February 4, 2016

*This will end up being a category Tab that replaces ‘Rituals & Ceremonies’ and will be periodically updated*

This is Paths Through The Forests’ go to page for all things we’ve written on Holidays, Rituals and History – organized by time of year it is related to.

Solterrestriale Vocabulum (Solar-Earth Terms) Brief

Solar-Earth Relationship by Rua Lupa
Solar-Earth Relationship by Rua Lupa

Festivities of Natural Annual Events

Rua Lupa shares what the seasons are like around the world for each time of year and what celebrations are happening because of them.

Borealis Equilux (Equal Length of Day & Night Globally)

Borealis Translux (Midway Global Equinox & Solstice)

Borealis Lux (Longest Day & Night of The Year)

Australis Transequilux (Midway Global Solstice & Equinox)

Australis Equilux (Equal Length of Day & Night Globally)

Australis Translux (Midway Global Equinox & Solstice)

Australis Lux (Longest Night & Day of The Year)

Borealis Transequilux (Midway Global Solstice & Equinox)

Year Wheels SEASONAL Kalendar
Borealis & Australis Year Wheels, by Rua Lupa

Articles the Lupas wrote that relate to the seasons:

Equilux / Spring Equinox / Ostara

‘Equilux, Preparing For A New Day: Ethical House Cleaning, Downsizing, Mending & An Offering To The Birds’ – “Rua Lupa gets into the nitty gritty of conscientious house cleaning and downsizing, with added tips on how to repurpose sentimental items, mend clothes with style, and use what comes out of house cleaning as gifts for the birds.”


Translux / Beltane

‘Cultural Quandaries: Spring & Sex’ – “Spring celebrations have a lot of sexual suggestion in them, but is human sexuality relevant to this time of year?”

‘A Message For Earth Day: The Separation Effect’ – “Rua Lupa writes on a way of thought that influenced our past and is crucial in understanding for our future. The Separation Effect.”


Lux / Summer Solstice / Litha / Midsummer

‘Saegoah Celebrations: Lux (Summer Solstice)’ – “A Saegoah’s Way of Celebrating The Longest Day of The Year. Playing with light, movement, colour and celebrating the youth coming into their own.”

‘Solitary Solstice‘ – “Lupa Greenwolf has plans for a very sedate solstice”


Transequinox / Lughnasadh / Lammas

‘Transequinox Pastries’

‘A Saegoah Styled Wedding Ceremony – Or Bonding Ceremony’ – “A Saegoah Wedding is called a Bonding Ceremony, and it is typically done between Transequinox & Equinox when the weather is warm, food is plentiful, and if conception occurs the offspring arrives when most life does – in spring. As it is now that time of year, here are a couple of Bonding Ceremonies. One Public, and one Personal.”


Equinox / Autumn Equinox / Mabon

‘DIY Autumn Adventures – Growing A Forest Garden. It can supply food, medicine, and sanity, while protecting against drought & flood’ – “Learn how you can turn a energy and resource guzzling lawn into a food forest oasis! And you can start the process this autumn by working with nature’s natural seeding time. ”

‘DIY Autumn Adventures – Dyeing With Goldenrod’ – Tis the season for dyeing.


Transnox / Samhain

‘Cultural Quandaries: Death’ – “Death is often something dreaded and not talked about. This sort of reaction to a reality we face has caused more grief than warranted for the amazing thing that it is. Here is a way to approach death in a very positive way that makes the transition easier for you, your loved ones and the ecosystem we all rely on.”

‘Viridos – Green Bones’ – “…without death there would be no soil or nutrients in the water, and no soil or aquatic nutrient means no plants, and no plants means nothing for creatures to eat – its the dead that nourish the living.”

‘Love Letters To My Ancestors I’ – “Lupa Greenwolf marks this Samhain season–and an interfaith collaboration–with the first of three love letters to her ancestors, starting with her human ancestors.”

‘Love Letters To My Ancestors II’ – “Lupa Greenwolf addresses her second love letter to her non-human ancestors, those all too often forgotten in human rites”

‘Love Letters To My Ancestors III’ – “Lupa Greenwolf addresses her third and final Samhain love letter to those she will be an ancestor to someday, voicing both regret and hope for the future she will leave for others.”


Nox / Winter Solstice / Yule / Midwinter

‘The Real Reason For The Season’ – “Each year I encounter something that most Pagans know, but the general public is oddly oblivious to. People who casually complain about the dark and don’t know about the shortest day of the year, or even when it is. I know this because that is when I mention that soon enough the days will be getting longer they blankly stare at me and say, “Really? When?” It becomes very hard not to do a face palm each time I encounter this, and its frequent. So I feel compelled to talk about the Real reason for the season.”

‘Celebrating Nox – The Longest Night – The Year’s Midnight. What You Can Do At Home’

‘How You Can Have A Nox Festival – A Festival for The Longest Night’

‘Saegoah Celebrations: Nox (Winter Solstice)’ – “One Saegoah’s way of celebrating the longest night of the year”

‘When, In The New Year, Antlers Drop’ – “As the New Year arrives, Lupa Greenwolf describes how an antler is like a bad habit–and what we can learn from deer and elk”

‘Cultural Quandaries: Earth’s Civil Calendar. How did we end up with the calendar we have anyway?’ – With one of the biggest civil holidays and new year occurring at this time, here is why and how they came to be.

Saegoah Pursuits: Creative and Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping – “As this is the time of year when we reach the climax of seasonal gift wrapping, I have decided to share some of my creative eco-friendly wrapping techniques – and there are really two primary methods to it. 1) Cloth Bag Wrapping, and 2) Paper & Paint Wrapping”


Transequilux / Imbolc

‘Transequilux Keeps Me Occupied’ – Transequilux can be a busy time of year, when for most people it is the slowest.


Miscellaneous Rituals & History Articles

Novemmorium – Borealis, by Rua Lupa


‘Ehoah Bioregional Quiz’

‘Worldview Connections: A Meditation On Our Worldviews & Their Impacts’ – We live in a world full of connections–but how we view (or ignore) those connections could make or break us.

‘Inoculative Libations to the Land’ – “One Saegoah’s way of doing Libations”

‘A Saegoah Ceremony – Similar To, But Unlike Others’ – “In my pursuit for Ehoah, I had sought out practices that were most similar to my worldview to help me in my journey. While many were helpful, none of them satisfied me. Eventually I ended up making a ceremony outline for myself with aspects I found to better fit my worldview. The majority of it ended up being based upon Anishinaabe ceremony structure, reworded to reflect what the scientific method had revealed about the cosmos.”

‘Solitary Saegoah Ritual Outline – With Alternative Wording’

‘Grounding Through Land Stewardship’

‘The Art of Taking As An Offering’

‘Offerings For a Nature-Based Path’

‘This World Is Sacred, Too’ – “Let this world be sacred, too. Let us not see it as a flawed version of some paradise; let us not seek to leave it too soon or–worse yet–tear it down in the hopes of manifesting its perfect cousin.”

‘The Entire Universe is a Sacred Site’

‘More Devotional Practices For Naturalist Pagans’ – “Inspired by another writer’s blog post, Lupa Greenwolf offers her own four devotional practices for naturalist pagans.”

‘Saegoah Pursuits: Gardening with Rainwater Harvesting Earthworks’ – “Because I strive to live harmoniously within Nature as a Saegoah many conventional methods of doing things gets thrown out the window, like my garden. It is unlike any garden in town because it is self fertile and as of this spring, self watering as well. In the process of making it I got a great many odd looks and even laughed at by those passing by. The following is a photo essay of the process and end result of this endeavor.”

‘Learning Aboriginal Teachings & Ceremonies, Spirits, and Why I Am Naturalistic’ – “Rua Lupa shares some personal experience with aboriginal teachings, ceremonies, spirits, and why Rua is naturalistic”

‘The Separation Effect’ – “Rua Lupa writes on a way of thought that influenced our past and is crucial in understanding for our future. The Separation Effect.”

‘Home Base: Place Altars As Connections to Wilderness’

The Altar of Curiosities

Part I – “The Altar of Curiosities is a system that’s very much based on my relationship with the land and its denizens. Each memento keeps alive the connection I made to the place I brought it from, and the altar as a whole is like having a direct line to each of a circle of friends; all I have to do is pick up my end.”

Part II – “Lupa discusses in detail what defines an Altar of Curiosities: a collection of natural or otherwise noteworthy items that are valued both for their intrinsic qualities as specimens, and whatever spiritual qualities their curator ascribes to them.”

Part III – “Lupa Greenwolf discusses how to create your own Altar of Curiosities, including some considerations you might not have thought of.”


Deep Ancestral Totemism

Part 1: The Triune Brain – “reptile”, “old mammal” and “new mammal” brain

Part2: Triune Brain Meditation

Part:3 Working with Your Triune Brain


Ritual & Ceremony of A Naturalistic Saegoah

Part 1: Why I do Ritual and Ceremony

Part 2: When & Where I do Ritual and Ceremony

Part 3: What & How I Do Ritual and Ceremony



‘Our Human Story…’ – How human cultures arise and influence one another.

‘Worldview Connections: A Meditation On Our Worldviews & Their Impacts’ – We live in a world full of connections–but how those connections are made could make or break us.

‘Cultural Quandaries: Soil’ – Soil. The source of all our nutrition requires it, making it immensely valuable. But our agricultural and gardening practices are not treating it that way. In fact we are killing our soils on a grand scale. How did it become this way? Is there a solution? We’ll get into that and the solutions that are not what you’d think…

‘A Message For Earth Day: The Separation Effect’ – “Rua Lupa writes on a way of thought that influenced our past and is crucial in understanding for our future. The Separation Effect.”

‘What Nature Has To Say About Gender’ – “Is human gender expression fundamentally messed up? In a richly illustrated essay, Rua Lupa compares human thinking about gender and sex to the realities of the natural world.”

‘Romanticism Runs Rampant: Ancestors, Indigenous Peoples, ‘Natural’’ – “It doesn’t help anybody to unwittingly promote things that are in actuality falsehoods, and often damages a position that is otherwise a fine one to hold.”

‘Poem: Our Planet, Our Home’ – “A poem about our home and how that came to be.”

‘Cultural Quandaries: Earth’s Civil Calendar. How did we end up with the calendar we have anyway?’ – “Ever wonder how the calendar we use came to be? Why our year is divided the way it is, how the names of these divisions arose and why New Year’s day is where it is? Well wonder no more! Here is the most concise summary of our calendar’s history answering all these questions, including others you may not of thought to consider, and reveals some dilemmas that come with it.”


February 1, 2016

What is a Saegoah?

The word “Saegoah” is the combination of the root word for seek – saeg – with the word ‘Ehoah’, meaning, “Seeker of Ehoah”.


The word ‘Ehoah’ is based on the sounds of breathing – the sounds of life – and became a single-word-meaning for “Complete harmony within Nature.”

In full, Saegoah is short for, “Seeker of Complete harmony within Nature”.

All Saegoahs operate under these Three Basic Tenets:

Saegoah's Three Basic Tenets. Image Credit: Rua Lupa
Saegoah’s Three Basic Tenets. Image Credit: Rua Lupa

The last tenet is what determines our actions, which is to work towards ensuring all our connections within Nature are harmonious, in everything we do and use; maintaining an awareness of and respect for our interconnections and creating a lifestyle that reflects this. It is a process that is continually improved upon with no end point.

What is currently found to be consistent through the scientific method is the foundation that each individual or group can build on top of it in their own way toward Ehoah. That way diversity is preserved – something that has consistently shown to ensure resilience and prevent stagnation in ecological communities. Maintaining such diversity encourages positive creativity between Saegoahs and allows for better reflection of our regional ecosystems, aiding in our goal in achieving Ehoah.

Thus, anything created and dispersed by Saegoahs are simply an option or guideline to help one another in our quest. In other words, the only thing that makes a Saegoah a Saegoah are these Three Basic Tenets, everything else is up to the individual or their group.


Finding A New Ceremony

In my pursuit for Ehoah, I had sought out practices that were most similar to my worldview to help me in my journey. While many were helpful, none of them satisfied me.

Namely, I found the directions for the elements in typical Pagan ceremonies confusing – Why was earth positioned north toward the pole? Air toward the East and Water West? South for Fire I could understand – as we view the sun along the south horizon through the day, but that doesn’t make any sense if you were to live in the southern hemisphere – reflecting how they were developed in the northern hemisphere and didn’t have the southern hemisphere in mind when made. The directions for a circle was also something that didn’t jive with me – being based on a perspective of the sun circling the earth, when I knew full well that it was the earth’s spin that caused our view of the sun.

Eventually I ended up making a ceremony outline for myself with aspects I found to better fit my worldview. The majority of it ended up being based upon Anishinaabe ceremony structure, reworded to reflect what the scientific method had revealed about the cosmos.

This, most notably, changed the elements and direction in a way that was consistent where ever on earth you were – not needing two different versions depending on which hemisphere you were on. And it didn’t have any reference to spirits or deities. That way anybody can participate without conflict in belief – especially for those with naturalistic / atheistic persuasions. The basic structure working best as a template for large public events where different beliefs are more likely to be encountered – the idea was for it to be universal and help unite people of all backgrounds.

Being an outline, it is open to tweaking by individuals or groups to better suit their worldview.

This ceremony doesn’t speak for all Saegoahs – again, anything created and dispersed by Saegoahs are simply an option or guideline to help one another in our quest.


Ehoah Breathing Exercise and Mantra

This is an optional chant to begin and end the ceremony. As an exercise it is very simple and can go on for however long you desire. Fifteen minutes is recommended to get the minimum full effect, yet can be used in shorter time frames to treat stress. In a comfortable, relaxed position, take a deep breath through your nose and breathe out of your mouth. Take another deep breath through your nose and say “Eh” (“Eh”= ‘A’ as in able), “O” (as in oak), and “Ah” (“Ah”= ‘A’ as in dawn) for about 8 seconds each in one exhale. Take a deep breath through your nose and begin again. With practice, you can extend the length of time for each syllable.


Ehoah Ceremony Outline

Beginning an Ehoah Ceremony:
Walk onto the grounds from West. Walk in one full circle around perimeter going the direction of the earth’s spin. (The direction of circling the grounds depends on which hemisphere you are on. Counter Clockwise on the Northern Hemisphere, Clockwise on the Southern Hemisphere.)


On the second go around, gather in loose circular clump around center, which could potentially have a fire or altar. Children, and pets that have been socialized with the group, can move freely about. Once everyone is gathered, collectively do a verbalized deep inhale.

Chant Eh-O-Ah thrice. Or Hum, led and stopped by designated organizer, stopping when the feeling is right.

Acknowledge the directions in open stances:

“I/We acknowledge the East (Face East) The direction we turn to, toward our host star at dawn and deep space at dusk.”

“I/We acknowledge the Sky (Face the nearest pole) From plants we have the ocean of air that envelopes us – our shield, our breath.”

“I/We acknowledge the West (Face West) The direction we turn from, where we last see our host star before night, and deep space before day.”

“I/We acknowledge the Earth (Face the equator) (Place your left hand over your heart, and right hand on other kin (whether it be human, pet, plant, or soil organisms ― by touching ground. The resulting group position is called the Web of Life). (While in Web of Life) “From star dust, a new star, planets ― this planet. Developing from its oceans, along a long lineage of life, now exists all current life on this planet orbiting this star. We are all made of this place we call home.”

Turn to face the nearest pole or the Center and begin the ceremony focus, which may be rites of passage like birth, bonding, and diffusion, or Solterrestriale Festivitas (“Solar-Earth Festivities”, seasonal celebrations).

Closing an Ehoah Ceremony:
Position into Web of Life

Chant Thrice or Hum

Verbalize Deep Exhale

“As we go our separate ways, know that we are not truly divided.”

Leave toward East, the direction the earth turns toward.


An optional way to end ceremony or ritual is with the phrase,
“pro solterrestriale vitae”, “for solar-earth life”.
Or simply, “Solterrestriale Vitae!”


January 25, 2016

When I first became pagan twenty years ago, it was common for “paganism” as an umbrella term to be summarized as “earth-based religions”. As the internet facilitated further discourse on what paganism is and isn’t, pagans began differentiating between paths that were based in nature, and those based in the reconstruction of pre-Christian religions, or rooted firmly in the veneration of deities, or other things that “weren’t nature”. Over time I saw more and more of a backlash against the automatic assumption that pagan = environmentalist (or, for that matter, that pagan = progressive). At first I was offended, as earnest new pagans often are–but then I began to think about it more.

Two parallel forces were changing my perception: the greater discourse of “what is paganism” as more people joined the conversation, and my own widening worldview as I left the small town I grew up in and began to explore more of the United States in detail. So my little world in which paganism was a nature religion ended up exploding into a wider diversity. I am, of course, completely okay with this, and I appreciate the ability to choose from a greater selection of path-accurate labels besides “Wiccan”, “Druid”, “Asatruar” and “Goddess Worshipper”.

One of the most important shifts in discourse about paganism is the increasing discussion on social justice issues within the community. From the barring of transgender women from “women-only” rituals at major pagan events to ongoing issues with both overt and more subtle racism in the community to pointing out where events and other venues are not wheelchair-accessible, we’ve been challenged to question our assumptions on just how diversity-friendly our spiritual subculture really is. And it’s not just talk, either; action has been a big part of the dialogue. I was at the silent protest at Z. Budapest’s “no trans women women’s ritual” at PantheaCon a few years ago, and I’ve been pleased to see the event organizers’ work to be more inclusive in subsequent years. This has led to more changes from events, organizations and other entities to be more inclusive.

We’ve still kept talking about environmentalism and the Earth, of course, to varying degrees. Non-human nature gets a lot of lip service in popular pagan songs, chants and rites. And a lot of pagans are environmentally aware and doing their best to live more earth-friendly lives while also being conscious of their own financial, physical and other limitations. But there’s not the sort of community watchdog activity that social justice has been getting the past few years in the pagan community. Is it that social justice is finally getting the attention it needs in the community, and activists are making up for lost time? Or is the reason we aren’t having discussions about, say, greenwashing at hotels hosting our events or looking at whether the crystals we buy are strip-mined or not because we’re just sick of complaining about environmental ills?

Let me make this very clear: I am in no way saying we’ve been putting too much attention on the social justice work that’s been done in paganism in recent years; on the contrary, I encourage and welcome it, as it’s long overdue. I’m just wondering why we aren’t having the same sorts of hard-hitting criticisms of the enabling of environmental problems in the pagan community. Is it that we’re burned out and apathetic because paganism and environmentalism have been so seemingly intertwined over the decades? Is it that “the environment” is such a huge set of problems and needy places that we feel overwhelmed? Perhaps it’s because social justice is something uniquely human, and so once again we find it easier to get mad about something that’s about us, and we forget that a lot of environmental issues are also human rights issues issues. I’m really not sure.

It could also be because we’re more used to looking at multiple possible solutions for a given environmental conundrum. One big issue, food sustainability, can have more potential responses that many people would consider acceptable. For some people strict veganism is the way to go; for others, raising their own crops and livestock is the end goal; for still others it’s about reducing food waste throughout a broken distribution system. And often people adhere to multiple solutions to environmental problems in varying degrees; a person may try to reduce food waste by using all the food they buy, and also raise some edible plants on their porch but choose an omnivorous diet that includes both free-range and factory-farmed meat because they can’t afford all free-range. This means there’s generally not one accepted “best response” to a given environmental issue, which can make it tougher for pagans to unite under one effort.

Still, I think environmentally-minded pagans can learn quite a bit from those bringing social justice issues to the forefront in our community. I’m talking about more actively questioning deeply-ingrained habits and practices within the pagan community that can be harmful to an already deeply-stressed planet: not just generic “Be nice to the earth” posts or condemning pagans who use paper plates as being sinners against an angry Mother Earth, but more focused examinations like my post on cheap yet unsustainable ritual tools, which also explains more eco-friendly alternatives for those on a budget. And that brings up the important second part of this action, that we need to be offering up realistic solutions to those pointed critiques. That way when someone becomes aware of a problem they didn’t know existed, they also have a proposed way to improve the situation. (I have to thank my co-blogger, Rua Lupa, for being an inspiration in this regard; if you check out her history of posts here, particularly in the Cultural Quandaries category, you’ll find some nice in-depth discussions of problems and solutions.)

Admittedly, my thoughts on this are still somewhat shaky. So I turn this to you, dear readers: am I off the mark, or is there something to this concept that paganism has become increasingly apathetic toward environmentalism?

November 20, 2015

I was raised in a household that was Pentecostal Christian (an Evangelical form of Christianity), and I grew pretty depressed as I was taught that I was born broken, and that I needed to get in good with Jesus in order to go to heaven, otherwise you are hell bound. So my entire youth was focused on being a good Christian and trying to reach others so that they wouldn’t end up in Hell either. Even though I was a dedicated Christian in my youth, I always enjoyed Nature. Going into the woods was a place of refuge and just being myself without the constant fear of being judged for doing something wrong. I loved learning about the natural world and how it functioned, trying to understand how I could best fit into it all.

It wasn’t until I moved away for college to study Wildlife Conservation did I start really thinking about my beliefs. One of the first things that I did when I moved was find the nearest Pentecostal Church and attended it. But over time I realized that most of what was taught in Christianity I didn’t agree with. My studies in how Nature works didn’t line up with what was said either. There was a fundamental denial in Christianity about our Natural History, and there was an undercurrent of male superiority that irked me. During this time away from home I also had the opportunity to learn about other beliefs and found that I tended to agree with some of these other beliefs more than what I was raised with.

Pencil Drawing By Rua Lupa
Pencil Drawing By Rua Lupa

One day it hit me – I no longer believe that there is a God, I no longer believe Christianity. I just couldn’t. It didn’t make any sense. Having everything I thought was foundational about my place in the world fall out from under me left me feeling the need to grasp at the closest thing that I could feel was solid ground. That ended up being Paganism. It was a safe haven to explore myself to find where I stood in this crazy world, being very accepting of differing worldviews and open to this sort of exploration.

Symbols In Image:
Abrahamic Symbols – Jewish Star of David, Christian Cross, and Islamic Star & Crescent.

Pagan Symbols – (On Tree, Top to Bottom) Triple Moon, Horned God, and Pentagram; The Stag for the “horned god”, Earth mound with Earth Goddess, White Rabbit wearing Awen, Log in front of anthropomorphized goat has an inverted Pentacle, The stones to the right of that is the Triskelion, and to the right of that the Year Wheel, The shield has the Valknut, the stone beside it displays the Triquetra, The alter with the druid sacrificing an apple is the Reformed Druids of North America symbol. The Tree to the right of the meditating person is The Tree of Life.

Aboriginal Symbols – the hoop hanging from the Tree of Life is the Medicine Wheel. The stone to the left of the tree is the Anishinaabe Thunderbird.

Non-theistic Symbols – The symbol in the earth to the right of the Thunderbird stone is the Atheist symbol. The stone being stood on is the Ehoah Sigil. The Image in the sky is the Ehoah Star.

But most importantly to me was that Nature was part of their practice, not separate or lesser like how Christianity saw it. Being someone who always felt like they were a part of Nature, not separate or better than it, this was a good fit. From there there are a lot of options for those who want to dedicate themselves to a more specific worldview like Polytheism or Animism. As I was exploring my own thoughts I explored each of these Pagan worldviews. Out of all the Pagan paths Druidism appealed most to me.

The Druid group that I ended up finding most in common with were the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA). It was the most open to exploration while at the same time was nature-based in practice. They have an easy going attitude with much banter, not being afraid to make fun of themselves, and all you needed to do to join was agree with their Two Basic Tenets:

‘One of the many ways in which the object of Man’s search for religious truth can be found is through Nature: The Earth Mother’
‘Nature, being one of the primary concerns in Man’s life and struggle,
and being one of the objects of creation, is important to Man’s Spiritual quests’

If you wanted to leave, you just did – no hard feelings.

It was around this time did I look for and find a Pagan group in my local area to join and participate in. What I found was a Pagan Association which was a mixed group that was made up mostly of Wiccans. I ended up being the only self described Druid in the group. Being a mixed group had meant that there was a constant search for meeting everyone’s needs and there were a lot of creative discussions to this end. One such creative discussion was on how the group followed the Year Wheel, and how the common celebrations associated with it were out of sync with the reality of our climate in northern Ontario, Canada.

Having been baffled by our current modern civil calendar to begin with, I personally set out to explore a solution. This resulted in me inventing a calendar for the northern hemisphere that oriented around the solar-earth events (equinoxes and solistices), with different months, and a six day week, taking a year to develop. Through that year I also had developed more upon my personal practice as a druid. So by the time I presented my calendar to my group, they had found that working with the current modern civil calendar worked best for the group as it wasn’t favoring any one practice over another, which I thought suited the group’s purpose well. But having made a calendar that actually worked, I wanted to do something with it. It was then that a friend pointed out how it worked well and that they liked the tradition I was developing. It was at that moment that I realized that was what I was actually doing. The way I’ve been directing my personal practice was going in a different direction from any practice available at the time. I was creating an off-shoot from Reformed Druidism.

How this tradition became an off-shoot was that the Two Basic Tenets were altered into Three Basic Tenets:
“Through Nature fulfillment can be found”
“Nature, being inseparable from humanity’s existence, is important in human pursuits”
“As humans are part of Nature it is important to ensure our connections within it are harmonious”

The reasoning was to simplify the core meaning of the original two tenets, reworded so that it became open to those who were non-theistic, and added the third to emphasize the point of the tradition and direction of practice (which is to work towards ensuring all our connections within Nature are harmonious, in everything we do and use; maintaining an awareness of and respect for our interconnections and creating a lifestyle that reflects this. Being a process that is continually improved upon with no end point). In addition to this it didn’t focus so much on the Celtic traditions, instead considering it one of many sources of inspiration. One of the reasons was that little is actually known of what the ancient druids did and so regardless we’d be doing something different anyway. Which made calling ourselves druids unsuitable so a new name was needed. While in my personal practice I had developed a meditation chant based on the sounds of breathing, being the vowels “a” (as in able), “o” (as in open), and “a” (as in apple), giving it the name Ehoah – as it sounded. The meaning attributed was “complete harmony within Nature”. Thus someone who followed this path would be seeking completely harmony within Nature, a Seeker of Ehoah, and be called a Saegoah (saeg being the root word for ‘seek’).

While venturing now as a Saegoah I was able to delve into learning the traditions of the native side of my ancestry which helped develop my personal path. But I was still uncertain of whether or not I believed in the existence of the supernatural. I still wanted to figure that out for myself, and an opportunity came from a friend inviting me to a Yuwipi – a traditional Lakota healing ceremony wherein the healer would be wrapped in a blanket, tied up on a blanket alter, in complete darkness among the participants, and call on the spirits for healing for those present. I was told that if I doubted the supernatural, that this ceremony would lay those doubts to rest. So I went, eager to see if this were true. I became a helper and helped make the tobacco ties for the ceremony and met the healer and his family before the ceremony.

During the ceremony the healer called out to the spirits for aid and said that two children came to help. This is when you saw a blue light flicker and the drummers began to drum for the spirit, and that flickering blue light moved among us to bless and heal those present. I was elated that I finally had something to show that the supernatural existed. Then we heard wings beating, the healer said a speckled hawk came to help those who needed it, and the drums picked up again and we not only saw the flickering blue light, but heard the wing beats and felt its wings touch us in the darkness. The dancing had picked up fervor.

Before the ceremony we were told that we shouldn’t interfere with the spirits. But then I became curious and thought that if the spirits didn’t want to be touched then they would move away if I came closer, so I slowly reached my hand out to the flickering light and touched a very human hand holding a rawhide shaker. Feeling deflated I sat down – the person holding the shaker had poked me sharply with it, perhaps trying to express a displeased spirit. But since I had sat down the shaker ended up poking me in the face, then a hand had reached out to find where I was – this hand had a wing attached to it, then the wing was brushed over me and they moved on. It was then that I had remembered something from when I was studying luminescence and came across mechanoluminescence – that the blue flickering light I was seeing was a rawhide shaker filled with quartz, and that it was the quartz hitting each other that caused the blue light. I berated myself for not realizing it sooner the rest of the ceremony.

When the ceremony came to a close I still helped with providing the feast, and then kept myself busy with the dishes, not wanting any awkwardness. Those that were running the ceremony were huddled and speaking in hurried concerned tones. We had shared a ride to the place and now we had to ride back together. While on the way there there was active conversation, on the way back however it was awkward silence. Then the spouse of the healer had asked what I thought of the ceremony, and I quickly responded that “It was wild”. To that their child was responded, “see, she doesn’t know anything” and was quickly hushed. When we parted ways I genuinely wished them safe travels.

Upon arriving home I spoke with my spouse about what had happened and they had succinctly deduced that the ceremony was the native equivalent of a séance. And if you know anything about seances is that they were also ceremonies that were held to speak with spirits in complete darkness, and they were debunked by participants in ways similar to mine. So since then I found that I am unable to believe that there is any supernatural elements in this world and firmly found myself in Naturalism – “Any of several philosophical stances wherein all phenomena or hypotheses commonly labeled as supernatural are either false or not inherently different from natural phenomena or hypotheses.” And thus consider myself a Naturalist in both Naturalism and in the Study of Nature.

Having reached this philosophical point I ended up questioning whether the Pagan label suited me anymore. I remain firmly a student of Nature and my lifestyle still reflects this. But Pagan often came with the associations of magic, spirits, and deities – things I no longer have any association with. So for some time when asked what my beliefs were I would just say Naturalist, and if the person was keenly interested in a respectful way I’d mention being a Saegoah which cut to the chase of what I really believed and did. This in many ways helped in reaching an understanding without the baggage of misunderstandings of what Paganism is. Yet to many people, within and outside of Paganism, I remain a Pagan because my practice is so nature-based. I was later reminded how that was still true through the words of Emma Restall Orr, describing a pagan as someone who looks “to the landscape, the environment, the ecology of a place, nature herself, for guidance in every aspect of their lives.” And how these words are consistent with how history uses “pagan” to mean people of the countryside (from Latin paganus, civilian, country dweller, from pagus country district).

It was with this reminder of my paganism did I recall one line that I had came across in Druidism that resonates with me still, “I am first Beast, then Human.”

August 4, 2015

Many feel that I have an odd stance on things. That is mostly because I question why we see things the way we do to try to understand how we’ve come to treat things the way we do. Often enough that leads to me sharing values, but going about them differently from others. That is why I often question my place in Paganism – as I’ve found myself here through affiliation rather than from self description. And don’t agree with a lot of things – and that is okay. I rather be surrounded by people who can openly disagree with me than be surrounded by people who meekly agree with everything everyone says – that sort of thing I find unhealthy. And that is what this is about – the things that I openly disagree with, and you are more than welcome to feel otherwise. And the reason why I bring it up is to encourage pondering why we see things the way we do, and you can come up with your own conclusions as to why it should continue the same way or if a change is needed.

One of the things I find myself disagreeing with is the view of Ancestors. I understand being in apt awe of our long heritage of what brings us here today and thinking of how we too would one day be part of that. But I honestly dislike the tendency to automatically attribute ancestors as worthy of respect. Some certainly are, but a great many I wouldn’t consider any less or more worthy of respect than the average living person today. That is because your living relatives are ultimately just as much like your past relatives, and do you get along with your living relatives enough to consider them worthy of great respect? Most likely not, with the odd exception of perhaps a few in every couple of families. A lot of my relatives I really don’t get along with and as I understand most people have similar experiences. On top of all this is the expectation that our ancestors would share a lot of our same values – they wouldn’t have. Having had an interest in history and fairly recently gotten even more involved by reenacting in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I’ve found that it is more likely that you wouldn’t get along with your ancestors than your living relatives. Primarily because our modern worldviews are simply so different, and essentially foreign, from our ancestor’s worldviews. Human history is chocked full of things that we would abhor today. Like the justifications for slavery, female relations as possessions, killing someone for giving an insult, and plainly killing people who disagree with you. Some of those views are still around today, but likely everyone reading this would be against them. Ancestors should receive as much scrutiny as we would give the living today, not instantly be seen as worthy of respect.

This brings me to the topic of Indigenous Peoples. One of the reasons ancestors tend to be seen as worthy of veneration is because all of our distant ancestors originally had lived more in-tune with their environment. But this doesn’t mean everything they did was worthy of veneration. Gender roles are a major component to indigenous peoples, and many of these roles are detrimental to the well being and freedom to those genders. It is a common concept that men are not permitted to do women’s work and women are not permitted to do men’s work. To most of us that is not something we’d like to be stuck with. Sure it may work for a number of people, and being raised within such a culture you’d think that that is the way things are and so wouldn’t think anything of it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. People should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives, so long as it doesn’t hurt another person. These gender roles imposed on their populace can vary from very mild segregation where its mostly just customary and breaking the custom still is socially frowned at with some social pressure to conform, but can ultimately break away from that, becoming a pariah in the community; to extreme segregation where a gender is seen as lesser than the other and thus not highly valued in their society and breaking from that social expectation results in murder. Some have used this to justify labeling Indigenous peoples as ‘primitive’. Such labels tend to speak more about the people who provide it than the people being labelled. It ultimately is up to the people themselves to decide what is a worthy way to live, as all ways of life are worthy options – so long as human rights are upheld, and I’d add the ecosystem’s integrity as well. Which brings me to the next issue relating to indigenous peoples.

It is common for people to believe that all indigenous peoples live harmoniously within their ecosystem – that is a myth. There are those that do and are very good at it, but there are also those that don’t. And to that I’ll explain with my own experiences, but to begin to explain that I need to begin with another romanticism.

Many people tend to see all Native Americans as the same group of people. They very much are not. There are hundreds of different groups that are collectively grouped as Native Americans. Each one can greatly differ from the other, and often do. Increasingly there has been a “Pan-Indian” trend partially in response to non-native people’s expectations, mostly as a way to be quickly recognized as being native (a lot of this recognitions stemming from media representations) and thus to be able to make a living based on those expectations. Such “Pan-Indian” things are Tipis, Dream Catchers, “Peace Pipes”, and massively feathered headdresses. These associations mostly arose from Wild West Shows that went from 1872 to about 1913, forming the public’s perceptions of what the indigenous peoples of North America were.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

The reality is these Wild West Shows were having depictions mostly based on the Plains Peoples (not having anything to do the hundreds of other peoples) and greatly exaggerated those cultural features just for show appeal. The feathered war bonnet (headdress) itself is a direct result of that – strictly a plains people’s cultural item and was greatly exaggerated by adding enormous amounts of feathers (which is frankly greatly disrespectful to the eagle and the amount of honor that is associated with the eagle feather. The Eagle Feather is not something to take lightly). In pre-European settlement contact, a large headdress wouldn’t have been a common sight. Tipis are also strictly a plain’s people’s thing, and a Peace Pipe is a very specific pipe – not one that is used for all ceremonial purposes (there is a whole variety of pipes for different purposes with different kinds and uses depending on the indigenous culture).

Dream Catchers
Dream Catchers
Non-Native Dream Catcher
Non-Traditional Dream Catcher

Dream Catchers originated with the Anishinaabe and were adopted by neighboring nations, being used as protective charms for infants (Very much like crib mobiles for our children with the addition of protection over their dreams and its deeper cultural meanings). There is a lot of dispute over the dream catcher’s use because as its been adopted, it has been greatly altered from its original form. Making it a misnomer to continue calling it a dream catcher in reference to its original form and purpose when it clearly isn’t one anymore. It would make more sense to call it a non-traditional Dream Catcher, or a Web Weave decoration inspired by the dream catcher – but it isn’t the Anishinaabe’s Dream Catcher, so it shouldn’t claim to be one.

Since the Wild West Shows the indigenous peoples were able to reclaim their heritage and culture and started a different kind of “Pan-Indian” show called a Pow-Wow. All over North American in summer will be Pow-Wows where the host peoples get to express their cultural identity with pride.

As a side note, when you see a blanket with items laid out on it, do not assume its a market stall. It is most likely a sacred bundle that is dear to the person sitting behind it. So please have some respect and don’t step over it or touch anything on it. Many also find it rude to query on the significance of those items – its that personal. A respectful way to go about it is to ask if it is okay to ask about the items and go from there as some love to share the story of their bundle – being an opportunity to share their culture. Photographs are also considered disrespectful in many scenarios depending on the Pow-Wow and the participants. So always ask if it is okay to touch something or take a photo first. A good guideline for photos is to ask the Master of Ceremonies if photos are permitted at that event and of what. People in regalia should be asked in a person by person basis (again, don’t touch).

But it wasn’t that long ago that Pow-Wows were not permitted by the governments, and children being taken from their families to be put in residential schools (Canada) or boarding schools (USA) to assimilate them into American & Canadian culture.

Photograph of students from Fort Albany Residential School reading in class overseen by a nun c 1945. From the Edmund Metatawabin collection at the University of Algoma.
Photograph of students from Fort Albany Residential School reading in class overseen by a nun c 1945. From the Edmund Metatawabin collection at the University of Algoma.

These children were severely abused and many had died there. The last Canadian federally operated residential school was closed in 1996. The USA still has a few off-reservation boarding schools. As a result, much of their indigenous cultures have been lost. The Pow-Wows are thus a kind of revival of their culture. Many express the sense of it being a statement of, “We are here, you have not destroyed us.” Sadly, human rights abuses of indigenous peoples all over the world are still rampant.

Cesar Chavez Student Center Building

What has resulted is a mix bag of things. Some good, others not so good. The good mostly is that people are free to express their culture and beliefs now. There is still a lot of bad, especially when it comes to land rights and the trauma that has been left behind. I would like to talk about one of the bad things that have happened. There are aspects of ‘Western’ culture that is hurting the people and the land. A sizable portion of that is purely one material – petroleum. There has been increasing news with regards to Indigenous Rights and petroleum, having to do with stopping the pipe lines from the Tar Sands,

and the people who have been left with a polluted home by the Tar Sands.

Their rights are being abused still and they need all the support they can get. The flip side of petroleum is its proliferation in our cultural goods to the point that it is poisoning the very ceremonies that are trying to be revived. It is seen at every ceremony I’ve gone to. Feasts with plastic single use cups, plates and utensils, along with the packaging of the store bought food; Tobacco bundles that are wrapped in petroleum based fibers (Also called Synthetic fibers, such as Nylon, Modacrylic, Acrylic, Olefin, Polyester, Rayon, and Spandex) that are left behind at fasts, and put into the sacred fires to burn, creating a toxic carcinogenic fume that the fire keepers breathe in and become nauseous from; And from the garbage brought in and left behind at the ceremonial grounds, creating a day or more’s work for those who organized the ceremony – just to clean up after their own people. Not to mention the Native American owned oil and gas companies creating a rift between those who want to protect the land, and those who want to exploit it. The indigenous peoples of North America are not unanimously invested in the well being of the earth, nor are their cultures all about that.

Granted there are groups that are very much focused on these issues and walk the talk.

But Native peoples are much more complex than this persistent romanticism of being one culture that is ‘One With Nature’. Which brings me to the last set of issues – Perspectives of Nature in general.

Have you ever watched a nature video that had the eagle call into the sky, or bears roaring at each other? Well, the reality is that those footage’s were never captured that way – those sounds are voice overs. The call you normally hear in films of an Eagle, is actually a Red-tailed Hawk call.

Because an actual Bald Eagle call was thought to not be majestic enough for film. Bald Eagle calls sound more like whistles and nothing like a screech. (watch at the 34th second)

And the roaring bears? Bears don’t really roar, like, at all. They make a whole range of sounds, but roars? Not so much. The voiceover you normally hear in movies is actually a lion roar. Watch the video below to hear how bears really talk.

Lemmings pushed-off cliff in the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness
Lemmings pushed off cliff in the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness

Media has portrayed Nature in all sorts of fictitious ways that have influenced how we see it. A prime example is lemmings jumping off of cliffs. If you haven’t heard of it before its based on an old Disney documentary that was trying to film Lemmings jumping off of cliffs because it was commonly understood that they do that when their populations got too big. But they weren’t able to capture any of that while they were there so they collected lemmings from elsewhere and then threw them off the cliff themselves, strategically filming it so that it looked like they were jumping of their own volition. It wasn’t until much later was it found that lemmings jumping off cliffs were a myth. So be wary of false nature films. The only ones I can comfortably recommend are those done by David Attenborough. Not only do they have integrity, but cover most every creature that can be covered when it comes to wildlife. But media has left its mark and will continue to as it is a very compelling way to share information.

Other such ways it has shared falsehoods is with natural medicinal cures, thinking that because its from Nature it must be good right? Very Wrong. Just to clear things up, all medicine is from Nature, then it gets refined for potency toward a specific ingredient for treatment to avoid undesired side effects of the other ingredients. If it hasn’t gone through rigorous peer reviewed testing, then you are ultimately taking a risk based on something that is only a claim. Sadly, many people have died based on the “Natural Cure” claim. Reality is that All good AND harmful substances are from Nature. Some of the most poisonous substances in the world (such as ricin, cyanide, arsenic, hemlock, snake venoms and mercury) are all entirely “natural”, not having been human altered from its raw form. The key is to rigorously test them to determine whether or not it is good for our health.

The same thing goes for “natural foods”. Especially those that are dubbed “super foods” that can “detox” you or “prevent cancer with antioxidants”. These detox and cancer preventing healthfood things are myths. “Detox” is a medicinal term that has been co-opted and corrupted by a greenwashing healthfood industry, creating a non-existent condition in order to convince you to buy their stuff to treat it. The reality is that “detox” in its actual medicinal use refers to treating for immediately life threatening dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or poisons, like heavy metals. Also known as purging an overdose. Again, there are plenty of natural things in their raw forms that are extremely deadly to humans in small doses. But absolutely everything in Nature can be toxic enough to kill you. This is called LD50 (Lethal Dosage of 50%) – essentially the point when a substance kills half the members of a tested population after a specified test duration. Even plain water can be deadly toxic in high enough doses. And I’m not talking about drowning in it, drinking it. Both the “detox” and “cancer prevention” claims are just that – claims. There is no peer reviewed study that confirms any of these claims.

“Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.” (Tim Minchin, Storm). As all medicine should be looked at with scrutiny because “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (Carl Sagan).

My point to all this can be summed up by a wonderful founding set of words, “Nullius in Verba” which translates to “Take nobody’s word for it.” The motto for the Royal Society whom explain it thus, “It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.” The Royal Society having been one of the major supporters of the then new Scientific Method. So, to all of you reading this. Question everything, even what I have written, and find out for yourself whether or not any claim is actually true. Even though it may sound right, especially if it appeals to your position. It doesn’t help anybody to unwittingly promote things that are in actuality falsehoods, and often damages a position that is otherwise a fine one to hold.

In the end, Take nobody’s word for it.

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May 5, 2015

I’ve been looking around at the responses to A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment that I’ve been a co-writer on, and I find that one of main disagreements with it has to do with the Economy and Politics. Some are stating that, “it is advocating a political, rather than a spiritual change”. While others state, “Humanity isn’t to blame for the destruction of the planet — capitalism and colonialism are.” believing that the statement isn’t calling these issues out. What I find fascinating is that those of us who were collaborating on this statement had already talked about these issues in depth and are in the statement already.

The challenge was to write it so that it wasn’t too far in any direction because, while you may be appealing more to a certain demographic in the Pagan community, you also at the same time alienate everyone else. This was to be a statement that Pagans as a whole could relate to and feel that they can follow through with. Everyone has their particular topic they feel more strongly about than other things, but that doesn’t mean its actually the only thing that matters. Most of the disagreements actually hinge on the one thing – humans. Whether or not Humans are causing the problem and what Humans should do about it. Its been made clear many times already that Humans are causing drastic ecological damage and it isn’t a matter of opinion, its a scientific fact. And you can’t change the problem without acknowledging it. Negative things shouldn’t be avoided but challenged.

"Blue Marble" via WikiCommons Modified by Rua Lupa
“Blue Marble” via WikiCommons Modified by Rua Lupa

Reality is that it does trace back to us, our actions – not as individuals, but as a whole. Just like a company can cause great ecological damage – the person who is maintaining the equipment, or the person who is doing paper work isn’t putting toxic substances into the ecosystem – but all together they do. Politics and Capitalism are likewise inseparable from humanity. We conglomeratively create and influence Politics and the Economy. Thus we are conglomeratively responsible, just like a company is responsible for the damages they do. I realize that many might find the comparison appalling, but that’s how things are. Companies are made up of people after all, and while some may feel that Corporations are the bane of humanity – lets not forget that we’re still talking about human beings here. And since I’m on the topic I’ll say it plainly – No. Corporations are Not A Person. Like I’ve already stated, they are made up of many people and together influence the outcome of that Corporation. Humanity as a whole together can influence the outcome of the Planet. If everyone who found that what they were doing was harming the ecosystem they depended on had responded by changing that behaviour so that it was no longer doing damage, we’d be in a different circumstance right now. But the fact is most people are not doing that and that is how we are where we are. That is the summary of it, but the nitty gritty details can get awfully challenging. So this Pagan Community Statement was to tackle what we do know and left it open to future possibilities.

What I found really funny was that while some have stated that it doesn’t do enough in terms of tackling Capitalism, others have stated, “because what is hidden in the advocacy is more than just anti-capitalist statements (not that capitalism is perfect by any means) but a desire to switch to a planned economy. What we have seen in switches such as these, from the French Revolution to The Cultural Revolution, is that such efforts are taken over and corrupted by power-hungry despots – Napoleon, Stalin, Mao, etc.”

Those who were opposed to capitalism and those who were opposed to anti-capitalism had decided against signing as a result. Which, by all means, they are more than welcome to do. The contrast however is rather fascinating. In our discussions we agree that our current problems are definitely linked to how Capitalism operates, we also agree that Capitalism isn’t the only economic system that causes great environmental damage. As it was pointed out earlier Stalin and Mao caused great environmental disasters directly because of their economic systems. That is why the statement was written to say,

“Any economic or political system which encourages the exploitation of Earth and people must be dismantled or substantially reformed. This includes any system based on endless growth.”

Because even if we move away from the Capitalist model doesn’t mean we won’t still cause ecological damage. That is why we emphasized

“transforming the systems of domination and exploitation that threaten our future into systems of symbiotic partnership that support our ecosystem.”“operating in a closed loop system, not a linear one. This means moving away from disposable development and culture, and moving toward renewable development and culture wherein all products are intended for longevity, repairability, and easy recycling or composting at the end of their use. The sustainable economy of the future will be one with the shortest distances between production, consumption and recycling of byproducts.”

and that all of this

“is a collective challenge, and individual actions are necessary but not sufficient.”

“Technical solutions can never move forward without political will, and the necessary political will requires a shift in our most deeply held values, in our very definitions of what it means to be human, and in how humanity relates to the world. We recognize this shift as a spiritual imperative.”

We are no different than that worker doing equipment maintenance or that worker doing the paper work and the company their working for is damaging the ecosystem. They may feel like they are not part of the problem their company is doing, but they are by supporting it in their own small way. The Economy is essentially a kind of business contract we signed onto as a society. What we need to do is stop acting like we’re all in Earth Ltd. And start acting like a Cooperative because we all – humans along with plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, etc. – have a full stake in its outcome.

Fundamentally, we believe that a change in spirit is required, one that fosters a new relationship between humanity and other species and Earth as a whole.

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