Tag Archives: Culture

The risk in giving

The cathedral was burning.

It seemed like it was burning all day.

The images, when I could bring myself to look at them, were heartbreaking.

It seemed as if the whole thing were about to collapse. Indeed, memories of September 11th running through my mind, of that impossible moment when the first tower began to collapse in on itself, I could already feel the crushing weight of it coming down in flame and smoke.

Then…, it didn’t.

And the first images from inside came with a glimmer of hope.

She could be rebuilt, this thing of immense age and beauty.

She could be saved.

And almost as quickly, there was the rush of donations, most notably from the super rich, but from common folks too. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to help.

But then something else started to happen.

Judgement and scorn began to creep in.

What about the black churches, burned down in Louisiana?!

What about the drinking water in Flint?!?

You are donating to the WRONG cause, and if all of these rich fat-cats wanted to help, well there’s plenty of people going hungry all around them!

And suddenly we’ve got the “Cause Police” out there serving the public and making sure society knows which causes are worthy of their disposable income.

The Polar Bears are starving…, “Isn’t there a homeless vet you could feed?”

Doctors Without Borders? “Aren’t there any sick people in America you care about?”

What if I contribute to Public Radio? “FLINT FREAKING MICHIGAN!”

The Arbor Day Foundation? “I swear on all that is holy that WE will find you and punch you in the face if WE find out you’re giving it up for some shitty trees!”

What…is…happening?

Look, here’s the thing…,

It is good that people care about things. It’s absolutely vital, I’d say.

They do not have to care about the things that are important to me, or to you. And if they do care about those things, and it IS possible to care about more than one thing at a time, they don’t have to care about those things as much.

I’ve never been to Notre Dame de Paris, and I may never get the chance. Certainly, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever step foot through her doors, but I studied her during Art History classes, I’ve sketched her and painted her and poured over images of her. She’s an eight hundred and fifty year old marvel of art and architecture, and if I want to contribute to her preservation that’s MY business, requiring neither permission nor judgement from anyone.

And please spare me the diatribe against the Catholic Church.

I’m bloody PAGAN. I literally couldn’t care less if they ever hold another mass in the thing. I am never going to donate anything to a Christian church (and that includes those that got burned down in Louisiana, by the way).

The Church just leases the building, if you wondered. They don’t own it.

What I care about is irreplaceable art and architecture, handed down to us all, Christian and Infidel alike, which can still be preserved for generations to come, if enough people are willing to act.

If that’s not good enough for you, you’re welcome to f*ck off.

What’s more, if you want to get bent out of shape because some billionaire decided to spend money to preserve something beautiful, instead of throwing cash where YOU think they should, that’s time and energy better spent picking litter up off the side of the freeway.

Or don’t you care about the environment?!

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Filed under Art, Culture, Modern Life, Religion

Hollow Eyes and Hallow’s Eve

It is a curious tradition, the carving of Jack-o-lanterns.

There are plenty of articles out there sharing the actual history of the practice, some folks claiming it is a strictly Christian tradition, while others claim a more ancient past, but what it all boils down to is that somewhere along the way, someone decided that carving faces in vegetables (and later fruit, right? A squash is a fruit) would repel evil spirits.

Doesn’t seem to be working.

Bombings, shootings…, plenty of evil spirits out and about these days.

Then again, most folks seem to be buying plastic jack-o-lanterns from Target and Walmart, so maybe that’s why the effectiveness has worn off. ‘Cause the the power can’t be in the fruit, or the candle, or even the scary face. If there’s any power at all behind those hollow eyes, anything there watching and guarding, it has to have been placed there by us.

It is up to us to work the magic that wards our homes and our land from those who would cause us harm.

Plastic pumpkins are probably just another symptom of us falling down on the job.

I really don’t care who came up with the tradition, I truly enjoy the the few hours I set aside every October to carve a few jack-o-lanterns.

And I love the looks on the faces of the trick-or-treaters, even the littlest ones, who can tell the difference between something real and original, and something bought in a store.

The parents notice too. Often they will say something about not being all that good at it, or struggling to find the time. But I always encourage them to make the effort. Skill comes from practice and power from persistence.

And the gods well know, we could use more jack-o-lanterns in the world these days.

A blessed Samhain to you all. And a Happy Halloween!

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Filed under Art, Culture, Holidays, Religion, Traditions

The Nature of the Message

We’ve all seen those solitary blades of grass reaching up from the cracks in a sidewalk, or maybe a bit of green clinging to the side of a wall where a bit of wind blown soil and seed found purchase amongst crumbling bricks.

It’s common enough to see these things as a sign of the impermanence of mankind’s imposition upon the natural world. The earth shifts, concrete falters, and the green world which was hiding just below the surface asserts itself with a vengeance.

I’ve shared that same feeling, and found some comfort in it.

Nothing we do, truly lasts forever.

But sometimes, I wonder if we haven’t misinterpreted the nature of the message.

Near my workplace there is a No Parking sign imbedded in the sidewalk, standing no less then seven feet above the roadway, and crowned, amazingly, with a healthy shock of leaves, waving in the breeze.

Upon closer examination, the base of the signpost is imbedded firmly within the pristine pavement. There are no cracks or gaps, no place for the earth beneath to show through. But there is a long thin vine, reaching up through the middle of the post, climbing all the way up into the light at the very top.

Sometimes, when I’m outside taking a break from work, find myself looking at that single, impossible plant, and I wonder about the people who pour the concrete, who build the sidewalks, the buildings, the streets, the systems, and the institutions that surround us.

Sometimes I wonder about myself.

We’ve put so much effort into reshaping the world…, giving it an order and a purpose and forcing it to adhere to some common vision of how we think the world should be, of how it can best serve us.

And we keep getting it wrong.

That sprig of green poking out of the pavement may not be a warning sign at all. It may instead be the sound of a trumpet, rousing us to action, calling us to break through the concrete and the metal that is even now closing over our heads.

Maybe it’s time to serve the world, rather than trying to force it to serve us.

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Filed under Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

Blood and Soiled

This must be one of the saddest photographs I have ever seen.

Why do we teach our children the wrong things?

Why do we teach them to hate, to fear, to believe that if we give one man respect, or dignity, or just a fair chance in life, that we must be trying to take those same opportunities away from another?  Why do we teach our children that the land is ours, by right of blood or edict from on high, when we are only the latest insects to crawl across its surface?  Why do we teach them that one man is different from another, better than, superior, when the story of our genes tells us that we all come from a singular place and time?

Why are we dressing our littlest ones up in the raiment of hate?

And when did Nazi Cosplay suddenly become cool?

Don’t tell me it was THOSE people who did it!  Please, don’t try to put it on someone else.

It was us.  How could it not be?

There are people walking our streets and living in our neighborhoods, who think it’s okay for one group to round up another, to remove them from their homes and fence them in like animals, to starve them, abuse them and ultimately exterminate them.  And these folks didn’t time-travel here from Germany in the early 40’s. They grew up here right alongside us, went to the same schools, studied the same history books.

So how could they have learned to hate so well?

I wonder.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Politics

More than Skin Deep

“What’s that say on your wrist?”

Sometimes I miss the good conversations.

The other day I missed a doozy, and by mere inches.

A friend and coworker was chatting with a customer when the woman paused their conversation to ask her about her tattoo.  Well, one of her tattoos, she’s got a whole sleeve of them but I guess the crisp letters on my friends wrist made for an easier point of inquiry.

“Release,” my friend answered, “It’s a tribute to one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, ‘I shall be released’.”

“And,” the suddenly inquisitive woman continued, “do you know the history of tattoos?”

“Well, it depends on what culture you’re referencing,” my friend managed before…,

“NO!”

“It’s a PAGAN ritual!”

“It’s a PAGAN ritual for the dead!”

(softer now – dismissiveness replacing the forceful tone)

“Sometimes we just do these things on a whim, without realizing the history.  We just don’t realize the importance of history.”

All of this, I was sad to discover, happened just outside of my earshot.

Had I only known, I might, as the Pagan in the room, have interjected on our customer’s behalf.

Because, she wasn’t wrong when she said tattooing is of pagan origin, it surely is.

As, I might have offered, was all the makeup and the hair dye our concerned advocate was wearing.  Also, the custom of adorning oneself with jewelry, that came from the pagans too.  Oh, and agriculture, and roads, architecture, the manner in which we measure time, drama, art, language, mathematics, both democracy and the republic…, In fact the vast majority of stuff that makes her intolerant little life possible, have their origins among the various pagan tribes and peoples of this wide and wonderful Earth, and would have been understood by those people as being inseparable from what we today would call their ‘religious beliefs’.

The good news for our tattoo fearing friend, and everyone like her, is that wearing the trappings of the ancient pagans, be it makeup and hair dye, or a little creative ink injected into the skin, does not make one a Pagan, anymore than going to church every Sunday and reading the Bible would makes one a Christian.

No, it’s not so simple as that.

Paganism is not a thing that one may wear.

It is not a bangle or a bead.

It is not, I think, even a belief or a practice, although we use those words often and all too interchangeably.

Oh, and it is nothing to do with faith.

It runs deeper than that, or it should, and deeper by far than some ink in the dermis.

My paganism hums in me, in my bones and my blood, it shudders at the touch of a breeze upon my skin, reaches down from the soles of my feet into the rock and soil upon which I trod, and it crackles between my fingertips with the approach of a summer storm.

We turn with the great wheel, but the wheel turns within us as well.

Come this time of year it gnaws upon me, my skin feels stretched almost to the point of snapping, my muscles grow tight, and a deep restlessness takes hold of me.  The antlered god, growing older again within his fleshy prison, wants to rake his thorny horns against rough tree bark, he wants to run, to fight, and to rut before the winter comes and the great raven arrives again to pick at his scattered bones.

We walk daily among the gods and the spirits of this world, and if we are very lucky we are aware of it, of them, passing near us, through us.

It is beauty and pain made one and it doesn’t happen on a whim.  And it’s certainly not something that happens by accident while having some work done in a tattoo parlor.

We spend so much of our lives dressing ourselves up to meet the expectations of others.  Yet the urge to express ourselves, our loves and our sorrows, is part of who we are.  It’s a human trait, not just a pagan one, and life is too short to just set it aside for the sake of base conformity.

Of course, there will always be those who are frightened by such freedom.

To them I say, “a superficial faith breeds superficial fears.  If a little ink is enough to get your religious fervor going, the problem is almost certainly more to do with you.”

Cernunnos Tattoo

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Idolatry 101

Idolatry Eagle

“Why are you all still sitting there?!”

A friend and I were sitting, with about fifty others, in the audience of the Birds of Prey exhibition at Scarborough Faire, a renaissance festival located just outside of Waxahachie, Texas.

I grew up just a few miles from the Faire and have attended at least one weekend for almost every year since it opened back in 1981.  I know the grounds like the back of my hand, and most of the better acts by heart, but mostly I just enjoy dressing up, and spending some relaxing time outside people-watching over a nice cool tankard of mead.

I’ve probably attended the Birds of Prey show a couple dozen times over the years.

I love watching them fly the hawks, or the occasional falcon.

They usually open with a Turkey Vulture and close the show with an American Bald Eagle, and this year was no different, right up until the end.

For some reason, as the trainer brought the Eagle up onto the stage, the love theme from Braveheart was being piped over the sound system.  She paraded around the stage holding the eagle on one gloved hand, with her other hand pressed over her heart.

When she completed her circle across the front of the stage, the head trainer spoke up from his throne at the back of the stage and said, “Let me ask you a question, why are you all still sitting there?!”

Okay, this was new.

“Why,” he continued, “didn’t you rise to your feet and place your hands over your hearts when you saw this magnificent bird, this symbol of liberty and freedom…,”.

As the scolding lecture continued, and the chastened crowd began to rise like schoolchildren who had been caught short, my irritation grew.

The very obvious answer to the gentleman’s question is that we didn’t rise because a bird, even the national bird, is not a flag!   We don’t rise for birds, we don’t place our hands over our hearts for birds.  It’s just not something that we have ever been asked to do.  Nor should we be.

Should I likewise stop along the side of the road every time I pass a field of Bluebonnets (the state flower of Texas) to show my proper respect?

As I sat there, watching the sheep around me lurching guiltily to their feet, it occurred to me that after a couple thousand years of being told that Idolatry was a horrible thing which should be avoided at all costs, people in the western world are just really REALLY out of practice.

I mean, they all still do it, but by and large they absolutely suck at it.

Maybe, I thought, there should be a class, something like a continuing education course that people could take over the course of a few weeks.  Such a class could be taught by folks from within the pagan/polytheist community, as a kind of community outreach.  Something we could do to help out all those unfortunate folks who just haven’t got a knack for it.

And once I’ve had a thought like that.., well, I know from experience that it is just going to fester in my mind until I find a way to get it out of my system and move on to other things.

And so I present to you, my pretend lesson plan for a continuing education course that will never actually exist.

Enjoy!

Idolatry 101: General Course Description

In the classic sense, we think of the idol as a statue usually secreted deep within the bounds of some ominous temple.  Surrounded by cloaked priests and clouds of incense, it is brought forth on special days, whereupon the people may fawn and bow before it, offering up sacrifice to be burned in its presence.  This is a profoundly limited view, influenced by religious propaganda and literary cliché.  This course will seek to expand upon that narrow view, by exposing the student to the many forms and functions of the Idol throughout history and into the modern era.

Week 1: When is a Door not a Door?

Synopsis of Introductory Lecture:  In the holy writings of all three of the great monotheistic religions, there are stern warnings against the practice of Idolatry.  In modern usage the word itself is, in almost all cases, used in a pejorative manner.  But what is Idolatry, really?  While there may be many related definitions, for the purposes of this course, Idolatry will be understood to mean the process by which a tangible, real-world object, is used as a point of focus for the worship or reverence of something otherwise intangible.

History shows that Idolatry is something that is second nature to the human animal, and is present in almost every facet of human activity both ancient and modern.  Furthermore, it is the foundation upon every great religion, including those which so frequently preach against it.

Witness, for example, the sacrament of the Eucharist in which bread and wine are symbolically transformed into the body and blood of Christ, whereupon it is consumed by the faithful as a means of taking the holy spirit of their god into themselves.

Now compare this modern religious tradition with that of the far more ancient cult of Dionysus, which held that the vine of the grape was the mortal embodiment of their god, and that wine was the blood of their god, fermented by his yearly passage through the underworld.  By the drinking of this specially prepared wine the spirit of the god was believed to first enter and then manifest within the devotee, in the form of holy intoxication.

The idol, as we will see, may take many forms.  It may appear to us as an emblem, a statue, a natural feature of the landscape, and even the blood of the vine.  But in whatever form it takes, the idol is a doorway to something we understand to be bigger than ourselves.  Unable to touch what lie beyond, the door itself becomes a vessel for our reverence, invested with prayer and worship, with ritual and sacrament.

It is not the business of this brief course to render judgement for or against the practice of Idolatry.  Instead, we seek only to recognize it when we see it, to understand how the practice has shaped the human condition, and to gain insight into the beliefs and motivations of those who openly engage in this practice.

Written Activity: Write a quick (1,500 words) explanation of your personal beliefs regarding the practice of Idolatry and what you hope to get out of this course.

Week 2: And Everything in its Place

Lecture and Slide Presentation:  Moving forward from the previous lecture, we will further expand the perception of what may or may not be an idol, by touching briefly upon the subject of Spiritual Geography.  The accompanying slide presentation will show multiple locations where either a man-made or natural feature of the environment has been invested with spiritual significance.  Special attention will be paid to the concept of the Axis Mundi as a point of connection and focus between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Written Activity: Briefly (6,000 words) compare or contrast any two of the following locations:  The Umbilicus Urbis Romae in Italy, The Kaaba in Saudi Arabia, Mount Kailash in Tibet, The Hill of Uisneach in Ireland, Delphi in Greece, or Teotihuacan in Mexico.

Week 3: Desecration and Empowerment

AphroditeSmallLecture and Slide Presentation: We begin with an overview of the rise of Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire and the rising tide of attacks upon both temples and statuary dedicated to the gods of the Roman pantheon.  The slide presentation will detail the ways in which images of the various gods were damaged, including beheadings, the gouging of eyes, and the carving of crosses into these objects.  Lecture will end with a brief catalogue of similar desecrations by various groups through history and into the present day, to include the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by Taliban forces in 2001, and the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra ,Syria, by ISIL in 2015.

Written Activity: Write a brief paper (2,000 words) exploring one of the following questions:

1.  Is your faith empowered by the desecration of someone else’s holy icon?

2.  Is it possible to desecrate an object that is not already sacred?

3.  Does an act of violence against an object reflect the significance of that object in the heart of the believer, or in the mind of the one conducting the act of violence?

Week 4: Stars and Stripes Forever

IdolatryFlagsClass Discussion: The American Flag is often treated as an object of deep reverence.  Citizens salute it, they pledge to it, they treat the display, folding and storage of it with ceremony and ritual, and will retire a worn or damaged flag in cleansing flame.  Desecration of a flag is a crime in many locals, and people have been known to react with violence to public protests that included flag desecration.  Does this same reverence extend to all manifestations of the American flag, including the little disposable plastic ones that people often wave, en masse during parades and patriotic celebrations?  If not, then what makes those flags different?  What about flags printed on t-shirts, bumperstickers, and the like?  What, if anything, makes one flag sacred and another not?  The instructor is encouraged to keep the debate on-topic but to otherwise allow the discussion to guide itself.

Week 5: Ubiquity and the Profane

Lecture:  A brief explanation of the symbols used by various secret societies to identify members to one another, leading us into a discussion of the Christian Cross.  Once a secreted symbol revealed only to those who could be trusted, the Christian Cross has become an everyday fashion accessory for millions of people in the western world.  In recent years, a number of christian groups, in their defense of large crosses displayed on public lands, have suggested that the cross, through its ubiquitous nature, should not always been seen as a religious symbol, but may have any number of secular meanings.

Classroom Activity:  Break into groups and debate one of the following questions?

1.  Does wearing a cross have any significance in a culture where the general expectation is that any individual you may encounter in your day-to-day movements is almost certainly a Christian of some variety?

2.  Can a holy symbol be made profane though repetition and commercialization?

3.  A non-believer wears the symbol of your faith – empowering or sacrilege?

Week 6: Where does the power come from?

Final Lecture: In whatever form it takes, the Idol has the power to instill powerful emotions in those who encounter it.  For some, a particular idol may illicit feeling of deep reverence, joy, fear, or disgust, but the question remains, where do these feelings come from.  Is the power that the idol seems to possess over man a function of the object itself.  Is the physical object imbued with a special nature that brings out these feelings in those who come near it?  Does the particular arrangement of stripes and stars on a length of cloth change the nature of the fibers of which it is composed?  Does the wine become the blood of a god, or is it simply a tool which we use to feel closer to the divine?  If entirety of an idols power rests within the hearts and minds of the men and woman who react so strongly (one way or the other) to its presence, does not our reaction to Idolatry say more about ourselves than it does those we might feel compelled to judge?

Final Essay (6,000 words): Expand upon your original paper from the 1st week of class.  Have your feelings regarding Idolatry changed as you have considered the materials presented.  If so, how has your attitude changed and why?  If not, please explain how this course may have reaffirmed or strengthened your previous feelings.

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Mythology, Religion, The Gods, Traditions

Truth in Spirit or Blood?

Within certain segments of the Neo-Pagan community there is a deeply held belief that perception is reality.  I have myself, on occasion, expressed this idea in the pages of this blog.  There are many roots which supply nourishment to this belief, perhaps the most important of which is that the core of almost any magical practice is the alteration of consciousness and reality in accordance with the will of the practitioner.

However foundational this belief may be in magical theory, one is far more likely to find it actually practiced within the various Pagan Forums and Chat-Rooms that populate this, our worldwide web.  Just pick a thread, wait for someone to make an outrageous claim (it won’t take long), call them on it, and see how quickly you are flayed alive by the crowd.

Perception CAN be reality, but it can just as easily be a lie.  The gods are renowned shape-shifters, the mind is susceptible to wishful thinking, and perception often shifts with a change in perspective.  If we are to accept perception as reality we must make an effort to demonstrate that truth in the face of the reality which other perceive.

And now I’ve used a dirty word – truth.

The concept of truth scares the crap out of certain people because they live in constant fear that they will be oppressed through the tyranny of a shared reality.  If some things are true and others are not, than statements like “believe what you want” and “do what you feel is right” lose their power.

So let us examine what may be a relevant example from my own past, before we move on to current events.

I was engaged once, to a lovely young woman whom I had been seeing exclusively for a year or so.  She was funny and smart and beautiful to me in a way that made my heart sing whenever I looked at her.

Probably, it was all this arterial crooning that distracted me from some very real warning signs that things were not going to work out for us in the long run.  Looking back on it years later, there were several things that made me go, “hmmm,” but the one that comes to mind at this particular moment, was the thing with the Rabbi.

The Thing with the Rabbi.

We were still in the very early stages of planning our nuptials and there were a few very basic questions we needed to get out of the way early on.

Who would conduct the ceremony, was one such question.

I’m a polytheist worshipper of Celtic gods.  My family is primarily composed of Catholics.  And there was her immediate family of lapsed Presbyterians.  So there were several possible directions from which to approach the issue.

“Well, we’re going to need a Rabbi,” she said in a serious tone.

I remember searching her face, looking for the mocking humor that often bubbled just beneath the surface.  “Why would we need a Rabbi?”

“Ummm,” exasperation, “because I’m Jewish!”

Oh gods, it was this again.  I’d actually forgotten.

We never really talked much about religion.  Neither she, nor her parents, attended services, even on holidays.  She did not express an interest in religious topics when they came up in conversation.  For all intents and purposes, she appeared to be agnostic.

Occasionally, however, she’d claim to be Jewish.

She had told me about a family friend, one of her mothers old schoolmates, who was Jewish.  Through years of observation she had picked up the same accent, which she would pull out from time to time, along with a few key words and mannerisms, to demonstrate her Jewishness.

It was like watching Mike Myers doing his old SNL Coffee Talk skit.  She’d suddenly lapse into this outlandish character and have us all rolling in laughter.

Coffee Talk

And at first, I thought there was nothing more to it than that.

But then, every once in a while, she would drop some comment into a conversation, referring either to Holocaust, or to a more general discrimination against “her people”, and it was always very personal to her, and not simply an expression of empathetic feeling toward an often persecuted minority.

It didn’t happen often, and when we first started dating, I just assumed that she was Jewish.  I mean, she got really excited by Christmas while never displaying a menorah, and her diet certainly wasn’t kosher, but what does any of that really prove?

By the time I’d slipped that engagement ring onto her finger, I knew better.  But still, it was such an infrequent dip into a harmless fantasy…,  It seemed like nothing I should be worried about.

“I thought you were raised Presbyterian, isn’t that what your mother said?”

“Oh yeah, but I converted years ago, I told you.”

“Okay, but you have to take classes for that right?” I asked, “Because I am absolutely on board with having a Rabbi involved, but I think one of us is going to have to be, you know, officially Jewish, for that to happen.”

“….” (annoyed glare)

“Is there a particular Rabbi we should be talking to, or a specific Synagogue you had in mind?”

“…” (just staring off into space now)

And there, suddenly, in the back of my mind, I could see this little guy franticly waving a big red flag.  Needless to say, I’d see more of him as time went on.

She perceived herself as Jewish, and she could have been, if she’d done the work necessary to alter reality.

Simple belief wasn’t enough.

Truth got in the way.

A Simple Matter of Black or White.

So if you have kept up with the news at all in the past several days, you must know that I have been leading us, after my own fashion, to the case of Rachel Dolezal.

News sites and social media started working overtime last week, when it was learned that Dolezal, who heads a chapter of the NAACP and who has listed her race as African American on multiple forms and biographies, was born of two caucasian parents.

On the surface, it seems like a simple story: Crazy white woman pretends to be black.

But the truth, on this occasion, is just a bit more complex.

Rachel Dolezal

However white her parents may have been, she was raised with four adopted brothers who were themselves, African-American.  Furthermore, everything that I have read about this woman suggests that she has spent her life subsumed in African-American culture, becoming a community leader, an academic expert, and a voice of advocacy within the black community.

But is that enough?

Does active participation in a community and self identification with a particular culture trump the simple fact of her genetic makeup?  And if not, if the racial signature in her blood is more important than the work she has done to integrate herself into that particular culture, then by what criteria do we determine race?

Prior to the American Civil War, one was legally considered to be of mixed race if a full quarter of his ancestry was non-white.

In the 20’s, the “One-Drop Rule” began to appear in legislation around the American South.

And let us not ignore those voices within the African-American community who have criticized people like President Barak Obama, for not being “black enough” despite a very obvious and well documented African ancestry.

What is race, and does it have any significance in the face of culture?

My own ancestry is largely Celtic (Irish and Welsh), but the content of my blood would mean nothing if I did not strive to find a Celtic identity within myself.  The Celts were a people of many races, linked together by commonalities in language, history and belief, a culture that stretched from Asia Minor to the British Isles, and which survives still today, in places like Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man.

I believe that something of that culture survives in me as well.

But wishful thinking isn’t enough.  It takes work and study to really BE something in this world.

We have no control over the content of our blood, but the content of our spirit is a different matter entirely.

Race may be expressed as a skin tone, as a checkbox on a census form, or as a means of oppression, but all these things are meaningless.

It wasn’t a subset of chromosomes that inspired the civil-rights movement, it was a culture, a community, and a spirit that was willing to do the hard work necessary to change reality to meet its own perceptions of a better world.

Is Rachel Dolezal a black woman?

I don’t know.

But if spirit along with hard work, trumps blood, as I believe it must, does it really matter?

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