To Re-Enchant the World

This month at OUUC we continue to explore indigenous traditions and modern neo-paganism in our religious education program. Last month, for Earth Day, we looked at how current scientific understandings of ecosystems use the symbols and imagery of ancient goddess worship, popularized by such terms as “Mother Earth” and “The Gaia Hypothesis”.

When I was a child, the world seemed to be a magical place. There were flower gardens that I was sure housed fairies, trees that looked like they could come to life at night, and spooky water culverts where trolls might dwell. I roamed my urban neighborhood, making forts with the other kids, and giving places whimsical names. All those special places were sacred to me.

This is developmentally appropriate. Our youngest children effortlessly weave fantasy and reality, living in a magical world. As they grow older, school aged children become concrete thinkers, but still love their stories and symbols. Whereas they once effortlessly believed in magic, now they choose to believe in an epic story which helps make sense of the world. The stories they tell become part of their sacred landscape.

Every now and then, we adults can still tap into that wonder and awe and magic that came so easily to us as children. When I first saw Yosemite Valley, I felt the same sense of utter enchantment that I felt about those fairy gardens as a child. When I recently stared a coyote in the eyes in my own back yard, I felt a sense of recognition and connection.

When we see the world as sacred and enchanted, harming it becomes unthinkable. When we see ourselves as connected to other life, we have to act in ways that honor and protect it.

In A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship With Nature, sociologist James William Gibson explores the resurgence of a sense of enchantment and connection to nature. After the long history of Western culture making nature into nothing more than resources for humans to exploit, this sense of re-enchantment may be the best hope for protecting this one magical world we all must live on. Gibson says: “But however dissimilar and partial their commitments, people respond to the culture of enchantment because it offers something they need (and cannot find elsewhere in consumerist America): transcendence, a sense of mystery and meaning, glimpses of a numinous world beyond our own.”

Perhaps the culture of enchantment can be part of your own search for transcendence, while also bringing you into greater commitment to our one interdependent world.

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