Homegrown Religion

For many centuries, religion has been seen as something separate from everyday life, mostly relegated to Sundays in Christian-dominated countries, and absent for the most part throughout the rest of the week. Certain modern charismatic and fundamentalist denominations of Christianity do talk about a daily religious experience or undertaking, but the actual realities of their adherents does not often correspond with the ideal.

But this was not always the case. Prior to the rise of monotheism in particular, religion, or to be more accurate, spirituality, was a constant daily activity – one that is still practised by indigenous non-Christianized or Islamicized tribes throughout the world even today. The apparent disconnect seems to be in the conception of religion. Religion as practised throughout much of human history has two aspects – the personal and the communal. The communal aspect is what gets the most press, with its state rituals, community-led sacrifices and large festivals celebrating major powers. But in the average person’s life, what mattered more was the personal and familial religion – the quiet rituals, simple offerings, and integrated animism that saw each deer a brother worthy of grief, each blade of wheat a mother sustaining her children, the small spirits that might be assuaged from destroying your house with a simple bowl of rice as an offering(1). Their religion was intensely personal, very often private, and sensitive to the specificities and needs of their own lives, their own households, and their own environments.

One of the goals of the Waincraft movement and model is to help modern religious persons recapture that integrated sense of wholeness and connectedness. One way that this can be done is by encouraging personal development, such as described by the key concept of orthopsychy and its related practices. Another is the focus and topic of this post – bringing the model’s concepts and ideas into each person’s unique and individual circumstances and life.

Part of this entails learning, or rather, re-learning to see the world as alive and ensouled in every part, not just our fellow humans and some favored animals. Everything that exists is alive, everything has a soul, the Universe itself is an intelligent evolving being that we form a small part of. This idea of an ensouled Universe has been termed many things by ancient peoples – the Great Web, the Pattern, the Wheel, Wyrd, Fate, a World Tree that lives eternally, the World Mountain from before the dawn of time. Adopting, and finally assimilating, this new-to-us way of seeing and being can be difficult in our modern world that tells us nothing is valuable, not even ourselves, everything is an object to be used or exploited. But it is our natural state of being, honed over millennia of pre-industrial and pre-Cartesian human experience.

And in learning to see and be in this new, interconnected world that exists all around and inside of us, we find that the things that matter to us may change, or that our values and morals and ethics adjust to take in this expansive new paradigm. No longer are we cut off from the world, doing more harm than good; rather, we are once again an integral part, fulfilling our role in the great dance of existence.

No one can form your values and morals for you but you. But there are some common changes and ideals that people who undergo this transformation seem to adopt. I am going to share a brief list of these. You may find yourself nodding along, or questioning why this and not that – by all means, do so! You will form the values, morals and ethics that make sense for you. There is no such thing as a universal ethical code; only a Universal life.

Kinship – In a more-than-human world, we find ourselves part of a Big Family that most of us never knew, or only half-suspected, existed. Every animal is a brother or sister or uncle; every plant a cousin or grandmother; every tree and stream and mountain and ocean a distant relative you’ve only just now met, really met, for the first time. Like any family, we may appreciate some more than others, and downright hate a few, but they are ours, and in a family like ours, no one gets left behind or forgotten, not even the tiniest ant struggling by with a grain of rice.

Magic – The modern world sneers at the idea of magic, thinking only of parlor tricks or high-publicity stunts. But there is an inescapable magic all around us – in a sunrise over the clouds painting in red and gold; in a tree so old and so high that it seems to have existed forever; in the view from atop a mountain where all the world seems visible and the sky only a stretch away; in the touch of fur on skin, or skin on skin; in the crooning of a mother to her child; in the laughter of a baby discovering their toes; in the look shared between old, familiar lovers; in the cry of a wolf on a moon-lit night; in the seductive yet coy scent of a wild rose; in stars that are only a memory by the time we see their light, and in stars that have been the same for as long as our human memory has existed. There is big magic and little magic and in-between magic, but the one thing that is not true is that there is no magic.

Love – The Universe is bursting with Love; indeed, one could say that the Universe exists because of Love. There is a reason why certain Greek tales had Eros as the beginning of all things. Even science confirms this – one of the primary forces that drives the universe is gravity. And what is gravity? It is the mutual attraction of one thing to another thing that draws them together; the Universe is as it is because all the objects within it are constantly being drawn towards every other object simultaneously.

Grief – Our world is in dire shape. Humans have polluted, cut down, destroyed, or exterminated much of the wondrous variety and beauty this planet once had. And on top of that, there is the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, even decades after the Cold War ended, and the rising impact of human-driven climate change that will continue to drive species and bioregions into extinction. Most people in the modern world ignore or even actively repress their natural state of grief over these events, and many doctors and psychologists are all to eager to prescribe a pill to “solve” the supposed problem. Grief, like death, in our culture is not seen as a natural part of existence, but something to be avoided and numbed away when we finally are forced to experience it. But when we open ourselves to the world as it is just on the other side, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with the grief and sorrow we have too-long ignored. Embracing and accepting this grief is a vital step in reclaiming our heritage.

Joy – Joy, like grief, is too often misunderstood in our modern culture. It is not eternal happiness and smiles all the time; nor is it ignoring the harder or negative aspects of life and living in a bubble. Joy, true joy, comes from living as we were meant to – being the people we were born to be, doing the work that only we can do, and sharing that with the rest of the world. Joy is what our lives become when they align with our true purpose; and joy is and contains all of our existence, including the scraped knees and the broken hearts, the illnesses and the losses, the successes, the moments of pure pleasure and wonder, the moments of despair and unquenchable tears.

Wonder – This world we live in is full of beauty and mystery. Our lives are strings of potentially beautiful moments, ones we could bring into being if we could recognize them for what they are. Children do it instinctually – they are fascinated by the crawl of a caterpillar or the sparkling of a dewdrop on a spiderweb; they wonder at the stars in the sky; they seek to understand and grasp the grand and immense mystery of what makes water wet. Sadly, this sense of wonder is often trained (or worse, beaten) out of them before they even reach double digits in age, and few adults can find that wonder again without a lot of hard effort.

1. David Abram relates a story with exactly that motif from his sojourn in Bali in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous. You can read the excerpted chapter here: http://www.primitivism.com/ecology-magic.htm