–I believe that the land has a spirit, or spirits, or a soul or souls of sorts. What I believe is that the land has luck, fortune, built up over time and passed along to the people and things on it. You can work with the land on a physical level and work with the Luck of a place on that level.
For me, it’s easier to get a sense of the spirit of a rural place, to sit out in it and feel what kind of Luck it has to offer.
Buildings, too, have a kind of spirit.
I suppose, too, that cities must have a spirit, but it’s hard for me to pick up on it. I’m just not keyed in that way, though, I suppose if I was, I wouldn’t find it so hard to have an office with no window.
–We clearly carry with us the idea that things have souls, even though we’ve been Christian now for so long. We, meaning we white people who work so hard to put our god in Heaven and our spirits all safely tucked in there with Him. But we tell ourselves plenty of stories of cursed things–like the Hope Diamond–and haunted things–like houses and battlefields. We remember what we’ve forgotten.
–We also still carry with us the knowledge that a person is animated by the land they are connected to. Look at how we tell stories about vampires needing to sleep in the dirt of their homeland. At some level, we know that a person’s animating principle is tied to the animating principle of the land.
–This is, then, another way our ancestors are walking the hedge–both us and not us; both dead & in the ground and coursing through our veins, revealing themselves in the shape and contours of our bodies; both human and dirt; family and graveyard dust; not here and always with us–constantly straddling the boundaries between This and That, Home and The Wild.
–Some folks think that we’re all on Different Paths to the same End, that we’re all worshipping the same God under different names. This is called Universalism, though Universalism also has other definitions. I don’t believe that there’s just one god. I don’t believe in one universal Truth we’re all seeking from different angles.
–I do, however, pay attention to similar beliefs held by widely different people. I believe it’s important that so many people who travel between here and There picture themselves going up a pole or a tree to do it, or, in return, picture the ancestors and the gods coming down a pole or tree to get to us. I think we can say that, if so many people have come to the conclusion that it’s that kind of motion that takes you across, it’s that kind of motion that can take you across.
–And I believe there’s an important truth in the reverence we pay to the land where our ancestors rest. We, living people, are the breaking wave of a vast ocean. We crash on dry land and rejoin the rest of the water. We are the thin embodied edge of a vast unembodied community.
–Cutting people off from their land is a genocidal tactic. Cutting people off from their ancestors is a genocidal tactic. There is no way around it. And we know this, even as we la la la our way into convincing ourselves that we’ve forgotten it.
–And it’s bad Luck. It’s terrible mis-Fortune. How can you tend to that kind of luck and not have long repercussions?
Although these theorists elucidate the exoticization of the Other in the abstract, why are certain New Agers obsessed specifically with Native Americans and their spirituality in particular? What is it about Native American spiritual beliefs and practices that hold such a fascination for a certain sector of the New Age? There has been a long history of obsession in this society with images of Native Americans. These images have served as Rorschach blots onto which prevailing sentiments, anxieties, and political moods have been projected. The images of Native Americans have changed with the times and in response to historical events and attitudes, but these images have always reflected more about non-Natives’ desires than Native Americans’ lives or cultures. Lakota scholar and activist Vine Deloria Jr. sheds insight into these projections in his article “Pretend Indians.”
Indians, the original possessors of the land, seem to haunt the collective unconscious of the white man and to the degree that one can identify the conflicting images of the Indian which stalk the white man’s waking perception of the world one can outline the deeper problems of identity and alienation that trouble him. A review of the various images and interpretations of the Indian, therefore, will give us a fairly accurate map of the fragmented personality that possesses the American white man. One can start at almost any point and list the collective attributes, attitudes, and beliefs about the Indian and then strip away the external image to reveal the psyche of the American white.
I bring this up for two reasons. One, because I think it’s important to remember when anybody talks about the spirituality of a group they aren’t a part of, that they can draw conclusions that aren’t there to be drawn, even me.
And two, if Aldred is right, what do our actions towards Native Americans say about us? How cut off from the community of our ancestors are we? How alienated from our own land? How inconsequential do we feel ourselves to be?