Throughout the history of polytheistic belief structures, there have been many practices designed to show reverence for the Earth. Ironically, many of these practices have been quite ecologically destructive. From the pollution of waterways with sacred objects to the harvesting of trees for Yule, rituals created to celebrate nature have resulted in damage to the environment.
It has been noted by historians that when the Romans conquered Celtic lands, they publicly auctioned lakes and waterways because these bodies of water had been found to contain vast quantities of various valuable metals, weapons, and, in one case, an entire chariot. All of these things had been left, as sacrifices, by the Celtic peoples. Unfortunately, this is a tradition that many Neo-Pagans have inherited and persisted in.
How much ecological damage must occur before we consider the broader consequences of our actions?
As a result of climate change, humanity is facing many new problems that are forcing religions and spiritual practices to adapt. In 2015, Pope Francis made a statement to the effect that the Earth is a gift from God. This, of course, raises the question what do we call those who destroy the gifts of God or keep them from their fellow man?
If traditionalist institutions such as the Vatican can adapt to the ecological crisis, why haven’t Neo-Pagans?
With this in mind, I would like to discuss a method by which we can bring our spiritual intentions in line with our material practices.
“The scientific study of the processes influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interactions among organisms, and the interactions between organisms and the transformation and flux of energy and matter.”
“Involving or characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content, as certain religious ceremonies and art; spiritually significant; ethereal.”
Therefore, Mystical Ecology can be defined as “the scientific and esoteric study, characterized by both material and otherworldly practices, of processes influencing distribution and abundance of organisms; interactions between organisms; and the transformation and flux of energy and matter.”
There is no idea, however ancient and absurd, that is not capable of improving our knowledge. The whole history of thought is absorbed into science and is used for improving every single theory. – Paul Feyerabend
There are some inherent risks in this proposal that we need to be aware of prior to proceeding.
Before engaging in any sort of ecological intervention, one must be aware of the potential consequences of their actions. If we are going to act on the material world, we need to be aware of its laws just as we would in the spiritual realm.
Fields of research for those interested in these practices include Permaculture, Alchemy, Herbal Medicine, Mycology, and Regenerative farming.
It is important that we do not obsess over the materialist perspective of Ecology so much that it damages elements of our spiritual practice. It is also important not to allow our spiritual practices to blind us to the material impacts of our practices. It is our intention to present a synthesis of these apparently contradictory points of view, without bias toward one or the other. Perhaps we will even find that some of the spookier elements of modern Ecology, such as the function of mycelial networks, can be more fully understood from a mystical perspective.
Modern science has brought us a new perspective on ecology and our impacts on the world. It is not necessary for us to decry the practices of those who did not have this perspective, but it is our duty to work to rectify it. In doing so, we will be forced to reject a strict reconstructionist methodology; however, it does not require us to reject the spirit of these actions. I would argue that by incorporating a modern materialist point of view we can deepen the intention and efficacy of these actions.
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