All My Relations
On this all hallow’s eve there is much more than candy and costume to consider — though these aspects of Halloween can be wonderful memory making experiences for kids of all ages. Celtic tradition (that I just looked up again) on this day is to celebrate the end of summer, Samhain, with a “feast of the dead.” The “veil” between this world and the beyond is the thinnest today, which could be a good time to connect with loved ones who’ve passed over.
I am indigenous to Ireland and have identified ten of my grandmothers in different parts of Ireland where my mother’s mother is from. I am indigenous through many grandmothers from France and ancestors who ultimately settled in Quebec where my father’s mother is from (still trying to figure out some of my father’s grandmother and grandfather roots which include Scotland). I discovered this week that one of the grandmothers I’d imagined was Indigenous to America is actually a daughter of the American Revolution, a colonial settler from England.
This discovery may have made me happy to learn many years ago when I did my initial research. But over the past few years, increasingly so as of late, I have reeducated myself about history, immersed myself in writings by people of color, and trained myself — with guidance — to be more culturally sensitive. This has soured my feelings toward settler colonialists, particularly the leaders worshipped in mainstream history education.
Before I was kindly schooled by an Indigenous person I was communicating with about climate policy, I had dreamed of having some native American roots — as if it would help me have some cultural wisdom that I craved. Pure ignorant fantasy. They patiently explained the trauma about “blood quantum” white people in the U.S. ascribe to in “justifying” Indigenous roots. Roots are much more complex than that.
I’d like to interject here a story from last night. There was a huge storm — flash flooding, thunder, strobe lightning — all on top of a recent storm that left most of the southeast of Massachusetts without power for days. In the early hours my partner and I got into a discussion that prompted me to say, “it is okay to be ignorant so long as you really learn your lesson [from those who enlighten you].” At that moment the rains began coming down intensely. He appreciated the power of the storm; I felt concerned for the exposed roots from the countless trees that had just fallen throughout the area and the eroding soils and sands. These particular forests are some of the oldest in turtle island and they are beginning to feel like kin to me.
Mitokuye Oasin means all my relations. The sense of interbeing or kinship with all sentient beings is also reinforced in my sangha — in the Order of Interbeing which I wrote about in yesterday’s heart reading. These cultural notions, practiced and carried forward over countless generations, create or weave the fabric (or veil) that connects us and create ties to the spirit realm. If I was a quantum physicist I would explore correlations between these traditions and the foundations of scientific matter.
But I am not. I did however join a writing group once and try to write a book that would juxtapose my ancestry alongside in depth soil science (thanks to Lynn Margulis’ work on symbiogenesis). I called it Digging My Roots. It was too much for me to attempt.This memory is what emerged from tonight’s heart reading. I am hoping that my dreams will bring messages or visitation from an ancestor or two.
In the spirit of the evening I will simply share another bit of Celtic culture:
Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.
Thus, the tradition of Jack O’Lanterns was born — the bearer being the wandering blacksmith — a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in their millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.