"One of the theses of A Language Older Than Words is that we have an entire culture suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder. We're incapable of forming relationships on both personal and social levels. If you've been traumatized, you come to believe that you've got to control your surroundings. You come to believe that all relationships are based on power, based on atomized individuals acting selfishly, as our economics would have us believe. Our culture has a fundamental death urge, and unless it's stopped it's going to kill everything on the planet." - Derrick Jensen
Sacred Lands is a diverse collection of humans who have come to the conclusion that the way we are currently living is unhealthy, and fundamentally immoral. Our morality in this case is not based on mysterious dogma passed down, and misinterpreted, over many generations, but instead it is based on a simple and profound awareness and understanding of the world around us.
Put simply, our morality is based on that which is natural.
Of course the most obvious question then becomes; what is natural?
Well some would suggest that because humans are natural that everything humans do or create is natural. Chainsaws are natural. Nuclear bombs are natural. Our economics are natural. Sex slavery is natural. Asphalt is natural. Cars are natural. Polluted water is natural. A devastated world is natural. A devastated psyche is natural. Unbridled exploitation is natural. Pure objectification is natural.
This is, of course, nonsense.
We evolved from, and so are embedded in, the natural world. We evolved as social creatures who require love, affection and social contact. We require clean water to drink, or we die. We require clean air to breathe, or we die. We require food, or we die.
Therefore, anything that helps us to understand all of this is natural: Any ritual, artifact, process, action is natural, to the degree that it reinforces our understanding of our embeddedness in the natural world, and any ritual, artifact, process, action is unnatural, to the degree that it does not.
So how does this translate into a practical moral compass that we can use in our day to day life? One obvious way is simply the fact that if we hold sacred that which is natural, then the things that enrich our lives, and support the community of life upon which we depend, will remain healthy and vital. However, if we continue to erode the social fabric of our lives, and the ecological fabric of the world around us, then things will continue to degenerate as they have done for the past 6000 years, and it will all come crashing down. Aren't we seeing evidence of that today?
Our mission is to remind humans that we are not, nor can we ever be, separated from the Earth. We are animals, and though we may be different (as no two animals are alike), we are not of greater value than any other. We have no special rights handed down from some far off power.
We are one strand in the web of life on this planet, and we are magnificent creatures. Just as birds are magnificent, and algae is magnificent, and deer are magnificent. This amazing world that we share with our brothers and sisters in the community of life was not made for us alone, nor is it ours to conquer, rule or exploit. We are fellow beings in a world teeming with life, and it's about time that we remembered.
See What's wrong with the world? to learn more.
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What about Deities?
We do not believe in one, all powerful god who looks down on us, dealing out judgements on a whim. Nor do we strictly believe in many gods who are basically like humans with a lot of nifty powers. We are animists, and so what we have isn't called belief in the strictest sense of the word. We experience the world directly, and understand that everything in the world -- including ourselves -- is sacred. Everything in the world -- and indeed the universe -- is interconnected, and everything has a spirit. We don't pray to some far off person. Instead, we listen to the world around us and hear what is has to say. It speaks to us through other animals, the wind, the stones, the grass, and our fellow humans. It is a kind of music or harmony that moves through everything, and once you hear it, you'll not be able to ignore it again. We are an experiential church, and so no belief is required.
That being said, we are aware that humans are symbolic creatures, and though this may seem to contradict the previous statement, we often call upon specific gods and goddesses to represent the things to which we are trying to relate. Based on our western European heritage, our gods, goddesses and traditions tend to be Celtic, though of course much of it has had to be reconstructed since we know comparatively little about western European spirituality. More often, we use older and more basic images such as the Horned God, the Great Mother, and the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.
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The Circle and the Spiral
Many cultures have seen the circle or spiral as a representation of the sacred. The Celts -- whose ancestors represent the great majority of our congregation -- were no different in this respect, and so we too use these symbols in our spiritual practices.
See The Great Circle to learn more...
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Moon Nights and Holy Days
Our world view sees us as a integral part of the community of life, and our gods immanent in the world around us. Our ceremonies, rituals and holy days (or holidays if you prefer) reflect this world view.
Bound as we are to the culture around us, we are still compelled to use the standard Roman calendar for scheduling and day to day business, but when it comes to issues of spiritual celebration, our yearly cycle begins on November 1st rather than January 1st. The year is divided up into 13 lunar months with each full moon named for the energy that it embodies, and 8 solar holidays that correspond to the solstices, equinoxes and the cross-quarter days. The lunar cycle drifts significantly from year to year, but begins with the first full moon after Samhain. The names of the moons are as follows:
- Dark or Spirit Moon
- Cold Moon
- Quiet Moon
- Ice Moon
- Wind Moon
- Growing Moon
- Bright Moon
- Honey Moon
- Horse Moon
- Storm Moon
- Stag Moon
- Harvest or Singing Moon
- Dragon or Blood Moon
The solar holidays are less fluid, though they do drift a bit, with the solstices and equinoxes oscillating back and forth, year after year, over a roughly four day period. For example, the summer solstice can fall anywhere from June 19th through June 23nd depending on the year in question. There are many variations on the cross-quarter days which fall roughly in the middle between the solstices and equinoxes. Like many traditions however, we generally celebrate these days on the same date each year for simplicity sake. The solar holidays are as follows:
- Yule (Winter Solstice)
- Imbolc (February 1st)
- Ostara (Spring Equinox)
- Beltane (May 1st)
- Litha (Summer Solstice)
- Lammas (August 1st)
- Mabon (Autumnal Equinox)
- Samhain (November 1st)
The specific method of celebration depends of the time of year and the holiday in question. Some holiday celebrations, such as those of Imbolc and Mabon are small, while others are times of great festival like Yule, Lammas and Samhain.
More coming soon...
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Rituals and Celebrations
There is a difference that is often overlooked between rituals and celebrations. Some often use the terms interchangeably, but that is not our way. To be an animist means that we recognize that all life, and everything around us is sacred. That means that there is no delineation between our spiritual lives and our practical lives (cooking, cleaning, washing, eliminating, etc.)
The rituals and celebrations of Sacred Lands are quite eclectic and diverse, but there are certain aspects that are common throughout. In general, our rituals are inclusive to those in attendance, which means that everyone participate to one degree or another.
More coming soon...
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