Embodying the Wild, Confronting Death

I was just pointed, by way of Rhyd Wildermuth’s post on climate change, to Peter Gray’s “Rewilding Witchcraft.” Here are a couple of the best quotes:

We are living in a mass extinction event. This is not a theory. Over half the species on earth will be extinct by 2050. Let me repeat that fact: over half the species on earth will be extinct by 2050….If your witchcraft, like mine, speaks with animal spirits, is made from plants and flowers and roots and bark and seeds, it cannot continue to pretend that we are not suffering. It has to speak. It has to lament, it has to cry, it has to then be unreasonable. We need to be intimately acquainted with death, as these are the rites over which our witchcraft presides, not some nudist holiday camp capers predicated on a glut of cheap oil.

Some will be afraid of this knowledge; witchcraft should be liberated by it, liberated from petty concerns to pursue lives of beauty, liberated from the sleepwalking into death that our culture has made for us and our children. So I counsel, confront death. For witchcraft to be anything other than the empty escapism of the socially dysfunctional or nostalgia for bygone ages, it needs to feel the shape of its skull, venerate the dead and the sacred art of living and dying with meaning. We are all on the fierce path now.

Please, please read the rest.

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Coru Cathubodua, the Morrigan priesthood, talks about the Morrigan’s call taking the form of “an unusual number of corvids (crows and ravens) in your waking life.” When I first read that, I laughed. Los Angeles is filled with crows. Our soundscape is crows cawing over the din of the freeways. Vast swaths of our coastline will disappear with the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets. We currently have enough water to last the next 12-18 months. The crow is LA’s power animal: the image of my city’s impending decay.

2. Tomorrow I’m flying, with my husband and daughter, to New Hampshire for my husband’s family reunion. It’s an utterly ridiculous journey–we leave tomorrow morning, spend the entire day flying and then driving to a resort in the forest, and we’ll stay for two full days before returning on Monday. Yes, we are flying across the country for a weekend trip. I didn’t want to go; I dreaded the stress of traveling with a toddler for a “reunion” that happens every two years, but I never said anything to my husband. I thought that his desire to take part in the reunion trumped my desire to obey common sense and stay home. I traded my sovereignty for what looked like superficial peace. Later it turned out that he felt roped into it, too.

If we didn’t live in an age of gluttony, where even the most outrageous whims must be accommodated and a trip like this looks tame in comparison, there would have been no question of us going.

3. My witchcraft ebbs and flows. Sometimes I get it. I sense the spirits of my plants. I see gods in the sunset. My dreams contain premonitions.

Other times, I do nothing but read Pagan blogs. Skip my devotionals. Look at brooms on Etsy. I feel gross and uninspired. I want to rewild myself, but I need to overcome the obstacles of my job, my urban landscape, and the lethargy they encourage.

4. On the Morrigan again: as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Morrigan presents herself to me primarily as a goddess of the land–particularly the wilderness–and I’ve been having trouble making my perception of her fit into her established domains of sovereignty, battle, and prophecy. But now I think I understand. Sovereignty, as we know from the myths, is bestowed by the spirits of the land. The land chooses its occupants, even if its time scale is so slow that it looks to us like the bad guys won. We’re killing our habitats, killing ourselves, and thus relinquishing our sovereignty as a civilization, and the Morrigan is meeting us in the liminal space we now inhabit. Just as she guided the souls of warriors to the realm of the dead after battle, perhaps she’s guiding our civilization to its next iteration. People say they hear her call because a battle is coming. I agree up to a point: I think the battle began decades ago, and we should be prepared for what comes next.

5. With that said, I don’t think things are hopeless. I go on raising my child and planning for the future. I don’t think humanity is doomed to extinction–but our way of life certainly is. Who knows what the earth and its inhabitants will look like in five hundred years?

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2 thoughts on “Embodying the Wild, Confronting Death

  1. Dominic says:

    Asa…thank you for sharing such powerful thoughts. I too believe that the human species has strayed from the path of illumination, and like you, I feel we can find our way back to that Omega Point by walking the “fierce path.” I have hope. Let us rewild ourselves! Bravo.

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