What I call the Ancestral Tribes are something I stumbled upon while more heavily involved in the Vanatru movement. I had heard mention of some sort of tribal structure for the citizens of Vanaheim, but as yet I hadn’t had any direct experience with them myself.
One morning I was sitting outside, enjoying some tea. The sun was warm on my very pregnant belly. All at once I was struck with what could only be described as a compulsion to pull out the Druid Animal Oracle and divine the nature of the Vanic Tribes. I’ve never had such a strong urge to do a divination before—it was an obsession, a compulsion that was impossible to ignore.
A couple of weeks later, I happened across Nicanthiel Hrafnhild’s own interpretation of the Tribes. What amazed me then, and still does now, is that without talking to each other about it, Nic and I ended up with almost exactly the same groupings. There were only three points of divergence: two completely different animals and a question as to whether Frog is land or water. That’s it. Pretty awesome PCPG if you ask me!
This being said, I think each practitioner is probably going to end up with personalized Tribal groupings depending on the work that they need to do. There are no doubt dozens of animals who won’t fit into the system as I’ve visioned it, but the structure works very well for me—I’m sure someone else who puts the same effort in to divining their own Ancestral Tribes will find that their system also works. I wouldn’t say that the 7+12 set-up is a perfect paradigm cast in stone; I believe it to be fluid to accommodate the seeker. But I can’t deny that I really like the way it turned out for me, either!
One of the points I really struggled with in the beginning was why animals that weren’t necessary native to North America were coming up in my practice. My current working theory is that these are ancestral groups who have taken on the aspects of particular animals native to Western Europe in the Otherworlds. So I now longer treat these creatures as nature spirits or landwights, but as Grandmothers and Grandfathers, connected to me by blood and memory. This is why different journeyers may end up with different Tribes in their lives, even though there will often be quite a bit of overlap.
The work I’ve been doing with the Tribes is some of the hardest and most satisfying that I’ve engaged with yet. The changes to my life have been measurable, in terms of my relationships especially. The work has also led to me assembling what I’ve termed by Vanabag or Druid Bugout Bag. When it’s all said and done, I’ll have a nice little collection of tools that I can grab for ritual-on-the-go (yay, toys!). One of the things that I had the most fun with was creating sigils for Raven’s divination set—it was something that I had always want to play with, and the Tribes work really gave me the space to do so.
I’m more than a little sad that my last month of “official” work with the Tribes is over. I remember when I started this journey that I had severe doubts about my ability to finish it, particularly with a new baby in the middle of everything. But the ancestors have been understanding (within reason), and I’ve learned much that helps me a better parent, and a more active community member. However, I now feel much better prepared to (re)begin my Ovate work, like the last knots holding me back have been untied.
Hail, Keepers of Memory!
Hail, Weavers of the Red Thread!
Hail the Ancestors!