Wednesday 4 May 2011

Where we are now: Part 2

Where we are now: Part 2

But the essence of what you wanted to discuss was surely how a tradition first of all crosses over from Britain to America and then returns again. What Joe learned and tried to synthesize as 1734 was largely British sources, specifically material from Robert Cochrane and from Ruth Wynn Owen, combined with whatever he learned from the person he called Sean, whoever he really was. However much Joe respected his sources, he needed to allow the whole thing to "go native" in some way and become American in order to be authentic in America. This was one of the things that we often discussed when we spoke on the phone. Think about this, you have material that discusses lapwings and roebucks, but where in the USA do you find these beasts? The answer would seem to be that you retain the material, but in practice you surely need to find animals that have the same symbolic function.

So the question for us becomes what happens when 1734 comes to Britain? In the specific case of lapwings and roebucks we can revert to the originals, but do other elements of the system need to adapt in some way? Well, thinking of Joe's late emphasis on Hoodoo as a key to the folk-magic aspect of 1734, there is what is usually described as an Afro-American folk-magic tradition and there are quite specific problems as to how to adapt this to a British usage.

Yes sorry Stuart, chasing lapwings is such fun, such lovely creatures. Tap me lightly with that ox-goad and I will get back on the trail.
So as I understand it, some things will revert to their original, but there are others, such as native folk magic, from the US that we need to work with, and find ways in which it will work here for us.

It appears to me, from reading through the Nature Religion - Natural Magic: document on the Toteg Tribe web pages at;  that Joe felt it was important to take into account, and give due reverence to one’s own ancestors as well as the ancestors of the tribe, in fact all those who have made you what you are, from wherever or whenever they appeared combined with  the influences picked up in life, however joyful or perhaps unpleasant.  When I have looked at my family tree, which luckily my parents had already sourced for me, I saw clearly how, my ancestors moved around the country, as well as leaving it, and moving to Canada and the USA. Some came from Cornwall, some from the North, and if I could go farther back, perhaps even farther afield, and then within that framework there are those who left this land, as I said, for Canada and the USA, and this was a very small section of my tree, they had so many babies in times gone by.  So taking oneself back in time, it appears that in a figurative way, we all come from Cain.

So it emerges that we, not only have our own personal heritage, which can’t be ignored; or as it may be called, the ‘spirit of our ancestors’; as well as  the ‘spirit of the tribe’ or the entire culture, traditions and wisdom we have inherited, warts and all.  Then there is the ‘spirit of the place’ or location we live in which carries a particular uniqueness, in accord with this part of the planet. However we also have that which has been called, the ‘spirit of the journey’, this must also be influenced by the people we meet and have met books we have read, these influences, in my opinion appear to be forever evolving.

I also find it important to consider what Joe felt it important to point out, in the above mentioned document, a conversation with a medicine man of the Lakhota. He states ‘This is what Longwalker told me, quoted as closely as I can. "You know, Joe, if you or other white folks are really serious about our spirituality, you won't go asking me, or us, or anyone else about what we believe, our ceremonies, our regalia, and stuff. Instead you will go out into the woods and talk to the sky, the earth, the rocks, the rivers, and the streams. And LISTEN to the answers, and listen to your ancestors. Only then will you start the long path to healing."  So it appears that we need to work with what we know, but then have a lot of work to do by working a  spirituality in unity with the area we work in, warts and all. What do you think?


Well, I think we have to be careful here and distinguish between paying our respects to, and working with, the genius loci of whatever place, and becoming more like the guardians of a place, which would limit us. Longwalker was talking about the ancestors and they are something we take with us wherever we go. Now, according to various things I have read and heard, some hereditary groups do identify with a particular site really to the exclusion of anywhere else, they are like a physical expression of the genius loci. We are more like wanderers who find the mythical landscape wherever we go. Of course we have to come to terms with the land, the locus, but in some ways one place is as good as another. Maybe we are the children of Cain and are always in exile?

Also, when we read Joe’s essay he is linking what Longwalker said to him with, for instance, Cochrane’s teachings. At one level this is a sort of simple nature mysticism, a communion with natural forces. It is simple and not at all sentimental and it brings together the forces of nature and the ancestors, whose voices can be heard in the wind. This is the basis of everything Joe taught both in 1734 and in Toteg Tribe and its predecessor, Metista. But there’s more to it than that. Cochrane is giving somewhat coded information on contacting these forces in what might be called an initiatic level (I’m immediately embarrassed by that phrase, but can think of no other at present). I mean here that beyond the fundamental contact there are more levels and there’s more than “just” nature mysticism. (I’m also a tad embarrassed by that rhetorical “just”, but it can’t be helped!) Cochrane says:
The answers to all things are in the Air - Inspiration, and the Winds will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly. The Trees of the Wood will give you power, and the Waters of the Sea will give you patience and omniscience, since the Sea is a womb that contains a memory of all things.”
I think it is apparent that asking properly has several dimensions to it. One is more to do with attitude and this is fundamental, but through this we develop technique and skill.

So Stuart, as ‘wanderers’ I must ask the question again, where are we now? Perhaps we are still searching for our place in this landscape that stands between the two worlds, new and old, and our forever moving compass will point us in new directions, towards a world within worlds that will be unique to us. Will have to keep working, forever onward.

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