Yes, yes, I can already hear your impatient mutterings, wondering what “The Lion King” is doing on a blog about Celtic spirituality. Well hold your horses (or zebras).
Earlier in the day, my daughter followed my husband into the garage to “help” him with something. She emerged carrying my large plush adult Simba. He’d been in a bag with my other “Lion King” toys, patiently waiting for the right time to come out. We have limited space in the apartment, after all… Well, I took this as a sign that it was time to initiate her in the mysteries of my childhood. (“It is time,” as Rafiki would say.) My husband and I grew up loving “The Lion King.” I spent much of my childhood watching it, reading related books, singing along to the soundtrack, playing with the toys, and acting out various scenes with my friends. You could say I was obsessed. I had been eager to share it with my little one and continue the great “Circle of Life.” I actually got a little emotional as that song played over the opening scene. My daughter excitedly pointed out each animal, oohing and aahing over the presentation ceremony. As the movie progressed, I brought out more of my old toys, and she excitedly engaged with them. She danced to the songs and reacted emotionally to Mufasa’s death – more than I thought a two year old would.
As I watched, it hit me that this movie was probably my first exposure to ancestor veneration and the concept of how interconnected everything is. Sure, “Bambi” had an equally emotional death scene, but “The Lion King” really went beyond death simply as a fact of life, and infused such spirit into the experience. Not only are our beloved dead still with us in the natural world, passing through the food chain, but they are in the stars and even in us. It can seem so obvious, but it’s really rather profound when you look at your reflection and see familiar features from ages past looking back at you. When Mufasa tells Simba that he forgot who he himself was and, therefore, forgot his father, it’s quite profound. We like to think of ourselves as individuals, but our actions and morals are something that are passed down to us, that we will pass on ourselves. We honor our dead by living in a way that they would be proud of, and we hope our children will continue to live in a way that brings the whole family honor. When I was older and more worldly, the Broadway musical version came out with even more songs to add further depth to the story. One of the songs explored how intimately connected we are to our Ancestors and all life. I remember starting to explore ADF Druidism, thinking on my Ancestors, and automatically singing “They Live in You.” I thought of my grandmother, my great grandmother, and all the people I never met who had shaped my own parents. They truly are alive in me – genetically and even in my value system.
As Samhain nears, and my daughter grows, it is good to know that an old childhood favorite can be a tool for discussion. From the “circle of life,” to ancestor veneration, “The Lion King” is a great option for a Druid Movie Night with the little ones. And hey, the Broadway song is definitely one you could add to your repertoire when giving offerings to your Ancestors.