Sacred Journeys and Mystic Musings

Six Mile Radius or Bioregionalism

   Thu, June 7, 2007 - 12:53 PM
As a Seidhwoman, my advice is sought on many matters, some of which pertain to the spiritcrafts of spae, runes, galdr or seidhr. When I am asked for details on how to live more spiritually, I always recommend becoming aware of an individuals “Six Mile Radius”.

Your Six Mile Radius begins at your hearth, and extends outwards in a circle for six miles in every direction, so will include more than your house and yard, but the corner gas station and car wash, the bank and drug store, your local park and walking trail, and the like. It may also include where you buy all your food, clothing, and your place of employment.

The idea of extending our awareness outwards in a Six Mile Radius is how we thread our Luck with the Natturer, or the guardians of place - for few are aware that their physical/cultural identity is intimately bound to their historical/culturally identity. Further, being aware of our Six Mile Radius is the first step towards co-responsibility with the ebb and flow of life around us – the intimate weaving of land, water and sky that our ancestors knew so well.

Recently I learned another word to describe Six Mile Radius, a word that includes part of my definition, while encapsulating the expression, “Think Globally, Act Locally”. That word is Bioregionalism.

“Bioregionalism is a term used to describe an approach to political, cultural, and environmental issues based on naturally-defined regional areas, consistent with the concept of bioregions, or ecoregions. These areas are usually based on a combination of physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon — with phrases such as "the politics of place" and "terrain of consciousness" appearing in bioregionalist writings — and places emphasis on local populations, knowledge and solutions.”
-Don Alexander, _Bioregionalism: The Need for a Firmer Theoretical Foundation_, 1996.

Prior to this observation, in 1984, a group of bioregionalists gathered for the first North American Bioregional Congress to “envision and develop a realistic, restorative way of life in the bioregions of the Americas.
In short, this was the rallying cry for folk to become aware of their local land and water, sky, plants and animals.

For my part, my husband and I have, on our three acre lot, planted over 20 trees, created and/or widen islands around trees, freed our dry creekbed from debris, built and maintain feed and water stations for wildlife, support local organic and local farms, pick-up trash at our local park, and in all we do, try to walk mindfully upon the face of Grandmother Bestla and Mother Jord.

Recently, I joined a list of fellow bioregionalists and was introduced to an article entitled, _Mother of All: An Introduction to Bioregionalism_, by Kirkpatrick Sale:
In this lecture, Mr. Sale explains the ancient history of Bioregionalism, linking this idea to the philosophies of Plato, and the Greek idea of Gaea, or Mother Earth. Of note for Heathens is the ancient Greek origin story of the Meliae, who were ash tree nymphs, or the first Fates, who later gave birth to humanity; a story that mirrors our own cultural wisdom of the first couple being born from trees – Ash and Elm.

Another Greek philosopher, Xenophon, writing in the fourth century before common era, noted, “Earth is a goddess, and teaches justice to those who can learn. The better she is served, the more good things she gives in return.”
In our folk faith, we speak of Audhumbla and Aurgelmir, the Primal Cow and Primal Shrieker; the one nourishing the other, which then became Midgard. And it is this Midgard, our planet, that Mr. Sale identifies as the Mother of All.

Mr. Sale’s lecture then compares the rise of corporate capitalism and the spread of globalization with the disregard of earth-based philosophies. An example expressed in the 1960s by Dr. James Lovelock, which he termed 'Gaia Philosophy' or the 'Gaia Hypothesis'.
As a Seidhwoman, and with my understanding of Siberian Shamanism and Saami Noiade practices, this idea – of a living earth – is so deeply woven into humanity to be almost universal. Or, as Mr. Sales explains, the idea of an 'organic..spiritual..creative..and intangible’ entity, who is - in our forn sedr - none other than Grandmother Bestla and Mother Jord.

Another way of expressing this, as noted in Mr. Sale’s lecture, is from an Irish book entitled _The Interpreters_, where one character relates, “If all wisdom was acquired without, it might be politic to make our culture cosmopolitan. But I believe our best wisdom does not come from without, but arises in the soul and is an emanation of the earth-spirit, a voice speaking directly to us as dwellers in the land.” Again, this idea is found in Heathen thought, specifically in the natturer or “nature spirits” who can be nothing else but the spirits of place within your Six Mile Radius, or Bioregion.

Another item of note from the lecture is this quote, “We must somehow live as close to it as possible, be in touch with its particular soils, its waters, its winds. We must learn its ways, its capacities, its limits. We must make its rhythms our patterns, its laws our guide, its fruits our bounty. That, in essence, is bioregionalism.” No doubt, the first tribes to live in Northern Europe thrived by being mindful of this idea; just as it was critical to the first settlers of Iceland, Greenland, and then Vinland (America).

At the heart of Mr. Sales' lecture is a four-point strategy of awareness. In brief:
-Scale. This is a specific area, which I describe as a Six Mile Radius. Extended outwards, I live in northeast Georgia, which is the Southern Appalachian Bioregion.
-Economy. This is the utilization, where possible, of the natural resources in your area. Such as, for example, supporting local organic or natural farms and ranches.
-Politics. This includes being proactive in projects like growing indigenous trees and plants in your yard or neighborhood, volunteering in a local river or highway clean-up, and attending town council meetings where environmental issues are discussed.
-Society. This is the balance between urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, population and resources. An idea that extends beyond container or rooftop gardening, and planting trees in downtown sidewalks, but an overall awareness of ecological principles. One such example is this brief quiz:
--Where does the water that comes out of your faucet come from?
--When you flush the toilet, where does that water and waste go?
--From your present location, which way is east?
--From your current time, how many days until the moon is full?
--What plant or animals are the barometer of environmental health in your Bioregion? At this time, how are they doing?

Other ways these four points of awareness can be incorporated into daily life include:
-Buy locally grown food (preferably organic or natural).
-Avoid large chain retail stores - support locally owned businesses.
-Buy American made products or items produced locally/regionally, preferably those that practice environmental responsibility.
-Utilize local banks, ones that invest in your community.
-Familiarize yourself with the flora and fauna in your area – your Six Mile Radius. Be observant of weather patterns, seasonal changes and moon phases.
-Find out where you county Extension Office is, to better identify your native plants, crops, and soil type.
-Know your local history and how it has contributed to your current living conditions.
-Know your neighbors and watch out for each other.
-Support local venues such as art shows, plays, festivals and music events.
-Turn off your TV! Sit outside and talk to your family and friends. Play cards, make music, tell stories and in all you do, live in real-time!
-Know where your garbage goes and remember to, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Remember, when you throw something away, there is no ‘away’!
-Know where your drinking water comes from, and be conservative about running the faucet. Consider a water barrel to collect rain water.
-Know where your electricity is generated, be conservative by turning off lights and unplugging appliances. Where possible, look into solar or wind power.
-Get involved in local politics and vote in local elections. Be a part of the decision-making process.
-Home school where possible or get directly involved in your children’s education.

For Heathens, another attractive side to Bioregionalism is culture – or the need to separate and so identify as a decentralized body. In so doing, Heathen culture, which, like all culture, is the “quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc”. One way to express our culture, as Heathens, is to affiliate with local/regional Asatru organizations over that of national ones; so that we lend our support - time and funds - to our Bioregion. Where I live, that area is known as The Southlands.

Aside from the development of Heathen culture, there is our strong sense of self-reliance; for if we still believe that Midgard contains unending frontiers and vast renewable resources, we are only hiding from the transformation that is afoot. Meaning, the more huge corporations cast their globalization net, the more we should, as Heathens, focus on kindred and tribal sustainability.

These ideas are Western ideas, American ideas, for in 1934 the United States government authorized a National Resource Committee to study the regions of America. The findings of this study were that, “regional differentiation may turn out to be the true expression of American life and culture [reflecting] American ideals, needs, and viewpoints far more adequately than does State consciousness and loyalty.” The result of this study birthed both the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and (later) the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Both of which are important to me in that they are part of The Southlands, or my Heathen Bioregion.

So that moving away from globalization, towards smaller, decentralized bioregions, is a trend worth supporting. In the words of Harold Isaacs, “What we are experiencing is not the shaping of new coherences but the world breaking into its bits and pieces...We are refragmenting and *retribalizing* ourselves.” (emphasis my own)

As a Seidhwoman I cannot stress enough the importance for us to cultivate weal by living in relation to nature; by cultivating a relationship with nature - the natturer. What better way to be Heathen then to honor Sunna and Mani, Aegir and Ran, Thor and Sif, Frey and Freyja, and Hella herself – the great composter! – than to know them as living entities that reside within land, water and sky.

Live Deliberately!
Yngona Desmond


add a comment
Mon, June 18, 2007 - 6:08 PM
*waves from the (not-quite) frozen north*
Totally off-topic from class material, so I thought I'd put it here. ;)

I'm just curious about your learning regarding the Saami. I spent some time up in Sapmi a few years back Yeah. The land there is *amazing*.

Feel free to PM me or whatever...
Thu, June 28, 2007 - 9:34 AM
My reply ..
.. to Lyght was sent off-list.

... Yngona
Sat, July 7, 2007 - 2:44 PM
This was a very well thought out and conveyed piece of writing.
it's a philosophy that rings very true with me, and you explain it so clearly.
Fri, July 13, 2007 - 10:12 AM
72 !
Mon, July 16, 2007 - 3:07 PM
A very nice written piece on a topic dear to my heart. I help throw regional and local trance dance events (something between a ritual and a party as most secular ritual is) My crew and my friends up in Asheville all follow the ideas behind bioregionalism. We are working hard to start adding more workshops on these kinds of topics to our festivals. The space in Atlanta where we do parties is working on getting a convention center license and we plan on hosting small workshop weekends on these sorts of topics as well as metaphysical ones. The space is called Spring 4th and its a community center for the undergound that strives to bring together people of various cultures for discourse and a good time.

I am also very interested in your shamanic path. I am adopted and have no records as to my ancestry ( which makes me kinda sick and sad to be honest, its very weird to not know ones heritage when you are inclined the way I am to shamanic paths) I first got interested in bioregionalism when I encountered the idea of bioregional animism on Tribe. A dear friend suggested I talk to my local spirits, I was born in Atlanta and despite having no ancestory history I am a human of the Southern Appalachian region and from my local spirits I have just barely started to gain wisdom

looking forward to more conversation

Sun, July 29, 2007 - 1:43 AM
this is great... could you post this on the bioregional animism and paganism tribes?
Wed, December 12, 2007 - 9:37 AM
This is a great post, and touches on what i believe to be the bedrock of heathen practice. Well done!
Fri, March 14, 2008 - 9:40 PM
Living in the wilderness in Alaska! What it means to get away from all things material and get back to nature! I would not trade it for ANYTHING! Gave away all that I owned, now living in a cabin <no running water> lugging water in! It is really what life is all about Getting Back to What Is All Things nature! Wonderful post and I admire YOU!