Jürgen W. Kremer
Below you will find several statements that may help you develop a sense of whom you encounter when I am part of a learning community and share my background. I have culled several excerpts from my creative writing. They discuss aspects of my ancestry, my cultural identity, my shamanic connections to a feathery companion, my relationship, my spiritual practice, and they give examples of how I have worked with mythic stories to gain a deeper understanding of myself, the cultures I am involved with, and these challenging historical times. Enjoy!
Who am I?
Most obviously: I am a white man. White is short for "socialized into a Eurocentered frame of mind." White is the name of forgetting. Forgetting so much of how we came to be where we are. I am a white man. Boxed into a box that likes to forget its name. I do not walk alone. Like other white men something walks with me. With me walks a shadow. Before me I project the shadow of forgetting where I came from. Behind me trails the shadow of the tears of native peoples. Below me I march on the shadow of the lands my peoples have raped. Above me looms the shadow of the spirits which I am blind to. All around me walks the shadow of domination, witchhunts, genocides, holocausts, sexism, racism. I do not walk alone.
I grew up by the river Elbe where people have settled for thousands and thousands of years ago. I grew up on the lowest part of the river in what was at the time West Germany or the Federal Republic of Germany. Long ago reindeer herders roamed the ice age plains, some 10 or 15 thousand years ago. They set up three poles and offered a young reindeer to the spirits. Long ago, some 7 to 3 thousand years ago or so, there were the megalithic peoples of the Old Norse Vanir spirits. Then, later, as recorded by the Roman Tacitus, there were the Myrgings, a Germanic tribe. My ancestors arrived in that place on my father's side from the Alsace-Lorraine, moving up the valley of the river Rhine to Hamburg. On my mother's side they came from along the Baltic. The line reaches toward Lithuania and now some of the names seem to be Jewish.
But is this all I am? Is this all there is? At times something seems to be sitting on my shoulders, a black one. And who is that feathery part of myself?
I am the dark cross of memory. I am Raven, black feathers glistening in the sun. My wings carry vision, imagination, they bring knowledge from afar.
Raven they call me, Rabe and hrafn, they call me gįranas. By many names I go, and many tales are told about me. I am known as Big-Raven, as Raven Man, as Yetl, Nankilslas, Txamsem, Kurkyl, Kutqu, and Quiknnaqu. The people of the northern part of this earth, they see me in multiple ways, as creator and transformer, as trickster, and as hero who brings new things into the world. Some talk of how I was white once, in the long-ago, and how I was blackened with smoke and soot. Other stories speak of the dark times when light was kept hidden away by possessive beings; so they tell how I liberated the light, they talk of my theft so that sun, moon and stars would shine again; and they tell tales of how I stole fresh waters so that there would be rivers and streams on earth. There are stories of how I tricked salmon and bear and cormorant, there are stories of how I changed from man into woman. My name is different in different places. So often I helped people with their far sight and visions, with divination, and a deeper knowing of the times.
I am the black one, as big as a hawk. “Kolk,” I croak, and “ruŋk,” I speak. I sound low and high, and my beak can peck into wakefulness what fearful humans would like to forget. I croak and croak until I get their attention. And I circle and scout to bring awareness and the arrow of intent. Huginn and Muninn are among my names, as Ravenmind I am known, and Ravenmemory also.
My adventures have been many. The Native American Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida, the Siberian Chukchi and Koryak recount them, and so do many others. I have been there at the times of the great deluge, I kicked the waters until they receded, I scouted for dry lands. And I have kept the company of the earthdiver, the loon, who brought up the lands from the water. I have served as totem for many. I have been a sign of lineage and relation. Gratefully I have received the offerings of those who honor my presence.
Many transformations have resulted from my flights. And I have been transformed by my human company -- what I was in ancient times I no longer am. Once I was creator, trickster of change, visionary ally, and power animal to the shamans of old. Then the Christian church arose and many would see my powers as evil. They would cast dispersions upon my name. In many lands they would hunt me close to extinction.
In the long-ago I would sit on the shoulders of the women and men of seeing. I was of the sun and the fire, of water and rain. I served as spirit guide and messenger to those who kept my relation in the proper way. I lived with the shamans, the healers, and visionaries. In those times I was honored as helper and in certain places even as supreme spirit and creator.
With Greek Apollo, Athena, and Hera; with Cuchulain, Bran, and Lug of Celtic traditions I flew; I kept the company of Nergal in Sumer, with Mithra I was in ancient Persia and beyond, and with so many others. The Celtic Mabinogion tells of me, and Horace sees me as rising sun and bringer of rain. Shakespeare wrote, Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning may bear the raven’s eye! There are so many stories, some short, some epic, that tell adventures of mine.
Some people, they don’t know the difference between my cousin crow and myself. To others this difference does not matter at all: Ravenbird, crowbird -- it is all the same to them.
As times changed, greed began to move voraciously across the earth from place to place. People now began to see me with different eyes. In the north of Europe my name turned bad and I was hunted as bird of ill omen. The village shaman had been pushed aside by jarls or earls or even kings of saga fame. Women were dishonored now, and, later, they were persecuted for their visionary sight, and for their healing powers. Now I was seen as sitting on the shoulders of Wotan or Odin, the grim master with one eye who had usurped what once was shaman’s privilege, the place of women and men of seeing. He was used to justify so many atrocities, hangings, drownings, and more. People no longer knew what it meant to be in good relation with all they are a part of and that is a part of them. And then there were those who did not follow the revolutionary impulse of the Jew Jesus, his original instructions. Instead, they created the Christian churches. These missionaries and priests, they saw my power of old, and called me evil. They did not want me as helper and midwife, as healer and messenger.
But even during these dark times, those who were practitioners of alchemical wisdom, they talked of ravenhead, the ground of conjunction, the nigredo and darkness whence comes the change of the ages and change in humans. They worked with dew, with salts and ashes, and other elements that kept memory of old.
So here I fly, dark cross of memory. I, aide-mémoire, scout for memory shards as I help this man see how he walked as a child in Germany, how he always walked with his ancestors, how he received calls from the far north, the arctic. He wants to see me, yet the veils of his culture have constricted his sight, have shrunken his imagination and vision. I was his company then, as I am now. He moved from Hamburg to Native American lands to learn the ways of balancing. He suffered his people’s memory losses, the denials of who I, Raven, can be; the ways in which they had made me an accomplice in the use of bad medicine, of evil; an accomplice in greed, death, and destruction. He gives away food in my honor, he fasts, and now he can see a little better; he discerns me past the distortions that have desecrated my name. Now he remembers his obligation to be present to me, to talk with bear and ancestors. He remembers his duty to purify the roots that have been abused to justify so much destruction. I help him remember his ties to a conversation that works to honor and nurture all beings about him. I watch him turn around, facing away from Native American traditions that had helped him out so many times, facing toward his own ancestors now, and the people they once traded with in a good way, the Sįmit, the Lapps. That was in the long-ago, before Odin and church, before missionaries and willful taxation. As a child he had felt that call, that yearning for travel to Kirkenes in northernmost Norway, in Sįpmi, to be with reindeer and plover, to be in the tundra. I am his company as he seeks the trade of old, as he works to be in the balancing mind of his ancestors of ancestors of ancestors. I help him drink the dark milk of daybreak and I carry his black cross of memory on my wings. I dunk him into his romanticism and the idealizations and betrayals it invites. I give him vision to walk on the Native American lands as a white man, now with some color in his face. I help him stand where different circles of memory and knowing meet inside him. With the persistence of memory, its force and persuasiveness today, and the desires and needs that modify memory, with all this I help him out.
What I was in ancient times I no longer am nor can be. But if truths are spoken, then the awareness I carry can arise from the knowledge of old, now richer for today, for the future.
I am raven and Raven, I am white feathered and black feathered, as much bird as a figure of speech, as much feathery flight as the twist of imagination.
I am the opener. Gently I unlatch the portal. It is made from lindenleaf. I work the soft spot on his back so that memory may enter, so that the story may be recounted. I, Ravenmemory, and my twin, Ravenmind, we help to lift the fateful words from the well.
So, when I travel, I don't travel alone. There is my whiteness that travels with me. There is my ancestry, the history I carry. And there is raven.
Among the Germanic-Nordic peoples Raven flies as emissary by the names of Huginn and Muninn - Intent or Consciousness or Mind, and Memory. The twin ravens not only of the shaman, but the familiars, the fylgja of many others. The person transforming into ravens. The ravens transforming into people. Raven assists those who desire and know how to see, prophecy, shamanize, sing, make offerings, heal, sit in council in a seeing way. Raven is known to be a smart bird, a bird with a long memory. Raven may put a healing leaf on you if you are in need.
Raven is one of the ways in which I stay embedded in what I call participatory consciousness: as a scout raven represents the other side, so to speak, the side of what we are embedded into, all the nature relations we are woven into, and the twin ravens Huginn and Muninn speak to us from that other side, truly: that side of ourselves. And this ourselves is not the egoic, heroic, inflated, or idealizing expansion of egoic consciousness into our nature relations (as control of nature), but the obverse: the remembrance of our consciousness together with all our relations, our relations expanding into our awareness, our participation in their existence becoming conscious. Raven is my way of participating in reality and of telling the stories of my increasing participation as I reconnect and recover my Germanic and Nordic roots and their interconnections with other peoples.
Let me tell you some more about myself in another voice:
I am born into this life with nothing but storysherds in my hands. Storysherds. Fragments poisoned by a deep-seated violence. The shocking violence that is the history of the white man. Whatever the accomplishments of the European traditions, their foundational violence is equally astonishing. The violence of the people that I am born into. A violence that especially reigned terror on all that is different, that is Other. Other peoples, other creatures. Wrought terror on those of different mind and tradition. Reigned terror even on the land itself. Wielded the sword of destruction. Took the life out of visionary stories and exiled tricksters.
I am born into the ruins of a vast war. A war that has all to do with who I became. As a child, I walk its ruins. The empty shells of buildings destroyed from the air. I walk through the ruins of a people. People misguided by a Führer. A Führer who perverted the myths of this people. He continued where Vikings had prepared the patterns of violence. Of my people. The German people. I confront these myths. The stories of the Germanic peoples. I confront the history of this Führer. I confront the history of the Vikings and other Norse peoples of old. Vikings spreading violence across the lands. The Vikings, and what they taught the Führer. And how he misused myths. I come of age amidst shame. Amidst shame and rejection of the mold with which I am stamped. The mold of myth abused and of history. I am spurned on by fear and doubt. Spurned on to discover roots that do not smell of death. Of death and abuse, of Viking raids and rapes, of witchhunts, of concentration camps. Spurned on to look beyond the repulsive images of Wotan and Odin, beyond the slavery, patriarchy, and class systems that used these images. I am spurned on to look to the shamanic origins of these images, to purify them, to re-story them in my mythic imagination. And I fear to get caught in the treachorous layers of their abuse for ideological justification.
The dream that prompts my journey of remembrance tells me to enter forbidden grounds. I am told to explore what Indigenous roots I might have. So I trespass where purification is needed. I reach toward what my people, the Germans, seem to have forgotten: I lift shards from the well of memory, and I move past Siegfried and Odin toward roots that are so much deeper than the murderous world created by Hitler, deeper than medieval witchhunts, deeper than Viking violence, and deeper than what early Indo-European, early Kurgan presence spread across Europe. I reach for roots where I hope to find a conversation with land, ancestors, and time, where I hope to find stories and images that hint at respectful and gaming exchanges with all that surrounds us. I mourn what has been lost. I am harrowed with the grief and anguish of the wrongdoings and sufferings of my ancestors. They taint deeply what I cherish about European traditions. There is so much noise, so much distortion, and the roots are contaminated, the stories are incomplete.
My stories are stories of an obligation I have taken on. I am here for balancing, or at least to come, on occasion, closer to the elusive moving point of balance. Maybe my stories will place me there, perchance -- now and then. If chance allows, if grace allows. They are stories of deconstructing whiteness and deconstructing Indianness.
I traveled with compassionate ruthlessness from Northern Germany to California, my place of settlement, then back to Germany and Sįpmi (Lappland), returning to my place of settlement on Native American lands. Compassionate ruthlessness -- ruthlessness because the most stringent rules of purification and balancing of distortions apply; compassion because ruthlessness without it breeds but violence out of violence. Ruthlessness gives compassion its strength and stance in the search for truths, while compassion gives ruthlessness humane-ness, care, and forgiveness. The possibility of integration and resolution only arises once memory is sufficiently complete, and filled with the multiple truths people hold. Willa Cather wrote that “artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” Honing my sense of truthfulness is how this journey has been healing for me and the way in which I carry my ancestry. The most compelling understanding of truth I have found for myself acknowledges that even the most abstract or objective aspects of truths always and inevitably intersect with history, land, economics, personal story, the human body, feelings, dreams, and more. Within this framework striving for understanding, consensus, objectivity, and equitable knowledge exchange among different truths and traditions is a moral imperative. It needs to be balanced with patience and respect for disagreements and multiple perspectives. So this particular story is as much autobiographical as it is historical, philosophical, mythic, and visionary. And it is incomplete.
I have been told by Native people, friends and fellow writers, how difficult all this would be, how my people, the Germans and those of Germanic descent in particular, would hate being reminded of what we, as white people, carry. And how we would hate to remember the old stories. They have also reminded me of the stamina it takes to sniff out the Eurocentric distortions down to their deepest layers. Working back to remember these root layers means refining our sense of truthfulness. And it throws large doubts on the collective story in which we now are all, willy-nilly, participating within our global village. I enter where the circles of the Shoah, Native Amerian genocide, my privilege as a middle-class white person of European upbringing, and the Pomo-Miwok and Nomlaki lands I live on, intersect inside of me.
I am an immigrant, a settler, a latecomer to Native American lands. I have settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and a patch of land further north that I associate with the Native Nomlaki name “Waltoykewel.”
With me walk the presences of my ancestors. There is the line that reaches from Hamburg back to Krefeld in the Rhineland, and then further south into the Alsace-Lorraine; they are the Brunöhlers, Höppners, Cousins, and Kremers. These are some of the names and places patriarchal tracings account for. And the maternal line, it reaches a little north, to Lübeck, then eastward to Grevesmühlen and Klein Jarchow, to Alt-Pansdorf and Wismar, and further away to Susken-Goldap and Butkuhnen, today known as Gołdap and Botkuny in Poland. These are the Rosenows and Borcherts, the Olerichs, Stürholdts, and Boczians. One of them is Martin. Martin Boczian. Born early in the 19th century in that little corner of the world that now seems to have been Lithuanian, then Russian, then East Prussian. This ancestor I see as my alter, my dreaming and memory.
I hunger for balancing. I hunger to walk the hills hitting the moving point of balance as I step. Or at least with a sense of what that might mean. Balance, it is never a given, it can never be held on to, it is always balancing. It arises from the graceful chance that efforts can prepare. I hunger to walk with stories about the nurturing cycles among all beings. Or at least to climb across the slippery shale of Waltoykewel in Nomlaki land as part of a conversation that strives to balance. The playful conversation of creation. I despair of getting the story straight, of finding the word precise enough to heal and increase truthfulness.
I give voice to Raven, the bird that carries me to memory.
And let me tell you about who I am in yet another way. The following statement is written in the voice of the seeress of the Old Norse traditions, the völva. She speaks about relationship. Imagine this woman talking in front of a small group of people while in a trance state induced by spirit songs. At the end she talks about the dream that brought my wife and me together.
What I see leads back through the generations. I ask everyone to give me a hearing, descendants of the bear, descendants from the tree, I ask you to give me a hearing. It is your wish, ancestors, that I relate well the old lore as far back as I can remember. Here is a story that has changed across generations, has shifted as balance was lost, as men took power over women. And I see that it is a story that arrives now to heal.
I look down the line of men. What I see is Siegfried, Wagner´s hero, and, before that, hero of the courtly Nibelungenlied. And I see Siguršr of the Icelandic Völsunga Saga. This hero, I see him dazzle, enchant, and flicker in the eyes of his beholders as their gaze transforms him to their own needs and times. In the layers that have gone before I see Frišur, my great-grandson, and then I see my beloved, my mate, Frišur Afa, grandfather, I see him, ancestor of ancestors of Siegfried.
And I see Brűnhilde who should have been Siegfried’s, who should have been with him longer than she was, and Sigrdrifa, Siguršr’s inner consort. I see her change across the times, this wise woman, my descendent, she shifts from valkyrja, the chooser of the slain of Viking imagination, Óšin´s handmaiden, she changes and behind her appears the bird spirit, plumed guardian, one of the dķsir, an older presence. She is connected to a long line of wise women, of völvur, she is related to me, Drifa Amma. Indeed, the story is old, much older than most like to think.
These are the fateful lines I see. The songs that are chanted, they are strong. They pull my vision, they guide me to look closer and closer.
I see through the recent times when the hero’s name scarcely is spoken, when he is hidden deep in the recesses of the German mind. I see him put on his magic hat of invisibility, I see him mount on his heroic journey right after Hitler inflicted wounds not just on others, but also his own people. I see him rebuild and rebuild the country, the economy booming. There is no fear, there cannot be fear. There is only the work of rebuilding, as shame is buried amidst the frenzy of creating financial growth.
And as I look back a little farther I see him ride his horse as Teutonic knight of yore, ride for the victory of the Nordic race. I hear him scream Heil! and charge and destroy and devastate. I see his ruthlessness wield the sword that kills the Jews, the Roma, the gay people, and so many others, so many millions. I see him at work in killing factories and in battle fields. I see him deny his fear. His soul is divorced from his consort. She is but the child bearing mother, elevated, yet also degraded, unreal for the inflated hero in knight´s armor, swastika on the shield, riding to the music of Wagner. The sounds celebrate the painful beauty of memory and of Siegfried. The composer wanted him to be the man of the future. Yet Wagner’s intentions unravel as magical potions determine so much of the plot. They make Siegfried forget, make him prey to the avaricious virus. This is no human being for the future that I see. He is intoxicated by memory loss, by splits of dissociation. Entire realms vanish from his mind as he is blinded by his times. As I see him walk through Wagner’s Ring cycle he is not tragic, not a hero or revolutionary. Instead he is a pawn entangled in the powers that are, the status quo. His inner life is hidden, there is a blank screen where insight and self-reflection could be. Thus he becomes a willing executioner of Wagner’s frightening vision, thus he inspires others, born later, to follow in his footsteps. The mystery play of regressive forces, the passion play unfolds. The dramatic funeral march in the Götterdämmerung, the final piece in the tetralogy, reflects the beginning theme, sounds of origins in the Rhinegold. The march is not melancholy, it celebrates a hero without inner life, without introspection. It celebrates action at any price. It prepares the transcendental politics Hitler would claim for himself.
And I look back further to the times of the Vikings. I see the ancient hero doomed with his old knowledge, forgetting the obligations he carries as courtly life dazzles his mind, as he enters a time that is not his. His fate is to be tricked, to die in a world where he has no place, where his knowledge is redundant and suspect. He dies for greed, as the new world order makes him forget what he knows. His guardian, his valkyrja, his consort, inner and outer, she takes revenge on the fearless one as he forgets her, denies her in himself. He is the son born of sacred marriage, of Sigmund and Siglinde, brother and sister, the sibling marriage of old. He is from an old line of Vanir that they tried to continue.
This I see, but there is more, dimly visible behind the veils of time. I feel the spectre of the hero not tempted by courtly life, not blinded by woman romanticized. He is protector of living knowledge and nurturance, he is the hero whose soul is wedded to his consort. I see his heroism as he walks ahead fearlessly, yet he is afraid, is vulnerable. Behind the veils I see him use the ancient arts of seeing and beating the drum. I hear him chanting, trying to understand the messages the birds bring. He is the son of balancing. The magic he knows is used for protection and healing, for nurturance and balance. He is as much of a man as a woman. He sits out and honors the snake that holds the world. He feels his fear as he sits on the balcony, sits on the yurt, runs on the beach to escape. The Elders, they put him back in his place. Here he speaks to the chthonic powers, the forces of creation, and steps into the maw of the serpent, the gap of gaps. The snake offers her blood for the sake of life. And he bathes in the sacred fluid, covers himself in dragon’s blood for blessing and protection. He sucks the blood from his thumb and he enters the weave of connecting. The world snake moves the creative energies, triggers his imagination. This opens his ears, this opens his mind. The birds speak clearly now, the creek foretells the weather, the ptarmigan stutters its warnings.
As he returns a man lies across the threshold. He is a woman. Stepping into the sacred circle, stepping through the sun flames he releases his guardian bird spirit, messenger woman. He frees her from armor, frees her from the debris of history, he releases himself. She carries the teachings of the women of seeing and carries the sun on her shield. The lore of Freyja, the lore of shamanizing she teaches. Willingly she walks with him, enters him as his companion, as his lover, as his soul mate and healer. Woman in man who is a man in woman she walks in him, androgyne and androgyne, inside and outside, balancing, twinning. The arts of healing she teaches. The golden treasure he saw inside the serpent´s lair is from the sun, it holds the golden tears of Freyja. The gold is there not for greed, not to inflate the ego of heros. The amber is there for the sake of wholing and seeing. It is ancient sap from the tree. He watches as elementals forge the magical necklace, the Brisingamen for the master shaman. This I see as Frišr is not afraid to put the thumb in his mouth to cut the veils of delusion, as he holds his helmet to gather the poisons of imbalance. For him Drifa holds his honor, manwoman, she keeps him humble. Indeed, I see a soul thread that leads from them to Siegfried and Brűnhilde, to Siguršr and Sigrdrifa, and onward from Sigmund and Siglinde, not just to Óšinn and Frigg, but beyond to Óšr and Freyja. And I see Gullveig, thrice killed and reborn, and Skaši, the dark one of winter -- all faces of Freyja. And the line leads beyond Óšr and Freyja to Nerthus and Njöršr, to Fjörgynn and Fjörgyn, and to others before. I see their sacred marriages. I see how Frišr knows that he was fashioned from the tree, that the bear is his ancestor, bearmother, bearfather, androgyne. He carries his obligations with the honor of woman. He protects what his Drifa taught him, teaches him as he renews their wedding. Above the union towers Žórr, his hammer and ax of blessing raised high. He is the one who put on women´s clothes to regain his stolen tool.
This I see as I look across the ages, as I listen to the echos across time. This is the story of old told at the tree, told across the fire on Nomlaki land, in Waltoykewel. I see the man cleanse himself and purify the story. I see him tell it and retell it as he seeks the honor of woman, as he seeks sacred marriage. And she comes in a dream, she carries a vision. The strands of fate are laid out from here to there, from there to the north. I see the canyon carved into red rock, I see the Rock of Spider Woman. One fateful thread is fastened to the pillar. He crosses the creek at its foot, makes his offering, and then faces north for his travels. This strand I see. And I see this other thread woven out of the canyon. I see the dream of the woman. She hikes up in the steep canyon cliffs, winding her way upward from White House. She turns a switchback and he steps out holding an arrow. He assures her that she is not walking alone on her path, the path of remembrance. This dream she offers him. So he gives her the arrow, so they twin, so he twins, so she twins. She is a raven, he is a raven. Inside, outside. Twinning she reflects man in her woman as he reflects woman in his man. Frišr and Drifa. These threads of fate I see laid out.
A circle has been cast around me, the songs have been chanted, I have beaten the drum. I give thanks to the spirits who have come to help my seeing, to help my story. I ask everyone to give me a hearing, descendants of the bear, descendants from the tree, I ask you to give me a hearing. It is your wish, ancestors, that I relate well the old lore as far back as I can remember. And it is your wish, ancestors, that I relate well the old stories as they are imagined today, as they become present anew. There is more that I see.
And, finally, a piece that gives you a small impression of how we have worked as a couple with painful memories, with the Native American genocide, with myth and story:
So he steps out. So she steps out. Into the hills of Waltoykewel, Nomlaki land. Raven and raven. Twin ravens. Inner twin, outer twin. They step away from the fire, they step away from the tree. In Canyon de Chelly he stepped into her dream, gave her the arrow; and she gifted him with her dreaming, the touch across the threshold. She helps release what others have touched before; she honors what had been hidden and reaches through the linden leaf. Inner twin, outer twin. They step out. He steps out. She steps out. Frišur and Drifa. And with them the siblings who stepped out before, generations of siblings, they walk along too.
They begin to follow the line, from tree to tree, from station to station. Behind they leave herbs, to the fire they made offerings. And the smoke, the smoke was not of death but of purification. Across the creek they step. The frog leaps. To the rill they listen. A red dragonfly circles, it carries its azure catch, the damsel fly caught unawares. At the tree of sacrifice they leave more offerings, they converse with the earth, they listen to the voice of the water. They are not quiet in the hills, they acknowledge ancestors and origins. Because, without them, they would not be. Without them there would be no stories to tell. They tell the tree, they tell the creek, and the hills listen as he speaks who he is, German and German. And maybe a little Jew, maybe that lineage is in him too. And something else. And the hills listen as she speaks, German and more. They speak who they are and whence they came. German and German, and more. They listen to the hills. They listen to the rustle in the willows.
Uphill they step, raven and raven. Huginn and Muninn. The veils in their eyes are thinning, the veils in their throats half torn. They step on the line, the line of song, the line of memory, the line of stories. They walk the line where others have died, lying down on the ground, and others who were like them, they had killed and killed for gold and chromium, had killed for greed and lust. Ravenmemory and Ravenmind, they climb the hill past the azalea thicket, the white flowers dazzle in sun burnt lands. They climb and the veils, they move.
In front of the Guardian they step, the keeper of the line of memory and song, caretaker of story. In the dark of last night the moon cast tall shadows of ravenwings. The feathers, they touched the Guardian on either side, embraced memory, embraced obligation. Now they stand in the bright light of sun. They make their offerings, they feed the Guardian, nurture memory. And uphill they step, and up and up. They reach the top of the hill, sit down, and view the valleys below. Their eyes stretch across the smog filled expanse, the great valley in the distance.
Below them, downslope, the jet black shale reaches the tree that is a finger pointing skyward. The dead pine trunk, weathered silvery gray, admonishes remembrance, reminds of chimneys on factories of death, reminds him of trails of tears laid across these California hills, of Jews killed, of Indians genocided. The Natives of these lands were forced to walk a painful line, away from what was theirs, away from valleys and ridges holding their ancestors and stories, away from places that were their life. Twin ravens chant to thin the veils of denial, they open their throats for memory. They chant the blight of whiteness and they chant bear memory. They give voice to raven, they fly the memory of balance. They chant and chant to vanquish whiteness, and they chant for their Native presence and what is Native presence here, they chant their stories of old. They chant unknowing and they chant the richness of the record.
Thus they have stepped onto the line of memory, the songline that runs through the hills. They have climbed the hill, climbed and climbed, ascended to this station of memory, to the pine trunk finger, to the skeletal bones reminding them to make the stories complete, as complete as they can. They are reminded to chant Yolla Bolly, to chant not just Sutter Buttes, but its Native twin, Histum Yani. Not just Mt. Shasta, but Akoo-Yet and the Bulim Phuyuq of the Wintu as well, to chant the other of Mt. Lassen, Yetti-Yena. They honor Mis-Misa and the story of balancing. The paddle moves when wonder and power stir the universe, when imbalance calls for the course to be righted.
Here at this station they enter the matrix of grief and memory, the field of loss and healing. They step down now, down into the fold of the mountain, down into the follicle fold. She, woman in a man’s body, and he, man in a woman’s body, womanman and manwoman, both in both of them, inner twin and outer twin. They have ascended to the top of the hill, stepped past the Guardian, they have stepped in front of the Admonisher, the silvery pine trunk. And now they descend, slowly, chanting. They move, down and down, chanting, until later, in the end, the song hits the drum, and upward it rises. That’s where he will go, to the drum, the dance floor, where the line goes into the earth, and up the tree, up into the sky. They hold to the line and the line holds them to their integrity, holds them to housekeeping chores and the stories that need to be told and retold, the stories that need to be remembered and created. And below them the flicker cries beyond time, kleeee-yer, and again the woodpecker, ant chaser, pules memory, klee-yer, then interrupts thought with its blaring call, wick-wick-wick-wick-wick-wick, and rides the line in wavey flight deeper down into the trees.
So they step down, down into the quiet of the mountains. On their left, there is bitterroot, blooming wildly on the darkening shale, pink flowers strewn across the hillface. Below them the pregnant one, the bear bearing past and future. She holds the split wood of elder, she pounds a rhythm. The clacker clucks, clacks, chats and chatters, chats with the bear, chats with the bitterroot, rattles the wind in a low voice. And there is no more quiet in the hills, and the veil in their eyes moves, and the images caught in the web move, and the thread that has been spun around the image, it loosens as the clacker clucks, it loosens the stories, it loosens song. They speak with the bear, the pregnant one. Her heart, it beats from deep in the earth, it pounds, pounds at them. She holds in her uterus the world and more. Above her head the wind, the wind carries the silver sounds of the creek, the wind, it carries an echo through time, it carries the sound of the rattle and the song of the ancient one. It echoes through time, it loosens the stories. The ovum has jumped the follicle, the clacker speaks the bear.
They look down at the bear stone. Did bearmother know that the fire now crackles in another language? That it now burns in nuclear fission and machine gun fire? That it burns in the ovens of death´s apartments, that it sends smoke and ashes from murder through chimneys? That its name no longer is poh, but fire and Feuer? Did she know that her luminous red berries are now named toyon? That the pine trees she scratched and harvested are reminders of the persecution of her people, the Digger Indians of European imagination? Does she understand what kind of people they are, standing here on the line of song and memory, lowering themselves into the roots of mi-mer and grief? To the roots of memory from the severed head? To the roots of memory amidst the women of fate?
Check-check-check-check-check, below them the jaybird laughs and flashes its blue feathers as it sails to another pine tree.
So they leave this station, depart from the bear in the rock. And deeper they move, deeper into the fold. Their feet, they have been shaped by the shale. Over the years, as they have moved uphill and downhill, as they have moved as raven and bear, their feet have become shaped by the shale as they have become pieces of shale themselves, eroding downhill, eroding whiteness, at least a little, chanting grief and memory. They step down on the loose rocks, the slippery sands, down to the tree that stands at the waterfall, the spring of memory. The mossy hair of the three women, it is moist in the shade. Here she counts and holds obligation, here she spawns becoming, and here she reaches deep down to pull up the white clay of the past, for the sake of the future, for the sake of story. They chant, inner twin and outer twin, they chant what inspirits them, they chant tears and joy. And the heart of the earth, it beats, beats deep beyond the well, pounds in the four mountains around them, pulsates through the songline, swirls through the womb of the bear. The beat travels with them.
And deeper they step, deeper into the fold, along the precarious path provided by deer they walk, down to the woman of grief. They pass the milkweed and sit across from the bare hillface. Shades of gray and silver and black glisten, the loosening rock is edging downhill. Right in the middle a brown rock, a brown rock face, a brown face. The light from the right shows off her beautiful long hair, her flowing dress and her grieving face. Grieving Woman she is, her eyes darkening with tears. As the earth turns the sun reveals her nature as change, Changing Woman. And many truths she is. The light reveals her bear face, head on they look down the snout of the brown one, cute teddy bear ears on top. And then the light reveals the skull of knowledge, skull of death. As it shifts she shows herself as the bearded Jesus of Renaissance paintings. Changing Woman she is, portal of memory, portal of presence and story. He chants, she sings, the clacker speaks. Inside them she changes, her bear contours shimmering a luminous purple, her body a doorway, opening into the land, opening into memory. The cavern of story, it opens in her, it opens in them. Then a portal inside the portal inside the woman of the rock, this other portal, it leads to the accounts, the pains, the adventures, the joys of the people, the words, the histories she has taken into herself. She is filled with life. She is full of knowledge and legend. She is abundant with pain and sorrow. She is abundant with healing, she waxes in stories for times to come, she waxes in song.
Deep inside her, she, Skull Face, Grieving Woman, inside her she holds the stories of old and the stories of new. Her womb holds the follicle fold of presence and emergence. There are the Nomlaki stories and the stories of their ancestors. There is the story of the Indian doctor chicken hawk who turns into a bear and hides his heart in its toe. And then there are the stories of settlers, men on horses hunting Indians, murdering them in hopes of finding riches, collecting rewards for the kills. These latecomers, they herd the Natives from one place to another, turn them into “Digger Indians,” drive them away from where food is easily gathered, away from fertile farmlands, herd them onto the trail of tears across the mountains, away from the lands they have lived on generation after generation, ceremony after ceremony, story after story. And here he is, here she is, latecomers with storylines of their own, stories that need to be remembered for presence, stories of Native presence from whence they came, ancestral stories from the European lands, here they are, twinning. Inside her, inside Bear Woman, Shaman Jesus, inside Changing Woman, she holds a wealth of conversation, she harbors pain and laughter, she grows death and healing, from her follicle fold she birthes along the line in the land, gives birth across the folds in the hills and up into the craggy cuts of snow covered peaks, Yolla Bolly. She tweaks destiny as she claws the thread in the moon hall. Her conversation with the earth, with the people, with history, it continues, giving and receiving, giving and receiving. The cycle reaches from sky bear to the bear in the ground. The conversation, it is passed around and around. Now flowing, now stammering.
So here they are, nurturing story, nurturing bear, giving away herbs, giving away song. Here they are, struggling to recollect, offering memory they hold, the traces they have recovered, the varied stories, the words and songs that travel the margins and crevices of what anthropologists and mythologists are trying to write in stone. They talk and listen, they chant and listen. They imagine their own ancestral stories meeting the stories of this land, entering the belly of the bear, they imagine healing presence. They remember their own creation from the trees, from the three women, story and story they remember, stories they sing. They remember the varšlokkur, the songs that call spirits, chants that entrain them with spirits and bring them to presence. And the Old Ones, the twins, raven and raven, they think they hear the Old Ones in the wind, in the creek, they think they hear them in the rustling pine trees and the rapid call of the coopers hawk. The laughter of the jay takes away righteousness and certainty, and the call of the flicker, kleeee-yer, carries human-ness, Menschlichkeit, across time. Presence, individuality, the riches of multiple truths, and vision, community, they reach across time. And so does the playful trickster who gave blood to the trees so that humans could be. Kleee-yer.
Did Bear Woman have a vision that these settlers would walk here? Did Changing Woman have a vision of the new languages spoken here?
On he walks, alone now with his inner twin. The other, his outer twin, she leaves so that he can heal his inner twin, threshold woman, Drifa. She leaves for her own ceremony of sitting out. He steps onto the platform across Grieving Woman, straight across from Bear Face he enters the circle of bear shit. And then he steps deeper down into the woods, down to the place where the song hits the drum, where it enters the earth, where dances are held. He lowers himself into this circle at the tree. Here he will fast and sit out, in the utiseta of his ancestors. Once again.