Indigenity and Conquest

The Pantheon blog on the Patheos Pagan Portal has a new essay by Laura Patsouris titled “Restoring Our Pre-Conquest Mind.” It blames the ills of the contemporary Western world on the conquest of tribal societies by Christians. This, she says, replaced sustainable tribal values and practices with the values of conquest and empire. Her solution is to join with existing indigenous cultures and “reclaim our pre-conquest mind.”

Despite missing a few large facts (conflict and conquest have been a part of intertribal relations for at least as long as we’ve been human, and Europe’s tribal societies were conquered mostly by pre-Christian Romans), her basic point is correct. Tribal societies are, for the most part, egalitarian and sustainable (Easter Island being a notable and highly relevant exception). Societies based on conquest and empire know only one commandment: more.

As someone who appreciates modern medicine, travel, the internet, and air conditioning during a Texas Summer, I can’t say the culture of conquest has been all bad. But it hasn’t been all good either, despite what some on the political right try to tell you. And it is quite literally running out of gas.

We are part of Nature. She is our Mother, our Source. From the smokestacks of the 19th century to the high-tech isolation of today, contemporary Western society has separated us from our Source. Modern Paganism is in large part a response to this disconnection – it is our own indigenous religion. It teaches us to reconnect to Nature and the Spirits of Nature, to our ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, and to the goddesses and gods of our ancestors and of the natural world. It teaches us to live in harmony with each other and with the Earth, its rhythms and cycles, and all its creatures.

It is in this indigenity and not the indigenity of the San of Southern Africa, the Yaminawá of South America, or any of the other remaining tribal societies that our solution must be found. We can’t go back – and I, for one, have no desire to go back to a tribal society. Instead, we must go forward, replacing separation with connection and replacing conquest with sustainability.

And most importantly, we must replace the value of “more” with the value of “enough.”

This will not be a quick change. It will not be accomplished by electing the right candidate or the right party, it will not be accomplished by passing the right laws or winning the right court cases. These things can help, but they are not nearly enough.

We must change our mindsets and our worldviews. The seeds of this change were planted long ago by romantics and naturalists, by mystics and sages, by priests and priestesses. The harvest will be reaped by those who come after us – perhaps long after us.

Our job is to tend the gardens, to nurture the values of connection and sustainability. May we work diligently and hopefully.

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  • Ooooh! VERY good points! Especially relevant for me at the moment – changing one's mindset. There's a lot to think about and apply in this post — and not just to the topic that you've applied it to, though that is just as good as any place to start. Definite food for thought for me. Thanks for posting this John!