Website of the Grove of Manannan Mac Lir of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids

Ancestral Traditions

Blood Ancestral Types

In Druid and shamanistic traditions worldwide, the "Ancestors" are very important as guides and teachers. A good deal of Druid and shamanistic spiritual work involves going into trance and entering the Underworld (the world within the Earth) the world in which Faeries and Ancestors reside. Trance journeys are taken to the Underworld through time and space to meet with the spirit beings and gain knowledge and wisdom from them.

In Earth based and shamanistic traditions worldwide there are various kind of "ancestors". One type of ancestor, which is most commonly recognized, is composed of one's ancient and biological ancestors. These are individuals who are part of one's bloodline and biological descent. In Earth based traditions, there is a unity of past, present and future, and time is seen as not existing. One is seen as existing and having responsibility for the present, the past, and the future. The generations of ones line are seen as a continuum of collective consciousness that goes backwards in time and goes forward into the future.

The Native American chief, Seattle, expressed the issue that he was amazed that white people had no concern for their ancestors, nor for their future generations. He made reference to the fact that for Native Americans, a person must make consultation for seven generations in the past and seven generations into the future in order to make a decision. His statement makes clear the shamanistic belief that we can consult our ancestors and in fact they are very concerned and interested in their future children (us) his statement also expresses that we who exist now, will be the ancestors for future generations. We as the ancestors for future generations hold responsibility for those future generations of our descendents. Therefore shamans go back in time to their ancestors fully expecting that their ancestors will be concerned about them and will be concerned about their future and will offer help and wisdom. In like kind, in a true modern shaman must be willing to take on the responsibility of being an ancestor for future generations. Because time does exist in the same way in shamanistic cultures, rather all time is going on now, a shaman can go into trance now in his or her body in the present and be available for future generations to consult him or her in the eternal now.

In Earth based and shamanistic terms the eternal now is far more that the modern western interpretation of the Buddhist and Hindu concept of being present, rather being in the present is far more than being in the moment. It is a nonlinear, non-time oriented approach. The eternal now involves entering a mystical state in which one is conscious and alive in the eternal now of past, present and future at once. In this concept of eternal now, our ancient ancestors exist now and we can communicate with them. We as well who exist now are available for future shamans to communicate and be present with us now. We are their ancestors.

A major role worldwide for shamans/Druids has always been to be a bridge of the eternal now for their communities and peoples. The shaman connects the ancestors with the present community and the future.

In Earth based traditions worldwide, the differentiation between humans, animals, creatures, trees, rocks, etc. is not the same as in modern human human-centered cultures. The creatures, trees, rocks, etc. are often perceived as ancestors as well. Earth based peoples and shamans have the same deep concerns for these other beings as they do for human beings. It is as important to consult and honor these non-human ancestors as the human ones. It is as important for us to own responsibility as an ancestor for the future land and non-human beings as it is for us towards our future human children.

In Druid and shamanistic terms, there is a recognition of evolution and that we have spent past lifetimes in animal and other forms. Therefore in Earth based traditions, most people have, in addition to human ancestors, have totem animal ancestors whose spirits have joined with or created one's human line. In Native American or Celtic traditions, a person may be of Raven Clan or Bear Clan, or Stag Clan, and perceive these sacred animals as their ancestors. Modern science in it's study of evolution and the development of the human zygote confirms that the human zygote goes through phases of having gills and being a fishlike, of being reptilian, and then being mammalian, and finally becoming human. The human brain has those layers too.. Earth based shamans, through their mystical and intuitive work have been aware of this evolution of our being from fish to human. The Taliesin "I am" poems written down in the 12th century express this shape shifting belief of shamans, i.e. "I am a stag of seven tines, I am a salmon within a pool, I am a drop of rain within a cloud, I am a wave upon the shore, I am a snake upon the hillside", etc.

Dr. Karr experienced during a deep spiritual initiation going back in time over a thousand different lifetimes many of which were not human. This mystical vision appeared as a helix of bubbles or pearls cycling back through time with each bubble containing a being he had been in past lifetimes. In shamanistic traditions totem animals are differentiated form guide animals though their function as teachers and guides is very similar. These relationships are very much aligned with Carl Jung's concepts of the collective conscious, the archetypal memory and dreams, and the archetypes.

A totem animal is one that has been connected with one's bloodline for many generations and relates to you in an impersonal fashion. This animal relates for example to a "Karr" not to a "Rodney Karr". A totem animal is a guide for all Karrs and sees us (Karrs) as a collective being rather than an individual. In addition this relationship therefore, is transpersonal rather than personal. It exists through time and space. We therefore, in doing shamanistic work, must seek and discover our ancestral totem animal, But we do not have the right to choose them, nor them us. They are the same as our biological ancestors, and we are not able to choose them. These relationships are permanent and throughout time and space whether we are conscious of them or not.

A guide animal we may choose. Also, a guide animal may choose us. This relationship is very personal between a spirit animal and a specific being. This relationship, like our human relationships, may be time limited for five years, one month, or many years. It, like our human relationships, may come to and ending for some reason or other. Such a relationship is a relationship of choice. A person may realize that he/she needs to develop the qualities of a given animal, for example, "Bear". This shaman person might then court the spirit of Bear in the Underworld and seek a relationship with "Bear" to learn the abilities, wisdom and power of "Bear". The Bear spirit has the right to accept or reject this relationship. The Bear spirit, on the other hand, might have perceived that the new shaman needs the guidance of "Bear" and presents "Bear" to the shaman as a guide animal. Such a shaman has the right to accept or reject this offer. This is very different than the relationship with one's ancestral totem animal where choice is not present for either.

Cultural, Spiritual and National Ancestors

In various mystical traditions there is another type of ancestor who is not determined by direct bloodline descent. These ancestors are great persons who are remembered within a spiritual, cultural, or national context. These ancestral spirits are often cultural heroes or saints. In Hindu and Buddhist Traditions these individuals are called Satva Buddhas. A Satva Buddha is an enlightened being who has chosen to remain this plane of existence and be available for the Earth and its peoples. A Satva Buddha, or saint, remains available as a kind of ancestor for us to seek wisdom and guidance from. In the ancient Celtic tradition, there is a tradition of sacrificial kings and queens who physically died but became immortal and available for their tribes and peoples living in the present and future. King Arthur is an example of this tradition. When he is removed to the other world of Avalon but remains available for the protection of his people and his land throughout time and space.

Additionally, cultural heroes such as Socrates, Merlin, Lau Tzu, Mohammed or Sitting Bull are as available as this other kind of ancestor. These kinds of ancestors may be chosen by us to be our guides, or they may come to us and choose us. It is unnecessary that we have any bloodline connection with this kind of ancestor. These kinds of ancestors may adopt us, in a sense, no matter what ancestry we have. These ancestors are not limited by where you are in the Earth. They can manifest throughout the world.

Ancestors of the Land

A third kind of ancestor is associated with and specific to a particular place upon the Earth. The ancients called this type of ancestor; "locus mundi" meaning spirit of the land is specific to a specific location upon the Earth. This ancestor usually inhabits particular sacred groves, wells, rivers, mountains, etc. This ancestor may be an ancient human who is connected to this particular place and is available for consultation by modern humans inhabiting this place, even though the modern human is not descended fro this spirit's people. Some locus mundi are not available to modern humans who are not of their ancestry. Others seem to be available in this way. This relationship therefore appears to have some choice involved. Additionally, a given land may have associated ancestral spirits, other than human, i.e. creature, or faery elemental beings. These creature and elemental beings of the land may also choose to have an ancestral guiding relationship with a modern human who now inhabits this land. They may also reject such modern human.

The Faery Ancestors (Cousins)

The Druid/Celtic shamanistic tradition has maintained a powerful connection and tradition involving the faery beings (elemental beings). The elemental beings appear in most other shamanistic tradition worldwide, but seem to have less emphasis than in the Celtic tradition. It may be that the Celtic Shamanistic tradition has maintained a faery tradition closer to the original tradition worldwide, pre 15,000 BCE. Faery beings in the Celtic tradition also serve many of the same guide functions that animal spirits do in the Native American traditions. The faery cousin is an important aspect of Celtic faery tradition. In European tradition including the Celtic tradition there are many myths concerning the demigods (faery elementals) with human beings. Faery elementals are seen as beings of a living spiritual nature, but not material There are many stories of them, however, of them mating with human beings, even abducting human men and women and mating with them in the faery world. The offspring of such faery - human marriages have been perceived as having great gifts of poetry music, art, prophecy, etc. The Merlin Taliesin, for example is supposed to be the child of such a faery union.

In the Celtic tradition, certain families, especially druidic families, have myths and history of faery marriages. It is believed in Celtic lands that certain families, who are gifted with the second sight and healing, have been involved in faery marriages. It is believed about and by such families that they have what are called, "faery cousins". Faery cousins are faery spirits who have been involved with, emotionally, spiritual, physically, with that family for numerous generations, even thousands of years. The Irish and Scottish traditions of the Bain Sidhe (banshee) are examples of faery cousins. The Bain Sidhe screams before a family member is to die.

Dr. Karr's family has a history of faery cousins including Bain Sidhe. He has experienced the scream of the Bain Sidhe, once before a great uncle died and once before another close family member dies. Dr. Karr's partner of twenty years also heard the cry of the Bain Sidhe. In Irish and Scottish traditions, the faery cousin serves as a grantor of the second sight and facilitates the observer to see throughout time and space. Dr. Karr's mother, Madeleine, was gifted with the second sight. In the Celtic Faery tradition, the faery beings are seen as nearly immortal, although they can be killed or destroyed by iron and steel. The faery beings are perceived, because of their immortality, as experiencing time very differently than human beings. The mythology around the faery world and the faery beings often emphasizes that hundreds of years spent in the faery world are experienced without a sense of time. It is believed that the faery beings exist in the eternal now and that they have access to past present and future because they exist in the eternal now which include past, present and future; therefore they can perceive the future and the past. Many experiences with faery beings report that the faery beings often perceive us (individual humans) in the same way as animal totem spirits do, they perceive us as a Karr, for example, rather than as an individual, Rodney Karr". The faery cousin associated with Dr. Karr's family perceives him as a descendent and as a Karr, rather than as an individual person. Many Celtic families, such as Dr. Karr's, who immigrated long ago from Britain and Ireland report that their faery cousins immigrated with them. In Celtic faery tradition it is believed that there are a multitude of faery races, or kinds, of faery beings. In Celtic faery tradition there are Earth, Air, Fire, and Water faery beings as well as the High Faery who are called the Luminous Ones. They are similar to deities. In the variation of faery beings, some are believed to be attached to certain locations from which they cannot move. Whereas others, especially those who have formed close bonds with humanity, seem able to migrate in the same fashion as we human beings.

Celtic seers perceive that the faery peoples of different lands, for example North America, may appear very different from than from Europe. It is believed that faery beings are present worldwide and have unique forms appropriate to each land. The Sasquatch is an example of a native North American faery tribe. Faery beings in the Celtic tradition are not seen as sweet little beings with butterfly wings, but rather as very powerful shape shifting beings who may be gigantic. Part of the faery tradition is the belief that faery beings are shape shifters and are psychic and can shift their share to what a given persons beliefs and perceptions require. It is believed in the Celtic faery tradition that the sightings of little green or gray men are faery elementals shape shifting to a form that modern humans are aware of. The same faery being in Ireland, the population of people having a different concept, may have an appearance of being dressed in silks and shell armor. It is believed in the Celtic faery tradition that the faery cousins take the same ancestral role of responsibility for their human descendents that the totem animal spirit takes for their human descendents.

Like one's totem animal, one's faery cousins are determined by blood ancestry rather than personal choice by human or faery. This is therefore a transpersonal and impersonal relationship that exists throughout time and space. It does not include choice by either. In the Celtic faery tradition, as in the tradition of guide animals, a shaman may go into the underworld and court contact with faery beings for the purpose of mutual benefit and guidance. Such faery guide relationships are personal and involve a matter of choice by both beings involved. A faery might also come to a shaman in a spiritual journey and offer assistance for connection. The human or the faery have, however, the right to say no, or end such a relationship at some point in time. This is therefore a very different kind of relationship than it is with an ancestral faery cousin. It is suggested if you wish further understanding of the Celtic faery tradition that ones should read R.J.Stewart's The Living World of Faery and to the website .

The well-known Celtic spiritual teacher, R.J.Stewart, emphasizes in his various books* the need for an alliance between creature beings, faery beings, and human beings for the preservation of the Earth and the Cosmos. He emphasizes in his works, a long and ancient history of this alliance of faery creature and human, which has been breaking down over the last two hundred years with the Industrial Revolution and an atomic war, etc. He emphasizes the important need for us all to reestablish and maintain close cooperative spiritual relationships with creature beings and faery beings as well as human ancestral beings for the healing and maintenance of the Earth.

R.J.Stewart, who is Dr. Karr's primary teacher, and has initiated him into his inner temple work, like Carl Jung, believes that our journey here upon the Earth is towards becoming whole. The faery tradition in which he believes emphasizes that we as human beings are really multiple beings. He holds to the traditional mystical view "as above, so below; as without, so within". This translates into faery tradition terms to mean that the external world is composed of three kinds of being (consciousness); human, faery and creature (creature = living beings other than human and faery which includes trees, plants, animals, birds, fish, etc.). The inner world reflects the outer world and therefore we as human beings have within us all three kinds of consciousness: human, faery, and creature. We must develop all three kinds of consciousness to become fully human and thereby gain our full power and responsibility as stewards of the Earth. The faery cousins and guides, animal totems and guides, and human ancestors are all available as guides to each of us in order to achieve wholeness. The external manifestation of this wholeness involves the creation of the alliance between human beings, faery beings and creature beings in the outer world. This outer alliance is requisite for and develops the inner awareness and wholeness within the human self. In faery tradition, all healing and magical work is done within the alliance between a living human with human ancestors, creatures and faery beings.

In Scottish faery tradition, one of the cultural ancestors was a seventeenth century poet by the name of Thomas Rhymer. Traditionally, he is believed to have withdrawn into the faery realm and is available as a guide and teacher for all those who seek assistance in learning of the faery realm and world. His famous poem, "The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer" is used in Celtic faery tradition as the model of the way to journey and enter the faery realm. The poem is also seen as a process of initiation into the faery realm and tradition. A copy of this traditional poem is printed in R.J. Stewart's book, Earthlight*, and may be read here as well.

The famous book, The Faery Faith in Celtic Countries, by Walter Y. Evans Wentz (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.; Humanities Press or Citadel Press, Original � 1911, 1977, 1990 ISBN: 0806511605), was written before World War One. It survives as the definitive study of the remaining Celtic faery faith in the five Celtic nations. The book of this extensive research project presents evidence to demonstrate that there is a unified faery faith tradition present in all remaining Celtic Lands and that this faery faith tradition is the remnant of the Celtic people's spiritual and Druid tradition.

Dr. Karr's (Ke'rr) patriarchal ancestors were the Barons of Rocksburgh and the Earls of Lothiam. They were the Lords of the Middle March, which were the lands of Scotland bordering England. Sir Thomas the Rhymer was an inhabitant of these lands and entered the world of faery there in the lowlands of Scotland. Dr. Karr's ancestors maintain that here, more than most places, the ancient faery traditions and connections were present.

Tamlane is the main character in another very well known Scottish faery world poem. Young Tamlane is an ancestor of Dr. Karr. Reference is made in the ancient poem that Tamlane was the son of the Lord of Rocksford. This poem, similar to Thomas the Rhymer's poem, involves a human (Tamlane) being taken away by the faery queen into the faery realm to be her lover. Later in the Poem, his human lover, fair Janet, retrieves him from the faery queen. In addition to being a romantic ballad, this poem describes methods humans may use for entering and leaving the faery realm. It is likewise used in the faery tradition as a process of visualization for entry and exit to the faery realm. The poem of Tamlane can be read here, and is also printed in The Living World of Faery* by R.J.Stewart.

*Books by R.J Stewart referenced in this article.

Stewart, R.J. (1992, 1993), Earth Light, Element Publishers, Shaffesbury, Rockport, Queensland.

Stewart, R.J. (1995/1999), The Living World of Faery, Element Publishers, Shaffesbury, Rockport, Queensland.

Stewart, R.J. (1992), Power within the Land, Element Publishers, Shaffesbury, Rockport, Queensland.

For complete information on R.J.Stewart's published works see: