of a tree at a crossroads.
    • Statuary: Statues, figures, and icons are common across most spiritual and religious paths that I know of. If you can, support a local artist rather than purchasing something mass-produced. Consider the materials the statue is made of: are they ethically sourced and sustainable? How sturdy is it? This is a serious consideration for me, in a house with three cats and three kids! I don’t have the skills to repair a smashed statue and wouldn’t purchase something I have to replace a week later.
    • Incense is a link between Earth and air, using earthly ingredients to create smoke that rises into our olfactory senses and affects us in some way. Check what’s in your incense, where it comes from, and another point I look for is to make sure it’s not accidentally appropriating the practices of a culture I have no right to. For example, I would never do a smoke-cleansing with white sage. I’ve heard the opinions of some indigenous folks who are very uncomfortable with this practice becoming widespread. Some tribes weren’t allowed to practice smudging until 1978, as it was considered illegal. I’d like to respect that. You may have connections which make the use of white sage perfectly appropriate for you. I respect that too. I tend to smoke-cleanse with rosemary, which I have a strong, personal connection to, and which is a powerful boost to memory. My memory needs all the help it can get!
    • Look for ways to give back to the Earth, such as planting trees, volunteering with a charity such as the Woodland Trust, or get involved with community initiatives to plant more flowers or start an allotment.

Developing a connection to the Earth can be as simple as pausing each day to breathe and make a note of the feeling of the ground beneath you if you can, or simply visualising it, always moving, spinning, with us bound to it by gravity. I also like to take notice of what’s growing outside, which helps me keep track of the seasons. Seeing snowdrops at Imbolc, fresh green birch leaves at Beltane, or salsify seeding at Lughnasadh; these are just some of the things that remind me of my connection to the world around me. I remember that I am a part of nature itself and need to walk gently for my own benefit, just as much as the benefit of the Earth.

Come join me at the Practically Pagan Facebook group or watch my talk on environmentally kind paganism on YouTube.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.