| April 28, 2012

Some may argue that the ritual reverence paid to one’s long-dead human ancestors, and the assumption of their influence in present life, easily invalidates my contention that the various “powers” or “spirits” that move throughout the discourse of indigenous, oral peoples are ultimately tied to nonhuman but nonetheless sentient forces in the enveloping terrain.

This objection trades upon certain notions implicit in Christian civilization, such as the assumption that the “spirits” of dead persons necessarily retain their human form, or that they reside in a domain entirely beyond the material world to which our senses give us access. However, many indigenous, tribal peoples have no such ready recourse to an immaterial realm outside earthly nature. For most oral cultures, the enveloping and sensuous Earth remains the dwelling place of both the living and the dead. The “body”–human or otherwise–is not yet a mechanical object. It is a magical entity, the mind’s own sensuous aspect, and at death the body’s decomposition into soil, worms, and dust can only signify the gradual reintegration of one’s elders and ancestors into the living landscape, from which all, too, are born.

via The Ecology of Magic–David Abram.