River Women, Bright Fathers, and Watchers

The ancestors and the dead are much on my mind these last few days. This is coming up in so many ways.

For one thing, I just began reading Micheal W. Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene, which I ordered after reading one of his articles (he writes for The Guardian, among other places). In this book, Twitty explores his ancestry, the connections between American culinary history and chattel slavery, and foods of “the South” (there are many “Souths” and many layers to each). This book is too deep and complex for me to describe it in any way that does justice to it. Just know that it is amazing and we should all buy and read it. (I’m also giving a copy to my youngest son, an aspiring chef.)

This morning I also read an article published in Nov. 2018 in Borderlands (an e-journal): “Mimicry, Mockery and Menace in Swedish International Adoption Narratives,” by Richey Wyver, a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Auckland. The author states:

“I will examine the process of the construction of the international transracial adoptee as a ‘mimic’ Swede in adoption narratives, and discuss what this mimic identity entails and implies.”

It’s the cruel predicament of the “mimic identity” with all its colonial and racist impositions, as inflicted on foreign adopted children, that makes me wonder if Daniel Foor’s teachings of “ancestral medicine” could be one way some adult adoptees could deal with the emotional impacts of the conditions described in the article. (This train of thought, however, was not within the scope of the article.)

Descendents Also Make Me Think of Ancestors

My two children have their birthdays in the next week and a half. One will turn twenty-three and the eldest will turn thirty. When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I became passionate about genealogy. There was something about gestation that made me long for “roots.” I also wanted to find out more about my own father, a mysterious and elusive “deadbeat dad” (now among the ancestors himself).  I spent many hours at the Sutro Library in San Francisco. I tracked some of my father’s movements through city directories of San Diego and Honolulu. I also discovered my connection to many New England families, especially around Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The good news: it was a lot easier to research my family tree as so much has been done already. (New Englanders seem quite obsessed with ancestry.) The bad news: a direct line to  family histories of slave ownership and/or economic benefits from chattel slave economy via cotton trade in the North, as well as complicity in the displacement and genocide of First Peoples. (I’d figured this out in a general way, much earlier in my life, so this wasn’t a complete shock. But now this is more “up close and personal.”)

Every person alive has a complex ancestral history, with villains, heroes, “nobility” and “peasants,” family feuds and bitter wars, all rolled into the coils of their DNA. Our ancestral memories are nightmares. My Scottish Highland ancestors were persecuted by my English ones. Ditto for the Irish and the Welsh. My English ancestors may have suffered at the hands of the Norse ones. How many ancestors died in plague epidemics, wars, and childbirth? And certainly my more recent ancestors were active participants one of the cruelest periods of history–one that is still ongoing.

So while I delight in finding new names for my family tree, it is the delight of a satisfied sleuth, not the delighted pride of ancestry (except for a possible link to Alfonso the Slobberer, a King of Spain, whose nickname does make for a good story…).

So this brings me back again to “ancestral medicine,” a method of healing lineages. The first key premise is that the dead can change, but only with the help of ancient, robust ancestors who are “well and fully seated” (Foor’s language). The other key premise is that the dead can and do enjoy contact with us, the living.

In the method Foor teaches, we begin with a meditative effort to connect with one or more of those fully seated ones. We then ask for help and healing for the lineage, and protection for ourselves while it’s done. We begin to nurture our ties with our ancestors by making offerings or simply talking. We also get out of the way so the wise and ancient ones can bring their healing forward through generations of descendents, all the way to the living and our own descendents. And we continue to nurture our ancestral relationships.

It’s pretty simple and straightforward. One of the beauties is that I don’t have to deal directly with my late father, and you don’t have to deal with your abusive Uncle Roger (or whomever). We can leapfrog over contact with the slave owners and Indian killers–we know they are there–but we don’t have to try to heal their sickness ourselves. We let the wiser ones deal with that. In time, and with our prayers, offerings, and nurturing of ancestral relationships, the ancient ones facilitate a process of (what I imagine is) some kind of responsibility, reconciliation, restitution, forgiveness, and peace.

My Own Lineages

In the last two years, I’ve completed work with three out of my first four lineages (with another four to go). My father’s father’s line (James Marsh, 1854-1938) was the first, and I have to say, is my favorite so far (which surprised me no end). This is the lineage of the “Bright Fathers”–going way back with a sort of flavor that might be Welsh, might be Norse, but is undoubtedly a mixture of all sorts of ancestors. There is a feeling of well-lit halls, feasting, music, jokes, and hardiness. I know, it sounds somewhat stereotypical, but that’s how the first willing ancestor appeared to me. Actually, he wasn’t the “first” I contacted in a light trance. There was a rather dour figure who just pointed me on my way before I “met” up with the Bright Father figure. The dour figure seemed almost “on watch.”

My mother’s mother’s line (Bessie Edmonds Rowell, 1875-1928) came next. In a light guided visualization, I “met” a cluster of fairly silent “River Women” in a landscape of high, mostly unforested hills. Of course, there was a river, and there was a sense of knowledge of water birds and riparian herbs, and the lessons of moving water, but the River Women are not very communicative yet. That’s okay. I haven’t asked them for much either, but I feel comforted by their presence.

The “Watchers and Archers” of my mother’s father’s line (Swift Milne, 1878-1913) were men of the forest. They felt quite ancient, perhaps Pictish, perhaps not. When I first connected with them, one shot an arrow which landed next to me. By picking it up, I signaled that I was asking for communication. This lineage contains some major trauma: my grandfather’s brain tumor, caused by watching the first nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll; and Swift Milne’s death in the great flu epidemic of 1918. The women and children who survived these deaths had a hard time.

The line now in progress is my father’s mother’s line (Francis Kerwin, 1878 or 79-1953), part of my Irish heritage. I haven’t put in much time with this lineage lately, though I honor it with the all others in my daily rituals. Mostly what I’ve sensed here so far are green hills, standing stones, small houses, and an old woman who flicks away troubles with her cleaning rag. She’s rather “no-nonsense.” There is also a connection to the Celtic Brigid/Brigit, either as her earlier pagan self or later Christian saint or both.

Of the remaining lineages, two were healed without my active request, just due to their proximity to another lineage. The Bright Fathers did work that encompassed the lineage of James Marsh’s wife, Elizabeth Hutt or Houghton. And the River Women did work on the lineage of Bessie’s husband, William Fraser Rea (1876-1941). So that really just leaves me with Swift Milne’s wife, Elizabeth Harding (1880-1974) and her lineage, and the lineage of Henry Baxter Hodson (1868-1943), Francis Kerwin’s husband.

The idea is that we are less likely to unconsciously replicate family traumas and negative family patterns if we’ve accomplished healing for our ancestors. Ideally I would have done this work before having children, but of course that didn’t happen. However at this time of my life, ancestor work has become part of “getting my affairs in order.” Instead of leaving behind a “clean-looking corpse” (James Dean’s quote), I aspire to leave behind a cleaner collection of less problematic lineages so that my kids have less to deal with. It would be great if one of them got interested and began working on their father’s side too. It could happen. Foor’s book, Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing, was recently assigned in the master’s program my oldest is attending.

Not Just One Way, But…All Our Ancestral Roads Lead Back to Africa

Every person alive today shares the mitochondrial DNA of one woman from Africa, from about 150,000 years ago. She is known as the “Mitochondrial Eve (also mt-Eve, mt-MRCA)” and “is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans.”

And so I note that the genealogy of Daniel Foor’s teaching comes from his learning in “European pagan paths, Native American ways, Mongolian shamanism, and West African Ifá/Òrìṣà tradition” and that he is “an initiate of Ifá, Ọbàtálá, Ọ̀ṣun, and Egúngún in the lineage of Olúwo Fálolú Adésànyà Awoyadé of Òdè Rẹ́mọ and student of Yorùbá culture” (from his bio.) Africa…

Obviously the hybrid method Foor teaches isn’t the only way to connect with ancestors. Let’s swing back to Michael Twitty. In his book he combines genealogy, history, and explorations of food and old-time cooking methods. He writes:

“I dare to believe all Southerners are a family…We are the unwitting inheritors of a story with many sins that bears the fruit of the possibility of ten times the redemption. One way is through reconnection with the culinary culture of the enslaved, our common ancestors, and restoring their names on the roots of the Southern tree and the table those roots support” (preface, xvii).

If that’s not a quest for healing–ancestral healing–I don’t know what is. And here I imagine what a lovely and potent thing it could be to go as far back as our Mitochondrial Eve, and implore her good offices in sending her healing to the rest of us, her unruly children, down through the long millenia.

In addition to other practical and spiritual benefits of doing this work, I’m not likely to have grandchildren. So why not end my own ancestral story with healing of all those who have gone before, and with a healing extended to my kids, the very last descendents?

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This meme was posted on the Ancestral Medicine forum group on Facebook. I just had to share it.

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Surgery, Surgery

Let’s overshare, shall we? I got some unwelcome news the other day–though it wasn’t exactly a surprise–and sadly, I doubt my sojourn at an Adventist hospital will be anything like the video below. No medical staff in TERF bangs and black leather lab coats. No long-haired singing surgeons. And though the one I’ve got promised me two small tattoos on the inside of my colon, I doubt I’ll be sporting a teensy skull and crossbones in my “anatomy, anatomy… ”

Shucks. My own body is sooooo not “Zydrate” cool. And unlike the character of Amber Sweet in Repo! The Genetic Opera, I won’t be getting anything as simple as an eyelash transplant. Truth be told, I’ve got two different sets of surgical events coming up in my near future. The question at the moment is whether they can be done on the same day by two separate surgeons or not.

But there’s actually a point to this blog post–I’m not just sobbing into a witchy cup of herbal tea.

Surgery as a Liminal Space Challenge

If I have to go through this (and it appears that I do), I want more than the best possible outcome for my old lady body. I want my steel tempered and my temper adamant. I want my Will ‘o the Witch firmly in place, and a surfeit of crispy, creamy offerings tossed to the Guardians of all Thresholds, well in advance. I want to hallow the hospital ground and make like an earnest animist with the spirits of surgical instruments. And even though the Adventist god is not one of mine, I’ll offer respect there too. Pre-surgery hypnosis? That’s on my list. As of this moment, I am in training.

Organizing Preparation

In the next couple of days I’ll be creating a program based on physical, magical, mental, and spiritual steps I can take to prevail in this liminal space challenge. I’m not boasting here–I’m scared and I don’t want to be. I figure if I can approach preparation, surgery, and recovery with everything I’ve learned in my life to date, I can replace that fear with proactive, powerful mindsets and actions. I may fall short of the bad-ass triumph I imagine today, but I’ll certainly be much better off doing this than approaching my wyrd passively, as a “patient.”

So I’ll reaquainting myself with certain books in my library, such as Jason Miller’s The Elements of Spellcrafting and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways.

Miller’s book contains a method for enchanting not just the larger goal (“a successful surgery and recovery”) but also every single step along the way. He writes:

“How enchantable is your body? How enchantable are your habits? How enchantable is your environment? These are questions to ask when we are doing healing magic. Magic, energy healing, and alternative medicine all help, but they are not going to rewrite your DNA, replace your gut bacteria, or remove the need for effort and change on your part” (pp. 40-41).

Exactly. Words to live by.

As for Wachter’s book, lots and lots of ways to work with the unseen beings and energies of what he calls “The Field.” I’ll be looking to this book (and others) for ways to court and nurture alliances, remove inner and outer obstacles to success and healing, and ways to call in the logistics and support help I’m going to need–that kind of thing.

Other practices that I’ll fold into this will include Ho’oponopono (the real kind), medical self-hypnosis, wards against fragrance and chemical exposures while in the hospital, enchantments for transportation and the highways, blessings and protections for my cats while I’m away, and so on.

Asking the Spirit World for Help

As I’ve said often, I’m a polytheist. I have some wonderful deities that I honor on an almost daily basis (sometimes I miss a day). And I work with and honor my ancestors and make offerings to the local wights. I probably need to get with the wights over there near the hospital, to ask them for safe harbor and safe passage. And there will be a lot of consultation and divination throughout.

There’s a lot to do. I also have to figure out medicare in the middle of all this.

But I do have time to over-prepare. After this blog I won’t be saying much more than what I’ve written today. I believe in secrecy during magic, in cultivating a quiet and determined mind. But I write this blog today because there may be the start of a roadmap here for someone else facing surgery or medical procedures.

The most important element is to approach each surgery as a liminal challenge, a rite of passage, and as an opportunity to “level up.” I expect to be even more of a bad-ass after this, with a much improved quality of life.

“May there be peace between us for all of our days.”

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Spiritual Seesaw

This last month has felt bifurcated. On the one hand, I was finishing up two important acts of devotional service for the Norse Loki Laufeyjarson, my patron deity, and on the other hand I was called into service on behalf of Mauna Kea and Poliahu, its goddess of the snow.

I know. It sounds weird, doesn’t it?

2560px-'Mauna_Kea_from_Hilo_Bay'_by_D._Howard_Hitchcock,_1887
“Mauna Kea from HIlo Bay,” D. Howard Hitchcock, 1887. Public Domain.

I guess that’s just how it rolls in polytheism, especially when you work with deities from different pantheons. Bifurcation, trifurcation, whatever-furcation!!!

In my most recent work for Loki, of course I’m referring to the LokiFest Online conference and the completion of work on Loki’s Torch, an anthology of devotional work.  I’m now experiencing a post-project “let down” (I hear that’s normal) with only vague intimations of what’s coming up next.

In my work on behalf of sacred Mauna Kea, I’m referring to signal boosting and  writing, as an ally from afar. And of course I’m not going to stop finding ways to pass along information about the cause. It’s also a gift to connect once again with the spirit of Kapu Aloha, as exemplified by the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors). I so want them to win!

The above is background for an unexpected grace that’s emerged in these last few weeks. I had thought that my incongruous relationship with the “powers” of Hawai’i had been severed back in 2017, and I’ve felt a sense of exile, and a vague shame, ever since. Finding that connection fanned into life again, as part of a “call” for everyone to show up for the Mauna and for the Kanaka Maoli, has been healing. All I had ever wanted, really, was to be of use to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i).

And why is that?

Because, starting the early 2000’s, Maui and Hawai’i islands whammed me with a spiritual epiphany and then bestowed substantial healing for my environmental illness. I have no idea why, but it happened and I benefited. In return, I pledged to do whatever I could for Hawai’i as a “give-back.” I’ve often been clumsy in how I went about this, and have stumbled on the paving stones of “good intentions” as I travel my personal “road to Hel.” But I did try to keep my vow even when looking (and acting) the fool. I guess it feels good to have another opportunity to potentially contribute.

Years later, Loki also saved my life, coming to me during a time of utmost despair and shame. I made a vow to him too, oathing myself to him and his service. However he understands that I’ve also got previous commitments. He graciously stepped to the side as Mauna Kea came front and center on July 15th. (Besides I was still doing his work, as well.)

Come to think of it, I’m no stranger to bifurcation (trifurcation, whatever-furcation!). I’ve straddled worlds and juggled distinctly different viewpoints and approaches as a parent, in my romantic relationships, in my career, and in my creative work and spiritual quests. I’m always in exile, never entirely at home. Yet, there are common themes with all of this. But maybe only I can see, from my own peculiar vantage point, how it makes sense for me to honor deities of both the Norse and Hawaiian pantheons, as long as my offerings are acceptable.

My favorite Loki artist, Sceithailm on Deviant Art (aka Sceith-A), often depicts Loki as shod on the right foot, shoeless on the left, walking between worlds. How lucky I am to be at last with a deity who understands. My own right foot walks the Midgard realm known as Turtle Island. My left foot–apparently–never really did leave the ‘aina.

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Artist: Sceithailm, A. URL: sceithailm.deviant.art.com. I do not own the rights to this picture but am using it in this blog for educational purposes and to promote the artist’s webpage.

Hail Loki!

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Publication Party! Loki’s Torch Anthology

Loki'sTorch-BlogHeaderCue up your favorite song. I said it was a party! Then click the banner link below to get your copy of Loki’s Torch, officially published today, August 1st, just in time for Lokabrenna (Sirius rising and the “Dog Days of Summer.”)

Update: By the way, in case you were wondering. Here’s a message from Ky Greene regarding the financial aspect of this ALL VOLUNTEER PROJECT: “Everyone who contributed got a free PDF. We only make $5 off every sale, which we are saving to be able to fund other events/products for the Lokean community as a whole. The rest of the proceeds go to MagCloud for their printing service. Since it’s a print-on-demand service, people are paying the printers.”


 


This is a great collection of devotional work from the Lokean community–artwork, poems, fiction, articles, rituals, and even recipes!

Print on demand or PDF. Published by Loki University.


This song’s going out to you, Loki!


Hail Loki!

Day 30: Approaching Loki

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Artist to come. Public Domain.

Our last  Deity Devotion question is: “any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?” Yes, I do have a few.

Don’t do what I did–which is immediately plunge in wholeheartedly. You’ll want to, but it is better to go a little slowly at first. My experiences have not been negative at all–though they have been intense–but I’m an aging Scorpio with a tremendous range of life experience. I tend to think I can get away with being reckless, even at my age. (Hubris, I know…)

Do read the lore, The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda and others. As you do this you may become frustrated by Christian attempts to cast Loki as an evil “Norse Satan” (this comes up in The Prose Edda and modern myths), but these are still important literary references. (These are not sacred or religious texts.)

Read the books by Dagulf Loptson and Steven Grundy, Ph.D.

Get to know Loki in all his manifestations and kennings and moods. You won’t be sorry.

Enjoy devotional Loki poetry and the very wide array of contemporary Loki art.

Don’t make a promise or a vow you can’t keep. Whether your promise is trivial or vital, Loki expects that you will keep your word. So, watch your language carefully.

Regular offerings to Loki are fun to do. And altars to Loki are fun to make.

Have something to offer him if you want to ask for assistance.

Enjoy the online community. I personally like the Lokean Welcoming Committee on Tumblr, especially this FAQ, and Loki’s Wyrdlings group on Facebook (I’m a moderator for the latter). There’s even a Loki University!

If you’re interested in Heathenry, especially inclusive, social-justice-aware Heathenry, check out The Troth. They hail Loki again at their annual Trothmoot. We’re all so pleased.

Shameless plugs: Our upcoming LokiFest Online, which is free. Aug 5-9, 3-6 PM PSDT. On Zoom.

And check out Vol. 1 of our Loki’s Torch anthology, published by Loki University via MagCloud. Link to this print on demand publication will be posted tomorrow. Available in print or as a PDF.

Hail Loki!

Day 29: Gobs of Gnosis

This question makes me grin. Today’s 30 Days of Deity Devotion query is “any interesting or unusual UPG to share?” About Loki? OMFG! When is personal Loki gnosis not interesting or unusual?

I began this blog a few months before Loki arrived on the scene with unmistakable flair and “glorious purpose” (snurk!), quickly taking center stage in my daily devotions. Like so many other Lokeans, I now feel he’s been with me all along–at least since the time that teenage me used felt pens to draw cows on large marshmellows, then scattered them all over La Jolla Cove Park so that people would understand that marshmellows are NOT vegetarian. (As a newbie vegetable person, I was upset that tiny ones melting in hot chocolate were no longer an option…) (This is an issue that no longer concerns me…)

So, not only did Loki take over my spiritual focus, he also began to dominate this blog. The great thing about Loki is that he’s a never-ending source of inspiration. I do have lots of unusual “unverified personal gnosis”–great heaping gobs of it–and I’ve been (over)sharing like mad this last year. (What people think no longer concerns me…)

Here are my five offerings of past gnosis, concerning Loki and epigenetics, positive pyschology, communication theory, environmental health, and tantra (in reverse chronological order).

Loki, a God of Pleasure, Poisoned

Loki and the Johari Window

Loki Pushes My Neo-Tantra Buttons

Loki, Deity of Epigenetic Transformation?

Love and Unholy Glee: Loki and the Positivity Ratio

 

Hail Loki!

 

Ljapunow-Diagramm_08
Artist to come. Public Domain.