Urban Earthwitch: Awakening Your Human Instincts

Urban Earthwitch: Awakening Your Human Instincts April 17, 2017

Feedback from the last article in Urban Earthwitch indicates some of you are taking heed to the call of outdoors. Excellent! (If you haven’t yet, visit my last installment and then try the “sensing outdoors” experiment.) In this and future articles we’ll explore some of the complexities of the human animal, our needs, our ancestry and instincts and aligning with our pagan celebrations, and what all this means for the urban pagan.

Let’s start by assuming we all understand our various forms of being Pagan stem from earth-based ideologies and beliefs. Since the modern Pagan movement began with an exploration of ancient practices in Western and Northern Europe, our celebrations are based on the cycles and seasons of that region. The very most basic cycles are based on the position of Earth relative to the Sun, or solstices and equinoxes. The observance around these cycles were celebrated by people in an agronomist society. Basically existence meant going with the flow of the seasons: planting in the springtime, first harvest in the summer, second harvest and planning for winter in the autumn and bunkering in for the winter.

CC0 License. Public Domain image via Pixabay.
CC0 License. Public Domain image via Pixabay.

Paying attention to changes within and around these cycles and keen attention to subtle changes was key to the survival of these ancient peoples. Even earlier in human history our ancestors were hunters and foragers with a whole set of challenges unique to roaming outside in search of food and finding or making shelter. It’s easy to see that the hard wired instincts of our foraging ancestors served our agrarian ancestors well. Fundamentally our ancestral instincts are based on some pretty sharp senses that kept us alive.

We’ll talk more about how modern pagans celebrate the cycles and the unique challenges accompanying urban paganism, in the next article, but for purposes of examining the urban pagan a little more closely, let’s talk about our sleeping instincts and how we can awaken them to serve us and enliven our experiences as human beings.

Some human beings are dead asleep instinctually. These are the people who go outdoors in freezing temps in bare feet to check the mail and lock themselves out of the house (been there), or who look out the window to decide whether to wear a light jacket to walk two blocks to the corner market to later discover a friend on the street they’ve not seen for months and ending up talking for longer than that light jacket will keep them warm. These are the women who will wear the stylish stiletto shoes to work anticipating their stylish evening out, inflicting blisters on their feet that cripple them for days. The list goes on …

We live in shelters we can lock, drive out of indoor structures in heated or air conditioned automobiles, and into covered structures for shopping or work. The most outdoors we get is crossing car exhaust choked streets to another indoor structure where we eat lunch, work out or meet friends after work to have drinks or dinner.

"Flaming June" by Frederic Lord Leighton.  From WikiMedia.
“Flaming June” by Frederic Lord Leighton. From WikiMedia.

Not everyone is this maladapted. Stylishly dressed men and women are seen wearing comfortable sport shoes, presumably toting their work shoes in carry bags. Others are riding bicycles, faces covered in air filtration masks, pant legs taped around their ankles to avoid tangling in the bike chain.

These people are doing this for various reasons from proactive environmental concerns to personal needs that range from saving money commuting by foot or bike to getting physically fit. One wonders, however, how many of them are doing it to awaken their instincts. A guess of “nobody” would be about right.

This awakening exercise involves a little planning and sacrifice. Your knapsack will need sunscreen for sunny commutes home, an air filtration mask (for commutes involving exertion where air qualify is not par with exertion), an umbrella and foldaway poncho, athletic shoes or hikers, snacks in reusable containers, a refillable water bottle, a portable charging device for your mobile phone (wouldn’t want to get stuck in an unsafe or unforeseen situation without communication), a flashlight (for late commutes), and pepper spray.

Yes, this sounds like something your mother would pack for you. But surviving outdoors is serious business and preparing for unforeseen hazards is important. The day may come when we all have to do this. But you will be prepared and adapted, and instinctually alert. You’ll not have a worry in the world while you stroll or ride, feeling the air, the hot, the cold, sensing your need for water, something to eat, feeling the need to remove articles of outerwear or the need to bundle up.

Okay, okay. This sounds like too much to start out. But consider trying it out. Challenge yourself. What if you lose your car for whatever reason? What if there are fuel shortages? In Paris, laws preemptively demand that half of all cars remain off the road on poor air quality days. Would you be prepared if such measures were sanctioned in your city?

True it seems silly to consider commute alternatives a survival strategy or even an awakening exercise but perhaps it’s time to give up a few comforts to be better adapted humans. As Earth-aware pagans we’ll be doing our planet a favor by reducing fuel consumption while we awaken our senses.

So how about it? The side effect is you being a more instinct-awakened, survival oriented human being. What this means for a more spiritually awakened soul we’ll discuss here another time.

Watch this space.

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