The Promise Asked: Remember Me?
The witch has been created by the land to act for it.
– Peter Grey/Rewilding Witchcraft
Ten years ago, on sacred land, in space made sacred by intention and community, I made a promise. To myself. To those assembled. To the gods. To My Lady. Promises like that don’t get made, and discharged, and are done with. Promises like that show up at your door again and again and again. Knock and, when you answer, say “remember me?”
I re-read this essay (link above) recently. Knock knock.
The witch acts for the land, I think. And then I wonder, but what if the land is dying?
It isn’t, of course. We humans will die out long before the Earth does. But isn’t that, in effect, the same thing? This relationship is ending. It is ending horribly. It is ending in great suffering, with greater on the way.
We are forcing our Mother to let us die, to save Herself. That is – physically, morally, spiritually – a desolation.
The witch acts for the land, I think. And then I realize, I am a witch in a time when those covenants have been broken. How do I act for what my own kind have betrayed?
My hands feel empty. I am an urban creature. A child of the technological age. I don’t know plants, I don’t work roots. I am all philosophy and ideology. I cannot make a fire without matches. I have never slept on the ground. I bring nothing of value to the New Beginning we may – if we’re lucky and work very, very hard – be privileged to birth.
And that’s sort of OK, really. I’m not young. Those like me will be the first to go – either because time runs out for us, or because life becomes too hard. That’s the way of things. What is unsustainable will not be sustained. Those like me won’t be much missed. May the space we make open room for those who can act for and with the land. It is time – past time – for that kind of magic.
Ah but this, this I can do. I can contemplate my own ending with equanimity. I can bring, and have brought, that fearlessness to the deathbeds of others. I can sit with, and through, the throes. I can reveal to you what your soul already knows about the hard mercy of the inevitable. This is my magic.
How do we act for the land in a time when the land is dying to us, from wounds inflicted by our own hands? The land will need tenders and teachers. Dreamers and builders. Those who can shepherd and support what is – if we’re lucky and work very, very hard – coming to be.
The land will also need mourners. Those who will make the death rites for what is ceasing to be. Those who will stand with and comfort the grieving. Who will journey, fiercely, clear-eyed and compassionate, with everything that is dying.
This is my magic. In the face of inevitable change, this is what I was taught to do: Sit down and take the ride. Smooth, if you can, the rough spots. When you can’t smooth them, hold on tight and keep each other company through the shaking. Watch out for all the opportunities for joy along the way. You’ll be surprised at how many there are. I have said, over and over, to myself and to others, that there is no place more real than the room in which someone is dying. That space exists at high altitude. The air is thin and intoxicating. Amazing things may be seen, and felt, and learned, in that place at the edge of time-as-we-know-it.
The witch was created by the land to act for it. Including to sing its dirges, and to speak its elegies. To honor what is lost in the keening of the losing. If our wails spur others on to heroic measures, if through our skriking something is saved, that would be wonderful.
But absent any hoped-for outcome, the land still deserves our sadness at its suffering. Its children deserve deep witness in their grief.
This is magic I can do. This is respect that I can pay. This is some small comfort I can take in being of service to the times I live in. And this is a promise I keep making, at different times, in different ways:
I will gaze unflinchingly at what is dying, and I will speak its name.
And if I happen to meet you there, in that darkness, I will hold your hand.
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich