The Dragon Journal: Issue 2

Make Your Voice Heard
As You Tread Gently On Our Mother Earth

by  David Rankine

Before buying crystals, remember to ask where the crystal comes from and how it was mined. A lot of crystals are strip mined, which is very harmful to the land, and when handled often have a feeling of being psychically fractured or distressed about them.

As pagans who care about the land we will not support strip mining. Open cast or strip mining excavates large chunks of land to extract precious minerals without needing to tunnel below the surface. It can cause short and long term environmental damage through accelerated soil erosion and through acid water damage.

The exposure of exposed fragmented rocks to water can also create acids such as sulphuric acid that degrade the environment. As strip mining eliminates the soil and overlying rock above a mineral deposit, this means that even with replanting after the mining is completed, it will still take many years for vegetation and animals to return to the land.

The origin of coral should also be checked before purchase. These ancient ecosystems are under threat from a variety of causes. The threats include dynamiting, cyanide poisoning and fine mesh nets (both for fishing), sewage and sedimentation pollution.

It is shocking to realise that coral reefs in every major tropical region of the world bleached white from pollution during the 1980's. This bleaching depresses coral growth rates and in some cases results in mass coral mortality and enormous aquatic population loss, and contributes to potential species extinctions.

The trade in ivory and resulting murder of elephants is to be abhorred and not supported. The way to do this is either (a) not buy ivory, or (b) only buy antique ivory. Ivory that is old (i.e. decades or more) goes a yellow colour and eventually to a yellowy-brown. If ivory is white or cream coloured, you know the elephant has been killed recently.

If you do buy ivory it is worth doing a ritual to Ganesha and asking His permission to use the ivory.

Whilst it has many positive aspects, Chinese herbalism also contains some very questionable practices. Obviously no concerned pagan would buy or support the horrific trade in powdered tiger bones or bear paw pads, or any other practice that results in the potential extinction of species and extreme cruelty to animals.

These disgusting trades and abuses of our environment are obviously not things you would wish to support, so please make your voice heard and counted by checking out these little details before buying that herb or beautiful crystal or piece of coral or ivory.

We can make a difference by not supporting companies or trades with questionable ethics and a damaging policy to our environment and the creatures which occupy it. Be true to the world and your principles.

Tread gently on the earth

When you go out into nature, it is preferable to walk some of the way (if driving don't park right next to the site even if it is possible) to start to attune before you reach the site.

A number of sites are on private land, and consideration must be given to the owners (often farmers) of this land and their livestock. As pagans we respect our environment, and that includes all the animals, plants and people on it.

So if you are tempted to drum into the early hours of the morning, remember how much this will disturb the local wildlife.

Exploring the site and meditating are probably the best ways to get the feel of it. During meditation you should get a feel for the type of energy in the place, and what sort of magickal work could be appropriately performed there. Some places have a strong death and transformation feeling (appropriate to Samhain), others a strong feeling of energy and growth (more appropriate to Eostra or Beltane), and so on.

Rituals should always be performed in harmony with the place you are working. Another important consideration at a site is trying to contact the site guardian, seeing if your intuition helps you contact it (or them). Often they are glad to be considered, and the contact is not too difficult. Sometimes they are hostile to certain things (like iron at some old or faery sites), which can be avoided once these are known.

Site guardians respond well to offerings, the nature of which can be determined through contact. We can make offerings and libations, the nature of which we can adjust to suit the site and the season. Making offerings of food and drink you have prepared, as with bread or homemade wine, has the benefit of giving back your own efforts and energies to the land. However, rather than always using red wine, it can be more appropriate to use drinks such as cider for Samhain, when it is appropriate as the fruit of wisdom and death and transformation (hence their use in apple bobbing, etc, at this time); hawthorn wine or mead for Beltane (the "May blossom"); barley wine for Lughnasadh is another obvious example with the ballad of John Barleycorn.

Non-alcoholic drinks such as milk have often been used in the past, milk and honey being offered in ancient times to deities such as Pan and Artemis. Apples are very good as an offering for site guardians as well as more usual offering of bread and cakes. Finding out what the site guardians would prefer is the obvious course of action in all cases, just don't be surprised if they have sweet teeth!

Of course all the Earth is sacred, and you do not have to go to an ancient site to make a contact, or to contact nature spirits. Any woods, rivers, ponds, open land, etc can be as rewarding to be in as a stone circle, if approached with the appropriate respect and consideration.

It is important to remember to leave any site in as good (or better) condition than you found it. Taking a bag to collect any rubbish should become part of your ritual. Site guardians tend to look more favourably on people who demonstrate care for their land.

In the same way, when you have finished working at a site, make sure you do not leave any containers, packets, candle wax or other materials or objects which do not belong at the site. Offering of food are fine as they are bio-degradable and can feed the local wildlife.

Natural places contain a wealth of plant and animal life with which we can learn to communicate, gain wisdom from, read auguries from, and in the cases of herbs and trees, use parts of them in healing, or in ritual work.

When gathering wild herbs for healing or ritual use, it is important to consider the environment. Do not gather rare herbs from the wild - use cultivated stock instead. Only take from nature that which nature has plenty of, and limit the amount you take to what you actually need. Most plants are more potent when the moon is waxing to full, as the sap is rising and the vital chemicals within are at their highest levels. Similarly, dawn is the best time of day to harvest most plants, when the dew is still on the plant, or for purposes of drying, when the dew has just evaporated.

However, there are some variations on this, and different plants have their own most potent times. Harvesting the plant in the correct planetary hour and day depending on the planetary rulership of the herb may also be beneficial, if you want to go into that much detail, but is not strictly necessary -it is better to gather the herbs as you need them.

There are many good books which give planetary correspondences of herbs, (Culpepers Complete Herbal to name but one). It is also important when gathering wild herbs to make contact with the plant spirits, and to ask for their permission to gather them, and for their help in the work for which you wish to use them.

When you gather the herb, first stroke the part of the herb that you are going to pick (the same goes for when cutting a wand from a tree), visualizing the energy in the herb separating, so that there is energy within the part you are gathering, but you are not taking all the plant's energy.

Visualize a gap in the energy, so that the point at which you cut or break the plant is "dead", and the plant will not be hurt by the cut. Next, seal the wound by gently holding the cut part of the plant and channelling healing energy to the plant. If a whole plant is gathered, it is best to use a magickal tool such as a consecrated knife to loosen the earth around the roots before pulling the plant out. An offering should immediately be made to the plant spirit (such as milk and honey poured onto the earth it has been pulled up from), and if the plant is in seed, return some of the seeds to the earth.

Gathering of herbs should always be done with care and reverence. As pagans we must lead the way in caring for our environment, by recycling, by not littering, by supporting animal welfare projects, by not supporting trades which practice wanton cruelty to animals like factory farming, by practicing our beliefs rather than paying them lip service to them.

In the words of Friends of the Earth,
"Think Global, Act Local."

© David Rankine

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