Category Archives: Nature & Environment

A Shinto Experience in New Zealand

glowworm01In August, my family made a trip to New Zealand. My husband’s a Kiwi, so one of the main purposes of our trip was to catch up with members of his family. But of course we had plenty of opportunities to make the most of all the incredible experiences New Zealand has to offer.

New Zealand is a paradise for nature lovers and we were lucky enough to have plenty of chances to connect withthe country’s wild soul. We bathed in a natural hot spring that we dug ourselves at Hot Water Beach. We got up close and personal with friendly Kea (mountain parrots) and fur seals. We experienced the thrill of sailing under a waterfall at Milford Sound.

But among all these experiences, for me none were quite so profound as our visit to the Te Ana-au Glowworm Caves. From start to finish, it felt less like a mere tourist attraction and more like a spiritual pilgrimage – and in many ways, a Shinto pilgrimage. [Read more]

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“Punk Religion”

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Tim Schapker, CC / Wikimedia Commons

Last month I attended a lecture and book reading by Nina Lyon, author of the new book Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man (reviewed here). During the lecture, she described talking about her eclectic, liberal form of nature-based spirituality to a friend, who said, “Oh, it’s like a sort of punk religion!” [Read more]

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Meeting the Green Man: A Guided Meditation

A meditation for deepening your connection with the Green Man and the environment… perfect for Earth Day, St George’s Day and Beltane. [Read more]

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Continuing Cornwall’s tradition of rock carvings

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One of the Rocky Valley labyrinths, Cornwall, England. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Is the new sculpture carved into the rock at Merlin’s Cave in Tintagel an act of vandalism – or is it a continuation of a Cornish tradition? Read the discussion at Patheos here!

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The tree falling in the forest has been heard

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On February 11th 2016 the Ligo Collaboration announced that gravitational waves have been observed for the first time from the collision of two black holes over a billion light years away. But what philosophical implications does this discovery have? Read more at Patheos!

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The Need for Human-Friendly Environmentalism

Diana

Diana, Goddess of hunting and guardian of wild animals.

I’ve recently been watching BBC’s “The Hunt,”  a David Attenborough documentary about nature’s predators and how they live. While for the most part it’s an excellent series, I found the final episode disturbing. [Read more…]

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Yes, Environmentalism is Humanist

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By Lauren raine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve heard some arguments that environmentalism is inherently misanthropic. In other words, environmentalism limits progress, oppresses the masses, and is rooted on the pessimistic assumption that humans are bad, destructive creatures undeserving of nature’s bounty. I’ve encountered some (but by no means all) Humanists  who hold this view, because they believe ultimately in the goodness of mankind, and that the needs of our species should always come first.

But I believe this is precisely why arguments for environmentalism are Humanist ones…[Read more]

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Action needed! Save the sacred trees of Shimogamo

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An ancient, sacred grove of trees by the Shimogamo Shrine in Japan are being threatened with destruction in order to make way to build luxury apartments – which will help to finance the shrine.

It is unacceptable for a Shinto Shrine, a place designed specifically for reflecting upon the sacredness of the natural world, to be causing such devastation to the surrounding environment.

For more information, please see Green Shinto’s post here.

You can sign a petition to the Shinto priest of the Shimogamo Shrine, the Mayor of Kyoto and JR west real estate & development against this development here.

 

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Forget tote bags, backpacks are the way forward

This post isn’t directly related to Paganism, but it is related to environmentalism. Recently, the government has made it compulsory for large retailers to charge 5p for plastic bags in England, which is great news for the environment considering the damage plastic bags do. But many English people are struggling with the adjustment, and are stocking up on tote bags and the like in order to try and avoid the charge. Bearing this in mind, I’d like to advocate a solution that I think is a much better alternative to tote bags, or indeed any other type of bag, that I’ve been using for years – backpacks.

My love of the backpack is all thanks to when I used to be a teaching assistant in Japan, working at 5 schools. Because I’d be at a different school every day, it meant having to take all my many resources, including a laptop, with me at all times. I used to do this with multiple tote bags plus a laptop bag, but I quickly discovered that having no hands free when carrying these things to the schools (some of which I’d have to walk to for a mile or so) was really inconvenient. Not to mention how sore my arms and shoulders got from having to lug all this weight.

So instead I bought a nice big backpack (not the one pictured here, sadly), and used that instead to carry everything. It was sooo much better. Since then I hardly use anything else. I take it to work, I take it to the pub, I take it to my Pagan moots (when it is often filled with incense and offerings and the like). I only ever carry a handbag when I’m going out somewhere smart and I don’t need to bring anything apart from my wallet, keys and phone (and I don’t plan to take anything back home with me). And of course I take my backpack shopping.

So here’s my reasons for why I think English people adapting their bag-habits should opt for backpacks, and not tote bags:

  1. They tend to have a lot more volume, partly due to their shape (more seams than a tote bag which increases their depth) and partly because they tend to have lots of extra pockets
  2. They are much better for your body. They distribute weight over your whole upper body, rather than a single arm or shoulder like a handbag or tote bag. So not only will they make it much easier to carry heavy goods, but they’ll also save you from sore limbs.
  3. They leave your hands completely free, which is way more comfortable and convenient.
  4. They are secure. Handbags and tote bags can be dropped and slip off your shoulder easily; backpacks don’t.
  5. They tend to be way tougher than handbags and tote bags. That backpack I got in Japan some seven years ago? Still got it, haven’t need to do any repair work at all, even after daily, heavy use! While most of the tote bags I’ve used get ripped and torn only after a few uses.
  6. You can easily carry extra tote bags inside your backpack if you need even more bags after a particularly big shop.
  7. You have more mobility with backpacks – you can run easily.
  8. They are undeniably unisex
  9. Seeing that there’s tonnes of great designs available for backpacks now (see example above), any arguments that backpacks aren’t stylish are pretty weak. My own trusty backpack is pretty functional, but I’ve covered it with lots of buttons to give it some individuality.

So, everyone who is fed up of tote bags, go green and embrace the backpack! If you’re looking for something especially Pagan or Gothic, there’s lots of out there – I like the ones available at Kinky Angel.

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Samhain 2015

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My Samhain offerings at the local cemetery

I tend to view all the Pagan Sabbats as a “season,” with the official date of the Sabbat acting as the epicentre of the season with ripples into the days before and after. That’s one reason why I decided to hold my solo Samhain ritual on the Full Moon prior to Samhain, and why I didn’t actually hold any sort of ritual on October 31st itself.

WP_20151031_14_14_24_ProHowever, I did make some Samhain Soul Cakes yesterday, using my favourite recipe with added matcha (Japanese green tea powder). Matcha is interesting to work with – when used as an ingredient combined with other things, it only really looks green in the presence of moisture, so the dough didn’t look green until I added milk, upon which it turned a very vivid shade of green. Unfortunately, when the moisture evaporated on baking the cookies, they reverted back to mostly brown with only a slight greenish tint. I can see that if I bake with matcha again and want to retain that green colour, I’m going to have to use a lot more. But this in itself is tricky because matcha is a bit like saffron – it’s expensive and can have a strong flavour, so you don’t want to use too much, ideally. It went really well with the cinnamon and nutmeg I also added to the mixture (hint: don’t be afraid to use quite a lot of cinnamon!)

I used a wonderful set of “Day of the Dead” skull cookie cutters. These were a gift from my sister-in-law, and it was great to have such a perfect opportunity to use them.

My husband and I took the cookies to my parent’s house, where we were taking part what’s close to a “religious observance” for my Kiwi husband and Welsh mum – the Rugby World Cup final! (To my husband’s delight, the All Blacks were victorious). But keeping with the Halloween theme, my Dad had bought the biggest pumpkin I’d ever seen, carved it and hollowed it out, and used the innards to make delicious pumpkin soup and toasted pumpkin seeds. So even though I didn’t hold a particular ritual on Samhain Eve, it was still meaningful for me to spend it with my family and enjoying some very Halloweeny food!

Traditionally Samhain continues into November 1st, and so today my husband and I went walking in the local cemetery, where I placed my offerings originally given at my altar on the previous Full Moon for the deities of death, departed friends and ancestors. It was an absolutely perfect day to do so – overnight a mist had descended over the town, and the cemetery looked beautiful and very otherworldly.

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I found a moss-covered tree stump that acted as a perfect natural altar, and placed my offerings of a miniature pumpkin, garlic, soul cake and dog treats there, as well as sprinkling some incense. I also offered a fallen branch of rowan. My offering was not only to my own ancestors and loved ones, but to all those whose spirits rest in the cemetery. I hope they liked my gift.

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On our way back, I noticed something I had never noticed before, even though I have been in this cemetery many times –  a grave with a pentagram on it!

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The pentagram is a sacred symbol in Christianity as well, so it’s not particularly shocking to see one on a 19th century gravestone, but nevertheless it seems to be quite uncommon. I wonder why Sarah’s relatives had chosen this symbol for her grave as opposed to a more traditional funerary symbol? Were there Freemasons in her family? Or did they simply like the design? In any case, I am really surprised I’d never spotted this before and I was so glad to see this reminder of the connection between Christianity and Paganism in our cemetery. Perhaps the spirits within the mist, still dwelling in this world while the veil to the Otherworld is so thin, had given me the extra clarity to see it today!

I wish everyone a very Blessed Samhain!

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