Guslyana Kartyushova, Russia
Faith, Lifestyle, Environment - Tight Interconnection
There hardly is a person who hasn’t heard of global environmental crisis. Mankind takes from the Earth more than it is able to give. Much less is told about the spiritual roots of that over-consumption and neglect of the Nature.
The idea common for all pagan philosophies is that human beings are just one of the numeral creature races inhabiting the world, not necessary the most important.
At the same time anthropocentrism is common for both monotheistic religions and atheistic materialism, which is ruling the modern world. For the last one, all trees, beasts, rocks and rivers are just “resources” for ever-growing industry. Neverstopping expansion called “progress” is considered to be the main goal of the mankind. Global economies need lingual, cultural, mental unification on one hand and deep specialization of each person on the other. Specialization takes people away from their landscape and cultural roots, converts them into screws of a trade machine.
From the Christian point of view, the whole world is no more than scene where the human drama is played. So the other creatures are not worth mentioning. Every material thing is temporary, therefore language we speak, things we use, clothes we wear don’t really matter.
Traditional belief discovers the sacral side of each aspect of everyday life.
For a pagan, hand-made clothes are not equal to machine-made ones. The things, inherited from parents are felt to be sacred, not just “out of fashion”. The Slavs sewed shirts for young kids of their parents’ shirts (even in wealthy families) in order to protect children with adults’ power.
The very old tradition of flax processing - from a seed to a shirt - was alive in Pskov land (in the north-west of Russia) where I live, until the 1970s. Of course, this process was full of sacral acts and meanings from spooling a thread to embroidering ornaments. Today only few old people remember all secretes of the craft and are able to show old tools in work; flax and fabric are imported from abroad.
We do believe that real national treasure is not oil and gas, but knowledge and skill that permit us to live in harmony with nature, to obtain necessary things from local resources without destroying and taking too much. Moreover, locally made things are often more durable and long-lasting than industrially-made ones, being both esthetically and environmentally precious. For example, houses built 200 years ago are still standing in good condition, but those built 40 years ago are already decayed. Old men in villages told me that logs for houses were cut only during frosty winter time and during old moon in certain sites. Nowadays wood is cut everywhere and anytime, so buildings don’t last long or need special chemicals.
I think that preserving such kind of knowledge is a great task for those who turn to traditional faith today.
There is another aspect of this issue I want to say about. Taking part in various pagan rites and celebrations in different places of Russia, I often had a feeling that we were displaying only a “skin” of a rite, not really understanding its contents, because participants’ everyday life is quite far from the ground from which this particular rite has grown.
Our ancestors were peasants and hunters, and the system of symbols corresponded with their lifestyle. For example, sacrificing food. In old times each person took part in creating food or at least had a chance to watch this process closely. Food was life. It was one of the sacred things and central symbol of welfare for all – from a king to a fisher. Simple dishes like bread, cereals, milk and vegetables were eaten with pleasure and thankfulness to Gods. Sharing food converted enemies into friends. Sharing food with the Gods (sacrificing, including sacrificing animals that meant sharing food, not just killing) make them closer and more available for a conversation. Today food is getting more and more sophisticated; it is full of artificial flavorings that are supposed to give it strong smell and bright color. People eat deeply processed, dead, empty food and disregard natural things. Though food, grown in our own gardens tastes quite different from the food bought at the supermarket.
A modern pagan doesn’t feel the same, when sacrifices bread to Gods (one of the central rites in the Slavs’ pagan worship) as he doesn’t really depend on it, he gets it tooeasily and gives it too easily as well. He\she doesn’t put much heart into the rite and therefore doesn’t get much out of it. Our parents and grandparents felt such things better, especially those who lived at the countryside. Today you can see many elder (not poor!) people who never through old bread away (“because it’s a sin”), but make crackers to store. Isn’t it paganism? But “dead” food is already occupying the countryside. People stop making butter and buy margarine, because it’s easy, cheap and advertised at TV…
We are the ones who not only possess the treasure of our ancestors, but have tobegin appreciating and cherishing it. I believe that real pagan revival is impossible without making our lifestyle more natural. Our Gods will show us the way.