The material, the sacred and the erotic: a contemplation for Lammas

In this week’s ponderings provoked by Seeking the Mystery, I’m looking at my sense of place through the lens of the sacredness of materiality, bodies and sexuality.

Today is the final day of the feast of Lugh, also known as Lammas or Loaf mass. We bake bread as a sacred act. We eat that bread as a spiritual act and an act of community. We are literally connected to the earth: we chew and ingest and digest the grain; we absorb its nutrients. Without other beings in place with us, we would not be.

My 2007 homemade Lammas loaf: 100% rye, 100% sourdough

There are very few grains I can eat, I’m not meant to have yeast, and I find I don’t have the patience any longer to make sourdough from scratch. So instead of baking my own bread this year, I baked a cake. The flour and soya milk and margarine aren’t local, but the sugar is made from English sugar beet, and eggs are from just down the road. I can still keep the spirit of the feast, honour and celebrate the sacredness of matter, of the land, and of my body.

The source of all this material bounty, the earth, is often personified as Mother in Pagan traditions – for She gives birth to all life, including our own, and provides the source materials of our shelter, food and clothing. Our chants and songs declare, “The Earth is our Mother: we must take care of Her,” or “Mother Earth carry me; your child I will always be.”

But is the relationship of child to mother one we should continually be reinforcing? Yes, it emphasises how we are needy in the face of Life, rather than masters of all we survey, but  it can also get in the way of accepting responsibility for the materials and spiritual crises of our own making which affect the world. How long can we keep turning to our Mother the Earth to ‘make it all better’?

One answer to that question is that we can’t. Artists Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle are exploring and sharing a new metaphor of relationship between humans and the Earth – no longer that of Mother, but that of Lover, which they call ecosex. To quote from the first two principles of the Ecosex Manifesto:

“The Earth is our lover. We are madly, passionately and fiercely in love, and we are grateful for this relationship each and every day… We treat the Earth with kindness, respect and affection… We shamelessly hug trees, massage the earth with our feet, and talk erotically to plants. We are skinny dippers, sun worshipers and stargazers. We caress rocks, are pleasured by waterfalls, and admire the Earth’s curves often…. We are very dirty.”

Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens, ecosexuals

The Ecosex movement is very young, but it is one that I, for one, would love to see expand, rapidly and globally. It connects the erotic with the ecological in a way which aims to create a new kind of environmental activism, one which for me hits to the heart of the fundamentally material, bodily and sexual nature of sacredness in Pagan traditions.

As Stephens and Sprinkle might say, we can’t keep suckling on the Earth’s tit forever – at least, not for Her milk.

About Elinor Prędota

Elinor Predota was born in London in 1970, and was raised in England’s second city. Her hippy parents took her on endless, wonderful visits to birdwatching hides, Iron Age hill forts, Medieval Castles and ancient stone circles across Britain, which kindled her longing for green hills. She finally moved to the country in the year 2000, where the land has taught her more magic than any book or human being ever could. She is a priestess, a poet, a scholar, an accidental comedian, and lives in southern Scotland with her partner, a very big dog, and a vast range of more-than-human neighbours. She can also be found online at elinopredota.com.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    Interesting to see a non-academic expression of this theology. I’m familiar with it from ecotheologians as “ecoeroticism” — there’s an essay by Sylvie Shaw in Researching Paganisms that deals with it.

  • Alioth

    But is the relationship of child to mother one we should continually be reinforcing? Yes, it emphasises how we are needy in the face of Life, rather than masters of all we survey, but it can also get in the way of accepting responsibility for the materials and spiritual crises of our own making which affect the world.

    I wonder if the metaphor of the abusive caretaker of an elderly parent could be tacked on here?

  • Henry Buchy

    what’s interesting to me is that it’s being expressed by someone not “modern pagan” identified, when it’s been under the nose of ‘Modern Pagans’ all along. which is understandable considering the pablum which ‘Modern Paganism’ has been fed.

    • Henry Buchy

      p.s. it’s also inherent in our own order of craft…

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “The Earth is our lover. We are madly, passionately and fiercely in
    love, and we are grateful for this relationship each and every day… We
    treat the Earth with kindness, respect and affection… We shamelessly hug
    trees, massage the earth with our feet, and talk erotically to plants.
    We are skinny dippers, sun worshipers and stargazers. We caress rocks,
    are pleasured by waterfalls, and admire the Earth’s curves often…. We
    are very dirty.”

    I kind of like this idea, but I can’t say I am too much of a fan of equating plants (including trees) as part of the earth, unless you also equate animals (including humans) as equally part of the earth.

    A plant is an individual life form in its own right, it’s somewhat offensive to reduce it to a mere part of the earth, when other forms of life get individualised.


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