Monthly Archives: March 2016

Walking with the Ancestors Part 1-A

In the beginning… The Narrative from Science

As an animist and material being, the story of my ancestors starts at the beginning of our universe nearly 14 billion years ago. The current leading theory is called the Big Bang, in which our universe expanded from a singularity back at the beginning of time. Materialistically, this is when the first building blocks of our entire existence came into being. Over time, sub atomic particles condensed into atoms, molecules, and in time stars, planets and galaxies.

Animistically, I also have to wonder if this is when the first spirits/people started to work in the universe. From a scientific perspective, matter is not a life form. It takes a certain level of complexity before we reach the point that biology recognize something as a life form. And no, the material present at that early time could not be scientifically defined as living. Still, this does not deny that sub-atomic and atom particles do some very interesting things. Two hydrogen and an oxygen gets you water, which is essential for all life forms we know of.

I have debated with my self (and others) for some time if those earliest particles could be a really simple form of life. Once, in one of my classes, my teacher said that atoms have a drive to make themselves “happy”, by either filling or emptying their outermost electron shells. They deliberately seek out other atoms to make bonds with, and therefore make themselves “happy.”

It is not a far jump from making bonds, to forming relationships. Relationships and connections are the one of the foundations of animism. Even in these early particles, we can see the create connections and bonds. And by the time you get to something more complex, like ourselves, those bonds and connections have become very interesting indeed.

It is amazing to think about that some of those particles from the beginning of time may well be in my body right now. They have moved through stars and galaxies and time to end up somewhere in my body at the here and now. I cannot express the sense of joy and awe that that thought fills me with. To know that I am spiritually and materially a descendant of the beginning of times. It is humbling to think about, and is the first step on a long ancestral journey.

To me, that point of beginning represent something akin to a seed, from which the whole of our known universe grew. I have always enjoyed the metaphor of trees, the Tree of Life, the World Tree of Nordic myth, the shaman’s tree, all of them in some form. Well, at the point of the Big Bang we see that seed taking root, from which would expand and grow the whole sum of our universe.

Fast forward a few billion years, and you see another outgrowth from this seed in the form of the star we call Sol, our sun. It came into being, a descendant of other stars, and from it came the little world we call Earth. And on this little world, after another billion or so years worth of formation, fire and oceans, came into existence a life form from which we all are descended.

The entire tree of life, every plant, animal or other creature that has every lived or is currently living can trace it descent from that first little being (or group of beings). That too is rather humbling and awe inspiring. To know the very basics of what I am today started all those billions ago. To know I can trace my spiritual and literal ancestry back to that little creature, and back to the beginning of the universe, that fills me with a wonder that is hard to put into words.

This means that the fires of our young world, Sol, and all the stars of the universe back to the beginning of time might be counted among my ancestors. The implications alone at this level are staggering beyond count. It means that every tree that grows or creature that crawls or flies, is in a very literal way part of my family tree. Maybe there is a reason some Native Americans and other people sometimes referred to trees as kinfolk, “brother” or “sister”, or “father sky.” Maybe because there is a very real connection there, even if it is more at the level of “great to the nth degree great cousin.” We still share that common connection, even if our lines have long since diverged in kind, form and type.

The fact is that these days our family tree is really diverse and complex, and in some ways many of our distant relations are all but alien to us now. It is hard on an intellectual level to picture myself in the place of a tree. I would need entirely new conceptions to even be able to cope with something like that. I mean, how can I wrap my mind around not being able to walk? How would I deal with having to grow and age in the same spot year after year. It makes my human brain hurt, but trees and plants seem to pull it off just fine.

The fact that we are connected to everything could also be meant to imply that every time we fell a tree, kill an animal, or destroy a habitat we are in a very real sense, killing a member of our own family. And as much as it pains me to admit, year after year our family tree on this planet gets a little smaller. The rate of species lost is pretty staggering these days.

That fills me with a deep sense of regret and guilt, because like every other human on this planet, I am implicit in this.

I could go on and on about the other forms of life that are counted among my kin, but this would take up far too much space, so we move forward in time to a few million years ago when the first hominid ancestors started to roam the planet.

And that is where we will pick up next time.

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Ancestors – Foreword

So I am starting a new project series here on the blog, for the simple reason that it has been dwelling in my head for some time. It tried to come out in the Wanderings of Dekloka, and it failed in a spectacular fashion. There was so much that was wrong about it that I had to axe that project. The more I looked at it, the more I hated it. The sources were bad, the facts were bad, the writing was bad. Bad bad bad!

As such, that project is getting recycled and remade in a new form here. Put plainly, a good portion of it is getting thrown out. I doubt that this project will really resemble that one at all when I am through, and I will be happy if that is the case.

There are many other reasons I have for wanting to this as a blog project. It may become a book someday, but it may not. It depends on how I feel about it when I am done, and whether I not it deserves refining/expanding into a book. It will be a longer project, that is for sure. I want to share this project with you, freely and as a kind of “open access.” This is not to say that I don’t believe my time is valuable, because it is. I just don’t want this kind of work locked up behind a pay barrier. I am doing this because I want to.

And, in some way I think I am doing it because I have to. This is a story I have worked on for several years now, and I want to share the story as much as the process behind it. I think it is important. More than that, I have landed in a kind of a strange spiritual situation lately. I have been pulling myself away from “community” in the more general sense of the word. It is time for me to really reevaluate my beliefs, and the labels I once used to describe myself.

I have had a strange and winding spiritual path so far. I was raised in a kind of agnostic household. Both my mom and dad I would say believed in something greater than themselves, but that was something that we just didn’t talk about as a family. I don’t think I ever went to church as child.

I am kind of grateful for my upbringing. I didn’t have a lot of the baggage associate with being a “recovering Christian”. A little still seeped in of course, as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day just like every other child. The monotheism was there, but I never really considered it and we never talked about it at home. It was always something other people did. At the same time, sometimes I feel I might have missed out on something.  All the same, while other people went to church, I spent my time in the forest. I spent much of my childhood in the woods, and in many ways that is where my animism took root. I quickly learned that there were other beings out there than me, other forms of life.

My spiritual search didn’t start in earnest until high school and after, when I was more or less an adult. I went to church then, but that didn’t last long. I discovered quickly that it was not right for me. I also started to develop my interest in genealogy around the same time. My understanding of my own ancestors took root slowly, and around the same time I was introduced to paganism.

I circled through the same phases a lot of pagans do, “Wiccan” inspired forms, neopaganish things, and so on and so forth. But as my understanding of my ancestors has grown, so has my spiritual path. When I discovered my Celtic ancestors, my attention turn to Celtic forms of spirituality. When my ancestors said, “look North”, I did, and that is where I have been for the past few years. But now that is starting to wobble.

It has left me in an odd place. Constant questioning of my beliefs is an uncomfortable practice, and certainly filled with its cycles of euphoria and depression. To use a metaphor, I feel like I am in unexplored territory. I have learned a lot over the years from writers and my mentors, people that are very near and dear to my heart. But in many ways, I feel like I have come to the end of the marked trails, and the explored paths. I have come to the place where the footsteps of others have started to disappear, and I have to find my own way through the woods.

The explorer in me relishes the idea of it. In some ways it feels like a homecoming.

It also means there is quite a bit of work ahead of me. Exploring a new territory is not easy, nor it is simple. In many ways, the ancestors have always been the center and foundation of my own path. As I outlined above, the steps along my path so far have been largely inspired by my ancestors, and now it feels like they are telling me to go get lost for a while, in order to find myself and my own way again.

And maybe, just maybe leave a few footsteps for others. That is part of the reason I decided to do this publicly here, so that others can see the process.

Which brings me back to the purposes behind this project. In no small way, it is meant to help me reorient myself with my ancestors, which are very central to all that I do. The genealogy has only grown over the years, as has my understanding of genetic ancestry, archaeology and the folklore and stories associated with my ancestors. The big purpose is to pull that all together. The one thing I have always loved about animism is how compatible it is with science. I think that is a fantastic thing, and that the understanding of both has only helped me grow.

As such, what I am hoping to do with this is to try and inter-weave scientific narratives and my own understanding of animism into a form of co-evolving narrative. The current plan is to have every part of this series to be posted as two parts, an A and a B. There may even be a part C, if I feel some kind of expanded commentary is warranted.

Part A of each post will typically deal with the “science”. Each “A” will be a blog type essay, talking about things like cosmology, physics, genetics, genealogy, archaeology or any of the other assorted studies that I feel are relevant.

Part B of each post will be a short story that draws from part A. It would be best to view Part A as the logic, and part B as a kind of interpretation. The idea being to work through this project with a balance of intellect and creativity.

Without further ado, I’ll see you all in Part 1 – A, which will be coming out soon!

Thanks for reading!

Updates 3/22/16

Hello folks!

I am trying to get back to regular blogging now that another manuscript has been finished! I have brought the Elder Blood Saga to an end, at just under a half million words across fives books. I am hoping to get all of them out by the end of the year. With that out of the way my attention turns to other projects in the pipeline.

The questions becomes, what is next? Well, I think here is a great place to take a look at my list, and see where I stand. Certainly some new things have been added to my “to do” list, but I am not going to add everything. Suffice to say, there is plenty on the docket both publicly and privately in my life.

  • I have finished the Elder Blood Saga, and will be moving that towards publication. Book 3 is in the very near future. (Hint hint!)
  • There has been an ancestor project in my head for some time, and I am going to start putting that to the page. I am going to be doing that as a blog project, so you folks will be able to see that develop. In some way, it will be a recycling of my old works, and a crap ton of new data and better sources. In addition, I think I will combine it with the “Cave Bear” type project I talked about earlier. It might become a book in the long run, but for now I want to share it openly.
  • I am working on a manuscript about animism.
  • This year, I am hoping to plant a lot of seeds and encourage a lot of new growth. There is a lot of groundwork ongoing right now, but I am not quite ready to talk about these things just yet. There is just quite a bit of research and just testing the waters right now. Stay tuned!

And as always, thanks for reading!

Animism and Capitalism Part 5

“Ultimately we must face the need for radical change. The ecological crisis is more than question of environmental destruction and human misery, for it is at root a spiritual crisis. Genuine alternatives, revolutionary alternatives, require remarkable imaginative leaps… We must think beyond ourselves. Not simply beyond the conceptions, categories and habits which tie our minds to established ideological models. We must go beyond, to imagine what has never been conceived of, to dare to demand what contemporary thought considers impossible.” – Adrian Harris

The ability and vision to build a better town, a better future for everyone. That is what we have to imagine. This is an immense work of such grandness and scale, that it will bring with it a whole new world, and a new way of thinking. It will take time, it will take resources, and it will take us to take a good, long hard look at ourselves, and change what needs to be changed.

And it will not be easy.

In Part 1 of this series, I analyzed Princess Mononoke and explored some of the animistic and environmental themes present throughout the movie. That is what began this series, and the realization that we have to find a new way for the forest and the humans to live in peace, a way to (re)integrate humanity and nature. I have written a fair deal about hunter-gatherers on this blog, and have explored how some of them didn’t see a real divide between nature and society. This is a big part of animism as I understand it, and the wall we have built between ourselves and nature has been to our detriment. Some hunter-gatherers saw nature as part of the social world. We have lost that understanding, and replaced it with the idea that we are superior to nature, and that it exists to meet our needs. We often look upon nature as a source of resources. We need to work to knock that wall down, and (re)balance nature and humanity.

In Part 2 of this series, I explored the ideas of science, technology and industry. I think these things will all have a part to play in the future, but that we seriously need to rethink how we do things. Many industries are culpable to the growing pollution and environmental decay on the planet. So is technology, though not wholesale. We will have to take a long, hard look at how we do all these things. Things like cars, factories and coal power plants are polluting the planet, by means of mechanical necromancy. We are quite literally burning the remains of the long dead to drive our civilization. We have the means and the ability to change that.

In Part 3; I explored a little bit of corporate and capitalist ideology. It is not just the technology and industry of our culture that has to change, but much of the thinking behind it. Corporate methods of management seem to have pervaded nearly every part of our society. From government to university. The problem itself is complex, and any possible solutions are far from simple. We are not simply talking a technological revolution, but a cultural, social and political one as well.

In Part 4; I talked more about the Nordic Model. To me, this is part of that social and cultural shift that desperately needs to happen. A social and economic system that acknowledges wholesale that needs of the many are more important than the needs of the few. In America, what we have is nearly the polar opposite of this. Our version of Robin Hood is backwards, and our many of our cultural values seem to want Spock to burn a terrible death. As I pointed out, a Princeton study recently came to the conclusion that America is in fact an oligarchy, not a democracy (or republic).

There is no way to deny that some very real challenges face us as a species, and a planet full of species. It is enough for anyone to succumb to despair. Still, I look at the trends and see them as encouraging. The amount of renewable electricity may not yet meet demand, but it has grown year after year, and is expected to continue to grow. The same is true of hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles; also with expected continued growth. This is no way minimizes the very serious challenges ahead. Oil is still cheap and profitable, and none of these technologies will really become dominant if that remains the case. But we know that won’t always be the case, and even some of the oil companies are starting to hedge their bets with alternatives.

On top of that, I see subtle signs that our culture and social climate may be changing as well. Bernie Sanders is a proponent of the Nordic Model, and might actually have a chance at becoming the Democratic nominee. Also, I find that the UN Sustainable Development Goals also mesh well with very same model. Is it a long shot? Maybe. The point is that the signs are encouraging, even if they are moving forward at a “two steps forward one step back” pace.

As I practice animism, the foundations of this worldview is the the world is full of people, only some of which are human. In addition, relationships and reciprocity are also basic components to my animism. In a very real and literal sense we are connected to either other person on this planet, ecologically, biologically as well as spiritually. The consequences of our actions have very real repercussions across the whole of these connections.

We are in this together. That is the conclusion of my worldview. And by “we” I do not mean simply humans, but all of the environment and nature that surrounds these things. So too are the big machines, the cars and energy infrastructure that is simultaneously heating and lighting our homes, and at the same time polluting the planet. The machines (as they are people too) have to change their relationship with the Earth, as much as we have to change our relationship with the machines.

It is up to us to facilitate this process. There is not one of us that is not implicated in these problems.

Between climate change and the reality of peak oil, we have some very hard challenges ahead of us. Climate change may well be beyond our control, though we can limit our influence and contributions to the process. Peak oil is another matter, and I think we have the means to endure beyond the very real limits it will place on our civilization. In addition, not only to we as a species have the means to endure, we have the means and capacity to build a better future civilization in the process. That process is already in motion.

That is what my animism teaches me. Long gone are the days where we can only think about ourselves. Long gone too are the days of the rugged individualist, and the society that only cares about itself.

That is why I like the Nordic model. A social, political, economic and cultural system that acknowledges this conclusion; that we are in this together. Our technological reality needs to reflect that too, that more than just ourselves are at stake. Long gone too are the days where we run our machines on the long decayed bodies of the dead. Our common kin in all life deserve better than that.

Culturally we need change. Politically we need change. Technologically we need change. Environmentally we need change. This is not to say that any of these changes are small tasks. These are bigger tasks than any one person, as big as the whole of the planet in fact. That in and of itself makes this all seem damn near impossible.

But it is not impossible, but nor is it easy. All the same it has to be done, for the present and for the future. If it is true that we reap what we sow, than we are reaping what our predecessors have sown.

At the same time, we are planting the seeds for the future. Shall we continue to plant the same seeds of destruction that have been left to us, or shall we plant the seeds of tomorrow?

So I ask, what shall we grow?

“This is your world. These are your people. You can live for yourself today, or you can help build tomorrow; for everyone” – VNV Nation “Foreword”


Adrian Harris, as quoted in Global Implications of Animism from a Thea/ological Perspective. In “Engaging the Spirits”, edited by Lupa.