The idea of indigeny is one that, several years ago, I felt I had no right to. I have loved Native American myth, particularly of the medicine men and women, the various Gods and spirits, since I was a child. When I announced to my 1st grade teacher I wanted to be a shaman, her response crushed any idea that I could be an indigenous person for a long while until I reconsidered it a few years ago. Not only could I not be Native American, or indigenous anything, I couldn’t be a shaman either. Until Odin flipped the latter notion on its head, I did not come back to considering the topic of indigeny at all.
Monotheism has killed the idea of indigeny for a good many of us that we had an indigenous anything. This foreign religion swooped over many a Pagan land, and took with it their individual cultures, replacing them systematically with a maladaptive, singular religion. It wiped out many of our understandings of our Gods, pushed survivors to break their oaths to our Gods, and what little has mercifully survived in many corners of the world has been unable to come to us untainted by Christian scholars. Very few modern Pagan pathways have much more than a generation or two of practicing Pagans, so it is a small wonder that many of us, converting from Christianity, have a hard time approaching, much less adopting the idea of indigeny. Those of us who are not converts, at least in the United States, cannot escape the influence of white Protestant Christianity that has made a good amount of the backbone of this country’s history. Yet, if we are to actually pass on our Pagan ways, I think reclaiming our indigeny is the only way forward.
In many ways this involves killing the modern concept of the soul. In my own path the soul is not simply the ego-Me, but the community-Us, and a good many other parts to it that extend well and truly beyond myself. It is not a separation of body and soul, either; the two are linked. My lich (body) is as holy as my önd (breath, life force) and is as much a part of my soul as my maegen (personal power grown by keeping oaths, one’s word, etc.) and hamingja (similar to maegen, but grown with community) and just as holy. The traditional dichotomies and binaries simply do not wash. To reclaim one’s indigeny, I feel you have to first reclaim your soul. Coming to understand your soul as more than your flesh, more than your mind and yet they are part of your soul is sometimes a hard thing, especially with the idea of Descartes” Cogito ergo sum’ firmly ingrained into our minds from an early age “I think therefore I am.” The dichotomy between mind and body is inculcated early, and it takes some work to shake this off.
Part and parcel of killing the soul and reviving it in our indigenous ways is recognizing and engaging our own creation myths. When I meditate as a tree for grounding and centering nowadays, that is not only me imitating, perhaps on a spiritual level even mimicking or becoming a tree. As a Northern Tradition and Heathen Pagan, when I become a tree either in meditation or other things, I am heralding back to Ask and Embla, the two trees from which all humanity springs when Odin, Vili, and Ve gave us our features from two trees that wash up before them on a shore. I am, on a very primal, Ancestral level, directly related to the ground I stand on, the garden I grow my food from, the house I live in, and the world at large in which I live.
Think about that: we are directly related to the trees. We are directly related to the world on which we stand.
Our Ancestors were the trees, blessed by Gods. I am a Son of Odin.
These are revolutionary thoughts, and bear meditating on all their own. These may be posts I consider down the road. The point is, is that by reviving the soul in indigeny, the separation that monotheism places between Creation and Creator, the Created and Co-Creators, is in many respects gone. We are descended from the very land we live on, and many of our old bloodlines (Englanders anyone?) claimed descent from Gods. Our Gods, landvaettir, Ancestors, all of us, are part of this and other worlds.
Another part of killing the modern conception of the soul is destroying the separation of mind and body. We cannot. Our bodies are made to be integrated with our minds, and vice versa. Our minds regularly react to stimuli, real or imagined, that the body provides it, from shivers in the cold to dancing around hopping and cursing when we stub a toe. Our body is a great big sensory organ; it provides us an immense amount of information, from pressure to temperature, closeness to color and so much more. If our bodies are not nourished, our minds wither. The same goes for the mind. We truly do need affection and stimulation to survive well as much as we need good, healthy, reliable amounts of food. Food is sacred, love is sacred, raising children (as well as remaining child-free) is sacred. Expanded one’s horizons is sacred, as is meditating, as is doing arithmetic, science, or any number of intellectual pursuits. This world, and we, are brimming with holiness if we would but see it, let it in, allow it to suffuse us. If we enter into right relationship with ourselves, we will be able to enter into right relationship with this world.
We can revive our indigenous ways. When we honor our Ancestors, the Dead, the landvaettir, other spirits and the Gods, in so many ways we are, step-by-step, rebuilding our indigeny. By interfacing with our Ancestors, Dead, spirits, and Gods, and learning from Them, we can learn ways in which our indigeny can thrive now. We can reclaim, revitalize, and revive the indigeny that each of us has the ability to lay hold of, claim, and hold close. Thank the Gods.