Rethinking Rituals

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a preface

You can tell by this page’s URL that this article was originally titled, Eco-Rituals; a term, along with eco-Pagan, that’s been used in the Pagan community to signify environmentally friendly Pagans and rituals. However, the title has since changed because we at Pagan Earth Alliance believe those terms are both redundant and segregative among our community. It’s also false- there are no “eco-Pagans” who practice “eco-rituals”. There are only responsible Pagans who practice with and for the Earth. And so, this is now titled, Rethinking Rituals.


Atavistic lessons

Other than being in love with the Earth, if there's another thing all Pagans love, it's rituals, rites of passage, and ceremonies. Our rituals are as diverse and unique to our traditions and cultures as we ourselves are from each other. In the old days, we practiced by the hearth or outside; utilizing tools and materials taken from raw and natural ingredients, just like everything else that was used for our day to day lives. Though we probably didn't realize it at the time since we had nothing else to compare it to then, but the symbolic beauty behind these simply-made, raw items meant that many times, they only lasted as long as the duration of the ritual. Everything in life must end, and so too shall our ritual items- continuing this belief. For why would we wish to practice with tools and items that would last beyond the time frame they are meant for, even beyond our own lives? And even more importantly, why would we ever wish to practice with tools and items for our religions that could harm the very meaning behind, and origin, of our religions?

A lot has happened since the Old Days. Now we have an overpopulated world that relies heavily on an environmentally destructive lifestyle that is nearly impossible to escape from; never before dreamed of by the Ancients. And we as Pagans are part of this world, whether we like it or not. We drive cars to Sabbat, we throw waste into landfills, we take frequent showers to cleanse ourselves, and we are reading this right now with computers made from plastic and electronics. We cannot begin accusing others of not doing their part without pointing the finger at ourselves at the same time. But we can strive to practice our religions as environmentally as possible if we so choose to do so- for if we invoke Nature, and the gods that govern Nature, then it is our responsibility to try and preserve it and become the living example our modern world needs. This does not mean, however, we have to change our traditions and how we perform our rituals, it simply means that we can make better choices with our tools and products when we do practice.

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Our lives are continuous cycles of rituals throughout our existence that go beyond just the Sabbats, but also to handfastings and funerals, birthdays and anniversaries, family reunions and so on. Psychologically, rituals improve ourselves because they encourage us to continue through darkness- the cold, harsh Winter of our lives, and give us purpose and meaning, as well as familial connections with those members of both our religious and personal lives. But these rituals of ours might not ever become 100 percent eco-friendly, because a lot of environmentalism is a decision based on the greater of two evils. But the more critically thought-out decisions we make when preparing for our rituals, rites of passage, and ceremonies; the more comfortable we'll feel that we did as much as we could to ensure that our tools align with Nature as much as possible. And perhaps this comfort will allow the ritual to become even more effective for us when performing them, especially when we’ve put so much thought and attention into the construction of our sacred tools and materials.

Witchcraft is part of a living web of species and relationships. Our land, our trees, animals, and elements hold spirit. If we hold any real belief and experience of spirit, then it does not ask, it demands us to fight for it.
— Peter Grey