Oh, pagans. I love my people. I really do. Adorned in flowery skirts, tattooed with woad or dripping with crystals, my sisters and brothers in the Craft really do live life according to their own rules. But there’s one thing we all agree on:
Nature is cool, man.
If nothing else, we like us some trees. We sleep in the trees. We put parts of trees in our tea. We even have workshops . . . about trees.
How many of us have gone to a class at one of the local occult boutique, or been to a workshop at one of the festivals that brighten summer, to listen to a self-appointed magickal guru wax poetically about the virtues of “living in harmony with nature” and “connecting with the earth daily.”
Everyone nods, smiles, and we all vow to do just that.
And then you look down. And in your hand, you find yourself holding a very unnaturally orange bag of Cheetos, which you plan to wash down with your tasty Mountain Dew and then drive home in a camper that’s about as fuel efficient as an oil rig.
I’ve done it. I continue to do it. Daily, even, I note what might politely be called “ironies” and less politely call “hypocrisies,” or at the very least, inconsistent practice of my own belief system.
Some of it can’t be avoided. We can’t all pitch organic canvas tents on a mountain top in the middle of the Blue Ridge and “live off the land” our whole lives.
But even suburban or urban life offers many opportunities to live closer to the earth, eliminate wasteful habits and bring about a healthier, more globally conscious lifestyle.
Start composting. Even if you don’t garden or you live in the city. This simple act of reverence for the earth and its resources makes a lovely daily devotional. It may seem insignificant at first, but over weeks and months, you begin to see how much waste you produce, and how much of it may be returned to the earth instead of a landfill. Try dedicating your compost pile to a spell or personal cause and think of your deposits as offerings.
Try cloth menstrual care. Everyone knows someone who does the cloth pads. She’s always one of those wild sisters who swears it’s this whole primal experience. I don’t know about all that, but cloth tampons and pads produce less waste, force you to unapologetically confront your hang-ups about the realities of womanhood and are way cheaper in the long run. Plus they come in lots of cute colors and styles. If you cloth diapered your little ones, this will be a piece of cake.
Donate. Simplify your living space by donating all that stuff you think you need but don’t. Let go of any unnecessary objects, especially electronics and devices that encourage mindless time-wasting and keep you indoors. If you want to ritualize the experience, try donating an appropriate object as an offering to the universe. For example, give your largest pair of jeans to Goodwill to boost a weight-loss spell.
Gather your own firewood. I don’t know if you noticed, but that stuff is expensive even at Walmart. And buying firewood cheats you of the experience of collecting it yourself. If you have a hearth in your home or even just a backyard fire pit, take a walk in the woods and collect it yourself before your next Sabbat or Esbat get-together. Better yet, invite some help. This activity makes a romantic walk in the woods or a fun, screen-free after-dinner walk with the kids depending on your mood.
Get to know your local wildlife. Your unique geographic location offers a wealth of resources for any herbalist. The freshest, and often most potent plants for the herbalist or metaphysical practitioner are not in a fancy organic supplier’s catalog or the health food store—it’s in your backyard. Or growing between the cracks in the sidewalk, or vining its way up the side of the abandoned building near the railroad tracks. Photograph random plants with your phone, and identify them for their medicinal or metaphysical properties. Even knowing 10 local herbs and where to find them is a very valuable skill.
Switch to cloth shopping bags. You very likely already have some stuffed in a drawer or under your sink. You just never use them. Use them. And don’t worry that you won’t have plastic bags to line your waste baskets. Even if you use cloth all the time, you will inevitably still manage to accumulate plastic bags everywhere. That’s a monster you can’t kill. Just aim to tame it.
Stop using harsh chemical cleaners. Not only are they totally unnecessary, they often make things worse, inviting antibiotic resistant bacteria into your life and exposing your pets and family to harsh commercial compounds. Make it magical by using appropriate protection herbs, cleansing essential oils and natural air fresheners to “enchant” your house with homemade cleaning “potions.”
Make natural eating a slow, but steady course. If you’re like me (or any one of the millions of Americans on crazy diets), you very likely have, at least once in your life (usually in January), cleared all the junk food out of your house and gone on some kind of militant health craze that you know is doomed to fail even as you are doing it. Slow, steady progress to natural eating is much more sustainable. Set small goals, like going to the farmer’s market once a week or planning at least a couple of “whole food” meals per week. Or just try cutting out soda and replace it with sparkling water and lemon. Once you’ve stayed consistent for a few months, try eliminating or adding something else to your rotation. After a while, natural eating becomes instinctive.
Consider a more fuel-efficient car and/or drive way less. Do you drive even very short distances just because that’s your habit? Don’t miss the chance to be outdoors and out of the rat race. Can you bike to the grocery store? Find a Zumba class or a coffee house within walking distance? Even if you can find one chore or regular activity to walk or bike to every week, your health and mental well-being stand to benefit by leaps and bounds. And the next time you make a car purchase, chose fuel efficiency as a top priority—even if it means driving a yellow car with an unfortunate legacy of decals from the previous owner.
Speaking of which, buy used. Take advantage of sites like Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook trading groups to enjoy the financial and environmental benefits of second-hand stuff. Many times, you can get what you need for free or next-to-nothing. While some things (like bathing suits and underwear—-ick) are worth getting new, many things (like sturdy cookware, wood furniture and toys) cost so much less second hand. Buying used also tends to keep usable things out of landfills, puts money back into the local economy and reduces production of greenhouse gases.