Restoration and the development of Pan-Indigenous consciousness
By L. Patsouris
Indigeny is afoot. Around the globe as indigenous peoples fight to preserve their traditions and ways, many are beginning to turn their heads and look at how these groups, with their original instructions intact, are able to live respectfully and sustainably on the Earth. Many are beginning to realize that modernity as it is being expressed currently is not sustainable and they are looking to indigenous traditions to see how their worldview leads to partnership with the ecosystem instead of destruction. Moreover many whose indigenous traditions were sundered are taking steps to actively reclaim and restore those traditions.
If you go back far enough, we all come from tribal peoples. We all had indigenous traditions and knew at one time how to live in balance on the Earth without destroying Her. Indigeny is the birthright of humanity and the hope of people who wish to restore the balance and live in harmony with the planet. While each culture is unique, there are 3 main themes that seem to be universal and can be found in all indigenous cultures.
1. Ancestor veneration. All indigenous cultures have a sense of intimacy and continuity with their ancestors. They all have rituals around honoring their ancestors and understand that they are part of a line with obligations to those who came before as well as to those who come after.
2. The Land. All indigenous cultures have a sense of belonging to the land and being caretakers of their land. There is a conscious sense of the holiness of the Earth and living as part of rather than as separate from nature and a sense of communication and interaction with the spirits of the land.
3. The Gods/Holy Powers. Indigenous cultures have a sense of connection to their Deities or Sacred Powers and a sense of place and purpose within their own unique cosmologies.
By looking at the commonalities we can see that while each culture was unique, there are certain unifying principles behind the indigenous worldview.
Recently I was fortunate to be a presenter at a conference where there were several speakers and attendees who are all working actively to restore, reclaim and to preserve their indigenous spiritual traditions and lifeways. Although we all came from different cultures, we had a strong sense of all working towards the same goal. There was a palpable sense of solidarity among us as we all wove this theme of restoration and indigeny into our classes. We all knew and understood the need to break free of the modern, predatory power-over consumerist paradigm to reclaim our essential humanity. We all saw our indigenous paths as roads back to something vital and essential that had been attacked and ruptured and required healing to regain our own wholeness of spirit. In this light we were able to encourage and support one another and celebrate the steps each of our groups are taking to reclaim and carry out our original instructions. We came from different backgrounds but had a common language and desire: indigeny. Reclamation. Renewal.
Thinking of how Native Americans of all tribes and nations worked together in the American Indian Movement and how Pan-African consciousness spurred the fight against colonialism in Africa and the Civil Rights struggle, I hope to see the emergence of a Pan-Indigenous consciousness. Colonialism visited us all and the beast was successful because it picked us off individually as tribes. It happened to the Gauls, Celts, Saxons, Yoruba, Igbo, Mende, Lakota, Navajo and Cherokee. I do not have space enough and time to list all the tribes and nations who were visited by conquest and whose traditions and lifeways were viciously targeted for eradication by the machine of conformity and obedience to Church. This machine rolls on today, bent on consuming and destroying the resources that could sustain us all if we would dare to walk in balance and take only what we need.
Indigeny calls for us to realize that we as humanity are all in this together, this fight for redemption, reunion and sustainability. It reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper and we have an obligation to each other, the four footeds, the winged ones, the trees, the waters and this Earth that we all call home. We are all related. What impacts one of us impacts us all. It allows us to celebrate the diversity and beauty of our cultures while acknowledging our shared humanity so we can work together to bring healing to our world. Our ancestors, the spirits of the land and the waters and our Holy Ones are calling out. This is the eleventh hour and humanity has hard choices to make. Do we continue our descent into alienation, greed and destruction? Or do we rise up to meet our challenges in the spirit of reconnection and community? Which side are you on?
Well, dear readers, technically today marks the culmination of the Turtle Island 42 Initiative. Thank you all for staying with us for the past forty two days. Thank you to all those who contributed articles, prayers, invocations, and other useful information. We appreciate your support throughout this project.
Indigeny is essential, it truly is and it's right there waiting for us to open up our eyes and claim it. It can be terrifying work. You are all being asked, as we were asked, to let go of the filter of conquest and monotheism, to drop it and stand vulnerable and naked before some unknown thing that people you've probably never met before tell you is a blessing. But claiming it requires a radical shift in everything you thought you knew, in your entire outlook, in the way you relate to every single thing in your world. Moving from one state of being to the other can involve a seemingly insurmountable chasm.
Your ancestors can help bridge that chasm. Remember them. They're there for you and want you to be healthy, engaged, and whole--something the post-conquest filter will not foster.
Moreover, you have the capacity to do this. It requires courage, yes, but each and every one of you is capable of making this leap. Do it for your ancestors. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your children. Do it for their children. They (and you) deserve a much better world than what you've been given. You can each make a difference. It may seem insurmountable but it begins one person at a time, one single mind, heart, and soul committed to the struggle at a time. You can all do this thing because that indigenous filter is not out of reach at all. It's right there, your birthright; and readers, it changes *everything* for the better.
Once you've seen through indigenous eyes (and we all have indigenous roots. Our people come from somewhere.) you may become angry. In fact, you may look at the world and become enraged. Good. That is the appropriate response. Understand that: how can anyone look at this world awash in the depredations of monotheism and its children and NOT be enraged. Use that anger. Allow it to inspire you, fuel you and move you into a deep committment toward healing our world. It needs healing, and that call to arms is also our birthright.
Even though the TI42 Initiative is over, we shall continue posting here over the next few months. We still welcome contributions, and this archive will remain up and active. We won't be posting every day as we did through the initiative, but we will still be active here. So check back and keep on keeping on. Every single one of you is needed in this struggle.
May the ancestors inspire us.
May they strengthen and guard us.
May they help us remain firm in our committments;
and may we, in our words, our hearts, our actions,
ever do them honor.
You tell me to forget
That the past can only hurt me
And I should get over it
And move on.
How can I forget the past
When that would erase my story?
Rob me of my ancestors
And their power?
The past is present today
Alive and well.
I will not be complicit
To your genocide.
What else would you call it
When you seek to destroy
The roots of my humanity?
Our earth is wounded
Soaked in blood and tears
The cries of Her martryrs.
You tell me to forget the past
Oblivion is the only comfort
For the Guilty.
Rebellion is a gift,
A token of remembrance
I give my Dead.
I will not erase my life
For your convenience.
Come hunt me
On my own terrain
And test my mettle.
Having heard our call for prayers to Goddesses, particularly those carrying the title 'Queen of Heaven,' Alan Leddon responded with this lovely prayer to Epona, a Celtic Goddess Whose worship is slowly being restored in the modern day. Praise Her.
Prayer to Epona
(Epona was the Celtic (Gaulish) Goddess of Horses, Sovereignty, and Soldiers. She was popular with both Gaulish and Roman soldiers and mercenaries. In some parts of Gaul, a new ruler started his rain with a hierogamy to a horse standing in place of Epona; if the crops or land failed, it was assumed that the ruler had failed in his duties as Her husband!)
Goddess of Soldiers!
Wife to the rightful Ruler!
Queen of the Land!
We salute you!
In perfect order, we await your commands!
We ask your blessing on those Warriors who are true to their oaths.
We ask your blessing upon the land and its rightful rulers.
We ask your blessing upon those who oppose the foes of the rightful rulers.
We ask your blessing on those who oppose the usurpers of the land.
As Warriors have ever done, we stand asone to protect our homes, our kin, and our path.
We ask that you look upon us, Epona, and find favor in our struggles!
We who fight salute you!
By Alan Leddon
As part of their agenda of spiritual impoverishment, groups like the New Apostolic Reform (the people behind the DC40 campaign) also find the idea of female Divinity immensely threatening. In recent months, there have been murmurings and even a book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1585020168/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thewildhunt-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=1585020168) attacking the "Queen of Heaven." Goddesses are commonly venerated across indigenous traditions, and that certainly holds true for the European polytheisms that the spread of Christianity destroyed. In the ongoing onslaught against indigeny and contemporary indigenous restoration, it's no surprise then, to see female Divinities coming under attack. This is nothing new.
In light of this, however, we encourage readers to send us your prayers and invocations to the Queen of Heaven (be it Isis, Inanna, Astarte, or any other great and gracious Goddess who bears that name). Let us spend the last couple of weeks of the Turtle Island initiative giving praise to these Deities, pouring out offerings to Them, and sharing poems, prayers, and invocations of adoration. Let the praises of the Queens of Heaven be sung loudly and high, and one day soon, perhaps Their rites will drown out the turgid buffoonery of monotheism.
So send us your prayers: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post them here, that the Queen of Heaven --every Goddess who ever bore that title--may again be praised and honored. We'll post them here as we continue this virtual offensive against the poison and conquest-born agenda of the DC40 program.
(As to the bible, the authority so often called upon in condemnation of various Goddesses: As educated and multi-lingual human beings, we find this misogyny utterly ridiculous. The very bible that these groups so enshrine (often over and above their own God--Jesus said love your neighbor, folks, not bludgeon him into ideological submission) uses terminology in the original Hebrew that translates not only as male AND female, but as a plurality of divinity ('elohim,' the word used for 'God' in Genesis comes to mind). Humanity is said to have been created in the image of God "male and female they were created, in the image of God, they were created." Moreover, the Bible is a polytheistic text. It nowhere denies the existence of other Gods, rather giving the mandate to the Hebrew tribes that they ought to have no other Deity before YWHW. That's henotheism, not monotheism. Monotheism came later. It wasn't until Christianity began to gain political power that other Deities were actively and successfully demonized. It was part of the early Christian agenda in co-opting Pagan spiritual language and turning Latin and Greek into languages of conquest. I think what it comes down to is that the concept of a female divinity or divinities is one that cannot be so easily twisted to support the paternalistic, (often white), male privilege that these people so often enshrine as holy).
Today, the DC40 campaign attacks Florida, home of the Seminole Tribe. Think on this: a few months ago, a friend told me a story. Years ago she had attended a gathering at St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC. It was a gathering for peace, and there were members from indigenous nations from all over the Americas. The organizers had even brought in (i believe) aboriginal tribes and Tibetan monks. The purpose was peace through diversity and participants, after a day of prayer and presentations, were going to make a prayer wheel of stones. (I may be getting some of the smaller details wrong, because so much of this was washed away by the power of what my friend told me next).
As attendees were speaking, this very old woman, a Seminole, went up to the podium supported by a young man, possibly her grandson. He was translating for her because she refused to speak English, which was, to her people, a language of conquest.
She began by saying that it was a good thing to see so many different peoples and tribes coming together for peace. but then she went on to note that no reparation had been made by any government toward the native peoples; and she said that she would not be going on the morrow to lay stones. HER people had never surrendered. HER people were still at war.
Even as i write this, I had to pause for a few moments at the wash of emotion the memory of those words generated in me. We can learn from this mighty elder: never give up. never surrender. It's a less we should take to heart, given that so many in our community, as we further the restoration of our own indigenous ways, seem to want us to collaborate, to lesson our spiritual devotions, to fit them into a mold comfortable to the majority. We can and should look to women like this Seminole elder and contemplate: just what would this woman do, when asked to spit in the face of her ancestors?
She would, I think, remain at war. We could learn from her, and we should.
Think for a moment about how you interact with your world. What are you doing to make it a better place? That is the big question facing all of us: how are you bettering that which you will pass on to those who come after you?
There is often a feeling that to make a change the gesture must be large and grand. That isn't so. Sometimes the most enduring changes happen by being built upon the small, seemingly insignificant life choices. We have said elsewhere on this blog that pouring out an offering to the ancestors, deciding to engage with them is a powerful and potentially revolutionary act. That is a small, very personal thing but it has world-changing potential. Each person who honors his or her dead, who doesn't hide that connection, to integrates that sacred awareness into his or her everyday life is reclaiming space. That person is taking a firm stand against the depredations of monotheism and all it has wrought. Don't be afraid to go there. We firmly believe that it is possible to change the world one ancestor offering at a time.
Beyond that, as you go out and about your day, think about how you choose to interact with people. People by the way includes the homeless man on the street begging for change. What can you do, as you move through your day, to foster the dignity within every person you meet. How can you move from a place of centered engagement into every single interaction and what might that mean for you and those you encounter? The greatest changes begin by consciously changing ourselves and the way we relate to *everything*.
Ideologies like the DC40 campaign aim to beat us down. They are ideologies founded in fear, intolerance, and hatred. they are ideologies aimed at sucking the authenticity out of life and most especially out of spiritual engagement. it rests upon each and every one of us to ensure that this doesn't happen. It is incumbent on each and every one of us to be the antidote to this poison, wherever it may rear its head.
Do not be afraid to speak up and out. Be the voice of compassionate reason. Be fierce in your committment to this work because in the end, if each and every one of us doesn't rise up to counter this assault and others like it (and whether we like it or not, that is exactly what campaigns like DC40 are: assaults) we will find ourselves once again in the position of our ancestors: of finding ourselves in a war of conquest, this time ideological but no less damaging, too late to muster the approproriate resistance--because conquest like this is all but incomprehensible to the sane, connected, spiritually engaged being.
The resulting world is not what we want to leave to our children. What about you?
(and all those struggling to reclaim their indigeny,
all those struggling to throw off the yoke of conquest.)
May your ancestors sustain you.
May you never bow your head in this fight.
Hold strong against these people,
who come with their foreign Gods, foreign ways
and no ancestral voices to speak for them.
The enemy comes offering bread.
The enemy comes offering books.
The enemy comes clothed in compassion
so that you will not see the poison behind their gifts.
That poison will destroy you.
Resist it with everything you have.
Resist it for your ancestors.
Resist it in the name of your Gods.
Resist it in the name of your people,
for your children,
so that they will have a future
in which their bellies and their spirits
will be fully nourished.
Hold fast, hold strong.
You are not alone in this fight.
Remember the sacrifices of your ancestors.
Remember the power and beauty of your people.
Do not allow the poison peddlers to divide you.
Engage, engage, engage
with all that nourishes you.
Drawn upon the wisdom and strength of your ancestors
And don’t ever let it go.
May you be nourished in all that you need.
May you ever hold fast.
I wrote this some time ago after learning that the new ideological position of Christian missionaries is that, as a colleague of mine wrote: “The un-G-O-D-ed folk of the world are now being referred to as "unengaged", not just "unreached".” We both wonder when this new position was taken and what it means to them. We also continue to take deep umbrage at that narrowly-focused target that gets placed on the backs of the world's otherwise QUITE fully and functionally 'engaged' indigenous people.” We are not unengaged. We’re unbrainwashed. There’s a difference).
Oh my indigenous brothers and sisters,
hold your heads up high.
You were not sprung from your mothers' wombs
to make your oppressors comfortable.
You were not put upon this earth,
the disconnected, diseased panderers of hate,
and shame, and spiritual abrogation.
You were not given awareness
so that you could pour out offerings
to the God of your conquorers
and cannibalize your own children.
No. Seek your own ways,
and the ways of your dead.
They were wise and highly evolved.
Pour out offerings to the Gods of your people,
who followed you into slavery,
who stood by you through genocide,
who stood between you
and the spiritual penury
Who sacrificed Themselves,
rather than see Their children perish.
Hold your heads up high
and know these things:
Your ancestors know your name.
You have a place.
You do not come from weak people.
You do not stand alone.
You, in your human skin,
whatever it may look like,
from wherever your lines might hail,
You are your ancestral line walking.
So hold your head up high and proud,
and let no one, disconnected from their roots,
hold you down.
Do not accept the mental and spiritual chains.
Your ancestors worked too hard to free you from the same.
and walk with dignity and the strength
of thousands and thousands of men, women, and children,
bound to you by blood and spirit,
at your back.
By Manaya Aracoel
Colonialism is a system that requires collaborators in order to perpetuate itself. This fact has become increasingly apparent in recent days. While major news corporations would cover the smallest Tea Party get together, Occupy Wall Street was ignored by the Media until the level of collaboration with corporate interests became so ridiculously obvious as the scope of the movement spread that they were forced to acknowledge the its existence. Every colonized people has had a select few handpicked for slightly better treatment as long as they worked to advance the interests of the empowered and try to stifle the voices of dissent.
I have seen a lot of feedback about indigeny and the forging of alliances and the awakening of a pan-indigenous consciousness…and much of it centers on a fear of being perceived as radical or of alienating the dominant group. This begs the question: why are we so concerned with appeasing Christians when they are praying for our disempowerment and destroying our sacred items? Why are we so afraid to appear upset about the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples? Which side are we on? And can it even be called equality if we achieve it by silencing our own voices and stifling our narratives as the price for inclusion?
There is plenty of lip service given in the larger neo-pagan community about wanting to be inclusive and wanting to connect and be friendly with indigenous polytheists practicing their ancestral ways. I’ve heard some bemoan the fact that the indigenous people are standoffish or suspicious of neo-pagan motives. Well, here’s an excellent reason why: as we speak there is at least one pagan news source that will rush to cover almost any pagan event no matter how small scale…and they have outright refused to cover the Turtle Island 42 initiative and I have to wonder why that is. It certainly sends the message that indigeny isn’t important for Pagans, which might come as a surprise to some of those self-same Pagans. So, if, at the end of the day, indigenous peoples do not trust the larger neo-pagan community, perhaps it is because we fear that they may be too attached to their white privilege to risk pissing off The Man. Perhaps too many of us with tans have had our conversations about race and conquest shut down by people who were concerned that we were “living in the past” or “angry” or “militant” or somehow oppressing white Christians by our failure to ignore our pasts and our present realities in order to accommodate their sensibilities. We may have been told that talking about conquest, genocide and slavery (particularly in interfaith settings) upsets the descendants of our conquerors. The message is that it is more important to pander to the dominant group than it is to be true to ourselves. Yet one cannot and should not talk about reclaiming indigeny without also talking about why it was lost in the first place, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Diversity is not about people of all colors and ethnicities being tolerated as long as they look, think and act assimilated. True diversity respects the multitude of experiences and faith and cultures being expressed to their fullest potential and celebrates the existence of difference even while asserting our common humanity. This is what the DC-40ers don’t get. And those who would ignore or silence the segments of the pagan or polytheist or indigenous population because “they might make us look bad to the Christians” are collaborators. And if they think the likes of the DC-40 are going to accept them, no matter how nice they play, they are also deluded.
We are at war. It is not a war we asked for or wanted. Indigenous people have been on the frontlines for centuries. It isn’t a war for commodities or for money, but for cultural spiritual (and often physical) survival against a colonial machine that would eradicate us. The DC-40 has openly declared spiritual warfare on everything and everyone who does not conform to their Dominionist Christian worldview. The time has come to awake, rise up and choose a side.