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“Sacred, L sacer.

…also in Etruscan (the probable origin).

. . . Sacer has derivative v sacrare, to treat as, to render, sacred,

whence Of-F sacrer, ME sacren, pp sacred, whence the adj sacred…

Also from L sacr– comes sacrarium, a shrine, a small chapel…”

Eric Partridge’s Origins, 1966

 

It is interesting to note that idea — that the root of the word sacer in Latin came to us from Etruscan.

What we know of the Etruscan religion  is a belief in “a universe controlled by gods who manifested their nature and their will in every facet of the natural world as well as in objects created by humans,” where man was integrated into the sacred whole of the Earth. (Robert Guisepi, Etruscans, A History of the Etruscan people including their cities, art, society, rulers and contributions to civilization, 2002 at http://history-world.org/etruscanreligion_and_mythology.htm)  “Roman writers give repeated evidence that the Etruscans regarded every bird and every berry as a potential source of knowledge of the gods and that they had developed an elaborate lore* and attendant rituals for using this knowledge.”

And this is the root of the word we have in English that is Sacred:

Nature as source of knowledge of the gods.

It would seem the question of Earth as Sacred was not in doubt for myriad peoples throughout the world, including what would become known as the Western Civilization tradition. *And I’m reminded of a time speaking with a fellow who happened to be Northern Cheyenne, who reminded me that ‘one man’s lore is another’s beliefs’.

So to explore how the Earth is considered sacred shouldn’t make us squeamish. Or even embarrassed.

Yet bring up a title such as this blog’s and the coming book (as well as the hoped-for course and curriculum for our children — see the newly added About the Book page here), and the first response I’m met with is:

“Really?”

It is accompanied by a side-turn of the eyes, a shrug, a look over the shoulders and an edgy body posture suggesting the listener is a bit nervous I’m about to say something, well, embarrassing about God or gods or meaning or use of natural resources. . . . all as if to say:

“Let’s not go there. Let’s quantify. Let’s separate ourselves, man from Nature. Let’s not do that god-talk stuff as we approach a discussion of ‘highest use’ of natural resources and  a sustainable meting out of our habitat …

“It’s too, well, crazy.”

Yet the moral beliefs, our humankind Story, the explanations for why things are, which humans have developed out of the deepest longing of our hearts to help us to make sense of our existence and  our relationship with the mystery of how this whole thing began — creation or Creation — across the world such Story has some reference to the Earth as being sacred, a place where we better understand God or gods, where man is integrated into the whole of it.  Somehow.

So that’s why sacred — or Sacred — is part of the consideration of the habitat in which we live and on which we depend for our oxygen, water, minerals, food, inspiration, pharmacies… shall I go on?

I’m far from the first to suggest that if we perceive a place as Sacred, we treat it differently.

Have you, your children, or your community, explored this notion recently?

If so, drop me a line and tell me how!

It’s all part of the Story that we need to communicate to our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is the time of Lent.

For many across the world, it is a time when a person of God is in the wilderness . . .

. . . searching for voice,

. . . listening for knowledge,

. . . questing for life,

. . . strengthening for soul,

. . . praying for guidance,

. . . aching for nurture, perhaps even for solace,

. . . searching for the face of God,

. . . and finding sustenance.

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Is God in the wilderness?

Is God the wilderness?

Our wild lands remaining are but remnants of the garden created.

Yet they are a source of all of the above. Still.

With such an ancient and most holy tradition of searching for the face of God in the wilderness, how did later peoples come to view the wilds as the home of the darkness, the Enemy, the one who destroys?

And how have we come to become the destroyer of such a garden?

Full of darkness or light, perceived danger or received sustenance, wild is wild.

It is uncontrolled, like God.

It is unpredictable, like God.

It can be breathtaking . . .

and it can be renewing,

like God.

The wilderness is the first, only, and ultimately the last source of nurturing, knowledge, sustenance

—and perhaps solace —

as we face ourselves in this time of reflection.

What face will we see when we do so?

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Grizzlies on action cam of a Rockies forest. Image courtesy of USFWS.

The US Ninth Court of Appeals recently ruled that Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone area must remain protected as an threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, because a main food source for the largest mammal of our North American forests is being wiped out by pine beetle and drought, maladies laid at the feet of climate change. Until the US FWS can establish a measure of the threat posed by the complex relationship between the grizzly and its important Autumn food source in white pine nuts, the magnificent predator will remain listed.  


It’s an example of the depth and complexity of the problem of habitat before us —  rapid climate change leading to swaths of dead habitat throughout a region the size of South Carolina, leaving the wildlife of the area without a vital source food at a time of feeding for winter.  
How do we preserve a forest, a habitat of such size as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, much less an Arctic habitat for the polar bear?  The size of change taking place with climate change is truly unfathomable; that it is happening at a rate several times faster than what was predicted should chill us all.  
But this change is largely out of sight of the mainstream urban populations, thus 37 percent of Americans maintain that climate change is a figment of scientists’ imaginations, a number largely unchanged since last May, in a study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications. “A Gallup poll from last month found that Americans rated global warming as the environmental problem they worry about the least,” noted US News in August 2011.
Perhaps one of these Americans could explain this disbelief to a starving grizzly bear in the Yellowstone area.
Pregnant females are needing to eat high calorie foods, such as the rich nuts of the white pine tree carefully collected into the middens of red squirrels, to survive a winter of bearing their young.  The bear is an amazing animal — if the female runs out of sufficient calories while hibernating, her young do not make it to term within her.  If there are barely calories enough to carry to term, the female can easily starve while the young are born and nursing as she still hibernates before the spring thaws of the high mountains reach her snow-bound den.  The female bear teaches her young where to find food at each time of year, and this knowledge is passed from generation to generation, year after year, ensuring the life of the species as the years carry on.
The grizzly is a beautiful creature of muscle, shaded coat and ooh-inspiring cute young; it is easy to how they inspired  the old fairy tales of royalty hidden and bewitched inside their golden, brown or white coats.  One is blessed to ever get to watch their care of their young in the wild, as I was once honored to spy on an early morning in Yellowstone a decade ago.  On an early June morning, a huge brown and golden female gently swatted her two lagging, playful cubs into rolling balls of fur over the far mountain meadowof glistening green grass, potently urging them to stop romping and rush to the safety of the white pine forest before the sun and danger of discovery rose any higher.  In such wide-eyes moments, one’s breath stops at seeing — nay, feeling — the wild garden thrive in our ruled and paved world. It is possible to feel more — and finally — at home in this edenic place, among the life and wilds in which we too were planted as a partner within Nature.
We come home to wilderness; we must relearn our way on the paths of the forest, and remember what it feels like to be hungry and desperate to feed our young in a habitat that no longer supports us. While our feelings could not be so different than those of that grizzly bear when finding the winter food source is not there,  it is also a feeling we share in common with millions of other mammals, including fellow humans.
How do we save an entire forest for the trees — and the bears — if we do not even see it or the climate change destroying it?

We will be poorer without the bears and the other members of their complex white pine forest habitat, should it or they not survive the rapid change of our shared home planet Earth.



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Why is it we call ‘Natural Disasters’

Acts of God?

Does is mean that, for a moment, we see Nature as being part of God?

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