Pagan Voices: Special Earth Day edition

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. Today’s edition focuses on Earth Day, which has been celebrated annually since 1970 and has attracted Pagans since that first one. 

[Wikimedia Commons.]

The first Earth Day celebration took place in New York City in 1970, which (perhaps not coincidentally) was around the time that a recognizable community was coalescing around this thing we today call “contemporary Paganism.” Pagans today have legal rights and cultural recognition which were denied to Pagans in 1970. At the same time, our relationship with Mother Earth has become even more precarious than it was in 1970. We have a responsibility, to those who have gone before us, as well as those who will come after us, to use our hard-won freedoms to fight for a healthy home.

Aside from the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters which make up the Wheel of the Year, Earth Day is perhaps the closest thing Pagans have to a holy day. It’s an opportunity — individually and collectively — to reexamine our relationship with the natural world which sustains us. Earth Day represents a challenge to all Pagans to move beyond the comfort of our insular communities and to engage the rest of the world positively. It’s an opportunity to deepen and broaden our engagement with non-Pagans who are also working to heal the web of life.

We need to get our hands dirty. That means working in the literal dirt, but also fighting for change through the political process, through direct action, and through community organizing.

— John Halstead

The idea of Earth Day being considered a Pagan holiday was challenged in New York on Mar. 29, 2001 when a group of parents described as of Christian faith brought a suit against the Fox Lane High School stating that their Earth Day activities were promoting Pagan and earth-based religions. Justice Kearse compared Earth Day festivities to that of displaying and paying respect to the American flag:

An objective observer would not view these detailed prescriptions for honoring the American flag . . . as an indication that Congress . . . has established flag worship as a religion,” Judge Kearse wrote. “We conclude that an objective observer similarly would not view the school district’s Earth Day ceremonies as endorsing Gaia or Earth worship as a religion.

The court found also found that the use of the term ‘mother nature’ was not a reference to a goddess or other deity, but a phrase similar to ‘father time’ used to describe a concept. Here we find objective heads prevailing to prevent a rather narrow-minded group of individuals from ruining what is a good public service in the form of Earth Day activities.

— Average Pagan, Earth day- secular call-to-action or Pagan holiday?

In my Paganism, every day is Earth Day. I find the divine immanent around me in the world: in the Pacific Ocean at the end of our street, in the butterflies that visit our…

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