When you think of the gods of nature, who do you think of? Do you think of the Wiccan Lord and Lady (also beloved of many non-Wiccan pagans), she a long-haired woman wrapped in vines and fruits and grain, he a man hirsute and burly and surrounded by large, wild mammals? Do you imagine Artemis or Diana, huntresses and maidens and carriers of the moon? Or perhaps Gaea, her swelling belly the Earth itself? I wager that nine times out of ten, the deity you first thought of took the form of a human, female or male or otherwise, but almost certainly formed in our own image.
But I want to tell you about the forgotten gods of nature, the ones whose stories were never written down because their devoted ones never wrote a word in their lives. I want to tell you about the gods who refused to give up their own shapes and vowed never to bow to the hubristic human ape. I want to tell you about the gods underfoot, hidden in the trees, nestled in the rocks among swift-running currents and riding breezes higher than the cirrus clouds that never once soil themselves with the earth. Let me tell you a few tales of nameless divinities, all but obliterated by the rise of woman and man and the deities they brought with them.
I sing to you of the goddess and god of the family of Salmon, whose children hurl themselves upon stone and flood each year so that the family may go on. I sing to you of the divine twin faces, he with the strongest, boldest coloring of the spawning male, she the skeletal maw that waits to slay all who mate in the birthing pool. She it is who beckons the salmon on in their madness, even as they plunge to their own deaths; he it is who urges them onward and fills their muscles with strength pulled from every last fiber of being. For years, the young salmon hear tales of the gods’ irresistible pull, but even the most vehement naysayers among them are helpless the moment they hear divine fate’s song in their bones.
I sing to you of the wind god of the family of Pine, whose generations may be furthered by the swift breeze, but who may be laid low to the ground in the fearsome storm. I sing to you of prayers whispered through clasped needles and released into gentle eddies of air, that the god may be merciful in spring storms and in winter blizzards, in the chill autumn night and the sudden summer squall. For it is the god who decides which line of trees will go forth into the future, and a capricious wind it is that carries the pollen safely to the cone–or onto barren stone to die. And it is the god who carries the trees away in his terrible anger, leaving one standing but snatching a root-mate away in an instant.
IT’S HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLANT AND FUNGUS TOTEMS IS OFFICIALLY OUT!!!!!
Okay, my shipment actually arrived last Friday when I was getting prepared to vend all weekend, and I didn’t get a chance to open the box til last night. But here ‘tis! You can read more about it here, to include the Table of Contents. And you can get a taste of my writing for free at my current blog and my previous one.
I’ve already shipped out all the preorders as of this morning, so US folks should have theirs within a week, and international folks later this month. Thanks to everyone for preliminary support!
I do have a few copies left from this shipment, so if you want a signed copy, now’s a great time to order! I just went to the post office this morning, but I’ll go again later this week. Yes, I ship worldwide! You can order it here from my website, or over on my Etsy shop. (It’s also available at Powell’s and Amazon (including Kindle), as well as numerous independent book stores, though those of course won’t be signed by me. And check WorldCat in the coming weeks to see if your library has it available to read for free.)
Finally, if you’re a book reviewer who’d like to give this a read, let me know and I can get you in touch with my publisher.
Many thanks :)
When I say every species has a totem, I mean it! This includes the species that have long since ceased to exist on this physical plane. They often have a different view on this world and our concerns because they no longer have physical counterparts here, but I find them fascinating to work with.
One of my favorite plant totems in this regard is the totem of the ancient species we know as Cooksonia caledonica. This plant and the rest of its genus (at least the species we’re aware of) is the oldest plant known to have the beginnings of a vascular system. This makes it a bridge between the bryophytes like mosses and liverworts, and more advanced vascular plants like the various flowering plants, trees, and so forth. It’s also one of the earliest land plants, and the vascular tissue in its stem was an important evolutionary step that helped plants further colonize dry land.
My relationship with Cooksonia is one of shared curiosity.
I suck at being a Pagan or whatever. I hear so many people go on about how nature speaks to them and they learn stuff from the earth, and I just stand there like “Well that’s a pretty tree…”
You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, “that’s a pretty tree” is a really good starting point.
Why? Well, first of all, there’s no single correct way to be a nature-based pagan. Some pagans connect really deeply with nature on a spiritual level, working with the spirits and other beings that populate the landscape, and/or with deities that embody natural forces, etc. They glean lessons from their communications with these beings and that’s where they find their connection to something bigger than they are. And that may be some of what you’re seeing other people do.
However, there’s also a LOT of opportunity for deep connections and finding meaning in direct observation of the physical natural world. For example, for me a hike is a spiritual experience, not because I have nature spirits popping out at me at every turn, but because I feel deeply immersed in the place I’m in, and I am overwhelmed by the beauty and intricacy of the ecosystems I’m passing through and the animals, plants, fungi and other living beings that populate them. There’s a feeling of reverence and privilege for being able to share the world with such a diverse array of life.
Over the years, I’ve found that the deepest spiritual experiences for me aren’t in formal rituals and meditations, but in the wonder and awe I feel at being a part of this world. That’s the “something greater than myself” that I connect to. Sure, there are spirits and other beings I work with, but even the basis of that spirit work is rooted in physical nature.
Even if all you ever have is “that’s a pretty tree”, you still have a lot of possibilities for tying those observations into your spiritual path. Don’t go into this whole thing with a pile of expectations of what you should or shouldn’t be feeling, experiencing, or doing. If you’ll forgive the pun, let your path develop organically. Maybe you’ll do more work with nature spirits or more formal rituals, maybe you won’t. But please don’t be down on yourself just because you aren’t experiencing the same things as some other people, okay?
(And feel free to message me if you’d like to talk more about this. I just happened to run across this in the pagan tag and it reminded me a lot of me when I was newer to paganism than I am now.)
This made me feel really good, because that’s kind of how I feel as well …
Glad to hear it :) Nobody should have to feel bad because they don’t experience something spiritual in the same way other people do. Spirituality, pagan or otherwise, isn’t a competition. It’s a person’s way of making sense of the world (or worlds, plural, if you prefer) and regardless of whatever you believe is or isn’t out there, it all starts inside your own perceptions and ways of connecting.
Recently, my fellow writer, Rua Lupa, posted to No Unsacred Place about her goings-on for Transequilux. This is the time of year that many pagans refer to as Imbolc, Candlemas, etc., midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In her path, Ehoah, the spring equinox (or Equilux) is the new year, which I feel is a more fitting time than the middle of winter. She described a variety…
I got a bunch of preorders for Plant and Fungus Totems this month, particularly at PantheaCon and FaerieCon West—thank you! For those of you online, have you preordered your copy yet? It’ll be out in May, and preorders get their copies sent from the very first box of books I receive! Find out more about what the book is all about and reserve your copy at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/plantandfungus.html or https://www.etsy.com/listing/170411597/preorder-plant-and-fungus-totems-connect today!
It’s the turning of the year again, and Rua Lupa offers a variety of seasonal celebrations form around the world far exceeding just Imbolc, as well as key information about what natural processes are occurring this time of year.
Drum Spirit by SoulfireArtworks. Originally posted at No Unsacred Place.
So on Sunday I was a guest on the Pagan Musings Podcast. The initial topic was animism and my anthology, Engaging the Spirit World. We did start off in that direction—but then we wandered far off-trail into topics ranging from ecopsychology and environmental activism, to humanistic/naturalistic pantheism and other theologies, to my work with skin spirits and animal remains, to how we can best communicate about the things we feel strongly about. It essentially went from “interview” to “rambling, lovely conversation”, and we went for three hours!
Please do feel free to take a listen; I cover some things I haven’t really had the chance to talk about, and my gracious hosts helped this become a wonderful spoken creation, IMO.
I was meditating a bit a few evenings ago on the fights of butterflies.
See, I’d seen an image on Tumblr of two male Monarch butterflies scrapping over territory, and the caption said that they could get quite aggressive with each other. In fact, there’s a good chance many of you out there have seen butterflies engaged in battle, fluttering at each other in midair and even clutching and pushing at times. We’re inclined to see their struggle as “pretty”, and we may even mistake it as two butterflies happily dancing together.
Now think of two male elk battling it out over a patch of territory. We usually focus on the immense power in their bodies as they tussle, the sharp tines of branching antlers and the muscles in straining haunches. In fact, it is their physical strength that is one of the elk’s best-known traits.
Yet who is to say the elk is more fierce than the butterfly just because the insect is smaller and more delicate?