What were the earth-based traditions of my ancestors?
I am learning that I will never know for sure. Given my distance from the traditions of my indigenous ancestors, I no longer believe this is information that can be reclaimed in one lifetime. But I have learned is that my own experiences of being in intimate relationship with nature teach me far more than historical sources.
As I listen directly to nature with patience and humility, I find myself able to look far more critically at the standard explanations for ancient traditions. “People offered sacrifice to appease the Gods,” becomes a difficult explanation for me to believe in the face of my own spontaneous desire to leave offerings whenever I am moved. I make these offerings not out of fear of consequence, but out of love and a sense of reciprocity with the beautiful wild world. They bring me into a deeper relationship with the land, just as I might offer a gift to a lover or a friend.
Performers at summer solstice at Stonehenge (top) and at Ivano Kupala (bottom). I noticed the bright red clothing of both sets of performers. The contrast of these two summer solstice occasions was fascinating, and both were a complex mix of ancient and modern cultural elements-but in very different ways.
What were the forces that disconnected my ancestors from the land?
Being here in Ukraine brings me deep into this question. Before coming here, it was easy for me to identify ideology and economic systems as the culprit: it was Christianity. It was Capitalism.
This land defies that. This land has seen waves of conquerors for more than five thousand years. It’s said that the peoples of this land—the Slavs—gave English the word Slave. This is a place that knows about disconnection from traditional ways, and forced subjugation in the name of Empire.
These are the waves of peoples that have swept through this land.