|Community: We all play well together. Except when we don't.|
There are so many layers of community. I could easily wax poetic about fungal dreamworlds, avian acrobat teams or meetings of the Horned Ones under the boreal canopy. To be honest, I would rather be outside making merry among the trees & winds than be inside writing this piece, or inside at all. But it feels as though everyone outside, if they are not completely covered in snow-topped ice, is huddled away somewhere keeping warm, maybe sleeping it off.
I am pretty tired of it. I try to keep my chin up, but this overwintering in Alaska is making me itch for the high desert (or really anywhere not frozen) something fierce.
|Formulation: The "Animist's Bellwether." |
Sketching out community ceremony -- it's a process.
I often ponder ways to share animism with my fellow Pagans & I have written briefly in the past about my ideas for bringing animist ceremony to my northern tribe. In general, we all try very hard to play well together -- this too, given our small numbers is about survival. We collaborate -- Druids, Wiccans, Thelemites, a variety of polytheistic & new-agey folks -- all the time. It seems to me that there is always just enough overlap amongst us to make it work. Except when there is not.
|Invasive & Noxious:|
Goatsheads (Tribulus terrestris).
Other-than-human communities have this same vulnerability to invasion & when I think about concrete ways in which our human community can invest in & contribute to our broader local bioregion, I am always drawn to the issue of invasive species:
Invasive Species: "any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem; and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health." -- Invasive.org: Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
|Invasive but so pretty it's hard to call "noxious":|
Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
Ecological succession: "a fundamental concept in ecology, refers to more-or-less predictable and orderly changes in the composition or structure of an ecological community." -- "Science Reference: Ecological Succession," ScienceDailyMany of my family members & "chosen family" members are very actively involved in watershed & grassland research & restoration projects in the high desert regions of Southcentral Utah. Over a short course of years, the difference in the landscape & species diversity in rehabilitation areas is remarkable. Watching these changes, the revitalization of overgrazed pasture, the recovery of tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) & russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) tangled waterways gives me a sense of promise, a sense that there is still much that can be done to help protect our neighborhoods & communities from noxious intruders. It makes a visible, quantifiable & healthy diffference when we see them out the door.
"We get rid of them as quickly & mercifully as possible."
This brings me to my ceremonial quandary which I propose to the community-ala-ether for feedback. Here is my story:
|Invasive & "noxious" (sniff): |
Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)
While fungi hunting a couple of years ago, I came across a large, permanent, full colour sign erected beside one of the greenbelt trails. The headline read something like "Noxious Invasive: Have You Seen Me?" Who do you think I saw pictured there, bigger than life, in all their crimson glory? My beloved "favourite Alaskan flowers": Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum L.), aka. "Devil’s paintbrush" or "King-devil." The sign basically said if you find them, pull them up & report them to the authorities (that is, the Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management in Alaska (CNIPM)). Oh! Those rich beauties, so striking en masse... to discover they are the poster child for "plant perps"!
|AISC Poster Child:|
Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)
Since this devastating discovery, I have looked upon the Hawkweed with reticence. I have also discovered several thriving colonies -- big, bright, beautiful patches which expand their breadth significantly each season. They are quite plainly & aggressively creating their own monoculture on these sites. I have yet to report them to the authorities, mostly because I haven't pulled over the car to take photographs (yes, excuses)...
I have been considering a way to integrate ceremony into an invasive plant removal effort. I was particularly inspired by the planting ceremony described by Glen Gordon (see "Bioregional Animist Ceremony at Work"). I see this as an opportunity for our local human community to invest in the larger local community, to enrich relationships within the bioregion in a tangible way. Of course, coordinating with the native plant specialists to teach us about the local flora & the exotic species that threaten the balance is one of several added benefits for human participants. It would also get everyone outside, together & I can't really imagine anything better than that.
I mentioned this idea to a friend recently & she responded that she thought the idea would "appeal to a very narrow audience." I was nonplussed by the comment. Here, we have a community which waves it's "Earth-friendly" status around like a pennant. I realize that plenty of Pagans do not identify as spiritually "Earth-based," but most of them still maintain a basic sense of responsibility for the environment. I also know that while there are no other animists-proper among us, there are plenty of folk who talk to trees, or squirrels & who would be delighted to take part in a project to support our local community & environment.
So, how can we develop a sensible, sensitive ceremony to build around removing the Hawkweed (or another invasive -- honestly, that might be easier for me) while recognizing that these plants too are living beings, worthy of respect, but unwanted in our community? How do we "get rid of them as quickly & mercifully as possible"? If you were to develop such a ceremony, what would it look like? What sort of mood, or tone would it evoke? Celebration? Mourning? Both? What might you say? Need anything be said at all? Would you need "stuff," symbols, tools? How would you engage participants in the ceremony-ing? What kind of closing would be best? And disposal of the offending plants, is there a ritual there? I look forward to any ideas folks have to share. If you are shy about comments, email me. I appreciate it.
|At home in the UK: "Fox & Cubs"|
Caption reads: A spread of Pilosella (Hieracium) aurantiaca on a terrace beneath 491877, beside School Lane, Seavington St Michael. The plant is also known as Grim the Collier and appears to be a troublesome weed in parts of the USA. -- Wikimedia Commons
* This post is a part of the Animist Blog Carnival of April 2013. To read other animist perspectives on community & ceremony, follow this link: The Animist Blog Carnival for April 2013 is here!
To read works from previous Animist Blog Carnival, visit headquarters here: LINK.