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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Runic Reflections

Long have I been fascinated by the runes.  Recently, my good friend Darcy Blahut and I decided to work together on a joint writing project.  Darcy is an accomplished poet, so I invited him to write a poem inspired on each rune verse and my own reflection on that particular rune.  I expect that this project will take a year or so, but wanted to share our first effort ... feoh.  Enjoy!

 

Feoh: Cattle

 

Cattle are comfort for everyone.

Yet each of us must share our wealth freely,

if we wish to gain honour in the sight of the Creator.

 

This first rune of the futhorc gifts us with a snapshot of the Anglo-Saxon concept of wealth.  In concord with so many other ancient cultures, the Anglo-Saxon economy was based on livestock, and in particular domestic cattle.  Cattle could be eaten, milked, traded, herded, rustled.  They were a source of meat, dairy, bone, horn, hide, and many other necessary products.  But as the rune poem hints, cattle were also a source of comfort, and not just because they were a measure of wealth.

If you've ever had the good fortune to milk a gentle cow in the warmth of a sturdy barn while a snowstorm rages outside, you will know the comfort of feoh.  It is a mistake to look at cattle as economic units, as if they simply “stand for” an abstract concept of monetary value.  Our ancestors knew that their wealth depended on living beings.  From milk to meat to marrow, wealth was embedded in relationships – relationships with the cattle and fields, and relationships with other human people.

Much more obvious in the rune poem is the conviction that wealth is not to be hoarded.  The source of wealth is the Creator, and to “gain honour” from the Creator, wealth needs to be shared freely.  For indigenous cultures, from the ancient Anglo-Saxon to the contemporary Cree or Metis, generosity is the true basis of the tribal economy.  Wealth is meant to be shared.

What is your wealth right now, and what are you doing with it?

 

 

The bloodmonth is cold,

fingers rigid to the blade.

Though supple once your hand,

your neck crooked in an honest day’s labour,

locked firm against my frame.  Ribs,

the strong pines of a proud house;

unshaken your name,

yet bent low to honour the birth of me.

 

Your knees, as mine, wet as when

I first let flesh to the warm fist,

both foot and hoof scratching at the ground

till knuckles got their bearing

and set rhythm to relief.

tin-tin tin-tin under the pail’s rim,

silvered by light through barn window,

Half-opened its retinal finding, our breath

visible on sweet-smelling cud.

 

Wealth is giving.  This the first lesson.

And prescience—how we are fed by blessing.

But your fingers, I know, are not without strife.

And your table, your childrens’,

theirs as they grow, who

from inside I nourish and sustain.

It is I who become them, and in becoming honour.

 

So close this memory now, my reluctance

to move toward charity,

though thank now the hand over me

for having eased my path,

you who sung idylls at my side,

and led me, my twin young,

into meadowing.

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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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