Posts filed under ‘Path-Forging’

Diasporan Polytheism

Diaspora is a Greek word meaning to scatter, usually referring to ethnic groups which have been scattered forcibly by expulsion, persecution, genocide and other not-fun thing humans do to each other. The most famous example which often gets the capital D is the Jewish Diaspora, the Irish and African diasporae are other well-known examples. A diasporan religion is one that is practiced around the world far from its origin- Judaism, once again, as well as African and Afro-Caribbean, Chinese folk religion, Shinto and Hinduism. How does the concept of diasporan religion work differently for broken traditions such as European polytheisms in the Americas, Australia et al.? It is tricky to call them “broken” per se, as there are folk customs of honoring land spirits, saint cults with possible pre-Christian roots and magical practices that have been carried across the oceans. Typically these have survived more strongly in rural areas, the Ozarks, Appalachia, Nova Scotia and Deitsch areas being good examples.

This is one of the difficulties of the Irish diaspora in the United States- a mostly rural people became one of the most urban. People even identify their origins by what city they are from- as I sometimes explain to folks that my father is “Philly Irish” (Philadelphia) rather than St. Paul Irish. Then of course we discuss what counties we know our ancestors came from. According to Wikipedia- in depth research I know- Philadelphia has the second largest Irish-American population, Boston being the first.

Like Sarenth discusses here (Broken Lines), there was very little in the way of ethnic cultural traditions that were passed down to me. Then again, I realize there was in way- this would make my father cringe but we are pretty culturally Anglo. It just tends to not be recognized as “ethnic” as its the Wonderbread of American culture (and German culture to some degree, just spell it Wunderbrod) And on the other side, various forms of resistance to dominant Anglo-American culture, including the assertion of Irish identity, trappings of hippie-dom and such. Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that I often find British Druids easier to get along with, while the few Irish-in Ireland people I encounter online seem a bit hostile to American Irish polytheists/pagans/New Agers  being concerned that we don’t care about the living culture, only the old stones of the past, think Ireland is stuck in an endless time loop of the Quiet Man, and we made their lives suck by funding the Irish Republican Army. And using their culture to promote white supremacy.  I understand and empathize with many of these concerns, except maybe the IRA one. WTF? Interesting essay about Irish assimilation here. I guess my dad’s take on Irish identity was the opposite of Sean Hannity & Bill O’Reilly- he saw supporting the Civil Rights movement as a moral duty- both as American citizens and in memory of the challenges our ancestors faced. It’s very interesting to compare the similarities and differences of these three diasporae, adding more in of course- I highly recommend Ronald Takaki’s book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, as well as PBS’ 3 documentaries- the Irish in America, Africans in America, and the Jews in America. There is also now one on Italians but I have not seen it yet, so I can’t vouch for its quality either way.

Polytheisms as Diasporic Religions

Vodou F*cks Everything Up

 

January 13, 2016 at 2:29 am 4 comments

Religion as Art

I think of different schools of philosophy or theology as like different schools of art & music criticism. We don’t typically have wars over disagreements in how to interpret art or music, even though those things are definitely very powerful and human beings find a lot of meaning and put a lot of creativity into them much like religion…but like religion they can’t be measured in a “rational” way.

Creating a religion (or reviving it- which is a kind of re-creation) is like creating a work of art. You are reaching for something outside of yourself, as well as something within. You might do it on your own, but the ideas you have are likely influences from the world around you. You might co-create with others, but each individual will view the art differently. You might disagree with how it should be displayed or performed, if it’s OK for people to take it apart and use pieces of it and re-combine them with other things. Should it remain in a private collection or be shared with the public?

There’s a great comparison between music and  revivalism/reconstructionism here, as well as one between religion and fandom. These examples are both from the Kemetic communit(ies) but they apply well elsewhere.  I’ve seen others write about this- some in a pejorative way, others in a positive way, as in *yes, I take both my fandom & my religion seriously and not-so-seriously!

We certainly have our debates about authenticity in the Irish and Scottish cultural communities!

November 19, 2015 at 3:30 am Leave a comment

Regional/Cultural Divisions in North America

There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.

American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!

The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book

Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)

Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger

**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)

After reading  reviews I would NOT recommend these-

Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.

How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.

Note

Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!

I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.

Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.

August 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

Project: Making a Polytheist Prayer Book

Way back when I read Ariel’s great series of posts on How to Make a Polytheist Prayer Book. I thought what great ideas! And then of course like most devotional ideas, it was forgotten about. Often I find when someone writes a long series of posts, it’s hard to find them all, so I’m linking them all here in order with some descriptions. I also am copy/pasting all them into a Word document to print off, and highlight parts to help me navigate it. (for my own use- do not re-post Ariel’s stuff- respect her copyright!) I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to post summaries here or not, so I will discuss my journey thru the steps and comment on how well they work for me, and note any variations I come up with as I go.

Step 1– Pick out a notebook- suggestions on what to consider

Step 2– Setting up the working notebook

Step 3– Finish set-up- Title, Table of Contents, Index

Step 4– Choosing a Spirit of Inspiration

Step 5– Make notes about the spirit of inspiration (epithets, attributes, symbols)

Steps 6, 7,8, 9– Write or adapt a prayer for inspiration for the project, make offering to spirit of inspiration and read/recite prayer

Steps 10, 11, 12, 13– Adapt invocation for inspiration prayer into a smaller prayer for more regular use. Consider when, where and how to worship on a regular basis. Shrine permanent or portable? What holidays will you celebrate that will need special prayers? Look for another notebook to use as a final prayer book.

Step 14, 15, Conclusion– Make a worship/devotional plan- with a list or chart. Choose a book to use as the long(er) term prayer book.

May 12, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

Creating Devotions for Secular Events- Brainstorming

In theory, I believe there isn’t a strict separation between the holy and the mundane- to some degree there is, but the lines are blurry as with everything spiritual. I have been reading thoughts lately by Sannion, Galina and other folks about polytheistic devotion vs. social/political activism and where those lines should be drawn. I’m still sorting my thoughts out on this- as readers of this blog know, I see a commitment to social justice as a part of my spirituality. But I also strongly believe in separation of church and state, and don’t want one particular political dogma to be enforced in any of my religious groups. I will admit, I’m mostly an armchair philosophical polytheist with agnostic leanings (or vice versa?) and I keep meaning to motivate myself to become more spiritually active in spite of my doubts and my Sunday Christian background…it’s complicated.

Most of the community work I do is not explicitly religious- the groups I participate in may include Pagans, but of course we aren’t necessarily the same type of Pagan and we aren’t going to have prayers smack dab in the middle of a meeting! Being in a secular environment most of the time makes it difficult to stay in a spiritual frame of mind- I feel the need to go thru some type of paradigm shift!

But there are ways to incorporate your beliefs and even “sneak in” practices in secular settings without violating anyone else’s rights.

Pray, Meditate, Make an Offering before leaving to attend an event. You can also say a prayer- silently or aloud in some situations.

Arts & Music– if you are involved in planning an event that includes art and music, try to include themes, styles and topics that fit with your tradition or path but also fit with the mission and purpose of the event. There are tons of things that to me, have some type of spiritual association, that to other people will just seem like good music and art!

Nature– engaging with local elements of nature in some way and encourage eco-friendly practices (it could even be something as simple as bringing a potted plant as a centerpiece for a buffet) Think about the nature spirits, Gaia etc. as you do so.

Relating to People– practice values like hospitality in your relationships with others

Remembering History & Ancestors– Learn about the history of the organization, event, business, neighborhood, city etc. that you are working with. Incorporate positive aspects of that knowledge into your participation. Take into account negative aspects as you work for change/improvement and consider potential ripple effects on yourself and your community. (Wyrd/orlog if you are Heathen)

These are kind of vague, I realize but I am brainstorming here- I will work on making some specific suggestions by using examples of events that I attend myself in another post.

May 6, 2015 at 4:31 am 2 comments

Ecoregions for St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, U.S.A.

I will focus mainly on my home in St Paul, Minnesota, however there are a couple of other places that I have spiritual interests in- the town I was born in- Havre, Montana (Hill County) and Dubuque, Iowa where I spent a good portion of my childhood. I will do those in following posts- this one is getting long!
My bioregion is Laurentia bordering near the Prairie. I find there is way more information about ecoregions, so I am not sure why the term isn’t ecoregionalism!

Here is the EPA system:

Level 1 Ecoregion 8: Eastern Temperate Forest, 8.1 Mixed Wood Plains (not sure which)

Level 3 Ecoregion 51: North Central Hardwoods

Level 4 Ecoregion 51a: St. Croix Outwash Plain & Stagnation Plains (ooh what a sexy name!)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) divides us into the Ecological Classification System (ECS) following the guidelines of the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units

In the DNR system we are in-

Province 222 Eastern Broadleaf Forest in the Minnesota & Northeast Iowa Morainal Section and the St. Paul-Baldwin Plains & Moraines subsection which continues into Wisconsin.

“The Eastern Broadleaf Forest (EBF) Province traverses Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas. In Minnesota, the EBF Province covers nearly 12 million acres (4.9 million hectares) of the central and southeastern parts of the state and serves as a transition, or ecotone, between semi-arid portions of the state that were historically prairie and semi-humid mixed conifer-deciduous forests to the northeast. The western boundary of the province in Minnesota is sharply defined along much of its length as an abrupt transition from forest and woodland to open grassland. The northeastern boundary is more diffuse, with a gradual transition between eastern deciduous forests and the mixed conifer-hardwood forests of northern Minnesota.

The land surface of the province is largely the product of Pleistocene glacial processes. The northwestern and central portions of the province were covered by ice in the last glaciation and are characterized by thick (100–300 feet [30–90 meters]) deposits of glacial drift that is highly calcareous and of Wisconsin Age at its surface. Glacial lakes associated with the last glacial advance contributed large volumes of meltwater to rivers that cut deep valleys along the present course of the Minnesota, St. Croix, and lower Mississippi rivers. In the southeastern part of the province, which was not covered by ice in the last glaciation, headward erosion of streams draining into the deepening Mississippi valley dissected the flanking uplands, exposing Paleozoic bedrock and pre-Wisconsin drift. The waning stages of the glacial lakes contributed massive amounts of sediment to the river valleys and provided a source of silt that was redeposited by wind as a mantle of loess over the eroded lands in the southeastern part of the province.

The EBF Province coincides roughly with the part of Minnesota where precipitation approximately equals evapotranspiration; it seems likely that this aspect of climate has an important influence on plants, as many forest species reach their western range limits and several prairie species reach their eastern range limits within the province. Precipitation in the province increases from about 24 inches (60cm) annually in the northwestern portion to 35 inches (90cm) in the southeast, while normal annual temperatures range from 38°F (3°C) in the northwest to 46°F (8°C) in the southeast.”

“The Minnesota and Northeast Iowa Morainal Section (MIM) is a long band of deciduous forest, woodland, and prairie that stretches nearly 350 miles (560km) from Polk County in northwestern Minnesota to the Iowa border. Over half of this area consists of rugged to hummocky moraines deposited along the eastern margin of the Des Moines ice lobe during the last glaciation. Another quarter of the area consists of rolling till or basal till deposited as drumlins. Small sand plains occur locally within the moraines. A rather large sand plain, the Anoka Sand Plain, is present north of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. This level plain is formed from sand deposited by meltwater from the Grantsburg sublobe, a spur of ice emanating from the east flank of the Des Moines lobe.

The presettlement pattern of upland vegetation in the MIM reflects substrate texture and landform topography. These features affected plants directly through their influence on moisture and nutrient availability, insolation, and local temperature, and also indirectly through their influence on the frequency and severity of fires. Sandy flat areas were dominated by prairie, savanna, and oak and aspen woodlands. This is especially true of the Anoka Sand Plain and sandy terraces along the major rivers. In these areas, droughty soils and absence of impediments to the spread of fire promoted fire-dependent prairie and woodland vegetation. A large area of prairie, savanna, and oak woodland was also present on gently undulating glacial till in the southern part of the section, adjacent to the extensive prairie lands of western Minnesota. The low-relief landscape in this part of the section afforded few impediments to the spread of fire, including fires that spread into the section from the adjacent prairie region. Woodland and forest dominated sites in the section where fire was uncommon or rare. Fine-textured drift deposited in hummocky moraines supported mesic forests dominated by sugar maple, basswood, American elm, and northern red oak. Even small reductions in fire frequency afforded by streams, lakes, or topographic breaks permitted the formation of forest on finer-textured soils, and once formed these forests were highly resistant to burning.

Floodplain and terrace forests were present historically along the valleys of the major rivers, the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix, and are still prominent today along many stretches of these rivers. Forests of silver maple occupy the active floodplains, while forests of silver maple, cottonwood, box-elder, green ash, and elm occupy terraces that flood infrequently. These valleys are also characterized by herbaceous and shrubby river shore communities along shorelines and on sand bars, and in some areas by cliff communities on steep rocky river bluffs. Closed depressions that pond water in the spring provide habitat for open wetlands such as marshes, wet meadows, shrub swamps, and wet prairies. Peatlands are uncommon in the section and usually develop following formation of sedge or moss mats over sediments in former lake basins.”

St Paul-Baldwin Plains & Moraines-The northern boundary of this subsection consists of a Superior Lobe end moraine complex (St. Croix Moraine). To the west, terraces associated with the Mississippi River separate the subsection from the Anoka Sand Plain subsection. The southern boundary coincides with the southern edge of the Rosemount Outwash Plain.

This subsection is small and continues into Wisconsin. Although it is topographically low in comparison to other areas in the state, the subsection is dominated by a large moraine and areas of outwash plain. The subsection encompasses part of the seven county metropolitan area and as a result is affected by urban development.

Landform

This subsection is dominated by a Superior lobe end moraine complex. South of this moraine is a series of outwash plains associated with the Superior lobe. There are some areas of Ioess plain over bedrock or till in the southeastern portion of the subsection. Topography is rolling to hummocky on the moraine (steep, short complex slopes) and level to rolling on the outwash.

Bedrock geology

Glacial drift is generally less than 100 feet thick within the subsection, with maximum thickness of about 200 feet (Olsen and Mossler 1982). Ordovician and Devonian dolomite (some limestone, sandstone, and shale) is locally exposed, especially in the dissected stream valleys at the eastern edge of the subsection (Morey 1976, Olsen and Mossler 1982). Precambrian bedrock is exposed along the St. Croix River.

Soils

Soils in this subsection are primarily Alfisols (soils formed under forested vegetation). Areas of Mollisols (soils formed under prairie vegetation) are present on the outwash plains. Parent materials are mixed on the moraines (mixtures of clay loams, loams, sandy loams, and loamy sands). The outwash plains have sandy parent materials (Cummins and Grigal 1981).

Climate

Annual normal precipitation ranges from 28 inches in the north to 31 inches in the south, and growing season precipitation ranges from 12.5 to 13 inches. The average growing season length ranges from 146 to 156 days.

Hydrology

The drainage network is poorly developed throughout most of the subsection. This is due to the nature of the landforms. The Mississippi River cuts through the center of the subsection. There is a well developed flood plain associated with the Mississippi. The end moraines in the northern third have an undeveloped drainage network. The St. Croix River forms the east boundary (as well as the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin). The river flows into the Mississippi southeast of the Twin Cities. There are many lakes in this subsection. Most are present on the moraines.

April 9, 2015 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

What is Bioregional Animism?

Last post I mentioned bioregional animism. What the heck is that you might ask? Well first off-

Animism– belief or philosophy that the world is full of spirits- this may or may not mean that *everything* has a spirit- but at least it typically includes living things, and often rocks and other natural features. It may also include human-made objects, particularly ones that have a lot of significance and history attached to them.

Now to unpack some baggage attached to this label- the term animism has its origins in anthropology, in older and Western-centric view that more “primitive” cultures first had animism and totemism, before developing polytheism, henotheism, monotheism and then (depending on the person interpreting all this) atheism. Some people reject the use of “animism” for this reason. However, with the rising influence of ecological thought, some people have been developing a philosophy of New Animism, that takes this idea of many spirits seriously and has more respect for indigenous worldviews and their regard for “non-human persons”. I would caution that I have encountered some attitudes on new animist websites that seem to have a Noble Savage or Michael Harner-style “Core Shamanism” influences*. We definitely need to be wary of those ideas!

Bioregionalism– a bioregion is an ecologically & geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone but larger than an ecoregion and an ecosystem. It is defined by watershed, soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism is an ecological, political and cultural philosophy that considers the role of bioregions as central to making decisions in the best interests of the inhabitants (human & non-human) and the land. Bioregions cross state/provincial and national boundaries, so they can require international cooperation. In the United States & Canada, the bioregion that has developed the strongest identity- even with its own flag and independence movement- is Cascadia, in the Pacific Northwest.

Now for these various ecological divisions- I’ll start with the biggest, then work my way down to the smallest. There are varying systems used by different governmental and non-profit ecological organizations, so I will consult several.

On this website– Earth is divided into 6 Bio-Kingdoms, 35 Bio-regions, and 156 bio-provinces

Eco-zones– a different system based on plate tectonics

What type of biome do you live in? The same biome can be found in many different bioregions, depending on climate, latitude, soil types etc. For example- desert, forest, tundra though they get more specific than that.

Eco-zones & Eco-regions in Canada

Eco-regions of North America– Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wikipedia

Eco-regions in Minnesota

*A good critique of Core Shamanism by Lupa, a bioregional animist can be found here

April 9, 2015 at 1:56 am 1 comment

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