This post is supposed to answer Sannion’s, and I’ll hope it will be clear enough for the others. Here goes the heart of Sannion’s article :
Now this last category I suspect will be the most foreign to others and I have struggled to find a way to express it, even to myself. If I had to describe it in a single word, however, I think that I would choose Antiquity. (Were I aiming for alliteration I’d choose “Past” but that doesn’t really have the right associations for me.) I recognize a sacred dimension to time. There is a sacredness to all time, of course, especially the rhythmic cycles of nature as manifest in the changing seasons and the Sun and Moon, and there is nothing as sacred as this present moment, of being alive and aware of everything that’s going on around you, internally and externally. But for some reason that I do not pretend to understand, I am especially attuned to the past and to late antiquity in particular. By this I mean the period that extends from the birth of Alexander to the reign of Justinian and a little beyond. There are other times that interest me – the Renaissance or Egypt’s New Kingdom – but they do not have the same powerful resonance, do not come alive in my mind and soul the way that this thousand or so year epoch does for me.
I cannot really explain why it is that way, either. I could easily rattle off a bunch of reasons because this was certainly an exceptional period in history filled with extraordinary people with grand ideas and accomplishments – and it is also the time when the worship of my closest gods flourished most strongly – but it’s more than any of that and at the same time considerably less. I have this strong compulsion to know everything I can about it, even the things that have nothing to do with my primary fields of interest such as religion and the arts. I find it profoundly comforting to read about court gossip and agricultural lore and even revenue laws and tax receipts. More, I feel an obligation to familiarize myself with such trivial things, even if I’ll never do anything with the information. Because every scrap of knowledge is precious and helps make that time period more real for me, helps those people to live again – even if it’s only for a moment and just in my mind.
And it isn’t merely that I feel that such studies save the people of the past from oblivion, that it’s important that someone a thousand years later remembers them, is aware that they existed and that they felt and did things that truly mattered: yes, all of this is important, but it isn’t the whole of it.
It’s also the age itself, which seems like a living thing to me, a creature comprised of all these lives, a thing deserving to be known in its own right – something that I am a part of, despite all the time and distance that seemingly separates us. The spirit of that age animates my soul, shaping my thoughts and how I relate to the world around me today. It is my history as much as it is theirs, and so in order to know myself I must strive to better understand it. I have so immersed myself in the world of that time – its culture and ideas and personalities – that I often feel like an alien in this one.
Except that that is not entirely true, because I feel very much at home in this city I love, its own beauty and culture and spirit, though I have little affinity for what passes for contemporary American culture, dominated as it is by technology, consumerism, the absence of art and values, etc. No, it’s rather like I am a citizen of two worlds – Antiquity and Eugene, and they overlap at times, flowing into each other, complimentary but also distinct, engaged in a perpetual dialogue. They teach me different things, help me to explore different parts of the world of eternal ideas and of myself as well – and I need both to truly understand the other.
And I think in some ways that’s a large part of my holy vocation – to unite and harmonize these two, to bring the past into the present and celebrate the world and everything in it through my art. I am simultaneously a modern trying to understand Antiquity and an ancient looking out onto a strange new land. Neither is truly my home – yet I belong to both.
Here went my first gut-answer :
It does absolutely make sense dear. And actually I think it should be done more often by a large part of pagans. Before we had historians to do so, or memory pillar in families and cities (and druids, and shamans etc). But the memory role has disappeared and it is really a shame.
It’s strange because you put something into words that I would never have done myself. And walk along those lines, at a distance, but all too unconsciously. When I had time, when I was young, I did that. And I did that periodically with all cultures and all periods of time ! Ancient civilisations were my favorite (pre-colombian, egyptian, sumerian, chinese etc). I think I didn’t go as far as you did, but it was very close. I dug in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the XIXth Century… It is a fascination to me.
And now that I think about it, it has a deep value to me too ! It relates to two things at least : the sacredness of time indeed (and I work about regression of memory and mostly regression of souls, tracing past energies…) and also to the sacredness of “Ancestors” in the wide sense. All these people, etc, contributed to make us what we are, the world we live in… and we should listen to what they said and did : it goes from the natural resources they used (ecology) and the lessons they learned from errors we should try not to reproduce…. It is very wide. Damn’ I can’t begin to put it into words !
And now I’m going to try and complete the whole. Please note it is one of the hardest topic to explain into words.
Explaning the experience
Contrary to Sannion, I don’t have such an intense intellectual approach: firstly because I didn’t look for such a quest and am not conscious of it, second because I don’t have the same “method”. Indeed, he has a more historian approach, he read antique testimonies, he digs and digs and digs again anywhere, to acquire concrete fondations, and from that he goes to the spiritual quality of the matter (a thing that I respect, I wish I had the same rigour). I never read nor heard somebody talk about such a “view” such as his, and so this far, I’ve always thought of myself as crazy. But now, now, I have matter to ponder about. After all these years I understand I wasn’t such a psycho. What I thought was “crazy”, beyond any possible reality, is the fact that I don’t use the same “quality” as he. Of course I began by reading, but I never went as far as he in the depths of antique testimonies. No I think I know what I “did”. In fact it wasn’t conscious because I didn’t do anything, it all came to me: it went through what most people call “empathy”, but through what I would call “mediumship” (??)/psychic faculty. My reading was such that I didn’t intellectually get the pieces of information but I fully lived them through my mind and body and soul. I was immersed in that knowledge, and more, in that world, in these worlds. I felt I was kin with them, sometimes I was them, understanding from within the time or within their minds. From books, from paintings, from films, it was all a question of getting the right “mood”. And I thought that this was just the fancy of a melancholic adolescent, even sometimes a “gothic” (in the first sense) girl. My problem alsways have been that I never had any specialities, any favorite topics : so contrary to Sannion, I went everywhere I could, and passed from any possible period of time and any possible location. I went in Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt (mostly the tomb makers), Ancient Sumer and Babylon, Ancient China, Ancient Europe, Native Americans, Pre-colombians, Middle Ages in Europe, Witches Hunts, Jesus birth and life time, Latin Empires, Renaissance in Italy and France, the French History mostly (17th, 18th, and 19th Century mostly)… But I always thought it was the fancy of a young girl or adolescent. It never struck my mind that it could be “real’, that I could be getting bits from the pasts through a potential faculty of mine. Now I think it’s true, at least partly, it’s the same approach/method I have to the Gods of the World.
Explaining my researchs and reflexions
About Time itself
The more I study religions and spiritualities, the more Time is obvious as a Sacred “thing”, as Life is etc. When I immersed into the Celtic Theology, I found some matter to ponder : indeed the Celts had a very sharp consciousness of Time, and it was Sacred to them. From there comes (partly) our notion the sacred Wheel of the Year, which to them was just a way to mark the sacredness of Time (in general). It seems the Druids even studied it, how it works, how it is perceived… we can find some pieces of information about that. And so I came upon it, and finally I felt more whole, to consciously strive to grasp what Time is. I read such interesting people who explain the Celtic theory in terms of circles and then spirals… it was really enlightening. But the mere fact that my Ancestors were conscious of Time and granted it a high sacred value was what mattered the most.
When I then came to shamanism, the idea only grew. Because of the way Life is treated as a continous, connected web/network… my experiences in shamanism forced me to have a “view” in 3 dimensions. When I had visions, when I studied any principle, I had to have a global 3D view. It’s very hard to explain, but imagine for example what has been rendered mainstream now: when you think about Life, as a whole unity, you imagine all the species on the same levels, in a continous chain, and then in spiralling chains (3D) like DNA. Then it occured to me that Time is the same. Like the little bits I got from the Celts, Time is a kind of complicated form, relative and complicated, which approaches the same figure of the spiral. I can’t render any experience I made of that through words. But let’s say that when you communicate with spirits, when you journey, you kind of experience this “bend” of the course of time and space altogether.
But finally, when one comes close to any shamanic tradition, one cannot but remark that Time is essential. To me the worshipping of the Ancestors, not the direct ancestors only, but in the wide sense, the community ancestors, and then any human or spirit ancestors… is crucial, and sends us back to both Time (genealogy) and its sacredness (through myths of creation, kinship of Humans and Gods). To me it also has the same ambiguity, the link between time and space (myth about the stars, or even the myth of the DreamTime which is both temporal and spatial).
Time & Ancestors
Now, Sannion’s article managed to help me put some things very hard to intellectualize. I was preparing an article about that topic, Ancestors and the sacredness of Ancestor Worship, but I couldn’t write anything. I think now it is because I wasn’t ready. By that I mean that my reflections were too blurred, entertwined, I guess I was having trouble because there were two subjects in one in my piece. And what I’m discussing here, is one of them.
Since I’ve begun to ponder about what ancestors are, and what is ancestor worship, I’ve clarified some things, and it then occured that Time has a huge place in it. Ancestors, that is both Life and Time. Life in Time, Life through Time, and Time in Life. We have a certain duty of recognition to do, for our direct ancestors, but not only. It occurred to me that Memory is linked to these two, and is sacred. It’s a Sacred Duty to me, so Sannion’s article was just such a trigger to put it all together. As I said very briefly in my first comment on his page, the awareness and recognition of the past, of History, should enable us to learn. I think one of paganism’s most important claim is this one – well it’s a generalisation I know that, and I recognise that very few people talk about what we are discussing here openly. But to me it seems it is yet a concern : the overall yearning to be able to listen again is not only linked to Nature. To me it is wider, and we see nevertheless people turning back to land, and to “traditional knowledge”: that, my friends, means going back to what was before transmitted. If it is transmitted, it means there’s a “transmitter”. So it seems that people go back to ancestors without realising it : they look for what they feel was right and should have survived through Time, what Ancestors could have transmitted. They look for values, for knowledge, for principles… that could have been transmitted but weren’t.
Explaining my position
Now, what explains that I feel so little all the time is the simple fact that I constantly have this global, integral vision of Time. I wish I had the time to concentrate only on my spirituality because I could resume this quest for past civilisations, past periods of time, etc (which also coincided with passion for dead languages in the past : sumer hieroglyphs, egyptian hieroglyph, history of chinese hieroglyph, latin, greek, …) I wish I could resume this trip around the world and aroung time itself, the two being so closely linked in my conception.
What strikes me is that for a long while I’ve been seeing the shaman as a memory pillar but I couldn’t understand why. Now I guess I know, or at least I understand : it has to do not only with myth-making or reciting, but truly with the notion of interconnexion in/to Time, and Life. To the Ancestors, to the Spirits, and to the Past. I felt weird when I made my little experiments about Time Past and Time Future, of go-betweens, regressions, transgressions… But this is what a shaman is to me, or at least certain types of shamans, and the kind of shaman path I am to try to follow : he/she is a literal pillar, he is at the junction of worlds, both in time and space, and sometimes he/she is the junction him/herself, he creates it, he/she bends Time and Space altogether with his soul, he journeys to find it… The comprehension of Life and Time are similar and work together, what we call the “cosmic” knowledge of the shaman has to do with that. And his/her “medicine” too : he brings into the world what he looked for in and brought back from “the spiral”, lessons from spirits who all are distant ancestors in a way. Lessons caught in the web of Time and Life.
Now, with all my difficulties, and the fact that I am such a damn shaman newby, I nevertheless caught a glimpse of all that, in experience I mean. I always struggle when it comes to definitions, what is a spirit-worker, what is a shaman, damn’ why two words ? and what am I ? Recently it occurred to me that I am a pure “walker” : a walker between worlds. I’m the pillar I described earlier, the one who journeys, the one who creates the bonds, the one who Sees both the Past and Present, the one who can Live them, the one who can sends her spirit/astral body/soul forth, back or forward in time, why I am so sensitive to places (landscapes, cities)… etc. And maybe this is why I have no damn’ tradition, no damn’ name. I am just a walker, I am just the link between all these. And this why I can both live anywhere and nowhere, why I feel so different and so alone. But it seems it is my role, the messenger between worlds.
But I guess I’m just crazy.