“What knowledge the people have forgotten is remembered by the land.”
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
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.
In Wild Gods we do not engage with our deities through worship only, but also through engagement with and understanding of the natural world. Even that “but also” suggests that these things are distinct, separable one from the other. But we do not exist at a time on this earth when we can afford to consider them so. Lupa explains why.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d.
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.
“We have been looking at the natural world as something separate from humankind, using the common definition of nature as everything that is not us and is not made by us. It’s one useful way to see the world, but to gain a wider view, it is ultimately essential to bring our own species into the picture–just another living creature, after all, as miraculous as the rest. The question–which nature?–applies to human nature as well.”
— J.B. MacKinnon, The Once and Future World
“Like the myth of his birth, therefore, the myths of the appearance of Dionysus also reveal much about his nature.
“At his conception the earthly was touched by the splendor of divine heaven. But in this union of the heavenly with the earthly, which is expressed in the myth of the double birth, man’s tear-filled lot was not dissolved but preserved, rather, in sharp contrast to superhuman majesty. He who was born in this way is not only the exultant god, the god who brings man joy. He is the suffering and dying god, the god of tragic contrast. And the inner force of this dual reality is so great that he appears among men like a storm, he staggers them, and he tames their opposition with the whip of madness. All tradition, all order must be shattered. Life becomes suddenly an ecstasy–an ecstasy of blessedness, but an ecstasy, no less, of terror.”
— Walter Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult
Hear me, Jove’s daughter, celebrated queen,
Bacchian and Titan, of a noble mien:
In darts rejoicing and on all to shine,
Torch-bearing Goddess, Dictynna divine;
O’er births presiding,* and thyself a maid,
To labour-pangs imparting ready aid:
Dissolver of the zone and wrinkl’d care,
Fierce huntress, glorying in the Sylvan war:
Swift in the course, in dreadful arrows skill’d,
Wandering by night, rejoicing in the field:
Of manly form, erect, of bounteous mind,
Illustrious dæmon, nurse of human kind:
Immortal, earthly, bane of monsters fell,
‘Tis thine, blest maid, on woody hills to dwell:
Foe of the stag, whom woods and dogs delight,
In endless youth who flourish fair and bright.
O, universal queen, august, divine,
A various form, Cydonian pow’r, is thine:
Dread guardian Goddess, with benignant mind
Auspicious, come to Mystic rites inclin’d;
Give earth a store of beauteous fruits to bear,
Send gentle Peace, and Health with lovely hair,
And to the mountains drive Disease and Care.