Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 7
In our stressing modern lives and with the ever-present sludge that is the materialist paradigm we’re forced to at least pretend to pay homage to, it’s easy to forget how much of our lives are sustained on the work of others. How often when chowing down on a delicious black bean burger do you stop and thank the bean plant for providing you with its nourishment? How often do you thank the plant spirits for providing their oxygen? When you have biodegradable food waste do you throw it in the garbage or do you attempt to give back what you do not use? I would be lying if I said I remembered it even as often as once a week.
We are socialized from a young age to assume the trappings of the empire; the dominant force that takes without respect. Reap, kill, pillage, destroy, take everything and leave nothing, and never so much as ask permission or give thanks. It’s an easy habit to fall back into but it’s one that can leave the spirits a little cold to our reception. For that matter can you blame them? If there was a beast regularly smashing into your town and eating some of the inhabitants and showing them no respect would you feel very happy to receive its company? I know I wouldn’t. But if it at least thanked you for it and gave you offerings in return, saying that it cannot help that it must consume but if it has to it wants to do it respectfully, I imagine the situation would at least be somewhat less horrible.
We’re raised to think of the environment as being separate, out there, outside, in the wilderness, but we’re as much a part of it as the bees and flowers. Our interactions are a part of it and play into the whole thing. We are gifted the unique gift of embodied consciousness but we so often forget that. We indulge in ego and ignore our impact. We could be the kindly shepherds of life on the planet but instead we are its dominator.
Plants rely on us as much as we rely on them. They rely on us to spread their seeds. They rely on us to fertilize their dirt. They rely on us to respire so they have something to breathe. In a lot of ways, they are eating us as much as we are eating them. We are in a symbiotic relationship with pants. But we have grown cold. We have stopped showing them respect. We cut down whole forests. We take without showing gratitude. We poison the atmosphere with toxins and spray herbicides all over the land. We are becoming monsters.
But while we may not be able to change the way our society functions on a grand scale, we can certainly change how we behave in it. Simple things can go a long way to helping to show the plant spirits we haven’t forgotten them. That not all of us are as callous as some. Thanking the plant spirits for their nourishment before a meal. Showing the forest respect when we go hiking. Picking up litter. All the sort of cheesy things we were taught to do as kids to help care for the earth can help undo at least some of the damage the empire does to the land and at the very least lets the plant spirits know that we’re among the good ones.
This doesn’t just go for plants either, this attitude can be extended to the animals in our local ecosystem too. Thank the bees for what they do to keep things green. Maybe leave out a small offering of sugar water for them? Thank the birds for spreading the seeds of the plants and for making the skies so colorful. It may seem silly and new-agey but I’m sure the spirits appreciate it even if the animals themselves do not understand our language. What about the bacteria that breakdown our waste and make it into plant food? Even if we remember the apple tree, it’s easy to forget the ones who feed it. After all, magic is all about our interaction with the spirits and embodiment too.
And yet even beyond that there are minerals too. They may not live in the way we think of, yet they are as much a part of the ecosystem we live inasmuch as anything else. We rely on them as well for nourishment, for important components our bodies need to survive, and for the filtration they provide in keeping us supplied with tasty spring water to drink. How often do you think to thank the salt rock for its contributions to your salty meal?
To quote Wiccan lore, ‘ye may not be a witch alone’. We are not islands. No human being on this planet can possibly be alive without the assistance not only of our peers among each other, but also with the assistance of an entire army of other living beings living all manner of existence. It’s important we not forget them. Wealth and spiritual attainment means nothing if you have no food to eat, no clean water to drink and no air to breathe. To forget that is to forget who we are. I don’t remember who it was but I’ve once heard it said “If you get right with the spirits first, everything else will follow.” This is very much the truth.
Live authentically. Live embodied in the here and now. Remember the world around us. Lofty concepts are all well and good but things happening far away from us do not affect us nearly as much as those things directly around us. What some politician said in another country should never become more important than the oil company that just left a line of destruction through the local nature preserve because they didn’t want to spend the extra money to go around. Never let them shame you into not standing up for those that you rely on. Never let them shame you into forgetting you are here for the spirits, not for the institutions or the lofty ideals of the print-created world.
Inspired by Standing and Not Falling by Lee Morgan