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
anxiety
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.

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.

Solo Ritual for the New Moon in Virgo

new moon in virgo

It’s the new moon in Virgo! It’s the perfect time to reboot. Ready? Here are some keywords for the energies that are in play now that can help you set your intention and go with the flow.

Keywords

New moon – new beginnings, plant new seeds, refocus, renew, regroup

Virgo – perfectionism, service, analysis, communication, cool, critical, humility, standoffish, restless, modest, unassuming, sensible, practical, productive, conscientious, orderly, neat

Prepare

Prepare for this new moon in Virgo ritual by gathering a journal or paper, a pen, hot tea, and meditative music. You will also need other items, but they will vary based upon your personal choices.

Set Your Intention

In what area above do you need a new start? This can be your intention for this new moon. Here are some examples:

  • I am impeccable with my words.
  • I am of service to those in need.
  • I am engaging in social situations.
  • My feet are firmly planted on the ground as I reach for the stars.
  • Everything I need is available to me.
  • I always work for my highest good.
  • I am good enough.

Create Your Altar

What items will make your intentions visible in the material world? What objects will help you to connect with this energy? What will you offer in gratitude for the help that you receive? Use these items for your new moon in Virgo altar. Here are some suggestions to inspire you.

  • sapphires or something in that color, like your altar cloth
  • crystals like green jade, celestite, fluorite, red jasper, moonstone, or citrine
  • fresh fall flowers
  • photos of your friends
  • a bowl of earth
  • candles

Purify and Open Your Space

Now that you have an intention and an altar, let’s open sacred space. You can cleanse this area with water, fire (candles), or air (incense, or burning aromatic plants). Don’t forget to also purify yourself, your altar items, and anything that you bring into your ritual space. Call to the directions, elements, ancestors, helping spirits, the Moon, or whomever or whatever you choose to have support you during this process.

Meditation

Turn on your meditative music. Mentally say your affirmation three times, then sit and breathe in the energy of the new moon. Feel the feminine energies of Virgo, the Earth (Virgo’s element), and the Moon occupying the circle with you. Allow them to speak to you. Remember that this is the dark of the moon. It’s about emptying and resting. If you don’t seem to get anything in particular, that’s okay. You’re doing it perfectly. Just empty and be open to receiving when you’re ready.

When you feel “done,” come back to the present awareness. Relax. Leisurely drink your tea. If your affirmation still feels the same, write that down on a small piece of paper. If it has changed, write that down instead. Put it somewhere that you will see it during this current lunar phase.

Each time you look at it, feel that energy getting stronger within you. Look for ways that it is already true. Trust that everything is just as it should be. Know that your wishes were heard and that the support that you called in is here. Burn the paper on the eve before the next new moon.

If you received any other insights during your meditation, write those down in your journal.

Close Your Ritual

When you are finished, thank the energies that came to support you during this process. Close the circle.

Creating an Ancestor Veneration Practice

ancestor veneration

Modern people live in extreme disconnection from our ancestors. On the macro level, this extends to the plants, animals, and minerals. Many of us aren’t even aware of that detachment. But perhaps what makes an even bigger impact is the divorce of our own families. How many of us grew up without a father? How many don’t speak to members of their family – or even their whole families! Raise your hand if you don’t know yourself.

Life is holistic. It’s about living in relationship with everything and everyone. When you are that connected, you are deeply supported and never lonely. You know your purpose and can stride confidently towards it. Your life becomes a thread that weaves smoothly from childhood, adulthood, elder hood, death, ancestor, and back again. It becomes natural.

If you would like to begin to incorporate your human ancestors into your life, here are some suggestions on how to get started with creating an ancestor veneration practice. There is no one right or wrong way, so do what feels right for you. You can do as many or few as you like.

Get a DNA Test

Most of us tend to think of our ancestors as people we knew or heard of. We go back far further than the last hundred years or so. All of us go back thousands of years. We all have relatives from far off countries that we never imagined. If you think that your heritage was “pure” whatever, think again. Even if your family comes from an island, they migrated from somewhere. Get curious. Find out your history. The more you know about your gifts and burdens, the easier it will be to claim the blessings and heal the wounds.

Die Well

Death is such a distant act now. We die in hospitals and outsource the funeral and burial to professionals. It used to be a personal act. We died at home. The viewing was at home. Neighbors, relatives, and friends supported and mourned as a part of life. It wasn’t something that you took time away from life to do. Songs were sung and prayers helped the dead to transition to the Otherworld. Now we put the dead in the ground and never speak of it again. There is no process for the unresolved business to dissipate and the soul to be cleansed so that the dead can become ancestors. Plan your death. Do it well. Become an ancestor.

Live Well

Dying well is easiest when you live well. This means you engage in healthy relationships with the Earth, animals, plants, mineral kingdom, and people. You take care of yourself, your family, your property, and your community. You earn money in a way that is good for the soul. Things like integrity, authenticity, honor, reciprocity, and relationship are part of your daily life. Your life is heart centered. All you have to do is be you. If you do that, your light will shine and the Earth will be blessed with your being. You’ll be an example to your descendants and bless them from the other side.

Make a Scrapbook

It’s important to speak the names and tell the stories of our ancestors. It keeps them connected to our hearts. It enlivens their memory. Making a scrapbook helps to keep the stories and people in the family. It’s a visual reminder so that they are not lost throughout the generations. Many people know nothing of their grandparents much less those that came before them. Creating a scrapbook forces you to talk to your elders. So you hear the stories while they are alive, not at the eulogy. You will learn a lot in the process and realize the treasure that family brings.

Celebrate Ancestor Day

Many traditions have a day for honoring the ancestors. It’s often around Halloween, but could also be other days. During this time, we often visit and clean the graves. Some make offerings and say prayers at the shrines. At Pan Society we have a feast for the dead giving them traditional ancestral foods. Maybe you want to sit by a bonfire and tell their stories. Or perhaps you want to stay up all night and listen for their voices. Find out what your ancestors did and do the same. Or join us at Pan Society for our community celebration.

Pray For Them

If you have intergenerational trauma from addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse or poverty, you can pray for those who have passed on. Many cultures believe that prayer helps to “clean” the wounds of life so that the soul can move on to the Otherworld. This also releases the energy so that it doesn’t continue to contaminate the family line.

Create and Tend a Shrine

An ancestor shrine is a commitment. You can’t put it up and then neglect it. Start by choosing a place that is not used for sleeping, but is also not busy, like a kitchen. You can even place it outside. This is a great idea, in fact, if your ancestors were nomadic or agricultural. The shrine can be big or small. It can look like a shelf, a house, a pile of rocks, or whatever strikes your fancy. It can even just be a bench by a tree where you like to talk to them. Visit it regularly. Bring offerings. Clean it. Purify it. Speak to the dead. Listen for their voices. Ask for help.

I wouldn’t speak to the people whose names you remember. If they did not die well, they may not be in the Otherworld. Those who are not in the Otherworld are still the same personality that they were when they were living and may not have the clarity of vision or high enough vibration to be all that helpful. I would also not put up photos of those whose names you remember. If they have not fully transitioned, this may keep them here.

Ancestor veneration is not worship. It’s the practice of living in connection to the past, present, and future. It’s remembering who you are and staying rooted. If your family is not all that healthy, this can help to get you back on track. Hurt people hurt people. It can be easier to love those who are in spirit than those who are in the flesh. When our loved ones are loved, they send love back. This can erase that hurt.

It can be hard to see the blessings in people who were not very nice. When we look hard, we see that goodness lives within them and in us too. This can help us to love ourselves and radiate love. As each of us cleans up our lives and our own family line, we impact everyone else because we’re all connected.

What’s Modern Animism?

modern animism

The question “what’s modern animism” continues to come up. We’ve talked about it on the podcast, youtube channel, and on our facebook page a little. The more we share, the more questions come up that show there is more to clarify. So, here’s another stab at modern animism. Let us know what you think.

Why Modern Animism?

To answer the question of “why modern animism,” we have to first look at older types of animism. Animism is simply the belief that everything has a spirit. Before science and technology evolved, there were few methods to prove why things happened. All knowledge came from observation and experience. This led to many conclusions that vary from culture to culture, but included the belief that everything was spiritual. As culture and technology evolved, many people abandoned these beliefs. Native Americans, Australian aborigines, the Sami, the Ainu, Igorots, and Evenks are just some of the people who have continuously practiced animism to modern times. Many of their old beliefs are now being validated by science.

The Old Gods Don’t Fit

It’s neither appropriate nor practical to adopt the spiritual practices of extant indigenous people. One reason why is that the old gods don’t fit. Gods belong to a certain time, certain people, and specific place. They can’t be easily adopted without significantly changing them. For example, what purpose would the Apus (mountain spirits) have in the plains? Can you pick and choose your pantheon, or do they all operate together? Animism is holistic. For me, a pantheon works as a collective. It’s not a buffet.

History tells us that most of the Greek gods simply morphed into Roman gods when the Romans took over. There are many examples of this in other cultures too, so can we just adapt and do the same? Maybe, but not without altering them and/or ourselves. For example, everyone had a hearth goddess because fire is essential to survival. In ancient Greece, she was Hestia. In Rome, she was Vesta. Greeks were spiritual, intellectual, and philosophical, and creative. They valued the present moment. Romans valued morals, actions, having a good life, had a high sense of patriotism, and cared about their afterlife. Hestia was a gentle guardian of the hearth. Everyone had an altar to her in the center of the home. There was also one at the center of the village. Vesta was disciplined, militant, and warlike. She was guardian of the home and state. They are the same at the core, but present very differently.

The values of many gods don’t work in the modern world. Some gods are rapists. Many are vengeful, jealous, and just plain immature. Modern people want a different role models.

Western culture has rapidly evolved in just the last fifty years. Fifty years ago, we didn’t have widespread use of home computers, cell phones, microwaves, televisions, hybrid vehicles, air conditioning, digital cameras,  or a thousand other things we now take for granted. Most ancient gods just don’t fit well in these times.

You Can’t Substitute

Can you see how a celebration for one hearth goddess would not be appropriate for the other? Can you imagine how one might fit into your life better than another? Now mix in other gods. Do you start to see how this can be a problem in a holistic system? Each piece is part of a puzzle. If you took many apple puzzles and scrambled them all together, you couldn’t make a complete picture of an apple if one of the puzzles is lifelike, another is cartoonish, and another is abstract.

Culture Matters

Let me give you another example of why we need modern animism. Culture matters. Many cultures believed that the skulls of the dead were important. We see evidence for this in the Catholics keeping the heads of saints as holy relics. The skull of Bran the Blessed guards the England to this day in the Tower of London. The head hunters of the Philippines kept skulls of their enemies so that the deceased would serve them in the afterlife. The Khmer display stupas of the skulls of victims of genocide. Although they were violently slaughtered, these are the bones of the ancestors and are meant to be revered.

Would you do this? Most of us wouldn’t. We have different relationships with life and death, so it may not be a heartfelt reflection of who we are now. There are many practices that don’t work well in the western world.

Modern Animism is Respectful

We have destroyed many animist cultures through war and religion. We continue to destroy them by buying and selling spirituality, participating in spiritual tourism, destroying their homelands, and setting ourselves up as experts and spreading misinformation. Adopting modern animism puts a stop to those practices. We can borrow ideas and traditions from native animists, but we shape them to our modern life and call them by their right names. We don’t pass off X as “authentic” or something that it is not.

Our indigenous brothers are our teachers. We learn from them without stealing from them. Nature is our home. We enjoy her and live from her without exploiting her. Each face we see is a reflection of ourselves. In this way, we learn to live in Oneness, respect, and equality.

Modern Animism is Holistic

When we talk about people, crime, the weather, animals, prayer, divination, cooking, medicine – anything – it’s all spiritual. Life is holistic. You can’t say where the mind, body, or spirit begin and end. It’s continuous and indivisible. A holistic spiritual practice shows up in road rage, how you spend your money and time, how you take care of your body, and how you treat others. It teaches you how to be your best self, live in community, and live with a toe in the past, while in the present, and having an eye for the future.

We Live in the Now

For better or worse, we live here now. We can’t go back. We can’t be our ancestors. Neither can we be adopt an ethnicity or cultural history that is not our own. Authenticity means embracing who we are, where we are. We forgive the trespasses we perpetrated and received. We illuminate our blind spots so that we can keep growing and contribute something. Our lives are conscious expressions of our highest and best selves. When we wobble, we make amends, and keep going.

We’re Culturally Mixed

Have you done 23andme? I don’t think it’s much of a surprised that we’re all mixed. Even the most culturally isolated people aren’t “pure.” (Trust me, I was really surprised by my mom’s DNA). This means we have ancestors from many, many different traditions. Which ones are you going to honor? Are you going to follow the traditions of the ones that go back 200 years or 2000? Are the ones on your dad’s dad’s line more to your liking or you mom’s dad? How do you choose? With modern animism, you don’t have to choose. You can be you and honor them all. You don’t have to deny part of who you are because your family tree has some bad apples or some ancestors who look different from you. Just be you.

It Reconnect Us to Nature

Pan Society is not a revealed religion. In revealed religions, God tells his wishes to one person who then has to tell everyone else. That’s law for all time. Some people are included and some are not. It’s a very us vs. them way to approach life.

That’s not us. We are a Nature religion. Everyone has the same opportunity to connect and learn. All you have to do is open your heart and eyes and pay attention. There is air to breathe, food to eat, places  to shelter, and teachers in abundance. Everything you need is available. Everyone is of equal value. As life evolves, Nature evolves and we change to adapt. It’s a beautiful, elegant system that teaches us to trust in the wheel of life.

People Need a Tribe

For so long many people were persecuted for having different lifestyles, skin colors, religious belief, healing practices, or for just being different. They chose solitary living and authenticity over going with the flow. Today we don’t have to do that. Today we have a place for all people who believe everything is spiritual. It’s Pan Society. That’s why we were created. To be authentic, share that with others, give others space to share and be seen, and grow together. Together we can create a new animism that is a reflection of modern times. We can use the animist past of our ancestors as a spring board to a new, connected, peaceful, respectful future.

That’s my vision of modern animism. What’s yours?

Celebrating the Feast of Transformation

feast of transformation

All Pan Society holy days are connected with the natural world – particularly the sun. The Feast of Transformation is an agricultural holy day that marks the beginning of the harvest season. It’s time to reap what we have sown. Indeed, the feast is a reaping of the hard work that went into planting this year’s crops. It is made up of seasonal, fresh foods from this year’s plantings. Wild foods are also a great way to symbolize the Earth’s natural fertility.

This time of year is often the hottest, but we already see that night comes on earlier. We’re at the halfway point of the sun’s reign on earth. His power wanes. The death of the sun is but a short time away.

The “transformation” is a recognition of the need for sacrifice. Something has to end so that something else can begin. Or to put it another way, it’s a time of death and rebirth. The wheat that we harvest must be cut down so we can make bread. The seeds are collected so they can be sown again next year and be reborn.

The Feast of Transformation is also a fire festival. The Promise of Spring starts the fire festival season with a small hearth fire. May Day and the Summer Solstice also feature fires, but the Feast of Transformation is the biggest. The harvest demonstrates the sun’s victory over the cold, wet, windy weather of winter. Life can continue for one more season. This is cause to celebrate. How?

Feasting, of course. Dancing, music, bonfires or light of any kind. Fairs, festivals. Sports and games. Community fun. Masculine energy and activities are the focus of this time of year. Too soon the cold weather will come and we’ll slide into quiet, dark, solitary time. And this is the way the wheel of life rolls. The sun must decline. Rest will come after the harvest, but today we party!

How can you observe this holy day? Here are some ideas:

  • Go to a local “pick your own” farm and harvest some of the season’s fresh food.
  • Eat wild or local foods.
  • Contemplate how the waning sun and masculine energy is happening in your life.
  • Journal on what you are reaping. Is it what you anticipated? Is it what you wanted?
  • Journal on what you need to sacrifice to get what you want.
  • Dance.
  • Attend a bonfire.
  • Create an altar of lights or candles.
  • Participate in games.
  • Attend a local fair.
  • Create a ritual that includes gratitude for the Earth’s continued fertility.
  • Create a ritual that celebrates the marriage of the Earth and Sun.
  • Meditate on the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth.

How To Draw Down the Moon

draw down the moon

With the full moon lunar eclipse happening, you may be interested in learning how to draw down the moon. This is a full moon ritual that can be performed when you want to soak up the energy of the moon, send her gratitude, ask for her favor, or hear her wisdom. Since you are invoking the goddess, or asking her to embody you, this is not something for beginners. It’s also not something that is generally done at moon circles or events for the general public.

Preparation

First, if you are a beginner, prepare for this ritual by learning about the natural world, her cycles, ritual, and yourself. Attend other people’s rituals and create your own. Go to moon circles. Meditate. Learn about reciprocity and sacrifice. While books are great, there is no substitute for personal experience. Once you are comfortable, you can attempt this ritual.

You prepare for this ritual in the same way that you would for any other. Those who are new to ritual may want to view other posts or our youtube videos for more detailed instructions on the particulars like creating an altar.

  • Set your intention.
  • If you wish to purify, you can do this by bathing, using smoke, water or fire.
  • If you want to don ritual clothing, you can do that now.
  • Create an altar if you are using one.
  • Open sacred space if this is part of how you work.

Invocation

Once your preparations are finished, get quiet and centered. This may take the form of chanting, breathing, or just sitting in silence. Use this time to shake off anything that doesn’t belong here in this sacred space. Feel yourself being strongly rooted to the earth.

When you’re fully present and grounded, it’s time for the invocation. If you like speeches and formality, you can prepare something in writing or memorize something powerful or poetic. You can also speak off the cuff and from the heart. Your words are an invitation for the moon to come to you.

Stand in the light of the moon. Outside in all her glory is best, but a window facing the moon will also do. Reach up your hands to her and say something like:

Salutation: Oh, moon; Selene; Luna; Goddess of the Moon; Hecate; Triple Goddess (however you identify with her is fine. Just call out to her).

Your invitation: I call to you to come into me to ___(speak your intention)___. What do you want her to do? Fill you with inspiration? Answer questions? Give you her power? Speak her wisdom? Bless you? This can be as long or short as you like.

Now surrender and wait. As you wait, see the air fill with her presence and enter you. Notice how you become her. Maybe you feel bigger, more powerful, energized, whole, or dizzy. Listen to what she has to say. Maybe she only speaks to you in symbols or feelings. She may appear as Maiden, Mother, Crone, or something totally different. Let her be as she is. Don’t analyze. Just be. Fill yourself with her essence and feel your body containing it.

When it feels “done,” thank the Moon for her presence and release her. Use your own words. Some like flattery and recognizing every detail of the experience. If you are pithy, “I thank you and release you, Moon” is enough. Uncast the circle. Eat something to help you ground back down. Remember that you were in an altered state of consciousness with the Moon embodying you! It may take some time to feel yourself again.

Keep in mind that there is no prescribed way to draw down the Moon. This is just an outline to inspire your own creativity. All rituals should be unique to you and the time that you do them. Rituals reflect the need of the time always so create from the heart. This also means that you don’t have to wait for the full moon. The effect will be strongest then, but the different moon phases have different energy, and that might be what you are looking for.

When Do We Observe the Holy Days?

holy days

We received a question about when do we observe the holy days. There is a list on our website here, but as you can see, there are a range of dates offered in most cases. It can get a little confusing, so I will break down the reasons below. You can use this to decide what works for you.

The first thing you need to know is that the solstices will always occur on the longest and shortest days of sunlight. The equinoxes will always occur when the length of the day and night are of equal length. These dates change slightly from year to year because of the earth’s wobble. The cross quarter festivals will fall halfway in between the solstices and equinoxes.

Static Calendar

Using static dates that don’t change from year to year is easiest to remember. Most people do this. If this is the method you prefer, the holy day dates for the cross quarter festivals are: November 1, February 1, May 1, and August 1. You can also begin your observations on the evening of the previous day. This is how it was traditionally done and is still done in Judaism, Druidry, and other traditions.

New Moon

Some people celebrate on the 6th day after the new moon closest to each of the dates above. These dates are closer to the true halfway point between the solstices and equinoxes. This will put Ancestor Day on Nov 7. The Promise of Spring will fall on or around February 3rd or 4th. May Day will be May 5. The Feast of Transformation will be on the 7th or 8th of August if you are in the northern hemisphere.

So When Do I Celebrate?

It’s really up to you. If you want to get together with people when it’s convenient or work around your schedule, you can observe the holy days on the weekend closest to the day. If you are doing a ritual and want to make the most of the energy or really feel it, you’ll probably want to do it on the day of the event. After all, there is only one sunrise on the longest or shortest day.

It’s a bit like deciding whether to celebrate your birthday on the actual day or wait until it’s convenient. For something like your birthday, it might not matter all that much to delay it. For something like New Years Eve, it only happens once. You can also have more than one celebration.

If you are going to move it to another day, but you want to take advantage of the energy, my suggestion is to do it before the day. For example, if the new moon falls on a Monday, but you will be working then, I’d do my ritual on Saturday or Sunday. Once the energy has peaked and is on the downward slide, you lose a lot of potency. Then again, some say it’s the same a day or two in either direction. Feel free to play with it and see for yourself.