The origins of advanced circle practice

Toke Moeller

From a Facebook post of Toke Paludan Moeller :

Some years ago, I was invited to come train Aboriginal Canadian leaders from the Cree, Dakota and Ojibwe tribes in Winnipeg, Canada in co-creative leadership. One of the female leaders told me that it was the Vikings who brought advanced circle practice to the Cree tribe. My assumption up until that moment had been that the Aboriginal Canadian peoples had been the most advanced in the use of the circle as a tool for dialogue and deliberation, and not my own tribe, the Vikings.
She continued, “The grandmothers of my tribe, who are the ones who keep our important stories alive, told me that more than a 1000 years ago, a Viking tribe sailed up the river and went ashore. When we discovered that they were as skilled warriors as ourselves, we welcomed them.

After a few months where trust had grown between us, they taught us how to use the circle for council deliberations and for making wise decisions on behalf of the tribe”. I was astounded and moved by this instruction in my ancestors’ skills, and I realised that being educated in taking responsibility as a citizen is a positive element of our Viking-DNA.
And we could easily work on strengthening that today.

– toke


Toke’s reflections are similar to my own, when Medicine Story (Manitonquat) mentioned something  from the history of his tribe, the Wampanoag Nation of Massachusetts. He said that the tribal legends state that some of the circle practice was learned from Vikings.

Of course,  sitting in circles probably comes from the discovery of fire and the cooking of food around the fire. From there the oral tradition of story telling and sharing probably developed. So it comes from very simple origins, and has been developed since then by many cultures.

Meeting in circles is a profound social technology that, it seems, had been refined and developed over thousands of years to offer a way for the human project to develop.

Indeed, tribal societies have developed the potential to live sustainably, in harmony with nature and indeed with themselves and each other, even if we can find evidence they were not always successful.

The advanced practice of circles seems to have fallen from mainstream as part of the  “great forgetting“. For the North American Native People, Manitonquat once told me that the sudden contact with settlers from the west disrupted their own circles. Apart from the disease and violence that the Native People had to deal with, they also had no idea that their own traditions were so valuable until they lost them.

Theory T is all about taking the wisdom from the past with the needs of the present to build the future we all long for – for ourselves and our grandchildren.



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