After I posted the last blog on NEW OLD TRADITIONS – RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS, I thought of three ideas I had not considered at the time, concerning Reciprocity, and finding a balance between ancestral traditions and the traditions offered by the spirit of the place, or the land, where you are. And then because we are currently living in very troubled political times here in America, with many shadow issues from the collective consciousness of humanity coming into the light of day, the question arises of what is the responsibility of descendants of those people whose wrongly held ideas of racial superiority wrecked so much havoc? Certainly very little can get put back the way it was.
The hot topic of this past week (August 12-21, 2017) has been the Neo-Nazi KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a symptom of longstanding beliefs by some white people that because of the color of their skin they are superior to people of color. The evil and the cruelty of the slave trade and the use of slave labor in the cotton industry was indeed a shadowy period in the history of the United States. Yet another huge evil which often gets overlooked is the genocide of America’s First Nations, whom Christopher Columbus mistakenly called Indians, with the colonization of America. For the history of the injustices done by colonists toward America’s First Nations, read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown.
I am often on the short side in a conversation when people want to argue their point of view from a historical perspective so that they can continue to blame this or that person without taking a long hard look in the mirror, so don’t expect any of that here. I refuse to carry around that kind of ammunition, because it is just not important to me to find someone to blame. I am more apt to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to better a situation when I am in one, and if I can’t, I will go back to my own business. So from this perspective I re-ask the question: What is the social responsibility of the cultural descendants of persons whose wrongly held ideas of racial superiority created much suffering for the black race and the red race? Or more specifically, since I cannot speak from anyone else’s conscience, what is my responsibility?
I am a white woman. When I first read Dee Brown’s book, I was a teenager and I did feel guilty because I was white. I also felt ashamed of the fact that I was female and heavier than the social stereotype said I should be. Since I have learned more about myself I no longer accept shame for any of those things. My parents raised me to care about all peoples, I have stood up for people of color when the social situations have presented themselves, I have been in favor of governmental programs such as Affirmative Action that support equal opportunity for all, and I have worked at Job Corps wherein I was able to work one on one with young people whose social opportunities did not present them with an easy education. It is true that I have not thought overly much about the privilege factor of being born white, an idea I have picked up from online discussions of the topic. Does this privilege make me responsible for more than my own life? I do not think that it does.
With all of that said, there is also the fact that each human being has to take responsibility for his or her own conscience in the actions they choose to act on in life. When I meet someone online who has an obvious propensity to support the hate-mongers I speak up in a way I hope will plant seeds of love and new ideas toward the awakening of the human collective conscious. Some receive what I say and some don’t, and I cannot control what they will choose to believe. I do take great heart from the numbers of people speaking out today against the political ideology that supports the white suprematist ideals, and at the same time, I recognize that the times we are living in are frightening to many people of color. America, and human beings in general, have a ways to go to find ways of cooperation that are in the best interest of all of us. I celebrate through my prayers, my energy medicine, and my social media those groups who honor the changes that are needed in the world for each other and Grandmother Earth. Notable among these groups is the Standing Rock Water Protectors and those who support clean water Earth round.
With all of that said, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart and even the soles of my feet America’s First Nations for sharing their medicine ways and their animistic viewpoint so that even as a white American female I could find my way back from generations of Christian conditioning to a way of life that is heart-centered on the planet and with Nature. Their traditions hold a teaching of RECIPROCITY – all people get what they need and there is sufficient quantity of goods to support a good life for all. It is when people get greedy for money, for status, for land, that everybody else suffers for the few to have the most.
The worldview of America’s First Nations is ANIMISTIC. This means that everything contains the life (is animated by) breathed into it by the Great Spirit/Mystery/God/Creator. Rocks, trees, water, fire, air, all trees and plants, fishes, insects, four-legged and two-legged beings, winged ones, and the little creepy crawlies all have life that is as valuable to them as my own is to me. The animistic worldview has helped me tremendously in understanding RIGHT RELATIONSHIP to the land. I work with the spirits of the land in my garden, and the spirit of the West Kill Creek has been a teacher to me in working with water, the shape shifting qualities of water, and its connection to my own emotions.
I give to the land and it gives to me. We have very little waste in our household. Most of our food scraps go into compost that we give back to the land and also nourishes our garden. I give thanks every day for the balance of life here. Walking the dog twice a day, we frequently sight wildlife. We have had a bald eagle fly over our heads, as curious about us as we were about her. We have seen deer, hawks, vultures, foxes, skunks, herons, a black mink, a fisher, and today five ducks, not to mention the tremendous variety of butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and other interesting insects. I have made a perennial garden with plants intended to attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with the land is a manner of RECIPROCITY, as is Right Relationship with the Gods and humanity. The Peruvian Quechua have a saying of “Ayni” – today for me, tomorrow for you, meaning that everyone gets what they need. Somedays you give of yourself to others, somedays yours are the needs that are met. My Norse Ancestors have the Rune GIFU, which literally translates as “Gift,” but further meaning an equal exchange of some kind. This could be worldly goods, this could be energy, this could be opportunity. Odin told me recently that the Gods value our prayers, although they already know our needs, because they want to be asked. (And there are other ways to honor the Gods: maintaining an altar, taking a vow to fast from food or a cherished ideal, for example). Marriage honors Gifu. My husband and I have exchanges of energy, things that we automatically do for each other or ask for help on, because ours is a reciprocal relationship.
Today and yesterday when I went down to the Creek to pray and listen, I poured out some of my morning coffee, because that is a thing I truly enjoy and wanted to share. A First Nation tradition is offering tobacco, and there are acts of purification, such as smudging or the Sweat Lodge. It is ironic that the very culture that worked so hard to irradiate the wisdoms of the First Nations has had to turn back to those cultures to regain wisdom that had been lost to generations of Christian enculturation. (In no way here do I wish to devalue Christianity: the early Christians practiced reciprocity in their communities. Rather it seems that reciprocity fell out of practice once Christianity became a political power with its adoption as the “state” religion by Constantine).
I am not certain whether this is a finish to this article, but my heart is full today, of relationships with beings of Earth, with the Gods, with the people and animals in my family and community whom I love. The sun is shining today, and I have knowledge of how many peoples around this glowing blue planet we all call home began by calling the Sun “Grandfather” and the Earth “Grandmother.” Today is a solar eclipse. I will be participating in a Wind Clan Ceremony with others across our beloved nation who are calling in the winds to help humanity heal.