All Our Relations: Pagans and the more-than-human world.

For aware Pagans the Sacred encompasses us all, rivers and mountains, oceans and deserts, grasses and trees, fish and fungi, birds and animals. Understanding the implications of what this means, and how to experience it first hand, involves our growing individually and as a community well beyond the limits of this world-pathic civilization. All Our Relations exists to help fertilize this transition.

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Blut, Boden und Bullshit

A great many Pagan cultures have emphasized the sacredness of place. Even when they have migrated thousands of miles, as did the Navajo, the sacredness of the new place they now lived became central to their identity.  Traditional Navajo today identify their home as between four sacred mountains, known in English as Mount Blanca, Mount Taylor, Mount Hesperus, and the San Francisco Peaks. Other tribes saw the matter differently, because the Navajo’s view of their land clashed with that of the Hopi and Paiute people who claimed some of these places as their own homes, and had been there first. But this tribal dispute is not what my column is about. Instead it is about the sacredness of place and people, that the Navajo, Hopi, and Paiute experienced, and for ourselves, how to experience it, and how to think clearly about it in today’s political climate.

It is also about the bullshit some Euro-Americans are spreading about this issue today.

But first, three short stories to set the stage:

Space and confinement

I love the Pacific, but find its vast expanse to the West confining, a beautiful barrier that, much as I love it, limits me. However, when I am walking along a high ridge in the Rockies, or even driving through the high plains, I experience a liberating spaciousness and freedom. My native California friends often report the opposite. They feel free on the coast and confined in the interior mountains.  They are often drawn to islands, which seem to me beautiful claustrophobic prisons, unless the island is very big. Vancouver and Newfoundland are fine for me. Anything smaller, unless very near the coast, not so much.





Depths of connection

I was raised in Kansas, but had not driven through it for years. I lived in the West, felt more at home there, and annually flew into Wichita for Thanksgiving.  One year some time ago I decided to drive from Wichita to Lawrence, my old college town. I was traveling through the Flint Hills in a rented car. As I passed long-remembered sites I felt parts of my body relax that I had never known were tense. I was amazed.  I had no desire to live there, too flat, too hot, too humid, and, except for Lawrence, too conservative. But somehow, I viscerally responded to the land in ways I had never experienced elsewhere.

If we are somewhere long enough, something about the place we are raised gets into our bodies, and resides there, no matter where else we may travel.

What is that something? It is not just psychological.

The presence of the land

For many years, (and this coming February as well), I have taught an energy healing workshop at Pantheacon,in San Jose.  One of the early exercises I teach is showing people how to see energy around their or another’s body. (exercise 1 in the link) Once you can see energy, if you take the time, you will be able to see similar (but different) fields around much else. (exercise 2) For those of you in snowy regions, (and at the moment that’s a lot of you!) try this with the trunks of deciduous trees against the snowy background.  Deep snow covers the jumbled energy fields around bushes and grass, so the fields around the trees are easier to make out.

When we walk through those trees, our energy fields are interacting with theirs. Think about it. Our mutual boundaries are permeable energetically, as are the boundaries of everything around us.  Since in energy healing we learn these energies can cause profound physical effects, I think similar energies, unnoticed by us, penetrate and intermingle with our own, and have their own impact.

What I think constitutes the deep sense of place so important for many Pagan cultures has been their inhabitant’s sensitivity to being at home in a certain context of energy fields, fields that vary from place to place. The modern world is so detached from the rhythms of life and habits of viewing that demonstrate their reality, that we usually never notice their existence.  We prefer clocks and schedules.  There are some advantages for us, but there is also a major loss.

Particularly within places where we spend considerable time, I think we open ourselves to energies unique to them compared to other places.  So, I find ranges of mountains beyond mountains profoundly liberating, and the ocean confining, and some native California friends experience the opposite. We are not irretrievably wedded to a particular place - look at how the Navajo made it here from Alaska – but once we are in a place, and become sensitive to it, it becomes a part of who we are. We can add to it, but like a visceral memory, we cannot easily detach ourselves from it.

Becoming native

Native Americans, who would know, say that becoming sensitive to the land involves staying put and paying attention. Slow down and stay a while. In that way you and your culture become native.  Gary Snyder reports a Crow elder saying:

You know, I think if people stay somewhere long enough – even white people – the spirits will begin to speak to them. It’s the power of the spirits coming up from the land. The spirits and the old powers are not lost, they just need people to be around long enough and the spirits will begin to influence them.

Buildings become more integrated in a place the longer they are there. The same is true for us and for cultures, as the energies of the land and of ourselves weave increasingly intricate connections. The more deeply rooted peoples were particularly sensitive to this reality. For them the land was not a stage on which they lived their dramas, it was not “an environment,” it was not wilderness, it was a place to dwell, and in their dwelling, it was home.


Recently some alt right activists, including some claiming Pagan Norse connections, have started talking about “blut (blood) und boden (soil)” in their parades. The German terms refer to the connections the old Pagan German people had with their land, an identification of people and place that modern Romantics felt, correctly, the modern world view denied any reality to. In its original form it focused primarily on earth, the German land, that shaped what it was to be German.  Traditional Native Americans would have understood. However, particularly after the First World War, this insight was increasingly debased as blut (blood, race) gained precedence over the earth. 

This was illustrated in debates over whether Jews could ever be good Germans.  Originally this argument had little to do with blood and everything to do with Jews seen as being cosmopolitan, city dwellers divorced from the land, and so divorced from true German sensibilities.  Some Germans argued that Jews could become good Germans, some argued they were too different to do so.  In my view the core flaw on both sides in this debate was making a permeable network of energies into a concrete force, the “Volk.” Something more profound was happening. But that is another issue, and another discussion.

We see some similar debates here today, as to whether Euro-Americans could ever truly become native to Turtle Island. The difference was in Germany the native people had the power and here Euro-Americans do. But if ‘blood’ had been understood to be itself an expression of our relation with the earth where we lived, as it originally was, modernity might have developed in far more humane ways than it did. Sadly, this was not the path most Germans concerned with these issues took. George Mosse’s The Crisis of German Ideology is a classic study here.

With the advent of Nazi racial theory, Jews become truly alien biologically rather than culturally, and at this point the land simply became a stage on which a band of authoritarian racists played out their fantasies of power and domination. A people’s sensibilities did not emerge from the land, the land was merely lebensraum for the people. This was a modern nihilist appropriation of insights fundamentally alien to modernity.  Nazi Germans were no more people of the German land than the Pat Robertson’s of this world are people following the teachings of Jesus.

And there is another irony of some self-described Pagans spouting the slogans “blood and earth.” They are people who have as much connection to the American earth as the most corporate CEO or, in Völkisch terms, cosmopolitan urban Jew ever did. They treat the earth as a stage on which to enact their bullshit about racial superiority. If my analysis of the presences in the land is accurate, they have even less connection to Northern European realms they fantasize about, because they have never lived there for years. 

In the process, these people further tarnish the profound insights of so many Pagan peoples as to the spiritual reality of our connection to the earth, a reality these peoples felt every day. It is no accident that the Asatru of Iceland, where it is truly native and nationally recognized, and most other places as well, are in no way racist. The blood and soil charlatans are as harmful to us as the Nazis were to one of the most venerable of Northern European symbols, the swastika, and the sensibilities behind it.



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Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His third volume, "Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine," was published in 2013 and won a Silver award from the Association of Independent Publishers in 2014. The subject is obvious, and places it, and the rise of goddess oriented spiritual movements and our "cold civil war" in historical context.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.


  • Mark Green
    Mark Green Tuesday, 02 January 2018

    Hear, hear! Great article, Gus.

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