The Green Life versus The Silver Life
The ol’ Witch in the woods had a couple of beeswax candles, the Sun, Moon and stars and knowledge of the uses of herbs in her area to use in her practice. The modern Witch has the world at their fingertips at the click of a mouse button. Were things better in her time, without the cacophony of engine noise, the persistent hum of computers, and mobile phone signals that clog up the air? Or are we far better off out of the dark ages, living comfortable lifestyles without constant fear of persecution and with worldwide sharing of information?
I’ve always been a bit of a sci-fi geek, always fascinated with modern technology. I’m not a Mathematician or a Scientist – I’m a writer, and I spent my teen-hood making stories from ideas based upon Space exploration and travel. Most of the fiction I’ve ever written involves futuristic civilizations living in artificial cities built in Space, the ideas of which were researched through a lifelong fascination of ‘what’s out there’, and ‘where mankind will go with it all’. I’ve also always been a sucker for post- apocalyptic dramas and films; there’s nothing quite like the thrill of the sight of well- known cities like New York being mass flooded and frozen over as in The Day after Tomorrow, or deserted and left to nature to take over like in I am Legend, or even taken over by vicious aliens as in The War of the Worlds. In fact, any fiction where the planet freezes over or burns to a crisp or explodes will generally have me on the edge of my seat.
Like any young person, I wouldn’t be without my laptop, mobile and iPod, these things which make our day to day lives so much quicker, easier and more enjoyable. Find me a housewife who’d be without her prize washing machine or a businessman who’d function for a day without his Blackberry or iPhone. I’ve also always had a thrill for travel, particularly to far- flung, exotic places. It’s soggy and grey most of the year where I live, and like many Brits I’m a bit of a sun- seeker. How easy it is just to bulldoze normal life to one side, hop on a cheap flight and be transported into a sunnier, warmer, care- free world.
So you can see where we hit the snag.
Does the slow- paced, Earth- reverence lifestyle of Paganism not present the exact opposite sort of mentality? Pagans live in the here and now, grounded in the present, not worrying frantically about next week or mulling endlessly over a past loss or failure. The majority of us are focused mainly on environmental issues. (Would you let your backyard turn into a mini landfill site?) This is the reason so many Pagans pour so much effort into protecting the environment, everyone’s back yard, and many enjoy nothing more than a walk through sylvan parks, forests and alongside tinkling streams rather than in the pristine, perfectly geometric stone and metal cities of my imagination.
Air travel is of-course a big no-no, so that’s potentially struck off my ‘How to be a Perfect Pagan’ list, being the largest producer of Co2 as forms of transport go. Pagans who travel abroad often attempt to use trains or ferries unless no such alternative is available or practical for the journey being made. If all else fails, though, I’m told that planting a tree will cancel out the Carbon Dioxide produced by a medium- haul flight.
All the silver shiny things that make up our day to day lives, the computers that make us stay- indoorsy robots and the mobile phones that distract us for hours and hours on end from our natural surroundings, those things that make our lives easier and more enjoyable on the surface, but in the long term cause fatigue, depression and stress due to our over- busy lives and lack of communication with Earth’s energies – how on Earth do we fit it into a modern Pagan lifestyle?
After all Pagans fulfill a variety of jobs and careers – there are Pagan IT technicians, plumbers, teachers, actors, writers… we wouldn’t be able to live in this age without technology. The answer is compromise, to combine the two. We can’t progress without embracing modern technology. Without the wonders of the Internet this article wouldn’t be reaching you. And ‘Progress’, when used to justify annihilating thousands of acres of rainforest, to deplete the world’s natural resources and to allow alarmingly and unnaturally rapid shift in the Earth’s climate, really makes me cringe.
It needn’t be like this. It’s industrial- age thinking. Progress as a species to me means developing sustainable ways of generating energy and living, while developing our technology without compromising our ozone layer or environment. This is of course easier said than done, but for me part of being a witch is always asking questions, always exploring new ideas and better and more eco- friendly ways of doing things.
The term ‘Techno-Pagan’ is becoming more and more widespread, to describe those who would use the Internet to network with other Pagans and bring together people and ideas. According to Wikipedia, the Techno-Pagans are also those who would use modern –day devices in ritual, such as a ‘disk of Shadows’ instead of a traditional book, using an oven for a hearth and a laser pointer instead of a wand. Some will go as far as to say that electrical devices have a soul or energy field of their own, and their use in ritual helps to bring together the spiritual and physical worlds. I will use music from my laptop to use in meditation, but generally speaking I like to keep the two separate.
There’s something magical about holding a book in your hands filled with carefully written- out pages, and using altar tools that you made yourself of things you found out in the park or in the garden. Though I’m sure many of us have the Internet to thank for the roots or development of our magickal education, or for networking with and maintaining contact with many more Pagans than otherwise would have crossed our paths.
But beside all this we can still make time to be one to one with nature, if we can only pause our hectic lifestyles for a brief time and take in the serenity of the Earth’s healing energies. I’m a great admirer of the Pagan author Starhawk, and her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing tells of a futuristic world where a bleak, totalitarian regime attempts relentlessly to invade a small green pocket of land where witches fight with their lives to protect diversity, freedom and the greenery of the planet. Here she combines my two favorite genres, and in the novel these two extremes are set to clash horribly. This isn’t the way it will be in my own life, though; getting the right balance is imperative to our wellbeing, and if we can reach for the silvery stars while keeping rooted in the green Earth, we will make great tracks indeed in our lives and in the lives of others.
Starhawk, ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’