Interview with Danni Lang

Danni Lang is the woman behind the popular YouTube channel Esoteric Moment.  If you haven’t visited, it is a lovely place. She describes it as an online, sacred grove. To me it feels like popping over to a neighbour’s kitchen for tea and a nice chat about books and various other things that make life worth living. Danni represents the best of Wisconsin: she is welcoming, well educated and wise. Her passions include druidry, permaculture and books. From time to time her fans glimpse the thriving magical place that is her farm. Reading this, you would not be wrong to think that these pursuits might be enough to keep several people busy but she also is the Development and Outreach Manager for Groundswell Conservatory, a land trust with a mission to protect special places forever. So far her organization has protected just under 12,000 acres. Danni is a druid who truly is making the world a better place.

Last fall, Anima Monday contacted Danni to ask about animism and ancestor work.

At Anima Monday we see animism as being not so much about the idea that individual animals and plants have souls (they can) but that animism is more like a verb, a connection with the world around us. Unfortunately, many people suffer from alienation and feeling disconnected. While those feelings are real I wonder if you would agree that this is also in part a terrible illusion – that we are all connected whether we see it or not. What has been your experience of social media as a tool for connecting people with each other and to the land?

Illusion is a tricky word to use when describing feelings. I can agree that many people suffer from alienation and feelings of disconnection. Those feelings cannot be an illusion. The source of those feelings though can be. I do agree that we are all much more connected and united than it appears at first glance!

Social media is a useful tool in providing connection because it allows us to actively seek out those who are similar to us. We can meet and speak with people who also feel “other” in the same way that we do. Social media has also opened up our society to new ways of communicating.  YouTube videos reach hundreds and thousands of people at once and feel very similar to sitting down for tea with a friend. Instagram gives us a peak at the best version of ourselves that we hope to be. Connection can come in all sorts of forms now.

Of course, there is the flip side to social media as a tool for connection. People can easily curate feeds that only show those who agree with them. This leaves civil public discourse and compromise feeling further away than ever! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the social media and onslaught of shiny new tweets forgetting that there are trees and birds and air to enjoy, too.

It’s a great tool that I thoroughly enjoy, but I’m mindful of finding balance in its use in my life (like all things).

Burial mounds at Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin. Image courtesy Department of Natural Resources.

Honouring our ancestors requires a bit more effort than mumbling a few words during a ritual now and again. One of your videos mentioned how ancestor work has a unique twist for those of us living in North America. Because of our history of slavery and attempted genocide, when we consider our ancestors we face the worst that humanity has to offer. How did you come to this realization?

I suppose it came from a growing awareness. I was lucky enough to have a family who valued learning and debate. It was important to search out our own answers as children. When searching for answers in history books, it became clear that history was not a black and white story. Each character tells their own story, their own point of view on history. A school test might make it seem like there was only one history, but there were plenty of resources out there to show more of the story to me.

In my region of Wisconsin, there are these incredible burial mounds that come from the Native Americans of this region. I was mesmerized by their shapes and so very curious about where they came from and how they were built. As I went searching for these answers, I realized that many of the tribes whose ancestors were buried here no longer had “ownership” of the mounds. The state had divided and sold the land to settlers who very aggressively removed the Native Americans. My curiosity led to anger as I realized what this would feel like if it was my own family buried there. Learning about the mounds meant that I learned about and from the people who made them. That led me to learning about all the other crimes that were heaped upon those people.

History doesn’t end though. We are living history now. The actions we take are an effect of our history and beliefs. So, if we want to make amends we need to be open to listening and learning from those who had so much taken from them by our ancestors. I do not want my great-great-great-grandchildren to look back upon my actions with sadness and anger. I want them to see that I learned and acted as much as I was able to make amends and a better future.

We are the tipping point between our ancestors and our future. That’s why ancestor work is so important to my practice and my druidry. I cannot know how to tip towards the right direction without knowing where I came from.

You once suggested using tree rings as a way to represent a family tree. What a great idea to combine solidarity with growth. When I look at tree rings I see that sometimes even a damaged tree can continue to grow — it may get a little lopsided but it can continue on. As we approach the darkest time of year what are your hopes for us as humans and as a planet? (Note to readers, this interview took place in the Fall of 2018)

Thanks for liking my tree ring/family tree! I think it’s very hopeful, too 🙂

My hope for our future growth as humans and as a planet is that we become better at listening, to each other and the planet itself. When our ears are open to all trees, rocks, and each neighbor we have more capacity to grow and understand each other. My hope is this leads to more peace and a concerted effort at slowing climate change. We depend on the earth and need to be better companions with her.

Readers can visit Danni’s YouTube channel Esoteric Moment here. She also has a blog. To learn more about how Groundswell Conservatory protects special places, forever please visit this link.

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