Original content first posted at Isáine’s other blog, Witch of the Wyldwood November 13, 2012 [Some revisions from the original have been made].
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The words fell from my lips, uttered over and over as I took in the landscape around me. I fought back tears that threatened to erupt from my eyes and run down my cheeks to mix with the rain that kissed them, falling in a steady drizzle from the gray November sky. But maybe I should have let them fall. I should have wept for the fallen. My feet made barely a whisper of sound as I trekked through the soft sand, stepping over and into the deep scores left marred there by the tracks of the machines of Man. For it was Man that had done this. Like the tears, I battled the urge to drop to my knees in the scarred sand and place my hands and face into the dirt, but maybe I should have given in to the need. Instead I trudged on, taking it all in. A feeling of utter misery began to rise like bile inside me. My soul screamed. This was murder. This was sacrilege. This was… words can barely describe the sensations bubbling up in my soul-mind, of the energy of the place, of the pain that resonated from it.
My nose caught wind of the scent of decay just as my eyes glimpsed over a flash of white against gray sand and wet, partially-burnt wood. The partial carcass of a young deer had been caught up in the mess of broken stumps and snapped limbs. The skull had been broken into pieces, each tiny antler button in a different place, the jaw bones still partially connected to skin hung from a log protruding from the pile, part of the hide stretched out over the logs. Much was missing. I knelt then, and taking two still-joined vertebrae into my hands I began to whisper… “We weep, we weep, for the forests of the dead.” It became my mantra as I walked. I returned to gather what bones I could to take home and consecrate, to release the spirit, and cleanse the parts for use in ritual, if They wished to be used thus.
I walked on. The piles rose at least a story tall in some places. Many of the trunks were wider across than I could have wrapped my arms around. All the bark was gone and the heartwood shone through, wet and smooth, glistening with rain. Roots, trunks, branches, it was carnage. The spirits cried out, the wailing echoing with the pattering of rain softly falling on wood and sand. I blinked through the rain drops like tears and stepped closer here and there, placing my palms on the dirty, wet logs feeling the pain, searching. I took pieces here and there and set them aside. I rounded a bend and found a pile full of gnarled, red wood. I thought it cedar, but wasn’t sure. I placed my hands on the solid hardwood and when I pulled them away it was like blood on my hands, rust-red. I wiped it across my face. Blood of the fallen. Marks of a pledge.
Around another bend I spotted a gnarled head of red wood and fought to free the log weighing at least as much as myself, if not twice as much. It was caught by other branches and when I finally freed it, in my mind’s eye flashes of images flitted by: a post, standing sentinel, fetches draped over it, bones and blood, milk and honey and mead poured into the earth at its base. I drug it from where it lay to take with me. My coven-mates who had gone with me were hesitant, unsure. They felt it best to leave it. “It is unforgiving,” Midnight said to me, unease etching the manner of his face. “It remembers the manner of its death. It remembers Man.” They both stood on either side of me looking down at the log. “You must take care of it,” the Bear says to me. “Spend time with it every day, work with it, give it offerings.” I nod, not sure of myself now. But when I thought of doing those things, the images returned to my mind and a feeling of “this is right” settled deep in my belly, and I took it home with the bones of the young stag.
As I sit and write this, because I had to, I think of all the trees cut down, of it all around us. These trees were clear-cut, bulldozed, and burned. All to build houses. In this particular area, the first time I had driven by and noticed that the forest was gone and seen the piles from a distance, it was as if something had wrenched my mind and my eyes from my control and made me look. The spirits wailed in my mind and my breath hitched in my throat. I had thought that was bad, but it was nothing compared to being there, being among it, touching it. It marked my soul. The images are burned in my mind and I feel like screaming with the spirits killed there, trapped there. I know not how the people who do that job can live day to day performing such acts of destruction. How are they not affected? How can they not see? Feel? It makes me think of the book I’m reading, The Legacy of Luna, about a woman who sat in an old-growth California Redwood tree for two years living on a tiny platform 180 feet in the air to save the forest, and the tree they called Luna. Of how reading the story, and other stories like it, it all seems so distant. It is bad, it saddens us, we say that we want to help, that we want to do something, but we don’t really feel the conviction that we feel after being there, of experiencing it first hand. Many of them were old, old trees with more than just a simple life-energy. They had sentience, spirits. And they were destroyed in an instant. Cut down for nothing other than greed with no regard for the consequences or who or what would be effected after.
Blood of the fallen smeared across my cheek. Mark of a pledge made while surrounded by death. “We weep, we weep, for the forests of the dead.” A mantra. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Words that cannot change what happened. But maybe, we can stop it from happening again, and again. We say that we are Pagans, Witches, that we work with the energies and spirits of the land. That we are “protectors” of the natural world. That we follow “earth-based” religions or spiritual paths. But how many of us are actually what we say we are? How many of us step up and step into our roles as stewards of land and beast, as woodsmen and [true] pagans? Maybe some of us recycle, sometimes, or do things that we think make us “environmentalists” when we find them convenient, or when we “have time”. The time is now. The place is here, there, everywhere. The person to do something is you, don’t wait for someone else to step up.
Be the change you want to see in the world, says Ghandi. In the words of the Witch of Forest Grove,“Recycling does not make you an environmentalist. Choosing the beef jerky that wasn’t made from cows herded in clearings that were once part the Amazon rainforest does not make you an environmentalist. Having a garden does not make you an environmentalist. Do you want to help? Do you want to apologize? For real? Collect garbage from your local green spaces and clear out invasive species. Join a committee or board of a local park or area. Plant trees after first learning how to do it properly. Donate money to conservation efforts or volunteer to help. Volunteer at wild animal rescues. Vote for laws in your municipality to protect trees from being cut down and to protect parks and green spaces from development.”
Take up arms. Do spells, leave offerings, get physical. Connect with your local nature spirits, find a tree to work with. Leave offerings outside, do a spell to stop a building company or logging company nearby. Do something. Work to save this planet that is your Mother. Work to save and honor the trees that you call your brethren, and animals your kin, the elements your gods. Or there will be nothing left.
After having multiple conversations with practitioners of various pagan paths and reading an article I found on Eco-Paganism, I have realized that my use of the term “true-pagan” was incorrect. Pagans have varying levels of interaction with nature and nature spirits. Some are more “esoteric” and focus more on spiritual growth than working with the environment, though they may consider the Earth a sacred body containing Spirit. Then there are others who are more Animist, more “field” pagans in the words of Dr. Adrian Harris and are more concerned with the environment and taking care of and working with the Spirits found there. I acknowledge this difference between the many paths of pagan, but I still stand by my belief that if you claim to follow an “earth-based religion or path” and believe Nature is Sacred, that you should try working with your local nature spirits, leave offerings at a particular tree or grove, get active in your community and state legislatures involving environmentalism, pick up trash when you see it (which we ALL should do regardless of religion), etc. as a part of your spiritual practice as well as your duty as a pagan and/or witch to protect the Earth Mother.
Here is a good article on Eco-Paganism:
Land Guardianship Article: