Archive for December, 2014

A Guest at the Kwanzaa Table

A couple years ago I intended to write a series of posts on a different set of seven principles- not the UU ones, but the Nguzo Saba, the principles of Kwanzaa. Here’s a link to my earlier post. My struggles with Krampus…err depression have gotten in the way enjoying almost anything this year, holidays most of all! I went thru most of November and December in a haze, almost refusing to participate in Christmas Eve festivities with my partner & his family. Just Not In the Mood! Sometimes you just have to work thru your moods and force yourself to be there, because it’s not about you, it’s about family. Depression makes you self-centered by its very nature, and sucks the joy out of life.

I was reminded of Kwanzaa again by various things such as the prominence of Black Lives Matter campaign in current events, including discussions in the Pagan, polytheist and U.U. communities. In the communitarian values of Kwanzaa, I find pieces of what feels missing from the Nine Norse Virtues, which seems like more of a reflection of American libertarian individualism than the tribal values of pre-Christian Europe.

Upon further reading, I discovered that the Nguzo Saba are part of a broader philosophy known as Kawaida (meaning reason or tradition in Swahili) created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. All this is of course, centered on the experiences and cultures of African peoples and the African diaspora, but I feel that those of us outside of that can also learn a lot. We too are cut off from our roots, sometimes violently, even more so when we go back to the destruction of pre-Christian European spiritual traditions. Is it in part, due to that disconnect, that profound alienation, that many of the peoples of Europe sought to conquer the rest of the world, and later after at least partly realizing the errors of our ways, collect tidbits of music, clothing and spirituality to feed the spiritual hunger within us?

And as an neurodivergent and autistic woman, who has often felt excluded from definitions of “humanity”, I have found many resources in the liberation movements of other oppressed peoples. There are such things as Disability Studies, disabled liberation theology and disability culture(s), but they are not very well developed yet or well-known or accessible to many people, particularly outside of certain countries. To that end, I have often looked to political and cultural theories about race, gender and sexual orientation to put together my own disability theory. There is an emerging sense of “peoplehood” among many disabled individuals, across many types of disabilities, bodies and minds, genders and cultures.  And so I come to the Kwanzaa table as a humble guest, to learn, to show solidarity and to listen, grow and celebrate.

Articles on Kwanzaa:

Official Kwanzaa website

The Blank Candle, a documentary about the holiday narrated by the late Maya Angelou

Wikipedia article

Kwanzaa Guide

We Can Learn About the Real Meaning of the Season from a Holiday Most of Us Don’t Celebrate

Christianity & Kwanzaa– Great article for better understanding Kwanzaa within its Kawaida context!

Let’s Stop Making Fun of Kwanzaa

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December 30, 2014 at 12:54 am Leave a comment

Umoja- Unity

The first of the Nguzo Saba (7 Principles) of Kwanzaa is Umoja, Unity. The central black candle on the kinara is lit, representing all Black people around the world.  Umoja is about finding commonality and empathy among the diverse cultures and peoples of Africa and the African/Black Diaspora.

The Umoja, unity cup is used to pour libations as offerings to the ancestors. Now that is certainly a tradition I recognize- it is common not only in traditional African cultures, but in European and Asian spiritual traditions as well. I would recommend find a cup or chalice that is of good quality, that is either neutral looking or has African decorative motifs. Using a family heirloom that can serve as a vessel would also be suitable. For the libations, use water or fruit juice. If your ancestry is only African simply by virtue of being human, honor historic or more recently deceased people of African descent, and another suggestion is you can honor Mitochondrial Eve, a woman who lived in or near Ethiopia about 200,000 years ago that biologists say all current humans are descended from.

Here in the Twin Cities, we have many immigrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Ghana and other lands, people from Jamaica, Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean as well as folks whose families came to this continent longer ago than some of my ancestors did. Since their connection to Africa is rather distant, and it’s hard to tell which nations they are descended from (though modern DNA tests make that somewhat easier) many prefer to call themselves Black or Black American rather than African-American.

My father, a former NAACP activist, fastidiously uses the label African-American, but after attending a mostly African-American high school, it seems like an out-of-place white liberal affectation than an authentic identity. Immigrants from various lands identify with the country they are from- often even more so the nation (tribe) since the borders drawn up by colonial European powers completely disregarded cultural territories. So with this cultural gap in experience between the long-time American-dwelling descendants of slaves and more recent refugees and seekers of economic opportunity- do they have anything more in common than any other group of native-born and non-native-born Americans? I can’t really say, since I belong to neither group.

But part of my interest in Kwanzaa is due to also being a member of a diasporan people- the Irish and the Scottish, or the Celtic peoples more broadly. Though I have not yet traveled back to the Isles, I suspect my experience will be in some respects similar to the lady in the article above writing of her travels to Kenya- a feeling of home-coming, yet feeling like that sense of belonging should be there more than it actually is. I know Europeans and people of many other lands often roll their eyes at visiting Americans and Canadians who proudly recite a list of fractions of ethnic ancestry that they claim- a quarter Greek, an eighth Norwegian, another quarter Scottish. They don’t care- we’re just Americans! Upon hearing that we crumple, wondering what we can claim as our own. Whether kidnapped and sold as slaves, dumped as the unwanted poor and colonized bastards of Europe, indentured servant, sharecropper or factory worker alike, now we awkwardly apologize for our presence come each Columbus Day or stubbornly insist on a  fable of melting pots and rugged individualism.

I think when a diasporan and a native son or daughter can both find humility in themselves and admit that their experiences and perceptions of their culture are not the only valid ones, and that they are open to other ways of seeing, hearing, tasting, worshiping, singing and dancing, then we will find Umoja.

December 30, 2014 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

X- Gebo- Gift Economy

I’m taking a little creative license here- X is the shape of the rune Gebo, which means gift, and I thought with the upcoming gift-giving season it would be a good one to talk about. In ancient Norse and Irish societies, gifts served a very different and more central role in society’s social and economic structure.

Wealth was not to be hoarded, but excess was given away, both as a show of generosity and as a tribute to loyal followers and supporters. Stinginess was considered one of the worst attributes of a king or lord, and hospitality and generosity were considered the greatest of virtues. If the king behaved well, the Gods would be pleased, and the land and people would prosper, but if the king was cruel and stingy, the people would suffer, the crops would fail, and surely the people, and the Gods would not allow him to rule long!

A similar relationship exists between humanity and the Gods- offerings given to Them are expected to be returned with blessings.

Analysis of Stanza 39 of Havamal (the next 2 stanzas further explain the “gift for a gift” concept)

Birthing Justice- the Link to Humanity- Gift Economics (examples in Mali, a West African country)

The Gift Economy: A Model For Collaborative Community– Tikkun magazine, progressive Jewish magazine

December 20, 2014 at 12:16 am 1 comment

Pagan Blog Project Prompts for Letter Z

Zeal, zealotry

Zelda, Legend of- the 3 goddesses of Hyrule: Din, Farore, Nayru

Zen Buddhism

Zeus

Zoroastrianism

Zzzz- sleep & dream magic

December 19, 2014 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

Voices of Reason

I am glad to hear some voices of reason in Heathenry. I have thought about taking a step back from the Heathen/Asatru communities, though I felt greatly encouraged to hear from a Facebook friend, who contacted me asking if he could cite me as an example of a Norse Polytheist who believes the religion should be inclusive. He is working on a paper explaining that the racist contingent of Asatru is a distorted viewpoint- contrasting it with Viking religion (he’s working on a B.A. in Scandinavian Studies) and making a comparison to how the Westboro Baptist Church is not representative of Christianity.

The Northern Gods Are Not White- by Sarenth Odinsson– Excellent! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Wotan vs. Ignorance- Heathen Naturalist

How to Raise Racist Kids– Not how you think, actually!

A suggestion I’ve seen from various people is not to condemn racists, but to try and educate them. I will admit, I probably let my Christian influenced “turn the other cheek”/take the high road etc. mentality get the better of me (I know it’s not how polytheists roll, but it’s my upbringing and personal inclination), and more than once I have been taken advantage of as a result. I’ve invited people to “dialog” and understand where they are coming from, to have them stab me in the back. For my post about the origins of policies of who belongs to the Jewish people and various Native American tribes, and how it doesn’t compare well with Heathenry, I got support from people who already agreed with me, but people who didn’t, ignored all the points I made and just told me I was perpetuating “white guilt” and hating white people.

So if I am so stopped by a sense of “Nice White Liberal” guilt, then I would give money to any person of color that was asking for money, but not white homeless people, because after all, they’re so privileged. And I would expect my white tenants to pay rent, and my non-white tenants to not pay rent, because my family who owns the house “owes” them. Actually I don’t. I don’t want begging going on in my neighborhood, and so to discourage it I don’t give money to people of any skin color. Instead, I give to charities.

And currently there actually is a situation in which I have one tenant who is paying rent, and 2 others who are not, which is why we are evicting them. I’ve had both great and terrible tenants of various ethnic backgrounds. I actually consider it just as racist to give special treatment to someone because they come from a historically oppressed group than to a historically advantaged one. Believe it or not, I am a white left-winger who has mixed feelings about affirmative action, that great sacred cow of liberalism. But I don’t whine about “reverse racism/discrimination”.  I actually think, if we are going to have such policies in colleges in particular, it would make more sense to give scholarships on the basis of economic need. White people who are not wealthy are getting very angry with being told that they are privileged. I think class needs to get discussed a lot more. I think disability needs to get considered more. The word “social justice” should not just get thrown around to apply equally to pseudo-causes like “otherkin oppression” or “Wiccan privilege” as actual forms of oppression & privilege. People should actually look up the origins of the term, it was invented by a Catholic monk. Discussions have in general become way too centered around individual privilege (of any type) and there is too much of an expectation in every discussion that every participant has a recent liberal arts education and knows a bunch of academic terminology.

December 14, 2014 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

For the Record

(This is a response to a couple comments I blocked, mainly to keep this as a safe space- if folks want I will make them public.)

I am a member (out of thousands) in Heathens United Against Racism, not a leader. So flattered to get your attention, Mr. Irminist! I’m waiting on hearing back from the leaders in regards to accusations that have been made. They are making inquiries. I did vote in favor of the pronouncement against Irminfolk, but I hadn’t heard of the group before, so I didn’t have some previous grudge or anything that diabolical. By the way, the inclusion of “Aryan” as a ethnic label in your by-laws was a nice touch. Does that include people from India or Persia? I’m in ADF, so I know all that obscure Indo-European stuff.

Ryan Smith, one of the leaders, publicly identifies as an anarchist (different from communist, FYI) so he’s not really into ordering us around like we’re his little minions or flying monkeys. We have people with a range of political views, and different countries as members of the group. Including Europeans.  And people with Germanic ancestry that have been told, sorry but you’re just too brown. Nothing personal. But you only require 7/8ths “Ethnic European” ancestry, right? Does that include Jews, just wondering?

I am not sure if anyone in HUAR is directly involved with Philadelphia Antifa (antifascists) Personally I am not connected with them, or any other anti-fascist skinhead group and I don’t really agree with their tactics. I most definitely prefer non-violent political action, and direct action/protest used sparingly.

I identify primarily as a Druid/Celtic polytheist, but have been exploring Heathenry, in part due to the major German and Scandinavian cultural influences here in Minnesota, and heck, my aunt is a Norwegian professor (Lutheran not Heathen but she humors me 🙂 In particular, Urglaawe (Deitsch heathenry) and Vanatru (a very UPG-based form) interest me.

I am an advocate for mental health awareness, being that I struggle with depression & anxiety myself, and I often tell people to *not* refer to racist/homophobic/sexist etc. attitudes as forms of mental illness, mental retardation since that is pretty insulting to people who actually have those conditions. The comparative friendliness and inclusiveness I’ve encountered in HUAR towards people with disabilities is in contrast to many online and offline Heathen groups- particularly ones calling themselves “folkish”. Obviously we won’t see eye to eye on matters of race, but perhaps you will re-think how to throw around words like “delusions” and “crazy”.

Religious and private organizations do indeed have the right to restrict membership according to their own criteria in the United States. As far as I’m aware, HUAR as a group at least does not advocate for changing those laws.

Religious organizations are restricted from endorsing public candidates for office, but not against advocating for various issues. Growing up in the United Methodist Church, my parents were very active in peace and civil rights movements, and now I belong to the Unitarians.

Personally I am more interested in educating people about cultural issues- and educating myself than in helping out the Southern Poverty Law Center keep track of All the Scary Racists Hiding in Bunkers ™. I kinda doubt you fit into that category anyway.  I don’t have a giant White Savior complex, and I am not plagued by white liberal guilt. Go psychoanalyze someone else, in fact I already have my own therapist, thanks! Oh wait, psychoanalysis was invented by Jewish guys. Shucks!

I do not represent an organization, political or religious. I am one woman with a blog.

December 13, 2014 at 10:30 am 3 comments

Bullies

troll dolls

I grew up in the ’90’s so this is my idea of trolls…what I have been dealing with are not trolls, but bullies. And “In My Day” there were no anti-bullying laws or anti-bullying movement- partly because when you went home, you were safe from the bullies (well, unless you had abusive parents or siblings!) because there was no Facebook and such. So instead of offing yourself, you were more likely to go play with your troll dolls. At least, that’s what I did.

My parents- and every other Important Grown-up, always told me and other kids to just ignore the bullies and they’d go away. Well sometimes it worked, but often it didn’t. Especially because I sucked at just ignoring them! Autistic kids are really easy to get a reaction out of, and we’re like bully magnets. Sometimes, when I was able, I even defended other kids who were bullied- often “fat” kids.

Oftentimes, the bullies were never punished because of “he said, she said” situations. Who started it? Who deserved what was coming to them? Was there something Darwinian about it, that weird, or awkward or weaker kids needed to be culled from the herd, and taught a harsh life lesson to conform, to “know their place”? People defending bullies often seem to think so.

Unfortunately I’ve found online Heathen groups to be pretty full of bullies, and a group I belong to has been accused of bullying behavior itself, based on calling out the policies of another group, and that they claim to have suffered repercussions for. I don’t speak for the group, I am just one individual, so I am waiting for the dust to settle and statements to be made by people in charge. Whether it’s a good idea for us to publicly identify groups that have membership policies we disagree with- I suppose can be a matter of debate- is live and let live a better policy? I don’t claim to always be in the right. It’s not always clear what doing the right thing is. I want to be clear that this blog is just *my opinions* about both religion and politics, and random other topics of interest, it does not represent any organization I belong to, religious or political, nor does the blog represent my own organization. I am not “obsessed” with race or racism, I have been writing about it a lot due to current events, and because the society I live in is pretty darn “obsessed” with race, even if it pretends it isn’t. Just because *you* don’t experience something, doesn’t make it not real.

December 12, 2014 at 10:28 pm 4 comments

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