The Ancestors are the people who came before. They are our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. They are also those that we are not related to by blood, but cared about or admired nonetheless. They are not just people from our past who have died. They built the foundation of whom and what we are. They are the literal and figurative foundation of our existence. Their bones and bodies are interred into the earth at their deaths. As their physical bodies decompose, they add nutrients and minerals to the earth. The waters that flows through the earth spreads some of these around the world so that all of our ancestors intermingle and literally nourish and support everyone and everything around the world.
These nutrients help enrich the soil to grow the food we eat as well as strengthen the ground we walk upon. They contribute to the building materials we use to build our homes, businesses, places of worship, roads and other pieces of infrastructure.
Our ancestors are also the foundation of who we are as people. The lessons they taught and experiences they shared shape who and what we become. My Grandmothers taught me to create and make things both beautiful and useful. They passed along the desire to create or creatively repurpose before throwing something away and buying new. This practice has continued into my adult years.
Other ancestors contribute in other ways. Figures like Galileo, Einstein, Copernicus, and Henry Ford are inventors and have created things that have affected everyone on earth. Their achievements are the foundations upon which today’s innovations are built. Without people like these, we would not enjoy the technology we have today.
Gerald Gardner, Isaac Bonewits, Ross Nicols and are some of the ancestors of today’s Paganism. Others are the founders of groves and circles and groups large and small and those that published early articles and did early research. They laid the foundation for the state of Paganism today. They began the process and others will continue build upon that foundation.
Even now these Ancestors watch over us and lend us support when asked. Sometimes it just a feeling of not being alone, or a sudden memory at just the right time. For me the sudden awareness of the sound and smell of drying clothes and the “whoosh” of steam escaping an iron is a way that my Grandma Pat lets me know that she is near. My Grandma Joy comes to me in the woods. She is the person who taught ne how to find “pretty places” in the dense woods in West Virginia so now when I am in a beautiful spot in nature, a sense of being loved and cherished will come over me and I know that it is her.
I think we honor our Ancestors by remembering that we haven’t gotten where we are all by ourselves. We are building upon the foundation laid by those that came before and we would do well to honor them.
Everything is alive. Everything contains come level of energy, movement and vibration. Some are just at higher levels than others or more complex. I see nature spirits as including the essence of tress, plants, streams, rocks, basically everything around us, animals, birds, reptiles, even the annoying mosquitoes. Everything has a purpose. I love communing with trees. Feeling the life and exchanging energies is one of the mot wonderful sensations I have experienced. I love the feel of a breeze against my face while standing with my head tilted back towards the sun and just breathing and being for a few moments.
The Nature Spirits are not just part of our physical surroundings or things that are easily seen. Other nature spirits that guard, nurture and live in the wild places of nature such as fairies, elves, dragons, dryads, salamanders, undines, gnomes, dragons, and brownies all are considered mythical beings. They are non-humans that share occupancy of the middle realm with us. Most deny their existence and chalk it up to childhood fantasy or a delusional disorder. They overlook the rustle of leaves and branches when there is no wind or animal present. These beings look over the processes of nature and have a huge stake in the condition of the earth. It is their home in a much bigger, more immediate sense, than for modern humans inhabiting the earth. We build upon their habitat with little to no thought. We trim bushes, clear land and fell trees to fulfill our immediate needs and desires but think very little, if at all, about who or hat these actions affect. Nature is not just an inanimate object to do with as we will with no thought to the consequences.
I have a park near me and when I go, whether to sit and read, meditate, or walk, I try to leave an offering, even if it just water poured from my water bottle. Sometimes I will have birdseed or cornmeal with me. Sometimes a movement or just a feeling from a particular area will call to me as I walk so I will stop. Quiet myself, look, listen, and commune with that spot for a while. These are what my Grandma Joy called “Pretty Spots”. I then leave water, or some form of offering before I move on.
On the Eve of my 39th birthday dragons starting coming into my meditations and I have since developed a relationship with a small clan. I admit that I thought I was going a bit nutty when this whole thing started, or that my imagination was running away with me, but they returned again and again so here I am, member of a dragon clan. I know when one is with me. Mostly it is a feeling. Sometimes I will see a shadow or movement in the corner of my eye. I have one that just likes to hang out. We have exchanged healing and I bring food, water and shiny baubles when I visit them in meditation. Ace, the one that I interact with the most, even has a special corner in my apartment. This is the first type of relationship of this type I have had with this type of nature spirit. I have always been aware of them, but never formed any kind of personal attachment. It has taken a bit of getting used to, but my life is richer and definitely more interesting because of them.
I also enjoy interacting with the spirit of place or genus loci. Genus loci is the spirit that inhabits and watches over an entire area. I have been getting to know the spirit of the local county park as by exploring different parts of said park and trying to spend a bit time in each separate location. Most of my experiences of genius loci have come in the middle of deep woods or near rivers and other bodies of waters, but I have also experienced them in more urban settings. When I was in high school I had the opportunity to tour Europe with a concert band. As we walked into some of the old cathedrals, I could feel a shift in the energy, and I knew that there was something other that we students in the place. Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg was another area where there was a great sense of a large presence. So to with the Stature of Liberty and the small island she stands upon. It’s a feeling of being very small but connected to something very big. I felt insignificant but utterly important all at the same time.
I believe we honor the sprits of nature every time we go outside and enjoy our environment. We also honor them whenever we stop to consider how our actions affect the earth and take steps, no matter how small, to improve our environment.
For me, the Shining Ones are the most difficult of the Kindred to describe and pin down. They have been around the longest of all beings, possibly before any of our human ancestors were ever created, and maybe before mankind at all. I really like the concept that each deity has his or her own personality and identity. To me this makes them much more real and approachable. They have both good and bad, light and dark within them. Rather than worship a general Sun God or Earth Goddess, Lord and Lady, or generic God and Goddess you can build a much stronger rapport and intimate relationship with beings you believe are individuals and whose names you know and use on a regular basis.
Names have power. They allow us to differentiate one person from another, one thing from another. When you call out to someone/thing by name you are setting that one aside and announcing or declaring that you are paying attention or interacting with them specifically and not all of them within a certain category. You are giving attention and energy and power to that which you have named.
This can enable them to gain power though worship and increase their ability to do things in the world. We hope that there things are done for our benefit as per the rules of hospitality but it is, in the end, their choice as to what they do or do not do.
Do the Shining Ones fall into come of the categories we think of as archetypes? Of course they do. Just as humans fall into categories such as doctor, soldier, or teacher, the Shining Ones can be grouped by area of influence or by other characteristic. But just as each member of these human categories have their own individual life experiences and stories, so do each of the Shining Ones. Some may have similar tasks and paths, but they are not identical.
One of the things I truly appreciate about ADF ritual is the way we call all of the Shining Ones and invite them to our rites and not just the Deities of the Occasion. Because our rites are public, there will always be those present whose patrons are not part of the rite. By inviting the Shining Ones we are honoring everyone’s patrons and no one feels as left out.
The three Kindred can also bee seen as corresponding to the elements that make up the sacred center in ADF ritual, the Well, Fire, and Tree.
The ancestors can be seen as corresponding to the Well of the sacred center. Their bodies are interred in the earth. The waters bathe them and wear away at their bones. They are part of the Underworld, the realm beneath our feet and, in some cultures, can be accessed through sacred wells. The decomposition process our ancestors go through speaks to the chaos and potential that the Well represents. Nature recycles them into the basic components needed to create more life.
The Shining Ones can be associated with the Fire. The flames transform the sacrificial offerings and take them to the Shining Ones. In many cultures, he Shining Ones reside in the heavens, or upper realms. This is the place of order, where the stars and planets make steady, regular, and predictable progress across the sky.
The Nature Spirits can be associated with the Tree. The middle realm sits between the Heavens and Underworld and its borders touch both, just like the tree on the sacred center. Humans reside here as well as all of the spirits of nature. This is where chaos and order meet. The Nature spirits can be seen as making sure the chaos and order are kept in the appropriate balance for continuing life whether animal, vegetable, mineral, or spiritual. They are cosmic chemists. Mixing the two powers of the other worlds together in this one to create and maintain nature as we know it.