On p. 139 of my book about Paganism I wrote:
(In the new edition this is on p.135).
(Also, this re-presents an idea I first explored in an article called “Gods and Hedgehogs in the Greenwood”, in Gavin Flood (ed.) Mapping Invisible Worlds, Edinburgh University Press, 1993).
This extended metaphor for human interactions with other-than-human persons was originally meant to suggest that animist Pagans might engage with deities, the faery folk and others, somewhat in the same ways as they engage with hedgehogs. And that some such encounters might be as dangerous for humans as hedgehog encounters with ordinary human life might be dangerous for them.
Of course, the metaphor has now taken on a life of its own and the spiky flea ridden beasts are never far away. (Hurrah!) So, in my discussions about animism I honour them as representatives of the wider community of other-than-human persons.
Doug Ezzy extends the discussion in his contribution to Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future (co-edited by Ly de Angeles, Emma Restall Orr and Thom van Durren; Llewellyn, 2005: 161-72). Of course, he does so with reference and respect to wombats, so his article is called “I am the Mountain Walking: Wombats in the Greenwood”.
In going beyond the original point (that the ordinary life or lifestyle of one species is likely to endanger the lives of other persons), these hedgehogs and wombats also refuse to be tamed and pacified as “power animals” or “helpers”. They remain toothy, spiky, clawed, flea-ridden and often self-interested beasts. “Which is nice.”
And so, because hedgehogs are our Others, never the Same, they also enable us to think about ethics. A good beginning in this direction has been made in brilliant articles by Doug Ezzy (“Geographical Ontology: Levinas, Sacred Landscapes and Cities”, The Pomegranate 61 : 19-33) and Barb Davy (“Being at Home in Nature: A Levinasian Approach to Pagan Environmental Ethics”, The Pomegranate 7.2 : 157-72).
And finally, for now, thanks to Andy Letcher for pointing me to Hugh Warwick's photo gallery — a fine blend of celebration, protest, information and reporting — which not only includes photos of the Newbury bypass action reunion, 7 Jan 2006, the subject of our discussion, but also includes an album on hedgehogs.
Do I need to say anything about turtles? No, you all know what they're about, don't you ...
and then there are the badgers - now (February 2008) waking up and getting killed on our roads