On being a Social Primate

I am a human. I am Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Primates, Family Hominidae, Genus Homo, Species Homo sapiens sapiens. My species is alone in its genus–has been alone for many thousands of years–but our lost genus-mates live on in our genes. They certainly live on in mine.

I am a human of European descent. I am fourth-generation Czech, third-generation German, and third-generation Irish on my father’s side. My mother’s side of the family can be traced back to the second ship of settlers that came to North America from England; her side of the family is English and Irish and French and Welsh and Scottish… But because I have such strong European ancestry, it is a given that I have genes from the lost species Homo neanderthalensis–the Neanderthal.

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On being Human

Saturday was Earth Day, and the March for Science in DC. As someone for whom science is basically a religion, I naturally had to attend.

I woke up that morning feeling absolutely electric. I had dreamed of being at the Cliffs, and–upon exiting the forest onto the beach–finding a flawless Megalodon tooth the size of my palm resting atop the sand, as if waiting for me to find it. I took this to be a message from my most ancient ancestors, particularly Ancestor Megalodon, who seems to speak for all of them these days: We are with you; go with our blessing.

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Swimming with Sharks

I often see tumblr pagans bemoaning the fact that gods rarely seem content to come alone. You invite one in, and they hold the door open for half the pantheon. Gods you never really considered worshiping are suddenly hovering behind you, pestering you for offerings and altars, sending you subtle signs on the radio and through pictures on the internet. As someone who has (for the time being) parted ways with the gods, this gave me a chuckle.

Until my most ancient ancestors started doing it.

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The Trouble with Trilos, Pt. III

So far in analyzing Sara Anne Lawless’ blog post “Ancestral Altars & Rituals“, I’ve taken a close look at how she says one should prepare an altar and shrine for one’s ancestors and how to create vessels for their spirits to inhabit while visiting. While she’s certainly made some good points, I’ve found that few of them fit in with the practice I’m trying to create here, and so have come up with my own substitutions.

In this last post, I’ll be looking at a ritual she offers for consecrating the vessels one has made for the ancestral spirits.

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The Trouble with Trilos, Pt. II

In my last post, I began an analysis of Sarah Anne Lawless’ post “Ancestral Altars and Rituals“, discussing her recommendations for setting up a shrine for one’s ancestors and how they related to my own practice. In this post, I will take a closer look at another section of that same post, which deals with the construction and function of what she refers to as “spirit vessels”.

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The Trouble with Trilos, Pt. I

Thanks to mankind’s insatiable hunger for knowledge about what Other People do and believe, there is a lot of readily-available information out there on different ancestor veneration traditions. The practice of showing due reverence to those who have gone before is widespread, diverse, and–unlike those at its core–very much alive in today’s world. And, as I mentioned in my last post, it’s all rather focused on an individual’s human ancestors, which makes things a little difficult for me.

That is the trouble with Trilo[bite]s: Not too many people would consider them “ancestors”, much less ancestors to be prayed to and honored with offerings.

With today’s post, I’d like to examine one blogger’s post about how to properly honor one’s [human] ancestors, deconstruct it, and use it to help build up my own practice. As a disclaimer, I am not saying that this blogger’s views are necessarily wrong or right, but rather I am analyzing them and seeing how they might relate to my veneration of my most ancient ancestors. As such, this post will be a bit longer than previous ones, and will be broken down into several parts.

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Fire and Water: Offering to my Ancient Ancestors

I’m doing some spring cleaning in my room today, and part of that cleaning involves turning my nightstand into an actual, proper, official shrine to my evolutionary ancestors. While working on it, I got to thinking about how I was going to set up and “use” this shrine, which of course means thinking about how I was going to make offerings to these ancestors.

In many traditions, part and parcel of ancestor veneration is making offerings to the spirits of the ancestors being honored. The types of offerings made vary from culture to culture, with some offering food and drink items (such as in Korean jesa ceremonies or the Mexican Día de los Muertos) to the spirits of those gone before, and others offering physical objects (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial comes to mind).

Obviously, as we are humans honoring humans there, it’s easy to know what to offer: human things. We offer those ancestors human foods they might have enjoyed, human drinks they might be missing, human possessions that might have great meaning to them. In this way, we show them that they are not forgotten, that we love them, and that we want them to be happy.

My path involves honoring some very non-human spirits, and this is why I want to really think about what I’m trying to do here.

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