Wicca is a settler religion, just like the Christians, Sikhs, Jews, and others, not native to this Land. But we are not an imperialist religion, and not a universalist religion – we don’t believe that we are right and everyone else is wrong, but we also don’t believe that our Goddesses and Gods are separate and apart from the land where we live. So, it is important that we connect ourselves to these places where we live – introduce ourselves to the spirits of the first peoples, to these mountains, that river, the nearby power places. We need to both introduce ourselves to them and to ask their permission to be here and help to come to belong. And a vitally important part of that spiritual journey must include justice and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
We do not need to be prisoners of the past, but we cannot deny the past and pretend that it is not here in the present. We can look to our shared and our separate histories, those which brought us here and now, as a storehouse of resources, stories, inspiration, to draw upon together in shaping the present and future. We can decide which resources to bring forward. There are many potential futures – we choose together which ones become actual and which we experience.
We cannot think only in universals without destroying the local and the specific experiences which give the universal ideas a home. At the end of European imperialism, however, the seeds of European, Asian and African thought and experience mingled here in this new land, alongside the Indigenous insights and relationships that could not be completely destroyed, and they are gifts to all of us, gifts and potentials for new relationships to the Land and to each other.
What we must have is a hybridization, based in respectful learning and exploration, bringing the spiritual tools from our various Ancestors together with this Land where we are (each of us in our own places). Let me pause here to recommend post-colonial theoretician Homi Bhabha’s writing on hybridity. We should not pretend to have a pure culture-free, history-free, experience or attempt to recreate either the pre-contact religion of the local First Nation or to appropriate its insights for our use. Our understanding of the divine expressed in this land can be real if we open ourselves to be changed by the land, and with some understanding in our story of all the other stories that have explained this land and the people here. It is racist to steal First Nations tradition and claim that we have the right to it, but also a mistake to deny the possibility of belonging here to non-Indigenous people.
When I look back a hundred years to my occult ancestors in the Theosophical Society I see an openness that is inspiring: “Not only everything that human beings have done here, but every natural phenomenon and event is daily shaping our outlook and influencing us. We are continuing to shape and to make and remake our national consciousness – let us choose how we will remake it. This accomplishment is in both what we do and how we are as a people together.” (F. B. Housser, “Some Thoughts on National Consciousness,” Canadian Theosophist 8, no. 5 (1927)The mountains reaching their hands in love toward the sky are like the mountains where our ancestors were. By bringing a new story to add to the stories that have been told about those mountains, and a new song to echo through their woods, we add ourselves as inhabitants of this landscape. By harvesting food here and treating it with respect, we gain permission to eat the food of this Land, to nourish ourselves and to belong here. Eating and drinking, we make an everlasting pact with the Land and its spirits.
Far away from the graves of our ancestors nonetheless the air we breathe is the same as the air that carried their voices. Let this air be the air of home. This fire in our hearth is the same fire as the hearth fires in all homes of our people. This sacred fire burning in the centre of our home is all fires and creates this as a home of our people. By calling to the spirits of this Land to know us as their children we bring in our bodies and blood and in our breath, the Ancestors from other lands. We bring the stories and the Gods and heroes of other places, here to the land, not as conquerors but as a necessary part of who we are. We add these stories to the stories that are already told here – the stories of our peoples’ great journeys to come here, the stories of our Gods to add richness to the stories already here, and to find places in this landscape for our sacred groves and our high places for meditation, our holy wells and sacred springs, not to replace but to add to the store of holy places.
We bring ourselves and our various gifts of culture and religion, technique and genetics, language and song, our clothing and food. We bring them so that we can together create a new thing. We come to become inhabitants on the land, not conquerors but native.
May we go forward as the conscious voice, eyes and hands of the spirits of this place. May we build together in harmony and may what we bring from our Ancestors and from their homelands enrich this new homeland. May we return to the Earth what we receive from Her, may this earth feed us and receive our bodies on death. May we make love often and may we love even more often. May the waters of the ocean receive the sunset, may we see the beauty of this place, and may we always add to its beauty. May we achieve what we desire. May we desire the right things. May our passion for justice awaken, and may we make a good and a just peace with the descendants of the original peoples of this land, our sisters and brothers.