Climate Change and Paganism


While trying to avoid the disgusting heat and even worse humidity that has taken over this summer, a thought occurred to me: I hate climate change.  I’m a girl who thrives best in that lovely range of 60-75 degrees, with a light breeze and partly cloudy sky, thank you.  That is my perfect day.  I like the snow but I hate the cold.  I like the sun and the beautiful summer days, but I despise the heat.  Yet climate change is making the winters and summers worse.  This past year is a perfect example.  I live in a region (mid to southern Maryland) that generally sees summers in the high 80s.  Spring is beautiful and long.  As for winter, we consider it harsh if we get 5 inches–and southern Maryland is harsh if we get a dusting.  So imagine our consternation when this past winter dropped not one but TWO blizzards (yes, they were blizzards, and one in S. Maryland was a white-out for a while) as well as a third major snow storm.  Highly unusual.  Spring seemed to get lost this year, and Summer took over in force, with temperatures getting into the 100s and humidity oppressive.

Aside from my small yet understandable rant about the weather, what does this have to do with paganism?  Well, those changes I listed above are signs of climate change.  Also included in that list are the earthquakes that have increased, the Iceland volcano, and the harsh Atlantic hurricane season predicted for this year.  Paganism reveres nature, and our holidays follow the wheel of the year, celebrating the seasons and the natural occurences associated with each: planting, growing, harvesting, resting.  But what happens if climate changes so severely that those holidays get lost, or moved around?  What should we do if, for example in my area, Beltane occurs in a summer month instead of spring?

I know there is a debate in much of the community about exactly this question.  People are trying to figure out what happens to our holidays and our traditions should the seasons change drastically enough to alter what we now consider to be the natural progression.  Do we keep the Sabbats on those days regardless, or do we change them around?  What makes it more confusing is that the heavens change over time as well.  I’m not talking about the usual changes of constellations moving across the night sky.  I’m talking about major changes in the astrology that affect the observance of holidays.  The summer solstice, for example, is celebrated by many when the sun is in 15 degrees Taurus–but Taurus and many (if not all) of the astrological constellations are no longer in their original configurations in the sky when the concept was created.  Does that mean then that the solstice should be celebrated on the new configuration and the new date, or the old?

No one has come up with an answer, and I suspect that the answer, like much else in paganism, is going to be a highly individualistic one.  Me, I say use both.  Create double holidays for each, one day for the traditional observance and one for the updated observance.  That way there is still an appreciation for the traditional path but also an acknowledgement that there is change in the natural order, and that we must change with it or be left behind.

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