Is Sacred Nature Gendered or Queer? Insights from a Study on Eco-Spiritual Activism in Switzerland
2. The Gendered Dimension of the “Spiritualization of Ecology” in Switzerland
Religious symbols and forms of religious communication that belonged predominantly or exclusively to the “sacred” religious sphere have been disseminated into other cultural spheres and used in non-religious cultural contexts, most importantly in popular commercial media and leisure culture.
4. Theoretical Considerations: The Entanglement between Gender, Nature and the Self
5. Varieties of Gendered Eco-Spirituality: From Gender Polarity to Queer
5.1. The New Age and Holistic Milieu: Gender Complementarity in Nature
I scan a place, I will feel I will connect, ah, I will feel the feminine vibration and I will say to myself, ah, it is perhaps a fairy who is there. Ah, there it is surely an elf considering that it is straight.(Fieldwork interview, Lausanne, March 2019)
5.2. The Transition Network: The Neutralization of Gender through Organic Metaphors
Now, in our time, three rivers, anguish for our world, scientific breakthroughs and ancestral teachings, flow together. From the confluence of these rivers we drink. We awaken to what we once knew: we are alive in a living earth, the source of all we are and can achieve. Despite our conditioning by the industrial society of the last two centuries, we want to name, once again, this world as holy.
The Web of Life has not unwoven for nearly 3.8 billion years, billions of years that [have spawned] the first bacteria, which are our ancestors. It is more than a string, it has woven a web, abounding, bushy and multicolored for billions of years. We are interdependent. We all have here strong interdependency with other living organisms outside this room. We are more than this room, and this radical interdependency is magnificent, she is moving and touching us. Additionally, in fact, it leads us toward something that is beyond us. That we even have a hard time imagining. It is something similar to sacred, what the Anglophones call “Wholeness”, the feeling of unity with the Whole.(Our translation)
5.3. Neo-Shamanism: Queering Natureculture
We can make a direct link between neo-shamanism and queer. This link is situated in the relation to magic, in the relation to movement which is not fixed, not written, not stopped, not defined and in the porosity of the real, the porosity between the worlds … the relation to the spirits. To think that there are entities. There we enter into spirituality. To think that there is something other than just me and to think that there are energies of the entities of the gods [and] goddesses, it does not matter, we will say the word “spirit”, if we imagine that there are the spirits and the human. Additionally, that we imagine that it’s not separated and that it’s possible to dialogue and to trade. Additionally, therefore a space where human and nature are not dissociated, where … human is nature.(Fieldwork interview, Lausanne, April 2019)
6. The Emergence of Critical Stances at the Hubs of Eco-Spirituality
It is a Friday evening when we attend together with hundreds of interested people of all ages a public conference on ecofeminism featuring the key speaker Starhawk. The attending crowd has quickly filled the 200 seats in the space rented for the occasion near the main railway station, and more chairs need to be found to seat everybody. During half of the conference, an attentive and silent audience listens to Starhawk explaining her alternative archeological and mythological views on a pre-Christian matrifocal society. She argues that ancient Caucasian societies were “focused on the power of nurturing, of nourishment, of bringing life into the world of life-itself, and that the sacred […] was embodied, imminent, in life-itself, in nature itself, in the natural world”. We are seated next to young women artists from the area who are very excited about meeting Starhawk in person as well as older scientists known from the university. Starhawk sums up her life-long posture upon spirituality and gender issues:
“You know, if we only see the divine and the sacred in male form, then it becomes very hard again as a woman, or as a gender-fluid person, or person who does not fall into these nice and neat binary categories, to feel that sacred connection to your own body and to your own life. To feel that you are an inherent carrier of value and that it also becomes difficult in society again to hold that we must value all of us. All of our images of who is really sacred and divine again only reflect one gender or one race or one color or one way of being.”
[It is] very important as women that we also look at the impact of the environment on us as women, and on how environmental degradation impacts women around the world, in ways that I think are even more extreme sometimes than how they impact men. Because, again, of this unequal structure of power. So if you have a society or you have a culture where women have less power, and less power in the home and less money and less resources, and less access to knowledge and education, you add to that environmental degradation. Then, it is often the women who go hungry to feed their family. It is the women who end up walking miles and miles and hours and hours each day to collect wood when the supplies around the home are used up, or to get water when there is no access to clean water. Therefore, we have to look at these issues, together.(Lausanne Fieldwork notes July 2018)
7. Conclusions: Gender, Nature, Religion, and the Anthropocene
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These notions often have an ambivalent status as they are used by scientists as well as by practitioners of contemporary spirituality (see for instance Narby (1995), p. 68 or Zürcher (2016), p. 41, for “cosmic” (serpent, tree), and Glowczewksi and Pruvost (2021) for the notion of “healing energies”).
For instance, https://painpourleprochain.ch/transition.interieure/ (accessed on 21 November 2021).
The book which contributed enormously to the introduction of international ecofeminist texts to a Francophone context was Emilie Hache’s collection Reclaim (Hache 2016), published in 2016.
See Salomonsen (2002) for a close description of this network. Starhawk’s political writing on eco-activism had recently been translated into French (Starhawk 2015), though her writing on religious and gender creativity, such as the bestseller The Spiral Dance (Starhawk 1979), still remains unavailable in French.
For this event celebrating a historical women’s strike in 1991, numerous debates occurred around the presence of an official asterisk to mark inclusion of transgender and non-binary persons.
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Becci, I.; Grandjean, A. Is Sacred Nature Gendered or Queer? Insights from a Study on Eco-Spiritual Activism in Switzerland. Religions 2022, 13, 23. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010023
Becci I, Grandjean A. Is Sacred Nature Gendered or Queer? Insights from a Study on Eco-Spiritual Activism in Switzerland. Religions. 2022; 13(1):23. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010023Chicago/Turabian Style
Becci, Irene, and Alexandre Grandjean. 2022. "Is Sacred Nature Gendered or Queer? Insights from a Study on Eco-Spiritual Activism in Switzerland" Religions 13, no. 1: 23. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010023