For several years the pagan community’s largest publisher has offered volumes of fluff and waste with the occasional good book, but with Pagan Visions Llewellyn has produced a solid book of essays written on one of the most vital topics of our generation. Sustainability is linked with architecture, farming, ranching, business and environmental issues. According to Wikipedia, sustainability is defined as “a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term.”
Pagan Visions begins with an essay by Emma Restall Orr on pagan ethics. Morality based on neither a carrot nor a stick as in other spiritual paths, but on a simple yet respectful interaction between the human mind and our environment. Orr cites that religious morality tightens when the upper classes are threatened. She also asks if our environmentalist actions are defined by what is good for the world at large or if they are human-centered? There are a few places where Orr becomes as superior sounding as a fundamentalist in any faith stating that right-minded pagans are all vegans and home school their children. Thankfully, that is one of the few narrow views offered in this collection.
“Magickal Ecology” has a strong explanation of the “Negative Confession of Maat” as a vision to sustain life and future. Akkadia Ford presents us with what she refers to as a “sobering realization…. As life is preserved, a paradox presents itself: to sustain human life, we each daily take life.” Whether it is the life of plants or the life of animals or that of our natural surroundings we are interfering on a continual basis. The Negative Confession, which was originally a funerary papyrus said by the deceased as the Triumph of Order (Maat) over Chaos (Isfet), lists negative behaviors that he/she did not participate in. This addressing of deeds not done is directly opposite of listing personal accomplishments at the pearly gates and shows focus on a greater world than the self. As it did in ancient Egypt, this process can hold great meaning for us today when conscious decisions about basic items such as food or clothing can have worldwide impact.
Marina Sala gives us the usual historical look at the relationships of gender and the evolution of religious bias. But she takes the gender debate further, explaining that social and political interactions are an endless game of reaction and retribution based on fear. She talks not just of rights of passage in ritual for women but the desire by men to redefine their roles in a balanced world.
Dr. Douglas Ezzy discusses how he is connected on a deep level with what he refers to as The Mountain, which was the view from his childhood bedroom window. He tells us how The Mountain provides the water he drinks and irrigates the food he eats, the air he breathes comes in cold winds down the mountainside It is his weather channel, his geographical anchor, and his friend. When we become removed from the natural world we begin to imagine our food comes only from the big box on the corner and we rationalize cutting down old-growth forests for cheap paper to wrap the cheap hamburgers from cattle grazed in the destroyed Amazon.
A challenging cry comes from Gordon MacLellan in his essay titled “Dancing in the Daylight.” “Where are the Pagans?” he asks. He asserts that for a spirituality that claims to be nature-based most pagans have chosen seclusion based on fear instead of public activism and celebration.
Generally, this book inspires the reader to review life as a pagan and to look deeper at the impact of choices in respect to living harmoniously on our planet. Throughout the book are essays of Australian activists with a notable exception of a strong interview with and essay by Starhawk, America’s most visible pagan activist. Pagan Visions is one of the most important pagan books of the decade.
~review by Denise Bell
edited by: Ly de Angeles, Emma Restall Orr, & Thom van Dooren
Featuring essays by: Ly de Angeles, Dr. Douglas Ezzy, Akkadia Ford, Dr. Susan Greenwood, Gordon MacLellan, Dr. Val Plumwood, Emma Restall Orr, Marina Sala, Dr. Sylvie Shaw, Starhawk, Thom van Dooren
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005