Nature Spirituality has always been essential to my life journey, and the teachings of First Nations elders and community peoples has been an important part of my learning and personal transformation. At an Elders Gathering hosted by Trent University in 2012, I heard revered Wisdom Keeper and Professor James Dumont (Anishnaabe) say that “everyone needs to get back to their own indigenous knowledge.” Like a lightning bolt from the blue, this simple statement activated a monumental set of questions about my own life, and issues in the wider society.
I found these controversies and discussions irresistible, and began a research process that spanned 3 years of inquiry, writing and great discovery. Why were my white cohort creating "fake" native identities? What were some of the more obvious delusions in New Age Spirituality? What was white privilege? Why was cultural appropriation a continuation of Settler-Colonialism? What were healthy alternatives for the non-native spiritual seeker? Where was our own European indigenous knowledge located? Why were Americans and Canadians so disconnected from their Ancestors? Why were indigenous epistomologies better than western ways of thinking? What could we do as social justice activists, and is reconciliation with First Nations even possible? What does it mean to step back from the trajectory of Empire, and find more sustainable solutions both for ourselves, our communities, and the land itself?
When James Dumont said that “everyone needs to get back to their own indigenous knowledge," of course he was making a statement on the appropriation of First Nations cultural and spiritual property by non-natives, but he was also giving us a great blessing, by implying that we can access our own indigenous knowledge from our own traditions. I was driven to elaborate on these important and timely themes, and advanced my own personal knowledge in the process. I will be forever indebted to James Dumont for inspiring me to write Ancient Spirit Rising and present it to the world.
As I was writing Ancient Spirit Rising I began to realize that having a spiritual focus in life included social and environmental justice, and by not engaging in activism on behalf of oppressed peoples and the other-than-human world we are not reaching our full potential. In the rich environment of cultural pluralism that exists in the Americas today, taking responsibility for our privilege and the history of Settler-Colonialism will go far in establishing mutual respect and peaceful co-existence between all peoples. By increasing our solidarity and allyship with Turtle Island First Nations (our “co-existence in co-resistance”) Ancient Spirit Rising offers diverse strategies for healing the colonizer/colonized divide.
Discovering alternatives to common misconceptions, reversing the racism of cultural appropriation, and developing skills for intercultural competency are all positive and empowering practices. Working for peace and justice is essential to personal and planetary healing, as is the directive to re-enchant and rebalance the world with a massive injection of holistic principles promoting biophilia and spiritual ecology. Essential to re-rooting ourselves as eco-centric peoples is to fall in love with the Earth again, and to revere the elements, manifestations and creatures in the natural world as sacred. “You cannot destroy that which you love.”
As we take on our cultural recovery project, there are a wide range of earth-connected spiritual traditions already in place that center on our European Old Ways. Although I advocate for specific ethnocultural paths such as Gaelic Traditionalism, Old Norse Traditions, Hellenic Polytheism, Religio Romana (ancient Rome) or Baltic/ Romuva Spirituality (for example), the renaissance of reconstructionist paths such as Druidry, the Avalon Tradition, Neo-Paganism, Wicca and Matriarchal Studies is good news indeed, and contemporary nature-based spiritualities such as Animism and Ecomysticism hold elements of both ancient and modern practice. Becoming part of a specific ancestral group can give us a firm foundation, and a place to turn for spiritual guidance, cultural values and familial connection. If we are the lucky ones who know the details of our heritage, how beautiful and how honoring of ourselves and our Ancestors to re-create our specific traditions to the best of our ability!
Pegi Eyers is the author of "Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community," a new book that explores strategies for neurodecolonization, rejecting Empire, social justice, ethnocultural identity, Apocalypse Studies, building land- emergent community & resilience in times of massive change.