The Ancestral Health movement typically views diet, exercise, sleep, avoidance of environmental toxins and stress reduction as foundational for optimal health. This focus is predicated upon the premise that our genome is essentially no different than our Paleolithic ancestors, and yet our contemporary diet and lifestyle bear no resemblance to our predecessors. This radical departure is viewed as the primary source of the chronic diseases of Western civilization.
There is something vital missing from the Ancestral Health model, which is equally absent from the traditional Western medical model. Our Paleolithic ancestors had a spiritual relationship with the cosmos.
In 1914 a cave was discovered in Southwestern France, consisting of an enormous hall accessed by a long, low, narrow passageway. The walls of this cave are covered with depictions of animals that lived in Europe 12,000 years ago: bison, mammoths, stags, woolly ponies and leaping bulls. The mural depicts numerous flying spears directed towards these prehistoric creatures. There is a sorcerer overlooking this tableau, a 30 inch being, a therianthrope: half-human and half-animal. This mythical creature has a man’s full beard and dancing legs, the antlers and ears of a stag, and the paws and sex organ of a lion. The Animal Master, a shaman, was responsible for the hunt and the abundance of game.
Les Trois Freres, as this underground sacred cathedral is now named, was used for thousands of years as a space to enact rituals of transformation and rebirth. The purpose of these ceremonies was to increase the supply of game while meditating on the mystical relationship between human beings and the natural world.
In modern life, our relationship with the natural world is denied. We are no longer dependent on the rhythm of the sun’s cycles of light and dark to regulate our patterns of activity and rest. What we eat is unrelated to what is available seasonally. But beyond the physical realm, there is a fundamental spiritual dissociation between ourselves and the natural world. Our modern society is ruled by scientism, the belief that science is the only source of wisdom. Science is no longer an indispensable tool to gather knowledge about nature, but has become deified, and other ways of knowing are viewed with contempt.
This world view not only contributes to the widespread incidence of depression and anxiety in our culture, as it it drains the world of meaning and magic, but has resulted in the continued rape of our planet, threatening the human future on this earth. Our psychological malaise is not only because of refined carbs, industrial seed oils, lack of nutrient dense and fermented foods, and gut permeability , but because we are cut off from our connection to the cosmos. It is essential to include the cultivation of our sacred relationship to nature as an integral part of Ancestral Health.