When I was young, I recognized the ways I could help the Earth. I’m not sure if it was because recycling was becoming in vogue or if the pictures of trash and environmental losses made an impression on the younger me, but I was committed (my mom might say OVER-committed) to helping as I could. I wrote to the President of the United States (my letter got published in a regional newspaper), I created bins for recycling, and I turned vegetarian. My Midwest family didn’t quite know what to think of all this.
I live in California now, where environmental activism is embedded in the culture (at least in the Bay Area). And I became a student and teacher of Reclaiming Witchcraft, which has deep roots in environmental activism (see Earth Spirit: Honoring the Wild – Reclaiming Witchcraft & Environmental Activism).
The first goddess I worked with in any tradition was Gaia, a figure who came to me in the first meditation I ever did in a women’s circle. Her hair was long and wide, her smile wide and welcoming, and in her lap was the globe. I sat beside her and never left.
But disconnection is always possible in any relationship, and the cultural separation from Gaia or Mother Earth energy is seen worldwide. When we do not tend to the land, to the earth, and to the wild, we become less invested in what happens next. To save the world and future generations, we can turn back to Gaia. We can listen.
We can learn.
Reconnecting to the Wild
Coming back to the wild is a process, not a perfection. This is a journey of remembering that the world we often experience is far removed from its roots. I often see stories about people who don’t realize tomato sauce comes from tomatoes or that meats come from animals. Every day, we see what is before us, cleaned and sanitized; we don’t remember what happened before our encounter. We don’t consider the cycle.
We* forget the hands that harvested, the lands that nourished, the seeds that started, and the mind of farmers who tended the lands long before there were computers and machines.
So how can we reconnect with the wild? Healing and reconnection come with the presence and acknowledgment of the source(s). Where do our foods come from? What packaging is being used? How am I adding to the waste? How am I creating pollution? What is my role in all of this? How am I being compliant in systems of destruction?
It sounds dramatic, and it’s meant to sound that way. Certainly, multimillion-dollar businesses and production operations create far more waste than an individual. This has been proven again and again.
And when I think of how to influence change and upset patterns of oppression and damage, I think of what I can do. I can return to the wild places. I can honor what has nourished me and held me. I can close my eyes and think about a world that isn’t as comfortable or clean. I can think of my ancestors (or how I imagine them to be) and consider what they did to survive and live, how they worked with Gaia to understand what she needed, and how they didn’t want to take too much from her. I begin to recognize that Gaia is not just a being, but also a part of an interdependent relationship between humans and Earth.
Renaming and Reclaiming Activism
One of the common obstacles to supporting Gaia (and thus ourselves) is the term ‘activism.’ I hear that word, and I think of arrests and tear gas and places that scare me. Activism is taking a stand for what you believe in. How you take action is up to you. I personally believe that there are plenty of ways to take action, e.g. protests, donations, local community events, mutual aid support, recycling, cleaning up trash at the beach, making meals from local produce, etc.
Gaia doesn’t ask you to be perfect. She will be just fine if the world continues the way it goes. The Earth will move on in its own way, humans or not.
However, as in any relationship, you might ask yourself what your part is. What can you offer to support and nurture the relationship? What is within your means and your energy? What is possible within your resources and time?
You can drop into local and global organizations to see what they might need from you. Connect with your friends and family to spend time supporting environmental causes. Consider what your personal impact is and how you might reduce it. Do you need to buy another thing? Can you use that water bottle instead of buying a plastic bottle? Do you need to buy ANOTHER water bottle?
This is a judgment-free zone. I am not perfect in tempering my impact on the earth. I drive a car. I travel in airplanes. I sometimes grab a plastic box of processed food because it’s what is available. However, when I can tap into my awareness and acknowledge my choices impact Gaia, I am more likely to make positive choices.
Building a Relationship with Gaia
If you want to change the way you act in the world, I think it’s helpful to have better relationships as a foundation. Not only does this help you have more authentic motivations, but also encourages accountability. When I am in a relationship with someone, and I care about them, I realize that my actions have an impact. I carefully consider that impact. And when I step outside of what I want in that relationship, I can bring myself back, recognize my errors, and figure out how to be better the next time.
Get to know Gaia – By reading books and finding articles on Gaia, you can get to know her place in the myths. You can see how she interacted with other deities and learn about her impact within the stories. This practice of getting to know her will help you understand who she is to you and your life. Like any new friend, ask questions and listen to see what she might have to offer you in return.
Make room for her in your life – I always encourage new deity relationships to begin with an altar or some space in your home. This can be a simple corner of a windowsill or more expansive, as space allows. You might find a rock that feels like it works to celebrate her. Or you might find a picture of the Earth or one of the many images of Gaia as Mother Earth. You can also put an image of her as the background wallpaper of your phone. No matter what you do, you can find a place for her. This will also allow you to have a place to come to so you can sit in meditation or dance with her or whatever she seems to want to have attention and celebration.
Consider small changes – When I meet someone I like, I want to make them happy. I might find things to give to them, or I might make plans with them. With Gaia, you might consider trying a few actions to support environmental causes. This can be as simple as buying less plastic or eating less meat, or you might learn how to compost food scraps and join a local environmental group.
In my book “Pagan Portals: Gaia – Saving Her, Saving Ourselves,” I expand on ways to get to know Gaia and to bring environmental activism into your life. From magick to practical tips, I offer ways to move from her myths to the present day. This book talks about everything from building sustainable communities to managing environmental grief. I hope that not only does this inspire, but it also encourages ongoing action.
Gaia is seen as a singular goddess, Mother Earth, and the oldest goddess, and while this is true, she is more than just a being. She is home. She is this home, your home, and our home. By learning to build a better relationship with her, we will honor and save her from continued destruction.
While healing may not be apparent in the current time, everything we do will support future generations. What we do now saves the world.
[Irisanya Moon (she/they) is an author, witch, international teacher, poet, and Reclaiming initiate who has practiced magick for 20+ years. Her books include Pagan Portals (Reclaiming Witchcraft – 2020, Aphrodite – 2020, Iris – 2021, Norns – 2023, Artemis – 2024), Earth Spirit (Honoring the Wild – 2023, Gaia – 2023), and Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being – 2020. Irisanya cultivates spaces of self-care/devotion, divine relationship (whatever that means to you), and community service as part of her heart magick and activism. www.irisanyamoon.com]