Tag Archives: Ancestors

Indigenous People’s Day

Thoughts I had on Indigenous People’s Day, yesterday:
I was born on land disputed by the Iriquois Confederacy and the Cherokee, land where the Shawnee moved when the whites forced them out of Virginia.
 
I grew up on the land where the Baxoje (Iowa) lived, where once the Dakota and Sauk roamed.
 
I live now on land fished and farmed by the Olohne, and where the Muwekma and others still live.
 
The land I live on, from which I derive my life, is Native land, shaped by Native lives, soaked with Native blood.
 
I remember. I will not let others forget. I will pay the debt incurred by my white ancestors, as best I can, to the descendants of those they wronged.

For Orlando

Awake, you ancestors and mighty dead!
Awake, throw open the doors to your halls!

New souls come to join you
Souls who died in lead and blood
There are new ancestors among you

Awake, you ancestors and mighty dead!
Awake, throw open the doors to your halls!

Light your hearth-fires
Light your lanterns
Show the new ancestors the way home

Awake, you ancestors and mighty dead!
Awake, throw open the doors to your halls!

Send out the banshees, the black dogs
Send out the skeleton horses and the reapers
Do not let them be lost in the dark

Awake, you ancestors and mighty dead!
Awake, throw open the doors to your halls!
There are new ancestors among you
Make them welcome
Bring them home

Remember the names of the dead.


David Bowie is Dead

One more leaves the sunlit lands
One more feasts in the hall of the ancestors
David Bowie is dead

I remember riding the bus with Ziggy
I remember dancing with the Diamond Dogs
And sometimes, I’m afraid of Americans, too

I remember his voice, his song
I remember hearing the stories he told
And seeing a queer man celebrated

I heard Dionysos in his music
I saw Melek Ta’us in his eyes
And found joy in his songs of darkness and disgrace

His music felt like home
His words spoke to my dreams

Awake, Mighty Dead, open the doors of your halls
Tonight you will have song and love
For David Bowie has left the sunlit lands


Remember Upon Whose Bones Your House is Built

I am mildly torn on the subject of Columbus Day. On the one hand, Columbus was an evil bastard who deserves to be burned in effigy every year, preferably as part of a charity drive collecting donations for Native American causes.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be here if he’d never done his entirely objectionable thing and kicked off the rush to colonize the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Oh, Europeans would have gotten around to it eventually, but the historical context would have been different and therefore the social and historical conditions that made my life what it has been would have also been different, and I would not be here.

Perhaps the one who would have been, would have been a better human being than I. I don’t know, and my depression and anxiety like that thought way too much to pursue it further. But I digress…

Columbus was awful. But he was also pivotal. He was evil, but also helped shape the world which shaped me, and I rather like me, most of the time.

I like to say that we owe a debt to our ancestors, and pay it to our descendants. But we all have ancestors we don’t like, perhaps even hate, and would like to forget about. In more recent (than Columbus) history, I had ancestors who were southern slave holders and Confederate officers, for instance.

How do we remember them, without glorifying them? How do we give honor to those without honor, or at least who deserved no honor in life?

We remember them honestly, without glossing over the evil they did. We admit that their bad is in our history as much as any good they did. We admit, in humility, that our houses are built on a foundation of native bodies, and in turn we honor those who were killed so unjustly.

We give our problematic ancestors honor by working to clean up the messes they left behind. I can’t undo the horrors that Columbus and his successors wrought in the Americas, but I can work to make the conditions in our present, which are the legacy of colonialism, racism, and empire, less vile.

We can honor even the ancestors we hate by making the present better than the past, and the future better than the present.


For Those We Have Lost

Today is the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001. Many places on the internet, at least where Americans post, will be filled with American flags and praise of the United States. Some places will be filled with jingoistic hate. If we’re lucky, some will also be filled with thoughtful history.

None of that is what I want to say today. Here’s what I want to say:

Remember those who left the sunlit lands.

Remember the thousands who died in the attacks: the passengers of the planes, the workers in the towers and at the Pentagon, the police and firefighter and medics. Raise a glass to the fallen.

Remember those who left the sunlit lands.

Remember the thousands and thousands who have died in the wars that followed. Remember those who have died in reprisal after reprisal; an eye for an eye and the world goes blind. Raise a glass to the fallen.

Remember those who have left the sunlit lands.

May they find the peace they were denied in life.
May we find a way to make justice out of the mess that killed them.
May the gods guide us and forgive us.


A Love of Spirit

What have you inherited from your ancestors?

What haven’t I inherited from my ancestors? Genetically, socially, materially… I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had the ancestors I did. Not just in the simple sense of not having been born without my parents; I would not be the person I am without the advantages and challenges they’ve left me.

But that’s all fairly generic, isn’t it?

My father was an easy man to love, but not an easy man to live with. Growing up, I’d thought he was always disappointed in me, as if I’d failed some test I didn’t know I was taking. In reality, he was dealing with serious depression. Late in his life, he would often talk about feeling he’d failed me as a parent.

I get depression–I got it from him. I know what he went through, and with my own son, I can imagine how hard he tried to keep his depression from affecting me too badly.

Another thing I got from him was a thirst for spirit.

My father, perhaps because of his depression, was a very religious man. For years, I’d thought that our family had always been very involved in the Southern Baptist Church, but talking with family after my father’s funeral, I learned that he was the one who got them involved.

He was passionate about his Christianity, but he was never overbearing about it. I remember a period of my early teens where many of the things I wanted came with something religious attached. The example I remember the best was a DC Comics trivia book I wanted. I showed it to him, and he came back with a Bible study workbook, telling me I could have the one if I also took the other.

I don’t think I looked at the Bible workbook more than twice, actually.

Another thing I remember was the year we lived in Missouri. At the time I had no idea, but having to move away from his church must have been as hard on him as moving away from his family. We must have tried half a dozen churches that year. They were all Protestant evangelical denominations, but I think I owe much of my interest in the diversity of religious expression to that year.

I particularly remember the small church, run out of the living room of a farmhouse. It was folk guitar and barbecue and praying in tongues. Now that I think on it, this probably predisposed me to the culture of modern Paganism.

My father never really came to terms with where I took it, but I will always thank him for giving me a love of spirit.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


Customizing the Home

What customs are associated with the home and family in your tradition?

I always get a chuckle out of thinking about My Tradition, which pretty much is only “The stuff I remember to do more than once.”

But then, thinking about the home and family, there are a few things we regularly do:

On the 4th of July, we have a cookout, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and watch 1776. We invite people to join us, but everyone has plans on the 4th, so it’s often a small group.

For the winter solstice, we have a Pagan slumber party. We invite all our friends to join us for vigil from sunset to sunrise, singing up the sun. And if you’ve heard my sleep-deprived friends singing, you know why the sun gets up…

Also, we have a household ancestor altar. Just a picture or two, a vase of flowers, and candles. I make a small ritual of praying in thanks to the ancestors when I change the flowers.

It occurs to me that this is pretty much how more complex traditions get started, with each new generation adding to the list of household rites. So, check back in 100 years. If miraculous life extension technology allows me to still be blogging, I’ll get back to you.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


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