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As war and the fruits of war, including hatred and the desire for vengeance, threaten our human community, I take this opportunity republish a vision of a Society of Peace. If we cannot imagine a Society of Peace, we will never be able to create one. Can you imagine that:
As a child, you would not have to fight with your sisters or brothers for your father’s or your mother’s attention. You would not have one mother but many as you would be raised in a large extended family. Both girls and boys would be equally loved and cherished by their mothers and grandmothers and by their uncles and great-uncles. Both girls and boys would know that they would always have a place in the maternal clan. As a boy or a girl you would never have to “separate from” or “reject” your mother in order to “prove yourself as an individual” or in order to “grow up.” You could grow up without severing the bond with the ones who first loved you and first cared for you.
Even though I was born at the end of the baby boom, one of the ways I know I am an American boomer is that I remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The shock and grief of it is etched in my bones and still quivers in the sacred cells of my body. I was barely four years old on that November day in 1963. I was with my mother, who was attending a tupperware party at a friend’s trailer near where we lived in the mountains of Northern California. While the women learned about saving leftovers, my father and my mother’s friend’s husband went out back for some target practice. I can’t remember how the news arrived - but I do remember the deep shock and grief of the adults, and since I’d been hearing gun shots so close, in my four year old brain, I thought I’d heard the shot that killed him. Grief and shock have a way of doing that, etching collective pain into our bones and jarring the very sacred cells of our bodies. My country (and many around the world) continued in that state of grief and shock as we, as Americans, gathered with family and friends the following Thursday for my nation’s Thanksgiving.
This year we decided to take a small break and celebrate Samhain and honour our ancestors by visiting the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, and join their revelries. It was a spectacular night. As we descended along the twisty lane to enter the small fishing village in the gathering dusk we were met by a host of witches, tourists and black clad Morris men- traditional British folk dancers with flaming torches and crow feathers in their tall top hats. The sound of drums and fiddles echoed off the cliffs above and mingled with the sounds of the sea and the reeling gulls.
Traditional Border Morris men (or sides) wear the colour black, to leave their identity behind and take on the role of spirits as they honour the underworld and the winter to come. They danced to ancient songs, their feet mirroring the turn of the year and the battles between winter and summer in the courtyard of the museum, where the many a witch of generations passed has donated their magical tools, and beneath the library that holds the history of our traditions going back centuries. The audience around them sat or stood enrapt, many of them being those who walk the old ways themselves, bedecked in their cloaks, with wide eyed children sitting at their feet dressed as sprites and spirits....
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
A recent prompt from Joanna Powell Colbert's 30 Days of Hecate class urged us to look into the palms of our hands and consider our ancestors. Having already given a lot of thought to my more recent ancestors in this course, I felt my attention turn instead to the unnamed thousands of time and space who brought me to this place...
(Photo of Lindsay Wilson courtesy of Luisa Porter, Catfish Alley Magazine)
Her name was already familiar to me. Since publishing The Woman's Belly Book, I continue to delve into the body center's role in every dimension of our well-being. When I was looking into the connection between soil depletion and our ability to replenish the gut bacteria so important to our physical and mental health, I found Lindsay's helpful blog post titled Eat Dirt.
Along with a gastroenterologist and a naturopath, Lindsay figures in Give thanks for beneficial gut bacteria and feed them well, my recently published article in Asheville's weekly newspaper, the Mountain Xpress. "Our gut is a garden," she says, and you can read her suggestions for cultivating that garden here and here.
Now settled in Mississippi, Lindsay lived north of Asheville for several years. I was curious about her connection to Western North Carolina and asked her: What influence has your time in this region made upon the ways you understand and address digestive health?
Her answer details a deepening relationship with the natural world:
I moved to Spring Creek, just outside of Hot Springs, in the Winter of 2009-10. I became the Retreat Manager at a 30-year-old silent, contemplate retreat center called Southern Dharma. While working there, I continued to deepen my interest and awareness around digestive health.
As the retreat manager, I took all of the basic enrollment information from retreat participants. One of the questions asked about food sensitivities or intolerances they had. I was really surprised by all of the various digestive issues people had and that further solidified my interest in digestive health.
After my time there, I worked on a farm near Max Patch for a year or so. I grew a good bit of my food and foraged for greens, berries, and mushrooms as well. Even though I had always had a garden, working with the soil and the land on this scale was eye-opening. I began to have quite a few insights into the nature of our digestive complaints and our disconnection with the basics of life. I began to see that soil work...was indeed...soul work.
Living in the mountains was simply mesmerizing. I charted and took note of what was in season and how that particular food or herb was relevant to health of the body at that time of year. I named certain seasonal phenomena and observed nature because there was no distractions and only time. For example, I started to call the fruiting season the "berry wave," which was a steadily ripening flow of berries from mulberries in the early season to autumn olives in the very end of the season.
Basically, with the stark beauty of the Pisgah Forest, I began to see the impeccable timing of it all. Jessica Prentice's book Full Moon Feast was in my possession and I read it for the third time while living there. Her book was about certain indigenous and traditional cultures that had named the thirteen cycles of the moon.
These names were also connected with seasonal phenomena of a particular bioregion, something I began to call Seasonal Intelligence. I even taught two on-line courses on this, using the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine and their five seasons and related organ systems. The participants and I met on the phone each season so that I could present a basic framework of how to use food and herbs in a seasonal context.
Living in the mountains was a real boon to my understanding of natural cycles and my place in it all. I am forever grateful for the experience!
Druidry is all about relationship, and you cannot have relationship without some form of communication. It may not always be in words, human to human, but opening those lines of communication helps us to perceive that the world is more than just our own sense of self. When we begin to see that there are other perspectives, other points of view we also come to an awareness that the world is being experienced by each being individually, in a collective state of unity dictated by space and time.
Events around the world this year have shone a spotlight on discordance, in human to human relationship, and in human to other-than-human relationships. Violent attacks, disregard for the environment, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor and more can be attributed to an "Us" and "Them" mentality. When we remove this dualist point of view, and encompass a more holistic approach, we see that what we do to others, we do to ourselves. In Buddhism, it is acknowledged that suffering exists in the world, and that this suffering is caused by the illusion of separation. If we look deeply enough scientifically, anthropologically, and even spiritually we can see that there is more that binds us together than tears us apart.