Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who's Your Mother? Reconstructionist Racism...

“What is needed now is for leaders to become more open, more flexible, less egoistic and less hypocritical. We must loosen our death grip on whatever we believe to be the truth simply because it is how we want the truth to look. We must be honest with ourselves and invite honesty from others.”

― Susan Scott 
Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst "Best" Practices of Business Today 

Being disabled can really cut into one’s ability to write. So being sick and otherwise preoccupied I haven’t been writing much. My sister, Crystal Blanton, on the other hand continually amazes me with an ability to seemingly be everywhere fighting for what she is passionate about.  I have yet to figure out how she can read the vast quantities of things she does and maintain her writing schedule.  

She is constantly on the front lines challenging what others might look at without alarm. Things that the majority of us, including myself, dismiss as inconsequential. 

Following her blogs and writing as I have been doing, including her revolutionary series “A Different Kind of Black History” I have started seeing things differently. I read or hear things that I might have felt no alarm over and now there is an internal pause that occurs and I can hear the question in my mind.

“Was that racist?

Was that judgment and condemnation of someone based on basic human characteristics?

Is my privilege filtering my view of that statement, story or opinion?
 Is that something I should be alarmed about?”
Invariably it is in Crystal’s voice these challenges are sounded in my mind.

Today a pause occurred and Crystal’s voice rose through my sickly brain. After all was said and done I realized I had an opportunity as a white Southern Woman to walk other persons through the process that I am beginning to understand as Crystal’s student in all things privileged and racially motivated.

I woke this morning and saw Crystal had called while I had been way laid in my bed the past few days, knocked sideways by a serious illness. I immediately fired up the computer and hit Facebook to reach out to her and offer her to contact me again. I then went to her Facebook page to see what was up and found a new declaration regarding racism and spirituality. I started going in search of the source of this declaration, for with Crystal there is always a source, and eventually found my way to my sister’s consternation written on Witches and in a man’s note on his spiritual associations. 

“For me, Folkish simply means that the beliefs, practices and worldview I follow was born of a particular People, their land, their language, their culture, their history...all the forces that shaped them.  I am further of the opinion that men and women who are descended of those people are most likely to look to that ancestry for inspiration and guidance.  I am not of the opinion that those not predominantly of that ancestry will be deaf to the Northern Holy Powers...tribes do grow through adoption.”

I read this and at first was confused. What has this innocent statement of belief has my sister so upset? It sounds like other things I have heard in the past…..


My Crystal Privilege and Race Alarm (CPRA)© was suddenly activated.

I walked myself back through my thought process. This sounded like other things I have heard in the past…I live in the south, surrounded by racism. I have deliberately dissociated with people who have seen pictures of my mother and sister (Crystal) and made comments about the noticeable difference in our skin, and not in that gentile southern way. If I have heard this before and was at one time unfazed by what this type of statement says, then there is something here worth looking at again.
I go back and begin to reassess.

“For me, Folkish simply means that the beliefs, practices and worldview I follow was born of a particular People, their land, their language, their culture, their history….all the forces that shaped them.”

OK, I think to myself. I do this. I am a Celtic Witch. I worship at the altar of The Morrigan and Cerridwen. My partner worships the Stag God, Cernnunous, Lugh, and Mannawyddan. My Bibles are The Barddas of Iolo Morgannwc: A Collection of Original Documents and Illustrative of the Theology, Wisdom and Usages of the Bardo-Druidic System of the Isle of Britain by J. Williams ab Ityhel, editor; The Mabinogion; Kindling the Celtic Spirit by Mara Freeman; any writings by John and Caitlin Matthews, especially, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, The Celtic Book of Days: A Guide to Celtic Spirituality and Wisdom and The Wildwood Tarot; and any writings by John Michael Greer currently The Celtic Golden Dawn: An Original & Complete Curriculum of Druidical Study

You get my point.

So is the problem me? Is this study obsession I have with all things Celtic why my alarm went off. Surely if my sister believed this was the problem I would have long ago heard about it. So it must not be the issue. I read on.


“I am further of the opinion that men and women who are descended of those people are most likely to look to that ancestry for inspiration and guidance.”

Okay, the writer is saying that if you are of Nordic descent then it is highly likely that you are going to look that direction for inspiration and guidance.  I have a great friend who IS German, fled the country during Nazi occupation and is indeed a Rune Master. However, she is also a Druid and has never been part of a Kindred or Nordic group that I recall her saying. She recently joined with an eclectic community who has no hierarchy and no dogma of belief or practice. When in circle she is likely to ask to call upon the Celtic divinities more than any other.  So my firsthand experience with a Germanic person is that she, at least, isn’t likely to look toward her ancestry alone. In fact her ancestry of watching people die horrific deaths at the hands of both Nazi and Allied forces, I suspect, make her wary of much of what her ancestry has to offer. I guess watching people burn because of chemical bombs has that effect. 

Let me think about this some more. She is just one example I personally know. I think about the circle I participate in. In the last circle, we called upon Gods and Goddesses from Greek, Roman, Celtic and Nordic traditions.  

One of the participants is multiracial, and no African gods were invoked. I think about whether or not this is because pagan spirituality hasn’t made enough room for that study. He led the ritual and chose the main god and goddess who were Greek. This came out of his study of the current Full Moon influences and the working he wanted the group to participate in. I wonder if this is because most pagan books do not consider the African deities and associations. Since the book he used was mine, I go look it up. I don’t see any titles listed as reference that are African. I see books that cover Hindu, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Syrian, the Fertile Crescent region, lots of general craft, lots of Nordic, Celtic and English references. I shoot the author a quick question to see if I am just missing the African references and leave the question for another time.

Redirected back to the idea of whether or not our ancestry dictates what spirituality we are drawn too. I wonder about my multiracial circle brother. I know he is both black and white. He tells me his great-grandmother on his father’s side was full blooded Cherokee (tribe unknown). He knows that his full blooded Cherokee ancestor married a half black half Cherokee person. His mother was Cherokee and Irish. He knows on his mother’s side that his family came in with the Puritans through England after leaving Ireland. I tell him that it is strange that he has ancestry that traces back to the first invasion in North America and then also part of the other great forced migration of Africans during chattel slavery. 

I asked why he wasn’t more attracted to the African deities. He tells me he has always been drawn to different cultures growing up specifically Japanese and Celtic Cultures. Spiritually, however, he has always been drawn to the Celtic myths. I ask him if he realized that the book he utilized didn’t cover African Deities and he said he didn’t notice.

“I guess it is what I have come to expect. It is hard to notice what isn’t there and easier to accept something because it is what you expect to be there.” 

Bewildered by this bizarre piece to my puzzle, I soldier on and think, who called the Nordic God? 

My other sister, Sarah. I call her up. She turns out to be French, English, Welch, Polish, German and Swedish descent. Her craft studies began with a group that was predominately Celtic warrior type craft and then studied formally a shamanic type of spirituality that was largely centered on American Indian studies. Later she would explore extensively the Greek Mysteries and then her studies led her to have a matron goddess that is Nordic. She tells me the Greek mysteries were a lifelong appeal and the Nordic was like “settling into my skin.”

“OK but do you only honor Nordic divinities?” 

She laughs heartily and says, “Oh my! No! All are one. I will worship whomever calls me.”

This makes perfect sense to me. So I hang up after telling her that she is in my blog and it will explain my left field questions and turn to who else was in circle that day. My other circle sister that night called upon Hera because of some of the issues she was/is going through and at the suggestion of Sarah and myself. I give her a call. 

This Circle Sister has traced her family tree to coming from England, Ireland and Scotland on her dad’s side. On her mother’s side she traced it back to American Indian, the Cherokee Nation, and hasn’t determined the proper tribe. A lot of women in her line did not take their husband’s last name so her research has been difficult. I asked her about her spiritual journey. Her mother was pagan and her grandmother taught the American Indian teachings. Her father was Christian. She fell out with Christianity because the tenants and teachings didn’t sit well with her and she did a lot of research into Christianity that eventually helped her make her decision. 

Her own spirituality, however, hasn’t been dominated by any particular group or pantheon. She does her own research and decides for herself how to worship without being bound by one particular “path.” Which is why our eclectic community appeals to her so much. There is no dogma of practice.
After all that research, I go back and look at the quote again.

“I am further of the opinion that men and women who are descended of those people are most likely to look to that ancestry for inspiration and guidance.”

I lock onto “men and women who are descended of those people.” Okay running that through my Crystal Privilege and Race Alarm (CPRA), I think the wording is certainly exclusive. Maybe the writer believes that ONLY Nordic persons will be pulled to their ancestry and the rest of us would not. What does that say about everyone else? 

Warning number one is identified.  It is the exclusivity of the comment that might purpose a problem here. It is “us” against “everyone else” connotation. The writer didn’t say men and women find inspiration and guidance from their ancestry. He said specific men and women find spirituality guidance from their ancestry. I am not Nordic so I am excluded. As is several who were in the last circle I attended. That exclusivity can sometimes breed an attitude of privilege which can be damaging to spiritual communities. I move on.

“I am not of the opinion that those not predominantly of that ancestry will be deaf to the Northern Holy Powers...tribes do grow through adoption.”

I read this statement a few times before I am clear. I know for certain it is this last statement that has me concerned. After all Crystal’s mother adopted me and that means her tribe grew through her adoption of me. However, she is black and I am white and somehow this statement seems to suggest that that fundamental moment in my life is wrong. Somehow I am left feeling as if I have just read a veiled threat that I did not get adopted properly. 

As a reformed Southern Baptist a few other things pop out at me. Specifically, “…will be deaf to the Northern Holy Powers…” I have heard this before in prayers under the steeple of winning souls for the one true God. The prayers often start with “Whoever has ears, let them hear,” from Matthew 11:15 (KJV). The implication was always clear in church. If you don’t hear, then you aren’t one of us. You are separate and we must pray for your soul. You aren’t right with God. You are not good, not just, not worthy. 

I wonder now, is that what set off the CPRA? Is there some veiled suggestion here that the Folkish Heathen way is the only way? Is the writer suggesting that somehow if you are white and therefore of European descent that you must also be on a Nordic path to be truly enlightened?

I have purposefully focused on this small section of the page that started this exposure of racism because I know most readers are like me. They read the original post and made a snap decision about whether or not anyone should be offended or if there was something within the initial post that was worth looking into further. 

I admit I read this through once and did not scroll down further. I dismissed the associations made by the writer and didn’t investigate them. I didn’t do any real research. 

Why? Because that one paragraph, initially, did not lead me to think anything was amiss. Then again, I do have CPRA which forced me to re-read the original post again. Which is when I really analyzed what was said in this one seemingly innocuous paragraph.

Because racism and privilege often present as just that, innocuous. It is the magician’s sleight of hand, or in cases of discussion, tongue. It says, “There is no racism here! Just pride and faith and devotion!” 

I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who keep current. Who study the political backgrounds looking for those who are trapped in the lies of privileged and racism and plant those same weeds in the garden of a spiritual community that should be accepting, inclusive and non-threatening to all who come to worship “in perfect love and perfect trust.” My third read through I realize Crystal has engaged the writer in a discussion about racism and privilege at the very end of the original post. I read and watch an all too familiar pattern of discussion be performed. 

The writer quotes facts and tells stories while avoiding direct questions and concerns. He is saying with one side of his tongue, “No do not look behind the curtain just look and listen here, in this area, because the curtain is where the real issue is.” While is other tongue says, “It is about pride, faith and devotion!”

Eventually the original author withdraws from the discussion. I am spurred to look into his credentials and affiliations. I find Stephen McNallen and Racialist Asatru Part 2: The Roots of Racialized Religion by A Heathen Anarchist Collective. I also am directed to Wotan vs Tezcatlipoca: The Spiritual War for California and the SouthWest by Stephen A. McNallen. 

As I read about this Spiritual Warfare I am sucked back to my days as a Christian girl listening to rationalization of privileged and racism from the pulpit only this man is pagan and his pulpit is the World Wide Web. What he is sowing though, is very very familiar to me. 

From the derogatory description of Hispanic and Spanish descendants in the Americas to the use of offensive language to conjure up ideas of otherness and racial diversion, I have seen this all before. Religion dressed up as a good and equal excuse to be hateful, resentful and to wage a war of words that is sowing seeds of violence and hatred that will manifest in our very own circles if we are not vigilant. 

When our spiritual path brings us to places of “us” and them, regardless of who the we and they are, suddenly we are on a path that is out of sync with a universe that has one message – UNITY. In our DNA, in the molecules that make us up, in the very structure that is the universe – we can all learn one thing. We are the same. Those who have studied the magic of sacred geometry, those who contemplate the natural order without human kind’s ego as part of the equation, come to the same conclusion.  For I am most certainly a Celtic Witch with American Indian upbringing of my own grandmother. I am also a student of Joseph Campbell, Carl Yung and Sacred Geometry, above all other studies. 

These teachings have helped me understand that through “reconstructionalistic spirituality” we are not resurrecting pride for a particular time, place and people. We are deconstructing our community. It sets up a fundamental idea that there is we and they, us and them. You are on one side of a spiritual divide that reconstructionalism creates and I am on the other. Because reconstruction is so often associated with race, it is hard to miss the racial implications. Whoever heard of a black Celt, unless he played for the Celtics basketball team?

Living in the South where reconstruction of the Civil War is a time honored tradition among white southerners I have faced the question in the past, “What is wrong with the reenacting?” My CPRA has told me something was wrong and what that is has been out of my comprehension until now.

When most Southerners strap on the grey uniform of the Confederacy, they site pride, education and history. Pride it is. A proud idea that somehow the South lost but is not and should never be ashamed of the battle fought. A dissemination of the idea that the Civil War was about state’s rights not chattel slavery and the moral, generational and societal implications chattel slavery would have on the United States.  White Southerners strap on the grey and live in the grey. A place where the idea that they are not supporting a racist ideology of the past while they simultaneously hold that the reenacting is part of educating how people lived, died and fought in the Civil War Era.

How people lived, died and fought during the Civil War is not the lesson that horrible war should teach us. Why an entire group of people were so dependent upon chattel slavery that they were willing to split apart a growing nation is the ultimate lesson being taught. Because in that lesson, in that learning, lies the seeds of true healing.

And so for my reconstructional spiritualist friends I have to ask you the same. Are you living in the grey? Are you holding to ideology that promotes racism in the name of spiritual pride, education and enlightenment? Are you holding to ideology that allows for your privileged station to go unquestioned and allows you to move in judgment of other groups, other spiritual paths and other cultures without acknowledging the fundamental seeds of separatism, division and spiritual disharmony?

When you say, “It is about pride, faith and devotion!” are you really saying, “It is about division, veiled racism and disenfranchisement in the name of spirituality!”?

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