Category Archives: Paganism

When You Steal a Book From an Author

So yet another admin of a Facebook group has decided that copyright doesn’t apply to them; a particular group has over 2000 pdfs of pagan books, including a LOT that are still under copyright. I mean, for pity’s sake, some of them even have “no-drm” in the file name, denoting that someone originally knew that book had digital rights management software attached to it, which means DON’T STEAL IT. My publisher for my books that are affects is already dealing with the DMCA takedowns, so I am here being unhappy that in 2017 this sort of thing is still happening.

Let me tell you something: when I write a book, I put literally hundreds of hours of my time into writing, editing and research, and that’s before the manuscript even goes to the publisher. If I’m self-publishing, I put in even more time with re-editing, proofreading, layout and interior design, book cover layout and design, file preparation, marketing and promotion and, of course, direct sales. The Tarot of Bones deck and book? Easily has a four-digit number of hours attached to it, and still counting since I am the sole distributor and marketer for it.

And unless I’m fortunate enough to get an advance from a publisher or have a successful crowdfunding campaign for a self-published project, I’m doing all this up-front work unpaid. Once I do get paid, tallying up the royalties and the income against the expenses? I’m not even making minimum wage. We authors have to play the long game, hoping that our books stay in print long enough to keep selling enough copies to maybe break even. I don’t know of a single pagan author who makes a living solely on book sales. Everyone has either a side hustle or a day job–or both.

Just because you legitimately bought a copy of the book doesn’t entitle you to ignore copyright. People who pirate have this idea that sharing ebooks is exactly the same as loaning a hardcopy version to a friend, or making photocopies of a few pages and giving them to a handful of students. Wake-up call, chum: sharing ebooks is not the same as passing a paperback around your coven. It can take months for that one paperback to work its way around thirteen people (longer if one of them “just needs a little more time, honestly!”) An ebook posted in a Facebook group, on the other hand, is going to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can access it instantly.

It’s also not the same as getting a book from a library. Your average library book is only going to get checked out a dozen or so times a year, maybe a little more or less. Again, this is nowhere near the same as sending the PDF to thousands of people at once. Nor is that PDF the same as someone buying a secondhand copy at a thrift store; again, it can only go so far, so quickly. Sure, maybe a few of those people who read the pirated PDF might buy a new copy of the book, but the vast majority won’t. I’ve had my books pirated before, and if those people were all buying paperbacks from me I’d have a hell of a lot more money.

If I wanted people to be able to have access to a work that I put hundreds of hours of effort into free of charge, I would have released it into the wild myself, not chosen to enter it into an arrangement where I get an agreed-upon amount of compensation for it. So when some entitled individual decides that they have the right to ignore copyright and post entire PDFs online without my and/or the publisher’s permission, you know what that person is saying?

They’re saying that copyright doesn’t apply to them. They’re saying they are above the law. Sorry, but there is no way to legally justify sharing the ENTIRE book without permission. Fair use applies to a few hundred words, that’s it. “Educational use” is only within certain educational establishments, and again is piece and part, not the whole damned thing. Sharing a bunch of PDFs to random strangers on Facebook? Sorry, your educational defense doesn’t work.

They’re saying that I don’t deserve to decide how I will disseminate the book that I put hundreds of hours of work into. They’re saying “Fuck you, I don’t care what you want, and I don’t care how much work you put into this, because what I want is more important.” They ignore my choice to go through a publisher or to self-publish or to otherwise decide how to share what I’ve created.

They’re saying they don’t think my work is worth what I say it’s worth. When you give away an ebook of my work for free to thousands of people without permission, you are ignoring the price that I or my publisher put on that work. Again, few people who read the free version will actually buy the book after because they’re already got what they want, and all of that is lost potential customers. Which also means…

They’re saying that they don’t care whether I can afford to keep writing or not. As I said, I don’t make that much money off my books, certainly not enough to pay all my bills. A good month is one in which sales might pay one or two bills, or buy me some groceries. I have to do a lot of other things to make sure I can stay afloat. And at this level, the loss in revenue from lost book sales due to pirating hurts. Any pagan business owner, whether author or artist or shop owner, can tell you that the margin between paying the bills and not is pretty damned slim, so whether it’s piracy or shoplifting, theft makes it harder to get through each month.

They’re saying they’re entitled to my work. If you don’t respect my ability to be compensated for my work, but you think you should have access to it no matter what, you’re being entitled as all fuck. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic or your accountant or yourself to work free of charge. But somehow authors and other creatives are expected to create for free, and when we complain about theft we’re told we’re the ones in the wrong.

The sad thing is, there are people who will still feel that they have every justification for pirating books, whether pagan or otherwise. They’ll come up with excuses as to why they should be the exception. And they’ll keep wallowing in their ignorance and entitlement.

So as a way to counter that just a little, here’s my little bread and butter speech:

Consider supporting this self-employed author and artist by buying my books, or checking out my Etsy shop, or purchasing the Tarot of Bones! You can also get exclusive content, art in the mail, and more by being my Patron on Patreon! Thank you 🙂

Leave the Witchy Kitsch At the Store, Please

Note: This article was first posted over at my now-defunct Patheos blog. Due to contractual disagreements, which included them refusing to remove my posts from their site after repeated requests, I am moving some of my writing over here. Please link to this version of the article rather than the Patheos one. Thank you!

Ah, mid-August, how I love thee. It’s the height of summer here in the U.S., with barbecues and campouts and calling the air conditioning repair company because the HVAC is down again. My garden is overflowing with fresh produce and I have no idea how we’re going to eat all this kale, but I’m going to make it work. And all the kiddies are trying to squeeze the last remnants of summer vacation out before having to go back to school. Even the stores are getting in on the act, with shelves and displays full of backpacks and pencils and all that other stuff on the school supply list that just arrived in the mail.

Of course, the back to school displays have been up since the fifth of July. But soon enough (probably just after Labor Day) it’ll be time shopping for Halloween, or so the chain stores say. (Sure, it’s a little early to be talking about this, but I have to beat the stores to the punch!) You can expect endless lines of green-faced witches, styrofoam tombstones, little plastic cauldrons, and strings of Christmas-style lights with translucent smiling skulls and ghosts. Right on cue, the feeds on my social media profiles–Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter–will be full of squealing pagans all excited about “Look at all this Halloween stuff I got from Michael’s for just twenty bucks! They had a sale!” and “I got this cute gargoyle statue with red LED eyes at Wal-mart!” (In fact, I’ve already seen a few posts–apparently Michael’s already has their Halloween stuff out. Yikes.)

Most of the time I just hold my tongue and cringe. The very same pagans who have been reblogging and sharing calls to action about fracking in Canada and human rights abuses in Gaza are proudly displaying cheap, chintzy tchotchkes that are the products of environmental degradation and slave labor. It’s a peculiar sort of cognitive dissonance driven by materialism and rampant consumerism without reflection. It would be one thing if there were no alternative options, or if it were over something necessary to life like access to food or water, or even something educational like books. No, these cheap, mass-produced items (only slightly different from the ones offered last year) are purely luxuries, and not even luxuries in the traditional sense of actually being worth something.

Check out this festive oil spill!

And they come out of a well of toxicity. Those cute plastic window decals are derived from the petroleum industry, which severely damages the environment throughout the entire process of harvesting, processing, and using oil. Fossil fuels are also implicated in a whole host of human rights abuses. That cheap metal candle holder with the flying witch cut out? It was made from metals that were probably unsustainably mined, producing countless toxins and destroying nearby waterways and habitats.

These materials are then turned into purely decorative items, usually by poorly paid and abused slave labor in China and elsewhere. In 2012, an Oregon woman bought a set of Halloween decorations from K-Mart. Inside it was a letter written by one of the workers, detailing the horrible conditions at the factory. It is almost certain that this year’s shiny new decorations from Michael’s and the like are made by similarly abused workers.

And what’s it take to get all these trinkets from China to the United States? Generally they’re sent by giant freight ships across the Pacific Ocean, ships which create a massive amount of pollution and devastate wildlife and marine plantsthe noise from these ships also interferes with whales’ ability to communicate with each other, particularly as the sound is often on the same frequency that the whales use.

How else can these big box chain stores sell you their tacky items at low, low prices except through abuses to the environment and our fellow human beings? When you get to pay $5.99 for a packet of paper plates with smiling black cats on them, or get a buy one get one free pair of resin skeleton candle holders, you’re not paying the full price for these things. Other living beings are your coupons, and future generations of humans and other living beings will be paying the price for your purchase for decades, if not centuries, to come.

The sad thing is, there are plenty of alternatives to the crap you’ll find on the big box shelves, and yet millions of people convince themselves they just have to have these useless, toxic items, to include people who claim they venerate nature and believe all people should be treated equally and humanely. It would be one thing if we were talking about something necessary to human existence, like food or water access, or if these were carefully hand-crafted pieces bought directly from the artist. But we’re compromising the environment and each other over things nobody actually needs, and which can be easily replaced by better options.

Want to break the cycle of damaging consumerism? Make your own decorations and costumes using recycled and reclaimed materials, and invite your friends and family to get in on it. Here’s one set of tutorials, and here’s another, and some more over here, and those are just three of the first links that popped up when I Googled “how to make Halloween decorations with recycled materials”. If you want to get really artsy about it, try sculpting your own scary skeletons and witches out of recycled paper mache instead of buying the resin ones from the chain stores.

If you don’t feel you’re artistic enough, consider going through Etsy* or other avenues to patronize artists who make holiday wares. You can ask them about where their materials come from, request custom work, and you’ll be giving money to an individual person, not a nameless corporation. Chances are whatever they make will be better constructed than the cheaply made offerings at the stores, and so will last much longer. It may be more of a financial investment in the beginning, but it pays off in the long run.

Remember, too, that Halloween (Samhain) was originally a harvest festival, and many pagans still celebrate it as such today. This means that edibles like squash, sugar pumpkins and apples all make great decorations. You may also be able to find corn stalks from local farmers, and fall leaves are always abundant wherever deciduous trees grow. Once Halloween is over, you can eat the vegetables and fruit, and compost the rest.

If you absolutely must decorate your home in poor-quality, mass-produced Halloween kitsch, consider checking out Goodwill and other thrift stores in your area. Plenty of people offload their old holiday decorations when they move or clean house, and every year I see aisles full of perfectly serviceable secondhand Halloween items available for cheap. A lot of it will end up thrown out because there’s just too much to go around, and too many people insist on heading to Target to buy brand new costumes and decor (most of which will probably end up tossed, or donated and then tossed, in a few years). If for whatever reason you’d be horrified if your friends knew you went thrift shopping *gasp*, you don’t have to tell them the truth of where that inflatable vampire came from. Just tell them you bought it at the Halloween Superstore a few years ago.

Halloween can still be full of fun decorations and playful costumes, and those of you so inclined can still make your home look like October year-round. But with a little care and consideration, we can make this year’s Halloween better for the entire planet, and take some power away from the truly scary monsters that we face in our world today.

* Please be aware that Etsy now allows mass-produced items. You may have to be a little careful in shopping there. Generally speaking, if it’s cheap, it’s probably mass produced.

Did you enjoy this read? Consider supporting this self-employed author and artist by buying my books, or checking out my Etsy shop, or purchasing the Tarot of Bones! You can also get exclusive content, art in the mail, and more by being my Patron on Patreon!

Lupa’s Essential Books For Pagans

Hi, folks! Sorry for the radio silence; my head hasn’t been in pagan space much lately so I’ve been dealing with a bit of writer’s block in that direction. I’m starting to come out of it a bit, though, and I have a few ideas, this being the first one.

Most essential reading lists for pagans tend to be pagan-specific books, or books that deal with related topics like the history of pre-Christian religions or herbalism. My list is perhaps a little more removed from blatant paganism than that, and might be better termed “Lupa’s Essential Books For Nature-Based Pagans”. Moreover, it’s a list that will likely change over time. But they’re texts I think all pagans would benefit from reading for one reason or another.

The Nature Principle by Richard Louv

Many people, not just pagans, are attracted to nature. But why? In his follow-up to his award-winning Last Child in the Woods, Louv looks at not only why nature is good for us, but concrete ways in which we can reconnect with the natural world, even in urban areas, as a way to combat nature-deficit disorder. (See also Florence Williams’ The Nature Fix as a more up-to-date collection of nature-is-good-for-us research for laypeople.)

A Beginner’s Guide to the Scientific Method by Stephen S. Carey

Paganism often flirts heavily with pseudoscience, sometimes to dangerous degrees. Everyone should have a solid understanding of the scientific method, to include how a good experiment is put together (as well as how not to conduct research), and how to avoid pitfalls like confirmation bias. Not only will this help you to cut through some of the crap that gets presented as fact within paganism, but it will help you have a more critical eye toward sensational news headlines claiming new cures for cancer or demonizing vaccinations. If you can pick apart a study based on things like sample size and the validity of the results, you’re already way ahead of most of the population.

The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins

Okay, put the fact that it’s Dawkins aside; this is one of those texts where he’s focusing on communicating science instead of tearing religion apart, and he’s frankly at his best here. Now, evolution is up there with gravity and a round earth as far as things we know to be true, and hopefully you already have a basic understanding of how it works: It is not survival of the fittest so much as survival of those who fit into the ecosystem most effectively. What this book does is cleverly place us, Homo sapiens, in the context of the grand dance of evolution by tracing on possible path we may have taken all the way back to the last universal ancestor that all living beings on the planet share. Along the way we get to see the origins of everything from our big brains to our opposable thumbs and upright bipedal walking, showing us that we are not the most amazing and superior being that the gods ever created, but rather one among many incredible and diverse life forms that evolution has produced through natural selection and mutation. It is, in fact, the ultimate journey on this planet.

Also, the Walking With Dinosaurs/Beasts/Monsters/Cavemen BBC documentaries are fun, if a bit flawed and dated, ways to look at how evolution has shaped animals over millions of years.

Roadside Geology series by various authors

If you’re in the United States, there’s a Roadside Geology book for your state! You may not think much about the ground beneath your feet other than as a nice, solid base, but the various stones and formations, as well as hydrological phenomena like rivers and lakes, are all crucial to the sort of life that can thrive in a given place. The Roadside Geology books are a fun way to go look at your local geology in person and learn a little about the land you live on. You can then follow up by picking up some more in-depth reading material for the geology of your area.

Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

We often assume that plants are relatively sedentary beings with few motivations. Yet they are vibrant and active parts of their ecosystems in ways even we animals can’t touch. This book looks at the world of plants through the relationships four of them have with humans, how we have changed them–and how they have changed us. I also strongly recommend following this up with two documentaries: How to Grow a Planet by Iain Stewart (which also happens to be on Netflix as of this writing) and David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants (which is also in book form.)

Trees, Truffles and Beasts: How Forests Function by Chris Maser, Andrew Claridge and James Trappe

In paganism we tend to look at animals, plants and other beings individually, as stand-alone guides—yet if we want inspiration for just how interconnected we are, there’s no better model than an ecosystem. This book explores how just a few of the animal, plant and fungus inhabitants of forests are inextricably bound together. Extrapolate that out to the entire ecosystem, and you begin to see how deeply entwined all beings are in a very real, even visceral sense. If you’ve only been working with animal or plant spirits, this book may just inspire you to reach out further.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart

Again in paganism people tend to be fairly short-sighted when it comes to animals. We often look at the most impressive mammals and birds, and then only at the most surface qualities, gleaning what we can for ourselves and our spiritual needs. In order to step out of this self-centered approach to nature spirituality, we need to really appreciate beings for themselves in all their complexity, and what better starting point than the amazing and completely indispensable earthworm? This is a really fun read, but you’ll learn a lot along the way, too–and maybe start treating the soil in your yard a little better, too!

There are lots of other books that explore individual species in depth, like Bernd Heinrich’s The Mind of the Raven and Of Wolves and Men by Barry Holstun Lopez, but I really recommend you start with the often-overlooked earthworms before moving on to stereotypically charismatic critters like ravens and wolves.

Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown Young

One of the disadvantages of pagans reading only books by pagans about paganism is that we miss out on other awesome and relevant works by people who aren’t expressly pagan. Joanna Macy is one of those authors that more pagans really need to know about, especially those who construct group rituals. This is an entire book full of rites for reconnecting to nature and to each other, as well as grieving for global losses and fostering gratitude and hope for a better future. If that doesn’t sound like something more pagans could get behind, I don’t know what does. Just because it doesn’t mention any deities doesn’t mean that it’s useless.

Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin

This is another one of those “pagan but not” books. I’ve explored this book in more detail in the past, but my opinion still stands: it is a much better alternative to Maiden, Mother, Crone and Youth, Warrior, Sage. It’s based in a developmental approach to ecopsychology (or an ecopsychological approach to developmental psychology?) Growth is not based on your physical age or whether you’re capable of popping out babies; rather, Plotkin’s eight-stage Wheel looks at your journey as a person and your continuing relationship with your community and ecosystem to determine where you are developmentally. You can even be in more than one stage at once! It’s a much more well-rounded way to apply a label to yourself, if you must, and I recommend it for anyone who is sick of the gender-limiting stereotypes of MMC/YWS.

(Honorable mention to Lasara Firefox’s Jailbreaking the Goddess as another alternative to MMC for women.)

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken

If you love nature and honor it and you really want to do something to make up for the damage we’ve done to the planet, there’s nothing much more effective than working to reverse climate change. I mean, really, it’s a much better offering to nature spirits than pouting food and drink on the ground, or sending a vague ball of energy to wrap around the planet to do….what? What’s even more noteworthy about this book is that it’s an excellent antidote to the hopelessness and fear that a lot of people feel about climate change. In it you’re going to read about people who are already boots on the ground making a difference, to include in the very industries that are causing the most problems. And it ranks the top 100 causes of climate change (you can see this on their website, too.) Pick one of these causes to start working on, with whatever time and other resources you reasonably have available, and not only are you giving something back to nature, but you’re also counteracting the paralysis that pessimism breeds.

So there you have it: my current essential reading list for pagans. Sorry I’m not handing you yet another rehash of the Wiccan Sabbats or a bunch of spells. Over the past few years my paganism has become much more firmly rooted in the physical, and my reading list reflects that. After all, what good is a nature-based path if you don’t know diddly about nature itself?

Announcing NaturalPagans.com!

Happy Monday, all!

I wanted to let you know about a new endeavor I’m a part of. Naturalpagans.com is officially launching today; it’s a blog aggregation site bringing together posts from a variety of naturalist pagan writers.

What is a naturalist pagan? Whereas many pagans believe in the supernatural, we look to strictly natural explanations for the wonders of this world. We celebrate nature and its cycles and value the contributions of science to our understanding of the world. The magic in our world consists of amazing phenomena like photosynthesis and plate tectonics, evolution and the hydrologic cycle. Our nature religion begins with the very physical soil and stone and the air all around us.

I invite you to check out NaturalPagans.com! And if you happen to be a naturalist pagan blogger, we’re always looking for new folks to join us–email b at rox dot com to find out more.

Our Deadly Lack of Nature Literacy

Note: This was originally posted on my Patheos blog in 2015; Patheos still has not taken down my content even though I have made formal requests for them to do so. So I am copying over some of my posts to my personal blog here, so that I and others can link to them without giving Patheos advertising revenue.
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My apologies for the light posting as of late; summer is festival season, which means I’m busy with vending and other activities, and it’s tough to find time and energy to write. However, this particular topic has been rolling around in my head, and I finally found the right words for it.

It all started a few weeks ago when birds–particularly crows–started fledging here in Portland. I began getting questions from people about scrawny, sick-looking birds that had others “dive-bombing” them as they sat on the ground. After seeing a few photos, it was pretty clear that people were seeing fledgling crows which, while ungainly-looking and still unsure of that “flying” thing, were in generally good health. The “dive-bombing” was parent crows feeding them, encouraging them, and otherwise staying close by in case danger threatened. Crows, after all, are highly intelligent and social; they understand what’s at stake during this vulnerable part of a young bird’s life.

I assured these folks that the crows were just fine and, with a little time and practice, would be up and off the ground with the rest. Thankfully no one decided to pick them up and put them into boxes in their garages, unsure what to do next. That’s just one example of how well-meaning humans think they need to interfere with nature’s ways and in the process make things worse. The instances in which human ignorance can be dangerous to human and non-human animals like are numerous; these are the ones that have cropped up on Facebook and elsewhere just in the past week or so:

“Brachylagus idahoensis NPS” by U.S. Government National Park Service. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

–Every spring and summer there’s a cavalcade of people who find baby birds on the ground or baby rabbits huddled in the grass. Baby birds do fall out of nests before they’re ready to fledge, and mother rabbits often leave their babies hidden (with varying degrees of success) for hours at a time. What people should be doing is putting the birds back in the nest if they can, or making a new nest by nailing an empty plastic tupper to a tree and putting grass and the bird in it (parent birds will often feed their young even in these unorthodox holdings.) For bunnies, they should leave well enough alone, unless they look obviously ill, injured or otherwise distressed. Putting a circle of flour around them shows whether the mother has come back to check on them (thereby disturbing the flour) or not. Instead, they take possession of these little critters and either try to raise them themselves, or take them to a veterinarian or rescue facility. Even with the best of care, the mortality rate for birds and rabbits is significant, and quite often well-meaning humans sentence these animals to death by not leaving them in the wild. Here’s a good resource on what actually to do when you find baby animals unattended by their parents.

–While we’re on the subject of rabbits, there are enough domestic rabbit owners who don’t understand rabbit behavior and health that someone had to write an article on why rabbit bath videos aren’t actually cute. If you don’t understand how to properly care for an animal, maybe you shouldn’t own one–or should at least do a lot more research on that species’ behavior and unique needs.

This video of someone feeding wild deer potato chips. Besides the fact that chips aren’t especially good food for anyone, least of all deer, these people are just encouraging the deer to lose their fear of humans. Why is this bad? Let me count the ways! Deer that aren’t afraid of humans are more likely to go wandering into people’s gardens and munch on the vegetables and flowers. They’re also at greater risk of getting hit by cars (bad for everyone involved) and they’re easier targets for hunters (the easier population control doesn’t justify the means.) The more you feed deer, the more the deer are able to reproduce and survive through hard winters that would normally thin their numbers. That means overpopulation leading to greater rates of starvation, disease and other unpleasantries.

This misinformed person who thinks a picture of a long-dead, probably roadkilled, doe is proof hunters are routinely shooting does out of season. Fawns are born in spring and can be independent as early as two months of age, well before hunting season starts in fall (usually the second half of November). Guys, Bambi was fiction. Yes, there are poachers out there, but they’re the minority and other hunters would like to see them stopped as much as anyone else. For now, an imbalance of apex predators means hunters are one of the main ways to keep deer from becoming even more overpopulated. (Yes, I am in full support of natural, native predator reintroduction.)

“Zwarte beren”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

People laughing at this black bear that drank three dozen beers. Never mind that, again, beer isn’t good for a wild animal’s system. Like deer, bears are increasingly encouraged to see humans as a source of food. It’s not just a matter of campers not knowing how to bear-proof their food and drink, either. Many people deliberately feed bears and other wildlife, to include in mighty Yellowstone, because they want the animals to entertain them. They’re not content simply letting them be themselves. Eventually you end up with bears attacking people to get to their food, which all too often ends up with the bear being euthanized.

–Speaking of Yellowstone, there’s been a rash of idiots getting seriously injured while trying to take selfies with bison. (Dishonorable mention to the guy who almost died trying to take a selfie with a rattlesnake. Seriously, I can’t make this shit up.) Despite the fact that it’s illegal to get close to the bison, and despite numerous warnings from park staff, people still somehow think bison are docile cattle, just a part of the scenery. (Cows are dangerous too, by the way.)

Apparently animal rights activists still think it’s a good idea to release farmed mink into the wild. What they think they’re doing is saving the mink from being skinned alive. (No, skinning animals alive is not a standard accepted practice in the fur industry.) Instead, they’re dooming most of those mink to slow, painful, cruel deaths by starvation or exposure because they come from generations of captive-bred animals. The ones that survive compete with native wildlife and cause many other animals to have slow, painful, cruel deaths by starvation because there’s not enough food to go around. Those mink can screw up ecosystems for decades as invasive species. So much for kindness to animals.

I could go on and on about our inability to treat other animals the way they need to be treated, and our own lack of skills for when we’re outside of a comfortably civilized setting. We learn in school how to determine the hypotenuse of a triangle, go over the Revolutionary War in excruciating detail every year in history class from fourth through twelfth grade, and our biology textbooks are distressingly generalized and sterile. With few exceptions, kids are kept corralled indoors except for recesses on blacktop playgrounds. We learn how to be good little worker ants in an industrial model, but we learn early how to ignore anything that isn’t human-centered. And we spend more time indoors than ever. We’re conditioned to see the outdoors largely as the place we have to traverse in order to get to the next indoor spot.

“American Crow and Fledgling” by Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area – California, USA – American Crow and Fledgling. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

These people who ask about fledgling crows–if they spent a year studying their local wildlife in detail, watching from a window every day, do you suppose they’d get some sense of the rhythm of non-human nature? Maybe they’d get to watch a mated pair of crows build a nest, raise and feed their young, and then integrate those young into the greater corvid community. Perhaps they’d see a mother rabbit leave and return to her young in their hiding place, or watch deer grow up, lose their spots, and start their own lives well before November.

Our utter lack of nature literacy and our disgraceful self-centeredness is leading us to destroy the entire planet, ourselves included. We need to know these things–we knew them once, but as we stopped living close to the land, we forgot them, ignored them entirely. We need to understand how delicately balanced an ecosystem is, the webs of relationships and balances that formed over thousands of years of fine-tuning and evolution. We need to know how much our actions can screw the entire system up, whether through introducing an invasive species or destroying habitat for one more golf course. We need to have our hands in the soil, watching the creek for the flash of a salamander’s belly, our eyes to the trees for the first sign of autumn’s flush of color. We need a personal relationship with non-human nature that doesn’t end with a perfectly manicured, chemical-treated lawn.

But we don’t all have to know the particulars of climate science or marine biology or organic agriculture to be attuned to our local environment. It all starts with the little things, the individual animals, plants and fungi. What if the proper response to finding baby bunnies was as well-known as when the new season of Orange is the New Black starts? What if we looked forward to the fledging of baby birds as much as the arrival of Memorial Day? What if we knew how to watch the clouds, and were able to predict how long before rain showed up, so we could decide whether or not to water the garden?

We need to return to an ancestral way in which nature is not an Other, but an Us. If we truly love nature, if we consider ourselves friends to the animals, then we need to know nature itself, through books and observations, through science and questioning. We need to know the rest of nature as well as we know ourselves.

We can no longer afford nature ignorance; it is time to embrace nature literacy.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider picking up a copy of my book Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which weaves together natural history and pagan spirituality.

Speaking Out About Patheos

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was one of the bloggers who left Patheos in the wake of issues with the new contract we were expected to sign. The questionable contract combined with having less time for writing blog posts outside of my own personal blog here led me to make that decision. My co-blogger at Paths Through the Forests, Rua Lupa, also left Patheos shortly thereafter.

Before she left, she deleted both her and my content (with my permission). Within three days, all our content was back up on the site (click the link for her detailed writeup.) As detailed in said post, Patheos is attempting to nullify the ability of an author to terminate their contract with a Survival Clause.

I have still sent a letter of contract termination to Patheos, and if my content is still up after 30 days I’ll be getting legal consultation to see what my options are. In the meantime, here are a few ways you can help:

Sign this petition telling Patheos to take down the content written by those writers who have left Patheos’ pagan channel

–Don’t link to any content from Paths Through the Forests or other blogs from writers who have left Patheos, since traffic to those pages leads to Patheos getting income.

–Support the independent blogs of the writers who chose to leave (a list of writers can be found in the text of the petition linked above, and our blogs can generally be found with a simple Google search. You’re already reading mine, of course!) Extra bonus points if you support the Patreon or other crowdfunding efforts of those who have them! (My Patreon’s over here.) Patheos was supposed to be a paying platform for those who got enough page views, though many of us just didn’t hit that threshold.

–Support pagan-owned and operated blogging platforms like paganSquare and Pagan Bloggers, as well as sites like Panegyria and The Wild Hunt that have both dedicated writers and guest posts.

FWIW, I don’t intend to set up another blog any time soon; I have my hands full just with keeping this one seeded with content. However, content from this blog will be aggregated on the new Natural Pagans site, which brings together posts from naturalist/etc. pagan blogs. (It’s still a bit under construction–did I mention it’s like really, shiny-new within the past few days?)

And while I am seriously bogged down in work right now, I do intend to get back to writing more here later in spring as things calm down. I may also repost some of my old Patheos content here, just because I did get some good posts out of my time there.

Offerings For a Nature-Based Path

Note: This post was originally published at my old Patheos blog. It is unfortunately still there despite my resignation and request that they delete all my content. I had a request from another writer to link to this post, though they didn’t want to use the Patheos link (thank you!) So I am republishing the content here, and will likely do that with a selection of my other Patheos posts. Enjoy!

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When someone gives something to us, it’s natural for us to want to return the favor. Reciprocity is part of being a complex social creature and part of the underpinnings of successful civilization. It’s no different in our spiritual paths. When the spirits, gods, nature gift us with knowledge, empowerment or even a good meal, we want to be able to say thank you in a formal manner.

This balance more important now than ever. For centuries we have done a lot of taking from nature and relatively little giving back. Of course, some things are hard to replace. We can’t exactly put oil back in the ground or easily remove the pollutants caused by its processing and burning. But it’s only been recently that we’ve made conscious efforts to replace at least some of what we take. In Oregon, for example, it’s been a law since 1972 that any landowner who cuts down trees for timber must plant more to replace them.

Still, the balance is far from equal. We still take far more than we give back, and what we do give is often tainted. Take food offerings, for example. It may seem pretty innocuous to make an extra plate of food after a ritual and leave it out “for the wildlife”. Some of what we eat is very bad for other species, though, and it doesn’t have to be the hyper-processed snack foods we favor. Onions are toxic for dogs and cats, and so any wandering domestic or feral animal would get sick if the dish you prepared contains even cooked onion. (Coyotes might also not fare so well.) Moreover, leaving food out teaches wild mammals to stop fearing humans and to become more aggressive in trying to get food from us. Predictably this leads to more animals having to be killed as nuisances or dangerous.

The source of the offering may also be suspect. Let’s say you want to leave a small quartz crystal next to a plant that you harvested leaves from for medicine. Where did the crystal come from, and how was it mined? What quality of life did the miner have and how much did they make for it? How many thousands of miles was the crystal shipped using fossil fuels? What offering did you make to the land the crystal was torn out of to say “thanks for the shiny rock”? And, finally, how exactly is the plant supposed to use a piece of quartz crystal when what it really needs is water and healthy soil?

We need to rethink the concept of offerings, and what we’re actually giving versus receiving. Are we giving back anything of actual value, or just contributing to more problems at home and abroad?

I’d like to offer some potential alternatives for those of us on a nature-based path. These are offerings that are more conscious of environmental impact and have a real, measurable effect on the land. (In my experience they also make the spirits of the land happier!)

–Take the time to really get to know the land you live on: How much do you know about your bioregion? What’s the geology that forms its foundation, and how does it affect the climate and weather? What animals, plants, fungi and other living beings share space with you there? What did it look like before large numbers of humans arrived? What did it look like 10,000 years ago? 100,000? 100 million?

Knowing these things helps you understand the intricacies of your bioregion and what it needs in order to be healthy. You may think that your area has a diversity of wildlife because you know a few species of bird in the area, but it may lack the necessary habitat to support more elusive animals. What happened to drive these other species away?

You may not be able to do anything about these bigger situations, but just being aware of and sensitive to them can be a great offering in and of itself. It shows you respect the land and the beings you share it with, and it helps push you out of the heavily anthropocentric mindset most humans have been running around with for too long.

–Offer your time: If you have the time and physical ability to do so, spend some time trying to improve the land around you. If there are local environmental or conservation groups working to remove invasive species and replace them with native ones, or monitor water and air quality, or other efforts toward habitat restoration and preservation, see what sorts of volunteer opportunities they have. Check the Citizen Science Alliance website to see if there are any nearby nature research projects you can help with. You can even do some self-directed projects, like keeping a particular park or stretch of stream litter-free.

Even if you don’t have the ability to do that sort of intensive outdoor work, consider contacting your elected officials about environmental issues in your area. The more you educate yourself about these issues, the more effective you can make your letters. You can even extend this communication to local business owners, encouraging them to implement sustainability efforts or transparency about pollutants in manufacturing activities.

Some of you may even have the opportunity to make your career more centered on nature. Degree programs in biology and other natural sciences offer the ability to do field research (though there can be competition for jobs and research opportunities!) Should you happen to be interested in law school, environmental law is a great way to utilize the legal system to hold polluters and other problematic entities accountable.

–Offer your money: You don’t have to tithe 10% of your income to your spiritual path, but even if you have just a few dollars extra, consider donating the funds to an environmental nonprofit that you trust. Local organizations are always looking for ways to pay for their projects, and this may be the best option if you’re trying to help your immediate bioregion. On the other hand, bigger organizations do a lot of valuable work ranging from buying up and protecting fragile ecosystems, to lobbying elected officials and convincing them to vote in favor of the environment.

Some utility companies are beginning to offer clean energy buy-in options to their customers, albeit at a little higher monthly rate. Instead of getting your electricity from coal, for example, you might be able to switch some or all of your electricity to wind or hydroelectric power. While these are not without their own problems, they’re an attempt to try to cut down on the reliance on fossil fuels. And the more people who demand cleaner energy, the more incentive there will be for companies to work out the flaws with wind, hydro, and other energy alternatives.

–Teach others: Social media has become a pretty significant powerhouse for activists of all sorts. You don’t have to be organizing marches against pollution, but you can use your social media network to share links about environmental issues. Don’t worry about making your contributions all news all the time, either. Even just passing on a few links in the middle of your usual roster of cat pictures, gripes about work, or “What I did this weekend” posts can make a big difference.

Looking back at the volunteering option for a moment, you might see if local organizations or national/state parks have opportunities for volunteer interpreters. These help visitors to parks and other wild places to learn more about the flora, fauna and other features of the land, and it’s a great way to inspire others to fall in love with your bioregion!

–Live more lightly on the planet: Look at your everyday life and see if there are ways you can live a greener life. This might involve spending a little more money to buy a couple of extra organic or pasture-raised food items, or toilet paper and paper towels made from recycled paper. Or it may mean switching over to public transit for your commute (which, by the way, makes for great reading time!) When you take a shower, catch the “warm-up” water in a bucket, and then use that to refill the toilet tank next time you flush. Use a 50-50 vinegar-water solution and some Bon Ami for house cleaning instead of harmful chemicals like bleach. Really, it all depends on what your financial and schedule situations are like, what resources are available to you, and what you can afford to change. Even if you just make one change a month, over time that all adds up.

And these offering ideas are just a few potential options. What else might you do to make effective offerings in a nature-based path?

Did you enjoy this post? Consider buying a copy of my book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which has more ideas and practices for getting closer to nature through your spiritual path!

Dear Pagans: Can We Be As Picky About Science As We Are About History?

[I know this is a long one, and potentially controversial. Do me a favor, please and read all the way to the end, and pay especial attention to the italicized bits? Thank you!]

Celtic Wicca. Samhain, the God of the Dead. Witches’ covens that extend back in an unbroken line thousands of years. These are just a few examples of the really bad history that’s been passed around the pagan community, and which has rightfully been skewered by those who have done better research. I came to paganism in the mid-1990s when Wicca was all the rage, and everything was plastered with Celtic knotwork. The Craft, Charmed and other media helped bolster support for aesthetic paganism that was more about looks than substance. A glut of books hit the market, many of which were full of historical inaccuracies from the mildly off to the blatantly awful.

Pagans with a decent background in history began to tear apart the inaccurate material, some of which had been floating around for decades (I’m looking at you, Margaret Murray!) We encouraged each other to go beyond strictly pagan books and explore historical texts, both those written for laypeople and more academic texts. We cited our sources more. And so now, twenty years later, while paganism still has its share of bad history, we have a lot more accurate information to apply to our paths, whether we’re hardcore reconstructionists or not. And we have space for things that aren’t necessarily historically accurate, but which we find personally relevant, like Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG (which you can read more about here.)

All this came out of a lot of discussions, along with debates and arguments. Post bad history in a busy pagan listserve circa 2000, and you were bound to get dozens of responses correcting you and offering good research material. And today wrong historical information is still swiftly corrected. What boggles my mind is that a lot of the same people who will throw down over historical inaccuracies won’t bat an eye when someone horribly misuses science. Woe be unto anyone who tries to say that Artemis and Freya are just different faces of the same Great Goddess, but sure, we can say that quantum entanglement proves magick is real without a doubt. Whatevs, it’s your belief, right?

In Defense of Facts

Ah, Gérôme’s “Truth Coming Out of Her Well”. How appropriate for this section.

Wrong. Just as history deals in facts, so does science. Yes, there’s room for errors (accidental and deliberate) and updated research, but that doesn’t negate the general tendency of both of these fields of study and practice to deal in the most accurate information we have available to us. We’ve gotten good at pointing out where pagans are over-reaching historically through speculation and UPG. We suck at doing so for those speculating beyond what science has demonstrated to be true or impossible. It’s the same error at play: when history or science don’t have a clear answer–or the answer that you want–you don’t get to just make up whatever you want and say that it’s equally real.

Lots of anecdotes do not equal “anecdata”. No matter how much you really, really, really want to believe that you can make streetlights turn off just by walking under them, the evidence we do have is pointing toward it just being an occasionally blinking streetlight and good timing. It’s also confirmation bias in that you’re seeing what you want to see and that affects your “results”. No one has yet created a substantial, well-crafted study that even remotely suggests a person can affect the electrical flow to a light bulb (other than by physically tampering with the wires, unscrewing the bulb or turning off the power.) A group of people walking back and forth under a streetlight does not a solid experiment make.

Yet paganism is full to the brim with people claiming they can do similarly supernatural things. Look at the proliferation of spells that claim to be able to aid in healing, take away curses, or even affect political outcomes. That’s saying that “If I burn this candle or bury this herbal sachet or say these words over here, that thing or person or situation wayyyy over there will be directly affected in the way I want it to.” Sure, your process was more elaborate than just walking in proximity of your target, but you have no more evidence of causation than that other guy. And look at how many pagans claim that a simple spell is every bit as effective as a complicated one. Doesn’t it follow, then, that the simplest spell–walking under the light with the intent of making it blink off–has every bit the chance of working as something more complex?

Why We Treat Science Differently

But that’s getting away from the point. I think we don’t want to be sticklers for science in the same way that we’re sticklers for history because we don’t want our sacred cows slaughtered. Our beliefs can still hold up when we question historical inaccuracies because many modern pagan beliefs are based in history, and better history means better justification for our beliefs because “our ancestors believed it!”

But many of our beliefs are also based in pseudoscience, as well as bad interpretations of good science (like the misapplication of quantum anything to trying to prove magick is objectively real). When we start picking apart the scientific inaccuracies in our paths, it feels threatening and uncomfortable. If you feel a sense of control because you literally believe that a spell you cast will change a situation you’re anxious about, then you don’t want to question the efficacy of that act because you feel you’ve lost control again. If your connection to nature is primarily through thinking the local animals show up in your yard because you have special animal-attracting energy, the fact that they’re more likely just looking for food, shelter, and other normal animal things makes you feel less inherently connected. So instead of focusing on aligning our paths more closely with scientific research as well as historical research, we instead cling tightly to justifications.

The Rewards of Accuracy

Plus we pagan bibliophiles have more excuses to spend time with beautiful old books!

I think that pressing for more historical accuracy has made paganism stronger as a whole, both as individuals and as a community. We’ve spent decades working to be taken more seriously as a religious group, sometimes to gain big steps forward like equal recognition for our deceased military pagans, other times to just be able to mention our religion without being laughed at. Those who want to emphasize to non-pagans that our paths have historical precedent and long-time relevance have more resources to do so. There are other benefits: Those who want to emulate the ways of pre-Christian religions have more material to work with. And history offers more depth to explore; your interest in a particular ancient spiritual path can extend out into knowing more about the culture, people and landscape that that path developed in. If you’re creating a new path for the 21st century, you have more inspiration to work with when you see what’s worked for pagan religions in both the distant and recent past.

Science has a lot to offer us as well. As a naturalist pagan–and a pagan naturalist–my path is deepened, and I find greater meaning, the more I learn about and experience the non-human natural world. I don’t need to believe the blacktail deer outside my studio are there because they have some special message for me. It’s enough that I can observe them quietly from the window as they go about their lives, our paths intersecting by proximity. I do not need to drink water from their hoofprints to attempt to gain shapeshifting powers; I can imagine a bit of what it is to be them when I follow their trails through the pines and see the places that are important to them. And that makes me even more invested in protecting their fragile ecosystem; my path urges me to give back to nature.

When pagans step out of the narrow confines of symbolism, and act as though nature is sacred because we know how threatened it is through the science of ecology, not only do we deepen our connections to nature, but we also show the rest of the world that we walk our talk. It’s just one way in which we demonstrate that, as with our historical accuracy, we’re also interested in scientific accuracy, rather than denying or ignoring facts in favor of our own spiritual self-satisfaction. And rather than getting entangled in self-centered interpretations of nature that elevate us as the special beings deserving of nature’s messages, a more scientific approach to paganism humbles us and reminds us that we are just one tiny part of a vast, beautiful, unimaginably complex world full of natural wonders that science can help us better explore and understand.

Conclusion

As always, I’m not saying don’t have beliefs. Beliefs have plenty of good effects, from strengthening social bonds to bringing us comfort when things go haywire to helping us make some subjective sense of the world through storytelling and mythos. UPG can be a really valuable tool in giving us a place to put the things we believe that don’t fit into known historical research, and I think we need to extend it to hold beliefs that go outside known scientific evidence, too. So keep working your spells and your rituals, and keep working with the deities and spirits that you hold dear. If you derive personal meaning by feeling that the crows are nearby because of some spiritually significant reason and it improves your life, don’t let go of that, so long as you also accept that the crows are just crows doing crow things.

Examining your beliefs in fine detail doesn’t even require a microscope!

But we also need to be able to make use of critical thinking skills and suss out areas where we’re factually wrong, no matter how we may personally feel about the matter. That way, as with history, we’re able to clearly say “This is the portion of my belief system that matches up with known facts, and this part over here is more personal.” We’ve learned to be skeptical of the claims of people who say that historians are wrong and they have the REAL history; we should be able to do the same for those who claim to know better than thousands of scientists.

What I am also asking you to do is really question your beliefs, their foundations, and where they intersect with and diverge from science (and history, while we’re at it.) If you have a belief that runs directly counter to known facts and you feel it has to be every bit as real as science or history, ask yourself why. What would happen if you allowed that belief to be UPG, or personal mythology? What would happen if you let it go entirely? What would you have left, and what value does it have?

I can’t say where this process of questioning will take you, whether you’ll let go of your beliefs, or recategorize their place in your life, or just cling to them more tightly. Every person’s path winds in its own direction. But just as we have questioned our historical inaccuracies and come out the better for it, I think that as individuals and as a community we can benefit from really questioning scientific inaccuracies in the same way. Won’t you join me in this effort?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider picking up a copy of one of my books, which blend a naturalist’s approach to the world with pagan meaning and mythology–Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up is especially relevant!

No, You Cannot Change Lightning Waves With Your Brain

If all I did with my blog was tear apart pseudoscience masquerading as real science and promoted by pagans as being “proof our spirituality is real!!!” I would never write about anything else. Plus I would quickly despair for the future of our community instead of mostly focusing on the positives. But this particular piece of pseudoscience slithered across my Facebook feed over the weekend from a few different people. The short version is that it claims that a change in the frequency of Schumann resonances signals that human “vibrational frequencies” are rising, which somehow makes us better people and will soon usher in a better world where in we’re all nice to each other and nothing bad ever happens.

Ugh. Like I said, there were multiple folks who reposted this, but I’m going to keep my rant to my own space instead of arguing on someone else’s turf. This is yet another example of a fundamental misunderstanding of actual scientific principles on a couple of different levels.

For one thing, Schumann resonances are not some sort of super-special waves that measure how good humans have been (Santa Claus, is that you?) Here, you can read NASA’s writeup about them. It’s just a particular sort of wave caused by lightning in which waves of a certain frequency, which bounce along in between the Earth and its ionosphere, combine with themselves rather than dissipating normally. It’s kind of like when a bunch of people hold hands and skip across a field together, gaining more and more momentum with each skip, only it’s one person replicating themselves each time they hit the ground. The reason this happens is because these waves are so incredibly long they wrap around the earth two or three times, making it possible for a wave to overlap itself in just the right way.

I’ve seen people on FB claim that our brains are affected by Schumann resonances. But the fact is that they so much bigger than us–about 38,000 kilometers long for a 7.83 hertz wave (https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4352)–that we are simply incapable of detecting or interacting with them. And even if that were somehow different, animal brains wouldn’t be able to afford to be significantly affected by such forces. If our brains shifted significantly every time there was a lightning storm, or a solar flare, or any of the other waves that we normally don’t even notice, we wouldn’t be able to remain mentally stable enough to carry on our everyday activities and would die out. There are rare exceptions, but they’re when we’re literally out of our element–the only time our human bodies have to worry about solar flares, for example, is when astronauts, not protected by the Earth’s atmosphere (you know, the thing that shielded us from solar flares for billions of years so life could evolve to where it is now) have to be given artificial protection from radiation. Schumann resonances, by contrast, are not something that we would ever really have to worry about.

Moreover, the idea that we are able to “think hard” enough to change Schumann resonances is ridiculous. It is literally impossible for our thoughts and behaviors to have any effect on the frequency at which lightning emits electromagnetic waves. I mean, just comparing the relative electrical charge of a human brain and that of lightning shows there’s no way this can happen. The average working charge of the human brain is about .085 watts, roughly equal to that of a triple A battery. That’s because you can’t have ENTIRE brain firing off at once, without being used to do other things like, oh, making sure you keep breathing. (http://gizmodo.com/could-you-charge-an-iphone-with-the-electricity-in-your-1722569935) Compare that to a single lightning bolt which has about 10 billion watts  of energy (which, as http://www.windpowerengineering.com/featured/business-news-projects/how-much-power-in-a-bolt-of-lightning/ mentions, is about enough to power a 60 watt bulb for six months and then some.) The waves produced by such a massive outburst of energy are much too powerful for us to affect–the only things that affect them are massive, global/atmospheric conditions like seasons, solar activity and the Earth’s magnetic field (and no, we can’t change that ourselves, either.)

And considering our brains are pretty well insulated in layers of cerebrospinal fluid, bone and skin, it’s not like the electricity can easily leave our heads anyway. That means there is literally no way for our puny little electromagnetic waves to have an effect on lightning or the waves it produces. Even if you could somehow get every person thinking the same thing at the same time with all their brain (and somehow not suffocating because all involuntary functions have ceased, like breathing), there’s no way to focus it on a particular lightning bolt or its resulting wave, because it can’t get out of your skull, other than the meager waves that an electroencephalogram reads. So saying that our brains can affect Schumann resonances is like saying that throwing a handful of sand is going to move a mountain ten feet north. Yeah, sure, you can keep throwing that sand your whole lifetime, but the most you may do is wear a divot in the ground.

I love the pagan community, but I hate that so many pagans will swallow pseudoscience without question  and completely ignore the basics of how science works. It’s one thing to have beliefs about “how thoughts change reality” or somesuch. It’s another to take perfectly well-researched natural phenomena and bastardize the facts behind them so badly and then present them as “proof our religion is real!” I’ve already written about why trying to legitimize ourselves with really awful science is a bad idea and how collective experiences are often muddied up with confirmation bias. It’s just frustrating to sometimes feel like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness (which, ironically, was a voice about accepting something on blind faith.)

Moreover, this sort of pseudoscientific bullshit takes the focus away from the real efforts people are putting in to improve the world. We haven’t made all the positive changes we have in the past few decades–civil rights, environmental awareness, etc.–because somehow our “frequencies” changed. We achieved those changes because millions of people protested, and marched, and fought–and bled, and died. It is a slap in the face of all those who made huge sacrifices to say “Oh, well, people are just thinking nicer things and magically becoming more aware and vibrating differently.” A lot of those people wouldn’t have even encountered better ways to think or be without the efforts of those making real social and environmental changes with blood, sweat and tears.

By the way, that whole “changes in the global consciousness” thing? Simple explanation: we are apes, and apes are social animals. We have these things in our brains called mirror neurons, which cause us to want to imitate others–monkey see, monkey do. (Or ape see, ape do.) So when we model better ways of being to others, others are more likely to adopt what we do, even if it takes time and the aforementioned sacrifices. Socially, these ways of being become more acceptable and in the norm. None of this is magic, just the way our ape brains function–without having to pretend our little AAA battery electrical charges somehow can influence the waves created by lightning bolts.

And please don’t pull that whole “But science just hasn’t discovered it yet!” crap. What we undeniably know about both our brains and Schumann waves is more than enough to make this crackpot idea so highly unlikely that it is essentially impossible. Again: sand and mountain. No one is going to test the hypothesis for the same reasons no one is going to test whether jumping off a building and flapping your arms while visualizing yourself becoming a bird will actually result in you flying: we know enough about how physics and related sciences work to know that such an experiment would be a wasted effort.

Finally, this whole idea that we can affect massive electromagnetic waves with our brains is utterly arrogant and anthropocentric. We are not as important as we like think we are. We are not the Earth’s special children, blessed with amazing talents that allow us to have influence over forces that much greater than ourselves, especially without some form of technology. We are just mammals with big brains, opposable thumbs and upright, bipedal walking styles, and we have much more serious things to worry about than how we’re so great we change massive electromagnetic waves with our neurons.

I know I have other things on my mind, so I’m going to get back to preparing for the Tarot of Bones to arrive here later this month, and finishing up art for my Patrons on Patreon, and other stuff I really ought to be doing now that I’ve done my part to hopefully chase a little more pseudoscientific fluff out of my community.

Enjoy this post? Consider picking up a copy of my book Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up which, although it does some archetypal mythologizing of nature, is deeply rooted in natural history.

So Long, Patheos

So for those not already aware, there’s been quite the upset over at Patheos, where Paths Through the Forests, the blog I share with Rua Lupa, has been hosted the past few years. (She’s the one who created all the graphics for the blog, including the nifty banner above.) You can read about it in detail here, but the short version is BeliefNet bought Patheos last year, the new ownership is decidedly more fundamentalist Christian, and there are a lot of issues with the new contracts they want bloggers to sign. Add in that Patheos has been less than transparent in some of its response to critical posts, and I’ve just been getting increasingly leery of the whole situation.

Add me to the list of folks bowing out of Patheos entirely. Part of it is the recent controversies and my growing unease with the contract and Patheos’ response to our concerns. Part of it is also that I have a lot of time commitments right now, and I was never really able to give Paths Through the Forests the time and attention it really deserved. At this point I need to redirect my time and energy here at my personal blog, among other projects clamoring for my attention. I’ve already backed up my content, and sent an email to editors@patheos.com requesting that my material be permanently deleted.

I have enjoyed sharing blogspace with Rua Lupa the past few years, first at No Unsacred Place over at the Pagan Newswire Collective, and then at Paths Through the Forests. Thank you to Patheos Pagan editor Jason Mankey for trying to wrangle a big herd of cats, and thank you to all my fellow bloggers. I hope each of you can find a workable solution, whatever it may be.

In the meantime, I’m still going to be writing here on A Sense of Natural Wonder (check out my post on Multi-Layered Stone Totems from this morning, if you haven’t already!) And as my plate is always full to overflowing, you can expect continued creativity from me, from the Tarot of Bones and other hide and bone artwork, to Still Death, and more!