Why Modern Animists Need an Ancestral Home
Non-Americans make fun of us when we say we’re Irish-American or Cuban-American when we’ve never been to those countries and our parents were born in the USA. I don’t think they understand our longing for roots because they have them. While we may have been here for centuries, we know our roots lie elsewhere. This is why modern animists need an ancestral home.
Almost everyone knows their native place, or the place where their fathers or grandfather’s were born. Many modern animists have lost touch with their ancestral home, or the place where their distant people are from. Even when we know, we don’t maintain the language, don’t know the customs, and don’t sustain the lifestyle. When all you have to lay claim to that heritage is oral tradition – which may or may not be true – it’s a thin thread indeed to tie you to your roots. Those roots don’t go very deep and don’t feel so strong. So we can feel pretty wobbly.
I have many Native American friends who still live on the land of their people. On this land lie cemeteries where they visit and tend to their dead. Their homes are sometimes the same place where generations have gathered. Sometimes they are new structures, but they still lie on the land where their people have lived for generations.
Imagine how strong the energy is there.
The ancestral home is where families gather for holy days. It’s where we laugh, reminisce, eat (food is love), grieve, and learn from the elders. It’s where we nurture the love of family and culture and plant seeds within the young to keep it growing.
When I was young, my best friend’s family lived in the country. Both her parents had very large (10+ siblings) families. I’d go with her to visit them at the family matriarch’s house. It always had a really different feel.
My best friend isn’t a blood relative, but she’s still family. And her family was like my second family. Going there felt safe. It was a sanctuary from the world, a bubble of belonging. These are people who sang the same songs, laughed at the same jokes, and had the same memories as you. They made them with you.
It wasn’t one person, or two people. It was a whole clan of people who looked like you and “got” you because they are you. There is nothing like that.
When you have an ancestral home, you have a way to go back to that, a safe place to lay your head and be you. There is someone there tending that and keeping it ready for when you need it. It gives you a reason to go on and the energy to do that when you can’t find it anywhere else.
Modern people move a lot. It’s rare to know anyone who still lives in the house that they grew up in much less one that’s been in the family for generations. There is so much isolation and loneliness. I think when we lose touch with our blood relatives, it is harder to feel connection to the Other-than-human relatives.
We don’t have a tie to the land. We’re too busy striving to sit still. If you are Earthy and have that within you to give to your family, why not plop down somewhere and start a new ancestral home right where you are? It’s not too late to build those ties now.
If you have an ancestral home, share. We all need a vision of what that is like to create it for ourselves.