Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Natural, Magical World

It's sunny in my city, after weeks of being blanketed in snow. It's been a rare winter for where I live. But the ice is melting and the sidewalks and potholes are full of puddles today. The air is warm and I can smell spring beneath the snow. The grackles and robins have made their appearances and over the next few weeks the grass will emerge, the ground will warm through, and nature will reveal itself again. Nature is the seed-source of my spirituality.
One of the moments that developed my spiritual understanding came when I was prompted to read the introduction to David Abram’s book, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. Abram, a philosopher, performer and ecologist worked as a sleight-of-hand magician in his early years in clubs across New England, including the infamous Alice’s Restaurant. In and after college he traveled around the world, studying the connection of magic and medicine in Indonesia.
His own experiences gradually altered his perceptions of native shamanism and the craft of their true work. He describes a significant moment during a stay with a young magic practitioner in Bali. Each morning, his hostess would bring him a tray of fruit. Each morning, she also carried many small green bowls filled with white rice, which she intoned were offerings for the household spirits, the spirits of the family compound.
Curious, David watched his hostess leave the small offerings of rice along the outside corners of the various buildings. When he sought them out later in the day, he found the bowls empty. He hid himself away on the second day to wait and watch. What he witnessed was a line of black ants struggling for hours to drag each kernel of rice away one at a time. He discovered that the same event occurred at each offering place.

“I walked back to my room chuckling to myself. The balian and his wife
had gone to so much trouble to daily placate the household spirits with
gifts--only to have them stolen by little six-legged thieves. What a waste!
But then a strange thought dawned within me. What if the ants themselves
were the "household spirits" to whom the offerings were being made?”

That thought initiated David to take in more of the natural landscape of the village, as well as the compound. He realized that there was a large population of ant colonies surrounding the buildings which should have been more of a nuisance to the family. In placing a consistent daily offering for the indigenous insect inhabitants, his host family had found a way to live with the natural world, assuring their own food and kitchen area to be left invasion free. This notion challenged his understanding of spirit as meaning something more than “not flesh.”

“… my encounter with the ants was the first of many experiences suggesting
to me that the "spirits" of an indigenous culture are primarily those modes of intelligence or awareness that do not possess a human form.”

All living things have spirit. It pushed me forward in my Ancestor work. The Western definition of ‘spirit’ limits them to a supernatural existence, separating us further from the natural world. Clearly we define things too much, and there is a point where understanding takes us out of the moment and into our heads, and definition stunts growth so that we can move on to something else. David Abram could have stopped at the observation of the ants taking away the rice and assumed he had figured out the magic trick. Instead, he allowed the revelation to open his own understanding.
The voices of our ancestors speak to us in the unfurling flower buds and the rippling grains in a meadow. They speak to us in the hatching eggs of spring. Everything of spirit inherits energy from our ancestors. Spirit is the natural world and the natural world is spirit.
It can be hard to garden in the city, where the birds, squirrels and stray animals are also looking to thieve themselves a meal. A full birdfeeder and a scattering of nuts in the side yard once a week stopped the squirrel-sunflower carnage and allowed the vegetable seeds to grow unscathed. We feed them through the winter so they are not starved come seeding time. The stray animals know there is always something for them at the back of the house, so they don’t pillage our garden or root through our garbage. As a result, we have co-existed beautifully together, while the quicker pulse of the modern world flows around us.

[This article was originally published March 9, 2011.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.