Toteg Tribe ~ Natural Spirituality Where You Are
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Toteg Tribe is the fruition of a long-cultivated series of groups, philosophies, organizations and ideas. Its roots reach back to the work of indigenous practitioners of nature spirituality, were pruned and cultivated through the very earliest Pagan movements of the early 1960’s, and continue to flower and re-seed themselves to the present day.
Toteg Tribe’s strength is in its mutability and viability over time and through decades of societal and philosophical change in the Craft. It remains today a vibrant and energetic spiritual system. It is my honor to speak as a representative of this living Tradition.
Toteg Tribe is the culmination of the work done by many people over forty years of study, training and sharing. The founder of Toteg Tribe, Joseph B. Wilson, was still a living and working Guide for its practitioners until the very day of his death on August 4, 2004.
The present incarnation of Toteg has its roots in the former group known as Metista, which itself has as its roots much of the philosophy of the old Temple of the Elder Gods, an organization started as a "coven" in about 1976 or 1977 and eventually incorporated as a Church by Joe and several others.. According to Joe, the word “TOTEG” itself started as
“the lazy way people called the group we had in Sunland, California. It began life as an acronym for "Temple Of The Elder Gods" (T.O.T.E.G.) . Temple of the Elder Gods (T.O.T.E.G.) was formally an ecclesiastical organization, incorporated as a California Non-Profit Religious Corporation with full Federal and State Tax Exemption on December 21st, 1984.”
Over time, the concept of “The Elder Gods” has mutated, but still remains a core concept of Toteg Tribe, one that will be discussed in the “Beliefs and Practices” portion of this essay. It is important to realize, though, that the meaning of the WORD Toteg as it is used in the name of Toteg Tribe is very different from the meaning of the former acronym TOTEG.
The concept of being devoted to any one particular form of Deity, even our ultimate parents, has no place in the philosophy of Toteg Tribe, since it is intrinsically an experiential path and has no dogma in the usual sense of the word.
Joe recently said to me, "Unlike most neo-Pagan denominations, the tradition of Toteg Tribe does not consist of dogma about divinities, rituals, or ceremonies. Rather it is a movement of methodology, intent, and focus back to the experience of and interaction with the Gods themselves, including one's own personal Gods, if any, without artificial or affected cultural overlays."
So the word "Toteg" has taken on a meaning of its own that is only incidentally connected to the "Temple of The Elder Gods" that began its existence as an acronym. We are about discovering effective ways of interacting with Deity by direct personal experience of the practitioners.
Any and all ways an individual chooses to interact with Deity are possible parts of the Toteg practitioner's experience, but no "one true way" is expected or required
In the words of Joe Wilson, “I'd say that if the word "toteg" actually has a meaning today, that meaning is "grandparents." So, who we are may be defined as “people searching, through their own experience, for the ultimate meaning of their own existence, connected to the grandparents of all existence as family. members.” For purposes of this essay and definition of this spiritual tradition, the above is the “who” of Toteg Tribe.
WHAT ~ Core Beliefs
It may actually be misleading to speak of the “beliefs” of Toteg Tribe, because one element that sets it apart from many other Craft traditions is that one may be a part of Toteg Tribe whilst also being a member of another, or several other, covens, groups, or even religions. But there definitely is a “Toteg mindset” that underlies all the approaches to whatever specific beliefs and practices a Tribe member pursues.
That mindset, somewhat elusive, but unmistakable when it is present, is the core element of truly identifying oneself as a Toteg Tribe member, and it is of that mindset we will speak here.
As was the case in my own experience, most people who are members of Toteg Tribe are people who are already pursuing a certain type of spiritual journey before they ever even come to knowledge of Toteg’s existence. They are explorers of spirit, traveling diverse roads that will all ultimately lead to the same destination.
They are non-dogmatic, and consequently open to the impact of their own personal experience without measuring it against any particular shibboleth. The idea that links them to other practitioners of a similar spiritwalk is partly the idea that one’s personal experience is the only valid arbiter of spiritual truth.
But there is a fine line to be drawn here. There are already far too many people and groups out there that are so eclectic as to accept just about anything. This is not the kind of universality embraced by Toteg Tribe, because this mindset assumes that any particular KIND of acquiring experience will lead one to the same place.
Practical experience of many Seekers over many years has proven that this is not so. It is the particular similarity in the methodology of acquiring experiences, not the content of the experiences themselves, which marks one as Toteg.
So then, you may justifiably ask, what are the identifying elements of the Toteg methodology, the Toteg mindset, as we define it? As earlier stated, the mindset is elusive and defies a simple definition. But there are certain attitudes and “ways of being” that seem to be constants:
1.Toteg practice is meditative, shamanistic and exploratory in nature. Much of the personal experience of the Toteg Tribe member comes from direct communication with personal Spirits, whether these are accessed in dream work, shamanic journeys, or meditative sessions fueled by drumming or trance inductions. Even where Totegers join with one another in Clans or other small group organizations within the Tribe, the new member is not likely to be “given” or “revealed” the knowledge of a particular Clan Deity or set of beliefs. Instead, it is likely that all in the group will incorporate the experience of the new member into group journey-work, and so adjust the group mind to embrace the new elements.
2.Totegers focus on the land and spirit of the place where they reside. This focus does not preclude, but does precede, focus on the cultures or lands where their genetic forbears came from. If there is a “Toteg Deity” other than the Earth Mother, and the Sky Father, it is probably the “Genus Loci, ” which is at once the same God, and a different God, for every place on earth. Other Deity forms, such as cultural archetypes of a particular person’s heritage, may also be honored. But ways of connecting with these Deities, in Toteg Tribe terms, will still emanate from one’s present and active connections with the Genus Loci.
3.Toteg methodology often proceeds from discovery to hypothesis, not from assumption to “proof”. Many cogent insights for the personal practitioner of Toteg Tribe spirituality are not actively sought after, but are freely presented by Spirit without any prior expectation on the part of the practitioner. This often results in development of lines of thought or exploration not usually found in neo-Pagan methodologies, such as the melding of science and religion, or the practice of the shamanic arts. More of these specific practices will be discussed in the section on clergy.
4.Toteg Tribe honors the individual ancestry of its members, cultural, spiritual and hereditary. This does not, however, make us “ancestor worshippers, ” nor does it mean that we necessarily do the same things in our spiritwalk as our ancestors did. We do, however, acknowledge our personal and individual roots, and we do the kinds of things our ancestors did in the kinds of ways they did them, to come up with our own answers. The following quotation is an accurate expression of the Toteg Tribe attitude to ancestral beings, practices, and cultural or religious beliefs:
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old. Seek what they sought.” Matsuo Busho
HOW~ Organization of Tribal Groups/Role of Clergy
Toteg Tribe is structured in a Clan system, because we have found that this structure gives the greatest degree of autonomy to individual groups and also provides for inclusion of people who are not in a group at all.
The Tribe is made up of a number of Clans, Septs, Circles, Coteries and Individual Practitioners, all connected in a web that we consider a familial relationship. There is no “hereditary membership” in Toteg Tribe, nor is anyone precluded from membership in Toteg Tribe by membership and activity in any other coven, group, religion or organization. The “descending hierarchy” (downline) of groups is Tribe, Clans, Septs, Circles, Coteries, and Individuals…but this is not a hierarchy of value, but only of organization.
Each member of the Tribe has a voice in Tribal business and is equal in influence to every other member.
Here is a breakdown of how the entire structure fits together:
1.The Tribe is the unifying organization in which each of the other levels has its existence. The tribe is like a very large, multi-generational, far-flung family organization. The Patriarch of this Family was, until his death, Joseph Bearwalker Wilson, the founder and first Tribal Doyen of Toteg Tribe. Our current Tribal Doyen, elected by the Tribe membership after Joe’s death, is Doyen Dee Berry, who is also the Clan Doyen of Sanctuary Clan in Washington State. The position of Doyen of the Tribe is for life. When Dee passes on, the next Tribal Doyen will be elected by the members of Toteg Tribe’s leadership. Until then, she is Clan Mother.
2.Within the Tribe, the next level of organization is the Clan, consisting of two or more Septs and led by a Clan Doyen. At this writing there are in existence seven Clans of Toteg Tribe, located in Washington State, Nevada, California, Michigan, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. To communicate with the Clan in your area, or to learn what might be required if you wish to form a Clan yourself, please visit our home page at http://www.toteg.org
3.What might be thought of as the central “working group” of Toteg Tribe, and what most closely resembles the covens or circles of other Traditions, is the Sept. The Sept is a “working group” of two or more members, and is led by a Sacar, our word for a trained clergy person the equivalent of another group’s “Priest” or “Priestess” designation. Joe has described the responsibilities of a Sacar in the following statement;
A Sacar actively develops, implements, and leads regular worship services and spiritual observances in harmony with Toteg Tribe philosophy. He or she attends to the spiritual, moral, ministerial, and educational needs of the members of their circle. Performs consecrations, blessings, counseling, confirmations, initiations, pair bondings, marriages, funerals, and other sacraments as needed.
The role of clergy in Toteg Tribe has many similarities with the ministerial functions within other traditions. But there is one significant difference. Septs or even Clans of Toteg Tribe may or may not be the primary spiritual focus of the members thereof.
For this reason the different kinds of teaching, ministering and spiritual work required on the part of leaders within the Tribe may require a vastly different approach and a far more diverse skill-set than is assumed to be part of more traditional priest/essing.
In addition, for example to the jobs mentioned in Joe’s above quote that are the responsibilities of the Sacar, certain clergy of Toteg Tribe may be called upon to do shamanic journeywork, spiritual or physical healing, psychic prophesy, and many other things not normally encountered in more “traditional Traditions.”
For this reason there are several offices of clergy specific to Toteg Tribe. One of these is that of the Visar, the “technician of the sacred” whose job resembles that of a more traditional shaman.
Another such role is filled by the Master Visar, the Docent, whose job is to train Visars and whose training may include many types of things not usually included in more traditional Craft. Suffice it to say that in the responsibilities of clergy as well as in other areas, Toteg Tribe is a bit out of the ordinary. Yet members of the Tribe may be assured that there are trained people available to meet their needs for ministry in whatever area is required.
WHEN/Holidays and Ritual Occasions
Toteg Tribe practices Cultural Integrity, which we define as the practice of recognizing the Cultures of Origin, Cultures of Immersion, and Cultures of Identification, of ourselves and our Clan members and Tribe family, without co-opting or assuming to claim the practices and beliefs which are identified with indigenous cultures or even the cultures of our own ancestors.
Indeed, the one hallmark of Toteg Tribe spirituality which marks it as unique and differentiates it from other kinds of American Paganism is its insistence on having its members become familiar with, identify, adopt as stewardships and recognize in rites of worship several classes of beings which are often ignored in other approaches to spirituality. These include our ancestral lineages of blood, culture and religious practice, the animals, plants, weather and seasonal changes of our own locale, and what we refer to as the “Genii Loci”, the local myths, legends and stories, land spirits, animal totems and familiars, and regional and cultural Deity figures. Therefore, our holidays and rituals may be as many and varied as are the people and places by whom and in which Toteg Tribe is recognized.
There are, however, some similarities. This list is by no means complete, but it is a start.
I. Reverence and Recognition of One’s Ancestors
We do not worship our ancestors as Deities. But we are required to recognize, in the words of Joseph Wilson, that “without them we would not Be.” In this regard, Toteg practitioners often actually do rituals and ceremonies to honor and recognize the influence of our familial, racial, cultural, natural and spiritual ancestors on the circumstances and being of our present lives. Many of us have ancestor altars, mark the birthdays of ancestors with ceremonies and festivities, create altars of remembrance around the days of death of our own ancestors, ritualize the cultural “Days of the Dead” in our own locale or in our cultural ancestral tradition, such as Samhain or Dia de los Muertos, and actively engage in such practices handed down through our families as special food blessings, birth and death observances, familial holidays, handing down of special possessions and traditions.
All or any of these ideas can be the nexus for creating a ritual or holiday observance. It is characteristic of a Clan or Circle of our Tribe to encourage cross-cultural sharing amongst Clan members. This approach to cross-cultural sharing pretty much ensures that no two areas of the country where people practice Toteg Tribe Spirituality will have exactly the same cultural observances surrounding ancestors. But it guarantees that such things will be observed.
II. Seasonal Observances
It is not unusual to find members of Toteg Tribe who consider themselves Pagan, and yet do not follow the traditional Pagan Wheel of the Year. One of the many ways in which Toteg Tribe studies and attempts to connect with local environmental energies is to notice very carefully the climate, weather and seasonal markers of the places where they live. In this case, it is of course often true that for those trained in or familiar with the Western Pagan Tradition, with the eight-spoked Wheel of festivals, many times the physical and dynamic markers of the festival that are traditionally observed by Pagans worldwide do not actually fit with the place where the Toteger resides.
In such cases the Toteger, or Clan, may choose to mark the observance in the traditional fashion and at the traditional time, as recognition that this lore is part of a Pagan’s cultural ancestry. It is perhaps more likely, however, that the Toteger or the Clan will instead note the REASONS behind the traditional seasonal holiday observance, and either choose to move the celebration of that festival to the time appropriate to their own locale where that seasonal event occurs, and hold the traditional celebration at that time, or, as is more likely to occur, the traditional festival may be ignored in favor of a specifically created festival which recognizes a seasonal marker of the locale in question.
It probably goes without saying that the Deity structure of Toteg Tribe is non-traditional as it relates to the usual Pagan Pantheon. The basic Deities of the Tribe are Father Sky and Mother Earth, along with the Moon Our Sister and the Sea Our Brother. However, the personification and identity of these Beings is as varied as are the locales where one finds Totegers. In Joe’s words:
“…Just as we have consciousness the Goddess and God have consciousness. We can think of consciousness as being a projection of Spirit, so the Goddess' and God's consciousness is an expression of Their Spirit. Since we are born from Them our Spirits or Souls are also an expression of Their Spirit or Soul. Likewise that which we think of as being the other Gods, Goddesses and spirits are projections of Their Spirit and Soul. Like us they are unique beings which are ultimately one with Mother Earth and Father Sun. For the most part they share Mother Earth's physical body and express themselves through it. Because of this the minor details of how they are perceived by us will differ in different parts of the world, though their essence will be the same in all parts of the world. Vague images of Gods, and Goddesses essence can be perceived in such symbols as Nymph, Mother, Crone, Hag, Horned Man, Hero, Heroine, Crippled King, Trickster, Tyrant, Hermaphrodite, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Intelligence, Compassion, Conflict, nConfusion, and many others…”.
For this reason, there are as many different views of Deity, and Deity structures, as there are ancestral and cultural lines present in Toteg Tribe. Since it is also true that one may be a Toteger and also be a member of a Coven, Grove or Circle, and may be of any religious affiliation including Christianity, general Paganism, Wicca, Druidry, Asatru or anything else, we also have Totegers who honor the gods of their own religions, everyone from Ameirgin through Zeus and inclusive of everyone from the Buddha to Jesus.
Toteg Tribe has adopted the following Affirmation as a cogent outline of our principles and philosophies. I offer it here as a summation of the various answers to “What Is Toteg Tribe?” It is also a brief summation of the overall ethical stance of Toteg Tribe and its members.
We are Toteg Tribe.
We know that all things are children of the Earth Mother and Sky Father, and thus we are all related.
We learn the lessons Mother Earth teaches us through the languages of our brothers and sisters; all that breathes, swims, flies, moves, grows, changes and exists.
We aspire to walk in balance on Mother Earth and live in harmony with all that is.
We remember to speak with respect with all things.
We honor and respect all of our ancestors: physical, cultural, and spiritual.
We listen with consideration to those who choose to share their wisdom with us, and respect their rights to do so in their own way, in their own time.
We invoke the power of spirit for our own dreams and visions for the guidance of ourselves and our Tribe.
We respect your right to follow your own vision.
We seek to find correctness, good judgment, learning and knowledge in all things.
We practice personal responsibility in our daily lives.
We are the Toteg Tribe.
We also embrace as a Core Ethical Principle the Ethic of Reciprocity, which is expressed in every culture. In our own American Culture we know it as the Golden Rule. Permutations of its existence in myriad other cultures can be found on the Toteg Tribe Web Site.
HOW ~ Ways We Worship
This is the Toteg Tribe basic bare bones ritual pattern which should be used for any of our circles. It can be used both for a person working solo, and for a communal rite.
This may be done outdoors or indoors. There is no need for a fancy altar of any kind, though you may want a place to set a candle and incense burner if you use them.
Remember whenever you use set words don't just recite them, but reflect deeply on their meaning. It's best if you visualize or otherwise imagine what you are saying as happening.
If you are solo face the direction the sun is in if it's daytime, or the moon is in if it's night time and hold your arms out in front of you, palms down about level with your hips. If you are in a group, stand in a circle facing inwards and hold your hands and arms the same way.
Recite the PURIFICATION aloud:
May the fires of the sun purify us,
The waters of the earth cleanse us,
The winds of the heavens freshen us,
And may the rich earth feed and strengthen us.
Being cleansed and nourished may we realize our connection with all of nature,
So that with our spirits awakened we may live in harmony with all of creation.
Now turn your palms upwards if you are solo, or join hands if you are in a group, and recite the INVOCATION aloud:
Mother Earth, Father Sky, come into us now,
that we may realize our unity with you,
Knowing that as we are your children
Your spirit resides in us all.
May we realize our divine nature,
And witnessing your connection in all things,
Share all with you, as you share all with us.
Now if you have an altar set up the leader should light a candle on it then light some incense, spray some cologne, or pour some fruit juice into a bowl (or any combination) and recite the OFFERING prayer.
Mother Earth and Father Sky,
You from whom all things come and to whom all things return,
We thank you for your many blessings.
Receive now this token of the blessings you have given us,
Returned with our gratitude and love.
If there are others in the circle, each one then goes to the altar one at a time and makes the same offering.
People may now sit down, and take part in this time when any teaching is given by the leader, special prayers made, magic performed, or quiet meditation or discussion done.
When this is completed, everyone stand in a circle again and hold hands, or if alone stand and hold your hands out like you did in the INVOCATION and close with a prayer such as the
All wise, gracious Mother of Us All,
All powerful lord, Our Father,
Sustain us, your children, this day.
Give us the wisdom to see your path,
And the strength to prevail in the darkest hour.
We thank you for the joys we have
And for the chances you have give us to prove ourselves
In adversity as well as in happiness.
May we thrive.
If you should desire more information about Toteg Tribe, there are resources available on our web site, http://www.toteg.org. We hope to see you there.
Toteg Tribal Council
Sacar, MountainShadows Clan, Toteg Tribe
Please visit the Toteg Tribe web site for updated citations.
Copyright: This Article Copyright 09/05/2007, by Aisling SongWeaver and Toteg Tribe, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Location: Murray, Utah
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