Ancestors, Heal My Heart

Making Peace with my White Skin

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.

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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!

Lola - Creator of Wildly Amazing Things at WildPlayground.com

Lola Medicine Keeper is a healer, herbalist, and wild witch; offering ceremonies, rituals, and perspectives informed by her teachers in Peru and Mexico as well as her ancestral European lineage. She continues to study with indigenous elders around the world to deepen into her practices and uncover more of what her bones remember. She is devoted to seeing with her heart, knowing with her soul, and revering the magic + medicine of life.

She’s honored to guide her clients as they navigate the turbulent waters of waking up. When not leading ceremonies, retreats and classes or in a client session, you can find Lola soaking up the sun, drinking wildcrafted tea, or playing with her rambunctious family in the mountains North of San Diego, CA.

Social media: facebook.com/wildplayground | Instagram.com/wildplayground 

6 Comments

  1. Becca

    I completely don’t understand this concept? As a person who has a devout spiritual practice and life, I try to understand this trend of whites hating themselves and “having to get through this”

    I assume you probably were a sweet and decent human before you hated your whiteness and I assume after you are still enough and more than a good person. 

    Whilst I understand cultural appropriation, it’s offensive in some reguards, I also wonder why does it matter?

    If I got upset every time I saw someone doing something that didn’t pay exact homage to its original roots, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for anything else. 

    I don’t understand why whites in western society are so upset about honestly nothing they personally did. There is no point to being a mayrt just to show how compassionate you are. 

    I just wish the people of western society banded together and realized the real enemies that will have an impact on our children… and I can guarantee it won’t be trendy tears for past sins of people we never knew. 

    I mean within the last month China claimed there is no such thing as Uyghur Muslims and is currently in the midst of a genocide riding them off the face of the earth. 

    There has also been a genocide in Myanmar going on for over a year. 

    And I totally understand this is two different concepts of forgiving your whiteness/spiritual privilege and terrible things going on in the world. 

    What not a better way to be outspoken about current  genocides , not just the concept of genocides, to heal the past to show our creator that we have learned a lesson. 

    I don’t mean to come off aggressive or to come down on your journey. I totally get it and feel you. 

    I guess where I’m coming from is in the spiritually woke internet community there just seems to be a disconnect and it’s frustrating. We constant are apologizing for our whiteness instead of banding together and actually freedom fighting against real enemies. There is just definitely a narrative in the “hippie spiritual” community and I feel like it’s been difficult to have real conversations with people who I respect, like you. I have an enormous amount of respect for you and your work. I think it’s hella kick ass. But it’s just difficult because if I don’t echo back this same feelings it’s like what? I’m hiding from my roots? I’m not sorry for all the fucked things pasted in the world? I’m hiding behind privilege?? I’ve been programmed by colonialism?

    Because none of that is certainly true.  But I’m an asshole and not in tune cause I don’t subscribe to that narrative?  

    Just my thoughts. 

    God bless!

    Reply
    • Medicine Keeper

      Hi Becca,

      I appreciate your thoughtful response to this piece. What arises in me as I read your words is this: What I intend for this article is less about calling other people’s choices and behaviors out, instead calling myself IN – to better alignment, integrity, and rootedness. Then, in sharing my process, I invite consideration and conversation from others, and hope to bring awareness to some of these issues that ARE rampant in the spiritual community. OF course, there are MANY points we could focus on… but I strongly feel that, if we don’t come to peace with who we are and where we come from (as much as we can know about that), then genocide, colonization, racism, and violence will continue to exist, and likely escalate.

      In this process of healing my ancestral connections, I’ve made peace with my whiteness and found more self love along the way, which, in a culture hell-bent on destroying our self-respect and perpetuating inequality and inadequacy, feels pretty radical. I’m not martyring myself, I’m coming home to myself.

      You are TOTALLY allowed to have your own feelings and perspective about this all, and I certainly wouldn’t consider you an asshole for not subscribing to the exact same narrative as me – that totally defeats the purpose of inclusion! What I LOVE is dialogue – and so I think it’s amazing to be dialoguing with you here.

      If we can’t come together amongst our varied opinions, feelings, and experiences, what are we left with? A bunch of self-righteous people, living on islands of aloneness, perpetuating exclusion or worse. I say no thanks to that! So… you’re welcome in this space and i thank you for raising your voice.

      Reply
  2. bri-eze

    This is so absolutely timely in my life right now….I have been wanting to be too making relationship issues such a big part of my existence and instead looked forward to a time in my life where I could reach beyond that and thrive off of seeking how to contribute. This resonates so deeply with me and where our north American society is at…And possibly also might just explain why I need to get the hell out of the maloka! Indeed it is time for me to move on too and find my OWN roots….Scandinavia has been calling and now I know the true reason why….

    Reply
    • Tigre

      Hey Kissimirri! The maloka is a useful stepping stone into our own present, past and future. It’s the attachment and denial of our own roots that is of issue. May you find and trace your ancestry to bring about more awareness and connection for your own earth wisdom! xo

      Reply
  3. Serefina

    I’ve always thought of myself as a Heinz 57 so to speak a mix of many cultures. Thanks to our conversation the other day I’ve ordered up a DNA test to see where in fact some of my ancestors come from. Will have to start doing a little more research and see what unfolds.

    Reply
    • Tigre

      Excellent, Serefina Firestarter! We felt a bit of that Heinz 57, too. Getting out DNA sample back helped erase a bit of that odd “your great-great-great-great grandparent was X” syndrome that caucasian families sometimes include to absolve their familial racism. Let us know what you find out! Ours took a while to get back to us. I bet there’ll be a backlog for a bit since they so heavily advertised during the Olympics. :)

      Reply

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