28 November 2010

Are You of the Land?

“Land, then, is not merely soil: it is a foundation of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals ... an ethic to supplement and guide the economic relation to land presupposes the existence of some mental image of land as a biotic mechanism. We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in ...” – Aldo Leopold, ecologist (from ”Wisdom of Elders” by David Suzuki and Peter Knudtson)

One description of being a Pagan is to have a relationship with the land, after all, the word Pagan is said to have been derived from the Latin Paganus meaning “country dweller”, amongst other interpretations. Yet, in this modern age how many of us who describe ourselves as "practising Pagans" and declare that we follow a “Pagan life style” are honestly “one” with nature and the land upon which we reside?  How many of us feel the tides change within us when they change around us?

The above quote from Aldo Leopold is just as relevant today as it was back in 1993 when the book was written, and whilst not directed specifically at Pagans, I personally believe that for those of us who allege that we adhere to a Pagan lifestyle or follow a Pagan belief system, that we should be able to put that belief more into practice – in other words, we should be doing more than merely talking the talk, we should be walking the walk.

With more and more of us actually being city dwellers as opposed to rural, and with the alleged “land shortage”, finding ourselves living in inner city flats or apartments, the probability of us being able to support ourselves from the land is increasingly impossible.  With the “land grab” invading invaluable farming lands, it is as if we have forgotten a basic science lesson taught in schools – the process of photosynthesis by which plants produce, as a form of waste product, the very oxygen we, not to mention other species, need to breathe. We also need our plant life to provide us with the food that we eat, regardless of whether we are vegans, vegetarians or carnivores.

All life is interconnected which means we have an ongoing relationship with all things around us, in particular the earth upon which we stand. As with any kind of relationship, there is give and take on both sides.   This brings me back to Aldo Leopold’s quote for it is only when we, as humans, cease to see the land, the plant life, and even the other species with whom we share the earth with as “irrelevant”, we will eventually lose our most precise gift of all – that of life.

Maybe it is time we step outside our concrete slabs and feel the grass beneath our toes, run our fingers down the roughness of a tree’s bark, admire the strength the seemingly delicate plants must have to push their way through the soil, and start to marvel the wonder that is all around us, re-establishing your relationship with the earth.

(adapted from a longer article)

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