Earth, spirit, community

Five years ago I completed a Master’s thesis called Seasonal Celebrations in the Melbourne Bioregion. It was an exploration of various groups who were attempting to create or adapt seasonal celebrations that are attentive to our local experience of the seasons.

This is particularly pertinent in Australia. As a former British colony a large portion of society here practice cultural traditions that were developed in harmony with a completely different landscape. In case that’s not enough we are in the southern hemisphere so our seasons are opposite to those of the dominant global cultures of US and Europe. The epitome of this is the hot sweaty santa claus in the red fur lined suit on a scorching 35 degree (celcius) day, sitting on a throne surrounded by fake snow and fir trees.

Santa claus at the beach

It makes no kind of sense and yet, what I found when I was discussing my thesis with people was that the pagan elements, the ones that typify an ancient relationship with the Earth (the fir tree, the roast lunch, the stockings by the chimney), are the ones that are closest to people’s hearts. One year, for our extended family Christmas, I subsituted a wattle branch from an overburdened tree that was about to fall over, for the traditional fir tree. All the kids asked where the Christmas tree was and insisted that the wattle was the wrong colour.

I wrote my thesis hoping to discover a spiritual practice that would honour my connection to this country. Not in a patriotic sense, but with a deeply grounded respect for the land that has brought me up, that has been a source of spiritual solace. I found great people doing great work but I did not find my spiritual home.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher festival at CERES

I love my sense of belonging to Earth. I love feeling awed and humbled and held by something greater than myself. I love feeling that I am part of the richness of the whole Earth community. Thus far my spiritual journey with the Earth has been a solitary pursuit. Some would say that this is a necessity, that it’s not possible to share such a thing in community. I don’t know if that’s true or not but my heart longs to try.

I can’t help but feel that a spiritual community, like the Buddhist jewel of sangha, would help to keep that sense of connection alive and central to my life. Particularly when family, work and home responsibilities prevent me from immersing myself in wilderness.

9 thoughts on “Earth, spirit, community

  1. Yup, revising seasonal celebrations for our Australian climate and land is a big job. I always felt we should try harder on this one, but I guess it’s also valuable that ancient patterns remain so vividly keyed into our cultural memories and models.
    Thanks for working on it! Any chance of a summary of your findings?

    • I am interested in something I read ages ago that talked about the local Aboriginal population having 6 (and not 4) seasons. The extra ones were between Winter and Spring and Summer and Autumn. Thi Winter spring transition was about windyness in the weather. We have been having LOTS of that recently. I don’t remember the Summer Autumn transition and I don’t remember names… Have you heard of this?
      Linette

      • Hi Linette, I have, & I believe an arborist society tracked a cycle of 6 seasons in south east Australia too. The only detail I recall was being slightly disappointed that there was no official ‘autumn’ in those systems, it went from late summer to early winter. ‘But don’t they realise Autumn is the best season in Melbourne,’ I cried? šŸ˜‰
        Recently I found out a funny coincidence, btw; that Easter, a time for fertility rites in the northern hemisphere, also brings a period of growth here, as the native vegetation sighs with relief at the end of another blazing hot summer and sends some new shoots out to greet the cooler weather.

      • Yes, this article outlines a few different versions but they are all based primarily on modern field observations. The notion of indigenous seasons is vexed, I did a bit of work on it in my thesis but it’s probably worth a blog post of its own.

    • The link above will give you a pdf of the thesis, chapter 4 has all the findings, it’s only 5 pages long. The main thing I learned was that seasonal celebrations won’t convert people to an ecological identity but what they can do is affirm, support and sustain those who are already committed.

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