Lance Foster (hengruh) wrote,
Lance Foster

The Land and Ancestors Again

I remind myself every so often about what I am doing and how.

As I have said before, the Three that are important to every indigenous way I have experience with are: one's Ancestors/Family, the Land (and everything on and in it, seen and unseen), and the Creator/Great Spirit/God(s)/etc.

You take your Ancestors within you, wherever you go. You ARE them, they are in you. Sometimes this is a big difference between how the old traditions see things and how people today look at things. People have always had troubles with some family members. But only today, in our hyper-individualized society, do people see themselves as something separate. Blood is blood.

Now, of course the Land(s) that made/shaped your Ancestors still have some connections to you, through your Ancestors. But when you move to a new Land, you have to make a relationship with that new Land, the plants and animals there, the weather and natural cycles, the seen and unseen Beings.

That is one reason I don't go so much with the cycle of festivals that is European. You know, Imbolc, etc. It's good to know about of course, because those were connected to your Ancestors. If you feel a desire to follow them, that's your business of course. But the origins of those cycles and celebrations were based on the rhythms of the Land and the ways of life that depended on those rhythms. Solstice and Equinox cycles, fine, that's a natural pattern everywhere.

But unless you are a shepherd or woolgrower, why are you focusing on Imbolc (ewe's milk, when they prepare for lambing)? And the seasons themselves are different here than they are in Britain. It's so disconnected, people who do everything from books. But again, that's your call of course. Just don't harangue me and I won't harangue you.

In fact, people trying to follow European ways focus on Halloween as the time when the Dead return. But that's just the Celtic point of view. The Saxon-Germanic-Norse culture held that Christmas time was when the Dead returned (which is why the English (Anglo-Saxons) told ghost stories around Christmas time, like Dickens' "Christmas Carol" with Scrooge and Marley.

It's been my own experience that when it comes to Native Dead, the place is much more significant than the time. You can run into ghosts and spirits here just about anytime in my own experience.

The directions are different too in their meanings and qualities. The rains come from the West, the water flows from the Continental Divide which is west, and the creeks gather and flow to the East, where they join the mighty Upper Missouri River, which flows north along the mountains, until it breaks out up north and then begins its flow east. I do not care for standardized directions and colors and animals etc. The Place you live shows you what you need to know to be there in a good way.

Also, for me, it's the same with those deities from another Land. There may indeed be connections you choose to follow, or some kind of responsibility through your Ancestral lineages to Wodan, or Sango, or Hermes, etc. Those are gods of certain Peoples and bloodlines. Again, that's your call. I personally have no draw towards the Genius Loci or Place-Spirits of other lands where I have never lived and know nothing about other than through books.

For me, even leaving out my European ancestry for a moment, my Native American tribes homelands were in the American Midwest. A place of oak-hickory woodlands, tallgrass prairies, marshes and immense rivers. But I was raised here in Montana. The Land is different. Here there is no oak in the mountains, which are tall and covered in pine and spruce and douglas-fir. The prairies are dry and made up of shortgrass plains.

You really can't grow corn very well here, so the tribes here didn't have cycles based on planting and harvest. You have to water everything from a hose (gardening can be a real challenge), and many of our medicinal plants back in the midwest have no place here. There are different plants here, different animals and birds. The cycles here are based on the ripening of wild berries and roots, and the lifecycles of wild birds, fish and mammals.

So although I honor the worlds and lands of my European and Native ancestors for the events that led to my existence on this Earth, my life now is on THIS Land. This is the place I know, the place where I am healthy and my life joins its Life. I would be an alien in those ancestral lands.

I learn what I can from the Land here, from tasting and watching, smelling and feeling and hearing. I read the natural histories of this place and its ecology and natural communities. I read about the different plants the tribes here used. Some are the same as the ones we had in the Midwest. Some are similar or related, and some are different. Some plants even are migrants (invasives) from Europe and Asia, just like the human beings who now live here. Leaving judgements aside, this is where I live and what I keep learning more and more about.

One should be careful to distinguish what you can learn about the Land from the tribes who once (or still) live where you do now. The ethnobotany, medicines and foods, the stories of animals and plants and weather and rivers and mountains. Those are things you can learn from. But you have to work out your own covenant with the Land and its Beings. You can't piggyback on someone else's tribe.

You can learn what the Blackfeet or Salish or Crow or Shoshone did, what they called the animals, how they learned to live here, the different wild foods and behaviors and natural patterns. You can learn a lot from the cultural ways and insights. You can learn about the Other beings too, the Underwater People, the Little People or Stick Indians or Dwarves, and so on.

But you can't take up their religions and begin to try to copy the spiritual practices of Blackfeet or Crow or Salish or Shoshone. You can't just copy a sweat ritual or a dance or some bundle system, that was something that was worked out between them and the Powers. You can't just hop on someone else's covenant or agreement because you want to. That isn't how it works. They didn't even do that to each other, as Indians. You have to work it out yourself, between you and the Land and the Powers there.
Tags: bioregion, bioregional animism, helena, herbalism, land spirits, native american, plants

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