Whiteness is not an ancestor
My journey with ancestral healing actually started through plants. I was introduced to the idea that lineage was important by my shamanic aromatherapy teachers, Cathy Skipper and Florian Birkmayer. An insight they offered is that people who are called to ancestral work are often brought to this work by plants who hold the energy of lineage strongly in their beings. After their class I went on a mad ancestry.com research binge and tracked nine of my direct lines (mother's mothers, father's mothers, etc) back to being in the US before the revolutionary war. What I found was a pattern of Puritanism, colonization and enslavement... the founding wounds of the country where I reside. My ancestral work comes with this lens of tending the wounds that these lineages hold as well as inflicted. My ancestors were also burned at the stake and fled homelands for religious freedom. They were some of the original hunter gatherers in Europe and saw the change of their land and lives through farming, imperialism and capitalism. I hold the complexity of these histories with great compassion. I also believe that white people need to do some deep level reckoning, grieving, figuring out what their contribution to reconciliation is.
In 2020 I was gifted with the opportunity to participate in writing an essay for the book "Whiteness is Not An Ancestor: Essays on Life and Lineage by white Women". The final draft of this book was released to the 13 co-authors the day that Mr. George Floyd was murdered. This enraging event underlined the work that is needed to be done not only individually for white folks, but on the systems of oppression that we often unconsciously uphold.
To learn more about the book and get an idea of the kind of conversations that are needed in the white community, you can view a talk I participated in on the book: Youtube video can be found here.
Life on Poisoned Land
We are living in poisoned times. It is critical to name the poisoning, but the real important word is “living”. We have the challenge and the gift to respond to the catastrophe of our times with life. We have the choice of ignoring and propagating these disasters, of wilting under the pressure of it all, or of creatively meeting and moving beyond the challenges that face us. We are nature in her full glory of adaptation and ingenuity. We are life. We may have inherited poisoned land, but we can still live there. We may be numbed into accepting the ways that created the mess we are in and by doing so do continuing this disastrous path. But we are also the breath and stretch of our bodies who show us both the steadfast resources we have been given as well as the vulnerability of our predicament, which can ignite bold ingenuity if we embrace it.
We can easily name the challenges: climate change, loss of biodiversity, social inequities like racism, classism, sexism, a failing economic system, rampant consumerism, a political process that has been co-opted by corporations and the elite. What is sometimes more challenging is to see how life springs anew despite the momentum of the status quo which feels like it is taking us closer to extinction. Which will win, life or extinction? Really is up to us and how much energy we wish to put into the creativity of our response or supporting the ingenuity of other’s responses (or more powerfully yet, collective responses).
I’ve been pulled to set down these words not because I have a unique insight. Everything you will read here is influenced by the ideas and experiences of others. Quite honestly, that is the nature of creativity. It borrows. It shifts perspective, but sees the same material through lenses that have been used by others.
What I do offer is a perspective of our current world through the lens of a neuro-divergent and sexually-divergent white middle class woman with early-American English settler-colonial ancestry whose sensitivity to life has brought her to explore new ways of relating to her own mind and the world around her. I offer my experience and perspective as a prayer for a larger shift in consciousness. I offer it in hopes that some part of you will be compelled to join in on the work of tending life on this poisoned land. This tending is collective work, no one person can do it alone and in fact our individual efforts are useless without community as what the world is asking for is a societal shift. We are on the precipice and I hope you will join me in learning how to fly from there.
My thoughts on the path of deep animist relationship