Part of the Rhetoric of Witchcraft and Contemporary Paganism as a whole is that ours is a Nature Religion. In part this means that Witchcraft is a path built upon observation of the natural world and is a reflection of the divinity therein. It also means that within the discourse and practice of Witchcraft there is an emphasis for things as they were naturally intended to be. This came about as a result of the alliance that Contemporary Paganism made upon exporting to the United States; the alliance between what was once primarily a fertility religion and the many forms of activism, such as environmentalism, that was in full force in the United States during that era. Don’t get me wrong, Witchcraft is still a fertility religion, the path has just absorbed some other titles as well.
My own elders in CoR (Church of Rhiannon) were very much aligned with these various movements. They were so inclined because they felt spiritually obligated by the ethics and morals they had developed from Contemporary Paganism. Interestingly enough they called themselves Dirt Pagans. This, I feel, perfectly illustrates the relationship between Contemporary Paganism, Witchcraft, and the various social and natural activist movements. Before I get into that, I will digress just a bit. Just as their spirituality informed their choices about involvement in these various movements, the ideas, ideals, and stances being promulgated within the movements informed their Arte. As a result of this push back there developed an emphasis upon ’The Natural’.
The identity of Dirt Pagan came about dually from a group identity crisis and an accidental moment of spiritual epiphany that came about as a result of a pair of Christians arguing. Long story short, CoR was a synthesis of Witchcraft, Druidry, and local folk traditions. As a result, they did not feel they could properly identify with Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidism or Druidry, or any other popular form of Contemporary Paganism at the time. Nor were they exactly eclectic; they were formed of Initiates from many different paths and effectively had created a working and traditionally operated Coven and Church of their own, eventually hiving several smaller groups. Then one day, one of the founding members (my Uncle) overheard two Christian ladies talking. One of them was speaking not too nicely about his being a Pagan. The other lady came to his defense, sorta; she said, “Don’t worry about him; he is just playing in the dirt looking for God.” Whereas yes, it has some derogatory connotation as it was said, that is not how it was received. It was a moment of complete revelation. Therein was a statement emphasizing that the divine exists in everything, every act, and that even playing in the dirt reveals the sacred unto those which will take the time to open themselves to it. The name was aptly adopted by CoR.
The title Dirt Pagan is about finding the sacred in the world around us. Its emphasis is upon the natural world around us as a result of the involvement of CoR elders in activism. However, this is not to say that the sacred in not everywhere else, just to say that it brought with is a feeling of connecting with divinity via participation in activities, whether worship or other, that seem to be aligned with ‘how nature intended.’ It is this idea of having a natural role that appears within Contemporary Paganism, even if it is not often pointed out or said of such.
So much of my own life is molded by the idea of a natural role. My choices on food, whether to recycle or not, being an ally of the LBGT community, bare-footing, my dislike of shaving, thinking everyone should garden, and so much more; all of this falls into that realm. These are my own personal interpretation though and only the surface and micro level expression of the macro. As a Nature Religion there persists within our rhetoric arguments of cosmic level archetypes, essences, natural roles, what have you, which basically makes two bold statements. The first is that nothing exists that is not natural; it simply would not exist otherwise. The second is that since the macro existence has a natural role thereof, so do we.
The basic essence of what it is to be human is a parameter into which we are born; it is not something we can change, so let’s not fight being human. Likewise, there are some aspects of our individual existence that are also determined by nature. Members of the LBGT community are quick to assert that they were born who they are, and rightly so, and that who they are is not a choice.
In the end, part of what the path of Witchcraft attempts to teach an individual is to learn how to uncover and discover for themselves their own natural role as dictated by their own spiritual progress and divine participation in the cosmic order. It is something only they can do, to take the seed planted in their heart by the sacred at their birth and to nurture it into a flower beyond compare.
There is a danger that exists within this form of thinking. In Hinduism, the caste system came about as a result of the belief that everyone is born into a specific function that is there natural role; thus the accepted inequality of the Casteless, which is but one example of many prevalent within Hinduism as a product of this form of thinking. This is not the discourse of Western Contemporary Paganism at the moment. As a New Religious Movement that is still developing its infrastructure, included in our efforts needs to be an awareness that our emphasis as a Nature Religion could bring with it practices that are very unlike the activism movements with whom we allied ourselves with that originated the idea in the first place.
How much of your path is shaped by involvement in activism or natural oriented living?
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."