Saturday, November 17, 2012

Red Griffiths-Haynes

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank ABtMS/Brother for his very interesting  interview. I really enjoyed reading your answers and learning more about your faith and I thank you very much for that!
Thanks for sharing with all of us!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Red Griffiths-Haynes. Red is an Animist and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Red Griffiths-Haynes's Introduction:

Red has been working and studying within the British pagan community for the past fifteen years. Traditionally apprenticed and taught, she began training in the craft at the age of eighteen and has devoted her life to honouring the gods and ancestors of the British Isles ever since. Working mainly within the Druid community, as a trustee for The Druid Network, and as a priest, teacher and celebrant, and in public service, her practice is focused predominantly on the gods and stories of English and Germanic mythology. Not tied to any one modern pagan tradition, hers is a religion simply of nature, the earth, sea and sky of Britain, the magic written in the landscape. She describes herself first and foremost as an Animist exploring the sanctity of relationship with both human and non and is fascinated with exploring the ethics, philosophy, and alchemy that make those relationships sustainable.

She is currently writing a book, which brings together elements of modern Druidry and Heathenry.

1) What religion do you practice?
Whilst my religious practice contains many elements of British pagan tradition including Druidry and Heathenry, I am first and foremost an Animist. This means that I understand everything, every person, every creature, stone, tree and leaf, down to the smallest particle and atom, to be infused with spirit and its own unique consciousness. Within Animism, spirit is the fundamental building block of the universe, shaping and providing a framework for existence. Spirit permeates all things creating a vibrant, humming web of life, in which all things can be considered sacred, because all things are to a certain extent conscious with their own individual intention or poetically, song. There is no supernatural creator of the universe who exists outside Nature, for nothing in Animism exists outside it, Nature is complete and all encompassing. There is understood to be a strong creative force of the cycle of generation and decay, which moves throughout the entire universe. Where Gods are recognised these are often simply powers of Nature, the things that affect our existence in fundamental ways. These may be personified as a Goddess of the Ocean or Rain, a God of the Sun or Sky, or they may simply be understood as raw nature, human and non: Darkness, Light, the Wind, Love or Rage. Whilst Animism is often seen to be a primitive religion much maligned by conquerors of indigenous peoples, it is a living breathing tradition still, with a growing philosophical stream within it. Animism is found amongst most indigenous peoples, but is not the same the world over, being intrinsically flavoured by landscape and ancestry and the stories contained within each. The Animist seeks to live in honourable, harmonious and most importantly, sustainable relationship with the world around her. It is a religion of relationship and I strive to be wakeful of each moment, conscious of my own impact. Consequently deep green environmentalism is often characteristic of Animism.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was not raised in any particular religious tradition, but in a family that naturally had a strong reverence and understanding of nature. As a child I spent a good deal of time in nature, both alone and with my family, growing up as I did in a village in the Oxfordshire countryside, swimming in the rivers and listening to the wind. My father planted trees with me as a child, teaching me their names, my mother taught me the names of birds and flowers. The English countryside was my first love and an ever-present companion and early on I developed a streak of strong environmentalism. I was a sensitive child, aware of many things that others weren’t, particularly the dead folk and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a strong sense of the sacred and spiritual. My religion evolved naturally from my upbringing and experience and it wasn’t until I became a young adult that I discovered others who experienced the world as I did.

3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Yes and no. Because the practice of Animism varies so greatly between individuals, there is little in the way of orthodoxy, no sacred texts and no laws or rules that must be adhered to. Rather, degrees of observance are often indicated by the extent to which each individual is guided by their religion and expresses and manifests that as lived reality. For many Animists, action and what we actually ‘do’ as our personal observances and work within our communities is the most important thing. Most will make ethical decisions, which are informed by their relationships with nature and landscape. For many, this may mean vegetarianism or veganism, living with the minimum of impact, offering our services as priests or teachers for celebrations, rites of passage and guidance to others.

4) Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I have devoted my life to the service of my Gods. This means that my religion is not part time but infuses all that I do. I give my time to teaching students what I have learned and offer services as a priest and celebrant and volunteer as a trustee for The Druid Network. I also work as an educationalist in women’s health, passionately believing in learning and philosophy as a way to create and sustain healthy communities and relationships.

5) What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
To the Animist, life does not end with death, just as water or oxygen or carbon does not die. All these things have consciousness and may be imbibed with our memory or essence and in this way, we continue, though not as an integrated whole. Within the mythologies of the British Isles there are certainly otherworld places where the dead go, they might be called Heaven, the Summerlands, Valhalla, Hel, or Annwn but these are not usually connected with ideas of reward or punishment. I certainly do not discount the existence of any, all and many more of these ‘Otherworld’ places; the universe is vast, multi-veiled and complex. The soul too is multifaceted, rarely sticking together in any wholly coherent form after death. To the Animist, body and soul are not separate, with the animating force leaving the cold corpse behind at death. Consciousness fizzes through fingers and toes, heart and hair as an integrated whole. When we die, memories, personality, layers of thought, emotion, blood, bone, fluid, atoms, carbon and oxygen start to disperse and with it our human solidity and coherency. We become memories in the mud, thoughts that remain with our living friends and family, songs in the wind, particles in plants and in the water, wandering the places that we loved or were attached to in life. Parts may dream on in our concepts and memories of Summerland or Hel, spend a while held in the arms of our gods, whatever we conceive that to mean, or exploring the stars and becoming a hundred other lives and a myriad other existences. To me, there is no sense that there is only one option, that the same is true for each individual or that there are rules about where we go or where we should or shouldn’t be after we die.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
This question is not really relevant within Animism and is explained above.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I don’t feel that I ‘picked’ my religion as a best fit, more that it naturally evolved within me as an expression of my nature and essential self and the things I hold as sacred.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Many British Animists will celebrate the commonly practiced eight pagan festivals: Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumn Equinox and Samhain. Some will put more emphasis on one than others and it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Animism celebrates our relationship with landscape so as the seasons turn we celebrate those changes, whether or not they fall upon these traditional holy days. Rites of passage such as menarche, coming of age, handfasting or croning are also important as a part of the individual journey and their place within the community.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely. My parents-in-law are Methodist; I have friends within other branches of Paganism and work with interfaith in The Druid Network and my place of work. Religion and faith have the potential to throw our differences into stark relief and can violently divide us, sadly. Yet, I often feel I have more in common with others who hold religious viewpoints than those who hold atheist viewpoints because we are both beginning from the place where we are describing and defining our sense of sanctity, rather than what is not true.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Again, absolutely. Celebrations and holy days are about religious observance and devotion, but they are also about community sharing and cohesion. Celebrating together, even where faith differs, strengthens family and community and promotes empathy and understanding.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
This is a strange question. I find myself wondering why I am being asked to comment specifically on Muslim practice and ideology, rather than or as well as say, Christian, or Buddhist or any other. Perhaps these things are more of an issue in the US than they are here in the UK? Its inclusion here, I think, shows an inherent, unspoken, deep fear that exists between the Western and Muslim worlds.

I have no problem with either Shariah Law or the burka where there is consent and freedom, not oppression as the guiding principles. But I do not believe that there should be differing systems of law within a country and in choosing to live in a place, we must accept its legal system unless it is obviously in violation our human rights. That should be true for all of us.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, imam etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Yes, gender is in no way an issue or barrier.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
No, there is no segregation of gender based on ideology. I personally choose to work with a group of women for my main celebrations, but this because we share a perspective not because we deliberately exclude men. I also make observances with my husband who shares my faith and larger mixed groups as a priest and celebrant.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
My ethics are based upon the principles of relationship, freedom and self-determination, and the path of least harm or suffering. This means that each decision is made on a considered and individual basis without laws or dogma and with absolute personal responsibility for all that I do. I have no problem with a person marrying whomever they wish and no problem with abortion.

Animism and Druidry both teach the art of relationship. When we are truly awake and conscious to the world around us, we become acutely aware of how our actions affect the world and every other being around us. When our gods are found in nature, what we do to Nature as a species suddenly becomes incredibly relevant and important. How we eat, behave, act, what we use and abuse, all have an impact, with the potential to damage or destroy that which we hold most sacred. This is particularly true in terms of environmental issues. It is interesting that given the pressing environmental crisis, its relevance to many and its increasing discourse within religious circles, at least here in the UK, there is not a question addressing it in this list!

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I have no children by conscious choice, not least for environmental reasons so I can only imagine how I would feel in this situation. I feel strongly about passing my tradition on and ensuring it continues, so if I were to have children, sharing it would be important. However I am guided by the individuals need to respectfully choose and self determine and I wholeheartedly reject dogma, feeling that I have no right to make that decision for my children or anyone else.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
No, I do not understand the universe to be governed by an entity that judges whether someone is a good person or not. This is a human-centric understanding and an anthropomorphisation of Nature and implies that there is a supernatural being outside of Nature; neither of which is concurrent with Animist thought.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
There has been an explosion of writing in recent years by modern British pagans, which expresses the many different threads of tradition found therein, but very little on Animism. Notable authors include Graham Harvey and Emma Restall Orr. The degree to which they are practicing is their own business and does not necessarily negate or substantiate their words. Both have written wonderful texts that have and will continue to move the discussion of Animism on in different and fascinating ways, exploding the many myths and misconceptions that abound. I hope there will be many more voices in the future who will continue to add to the debate.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
No, never.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Quite the contrary, my religion reminds me that all things have inherent worth or value.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
My Religion brings me peace and stillness, an ability to cope with and exist in the modern world. I am not sure that it brings me peace of mind, like an insurance policy, this implies complacency and ease. My religion is nothing if not challenging because Animism wakes us to the world and our relationships within it. This is not always a comfortable experience because it challenges us to look at where we are ignorant or complacent and make meaningful changes in our lives, which enable us to live more sustainably. This often involves making sacrifices, not from a sense of martyrdom but of responsibility, which is not always easy.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Yes, but perhaps not in the accepted sense. My answer to this has already been given in question 5.

1 comment:

  1. Red,
    Beautifully written. You have presented the essence of Animism with clarity and eloquence (and that is no easy thing).

    This series of questions and responses reminded me just how different the paradigm of daily life is for someone walking an Animist path, than for someone who practices a reveal religion. When one recognizes the sanctity of all reality, it changes everything in terms of our ethics and our ethos. Our behavior in every relationship from a simple breath to our relations to our car, to our spouse, to the gods, emmanates from this core realization. The way we live in the world is carefully considered and open to change. And as you pointed out, given the profound environmental disaster we see unfolding around the globe, we need to make a paradigm shift with our relationship to Nature. This is absolutely critical.

    One thing I would add about being an Animist is, it is a process. It isn't just for people who find they have extra sensory perceptions and therefore a different view of life. It is a process of learning, study, and practice to awaken our dulled senses. In other words, it is a choice. And for those of us who have made this choice, it has made all the difference. I think you summed this up beautiful with this sentence, "When our gods are found in nature, what we do to Nature as a species suddenly becomes incredibly relevant and important." Powerful!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

    Be well and many blessings,