Thursday, 5 November 2009

thinning of the veils

This whole week is the time of all Hallows, or Samhain, the celtic/druid festival. A time of year when the veil between the worlds becomes thinner and we can, say some cultures, connect with our ancestors. During my spiritual practice this morning I felt the qualities of a young native American ancestor within me. I often wonder who he is, his story having come to me in glimpses of ancestral memory over the past three years. So, this evening I decided to ring my aunt in New York. She’s an amazing aunt, free spirited and visionary, who lives in the same apartment she was born in, in Queens, New York. When she was growing up, this place was surrounded by fields, but now she’s the only white person in a barrio of Columbians, at home, aged 84. My sister, who visited her recently, urged me to ring her. So tonight, after 15 years, I did.

She told me of our ancestors, some of the early settlers in Eastern Maine. Life was hard for them, and the local Indians, a woodland tribe called the Abenaki, helped the early settlers to grow food, give birth and so on. She told me that interbreeding was common in those times. She spoke of how my grandfather used to love to take a canoe out on the lakes in Michigan where he grew up; how he used to walk about without a coat in the snow. When I did more research about the Abenaki nation – which is still seeking recognition from the US government - I felt a strange mix of powerful emotions. The young basketmaker who is interviewed here speaks with the kind of sentiment that comes from my heart too, at times. And this paragraph, Darkness Falls, describes so poignantly how Europeans influenced the native ways. Scraps and echoes coming through the ages.

I’m fortunate to have native ancestors who are so recently connected to the land. Since the first Cro-magnon (wo)man, we have lived close to, and utterly dependent on, the earth for 40,000 years before that. So the vast landscape of our collective ancestry is native. Sometimes I wonder whether, in these pressing times, these people, my people, are talking to me now, across time. I would like to slow down enough to hear what they’re saying.

Since writing this blog, I watched Ray Mears's TV programme about the settling of Canada, describing the hunting to extinction of the estimated 7 million beavers to make felted European hats. You can watch his inspiring programmes here.

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