|Pagans, Raw Vegans and Environmentalists! Oh My!—A Summer Solstice Celebration for All|
|Saturday, 21 June 2014 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
The English word “pagan” comes from the Latin paganus, which translates as "country dweller." Over time, the meaning encompassed not just the location of these dwellers, but also the way they lived and what they believed, both of which were close to nature. Pagan began to imply a special relationship with plants, weather, seasons and other natural phenomena that "refined" city dwellers experienced less often and less directly. As modern religions swept the European continent (often by force), pagan took on a religious connotation, coming to mean "anyone not Christian" or more derogatorily, "heathen." By extension, the linguistic and literal attacks on country dwellers—their beliefs and way of life—can be seen as an outright attack on everything natural.
In days of old, I'm not sure that many country dwellers would have used the term pagan to describe themselves or their spirituality—it was just natural for them to heed the seasons, observe the stars, heal with plants and learn from the wildlife surrounding them. But in modern times, there has been a resurgence of people reclaiming the title pagan specifically as a spiritual term. Paganism has become a quasi-religion, basically tolerant and built around nature's ancient wisdom. It is both my joy and my sorrow to report that although paganism can be seen as a spiritual practice, it is not an organized religion. The good news about not being organized is that there are neither rules nor dogma to adhere to; the bad news is that many people (including some of its members) still aren't exactly sure what the heck paganism is.
When I call myself a pagan in public, I still notice a few uncomfortable chuckles or squirming seats. This always surprises me because I also call myself a raw vegan and an environmentalist, which mean essentially the same thing to me: one who works with nature. In the case of pagans, the work is often magical with elements, gardens, seasons and planets. In the case of raw vegans, the work is often physical with foods, water, air and sunshine. And in the case of environmentalism, the work is often ecological with ground water, soil, air quality and indigenous species. To me, in fact, there is no difference. Pagans are nature worshipers, raw vegans are sun children and environmentalists are Earth stewards. And it makes complete sense to me that those who combine all three of these disciplines into their lives will be most effective in reaching their goals.
I am embarrassed to say that I still know raw vegans who are not environmentalists, consuming as they do an almost exclusively petro-plastic packaged diet of highly refined superfoods shipped using fossil fuels from mainly third-world countries. And I know environmentalists who are not pagans—cleaning up the oceans while maintaining that we were created out of sin and that our very flesh is our condemnation. And I know pagans who are not raw vegans—setting aside hours each day for honing their meditation practice and intuitive skills, but clouding all that work with diet sodas, ice cream and animal products. It is only natural to me to combine all three lifestyles—and almost impossible for me to do otherwise.
The summer solstice (sometime between June 20th and 21st, depending on the year, in the northern hemisphere) is an opportunity for us to celebrate in a very pagan sense. Whether you consider it a religious holiday or not, it comes with gifts for everyone to enjoy. The word solstice derives from the Latin words sol, meaning "sun," and stice, indicating "standing still." The sun appears to stand still in the sky on this day, in the sense that it is up there for so long—daylight hours are the year’s longest on this day and the hours of darkness are shortest.
The summer solstice is a major astrological event that would have been noted as far back as humans first looked up into the sky. For religious pagans, it is a major sabbat, or festival. For a country dweller, it is the time to uproariously celebrate another year of life, for when the days become darker and the seasons colder, plants, animals and humans alike will fight for the chance to see the next summer.
The way I see it, there is only one summer solstice for each year I get to live. That means if I live to be 120, then I will have gotten to see only 120 summer solstices and so, for goodness’ sake, I am not missing out on a single one! So it should come as no surprise that summer solstice sunrise is a major event in my personal spirituality. I choose to celebrate by staying up all night, or at least waking myself up early enough to usher in this sun in its most potent manifestation. I scry it, dance it, yoga it and, like a good plant/animal, I accept the light it gives off as the light that I am. And hoping for another year, I pledge to protect the things in nature that give me and my loved ones life.
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