Saturday, May 9, 2009


The concept of spirits guiding us through our lives is an ancient one. Whereas now we are infinitely more comfortable with the idea of "guardian angels," our tribal ancestors were not interested in comforting themselves with such saccharine promises. These were men and women accustomed to the role of such creatures, and they rarely fulfilled such a lovey dovey function as making us feel better. Our earliest, most primitive shamanic ancestors were the ones doing the looking out for, after all. Their cosmology, therefore, was one of a world where such looking after was not only helpful, it was necessary. The spirits had a function in society, every bit as pivotal as that of the hunter, or the farmer.

They were the early warning system, everything from bad weather to the neighboring village witch cooking up trouble was their purview. It was with their help that the medicine men and cunning women of the stone age kept bellies full, and bodies safe from harm. Sometimes this harm was in the form of OTHER spirits, bent on destruction of the land, or the clann. It was then that the relationship between shaman and spirits was the most crucial. It was the responsibility of these magical practitioners to form as many relationships with as many spirits as possible. The more powerful, the more dangerous, the better. It was only when the shaman actually risked sanity that they were capable of facing down and defeating any possible threat to the community.

As a tribal people, we must also cultivate the necessary relationship with the spirits to ensure a world which looks out for us. The most important part of that, of course, is to develop a cosmology whereby we are looking out for the world. Our ancestors understood that to live in an animated universe, we must all look after each other. And, while that may indeed make us feel better, it was never meant to be the point.


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