Sunday, January 1, 2012

Earth-Based Religion?

In the military, paganisms are usually lumped together under the term "Earth-Based Religion" or "Earth-Based Spirituality".  As I've quipped, this means Wicca ends up being the non-denominational paganism.

While unfortunate, it did lead me to do some thinking about how this term does or might apply to Norse paganism.

Our northern European predecessors had no choice but to be aware of themselves as part of nature.  There was a separation between Njord, gentle Van of the sea and Aegir, Whose family brought sailors to their deaths.  The rune poems show ice as being beautiful, but deadly.  Nature was rich in splendour and danger both.

It is in the tension between beauty and merciless danger where a person who is aware of their surroundings can feel most alive.  I was able to feel this most acutely when I lived in Canada, with the cold stealing my breath when I walked outside even as it made the sky the most brilliant cerulean blue I've ever seen.

In southern California, where I live now, it's been more challenging to feel that connection to nature. For a few years we lived in a cottage with a garden, where we were able to grow much of our own food.  California of course has a very forgiving climate, and crop failure was an inconvenience at worst, a learning curve at best.  It's easy for nature to fade into the background.  Yes there are opossums and birds and rain to work with, but aside from that, nature can be rather theoretical.

This past fall, southern California had a blackout that went from the border up to at least Orange County.  My husband and I got a fine lesson on how unprepared we were, and how dark night really is when the lights go out.  Fortunately, we have friends who have a yard, a grill and a firepit, so we went to their place to cook over the wood fire and talk in the firelight.  For once, we could look up and clearly see the starts, which are usually obscured by light pollution.  We all commented on how quiet it was, because electric lights and the sound from sound systems around us form a steady white noise we hadn't realized existed.

We're very fortunate to live in a place where crime was very minimal during the blackout, and people took the opportunity to actually speak to their neighbours.  For us, taking refuge from the dark around the firepit was a reminder of times past when the darkness really could kill the unwary.

Hail Njord!  Hail Nerthus!  May those of us in industrialized nations respect and appreciate Your powers.