Earth day- secular call-to-action or Pagan holiday?

Quick points on Earth Day

  • Started on the 22nd of April, 1970
  • Date was chosen around American college schedules, NOT Pagan holidays
  • Was founded by two United States federal politicians: Gaylord Nelson and Pete Mc Closkey
  • Was founded in reaction to the amount of pollution and industrial waste causing health and safety concerns in the US
  • The Name Earth Day was created by an advertising executive as it rhymed with ‘birthday’
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Image source

Happy Earth Day 2017 (or for those not yet into the 22nd of April Earth Day-eve). For myself, and I would imagine many of those within the Pagan-based faiths, the concept of Earth Day is welcomed and cherished. We believe that there is a direct connection between ourselves and nature at-large. Our faith ties us with nature, and harming the environment is like harming ourselves. But, just because Pagans relate to, and welcome, Earth Day does it mean that this global call-to-arms was a Pagan-inspired creation? On my look around the web I found a few links to some who would say yes, Earth Day is a means to force Paganism onto well-abiding Christians. Honestly, before researching this blog I had no idea of the foundations of Earth Day; so for the benefit of myself and the greater community I will give an account of Earth Day’s beginnings, the background behind the event, and current beliefs around the day.

History of Earth Day

GaylordNelson
Gaylord Nelson

Earth Day was founded on the 22nd of April, 1970 by a United States senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson. A self-proclaimed environmental activist Gaylord felt that America was destroying its environment through industrialization and current societal practices. Two events in particular led to his decision to move forward: an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California and a river which caught on fire due to oil in Cleveland.

Gaylord teamed up with Denis Hayes, the organization’s founder, and Pete McCloskey who was a congressman from California. The original idea for Earth Day was to be a one-time call-to-arms situated across college campuses in the US to highlight the need for environmental protection and working towards sustainability. The actual day, April 22nd, was chosen by Gaylord as it fell between the typical final exam week in American universities and the spring break festivities. The actual name ‘Earth Day’ was created by Julian Koenig, an advertising executive who stated that the name sounded like ‘birthday’ and the name stuck.

Since it’s inception Earth Day has become a global effort. Celebrated across the world it’s efforts have brought about many changes in how America and the world approach the environment and relevant issues of renewable energy, recycling, sustainable growth and waste/garbage disposal. According to the Earth Day Network site:

Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 195 countries to build environmental democracy. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. We work through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.”

Religious ties to the foundation of Earth Day?

So through all of my research not once has the concept of religion, any religion, entered into either the foundations of Earth Day, nor it’s current form. Yes, there are some Pagan organizations who relate to Earth Day in relation to their Pagan beliefs or simply use the day as a way of bringing to their conscious a connection with nature. In his book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Pagansism in America Chas Clifton made reference to the fact that modern Wicca transformed from a magical-based religion to more nature-based in reaction to

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Earth Day. But these are anecdotal connections, just as the Easter bunny is now associated with the holiday it shares a name with. The concept of the Easter bunny was created to serve a purpose from the holiday, not define it.

The idea of Earth Day being considered a Pagan holiday was challenged in New York on March 29th 2001 when a group of parents described as of Christian faith brought a suit against the Fox Lane High School stating that their Earth Day activities were promoting Pagan and earth-based religions. Justice Kearse compared Earth Day festivites to that of displaying and paying respect to the American flag:

“An objective observer would not view these detailed prescriptions for honoring the American flag … as an indication that Congress … has established flag worship as a religion,” Judge Kearse wrote. “We conclude that an objective observer similarly would not view the School District’s Earth Day ceremonies as endorsing Gaia or Earth worship as a religion.”

http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/pagan-and-earth-based/2001/04/court-earth-day-not-pagan-public-schools-may-celebrate.aspx

The court found also found that the use of the term ‘mother nature’ was not a reference to a goddess or other diety, but a phrase similar to ‘father time’ used to describe a concept. Here we find objective heads prevailing to prevent a rather narrow-minded group of individuals from ruining what is a good public service in the form of Earth Day activities.

My take on Earth Day

I could also present here the critics. To be fair most have Christian backgrounds (at least according to the publicly stated information). But I do not feel such ignorant musings need a forum. As you can see even the Pagan faiths have looked to tie-in with Earth Day, however it was NOT founded on Pagan beliefs nor by any person who has ties to the Pagan community. Earth Day was a reaction by a well-meaning group of politicians and activists to raise awareness of industrial practices which could ruin our only true home- the planet.

Because of their efforts we have seen an amazing transformation of our planet since the 1970s. I was born in 1972 (shhh, makes me old), and can remember the days of smog alerts and oil spills. We live on a better planet because of the efforts of Gaylord Nelson, Denis Hayes, Pete McClosky and all of the other men and women who have taken their time and efforts to focus the world’s attention to the environment. Let us not ruin their efforts by putting religion squarely in an area where it is not relevant.

If religious faiths choose to use Earth Day as a reminder of their connection with Mother Earth great. We also have several other holidays that are similar. Likewise even Christians can, should they choose, use the day to strengthen their belief in god. But let us keep the focus of Earth Day on it’s original purpose.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Articles for reference

Earth Day Network

Wikipedia- Earth Day

Envirolink site with commentary from Gaylord Nelson regarding the foundations of Earth Day

Livescience: Earth Day Facts and History

Vision.org- Gaylord Nelson: Founder of Earth Day

Uppity Wisconsin: The First Earth Day and Gaylord Nelson’s Environmental Legacy

Wikipedia- Gaylord Nelson

Huffington Post: Eight Ways Pagans Celebrate Earth Day

The Wild Hunt- Happy (Pagan) Earth Day to you!

Beliefnet- Court: Earth Day Not Pagan Holiday, Public Schools May Celebrate

Another ignorant comment from the media… or was it?

On the 4th of April this year the website Newshub released a story titled

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Credit: The Herald Sun

Paedophile ‘witch’ released from jail, moves in next to school

This article describes the granting of convicted pedophile Robin Angus Fletcher to live within close proximity to a school. I was made aware of the article through the Austrailan Pagan Awareness Network  (PAN) Facebook site. The article describes Robin as using ‘witch’ techniques such as hypnotism to lure girls and commit his crimes. The PAN president, David Garland, contacted Newshub and requested a modification of the article stating that hypnotism is NOT part of the accepted practices of a witch (read the PAN response here).  I applaud David in contacting Newshub and writing a clear and objective letter stating that hypnotism is not an recognized accepted practice by witches in their magical work, particularly if it is not consented by both parties.

Wanting to research the article further I found the original news story The Age posted an article on Mr. Fletcher in 2006 where he claims to be a Wiccan and associated his Wiccan practice to justify his behavior. In that article Marion Dalton from PAN was mentioned distancing Wiccans and their values from Mr. Fletcher and his actions. An article in March of this year via News.com detailed Mr. Fletcher’s release into the community. In February of this year the Herald Sun described Mr. Fletcher as a ‘sex witch’.

So I ask the community: does this reporting by the media hurt Pagans by portraying them as using sex (and hypnotism) in their magic? Or does it simply show a very disturbed man using a religious belief to justify morally- inhumane actions?

I would like to hear your thoughts,

Blessed Be.

Contemporary Paganism turns the big 50!

Russia Summer Solstice
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John Halsteed, writing in the Huffington Post, comments on the modern Pagan movement which started in the 1960’s both in the US and in the UK. Three organizations pioneered the modern pagan movement, with the Church of All Worlds the most significant- gaining government-recognized status in 1968.

Modern paganism, unlike previous revivals, served to take the best components of previously known pagan religions and incorporate them into practice. This forms the basis of neo-paganism. The issue, I think, in relation to the Christian world’s acceptance of paganism as a viable and true alternate faith is the lack of accepted practices. Modern pagans do not have a codified structure with which to hang their beliefs. Therefore, it would seem that it is every man/woman for themselves.

Further complicating the issue is that there are few statistics regarding the total number of pagans in the world currently. John’s article states that through approximation there are 1 million pagans in the U.S. However, this is difficult to verify as there is no formal census procedure which asks for religious affiliation. In Canada and Australia, where religious affiliation is part of the census, growth of non-traditional religions such as paganism is growing. However, again here the ability to accurately determine statistics are difficult.

I believe there are several reasons for this. The first, and most prominent, reason is the secrecy that most Pagan practitioners show. We have a modern world society that values individuals being able to (within reason) do what they wish. Homosexual marriage (previously outlawed and frowned upon) is being seen as a future possibility. Stem cell research is pushing head-long to providing new medical breakthroughs. But tell someone that you worship the moon and believe in reincarnation their judgmental walls erect quickly.

I don’t practice spell-craft. I don’t use voodoo dolls, nor do I attempt to mess with the laws of nature. My belief, and I feel the common belief amongst modern pagans, is to co-exist and work with the existing natural energies found on this planet. I don’t believe that a conscious human-like spirit rules all. Instead I feel that we are all connected by our common energies, and therefore what I do affects every other living organism on our planet.

Here is the link to the article by John Halsteed.

Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

Beltane celebration            Pagan pride picnic

Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations               Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham

According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.

The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.

From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient  religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both  in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex  tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions  of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West  as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”

The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?

Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?

Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870

Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Retrospective repentence for Pagan ancestors?

Now for those that have followed this blog for the short period of time it has been in existence, firstly I would like to thank you, I have stated I try to bring at least semi-intelligent discussion into the debate between Pagan beliefs and other ‘mainstream’ (primarily Christian) religions.

One of the often recurrent themes of these mainstream religions is the belief that Pagans are ill-informed and simply lacking in firm beliefs. We are represented as those fringe-dwellers amongst the religious community. However, sometimes even the mighty Christian faith- the most popular religious faith in the world- has its share of those who can be considered one verse short of a psalm (sorry for the bad pun- just could not help myself).

Cindy Jacobs  Cindy Jacobs

A ‘television prophet’ named Cindy Jacobs has posted a video amongst her “10 minute prayer school” series stating that Native Americans, Mexicans, and all others with Pagan descendants must repent retrospectively for their forefathers. As reported in the Huffington Post Jacobs has stated that a spirit named Leviathan “…is very territorial, very active and has ‘supernatural’ powers”. Wait, a Christian prophet stating that a spirit has supernatural powers? Isn’t that something that is against their doctrine?

I will not go on with the comments made, as they are simply ludicrous. However, in reading the comments from the story Bert Dodson stated ” ah do Americans of European descent need to ask forgiveness for their ancestors pagan past? either in ignorance or due to malice she has forgotten that no one in the world was Christian before the 1st century C.E. and everyone who profess Christianity descends from a pagan of some sort or other faith system?”

My point with this posting is that when a faith which is fundamentally different from Christianity attempts to enter the public arena either by a public gathering or through media representation those leaders of the Christian faith are quick to condemn. However, when someone like Cindy Jacobs looks to use the religion of Christianity to proclaim very hurtful and otherwise delusional comments to others she is not reprimanded by these leaders, and instead is given a publicity on a respected site. Where is the condemnation, where is the exclusion of Jacobs from those within the church?

There is one thought that comes to mind: silence is as much an indication of acceptance and agreement as the most well constructed remark.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Link to the Huffington Post news story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/cindy-jacobs-native-americans-repent_n_3390601.html

Update on Summer Solstice Pagan festival in Pahokee Florida

In reviewing the recent news feeds regarding the Christian opposition to the Pagan festival I am pleased to report that the opposition seems to be subsiding. If you can recall one of the points I made was that no representative from the Pagan community had been interviewed, or was apparently available during the meeting (that was reported).

Peter Dybing Reverend Peter Dybing

Reverend (Pagan) Peter Dybing met with opposing members of the community to discuss and interject balance to the discussion around the Pagan festival. Dybing stated “I am a fire chief. We have fire chiefs, nurses, doctors, and people who deliver your mail. We’re just like any other community… We’re peaceful people. We’re just like any other religion. We don’t want to be molested… we just want to hold our events without any problem.”

Peter Dybing is the task force coordinator of the Lady Liberty League. In a statement made to another report Dybing stated “Lady Liberty League has established a task force with the specific objective of providing education and insight to residents and clergy in the local Pahokee community about Paganism. It is our approach to utilize education and information first in order to avoid escalation of this situation.”

It appears from both reports that public opposition to the event is lessening with the public statements of Peter and the Lady Liberty League. This reinforces the need for valuable organizations like Lady Liberty, and for those who head them, to provide truth and understanding. Through this measured and rational debate we can strive to reach the minds and hearts of moderate Christians in accepting our religion as peaceful, caring, and appropriate for today’s society.

Article from WPTV news: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_the_glades/pahokee/pahokee-pagan-summer-solstice-festival-pastors-in-pahokee-worried-organizers-say-they-are-peaceful#ixzz2VIb3EON5

Article from Pagan News Collective, Florida: http://florida.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/05/30/lady-liberty-league-task-force-to-engage-pahokee-community/

Lady Liberty League logo

Facebook page for Lady Liberty organization: https://www.facebook.com/LadyLibertyLeague

Personal blog for Peter Dybing: http://paganinparadise.blogspot.com.au/

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

2013 Pagan Values Event

 

Thought it was worth this event having its own posting, so the link is up twice.

You are invited to take part in the 5th annual Pagan Values Event!

Held each June, the Pagan Values Event seeks to encourage the public discussion and provide resources for exploration of Pagan Values.  We do not care if you are a blogger, or podcaster.  We do not care if you are Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Witch or Heathen,  Druid or Hellenic or Dirt Worshiping Tree Hugging Neo-Hippy.  We do not care if you are liberal or conservative.

What we care about is encouraging the public discussion on what it means to be any of the above paths in the 21st Century, and how our many Paganisms influence our daily lives and our interactions with the world.  How has being a Pagan changed you?  How has your way of carrying yourself in the world been touched or transformed by your life as a Pagan?  If you could cite one (or more) thing as a deeply held value, virtue, or point of ethics, for you as a Pagan…say for someone who had not heard of Paganism before…. what would you say or talk about?

Participation is as easy as publishing a post or putting out an episode ,or mini-episode, of your podcast during the month of June 2012 on the topic of Pagan Values!

“Living in a pre-Christian age”

An interesting story from the website Catholic online regarding Paganism in our modern society. While the rhetoric talks of converting a Pagan to Christianity some of the more subtle items in the article are of note.

Written by Deacon Keith Fournier the article describes this era in society as a time in which the Christian churches must win over the hearts and minds of others- particularly mentioned was Pagan (exact meaning not stated) believers. He admitted that the Christian church could no longer simply expect people to follow their faith.

Another interesting item was the description of the conversion of Justin- an individual who moved from Paganism to Christianity. The article describes how Justin did much searching for his belief system: studying Greek philosophers, investigating various religious beliefs, and openly listening to the views of others. Eventually, according to the article, Justin converted to Christianity.

The moral I think is important for this forum is the fact that individuals like Justin actively search out their path, instead of simply accepting blindly the views of others. It is easy to follow the spiritual path of those around you- for acceptance is a core societal goal. However, for those of us who feel that the ‘mainstream’ faiths do not fit we have the courage to travel our own path. I do not object to others holding firm Christian faiths- I do object to those individuals not feeling it necessary to accept mine.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Link to the story: http://www.catholic.org/homily/yearoffaith/story.php?id=51198

Another example of religous intolerance

Florida festival news article (2)

http://florida.newszap.com/belleglade/122791-113/summer-solstice-pagan-festival-has-pahokee-residents-outraged

A unfortunate example of the reason why I have started this blog. Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina officials are under-fire from church members and pastors over the hosting of a Pagan winter solstice festival. One objectioner, Daniel Mondragon stated “we are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells”. Another, Evangfelist Lillian Brown, stated “god cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community”.

How short-sided are these members of this city? Popular history tells us that America, my home country, was initially founded on the idea of religious freedom. As officials of the resort stated if the Christians wanted to hold an event at the venue they were free to apply. Let me interject some balance to this issue. Belly dancing is not exclusively Pagan, in fact its origins stem from a cultural background- not religious ceremony. Secondly, the winter solstice is simply a celebration of the tipping point of the season- traditionally important for planting. As most Pagan organizers are reasonable people I do not think seances will be done in the aisles and spells cast amongst the crowd.

I reiterate a previous point- fear comes from ignorance. Conversely wisdom breeds tolerance. I applaud the organizers who have pushed ahead despite objections.

Garrettlonewolfe