Animism offers a relationship with the earth that is based on very different values than treating the earth as a resource to feed humanity. It is one of balance, harmony, wisdom, cooperation, listening and respect. Treading gently across our lives as we walk, witnessed by the earth with every step and breath we take.
A living relationship with our beautiful home, working with the eight celebrations of the wheel of the year helps me to step closer to this kind of relationship that I am seeking, while Animism offers a practical framework to enter into this blessing.
I write this from the magical and wild land of Scotland, and in the northern hemisphere we are approaching the time of Samhain. Without doubt one of my favourite times of the year, and without doubt you will hear me say this about the next stage in this circle. Such is my wonder and awe at this magical life!
The Yew for me is a tree that holds the feel of Samhain. I seem to have an affinity for trees and a deep connection usually comes easily. Not so with the Yew tree: this amazing tree asked me to work persistently to meet her. No other tree has challenged me in this way.
Then suddenly, a door opened and the connection was made, and has grown ever since. And what a blessing this has been. Is this a tree that is really from this earth!? It shows itself to me as some kind of cosmic tree from some other place, such is it mystery and magic. Though here it is a companion with us on the earth.
I live near the Fortingall Yew, said to be the oldest tree in Europe or the world. Depending on who is saying, estimates range from 2000 to 5000 years. I don’t know. However, in sitting and listening to the tree and the family of yew around her, they show me a great wisdom and sometimes let me see what they have seen. It gives me a glimpse into the changing landscape and the life that has roamed past this great being of the land.
I visited two Yew trees recently and worked with a specific intention to understand something of my ancestor’s gifts that I carry. The trees gave an insight into why I do what I do with shamanism and Druidry, and how not so long ago this was seen as a natural way of being – where today we speak of it as wisdom or just plain weird!
I understand that many indigenous cultures have no word as Animism: it is an Anthropology construct. Instead, it is a natural and embedded way of life for them. I am glad I met the word though, as growing up in a western world that made no sense, this word helped me make sense of my innate experiences. It led me to have the encounters and relationships that I have with the land and here, the yew.
So much wisdom is available within this place we call nature. If I can listen deeply to this and then act upon and from this wisdom without doubt, new possibilities emerge.
At this time of Samhain, I honour my own ancestors of blood, those of the land where I live and of my tradition. While we live in a very different world to the one they lived in, and while it is unlikely we can return to this way, I see they hold this animistic connection that is vital for us to move forward in health.
So, with the wisdom of the blessing of the Yew, I turn to you wise ancestors, then turn to the ancestors yet to come, and offer the blessings to you, and keep these ways alive so that life may thrive.
While I will stumble and fall in this quest, I ask for the strength to keep on. The Yew I know will hold me in this, and holds the wisdom that it can be so, if I can be clear and listen deeply. The yew is ancient and would have been in contact with our ancestors.
There is a practice known as the “Dumb Supper” that we can hold at Samhain. In this case dumb refers to silent and I understand that is known as a cross-cultural practice. By preparing a place at the table for our ancestors we acknowledge them, so a plate sits there with food for them – giving us a time to silently remember, honour and give thanks for the life we have as result.
Maybe we can offer something of our own gifts to the ancestors yet to come as we shape the world they will encounter. Once we have finished our supper, we can offer the food to the land, or put out for composting. Working with the Ancestors offers so much and offers insight wisdom and peace.
Blessings of the Yew and this time of Samhain.