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Ancient Ways of Knowing in Times of Massive Change By Pegi Eyers

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The rise of earth-based spirituality in recent times has been spectacular, and we have much to celebrate! Empire-building has created a toxic system of alienation and ecocide, yet movements such as biophilia and environmental justice have resisted this hegemony in thought and action. The economic model of unlimited growth isn’t working, and in the face of potential climate disaster we have been re-bonding to the land, and finding our kindred spirits in the process. At this point with the stakes so high, we are fulfilling the directive to shift the paradigm, and replace it with more ethical and sustainable ways of being. Intentionally or not, we are drawing on ancient models of tribal and village life, from eras that pre-date colonialization. Yet how much do we truly remember?

Perhaps there is a hidden code that gets activated, the further away from Empire that we stray, both metaphorically and in the immediacy of our lives. And this arc must surely change and grow as we cycle through our own passages and personal mythology. The revival of the old ways cannot be repressed, and like the perennial green fuse, continue to rise again! Our shift to eco-self, or the “neurodecolonization” of the psyche, can be challenging as we find our way to lasting change. But relinquishing our western thinking and learning to put the “we” ahead of “me” is at the heart of ancient wisdom, and pre-colonial cultures hold elements of Ancestral Mind that can benefit us today.

Here is a sampling of knowledge and values found in Indigenous philosophies, including the pre-colonial heritage(s) of Old Europe:

The Earth Our Mother

The world is a place of sacred mystery, and our relationship with the world is rooted in a profound respect for the land and all life. Humans are not above creation but part of it, and we flourish within the boundaries of the Sacred Circle. Our culture arises or is informed by the land and our bond to a particular landscape, and in this animist universe we are connected to the plants, creatures, elements and earth spirits. The love of the land is the only true wealth we have - we are part of the Earth and the Earth is part of us.

The Natural World as Blessing, and Portal to the Sacred Circle

Leaving the “buzz” of civilization behind and immersing ourselves in nature effortlessly brings us into the intuitive knowing of Ancestral Mind. Opening to the natural world and stilling our inner dialogue enables the mysterious unfolding of our hearts. Simply from being in nature we can see the world through the lens of love, and come to know that the Great Heart is the connective force in all creation. Filtered through this harmonious and beautiful space, our thoughts become allied with Earth Community. Instead of identifying with the separatist worldview of industrial civilization in body, mind or soul, we find that we are at home again in the Sacred Circle of the heart. And in fact, we have never left.

Patterns of Ancestral Mind

By reclaiming our place within (not above) Earth Community we find ourselves practicing a cyclical thinking that is based on spirit connectivity, natural processes, creativity and peace, rather than ownership or dominance. When we are physically grounded and embodied our restless mind fades, and we find ourselves vibrant and present in a field of awareness. We begin to perceive time as a spiral, and are more empathic with others. Our learning is purely experiential, as we are empowered to acquire knowledge at our own pace, and our overall self-identity is based on our own experience and self-reflection. Having earth-emergent values allows us to hold a sense of mystery, wonder and awe, and all of our intelligences are combined to fulfill our potential as a “true human being.”

Wise Elders and the Oral Tradition

Our stories and storytelling are sacred practices, as traditional narratives and songs compiled over time in our own language link us to our Ancestors and the sacred ecology of the land. Myths, poetic sagas and folklore are passed from storyteller to storyteller and bard to bard, and our most valuable origin stories, histories, memories, beliefs, insights, cultural keystones and guiding forces are embedded within our dynamic oral tradition. Sets of story “bundles” serve as valuable teaching aids for understanding different aspects of communal life such as governance, hunting, harvesting of wild foods, healing, women’s mysteries, and guidance for our children as they grow.

Reciprocity with the Land and Each Other

Our existence is sustained by expressions of gratitude such as ceremony and prayer, as we unconditionally give thanks for all life and the elements that make life possible. We are in a symbiotic relationship with the Earth, as everything we need to live a Good Life comes from the land, and our activities are intertwined with the seasons and cycles of nature. The cosmic balance is upheld when we embody the principles of reciprocity and respect, and maintain good relationships with Earth Community.

It may be hard work to remember and practice ancient ways of knowing, or to reclaim earth-rooted identity in today’s world. But we owe it to ourselves to join the worldwide circle of earth-emergent culture, and move through great change to a time of “unity in diversity” as we align ourselves with a holistic paradigm once again. The love, care, and respect we feel means that we are incapable of using nature past the carrying capacity of the land, and in the end, these are the mindful qualities that will translate into sustainable societies and well-being for all. Regaining our humanity as whole human beings living in an animistic world may be challenging, but the outcome is clear that by uncolonizing our thoughts and actions, we will protect and sustain the sacred ground of Earth Community for generations yet to come.


Pegi Eyers is the author of the award-winning book Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, a survey on social justice, nature spirituality, sacred land, the ancestral arts and the holistic principles of sustainable living. Pegi self-identifies as a Celtic Animist, and is an advocate for the recovery of authentic ancestral wisdom and traditions for all people. She lives in the countryside on the outskirts of Nogojiwanong in Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg territory (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), on a hilltop with views reaching for miles in all directions.

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