Ancestors alive: An interview with Jon Cleland Host

Three Birds, by H. Kopp-Delaney

“The whole world becomes a family reunion.”

Snowflake by Simply InnocuousWinterviews continues.  From the Solstice till Imbolc, we’ve brought you non-stop interviews and other goodies from big-name authors:

Today, Jon Cleland Host, Ph.D., talks with us via Skype about honoring ancestors from a naturalistic perspective.

Click above to listen.

Jon Cleland Host, founder and moderator of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo group, engages the somewhat unexpected topic of naturalistic reverence for ancestors.

I say unexpected because, from a naturalistic perspective, one might well ask:

Why honor ancestors if you don’t believe there is an afterlife in which they exist?

Well, Jon has some enlightening things to say about that:

“I look back at how I used to live… and the best word for it is, the world I used to live in.  It’s like living in another world where everything is meaningful and powerful, and you’re surrounded by connections just like at a family reunion.  The whole world becomes a family reunion.”

Not only does Jon share with us moving stories of why he honors his ancestors, he also explains how he developed his spiritual path, and came to coin the term “Naturalistic Pagan.”

The interviewee

Jon Cleland Host

Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997.  He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature.  He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University.  Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see, and the blog at  Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality.  He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.

Check out Jon’s other posts:

4 Comments on “Ancestors alive: An interview with Jon Cleland Host

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  3. “We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to
    > find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live
    > again. To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and
    > approve.
    > Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead,
    > breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers
    > of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by
    > our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: “Tell our story”.
    > So, we do.
    > In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I
    > stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I
    > told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family; you would be proud
    > of us.” How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow
    > there was love there for me? I cannot say.
    > It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do
    > I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost
    > forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen.
    > The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to
    > doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were
    > able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes
    > to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or
    > giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their
    > family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought, and some died,
    > to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense
    > understanding that they were doing it for us.
    > It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us
    > birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as
    > far back as we can reach. That we might be born who we are. That we
    > might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each
    > fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of
    > who we are.
    > So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to
    > that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my
    > place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my
    > family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step
    > up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known
    > before.”
    > Author: Unknown

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