From a young age I’ve had the sense that it’s not only my own species, Homo Sapiens, that are the only conscious beings on this planet. I’ve never understood why we often seem to see ourselves as so separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. After all we’re just a bundle of atoms, nerves, cells with basically the same organs and body systems as the rest of the animal world – with obvious differences in anatomy and behaviour as a result of our different evolutionary paths – so why should we consciously and spiritually be any different?
My path to paganism
It was this sense of connectedness that drew me to paganism. I first came across the term “Pagan” when I was in my teens on the online fantasy community Elfwood. At that time I didn’t fully comprehend what paganism was and didn’t take much interest in it but the term stuck in my mind. Several years later, whilst languishing in a nursing home with little to occupy me, I searched for the subject on the Audible website. There were actually very few audiobooks on the subject and they were mostly novels, but I found one to download; Earth magic: Sacred rituals for connecting to Nature’s power by Starhawk.
It was yet another couple of years after this, that I finally got around to listening to the whole thing. The first time I listened to it I actually found it rather boring – all about Greek deities and matriarchal societies! I was interested in learning about ecosystems and animal psychology – not Athena and feminism! The second time around I became more engrossed in it though – I actually quite enjoyed Starhawk’s description of the images of the triple goddess and her recount of The Witch trials. Then, later in the audio, it started talking about the more practical side of witchcraft; the elements; shamanism; and the “wheel of the year”. I loved her explanation of the four elements and particularly enjoyed two of the exercises in the audiobook; grounding and the five states of awareness. It seemed like a new way of connecting with nature. I love all forms of connecting with nature whether it’s gardening, kayaking, horse-riding, visiting Wildlife Trust reserves, bird/butterfly/bug/mammal watching, pressing wildflowers or star gazing.
Disease and death
I strongly believe that every atom, cell, organism, ecosystem and even our planet is alive, sacred and imbued with a certain spirit. This sense also extends to viruses, bacteria, parasites and even cancerous cells. This will probably sound like a odd notion to most people. But even if we don’t feel like honouring them, with this philosophy in mind we might at least be able accept them more easily, as part of the great web of life.
I, myself, find this philosophy useful in dealing with disease especially the disease I’ve suffered from for the last twenty years, M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyeitis). Often people who suffer from chronic illness can feel like an injustice has been done to them but actually it’s just a part of nature.
I also believe that nature is the greatest healer. Once, long before I became a Pagan, I told a friend who’d relapsed that nature is so complicated it’s no wonder it frequently goes wrong but it also has an amazing capacity to heal itself. We can treat whatever condition it is with orthodox medicine, herbs, acupuncture, etc but these are just aids to the body’s own healing system. Or, if our body’s too damaged to recover, it will die and once again we will become a part of the great cycle of rebirth that we are all a part of. Ultimately we are at the whim of nature, small players within the great web of life. Instead of cursing our place within it, I believe it’s better to embrace our place, however struggling our place might sometimes feel, as we too are also sacred entities.
Image Native plants ©️ KT Shepherd permaculture https://www.ktshepherdpermaculture.com/