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.

Why We Don’t Videotape or Photograph Rituals


A listener wants to know why we don’t videotape or photograph rituals. There are some exceptions to this rule, like weddings, but it holds true in most situations. Here’s why.

You’re a Participant, Not a Spectator

If you are a part of the ritual, you need to be fully present to get the most out of it. If you are taking pictures, you’re not in the headspace to benefit. You’re making yourself an outsider to the event, not a part of it. So you detract from your own experience. The best experiences are the ones for which there is no evidence because you were so fully invested that you totally forgot to record it.

Respect Other’s Privacy

If it’s a group ritual, it’s an invasion of privacy to record other people without their consent. It’s not easy to only capture your part of the event and leave everyone else out.

It Ruins the Collective Vibe

When we are in ritual together, there is a collective vibe. What each person brings to the table impacts the big picture vibe. If one or two are fiddling with lighting, using flash, or are cheesing in the corner for a photo, it makes the energy less sacred and more party or social gathering. That defeats the purpose of the ritual and ruins the collective vibe. Just don’t.

Reduces Vulnerability

The Observer Effect is when someone who is being watched changes their behavior because they are being watched. In ritual this often means that people are less vulnerable. You have to be vulnerable to connect deeply. Without it, the power and meaning are reduced. If ritual space is not safe, people won’t engage.

Honors the Sacred

When we connect with the sacred, we take only memories. There are things that happen in liminal space that are meant to stay within. They are not to be brought out into the physical world to be shared. Ritual is personal. Let it be personal. Digest it. Ponder it. Savor it. If you capture it and duplicate it, the energy often flows from it.

If you are going to a ritual and are concerned about photography or want to take pictures, ask the host for the rules for this event. The guidelines are not hard and fast.

You may also want to ask your heart what is the best thing for you. It often feel “yucky” to take more than memories. If you have this feeling, honor it.

How to Hold a Night Vigil

night vigil

We get a lot of requests for rituals. I get it. Lots of people want step-by-step directions and outward signs that they are practicing animists. The night vigil is a very flexible, common ritual that can be used for many purposes. Keep reading and I’ll explain how to do one.

What is a Night Vigil?

A night vigil is a keeping a watchful presence in the dark when you’d normally be sleeping. It generally takes place from sundown to sun up the next day. It is often held on the eve of a holy day, but can be done whenever there is a need, such as when someone dies.

Why Do We Do Night Vigils?

Everything in animism is symbolic and holistic. We do vigils at night because the darkness symbolizes the unknown or something scary. We generally have a candle, lamp, or bonfire at a vigil to illuminate the darkness. So, we perform vigils to raise awareness or move into the darkness or discomfort so that we can see our way through.

Define the Purpose

As always, we start any ritual by setting our intention. Without a clear purpose, we could be all over the place. Some examples of reasons why someone might do a night vigil are:

  • help the recently deceased in their journey to the Otherworld
  • express grief or other emotions that are too dark or heavy to feel without the container of a ritual
  • honor the ancestors
  • raise community awareness about social or political issues
  • enhance your own spiritual connection
  • find answers or guidance on issues that are eluding you
  • to remember victims of a tragedy
  • observe a holy day/celebrate the change of seasons

Create the Boundaries of the Vigil

Now it’s time to look at the details. What would be a suitable location – your backyard, a cemetery, a community center, a public park? Is it solo or for a group? Is it public or private? Do you want it to be highly structured or spontaneous? What is the mood? Festive or somber? Do you want to highlight particular issues through song, storytelling, speeches, or meditations? Or do you want everyone to have their own experience?

Be sure to have a clear beginning and end. A simple way to do this is to open and close sacred space.

Lots of animist holy days are observed with a night vigil. Some rituals also are framed this way. This is a rather strenuous commitment, so don’t be worried if you can’t maintain wakefulness the whole night. Perhaps it is feedback that you need to work on your discipline. Or maybe it’s as it should be, and you got what you were meant to get out of it. If you go into it with pure intentions, I am sure it will be fine.

Generally speaking, the more a ritual asks of you, the more you get out of it. So the night vigil can be really powerful. It’s not something to undertake lightly. I’d love to hear your experiences with this practice.

Why Poetry Is an Amazing Tool to Deepen Your Animist Experience

poetry is an amazing tool

Look at that kitty. What can you say about this picture that will make me feel something?

Whatever you conjure, that’s poetry. It’s communication from your soul that bypasses your intellect and go straight to your truth. THAT is why poetry is an amazing tool to deepen your animist experience.

To get to the essence of a thing, you have to forget what you think you know and see it anew. You have to go deeply sensual, into those feelings, taste, touch, smell, and notice all the nooks, crannies, and ripples of a thing. You have to get to know it, if not create a relationship with it. Search until you find the truth of it, then speak it.

In the process, you get to know yourself. We (and I include our inanimate brothers in this) are all mirrors of each other. Sometimes we see ourselves in the glass and sometimes we hold up the glass so others can see themselves.

Look at these lines from “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Do her words move you? Do you see something new? Can you feel the truth?

Good poetry doesn’t judge. It just speaks what it finds. In that space of truth, healing can happen. Maybe understanding. Or compassion. Forgiveness. Or perhaps tethered grief is unleashed.

We live too much in a world of thoughts, judgments, and pronouncements – things that really distance us from living. Poetry is an escape from goals, 5 year plans, deadlines, duties, and rules. It’s a journey to the heart of what is.

When you’re alone, sometimes it helps to feel understood. Poetry can do that. It connects us. Check out “How’s Your Heart” by Charles Bukowski.

to awaken in a cheap room
in a strange city and
pull up the shade
was the craziest kind of

Poetry takes us to a natural place. It opens us up, breaks patterns, and sets new ones in motion. It can transform us and take us higher than we imagined possible.

For one final example of why poetry is an amazing tool to deepen your animist experience, let’s look to Rumi who said:

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door
and open the love-window.
The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.

Now how does the kitty look?

Want to share your soul? Your moments in time? Please leave us a comment.

The Heart Warming Symbolism Behind Simple House Warming Gifts

house warming

Okay, so house warming gifts aren’t something that “belong” strictly to animists. But there are a lot of animist values that are demonstrated in this practice, so I wanted to talk about it.

What values? Generosity, hospitality, reciprocity, and caretaking to name a few.

The animist world is symbolic. Your home is your sanctuary, so inviting others in is a way to be vulnerable and intimate. It’s a place to create and nurture connections. Regardless of your relationship outside the home, it’s a place of safety and care for all within it.

The hearth is about survival. This is where food is made and warmth is created. It’s the gathering place that ensures that life goes on.

A new home is a place for a new start for a family. To give a gift at this time is to set the family off with support so that they can build a solid foundation and happy future. So, what to give? Here are some suggestions.

Bread, Salt, Wine

It’s a Wonderful Life has been a favorite Christmas movie for decades. When the Martini family moves into their first new home, Mary gives them “Bread, that this house may never know hunger, salt, that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.” In my opinion, a great house warming gift is always symbolic and means far more than the thing itself. It’s a blessing.


Brooms can represent a clean start. If you have a superstitious slant to your thinking, a broom can also be used to clear a space of evil spirits. A very common purification ritual involves the sweeping of things out the back door.


Candles bring light in the darkest times. We all know those times come. It’s a blessing to be prepared for them and have comfort when they arrive.

Sweet Things

What’s life without sweetness? Honey, sugar, chocolate, and baked goods symbolize this blessing. Since eating good food in company releases endorphins that create good feelings, it can also be a way to strengthen the bond between family, friends, and neighbors.


Giving knives as a house warming gift symbolizes protection for the receiver. However, many traditions see knives as instruments to sever ties between the giver and receiver which is generally not the intended result. To cancel out that energy, tape a coin to the knife before gifting it. When the receiver returns the coin, it is seen as payment and breaks the spell.


Plants are symbols of life. Giving someone a plant is a way to bring aliveness to the new home. Of course, it has to be cared for to keep that energy present in the home, so choose wisely for the space.


If the new homeowners are young and want children, rice is a gift that symbolizes fertility. A less desirable (perhaps) option are guppies. My grandfather’s medical practice had an aquarium that was packed with guppies. I was always delighted to see them swimming around. I have seven siblings and my dad always called us “guppies” so my preference is for guppies! Pomegranates are another symbol for fertility if you don’t like rice or guppies.


Coins are symbols of abundance and good fortune. It’s kind of cheesy giving someone coins, so you might want to get creative with this one. A Chinese money frog might work well instead. A commemorative coin or something that is worked into a piece of art might work too. Pomegranates also symbolize abundance. You could get two blessings for one with pomegranates.


Spirits slake your thirst and spread cheer. If it’s red wine, it’s also good for your heart health. So wine can symbolize a blessing for health and happiness.


Up until the 1920’s most people raised their own eggs. Chickens are enjoying a resurgence in popularity now days, so you may know that a rooster is a great protector and makes the hens happier. So a rooster can symbolize protection and speaking up or strength. Of course, it’s not a great idea to give someone a live animal unless you know they actually want one, but I still think it’s a cool tradition.


Wood is a symbol of stability. If you want to give wood, it can be actual wood that can be used to burn in the fireplace, anything made from wood like a decorative piece or utensil, or a tree. If the property was cleared of trees, a tree would make a great guardian and friend.

For me, animism is about seeing the symbols and relationships within things. There are so many beings who don’t speak in words, but in energy. The only way to relate to them is by being an energetic, symbolic being myself. I think gift giving from that spirit does that beautifully!



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.

The Surprising Problem With Indigenous Animism is…

problem with indigenous animism

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about the problem with indigenous animism. It was illuminating because it highlighted some misconceptions that are easily cleared up. Let’s take a look.

It’s a Utopia

Some people have this romantic point of view that indigenous people were living in harmony with Nature and themselves before the arrival of Europeans. There were no problems until the Europeans brought them.

Although this isn’t seen as a “problem”, it’s damaging because it’s not totally true. If you come to animism thinking it will solve all your problems and life will be one big kumbaya festival, you’re going to be disappointed.

Before the Europeans arrived, there was still tribal warfare. Some of it was quite vicious. This is partially how my mom’s people kept the missionaries out!

Regardless of what path you walk, life will always have problems. The cycle of life always moves from Order to Chaos and back again, so it’s a continuous flow and challenge. Adopting animism doesn’t change that. It accepts it and can help you roll with it.

Backward, Primitive Beliefs

Another criticism of indigenous animism is that it ignores science in favor of fanciful beliefs and practices. To that I say that perhaps you don’t understand enough of the animist world view to judge whether it’s fanciful or not.

The universe is holistic. Everything is connected. Just because you can’t see a thing or explain it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Prior to the invention of the microscope, the Greeks, Arabs, and Chinese knew that good hygiene helped keep people healthy. Before the invention of the telescope, the Dogon knew of the existence of Sirius B despite it being invisible to the naked eye.

Many indigenous tribes have mythology that include a lot of things for which there is no evidence. Sometimes these stories are a way to explain things that are unexplainable. Sometimes they are a reflection of a different, more holistic way of viewing the world. If you want to have a better understanding of it, you really need to learn about the whole culture and view the whole web rather than one part of it.

Domestic Violence, Suicide, Crime and Substance Abuse

Some people have the other extreme view that indigenous animism isn’t great because many indigenous communities suffer from high rates of domestic violence, suicide, crime, and substance abuse. Those are real statistics. So, let’s take a look at that.

My point of view is that animism didn’t cause any of those problems. Cultural and spiritual destruction and moving away from animism did. If you look around the world, you will see that conquerors took children away from their families and forbade them from speaking their own languages, wearing traditional clothes, and practicing their spirituality.

In a Stockholm Syndrome type of move, the conquerors made the defeated peoples dependent upon them for food, shelter, medicine, and their very lives. The only way to “succeed” was to adopt to the conqueror’s way of life. This continues today in many places.

This is cultural and spiritual genocide. You can’t remove someone from their families, land, and culture without killing their soul. It removes all sense of belonging. After generations of this, it’s no wonder that many cope by indulging in abuse, crime, violence, and self destruction. Most of the people who fall prey to these things aren’t practicing animism. They’ve forgotten it.

Return to Animism

Many communities are responding to these problems by returning to animism. They are replacing the history of the victors, which shows their people as “savages” with a more even, fair, life affirming versions.

They are teaching their adults and children their native languages. This is a really important step in recreating the bond with culture because it changes the way that the brain thinks. Words are the symbolic representation of the world view. Many cultures have words that don’t exist in other languages. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

These cultures are reinstituting rites of passage and other rituals. We know that this creates a sense of pride, belonging, and a stable foundation for identity of individual self as well as place in society.

Instead of making everything about acquiring and consuming, these cultures are stressing the importance of things like being, serving, gratitude, and giving. It makes the world more holistic, natural, and gives people a way to succeed that isn’t dependent upon how much money, power, or beauty you have.

Healing is holistic. So it’s not just about talking to a therapist or popping a pill. These traditional ways of healing involve the spirit, ancestors, and sometimes the land. They require the participation of the individual, so they aren’t something that is done to the person or given to the person. It’s give and take. Support is there to make sure the work continues.

In a nutshell, the animist approach reconnects the person to the web of life again. In the process, they gain hope, identity, responsibility, and purpose so that violence and self-destruction are no longer desirable.

I appreciate challenges and questions about animism. I am lucky to have an insider view of this situation and a foot in both modern and traditional worlds. If you have questions, please ask. Dialog helps both sides become more sensitive and knowledgable.

Respecting the Darkness in the Spirit World

respecting the Darkness

Someone recently came to me with a story about how he was planning to battle the Darkness. That story told me it was time that we shared some thoughts about respecting the Darkness.

What’s the Darkness?

But first, a definition. What do I mean by “Darkness?” Do I mean things that are unseen? Evil? Energies that want to harm us?

Some say there is no Darkness. Animism is a complementary dualistic system, so if there is Light there must be Dark. It certainly is unseen, but it can be illuminated.  I wouldn’t call it Evil because I believe that everything that exists is sacred.

That said, everything is not healthy, wholesome or desirable. (How could it be if we can’t have what’s healthy without something that is not healthy?) Everything doesn’t use its consciousness to help. Some things do harm. So by “Darkness” I could be referring to things we don’t see, but am most certainly referring to things that are not easy, kind, or warm. In fact, they can be downright dangerous.

I’m not talking about Shadow, or things that are within you, but things that are separate from you and not of your own creation or control. I’m talking about things like banshees, faeries, dybbuks, aswang, nuckelevees, vampires, wendigos, zombies, and kelpies. I also refer to the places where these things dwell and the practices of things like curses and soul stealing.

Flirting With the Dark

With magic, demons, and “shamans” appearing regularly in stories and mainstream entertainment, lots of people are now seeing things in the Darkness that they didn’t see before. There also seem to be a lot of people who think they can pick up a cookbook of spells, procedures, or rituals to barge into the Darkness to do battle. Or many people want to work out their anger, jealousy, or insecurities by cursing others.

Ask any indigenous animist and they will tell you that this is foolish!

You don’t go into battled unarmed and ignorant hoping that you will figure it out. I see lots of people who either wandered there inadvertently while on a plant medicine journey, or intentionally, who came back truly damaged. The risk is too great to bumble around the Dark – regardless of the purpose.

If you want to live in the animist world, you have to understand Darkness. From that understanding, you can build a culture of respect. This is something even indigenous animists have to cultivate. Animism is not a utopia. Culture and society is something that lives, breathes, and changes as we change. We can move towards balance or imbalance depending upon our choices.

How to Respect the Dark

To gain a respect for the Dark and keep the energies around you in their easiest, most helpful forms, these tribal animist concepts may be useful to know. Modern animists may choose to not adopt these beliefs, but they are valuable to acknowledge when dealing with the Dark regardless.

Everything is conscious. Everything is sovereign and has the power to harm or help. All things want to be nurtured, protected, and appreciated. When you stop acknowledging the boundaries, contributions, or value of a person or thing, it may harm you. When spirits are happy, they tend to share that happiness in the from of blessings. Everything is related. So at the very least, do no harm.

Order and tradition are important. Rituals help people to know who they are, bind us to the ancestors and society, and create belonging. Rituals also exist to protect the community through honoring the land, ancestors, harvest, natural world, and spirit world. Codes of conduct and taboos are implemented to preserve order. (Examples of this are things like restricting menstruating women from rituals, harvesting sustainably, using all of a slain animal, and defining when or where sex can be enjoyed). When this is done, the relationship between the Dark and Light is sustained.

Everything has a nature and will act according to its nature. Some energies are naturally Dark and will harm you. It’s what they do. You cannot alter this. It’s beneficial to know the nature of all things in your community and interact accordingly.

Balance results in harmony. Harmony is achieved through things like sacrifice, ritual, reciprocity, gratitude, respect, and having healthy boundaries.

Create protection when open and vulnerable to spiritual attack, such as when you are having sex, grieving, sick, angry, or are intoxicated.

Everything has power. “Don’t take a knife to a gun fight.” Know when you are out gunned and don’t go into a battle that you can’t win. At the very least, consult someone who is experienced and trained to act as a intermediary between the physical and spiritual worlds. It’s not something you can learn to do in a weekend.

If you come up against something scary, ask for help. There are many energies that are willing to help you if you need it. Stay within your comfort zone. Don’t blunder foolishly into something dangerous because you were too proud or ignorant to ask for help.

It’s Not All Love and Light

The modern animist world is not all love and light. Every day is a walk of balance between the Light and Dark. We don’t ignore, fear, or neglect the Darkness. We acknowledge and respect it. This is the path to wholeness.

Exploring the Scary Doorways of Liminal Space

liminal space

Doorways. The horizon. Midnight. The water’s edge. Stairwells. Elevators. Living in the covid pandemic. Cliffs. The mouth of a cave. New Year’s Eve. Equinoxes. Solstices. Rites of passage. Separation. Birth. Death.  These are all liminal spaces, or places of in between this and that. They are magical doorways of potential where ordinary boundaries don’t exist. They invite questions like:

  • Will you go this way or that?
  • Who will you be on the other side?
  • What would you like to create from here?
  • Will you let go? Will you transform?
  • How is your faith?
  • Are you ready?
  • Who are you really?

Liminal space is scary. It’s like adolescence. You’re not who or where you were, and yet, you’re not who or where you will be either. There is no handrail to steady you. No person to guide you. No boundaries to restrain or support you.

Modern life doesn’t prepare us for being in these magical doorways of liminal space. To negotiate it well, you to understand it.

The Approach to Liminal Space

Many people are completely unaware of liminal space. They move through life without transitions. This is how we have so many grown ups who still don’t know how to be adults. When we practice transitioning, we become more aware of them and can plan for them.

For example, as we approach graduation from high school, it helps to put some time into getting your cap and gown, thinking about the ceremony itself, and making plans for what happens afterward. If you aren’t defining it as a transition to adulthood, it’s not. If you are still being supported by your parents and having them pay for all your needs, you haven’t transitioned. So, the process is both in the things that you do and the ways that you think.

A spiritual example could be transitioning to an animist lifestyle. The approach could be educating yourself about what animism means to you. Maybe you attend some rituals, join a group, or do some genealogical research. You can enter into liminal space without any preparation, but it will likely be a whole lot more difficult if you do.

So, as you approach liminal space, see it for what it is. Set an intention for what you want the other side to look like. When you participate in the process, you feel more in control. You may not hit that target, but it will help you to plan. Planning should happen before you enter it. What tools or supplies do you need? What skills? Do you need a helper? Are you mentally prepared? Do you have the energy and stamina?

Dancing in Liminal Space

While you’re in liminal space, sometimes there is nothing to do but surrender, be vulnerable, and let Fate have its way with you. We often want to take control, but control will only get you more of what you had. To become new, you have to be willing to lose control.

In this space, you want to stay mindful and present so that you don’t lose the growth required to get to the other side. Or worse yet, be destroyed by the process. If we let ourselves be overcome with fear, anxiety, or any other emotion, we may not have to courage to keep moving.

So my suggestion is to keep an open mind. Don’t let the past fool you into seeing what was instead of what is or what could be. Trust that this will end when it’s time, and you will be right where you are meant to be. And be patient. While transformation can be instantaneous, most often it’s a process.

It’s tempting to rush the process and just get it done. Slow down. This is where the transformation happens, not at the end. This space determines the end. Let it be purposeful and something of your choosing if you can.

Embracing the Newness

Once you’re beyond the threshold and on the other side, claim your new status. Marriage, graduation, and certifications are not just pieces of paper! They remake you into something new. Acknowledge that. Incorporate it into your new identity. If others are to regard you as different, you must see yourself as different or else what was the point? What does it mean to be a spouse, a graduate, or a certified XYZ? Embody that.

Liminal spaces are all around us. Possibilities abound. If you’re ready to transform, surrender.

Four Spiritual Self Checks to Keep You On Track

spiritual self check

If you are a growth oriented person (and I recommend it so that you can grow into a helpful elder), you’ll want to do spiritual self checks once in a while. A spiritual self check is a “how am I doing?” moment. 

You can do them periodically to make sure you’re on track. You can also do them when something tweaks you. Spiritual self checks can help affirm that you are acting within your values, you pivot when you need to change paths, and you stay connected to the people and things you care about. 

Everyone will have their own list of how they want to hold themselves accountable. Here are some common values to get you started.

Stay Humble

How do you hold yourself above others? Are you proud of how much folklore you know? Herbal wisdom? Mythology? Indigenous traditions? Are you a skilled storyteller, musician, or healer? 

All those things are great. It takes practice and diligence to develop any body of knowledge or skill. When you use it to elevate yourself above others, you create a divide of me vs. them. When you are divided, you can’t see something from different perspectives. This inhibits connection and growth. And remember too, if something isn’t good for all, it’s probably not good for one. 

The way to avoid this is to stay humble.

Be Nonjudgmental

Another way we separate ourselves from others is to judge them. Nobody is perfect. We all do careless, thoughtless, wrong, ineffective things. Some “not perfect” moments are more harmful than others. When we label others or condemn them as “bad,” we close off the path to connection and wholeness.

Nobody wants to be looked down upon. When that happens, we have two choices. We can believe the negative judgment which reduces our light. We can resist the negative judgment, become defensive, and fight back. This creates distance between us. Or we can embrace the negative judgment and become that, which strengthens the negativity. None of these are great options for the person or the world. 

Being nonjudgmental doesn’t mean you agree with someone’s beliefs or actions. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t do something about their actions (sex trafficking or trespassing, for example). It just means that you act from a place of non-attachment.

Be Truthful

Words are powerful. You have the ability to soothe or harm, create or destroy, join or separate with your words. Words create reality. Make sure that the reality you are spinning is one that is a blessing for all. If it’s not, it’s not good for anyone.

Be Yourself

Most of what I’ve said so far keeps us connected to the whole. If you give too much of yourself away in the process, that’s not healthy. So, I suggest that your spiritual self check list also include “be yourself.” You can’t sacrifice yourself and still be happy. The world needs your unique gift. You can’t share it if you’re not showing up in your life because you’ve given yourself away. 

Take time to self nurture. Be inspired. Create. Discover more of who you are. Expand. Delight in yourself. Then share yourself.

If you check yourself, no one else has to. What’s on your spiritual self check list?