Books are Elders

“Books are Elders…” that’s something we say at my Wilderness Awareness School community. It means that in the ancestors’ times people would go to elders for answers about the names of creatures and plants living among them, knowledge of the movements of stars and the rivers and winds, the world past and a compass for the world waiting ahead. But now, we sometimes to not have elders close to us, or if we do they might not know these things anymore… so we use field guides. Field guides are more than a collection of pretty pictures and scientific information about species. They are the most underrated products of compact real-life magic we can carry with us. Think of field guides as your “spell books” when you go looking for your non-human relatives. The information contained in these marvelous books and pocket guides (and smart phone apps!) guides us to know about the real imminent lives of our relative species, whom by extension we share our human lives with. We can be better relatives to them by knowing who they are and how they live. By these guides, we know their names, and speak their names and ways, and keep the memories and knowledge of them imprinted inside us, so that we may someday pass along this knowledge of relationship to generations yet to come. This work of so many scientists, field researches, citizen enthusiasts, anthropologists, and others may yet be among the most important links from the monumental deep knowledge of hunter-gatherer cultures into a renewed future for humans on earth. Remember that the word spell has two meanings: to spell a word, and to cast a spell. Can you see how they are related? See how knowing, speaking and remembering the names of our relative creatures helps us do real magic by taking this knowledge into us as living wells of relationship.


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