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© 2011 Elizabeth Darby; a View from a place called Home, UK
All rights reserved; please contact me before reposting as a courtesy.

Possession

Possess

Possessed

To be

Taken Over

Whether by God or by Human or by demons . . .

Funny how such a word <possession> has so many possibilities.

Earth: Sacred/Possession

When I wrote the title for this blog and the forthcoming book project, it just seemed like the Right Question.

And I’m finding there is nuance to it.

Does Possession in my project’s title mean  possession by God, or of God?

By humans or of humans?

Is the Earth, the land of earth, the inhabitants, habitat, place of our lives a thing owned — in which case are we also ‘things’ when we are taken over as in the common use of the word ‘possessed’ in the spiritual sense?

Are we possessed by the Land as it defines us, as in where we are born, how we identify our soul or personality’s substance (as in “I’m from _______” and thus it defines our very Self as individuals, families, histories and cultures, not to mention our dreams, destinies and wealth or power?

When I envisioned the title, the book and the hoped-for curriculum emerging from this project, the immediate use of Earth as Possession was — at least for a moment — clear to me:

Earth as possession is something someone owns, despite cultures throughout time and place which argue it is impossible to ‘own or possess’ the Land itself. Yet whenever we make an object of it, and buy and sell turf or fight wars over it, we reduce Earth, the Land, to a possession. Is this what we choose to do? Is this sustainable, this perception of our habitat as a possession?

But in going deeper, it is not so clear this concept of Habitat, Land, Home, Earth and how our language defines our relationship with it.

Back to Eric Partridge’s Origins for help:

L potis

a master of (especially property);

has a derivative possidere, literally to sit as master of, to make oneself master of,

to occupy as an act of possession —

Ah, but there’s more to this. The spiritual sense of ‘possession’ as  a demonic force apparently didn’t come into common use in English until the 1530’s. More on that in a subsequent post, but historians will recognize the time as one of religious upheaval in England, when monasteries were ripped down and “witch” trials against followers of the goddess Diana in Spain and its colonies in the wilderness of the New World were underway. A dark time when open engagement with God’s creation was suspect… But more on that later.

According to Partridge, ‘possession’ in the 1400s had a sense of “to have and to hold” as in a bridegroom unto beloved. Power-holder, yes, but the spiritual sense of ‘possession’ was yet in terms of husbanding and the clear connection to the sacred with the symbolism inherent in bridegroom as used in biblical terms.

Is there yet more to this curious concept of possession? Yes, as always a contradiction:

n posse

to have power, to be able to [do something],

 especially exercising one’s ability or mastery or power

A root of possession is ‘being able to master or power’ and it is this relationship we all enter into every moment of every day when both thinking and especially not thinking about how our land, our Earth, sustains us. This is not a bridegroom coming to ‘husband’ a land, but something much darker.

And yet there is more: the idea of Earth being possessed by God and, as Psalm 24:1, thought to have been written about 1000 BC, goes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein . . . ”

In this engagement, we and the Earth, all of everything, is a possession of God’s; there is no distinction between humans and God’s Creation as the new Pope Francis evokes in his early homilies, asking all of the world’s people, regardless of religion power or mastery, to care for all of God’s Creation. Earth as Sacred/Possession.

But there is still more:

Hidden among the historical roots of this L posse and L potis, is also, perhaps most importantly, the root of the word we know as possibility.

That is, the personal power to make something happen.

And, as we know, there is great possibility if —

— If we define our tomorrows feeling  the Earth to be our Home, our Habitat, our Garden for our children and engaging with it under the mastery of our careful interconnectedness.

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“All cultures through all time have constantly been engaged in a dance with new possibilities of life.”

Wade Davis
Photographer, Ethnographer, National Geographic “Explorer in Residence”

Please see his appeal on the wilderness of northern Canada —

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