Why We Allow “Those People” in Pan Society

racists in Pan Society

When we created Pan Society, we gave mindful discussion to the name. Names are important. We chose “Pan” because pan means “all.” Animism is the belief that all life is sacred, connected, and One. It doesn’t end with the lifeforms that you don’t like, aren’t popular, or aren’t nice. This belief is why we allow “those people” in Pan Society.

So, who are “those people?” They could be anyone: pale skinned people, dark skinned people, Jews, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, homophobes, racists, sexists, disabled people, homeless people, Travelers, black sheep, outliers, weirdos, etc.

Why? Here’s why.


Growth doesn’t happen in comfort and safety. It happens through challenges, sweat, and tears. You don’t always know if you are the teacher or the student, but if you are in the game, the chance for you to grow always exists. So let people and experiences into your sphere who shake you up. Let life challenge and thrill you. If not, is it a meaningful life?

People with different beliefs and cultures are a gift. They bring us ways to see things in different ways. Don’t shrink from that. Embrace it! (if you dare) Remember that our most sacred teachers are the outliers.

Love Always Wins

I have had a lot of conversations lately about who is right on political and social issues. We all think we’re right, but we never really know until we’re often so distant from the issue that it doesn’t matter anymore. Just because something is popular or legal doesn’t mean it’s good, just, or right.

  • Segregated schools were legal in the USA until 1968.
  • Millions people looked the other way and/or directly participated in the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War II.
  • Slavery existed for millenia before it was finally abolished in most of the world.
  • There are laws now to protect handicapped, elderly, women, and homosexuals against discrimination.

None of this could have happened without public approval. It’s always good to be willing to be wrong. When in doubt, love it out.

Everybody Deserves to Maintain Their Dignity

Frank Barron said, “Never take a person’s dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.” Sound advice.

The Germans were thoroughly humiliated at the end of World War I. This created a breeding ground for the hate that resulted in World War II. The same can happen to any group that is marginalized, isolated, and reviled.

Bullies become bullies because they were bullied. Hurt people hurt people. Shunning people perpetuates the cycle. Giving people a place at the table and treating them with dignity ends the abuse through compassion and understanding. It doesn’t happen overnight, but without that opportunity, it doesn’t happen at all.

You Still Have Your Sovereignty

If someone says something you don’t like, you can elect to ignore them. Just because we all have a seat at the table doesn’t mean you have to engage with everyone. We all have different triggers and levels of tolerance. Use your sovereignty to choose if and how you want to engage.

We’re Respectful

I have to say that we’ve had some high spirited conversations in Pan Society, but I’ve never seen anyone be disrespectful. There is a difference between thoughts that some think are unpopular and harmful or abusive behaviors. We aren’t condoning harming anyone, and we aren’t the thought police. Both can be true at the same time.

Life’s Painful

So many people want to live in the Summer of life where we’re full of power, beauty, and abundance, but nobody gets there without going through the pain of birth, growing pains, and then it’s all followed by the pain of decline, loss, and death. Life’s dirty and painful. Everything is a mirror of this. Relationships, too.

And animism is a relational spiritual path. We can’t expect to be friendly with everyone, but if we have great boundaries (sovereignty), then deep, meaningful connections become possible. So, we take the good with the bad, and do the best we can to be good neighbors. There is no place that is just love and light. Nature doesn’t behave that way, and that’s okay.

We All Have a Shadow

The person who points the finger at another for being “X” is not in touch with his Shadow. Let me tell you, we all have a Shadow.

Look at the Sun. We only know it’s light because of the dark. Without darkness, there would be no way to define the light. So, they go together.

We cannot love what we do not accept. Self love is perhaps the hardest love to achieve. The easiest way to get there that I’ve found is acceptance of the Shadows that you see in others. Trust and believe they are also in you even if you can’t see them.

Acceptance is not the same thing as condoning. It doesn’t mean we allow abuse. It doesn’t mean we don’t advocate for changes that we believe in or let offenses pass. It just means that we live in the grey. We accept the person as a fellow human being of value even as we disagree with his beliefs or behaviors. Sometimes it means we create distance so that we can feel safe.

I know it takes a great deal of courage to be whole. It’s easy to be angry, judgmental, and put up walls. If you want to feel the fullness of your self in the greatness of the world, I invite you to try another way. Relate to everything. Accept everything. Let yourself and others be their authentic selves. See what a beautiful world it is then.

Five Qualities You Need to Become “Big Mama”

big mama

A friend of mine lost her mother this week. Her passing left a gigantic hole in the family. My friend is facing the prospect of becoming the family matriarch with a lot of intimidation. I get it.

Most families have a “Big Mama.” She’s the glue that holds the family together when things feel like they could fall apart. Thanksgiving is at her house. She’s the one people gather around. Her arms are like protective, loving wings that enfold everyone.

It’s not her size that makes her Big Mama. She may be only 4 foot 9 and weigh only a hundred pounds, but she casts a huge shadow.

Big Mama may be the eldest female, or she may be the youngest. It’s not her age that makes her Big Mama. Maybe she became Big Mama young because her own mother was dead, sick, had a drug problem, or was mentally ill. It’s just something within her that has to express itself. She’s not only your Big Mama, she may have adopted co-workers, neighbors, friends, and in-laws, too. 

It’s easy to take her for granted when you don’t need her, but when you do, no one else can take her place. Maybe her love takes the form of food and emotional warmth. Maybe she’s a wise cracker who makes you laugh. It could be that she’s hard as nails and has tough love. However she loves, it goes all the way to the bones.

If you are lucky enough to have a Big Mama in your family, you know what big shoes she has to fill. Not everyone can do this job. Fortunately, a family only needs just one. However, when she dies, if there isn’t someone strong enough to fill her spot, the family suffers. So it’s important to nurture the qualities of Big Mama in the younger women. What are they?


Big Mama is the keeper of secrets. She is the one everyone comes to with their problems. If she’s not a great communicator, this can’t happen. Big Mama listens. When she speaks, she speaks with wisdom. People respect what she has to say even when she’s “old school” and they don’t agree.


Big Mama often has huge shoulders that support the world. She knows how to care for others, even when her family members have very different needs. It may seem like she’s not doing a whole lot, but somehow you feel better anyway.

Emotionally Healthy

Big Mama is emotionally available. She is expressive, warm, and real. You get the feeling that she is here, and that’s the only place she wants to be. When she’s upset, she’s upset. When she’s happy, you see it in her whole face. She teaches you how to be real and gives you the space to do that.


Big Mama is understanding. She doesn’t expect you to be perfect, always on time, right, or have all the answers. She loves you just the way you are – even if she’s telling you that what you are doing isn’t in your best interest. You never feel judged – always supported. It’s as if all you have to do is show up and you’re appreciated for you.


Even though Mama is sweet, she’s also tough. She will set you straight and say the hard things when you need to hear them. She won’t let you go off a cliff with a blindfold on. You may not like it, but you appreciate her all the more for it.

Big Mama is an important, nature role in a modern animist family or tribe. Groups need leadership. Modern society fails miserably in this area. We have too many people who are adrift without roots and without a safe place to call home. Too much authority is given through titles or rank rather than natural leadership. If you have this calling without you, offer your nurturing Mother energy to those who need you. Show others the way to embody this so we grow into people with connections.

Discover Life-Changing Ways to Heal Your Naughty Ancestors

reconciling with dark ancestors

We all have ancestors who are less than fabulous. For me, coming face to face with that is like looking at myself. After all, the ancestors are a part of us. And Shadow work is not easy.

So here are some of member’s of my family’s rogue’s gallery.

King John. Yes, that King John. (It’s really not that remarkable since almost everyone with British ancestors is related to this family. If you’re Asian, you’re likely related to Genghis Khan, so we’re all descended from royalty). For those of you know don’t know, King John had an unrivaled reputation for cruelty and lechery. His barons revolted and created the Magna Carta to keep his power in check. So, he was a murderer and rapist with a huge ego and boundaries problem.

My great grandfather was a nice guy. People liked him. He had a great sense of humor. And he was also a wife beater and alcoholic who didn’t want to work. He was a dreamer who had all these schemes that my great grandmother would finance. Ultimately his irresponsibility and addiction eroded their love and their wealth.

Four or five generations back is a slave owner who bred with his slaves, one of whom is a grandmother. We know that this is the historical fact in the United States, but when you see it written in the census records, it becomes personal. It becomes real.

I’ve even got some Scandinavian blood. Were they descended from Vikings? Did they slaughter people? I don’t know. It makes you wonder.

It is not easy to see the truth of my ancestry in this light. But after my revulsion and pity party, I felt I had a choice to make. I could either heal this or carry it. I choose to heal it.

My Ancestral Healing Journey

I talk to my ancestors every day. I already have an established relationship with them, so I know that I am supported. There was no way to fail. All I had to do was begin and keep going. Eventually I’d get to the other side.

I also knew that if I heal anyone in the ancestral line, the whole line has the opportunity to heal. I say “opportunity” because you can’t force someone to heal. All you can do is make it available. Some will take it and some won’t.

While some ancestral healing practices focus on the person who created the hurt, I focused on me.

Acceptance was the first step. I stopped wanting it to be different. I stopped trying to push it away, blame someone else, or look for alternative endings. It is what it is.

And believe it or not, just doing that helped a lot. It takes a lot of energy to hide. Blaming gives my power away, so being still and accepting grounded me in the present moment and gave me energy to do the next thing.

Why walk alone when you can have help? My next step was asking my loving, helping ancestors for help. They want reconciliation as much as I do, so they have motivation to support. What helps one, helps us all.

Next I educated myself about the other facets of these people’s lives when details were available. When they were not, I looked for generalities about their communities, cultures, and locales to help flesh them out as people. Seeing them as whole people with strengths as well as weaknesses put the “badness” in perspective. It also makes the next step easier.

Next I sent love and compassion to myself for withholding love and unconditional positive regard for them. This doesn’t mean that I stopped condemning their acts. It just meant that I was allowing myself to be loving despite their acts. So, I was not making them “deserve” my love. I was just loving because that’s who I am. That’s what all of Nature is. So this is another way of saying I was realigning myself with Nature.

Another aspect of this is embracing the idea that we are One. One is light and dark, not light or dark. If I can accept their darkness, I can accept my own. This keeps me humble, compassionate, and in a state of grace.

And guess what happened? It was all okay. I could think about them, their deeds, and the consequences of their deeds without reacting. Not immediately. But over time, I could think of these people and what they did without feeling guilt, shame, revulsion, or separation. And isn’t that the goal? To be whole? Connected?

There are certainly other ways to do this. What works for you will vary depending upon a lot of things. If you’ve been traumatized, you may need to work on that first. You may need to have someone do this for you or walk with you. There are lots of energy and breath work modalities that can help. Just know that the negative programs of naughty ancestors aren’t something you have to live with.

Do I Have to Care for My Abusive Elderly Parent?

Do I Have to Care for My Abusive Elderly Parent?

At Pan Society we often talk about elders in an idealized way, but we know life isn’t ideal. We don’t live in a perfect world. Life’s pretty messy. What happens when our elders are not nice people? Or maybe they are even toxic! So, what do you do when you have an abusive elderly parent? Are you obligated to take care of them?

Why We Care For the Elderly

First let’s look at why we care for the elderly. The Riddle of the Sphinx was “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” The answer is Man. A baby crawls on all fours. Adults and children walk upright. The elderly sometimes walks with a cane. This is a perfect metaphor for the wheel of human life.

Babies are the future. They come into the world totally helpless. They rely on others for everything – food, hygiene, social stimulation, instruction, and discipline. Children are special because they just came from the Otherworld. They carry wisdom inside of them that we can learn from.

In a healthy world, adults care for their children and rear them to be self-sufficient adults capable of reproduction so that the species can continue.

When the health of the parents decline and they become less capable of providing for their own needs, their (now grown) children care for them. In indigenous societies, the elders care for the children so that the parents can work. Elders also have wisdom that comes from a lifetime of living that they share with the family.

That’s reciprocity. The adults in the middle are the strongest and most capable so they carry the very young, old, and sick.

Why Animists Care For Our Elderly

Love is the glue that connects the babies, adults, and elderly. Love creates belonging. The only thing that differentiates caring for our elders as a burden or a pleasure is love.

When you love your parents, you want to be there for them. You can’t imagine someone else doing that job for you. Although it’s incredibly hard work and emotionally taxing, you realize that they saw you into the world. You want to see them out.

In the process of caring for them, you learn about what it means to be an elder. You learn how to give up power, trust others, surrender, and finally – how to die. It’s really about engaging intimately with the circle of life.

This is not a one way transaction. We understand that the very young and old are closer to the Otherworld. They have wisdom to share with us. We value that, so we nurture and respect them for what they give us.

In reality, that’s not where many of us live today. When there is no love, no wisdom, the adults aren’t very self sufficient themselves, or there aren’t enough able bodied adults to do the job, the whole system can collapse.

Making the Choice

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork and have the same understanding of why we care for the elderly, let’s look at helping you make the choice for whether or not caring for your abusive parents makes sense for you.


The first thing to consider is sovereignty. There is no right or wrong. It’s your choice. You can do what you want. If you want to, do it. If you don’t, don’t. If that feels good, you can stop there. Choice made!

But for most of us, it’s not that simple. We want to be in alignment with our values, and our values say that it’s our duty.

And we have a duty to ourselves too – a duty to be healthy, high functioning people. When we put ourselves in a toxic situation, that takes a toll. So, there may be a conflict between the duty to our parents and the duty to ourselves. One way to honor your both values is to provide monetarily but limit or withhold your physical presence. There are probably other ways to create a win/win.

Or maybe we aren’t sovereign. We can’t take care of ourselves. Or maybe we have just enough to care for ourselves and nothing extra. If that’s the case, perhaps the way that you care is by visiting or calling them on the phone. So you care for their emotional needs, but not their physical needs.


Your parents are the connection to the ancestors. They are the doorway to the past. Your children are the future. If the past, present, and future are not connected, the spiritual foundation and family line fractures. If you can heal this in the physical world, it’s the healthiest thing to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you take your parents into your home and care for them. I think, though, that it almost certainly means that you come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness for who they have been. It’s for your peace of mind that you do this, not anyone else’s.

In this and all things, sovereignty and connection dance. The more independence you choose, the less connection you have. We have to give up some things to be connected. We have to let go of some things to be our own people. So keep in mind what you are getting and giving. If it feels balanced and good, go for it. If it doesn’t, get creative. Think of what it would take to something work.

It’s Your Call

Everyone’s situation is unique. Some parents have different needs than others. Some are more capable than others. Each adult has different resources, support, and coping skills. Someone who has done a lot of healing will be more ready and able to take on caring for an abusive elderly parent than someone who has done none. Having dependent children in the house may also be a factor.

Being modern animists is not easy. We are trying to live in relationship with people while while being in a social structure that hasn’t been in alignment with Nature for a long time. The choices that we make can continue that brokenness or they can repair it. Some things we will be able to fix for ourselves and some we won’t. As long as we’re in alignment with our values and moving in the direction of love, we’re doing the best that we can.

I Am That

I am that

Have you ever had your DNA analyzed? If so, you know that it can be a great way to realize “I am that.” “That”, of course, is everything. So, it can help you realize the Oneness that you already are. How?

Recent Ancestral Story

The first thing it does is illuminate your recent ancestral story. If you get your DNA run by ancestry sites, they really focus on the last two to three hundred years. The accuracy depends on the amount of data that scientists have to compare your DNA to. For example, if you are light skinned, they are going to have lots more data to compare than if you have more melanin. Still, many people can only go back two generations, so this provides a lot of new illuminating information.

For example, a friend’s mother told her that her father was Middle Eastern. Her DNA revealed that her recent ancestors were 100% from the British Isles. Another friend’s family lore said that they were Native American. Nope! She actually got her tawny huge from the Middle East. Many white supremacists are surprised to find that they actually have pigment in their family tree.

Nobody is “ethnically pure.” There is no such thing. In fact, the last two hundred years of our family history is often very different from what our oral history and imagination tells us. Knowing the facts can help to erase misconceptions, broaden your view of identity, and anchor you in your bones.

Get the Stories

Once you have some hard facts, you can research the stories. If your ancestors were a part of literate empires (versus pre-literate tribal cultures), there are often great records that can be uncovered.

I am fortunate that my father has uncovered thousands of family connections stretching back a thousand years in one line. If you are lucky, you can connect to someone who has done the same and save yourself a ton of work. Check out ancestry.com or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

As I look at my family tree, I see criminals, incest, philanthrope, genius, slaves, slave owners, people who successfully resisted colonialism, soldiers, generals, poverty, wealth, business owners, unwed parents, alcoholics, musicians, and religious zealots. I see strength, beauty, and challenges. The rainbow of stories that suggests I am everything. I am that.

Archaic DNA

If you pop your raw DNA results into Gedmatch, you can analyze your archaic DNA. This story goes where the paper trail dies. It can provide a fascinating look at human migration as well as your ancestral story. For example, as I look at my archaic DNA, I see that I have Denisovan ancestry. Denisovan people lived in a cave in Siberia between 55,000 and 287,000 years ago! That’s a long way from where their descendant’s footsteps lead.

I also share DNA with the Kennewick man! Kennewick man is the remains of the oldest Native American DNA in North America. He lived in what is now Washington state 8,500 years ago. That goes back way before oral family history or recorded records. This type of data can give you such a broader picture of who your people were and who you are.

For me, it’s humbling. Although I deeply connect to my culture and recent dead, this stretches my roots much deeper into the soil, my bones, and eternity. It brings to mind a quote from Caligula.

I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night.

Wow! I am that. …and you are too.

If you look at your family tree and all you can see is nuts, look beyond that. There is much more to you than your recent dead. There are apples, oaks, cedars, yews, mimosas, redwoods, pines, hawthorns, cherries, and everything imaginable.

The next time you have a bad moment, remember that within you is the DNA of people who traveled widely, escaped misery, loved, died, and conquered fear. Within you is the love of thousands who came together to create you. Before that, we were all stardust. So imagine what adventures lie ahead!

For me, remembering my ancestors is about remembering who I am. Staying connected to who I am keeps me grounded, humble, and compassionate towards those who are suffering with ignorance, want, greed, and fear. I am that. Sometimes I forget and live there too. Many generations within me did too. All it takes for me to change things up is to remember that I am light and dark. I can then choose where I want to stand today.

Note: Scientists took DNA from Havasupai tribal members for a diabetes study, then used it for other purposes. FamilyTreeDNA secretly used information in its database to catch criminals. Be sure that you are fully aware of how your DNA can be used before signing consent for any DNA test.

Why Is Autumn So Hard?


I work as a therapist, and I can tell you that lots of people are asking “Why is autumn so hard?” right now. Autumn is a time of slowing down and letting go. If you look around, all the leaves are dying. The Earth is yielding up the last of her treasures in preparation for going dormant and resting.

In doing so, she’s showing us what we ought to be doing. “As within, so without.” So, if this time feels really hard, it’s probably a sign that we haven’t been doing a great job of flowing with Nature. So why not do that now?

Slow Down

Autumn can be hard if we’re not conserving energy. Summer is a yang or active time of year. As we downshift into autumn, our energy production slows so our output needs to slow too. Look around at Nature and you will see the plants and animals slowing down. Follow suit. Sleep more. Lounge more.

Eat less and change what you eat to reflect your local food choices and body chemistry.

Continue to meditate or do yoga or qigong to cultivate that slowing down energy. The mind and body need to rest. We are cyclical beings. Autumn is for slowing down.

Letting Go Throughout the Year

There are many times within the wheel of life when the energy favors letting go. The full moon is one of the quickest because it happens every 29 days. Each month the energy cycles and changes. The full moon shines the light on your wants and needs and shows you what is not in balance. If everything is hunky-dory, it probably feels smooth.

If it’s not, the pressure ratchets up to provoke you to make changes. When you make it a practice to go within, tune into the moon, and let the moon’s energy help you change, the seasonal changes aren’t so rough. Miss one? No big deal. It will happen again in another month, so if you cultivate a regular full moon practice, you will never get to autumn with a lot of baggage again.

Mercury retrograde happens three times per year. This isn’t really about letting go, but revising, redoing, revisiting. The message of Mercury in retrograde is “Are you sure? Check again.” When you slow down and correct along the way, you avoid big mistakes and massive changes. You can use this time too to release and let go.

Fall gives you three whole months to focus on letting go. It’s a time of loss and grief. So feel your feelings. Things that you’ve stuffed down have a tendency to blow up right now either emotionally or as dis-ease. Give those feelings an outlet. You don’t want to carry the seeds of dis-ease within you.

In Nature, there is no free lunch. It’s a “pay me now or pay me later” type of system.  If you wait until fall to practice letting go, it can pile up and feel overwhelming because Nature collects with interest. You could blow up, burn bridges, and make drastic changes when a detour would have worked much better six months or a year ago.

Autumn doesn’t have to be hard. Living life as it happens is a lot easier. If it’s not easy now, do what you need to do to create balance and harmony. Then resolve to be more fully present in the wheel of life tomorrow.

How to Celebrate Ancestor Day

ancestor day

Ancestor Day kicks off on October 31. It happens when the veil between worlds is the thinnest and it’s easiest to speak with the souls of the departed. You can contact those whom you miss, and hide from those who weren’t the best in life.

Be warned. All spirits of the Otherworld can come through- not just the humans. This includes ghosts, faeries, demons, or whatever creatures you believe in. If you are scared, you can leave out food to placate them, stay indoors, or disguise yourself so they won’t know you.

If you are new to modern animism and want to get into the holy day spirit, I’ve gathered our posts about ancestors to help you understand what it’s all about. You can take any ideas here that work for you to create your own observance. The key is to make it meaningful to you. Enjoy!

Why We Tell Our Ancestors’ Stories – helps you understand the value of keeping your family stories alive. Shows you how to do this.

Calling to the Ancestors Song– this is a song that you can sing at your ancestor altar, for Ancestor Day, when someone dies, or anytime you want to connect to your ancestors.

Could Ancestor Deficit Disorder Be the Cause of First World Problems? – takes a look at the spiritual cost of divorce from the ancestors

Let’s Have a Dumb Supper – a Dumb (silent) Supper is one way to observe the holy day

Creating an Ancestor Veneration Practice  – if you want to keep your ancestors in your life all year round, here is how to do that.

Creating a Relationship With the Dead

Keening, Mourning and the Grief Process – this article looks at the process between dying and becoming an ancestor

Has Your Partner Met Your Ancestors?

Can Ancestors Cause Natural Disasters? – Ancestors are people. They can be nice or nasty. They can get upset when they aren’t respected. Here are some things to think about.

Chuseok, the Korean Ancestor Day Observance – here’s Ancestor Day done Korean style. Feel free to take ideas from this holy day for your celebration.

Ancestor Day falls halfway between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Like many other holy days, it’s also a harvest festival. You can celebrate with the foods of the season like pumpkins, squash, apples, hazelnuts, and grains.

Like all eight of the holy days, Ancestor Day is a solar holiday. The sun’s light is all important as it’s life giving. So, you may wish to celebrate outside with a bonfire, or at least a candle, to light the darkness. Some say the bonfires are lit to keep the bad spirits away. Candles show your loved ones the way back home.

Also like all of the holy days, Ancestor Day is a doorway to a change of energies and seasons. It’s liminal space that is neither this nor that. To mark this, you could explore things that are not your normal nature. Beware of tricksters and spirits though as they are doing the same thing!

Ancestor Day is also divination time. It’s time to use whatever methods you know to see what the future holds. Since the veil between worlds is thin, the spirits can more easily help with this. It’s also a time to ask the spirit world for protection through the winter and the year to come.

In some cultures, Ancestor Day also marks the new year. Since the wheel of the year is a circle, there is really no beginning and no end. Consequently some cultures make the Winter Solstice the new year. Some observe it in the spring.

If this is your new year, you could make it a party just as you would the secular new year. Dancing and music are always appropriate. Decorating with the colors of nature, either around the house or on your altar is typical. Holy days are always good days to get outside, take a walk, contemplate, and breathe. Storytelling is also a common theme for parties.

If you don’t want to invite your dead in to party, you could go to them. A trip to the cemetery to tend the graves and update them on the latest news is a great plan.

Although this tends to be the largest and liveliest celebration of the animist year, people also tend to remember that it is a holy day and keep it spiritual.

Why We Tell Our Ancestors’ Stories on October 31

ancestors stories
Ancestor Day begins on the evening of October 31. Are you looking for something meaningful to do for Ancestor Day? Telling our ancestors’ stories is a great way to connect. Here’s how to get started.

Write it Down

To get started, we’re going to write everything down. This my require some research, so if you start now, you should have plenty of time.
Begin by writing your name at the top of a piece of paper, then writing four columns. One is for each of your family lines. So there will be one for your mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so one. Then one for your mother’s father, his father, his father, and so on. The next one is for your father’s mother, her mother, and so on. The last one is for your father’s father, his father, and so on. Go for as far back as you have names.
Once you have the names, fill in what you know about them. Ask your elders. Check Ancestry.com. You might get lucky and find that someone in your family tree has done a lot of work for you. Who knows? This may become a whole album instead of a piece of paper!
Be sure to include factual stuff like important dates and places, but also see if you can find things that are of personal significance like you know that your grandfather grew peaches or that he worked as a musician. You want to include positive things and negative things. These are all a part of your story too. These things illuminate where you came from.
If you people struggled through the Great Depression, genocide, or slavery, you know that you have great strength within. That might also suggest that there is some intergenerational healing to be done. It’s all good. It’s all part of who you are.

Tell Their Stories

Now that you have gathered the stories, tell their stories on Ancestor Day. Say their names. Give gratitude. Send love.
It’s informative to give factual stories, but you want to be careful about speaking ill of the dead. If you have people who have not yet crossed over, you could attract their anger if you slander them. We want everyone to rest in peace, so it’s a good idea to be respectful and speak in love – just like you would in life.
If you’re hanging on to old hurts, it might be a good time to offer forgiveness. If you can’t yet, you can ask your ancestors for help. In fact, you can ask your ancestors for help with anything that you need. The door is open for all comers to hear you, not just those who are well in spirit, so you want to be careful about listening to any advice however.

Make an Offering

When you are asking for help, or even just visiting with the dead, it’s always a good idea to make an offering. This is a way of engaging with the law of reciprocity and keeping things in balance. When you receive, you also give. An appropriate offering could be food, a prayer, songs, wine, flowers, or anything that feels right for you. If you know your family liked something in particular, that would make a great offering.

Why We Tell Our Stories

So, what’s the purpose of this? Why do we do it?
The first reason is to keep our connection to the dead alive. We have a past and a future. The living stand in the middle, as the bridge to the past or the ancestors. We are the link to the next generations that are coming. When we tell their stories, they provide an anchor that stabilizes our family tree. Our stories tell us where we came from. They ground us to the land and to other people. They give us a way to belong.
Lots of people feel lonely and adrift. Many people in the USA came from somewhere else. So it’s very easy to feel disconnected from our roots. This is a way of finding them again. Telling your ancestors’ stories a way to hear the voices of those who came before sing within you.
It’s also a way to link us to the spiritual support of our ancestors. Many cultures believe that we have more than one part to the soul. There is the part that helps the living. It stays around for a while, then returns to Nature. (Some say it’s stays around for seven generations. Some say it’s until their names are no longer remembered). If we don’t speak their names, that connection is lost and we lose the support of those people.
The number of soul part varies from culture to culture. In some it’s three. Some say four or five. Most have another part that continues to incarnate in the family line. It’s important to live well so that your energy enlivens and “cleans” the family line so that the descendants will have an easier time of things. This also means you since part of your soul returns to the same family line. Your ancestors are motivated to help you because they benefit too.
Most cultures also have a soul part that reincarnates outside the family line to give you strengths and challenges that are outside your current family and culture. You can see how this would help accelerate growth.
So telling your ancestors’ stories is really a way of telling your own story. It’s a way of being present with the past, present, and future. Learning your ancestors’ stories connects you to a place, events, and other people. When you see the big picture, it can help put your life into perspective.
Keep in mind that as a modern animist, you can celebrate Ancestor Day any way that you like. Or don’t observe it at all. If this seems valuable to you, please use it this Ancestor Day and write a comment below to tell us how it goes!

VIDEO: Could Ancestor Deficit Disorder Be The Cause of First World Problems?

ancestor deficit disorder
I was recently introduced to this idea of Ancestor Deficit Disorder by author Steve Crandall. I thought it was an amazing look at the possible impact of divorcing our ancestors from our lives. Crandall lists the symptoms as follows.

Symptoms of Ancestor Deficit Disorder

low mood
lack of wonder
loss of individual destiny
chronic cynicism
low levels of gratitude
spiritual withdrawal
emotional resignation
disconnection of heart and mind
loss of faith
atrophy of joy
Right away you get the idea that we suffer from not having contact with our ancestors. That’s my thought too! I believe it contributes greatly to what we call first world problems. I was recently in my home town and drove past the hospital where my friend’s mom was sick. We went there with her a lot. At the time I thought it was huge, but seeing it now, it’s teeny tiny in comparison to the huge ones we have today. The whole hospital is the size of only one wing or department today.
Our life spans are extending (although this is no longer true. Life expectancy in the USA dropped for the third year in a row recently), but we are living longer with disease.
Mental health problems are epidemic. Pharmaceuticals only treat symptoms and give people more side effects. So they have problems that defy categorization. They don’t have this or that, but they certainly aren’t functioning well.

Spirituality is a big part of health, so I believe that one of the things that can turn this around is returning to our roots. Connecting with our spirit and our ancestors. We have plant, animal, mineral, and human ancestors, so it could be a reconnection to any of those realms. However, I am speaking primarily of the human ones.
After all, if you don’t have roots how do you have an identity? How do you belong? How can you practice sovereignty, connection, and oneness? It’s really easy to violate people when you don’t see any connection to the past or future. It’s easy to destroy the environment when all you see is dead things or resources versus living relatives. We can see our bodies even as meat wagons versus holy temples, so we eat garbage, take drugs, and run ourselves into the ground.
Animism is a holistic spiritual path. It’s relational. Putting the ancestors back into your life immediately gives you a place to belong. It immediately makes you a significant link in the chain of past, present, and future because you are that! I am that. We are all that.
Maybe you don’t like your parents. Maybe they weren’t great people, but seeing your connection to them can make you more compassionate. It can help you to forgive. Perhaps you even take it upon yourself to help to heal their burdens so that they don’t pollute you or your children. Maybe you start to see that you are not them. You are greater than your mistakes. You are the result of the love of thousands!
When you look up at the stars tonight, perhaps you realize that you are stardust. It’s amazing to think about, isn’t it? You are part of the plants, trees, oceans, lions, icebergs, mountains- every holy thing. So plugging in to nature is just a way of getting to rediscover yourself. It’s a way to BE yourself. How liberating is that?
The good news about ancestor deficit disorder is that it’s voluntary. We don’t have to suffer. We can plug right back into life. All it takes is intention followed by action. Autumn is the time for the elders and ancestors, so it’s the perfect time.

How to Reconnect

Here are some ideas on how to reconnect and restore the ancestral connection.

  • Go to a moon circle. Use this to get in touch with your inner self through your relationship with the Moon.
  • Observe the solar holy days. This can help you to tune in to the wheel of the year. “As within, so without.”
  • Create an ancestor altar. Honor your people every day. Get to know their names and stories. Share them. Know that their strengths reside in you.
  • Forgive. Anger, resentment, and any type of withholding of love harms you. Be the change that you want to see in the world. This doesn’t mean “be the doormat.” Remember to practice healthy boundaries too.
  • Get out in Nature. Walk. Breathe. Observe. Be present until you see no detachment from it.
  • Change your language. Our words reflect our inner world. Watch for words and phrases that divide or curse. Remove them from your thoughts.
  • Plant and nurture plantlife. Watch it grow. Talk to it. See how it responds.
  • Consciously nurture an animal or person. Release any expectation of what you will get in return. Make it an act of love.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let us know your ideas and what you see changing. Together we can make this a healthier more connected world and heal ancestor deficit disorder.

VIDEO: Let’s Have a Dumb Supper

dumb supper
Have you ever wanted to have a nice quiet meal with your ancestors? Keep reading and you’ll see a way to make that happen.
It’s Autumn. This is time to commune with our ancestors. And the amazing thing is so many cultures across the world felt the same way. This is following that Wheel of the Year, that Wheel of Life. The “Dumb Supper” is one of the ways that we do this.
A Dumb Supper is when we sit quietly and have a meal with our family and guests. We also set a place for the ancestors. We sit quietly and mindfully while listening for the ancestors. Maybe they will bring you messages or speak with you. It’s a way of inviting them in.
Different cultures do it differently. In Korea, it’s a little different. The plate is not in front of everyone. The ancestor setting is on the side, out of the way, but it’s the same concept. It’s similar to when we share a drink or that day’s meal by putting it on the altar during our daily ancestor reverence.
You can do this at any time, but it’s usually done on Ancestor Day (October 31- the celebration is always on the eve of the holy day) as this is when the veil between worlds is thinnest. It’s easier for the dead to communicate with us then.
Dumb Suppers are scheduled at any time of day, but it’s often done at midnight.
In some traditions, after the meal is concluded, the windows are left open so that any late (spirit) comers can partake of the feast.

Tips For a Successful Dumb Supper
  • It’s called a “Dumb Supper” because it’s silent. Consider young children and babies. Choose a time when the house will be most quiet.
  • Enter, eat, and exit in silence.
  • Be mindful and respectful.
  • If you are the hostess, anticipate any needs before the meal begins so that everything is easily available once the dinner starts.
  • You may wish to feed children earlier and not include them in the festivities.
  • Think about whether you wish to include meal preparation as part of the process.
  • Choose foods that are quiet to eat so that the silence isn’t disrupted.
  • Be sure to include foods that your ancestors liked or traditionally ate. This will make it a treat for them.
  • Use noise dampeners like cloth place mats and coasters.
  • You may wish to include a ritual before, after, or make the entire event a ritual.
  • If you set up an altar, you can set up pictures of the deceased on the altar.
  • The supper tends to be lengthy so you may not want to have foods that are best eaten while very hot or very cold.
  • Seasonal foods work really great for a Dumb Supper.
  • You can put the ancestors’ food on one plate or set it out in little containers buffet style. The latter option might be better if you have guests as their ancestors might prefer different food.
  • You can designate the ancestors’ chair by covering it in cloth so that everyone knows not to sit there. This goes at the head of the table, a place of honor.
  • If you like, you and your guests can write out their messages to the dead to bring to the dinner. Keep your notes private. The ancestors will still receive them.
  • You might choose to use tea lights to represent the dead. If so, you can burn your messages to the dead using the candle that represents the recipient of that message. Alternatively, you can use one candle to represent everyone.
If you have any other tips for doing a Dumb Supper, or just want to share how yours have gone, please leave a comment.