Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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John Barleycorn and I

As we enter the season of Lammastide, my eyes are drawn daily to the beautiful crop of oats growing in our garden.  The heads are filling out and passing through their milky stage. The tall stalks have survived storm winds and hail, and within weeks the grain will harden and it will be time to put in the sickle.  

In the spring, we began the sowing of this crop by gently and prayerfully burying the oat-doll which we made from the final cut of last season's harvest.  She held the spirit of the oats throughout the winter, hanging on our wall, a reminder of the continuity of life in its cycles.  After several months of good summer growth, the work of harvest will begin again.  My goodwife and I will cut the stalks, bind and stook them, thresh them, winnow them, and clean the oats, all by hand.  It is a labour intensive process, providing our breakfast porridge throughout the year. At some point in the harvest, I will inevitably curse this whole idea of “back to the land living”, with its stupid valorization of physical work. But in truth, it is a very good life.

Though oats are not barley, I can't help but be reminded of the ballad of John Barleycorn at this point in the year-wheel.  In many ways, I can relate to poor John.  Yes, technically I am one of the threshermen, who will kill and crush Sir Barleycorn.  But on a deeper level, I am also Barleycorn himself.  I am the stalk which must yield to the crescent blade.  I am the head of grain which must submit to the harshness of life, as well as its sweet joys.  As the song proclaims, “John Barleycorn must die”.  And so must I, this “small i” which dies to make room for the vast and cosmic “I” of the life-giving Life.

Or, as another Barleycorn once put it:  “Verily, I say unto you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.  But dying, it bears much fruit.”  (John 12:24)

Loaf-mass blessings be upon you all.

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The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is an ecumenical priest associated with the United Church of Canada, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not writing sermons, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at greenpriest@hotmail.ca
 
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