What does it mean to “rewild yourself” and how does such a process connect with Lent? No immediate answers came forth to these questions that seized me at the start of the season and they’ve continued to intrigue. I have always had ambivalence toward Lent. The traditional triad – fasting, prayer and alms giving – seems disparate, and the season itself too long and drawn out, making me feel discouraged right from the start.
Oddly though, this year I found myself wanting to fast in a meaningful way, greatly inspired by an extensive discussion of fasting traditions on a site called Living in Season, particularly because the writer, Waverly Fitzgerald, draws intriguing seasonal connections.
If you think about what’s going on in the natural world, these food deprivations make sense. This part of early spring is the most hazardous time of the year for people living close to the earth. The first bitter greens (so prominent a part of spring equinox feasts like Passover and Easter) are just emerging. Fresh eggs, also associated with these feasts, are not yet available; birds are just beginning to nest. The foodstuffs, particularly the salted and smoked meat, that were stored to carry the family through the winter may be giving out. The potatoes and apples left in the cellar are getting soft and of dubious quality. The deprivation of Lent may not be voluntary but a necessity imposed by nature.”
“There is a long tradition of spring purification. Cleansing is part of the action of the tonic herbs of early spring on the body. Also think of spring cleaning. Those who planned to be initiated during the Eleusinian Mysteries in the fall participated in purification ceremonies in the early spring, which included bathing in the sea. When the world is being made anew, we wish to make ourselves new.”
Brooke Medicine Eagle likens fasting to a vision quest in her book Buffalo Woman Comes Singing. “The fast seems to work the same way with all people. It is a brilliant tool for opening ourselves to the Great Mystery and to the Source of Life within our own being.” She recommends approaching a fast “not as a punishment or a sacrifice, but as a joyful way to call upon another part of yourself, a way to awaken to Spirit’s voice within you.”
YES, this fast calls to me.
Though it may sound lame, I decided to give up drinking alcohol during the week. Not so heroic as complete abstention the entire six weeks but for me a noticeable sacrifice about which I really feel motivated. (Giving up negative self-judgement around this process too!)
Three weeks in, it finally occurs to me that this is Rewilding: a joyful process of making ourselves anew and opening to Great Mystery in connection to the natural world.