March 18th, 2012

Re-Enchanting the Land (2012.a)

One of the things that has always interested me about the path of the Druid was the idea of "Re-Enchanting the Land." That is probably the real underlying reason I originally joined the AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America). While that didn't pan out, in John Michael Druid's book The Druid Magic Handbook: Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth (2008) had the idea of re-enchantment of the land as its last part, perhaps the ultimate goal in some ways.

Here are a couple of excerpts from my 2008 review on Amazon which relate to this goal:

"The idea of disenchantment and RE-enchantment of the natural world as a part of the Druid path...something that I had come to Druidry hoping that others sought! Back in the 80s I had done an art exhibit called "Earth Songs." And Ishi, played by Graham Greene, in the movie "Last of His Tribe" heard the song of the earth, asked Professor Kroeber (Jon Voight) if he could hear the earth singing, and Voight pretended he could (I think I can) and Ishi said, "What she say?" And was so upset when he learned the Professor could not hear it after all and was pretending. And then Ishi began to sing the song he heard the Earth singing. We Indians sang our prayers...songs are vital to this effort of working with the natural world. Hearing their songs, and singing back:

chanting (song) / en-chanting (put the song into) / dis-en-chanting (removing a song which was put into) / re-en-chanting (replacing a removed song)

...I also really like that JMG cautioned people from rushing out and messing with sacred places, that the neglected, ruined, and harmed placed are the places that need "re-enchantment"-- don't mess with places that retain their song! Leave the Medicine Wheel in peace, leave Mount Shasta in peace. See what you can do in that vacant lot, your backyard, that neglected patch of woods. Plus it is a longterm effort to do this work, from the acorn a mighty oak will grow, even though we may only live long enough to see a sprout..."

I haven't picked up this book in a couple of years, but recent discussions with others about re-enchantment of the land made me return to take another look. Here's an outline of chapter 8, "The Reenchantment of the World", and some of the things that popped out for me, and which may be useful for others who share this goal.

"When Max Weber spoke more than a century ago of the disenchantment of the world, he pointed to one of the greatest needs of the present age of the world. If the modern industrial world is literally disenchanted, a loss of the magic that once wove humanity and nature together into a single fabric --then one of the crucial tasks of mages today is nothing less than the reenchantment of the world." (p. 216)

Greer says, " the art of awakening spiritual forces in material things" (p. 216). Note that he does not say to place new magics/spells on those things (which Pennick would term an On-lay), but to awaken inherent, existing spiritual forces. This society we live in teaches that material things are simply material, and even many religious, spiritual, or magical paths also see material and spiritual as separate. Here, the spiritual forces already exist in material things, whether a tool, a plant, a place, or the land. It is a matter of awakening that which sleeps. Here, one extends the exhortation, "Sleeper, awaken!" not only to the potential within the human being, but to the spiritual forces in the Land. RJ Stewart's Underworld Tradition focuses on awakening the Sleepers in the Land.

Greer's take on reenchantment of the land is a matter of reweaving this connectedness between human and nature. "...The web of enchantment that unites humanity with the land has effects on nonhuman nature as well. Human cooperation with the cycles of nature, old traditions teach, brings balance and fertility to the natural world." (p. 217-218)

This is true in every indigenous tradition, and even the older medieval practices of Christianity included prayers and rites for the fertility of the fields and livestock. Many of these traditions also continue today. For example, the Pennsylvania Dutch had many prayers and practices to ensure the health and safety of one's farming livelihood, as evident in Hohman's "Long Lost Friend."

"Just as ignorant and arrogant human actions can create wastelands out of forests, human actions guided by wisdom and a clear sense of ecological reality can not only turn wastelands back into thriving ecosystems but help nature flourish even more abundantly than she does on her own." (p. 218)

An excellent example of this was the original Findhorn gardening experiment on the coast of Scotland, where a small group of people there, according to their various gifts and understanding, combined organic gardening techniques with communication with the nature spirits, devas, and landscape angels to produce unparalleled abundance and health in their gardens.

"Enchantments so potent take centuries to establish, and --at least according to tradition-- also need the conscious cooperation of other beings, ranging from animals and plants through nature spirits to the great powers of the cosmos that human beings call gods and goddesses. Even a lifetime spent in Druid magic can only begin the process of restoring the ancient web of enchantment. Still, no other application of the art of magic has so much relevance to the needs of today as the work of reawakening the enchantments of the Grail and healing today's Waste Land." (p. 218) --There will be more on the Grail and the Waste Land to come.

So what are some of the things Greer mentions in this chapter on the reenchantment of the Land?

-Cleansing the Land: Not only physical things like planting trees and erosion control; magic can assist in the breakdown of toxins in the soil, speed the healing of the land, protect healthy places, change attitudes in despoilers. Find a damaged place, a refugia, that needs your help, but do not go to some sacred place and try to do something there. Pick someplace close to home, a place or patch you see everyday. Greer provides here an example of a cleansing ritual, which as always with magic, begins with meditation, scrying/divination as to the propriety of doing so, prayer (and I would add, purification). It is a prayer connecting the elements, the directions, and the telluric current, along with the sky, sun and moon. Then pick up some trash or do something constructive at the place to anchor the effects.

-Restoring Fertility to the Land: First, cleansing and purification must be done. Restoring fertility is the second step. It is a matter of connecting the solar and telluric currents at the site. Barrenness is due not only to the damage or filth/toxins on/in the land (which is addressed through cleansing first), it is a blockage between the telluric and the solar, sort of like how chi is blocked in bodily illnesses and acupuncture can assist. Greer mentions several Druidic methods to clear the blockage. His Inner Grail working moves the nwyfre (life force) in the place where it is done. If necessary, you can do this internally on the site (it must be on the physical site, not just in your head) with Greer's practices of the Three Cauldrons, the Dragon Currents, and the World Tree. A second method is to plant and bless a tree and care for it and sustain it on the site. A third method involves setting up a standing stone, which does not have to be large at all, even as small as 1 or 2 feet, with one third underground and two-thirds above. The stone will naturally begin the knitting of the solar and telluric currents itself, but Greer gives a working to assist the stone, best done between Imbolc (approx. Feb. 2) and Alban Heruin (Summer Solstice, approx. June 21). So now would be a good time to set up a stone, especially in the morning before noon, and on a day when the Moon is waxing. Read the signs (divine or scry) beforehand of course. The essence of the working combines Greer's system, including the practices mentioned above, united within the stone. Those interested are referred to Greer's book for the details.

-Consecrating Sacred Spaces: Even though one should not tinker with existing and ancient holy places, you can certainly create one's own sacred spot in an otherwise ordinary location. Greer recommends this, as we certainly need more holy places, large and small, as these become focal points for the healing and reenchantment of the Land. Small shrines are such spots, roadside shrines such as seen in Japan. On a personal note, I have seen these shrines and memorials along roadsides here too; most common are roadside memorials for those killed in auto accidents, to provide peace and remember one's loved ones. However, a note of caution: once you enchant and establish a holy place, it remains holy. Not only meditation or divination is necessary, but observation and asking the place itself if that is its wish. Contact with the Genius Loci is a prerequisite; you may also dedicate it to a particular deity or saint. Grottoes or shrines in people's yards with a statue of Mary are also examples. If so moved, you might also make a stone circle (a smaller version like those in Britain) or a labyrinth.

Finally, I would leave you with this:

=Whether one feels inspired as a gardener to plant organically and with the larger needs of the land and its wild things kept in mind;
=Whether one feels inspired to work politically or ecologically or scientifically or educationally to do one's best to protect and restore habitat and the diversity of life, worldwide or locally;
=Whether one feels inspired to pray in one's church or other religious path, or in one's indigenous tradition, with others for the health of the land, its water and air, the crops we need for food, and the rest of the plant life we depend on, the animals that provide enjoyment and companionship;
=Whether one works using magic or other traditions to begin this reenchantment of the Land...

This is the common Work we can all do, and which will benefit All.

Now the charge to us all is this: Look around you for a tree, a patch of weed or soil, a vacant lot or alleyway, a tangle of brush or weeds, or damaged will call to you, it will say "Look at me"...and begin that Work anew. I begin this Work and life of prayer for our world anew, today, myself.