Monthly Archives: August 2014

Comment: “Goodbye Wolves!”

Wolf Norway

One of the about 80 remaining Norwegian wolves. (Photo: Baard Næss/ Rovdata)

Comment by: Thor Lanesskog

“Wolf” is one of the most loaded words in Norwegian vocabulary and evokes strong emotions no matter who you are talking to. Farmers and people in rural areas associate the word with mass killing of sheep and reindeer and can tell about bloody bodies and the four-legged Devil.

The attitude among urbanites and environmentalists around cafe tables in Oslo and other cities are quite opposite: The gray wolf is endangered and must be protected because it belongs in Norwegian nature. It is the farmers’ responsibility to take better care of the livestock, and they must realize that wolves willingly eat unattended lamb chops and are not feeding on moss and blueberries.

The farmers on their side argue that the wolf is a mobile killing machine that does enormous harm and destroy their life’s…

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Animism and Community

I guess I will start with updates. A great deal is going on right now, and I am not inclined to say anything about most of it. The writing and spiritual work has slowed. Anything beyond the day job really has slowed. There are just other things I have to focus on at the moment.

At the same time, I have not posted a blog in over two weeks. I am behind schedule, so this post is my attempt to hash out something, at least for something to follow up with later.

This post is my own reflections on a piece I read over at patheos. The link is below. I wanted to compare and contrast the author’s view, with my own. I come from an animistic worldview, and to me at least, it is a reasonable explanation of the world and my place in it.

I will start with my scientific disclaimer. I reject wholly the idea that science is the only method to knowledge. Notice I did not say “truth” or “real.” I find that both these things are much more matters of perception than any kind of irrefutable objective fact. What is real and true for one person is not so for another. There are many paths to knowledge, many methods and many ways to understand the world. Science is but one. Don’t get me wrong, I do think science is a good method, but it is not the only one. Science does not have all the answers, and I do not think it ever will. As a method, science is just ill-equipped to handle certain questions.

That being said, Keith Parsons, the author of the article over at Patheos, advocates for a pantheistic worldview. In his own words; “A modern-day paganism would have a pantheistic worldview. Pantheism regards the cosmos itself as the only object commensurate with our capacity for awe and wonder.”

In addition he adds; “Pantheism explicitly rejects any notion of the supernatural or the transcendent, and instead regards the sacred as natural and immanent. It repudiates the idea that there is a non-physical reality “behind” or “beyond” the universe.

Let’s put this another way. Even with all its problems, I turn to wikipedia for a less nuanced definition; “Pantheism is the belief that the universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god.” I am not saying this represents the view of all pantheists, or even the view of Parsons, I only add it for understanding purposes. I am not a pantheist, so I will not weigh in on such matters. Nor do I wish this post to take any form of straw-man argument.

The truth is that the two philosophies are pretty close, with some differences. I too, generally reject the notion that there is any kind of “supernatural” or “transcendent” entities in the universe. Only because I agree that the sacred is natural and immanent. Spirits are not something that are “out there.” The spiritual is within nature, and so too, are spirits. Parsons says; “Pantheists reject the idea of sacred supernatural persons and instead find the sacred in nature and in the experience of deep connections with other sentient beings.” I would add that such sentient beings are not necessarily physical or even human.

Thus, how I conceive the world is similar to how wikipedia puts it; “Animism is the worldview that non-human entities (animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena) possess a spiritual essence.” And more to clarify; “Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in some other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism thus rejects Cartesian dualism.” As do I, as there is no separation between mind or body, or spirit for that matter.

This really gets to the heart of my own beliefs, and my departure philosophically from Parsons. To me, there is no separation of the physical and the spiritual. My body is as much part of my spirit as my mind. If I were to, say, chop off a finger, that is a variety of spiritual-loss. Same if part of my mind were to malfunction. In short, my conceptions of spirit encompass both the physical as well the spiritual, matter and energy.

In addition, I think that consciousness imbues the world at all levels, from quantum on up. It is then a matter of relations and interconnectedness, the communion of the individual and the collective. As such, just because I think all things have some level of consciousness, does not mean that all such consciousness’ are the same. I am a discrete, bounded consciousness. Same for my wife, as well as my cat on the table.

The little bastard is not supposed to be on the table.

Parsons also says; “It follows that pagans reject the idea of a non-physical spirit, mind, or soul. Souls are needed only if brains are not enough, just as God is needed only if nature is not enough.” Here we disagree once more. It is not at all that my brain is not enough, it is that I am more than just my brain. The world is far more complicated than just what we can sense or measure. Nature is enough certainly, but it is way more complex then just brains and flesh.

That is the real core of my worldview, the interrelation and interconnection of things. The complexity and diversity of things. It helps me to be aware of my place in the great networks of life, as well as to treat other things, even if they are not human, with the respect I would show any conscious, willful being. Because that is exactly what they are. My practice is one of communion and negotiation, of debate and disagreement, and finding common ground and working together on a common goal. That is why community is so important, and that leads me to another point.

Parsons says; “Paganism will be non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal, non-institutional, non-authoritarian, and non-evangelizing. There will be no pagan popes, bishops, ayatollahs, caliphs, or rabbis. It should hardly need saying that pagans will respect total equality of the sexes. Pagan leaders will not have the role of enforcing an orthodoxy or imposing authority of any kind. As with any coherent group, there will be a commonality of belief and perspective among pagans, and these will be reinforced by teaching and example. However, pagan belief will not be frozen into dogma or ossified into a creed. Pagans will not seek converts. Their attitude will be one of total tolerance towards any group or persons similarly willing to tolerate them.”

On these points, I am mostly in agreement. Paganism, in its myriad of forms, in incredibly complex and diverse, an interconnection of cultures and worldviews. I do think authoritative hierarchies would be dangerous to the future of paganism. This is not to say that pagans do not need leaders or specialists, because we do. We need people who have knowledge and experience, and are able to help others grow along whatever path they follow. But such people should be treated more like respected teachers or mentors then absolute authorities. Respect is the key here, not orthodoxy or force.

On the evangelism point, I am also in agreement. It is not our place to make converts. However, we do need to available and have the resources to help and mentor those that come in search or in need of our help. Networks of teachers, leaders and students alike that can help one another. Even teachers need help sometimes, and that is why networks are so important.

So that is where I am going to leave this. Perhaps it will facilitate some discussion on the future of pagan communities, or any other kind of discussion.



Let’s start with updates. Yup, not really a whole lot to say. I’ve been ramping up the writing again, and will have about half a book done in the next week or so. I started learning how to knap arrowheads out of bottle glass. My hands are showing the abuse from this endeavor. Hunting season starts with small game in just over a month, with deer season being just under two months away. So the preparations for that are already in motion. Practice shooting, scouting, making sure my gear is all in order, fletching and so on and so forth. I’ve already got a bit of the hunting fever. I have also been working on a few knives for my own use, and want to try again with the bow making soon. So much work, and so little time.

Some days, I wish I could just leave the civilized world behind and go live in the woods like my ancestors did, but sadly the world is a different place now.

Which brings me to the topic for today, the topic of my ancestors. Really, the whole point of this post is a chance to organize my thoughts for my upcoming submission to the Walking the Worlds project. The upcoming topic is Ancestors and Hero Cultus, and I’ve decided to focus more on the ancestors side, since I don’t do a lot of “hero” work.

The ancestors have been a core element to my practice since I first started ancestor work. To be fair, I have been interested in things like genealogy and history for a long time, and my ancestor work almost is an extension of that. It is a lot of work, a fair amount of time and money, but I only think it has strengthened my practice.

I mean, because what is ancestor work, if not honoring the heritage, the ideas, stories, beliefs and rituals left to us by our fore bearers? I think genealogy is almost implied when it comes to honoring the ancestors. It goes beyond that as well too, I think. After all, family, and therefore ancestors, aren’t always blood related.

As I was saying, so much of my spiritual work has come from my ancestor work. It has shaped my practice into what it is today, and will continue to shape it into the future. As my understanding of my ancestors has evolved, so has the core of my practice. I know I have touched on these things before, but I would like to expound on them a little more here.

As my understanding of my ancestors has evolved, so has the narrative that connects me to that heritage. The stories that shape my practice have changed, and so, has the practice. I want to expand that narrative now, perhaps for myself as much as for others.

My ancestor journey began with the paperwork, the genealogy. My mother’s line has been in Michigan for several generations, but my father’s line, admittedly were most of my work has been focused, had a knack for moving around a lot. My father was born in West Virginia, and going back, I have male ancestors from Kentucky, a brief stint in Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Right back to the early 1700’s. One of my earliest ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. William Haney, son of Michael/Mikkel Haney.

After that, the historical work dried up. I have no real idea why, a name change, illiteracy, the very act of crossing the Atlantic, I have no idea. However, I only had the slightest of leads. In those early days, Virginia was an English colony, so there is a good change that my ancestors came from England. Still, not much to go on. General guesswork, but not anything specific.

I had to turn to genetic testing once the paperwork failed. As it turned out, I was on the right track. Here is an excerpt from Ancestry, concerning my last name.

“English and Scottish: probably a variant of Hanney. Scottish or Irish: reduced form of McHaney. Americanized spelling of Norwegian Hanøy, a habitational name from any of four farmsteads so named, from Old Norse haðna ‘young nanny-goat’ or hani ‘cock’ (probably indicating a crag or mountain resembling a cock’s comb in shape) + øy ‘island’. ”

The genetic testing revealed me to be Y haplogroup I1, which by current research, probably originated in the area of Denmark somewhere between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago, with pre-I1 people going back to the last glacial period in the area. My genetic testing, also revealed a high number of matches in Norway, and England, as well as surrounding areas. Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and so on. Really, anywhere you could get to by boat from Norway.

Thus, the ancestors of my ancestors probably have been in Scandinavia since the ice retreated, though of course this is only guesswork. It also has the potential of things like Sami ancestry, though once again only speculation at this point. Somewhere along the line, they migrated to England/Scotland from Norway, perhaps with a change from the Norwegian version of my name to the more English version. Vikings could be a possible connection, as they had a knack of going to England from Norway. Though to be fair, it didn’t nessacarily have to be the Vikings that brought my ancestors to England. It’s just make a good story, at the least. From England, my ancestors came to America during the 16th century. That’s the rough outline, at least for my mortal ancestors, and I am still working to fill in the details. I am hoping to find a way to contact some of those matches overseas. A lot of work still to be done.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve been learning, albeit kind of the hard way, that spiritual ancestry is more complicated than mortal ancestry. They simply don’t play by the same rules as the flesh. As such, among spiritual ancestors, can be counted thing likes dwarves, giants, elves, fairies, gods, animals, plants and such ad nauseum. It adds a whole new layer, and quickly bridges the gap into things like shape-shifting and divine ancestry. I’m am going to leave those topics lie for the moment.

I touched upon how this information has influenced my path, and I wanted to talk a little more about that. With what I have outlined already, my path draws a lot from my hunter-fisher-gathering ancestors, the northern Mesolithic from about 12,000 years ago up until farming took hold. This is where my shamanic interests come in, and my general animistic tendencies. I also find I get to apply my archaeological and anthropological training as well. But it doesn’t stop there, because there is a wealth of historical material as well. Obviously, I bring the Eddas and Sagas into the fold, because I count them among my heritage as well. Vikings and all that comes into the fold as well. Also, folklore bridges the gap from Pre-Christian times down to nearly modern times. I draw a lot from that as well. In addition, there is the Celtic element of my ancestry, because I have a decent cross section of ancestors from Scotland and Ireland as well. I explored Celtic related things in the past, and I have been looking at those things again, with the understanding I carry now.

As such, my current path (subject to change) embraces Celtic, Norse, Forn Sed (old custom in Norwegian, draws a lot from folklore), shamanism, animism, and a lot of other things such as hunting and survivalism as well. That is the gift of the ancestors to me, down through the generations.

It is true that there is a strong disconnect from the ways of my ancestors, as the old ways have not been practiced for some time, millenia in some cases. I am literally disconnected from the land of my ancestors by nothing less than the Atlantic Ocean and countless years of time. I wasn’t born into these traditions, and the burden that comes along with that is immense. I work with ancestors that have not been heard for eons, and it is difficult to know even where to begin with a backlog of a few thousand years worth of work.

I mean, being an Norse-Celtic-Anglo-American isn’t much right?