You can be an ancestor of tradition, sending thoughts and actions into the world that will live on into the future. I think people tend to assume that being a future ancestor of tradition means being famous and influential in both your lifetime and beyond. After all, without fame, how are your ideas going to spread? This way of thinking owes everything to celebrity orientated culture and nothing to the nature of tradition. A famous person is just that, but the effect of their influence is limited to their lifespan unless they have followers. That means either belong to, or founding a tradition. The life blood of tradition is not big names though. Traditions do not require famous people to keep them going. They need participants. Regular people. Us. Consider the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, or Oxfam. Organisations only outlive their originator if there are many participants to keep the project alive.
We all get to be part of that. In every ritual and moot, in every blog post and conversation we choose what to pass on, what to discard, what to tinker with. The act of sharing, one person to another, is the essence of a living tradition. Every time you interact with a tradition, you are helping to carry if forward, and you are being a future ancestor of that tradition.
I come from a folk background. While the writer’s name is attached to a song, it isn’t folk. Only when the originator cases to be visible, is it truly a folk song. All folk was once written by someone, and has been through a lot of hands. To be truly a part of the tradition is to have disappeared into it merging with the flow. Without individuals, there can be no great flow of tradition, either. We shape traditions and are shaped by them.
Most of history was not made out of famous names. Every big event, every new movement and cultural shift was not just about the famous few, but involved the hidden many. The invisible ones whose many hands and voices decide what is kept and what is discarded. When the invisible many at together, we get results. It may be Brian May who is remembered for Team Badger, but on his own, h wouldn’t have managed much.
(For anyne who missed what’s going on here, this is the talk I gave at the Druid Network con last weekend in bits, and the first installment is here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/druidry-end-of-history-part-1 )