Hail the Trancestors

You cannot have solidarity with life, honor the flow of life, honor the sacredness of Nature, honor your ancestral line, honor the evolutionary process, and at the same time be transphobic and support anti-equality for transgender people.

We are descended from a continuity of life that has no binary sexuality. We are descended, from transsexual, asexual, bisexual beings, and on and on – fill in the prefix. By the very nature of our being here, we owe a debt of honor to the gender fluidity of Nature. Gender fluidity is at the root of life on Earth. As a pagan and animist, I honor the whole of it. The whole of Nature is the foundation of my religious practices. So as someone who sees Nature itself as the highest authority, I need to understand, acknowledge, respect, accept and engage with the entire ecosystem. This is at the core of what it is to be pagan.

The procreative energies of our shared ecosystem are not simple duality!

Yvonne Aburrow in her article We Are Rising stated, “Gender is not a binary, not even a spectrum, it is a vast glittering field of possibility, many gender, many hues, many different expressions of being and love.” Such a beautiful sentence (Thank you Jim Lindenschmidt at Gods & Radicals for the link). This is the actuality of Nature, the beauty, power and wonder of Life.

So I write this to say, we as a pagan people, need to stand in solidarity with our LGBT community. To compromise on this is to say, “I only respect part of Nature. I know better than the Earth.” And that is hubris to the extreme. To not honor and respect the diversity of gender and sexuality in our community of life, is to deny and reject our own personal heritage.

In ritual this weekend, at the height of sun energy, the peak of creative energy on the planet, we will call and honor our gender fluid ancestors – those who came before and gifted us with this precious thing we call life. Perhaps we can playfully and joyfully call them our “trancestors” – not to make light but to celebrate and find the joy in the whole “glittering field of possibility“.

“Hail to the trancestors. We honor you and thank you for this gift of life. Please come share your knowledge, your stories and songs. Share with us your wisdom. Be welcomed in this circle of equals. Come dance with your children. Hail the trancestors…”

In solidarity,
Snowhawke /|\

You do what you can

I haven’t written in some time. Tonight though, Awen flows.

I just returned from the prison where I volunteer with a pagan group. We celebrated Beltane together this evening, a group of young men, incarcerated, struggling, frustrated, and angry. Rooting into the Earth, feeling the support of our sacred Mother, finding that connection to the land and place, we shifted the energy from prison life to sanctified, the dingy concrete room filling with the presence of the divine. Simple rooting. Simple ritual process. Call to spirit in the four directions. Call to spirit in the heavens and the Earth. Call to the gods, the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and deity in all its endless forms and aspects. Cast a circle to hold our intentions and prayers, crafting a place of safety and sacredness amidst the chaos of prison. These things are simple, yet they make all the difference.

We called the directions holding unlit candles as we aren’t allowed fire per the prison rules. One man called to the spirits of the West. His words sincere. Lacking resources and freedom, he used what he had. Shaking a plastic water bottle half filled, he created a water rattle. It was poignant, powerful, and real.

Each person tonight wrote down on a piece of paper what they wished to sow at the end of this new season of growth.  I took these intentions home with me.

This was the last meeting for one man as he is being released in a few days. His time in prison clearing his mind and body from the slavery of addiction. He is ready to join in the outer world again. He stated what he really wished for was strong connection to his family, a good job that allowed him to simple be in a place and find a good life. This was beautiful to hear. His deepest desire was for strong mud roots and strong blood roots, finding the strength of his ancestors and connection to the land allowing him to live well and walk with honor. Again simple things. Powerful things.

There is power in big intense rites, pilgrimages to sacred places, vision quests, extended fasts, rituals in deep snows and bitter cold rivers. Sometimes these powerful rites change the course of our lives. Sometime though, they are just a bubble that burst, leaving us following our familiar patterns. As I grow older, I find it is the simple things that keep us on the good path – waking with gratitude for the day, honoring our food, lighting a candle daily for our ancestors, rooting into the Earth finding presence in our breath, calling to the spirits in all the directions asking to make good relationship. It is these small things that make the difference over time, guiding us to live immersed in the sacred, dwelling in a world that is enchanted and holy.

As I said, I took their intentions home with me tonight. I could have burned them on walk way, but I changed into my sneakers and took my little cauldron down by the river, stepping in the fresh snow that fell today. It was really just a small thing, a little more effort, a simple decision to go to the river. I put each piece of paper into the well used blackened cauldron and burned them, asking the fire to carry these prayers into the spirit world. Once burned, I offered the ashes to the river. Their red glow drifting in the breeze until they were taken by the dark water.

The river tonight was as beautiful a thing as I ever seen. The night sky reflected on its still surface, as mist moved over it dividing the river from the land, the three worlds sliding into one another, earth, sea, and sky. It was simplicity that brought me to this place, the little things guiding my steps. And that made all the difference in the world.

Blessings of Awen,
Snowhawke /|\

Fuel for the Soul

What we take in makes us who we are. There is no doubt about this. Our body is created by the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Given that we understand this as it is straight forward, why is it we don’t extend this out to our other sensory input?

Other input makes us who we are much the same as our food intake. All sensory input has some affect on our attitude, our way of processing information, and our behavior in return. Our underlying belief system is affected through conditioning. Conditioning is simply repeated input. So I think it vitally important to look at the sensory input we take in on a day to day basis.

Are we spending too much time on the internet? Are we watching mindless TV as a distraction? Are we reading too much political claptrap? Are we living in ugliness? Are we in high-stress jobs where we multitask with many open-gated input streams coming in all at once? Is our life bereft of deep philosophical consideration, intellectual discipline, beautiful and stimulating art and powerful storytelling?

I write this because I see how the input I am taking in is affecting my sleep, my dreams and my attitude during the day. When I read too much political commentary, I spend my day full of angst. When I watch violence or scary TV my dreams are filled with violence and horror. When I spend too much time in front of the computer, I lose awareness of my non-visual senses and feel my frontal lobe working overtime to process all the visual stimulation and ideas being thrown at me at light-speed.

We get to decide to some degree, the input we receive. All our senses require a healthy diet. To that end, I am challenging myself to seek out the healthy things in life. I need to spend more time looking at the night sky, listening to the wildlife and wind through the trees, reading writings filled with deep consideration and elegant prose, listening to music carefully and not as background noise. So many ways to bring health into my being. I am going to seek something healthy each day, not let it just be by chance.

What can you do to change the stimulus you receive on a daily basis? What stimulus do you think should be limited? What kind of person do you want to be and what will it take in terms of input to become that person? All sensory input is fuel for the soul. What do you need to fuel your life?


Faith is an interesting concept. I lived without any faith for much of my adult life. The search for meaning in life, the search for the sacred, my reaching for relationship with divinity, didn’t provide any sense of “faith in a higher purpose”, and guidance from a caring God outside of the tangible forces of Nature, which are my gods. I had no faith.

A year ago I attended a gathering in New Mexico. The night sky in the West shows clearly the sheer vastness of the universe; our own Milky Way one of billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, with trillions of planets, the night sky, huge beyond my human capacity to take in.

As part of the work we did at the men’s conclave at the Cuyamungue Institute, we visited a secreted archaeological site of the Pueblo people. Everywhere I looked there were shards of pottery on the ground, thousands of remnants of simple practical containers for carrying food and water. These things of simple human life showed me a continuity, a sense of humanity living and dying – first living though, passing life onto the next generation. It is a beautiful poignant site, a very sacred place and I feel so honored to have walked on that ground, seeing the remains of a culture that dwelled there for generations, living simple lives off the land as all our ancestors did.

And here we are today, all seven plus billion of us, none of us all that unique, special, or significant. And behind us? Endless trillions of ancestors, reaching back to the very beginning of life on Earth, passing genetic code and the gift of life to the next generation, evolving from single cell beings, to multi-cell, to plant, to animal, to human, and all the other endless species of life on Earth today, all of us relatives descended from that initiation. Each one of us but a speck of space dust in the flow of the universe, living lives immeasurably short, but life we are.

Working with the ancestors reveals our own utter insignificance. That is very freeing. We are just one of endless trillions, all going about a similar life process. All of us moving through time, through life and consciousness, back into the void, and then back into new forms. None of us is truly important to the scheme of things.

The work we did at the conclave helped me feel the “spirit world” moving right in tandem with our physical reality. And I felt my dance within that dynamic, saw how I touched other souls, how I had influence, and how I was touched and influenced in return. And this good work gave me a sense of faith. We are completely significant to ourselves and those in our community. The saying “As above, so below” does not really ring true to me. Inward and local, we are vital. From the bigger picture? Utterly meaningless. Faith is found in the interplay between these perspectives.

That is an intriguing dichotomy, the dance between insignificance and complete significance. Letting go of our own self-importance in the larger scheme of life is vital to our well-being and in gaining a sense of peace. We are here today. Some of us will be gone tomorrow. All of us inevitably going back to source. To quote a favorite singer/songwriter, “We all get a chance to be nothing.” ~ Bruce Cockburn. Holding onto to moments, images, thoughts, emotions, ideas, is an act in futility. Yet we are hard-coded to do just that. Freedom comes not in dispelling and dismissing these impulses, but rather in letting them move through us, changing us, not resisting their movement, watching, observing, and engaging. This is what we druids mean when we talk about flowing with the currents of Nature. Hold onto a moment and we miss others as they move by, our sense of the breadth of life then diminished. These moments are precious to us though. We do our best and that is enough. Remembrance is part of Nature as well.

So where does faith come in? Faith for me lies in knowing there is so much more going on than I can perceive, the dance of life more complex and beautiful than the tiny spectrum I see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The universe, a.k.a. Nature has created us and we can observe change. There is a reason for this, even if it isn’t apparent. That is faith for me. And I know Nature is minded and eternal. There is much to discover about the nature of Nature. Knowing we are built to observe and engage gives me a sense of faith. Choosing to observe and discover is to choose a rich spiritual life.

From what I can glimmer, all of Nature is looking at itself, dancing with itself, from the rain falling on the fields, to the waves crashing on the beach, to the owl hunting the mouse, to the sun bathing the Earth in light, to the Milky Way dancing with other galaxies in the endless darkness of the Universe. We all look and perceive. There is a reason for this. I couldn’t possibly say what it is, but I have faith that such a beautiful and stunning dance has purpose.

This past weekend I attended a Decolonization dialogue. The presenters were Ana and Chanupa. Chanupa is a Lakota man who is a warrior fighting for his people against the forces of genocide. I don’t use the term genocide casually. It is accurate. It has happened right here in America. It is ongoing.

I challenge all of you to watch the documentary “Red Cry” on YouTube.

I visited Pine Ridge in 1992. I can assure you the poverty and acts of genocide are far worse than is shown in this documentary. The film makers did not rub our noses in it. They just show a small bit of the surface of it. I couldn’t believe this was “America”. It is far worse than anything you have seen in even the decaying urban landscapes across this nation.

I also challenge everyone to read this essay on Capitalism.

I think it vital for anyone who walks a nature-based spiritual path to be confronted with what the forces of Capitalism, Ownership, Right of Rule based on a monotheistic patriarchy are doing in the name of Freedom, with your tax dollars.

When I do ritual here in Maine or anywhere I’ve been across this country, the land cries out with the memory of genocide. Yes, there are places of exquisite beauty where my soul finds peace. But always, there is the memory. When calling to the ancestors of the land, they are not white. They are indigenous. And they don’t come to the circle in joy and peace. They come to stand watch, guarding the land as best they are able. We have felt this over and over again. And we have worked to craft peace. We have shifted our minds and hearts to own our part in the subjugation of the First Nations peoples and the ongoing exploitation of the land, of the Earth who is our mother and our home. Through dedicated effort, we have improved our relationship to the ancestors of this place, the Saco River Valley, natively called Shawakatoc. But that healing is just the very beginning, an opening, an opportunity, not the end of the work.

I keep coming to the same questions. How do we reconcile our heritage of genocide with our supposed love of this land? The First Nations peoples and the land are one in the same. They are still suffering at the hands of our system, the great memes called “Civilization” and “America”. So how can I say I love this land and be blind to the suffering of the First Nations peoples? How do I find a way to stop putting energy into this system of exploitation and destruction? How do I find a path in life that is in right relationship to the Earth? As I type this, a power station is burning fossil fuels or damming a river so that the salmon cannot go home to give birth to their children. Even our best intentions seem to drive destruction. That is the power of the system we have created.

More questions…
What do we do about all the broken treaties our government has consciously circumvented in order to remove the Native way of life as it is in direct opposition to the concepts of ownership and Capitalism? What heritage will we gift our children if we keep going down this road of technology, Capitalism, and Civilization? We all know the road we are on ends in catastrophic devastation, desecration and death. What are we going to do about it?

I point out the Capitalism, Ownership and Civilization. I challenge the very memes we all seem to accept as a part of Nature, as simply part of evolution and as the natural progress of humanity. This is all bunk. They are made up human constructs. Nature doesn’t subscribe to these. The trees, rivers, animals, mountains, sun and moon don’t subscribe to these. We all know these memes lead to death so we can choose to continue them and deal with the consequences, or we can consciously change them and find a better relationship to the land, to each other, to the gods. We cannot escape consequence. What consequences we have to face is our own choice.

In “Red Cry”, and in the presentation I attended, Chanupa uses of the phrase “you people” in reference to “America”, the government, Corporations, and all the destructive forces of Capitalism and all of us participating in it. He isn’t saying, “Your ancestors”. He is pointing a finger directly and saying, “You”. This might be an affront to many. We instinctively wanted to say, “But I am against all that! It isn’t me!” But the truth is we are all supporting these forces everyday with our consumerism, labor, taxes, and our willing participation in a system that is at war with Nature, seeing our Mother Earth as only a resource to drive ownership and profit. We spend our time insulating ourselves from the horrors these forces unleash. We export consequence. But the Earth is limited and the consequences keep getting closer to home. Most people are completely in denial. We can’t even question the memes of Capitalism and Profit, of Progress, Technology and Civilization. The indigenous peoples and other minorities are living the nightmare all the time. As a culture we don’t want to acknowledge that. We are saying, “Well if you become like us, you will do better. Join the system and you can get ahead and have time and money to avoid the harsh reality as well.” It is all completely and thoroughly corrupt. It is the antithesis of freedom.

The biggest single question for me at the moment is, “do I stop paying taxes?” By paying into the system, I am complicit and I can’t deny it. Yes, government does some good things. But those good things are simply to prop up the system that is at war with Nature.

So anyway, I look forward to working with others who are willing to confront their complicity, share constructive dialogue, put our hearts and minds together and begin to dream a new way of being in the world. And then we must act. So please watch the documentary and read the essay. These types of things always lead to defensive reactions. They did in me. But look from where the defensiveness arises. Practice listening. Then see how this sits in your soul.

Blessings of peace,

Snowhawke /|\

All the Way Out

Greetings. It has been some time since I have made a post. There are times when we run on what we know, and times when we have to go out and seek new learning, find new rivers and streams to explore. This has been such a time for me. While this post really has nothing to do with this journey, the finding of inspiration is the river that runs through it all. And I wanted to share something that deeply inspired me this morning.

A friend forwarded a link to an exquisite piece about Hermann Hesse by Maria Popova. It is about Hermann’s insight into what trees have to teach us. Please check it out: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/21/hermann-hesse-trees/

My post has nothing to do with trees or what Hermann Hesse had to share. It was inspired by this remarkable line written by Maria as she introduces the piece.  I was really stuck by these words, “…life does not await permission to be lived.” That is a powerful statement, something to meditate on.

At times in my life, I awaited permission. I waited and waited and waited. And permission never came. Then one day, I stole the keys to the castle and set out on a great adventure. In time I returned from the adventure a more mature person, a man. Yet, in time, old patterns reemerged. I found myself waiting for permission again. And I waited and waited and waited, only to find I had to set out on the adventure again. Finally I realized the adventure has to be continuous. The adventure is one of relationship, of opening, of learning and sharing, embracing the constant change that is life. And here I stand, in the middle of wonder, in the midst of Nature, watching change, engaging in the dance of life. And I finally realized (not just thought – the emotional component of this is huge), Nature created me for living, not waiting and needing permission to be a part of this world and the ecosystem I dwell in.

There is power in life. There is power in living who we are, fully, openly, wakefully. Doing to this requires great courage. Living powerfully with any sense of grace requires cultivating a generosity of spirit. Living powerfully with a clear sense of ethics requires loyalty, wakefulness to our interdependence, our true nature of zero separation. Courage, Loyalty, and Generosity are the foundation of what our ancestors knew as Honor. We don’t need permission to live a life filled with honor. It is our heritage. It is our birthright. It is what it will take to heal the wounds of history, colonization, and exploitation. It is one of Nature’s great gifts to our human consciousness.

And this is what I wanted to share this morning. We are the creativity of Nature. Nature doesn’t make mistakes. We were made for a reason. Our obligation in life is to be who we truly are.

I will end this with this quote and encourage all of us to meditate on places where we hesitate out of fear; where there are dynamics that cause us to feel we need permission to live; where we are waiting for humanity to accept who we are; where we are selfish in spirit. It is time as a Pagan people to bring ourselves out and learn to walk with grace and honor in this ever changing wonder that is life.

“”Whatever is you happens just once. So bring yourself out, all the way out.” ~ Sean Faircloth

Blessings of mist and mud,
Snowhawke /|\

All over the globe we modern people are facing a crisis of community. With the invention of the internet (virtual relationship) and with the effects of globalization, people are less connected to their local community and neighbors than in any time in history. People regularly feel alone, vulnerable, marginalized. I saw a stat that made my head spin. Here in the States when people were asked, “how many people can you ask for help from in a crisis?” More than 40% of respondents replied, “0-1”. That is terrifying. Now think about an indigenous tribe living in the Amazon, let’s say there are 400 people in the community. If you asked anyone of them, how many people they can rely on in a crisis, they would most likely respond, 399 (actually they would probably say “many” or “all” as some people in the Amazon only have three numbers, “One, Two, and Many”). Here in our modern Western societies, we may be surrounded by literally millions of people, yet we are often completely alone, ignored, friendless, homeless. How did this disconnection come to be?

The answer to this is too long to address appropriately, but it is the result of civilization and agriculture. When we stopped gathering from the land and began to plow it, we stopped a dynamic of relationship of being an equal interdependent part of the landscape, to one of boundaries and ownership. This shift from hunter/gatherer to agriculture was so profound, it changed the very nature of our human interactions with each other, our tribe and with the landscape. And as such, it radically shifted the nature of our religious ideals and the religious practices that grow out of those ideals.

Let’s explore these two topics, ideals and practices.

The differences in religious ideals between hunter/gatherer societies and agrarian societies have been well documented by anthropologists. It is the difference between the shamanic and the revealed, between direct communion with the spirit world and that of the priestly caste. We see a shift from seeing all of Nature as sacred, to one where Nature is viewed as a resource, something that can be owned, used, traded, and sold. One religion teaches total engagement with Nature, with the spirit world ever-present and living. The other teaches the Earth is under the dominion of humans and the physical world is debased, sinful, fallen, and we leave it to the Devil when we die and go to paradise (somewhere not of this Earth). What does it say of a religion that teaches we leave the Earth (our Mother and source of all we are and know) when we die? The earlier religions teach we go back into Nature, we become part of the landscape, part of the spirit world which is ever-present. We join our ancestors, which are always with us, helping us, guiding us. The revealed religions have set doctrines that we receive from the authority of the priestly class. It is the church and priests that teach us how we are supposed to live. Shamanic religions teach that our ethics come from direct experience of the Divine in Nature and strive to bring the individual and the community back into right relationship with the natural world, the seen and the unseen. This divide is huge. One  listens to and engages with the spirits of place, the other accepts the teachings of the revealed religions. And yes, I realize my writing here is simplistic and without nuance.

The second thing that shifted dramatically is the very nature of the religious practices. The hunter/gatherer societies see religious ecstasy as a normal essential part of daily life. People seeing spirits, hearing voices, having visions, these are not ‘abnormal’. They are gifts from the gods, from the spirit world, from the ancestors. It is considered “abnormal” not to have these experiences. In the revealed religions, these are considered heretical, reserved for the priest, or all to frequently today, as psychosis that needs to be treated and drugged. In indigenous religions, the tribe regularly seeks ecstasy together. Religious practices are designed to bring ecstasy to everyone, not just to the priest. This is a defining difference between hunter/gatherer societies and that of agrarian societies. Once a society shifts from foraging with perhaps a little horticulture, to farming and herding, communities no longer share the trance experience. They no longer have shared vision and ecstasy. And these are the ties that bind. Without shared vision, shared ecstatic experience, without trancing together, people no longer feel that sense of oneness with the tribe. People begin to feel alone, separate, without place, and without purpose. These things simply do not exist in societies that regularly share collective trance experiences.

Think what exile meant to our ancestors. It was basically a death sentence – worse than death, as everything one knew and did was in relationship to the greater community. Exile wasn’t just taking one’s life but taking away one’s way of life, one sense of self which was tied to the vision of the tribe as whole. Today we are willing to cast off whole sections of our communities that can’t manage to function well in our modern capitalist system. We exile people who don’t even have an offense against the tribe. We simply let them go because they aren’t needed or can’t keep up with the rest of us as we work our jobs and exploit the environment to have a lifestyle that even ancient kings couldn’t have dreamed of. This dynamic of modern life is a complete and utter failure. It is unhealthy for us and it will eventually come crashing down around us. We either create communities that are inclusive, where everyone has a place, or we will sow chaos and endless destruction.

The divide in religious practices of hunter/gather societies and agrarian societies is a big topic and there have been huge amounts of research on this. What I want put out there is this. We as humans crave community. We are tribal creatures at heart. We crave ecstasy (I believe the lack of ecstasy is the source of drug and alcohol addiction). We need ecstasy to feel whole, to be connected, to be integrated. Those of us in the pagan community, let’s build ritual opportunities for sharing trance together as a community. This is the reason I crafted (with the help of others) the Weaving ritual. It is call the Weaving – a Pagan Rite of Vision. This is a ritual that is focused on the community sharing trance and reaching for a vision together, not for the individual, but for the whole tribe. Anyone interested in hosting this ritual in your own community, please let me know. I don’t ‘own’ this ritual. And without the ritual being exercised and experienced by others, it ceases to exist.

Is this rite enough? Certainly not, but it is a start. Sharing trance (dance, music, art, etc), along with gifting circles, permaculture, cooperatives, and local economies can begin to help us have healthy communities where half of us are not exiled via economic exploitation, or simply ignored and marginalized. Trance and ecstatic religious experience is the key. Without sharing religious ecstasy, we will never have whole communities, feel connected, integrated, belonging, knowing we have a place in the world. Without everyone feeling connected and integrated into Nature, we will always see the human as above and outside of Nature. And this is the very source of our unhappiness and the ecological devastation and desecration we see around the globe.

One final note about trance and ecstasy, there is no doctrine here. These things move beyond the revealed and into direct communion. This dynamic cannot be owned. So each person’s experience is valid, equal and needed. Let me close with this, communities that trance together, stay together. Those that do not, inevitably fall apart. Ecstasy it the tie that binds.

Blessings of ecstasy and integration,
Snowhawke /|\