"Kanagara: The permaculture-infused Japanese mythology of Ryan Hobbs" - Interview by Willi Paul Studio / Planetshifter.com
"Kanagara: The permaculture-infused Japanese mythology of Ryan Hobbs" - Interview by willi paul studio / planetshifter.com

"Ian G. Barbour - suggests several reasons why myths are potentially useful guides for both the practical living of daily life and the search for metaphysical understanding. The first - one is that "myths offer ways of ordering experience." In this sense, myths have relevance to daily life because they take as their subject perennial problems of human existence in the world. Another reason why myths are able to offer meaningful guidance is that "myths inform man about himself." This is because humans derive their sense of self-identity, in part, from reflection on significant past events, and consideration of myths relevant to our experience can aid in that reflective process. A third way - is that "myths express a saving power in human life." This salvational quality of myth is derived from the experiential nature of an encounter with mythology rather than from any intellectual or theoretical insights one might derive from a mythic narrative."

Source - Dissertation, 2003. Richard S. Stromer

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Interview with Ryan by Willi -

You write that "I am currently working towards my longtime goal of living independently and sustainably on my own farm and creating culture based on my experiences for a holistic sense of home and stability." How do you plug-in sustainability and holism into your new world view?

I see sustainability as a requirement for Kanagara, or living in harmony with others and my environment. This is my primary ethical system. Holistic well-being is just a goal of mine, to cultivate myself through study, mindfulness, and to know who I am and where I belong. The whole being of human needs more than the basic food, water, and shelter. We also need to belong, have healthy relationships, to enjoy life, to be content, and to feel a sense of accomplishment. For me, this is all available on a farm, while it is only partly available in a town for me. Lots of others may love the city, but I do not find joy among concrete. I need to get my hands dirty, feel the grass between my toes, and pick my breakfast from my garden to feel right.

You write: "I am building a new culture including religious ceremony and holidays based on a new calendar that comes from the life cycle of a farm and forest." Tell us more.

The construction of a calendar is quite a daunting task; however, I am inspired by ancient calendars that took season into more account for doing tasks and the movements of celestial bodies for holidays. I am considering borrowing from the ancient Celts and Norse in regard to year end celebrations. But I feel that Ohanami (great flower viewing, a festival lasting several days the point of which is to enjoy cherry and plum trees in bloom) is a wonderful spring holiday from Japan that should be enjoyed as well. I am nowhere near finished with this, but as an early conceptual model, there will be eight seasons, splitting up the four generally used to add whether the season is waxing or waning, with solstices and equinoxes dividing the four seasons into eight.

As for new ritual, it is actually more of a new tradition of old rituals. For example, I often pray to Inari Okami sama who is my religion's God of Grain, Beans, and Prosperity. In the future, I would like to build Them a proper shrine by my fields and make offerings of firstfruits and sake. And in time, maintaining the shrine and making offerings will become tradition.

Who are your Heroes and Gods? Can the community be the Hero?

When I say hero, I'm referring to a culture hero, for example, Hercules, Sigurd Fafnirbana, Jimmu Tennou. These are people from long ago whose stories became a legend, and whose legends became lessons on various virtues espoused by the one telling the story.

How is your ancestral history tied to your current personal - and world - mythologies?

It is complicated, but knowing my family history gives me confidence. Because they overcame difficulties, I feel like I can too. A lot of my known early ancestors like Bjorn Ragnarsson who was a general of The Great Heathen Army that conquered England and established the Danelaw or his descendant William The Conqueror Duke of Normandy who also conquered England in 1066 did things in their lives that became legendary. And these actions good or bad shaped the world we live in today. There are ancestors whose deeds I am not proud of such as Israel Bradford who was party to the massacres during Prince Phillip's War in the 1600s. But knowing what was done in the past helps us make better decisions in the future.

What codes and values are important in your life? What supports them and what doesn't?

My ethical code is a simple rule of thumb, and it is a form of situational ethics. That is to strive for harmonious relationships in all circles. Like in Bill Mollison's permaculture zones with home at the center and wilderness at the far reaches; my ethics strive for harmony at each zone, from family at the center to world environment at the far reaches. Harmony to me is defined by a lack of strife and working together instead of against one another. I draw this concept from the concept in Shinto called Kanagara, though my version is a variation on it. When there is a problem, I try to solve it thinking about both sides and seeking a compromise when possible. If both sides are satisfied with it, it is a harmonious conclusion. This ethical code applies to nature in not being greedy. Don't take more than you need and always give back what you can. That way you will live well and always have enough, because harmony with nature is future providence.

Are you creating new rituals and traditions or modifying old ones?

A little of both actually. My rites are simplified versions of older ones. The Grain God receives firstfruits of a new harvest, and then we eat it because waste is an act that leads to impurity. But the prayers are typically old ones repeated anew. I intend to hold festivals in the future to thank the Gods and our ancestors for the bounty we receive and for good health and happiness. These would be simple affairs of feasting, telling stories, and making offerings and prayers. In this regard, I draw from my family history and celebrations as well as from past history of my Norse ancestors who held such feasts. In all such things, I prefer simplicity over pomp.

Speak to me about your religion? How is this the same or different from your mythology?

I practice a form of Shinto which is a kind of animism where all things have a spirit. And I also pray to my ancestors separately from this tradition. Our mythology is kept separately from that of Shinto, but it is equally important to me. In my ancestry, there are many different ethnicities, Danes, Kievian Rus, Norwegians, English, Eastern Band Cherokee, and many more. Our records go back to the 400s CE for some bloodlines. And the stories of the lives of those people who lived before us serve as lessons about life. We tell our oral history at gatherings and on holidays. It gives us a sense of belonging and therefore unity.

Campbell speaks to a "realization of transcendence." Do you understand what he means by this and can to point to any examples in your life?

I am not familiar with his work, so I can't comment on this.

Please share a complete story from your Great Grandpa.

My great grandpa was born in 1921 in Kingsport TN, and his parents were from the Big Cove area in NC. He grew up in the Great Depression, and his copper toned skin did him no favors. He once told me the story of his boyhood. He said his parents were tricked by the government into leaving the reservation to move into the city. They were promised all sorts of things like a new stove, a new house, and so on. But once they got there, they lived on the poor side of town and found that they were stuck there for lack of money to move back. They still got commodities though, and he grew up on canned ham and homemade bread. He said to never trust the government. He also mentioned Tsali and him being executed by Yonaguska, but did not elaborate.

What are a few of the mythological symbols in your spiritual system?

The most important to me are the symbols of my Gods and of the powers of creation. So, an old man carrying grain and accompanied by foxes, or a woman dancing with bells and a sword, or a woman seated on a lotus accompanied by a sea dragon and playing a lute. These are meaningful to me.

How do you support your spiritual needs? Does Nature play a role?

Nature is not separate from man. And I think that is the most important thing to realize. Nature does not play a role in our lives, we are by our very nature, a part of the natural process.

What do you mean by "neo-tribal community cohesion through shared stories and experience?"

A group of people are held together as a tribe by their shared experiences and stories. Sometimes this is on a large scale like how everyone in the US knows the story of Paul Revere's ride and the battles of Lexington and Concord. Or it can be on a small scale like how Marvin Sutton became known as "Popcorn Sutton." Everyone who knows a story has stuff in common. If people who live near each other and who maintain contact know a large number of the same stories, and these stories hold them together like a family bond, then they are a neo-tribal community. Neo because they are not always recognized as an old tribe. For more on this I recommend the works of Daniel Quinn. Cohesion is maintained by shared stories and experiences.

Is permaculture a source for new stories and visions?

Anything can be a source, but permaculture is a practice needed for continuation of the human race, so it may give rise to a new tribe. The shared experiences of practitioners are already creating a new culture, and I think that is what Bill Mollison wanted to happen.

What is resilience to you? How does it support your creative pursuits?

Resilience is diversity. A lot of different things come together, some not working out opens up room for a new idea to shine.

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Bios -

Ryan Hobbs
Umebanairo at gmail.com

Education: Homeschooled, Public School, got a GED, and got a post-secondary certificate in Horticulture from Eastland Career Center in Horticulture and Landscaping.

Other Education: Self-taught bladesmith, studied Ceramics with Fred Paddock, studied ecology independently with second hand textbooks. Fluent in Japanese to N4 level in writing and N3 in speaking.

Work: Although currently disabled, I have had businesses in ceramics, metalwork, and Landscape Design; and have worked previously in paving, landscaping, and in a restaurant.

Goals: I am currently working towards my longtime goal of living independently and sustainably on my own farm and creating culture based on my experiences for a holistic sense of home and stability.


Willi Paul
willipaul1 at gmail.com

As Principal of willi paul studio / planetshifter.com Willi partners with companies and individuals to provide custom contract media services including articles, interviews, edu-videos, roundtables and eWorkshops. He co-develops and expands each clients' creative vision and excels in delivering content in a captivating and authentic way. His target clients are Start-Ups, B-Corps, Incubators and Non-Profit Organizations.

Planetshifter.com is an online community resource, diverse database and outreach network that launched on Earth Day 2009. Planetshifter.com provides a deep database and wealth of information that includes 225 thought leader interviews with leading mythologists, permaculturists and artists, 1700 articles, 20 workshops, 104 New Myths, 38 eBooks and 173 edu-videos. As a globally-connected writer and activist in the Sustainability, Permaculture, Transition, SpiritNature, and New Mythology sectors, Mr. Paul is a visionary for the new global mythologist. Please find him on http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0FAEA97D12725FB0&action_edit=1&feature=view_all target="blank">YouTube, academia.edu, Facebook, LinkedIn and DepthPsychologyAlliance.com.