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Genocide of a tribe complete in Brazil

I was just sent this article by a friend and colleague. The last surviving member of an indigenous community in Brazil has been found dead (atm it seems to be from natural causes). I am shocked this hasn’t received more attention.

The article says that, “The man — whose real name was never known to the outside world — was found in a hammock in a hut in the Tanaru Indigenous territory in Rondonia state on the border with Bolivia on August 23, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) said in a statement. He had been living in complete isolation for 26 years.” The tribe lived surrounded by ranchers and were under constant threat from illegal miners and loggers. The article further notes that, “the majority of the tribe had been killed in the 1970s when ranchers moved into the area, cutting down the forest and attacking the inhabitants.” Nothing was done to stop them.

The name of the man, the last of his people, is not known. May he be met with joy by his ancestors. May they sing his name before his Gods. May he eat honey out of their hands. May he and his people be remembered.

More Musings on Lineage: Emma Livry (1842-1863)

Lineage is a fragile thing. I think about that every time I think about ballet, and I probably learned more about what it takes to maintain and nourish a lineage through having been a dancer than in all the studies and religious work I’ve done since. Lineage is connection, power, tradition, rootedness, identity, culture, and that culture is directed at maintaining and expressing something precious (be it devotion in our case as polytheists, or beauty and art, a different type of devotion, in the case of the dancers I’m discussing here). It is passed through bodies, through the stories, material culture, and lived experience of one generation to the next.  One generation takes the next in hand, carefully forming them, teaching them, helping them, and entrusting to them whatever lineage and tradition it is that one carries. That is a sacred trust, something to be cherished, reverenced, protected. 

In ballet, it’s not just greatness that is shaped this way, but the endurance of specific choreographies, pedagogies, and ballets themselves. One learns directly from those who danced before one. One dancer teaches a particular role to another, or a dancer begins to teach and passes on all he or she has learned to those students seeking to step into the art, and that is how the lineage and tradition survives. It is terrifyingly ephemeral. Break that chain and you can shatter the lineage. 

It is the same with religious traditions, which is why intergenerational passage of knowledge i.e. polytheists raising children as polytheists, cultivating devotion from the womb is so terribly important. We don’t have the societal structure (yet) to support any type of devotion let alone ours, but we can make our households, our homes, our minds, and our hearts living temples to the Gods one by one. We can restore. There’s a line in the Talmud that says that to save a single soul is to save the entire world. I’d like to think that raising up one good polytheist or being one oneself, or leaving behind a body of work to help the next generation, is similarly restorative to our traditions in the world. Anyway, I’m digressing when instead I specifically want to talk about a break in ballet lineage. 

In the mid 19th century, there were two main centers of ballet: France and Italy. Denmark also had a significant school. The Imperial Russian school existed but hadn’t yet come into the fullness of its tradition. That would take thirty plus years of Italian and French dancers and ballet masters working in St. Petersburg and sharing their knowledge, establishing clear lines of pedagogy, and training up several generations of dancers, each better than the last. After 1863 the locus of ballet moved to Italy and then Russia and French ballet fell into … not oblivion but let us say disregard. I’ll explain in a moment. It wasn’t until the Ballet Russe – shaped by French and Italian pedagogy – returned to Paris in the early 20thcentury that French ballet experienced a renaissance. I believe strongly that part of the reason for French ballet losing its place for close to a hundred years was the death of ballerina Emma Livry (and I will caution you before you read further, I’m going to talk about her death, and it was horrific). 

Emma Livry, my collection

In each generation there are dancers who stand out from the rest, the truly great artists and/or pedagogues. The heaviest weight of a tradition rests on their shoulders and they pass it on to their apprentices and students. They infuse the ballet tradition of a particular place with power, life, and vitality and make it shine like the sun in its glory. In the generation before Livry, the key dancers were Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) and Fanny Essler (1810-1884 – Essler actually visited the east coast of the US on one of her many tours! She performed in Baltimore).  There was also Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), Lucille Grahn (1819-1907), and Fanny Cerrito (1817-1909). It’s important to note that many of these women were also noted choreographers, a fact that until recently received very little attention (1). The same can be said for their predecessor Marie Salle (1709-1756). While all of these dancers at some point danced at the Paris Opera Ballet, it was Taglioni who truly reigned in Paris (and I think can probably be counted the greatest of the dancers mentioned here, though she and Essler were rivals on pretty equal terms technique-wise. Their artistic styles were almost diametrically opposed).

Emma Livry was Taglioni’s student and protegee. Before she met Taglioni, she debuted at age sixteen at the Paris Opera ballet in Taglioni’s signature role La Sylphide. When Taglioni saw her dance, she took Livry as a student and eventually choregraphed a ballet named Le Papillon (the butterfly) for the girl. Livry was incredibly talented and a noted sculptor at the time, Jean-Auguste Barre created sculptures of her. She was praised by ballet critics and it was clear, even in her own day, that she was the one destined to inherit the mantle of the French ballet tradition, and in doing so, carry it into the next generation. Sadly, tragically – and I don’t use that word often—that did not happen. 

On November 15, 1862, during a ballet rehearsal, her skirts caught fire. At that time, stages were lit by gaslights, not electricity. There had been fire related deaths before due to this, so dancers had the option of fire-proofing their skirts. Livry, as many dancers, declined because the substance used in fireproofing made the skirts stiff, unpleasant, and more importantly heavy. When she went up in flames, two male dancers rushed to help her, but by the time they were able to put the fire out, she was so burned that the stays of her corset (dancers wore corsets when they danced in the 19th century) had burned/fused into her ribs. Her face and breasts were unburned. Taglioni was present and tried to help her as the girl as well, and it is recorded Livry prayed fervently immediately after the ordeal. She didn’t die immediately but lingered bed-bound for months in an agony it is recorded she bore with piety and stoicism, dying on July 26, 1863. She died of septicemia when her wounds reopened (they never really healed) at the age of twenty. She is buried in Montmartre Cemetery. I knew most of this from my own time in ballet, but here’s the wiki article on her. 

Livry in “La Sylphide,” image from wiki (her arch in that standing foot is stunning)

As a dancer, Livry was particularly noted for her extraordinary ballon: the quality of her jumps, the ability to jump lightly and to seemingly hover in the air. Le Papillon was the only ballet Marie Taglioni ever choreographed.

Here’s the thing: the power of French ballet died with her for decades. It’s a noticeably glaring gap in the history of ballet. Many of the leading pedagogues had moved to St. Petersburg (which led to the glory days of the Imperial ballet there, and the Ballet Russe, which returned and repaid the debt to France generations later). Livry’s death, however, left a lacuna in the mid 19th century that no other French dancer could fill. I’m not the only historian to note this. I can’t recall where I read it, possibly here, but other historians have also pointed out that with Livry’s death, ballet in France went into a serious decline (2). 

I will close by pointing out that the work you do matters. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. It matters even if all you’re doing is choosing to pray or make an offering. In the eyes of our Gods, I do not believe this is insignificant. It is restoration, the whisper of lineage, devotion and in a tiny way, the restoration of our world. Never ever doubt that your lives matter, that the choices you make matter. You may not realize how much at the time.  You don’t have to be a spiritual specialist like a spirit worker or priest for that to be true.  It matters and what you create matters. So, find your devotional voice. Find the medium by which you will bring beauty into the world and throw yourself into it without hesitation. It doesn’t matter if others think it ‘good.’ Pray. Do your devotions. Bring beauty into the world and know that in doing so you are reweaving delicate threads of traditions through which the Gods, I think, are aching to express Themselves. You’re restoring windows to the world through which They can act. May be so always and may you be blessed in the striving.

γινέσθω

Notes: 

  1. Until the past two, maybe three years, there was in ballet circles the mistaken idea that until the 20th century choreographers were male. Even now, it’s still seen as men choreograph, women dance. This is not the case at all though historically. Women, from the earliest significant periods of ballet, like Marie Salle in the 18th century, were choreographers, and noted as such in their heyday. 
  2. The prestige of French ballet began to rise again in the 1920s (after the Ballet Russe re-infused ballet there with vitality). Several noted Imperial ballerinas, most especially Matilda Kchessinska , Olga Preobrajenska, and I believe, Lyubov Egorova began teaching in Paris. Then there was ballerina Yvette Chauvire and Claude Bessy, the latter the youngest child to ever be admitted to the Paris Opera Ballet School, and who later became director of the school. Both of whom helped train the incomparable Sylvie Guillem, and thus the tradition in France was revived, restored, and holds its place today as one of the great schools of modern ballet. 

A Sancta’s Feastday

Yesterday was my adopted mom’s feast day — she is honored as a sancta in at least three traditions and I would venerate her anyway because she is my mom. I think of all the things she liked when she was alive, especially those foodstuffs of which she’d rarely allow herself the indulgence and we festoon her shrine with them. It was a good day and I feel like she blessed me with this sense — all day — of cheerfulness. This is not my normal demeanor, let me tell you. I miss her and it’s odd having to navigate different registers (Mutti versus sancta) on such feast days, but I actually wish I could do more for her.

I learned so much from her care, especially in loving the Gods, in being a better human being, and one would think that as a spirit worker, an ancestor worker that death would be an easy thing to accept but one would most definitely be wrong. There were times the first few years after she died where part of me wanted to rage: how dare this world exist without her in it! That does pass though mostly, and I can read the reams of letters we exchanged, tell her stories, cook the recipes we both loved and explored together, and share the pearls of wisdom she poured into my hands with my friends and husband…it was awhile before I could do that without pain.

Who made you? Who transformed your life? Whose stories do you carry as though they were marrow nourishing your bones?

I encourage my readers to honor your dead here: tell me about one of your ancestors that is particularly dear to you (which is not to say that the others weren’t–oh, I hate leaving any of my dead out!). Share a recipe. If you’re named after an ancestor, tell me about that person. Who do you honor first and foremost when you turn to your dead? Let us celebrate them together. 🙂

Let Us Remember Julian

Christians call him the apostate. We – many polytheists across traditions—consider him a saint, and some, a martyr. Julian (331-363) was Roman emperor from 362-363. While raised a Christian, he returned to some type of Hellenic polytheism (one deeply steeped in Platonism) very early on, and during his all too brief reign, attempted to drive back the encroaching dominance of Christianity. (1). My particular favorite bit of legislation, which he did not live long enough to really see play out, was forbidding Christians from teaching classical texts. This would, had it been allowed to come to fruition, have barred them from the corridors of power, and more importantly from evangelizing and instantiating Christianity in those corridors of power (2).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Julian today and it occurred to me that I have a prayer card for him. To honor him, through Monday 9pm, I will give a free prayer card for Julian to anyone who emails me at Krasskova at gmail.com asking for one. Include your name and a mailing address. One per person.

May our sancti, sanctae, and martyrs ever and always be remembered.
What is remembered, lives.

Julian by Sasha Chaitow

Notes:

  1. For Christians, this was not a good thing, but I would point out that whereas Christianity can exist, practice, and for the most part be left alone in polytheistic theology, the opposite has never been true.
  2. Christians understood this well. I think it’s rather comparable on a certain level to the way so many theology departments (I exclude Fordham, which has consistently been wonderful and welcoming) won’t even consider polytheists for their grad programs, often instead pushing them into religious studies (if they’re mentored at all).

Veterans Day 2020

We will remember them.

I’m writing this with a very bad headache, so I will probably be keeping it shorter than usual. I just want to bring two ritual days to people’s attention in case some of you, my readers, may want to celebrate too. 

Tomorrow, my household observes Veterans’ Day. Originally, this was called Armistice Day and commemorated the end of WWI, the armistice of which was declared November 11, 11am (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). It’s still called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in some places. We have just passed the one hundredth anniversary of WWI and when I honor the military dead, it’s the dead of this war specifically that come forward more than any others. I don’t know why, perhaps because I lost relatives in this war (my cousin Wesley Heffner went over with Pershing’s forces and died on a field in France). 

Anyway, we’ll be doing a rite to honor the military dead tomorrow evening, and this will also involve extensive libations for Odin, since in my household, tomorrow is His feastday as Herjafodr (Father of Hosts), Herteit (Glad of War), Valfoðr (Father of the Slain), and Valkjosandi (Chooser of the Slain). 

I’ve written about WWI and my observance of Veterans’ Day before. You can read a couple of articles here and here , here and here and here.

For the Fallen
by R.L. Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

I’ve written on my other blog about my cousin Wesley Heffner. That piece, part of a larger section on an ancestral pilgrimage I did, may be found here.

 Sunwait, a celebration of the six weeks before Yule which is held by some Heathens today begins this week. This will be my household’s first year celebrating this and we plan to keep it on Fridays. I’ll write more about that after Veteran’s day. Be well, all my readers. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Remember your dead. 

“Doughboy” by G. Krasskova

the political is spiritual — The House of Vines

Every word.

Apropos of my last post … [Edited to add: woops, I meant to link this post, though I suppose the other works too.] How does destroying statues of elk and mermaids get justice for George Floyd, Elijah McClain or Breonna Taylor, let alone all of the poor White, Latino, Indigenous, Queer, et alia lives that […]

via the political is spiritual — The House of Vines

for NZ

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, NZ. To be brutally murdered in one’s place of worship, in the midst of prayer, in a space that should be a haven and sanctuary is particularly evil. I have seen many today denigrating the idea of prayer as a response, but there is healing power in prayer and in bringing our shock and pain to our Gods and I very much encourage you, my readers, to hold the victims and their families in prayer, that their ancestors may welcome the former and comfort the latter. May they have peace. May the families and their local community have healing.

Sadly, the self described “Eco-fascist” who committed these heinous acts used language in some of his online posts that reference Valhalla, leading many to wonder if he is connected in some way to the Heathen community. If he is (and there is no definite proof), then it is in the shallowest of ways. No God spurred these actions nor is something like this in any way supported by Heathen groups. I think it safe to say, as I do here, that as a religious body, across denominations, we condemn this type of mindless brutality. We love our traditions, our Gods, and our people but that does not translate and should not translate into actively attacking others. Let us nourish our traditions and build them up in healthy ways. Terrorism has no place in that.

Thank you for your service

Some Info on WWI

We are currently in the 100th year anniversary of WWI, a war that I think often gets forgotten in the wake of the horrors of WWII. I recently read a couple of things that showed me exactly how little knowledge there is not only of this war, but of history in general. I thought it might be helpful to post a couple of simple, straightforward videos on the origins of WWI. These are not painful to watch and in fact are actually quite entertaining. Maybe it will help increase readers’ knowledge base. I agree with the narrator of one of these videos: WWI was the seminal event of the 20th century. We should know what caused it and what happened.

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Here’s a discussion (quite an entertaining one no less) on factors that led to the start of WWI:

Here’s another (love this series):

(There’s one error: it wasn’t Alexander the II who was forced to accept an impotent parliament, it was Nicholas the II. I think it was just a slip of the tongue on the narrator’s part. The creators of the cartoons own up to errata here and also provide interesting and random facts that didn’t make it into the main videos. I particularly like the conclusion he comes to at the very end. Watch all the other videos first though before watching this one.: ).

Here’s part II:

and part III (they’re very short):

and the final part IV:

I particularly like the second video in that it points to the long range, inter-generational impact of WWI – not just that it led to WWII, but that the entire face of the 20th century up to and including our generation would likely have been completely different but for this war. It changed everything.

Remembering the Somme

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Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest engagements of WWI. Over nineteen thousand soldiers died on the first day alone and the battle raged from July 1 to November 18, 1916. It was the largest battle of WWI. Over a million people died making it also one of the bloodiest battles in human history. 

I think we often forget about this war – once called ‘the War to End All Wars’ in light of the horrific war that followed twenty years later. It’s easy to forget the impact the First World War had on society – it ended the world as people knew it, transformed the face of Europe, transformed social relations (not necessarily for the better), changed the position of women, revolutionized warfare, and set the stage for the second world war. It also wiped out a generation of young men and some women (I’m reading a wonderful book right now called “Female Tommies” by E. Shipton that discusses the role of women in WWI, including women who actually saw combat).

I am struck as well by the fact that it’s no longer in our living memory. I believe the last (or one of the very last) veterans of this war died in 2012 at something like 110 years old. It has passed out of living memory and that seems to be both a powerful moment and a dangerous one: powerful because the duty of remembrance passes more forcefully to us, that those who died might not have died in vain and that we may learn and remember, remember and learn and do our damndest to prevent such senseless loss of life again (we’re not doing the best job of that, I fear) and dangerous because since it is not in living memory, it’s far too easy for its impact to be downplayed, and its sacrifices…forgotten.

I wasn’t able to post anything yesterday as I normally would have done, but I did leave memorial tokens about – yet another “glamour bomb” urging remembrance of both this battle, the war itself, and most especially those who fought in it. I scattered them across three towns. Today, a friend sent me a couple of links highlighting other memorials for the dead and I’ll share those with you here.

A theatre troupe across the UK created a living memorial:

“The powerful scenes of the young men standing en masse during rush hour at UK’s busiest thoroughfares provided a poignant reminder of the scale of human suffering experienced by so many, 100 years ago today.”

Read the whole article here.  See more at the official site here

In Exeter, the first day of the battle was marked by figurines laid out to represent the nearly twenty thousand dead on that July 1 so long ago.

“The figurines, each clad in a hand-made calico shroud, mark the anniversary of the start of the battle 100 years ago. They were placed on the grass next to the World War One memorial in Exeter, by artist Rob Heard. The artwork was opened at 07:30 BST, the exact time the whistle was blown 100 years ago for the battle’s start.”

Read more here

Then there is the Every Man Remembered Project run by the British Royal Legion which allows one to commemorate individual soldiers who died in WWI. You can commemorate, place a poppy on a map to mark their passing and, if you wish, donate to the Legion for specific causes. It’s a powerful and beautiful memorial and there are many personal accounts posted by those who’ve chosen to become involved. It costs nothing to commemorate and that can be done here

The legion is also selling gold poppy lapel pins, made from melted down shell casings found at the Somme, with soil from the battlefield mixed into the paint, the proceeds of which go to help veterans of today’s wars. Read more on that here

I’m glad to note that the US will be getting its own WWI memorial soon. Those interested can learn more about that here and donate toward the memorial if so moved. 

For the Fallen

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.