Thinking about Oppression, and Magic, and Healing

We are still discussing the Confederate battle flag and what it means to be Southern an what it means to be a Black Southerner.  All of this over on the Facebookery.  My friend Literata posted a meme about the Confederate flag and the swastika.  My responses were these…

And yet–at least for the first one–there are other meanings to a different group of people. A symbol with power can have many meanings, not all of them conflicting.

I am saying it isn’t a binary, neither the one thing nor the other. It would be healthiest for the communities genuinely impacted by any symbol (as opposed to the social media juggernaut that has silenced many voices on all sides of these issues) to sit together in deep listening and sharing and see what comes of that. That is a healing way, though terribly difficult. Memes are easier, for sure. It is so much easier to shut one group down and raise another up but that usually doesn’t lead to reweaving the shredded fabric on community. So much easier to point and judge without getting into the messiness of justice within culture.

I am asking for the parties involved to come together so that oppressions can be truly accounted for and work begun toward eliminating them. Instead, we manage a number of feel-good gestures that–while important as gestures–may not move us forward to actual elimination of the horrific ill of racism. Ditto sexism. We can’t simply concur on what feels like a meaningful platitude without actually working–day by day, year by year–to take these toxic systems down.

I am saying it isn’t enough (to remove the flag) and now isn’t the place to stop and think we’ve fixed something. If we are truly interested in fixing the problem, of bringing healing all around, we have to do more than gestures. They aren’t empty–symbols are potent, which is how this conversation began. But gestures aren’t enough to ratify problems. That takes ugly, painful and messy work and a kind of endurance that most Americans don’t understand.

As a multi-generational Appalachian woman and a Pisces, it helps me to see all the sides of an issue and to get to the meat of it. My outlook tends to belt-and-suspenders and looking in the shady corners. I appreciate the gestures, truly. But what we really need–in my opinion–is the sort of process that South Africa went through–truth and reconciliation. And, frankly, that should have been done in 1875.

I encourage all Southerners, who love the South and hate the stereotypes and bashing, to fly the Bonnie Blue as a sign of cultural solidarity.

Bonnie Blue flag

One Thing or Two, But Not Another

(I posted this to Facebook today and got a wonderful, thoughtful response from a great many people. I am reposting it here with links to some of the references they suggested.)

The Alewives discussed equity and justice and agency last night. No, we did not have a fire. We did sit around the fire bowl in the muddy air of a mountain gloaming, however, which could have influenced our thinking about patriarchy’s decline and voodoo lilies and Tower Time. And we talked about outgoing Chief Michell Hicks and how things have changed out on Qualla Boundary. Which got us thinking about this–why isn’t there more talk about the First Nations peoples and their struggles and challenges? When we are talking about injustice in America, surely we must open that wound and look hard at it. Why are we not? Why do we honor some groups but not others? Why is a confederate battle flag more compelling than the grinding poverty in Native communities? So I found this, which is from 2012 but readable. The author is Jennifer Thomalla.

Poverty Across America: American Indian Reservations

My sister and friend Venice suggested I acquaint myself with the work of Katsi Cook and posted a link to this article–

Eco-feminist appropriations

So I am reposting this here to see what your thoughts are about this issue.  I am still meditating on mine.

Strength Be Thine

stones

These are fraught times for many of us. Yes, of course I’m going to advise you to ground and put up shields but I am also going to ask you to be really strong and to reach out to your community–however you define that–and to see who can’t be strong right now. There is a river of grief around us and this is the time for the strong to be there in the midst of the waters. Hold out your hand and lend yourself to the cause that is your cause. Love it fiercely, ferociously. Be the strength, if you can.

Strength of oak and stone and mountain be thine.

Chop Apples, Carry Compost–a Farmer’s Meditation

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Chopping apples became a meditation for me today. The kitchen was set up with various cutting boards, colanders and stainless steel bowls, and a large pot in the sink held water to wash the apples. I started this morning by sharpening two of my favorite knives. Porch to kitchen. Wash and drain. Chopchopchop. Refuse to the compost tub. Chops into bags.  Repeat.

It gave me time to clear the noise of this past couple of weeks out of my head.  Chopchopchop. I was standing at my kitchen work station and began to wiggle my feet and sway as I chopped.  A little tune came into my head and I hummed as I worked.

Chopchopchop

And because I was standing, I took time to do a good deep and grounding and check in with the good Earth. A cool breeze–and damp–drifted in the open window. I let the feel of it cool my back and my soul a bit, too.  These are complicated days to try to think through and impossible days to try to sort out feelings in.  So I let my heart drift, too–I left Charleston behind and Sudan and Greece and the red wolves and the damaged Gulf.  I felt it flow down into the good Earth to become compost for this new world we’re building.

I think about–too much about–resilience these days. As all these systems collapse, as we learn to navigate by the stars and the Sun in Tower Time, what does it mean to love the land while looking askance at the people–my species–who inhabit it. Resilience, survival. Community and food and caring and love.

Chopchopchop

There is so much visible pain, so many angry fearful people–and I have been angry and frustrated and fearful myself in these days. But this day of simple, monotonous work and the gift of grounding have brought me some healing, I think. And some re-membering of who I am and where I am.

As we approach this flawed nation’s birthday, what are you re-membering? How are you healing yourself, your community and the souls you hold dear.

Chopchopchop

May we all re-member well, friends. Even those of us who have named it are not immune to the stresses and chaos of Tower Time.

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Yanksplaining

Lawsy, Facebook is full of finger-pointing and blaming. Certainly those of us with thick skins and a few brain cells to rub together are capable of determining whether we currently actually own slaves and how to feel about it if it’s “only” something our Ancestors did.

What started out as a concern and is rapidly becoming a point of fury is the constant drumbeat that somehow all of those superior beings have a more nuanced and authentic understanding of the Civil War (and frankly of anything they care to argue about) and the rest of us romantic dullards need to See The Light.

We all know that history is a slippery and subtle study, it isn’t as clear as we’d like for it to be and there can be many understandings of the same set of events. Continuing to browbeat and belittle people who are merely suggesting that we look a little more deeply into the cause and effect of a difficult part of American history does not prove your point.

The constant tone of shaming rhetoric is both wearying and disheartening. And this doesn’t begin to touch on the private messages and small in-person conversations that take up space in my heart and time in my day.

I have even coined a phrase for all this–Yanksplaining.

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Flags, Rainbows and Hoop Skirts

I’ve been busy working on my new book and raising Hel over on the Facebooks.  Thought I’d share…

All y’all need to chill the Hel out. There is some grieving to do, and some beans to freeze, and plans to make for how we live when all this mess is finally crashed and done. Hurting each other out of anxiety and fear is not honorable, and it won’t feel good in the long run. Threatening each other, shaming each other, guilt-tripping each other because you are exercising the freedom that is ours to exercise, that’s not helpful, is it? Try to see the point of view of The Other, just try. And try to love the people who seem most unlovable. It’s good exercise. Also, ground yourselves and get your shields up and you won’t feel so off-kilter. And don’t forget–iced tea. It’s a sacrament.

Time–past time–to have civilized discourse on this debilitating war that has haunted us for 150 years. I have no idea how that can even happen at this point but it’s what must be done. It’s been handled shallowly, angrily, piss-poorly since Reconstruction. War. Triumph/defeat. Analysis. Reconciliation. Healing. Redemption.

This is how it works to be a Southerner, with Scots-Irish roots: the more you tell me how awful Southerners are, the more gloriously Southern I become. The more you tell me I can’t do something, the more I want to do it, flaunt it and inspire you to do it, too, by the flair with which I flaunt your rules. Appalachian culture is pretty different from other Southern cultures but I look damned fine in a hoop skirt. And I’m a good shot. Word to the wise.

Go, SCOTUS–Wonderful! Now can we really look at marriage and get religion out of it at the governmental level? That would be fine, too. Happy day!

So. Much. Equality. Now, can we have equal rights for women? How about that? Have we waited long enough or do you require a few more centuries of systemic and systematic oppression? Just let us know, we’ll be right over here, knitting (in between making sandwiches). ‪#‎FFS‬ ‪#‎ERA‬ Yeah, I’m looking at you, Hise.

On Clementa Pinckney–Blessed be the good man, his family and the others who perished with him through an act of terrorism and hatred. I question the timing of the release of the SCOTUS decision, so I am reminding myself of…other events this morning. What is remembered and honored, lives.

On the President singing “Amazing Grace”–

I am waiting for the day when the President does a touching rendition of “We All Come From the Goddess.” I suspect I shall wait for rather a long time for that. But I still remember the day I stood in a sweltering Lafayette Park in DC and listened to the powerful reaction of the crowd when I finished my remarks with–And may the Goddess bless America!

That’s all for now. What are you stirring up these days?

“Celebrate Wildness” — an illustrated look at Feraferia

A friend and teacher (though she may not know that) asked me to read a book and review it on my blog. I agreed at once because I love books and the subject of this one is near to my heart these days—engagement with the Unseen as goddesses/Divines and as land spirits.  As my spiritual practice simplifies and deepens, I find these two sources of wisdom to be of profound interest to me. And this book was about the union of those two things in the spiritual system called Feraferia. I had heard of it before but only knew a little about this “faerie faith.” Yum—two of my favorite things: learning something new and reading a book. Win-win.

And it was. I sat down with my electronic copy of the book– Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path by Jo Carson—and first I read the Introduction and then I went through the whole document, looking at the pictures which are by the now-deceased founder of the movement, Fred Adams. Then I went back for this, which you may find helpful in understanding what this book and Feraferia are all about–“Feraferia, a Statement of Purpose—by Fred Adams, 1967 The paradisal fellowship of Feraferia promotes the loving celebration of wilderness mysteries with grace and faerie feeling. Our goal is the unification of ecology, artistry, mythology, and liturgy. In such love-play-work humanity may achieve reunion with Great Nature, ourselves, and our own souls, before and after the transition called death. The Feraferian vision includes new inspirations and new combinations from the most ancient wellsprings of the Goddess and her realm of the Gods. They remain our guarantors of universal consciousness and eternity for each unique soul.” Doesn’t that sound remarkably sweet, given the state of the world today?

And the central Divine Figure seems to be Kore, who may be familiar to you from the Kore/Persephone/Demeter myth cycle.  Lady Svetlana, who is the co-founder of the movement (she was Adams’ domestic partner), describes it— “Kore has many forms, and Feraferia loves and celebrates her as both the ineffable center of the universe (Arretos Koura), and also as the glorious Goddess of Earth, Gaia.”

The book consists of many small essays about various aspects of both practice and thealogy, interspersed with charming drawings. I really like the making of the “faerie ring henge” essay which has the immensely practical set of instructions about jabbing a stick into the middle of where you want your circle, tie a string to it and walk in a circle to mark the circumference. I’m a simple country woman, as you know, and this appealed to my sense of ease and rightness.

And this brought me a chill. I knew I’d adapt it for my own uses and I suspect many of you will, too– “A Goddess Prayer to Restore Any Place in Which You Find Yourself to Its Original Wild Harmony With your finger or a natural object such as a twig, trace an equal-armed cross over the ground… Then trace an upward expanding spiral from the center of the cross. When you have finished raising the spiral expanding from center, intone the following: “I (we) return this place to the Earth, Earth to Earth in sovereign Queendom of Earth. May the Goddess dwell here in the fullness and majesty of her being and radiate her timeless memory of love into every heart for the benefit of all beings. Ho! So be it!”

It’s like cutting the loaf of soda bread to let the faeries out—I love it.  I may have to lose the word “Queendom,” however, peasant that I am.

I find some of the ideas in this book a little dated—or do I mean they seem too idealistic in the current age of the modern Pagan movement? We are terribly jaded now and tend to look askance at idealism in any form. So I recommend this book because it may give you a breath of fresh inspiration about what is possible when you live in harmony.

I feel sure that, after this review, members of the national Pagan community will let me know all the flaws in the Feraferia community and how it can’t “really work.”  But who wouldn’t love the “Phytala”—the symbol of the faith—a plant mandala or the idea of Goddess as Merry Maiden? Or this– “The images and feeling tones of faerie faith provide patterns for how to live on earth. The Fay…are a model for living intimately with nature rather than dominating it.” And couldn’t we all use a pathway for achieving that?

Author Jo Carson did a film about Feraferia. “Dancing With Gaia; Connecting With Earth Energy, Sacred Sexuality and the Goddess” premiered at the Fairfax Documentary Film Festival in April 2009. It is available at dancingwithgaia.com.  Learn more about Feraferia at feraferia.org

In a world gone cold and dark with the transition and collapse of these old and toxic systems, this book will remind you of what we once were and what we could be again.

Details—as always, I recommend you contact your local indie bookseller first and ask them to order it, if they don’t stock it. Walk your talk, friends. Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path by Jo Carson Art by Fred Adams Foreword by Carroll ‘Poke’ Funyon Photography by Jo Carson Publisher–Natural Motion Pictures ISBN 978-09916470-1-9