I. Decolonizing Our Souls // Re-membering Our Indigenous Soul Wisdom
by Rohini Walker
Lofty sounding, yes. But deeply necessary at this time, at this crucial fork in the road. We cannot remain in the clutches of the oppressive ways of colonialism and its legacies anymore. Not as people of color, or as Caucasians. We have, all of us, been colonized into becoming oppressor and oppressed.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
—Steve Biko, South-African anti-apartheid activist
I am a woman of color. And my observation is this: for the most part, my many white loved ones do not know what to do with the bloodstained privilege that has become their inheritance. It seems to me that they feel as oppressed as their more ‘exotic’ sisters and brothers. For the most part, whether acknowledged or otherwise, they feel burdened, guilty, oppressed even, by the unjust power and privilege granted them for the sheer accident of birth of having being born with white skin. In those that the burden of this legacy remains unacknowledged, or unconscious, it manifests in an internalized trauma that seeps its way into awareness through manifold pathologies.
In popular culture, this has perhaps most poignantly been documented in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining. The movie and its deep, disturbing subtext has been studied at length since its release in 1980. One of the many plausible analyses about the film coalesces around the The Overlook Hotel in Colorado, where the protagonists, the Torrances, are winter caretakers, and which is built on an Indian burial ground:
‘The Shining’ is also explicitly about America’s general inability to admit to the gravity of the genocide of the Indians — or, more exactly, its ability to ‘overlook’ that genocide. Not only is the site called the Overlook Hotel with its Overlook Maze, but one of the key scenes takes place at the July 4th Ball. That date, too, has particular relevance to American Indians.”
Bill Blakemore, Kubrick’s Shining Secret, The Washington Post, July 12, 1987
Indeed, as Blakemore describes in his article, the internalized trauma of this unacknowledged, unconscious, overlooked, bloody legacy of colonialism is depicted with terrifying insight in one of its most memorable scenes:
“The first and most frequently seen of the film’s very real American ‘ghosts’ is the flooding river of blood that wells out of the elevator shaft, which presumably sinks into the Indian burial ground itself. The blood squeezes out in spite of the fact the red doors are kept firmly shut within their surrounding Indian artwork-embellished frames. We never hear this rushing blood. It is a mute nightmare. It is the blood upon which this nation, like most nations, was built, as was the Overlook Hotel.”
To jump back slightly before we continue, you may have noticed that I emphasized for the most part because of course, the dumb, stubborn cancer of white supremacy is very much alive and kicking. This of course, is a wholly different, deeply sinister kettle of fish from internalizing one’s own soul-trauma around the atrocities of colonialism.
Controversially perhaps, I posit this as food for thought for future discussion: that white supremacist racists have also been colonized. Their souls have also been infected by the faceless, omnipresent oppressors. Our colonizers are also theirs.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Letters from Luna are breadcrumbs in the trail of this re-membering back to ourselves, to a wisdom that we came into this world with. This wisdom still lives on in us, deeply buried, waiting patiently to be exhumed. It whispers to us in our silent, still moments; in our dreams. It speaks of love, a universal, transcendent species of love; one that we cannot fully contain and open up to. And so we numb it out to varying degrees, with various addictions and compulsions, the most extreme of which is racism and xenophobia.
This indigenous wisdom also speaks of a wholeness. We came into this world whole and complete. And we were tranced into forgetting this fundamental truth of who we are. Even if you are one of the rare souls who had idyllic, trauma-free formative years, you still had to play the survival game of striving for approval, like the rest of us. And that meant burying away something vital, true and powerful about yourself, as your parents had to do, and theirs before them…and on it goes.
For me, it took a physical and mental breakdown on the eve of turning 40 that finally sucker-punched me into the difficult process of re-membering. I am still very much in the throes of it. It shall be a long process, peppered with landmines of false starts. The deep conditioning of colonialism’s trance of forgetting has become entrenched.
But as I and countless others find ourselves at this crossroads, it is also thrilling.
by Rohini Walker
Take it back.
Take it back,
it is not mine and
has nothing to do
You cannot find me here,
hiding in these bushes, cowering,
The light bulb is flickering on.
Fingers reach for the vial of tonic
and eyeballs are doused in it.
Open your eyes.
Open them wide
into that bright glare.
Look at it,
even if it makes your eyes water and sting.
See in the dark, it is a gift.
Don’t throw it away.
O rampant, rigid mind…
wander this way.
Scale the gates that say ‘Keep out’,
find what loving mischief awaits you there.
It has been waiting your whole life,
patiently amusing itself.
It knew you would come.
You went and hid yourself far away
when the tyrants came.
The time has come to return
to your homeland
and set it free.
It had to be in the wilderness of the desert that this dark night of the soul journey began for me – or ‘breakdown’ in the sterile, soulless parlance of the colonizer. This desert summoned me, and I, sleepwalking, answered its call.
Arguably, it is in nature, in wilderness, that numbing distractions and false notions of who we are, are stripped away. For me, the summons came when I was in the city, where I had lived, and intended to live, all my life. One day, breathing became difficult. All I could think of was escaping the turgid pull of a lifeless life. Of endless rounds of, now meaningless, distractions.
If you are reading this in the city or the countryside, no matter. If you feel the pull towards nature but cannot get there yet, no matter. There is a wilderness deep within you wherein resides your indigenous wisdom. This is also where the necessary arsenal for decolonization has been buried away. This wild, indigenous wisdom is stirring and speaking to you in dreams and symbols.
Letters from Luna is offered to you as a guide as together, we navigate our way through and out of this age of colonialism; as we re-member ourselves to wholeness.
I leave you with these words from the ineffable Audre Lorde – an invocation to the erotic as the space from which to access not only the power of pleasure – a pleasure that women especially have had to reign in, lest they be labeled Whores of Babylon – but also the portal from which to leap into true intuition and felt-knowing:
“The dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic – the sensual – those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.
“Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase ‘It feels right to me’ acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light towards any understanding. And understanding is a handmaiden which can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born. The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.”
—Audre Lorde The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House
We will excavate deeper into this truth of the sublimating power of the erotic, as presented by the ineffable Lorde, in future Letters. For now, I ask you this: how has the devolution of the erotic into a fetishized, objectified taboo silenced your intuition, your ‘felt sense’, and your relationship to wilderness within and without? How has this devolution of the erotic colonized you?
Thank you for reading this first installment in our experimental journey towards soul-decolonization.
Until soon + with love,
Editor of Luna Arcana
p.s. Notably, here is a poignant image of current events in Bolivia, where democratically elected, longtime president, Evo Morales has been displaced following a coup. Morales is Bolivian of indigenous descent. He has been replaced with right-wing senator, Jeanine Áñez, who has declared herself president. Here she is pictured on CNN raising the Bible in victory over the ‘natives’.