Nothing in excess. We all know the Delphic Maxim. All things in moderation. Consumerism is, in principal if not always in practice, antithetical to the Modern Pagan movement. Although we are not anti-material, we are not lulled by acquiring and consuming. Most of us reject the American Dream. Or do we?
As a child I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I had them all and read them through several times. My favorite, the one I read obsessively, was Farmer Boy. It’s the book Wilder wrote about her husband’s childhood. Almanzo Wilder must have recounted stories in the evening of how his father’s farm ran and how his mother worked her loom to clothe her family. It’s more detailed than her other books about how a farm works and how people used to live. What the American Dream used to look like, before the Industrial Age.
Today the very same practices engaged in by Almanzo Wilder are termed survivalism. What was once part and parcel of every day life has now become eccentric behavior. Of course, most survivalists seem to be concerned about the crash of industrialism. Since the bomb shelters of the Cold War, people engaged in survivalism have been preparing against some dire apocalypse. Although Pagans are as likely to be concerned about industrial/consumerist society experiencing some sort of crash due to it’s unsustainable trajectory, they lack an apocalyptic mindset. Even Ragnarok isn’t a doomsday to stock up against.
When Pagans practice survivalism, stocking up food and non-electric equipment, it’s generally for two very sensible reasons: it’s what their ancestors did, and it’s insurance against an uncertain economy. We watch the news. We know what the unemployment rate looks like. We know how bad the job market is, we all know people who are out of work and we all know people who are struggling.
Paganism is about examining your life, being realistic about your material, spiritual and emotional needs, and honoring the past by looking towards the future. While I don’t think Pagans should build bomb shelters and start reckoning against a possible doomsday, stocking your pantry to give yourself some added security in an uncertain economy sounds pretty Pagan to me.
Exercise prudence, foresee the future, do not trust fortune, be well off as a mortal, do not be discontented by life, do not trust wealth, pursue what is profitable, benefit yourself, and despise strife are also all Delphic Maxims. One thing to remember is that having a full pantry is not a selfish pursuit. Despite the differences between ancient Pagan cultures, and the differences between modern Pagan religions, it is a universal truth that being able to give a meal to a guest is a deed worthy of honor.
I think survivalism is a bad way to phrase the common sense ways of our ancestors. They viewed such activity not as survivalism, not as subsistence, not as some desperate act but as acquiring wealth. We think of wealth today as how much money you have in your bank account, and that had some part to do with wealth in the past, yet it wasn’t everything. Someone’s full pantry was a mark of their wealth. Their garden was a mark of their wealth. Their stockpile of fuel for the winter. The bounty they gathered with their own hands. The charity they were able to give from their own stores marked their wealth.
I’m starting over in a new apartment, and I’m thinking a lot about starting to build my pantry stores. I’m reading up on food storage, nutrition and preparedness. Not just because the economy is scary, not just because I want to be prepared for what the future has in store for me, but also because I always want to be able to give hospitality. No one ever left my grandmother’s house hungry. She remembered the Great Depression, those “Hoover Days,” and though she had a limited income she canned, cooked and kept a full freezer. She simply followed in the footsteps of the women before her, and I think it would honor those women, as well as my household guardians, if I made stocking my pantry a priority.
Here are a few resources I’m looking at:
Love To Learn is a Christian homeschool supply company, but if you’re a discerning customer you can find a lot of useful items, and you help support a small family-owned business.
As a teenager I devoured Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette. She has a lot of good sense ideas, and her values are expressed secularly, although they are very much in tune with Pagan values.