“Four Devotional Practices for Naturalistic Pagans” by Anna Walther

…since I'm desperately writing a paper for grad school right now, with little time for blogging and this is lovely!

Humanistic Paganism

“Why is it so quiet?” my son asked. “I don’t know,” I replied in a whisper, without knowing why. My children and I were visiting Seiders Springs, limestone artesian springs that lie along Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas. They’re framed by crowded city streets and two busy medical facilities, one on each bank of Shoal Creek, such that the quiet blanketing the path past the springs was arresting. Water babbled up through limestone to collect in shallow fern-framed pools. While we stood there listening, a couple of hospital workers walked by, chatting in hushed tones, enjoying the soft beauty and respite of natural springs in the heart of a bustling, rapidly-growing city.

My children stopped briefly to wonder at the improbability of water flowing from rock, then took off down the path, past the springs without me. I hastily gathered a handful of rocks and built a short tower on…

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This is what we did yesterday…

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Make it Monday: DIY Dental Floss

We’ve had a bit of an experiment here, going on in our house, in making our own dental floss.  The problem is this…dental floss is, generally speaking, nylon or teflon and paraffin wax–basically, sea turtle strangling petroleum products.  And those sea turtle strangling petroleum products are, generally speaking, boxed in albatross choking petroleum products.  There are, of course, some exceptions, all of which have their trade-offs:

  • Eco-dent:  Comes in a recyclable cardboard container, floss made of nylon, vegetable based waxes, plastic wrapping of floss inside container
  • Radius:  Fair trade silk floss or nylon (for the vegan option), veggie waxes, plastic box
  • Woobamboo:  Silk and beeswax…cardboard and plant based plastic packaging that becomes its own dispenser
  • Vömel: Silk and beeswax, glass container, may be shipped wrapped in plastic…expensive, and limited distribution–though this blogger says they may ship internationally if you ask nicely
  • A list with a few more options from Beth Terry
  • Stim-u-dent sticks and what to do with old dental floss containers (sewing kit, first aid on the go, undercover condom holder!)
  • Other options include miswak sticks, water flossers (expensive, but a one time plastic-laden purchase), and for those of you with your very own pony…horsehair (it used to be a thing, back in the day)

Right now, we are trying ahimsa silk (meaning that the silkworm was allowed to hatch before the cocoon was processed) with candelilla wax (yeah, that came in a plastic bag) and peppermint oil.  Our next trial run will be with organic, natural cotton thread that I’ve found on wooden spools (though I’ll have to see how much plastic comes with the packaging).

What we’ve found so far is that the most effective method we’ve tried is also the most labor intensive–actually dipping individual sections of the thread into the wax and then pulling them out (we’re using bamboo chopsticks for this) and sort of “smoothing off” the wax using our fingertips.  Good hygiene, of course, is a given…not sure you’d want to make this for anyone outside your family!  Because the thread tends to break easily (we tried unwaxed first, but as someone with “tight teeth” that didn’t work so well), the wax really needs to permeate through the thread to give it effective slide and strength.  We tried turning the candelilla into a bar and running the string through it a few times, which would have been less labor intensive, but also didn’t work nearly as well.   To see if maybe the problem was our choice of wax, we also tried that method with silk and beeswax as a comparison, since candelilla is much harder and more brittle than beeswax, but there wasn’t an appreciable difference.  I think that the candelilla is a good option, peppermint is pretty tasty, though we might try cinnamon next, and we’ll see how the undyed organic cotton compares to the silk.

Our other “next step” is trying trying to do more than 18 inches at a time…  I’m going to use my sewing machine to put some of the ahimsa silk onto a bobbin, and then see if we can toss the entire bobbin in the wax, and pull it while rewinding it (admittedly by hand).  I really want some of those glass dental floss containers like the German company makes, but I guess this is also good reuse for old dental floss containers!  I’ll be honest, the biggest reason I’m doing this is because I can’t understand why there isn’t a compostable, vegetable-wax based, no plastic container, dental floss out there…that my vegan co-worker (she’s okay with the ahimsa silk, though some vegans aren’t, hence the reason we are going to try the organic cotton next) can’t buy on the market.  Granted, my kitchen doesn’t have the whole supply chain thing worked out (the process is not plastic free due to shipping of materials used), but it does demonstrate that such a thing does work as a method of flossing!

 

Psych Meds, Self-Care and Paganism, by Lupa Greenwolf — Humanistic Paganism

You’ll notice that in the graphic at the top of this post I made my own modifications to the original meme. I state that both nature and psych meds are “one of many tools for managing mental illness.” When it comes to living with an illness–any illness–I believe it’s important to make as many options available as possible. That means that I see the nature/meds situation as a both/and one, not either/or.

via Psych Meds, Self-Care and Paganism, by Lupa Greenwolf — Humanistic Paganism

pietas erga terram

When you need to pray, go down to the sea. Breathe with the rhythm of the wind and the waves. Become the sun, the tide, the salt marsh. Dig your toes into the soil of your locus, rooting your spirit into the oikos of Earth.  And when you no longer know one from the other, let your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your very soul become one with the world, with the universe.

Breathe in, breathe out, and breathe in again and again and again…when you are finished, when you are ready, you will find your way back to yourself. Cleansed of the stain of society’s expectations from your soul, embrace your true self.  Walk back into the world of men and carry forth the heartsong of the egret.  Know that you can return anytime, because you are only one small thought away from sacredness.

If you lack a handy nearby ocean, don’t worry. You can do this anywhere…just shut off your computer or put down your book, open your front door and go outside (shoes are optional, but generally not recommended).  Listen to the poetry of the meadow, the protest song of dandelion-growing-in-sidewalk, or the soliloquy of the earthworm.  Feel the rhythm of prairie grasses in the wind, the dance of fireflies in the spring, and the long, slow slumber of the winter garden.  

It simply begins with loving where you live as an act of devotion.

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In ancient Rome, the goddess Pietas (in ancient Greece, eusebeia/Eusebeia) was the personification of piety, a core personal and public virtue.  The concept of pietas  encompassed the obligations of the individual to the gods, to the city/empire (of Rome), to their community, to their family (the family station/reputation, the household and the family itself, both living and dead), and to themselves.  This word represents the entirety of one’s responsibilities to fulfilling these social contracts.  For those of us whose religion includes a relationship with the Earth, whether it be through the gods or through the literal dirt of our bioregion, this starts with the pietas erga terram–the piety, reverence, or service that we owe towards the immanence of Nature and to its representatives (if one believes in them literally) and its inhabitants–including ourselves.

The pietas erga terram references the sum of our personal and public duties, both magical and mundane, from the greater Oikos of Earth to our respective bioregions to our own backyards.  If (as I have long asserted) a bioregional spirituality calls upon us to worship in those ways that bring ecstasy and reverence for the very experience of living while honoring the cycles and stages of the bioregion and its inhabitants, touching the earth (literally, symbolically, and spiritually) as we reclaim our wildness and reconcile it with our civilization through a reexamination of our relationships within the web of life, then the pietas erga terram describes the obligations of such relationships, and is rooted in two key ideas: biophilia and ecosophy.

Biophilia–Biologist (and personal hero) E. O. Wilson popularized the idea of biophilia (a term coined by psychologist Erich Fromme) to refer to what he hypothesized was an intrinsic human tendency to affiliate with (and to take it one step further, to even empathize and bond with) other forms of life.  In ancient Greece, “Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield.  It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them.” (source)  Bio-, then comes from the modern context (like in the word biology) of living organisms, or organic life (the original meaning of the word is somewhat different).  Biophilia, as expressed in our individual and communal kinship with the earth and its creatures, declares human AND non-human life is intrinsically valuable, and that the worth of the latter is not dependent on its use by the former (item #1 on the Platform for Deep Ecology).

Ecosophy–The word ecosophy originally comes from the work of Arne Naess (the Father of Deep Ecology, who used it as a brangelina of ecological psychology) and Felix Guattari.  Its meaning has deepened somewhat, and can be aligned more closely with the two Greek words that it originates from–oikos and sophia, home and wisdom (the home in question here being the greater Oikos of the Earth itself).  I think the best conceptulization of ecosophy can be found in this quote by Raimon Pannikar, “Much more than a simple ecology, ecosophy is a wisdom-spirituality of the earth. ‘The new balance’ is not so much between man and Earth, but between matter and spirit, between spatio-temporality and consciousness. Ecosophy is not simply a ‘science of the earth’ (ecology) and even ‘wisdom on earth,’ but the ‘wisdom of the earth itself’ that occurs when a man knows how to listen with love.”   Ecosophy, according to Druid John Michael Greer, is a worldview that “makes sense of human life not in terms of some imagined conquest of nature, but of our species’ dependence and participation in the wider circle of the biosphere.”

Next time, obligations of pietas erga terram