Breaking Up Over Religion

breaking up over religion

When you come out as animist, some relationships may end. Many spiritual paths say that theirs is the one and only way. Their history is “kill or convert” so they don’t tolerate or try to understand outsiders. This could lead to breaking up over religion. If this happens to you, here are some things to keep in mind to soften the blow.

Compatibility Is More Important Than Love

I know we’re all taught that love is the end all be all in relationships. However, harmony comes from compatibility. If you don’t have a good blend of differences to keep things interesting and sameness to find common ground, your relationship has a high possibility of unhappiness. When one person has strong religious conviction, and that path isn’t in alignment with your own, it’s going to create values conflicts. This is especially true if there are shared children.

Love Yourself Enough to Be Yourself

Love can only flourish when we have the space to be ourselves. If we’re not expressing ourselves fully or honestly, we aren’t allowing ourselves to live. What is life if not an expression of our emotions, beliefs, and gifts? Love often means that we want that for our loved ones and ourselves.

If you feel you have to hide your crystals, altar, or that you have to not talk about your communion with Nature, you may feel diminished. If you can’t talk about your spiritual highs or questions with your loved one, you may feel there are huge gaps in your relationship. Sometimes we feel judged for going out under the moonlight or hugging a tree. So we hide. Or stop talking about it.

Love Your Partner Enough to Let Him Be Himself

Sovereignty is the foundation for all relationships. Letting go can be the most unselfish way to express love and respect for sovereignty. Sometimes two people can be the best expression of themselves by being apart. It doesn’t mean that someone is wrong or bad. Sometimes two good people just aren’t a match. And that’s okay.

Breaking up over religion can feel like a petty reason for letting go. Or you can see it as the ultimate kindness and act of love. Wisdom isn’t just about how you feel. It’s also about doing what makes sense. The best relationships balance effectiveness with feeling.

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 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!

Libra New Moon Ritual

libra new moon ritual

September 28, 2019 is a Libra super moon. Animism is a call to live in the wheel of life. Doing a Libra new moon ritual will help us do just that!

What’s This Mean?

“New” either refers to when the moon is not visible in the sky or when you see the first slivers of light returning. These are actually different energies, however “new” moon is often used to describe both phases. We generally observe the time when the moon returns as this is an optimal time for new beginnings.

“Super moon” is one that is closer to the Earth. This intensifies the moon’s impact.

“Libra” is the sign of balance. Other keywords are harmony, indecisive, partnerships, and peace loving. Chiron is active this lunar cycle, so that is pushing us to heal. A good intention for this cycle will be creating healthier boundaries to heal old relationship wounds.

So, this is a time when new beginnings are possible, particularly in the areas of partnerships. Find ways to create more balance. The best time to tap into this energy is the actual day of the new moon or up to two days before or after.

What You Need

  • journal
  • candle
  • purification substance like water, fire, or smoke
  • meditative music, optional
  • calendula tea, or something else that seems more fitting to this energy

New Moon Ritual

Find a soothing, uncluttered space where you will not be disturbed.

Cleanse your space and yourself using the purification method of your choice.

Light your candle.

If you are using meditative music, turn that on now.

Sit or lie down so that you are comfortable. Close your eyes. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths.

Now imagine that you are walking at twilight into an inviting meadow. Night is coming on, but not yet. You know the moon is in the sky even though you can’t see her. She is there to help illuminate what is hidden from you now. She’s sending her support.

You find a comfortable spot to sit for a while. You didn’t plan it, but you notice that you are sitting next to scleranthus, a low growing herb that helps with indecision. Like magic you notice that this scleranthus essence seems to have the power to help you see more clearly. It’s highlighting your stuck places. It’s helping you see what you need to heal.

The energy is very gentle, loving, and nonjudgmental. This healing space gives you the insight that you need to move forward in a healthy way. Sit in it and allow it to send you the information that you need now. Take all the time that you need. If you don’t see, hear, or sense anything, know that your unconscious is receiving the information and it will become apparent to you in the coming hours and days.

When the energy seems “done” and you have received all that you need, thank the scleranthus and the Moon and return to the present moment.

Stand up. Put your hand over your heart. Take three deep cleansing breaths, inhaling all that you have learned. Bringing all that love, forgiveness, and strength into your heart. Just feel it going deep, deep, deep inside. Feel strong, as if the changes that you saw are already in the process of happening now.

If it feels right and true, say “I use this Libra moon energy to create balance. My relationships are a source of strength and power. I have the discernment to know what to do, and how and when to do it. All is well. So be it.”

If you have anything you want to retain, take the time now to write in your journal. Enjoy your tea. Enjoy the energy of the Libra moon.

Finish by touching the ground to indicate that you are now grounded back into the present reality. Blow out your candle.

*You can also record the meditation and play it back to yourself.


Cultivating Cultural Competency in Spirituality

cultural competency

On September 13, 2007, the The United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It says in part

Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

If this is something that you believe in, it’s time to talk about cultivating cultural competency in spirituality.

Many pagans and animists look to their indigenous past for guidelines on how to practice their spirituality. And we all have animist roots if we look back far enough. However, when we superimpose modern, western ideals on top of indigenous practices and ideas, they can become distorted. We can even end up destroying what we claim to love. Here are some examples.

Misuse of Language

Christopher Columbus came to the new world in search of a shorter route to India. He called the people he found Indians. They already had names. Despite this huge error and living in an age where we say we are enlightened, we still call them Indians. I think we can all see how disrespectful that is.

My name is pretty simple name, yet it’s frequently mispronounced. When that happens, I always correct the speaker. Calling things by their right names is honoring what they are. Venus is not Aphrodite. Lammas is not Lughnasadh. One is Anglo-Saxon and Christian. One is Celtic and pagan. There are many similarities, but the time and culture matter! If we want to communicate clearly, we have to use the right words and pronounce them correctly.

Some LGBTQ use the Native American term “two spirit” to describe their sexuality. This is a Native American term that is not synonymous with LGBTQ. “Two spirit” is role within a cultural. If you are not in that culture, you can’t fulfill that role.

This isn’t something that used to happen. It’s still happening. “Shamanism” is a hugely popular business these days. The term is usually used to refer to the animist spiritual practices of tribal people, but there is only one tribe who practices shamanism – the Evenk people. Q’eros are called paqos. In Mongolia it’s called Tengerism. The Zulu call their spirit walker sangoma. Each community has a different name and practice.

If I said, “All ______ people look alike” I think most people would see how offensive that is. Yet when we call all spirit walkers “shamans,” we negate their uniqueness and destroy reality. The lie becomes the truth. You can’t just pick up words, take them out of their context, and communicate clearly.

Adopting Customs For Which We Have No Ancestral Basis

Many of us are cut off from our ancestors. Heck, we don’t even like the living family that we have. So we can go from culture to culture saying, “Are you my mommy?” as we look for a place to belong. We all need to belong somewhere. Fostering is a legitimate spiritual tradition. However, when you pick up someone else’s traditions without having roots to that tradition, you could be pretending. You could be destroying what you say you love.

For example, the awareness of spirit animals is rising in popularity now. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone has spirit helpers that come in the form of humans, animals, angels, extraterrestrials, entities, and/or mythological creatures. However, some people are also using the term “totem” to mean the same thing. They are not the same thing.

A totem belongs to a clan. If you don’t have a clan, you can’t have a totem. Period. Spirituality belongs to everyone. All traditions and practices do not. They are bounded by beliefs and practices that are steeped in community. Taking things in isolation distorts them. While everything evolves, it is the right of those who practice these things to influence their evolution. When outsiders do it through ignorance, it’s becomes modern day colonialism. Instead of destroying the people by war and violence, we do it through commerce and distortion of traditions.

“I’m Saving the Culture”

I have heard many people defend these types of practices by saying, “I’m saving the culture.” These cultures survived the encroachment of the west through isolation. Encroaching on them, buying their goods, and commercializing their spiritual ceremonies is not “saving them.” We are not entitled to someone else’s life. Making ourselves feel better by giving them money doesn’t make us “even.”

And what about the destruction of ancient spiritual places? These places also withstood the ravages of time only to be invaded by hoards seeking healing. They were never designed for buses or the trash and footsteps of thousands. Because of our craving for salvation and the money to pay for it, we may destroy a culture’s treasures.

Creating Cultural Competency

If you want a deep, meaningful, personal spiritual practice that includes cultural competency, here are some suggestions:

  • Get to know your ancestors. Go back before those whose names you remember. Having a relationship with them is creating a foundation for your life and your spiritual practice. Everything needs a foundation. I also think that once you truly know them, you won’t need to look outside of your tribe. We all have fascinating people behind us.
  • Be a student. Go deep. Don’t be content with a superficial understanding of something. If you aren’t getting complete information that includes enough context for you to see how it fits within the web of life, you probably don’t understand it well enough to use it yet. Keep learning. Learn holistically. See how a thing smells, tastes, feels, looks, and sounds. Ask why. Learn from competent teachers. How do they know what they are telling you?
  • Be in community. This creates context and gives meaning to your spiritual practice. You can’t be in the web of life without connection. Use this community to celebrate, support, reflect, give, receive, ask questions, and live. If you don’t have one, join ours or create your own.
  • Be a visitor. When you are learning from others who are outside your culture, be a visitor. Don’t act as an ambassador for them. Let them tell their own stories. Don’t teach their traditions. Don’t sell them. Use them. Learn from them. Discuss them with others, but don’t act as if they are yours. Know that you are an outsider. This is an act of respect and shows healthy boundaries. “Leave no trace” is a good guideline when visiting landscapes and cultures.
  • If you are speaking about something, use the correct terminology. When you want to be general, generic terms are okay. If you are speaking specifically, be specific. Do you mean “Nights are long, winter nights are long, or Monday nights are long?” Honor the differences. If you have blended something, call it by a different name.
  • It’s not easy to separate ourselves from our culture. When visiting someone else’s do your best to view things through their eyes. Don’t impose western entitlement or commercialism onto others. Think in terms of “how can I further this relationship” and “how can I be in this experience” vs. “what’s in it for me” or “how can I exploit this for my personal or financial gain” and things will be fine.
  • Remember that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Money and privilege buys access. Some are willing to sell sacred experiences and wisdom that you have not earned. Act responsibly.

Cultural competency is really just about being mindful and meeting people where they are. It’s about checking your neediness, judgment, and entrepreneur hat at the door and letting yourself connect.

Author’s note: Sorry about the divisive language in the linked article. I don’t support that type of thinking. However, the ideas about how spiritual tourism destroys the environment and culture are sound.

It’s Not About the Rituals

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

I get a lot of requests for rituals. That’s awesome. I am glad people are interested in this. I am happy to share rituals, but I’ve got to tell you something. Animism is not about the rituals.

Did you know that one third of all lottery winners declare bankruptcy? Do you know why? I think it’s for the same reason that spirituality is not about the rituals. Because you can’t change in inside by changing the outside, and any method that skyrockets you beyond a growth point is likely to end in disillusion. Why? Because we didn’t create the foundation to support it.

This is the same thing with manifestation. Some people are great at manifesting. They can manifest all sorts of things really quickly, but if you look closely, they don’t seem to manifest a way of sustaining their gains. Again it’s because there is no foundation.

Let’s take a look at this. If you can’t find a partner, ask yourself why. What is going on in your life that is creating conditions where love that is likely. Do you have walls so high and thick that no one can get in? Is your life too full with other things that there is no space for someone? Do you give your time to unavailable people? Do you give your time to people who aren’t healthy enough to love you back? There is always a reason why things are the way they are.

So to bring it back to spirituality, if you are looking for spiritual meaning through doing rituals, chanting, learning healing, or learning how to speak with the dead, you’re focusing on the what shows up on the outside. If there is nothing inside to support it, it’s eventually going to feel empty because it is. Going through the process of learning and connecting creates the change on the inside. It grounds your practice.

So here is my advice. Read pagan mythology. Learn about pagan symbols so that you can understand the stories and the natural world. Talk to your elders. Get to know your ancestry. Watch. Participate. Ask questions.

Learn about what each step of rituals mean. Create your own rituals so that they are meaningful to you. Be a student. Find a community. Get a mentor. In other words, grow some roots. Whatever you put on top of them will flourish if you give it a strong foundation.

That said, I will get cracking on those ritual requests! Thanks for asking. It’s our pleasure.

Are You a Spiritual Expert or Student?

spiritual student

I’ve traveled all over the world and had some amazing, uplifting spiritual experiences. Yet the one that has probably made the biggest impact was when I visited an animist community.  I grew up animist, but lived in a modern, western community. Having people all around me who lived their beliefs and all believed in the same thing was life changing.

Here I learned the value of community. Not just my family, ancestors, and neighbors, but the people, plants, animals, and minerals who share the planet with me. The Sun, Moon, and stars are sacred. Everything is sacred. Experiencing this expanded my whole being.

There they don’t talk about respecting Mother Earth because it’s  redundant. Everyone knows this. So, they just do it. 

They don’t have to discuss the wheel of life or how it works because they know it. They are deeply connected to the seasons. The seasons live within them. The Water, Air, Earth, and Fire are conscious forces that shape their lives. When they are out of balance, they adjust the elements. If they can’t, they appeal to their ancestors or gods to help.

It’s a place where values and wisdom trump education. They live with humility, gratitude, reciprocity, respect, and honesty. A person who doesn’t display these values could never lead despite how many degrees they have or how much money they have. No amount of advertising could ever give them a following. They don’t fall prey to slick talk because they are deeply rooted and are not lost.

In the west, information is king. We sell workshops on how to get rich quick, how to make money from home in your pajamas, and how to be a rich, spiritual guru. The “spiritual expert” thinks he can just walk in, buy this education, bypass the experience, and sell it or teach it to hoards of the  hungry. A holistic spiritual path is a path of mind, body, and spirit, not just doing some techniques and memorizing some words. Without the values to back it up, it’s not really animism. It’s consumer spirituality. 

Your life path is your choice. No path is wrong, but if what you’ve been doing doesn’t work, try something new. Try the path of the spiritual student. Hold on to that beginner’s mind even as you gain in wisdom. Be open to learning something new and being proven wrong. Humility, open mindedness, and open heartedness are gifts of the spiritual student. Try it. Let me know how it goes.


How Can You Believe in a Vengeful God?

vengeful god

We ask for questions, we’ve got them! The most recent one comes from a Christian. He wants to know “How can you believe in a vengeful God?” He specifically talks about God sending people to burn in a pit of fire for eternity for either sinning or not believing in him. If you have this question too, read on.

First I want to say that questions regarding Christianity are best answered by Christians. When someone outside of animism speaks for animism, their reply is tainted by outsider bias. We all have it. We can only understand what we know from our own experience. When we interpret things that have a different context, our own experiences color our interpretations. So, if you have questions about Christianity, animism, Judaism, or any -ism, you will most likely get an answer that fits your world view if you ask someone from that culture.

Now let’s look at this idea of gods in general. Gods exist to help humans navigate the unknown. We know that there are things mightier than we are. We know that some things are mysterious and unknown. Some things defy explanation. Surrendering to the gods and asking for their help when we encounter these things gives us hope. It gives us a way to get through life without fear. In return for this help, we give the gods our devotion, prayers, and sacrifices. Life is always reciprocal. We don’t come empty handed to the altar and expect presents from Santa Claus.

When we don’t have this exchange of energy, the relationship dries up. If the gods ask too much of us and don’t give back, we stop believing and praying. When the culture changes and we expand our ideas, we may find things that used to be mysterious are now commonplace. So, we don’t have a need for those gods anymore. Or we place our faith in another “god” such as medicine.

So religion isn’t a static thing. It grows and changes with culture and society. Religions that require strict adherence to ideas that were created for a set time, place, and culture often fail to thrive. This is especially true now when the world is so connected and it’s hard to live in isolation from other ideas and cultures.

One of the ways that religions deal with this is through fear and control. If my god is powerful enough to destroy you, you’d better watch out and obey! If my god gives society laws, it’s for control. Now pro-social behaviors are a good thing. They encourage positive interactions and the survival of society. When they become too rigid, they are no longer helpful.

Gods show us how to live. They are reflections of our society. A vengeful god is not the most loving example. It’s an example of authoritarianism – my way or the highway! Threats of ostracism aren’t things that many modern people support because we know the pain of guilt, shame, and isolation. We prefer acceptance of diversity and compassion towards others who are perfect. We’ve seen destrution, war, trauma, and terror and don’t want that from our gods. That’s why many people are asking “How can you believe in a vengeful God?” It’s why many people can’t tolerate this in their gods anymore.

That’s my take on it. Remember I am not a Christian. There are many other ways to think about this. Feel free to take or leave anything here that helps you figure out your truth. You can also leave a comment on your perspective. Sharing helps us to all grow.