I talk about a lot of things here on Black Witch, and believe you and me I have more up my sleeve, but ever notice I’m not very flowery in my talking? As in, I don’t talk about the positive energies that are in rivers and how I would love to wash my clothes in said river because it connects me to mother earth and how I wish I could fetch wood from a forest to heat my simple home out in the empty but lush wilderness?
No doubt these are beautiful notions that harken back to a “simpler” time but it’s an over-romanticized notion. To romanticize something means to see a perspective with rose colored glasses on, even to the point of glorifying it. Think about modern hip hop and how most of its listeners are White, Suburban and dream of being the gangstas they hear so much vomiting from their speakers but would never fully trust a Black person near their iPod nor would dare live in the hood lest they find a very real reason to picket and shout “We are the 99%”.
Words by Black Witch
The depiction I very commonly hear is that living in nature is simple and that mother earth would always provide and life would be happy. Wroooooong. It was not easy living among nature pre-modern technology. The days were long, winters were brutal and there’s a reason tech exists today from refrigerators to cell phones. Living with nature was not at all fancy and cute, where all you have to do is hunt, farm and amass. Try “not get eaten, killed, suffer a bad crop and struggle”. Walking miles to access water, having to hunt while not become the hunted, make sure nothing is poisonous and God/dess help you if the crops catch a terrible virus or infection. Make your own clothes, churn your own butter (given that you have cows to milk (which if you live in the woods, you don’t)), make your own food from scratch, build your own house from the actual trees around you, etc etc etc. Shucks, the game Oregon Trail is more accurate than the average Pagan writer who spouts that getting back to nature is as easy as sitting on a rock listening to the wind while waiting for the cauliflowers to come in.
The whole life-would-be-better-living-among-the-wolves-and-trees isn’t for everyone. The average person (especially the average Pagan) would not have the skills to survive in the woods because those skills aren’t instinctual, they’re taught from centuries of trial and error (otherwise known as “natural selection”) and Google can’t bail you out of everything. Yes, life was simpler back then because of the lack of cell phones, laptops, Mp3 players and 9-5 jobs buuuuuut harder than today because of the lack of cell phones, laptops, Mp3 players and 9-5 jobs. There was a different set of skills and expectations living among nature than it is today. “Different” doesn’t mean “easier”, just “different”. And it doesn’t differ regardless if Pagan A wants to live in the woods and Pagan B wants to manage a farm. Again, it isn’t for everyone and the knowledge isn’t instinctual but learned.
While some people could totally and realistically adapt to such environments, it isn’t because they judge on how well they camp. Some Pagans I have met said that they could fare well in the lush forests of North America because they know how to camp and living out in the wilderness is simply one big camping excursion. Not really. Y’see, when you camp, I bet that the supplies taken are meant to last the duration of the trip. Stuff like food, cooking instruments, water, etc etc. And depending on where you are, there may be an outhouse already constructed for use nearby. Not the same as living by your own wits and for those who have camped, there are notations of realistic difficulties, which are totally acceptable.
What usually set off my alarm whenever the discussion of being close with the earth comes up is usually the implication that once out in nature, there will be nothing but them and the universe, that they will have plenty of time to ruminate and absorb the vast wilderness of nature or always and forever be in sync with nature and all of its beautiful, glorious ways. That’s nauseatingly cute but I do doubt that everyone out in the wilderness saw their living in such a manner, as 24/7 nature worship than a means to survive. While there was incredible reverence for the divine members of nature and the universe, there was still the undertone of “Pleeeeeeez don’t destroy my crops/house/family/life.”
Now, I’m sure some reader is going to be moody about the whole column, probably say that nature is beautiful and I simply don’t recognize it and things like that. That when they went to go be among nature, they never felt a sense of serenity quite like it before. I’m not going to discredit them, their feelings are legit but I’m not going to sit there and believe that living in nature is as easy as some would like to believe. It isn’t easy and as I said before, most Pagans couldn’t hack it. Having a romanticized perception of the task is just as dangerous as simply wandering into the woods one day and trying to start your new life from there – actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two actions were related. To see the arduous task as if it was built into your DNA could get someone killed.
Instead of dreaming that living among the bears, wolves and poisonous berries is ideal or wanting to wash your clothes in the river enable to connect with the positive energy in such river - start a little garden, learn botany, get into worthwhile environmental activism (keyword: worthwhile) and go camping from time to time. Unless you can actually survive in the woods and know how to keep that going, just invite nature into your life and learn that not everything is all about the energy. Some things are just about living.