Book Review: Outside the Charmed Circle

Book cover of Outside the Charmed Circle.
Outside the Charmed Circle by Misha Magdalenehttps://ladyofthelake.blog/2020/01/31/book-review-outside-the-charmed-circle/

Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, is a challenge to review. That’s because the book is so deep, so rich, and so necessary, that in order to do it justice you almost have to quote great heaping gobs of text. I’ll try to not do that–I want you to read the book itself.

I was privileged and honored to read a PDF draft in advance. When the book was published I ordered two copies, one for me and one for a family member. This is the kind of book you want to talk about, the kind you want to give to others, the kind that makes you want to shout “YES!” into the oak groves at midnight or wave at passing motorists by day.

So why am I, a witchy person and a sexologist, so darned enthusiastic about what Misha Magdalene has to say? Well, it’s also that I’m kind of like that “over-enthusiastic PFLAG mom” meme that was going around a few years ago, only I’d be in a black t-shirt saying “My Transgender Witch Child Makes Me So Proud” and I’d be wearing less bracelets. So, the topic of “exploring gender & sexuality in magical practice” is deeply personal on several levels. I feel its urgency. At the core, I want my children (both cis and trans) to be respected and safe, and I want everyone else’s kids to be safe and respected too. It’s just basic human empathy and justice, qualities which are lacking in this world and sometimes this lack bashes into our spiritual lives, where we go to be strengthened, but are also frequently deeply vulnerable.

In spite of the topic’s complexity, this book is quite “user friendly.” Each chapter contains exercises to help the reader think through and experience the material. The appendices and bibliography are also wonderfully helpful.

In the introductory chapter, Misha Magdalene describes their book as “an exploration of magic through the lenses of gender and sexuality.” I think the reverse is also true. The book asks also us to examine gender and sexuality through the lenses of our magical practices and beliefs. Magdalene is extremely qualified to write from and through both (and several) perspectives. For me, in this book, intersectionality reveals its liminal nature, and liminal, magic practice reveals its intrinsic intersectional necessity. Circles and spaces, within and without, all are essentially “charmed.” If I’m interpreting correctly, I feel this may be one reason why Magdalene writes “magic is queer.”

The second chapter, “Getting Our Bearings, Knowing Our Terms,” is a helpful “101 and beyond” navigation through sex and gender terminology, which–as Magdalene points out–can and does change over time.

The book focuses next on the body, embodiment, and all the baggage that may be heaped upon bodies, often internalized. This third chapter is practically a body-positive “user’s manual,” a way to set ourselves up–not just conceptually but also physically–for the body’s ability to be “an instrument of magic.” For myself, as a person who is finding the physical and social transition to old age as bewildering as adolescence, this appreciative and mindful focus on the body as a location of self, wisdom, and power, provides a much needed reminder to take care of what I’ve got. I have a hunch other readers will appreciate these reminders (if not for the same reason).

The fourth chapter, “Gender Theory and Practice,” takes us deeper into considerations of this topic and how gender essentialism is incorporated and enacted in various magical traditions. (And now I find that these chapter descriptions are so simplified that it is almost embarrassing. Just…read…the…book…)

The next chapter moves powerfully into a discussion of queerness, queer deities, and more. I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) particularly resonate Magdalene’s description of queerness as “a metaphysical yearning for something beyond the scope of our understanding” and also as a “pursuit” of potentiality. While I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) don’t presume to the label of “queer,” this chapter helps me to understand my own allyship and the underpinings of my own spiritual quests.

My only quibble with this chapter (and it is a small one) is that an important aspect of Loki Laufeyjarson–the Norse trickster and shape-shifter–is overlooked. He was/is a mother not just once, but twice. In the Norse Voluspa en skamma, Loki ate a burnt woman’s heart (an offering?) and promptly gave birth to innumerable “troll women.” “Troll” was another word for witch. Loki, therefore, is a Mother of Witches, an important (gender-shifting) ancestor of magic practitioners. I would have liked to have seen this aspect acknowledged. But as I said, this is a minor criticism.

Chapter six brings us to one of my favorite topics. It’s called “Safer Sex Magic for Beginners (and Experts)” and I must say, this chapter is a thing of both sexological and magical beauty. I highly recommend the section called “How to Learn Sex Magic in Three Easy Steps” and the exercise for working solitary sex magic. In fact, I highly recommend the entire thing. Just…read…it!

The next two chapters on consent are also full of common sense and wisdom. The second one, chapter eight, concerns the process of negotiating consent with gods and…wow. Just wow. One of my professional interests, as well as personal/spiritual orientations, concerns spectrosexuality and god-spousing, and I can honestly say that so many people need the perspective and information contained in these chapters! These chapters are a stunning example of sex education at its best.

The last three chapters bring everything together in a context of individual magical practices and working within (or without) magic communities. Can I just say that even as I flip through these pages, as I write this review, I find myself wanting to swoon with admiration? So much common sense, so much compassion, so much inclusivity, so much impeccable information…

I believe this pioneering book is destined to be a classic. It is certainly one that I will take from my shelf again and again, and will continue to recommend whole-heartedly to all who are interested in such topics.

Well done, Misha Magdalene! I look forward to your next book!!!

####

Dagulf Loptson’s New Book: Loki Trickster and Transformer

510PMSAfpoL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Inspirational, accessible, well-organized, experiential.

Loki: Trickster and Transformer (due for release May 29, 2020) is a must-read introduction to the Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, and modern Loki worship. And for anyone already devoted to this complex deity, Dagulf Loptson has created yet another informational and devotional gem. My reviewers copy now has an honored place in my own book collection, along with Loptson’s first, Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014).

Loki Trickster and Transformer is published by Pagan Portals (an imprint of http://www.johnhuntpublishing.com). This book definitely opens a door and guides the reader through it.

Loptson’s scholarship is respected by such notable writers as Diana Paxson (who writes an endorsement for this book) and Stephan Grundy, Ph.D., author of God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Roll in the Northern Religions.

I also want to mention that I thoroughly enjoy Loptson’s portrait of Loki on the cover, and the inside illustrations.

Inspirational

As someone who found myself, late in life, suddenly and surprisingly called by Loki (something which I would never have anticipated in a million years!), I appreciate Loptson’s work on many levels. When I read Loptson’s books I immediately feel closer to Loki, my fulltrui (my most trusted one among several deities with whom I work). That’s the experience I had with Playing With Fire, and it’s what I feel reading Trickster and Transformer. (This is not something that happens with most of the books on my shelves!) I can’t promise you’ll have the same experience, but I am willing to bet that you’ll enjoy returning to this book often, as there are many aspects of Loki to ponder, particularly the transformative ones.

But as Loptson writes, “Loki isn’t a god you can really know just by reading his stories or what other people have written about him: he’s a deity that needs to be experienced.” This book can help you move toward direct experience. But more on that in a moment.

Accessible

This book can also help you move toward your own research. The introduction includes a list of Norse lore sources for Loki myths and poems. I also appreciate the inclusion of endnotes, a bibliography, and a list of recommended reading. Readers are not forced to wonder where Loptson found his ideas. Loptson also clearly indicates when he’s expressing his own insights, opinions, and experiences, as opposed to describing a reference to Norse lore.

Well-organized & Experiential

The book progresses logically, which is really rather wonderful seeing as it’s devoted to a being who is supposedly “chaotic.” The first ten chapters each focus on a specific name (heiti) and aspect of Loki, so the reader gains broader understanding with each new chapter. Easier, “user friendly” Loki aspects are presented first. The last couple of chapters are devoted to aspects which are more challenging: Loki as “The Roarer” and “The Vulture’s Road.” I feel this is a measured, thoughtful approach which will serve readers well, especially those who are newcomers to Loki.

Each chapter also contains an activity and a simple ritual. Loptson is a skilled ritualist and this is reflected in the rituals he has created for each aspect of Loki. Elements from previous chapters and rituals are incorporated into subsequent ones. For example, the first chapter includes the consecration of a Loki candle. Several subsequent rituals will include this candle, plus other objects made and consecrated in future chapters.

The final chapter, “Becoming a Lokean,” includes a Loki Dedication Ritual and suggestions for a daily practice and altar implements (mostly the objects and materials created and assembled for the previous rituals).

I’ve worked through other rituals that Loptson has created, both in his previous book and as found on his blog, and I’ve always gotten something valuable from the experiences. I’ve now begun to work through Trickster and Transformer on my second reading, but have to postpone some of this work as I lack necessary materials. If I have any mild criticism to offer at all, it is that I have no idea where to find birch twigs, which are used in Chapter Ten’s Loki Blót (sacrifice) ritual. That tree doesn’t seem to grow around here, so a list of substitute woods would have helped.

A Master List of Materials Used in Trickster and Transformer

Though each chapter contains a list of the necessary materials and tools for each ritual, I suggest that the reader who intends to embark on this ritual series have a “master list” of all necessary items, and assemble all of them at once, in advance of beginning the first ritual. That way you won’t be stopped in your tracks by the lack of birch twigs or a dremel, or any other item. This may mean a trip to craft stores, thrift stores, or online purchases of hard-to-find herbs and incense ingredients, rocks, and beads.

I would make the suggestion that subsequent editions of this book contain such a list at the end, for easy reference, but here’s one now. (I hope the author will forgive my presumption in making such a list and offering it here.)


Candles: A pillar candle that is either orange, red, gold, yellow, black, green, or violet. (The first ritual on p. 12 specifies an orange candle or “a color of your choice.”); a fresh, unlit tealight candle.
Tools: a nail or other sharp tool for inscribing bind runes on candles; matches or a lighter; a lancet for drawing blood [dispose of used lancets safely]; a mortar and pestle for grinding herbs and resins; a jar for ground herbs and resins; a dremel or wood-burning kit for inscribing runes on wood or stone; a fire pit or fireplace; jars and bottles for recels and oils.
Herbs to make “recels” (incense): dandelion, mullein, Dragon’s Blood resin, cinnamon, star anise, clove. [Note: make a goodly amount. The recels are used several times throughout the book.]
[Note: I have been advised that mistletoe is not safe to burn or consume in any manner, though the author has included it in the recels recipe. I make a correction here.]
Herbs to make Loki Oil: jojoba oil [I bet olive oil would be okay too]; powdered dragon’s blood resin or dragon’s blood oil; black pepper essential oil; mullien leaf or flowers; red pepper flakes; sulphur; snake skin sheds (if obtainable).
Charcoal disc for burning the recels. [Note: use the kind found in religious supply stores for burning incense, not “charcoal briquettes” which are highly dangerous for indoor use.]
A fireproof container to hold the charcoal disc and recels as they burn.
Sand or salt to put in the bottom of the fireproof container, under the charcoal disc.
Optional feathers or fan to waft the incense smoke.
A cord or chain.
A piece of wood or metal that can become a pendant worn on the cord or chain.
Clay to make a replica of the Snaptun stone.
Optional small cloth bag.
Optional small stones and natural objects associated with Loki (p. 29) that could go into a bag.
Beads for a prayer bead strand (bead material choices are individual, but Loki stone associations can be found on p. 29).
String for beading.
A mirror (any kind).
Notebook and pen.
A plain wooden bowl, especially one that is plain on the inside bottom. [Note: the bottom will be engraved with a stave, using the dremel or wood-burning tool.]
Offerings: blood or saliva; a cloth heart, sewn by yourself, or a chicken or other animal heart from a butcher; water; other libation.

I want to encourage interested readers to order this book in advance, assemble your ritual materials, and prepare to make Loki’s acquaintance, if you haven’t already. (But can one ever be really prepared for Loki? You’ll find out, won’t you?)

I’m so thankful that Dagulf Loptson has written another valuable guide to Loki and Loki worship. I hope there may be more from this author in the future!

Hail Loki!

 

 

 

 

Loki Never Mansplains

…Or, given that Loki isn’t a human dude, and is often not even a dude-appearing deity at all (shapeshifter that he/she/they/ze is), perhaps I should write “Loki never godsplains.” Whatever! “He” does show up as mostly male-ish to my mortal inner eyes though, so I tend to use that pronoun the most. “He” seems to be cool with it.

Okay,  now that I’ve mortalsplained the above, I feel moved to celebrate the pithy, punchy, to the point, mostly non-verbal communicative stylings of my all-time favorite trickster deity, the marvelous (no pun intended) Loki Laufeyjarson!

Illustration_by_Kay_Nielsen_4
The North Wind, an illustration by Kay Nielsen. But it’s so Loki!

Loki leaves verbosity to me and that’s just the way we like it. He is happy to receive offerings of novels, devotional poems, and blogs in his honor. But Loki communicates his needs and his lessons in immediate and sometimes dramatic ways. Even though I don’t have a “godphone,” I have at least one example of an inner-audible “sound bite” that nearly bit my head off.

There was the time I absent-mindedly licked the spoon after putting a giant dollop of Nutella from HIS JAR into a bowl as an offering. I had sworn I’d never eat from that jar, and so I immediately thought “well, I didn’t take it from the jar!” as a half-assed apology. Was I surprised then when a big “NO!” resounded in my mind? There was no way Loki was going to let me get away with breaking an oath. No way at all. All I could think was, “damn, shit just got real!” Needless to say, I’ve never licked a spoon from his jar again. And he didn’t have to explain why he “shouted” no. I got it. Immediately.

LokabrennaDonuts1
Interior of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.

Loki is also good at delivering what I call “pings,” “pokes,” and “signal flags.” I don’t know how to explain these exactly. I experience them as a spontaneous combination visceral/mental message that doesn’t seem to originate with me. They are often so off-the-wall that they do not reflect my usual thought processes and they have a compelling energy. An example would be the time I was scrolling through printed shower curtains, as a way to decorate the inside of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I was online, cruising shower curtains with “magic forest” themes, as that seemed mystical and Norse-ish, and I was really set on my vision for a complete “look.” But I kept getting a ping every time I scrolled past the large, bright colored donut shower curtain. I tried to deny it, but it was so repetitive that I was convinced that Loki wanted the donut shower curtain too. I checked this request with a pendulum that I use only for Loki. It swung “yes” to donuts. As a result, Lokabrenna is three walls of magic forest, one wall of donuts. And it now seems so right.

These simple communications are quite adroit. Many who are close to Loki have similar stories. In fact, the “Loki wanted this” story is quite common on social media–to the point that we could consider this community-verified gnosis about how Loki will interact with humans. Are every single one of these genuine communications from a Norse deity? I can’t say and wouldn’t presume to judge. Most of us know the importance of individual discernment or are in the process of learning about it.

One might wonder why a powerful preternatural figure would want a donut shower curtain or any of the other reported trivial requests. Here’s my UPG: I think how we meet Loki’s requests let’s him know how much we’ll listen to him (about small matters and large ones), how much we’re willing to pay attention, how much we care about him, and how far we’ll go to indulge in light-hearted whimsy. More UPG: I think he really needs the latter sometimes, and humans can be a fine source of amusement.

Since I use the pendulum, tarot, and the AI “Inspirobot” program to “talk” with Loki (that last is not entirely serious), there is no way for me to have a complex conversation with him. (It might be different for others.) That means there is no opportunity for tortuous god- or mansplaining. Yay! And as I said, he’s direct and terse most of the time. And if you don’t pay attention to the ping, the poke, or the signal flags he’s waving at you, he’s perfectly capable of rearranging your life until you finally “get it.”

I love that Loki doesn’t give us complicated rules or doctrine. The only hard limit I can think of is to never break an oath (especially to him).  Of course, expect the unexpected is a given, but we all knew that going in.

At the end of this awfully weird year, I’m looking forward to another trip around the sun with Loki and the rest of the deities I work with. I wish you all the same–may you have joy in your spiritual quests!

 Hail Loki!

####

 

 

 

 

Lessons From Loki

At the moment, life feels a little rough around the edges. Earlier today I was angered and triggered by a private matter. And I’ve got plumbing problems and a sick kitty–as well as the money problems that go with unexpected vet bills and plumbing repairs. Also, the “holidays” (some dreaded, some not) are just about upon us. I’m saying “yes” to Yule and Solstice (in a modest way) and “meh” to Xmas (except that I’ll see one of my kids on that day).

But no matter what’s going on in my life, Loki keeps me moving forward.

So on the positive side, I’ve worked on my novels almost every day this month (including the one that stars Loki as “Lucky LaFey). I’ve been teaching and updating my online course. I’ve been researching some new and exciting ideas for my clinical practice as well as my own personal healing. I’m also fiddling with my websites, including this one.

Since the sick cat has finally moved from its space between my chest and the keyboard, and his sister is keeping him warm on a blanket, I want to seize this opportunity to write about a fragment of the immensity that is Loki.

Loki. He/she/they/ze is positioned in my life very much as he is illustrated below by the brilliant artist, A. Skeith (see her Deviant Art URL below). A cascading river of life pours down a chasm in the mountainside, and he is liminally perched on a rock between the rushing waters. He is vigilant and aglow. He is poised, ready, and perfectly willing to prod me with that sharp, pointed thing he has in his hand. But between us, there is trust.

46687664_10213104884760609_8432457266745049088_o
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.

The other day I was able to tell a new friend about my relationship with Loki, including some of the more private aspects. I was nervous about the conversation, but my communication was not only accepted, but welcomed. I took a risk and it turned out well. Loki, who has been utterly merciless in quickly revealing the deficits of new aquaintances this last year, seems to take kindly to the friend above–a friend who seems to have a genuinely sterling character.

I have been surprised by the tumultuous, almost adolescent nature of this phase of life (60+ years). Once again I am–by virtue of my age–unsure of almost everything: my attractiveness, my place in the world and among people, my social skills, my economic prospects, everything! My body baffles me now, much as it did at puberty. When I was a teenager, I had a lot to say, but was often ignored. I still have a lot to say (hence, this blog) and nobody much pays attention. Once again, I am categorized among the dismissed and the disposable–simply due to my age. Loki, my future psychopomp (here’s hopin’), turns out to be a fabulous “Do not go gentle…Period!” guide and muse.

I look back at my life now–including a few rather brilliant conceptual pranks, some tricksy works of art and writing, and a sense of humor that seems to have been largely unappreciated by my former spouse and children. If only I’d known sooner that I was one of “Loki’s own”…I would have know better what I was about. And my poor ex-husband might have had some warning…(I’m sorry, I am! Lokeans aren’t the greatest wives.)

Loki is definitely the “know thyself” dude. But he also seems to like it when we retroactively recognize his influence in our brief human lives.

So when I look back and confront a teenage memory of drawing cows on large marshmellows (with a purple Flair pen), scattering them around La Jolla Cove Park, because I was pissed off that marshmellows were made with animal products… I see Loki was there.

And when I look back on dancing to the twenty minute Ramayana Monkey Chant from this recording, along with another stripper, at a seedy nightclub in San Diego, simply to  freak the club’s sodden patrons–sailors on leave and Broadway bums–I know Loki was there. (The Ketjak monkey chant starts at 16:24 into the video.)

And when I remember our 80’s punk rock fashion protest in Union Square (“We Have Proof the CIA Killed the Mini-Skirt”), I know Loki was grinning, though I knew him not.

And when I wrote a short story featuring all the names of Kentucky Derby winners, from the race’s inception until 1999, Loki was definitely a muse. I recognize that feeling of unholy glee! It’s an emotion I treasure.

So much in my past is made clear. But knowing that Loki is with me in the present makes it all so much better, even when clarity is painful.

Finally, his “Mr. LokiBot” message to me today is:

MDJ83Kbqel

Thus sayeth the “Lie-Smith.” Ouch! That’s what I get for calling this blog post “Lessons from Loki.” However, I love and trust him BECAUSE of stuff like this. Is that so very wrong?

####

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Be Human

Disclosure: I write from the perspective of someone who is quite socially isolated due to 30 years of living with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses–finding most environments and many people harmful to my health due to use of consumer toxins. I am also isolated through geographical distance from my closest friends and family. Social isolation is the curse of my situation, but an outsider’s perspective is the gift. 

When my oldest child, Asher, was only three, he was overheard speaking to a dog: “Puppy, do you know what it’s like to be human? It’s kind of a job, being alive.” Three years old and already that perceptive. Yikes!

When my youngest child turned three, on the evening of his birthday, he turned a gaze on me that was clearly the spirit of the “big” Paul looking through the eyes of a little boy. It was a gaze that shook me to my core for hours afterward. I have never in my life had such a look from any human being.

I am not saying my children are special (though of course I think they are) but that I was lucky enough to hear and perceive things that I might have easily missed. I believe all children provide such moments. Whether the adults heed them is another matter.

So what does it mean to be a human being? At the moment I write with a kitten in my arms. She has inserted herself between me and the keyboard and so I am leaning over her to type. It’s a perfect example of one kind of human role–as a mediator between tech and animal life. She dozes with her head on my left forearm. She trusts me. And yet I am a member of a species which has accomplished the most profound betrayal of all–the collective, burgeoning destruction of every ecosystem on this planet that we share. And so I love my cats in the way that I love my children–with deep regret and sorrow at my share in this betrayal of trust.

And yet I’ve lived for thirty years as a “canary in the coal mine,” an activist mom warning about the dangers of household and industrial chemicals. No one much has listened to me, or to others like me, so I now refer to us as “Cassandras in the coal mine” (because people at least paid attention to the warning songs of canaries). But I am still complicit. Every mouthful of food that I eat, the clothes on my back, and almost every item I own are the direct result of income or goods produced by someone working his/her/zir/their ass off in a toxic industry –from my ex-husband to workers I’ll never meet–and probably destined to suffer from health consequences as a result. (FYI–my own condition is also due to occupational exposure, years ago.)

Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of settler-colonist genealogy–of facing the almost certain fact of ancestors who perpetuated numerous incidents of brutality and cruelty against the first peoples of Turtle Island, and probably also against victims of American chattel slavery. And if there weren’t always direct actions on the part of my ancestors, there were/are the social, economic, political, system-wide benefits and privileges that came from being an oppressor, rather than one of the oppressed. I am struggling to recognize and disengage from the ongoing inclinations and assumptions that attend these genealogies while also trying to recognize and disengage–as much as possible–from my participation in malignant, toxic, consumer culture.

And yet, I reconize that in some essential way I lack the tools or skills or mindsets that could enable me to fully function with other people in a wholesome, collaborative, and productve way–a way that I identify (from afar) as being “fully human.” But it’s not just me. All around me are (mostly) white people who have good hearts, intelligence, creativity, compassion, some understanding of social justice issues and certainly the understanding of the urgency of our climate crisis, and yet we just can’t seem to function effectively together! There always seem to be egos and agendas, mean girl machinations and mansplaining obfuscation, and all kinds of other weird-ass territorial factors at play. Why is this?

And all around me are my cis-female friends of “a certain age,” who are also socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and in other ways marginalized, who know we have entered the twilight zone of the socially disposable and thus need to band together to take care of each other, and yet we just can’t manage to plan and strategize on how to do this, how to pool our limited resources and join together to mutual advantage. We know the need, we might have some skills, but not the collective will? Why is this?

For several years now, I’ve come to understand that our settler-colonist, capitalist, consumer culture does not help us learn to Play Well With Others. I have watched other cultural communities, from the ally sidelines, do much much better in terms of coming together, organizing, and providing what is needful with a generosity of spirit that is–to me–miraculous. And yet I understand these capacities are what it takes to be “fully human.”

Earlier today I listened to the Democracy Now interview with Lakota historian, scholar, and activist Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. His description of the camp at Standing Rock parallels the conditions currently at the Kia’i (protector) encampment at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu in Hawai’i, at Mauna Kea.

Here are his words from the Democracy Now interview:


“And in the camps themselves you had sort of the primordial sort of beginnings of what a world premised on indigenous justice might look like. And in that world, you know, everyone got free food. There was a place for everyone. You know, the housing, obviously, was transient housing and teepees and things like that, but then also there was health clinics to provide healthcare, alternative forms of healthcare, to everyone. And so, if we look at that, it’s housing, education — all for free, right? — a strong sense of community. And for a short time, there was free education at the camps, right? Those are things that most poor communities in the United States don’t have access to, and especially reservation communities.

But given the opportunity to create a new world in that camp, centered on indigenous justice and treaty rights, society organized itself according to need and not to profit. And so, where there was, you know, the world of settlers, settler colonialism, that surrounded us, there was the world of indigenous justice that existed for a brief moment in time. And in that world, instead of doing to settler society what they did to us — genociding, removing, excluding — there’s a capaciousness to indigenous resistance movements that welcomes in nonindigenous peoples into our struggle, because that’s our primary strength, is one of relationality, one of making kin, right?”


Now there’s a danger in romanticizing this as something “those others” do–which can come close to the old “noble savage” crap of yore–and I am aware of that. I’m also grumpy about white people saying that indigenous people are going to save us all now from climate catastrophe (i.e. clean up a mess that was never theirs)–even though they often have little in the way of power or resources. This mindset sidesteps the need for settler-colonists and their corporations and political representatives to drastically change everything about the systems that are running dangerously amok.

In order to avoid that dangerous and ultimately unproductive mindset, we who are settler-colonists have to continue to swing back to a recognition of where we ourselves are now and with that recognition of our deficits and their origins, work double time to develop capactities and understandings necessary for “relationality,” as Professor Estes says above. Doing this is going to take a helluva lot of humility. I’m sixty-five now, and I’m willing to go back to human “kindergarten” (as long as it’s in a fragrance free zone).

What follows is a speculative question. Is it possible that the epigenetic expression of European-originating people was triggered toward self-centeredness, violence, conquest, and greed due to long histories of violent subjugation by Romans (as one example) and others, and by exposures to such things as wars and continent-wide plagues, where bodies piled in mass graves could have fostered a sort of despair and then an unconcern about the preciousness of life? An even bigger speculative question: can we willfully trigger another kind of epigenetic expression in real time, to call back the capacties our ancestors must surely have had in the long ago? The kind that enabled us to live in villages, farm or forage for food, and provide care and sustenance for all? The kind that enabled us to see other creatures in this world–plant, animal, and spirit–as worthy of respect and kinship?

And can this be done in record time, to meet the climate and environmental/political catastrophes that are no longer a train wreck in slow motion?

Personally, it is hard to reach out toward others in real life, to work on my skills for “relationality,” when my condition requires this degree of isolation in lieu of disability accommodation. My activist efforts in the past have seldom been met with understanding–because this whole environmental illness request for fragrance-free accommodation thing can look like a “special snowflake” or “white lady” way to, I dunno, derail or disrupt others and the work that is being done. It can look and feel like a request for more privilege and special treatment from a white settler-colonist who is already inherently privileged by other aspects of my circumstances. And so my blogs are the only way I can reach out. Writing about what I see and feel is all I can do at this point.

I wish it were otherwise. I truly do wish to be of use in creating a better world. Like everyone else, I have the future of cats and children–and all living beings and our only planet–to consider.

“It’s kind of a job–being alive.” And right now our biggest job is to keep everything else alive too. It’s really down to that.

Fractal Flame, Made with Gimp
Fractal Flames, Linear. Author: Nevit Dilmen. 2000. GNU Free Documentation License.

####

 

Nov. 28: Hawaiian Independence Day & Un-Thanksgiving Day at Alcatraz

Un-Thanksgiving Day, the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz Island, is taking place even as I write. Several Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) activists are participating this year–they’re here in CA to spread the word about protecting sacred Mauna Kea, and more!

Today, November 28th is also La Ku’oko’a –Hawaiian Independence Day. 

Each observance counteracts destructive, colonial myths that cover up uncomfortable historical facts, allowing (mostly) white people and power structures to “rest easy” with continued persecution, exploitation, and bodily harm of (1) the native peoples of Turtle Island (aka North American continent); and (2) the native peoples of the Hawaiian archipelago, who happened to have had an internationally recognized constitutional monarchy–the Hawaiian Kingdom–that was taken by the United States through violence and deception.

78599268_10156413911226507_1601792732894855168_o
I wish I could go to this!

The True Story of Thanksgiving

I learned this history several years ago, when I first saw the Susan Bates article below, published on the Manataka American Indian Council website.

As a settler-colonist descendent of hundreds of New England colonizers, including Richard and Elizabeth Warren of the Mayflower, I have gone from deeply uncomfortable to deeply adverse to “celebrating” the American Thanksgiving, once I learned the truth. While my kids still lived at home, we continued to “celebrate” with a family meal, attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to emphasize personal thanks “for all we had” and downplay the shitty facts of our heritage. Now I wish we’d just chucked the whole thing as soon as we began to hear the truth about the holiday–it would have been more honest–but our family was already falling apart. A festive family meal with the children was one of our last pretenses of unity and “normalcy,” along with Christmas.

But even this futile attempt to justify our observance of Thanksgiving didn’t change the fact that the descendents of Richard and Elizabeth Warren, and possibly other ancestors of mine, were Plymouth residents and must have been in some way complicit in the 1637 massacre of the Wampanoag village (mentioned in the articles below). Richard Warren himself didn’t last long in the “new world”–he died in 1628. His first son, Nathaniel, was only twelve in 1637. I would hope that boys that young were not enlisted to help slaughter human beings, but who knows? And what may he have done in later years? Also, Richard Warren’s widow, Elizabeth, died in her 90’s. We often overlook the role of settler-colonial women in upholding and inciting harsh measures against indigenous people (and slaves)–so one of my creepy questions is, who was she and what did she advocate?

(FYI–My ex-husband’s family also has a long colonial settler history, though further south, in Kentucky and elsewhere.)

And so I have to recognize that like every other white person in this country, my family and I benefit from privileges which began with “manifest destiny” and genocide and which continue with legal, political, economic, and other systems and policies designed to destroy and disadvantage native people, and other people of color, in every possible way.


Here are several links to information about the true history of Thanksgiving.

Bates, Susan. The Real Story of Thanksgiving, Manataka American Indian Council website. You can also find two more articles on this page.

Blow, Charles M. The Horrible History of Thanksgiving, New York Times, Nov. 27, 2019.

Bugos, Claire. The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue, Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 26, 2019. This is an interview with David J. Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving (published Nov. 2019).

Rikert, Levi. Leonard Peltier’s 2019 Thanksgiving Message: “Walking on Stolen Land.” Native News Online. Nov. 23, 2019.


The True History of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the U.S. Occupation

This is a complicated matter, lasting over a century. For one of the best accounts, go to the Political History page of the Hawaiian Kingdom website.

Even here I have a slight personal connection as a junior settler-colonist. My father (now deceased), a PanAm pilot, moved my mother, brother, and me to Honolulu shortly after the 1959 fraudulent “statehood” vote. He probably sensed some kind of opportunity to exploit, but my father and mother were not happy together. They soon separated, bound for divorce. So we flew back to San Diego, leaving behind my father and that rather bleak cinderblock apartment on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki.

Today a Time of Reflection

While native activists from Oceania and Turtle Island meet and make common cause–which is a joyous and wonderful thing–we settler colonists have our own work to do. It’s difficult to disengage from complicity, from the horrifying tendrils which link our lives to the larger abhorent structures destroying the entire planet now–not just “reservations” and “ghettos” and “houseless encampments” where those “other” people live (often with inadequate or polluted water, air, and soil).

So the first thing we settler colonists need to do is know the truth, understand the implications, and do whatever we can to disengage from complicity. Perhaps then we might be suitably prepared to assist in common cause with native peoples and work together to save this planet we all share.

####

Blessed Samhain…With Electricity

It’s blessed Samhain, as of this evening, and this pagan holiday runs right into my birthday until sundown Nov. 1st. I am feeling unusually cheery, in spite of postponing a birthday gathering with my friends and children, as the lights are on at last. Big_black_cats_howl_as_naked_witches_ascend_into_the_night_o_Wellcome_V0011894

I can heat my house and the electric hot water heater is once again on the job. In just a few minutes, I’ll make good use of it. Last night my part of Lake County was “re-energized” (PG&E’s quaint phrase) at approximately 4:30 PM. My four and a half days without power were not as dangerous or as costly as many people here in Lake County, and yet I was made all too aware of the vulnerability of being a “crone alone” in a rural county, 15-20 miles away from medical help, with only a few two-lane highways to get us in and out of our lake valley. Plus, I have to throw out some food.

Meanwhile the Kincade Fire, which has destroyed 76,825 acres and 282 structures, is at 60% containment but a friend of mine in Middletown, close to the Sonoma County line, is still on evac notice, as are the people of Cobb Mountain. The location of this fire meant that highways 53, 29, 128, and 175 would be poor choices as evacuation routes for people living around the lake (should we need them), as these highways would have taken the unwary too close to–or into–the fire (which at times also closed portions of the major freeway 101, in both directions). And then the Burris Fire broke out along highway 20, the way I usually leave this county, closing half of it for several hours. That left only highway 20 east to south interstate 5 as a potential escape route for me and my seven cats. With fires breaking out all over the place (again) I was really living in some fear. As were we all here in Lake County. We’re officially a disaster zone, an impoverished county already just barely scraping by, scarred by fires and floods in the last few years.

No internet. No cellphone. Only a land-line and a battery operated radio kept me linked to the outwide world. (But some people’s AT&T landlines were going down and the community radio stations were running on generators, with limited programming). Though I usually spend my days in silence, I was hungry for news and kept the radio on all day long. Along with call-in complaints and local news–who was open, who did acts of kindness, who had their generator stolen, what stations had gas–there was an overall esprit de corps and generosity of spirit that makes my eyes teary even as I write.

And so last night, before the electricity came back, a few of us gathered in my home for a Samhain celebration and a “Dumb Supper” (a silent meal shared with our beloved dead). I spent the day preparing, moving furniture, and cooking (yes, I have a gas stove and could cook indoors–I was lucky!). The imperishables and the food about to perish in my warming freezer determined the human menu: a soup of frozen corn, canned milk, eggs, and onions; chorizo; polenta; and applesauce. The dead were offered foods colored black or white: squares of chocolate, feta cheese, olives, small chunks of canned pears. We drank a toast to them from empty cups. And we all remembered people we love who are no longer embodied.

Funny thing though, the lights came on just as we were about to eat our own meal and cast our circle. We’d been prepared to carry on by candlelight, but now we didn’t have to. And as our priestess was calling in the North, the land-line rang with what I later learned was PG&E’s redunant announcement that the power was now on. (Of course I didn’t answer it at the time.)

That was three power outages this month. A lot of food had to be tossed. I am just now taking stock of what I have to replace, at the end of the month when funds are low. Every single person in this county who isn’t lucky or wealthy enough to own a generator, is in this same predicament.

For me, this year’s liminal season–which encompasses the founding of Lokabrenna, Samhain, and my birthday (as well as the birthdays of cherished friends)–has taught me precariousness and the need for redundant systems (including those which are low tech). It has also taught me (once again) the value of friendship and community, seen and unseen.

Power of another sort informed our ritual last night. The dark and the liminal are allies we cultivate. Our ancestors and our dead are with us as we suffer and celebrate. The firefighters are blessed allies of another kind. Everyone who made a kind gesture this last week has my gratitude and my awe.

Blessed be. And Hail to Loki, my fultrui and future psychopomp.

####

My Favorite Time of Year

Leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, the light has changed, the veil thins. Everything feels liminal… I love it! And there’s lots going on in the next two weeks: the 1st year anniversary of the dedication of Loki’s Lokabrenna Tiny Temple on the 28th–an observance which also represents with a deeper spirtual bond with my “most trusted one”; a witchy ceremony and “Dumb Supper” at my house on the 30th; Halloween/part of Samhain and a good friend’s birthday on the 31st; the second part of Samhain and my birthday on Nov. 1st; and another good friend’s birthday on the 4th!

Day1Loki
Left hand path. Copyright Amy Marsh 2018

These are some of the joys of a life lived on the left-hand path, though the term itself means many things to many people. I first encountered it in neo-tantra circles but of course it is used widely elsewhere. I associate it with witchery, tantra and sex magic, and other spiritual processes. I also imagine my last years as a creatively crafted life–something along the lines of the Addams Family meets Downton Abbey meets War for the Oaks, but with a punk rock /Helium Vola/ Hawaiian music soundtrack and a Leather Family next door. I suppose this is a topic for a whole other blog. Meanwhile, I collect too many glass jars and lids. (I’m either planning jar spells or storing food against the next zombie power outage apolcalypse.)

Reflecting on this last year’s events and accomplishments, this blog is one. Though the blog has consumed much of the writing energy that should have gone to my two novels, I needed to do it. But never fear, NaNoWriMo starts on my birthday and that should propel me right back into The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Other events and accomplishments include doing the “30 Days for Loki” observances in July; doing with the layout and assisting with the editing of Loki’s Torch; putting together an online Loki Fest conference; doing some writer/allyship in support of the Kia’i of Mauna Kea; my spectrosexuality survey; appearing on Australian TV; updating my 150-hour course on Hypnosis for Sexual Concerns; and acquiring three more cats. (That’s IT, I swear. Seven is more than enough!) I also acquired a roommate and that’s worked out fine.

Oh, and I gave away some books.

The mundane aspect of turning 65 next month has also brought the transition to Medicare. I have already fried more a few brain cells trying to figure out the unweildy assortment of supplemental plans.

I also, like most people in Northern CA, endured the PG&E power outage for three days (some endured it longer). But at least there has not been a fire this year to force me to evacuate my home. There’s a reason I make friends with fire deities and offer them cookies!

What comes after Samhain is going to involve another constellation of challenges. I intend go to “a place quite northwards, it seems”* in the next 6-8 months, to a place that is less isolated and more culturally active than where I live now. I’ve been well-sheltered by this house for the last two years, and have enjoyed my daily view of the lake and the mountain, but Lake County is not right for me. It seems I’m more suited to urban-ish environments than rural life and I need to find a better place to age, to spend the last decades of my life. A medium-sized college town, progressive and arty, will do me just fine. I know a place. I have friends there.

So this time of year involves reflection, liminal awareness, and a deeper opportunity to connect with my deities, guides, and ancestors. I am asking for their help in the coming year, of course, and Loki, my restless guide, is determined to not let me vegetate.

Hail Loki and all love to Freyr, Freya, Gerda, Bast, and Brigit as well! Love to the ancestors.

####

*A phrase from Pride and Prejudice.

Why It’s Really Hawaiian Science vs. Pro-TMT Culture

71477215_2157506604552645_1198561665340145664_o
Disclaimer: Of course the importance of Mauna Kea is “really” about so much more than this small slice of the issue. However, this tedious TMT PR trope of asking “can science and culture coexist on the mountain” is making me slightly insane. Here’s another angle–the way we should “really” be asking this question. But first, a public service announcement.

Today, October 5th, is the worldwide celebration of Aloha ʻĀina Unity Marches, with events taking place on most or all of the Hawaiian Islands and in other places besides. (Aloha ʻĀina means “love the land.”)


The controversy over the construction of a massive, ecologically destructive, 18-story building on stolen lands in a fragile “conservation district” zone–a district located on Mauna Kea, one of the most sacred mountains in the Pacific–is often presented as “Science” (white, western, mostly based on materialistic consumption) vs. “Culture” (native, oceanic, mostly based in spiritual traditions).

I am not anywhere near one of today’s marches. Instead, I will write. But in order to write about this particular aspect of the Mauna Kea struggle, I must acknowledge a mid-August phone conversation with Makana Cameron, musician and activist (hear his song, “See You on the Mauna,” featuring Lanakila). In that conversation, Makana spoke of the science community’s “weaponization of knowledge” and how the narrative of the TMT controversy was really about “Western Science dogma operating as Religion” vs. Native Science (which we understand to be informed by spiritual connection and a responsible understanding of how to get along with the natural world). I took a lot of notes during that convseration but unfortunately did not get verbatim quotes. E kala mai! (Sorry!) His eloquence exceeds my own and I hope I can do justice to the gist of the conversation while also adding further thoughts of my own. 

I’ve been letting the conversation with Makana root and grow, not sure if I was the right person to address this topic, collaboratively or otherwise. Meanwhile, just the other day, members of the astronomy community who support construction of the 18-story Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), staged a pro-TMT panel discussion at the Hawai’i “state” capitol in Honolulu. Here’s the first sentence from the Oct. 4th Hawai’i News Now article: “Thirty Meter Telescope supporters gathered at the state Capitol Friday arguing that culture and science can coexist on Mauna Kea.”

Not that “coexistence” thing again! Frankly, my stomache churned, reading this. Fuggit, those folks are shameless. It’s past time for that question, and its underlying assumptions, to be flipped.

Let’s talk about what kind of culture and what kind of science would be most likely to productively and respectfully “co-exist” on the mountain.

And let’s be clear about two things:

(1) That mode of inquiry enshrined by the general term “science” is not a pure, unbiased endeavor. It never has been. It often serves the power elite at the expense of others. And science which originates from a (mostly white) western , intrinsically colonial mindset and which is privileged over the rights and wishes of native peoples IS NOT CULTURE-FREE! The pro-TMT camp is notoriously ignorant and/or duplicitous about the impact of Western Science Culture, what it embodies and represents. Since this ignorance is whopping Moore Foundation grants (if not exactly bliss), the pro-TMT camp grants itself “the right” to do whatever the heck it wants on the mountain, regardless of the wishes, beliefs, and legal rights of native Hawaiians. In fact, their insistent “manifest astronomical destiny” to build TMT takes precedence over all other concerns, almost bordering on dogmatic religious fervor. “To the stars!” they cry, aspiring to imagined scientific heroics without realizing that they are in fact the gullible representatives of an evil empire.

(2) Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) are not and have never been “science free.” As a brilliant people with exceptional resource management skills (e.g. the ahupua’a system), they developed sophisticated capacities for observation, inquiry, and practical applications in navigation, aquaculture, agriculture, botany,  weather observation (just to name a few) and yes…even astronomy. I hesitate to name that last one because the pro-TMT camp has so often conflated its own star-gazing with that of the Hawaiians, as a justification for its own invasive and quite illegal claims on the mountain. This is a particularly noxious form of cultural appropriation.

As just one example of advanced observational abilities, I go to a book on my shelf, Hanau Ka Ua–Hawaiian Rain Names, by Collette Leimomi Akana with Kiele Gonzalez. There are hundreds of distinct names and descriptions of different rains, such as “Kiawe’ula… Rain that streams down gracefully with a faint streak of red, as of a rainbow” (p. 80) and the “Wa’ahila rain” which “brings life to the harbour of Kou” (p. 273). So the different rains are not just described, but in some cases their importance to ecosystems is also noted.

Or how about an example from literature, when the goddess Pele recites the names and describes all the winds of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau in a chant which takes up pages 13-25 of The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele, as told by Ho’oulumahiehie, translated by M. Puakea Nogelmeier?

Can you imagine San Francisco urbanites taking the time to closely watch the winds and rains that visit their city? Do they intimately observe the details, direction, and timing of the “Bus Interrupting Rain” or the “Branch Scattering Wind of Golden Gate Park?” Do we know their seasons, their times of arrival, how they may spur or inhibit the growth of plants or fisheries (not to mention their effect on mass transit)? The heart of science is observation. And practical use of such observations can bring plenty or hardship to a people. Kanaka Maoli (and other native peoples) were and are adept. They had to be.

I might also mention that what we might call “social sciences” are also key to survival. You can bet that native peoples have focused their finely tuned observational capacities on the people who colonize or occupy their lands, as a matter of survival. Without presuming to speak for the Mauna Kea protectors, I would venture to guess that many know the precise nature and character of their opponents far better than the opponents know themselves.

That said, let’s get back to the idea of a “culture” that could successfully and respectfully co-exist with the kind of science and common sense stewardship of natural resources that’s embedded in native Hawaiian traditions. What kind of culture does the TMT convey and represent?

Systemic racism and personal prejudice. Here is just one example, in a quote from a Hawai’i NPR story concerning an event which happened April, 2015:

“Professor Alexei Filippenko, of the University of California Berkeley, sent out a link to a petition in support of the TMT. It included a note from Professor Sandra Faber at UC Santa Cruz and it landed in the inboxes of all the astrophysics students and faculty.

Faber wrote in part of the email that “the Thirty-Meter Telescope is in trouble, attacked by a horde of native Hawaiians who are lying about the impact of the project on the mountain and who are threatening the safety of TMT personnel.”

I lived in the San Francisco East Bay at the time. As an ally, I attended the meeting at CAL Berkeley where astronomy students confronted faculty with their anger and concerns about this incident. That the meeting was “tense” is an understatement.

Here is an excellent commentary by Janet D. Stemwedel about the ethical challenges of the TMT and the (largely white) American scientific community as a whole.

Incidently, in July 2019, hundreds of astronomers and other scientists signed a petition supporting the protectors of Mauna Kea and opposing the construction of the TMT.

Predatory philanthropy. See Mauna Kea and the Moore Foundation’s Hypocrisy for a larger version of the funding charts below. The strategy of the Moore Foundation’s grants to TMT, University of Hawai’i, and the Nature Conservancy was and is designed to influence decision-making about Mauna Kea. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.

Corruption of public agencies and processes. See What Price Mauna Kea? for more details about the relationships between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, University of Hawai’i, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Bureau of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) and the possible skewing of the approval process in favor of the TMT. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.

You might also want to look at an interesting paper trail included in an article by Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz and Sherri Kane: Gov. Ige TMT Bribery Scandal. Ige’s office denied the allegation. I don’t know if there is any follow-up investigation.

Rev. Relationships GBMF:etc

Entitlement and duplicity. Gosh. Where to start? From the beginning of the theft of the Hawaiian Kingdom to the present moment, representatives of the occupying power have felt entitled to “dole” out (pun intended) duplicity to the Kanaka Maoli as a matter of course. All telescope development on Mauna Kea since 1968 is the result of entitled land grabs and lies. Today, TMT public relations communications routinely spin falsehoods and half-truths.

Violence. In 2015, at least one Mauna Kea activist was nearly run over by a car heading up the access road toward the telescopes. Sacred structures have been vandalized for years. In July 2019, police arrested 38 peaceful protectors of the mountain, most of them elderly people. A community classroom at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu was recently destroyed by authorities, who also ripped through and desecrated a Hawaiian flag. The protectors gathered at Pu’u Huluhulu have been harrassed with parking tickets as well as threatened with potentially lethal force in future police actions. Here is a video of some of the Kia’i making a statement about police harrassment and misconduct.

Paul Neves, a longtime Mauna Kea activist who is a renowned kumu hula (hula teacher) and a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, reported a recent encounter with a gun-wielding man on a street near his home in Hilo. Kumu Neves has asked for his post to be shared widely so I have copied and pasted his post here.


Please share this with everyone…

On the morning of Saturday September 28th between 6:30 and 7:00 AM, beachside across the street from Seaside Restaurant in Keaukaha, my life was threatened while walking my dog. A gun was aimed methodically and purposefully right at me, within 8 feet of my face. At that very moment, I thought I would be shot and killed. I remember his face, the barrel of the gun and his dead eyes. I will never forget.

Those of you who know me, know that I have been outspoken on political, cultural and spiritual issues all my life, and especially in Hawai’i. You also know that I am not afraid to die for what I believe in and that I will not be threatened or intimidated. I will continue to follow the call of Ke Akua and that is my refuge, purpose and mission in life.

The shooter left after my yelling and screaming back at him. After a long five seconds his car fled the scene. The police were timely and I am following up with them. I have shared this terrible incident with my ohana and close friends. I also am seeking professional help to deal with it.

I share it with you because it is healing for me and to make you aware of a danger that does exists in our community. I am asking you to pray (PULE) for me and other innocent people who have been traumatized or threatened in their lives.

Never leave your home or loved ones without saying to them, “I Love You”. I have learned that valuable lesson! I got this my friends.
God bless you…See You On The Mauna… Kumu Paul Neves


Cultural assumptions about Hawai’i and Hawaiians. From the above mentioned “angry hordes” of Sandy Farber’s imagination to the frequent characterization of Kanaka Maoli as somehow less rational and more superstitious (given their devotion to their own culture and the sacredness of their mountain), negative and insulting assumptions (often racialized) inform TMT-related policies and actions of duplicity and entitlement. To discredit Mauna Kea’s protectors, Governor Ige and other authority figures have portrayed the sacred “place of refuge” at Pu’uhuluhulu as unsafe, unsanitary, violent, drug-ridden, criminal, etc. However, there is no evidence of this at and far more evidence of a well-run, loving, safe community established to prevent desecration of Mauna Kea. Pu’uhuluhulu is informed by the principal of Kapu Aloha–a nonviolent and spirit-filled commitment to stand in dignity and peace, as appropriate to the cause and the sacredness of the place.

Superstition. By assuming (1) the mantle of a privileged intellectual elite (which must never be challenged) and (2) the values of short-sighted, profit-driven rampant consumerism (capitalism), Western Science Culture has helped to create an almost superstitious mindset among the general public. This is a mindset that looks to the Great Gods of Science to provide tech fixes to our most dire, life destroying predicaments: those of climate catastrophe, ubiquitous pollution, and rapid species extinction, a domino effect of almost total Earth ecosystem collapse. No matter that most of these predicaments are the result of science in the service of industry–creating nuclear bombs, toxic petrochemicals, plastic microbeads that fill the bellies of ocean animals, ad infinitum. Why we should expect the same mindset that created these problems to also provide solutions is beyond me. It seems to be a superstition of the most tragic and pernicious kind.

Therefore, when I “compare and contrast” the features of the TMT’s Imperial Western Science culture–and its lack of ethics and penchant for all manner of poor behavior–I do not believe that the TMT’s culture is at all compatible with the rational science and spiritual stewardship demonstrated by the Mauna Kea Kia’i, who are protecting a precious cultural and natural resource in a world imperiled by the same kind of entitlement and reckless disregard of natural balance and human rights that are at the heart of the efforts to build the TMT.

I conclude that the TMT and its proponents should not have any say at all in what happens on Mauna Kea.

Finally, here is a cogent statement from one of the leaders in the fight to preserve Mauna Kea, Kealoha Pisciotta’s discussion of a Mauna Kea “management plan” produced by the Kanaka Maoli lahui (community) some time ago. This sixteen-minute video is well worth watching, especially if you’ve been confused by this issue.

Ku Kia’i Mauna!

####

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?

44193241_10156593692470242_4928732631543054336_n
This meme was posted on the Ancestral Medicine forum group on Facebook. I just had to share it.

####