This is part one of a two part essay I’ve written as part of the conversation about Rewilding Witchcraft. Part two can be found here.
I’ve been watching a discussion unfold these past few weeks across blogs and social media within the Pagan community. The background setting is chiefly about the decline of humanity’s ability to survive as a species over the coming 100 years or so. The matter is doleful, sobering and utterly important. To get a full sense of the discussion, I encourage you to read Peter Grey’s essay “Rewilding Witchcraft” on the Scarlet Imprint website now. The subject that plays over this background is that we as neopagans, witches, heathens, etc. have lost our teeth in favor of a wider public acceptance, perhaps at just the time when we need them most. Indeed the first few lines are,
How tame we have become. How polite about our witchcraft. In our desire to harm none we have become harmless.
In a sense, he’s right, there have been some enormous sacrifices done in the name of normalizing how we as Pagans interact with society. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing 100% of the time either. Sarah Anne Lawless writes on her blog about, “The Witch and the Wild,” a response to Grey’s essay. Again, you should go read that link now as well. Lawless is responding to the call for more wildness, writing about the need for more intimacy with the place where we live, with the nature that exists where you are and the need to connect with the spirits of place. As she notes, witches are wild, they are frightening and they are absolutely necessary for the life of a community. They act as a conduit through which we can all be more in touch with nature, and the spirits that occupy the land, air and sea. She says,
We must be able to commune with the spirits of nature; of animals, insects, plants, waters, forests, mountains, plains, deserts, elemental forces, and also with the dead. In order to commune with the spirits we must become them, we must live with them, we must speak to them even if they do not answer back for years whether due to our untrained ears or their chosen silence.
Rhyd Wildermuth wrote on The Wild Hunt about “Manifesting An Other World“. I see this essay as a continuation of the discussion started by Grey and picked up by Lawless. Once again, go read it, I’ll wait here. Wildermuth talks about the effects of a dominant culture, combined with hyper-capitalism, creating the illusion of choice but that actually limits the parameters of the discussion to within generally “safe” terms that don’t challenge the system. He discusses the concept of belief being relegated to opinion and how that in turn renders we the believers, fairly toothless. He concludes by asking of us,
will it be enough merely to “like” the earth and the old ways, with all the meaning and affect of a Facebook status update? Will we let our hopes, dreams, and desires languish in the dark, repressed interiors worlds, or might we have the courage to make manifest and make true our beliefs, regardless the threatened cost?
So we’re seeing themes of monumental environmental shifts looming, capitalism as an almost cancerous backdrop to how we live, love and interact (and remember, market systems don’t exist in binary, I’m not an advocate for communism either), as well as the desire to be more invested in nature and the spirits of place. I live in South Florida, an area that simultaneously has some of the most amazing and unique nature in North America, combined with a population almost entirely disconnected with what that means or looks like. In part two of this essay, I’ll discuss the challenges and opportunities as I see them from this end of the Pagan world.