Posts tagged ‘American history’

Diasporan Song and Story

New post on Way of the Sacred Fool, my Witches & Pagans blog, is Diasporan Song & Story. This is about how we form identities as diasporan settler-colonial Americans, the stories we tell about who we are, sorting out our concept of mythic American-ness vs. the harsh realities of history.

A couple other interesting posts related to American paganism & spiritual practice- The Magical Battle for America– this is the latest in an ongoing series of meditations & workings by Hecate Demeter, for it to be truly effective it would probably be best to go back to her earlier posts, but annoyingly she doesn’t seem to categorize or tag them. I think I may have linked to some of her previous posts that were in this vein. Related to this is Terence Ward’s post about magically combating the miasma that clouds our understanding of the electoral system.

 

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September 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm 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

Fellow White Liberals- We Created Rachel Dolezal

First off- who is Rachel Dolezal? She was until recently the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is also a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University. For ten years she has been presenting herself as a light-skinned African-American woman, but recently both her parents came forward to the press and said  essentially- Ahem, we’re her birth parents, and this is our ancestry, and African it ain’t (well other than the all humans eventually come from Africa part)  To be clear I think Ms. Dolezal was wrong to misrepresent herself to Black communities, and the way she treated her family members (both her parents & brothers) makes me a little sad inside. I suppose some people would say, hey screw identities/labels, and race, she can be whoever she wants to be, and what matters is the activist & academic work she’s done.

I’m not going to spend too much time self-righteously condemning her, because I think this is a time for anti-racist & social justice-y white folks to reflect. Because while Ms. Dolezal may have creating her identity, we created the culture that made her possible. The culture of All Identities Are Valid, Create Your Own Reality, and Everything is a Subjective Social Construction. Granted, I still do affirm that many categories like race and gender are social constructions, but I do not deny biological differences in human beings such as variation in skin color and anatomy. But the facts of biology and the meanings and stories that humans assign to these variations over the course of history are two different things. The social consequences of being assigned a “race” at birth are very real, even if the divisions between the races are often arbitrary. Based on the “one-drop rule” of American culture that goes back to slavery, even 1 distant ancestor of African origins could give Rachel Dolezal the social license to identify as Black, while the same amount of Latino, Asian or Native American heritage would likely still mean she was white. I am not sure who or what is the deciding factor in why this “rule” is still used, and certainly it’s much less of a factor in determining people’s identities.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in mostly white activist-y groups (or non-activist groups with a progressive slant, like the Pagan subcultures) Whenever race is discussed, there is always a mixture of white guilt, ritual confessions of racial “sins” both individual and collective (especially directed awkwardly towards any person of color who happens to be present!) and earnest attempts at white ally “guidelines” or rules. I’ve heard people apologize for growing up in all-white towns in Iowa that left them “culturally illiterate”. I’ve witnessed much hang-wringing and self-flagellation about the lack of diversity in both membership in leadership of various organizations. I’ve also wondered about what types of diversity are we talking about- and not talking about? Would I get more “diversity points” as a woman of color than I do currently as a white bisexual Pagan woman with invisible disabilities? I “know better” though, than to bring these things up.

I’ve voluntarily attended multiple workshops and panel presentations about white privilege and allyship, and speeches by David Roediger and Tim Wise, both authors/leaders/activists in whiteness studies and white “allyship”.  I’ve read many books on racial issues. And I still don’t really know How to Be a Good White Person. Mostly I just try to be a good person in general, and try to stop worrying so much about saying and do the Wrong Thing. Mostly I try to make an effort to listen to people from different backgrounds from myself, and do what I can to help their voices be included.  I think American culture has plenty of ways to encourage people of color to become neurotic self-doubters and self-haters on the basis of their skin color and ethnic culture, but for white folks signing up for these neuroses is largely voluntary. So any whining we do is understandably, not going garner much sympathy. And it’s not really helping anyone, including ourselves. Guilt eats away at your stomach, not at injustice. We also aren’t sure what we’re supposed to be culturally. Rachel is “part Czech, German, Swiss and possibly Native American”. Did her parents talk about any of that when she was growing up, and learning to admire the cultures of their friends and neighbors? Beyond a few family recipes, I suspect not, like in many “white” families. It doesn’t matter where we come from, we’re all Americans now. Except, I forgot to tell you honey, but no, you can’t be Black. Or Indian. Or Asian. But I don’t know what to tell you to be instead. Just be a “regular” American!

So no, I’m not surprised at all at by Rachel Dolezal. I can see why she did what she did, even if it was dishonest and an “easy way out” of the endless unspoken “Well, WTF am I supposed do?” questions that lurk in white “allies” minds.

References:

Passing for Black? Now That’s a Twist

When Rachel Dolezal Attended Howard University, She Was Still White

Why Rachel Dolezal Would Want to Pass as a Black Woman

June 15, 2015 at 11:53 pm 3 comments

Gaining a Global Perspective

I’m excited to see how international my readership has become. While more than half of folks who view my blog are located in the U.S. (whether that means they live there or are travelling), it’s also fun to see where else my readers are located I recall seeing: Argentina, Jamaica, United Kingdom, Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Japan, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, the Faeroe Islands. I myself follow blogs written by people in Canada, Portugal, New Zealand, the Philipines, Kuwait, Israel, France, Germany, Britain, Australia…not sure where else!

I also keep an eye on the search terms that lead people to my blog- some I’ve noticed recently: mental illness and paganism, “I’m wiccan but mentally ill, mental health prayer wiccan, pagan flower communion, perennial philosophy unitarian, jack in the box origins, trickster, pop culture paganism. I do have plans to write more on mental health & spirituality- when I first started writing on the topic, I could find very little about Paganism specifically, let alone any one Pagan path or any mental health conditions beyond depression and anxiety. I’m glad to see more people writing on the topic, though of course there can be mixed results sometimes when people start giving amateur advice! More on that later.

Well I was thinking about to have a truly global perspective as a blogger. It’s tricky enough keeping a multicultural view just within the United States that includes all the regional variations. I’ve also only had the opportunity to travel to Canada & Mexico- far more than many have- but then again just the traveling I’ve done within the country is far more than some do as well. The awkward part is that growing up, we are taught very little about world history and other cultures. Even what we learn of U.S. history tends to be limited to A Series of Wars, Conquest and Cool Stuff Done by White Guys, with heavy emphasis on memorizing dates of battles. What we learn about Europe is mostly limited to Britain, France and Germany (mostly military related) and aside from the Italian Renaissance and the Spanish empire, the historically Catholic nations of Europe are ignored, and Eastern Europe is a shadowy realm of feudalism and communism. Africa is That Country That Has Starving Children that Angelina Jolie sometimes adopts, Asia (China & Japan) is Exotic & That Place That Has All Those Smart Kids that Dumb American Kids Need to Work Harder to Compete With and South America is Where The Drugs Come From.

So yeah, you get it we’re ignorant. You already knew that, I’m sure! The tricky thing is, when the rest of the world knows more about your culture than you know about everyone else’s- but at the same time which parts can you assume they know and which can’t you? So I try not to- I try to remember to explain origins of distinctly American holidays and customs. But there are other differences I have to remind myself of, especially since I write about topics that tend to be “off the beaten track”- that is when I look up info about a particular country, I’ll have to do more digging to find out how say, autism, bisexuality or magic are viewed there, and if these concepts even exist in their languages! One thing that does give me an advantage, is I live in an area with many immigrants- refugees in particular from Southeast Asia, Eastern Africa and many other places. Having these folks as neighbors, co-workers, classmates and friends has challenged my “Of Course Everyone Does That” style assumptions, as I’ve ended up explaining “Why Do Americans Say/Do X Thing?!!” to them, and they’ve done the same about their own customs and habits.

May 27, 2015 at 3:39 am 3 comments

Ways Religious Syncretism Happens

Syncretism is when you combine two things together to create a new thing, and it’s very common in many religions. It happens both historically and in modern times, for a variety of reasons. I’ll start by discussing historical examples, and will cover ways to approach syncretism yourself in another post.

Syncretism in the Roman Empire– We’ll Go to War with You and Then Add your Gods to Our Pantheon!

As Romans added territory to their Empire, they encountered people who worshiped other gods. Being polytheists, they didn’t really care so long as the Gauls, Germannii and so forth obeyed them. But the Romans liked to say “oh, that god you call Wodan is kinda like Mercurius”, just as they had done earlier with the Greek gods. This is referred to as Interpretatio Romana. Sometimes these foreign gods were adopted into Roman religion, often with Romanized names. Sometimes we don’t know the original Celtic, Germanic, Iberian or Slavic name as a result. In addition various Eastern mystery cults were brought in- often by soldiers and traders- including Isis (Greco-Egyptian) Kybele (Anatolian) Mithras (Persian) It was kind of like the ancient Roman version of the New Age- ooh, cool, I’m going to try out this new religion! Complete with parents and other authority figures getting annoyed by all this weird new-fangled stuff. More on mystery cults in another post.

Colonialism, Slavery, Suppression of Culture/Religion– When people from West Africa were enslaved and taken to the Caribbean, the American colonies, Brazil, and other parts of South America they brought their culture and beliefs with them. Because they were expected to be “good Christians” (often synonymous with being an obedient slave!) they kept their traditions alive under the guise of Catholicism- various spirits were identified with saints. Theology note: in many of these traditions there is a Creator God- identified with the Christian God who is more distant, and other beings who serve Him- so the world “god” is only used for the High God, the rest are Spirits or Powers.  In mainly Protestant areas such as the Southern United States (outside of French Catholic Louisiana) African influences can be found in music, ecstatic healing and dancing, folk art, stories like Brer Rabbit and Aunt Nancy (Anansi) belief and magic. These are often referred to as Afro-Caribbean religions. *Some* followers of these faiths identify as Pagans or associate with Pagan & metaphysical communities, others group themselves more with African Traditional Religions (ATRs)- some with both. Many also consider themselves to be Catholics, and would look at you strangely if you invited them to a Pagan Pride event!

Similarly in Central and South America, indigenous religious beliefs are often syncretized with Catholicism. It’s very interesting to watch how various Catholic officials in Latin American have reacted over time to manifestations of folk religion. La Virgen de Guadalupe, (who may be influenced by the Aztec goddess Tonantzin) is totally accepted as the patroness of Mexico. The cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death, a female Grim Reaper figure) on the other hand is greatly discouraged by the Church, but has many devoted followers who generally identify as Catholic.

Conversion of Europe- Messier than Your Sunday School Teacher said it was… Now, to be clear in contrast to the mass conversion of the Americas, Christianization in Europe was not necessarily the result of colonialism. It was nasty sometimes, but it didn’t go along with slavery and genocide to quite the same degree. Within the Roman Empire, colonialism and slavery were already there, Christianity was just a nice bonus. Outside the Empire, people typically became Christian because their king or chieftain said, “I’d love to be allies with you, neighboring Christian king- sure I’ll get baptized if that’s what it takes!” and then the peasants had to at least pay lip service to Christ, even if their heart wasn’t in it. Remember, for a good chunk of European history, in many places there was a lack of formal churches and trained clergy, and most people were not literate. So often people were mostly “Christian” politically, but on a daily basis in their little villages, they were praying and making offerings to spirits and ancestors- over time more Christian language was added, and gods became disguised as saints, so in many ways not so different than the later examples I gave in the so-called New World. Actually one way we often learn of various gods and holidays and customs, is from accounts written by clerics complaining about this or that awful pagan thing those ignorant peasants keep doing! We have to keep in mind that they may exaggerate and make it sound “worse” than it was (especially if they are trying to convince Rome to send more missionaries to someplace cold!) but still it’s kind of a ironically fun way of finding information!

So likewise, if you are researching European forms of polytheism, you will likely need to research local folk versions of Christianity in whatever country and region you are studying.

Questions for reflection (this is messy so there are really no “right or wrong” answers!

How does syncretic polytheism in the Roman Empire remind you (or not!) of modern cosmopolitan cultures?

Who of the different people(s) I discussed might consider themselves pagan, Pagan, Christian, Catholic or a member of an indigenous religion? Might they identify with more than one label? Can you be both pagan and Christian? Why or why not?

What examples of syncretic folk religion are you familiar with in your own life? (Could be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist etc)

Have you noticed differences in how religion was taught officially vs. how it was practiced at home? Did this cause any confusion for you growing up?

May 18, 2015 at 2:02 am 3 comments

Culture-Based Religions

Culture-based religions are often otherwise called ethnic, tribal or indigenous religions- all those terms have more limited connotations, hence why I came up with a more general one.  The label of “folk religion” is also sometimes thrown in with these by anthropologists, though that is a little different, so I’ll treat that separately. Individuals or groups who practice culture-based religions may or may not identify with the word Pagan, especially if they belong to a (more or less) continuous living tradition.

A culture-based religion can be contrasted with a universalist religion– which typically has a prophet, or series of prophets and claims to have a moral code & message for all of humanity- such as  Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai’ism. Strictly speaking, we can’t really divide all religions perfectly into either category- for one, universalist religions are of course, influenced by the cultures from which they originate, though they tend to adapt themselves- and often syncretize (combine) with culture-based religions. For example, Shinto in Japan is quite seamlessly syncretized with Buddhism, so much so that Japanese people often don’t label themselves as being Buddhist or Shinto(ist). They just *do* Buddhist and Shinto-related practices.

That there is the clincher. The religion is an inseparable part of the culture- to the point where if there is a word for the religion, it’s often one invented in response to foreign missionaries- frequently with a meaning like “The Kami Way” (in the case of Shinto) or Old Custom (Forn Sidr- Danish) “traditions of our people” and so forth. Just as the word people call themselves in their own language simply means “People”, “People of the Mountain/River” etc.

To join a culture-based religion, one typically needs to be ritually adopted into the culture, if possible, or otherwise immerse themselves as they can into the culture. I have seen some people divide culture-based religions into “closed” and “open” traditions- and while that does help people understand that they can’t join anything they want to, I believe it’s an oversimplification. We’re not talking about joining or converting to any specific religion at this point, we are merely exploring and learning.

When newcomers enter the Pagan community, they often ask for suggestions on which tradition or pantheon they might start out with exploring. In the United States, Canada, Australia and other multicultural colonized countries, people are often told “Start with the traditions of your ancestors”. After a lot of observing of other folks journeys as well as my own, I actually recommend against that advice. Why? Because culture is more important than ancestry. Honoring ones’ ancestral roots is certainly an important part of many traditions, it’s not that I’m discouraging. But we are often very disconnected from the cultures of our ancestors. If it is our calling we can certainly make the effort to re-connect. But to begin with- I would look again at those questions I asked in my previous post- what aspects of culture were you raised with? What other cultures are you familiar with?

For myself- I was raised by college-educated liberal parents, multiple generations removed from my mixed British Isles ancestry- so fairly conventional mainline Protestant American culture, with its various holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Independence Day) I was always interested in learning the origins of holiday customs, and read up on all of them, as well as any fairy tales and mythology books I could get my paws on. I came to identify more with my Irish heritage, and have been studying the language, history and culture, Druidry and Celtic Reconstructionism. However, I have to admit that this has been a somewhat artificial process- all a choice on my part. I wasn’t raised with much in the way of Irish culture, other than with an awareness of being Irish, some knowledge of history of the Potato Famine, “No Irish Need Apply” signs and so forth. Lately, I’ve been pondering more about how to incorporate my mixed cultural influences- I don’t mean so much by ancestry, but more by environment. I talk with Druids from across the pond, in Britain and there are various things that strike me about our cultural differences- a lot them simply being- who the heck would I be, even as a “white” culturally Protestant American, without influences of Eastern European Jewish, African-American and many other cultures? I don’t belong to any those cultures, but I carry pieces of them with me.

What is culture? It’s all the stuff you take for granted. This is the way we do things of course! Any other way would be weird or rude or just “not feel right”! Most of it is less visible than all the things we point to when we’re trying to be multicultural (holidays, food, music).

May 16, 2015 at 8:36 am 6 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

Yes, Virginia Americans Do Have Our Own Culture(s)

American Culture? by Camilla Laurentine “I cringe a little when I’m told Americans don’t have a culture or worse yet our culture is Consumerism. Yes, modern mainstream American culture holds plenty of consumerism and plasticity, but you guys… We have culture. Historically as a melting pot, we have lots of culture. We may not have quite as long a history as our European brothers and sisters as a nation, but those of us with European ancestry do, in fact, share parts of their culture with them. But as Americans, we do have a distinct identity, and you can either spend your time being apologetic about the not so great things about it or you can decide to embrace the good parts of it and actively work to help change the things that you don’t care for.”

Mariah’s thoughts: Whenever you are tempted to say “generic” i.e. white Americans don’t have a culture, remember all the things you have to explain when you go abroad, or have a foreign visitor. There is also no single “white American” culture, anymore than there is a single American culture. Potlucks are remix of potlatch, a gift-giving Northwest Indian ceremony. Barbecue comes from a Taino word (indigenous Caribbean people who were mostly killed by the Spanish) and entered into both Spanish & French languages. BBQ is the central ritual of most American holidays- at least during the warm months- (Memorial Day, Mother & Father’s Days, Independence Day, Labor Day) I see African-American, Latino and Asian-American families in parks having their own BBQ ritual feasts, with their own twists- eggrolls, tamales etc.

American music in all its diversity, cultural borrowing, outright stealing, blending, glory and tragedy. Complete with icons, fallen idols, pilgrimage sites like Graceland and so forth. Debates about the “true heir” of this or that musical tradition or genre swirl, theories about the tragic deaths of young rock stars abound. The Greeks had a goddess of fame- Pheme, or Klymene the Romans called her Fama. She was also the goddess of gossip. Boy, does she ever have a cult here or what!

Who Are Our American Gods? by Camilla Laurentine “What do I call the God of the railroads that were the lifeblood of the West, which rose in greatness and then fell into obscurity…  And yet this Midwestern Spiritworker living in the heart of Katy Country can’t help but feel the chill run through her as she watches a train cross across the fields of corn in a river bottom.  There’s a God there.  What is Its name?”

April 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

U.U. Race Relations Compared to Pagan Race Relations

As I’ve discussed before, I was raised in the United Methodist Church, with parents who were involved in racial/social justice organizing both within the UMC and in broader society. Most Protestant denominations in the United States broke apart over the question of slavery or of integration. Many of them have made official apologies, acknowledgements of wrongdoing to African-Americans and sometimes American Indians depending on their history. Unitarian Universalists are a largely white denomination and we too have been working at racial reconciliation. Some congregations have made apologies to the family members of Black ministers that they didn’t call, there is at least one U.U. church that has a plaque in honor of the slaves who built the building. We have a long way to go, and are far from perfect, but we are committed to this journey. Recently I read “The Selma Awakening” by Mark Morrison-Reed, a book about U.U. involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Before the march to Selma, U.U.s had made various proclamations against racism, and made some attempts at integrating the ministry, with very mixed results. When Martin Luther King Jr. called upon clergy of all faiths to come march to Selma, many U.U.s heeded the call, and this was a turning point in the U.U. commitment to racial and economic justice.

I am trying to take what I am learning about U.U. racial history and apply it to a Pagan community context, but in some ways I find the situations are not very comparable, probably no more so than if I were to compare to the history of the United Methodist Church.

  • Though considered heretics and persecuted at times in Europe, in the U.S. for the most part, Unitarians and Universalists could practice their faiths openly and freely with formally recognized churches and clergy
  • Wicca came “out of the broom closet” in the 1950’s, and Paganism more broadly in the 1970’s. There were earlier groups, the Church of Aphrodite was formed & legally recognized in 1939 in New York, but they are outliers.
  • While tending to be mostly white, and sometimes insular, people of color could technically join both U churches, though they were not always accepted.
  • Covens and esoteric orders, being initiatory and secretive, tended to stick to a mostly white middle-class social network.
  • Public, celebratory groups and festivals opened up Paganism to a broader spectrum of people, book publishing and the internet even more so.
  • The Unitarian Universalist Association is one organization, albeit a loose structure, that congregations belong to as members.
  • Pagan groups are mostly small and local, with a minority having a larger organizational affiliation. Most Pagans are solitary. (There’s one similarity- there are many U.U.s that do not have a local congregation or fellowship)
  • Unitarian Universalism affirms social justice oriented values- while some Pagan traditions (like Reclaiming Witchcraft) may affirm commitments to peace, environmentalism, gender equality, etc. and individual Pagans might connect activism with their personal beliefs and practices, Paganism in general is not united under any set of principles, and even Wicca specifically does not require any socio-political commitments. (Which is fine, by the way- I’m certainly not proposing a platform for all of Pagandom!)

I think we need to delve into our history in order to understand where we are now. I am going to start by talking about Wicca and related ceremonial magic groups and esoteric orders in Britain and the United States. This is partly because I simply know more about this history, not because other traditions don’t matter, and also because of the influences they have had on other forms of Paganism. American Asatru arose as a separate movement, with different socio-political and cultural influences, so it makes sense to discuss it separately. If you have information about the history of inclusion and exclusion of various ethnic and other groups from your tradition of Paganism, polytheism (or insert preferred label) that you would like to share, please link, I’d be interested in hearing about it. (Also please let me know if I get anything wrong!)

March 5, 2015 at 4:49 am Leave a comment

#Black Lives Matter is Not Racism 101

Throughout the past year, I’ve watched many organizations, both political, religious and civic, particularly those with predominantly white leadership, grapple with the desire to make a statement of solidarity, support, concern or otherwise in regards to the Black Lives Matter series of tragedies and responsive events (my inner political science nerd has trouble calling it a movement yet) The problem is, that some of these groups have not done much in the way of previous work, study or discussion to develop better racial understanding. I have especially noticed this among GLBT, Pagan and Heathen organizations, many of which are comparatively younger organizations, historically very white and not always inclusive of people of color, particularly in leadership positions. As a result there’s been a lot of turmoil in many communities, and long-suppressed tensions have arisen, friendships, professional and organizational partnerships have been threatened or even broken.

There is a large gap in understanding of racial issues between Black and White Americans. It’s always been there, since the first African slaves and free African immigrants alike came here. The gap has changed in nature over time, but it is still far greater than many White Americans realize, and Black Americans while painfully aware of our ignorance, are still surprised by the depth of ignorance. I’ve explained to some Black folks, that in fact, some white folks genuinely *do not realize* why blackface is offensive. White folks who think their racial humor is funny or “ironic” believe that blatant racism is of course, a thing of the past, and so they are being clever/vintage/retro when wearing t-shirts with slurs that their grandparents might’ve uttered but they never heard. White people I know all seem to have their own personal definitions of racism, generally carefully constructed to exclude themselves.

Black folks have been doing work in their communities and broader society in education, health care, criminal justice, employment and many other issues, both on their own, and sometimes with support and partnership of white activists and predominantly white organizations. There is a lot of frustration that they have to be the ones constantly educating whites about race, telling them many of the same things they’ve been saying for years, while white folks argue back and don’t listen. Then self-proclaimed white allies come along and give talks or write books on white privilege often getting paid more do so- or just getting paid, period than Black folks who have been saying the same things for years.

Meanwhile, white progressives/liberals in academia and the professional non-profit establishment have been highly inconsistent about considering the role of class issues when discussing race, thus alienating whites from poor or working class backgrounds. Whites who grew up bullied as a minority in mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods, and whites who grew up in dying farming communities who watched tax dollars being spent on cities feel resentful and angry. When they express their frustrations, they are told that they need to “check their privilege” and that they are racist.

Technology evolves rapidly- making smart phones, and thus access to the Internet far more available to different classes and ethnicities than ever before. Mobile-friendly websites like Twitter and Tumblr grow and spread messages, gossip and information-good and bad- like wildfire. The online community, which thus far tended to slant to educated white men in industrialized countries, finds itself in culture shock at this broader diversity. Isolated teenagers discover others who share their identities, concerns and interests in a way that was never before possible. People are educated, misinformed, and misinterpret, form friendships and communities and end them.

We need to take a step back from this, folks. Several steps back, so we can take a good look at ourselves, our past, our present and future. We need to do our racial and cultural homework before we can write or present our senior paper.

February 19, 2015 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

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