This post originally appeared on CrafterYearly’s blog, Crafting the Wheel of the Year.
One of the things that has most drawn me to Paganism is the emphasis Pagans place on our interconnectedness with all life and the Earth. For Pagans, the cycles of the Earth, Sun, and Moon provide the occasions for celebration and reflection. Our high holidays mark the seasonal transitions that result from the interplay of the Earth and the Sun. The Moon’s monthly phases, likewise, offer an opportunity for regular reflection on one’s goals, blessings, and also those negative habits or forces that operate in one’s life. Sabbats and Esbats are regular occurrences throughout the year. However, together they only account for 21 days out of 365. This leaves a good number of days for expressing one’s relationship with the Earth through more mundane practices than the celebrations that occur on the Sabbats and Esbats.
As a solitary, pantheist Pagan, my daily spiritual practices can’t consist in praying to, offering to, or otherwise engaging with the Goddess or the God. Since I don’t believe in Goddesses or Gods like many other Pagans do, what are common daily occurrences for many cannot work for me. This has caused me to have to figure out different ways to experience my interconnectedness with the Earth throughout the year.
When I was younger I practiced with a Wiccan family and their coven. They were an eclectic bunch. B., my mentor, was heavily influenced by the Reclaiming tradition. She bought me a copy of the Spiral Dance. She guided me through meditations from the book. But she also incorporated practices from her Native American heritage and from various Wiccan traditions. Her friends in the coven brought even more diversity to the spiritual practices. Some studied Druidry. Some studied Jewish mystical traditions. Some were more traditional Wiccans. There was such a diversity of viewpoints present that at any given event, the most common denominator among the participants was a reverence for the Earth, the Universe, and our interconnection with one another and everything else in the Universe.
The other common denominator: everyone in the group was involved in some kind of homesteading and/or crafting. P. grew much of her own food and medicinal herbs and made the most beautifully scented and luxuriously lathering soaps. D. likewise grew food and made intricate metal cuts for selling at festivals and faire. B., my mentor, did a little of everything. She was an artist. She could draw and paint and create just about any sort of decoration one could want in their home. She could sew, and she made what was needed for her home, her kids, or for me when I worked for her and needed something to wear at her cart. Her home was full of personal touches and handmade objects, as was her garden. Everyone in the group was in some way or another (or in many ways) what one might refer to as “crafty.”
I’m not sure which happened first or which influenced the other: did I start crafting and then get back into Paganism, or did I return home to Paganism and then get more serious about crafting? I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that somehow, for some reason, the two things are intimately related in my mind. Perhaps they’re related simply because of my experiences with B. and her eclectic coven members. But I think it’s actually something more than just that.
I think that the reason that Paganism and crafting seem so closely associated for me is because the crafting that I do (or, that I am aching to be able to start doing after we move across the country in about a month) is crafting that is related to sustaining one’s self and one’s family and is, therefore, intimately connected up to the cycles of the earth and the care of the body. I knit, and as a result, much of my crafting is focused on preparing for winter and providing warmth for myself or others in the absence of warmth from the sun. Knitting for me isn’t only linked up to the seasons, but also to the life cycle—as many of my knitting projects have been meant to comfort and warm the newborn children of my friends, or to provide warmth and comfort to older people who have fallen ill that I care about.
Likewise, other crafts I engage in are opportunities for me to bring my Paganism into my daily life. Over the past year, I have been making soaps, lotions, and various other body care products for myself and my loved ones. While this might immediately or on the face of it seem like it has nothing to do with Paganism, I experience this practice as centrally related to my Paganism. With every batch of soap or lotion or balm that I make, I use only 100% organic, natural, plant-based products. Everything that goes into my body care items is from the Earth. There are no synthetic chemicals, no detergents, no ingredients that come from a lab somewhere. Everything I use is of the Earth and this is very important to me. It matters not only when I am making the items, but also when I am using them. Each time I shower with my homemade, organic, plant-based soaps I am reminded of how good the Earth is, of how well she can care for us, of how completely she provides for us. As I slowly transition from purchased products to homemade products, I feel not only more appreciative of the Earth and everything she provides for all beings, but also more self-sufficient. I feel empowered each time I learn a new recipe and make a new product to care for my body or the bodies of those I care about.
Self-sufficiency may not seem like a particularly Pagan practice or value, and yet for me in my practice it is one of the most significant values. During another era of human history, almost everyone’s lives were intimately related to the cycles of the earth. The planting season was followed by the growing season which was followed by the harvesting season. After the harvest, food was put up and preserved to sustain the family throughout the winter. Likewise, people planned for warmth and comfort throughout the winter. Clothes were made or repaired, blankets made, wood chopped. Winter’s coming required preparation and planning. Aside from seasonal preparations, people were also responsible for making their own soaps, candles, and herbal medicines. In these processes, too, humans were linked to the Earth. Surviving and/or living well required a knowledge of the plants and animals with whom we share the Earth. Humans needed to know what could be harvested from the Earth and how it could best be used to sustain their families. This knowledge tied people to the Earth in a way that few of us experience today.
My goal is, over time, to become more self-sufficient and to live a more cyclical, seasonal life in balance with the Earth. As my husband and I move to a part of the country with real seasons, I look forward to getting back into the rhythm of the seasons. I look forward to living somewhere with land enough (even in the city) that I can garden and grow at least some of my own food and herbs for homemade medicines. I look forward to canning and otherwise preserving what I can for the winter. I am excited to begin sewing and quilting and making a home-made home for myself and my husband. It’s through these simple life-making acts that I most commonly experience my relationship with the Earth. And for that reason, Paganism and crafting, for me, are deeply intertwined.
Crafter Yearly earned a PhD in political philosophy and now works as a professor at a teaching institution in the midwest. Her research is in the areas of antiracism, feminism, and social constructivism. She was introduced to Paganism by Wiccans, but has come over time to adopt a purely naturalistic reverence for the Earth and the Universe. She lives her Paganism by celebrating the movements of the sun and the moon, connecting to the cycles of the earth through crafting handmade goods, and connecting to her body through yoga and dance. Crafter Yearly maintains a blog at: https://craftingthewheeloftheyear.wordpress.com
Nicely done. I think crafting and hand-work in general has a meditative quality that lends calm and peace. I don’t celebrate those eight sabbats in my own “pagan year” …I might make a pentagram of the five I do celebrate! Or better yet…perhaps pentagonal placemats for use DURING those sabbats?