Eco-Magic: A Definition

From the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

Eco-magic is the use of magical and spiritual techniques for the benefit or protection of the environment. Because practitioners believe that magic backed by practical action is more effective, eco-magic often supports conventional campaigning or is integrated with direct action.

Eco-magic is an evolving practice that blurs into a whole ideology of change. Starhawk, a witch and political activist, “offers the principles of magic not as a belief system…but as an alternative descriptive system that can help develop a psychology of liberation.” Because eco-magic is a strategy that a conventional opponent will find hard to counter, it has been perceived as a tool of the oppressed.

Any magical tradition or technique can be adapted to eco-magic and practitioners work with a wide variety of deities. Rituals can be public or private and involve groups or single individuals. Western eco-magic does exhibit certain distinctive qualities, notably the use of elements of performance, especially drumming, dance, and chanting. Certain symbols and mythic elements recur. The goddess Gaia and the Green Man appear frequently, as does the Dragon, symbol of Earth energy. Spirals and runic talismans (e.g., the Dragon Tree Rune) are common. Eco-magic often involves working with the “Genius Loci” of the place, the Devas or Faery Folk, who are understood as teachers and allies in the campaign.

Since the early 1980s, a more theorized eco-magic practice has emerged from Western Paganism. Starhawk, Reclaiming and the Dragon Environmental Network have been influential in defining this practice, which I call “Dragon/Reclaiming  Eco[Activist]-Magic (DRE[A]M). Although generally eco-magic may include cursing or similar “aggressive” magic, DRE[A]M is nonviolent, non-hierarchical, and strives toward holistic solutions. It is a magic that works toward building reciprocal relationships between the natural world and humanity. DRE[A]M excludes Western magical traditions that use nature spirits instrumentally. Practitioners allege that such traditions emerge from a cerebral “dominator” ideology of control that is incompatible with an eco-magic that works in tune with nature.

Mainstream environmentalists are generally dismissive of spiritual perspectives while many spiritual people consider political issues to be irrelevant. Eco-magic, like liberation theology, explicitly connects the political and the spiritual: The personal is political is spiritual.”

by Adrian Harris

Further Reading:

Harris, Adrian. “Dragon Decade- A Personal Perspective on Eco-Magic” Dragon Eco-Magic Journal (June 2001)

Harvey, Graham. “Religious Experience in Contemporary Society” Religious Experience Research Centre, 1997..

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. New York: HarperCollins, 1989

Starhawk. Truth or Dar. New York: Harper and Row, 1987

Starhawk: Dreaming the Dark. Boston: Beacon Press, 1982

See also: Donga Tribe; Dragon Environmental Network; Magic, Animism, and the Shaman’s Craft; Paganism – Contemporary; Radical Environmentalism; Reclaiming; Starhawk; Wicca


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