Manage episode 344391287 series 2634748
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Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science Based Paganism. I'm one of your hosts, Yucca
Mark: I’m the other one, Mark.
Yucca: and today we are talking about ancestors. So it's an appropriate time of year for that, I think any time of year, but as we approach what some people call Halloween Hollow sa. This is something that's on a lot of people's minds.
Mark: Right, Right. This is the time of year when we think about those who are departed, who are no longer with us. And as well as contemplating our own mortalities we talked about last week.
Mark: And it's a good time to sort of sit with who are our ancestors? Who do we, you know, who do we feel connected to in the way of ancestry?
And then of course to have observances at this time of year. Vary from culture to culture, but it's very frequent that at this time of year people are doing some sort of the des MUTOs or some other kind of acknowledgement of relatives who have passed on or, or other ancestral recognitions. So the next thing for us to think about really is what do we mean when we talk about an ancestor, right? I mean, it's kind of a fuzzy word. Maybe we should start by exploring how ancestor. Observance veneration recognition fits into paganism as a whole. And maybe where some of that comes from. I mean, one of the theories that I find pretty credible, honestly as a non theist Pagan one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is, where did these ideas of Gods come from,
Mark: Because they're all over the place. and one of the prevailing theories for where the Gods came from is that they were originally stories about ancestors. They were stories about heroic activities or other other personality traits of particular figures from history that were actually real people, right. And then their stories got more and more embellished over time until, you know, the guy who did a great job on the Mastodon hunt ends up throwing lightning bolts from the sky. You know, that's kind of the way, it's the way human storytelling works.
Yucca: Yeah. And I think that it's, it's easy for us to forget how long we've been around for.
Yucca: On the one hand it's very short in, in kind of the grand scheme of things, but how many generations of humans there's been, And then of course we'll get into this later, but the, you know, before we were even humans, so how many, you know, 20, 30, just for that transformation, The Mastodon hunt to, you know, lightning bolts, but there's, we're talking hundreds, thousands of generations of people telling stories.
Mark: Right, and it's not like they only tell them once a generation, This is one of the reasons why culture and technology. Evolves so much more quickly than biology does, right? Because those are informational and information can, can morph really quickly.
Yucca: Did you ever play the the game telephone?
Mark: Oh yeah.
Yucca: Right. That's a really fun one to do, and you, that's, you watch that happen every day, with in real time, real life. But it's just such a great, even with a small group of people for anyone who's not familiar, you have one person tells somebody, whisper. This is great with a group of kids, whisper something to the next person and then they whisper it to the person next to them, next to them, and then at the end, the last person says it out loud.
And you see how much it changed from the first person to the last person.
Mark: Right, and this is when they're trying to get it. Right. Everybody is trying to transfer the information correctly, and even with a small group, a small little circle of people, what comes out at the end can be really hilariously different than what was originally said to the first person.
Mark: You know,
Yucca: what you're, with, what you're talking about, when we do it on lifetimes with stories that have emotional meanings to people, you know, It's going to change based on the teller, but what's happening in the lives of these people at the time, the stage of their life. I mean, so much changes over just a lifetime.
But then over cultures, as those cultures evolve and change,
Mark: Sure, Sure. Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, it's like maybe the guy with the Mastodon who turned into the hurler of lightning bolts from the sky. Maybe that particular figures story doesn't have anything. It doesn't have anything particular to do with getting through times that are hard and adversity and that kind of thing.
But when there are times of adversity, you can bet somebody will make up a story about that figure that has to do with how they survived hard times because people need that story then, and we create the stories we need in order to get through the times we.
Yucca: Right. Or not even, you know, just completely make it up, but slightly shift a little bit of the interpretation of the previous version of the story and not even know that they're doing it
Mark: Sure. Yeah, exactly. And, and there's nothing there's nothing devious about it. It's, it's not like anybody, you know, ever probably intended to deceive anybody. But these stories evolve. They evolve to become the stories we need. Right? And that, that's the nature of human storytelling. You know, we can see that in the kinds of movies that get produced.
We can see it in the kinds of books that are popular. They are, they are the stories that are needed at that particular time.
Yucca: Yeah. So I like that idea a lot. I think it's probably not the only part to it, but I think it's a, an interesting component, right.
Yucca: I think that there's also a that this, the honoring of, of ancestors and even as far as ancestor worship is something very common throughout the world. There's lots of different groups that do it, and I think some of that comes from simply a place of originally of, of gratitude and recognition of how much we have received from.
Whoever ancestors are, which we should talk about in a moment, but that, you know that we come from them and they worked hard, and without their hard work, we wouldn't be here.
Yucca: Literally, very, very literally would not be here,
Mark: Sure. So that gratitude in that veneration is deserved.
Mark: There are also darker aspects to it, For example, Plugging people into a system of ancestor veneration is a pretty good way to keep them obedient to their family.
Yucca: It is.
Mark: It's a way, it's a way for their, their particular clan group or familial structure, whatever it is, to have a lot of influence over their lives.
And what ends up happening in cultures that have very strong traditions of ancestor veneration is of course, that the elderly hold tremendous amounts of.
Mark: they're on their wage boards becoming ancestors.
Yucca: Mm-hmm. or are depending on how you are looking at an ancestor. Right. They're not, they're not gone yet, but they are those who came before. Right. You know, I don't know if you, I'm guessing you probably were told many times as a kid, respect your elders. Right. That's something pretty common in our, our culture.
Mark: I don't know that I was encouraged to respect anybody rather than my father when I was a kid. But I'm, I'm an
Yucca: you didn't, didn't have any, you know, folks who lived on the same street as you, who got mad when you. You know, doing something loud or talking back to a teacher or something like that. And we're told to respect, We're told to respect your elders.
Mark: Oh, I imagine. I probably was, I just can't think of an example right now.
Yucca: We just didn't take it serious. They just forgot it.
Mark: Well, yeah, it's, for whatever reason, I'm just not, I'm not remembering an instance of that right now.
Yucca: Maybe it's a regional thing as well.
Mark: Could be. Yeah, it could be. But when I was a kid you still called adults, Mr. And Miss and Mrs. And that's how you were introduced to them.
Yucca: Well, that's still a regional thing though.
Mark: is it?
Yucca: Yeah, that's, I think that has to do with what part of the, at least, at least within the United States, what part of the country you're in.
Mark: So ancestors very important part of the practice of many Pagan traditions particularly at this time of year. But we should talk more about what we think of when we individually, what you and I think of when we think of ancestors and what our orientation to those is. You wanna start?
Yucca: Yeah, I mean this is, this is a. Interesting area cuz we can go in a couple of different directions with it. One is you know, my line of the people who made me right. So we can start with, Okay. My parents, their parents, their parents on and on back. And I tend to think of my ancestors as being anyone who was in that line.
There's only. Who's alive out of that? So my father's alive my mother and all four grandparents, et cetera. You know, they're not but I kind of still think of my father as being, you know, one of my ancestors. I wouldn't, I wouldn't say necessarily he's one of my ancestors, right? One of the ancestors but I also think about that going beyond. The humans
Yucca: if we go far enough back then my grandmothers weren't human,
Yucca: We go back and we were, some were still apes, some other kind of ape. Before that we weren't apes and keep going, you know, we were little furry creatures curring around when the asteroid hit and keep going back and back and fish.
Yucca: And all the way back to what gets called Luca, right? The last universal common ancestor. But actually that's the last universal. That doesn't mean that that was the start, right? And I, I just really love thinking about how there is an unbroken chain of life. You know, there's all of these arguments going on about when life starts and all of that and, but life hasn't stopped.
I mean, it will eventually. Right. We talked about that. Right? Like it's gonna stop in me, but the, but, but the cells that are me were made out of the cell. Out of a cell that was in my mother. That and her cells were made and her mother made in another and just keep, It's just so amazing to think about.
It's just kept going and going and it's not had my consciousness in it,
Yucca: but it's been there.
Mark: It's like a relay race lighting torches, right? You know, you run a certain distance with this torch and then you light the torch of the next runner, and that runner keeps going until they get to the next runner. So asking the question, when is, when did the fire start? Becomes a really thorny issue, right?
It's like, well, my fire started in 1962, but the fire started a long, long, long, long way before that.
Yucca: But did it start in 62? Like that's, you know, because what is the, you that started, I mean, you were born in 62, right? But what is the you part of that? Like, are you, you know, was you the, the egg that was in your grandmother? Right. The egg that you, that ended up becoming you. Your mother was born with that.
Mark: That's right.
Yucca: Right. You know, so going back with that, but, but that was her right? Or was it you? You know, all of that. But that's where I love that, how blurry it becomes where the identities just a blur. And I know some people are gonna have very strong feelings about the answer to that. About, no, you are this moment or that moment, or you know, and in
Mark: mostly out of a desire to control people and take away women's autonomy. Let us
Yucca: yeah, let's be that, That's definitely one of the, the major factors right now. But, but for me, setting all of that whole very important side of it aside for a moment, there's this blurry line of this, this continuation of. Life and beings who, who have come to this moment. That's me. But it's also, I, I get very inspired and kind of delighted thinking about, oh, well I'm part of that though.
I'm a, I'm gonna be an, I'm gonna be one of the ancestors, right? Life continues and. We know long after I'm gone, there's presumably, right, We never know what, what the future actually holds, but presumably there's gonna be thousands of people, millions that I'm an ancestor to, and that's kind of inspiring.
Mark: Yeah. Of course that isn't true of me because I'm not having children.
Yucca: Well, that. On a genetic level. But on a cultural level, that's another thing to explore with the idea of ancestor, right?
Yucca: ancestors, not necessarily dna.
Mark: right. And that's, that's something that is very true of my practice when I, when I think about, you know, venerating. People or features of the past. I, for one thing, I go directly to what you talk about in the way of thinking about, you know, very early evolution and you know, the tetrapods that flopped up onto land and, you know, all those kind of wonderful steps that life has made on its way and venerating all of that, but also about, Figures from history that I find admirable and worthy of emulation.
And I may not be in any way related to them on a genetic level, but I still feel like culturally they've influenced me. And so they qualify as ancestors and I certainly hope to be. Seen that way. You know, with the development of atheopagan and that kind of thing, I mean, it, it it doesn't need to circulate around my name at all, but if, if the ideas are worthy and people find them useful and they perpetuate, then to me that's something that's really valuable and I would feel like I was an ancestor of.
Yucca: Yeah. Mmm. and the idea of ancestors. Some of us know the actual names of people going back for many generations, and some of us don't. But, but the, the concept of ancestor doesn't necessarily have to have a name attached, Right? Yeah.
Mark: Right. Yeah. I mean, on my father's side, I actually know. the way back to almost the 16th century because I descend from people who are on the Mayflower and those people have been heavily researched. There's a lot of information about them. But as it happens, the particular people that I'm descended from, Were the daughter of two people who died almost instantly upon reaching the the Americas and an indentured servant
So they were sort of not particularly impressive people. And as I've studied the history of the people who descend from them, there's just been this tremendous. Uninteresting nature of my family for 12 generations in the Americas.
Yucca: But you. We, we often focus on, in history on like these, what we call great people, right? The great men of history, but most people simply are people and the amazing, beautiful moments in our lives. Those, those don't get written down and have stories told about them, but they're still, that's what we get.
Those are the things that really, that I think really matter, right? Not necessarily that they were some great businessmen or you know, they led a war or you know, anything like that.
Mark: no, I, I, I don't disagree at all, although I do find it a little appalling that nobody in my family bothered to go west.
Yucca: Hmm. But do you know that? Well, nobody in your direct line,
Mark: Nobody in. Well,
Yucca: it branches off
Mark: of course it does. Yeah. And there's a, there's a giant volume called the Greens of Plymouth Colony that, that actually goes as far as my grandfather as a baby.
Mark: in, it was published in 1913, and my grandfather is in the book as a.
Mark: And so it has these, all these lines, all these lineages of, of the, the various greens and boswick and all the people who, you know, got involved with them. And it's just really remarkable to me. These people showed up in New England and just kinda stayed my, my grandparents made it as far as New Jersey.
And then in retirement moved to Colorado and that's where my father was raised. And then he came to California. But all of that happened just in the last generation.
Mark: And it surprises me, not that I think that, you know, manifest destiny and colonialism and settling and all that kind of stuff was good cuz I don't, But were a lot of people that were taking advantage of those opportunities at that time, and none of them seemed to find it. They, they either didn't have the courage or they just didn't, They were happy where they were.
Yucca: It. It seems to me like it might be tricky. I've impressed at how much you've been able to do because you do have a more common last name. So there, I would imagine that there are multiple different groups of that. All the greens in the states aren't one big family. Right. They're actually lots and lots of different families because that's a, you know last names that are colors seem like a pretty common kind of name to go to.
Mark: right. I'm very fortunate that this book was published in 1913. This, this gene who was a part of the family. He researched all the birth records and the marriage records and the death records and the, I mean, he just did this exhaustive work that must have taken him decades and then published this book, and it was available as a, as a free PDF download.
The whole thing was scanned as a part of what is it? Google. Google Library? Is that what it's. There's a, there's a huge free archive of books that Google has that are like,
Yucca: That are in the public
Mark: that are in the public domain. This book probably didn't have more than a hundred copies printed cuz it was a privately published thing.
Yucca: somebody scanned it and put it up.
Mark: and there it is. And I have the pdf so I've been able to piece together a lot of things from that there.
Mark: But it stops abruptly because there's not very much known about the first William Green. Who first who first came, He was not on the Mayflower, but he came like four years later or something like that, and then married into the Mayflower families.
Yucca: Oh, cuz it the because of the changing of the names,
Yucca: Right? Okay. Yeah. The paternal line. Hmm.
Mark: so, well, anyway, there's your tension for the day, the, the bland vanilla history of Mark Green's ancestry. The but so why don't we talk a little bit about how we fold this stuff into our observances.
Yucca: Hmm. Now I, before we do, I do wanna add one other angle that we can come at Ancestry from. So we've been talking about the, the, you know, who came before. Whether that's a, like a cultural or genetic ancestor. But I think that this is a place where we can also add in the idea of what other life came before that made ours possible that isn't, you know, genetic line.
That isn't something that we inherited from, but all of the life. Makes life now possible, right? When
Mark: All the, the food that
Yucca: the food Yeah. Every, you know, the, how many millions upon millions of living things that we have consumed, regardless of whatever your dietary choices are, we all. Other living things, right?
Nobody lives on salt alone. So , that's how many lives those were. And for those lives to be the lives that had to come, that supported them. That supported them. And when, when we look around at Earth, and, and we'll talk more about this when we talk about the decomposition, but when we look out, we're used to seeing soil, right?
Yucca: Soil is kind of a new thing. This planet is a big rock. So soil is a mixture of, yeah, it's got rock in there, but it was made by living things and it's the bodies of living things. And from that other living things came up. And just knowing that, that the moment in life that we are in this moment of being part of Earth is.
Because of, and now we're talking about the trillions upon trillions of life that each had their little moment before us to create the system that we are now part of and continuing on.
Mark: Right? Yeah. And all of that to think about. It's really kind of all inspiring. As you say, we'll talk about this when we talk about decomposition in a couple of weeks, but the, the miraculous thing that life does is it takes dead stuff and turns it alive. It assembles it into things that are alive.
It's alive itself and it takes dead stuff and it assembles it into stuff that's alive. And that sounds pretty simple, but when you think about it, we are still not able to do that. We,
Yucca: well we do
Mark: we're working on it.
Yucca: we can't do it outside of the context that already is happening. Right? Because we certainly as living creatures, That's what we do. That's what we're doing when we're eating and breathing and
Mark: I meant like in a laboratory, we, you know, we, we can't artificially create organisms. We can tinker with organisms, we can do all kinds of genetic modifications now.
Mark: But it still has to have that initial operating. Quality of life.
Yucca: Yeah, which is just pretty amazing.
Mark: It is.
Yucca: And even the tinkering that we're doing is just kind of borrowing other life that does it anyways to do it
Mark: Right, right. Yeah. It's, it's not like we're starting with jars of, of raw, pure chemicals and assembling. Maybe someday we'll be able to do that. Maybe someday we will be able to,
Yucca: Figure that out and
Mark: to assemble DNA chains from nothing. You know, just, just from plain peptides. You assemble the peptides and then you, you know, put the nucleotides with the peptides and, you know, put them all together into the proper ladder and create something. But considering how much can go wrong in genetic design, probably the thing we'll be doing more than anything else is just copying copying life that already exists rather than actually making something new.
Mark: So, let's talk about rituals, cuz we like to talk about ritual. This is, this time of year is a great time for it. I see you have a little pumpkin back there in the back of your room, so
Yucca: I do, I love penins. They, I love 'em so much. Yeah. On a tangent note, we have a trampoline and we're going to try to grow. Pumpkins underneath the trampoline in this coming year, and the kids are really excited about that.
Mark: that's cool. So keeps the sun from beating on the.
Yucca: yeah. And we can, we can fence it in
Mark: Oh yeah. Keep all the
Yucca: the Yes, because we, we'd like to you know, we want to grow to share with them as well, but they, you have to cover it up to give it long enough so that the, the Sprout can actually.
Do anything. If you don't cover it up here, you know the moment those first little baby leaves poke out, then you, you come back and they're gone. So,
Mark: We actually have something like that here, just on my back patio. We had a whole patch of basil and the rats love the basil, so they come and they eat all of it. We see rats out there. And Amaya gets really annoyed even though she had pet rats for years and loves the rats. But But that's outside.
It's not inside. There's nothing we can do about trying to control the rat population of the greater Sonoma County area.
Yucca: Hmm. Well, we, I thought, Okay, I will plant some stuff in the yard and we have to water everything. Like planting is a big commitment. And I went, Well, what am I gonna plant that the squirrels and chipmunks and all of that aren't going to eat? So, okay, I'll plant something that has a real strong smell like min.
Mint is often used to keep rodents away. So we plant it, we grew 'em inside and we transplant them outside. And then like an hour later we look outside the window and they have ripped the mint up and are eating the roots and throwing away the leaves. So, Well, Okay.
Yucca: we'll, we'll have to cover it.
Mark: Barbara King solver writes a wonderful story about how. She and her family moved to somewhere in the southwest. I think it may have been, it may have been in New Mexico, actually. And she was putting in a garden and she had this idea that, well, okay, I'm I'll, I'll over plant everything so that there's some for the wild critters that are gonna get it, but I'll get some too.
And of course all of it went.
Mark: Because they don't make that deal.
Yucca: They don't, No. I mean, I still plant like that. What is the old, There's a whole lovely little rhyme about, it's like one for the rabbit, one for the house, one for the something, one for the mouse, or, you know, So you're supposed to plant four or five times. But yeah, you, they'll, there's just so little That is that lovely herbacious, fresh green.
They just want it.
Yucca: So if you're gonna plant outside, you cover it. You have to put your little pins on it. So we still love them though. They're wonderful. We love their little drama, but that is not a ritual. So let's return to
Mark: let's, Yes. Okay. This has been your tension
Yucca: Yes. It's been your tangent for our episode. Yep.
Mark: So. I actually have an, it may be sort of a surprise because I am not particularly invested in my personal recent lineage ancestors, but I have an underworld focus. That's a part of my, my, my focus. My alter is a bookcase, and the bottom two shelves are full of supplies, you know, lots of fancy jars and incense.
Toro cards and stuff like that. The and above that is a shelf that is the underworld, and there are pictures of people that I've known who have died and cave paintings from France, you know, the old Paleolithic Cave paintings and bones, and a very high quality cast of a human skull. And my human femur.
And other sort of deaf imagery, you know, stuff, skulls and bones and all that kind of stuff. And then above that I, there's a, a double high shelf. I took out one of the shelves to make kind of an open area where, which is the upper world, which is the world and the cosmos and all the beautiful, amazing, cool stuff.
Yucca: That's where like the seasonal things will go and the, Yeah.
Mark: the seasonal things go. The little section for evolution and the section for science and the section for music and creativity and all that kind of stuff. So I have this underworldy space that I celebrate all year round. And I have, I have, there's a thing on there that belonged to my grandfather and. Something, some fossils that sort of speak to deep time ancestry. And I find particularly at this time of year that lighting the candle on there and acknowledging the Sacred Dead is really an important, meaningful thing to me. I, I find it more impactful this year than. Around the rest of the time of year.
Yucca: Mm, It's beautiful.
Mark: So how about you? How about the kinds of things that you do with ancestry in your observances?
Yucca: Hmm. Well, like a lot of things, we really try and integrate it into our whole lives, right? The, the holidays are, are special and extra to, for an extra focus to help us kind of remember about it. But you know, with the naming of the children, they, they have names that. That are, you know, tied back to old, you know, I have an old family name and we gave an old family, you know, old family name to the kids.
Their last names are actually a, a mixture, like a port man toe of our last names because we didn't wanna do. We didn't want to continue what felt like a weird kind of tradition of like the wife and children belonging to the husband kind of thing. Right.
Mark: And Hyphenation just doesn't work for more than one generation.
Yucca: it doesn't, and it, it just ends up with the same problem that you're still having to choose from one family or the other, Which do you pass on? Right. So we just, and we just mixed it together and it's a lovely name and it completely sounds like. You know, and like a name from the, the kind of heritage that we come from, or the ones that we look cuz we're extremely mixed mixed background.
But, but there are certain sides that we kind of identify more with. But like a lot of families, we have you know, photos up of the, the recent family members that we have photos. So there's in the kitchen we. My let's see. So my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. So a line of, of all of them together.
So we've got that, that kind of thing. But this time of year is also the time where we're thinking about ancestry and, and we make a point of kind of changing what sorts of documentaries we're watching. We like to put documentaries on in the evenings. Not every night, but that's the sort of thing that, you know, maybe three nights out of the week there'll be a documentary that we all watch together.
And so we'll watch things about, you know, early humans or neanderthals or evolution and that kind of stuff. This time of year. addition to all of the wonderful halloweeny looking things,
Yucca: But we'll talk, we'll get more into that. So, but really it's a, just a normal remembrance of them.
Mark: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Yeah. That's great. So I, I know that for for. A lot of people, they don't have a sort of standing recognition of their ancestors. And so this time of year becomes a time when they'll set up a focus with pictures of ancestors and, you know, offerings.
Yucca: of theirs.
Mark: Things that belong to them. Offerings of things like flowers.
Depending on their tradition, sometimes alcohol sugar, you know, candies and cookies, things like that.
Yucca: Buy them a pack of cigarettes, you know that if they were smokers kind of thing. Yeah.
Mark: Well, yeah, and that kind of gets into a whole other tradition around offerings of tobacco, which is a whole other,
Yucca: That too. Yeah, that's a
Mark: that, that that's a huge thing. So, be interesting to hear from our listeners about how they are acknowledging ancestry and what kinds of things they're putting into their seasonal celebrations this year.
I mean, obviously we're still, you know, on the long tail end of a very serious global pandemic and a lot of people have gone Over the course of the last two years or so. And so there's been a lot of loss. There's been a lot of grief, and this is the time of year when we, we tend to kind of face up to that and, and recognize recognize our mortality as we talked about last week.
So, drop us a line. We're at the Wonder Podcast Qs. The Wonder Podcast cues at gmail.com and send us your questions, send us updates on, you know, send us a picture of your, your ancestor altar. We'd love to see it.
Yucca: That's always fun. Yeah. So, and we really do love preparing from you, so thank.
Mark: Yeah. We're, we're so grateful for our listeners. There's still this part of me that's very, very skeptical that every time I look at these, the download figures, I'm like, Geez, are people actually listening to this thing But it appears that a lot of you are, and I could not be more pleased. I'm, I'm so glad that this is something that you choose to have in your life because your time, as we talked about last week, is the most precious thing you have and that you choose to spend some of it with us is really a great gift.
Yucca: Yeah. We're just so grateful for all of you. Oh, thank you,
Mark: So we'll be talking about Halls or Halloween or Saan whatever you want to all Saint Steve whatever you want to call it next week, and talking about rituals for that and all that sort of wonderful spooky celebration stuff.
Mark: And we look forward to talking with you again then.
Yucca: All right.
Mark: Have a great week.
Yucca: Bye everyone.