by Chris & Katie LaFond
One Step Sideways: When the Divine is Feminine
The morning opened with a panel discussion featuring four pagan animist speakers moderated by Dr. Drake Spaeth of Earth Traditions. We addressed the current climate crisis and how we see it as a logical consequence of the patriarchal, hyper-masculinized environment we find ourselves in.
Rev. Angie Buchanan, also of Earth Traditions started with her focus on the connectedness of everything, offering the analogy and example of mycelium, which permeates much of the ground we walk on. She drew on her experience as a Death Midwife as she spoke on the pagan world view as a connected web.
Dr. Derrick Sebree, Jr., a psychologist at the Michigan School of Psychology and practitioner of Hoodoo, spoke as an animist and person of color, spoke about his work in the field of climate psychology, and the importance of the whole, not just the parts. His most salient point was probably pointing out that, from the perspective of race, we as humans don’t even see each other fully, which makes seeing other beings as fully alive even more challenging.
Rev. Byron Ballard addressed the interconnectedness of all beings and specifically some of her work in the interfaith movement, pointing out that with hard work, it is possible to work with spiritual communities that we might assume are so different as to be beyond reach. The second point she made was that while some of the “traditional” religions can claim to be 6,000 years old (or more), these hills (the Appalachians in her case) were far older and full of wisdom. Finally, she warned that nature will always seek balance. Because humans have become apex predators, nature will find ways to restore the balance, as long as we refuse to do it ourselves.
Finally, Chris LaFond took on the legacy of colonialism in the dismissal of the feminine in the conception of the divine. First, the religious and spiritual colonization of pre-Christian Europe, and then the European-Christian colonization of Africa, Asia, and eventually Australia and the Americas. The suppression of any hint of the divine feminine has wounded much of the world. He pointed out that the divine feminine is not equivalent with “woman,” and asked those present to keep in mind what the divine feminine might even mean or look like for feminine-and masculine-presenting people, because our society at large is currently lacking good models for this. He drew the connection that in most cultures, the Earth is considered “Mother” and feminine, and when we denigrate the feminine, then the Earth is profane. In a connected point, he addressed the idea that is often found in interfaith circles that we are all “on the same path,” or “going to the same place,” and how that is not true at all from a pagan animist perspective. But that it doesn’t have to be true to work together. He finished by quoting Andras Corban Arthen, that “the Earth is not our home, the Earth is what we are.”
A Parliament tradition since 2004 in Barcelona, the Sikh community once again is offering Langar this week. Langar is a free meal that is a part of the Sikhs’ service commitment to the larger community. All who come are fed a delicious vegetarian meal, prepared in large pots and served to those who come. Everyone sits on the ground and eats the same meal from the same pots, a ritual demonstration of the equality of all. The practice has been part of the Sikh tradition since the time of its founder, Guru Nanak. On the way in to the dining area, a display provided information and photos about the origins of Sikhism, of langar, and of kirtan, the practice of ritual chanting. Sharing a meal like this is also an excellent opportunity to meet others at the Parliament and break bread together.