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The Soul of Nature:
The Meaning of Ecological Spirituality

Copyright 1996 by Lynna Landstreet. See contents page for full permissions.

14: Spirituality, culture and identity

There is, of course, a certain amount of overlap between the neo-pagan movement and spiritual deep ecology. The concept of divinity immanent within nature, the centrality of Gaia/Mother Earth imagery, the emphasis on seasonal cycles -- the Earth First! Journal is published on the eight major Wiccan festivals -- and so on. Both groups tend to share a concern with bioregionalism -- learning to live "in place", to belong to the place where you live. And there are important ways in which the two movements can complement each other, with deep ecology providing an explicitly political framework within which neo-pagans can apply their commitment to the earth, and Wicca and neo-paganism providing more suitable sources for ritual material for non-Native deep ecologists wishing to avoid cultural appropriation.

In fact, some native activists have explicitly told people of European ancestry to start working with their own ancestral religions instead of pirating native beliefs. In a political speaking tour of Germany, Ward Churchill, Bob Robideau, Annette Jaimes and Paulette D'Auteuil told audiences of European "wanna-be's" in no uncertain terms to stick to their own roots:

You seem to feel that you are either completely disconnected from your own heritage of having been conquered and colonized, or that you can and should disconnect yourselves from it as a means of destroying that which oppresses you. We are not unique in being indigenous. Everyone is indigenous somewhere You are not necessarily part of the colonizing, predatory reality called "Europe." You are not even necessarily "Germans," with all that implies. You are, or can be, who your ancestors were and who the faith-keepers of your cultures remain: Angles, Saxons, Huns, Goths, Visigoths. The choice is yours, but in order for it to have meaning, you must meet the responsibilities that come with it.[55]

Elsewhere, Churchill states, in a viewpoint strikingly similar to that of the cultural reconstructionist traditions within neo-paganism, that:

What we have to understand is that in order for Europeans to do what they have done to virtually all non-Europeans, all non-Westerners on the planet, they had to colonize themselves. These colonizers are colonized.

They too are indigenous people. Not here. But somewhere they are indigenous people, with indigenous understandings of the land, and all the things we counterpoise to the predator reality that engulfs us now. They need to get back in touch with that, you see. They must recover that which was taken from them in the process of colonization, taken in the same fashion that things are being taken from us now.

And it may be that we [Natives] can be helpful to them in that regard, once they have recognized the need for that to occur, to get back to what it meant to be Gaelic or Celtic, to find out what Anglo-Saxon really meant before the synthesis of "Europe" was effected. I can talk to Basques and Celts. I can't talk to Europeans.[56]



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