Neo-Pagan Meanderings

012I came to Druidry through neo-Paganism, mainly Wicca-inspired at first, but later went a more informal and non-traditional way. I wanted to explore and experiment, not get tied down to any specific tradition or doctrine.

Modern Paganism I’d say comes in two parts: ancestral tradition and reverence for nature (it gets more complicated than that, but that’s the general picture). On the one hand, there is a sense of recovering ancestral pre-Christian religion that somehow still exists within us. On the other hand, these ancestral religions represent being closer to nature, and give us a link to our own image of the “noble savage” – a native one rather than one appropriated from another culture.

I was drawn to the “native” traditions of the Celts and Norse, but couldn’t restrict myself to them, since my sense of ancestry and cultural heritage was broad. Western Culture has a strong Christian element that I couldn’t ignore, and much of our philosophy and politics has found its way in from the Mediterranean. If I were to “honour my ancestors” I would have to be inclusive and recognise the multiple sources that have affected my ancestry, both biological and cultural.

But my real interest was “nature-based spirituality”, so I only recognised the spiritual value of something if I felt it would connect me to nature. I searched a wide variety of sources, but I had no special interest in formal religion, gurus, spiritual celebrities or progression through graded initiations. My spirituality was far too anarchic and “organic”; I wanted to connect directly to the spirit of nature, not follow artificial spiritualities with their arbitrary systems. I wanted to contact with nature in a quiet and private way. I felt I was developing a Celtic- or Nordic-flavoured Taoism with hunter-gatherer aspirations (but not quite a luddite – I still used the Internet a lot, lol).

Things like chakras, the kabbalah, methods of meditation, ritual, divination and all sorts of spiritual theories and theologies were “human inventions”. I have to admit, they were never far away, since my curious intellect always liked to play with these interesting “toys”, and let’s face it, we’ve come a long way since the Stone Age, and can’t do away with the many technologies and philosophies accrued along the way. Many “human inventions” are very useful, and even essential to a modern lifestyle.

I think you can see why Ecopsychology just seems so logical for me: it’s modern and yet is a way to contact our deepest roots. We can’t regress, but we can integrate the deepest ecological parts of us with the more modern, technologically inclined parts. And we need to. I have a tattoo of the Celtic god Cernunnos, holding a horned serpent in one hand and in the other a torc, symbols of nature and of human artifice, respectively. He holds them both, mastering both qualities and synthesising them without rejecting one or the other.  This has been a dominant theme throughout my neo-Pagan journey.

Eco-Thought I

I’ve just started an ecopsychological course called Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship with Project Nature Connect, which should be going on for eleven weeks. In that time I’ll have reflections that I’ll share on this blog. This is the first of many posts of “Eco-Thoughts”.

Humans can change the way they think and feel about the world, and the overall condition of the world is improvable. We don’t have to submit ourselves to the mess we’re in, nor do we have to submit to the way of thinking that got us into it. And the solution can come from each individual in their connection with nature!

NCAT

(Nature Connected Activities in Tarragona)

Last month we walked along Playa Larga near Tarragona and had several nationalities: a Dutch couple, a Portuguese, a Greek, several Spaniards, a Venezuelan, a Scotsman, an Englishman (yours truly) and a Swiss woman (Mika) – it sounds like the beginning of a complex bar joke (but it wasn’t, lol).  It was a beautiful place with forest right next to the sea. This month we go to the Febró ravine; I’ll tell you about that.

Recently we had our first NCAT English meet up. We were asked recently if we had outings specifically for speaking English, so we obliged and created a new branch of NCAT. This group is more for people that want to practice their English in an informal setting. We do have a few exercises to learn some basics, but just something simple whilst we walk. There’s plenty of extranjeros (foreigners, like me) that want to learn Spanish, so why not an NCAT Spanish?

We also have NCAT Eco-Art; the first workshop will be the end of this month. Here we use natural materials to create works of art (mandalas, “touchscapes”, etc.), but working with ecopsychological principles by becoming aware of the natural world around us with senses little used!

Here are the links for each group:

NCAT – for excursions and activities out in nature.

NCAT English – excursions in nature, learning and practicing English.

NCAT Ecoart – artistic activities in nature, combining natural materials with ecopsychological principles.

A Dog’s Nose

A while ago I saw something of TV about an organisation that was training dogs to recognise diseases and illnesses, like cancers or an imbalance in diabetes sufferers. I was imagining (half-jokingly) a dog in every laboratory and doctor’s office, amazed that we can ally with nature in such constructive ways. We have been “allied” with dogs for a very long time, to an extent that we are in many ways in a sort of social symbiosis with them. Wherer would civilisation be without dogs, or anything other domestic animal for that matter (or plant)?

I was thinking, “How nice that we could deeped our relationship with dogs, relying on what has already evolved instead of relying on technology to do this.” Of course the next thing I know a scientist is saying “This is a great discovery and it would be a great step to try to replicate this and invent some technology that could allow us to detect diseases without dogs.”

There’s a ready- invented” technology already, why invent something else to replicate it? But of course dogs can’t be massed produced in a cheap, quick and reliable way, they are a hassle to train, need to be taken for walks and house trained. Why bother with that when a little handheld device can do the same job without so much hassle? LOL

Anyway, technology aside, I’m happy that once again we can include nature in society in this way, that nature still has a role to play in our lives and our lives in nature. Ecopsychologically it means we are reaffirming our deep relationship with nature instead of distancing ourselves from it (via technology).

So here’s to all our canine friends that have helped make the human world the way it is. Thank you!