Rebuilding Tribes

Sometimes, when people hear the word ‘tribe’ they think of people in ancient history or perhaps modern indigenous people today. Many folks imagine that the word tribe or even the concept of tribe somehow doesn’t apply to them.

But look at it this way:

Out of the time humans have spent here on this world there have been what we call modern humans for around two hundred thousand years. The kind of creature we are based from has been around for something like a million years or so. In geological terms it’s not a long time but on a terrestrial surface for a single species it’s a considerable amount of tick-tocks. And during that time these creatures who would-become-human or the ones who actually were homo Sapiens, Sapiens were very tribal creatures. So when you think about it, on the grand scale of things, we humans have been tribal animals for well over 99.9999% of our existence.

Tribalism is hard wired into us. Like it or not such a thing is difficult to escape. Anthropologists theorize that humans evolved as they did; survived as they did in harsh environments, primarily due to two things: Increased mental capacity and the ability to cooperate in groups.

Kin groups.

These kin groups later expanded in some cases to include persons from outside the bloodline – mostly through individuals finding a mate outside the group and later for land/resource/defensive alliances.

This all worked very well for a very long time.

And then some evil geniuses (and I don’t mean this in a cool way) decided that the power of the clan and the tribe was resisting their dreams of a vast slave empire.  But in this new slave empire they didn’t want the slaves to really know they were slaves. No, they wanted the serfs to live in the illusion of freedom, always having the carrot of wealth and happiness dangled in front of them.

But how to get people to come willingly into this new type of high tech slavery?

They had to get them to leave the sanctuary of their family lands and from their family/tribal circles and venture into the cities – where the grim factories and their elusive dreams awaited.

Promises of wealth and plenty were the carrots. War was used too and all kinds of other inducements….

Divide and conquer is a very old tactic. This is exactly what the slave-masters of the industrial age realized – and what the corporate and government herd dogs of today understood. They have been using it to control the masses and to power their world-killing industrial machines ever since.

Their particular sleight-of-hand, started in the beginning of the industrial revolution, was the Lie known as the ‘Nuclear Family’. Let’s get mom and pop away from their larger family network so that they have little or now support mechanism. Let’s lure them away from their family lands (we’ll steal those later) and get pops (and later, mom too) laboring in the factories under the delusion that they will actually get ahead and become successful. Let’s convince these folks (and through our manipulation of the education system) their descendants that our way is the best way. Enough of this foolish old tribalism. It gets in the way of ‘progress’.

And so it has gone on for decades and centuries now. And look what it has done to the Earth.

Look what it has done to the individual human being.

Nothing but bad things my friends.

And yet you can see it if you look carefully: Most human beings are very social animals. They want to feel needed; they want to belong to something larger than themselves. What do you think neighborhood groups are? What do you think social groups, sororities and fraternities, or even street gangs are?  They are the result of human beings wanting to go back home to a sense of tribe.

In modern times – especially in the age of the internet, access to information and to other people is unprecedented (as far as we know. History is replete with mistakes and misinformation). People have been using the internet to reconnect with like-minded persons for decades now. Many folk are seeking out people who are like them through social media and hoping to find others who are like them or who have similar things in common.

In the Pagan community this is definitely true – possibly more than ever before. And amidst this profusion of networks a good many people have found others who walk in the old Pagan ways or who are at least trying to find their way back. It’s not an easy road: The way holds a great many detours and dangers. Charlatans, liars, scam artists, cultural thieves and criminals are everywhere, just waiting to lure in the unsuspecting. However as people become more informed – the wiser ones at least have a chance of finding their way into gatherings of hale folk.

Not everyone makes it. Some get drawn into religious cults, new age wastes of time or worse…but that is the survival of the fittest in action all over again.

When people find their special place among people who are the most like they are; among the folk of their common ground, they often stop right there, happy enough in the virtual environment that the internet provides in abundance. Still something is missing though and there are many who wonder what that missing element is. Some find it: Its actual personal social contact with their group, just like in the old days.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up we called this feeling a ‘vibe’. Something either had the vibe or it didn’t. Maybe it was a good vibe or a bad vibe. It was our word for that instinctive interface and that hidden inner wisdom that most humans have. We knew that the vibe was best when people had actual, physical presence with their friends and family – fictive kin or otherwise.

And nowadays on many fronts, certain people have begun to discuss the rebuilding of Pagan tribes. They are looking for that vibe all over again.

Talking about things is important and indeed it is the first step in any hale plan. But of talking and actually doing….there can be an interstellar gulf of time, space and effort between those two things. Face it; it’s not as easy as some folks might think.

Tribe used to be something we took for granted. In the old times we were born into tribes and we kind of took it for granted. Not anymore. People who are seeking tribe are realizing it’s a long road fraught with difficulties. The lie of the nuclear family, the separation of folk from their kin over time and indeed the time constraints that come from the need to work and earn money (more fabrications of the powers that be which this ‘ol Thornsman won’t delve into this time around) also handicap the process of re-building.

My late kinsman, Björn, used to use the term ‘Re-Growing’ tribe because he felt that in order to be successful a tribal gathering had to be organic and adaptable; it had to flow and bend in the winds of change. I think he was quite correct in that.

Healthy human beings often thrive in groups. Groups are conducive to creating good environments for families and from these things community can arise. Communities are often the stuff from which tribes can form.

So how do we re-grow these Pagan tribes?

Well, I am sadly, far from being any kind of authority in this area because I too am in the process, like many of you, of reconnecting with tribal folk. All I can do is share my own experiences. In my own case I was lucky enough to get a taste of tribe back when I was a young fella, back in the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. I was brought into a loose gathering of tribal people (the Thornish tradition) as well as given access to the tribal traditions of a number of my Native relations. From these experiences I learned a metric tonne, but still, caught up in the swirl of the modern world people scatter with the currents of time. It is hard to gather folk together and even harder to forge their fellowship into a cohesive and resilient whole.

The basis is finding folk like you are and growing the trust and the bonds of common interest from there. For me outside of a relatively small cadre of Thornish people, this is still a work in progress.

Common interest is a big one. As a friend of mine recently commented: “You have to look at how specialized you want your ‘dream team’ of tribal folks to be. Do you want them to be exactly along the same lines as you are or are you willing to be more open, within reason, as to who becomes involved.”

Another friend asked: “Yeah and you want to decide how far you want to go with these people. Do you want to simply form lifelong friendships and meet regularly for fellow ship or do you want to look at getting tribal land and living with these folks?”

Another excellent consideration to be sure.

Good points to consider. I know a fellow who was quite successful at forming what he called ‘umbrella’ organizations within the Heathen community – a place where folks of different tribal/spiritual affiliations could gather. This is an interesting idea to consider.

The magical community – as in real traditional witches – some seem to be quite good at gathering together. At least in the case of witches who aren’t dedicated solitaries.

Other folks want people who are very much on the same social/political/spiritual frequency as they are. This might be a bit tougher to wrangle into a scenario where these folk can arrange actual physical meetings and other interactions.

The next step, after figuring out who you want to be with, is working on creating that physical proximity. A tough nut to crack sometimes. I know of Heathen Kindreds who have been successful even though some of their members have had to drive for hours to get to gatherings. I have also heard of other Pagan gatherings which have had a measure of success in the deeper, urban environments of the cities, using resources like forums, social media and even Meetup or Youtube channels as links.

It seems to be something which comes from a combination of vision, communication, hard work and yeah; plain luck.

In my own case I use the above methods as well as a few others to meet up with like-minded folk. Also the fact that I am an author has created some very interesting and powerful opportunities for tribal interaction.  Indeed even at this time, My Lady and I and a few others are speaking about the construction of a more regular meeting of Pagan tribal people in our area. Of course our area of interest is focused more on deep tribal people who are not so much interested in religion but in primal spirituality. It’s tough to find folks like that (who don’t turn out to be wiccans or new agers or ‘shaman’ wannabes) but when we do it’s always worth the effort.

The key is that it is ALWAYS worth the effort to try.

To quote another friend: “The thing is to try and not to sit around just talking about it. You gotta put yourself out there and forge the idea into the talk and then into the tribe.”

It can be done. People are waking up. They are seeing past the lies that so much of the modern world is constructed from.

People want to go home. They want their tribes back.

Time to turn the dream into the reality folks. The Earth needs this; our species needs this and our descendants certainly need this.

Time to go home; back to tribe.


About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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