This is my first post on this platform, so it seems only fitting that I should introduce myself. My name is Nicholas Haney, and I have been a practicing pagan for a little over a decade now. Like so many other pagans, my path has been a long and winding one.
In some ways, it started many years ago in my childhood home. I wasn’t raised in a religious household you see, and so I didn’t have an upbringing that really ever talked about “those kind of things.”
We only really ever went to church if there was a wedding or a funeral, and other than that my childhood was pretty devoid of anything you might call “religious.”
I am a member of a strange and wonderful generation; old enough to remember when we didn’t have all the technology, and young enough to still embrace it when it did finally come along. I got to witness first hand the transition into the digital age, and so that gives that gives me a little bit of perspective on both sides of that line. It also means, that before all the tech; I spent a lot of my childhood outside. I spent my time ranging the fields and hedgerows, roaming the forests and rivers. In some way, I want to say that is where my paganism really began. I knew that land well, and named many of the trees and became close to the rivers.
I left more than a little of myself in the country, and that country left a bit of itself in me too. While I didn’t really recognize it at the time, looking back now that formed a lot of what would be my spiritual path.
But life moved on, and I went through elementary and high school; taking a fancy to things like science and science fiction. The universe really is a fascinating and wonderful place. I was basically an atheist, and really didn’t have or want any kind of “god” in my life. But the deeper I went, the further I reached out into the universe, the more cold and empty it felt. I felt lonely, and isolated. It was around that time that the search for meaning began. My spiritual search, if you will.
It started in a Southern Baptist Church, and soon I fell away from that. It was around that time I was dating a witch, and that opened up all kinds of doors for me. That was my real introduction to paganism. It was also the same time I really was getting in genealogy, and learning the stories of my Ancestors. How was I know that they would pick me up, and help me to discover my own path?
The Ancestors quickly became the “core” of my practice, and I traveled with them all over the place. When the Ancestors showed me my Celtic lines, I looked deeper. I studied Druidry and Celtic myth with all the fervor I could muster. But soon I started to feel that empty space once more, and the Ancestors told me it was time to move on. They lead be to the Nordic lands, and told me to “look here.” I looked, and I am still looking. Right now my own path is decidedly Nordic in flavor.
But it went way deeper than that, and I am still sorting all that out. In short, that brings me up to the current state of things. I have followed the tracks that have been laid before me, and it has been a fascinating journey so far. But there is still a long way to go, more paths to tread and more trails to follow.
And that, is part of the reason this blog is called Wolf Tracks.
It is about following paths, and finding paths, and making new paths when there are none.
These days, I consider myself to be an animist and shamanic practitioner. In future blogs, I will really be digging into what that means. You might be wondering to yourself, what is animism, and what does it mean to be a shamanic practitioner? These are very big questions, and it will take more than a single post to really start to explain this kind of thing.
That being said, I can give you the short version. Animism is not a specific religion or spiritual path, but more of a worldview. It is how I connect to the world, how I relate to the world. You can look up animism in a dictionary, and inevitably it will say something about spirits. That is generally not the definition I use. I personally use Graham Harvey’s definition, which comes from his book Animism: Respecting the Living World;
In short, animism in the idea that the world is full of persons (most of which are non-human), and that life is lived in relation with others.
It is a simple statement with enormous implications, which we will be exploring much deeper in later posts. But what does it mean to be a shamanic practitioner? To me at least, this is a role that I inhabit in an animistic worldview.
As an animist, the world is much more social for me. It is full of persons building relationships with one another. Tree people, river people, plant people, animal people, and many other besides. They all exist in this big web of relationships, things we might call ecosystems or “webs of meaning.” To put this another way, all the life on this planet exists in a kind of social environment; a “society” of all living things.
Once again, the implications of this are staggering and will take me many words to explain. In the shortest and briefest of definitions, being a shamanic practitioner means that I am a mediator. I mediate between the domains of humans, and all other non-humans persons. It means I spend my time negotiating with allies, building new relationships, forging new bonds, and even on occasion fighting with enemies. Relationships certainly run the spectrum from “friendly” to “not-so-friendly.”
So much of the work I do focuses on rebuilding, rethinking, reshaping and recreating our connections to ourselves and to nature. Many old ideas have been lost, or are no longer practiced. At the same time, not all old ideas are still viable or relevant. In many ways the world has changed, and that is the reality in which I work.
Many of our ancestors once came from animistic and shamanistic societies, the kind of worldview that prioritized people and relationships, and this is something that I think Western societies lack. As such, I hope you will join me on this journey as we explore deeper.
For those that might be interested, this is not my only body of work on these topics.
Feel free to visit my other blog here, for my books as well as other posts on this topic.
Thanks for reading!