* If you are reading this and your experience is as a colonized person, your journey is especially precious, as you navigate healing and taking your stand. This piece was not written to you, so much as in respect of you.
I recently did a pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland that was led by one of the great Celtic Christian voices in the world, John Philip Newell. John Philip stands in the wondrous lineage of George McLeod, Alexander Scott, George MacDonald, St Brigid, Eriugena, Pelagius and Columba as well as a host of Eastern mystics who have lit up his life in the last 30 or so years.
One of the reasons I applied for the scholarship to attend this pilgrimage, is because I was once told by an Anishinabe woman that it wasn’t so much that she wanted me to “go back to Poland, or Scotland”, (the land of my ancestors), but that she believes that white people need to find out who they are. “Because most white people I’ve met have a sickness in them”, she said. To be clear, I hadn’t asked her the cliche question “what, do you want me to go back?” She brought it up, and I deeply appreciated it.
After hearing her say that, it reminded me of Thomas Merton, (in his talk on Sufism to his novices), saying that, “the war in Vietnam is America working out its own neurosis.”
A good part of my journey to the Hebrides was connected to this longing we all have… that reaches back into our own past, to retrieve a cultural wisdom that was suppressed and outlawed, but still found ways to spring back up and resurrect through the cracks.
The other part of my journey also carried the complexity of wanting to wrestle with the demons of being born a colonizer ("We are Legion"). If I am to do the work of untying knots and picking up lost threads, I have to “go there”, and look it straight in the eye. There is no getting around it. There is no smoothing it over. It is difficult, serious work, and it shows up in every facet of life, once you can see it.
I have to face these demons with the Muses and ancestors companioning me, so I don’t flatten the intricate terrain, into an oversimplification. For those of us who have been enchanted by white privilege, we really have no long game, and can often be entitled, when we want change. We as oppressors-who-are-waking-up, can end up in a sort of insipid, spoiled, trance, that makes us flimsy and whiny when in a pinch. Our muscles for subtlety and music are often drastically atrophied, because they haven't had to be fine-tuned. We need wise leaders of colour, many of whom are women or lgbtq+, to be the most heard, the most watched, and the most followed, for what lies ahead. The decentralized, must be held as our center.
And we need to dig down into our own histories.
What was perhaps most striking and surprising from my journey to Iona, was my encounter with Brigid, the goddess from the Celtic druidic tradition, and also the 6th Century Abbess of Kildare, St Brigid. Although most of Brigid’s wells were filled in throughout Scotland, seen as heretical by the Church of Scotland, there is still one of Brigid’s wells, on the Isle of Iona.
It was, for lack of a better description, a mystical experience, being touched by that well. Like some squelched, primordial creature (the Divine Feminine?) that had been long stuck in my throat, was unfettered and released.
I tasted a bit of the freedom that had been there, in the beautiful, organic syncretism before the State interfered with celtic paganism, and celtic Christianity in the 6th century.
I had visions of Brigid suckling the Christ child, as I stood on the highest hill in Iona, Dùn, knowing that the picking up of what has been long forgotten, is needed for the road ahead.
For Brigid, whose druidic lineage had an understanding of “Animism”, the Christ mystery would have been seen as an affirmation. A Mirror that had traveled across vast lands and waters to meet with her ancient wisdom and intuition.
Brigid happily called Christ her Druid, which was to place him in the highest prestige she could.
The Celtic imagination seamlessly could call Brigid the midwife, or foster mother of Jesus, with images of her as his wet nurse. As though she was one of the necessary bridges for pre-Christian wisdom to be carried forward into a widening sphere of acceptance and belonging in that region and culture.
I speak of the legend of Brigid, to point out that somewhere in there, deep under the roots of British colonialism, is a vibrant, plethora of expressions and colours, not conforming to the corruption of the uniform, and the bland.
I wrote this new song White, White World, as a lament - that conformity and vapid monoculture, has driven the complex garden of Creation into such painful imbalance.
I have a theory that the earth's imbalance and power-lust, is 100% connected to the avoidance of untended wounds.
In other words, the balance of the climate, of power, of the earth herself,... will not occur until those of us who "fit in", (in other words, who have built-in power), let the Big Grief come, and give ourselves away. Including giving away, a whole lot... of actual, physical possessions, and property.
I really believe climate change won't be healed with technology, but is a direct result of the imbalance of who gets to steward our breathtakingly beautiful earth.
Perhaps a good measuring stick for blindness to imbalance, is how much time we spend, trying to please and find acceptance in this society. Somewhere in there, for every single one of us, "fitting in" sits uncomfortably, because, it really isn’t who any of us are.
Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Most people who judge others as "broken" or "fallen", are the most broken inside. Hiding behind apparently respectable lives.
Every time I am tempted and desperate to fit in to what is seen as normal, there is some Voice in me that calls me back out to the edges... and that has perhaps been my most truest Christ encounter. Not everyone has the luxury of choosing the edges like I do. That's just where they're put.
None of the gospels were written in a privileged vacuum. They originated during the excruciating pain of occupation, and after the horrors of temple destruction, and civil war. When the writers remembered in their own way, the rebel of colour, who lived in nonviolent defiance of "civilization".
And somehow, this wisdom was passed on... that defiance of the kingdoms of this world, was a God thing. Which is why the gospels looks so ugly and SO boring, when possessed by the dominant culture.
I just can't do it.
So, probably very much like you, I seek. I sit in the Unknown. I journey. I long. For a radical balancing, that will challenge me, and that, I hope... will effing rock this world back into vibrancy.
As Martin Luther King said in this NBC interview, most white folk want "more of an instalment plan for equality". But that's not how Christ works. That's not how Symbiosis and Nature works either.
Monoculture is killing our planet.
So... it's time to drop the instalment plan, and go for the gusto.
For the love of God, I guarantee it will be more interesting.
*As a regenerative farmer of white settler heritage, and a songwriter with an AMAZING audience, I have committed to raising awareness about land reparations for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Please consider supporting Randy and Edith Woodley to resurrect their farm Eloheh/Eagle's Wings. After being attacked by a white supremacist group and having to move, they are ready to begin doing their healing work again, this time in New Mexico.
I can hear the land weeping for their presence. This is the tangible balancing that I speak of!
To help them to become stewards of this land, CLICK HERE.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on an aspiring permaculture farm on the Canadian prairies.