This article is a part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Pagan community here.
When I first woke up to how desperate our situation has become I became suicidal. It was the one-two-three punch of climate change plus exhaustion of oil plus big corporations controlling the world. The corporate entities, machines without souls, hungry ghosts are literally eating the planet. The byproducts of the industrial process, exhaustion and contamination, are destroying the organic system which supports life. What sent me to the edge was the idea that corporations are bent on controlling water (Nestle) and food (Monsanto) and that laws were being passed to prevent people from growing their own food or catching rainwater, leaving us at their mercy. I felt powerless to keep myself alive, I felt that my future had been stolen from me, and I dizzily looked for any escape from the trap.
This was in 2008, the last good year, before the big storms and the economic crash brought the point home to everyone. Back then I was still a crackpot. My friends and coworkers were living in the media-induced buzz that everything was going to be alright. Industrial agriculture was the most efficient way to feed a huge population. Climate change was far in the future and technology would solve our problems. There was still plenty of oil. Stop worrying!
My partner Alex saved my sanity. Actually he was the guy who woke me up. He’d taken an initiation that made him priest of Cernunnos and the earth god rose up in him angry. Your people are destroying the planet, wake them up! Alex raged, he cried, he educated himself, and he started poking at all the people around him – look at this! He spent almost two decades at it, well before An Inconvenient Truth made climate change part of the national conversation. He became the ecology crackpot, the conspiracy nut, the guy you patted on the shoulder fondly and ignored.
An Inconvenient Truth made it impossible to ignore climate change. The Deepwater Horizon spill brought attention to oil depletion. When I said “hey, what’s going on?” Alex was waiting for me with years worth of education. I feverishly read through the doomer literature tracing peak oil, predicting the economic and ecological effects of contracting industrialism, explaining why 2008 was the last good year. The most pessimistic scientists predicted that the process of climate change was already impossible to stop and would wipe out all life on the planet. They collapsed into despair and wrote elegies for the world already lost.
Whenever I reach a place like this, where I look at the world around me and do not see power given to me, a voice comes up – deity, spirit, part of my higher self, depending on your frame – and challenges me. What are you going to do about it, magician?
It was food that sent me to the edge and food that gave me a way back. I attended a regional food policy council meeting where city, county and state leaders told us they knew what was happening, they had figured out that my state could support itself agriculturally, and they were making it legal for anyone to grow and sell food. I called Alex in tears. It was the first time I felt my despair replaced by hope.
I became a Master Gardener and built a backyard garden. The household got bees and chickens. We met the local farmers and met our neighbors. The year 2008 was our last good climate year too, and the local farmers and gardeners are trading notes about how to deal with that, growing under plastic, developing strains of plants resilient to chaos.
Somewhere in there we stopped being crackpots. Doomer went mainstream. I recognized Alex’s decades of education as prophetic. Friends who had dismissed us converted their mental image of us back to normal. Coworkers came out to me as preppers. Alex and I realized that individual effort isn’t enough and joined the local social justice movements, working with our neighbors and our farmers to push for policy changes to support organic, not industrial, life.
These are all actions that anyone can take. As a magician I have an additional duty. It is my job to maintain the patterns of the cosmos. Native peoples all around the world have rituals which reaffirm the currents of energy which support life. Buddhists create mandalas structuring the cosmos and placing life within it. Shinto cleanses and seeks to align the individual with nature. Witches turn the wheel, acknowledging the change of the seasons and the death and rebirth of the year.
Kemetic (Egyptian) priestesses and priests maintained order and combatted chaos. As a magician this is where I draw my inspiration. Despair leads to death. Duty leads to purpose. There is a great need for contemporary ritual to release our emotions, bind us together, affirm the natural processes that sustain life, and evoke those cosmic forces which structure the universe. It is a massive project that will require multiple contributions.
To get started I make this invocation as part of my devotionals every morning: let the weather fall into its accustomed patterns.