Thoughts On Land Ownership

In my mind, the land, the earth cannot really be owned by anyone.

From Emma Kathryn


Can you imagine being one of the very first people? Really imagine? It’s almost romantic isn’t it? Almost, until you consider the difficulties of such life, the harsh realities, like having to hunt and forage for food, or the lack of doctors, hospitals, drugs. Dying of injuries and diseases that now we consider minor. Of course there are many people today who live that kind of life, tribal, indigenous people,though their way of life is constantly under threat.

But early man, to wander the earth and to be free to do so!

No doubt the first division of land was tribal, the first ‘ownership’ of the land territories of tribes. But that type of land ownership is not what I’m going to talk about here. That kind of land ownership is not what we have today. That kind of land ownership wasn’t really about owning the land, not like it is today.

In my mind, the land, the earth cannot really be owned by anyone.

When my kids were younger, they used to watch a show called Adventure Time, back before it was popular, before you’d see adults wearing merchandise from the show. To be fair, it was a pretty cool show, I mean it had witches and demons and vampires and ice kings, so yeah, pretty cool. It was also sometimes, weirdly, quite deep, for a kids cartoon. They were watching it one day, and a snippet really caught my attention. One character was explaining to another how the earth came to be owned, about how those few who were stronger took what they wanted and then called it ‘lawful’ and then created institutions to protect what was theirs. You can watch the clip here.

Accurate, isn’t it? Anyway….

I love going out foraging, and there’s usually something to be found in all seasons, though winter is often less about food and more to do with the gathering of dead things. Foraging is the perfect way to get out and about, to build a connection with the land where you live, and you all know how I feel about that!

Last year, towards the tail end of summer, the beginning of autumn, I took a couple of my friends, one of whom is a long time pagan, out on a foraging expedition. It wasn’t really an expedition in that we never left the confines of the town, but I suppose it was a bit of an eye opener for all of us.

It was certainly the first time they’d ever been trespassing, and to me, well, I don’t even consider it as such!

The river that flows through our town is quite accessible, though it used to be easier to get to from my end of town. You used to be able to cross the railway line and use a bridlepath to get across to the river. Now though the rail crossing has been closed, the gates welded shut and the bridlepath shut off from the public. You can still get to the river, and the detour isn’t really long, and is quicker still if you don’t mind clambering over an embankment and crossing a scrap yard (the owner unofficially lets people, fishermen and locals, he turns a blind eye).

Datura grows near there, and a little further, wormwood, if you know where to look (it’s the only patch I have found in my foraging travels so far).

So, we scrambled up and over the embankment and across the scrap yard and over what we locals call the elbow bridge. We followed the river for a short while, hunted cob nuts in a small copse of trees under the bypass, and then I told them about the ponds.

To get to the ponds you have to go under a small train bridge and then there’s a bridge that is blocked off in the middle, with a massive sign declaring that the land you are about to enter belongs to British Sugar and that trespassers will be prosecuted. You can  climb over the bridges railing and scoot across on the bars, climbing back over when you’ve passed the barricade. Or, if you are wearing the right footwear (or you don’t mind getting wet and muddy), you can jump across or walk through a small stream.

Once I’d assured them that we wouldn’t get caught, or that the bull in with the cows was way over the other side of the field, and quite chilled out, they were okay with things. But if I hadn’t of taken them, they would not have crossed that bridge, would have turned around and gone elsewhere.

My argument was that I don’t recognise the land as belonging to British Sugar, not really. How can the land be bought and sold? Oh I know the mechanics of it, understand there are laws and deeds and whatnot that ‘prove’ that the land belongs to this particular corporation or that one, but once you get past that, when you consider the world, the universe, and everything we consider and believe as occultists, witches and sorcerers, who has authority over the land?

Anyway, a lovely couple of hours was spent beside the ponds, a secret known to only fishermen and other intrepid trespassers!

And we too, the humble proletariat, are sold the dream of ownership. To own your own home is a dream so many aspire to. And what’s not to want, eh? Somewhere that’s yours, where what you say is law, where you are free to do as you please (so long, of course, that it fits within the laws that govern the society in which you live), a place where, once you’ve paid for it, is yours, totally yours.

Only it isn’t. Not really.

I’ve written recently about the redevelopment my neighbourhood will soon be undergoing. Nothing much has changed since the time of writing, with the council still telling us that they haven’t made any firm decisions yet (and you can bet your life that we, the residents will be the last to find out). Anyway, most of us who live there are council tenants, but there are those who do own their own homes, and a good majority of those home owners live right on the edge of the field where two hundred new homes are to be built. I think most of those people have lived there, in those houses for a long time, certainly for as long as I can remember. Many of them were council tenants themselves who took advantage of the massive discounts offered to them under the Right to Buy scheme. Of course, the houses were cheap to begin with on account of their location. Why else would anyone want to buy a house in the middle of what is often considered to be the worst place to live in the town?

Those folks are the ones who have the most to lose really. Many of them have paid off their mortgages and having probably looked forward to the day when their homes would be their own, bought and paid for. What do you think will happen to these people, the ones who don’t want to sell their homes? Compulsory purchase orders is what will happen to them. They’ll receive the market value for their homes, which some might consider fair (I do not, forced removal and all of that jazz). And therein lies the problem, because market value will not be enough for them to go and buy another home. No, these poor people who have spent their lives working to pay off their house will probably have to take out other mortgages.

Big deal, you might well say, but to someone close to retirement age, or already there, well, it’s not the best news is it? If it was me, I know I would be raging and would already be cooking up some working or another.

The point is, even when we do as we are told,  when we complete what is expected of us, even then nothing is guaranteed. If some development or other requires that the people there need to be gone, then it doesn’t matter if you own your home and the land it sits on or not. And it’s not just where I live either, it’s country-wide, worldwide.

Anyone who follows my FB page will know that I detest fracking, and since the fracking companies have been welcomed with open arms here (by parliament – nobody else here wants them), the owning of land is no guarantee that you will be able to tell INEOS and the others to eff-off.

Where councils and local authorities have told the fracking companies no, either government pressure or High Court rulings have turned those council decisions around, forcing councils to allow these companies access to their land.

Even countries aren’t safe. Scotland has banned fracking outright. The Scottish government has listened to the people and said a great big ‘no’ to the fracking industry. But not one to listen to the people or countries that try to oppose them, INEOS has won the right to sue the Scottish government. Not only that, and this may be hard to believe, they may also be able to sue the Scottish government for breaching its human rights. It’s almost laughable, isn’t it, if it wasn’t true.

Sad, sad times indeed.

So there, some thoughts on land ownership. Just for the record, I would never trespass an individuals home or land. Probably. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against people owning shit. I understand the wanting to own your own home, and to some extent, it offers you some freedom, security.

Except for when the price is high enough.

Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook

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One thought on “Thoughts On Land Ownership

  1. So I own about eight acres of woodland and pasture. I say own, because I get to use it in the manner prescribed by law, so long as I pay my property taxes (which are substantially cheaper than what rents would be) and stay alive. But do I really own it? Not really. I am the land’s steward – I look after it, and protect it and the beings that live there (both mundane and ethereal). I use part of it as a sacred space, part of it for my house, and part for gardens. When I die, or otherwise give up ownership, I will no longer be the land’s steward.

    Do I want other people there without my knowledge/permission? No. In part, it is stewardship, in part it is our legal system, where someone who trespasses and gets injured (or bitten by one of the dogs, or possibly even mauled by a bear) can sue me and cause me to lose stewardship. So imagine a conversation like this.

    A woman, obviously pagan or new age by her accessorizing, is cutting branches from a willow on my “property.”

    Me: What are you doing and why are you here?
    Woman: I am cutting willow branches to make wands.
    Me: You need to put down that wood and get off my property.
    Woman: You don’t really own the land. Besides, the fairies told me I could take it.
    Me: Really? Would you like me to call the constabulary? Besides, that’s not what that tree told me, when it called for me to come.
    Woman: No! I serve the Fey and They said it was okay! I’m not giving up my wands!

    This theoretical encounter would likely end up with the woman ending up losing her wands, being arrested and charged with trespassing and probably malicious mischief. Not life-altering, but totally unnecessary.

    Now imagine this conversation instead:

    Me: What are you doing and why are you here?
    Woman: I am cutting willow branches to make wands.
    Me: You need to put down that wood and get off my property.
    Woman: I’m sorry. I thought the fairies had given me permission.
    Me: That’s not what the spirit of the tree is telling me. This tree has been having a difficult time and really shouldn’t be pruned.
    Woman: Oh! I thought it would be okay.
    Me: I do have a willow that needs some pruning of its lower branches. Let me show you where it is and help you gather some wood for your wands. You will have to make an offering to both trees though. And please, don’t come on my property and take things again without asking me again.

    I would hope all of us who are Pagan and own land would view their ownership as stewardship. And that all who are Pagan and do not own land would respect the stewardship of those who own the land. We are the ones who know the land and its inhabitants best.

    Liked by 2 people

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