Lance Foster (hengruh) wrote,
Lance Foster

Deep Time in North America

[Driving Montana's Highway 12, between Lavina and Martinsdale, 12/27/07]

In my development as a modern-day druid in AODA, I am not particularly interested in throwing out who I am as a Catholic (going on 48 years now, from the time of my baptism as an infant in 1960) or as a Native American (over 48 years now, from the time in my mother's womb) or as an anthropologist/archaeologist (over 26 years, from my beginnings as an anthropology major at the University of Montana in 1981), just to swap it all for a different Celto-centric mythological system in order to be called a "druid." Thankfully, the AODA does not require this.

In addition, my path of nature spirituality is not so much about syncretizing everything into some kind of ill-advised mish-mash of beliefs, but at getting at the underlying commonality of all of them...such as the natural world is essentially good, death will come to us all, and life is beautiful and often harsh. And so the discoveries of science are also necessary to compare and incorporate for a better understanding of "truth" as well.

As an archaeologist, the concept of "Deep Time" as one of these "scientific truths" comes very naturally to me. It feels right, it makes sense, though I am not saying I can really comprehend it in the same way I can comprehend my lifetime or even centuries. The climate change we are experiencing is made easier to accept and deal with if one accepts "Deep Time" as part of one's knowledge system.

"To understand evolution, humans must think in much larger units of time than those we use to define our lives. After all, evolutionary change isn't apparent in days, months, or years. Instead, it's documented in layers and layers of rock deposited over 4.6 billion years. ...The stretch of geologic history is commonly referred to as "deep time," and it's a concept perhaps as difficult to conceive as deep space. Can humans measure deep time? Yes. Will we ever truly comprehend such immensity of time? Probably not. But to develop a better understanding of evolutionary change in its proper historical context, we must try. ...The story of life is told primarily by its ghosts -- the victims of extinction. Scientists say that only one in a thousand species that have ever lived survives today. The other 99.9 percent are extinct, gone forever" (

In our search for ways to re-connect our spirituality with nature, and with the actual land on/in which we live, "Deep Time" is an essential ingredient. But how do we integrate this new understanding into our life and value system? One way is through ritual and ceremony.

I came across a wonderful resource ( for a ritualization, a dramatization or play, of the concept of "Deep Time." It is called "Coming Home to North America." It is focused on North America, on the changes and challenges our continent and its lifeforms (biota) has/have faced for millions of years. And what it means to become "native."

An excerpt

LANDFORMS AND CLIMATE (in unison) - What is to be done?

BIG AND FEROCIOUS: [After Landforms & Climate ask in unison, "What is
to be done?" stand at your seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can invite the HUMANS to remember the great
beasts who were here before their own cultures arrived. We can invite them
to tell stories about these big and ferocious creatures. We can urge humans
to take inspiration from ELK, MOOSE, BISON, GRIZZLY, AND GRAY WOLF,
because these creatures only very recently became native to this continent,
and perhaps the newest humans can too. That is what is to be done.

CONNECTIONS: [After Big & Ferocious speaks of "What is to be done,"
stand at your seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can invite HUMANS to tell and tell again the
65 million year story of North America, and to begin to deeply value the
connections this continent has always had with the rest of the world. Surely
HUMANS can learn from this Sacred Story. Surely they will see how
important it is to walk gently when establishing connections with continents
in which they and their technologies are not native. That is what is to be

PLANTS: [After Connections speaks of "What is to be done," stand at your
seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can invite all the HUMANS of North America,
of all ethnicities and heritages, to become ROOTED to this continent, to truly
view it as their one and only home. We can invite these same HUMANS to
seek out partnerships with the natural world around them for the good of all,
just as nut trees forged partnerships with squirrels 32 million years ago, and
just as grasses forged partnerships with grazers some 20 million years ago.
That is what is to be done.

THE LITTLE ONES : [After Plants speaks of "What is to be done," stand at
your seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can invite the HUMANS of North America to
remember how the Little Ones played a profound role in both the IROQUOIS
creation story and the GOLDEN AGE OF TURTLES. We can show these
humans that it is possible to honor both the traditional story and the science
story. We can urge them to develop a deep love for Turtle Island. We can
also remind them that Raven, the trickster, flew in from Australia and then
became native to Turtle Island ó and that they can too. That is what is to
be done.

LANDFORMS: [After Little Ones speaks of "What is to be done," stand at
your seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can teach the newest HUMANS that Native
American stories of ancestors rising up from the ground or descending from
a sacred mountain are deeply true in this sense: they all show that to be
native to this continent is to belong to a culture that emerges from the
landforms of this continent - no matter where the ancestral genes may
have immigrated from. That is what is to be done.

CLIMATE: [After Landforms speaks of "What is to be done," stand at your
seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can teach HUMANS that Climate is a powerful
and mysterious force, not to be tinkered with. We can do this by telling the
65 million year story of this continent so that humans will remember the
consequences for life whenever climate warmed or cooled or dried. That is
what is to be done.

CRISIS and OPPORTUNITY: [After Climate speaks of "What is to be
done," stand at your seat and proclaim:]
What is to be done? We can remind HUMANS, whenever they grow
despondent, that a Crisis may, through their own actions and the grace of
God or Nature, be turned into an Opportunity. We can do this by helping
humans find ways to bring the Sacred Story of North America into their
seasonal and religious celebrations. That is what is to be done.

(Chart of mammals which evolved in Eurasia, and those which evolved in North and South America, and the exchange of species/genera across Beringia; from
Tags: archaeology, deep time, druidry, geology, montana, ritual

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