Medicine for “whiteness”: The ancient cultures of Europe

“It boggles my mind that more people don’t see how we are the same people, who have undergone the same spiritual assault. The only difference between the Red Story and the White Story is we are in different stages of the process of spiritual warfare.”

Activist Lyla June Johnston said this in a moving and epic essay that she published on Facebook two years ago, just months before the struggles of a sovereign Indigenous nation captured the hearts and the imagination of the world when it stood at Standing Rock against Goliath, otherwise known as Big Oil. Lyla June, in fact, arose to greater national renown during that movement for her moving music video which inspired Native American solidarity. The song was also the soundtrack for a popular video that went viral on Facebook depicting the epic women’s prayer march led by my beloved friend, Cheryl Angel.

One of the most moving things to emerge in my life out of my Standing Rock experience was joining a budding conversation in this country concerning a unique way of combating the white supremacy that is gripping this nation. And that response or anecdote is connecting the descendants of the European diaspora in this country with their own deeper cultures and sacred wisdom.

Lyla June’s essay goes on to speak to the struggle she’s faced as a child of both Native and European cultures. She recounts a moving experience connecting with her ancient European ancestors:

They sang to me of their life before the witch trials and before the crusades. They spoke to me of a time before serfdoms and before Roman tithes. They spoke to me of a time before the plague; before the Medici; before the guillotine; a time before their people were extinguished or enslaved by dark forces. They spoke to me of a time before the English language existed. A time most of us have forgotten.

This is a song that I’ve heard many times in my life. I even wrote about momentarily feeling a cellular memory of the witch trials in a blog post I wrote about holding ceremony in a park in Missouri days before I left for my first trip to Standing Rock. And The White Goddess, Ceridwen appears in my dreams and meditations often, introduced to me by my own vivacious Scots-Irish-Welsh maternal grandmother decades after she left mortal existence.

Side wink: When I went to research this previously unknown-to-me goddess spirit that showed up in my meditations a few years ago do you know what I found? The most famous poem about her was written by a Victorian poet, Thomas Love Peacock, of my father’s English clan. And in fact, Welsh mythological traditions depict her son Morfran’s horse as Guelwgan Gohoewgein or ‘Silver-White, Proud and Fair,’ famous as one of the Three Lover’s Horses of Britain. The name for White Horse Medicine was given to me in a vision years and years ago.

Recovering personal ancestral traditions is never boring!

The key to this developing global conversation on decolonizing “whiteness” or the false categorization of the many-cultured peoples in this country as either White or Other is for those of us in the former category to embrace more fully the cultures from whence we came. This point can be lost at times for many healing practitioners who are drawn to New Age and shamanic teachings and seek the mystical and exotic Other culture.

Descendants of the European diaspora (westerners, for lack of a better word) carry a deep wound. Our own Indigenous Knowledge was stripped from us centuries ago by the same forces of Empire still inflicting genocide and imperialism upon Native North and South American peoples today. As immigrants to America, our recent ancestors often cast off cultural ties, seeing their antecedents as backward, restrictive, or even shameful thanks to the spread of politicized Christianity and the “American Dream.” This has led to complete assimilation into a new mainstream culture which is a highly imperialistic, mechanized, and homogenized – cut off from any real sacred roots.

This leads to the previously mentioned longing and a need to find the answers in the exotic Other. The Q’ero, like the Lakota, Hopi, Diné and others in the U.S. before them, recently became this Other for many in the west. In the 1980’s and 1990’s when they felt called to speak to the outside world in a big way for the first time, they were soon embraced by several people still in the grips of a highly capitalistic mindset. So, now, what white westerners can’t easily find at home, they’ll run off to Peru to look for and find at Machu Picchu!

I’ve been so blessed by a close and rich relationship with my Q’ero elder don Mariano and his Inka ancestors and medicine; however, it was a reconfirmation and validation of my connection with my own ancestors and sacred places that was his greatest gift. In fact, don Mariano said over and over “make this your own. You have different apus (mountain spirits) and lakes” and “share this with your families and in your communities in your own way.”

It is this wise and generous spirit that makes the Q’ero unique and allows them to extend their huge hearts to the modernized peoples who have forgotten Mother Earth. Perhaps in their isolation they haven’t been as abused by charlatans and colonizers as their North American relations. For whatever reason, they don’t seek to control what is done with their medicine. They share openly what they are in desperate danger of losing at home due to many factors of modernization and the need to move away from their ancestral villages to earn income.

And now I get his deeper meaning. What my Andean practice taught me led me right back to the woods – to my own sacred places and practices. And my ancestors have always been around and communicating with me. So after some lovely cross cultural explorations and through my own ties to a deep, cellular ancestral Indigenous Knowledge, I’ve returned to my spiritual home.

It is from this experience and my time at Standing Rock that I’ve learned the finer art of cultural exchange and inter-cultural diplomacy and respect.

In another of Creator’s entertaining twists of fate, a few months after deciding against a pilgrimage to Peru, I am planning a visit to Bolivia in the coming months to train in laser therapy at a cutting edge Integrative Medicine clinic. (Again, mystic synchronicity is never boring in my life.)

When I find myself on the shores of Lake Titicaca – just an hour by plane away from my Q’ero teacher and mere miles from this clinic – and when I witness the majesty of the site of the Inka creation stories, I will do so as a daughter of Clan Donnachaidh and a druid in mystic partnership with the woods in East Texas where I grew up. And, yes, I will also do so as the spiritual kin of the Q’ero and the Inka before them.

I have been blessed to pass this precious endangered Inka medicine, in as pure a form as I possibly could, back to its genetic descendants in a beautiful twist of fate. I’ve been the chakaruna (bridge person in Quechua) for Peruvian- and Ecuadorian-born Inka descendants in Austin to become initiated and find their way back to their own villages, ancestors, and medicine. And with this development I heard the call to set down my teaching in that tradition, strengthen and deepen the already ever present connection to my own ancestors, and look at the greater issue of ethnoautobiography.

This need Americans have for deeper cultural connections and healing is nowhere more prominent than in our struggles with the imperialistic mainstream culture in our healthcare system. This is what drives my collaborations with my clients in Integrative Medicine who chose to step away from this unhealthy version of practicing medicine. And it drives my new practice in self care and spiritual coaching at Lake Travis Integrative Medicine.

Next month, my Seton Cove Restoring Balance Luncheon topic will be Your Culture is Your Medicine. The practice of ethnoautobiography doesn’t seek to sell you on or teach you a particular culture or form of Indigenous Knowledge; but rather to inspire you to find, recover, and recreate your own. This demands that we strip our lives of false cultures that don’t serve us, and find unique and creative ways to blend our often somewhat defunct ancestral cultures with our connections to the loved ones and home places in our lives today. It also demands that we stop abusing the cultures of others. This includes those sacred forms of practice that have been homogenized by capitalism and stripped of all culture reference, such as core shamanism.

Just in case you didn’t realize that your British ancestors actually HAD an indigenous culture, I leave you with this.

This is Pais Dinogad, the oldest lullaby in Britain. It was found in the margins of a 7th Century Welsh battle poem, rejuvenated and sung in Old Welsh at a place of significance in Kent. Old England Hole is the legendary site of the defeat of the Kentish tribes by Julius Caesar’s invading army in 54 BC. The song is a stirring tribute to honoring wildlife, and to the importance of hunting in the ancient traditions of Kent.

Jung said “Nature and Psyche are one, yet humanity is in a wounded relationship with Nature. It is when we forget that we are a part of Nature that we may go against it.”

I urge you today to go talk to a tree or release an old story to a rock that grabs your attention on your walk to the mailbox, and otherwise connect deeply with Nature. She’s waiting. She’s always been there.

In Lyla June’s words:

Our task is to shake the amnesia. To not be ashamed of our European-ness, but to reclaim our beautiful grandmothers, to reclaim our venerable grandfathers, to reclaim our lost languages, our lost ceremonies, our lost homelands and become one with the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe once again.

If this is a concept that resonates with you I can highly recommend the work of Pegi Eyers and River Paton-Jackson.

Eyers’s book Ancient Spirit Rising is an important part of the conversation surrounding the recovery of culture and ancestral traditions for those of us who are descended from the European diaspora in the Americas. Dually focused on reclaiming European indigenous knowledge and combatting appropriation and colonization of indigenous American cultures, she tackles concepts that have been heretofore difficult to articulate. She has found new ways to explore these two conflicts in the American psyche, as well as the answers that healing them demands. By following her into the wilderness of our own unknown Indigenous Knowledge, we often find it’s been there buried in Grandma’s recipes and the imagery of our dreams all along. The healing required of the homogenized American mind before we can authentically join Earth community is at hand. Thank you Pegi for carrying a bright torch!

River’s book Ethnoautobiography: Stories and Practices for Unlearning Whiteness, Decolonization, and Uncovering Ethnicities co-written with Jurgen Werner Kremer, is a treasure trove of free thought and practical exercises that I am still uncovering. Expect to see and hear glimpses of it in my classes in the coming months.

Like and check my Facebook page to get class details, or post a comment below and I’ll email you.

It is my prayer that we all find what we’re seeking.

By | 2018-02-26T15:53:13+00:00 January 18th, 2018|Culture is Medicine, Word Medicine|4 Comments

About the Author:

Allison Peacock is a Spiritual Wellness Practitioner and the Practice Manager at Lake Travis Integrative Medicine. A mind-body medicine expert for more than three decades, she is a passionate teacher of Integrative Medicine approaches, including self-care, building resilience, spiritual transformation, self-regulation and Earth-honoring spirituality.

4 Comments

  1. Karen Komonda Nelson January 19, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Allison this is so beautiful. It wasn’t a sweat Lodge that I was returned to the White Road. Living with a Lakota for 27 years we have shared much spiritually and we have become aware that spiritually Lakota and Wiccans are not the same until you step between the worlds where we all are one . However our spirituality is based on circles and medicine wheel and nature so I’d say we are at least kissing cousins. I’ve been to England and to Sacred sites. They are not so different can you spy the people and nature than Native American sacred sites. We have more in common than most people know. But if white people are cut off from their Roots, as are also black people in America, and do not remember their tribal histories how can we ever expect native American or Asian people to understand where we come from. So when I wear a feather in my hair and go to a pow wow I’m accused of misappropriation. And probably most white and Native people would think that. However, what I’m doing is following the tradition of my ancient Celtic tribes and placing the gift of empowerment from that bird in my hair because of my relationship with that bird. Many of the women and men of agent Emerald Isle used and War feather, scales and skins of our relatives to be at one with them. So before we judge each other we need to ask with curiosity that comes sincerely why the person is wearing this natural item. It’s not like England Ireland Scotland Wales France Germany Italy Belgium Norway Sweden Denmark Finland and other nations and tribes didn’t have some form of deer Birds cattle and have a living relationship with them similar to the Native American with birds deer Buffalo wolves Etc. There is much we can learn about each other. We all have Savage beginnings. I use the term Savage in the true positive meaning not the insult. There was once upon a time and England when Savage was a compliment. Everyone should reclaim the name and in my opinion be a little Savage. Go Back To Nature for the meaning of the word is one who lives with nature closely. May we all be our mother’s savage daughters and sons.

    • Allison Peacock January 19, 2018 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      You make good points, Karen. This is one of the reasons why I chose to begin writing about and sharing the insights into inter-cultural exchange that the past few years made sure I learned. We can’t fault our Native American neighbors for not knowing what we don’t tell them. One of the first things I’ve been asked several times when I’ve met new people from other cultures, is “Who are you?” If Americans don’t KNOW who they are in the indigenous sense, as we haven’t for many generations, then our relations from other cultures can’t know us. And their assumption that we repeat the mistakes of the generations of cultural thieves that came before is only natural. My mother’s clan is Scots-Irish-Welsh and my father’s clan is English, as the surname Peacock is not some made up shamanic name, but that of his father’s father’s father, and so on. I am a daughter of the piney woods of East Texas, the firstborn Texan in a long line on both sides to call Arkansas home. My father’s people were dirt farmers and Quaker ministers for many generations, and my mother’s people dwellers of the woods, healers, and merchants. I have talked to rocks and flowers, and healed with trees my whole life and could never explain it to others who didn’t. Were we Native way back and it’s showing up in me somehow? I think many white people feel this and don’t know why. No one had ever exposed me to the Celtic or Gaelic cultures and the similarities in earth-honoring ways. We must share this deep-seated need to be children of nature with our friends and neighbors. And then we all must become good allies and diplomats when we visit Native American spaces and events, digging deep for our similarities, yet without assuming kinship unless it’s offered. Thank you for your comments!

  2. Gregory Phillips January 19, 2018 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    You do have your way with the word my dear , pleased and proud of your way, watch your top knot , good hunting.

    • Allison Peacock January 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm - Reply

      So many years later and here we are again on my blog. Thank you, DD!

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