Writing is, in my experience, a powerful tool for transformation and a way of bringing many disparate folk together around the soul-fire of one's personal vision. It is a way to share ideas in a stimulating way that the reader may dip into at will—be that on the train to work, at the breakfast table, in a plane, or in her own bathtub. And in this is a gentle and effective means of communicating en masse. We are not yet at the stage when we can readily use the Internet, watch television, or view lectures or seminars in such an informal fashion, and so the written word remains as our foremost flexible means of outreach.
By acknowledging writing and the creation of books in such a way, it is then easy to ask oneself, as an author, how we may best use this potent tool. What is it that we feel most strongly about, both in a personal and a more global sense? What may we think of as the most vital thing we can communicate today? Writing for others is an opportunity not to be squandered. With this in mind, in my own recent work I am choosing to focus on what I consider to be a way forward for our species and all others on the planet; a non-divisive, non-religious soul-philosophy with active reverence for the Earth at it's wild heart.
What the world needs now is certainly love, as the old song says, but also a loving and wholly unifying force which acknowledges both matter and spirit equally; a force to unite spirit-consciousness and practical environmentalism across the world. This may seem so simple and obvious that we wonder whether there is a need to consider this at all. But here is the crux of the matter—there are few expounded ways of being which combine active Earth-honouring with free spiritual growth. Having a personal spiritual responsibility to our eternal soul-selves and combining it with collective responsibility for our host planet and her inhabitants is, unbelievably, a rare ideal in today's world. We are presently caught in either camp—being either solely spiritual beings or solely material activists. Traditionally, many spiritual teachings or religious doctrines tell us to transcend the body, to become "unearthed," while those people without an esoteric belief system disregard spirit altogether and remain wholly "earthed" in the material world only. There is yet to be a widespread, welcoming ethos that combines the two aspects of being so that we may remain "earthed" enough to be environmentally and ethically caring whilst being "unearthed" enough to acknowledge the spiritual nature of all beings … and, of course, ourselves.
Here I can hear people cry in disbelief, "But what about modern pagan practice? Isn't paganism such a way? Does this not allow us to be spiritual and ecologically aware?" It is true to say that neo-paganism is certainly moving towards the fully integrated way of living of which we speak. To be pagan with a small "p," in the broadest sense, is to be, as the Romans once decreed, "of the land" (not apart from it). Therefore it is a way to be embraced. Surely we all need to acknowledge that we are "of the land" in this day and age? However, to be Pagan with a capital "P" infers that we are saying "I am a Witch, Priest/Priestess/Druid etc. I follow a Pagan religion that is different to yours and therefore I am not a Muslim/Jew/Christian/Buddhist etc." By claiming we are "this," we decree that we are not like others who are "that." We create a barrier and have to stay within its framework. It is hard to see how the world needs yet another human creed which places such boundaries, even if the creed itself is beneficial and gently Earth-honouring, as modern Paganism surely can be. The unifying force needs to come through people who emphasize our essential sameness without drawing "us" or &"them" lines in the sand which, with the best will in the world, all beliefs do.
So, here is my point again—there are indeed few of us today who advocate spiritually-based Earth-honouring practices without sole reference to a limiting, divisive religious creed. Likewise there are so few of us advocating a free-flowing spiritual activism alongside our environmental or ethical action. We are out of balance with ourselves, failing to see the connections and the holistic nature of being, the divine eternal polarity of matter and spirit, seen and unseen—and therefore we are less effective because of it. We fail to be as powerful as we could be because we are divided within ourselves, not to mention from others and our environs!
The principle I am offering through my work equates the balance of our body and spirit with the health and well-being of the Earth. And not only the earth as in "the land" but the Earth as an individual being as well all the children that dwell upon, above, and, indeed, in her. The children I refer to here are our creature-kin of fur, feather, fin, and scale—and also, just as importantly, our relatives of leaf, stem, and seed. These are all our energetic relations. We share with them, as we do with our human kin, the animating energetic spark of the creator-spirit. We are all fashioned from the same material—the fabric of the stars themselves—sharing our atomic structure with all other life as well as sharing that unseen spirit-spark that animates all living creatures. We are all kin, all connected—a simple truth that humanity as a whole has found it easy to disregard. So the way I am discussing here is not human-centric. Far from it. And here again is the fundamental difference in what we are discussing here and in assumed religious doctrine: most religious beliefs are entirely human-centric, usually favoring anthropomorphised god-figures, while we are considering the very real possibility of seeing ourselves as aspects of a creator energy, not as separate from it. The unity we speak of here is, therefore, a unity of body and soul but also of the collective body and the collective soul—of all life in its seen and unseen aspects brought together as one whole being, the creator. We can give the creator a large "C" if we so wish, but perhaps this only places the creator above and beyond us again, when we are of the creator and the creator is in us … and in everything else!
This brings me on to my next point—that it is hard to focus on an external creator, as religions do, when we can see that we too are the creator. I am the creator, you are the creator and they are the creator … what a gloriously unifying concept this is! We are all but cells in this greater body, yet we are also the body itself. The creator spark in each of us means that we are both the created and the creator at the same time. To put it another way, the creator sees through the myriad eyes of creation and feels through the vast array of senses we all possess, from the tiniest ant to the soaring eagle, from the poor man to the head of a global corporation. The creator experiences all facets of being through our individual separateness while we experience our unity and un-separateness through an experience of that energy within us (and within everything else). Of course we may effectively call the creator energy Jah or Yahweh, Isis or Kali. But perhaps by putting this one human-centric aspect to an unseeable and unifying force, we are once again limiting it to our own narrow vision whilst excluding all others. In a time when unity and understanding—both for the land and for each being—is paramount, any loving concept which can gently wipe away such distinctions is to be welcomed. All the gods are indeed one god, and that one god is the creator energy that resides in me, you, and the blooming rose simultaneously. To witness this miracle is to become god-conscious. This god (or creator) energy is in all of us, yet limitless. And the only way we have as humans to perceive this flowing tide of loving creation is through each other and each created thing. With this understanding, how can we continue to live disrespectfully—without full responsibility for ourselves, the land, and our kin? We are no longer talking of acting environmentally, or magically, for the sake of our personal human offspring and their children and children's children etc. but rather for the sake of all our relations, human and non-human, here and now, and especially the Earth Mother, our beautiful sentient host.
Just a point at this juncture. I certainly do not wish to infer that Mother Earth is helpless and we are her saviors. On the contrary, the Earth Mother is alive and en-souled … she has her own divine spirit-spark, a powerful will, and her own sacred viewpoint. With an awareness of "the god within and without," we can work with her more effectively, dancing her dream as well as our own. We are apt to forget that she is our host and we are her guests, so we need to honor that relationship and hold our awareness of it moment by moment. It is precious.
Such a vision of the creator gives us responsibility beyond the "godhead" and "devotee" scenario of all religions. The simple possibility that we are both the creator and the created simultaneously brings both great liberation and huge responsibility; it allows us to live a life that is bound yet free, bound by nature yet free in spirit and in love with both aspects. When we are in love with another person, we are both carefree and yet willingly tied to the beloved. And so it is with life. If we can accept that we are both the lover of the beloved and the beloved simultaneously, then we may quickly come to understand that we are responsible now, in this very moment, for ourselves and for creation. If we can hold these two visions—the inner and the outer—at once, then we really have a hope of being truly strong and effective both spiritually and manifestly. These two visions are threads in an infinite tapestry, and we are constantly weaving our own unique inner threads as well as the external cosmic threads of the all, thus combining the physical and the ephemeral. By this we are all the weft and warp of existence, the pattern which emerges on the cloth, as well as the weavers. Our collective and individual conscious joy in the process of weaving, combined with our witnessing the stunning result of the weaving process, means that we are living magically and effectively! This analogy of weaver and weaving is the "as within, so without" maxim made real in our lives—a maxim which is the key to living a life of enchantment. Holding the threads of this dual awareness without the limitations of religious doctrine means that we are fully empowered in any given moment to effect change. If this were a collective awareness, think how our vision of a healed world could become reality! We all have the power within us right now to meld with the power around us, in the natural world and beyond, for the purpose of creating a world which is brightly woven from compassion and wisdom.
What is this power, this force of which I speak? It is the potent energy we free up at our awakening to the interconnectedness of all life. This force is green-spirited, it is verdant and golden. It is a wild green spirituality which expresses perfectly the "earthed" yet "unearthed" paradox. The green speaks of the land, and the burgeoning power that all of nature holds; the spirituality refers to the vital soul-spark we encounter in all beings, that unseen animating force with its latent, lambent potency. By this we may live well in a way that is completely harmonious with the host planet we call home whilst having a complete awareness of our part in the dance of creation … and everything else's part too. To be green-spirited as a human incarnate today is to be awakened to this burgeoning power, and to work with it in unseen and seen ways to enhance its wonderful, lyrical flow. We may do this by a magical blend of manifest acts and spiritual connection, each reinforcing the other within a sacred continuum. It is a way that brings together environmental action and magical spirit-work in one rounded package, and allows us to directly experience, by daily recognition, the very real transformation we may affect in our own lives for the good of all.
My book Craft of the Wild Witch: Green Spirituality and Natural Enchantment acts as a gentle wake-up call to our own spiritual god-nature and to that of all other beings. In this, it is a call like bird song that sings of this green-spirited way which is open to everyone; a spiritual way that walks in the world gladly. In the book, there are many suggestions of how to work compassionately and wisely, with joy, weaving the strands of "the manifest" and "the spiritual" in meaningful, down-to-earth yet starlit ways. It is a simple, wholesome, and poetic book—hopefully just as moving and stirring as witnessing the flight of starlings at sundown as they swoop and flow over the city rooftops as one being. The soul-poetry of our spiritual awareness weaves in and out of the strong roots of our daily lives on this enchanted small blue-green planet, and this book just highlights how we may honor these essential connections as we go about our human business. In this, it is a guidebook not a bible—a book full of suggestions and words of encouragement, with many samples and starting points for those seeking a path off the beaten track, into the green of authentic magical living. For many, it will advocate unorthodox ideas and practices which challenge the separateness we are used to in modern western society. For this I make no apologies. My challenge to readers is for them to wake up to that unifying green-spirited awareness and to begin to weave a new way. Our old, tired, divisive vision is no longer serving us, others, or indeed the Mother Earth, well.
To conclude, have I not just contradicted myself hugely by saying we need no religions, no labels, no divisive titles such as "witch," and then blatantly using this identifying label in my own book? Indeed I have used this label. Yet it is my hope that this title acts as a catalyst, an inspiration—and not a final destination. As I say in the book, perhaps one day we can move beyond all such limitations as labels, but for now I offer the word wildwitch with a small "w" as a place to begin. It is a name that suggests that which is of the land, yet mystical and hidden; an evocative title that conjures up all the glorious mystery and muddy-fingered exploration of that which lies beyond and yet is inherently present in each instant, and in each instance, of life.
Here is a way for the non-conformist—who refuses to be told "how it is" by the status quo, and who knows there is more to life than the rigidly material or dogmatically religious. The word wildwitch is, therefore, but a signpost to the green-spirited way which leads us on a journey of ongoing celebration. As ivy clings to stone, so does the wildwitch cleave to truth and beauty, making magic with the tides of life and making each moment sparkle like hoarfrost on hazel at midwinter. The word wildwitch can be clasped and released as the wave does to the shore, held lightly or firmly as a talisman, passed on or buried in the loam to grow new shoots. And, when the time is right, we may use it as a title no more, knowing that what we have become is enough, that how we are in the world shines from us as we open our arms to the romance of being and can look ourselves, and each other, in the eye and say, in all truth and love, "you are the creator."
Poppy Palin is a qualified and experienced artist and teacher who uses her trained illustrative skills to enhance her own work and that of others. She has written and illustrated four non-fiction books on her life as a ...