My Role as a Shaman and Peak Oil

I first encountered the term back in late 2004 with the movie The End of Suburbia. I was almost a year out of high school, and was going for school to be a graphic designer.  The movie streamed on’s Winamp feed, and I was instantly struck by it.  I was newly an eclectic Wiccan studying with a group, and no one, despite our words of praise for the Earth, seemed to know a thing about this.  There was a general feeling then, given I lived in Flint, like this was a problem that we could not immediately solve, or indeed, given most of us were poor college students living off a combination of our parents and student loans, have any impact on.  Hell, as a group we didn’t even talk about it.  It bothered me, that feeling like “I cannot do anything”.  Like the problem of Peak Oil was so much more massive than I was, that anything I did would not even register notice.

I’m still in much the same situation, although now I am a Psychology major with a minor in Religious studies going into Counseling.  I’ve come a long way as a person, as a Pagan, and as someone who is aware of Peak Oil.  I look for more and more ways to lessen my impact and reliance on oil.  From this side of the tracks there is a great deal of disempowerment.  Yet, those of us in the lower-to-poor income bracket should already see that by-and-large we can have a reduced impact on the world.  Some of this comes from planning our days so we’re not using as much gas in our cars; after all, you’re saving money, doing the planet a favor, and reducing your consumption of oil.  For people like myself who don’t own cars, there are other ways to help.  Organizing local communities to make community gardens, educating others about Peak Oil, and  pushing local government, and universities to address the issue are all ways to contribute.  Understand, as I did, that pushing the places you live may be an uphill battle for awhile.  People before I came to the college I attend now were pushing the university to get its act together and start making changes for the better.  I have pushed for putting up solar panels on the tops of the housing areas, as I am sure others have, and others have pushed for ‘greening’ the school, from more recycling areas, to more solar and reduced emission technology powering the campus.

As a shaman it is sometimes hard to figure out exactly how I am supposed to approach people on Peak Oil.  The environment, and thus the landvaettir, feel the immediate impacts that pollution has on our local ecosystems.  That is then compounded when people litter, dump chemicals, or chemicals leak, such as oil pans in cars leaking that then flow into our water supply or into the grounds near the parking areas.  After a while of this treatment, it is not wonder some landvaettir are downright hostile towards people.  Peak Oil, by contrast, is a rather distant threat to most people who get it, and to those that don’t, the sheer ignorance as to the energy crisis can be astounding.  Gas is now hovering closer to $4/gallon out here, and people are really feeling the pinch.  That threat is immediate, something that directly affects their life from their monthly budget to whether or not they can afford to drive to get groceries.  The threat that is far off that will threaten them, their family and everything they’ve built, is still off in the distance.  It is getting closer, gallon by gallon.

Honestly this will take some hard work from the people.  The community garden is one way to make the positive change, but also park cleanup efforts, encouraging and perhaps helping people to grow their own food, to educate them on Peak Oil, to encourage them to embrace technologies that will both save them money and energy (i.e. insulating their houses properly, solar paneling, etc.).  Much of the working of people through this crisis will be done from hands-on work; it is unavoidable, something to be taken, in my view, as a challenge.  The more I think about it, being an intermediary between the Gods, spirits, and people, the more I think on how best to bring them together in this crisis.  Religion cannot stay out of this debate.  One could say that religion has been part of why our nation has run away with consumerism, that I have heard many anti-conservationists and anti-environmentalists throw out, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” -Genesis, 1:26, followed up by how Revelations ‘tells us that this world will be over soon’.  So, these people say, this world is ours for the taking and we should use it as we please for the time it is here.  For these people the world is doomed and trying to convince them otherwise is a waste of energy, so I move on.  This same verse has been used on both sides of the environmental, global warming, and Peak Oil fence.  It has power in it for those that give it that power.  There are countless more examples, such as Ezekiel 34:2-4, Job 12:7-10, and others.

However, if a shaman like myself is going to have any impact, we have to involve the whole person.   For someone who primarily works with Gods, spirits, and landvaettir, there are many more reasons we should be paying attention to Peak Oil.  The long and short term crises that it generates will put stress on the landvaettir as it surely will ourselves.  Ancestors are actively reaching out into peoples’ lives, and in my experience, try to do that more the deeper into crisis they go.  Gods are asking different things of us if we just slowed down a bit and listened, or paid attention.  I’m no saint in this; I understand that as a student, even without a car, just as an American my carbon footprint is sizable.  Our footprints may not disappear entirely, but as I see it, reducing that footprint is part of my responsibility as a Pagan, shaman, and Priest.

Communicating between people and the landvaettir, the spirits of the land that we hope to grow our food on, will become more imperative as time goes on.  Making sure our Ancestors are pleased with us will become even more important.  Listening to our Gods and living in a reciprocal, good relationship will be important as well.  I have had times where I have been hungry and my Ancestors or my Gods have, through communicating with me, either brought me to food or had it brought to me.  I have had real-world results with having a good relationship with the spirits I work with, love, and/or are related to.  I am coming to have a better understanding of herbs through the lessons Mengloth will be working with me on as I grow my own herb garden over this coming Summer.  This may well have a direct impact on the physical community I serve.  The question will be if that impact is positive or negative, and that comes from the hard work of doing what one can, building up community and community bonds, and establishing good spiritual bonds.

Peak Oil’s viable solutions are certainly much more complex than fixing a wire, making a new gear, or even instituting a brand new technology.  Really, when you get down to thinking about it, the long term solutions are about taking apart the entire structure of this nation and systematically replacing it with more localized, and conservatory communities that employ technologies many of us have never used, and methods of living that many of us have never lived in.   I know how to grow a garden, but would I know how to do it with sustainability?   How about with methods that I could do without oil, without pesticides, etc., and with enough quantity that I and my family could live off of it?  Perhaps, but unless I get more experience growing, working with plants, and harvesting them for long-term use, I doubt it.  Unless I heed Mengloth’s words, work closer with the Vanir, and continue to honor my spiritual connections otherwise, no.  Yet, I have hope that though the road ahead may be hard that this road can be walked, and walked well.  Already, there are instances all over the world where people are coming together to produce sustainable communities, food, and live life better in tune with Nature than they ever did before.  What’s more, is that they are thriving.

To me, many of these solutions tie in inseparably with how we relate to the land.  If we look at it as nothing more than something to build on, grow on, objectifying it and eliminating the respect we should have for it, it makes it so much easier to poison and destroy it.  To paraphrase a quote from Abraham Maslow: “When the bottom line is all you look at, the only thing you see is dollar signs.”  We need to fundamentally shift how the world treats this Earth, and it starts with the decision to treat it differently, to treat it reverently.  Then, once we see this Earth as a thing to be revered, we need to treat it like the sacred world it is.  Don’t lose hope!  Global warming is still happening, but there are things you can do to affect your little bit of the carbon footprint.  Peak Oil is still happening, but there are still things you can do to lessen its impact.  The world around you is changing, and each and every person can be a positive agent of that change.  Together we can make the change we wish to see in the world.  Together, we can follow these two quotes of Mahatma Ghandi:

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Resources for Living Sustainably

Cultural Conservers Foundation -A movement that seeks to bring back cultural conservation and education.  They have an excellent guide on a wide variety of topics, from energy efficient windows and doors, to solar heating.

The Archdruid Report -An excellent blog by Archdruid John Michael Greer

EarthBound by Raven Kaldera -A resource on Pagan homesteading not only in how, but why.

Thought-Provoking Documentaries

The End of Suburbia -The documentary that introduced me to the concept of Peak Oil.  Excellent, biting at times, and in your face while having a dry sense of humor.

Escape from Suburbia -Continuing from The End of Suburbia, this documentary goes into how people are working with the reality of Peak Oil, from learning how to farm to why they’re trekking across the country to remake their lives elsewhere.

A Farm for the Future -A BBC documentary on designing sustainable farming.

Permaculture Research Institute of Australia -Defined by the site, “Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.”

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