Southern Pride in a Time of Terror

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I’m a child of the American South.  I’m the Witch of this Southern place, this place , this one here in Virginia, close-by the shores of Spout Run and the Potomac River.  I’m a woman whose spiritual life consists mainly of being in relationship with my Southern landbase.  And there’s a lot about the South that makes me proud.

I’m proud of our cooking, a melange, as Michael Twitty notes, of African, European, Island, and Native traditions.  Chef Twitty has called our cuisine a family affair and sometimes one full of family fights.  Give me ham biscuits, a mint julep, Old Bay, crawfish étouffée, fried catfish, my Aunt May’s hushpuppies, guava jelly, and a chess pie.

I’m proud of Southern writing, a genre not afraid to explore the shadows and the weird and to claim them, to claim them fully.

I’m proud of Southern gardens, Southern architecture, and Southern music.  Jazz, ya’ll.  Bluegrass.  Rock and roll.  Country.  Gospel.  Whatever’s on your iPod, a lot of it is likely Southern.  We’re a musical people and, even when poor, we have a harmonica, an old washbasin, a guitar.

I’m proud of Southern hospitality, the way we want to feed each other, pour each other a cooling drink on a hot day, sit visitors down on the porch to talk a spell.

I’m proud of our Southern Universities, from Morehouse, to UVA, to Virginia Tech, to Duke, to Howard, to Tulane.  You all think we’re either elite or stupid, but we’re mostly drunk on education.

I’m proud of our storytellers.  You haven’t heard a good story until you’ve heard an old tale told, slow and wandering, with a strong Southern accent.  And that’s another thing I’m proud of:  our accents.  Listening to Southerners talk is like listening to music, and there are so many different Southern dialects.

I’m proud of the South’s glowing tradition of poetry.  Go read Natasha Trethewey, Coleman Barks, Wendell Berry.  We’re a people besotted with language, desperately in love with words, out of our minds with the need to tell — and it shows.

I’m proud of our tradition of healing.  Many of America’s most modern and innovative medical centers are in the South.  And our ancient traditions of healing are alive and thriving.  We’re exposed to a lot of illness, hardship, biological attacks — Asian Tiger Mosquitoes, I am just saying —  and environmental degradation here in the South and we never stop looking for ways to help people feel better.  Here, have some of my fire cider, let me tie this bit of bacon fat on your splinter, let the doctors at the Center for Disease Control learn about what ails you.

I’m proud of our mountain people who’ve survived, for generations, in the harshest conditions, exploited and mostly ignored by the rest of society, and, yet, they still managed to preserve their music, folkways, magic, and courage.  I’m proud of our island people who’ve faced the stormy Atlantic, pulled a life from it, and still managed to weave beauty at every chance.  I’m proud of the people who live in our tiny towns:  hardware merchants, beauty parlor managers, truck farmers.

You want farmers?  We do still grow cotton, rice, and tobacco (the slavery triad), but we also grow soy beans, corn, tomatoes of every variety, squashes too numerous to count, okra, fish peppers, peaches, plums, figs, and, oh yes, paw paws.  We still grow paw paws.

I’m proud of our cities:  New Orleans which is a place of music and magic, Atlanta which is modern and bustling, and, on the border between Mason and Dixon, Washington, D.C., which John Kennedy lovingly called a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.  I think we got the better part of both worlds.

I’m proud, too, of how far the South has come on the subject of race.  We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long, long way, just in my lifetime.  And I want to point out that racism isn’t now, and has never been, just a Southern thing.  Go to Oregon, go to Missouri, go to Pennsylvania, go, hell, to Alaska.  The South, unlike all ya’ll,  has never had the luxury of pretending that we didn’t have to deal with racism.

Here’s what I’m not proud of.  I’m not proud that the South started the Civil War.  I’m not proud of slavery nor of the economy and way of life founded upon it.  I’m not proud of the men who declared war on the United States of America, neither the rich ones nor the poor ones they swindled into fighting for them so that the poor ones could, at least, consider themselves better than an African American.  All of those men were traitors and I’m glad that my country, America, defeated them.  I’m not proud of Jim Crow.  I’m not proud of segregation.  I’m 61 and IN MY LIVING MEMORY I can still recall going down South to see my momma’s relatives and stopping at gas stations that had “Colored Bathrooms” and “Colored Water Fountains,” and at segregated restaurants and hotels.   I’m not proud of the Confederate flag, the flag of defeated traitors.  I’m not proud of Confederate generals.

So I say, as a proud Southern woman, as a woman who loves the South:  Tear down the Confederate flags and pull down each and every statue of Confederate soldiers on public land.  After last weekend, they’re obviously a danger to public health and safety.  We don’t need them to remember our history; that’s what we’ve got schools and libraries and storytellers for.  And let’s tell our babies our whole history and tell it true, not pretend that it doesn’t have warts, and gaping wounds, and cool scabs.  I’ll gladly fly a flag with magnolias on it, or crawfish, or banjos, or palms.  And I’ll stop and admire statues of real Southern heroes and heras:  Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln (born in Kentucky), Rosa Parks, Patsy Cline, Zora Neale Hurston, Anne Richards, William Faulkner, Edgar Allen Poe . . . there’s a long list.

I guess what I’m trying to say to you, here, on my screen porch, under the ceiling fan, on a humid night in August when I can hear the cicadas and the crickets and the tree frogs, is that this, like everything else, isn’t binary.  It’s not either love the South and adopt the flag of losing traitors and admire men who fought for slavery or just admit that you don’t belong here.  I can love the South, love the people, love the landbase, accept the complicated history, AND not want to see that nasty flag or those evil men ever again.

I think I’m also trying to say to you, here, surrounded by magnolias, and oaks, and crepe myrtles, that there are nearly next to no places/cultures/peoples in the world who don’t have the kind of complicated history that we Southerners have.  A lot of all y’all are just further removed from it or are more able to ignore it.  Love your Celtic history?  I love mine, too, but the Celts came and pushed my Pictish ancestors off their land, enslaved them, and nearly drove them to extinction.  And then the Normans came and enslaved the Celts (but that hasn’t stopped me loving and studying French, French food, French fashion, French wine . . . .)  Proud of your African heritage?  You should be.  Africa is the birthplace of civilization, had proud cities while my ancestors were running naked on the moors, and has some of the most interesting languages and unique art on the planet.  Africans also kept and sold slaves.  Relate strongly to your Norse ancestors?  Me, too, but let’s admit up front some of us are pretty morose; ya’ll know it’s true, bless your hearts.  Love it that you come from a long line of New York City dwellers?  I can’t blame you.  New York has the best ballet, the best restaurants, the best libraries. . . .   Ya’ll gave us Donald Trump, though.

I think I’ve made my point.

Tear them down.  Build up better things.

I’m a Witch and a Witch takes responsibility.  I’m not playing binary games.

Picture found here.

 

All of the Magical Battles for America

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The wonderful Diotima Mantineia has kindly gathered each of the weekly workings in one place, in case anyone is interested.  I’ll see if I can figure out how to link her list over on the side, but I’m posting it here, as well, in case anyone is interested.

Click here for links to each working.

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

The Magical Battle for America 8.13.17

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We spent this week terrified that Trump was going to launch nuclear weapons at North Korea and go to war against Venezuela.  And then, yesterday, a huge gathering of Nazis — emboldened by the Nazis in the White House — killed, injured, and terrorized people in Charlottesville, Virginia.  What’s going on is so wrong, so dangerous, so frightening, and so heartbreaking.  As a result, trite as this has become, I want to ask each of you to do at least one thing this week to take care of yourself.  Go for a walk.  Take a long bath.  Re-read your favorite book.  Eat a peach.  Light some incense and pour a libation.  As Mrs. Whatsit points out, we’re in this for the long haul..

I want to say that, after yesterday, I felt as if today’s working should be somehow more dramatic than it is.  But the more I meditated on what to write, the more forcefully Columbia assured me that the working below is what’s needed.  I hope that it’s helpful.

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Now’s probably a good time to remind everyone to check/refresh the wards on your home or wherever you do this work.  Be sure that you’re rested, grounded, and in a comfortable position.

Breathe.

Anchor yourself firmly to your landbase.  Notice a small detail that will call you back when this working is finished.

Ground and center.  Cast a circle.

Breathe.

As you move to our American plain on the astral plane, you can see again the safe hillock where you do your work.  You can see the five giant banners, shining in the sky:  Walden Pond, the Underground Railroad, the Cowboy, the Salmon, and Lady Liberty.  Do they seem more defined since we began our work?  Do they have anything special to tell you this week?

For a few moments, just sit on your hillock and allow yourself to become comfortable. This place should be feeling very real to you by now; we’ve been working together to create it for months and months.  When you are ready, turn and look at the Salmon banner in the Northwest.  As you watch, it grows larger and larger until it seems to fill the entire sky.  You can see the river water streaming past and the large, shiny salmon swimming underneath.  Feel yourself shapshift into a salmon and dive into the lovely, cold water.  Your powerful body moves with beauty and purpose as you swim upstream.  You are swimming back to the place of your birth, coming back where you belong after a long year spent growing and playing in the salty Pacific ocean.  You are drawn by a need as old as time, propelled by what the poet called “life’s longing after itself.”

As you follow your unerring instinct home, bears and foxes try to grab you out of the water and eat you.  Eagles and hawks that you can’t even see come diving out of the heights of the sky to snatch you into the suffocating air and tear you to bits for their babies.  Forest fires rage above you, making the water sooty and hot.  Humans block the rivers with nets and sell you for sushi.  You have to leap over rocks and waterfalls, tearing your flesh and using up your limited stores of energy.  The constant battle to swim against the flow of the river exhausts you.  You worry that you may be too late.

Feel all of that exhaustion and fear and then, let it flow off of you, just as the water flows off of your beautiful body.  Your job is just to swim, to leap, and to swim some more.  As you reach a shadowy pool where you can rest in safety for a minute, you become aware that a group of Indigenous Grandmothers are standing on the riverbank, just above your pool.  They are chanting for you, sending strength to you, helping you to get home, spawn, and keep your clan alive.  They burn sage and they call to the Great Salmon, the Salmon of Wisdom, to Why-kan-ush to aid you.  They tell the tale of how Salmon first came to the river and they remind you that you come from a strong and proud race.  They chant some more, and you silently thank them as you swim proudly out into the rushing river.

America, too, is trying to return to her true home, to the ideals, perhaps often more aspirational than realized, that gave Her birth:  that all people should be equal under the law and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And America, too, is faced now, as she has been time and time again, with dangers, obstacles, hostile forces, and threats to Her very existence.  America, too, could use some help on the journey.

As you finally reach your home and spawn, shapeshift back into the human magic worker sitting on a hillock in the middle of the country.  Can you remember any of the Grandmothers’ chant?  Can you sing it back to America?  Is there a chant of your own that you want to offer?  Or a dance, a prayer, a rhythm for the drum?  Is there a flower arrangement you want to place on America’s altar or a spell you need to say?  Is there a message for you about how you can do the work of the Indigenous Grandmothers in the world?

Take a few final minutes and thank the Salmon and the Grandmothers for all that they have done and all that they have taught you.

As you sit and rest, know that you are not working alone.  The Resistance — both magical and in all of its mundane (phone banking, check writing, representative calling, letter writing, canvassing, voting, volunteering, tutoring, restoring wetlands, growing plants for bees) manifestations — is huge.  Know that you are a powerful worker of magic, rooted in your very own landbase, working with the strong archetypes of this land, assisted by countless unseen others who labor in league with you.  You are brave and growing braver.  Your magic and your practical workings can make the difference.

Breathe.

Return to your own body, your own landbase.  Open your eyes.  Rub your face, move your arms and legs.  Notice the detail you selected to call you back from the astral.  Open your circle.  Drink something, maybe barley water or iced coffee.  If you like, have something to eat, maybe a lovely, light salad or a piece of swiss cheese.

During the course of this week, you may want to visit the bannered prairie several times in order to strengthen its presence on the astral.  You may want to repeat this working several times.  You may want to place something on your altar to remind you of Salmon or the Grandmothers.  You may want to journal about it.  Are you inspired to make any art?  Can you sit beside a warm fire, or light incense, or stare into a candle?   What actions are you inspired to take for the Resistance?  If you’re willing, please share in comments what happened and how this working went.

 

Picture (and information about the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers) found here.

 

Saturday Ballet Blogging

The Next Phase of #TheResistance

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Hecate and I had dinner last night and as we were chatting about whether it would make sense to immediately drink all the high end booze we’ve each been storing before so-called President Trump gets us all blown up (conclusion: YES), we came to the realization that we’re moving into another phase of #TheResistance.

We had spent Election Night together, cried together, and talked frequently in the following days about our feelings of sadness, loss, betrayal, and devastation. We both quickly jumped into a variety of types of activism (some of which, in retrospect, were not particularly well-considered) out of the need to Just Do Something and fear over what might transpire if we didn’t immediately do EVERYTHING.

And the intervening months have been difficult, to say the least. But (at least) two things have become apparent: one, it could be a lot worse than it is, and thank the Goddess that Trump’s incompetent and The (86% female) Resistance is unbowed; and two, we’re in this for the long haul.

Yes, it’s looking more and more likely that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will find evidence of impeachable offenses (assuming Trump doesn’t fire him, and if that happens, I’ll see you in the streets – I’ll be the one with the torch and pitchfork). I’m not optimistic that Congressional Republicans will do anything about that, since they seem congenitally unable to do anything (another blessing in disguise, and who knew actually being forced to govern rather than petulantly shout “no” like a nap-deprived two-year-old all the time would be this hard, amirite?), but, Goddess willing and #TheResistance keeps rising, they won’t stay in power forever.

And that led us to the second part of our discussion: #TheResistance needs to move into a Phase Two. Trump and his evil minions are going to continue to yank our chains – or at least try to yank them – with this, that, and the other crisis du jour. And I’m not attempting to belittle the crisis du jour either – threatening to nuke North Korea because Giant Toddler wants his Big Boy War and the only people he has advising him are generals (and you know what they say: when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like global thermonuclear war) is as serious as a coronary – but running from fire to fire prevents us from thinking strategically and planning for the future. Chaos is a feature with these yahoos, not a bug.

So I’d like to urge all of us, in our mundane and magical workings (and aren’t they really the same thing? As Hecate is fond of remarking: it’s all real, it’s all metaphor, there’s always more), to be sure to carve out some time to think on (and meditate on, and craft policy for, and sing for, and lobby our elected representatives for, and dance for, and donate to, and work magic for, and plan for, and make love for, and run for office for) Starhawk’s Good Reality that we want to birth into being.

The Democrats are starting to do this, with the introduction of the Fair Representation Act and state moves to require release of tax returns to get on the ballot (n.b. call your state reps in support of this immediately) and coming up with their own plans to improve the Affordable Care Act and introducing and pushing hard for co-sponsors for the Washington DC Admission Act (not for nothing, #DCStatehood would mean 52-50 rather than 52-48 in the Senate right now, and if your Senators and Representative aren’t on the list of co-sponsors yet, the51st.org offers terrific resources you can use to lobby them about that).

Windows and doors of opportunity will crack open, at the national level, in state legislatures, in your local city council, at your job, at your place of worship, in your circle of friends and family. When that happens, we all need to be ready to kick those fuckers wide open and charge through. The only way that’s going to happen is to take time to think about and plan for what that’s going to look like. That’s our next task, fam, so get on it.

Image found here.

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Keeping It Together

She could see right away that Seth had fixed himself not to like the woman.  It was a way he had of souring good opportunities for no reason, keeping himself, and, by extension, them, in hard times.

For some reason, this time, it bothered her more than most.  The woman paid better than good money for the chores she wanted doing around her place and she always gave Seth lunch or dinner and, sometimes, more to bring home.  “Here, Mr. Tiller, the squash are coming in faster than I can freeze them.  Can’t you take a few home with you?”  he mocked the woman saying as he threw the yellow pattypans on the counter.

“Nothing wrong with that,” she told Seth.  “She lives alone up there.  You’d be happier if she threw them into the compost?  I’ll fry them up the way you like.”

But it didn’t help.  When he got this way about a job, or a boss, or a person, there was no talking him out of it.

It probably didn’t help that her brother, Eugene, had gotten Seth the work.  Eugene was a plumber and he made good, steady money, even here in this mountain town.  Eugene drove a new truck, and lived in a brick house, and his wife got her nails done every single week of the year.  Seth talked football and hunting with Eugene, and never really bad-mouthed him, but she knew he resented Eugene:  Eugene who liked everybody, made small talk with all of his customers, and seemed to come by work as easily as Seth lost it.  Ridley’s used Eugene on their construction jobs and he’d chatted with the woman a few times when her house was going up and she’d driven out from the city to check on its progress.  She asked Eugene if he knew someone who’d do yard work and odd jobs and Eugene, knowing how it was for them after Seth threw down his wrench and walked out of the Ford dealership, had given her Seth’s number.

After she’d moved in, the woman had called for help with some small jobs:  hanging pictures, spreading mulch, clearing her driveway after that one big snow the first winter.              Seth had pretty much quit looking for work by then, so the money and produce he brought home from those jobs was all they had to supplement her paychecks from Food Lion.  She knew the blow-up was coming, but tried to not say anything to provoke him.  Every week he went up there and came home with cash and some frozen soup, or ham slices, or okra was another week they weren’t getting evicted.

She put on her uniform and her work shoes and got ready to go; she was on the graveyard shift this week.

“Come home with a six-pack, baby,” he said.  She didn’t answer.

“Oh, the old biddy’s having company this weekend,” he called as she grabbed her keys and headed out the door.  “She needs someone to help cook and clean-up.  I told her you’d do it if you could get off.”

/To Be Continued