Archive for the ‘environmentalism’ Category

The fact that I’m a Druidic vegetarian quietly amuses me.  My ancestors were Irish, Scottish, and Germanic!  They ate mutton, haggis, and sausage!  My ancient Irish ancestors looked to Druids for spiritual guidance – which often involved blood.  On Samhain, the herds were culled before the hard, cold months.  My ancestors were from Northern Europe.  They were herders, raiders, hunters, and fishermen.

They would probably have a hearty laugh at me!  Yet I understand that their world was different from my own.  They had to eat meat and other animal products to survive.  Animals were often raised more sustainably than they are today on their giant factory farms.  My ancestors in the northern climes just didn’t have the choices that the Mediterranean Pythagoreans, the Hindus, or the Jains had.  Not to mention, my ancestors did many things that probably should not be done today anyway…

I’ve been a meat-free vegetarian for about as long as I’ve been a Pagan*.  For me, the two are hand in hand but I’ve never been able to exactly express why.  I’ve always known that a part of it has to do with a deep respect for nature.  But that is only part of it.  Carnivores and omnivores are also part of nature and I do not deny their place or rights.  My spirit guide is a carnivore.  My animal companions are carnivores.  They have never expressed a desire to give up meat and I don’t think it would be healthy to force it on them anyway**.  But I feel like I have a choice, and I don’t feel like it furthers me from the food chain.  I am basically an herbivore.  If my spirit animal doesn’t eat me first, then I will die and be eaten by smaller things and go back to the plants I ate.  As long as I am not in a survival situation, I feel quite content eating as I do.

An lj friend and fellow ADFer*** recently posted this article entitled “I Was Wrong About Veganism” by George Monbiot.  Basically the author, who once insisted that Veganism was the only ethical response to the environmental, health, and food dilemmas of this world, takes back the statement and gives his reasons based on new statistics.  He argues that going local and returning to traditional feeding methods is the best for the environment and the animals.  I totally agree, and the article made me feel better about my recent decision to consume dairy products again, albeit with a nearly strict preference for organic and/or local.  The rare bit of cheese I eat must be rennet free.  (On a side note, I feel like Brighid, my patroness who has very close ties with dairy, kept bugging me when I gave it up.  So yes, in a way I do feel spiritually obligated to eat some of her essence.)

My friend is one of many Pagans I know who argue that eating meat and eating local is a moral act, to use her choice of words.  By eating meat she is imitating the Gods.  I get that, and I’m not about to say they are wrong, horrible people – especially if they are eating sustainably harvested meat.  And yet…  I still don’t feel compelled to eat it myself.  I’ve never felt spiritually motivated or pushed to.  Quite the opposite.

I recently started to read more about Hinduism and Jainism in my quest to better articulate what, exactly, drives me to live the way I do.  I could call myself an ethical vegetarian (someone who is a vegetarian for ethical reasons), but that implies that people who do eat sustainable meat are unethical…which isn’t right or healthy to assume, in my opinion.  I do what I feel is ethical for myself.  In my studies, I came to the concept of ahimsa which is Sanskrit for the concept of doing no harm.  It is an interesting and complicated subject but I rather enjoy learning about it because a lot of it is what I believe for myself.  My friend Parallax first helped me begin this process of articulation when she mentioned a thought she had had when she was a vegetarian – there is a difficult to express hierarchy, which is why many of us are somehow okay eating plants.  But even so, I try to be as respectful to plants as possible, thanking them for their nourishment, asking for permission before I harvest them, and leaving gifts of nuts or drink when I do.  Even then, I try not to take everything – just enough for myself and for the plant to further flourish.  Turns out, Jains believe in this hierarchy and have organized it.  It is quite interesting, especially in light of recent arguments that “intelligent” animals like dolphins, whales, apes, octopuses, and squid should not be eaten at all.

So what does all of this mean to someone following a Druidic path?  In Irish lore, some people are under geasa – magical bound to do or avoid something.  Fate.  One famous geis belonged to Cuchulainn.  Because of his practically totemic connection to dogs, he was spiritually forbidden to eat of their flesh.  As fate would have it, he ended up eating dog (due to other geasa in place) and this was part of his undoing.  Perhaps not eating flesh period is my own personal geis – my spiritual fate?  Perhaps it is merely this life’s lesson.  I have already learned much from my journey of fruit salads and lentil burgers – integrity, compassion, empathy, acceptance, patience, creativity…  So much.  Perhaps in this life, I am not meant to eat the salmon of knowledge – instead I am to share the hazelnuts of wisdom with the salmon themselves.

*I gave up red meat when I was 8 so I’ve been a flexitarian or vegetarian of some sort for a very long time. 
** It would totally fail anyway.  My cats like catching flies waaaay too much.
*** I don’t know if she wants her username floating out in the virtual ether so unless she wants official credit, I will respect her privacy.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Next weekend, Pagan pride descends on North-Western NY in the form of the Central NY Pagan Pride Festival in Liverpool, NY (near Syracuse).  I’m really excited about the keynote speaker, Patti Lafayllve.  She’s a practicing heathen devoted to Freyja and seidh work.  Even though I follow an Irish-inspired path, I do have Norse blood in me and know that the Celtic nations often interacted with them (hence my mixed ancestry!).  I feel that I could learn a lot from seidh.  Really, I think any trance-related workshops would be greatly beneficial to my spiritual growth*.

I was delighted to hear that Lafayllve is performing a rite using oracular seidh.  Unfortunately it’s the night before Pagan Pride Day…  And I live an hour and a half away.  Now it wouldn’t have been an issue if things had gone according to plan.  My husband now has to go into work Saturday morning for a meeting that he cannot get out of.  We didn’t anticipate this and had been talking about going to Syracuse Friday for the rite, getting a hotel, and staying for Pagan Pride.   Bugger!  A part of me really wants to go to the rite anyway.  It’s something I’ve never seen before and I want to learn more about it!  Yet the driving…  An hour and a half down, an hour and a half back.  Then the next day we would do the same thing!

“But Grey,” you chime in, “don’t you deserve to go?  Don’t you have every right to further your knowledge?  It’s not that bad of a drive.”

Yes, I know…  But there’s a part of me that would feel like a huge hypocrite.  Druidism, to me, is very Earth-centric.  I work so hard to make sustainable choices.  If I do so much driving for selfish reasons, it seems spiritually counter-productive.  It practically negates everything else I do…  We recently figured out how many miles my husband drives to work every week and it’s depressing.  We really need to move between our two places of employment.

It’s not that bad if I miss the rite…  I’m hopeful that I’ll get the opportunity to see something like it in the future and learn more then.  And as long as Weretoad’s meeting gets done in time, I should be able to make the two workshops Lafayllve is giving then – one on Ásatrú and the other on deepening relationships with Goddesses – in her case, Freyja.  It just stinks.  I’m so often faced with these transportation dilemmas.  I’m hoping to get a second car soon so that I have more freedom – freedom to pursue grad school and other areas of interest.  Even so…  it’s so much pollution and so much driving…

I’m so ready for mass public transportation in the US now.

*Well…almost any…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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As of August 6th, Weretoad and I have been residents of Northern NY for a year.  We moved up here from the Mohawk Valley last year.  It’s been a bit of a transition.  I’ve been meaning to write about it.

In many ways, the North Country is similar to the Mohawk Valley.  It’s still NY and therefore we witness similar plants and animals.  Each area enjoys productive agricultural areas and lovely rivers and/or canals.  We’re a couple hours away from the Utica/Rome area, so I’m not seriously removed from my family and friends.

That said there are differences.  Few people see wild bears in the Mohawk Valley, but they’re quite common up here, as are bobcats*.  There have even been lynx and cougar sightings.  This is probably because life up here is more agriculture than in the Mohawk Valley which is heavily urban and suburban except for a few happy exceptions.  The bigger animals haven’t been driven out yet.

The rivers in the North Country seem more appreciated.  They are a central part of life here and not just something discussed in 4th grade social studies.  People celebrate our rivers.  Schools incorporate them into their songs.  The St. Lawrence is huge to our tourist industry, and many people who reside in this area enjoy it for sport, beauty, and sustenance.

The urban and suburban centers, while spread apart, have grown on me.  Alexandria Bay is kitschy but the views are beautiful and the swimming area is great on a hot day.  Clayton is one of my favorite places to go.  It seems to be the artistic center of Northern NY with its textile museum, antique boat museum,  studios, galleries, opera house, and art classes.  The view of the St. Lawrence is just as spectacular there.  The dining is also wonderful and vegetarian friendly.

Potsdam, an hour away from us, is a lovely college town full of cafes, international cuisine, boutiques, and access to the Raquette River.  There is art and academia, and it seems very pedestrian friendly.  I wish it were closer so I could live there!

Our city is Watertown.  While smaller than Utica, it seems cleaner and more alive.  There are many shops, restaurants, a huge and ornate library, and a thriving farmers market that is right in the middle of everything on Wednesdays (although parking is hard to find…) and a second, smaller one closer to the community college on Saturdays.

I am finding things to keep me busy outside of work and home.  There are a lot of classes that I would like to take advantage of when I have a little more money – yoga, sustainable/organic gardening, tai chi, weaving, drumming….  I’ve even found belly dancing classes a few towns away.  The CUUPs chapter is now providing me a place to practice Paganism more regularly with others.  A second New Age shop just opened up here.  The Mustard Seed in Watertown is my vegetarian cafe.  We have an amazing Thai restaurant, a decent Indian restaurant, and now have hibachi!  We are super close to the Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Ottawa, and Montreal.  The military presence originally gave Northern NY a conservative feel, and I’m sure a majority of people here are very conservative, but the area is more diverse than that.    I’m feeling happier here and more at home, and that’s even without me waxing poetic about how I have an amazing job with wonderful people!

There are things I miss.  The proximity to my family and friends is one of them.  My parents, especially my father, keep talking about moving up here.  They really like it.  I wish they would.  I miss seeing them as much as I used to.  There are things about Utica I miss as well: the amazing Stanley theater and the art museum mostly.  The Stanley gets Broadway shows and MWPAI has a spectacular collection as well as their affordable film series.  Weretoad and I used to take advantage of that all the time.  We also miss Minar, the Indian Restaurant in Utica.  The place in Watertown isn’t bad – it’s quite good really – but the environment at Minar was special.  The staff knew us and the decor was warmer feeling.  Utica also had more independent cafes.  I’ve found some in Clayton, Canton, and Potsdam, but Watertown only seems to have Paneera and the closest thin in my hometown is a Jrek’s Sub Shop.

I also miss how close everything was in the Mohawk Valley.  Unless living in the extreme outskirts, it only took 15-20 minutes to get anywhere.  Up here, we have to drive 30 minutes to Watertown, 30 minutes to A Bay, 40 minutes to Clayton, 40 minutes to Canton, 1 hour to Potsdam…  It’s annoying and stressful to someone who wants to be more environmentally friendly.  But even if I were to move to Watertown so I could be closer to everything there, I would then be 30 minutes from my job.  I can’t win, aside from moving in between – which is what we’d like to do.  But, as the author of F that S says in her latest blog entry, living in the North Country comes with a lot of driving.  Her entry assuaged my inner guilt, reminding me that the little things one does to help the environment do add up.  Thanks for that!

While I’m certainly not close-minded to moving elsewhere down the road, I am finding myself happy here.  I have days or moments when I am annoyed by the driving, but that’s really the worst part, and I want to focus on the best parts, of which there are many.

Here’s to another year of exploration and growth in the North Country!

* I’ve not seen either yet, but my place of employment was on lockdown due to a bear once.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I found some feathers on my nature walk yesterday.  Weretoad and I worked to identify the large feather, which I felt looked like it had belonged to a hawk, this morning.  After a lot of poking around, I believe that it came from a red tailed hawk.  Researching all of this made us aware that this bird is protected by something called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which makes it illegal to even possess the feathers of native song birds.  I had always known about this law in a vague sense.  I really only knew that it was illegal for anyone except a Native American to possess an eagle feather.  I had no idea that the law covered everything from gold finches, to blue jays, to crows.  According to everything I’ve read, if someone is found with a feather (some people put them in their cars, for example) there can be a “hefty fine” or even jail time.  This law is applicable in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

In my research, I came across this wonderful blog entry by the Adriondack Almanack.  It explains the law, but then explores the difficulty in having to tell a child who finds a feather that they have to put it back.  The comments are also interesting.  A lot of people agree that the law has a lot of holes in it.  For example, if Native Americans can legally possess certain feathers (the red tailed hawk feather I found, for example, is believed to be incredibly sacred by many tribes), why can’t Pagans keep certain feathers if there are spiritually sound reasons?  Someone devoted to the Morrigan, for example, would probably want if not need to have a raven feather around.

At first I shrugged and said, “Who’s going to know?”*  Then I thought more fully about it.  Yes, it is stupid that a person who innocently finds a molted feather could get in serious trouble for having it, but the reasons for the law are sound.  The poor birds got into trouble because people wanted to use their feathers in fashion.  An artist who innocently uses a found feather could inadvertently inspire hundreds of people to seek certain feathers.  One thing can lead to another and voila…  you have another horrible situation like this.

Now I realize some of you out there are shaking their heads and saying that I’m blowing it out of proportion.  I am, kind of.  I suppose.  I guess I just decided that if I’m going to value conservation the way I do, I have to follow the rules myself until someone changes them**.  I viewed the feathers I found as gifts from the nature spirits.  I don’t mean to decline them.  Instead, I’m going to accept them as a lesson in conservation, nature, and art.  I’ve not been feeling well today, but tomorrow I’m going to put the feathers back outside by my shrine after sketching them.  From now on, if I find a feather***, I will identify it, sketch it, and ceremoniously put it by my shrine to show respect and gratitude.

*I’m glad I looked more fully into this now.  I had an idea about making a blue-jay inspired bird and was hoping to use some feathers…  I’ll have to make fake feathers now.

** I don’t really have the interest in lobbying for such change.  I think Pagans should have the right to possess found feathers for sacred reasons, but I don’t feel the drive to pursue the change myself.  At the moment, I think we have bigger rights to fight for…

***…except for turkey feathers.  They’re exempt, as are the feathers of other game birds.  The trick will be identifying them!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I spent more time in the forest yesterday.  I put on my jeans, hooded sweatshirt, and Vibrams and headed into the muggy, mosquito infested wonderland.  I also brought a basket, some offerings to the spirits, my knife, and a couple field guides.  I found several feathers, a quartz vein as well as a loose piece to take home, and several black raspberry bushes.  I harvested those.  I also found numerous beautiful mushrooms like the ones photoed above*.
I was outside for awhile.  I feel more confident in this new forest – and more welcomed.  It saddens me to see the litter all over.  I would like to bring a bag up and clean again, but it is depressing to know that it will come back.  Sometimes it feels like litter bugs are in the majority.  I don’t really know what to do about that besides clean quietly and live by example.
*Apparently the crown tipped coral mushroom is edible…but I’m not confident enough to try it.  Someday I would love to take foraging classes and gain that confidence.
*And occasionally yell at people, albeit passive aggressively…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I want to take a moment and promote a couple blogs just started by people in my tribe.  One is called Rambled Mind  and will be a place of art and ramblings by a talented individual.  The other, O-C-Designer, is a blog about interior designs, environmental materials, and doing so while dealing with OCD (by another talented individual!).  Please follow them as I’m sure they will be fun and interesting.  🙂

Love to my tribe!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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The latest post on The Wild Hunt inspired me.  Today I did a formal ritual to honor, well, the spirit of America*.  Most people who know me realize I’m not the most patriotic person in the world.  I’m proud of my country, but not blind to its offenses.  I also don’t fly a million little flags around my yard like some of my neighbors **.  That said, I’m not afraid to say that I feel lucky to live where I live.  I read a lot of environmental and human rights news and, frankly, so many people have it way worse than us.  We have our faults, that’s for sure, but at least most of us are relatively comfortable and, well, safe!  It’s a shame that we have corporations who exploit developing nations and our own environment, and it’s a shame that some of our ancestors did unspeakable things to the indigenous people who lived here first, but there’s also a lot of good in America and I can think of that and celebrate it today.

Just as in my ritual, let me post it to my blog:

Hail to the spirits of America!
Hail to its Nature Spirits!  Hail to the high-flying, majestic bald eagle!  Hail to the forest turkey!  Hail to the river otters, moose, white tailed deer, squirrels, chipmunks, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and bobcats!  Hail to the kangaroo rats, the coyotes, the scorpions, and roadrunners.  Hail to the great blue herons, the salmon, the monarch butterflies, the black widow spiders, and the alligators.  Hail to the sea turtles, the dolphins, the tuna, and the pelicans.  Hail to the ants, the bees, and the bats!  Hail to the unseen spirits who were here first and who came over with our ancestors!  Hail to you all and may we live in better harmony with you!

Hail to America’s ancestors!  Hail to the Native American ancestors!  May we grow in friendship.  Hail to our immigrant ancestors!  May we remember where we came from.  Hail to the friends and family we knew in America, and hail to those who fought for our country – especially those whose intentions  and actions were honorable.  May we learn from your triumphs and mistakes.

Hail to the Gods of America!  Hail to the Gods of the Native Americans, and hail to the Gods of our ancestors!  Hail to Lady Liberty!  May we bring honor to you in all we say and do.

May we admit to our faults and work to improve them.  May we help the less fortunate, and welcome them to our country.  May we celebrate our diversity and learn to live together in peace.  May we develop better technologies so that we can live in harmony with nature.

So be it!

* As you may recall, I’ve been doing one formal ADF ritual a week.  I was cutting it close by leaving it until today, but I made it!

** Ahh…military towns…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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