Freeing the Moon: Sumbling towards fully becoming a species
We are all participants in the time in human history when we are spiritually coming to begin thinking ourselves as one.
Let’s appreciate that we are in that moment and do it as much grace and courage as we can do it with. In that spirit, a mini-case study on inclusivity.
Edward Curtis, a white photographer and essentially an ethnographer took this photograph of an unnamed group of Kwakiuti tribal people in present day British Columbia dancing in a circle around a smoking fire in 1914. It was one of more than 1000 early 20th Century pictures he took. The picture is of a ritual the Kwakiuti people designed to cause a sky creature, which they believe swallowed the moon, to sneeze and thereby disgorge it.”
I am moved by the print. I love its’ simple composition. I am also moved by the poignant subject matter. I honor the events captured to being a religious ritual of the first order. It pulls the participants, and I suspect any nearby witnesses like me, into another space, another perspective.
Quite frankly I am a little jealous I can’t be there to join them. I certainly don’t think I am worthy.
Quite frankly I, wouldn’t because I don’t have the mindset to be able to fully join them in such a ritual. If I could I would risk spoiling the moment by being able to be nothing but a tourist. But, because I can’t and wouldn’t, other feelings co-mingle into the experience. The basic one being, how am I to appreciate this.
Am I to avert my eyes for fear of tokenizing Native people? Do I by witnessing these people in this moment, captured more than a century ago, risk trapping one of the many indigenous peoples of our continent in some mythic time gone bye?
I will if I am to be convinced that I should look away. Look away. I am not. Yet. I don’t start the newsletter this way because I see the Kwakiutl people as “noble” savages, or savages at all. I don’t want to treat them or this moment as a curiosity. Although, I confess it is. I don’t think their fire and dancing will cause the sky creature that swallowed the moon to sneeze it back into the sky. Nor in even saying that do I wish to mock them. Saying that, I suspect my ancestors in Ireland from the time I suspect this photo was taken in 1914, likely had what I will call “mushy” opinions about whether there were fairies, or leprechauns. And I don’t look down on them either. Still questions abound.
Should we if we could step in from the edge of this photograph taken about the time my grandparents were born tap them on the shoulder and inform them that if they just wait a bit that the eclipse will end, and moon will return.
When the ritual is over and literally the smoke and dust has settled, should we cross the cultural divide to dare hint at the question of whether they even really believed this would liberate the moon
And in asking those questions, what is required of our culture, or church, when it realizes that so much of its wisdom comes from a singular cultural perspective.
I don’t say all this to tie our hands with questions so tightly that we just give up. I ask it because I care in expanding my and our understanding and connection to all people. And stumbling forward begins with the courage to ask questions.
We are all participants in the time in human history when we are spiritually coming to begin thinking ourselves as one. Let’s appreciate that we are in that moment and do it as much grace and courage as we can do it with.
Rev. Steve Wilson