Lola Medicine Keeper, White Witch
21 Feb 2018
I am on a quest to heal my white shame.
Which, ironically, must come from embracing (and no longer denying, suppressing, shaming, or making superior) whiteness. After all, healing doesn’t come from denying what is, but from integrating, contextualizing, and accepting it.
But, embracing whiteness can feel like an impossible, disgusting, embarrassing, nauseating, shameful endeavor…
If, like me, you’re a heart-centered white person in Western Culture, you’re exposed to few truly positive reinforcements from your own heritage. But there are ample negative examples of outright racists, white supremacists, bigots and ignorant people. For people like us, it’s obvious that colonialism has been insanely destructive of people and planet. Perhaps, like me, you have been ashamed of your own skin.
This isn’t to say “poor little us”, because—if you’re white (or present as white) in this culture—you’ve been benefitting from white privilege, whether you like it or not. But, these factors do make it difficult to embrace the skin we’re in. It’s desirable to dilute or deny our whiteness, despite the huge (albeit totally unfair) benefits we receive just by being white.
Part of our white privilege has given us light-skinned folks an unspoken permission slip to reject our own lineage and step into the practices, traditions, and ceremonies of cultures that we aren’t from.
There are so many positive examples from OTHER cultures that are more dialed into Mother Earth, Spirit, and each other… cultures like the First Nations of Canada, Native Americans, Mayans, the Q’ero, Hinduism and the Yogic traditions; among many other (mostly non-white) lineages.
Because these cultures have traditions that resonate with our hearts and souls, it’s very alluring to set aside our own messy, violent, sometimes hard-to-identify heritage and start picking up medicines, ceremonies, and sacred paths from people who may or may not be willing to share them with us (for good reason). It can feel like a way to make reparations and repent for the genocide our people have perpetuated on these very same cultures… A way of saying, “I am not (a white asshole) like them; I value everything you stand for. I want to be more like you. Please teach me.”
Unfortunately, more often than not, this becomes a sneaky way that we once again take property that isn’t ours; this time in the name of spiritual oneness. Maybe, in spite of our good intentions, we’re not so different from our ancestors after all.
I am unpacking my own privilege and assumptions… and while I’ve been given direct permission from my teachers to offer the work I do, I question whether that permission was given with full consciousness and generosity or if it’s just another way of placating an oppressor by saying what they (I) want to hear.
Regardless of whether I have the “right” to do what I do and the ways I channel healing, I hear a deep call to return to, explore, and integrate my own roots.
All people of this world stem from tribal beginnings…
…And those tribal beginnings included rituals, ceremonies, plant allies, and traditions that connected us with Mother Earth, each other, and our bodies.
Once you dig below the surface, many “shamanic” paths are quite similar. Which is not to be confused with concepts such as core shamanism which wash away unique cultural elements and remove vital locality contexts… Rather, it’s fascinating to learn that many of the ways we are given, borrow, or steal from the Amazon and Indigenous Americas we can find in our own familial backyard with just a little digging.
For example, my background boils down to the Northern Tradition: the basis for the Nordic, Celtic, Germanic, and Saxon spiritual paths that my people arose from. In the Northern Tradition, there is rattling. There are medicine songs and trance drumming. There are divination tools. There are Spirit Animals and entheogenic plant pathways. Norse Shamanic Healers practice soul retrieval.
Of course, there are shadows in the North, too… How and why did my people get caught up in, trampled by, and ultimately become the Empire? What have we sacrificed to the machines of colonialism, materialism, disconnection, and fear?
Who were the witches in my family that burned, and which family members lit the match?
I may not ever find specific answers to those questions, but I know that I carry imprints of both the pyre and the pyromaniac.
As I learn more and more about my roots, I can see that I have not been far off the mark in my spiritual practices and shamanic work. In fact, these roots are likely what make my sessions, ceremonies, rituals, and programs so powerful. In many ways, I have been living my ancestral medicine for years without realizing it. I have already found my way home.
Now, I have the opportunity to learn new to me (and very very old) songs from my own people. I have the chance to shift my perspective of where I come from, and rather than wishing to be someone I am not, to stand proudly in ALL that I am… As I explore and integrate my ancestry, I am healing the shame, fear, complacency, superiority, inferiority, woman, witch and whiteness wounding that are woven through my bones.
It is only then that I can meet my indigenous brothers and sisters as an equal. Then, I am no longer seeking to take something they have and claim it as my own. I have done that enough with the stolen land underneath the home that I’ll never truly “own”.
So what does this mean?
It means that you’ll see some changes around here… In the wording we use and the framework for our rituals and ceremonies. In the diversity of backgrounds and voices represented in our programs (such as our already variegated Wild Alchemy Circle). It also means that we’ll be going deeper with the healing work we offer.
(Roots teach us about depth.)
This means that we’ll be better able to serve YOU: to help you create results in your life that will ADD to the revitalization of our co-existence here on Earth. This is truly in service to the health and wellness of all beings; from the stones on up. Our work is in service to Gaia, so that humankind becomes part of a positive feedback loop rather than a force of resource depletion.
Let our personal devotion to uncovering who we really are encourage you to explore your own lineage. We all have indigenous roots. Once, we were each much more connected to and part of our ecosystems.
But, let us not aim to go back in time, which is a fruitless fantasy.
(Despite our romantic ideals, human existence has always been complicated and shadowy.) Let us aim instead to co-create a future where we listen to our Mother, serve each other and our planet with humility and openness, and honor the laws of nature.
Learning the traditions of our personal lineage(s) and synthesizing them with where we are on Earth today is a way to do so with integrity.
Resources for those with roots in the Northern Tradition:
Resources for healing our humanhood, connecting with our roots, and creating unity through diversity:
I encourage you to explore and honor your ancestry.
Even if you don’t get specific answers, the inquiry alone is enough to open amazing doors into your psyche, heal your wounded identity, and help you embrace who you are (so you can get on with life and contribute).
Honoring your roots doesn’t create more separation.
Rather, by exploring our differences and honoring our unique backgrounds; we come together as a beautiful tapestry that is our human tribe. We find our similarities only by knowing who we are to begin with.
What’s your strand in the tapestry? Are you (like most of us) multiple strands woven together? Which one(s) are calling for your exploration? We’d love to hear from you!