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Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Gathering Information

26 Apr

I think one of the hardest parts of creating your own sort of local cultus is that it can be challenging to figure out how to do things without being appropriative. Most of us are living on lands that were stolen from indigenous people who had their own traditions, religions, and ways of relating to the land/world around them. To cherry-pick and take elements of their traditions as an outsider is an act of violence and theft, and so many of us are left wondering what options might be open to us.

In many instances, people will often look to their own religious traditions for inspiration, but the truth of the matter is that most of us are pulling from traditions that were centered somewhere else. For example, as a Kemetic, I would be pulling from a very specific area in the world with very specific weather patterns and cultural ways of existing in a region. Egypt was known to have a three-season cycle that centered heavily upon the rising and falling of the Nile, because the Nile was really what allowed them to survive how and where they did. And while the three-season model is close to what we have in Arizona, it’s certainly not what most people living in the US have to work with. Which is to say that most of these traditions don’t line up with our daily experience because they’re not tied to our specific region where we live. You know, the region that had its own culture that was forcefully removed so we could be here.

At the end of the day, most of us are still left going “how on earth can I connect the dots between where I live, and my religious practice?”

This series is aimed to help connect those dots — without being appropriative.

Direction; Expectations; What are we even making?

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of how to create this connection, I wanted to first lay some groundwork down that will hopefully help you get the most out of this.

First off, I am attempting to show you a way to gather information about your local region, and utilize that information to create holidays and rituals that form a sort of yearly calendar. At least initially, all of the posts in this series will be very generic in nature, and should be applicable to nearly any religious practice/practitioner. As things progress, if there is any interest in it, I can create more posts that show specific examples of what I’m doing with my local region, as well as how you can tie specific Kemetic ideas to the concepts laid out in this series. So regardless of your religious practice or preference: this should still be useful to you if you’re wanting to create a custom calendar.

This calendar will essentially be used to help you celebrate and participate in the natural, cyclical phenomena that occur where you live. This can also be expanded to encompass local fauna, landforms, and other natural features that exist around you which help to create the natural rhythms that make up the characteristics of your region. This includes suggestions for how to determine what might be considered sacred in your area. I also feel that you could utilize this as a baseline to fold in mythology and deities that exist within the religious structures that many of us are already participating in — hopefully in a way that respects the fact that we’re living on stolen land.

Second, I wanted to set the expectation that this sort of thing is not created in a day. Every year my understanding and knowledge about the region I live in is enriched and expanded. As you get more adept at seeing the patterns and cycles at play within the natural world around you, the more subtle stuff you’ll be able to pick up on, and the more you can branch out your holiday/ritual setup. Your first yearly calendar may only have a few holidays, but as time goes on, you may see other places where you could do more or try new things. This is normal and its fine if it takes a while to get the hang of it. Don’t be afraid to start simple and make it more complex as time progresses.

And finally, if you end up using this information to create your own calendars and rituals based off of your region, please let me know. I’d love for this to be a collaborative effort where we can all build off of each other and create a lot of different ways of celebrating our local regions. Ultimately, if there is enough content, I’ll create a sort of index of posts so that others can view them.

Here is the general outline of how these posts will flow:

Step One: Gathering Information

For me, the first step to creating a local calendar is to gather a whole lot of information about where you live. What kinds of information? Well nothing is technically off limits, but for the sake of ease, I’m going to break this down into two categories: weather patterns, and local plants and fauna.

Weather

So let’s start with weather. I feel like many people will say that this sounds stupidly obvious. Obvious in the sense of “We have four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall; and they occur at these times of the year. Done!”

But I urge you to dig a little bit deeper than that.

Weather patterns are often way more nuanced and vary across different regions. To give you an example, almost every part of Arizona has something of a three-season cycle, but the specifics of the cycles are still very different depending on where you live. There is a city about two hours south of me called Tucson, and while they have the exact same seasons as Phoenix (where I live,) the specifics of our seasons are super different. Tucson is a lot less hot than us, they get way more rain, you can grow way more in the summer there, and their winters tend to be colder than ours. The only real difference between us is our elevation, and yet our wind patterns and rain patterns are quite different. The more local you can get, the better your results will be.

When examining weather patterns, here is a short list of things I recommend learning about:

  • Temperature patterns: what are you hottest and coldest days/times of the year? At what times throughout the year do your temperatures start to shift?
  • Wind patterns: what direction do storms come from? How about pressure systems?
  • Rain patterns: do you have a rainy or snowy season? When is it? Does your rain or snow typically come from a particular direction or location?
  • Watersheds: how does your local area receive its potable water? Is it from rain sources, or an aquifer? Are there local rivers or other water sources worth honoring or protecting?
  • Global weather patterns: how does your local weather fit into the larger scale of global trade winds and patterns? This is useful for figuring out what is necessary to make the weather happen where you live. It will also highlight how climate change could be changing your weather.

There are lots of places you can look to learn about your weather patterns, but it can sometimes be tricky to find information. My absolute favorite is WeatherSpark.com, because it has really nice graphs. I generally find that Wunderground.com, BestPlaces.net and USClimateData.com are also good places to start, but I don’t know how well these websites will work for non-US locations. So just in case its helpful, here are some key words and phrases I often use:

  • [zip code] weather patterns
  • [zip code] weather history
  • [zip code] annual rainfall
  • [zip code] weather averages
  • [state/province] watershed map
  • [state/province] water resources

A lot of the websites you access will give you daily and weekly weather forecasts, and you can usually find “history” or “annual” tabs within these websites in order to see the bigger picture of how your weather pans out over a year.

Plants and Fauna

When it comes to plants and fauna, these are the sorts of things that I would recommend looking into:

  • Planting patterns: when do you typically plant and harvest where you live? Do you have one big growing season, or multiple smaller growing seasons?
  • Eating patterns: which of your native plants is edible, and could be reintroduced into the diet today? What are the growing and harvesting times for these plants? Are there specialty foods related to your specific region?
  • Natives: what are some of the plants or fauna that are native to the area? Which of these are keystone species? Are any of them endangered?
  • Invasives: are there invasive plant species in your area? how about invasive animals?
  • Local ecosystems and landforms: are there any forests, landforms, or other habitats nearby? Do these habitats (forests, deserts, etc.) influence your local fauna or weather?

Some search terms you could use to look up some of this information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone [zip code] (I don’t know if non-US places have an equivalent)
  • [state/province] invasive plant species
  • [state/province] native plants, native edible plants
  • [county name] extension office, extension resources
  • [county name] growing calendar

Of course, gathering this information is only part of the solution. You have to figure out what to do with the information that you’ve gathered — which we will cover in the next post (because this post is pretty long as it is).

 

 

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7 responses to “Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Gathering Information

  1. O.L.P.

    April 26, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    This is such an awesome idea. I love it.

    So, I’ve been participating in some Truth and Reconciliation meetings at my local UU church. (They have now stopped due to covid). And one thing that came up was the “wannabe syndrome”. As soon as I heard those words, I realized that paganism often tries to be like an indigenous religion, what with shamanism, totem animals, throat-singing, etc. So, I try to be mindful of when I note this wannabe syndrome coming up in my own practice or in readings that I do.

    Fortunately, the antidote to the syndrome was brought up in these meetings. Honouring your ancestors, heritage, and cultural stories can lessen the desire to “be indigenous”. And there’s tons of pagans who do try to honour their ancestors. I’m just leery of some popular works that are out there.

    TLDR paganism needs to learn better relations to indigenous peoples

     
    • DevoTTR

      April 26, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      I think it depends on what part of the pagan community you’re in to some extent. because there are definitely certain groups and religions that fall under the pagan umbrella that have more structure, which can (key word, can) sometimes lead to less ppl trying to steal stuff. Like, Kemeticism has no need to steal shamanism or totem animals because there is no precedent for either in our source materials. As such, you’d be less likely to meet many Kemetics who touch either (and for good reason.) However, show up into a general, generic pagan group? You’ll probably find several. So I think it can depend upon whether you’ve got an actual tradition you’re working off of, a pre-existing blue print as it were, or if you’re just someone wandering aimlessly in the “spiritual” realm. It’s definitely an issue taht needs to be resolved, and I could wax poetic about what causes it and perpetuates it. I think that one of the best arguments I’ve seen for it is that most of us lack a Sense of Place, and I’ll be interested to see if this approach eases it at all.

      I’ll also add that, yeah, doing stuff related to ancestors can be a means to help the issue, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I, for one, don’t have a lot of access to pre-Catholic Polish practices, and most of what’s out there is heavily racist. Options can be limited, as can access, for a whole host of reasons for a whole lot of folks. And it won’t necessarily address the lack of A Sense Of Place that often leads to the wannabe syndrome your UU was talking about. Esp if you’re not really tied to anything culturally significant to the source material (which would put you in the same boat as what sparked this series)

      That being said, I agree that paganism needs to learn beter and do better in regards to indigenous people. The entire Western World needs to, really.

       

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