animism links | photo archive| tickets and info | about | home | contact




If you are curious about Bear Feast and haven't been before, you can read the description we submitted to the recent 92Y religion competition HERE. This contains a good description of what we actually do at a Bear Feast. If you are really curious you can download the Bear Feast Manual which contains all the info necessary to organise your own.

About Us

The Bear Tribe was set up by Kate Fletcher and Corwen ap Broch in 2007 with the intent of eventually becoming a working group for those interested in Animistic Sprituality, and an umbrella name within which we could organise events. It now has lots of members, a Facebook Page to follow for the casually interested and a Facebook Group for those who have been to events and want to keep in touch. There has been at least one Bear Feast each year since 2007!  

Feel Empowered!

If you want to hold a Bear Feast of your own you can download the Bear Tribe Manual.

You can also download the songs for the ritual here:

In the Height of a Cloud Running 
Hunter's Song
Homecoming Song 
Honeypaw Song 
Hearth Song
Origin of Otso 

Song Sheet (pdf format) 

About the Bear Feast

One of Mankind's oldest spiritual impulses is Arctolatry, The Worship of the Bear. When we first came to the Northern forests Bear taught us to find food. When we starved in the depths of winter the flesh of the bear sustained us. Teacher and Saviour, his corpse alarmingly man-like when stripped of its warm fur, mystery and taboo surrounded the animal whose name must not be spoken. A child of the Sky God, lowered from on high on a golden chain, he is guest of honour at his own funeral feast. With thanks and messages for his Father his spirit is sent back to Heaven that he may return and feed us again in our need time.

This ancient pattern of myth and worship is found all across the North, from the Saami of Norway to the Ainu of Japan and the Inuit of Hudson's Bay. It has even left traces deep in our own mythology. Let us not forget that King Arthur (whose name means Bear) sleeps in a hollow hill to return when he is needed. That he stole from the Mound Fortress a sustaining cauldron, and that his wonder-working grail descended from Heaven upon a golden chain...

This was the mythos we drew upon for our Bear Feast, inspired also by Graham Harvey's recent work on Animism. This yearly ritual gives us an opportunity to connect with the other-than-human-persons (plants and animals) we have eaten through the year and express compassionate gratitude towards them.

About Animism

If you would like to know more about Animism please peruse the Links listed on the Animism Links page. We would also encourage you to read the works of Graham Harvey, especially his book Animism, Respecting the Living World. His Animist's Manifesto is also very interesting, so we have reproduced it in full here with his kind permission.

Animist's Manifesto

By Graham Harvey


All that exists lives
All that lives is worthy of respect
You don’t have to like what you respect
Not liking someone is no reason for not respecting them
Respecting someone is no reason for not eating them

Reasons are best worked out in relationship – especially if you are looking for reasons to eat someone – or if you are looking for reasons not to be eaten

If you agree that all that exists is alive and worthy of respect, it is best to talk about ‘persons’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’, let alone ‘biomechanisms’, ‘resources’, ‘possessions’, and ‘things’

The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human
The world is full of other-than-human persons
The world is full of other-than-oak persons
The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons
The world is full of other-than-salmon persons
The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons
The world is full of other-than-rock persons…

‘Other-than’ has at least three references:
it reminds us that we are persons in relationship with others,
it reminds us that many of our closest kin are human, while the closest kin of oaks are oaks, so we talk most easily with humans while rocks talk most easily with other rocks…
it reminds us to speak first of what we know best (those closest to us)

Make that four references:

it reminds us to celebrate difference as an opportunity to expand our relationships rather than seeing it as a cause of conflict or conquest

All life is relational and we should not collapse our intimate alterities into identities
Others and otherness keep us open to change, open to becoming, never finally fixed in being
Alterities resist entropy and encourage creativity through rationality, sociality (or, as William Blake said, ‘enmity is true friendship’)

Animism is neither monist nor dualist, it is only just beginning when you get beyond counting one, two… At its best it is thoroughly, gloriously, unashamedly, rampantly pluralist

Respect means being cautious and constructive
It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,
It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others
It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…
It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts

believers in ‘human rights’, for example, demonstrate their belief in rights not only by supporting legislation to protect individuals from states, companies and majorities, but by not insisting on hogging the whole road or pavement, not insisting on another human getting out of the way on a busy street…

You don’t have to hug every tree to show them respect but you might have to let trees grow where they will—you might have to move your telephone lines or greenhouse
You might have to build that road away from that rock or that tree
Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first

Just because the world and the cosmos is full of life does not make it a nice and easy place to live. Lots of persons are quite unfriendly to others. Many see us as a good dinner. They might respect us as they eat us. Or they may need education. Like us, they might learn best in relationship with others who show respect even to those they don’t like, and especially to those they like the taste of.

Although evolution has no aim, life is not pointless. The purpose of life is to be good people — and good humans or good rocks or good badgers. What we have to find out is what ‘good’ means where we are, when we are, with whom we are, and so on. It is certainly wrapped up with the word ‘respect’ and all the acts that implies.

Since all that exists lives—and since all that lives is, in some senses, to some degree, conscious, communicative and relational—and since many of the persons with whom we humans share this planet have a far better idea of what’s going on than we do—we can now stop all the silliness about being the pinnacle of creation, the highest achievement of evolution, the self-consciousness of the world or cosmos… We’re just part of the whole living community and we’ve got a lot to learn. Our job isn’t to save the planet, or speak for the animals, or evolve towards higher states. Many other-than-human people are already happily self-aware, thank you very much, and if we paid attention we might learn a few things ourselves. By the way, we’re probably not alone in mistaking ourselves for the most important people in the world: hedgehogs probably think they are (but they’re spiky flea-ridden beasts so why believe them?!).

Um, when I said that ‘all that exists lives’, I’m not sure about plastic bags.

But I am certain that we should not treat objects as mere resources, somehow available or even given to us, or humanity, to use as we will or wish.

The same goes for words like ‘substances’, especially those that exist within plant and fungal persons. There are substances, but they aren’t ours until they are given, gifted to us. And then we’d better find out why we’ve been given whatever gifts we get. And we’d better ask how those gifts might be best used (whether its for pleasure, power, wisdom or whatever). This is especially true if the plant or mushroom person who offers us the gift substance has to lose their life in the process.

Maybe sometimes the mushrooms just want to help us join in the big conversation that’s going on all around us. But not all rocks, fish, plants, fungi, birds, animals or humans want to talk with us:

Sometimes they want to be quiet

Sometimes they want to be rude

Sometimes they have other concerns

Sometimes they don’t understand

Sometimes we don’t speak the language

Sometimes we don’t know the appropriate gift

The precise and proper way to show respect depends where you are, who you are, who you are respecting and what they expect. Gifts, like swords and words, have more than one side. Alcohol is a gift in one place, a poison somewhere else. Handshakes are friendly in one place, shows of strength elsewhere. Kissing is respectful to some people, an assault on others. Respectful etiquette is hard work but its reward is fuller participation in a large and exciting community of life.

Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking for us
Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking to us

Animism is just over the bridge that closes the Cartesian gap by knowing how to answer the question, What is your favourite colour? Perhaps it is the bridge. Perhaps there is no gap and animists are people who refuse to collude with the illusion

Animism is often discovered by sitting beneath trees, on hills, in rivers, with hedgehogs, beside fires… Animism is better communicated in trickster tales, soulful songs, powerful poems, rousing rituals, and/or elemental etiquette than in manifestos.

[Originally published By Strange Attractor Journal Journal number three . We would like to thank Graham for giving us the permission to publish this on line!]


Just to avoid any confusion we are not:
The Bear Tribe Medicine Society
Tribe of the Spirit Bear






All content and design copyright Corwen Broch 2010