Eco-Paganism has been a term frequently used for decades. And it’s been clear that people have widely varying definitions of what constitutes Eco-Paganism or being Earth-oriented. The purpose of The Eco-Pagan isn’t to define for others what Eco-Paganism is. But it exists to provide a point of view and generate thinking and discussion about what it means. As I outlined in the Crisis in Earth and Spirituality page, everything about what we understand human civilization and religion to be is being challenged by a new reality. Being products of the 20th and 21st centuries with all of their modern technologies, I think we barely grasp the implications of this new reality.
My observation is that we talk about being earth-oriented. But given our immersion in a society that is causing so much destruction to the planet, it is hard for us to grasp alternatives to our society’s current path. There certainly have been experiments at creating alternatives that are worth looking at. But these are often beyond the means of most people due to finances and/or other personal circumstances.
Beginning the path
A look at my own personal history and you will perhaps better understand my motivations for writing this blog. When I graduated from college, I embarked on an environmental project that was a mixture of promoting more environmentally sustainable living, and actually living out of a tent, in nature, for the better part of a year. Living close to nature in that way was indescribable. It created changes in me that even now I struggle to put into words, but without a doubt it forever altered my world view.
This project was meant to be temporary. I loved what I was doing, but honestly was also looking forward to returning to the “real world.” I had dreams of what an integrated eco-spiritual lifestyle in Chicago might look like for me. But coming back to my native Chicago was actually a huge culture shock for me after my experience in nature. Living in the city seemed like the most ecologically sound thing to do since I didn’t need to own a car. But I felt abruptly cut off from that deep connection with nature and I suddenly felt spiritually adrift, even though I loved living in the city at that time.
A sudden gust of wind one August evening summoned me outside. I felt a momentary sense of reconnection and joy as I watched a drama in the clouds play out above the city. In journal-writing about the experience, the word “Pagan” slipped out of my pen. So I began to connect with Pagan groups in the area.
Becoming a Pagan, leaving, and returning again
But it felt strange. With the Pagan groups in the area, I didn’t feel the connection with nature that I’d felt the year before or in that moment when the wind called me. I didn’t understand at first the desire to reconstruct old polytheistic religions. Nevertheless, I still learned a lot. I made many friends and had many good experiences in the community and was active in the community for several years. But this sense of something still being missing eventually led me to become a solitaire Pagan. And then a series of events diverted me to other paths for a number of years. These paths were in very different directions from what I’d originally planned to, and I eventually left those paths behind. But in experiencing those paths, I learned a lot of valuable lessons..
This post describes how I returned to the Pagan fold, and I have had a number of amazing experiences in the years since I’ve done so. But I still don’t feel like I’ve found the feeling of connection with the Earth that I have been looking for since living in Chicago in the 90s. Nevertheless, in my work as a solitaire Pagan, I have more freedom and time to engage in the search for what I’m looking for. And I’ve had a few small moments that give me hope and encouragement.
It’s not just about calling oneself an Eco-Pagan
As I do, I realize at the same time that our time is literally screaming for a new spiritual paradigm. The changes happening today are arguably the most significant changes in human and Earth history in the last 10,000 years. Never has humankind faced a time when we have had the capacity for unimaginable destruction until now. Never has humankind been actually engaging in such destruction on the scale we are doing now. We can no longer pretend that it is 30 CE or 622 CE. Even efforts to reconstruct the older religions, while certainly having value, aren’t by themselves what the Earth needs from us at this critical time.
So the purpose of this blog is to explore what a spiritual path adapted to the realities of our current world and coming world look like. What does it look like to be truly an Eco-Pagan in this century? What can we do given the realities of the current world and new world that confronts us? How can we feel and then maintain that connection with the Earth?