Saturday, June 27, 2009

Knowing Your Landbase In The City

There's another article in the current issue of Sage Woman that goes to my points about the importance of grounding your practice in your own landbase and watershed. Tchipakkan writes movingly of the differences between her practice in New England and the traditional Wheel of the Year Sabbats.

The things [that] we celebrate here in New England are usualy the same as other people: harvest, the land going to sleep for the winter being with our friends in snug homes, the say the gods show themselves in the turn of the seasons But we do not celebrate at the same time as those in warmer climes our local strawberries come in regularly around the Summer Solstice, so to us strawberries are intimately linked with Litha (what many Pagans call Mid-Summer). But I think of June s the beginning of summer; not its middle. Nor is Yule "Mid-winter" to us; at the Winter Solstice the snow has barely begun to accumulate if it has even started falling yet.


It seems to me that almost all Pagan holidays must be essentially local. . . . If our Pagan practice is truly earth-centered, then we ought to celebrate the land spirits on our land, the bounty they nurture for us[,] not someone else. In the fall, we bring in apples from the orchards and celebrate the bounty of nature with a huge apple pie. If the cat do their job and keep away the mice, those apples will last until spring in our cellar, feeding us all winter long.

All great advice and good insights.

And yet, as I noted in my first post on this topic, today, many Pagans live in urban environments. The author begins her essay by explaining that: My husband and I decided to live out in the coutry where we could have a garden -- goats, chickens, rabbits, bees, the whole "back to the land", Mother Earth News, crunchy granola thing. I love it.

Our eldest thrives on the energy of cities, and moved away right after finishing high school, but the rest of us resonate to the rhythms of this land.

And that's lovely, except that even those who thrive on the energy of cities or who find themselves required to live there due to jobs or other arrangements also need to be able to resonate to the rhythms of the land. Yet one gets the impression reading Pagan journals and books that almost all Pagans live out on the land, practice permaculture, and raise bees. They don't. And our American Pagan practice won't mature until we admit this and quit writing off those who live in cities. Sure, cities could be better designed to give their residents better opportunities to be in touch with their landbase, Goddess knows, but that's no help to the urban Pagan attempting to have a Pagan practice more in touch with 21st century America than Iron Age Britain.

In fact, the author, herself, offers a few suggestions that can work for city dwellers:

The first step is to step outside and inhale -- smell the air. That will tell you a whole lot about what the [E]arth is doing where you are. Is it growing? Is it thawing? Is there rain or snow on the air? What's the appropriate clothing to wear if you go out? What wild plants grow near you? Even in the city there are plants that want to be our friends -- dandelions, burdock, clover, plantain, mullein, even nettle (which is a nourishing plant if you know how to gather and prepare it!)

For rituals and pot lucks, use locally-grown produce as the center of your celebrations. . . . Take the time and effort to communicate with the spirits in your house and yard; they're there, you just need to start listening to them! You may also be able . . . to learn to speak to the Spirit of your town. I've found that when one pays attention, and particularly [when one] makes offerings -- whether a pinch of grain or a song -- the spirits of place begin to bless us with their presence[,] as well. (Town and road spirits respond especially well to picking up roadside/parkland trash.) Fell and follow the energies in your area and you may find a spring or grove where you'll want to speak to the local deities of place and season. It doesn't take elaborate rituals or expensive supplies to communicate with the divine; all it takes is the sensitivity to listen, learn, and love where you are.

I'll add that many cities nowadays have a weekly or biweekly farmer's market where farmers from within the same watershed as the city can come and sell their produce. When I lived in an urban apartment surrounded by parking lots, streets, and shopping malls, going to the farmer's market once a week was a way for me to stay in touch with the seasons. Strawberries for only a few weeks in June, corn in late July and early August, apples in September.

How do you stay in touch with your landbase?

Picture found here.

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