Monday, February 28, 2011


As Libya descends into chaos Joe Liberman and John McCain are beating the drums for US intervention. Yeah, guys we're still in Iraq and I know there's a draw down schedule for Afghanistan. I'm not holding my breath. That's the biggest problem with choosing to go to war when you may not have to. When you do need those resources they're tied down someplace else.

BTW I'm no advocate for further intervention in the Middle East. We have a miserable track record when it comes to choosing who to back. A really miserable track record. Thought I'd dig out one of Jackson Brown's great protest songs from the eighties. Don't have to change to many words to make it relevant.


I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names

They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire


Sunday, February 27, 2011


Most of this material comes from David Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

Well, I’m beginning to understand why a lot history got left out when I took US history. Twice. High school and university. :-P.

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” Dr. Samuel Johnson. Died 1784.

“I am an aristocrat, I love liberty; I hate equality.” John Randolph of Roanoke Virginia

These quotes help to capture the paradox of the love of liberty expressed by the gentry of Virginia. The gentry, who controlled between to seventy five percent of the land and other productive assets including a growing population of African American slaves, had an exceptionally strong sense of their English liberties. While many Englishman turned out reams of prose and poetry celebrating their heritage of English liberty going back to Magna Charta those visions often contradicted each other. New England’s ordered liberty that emphasized a liberty that often subordinated individual liberty to the community and the church was much different from the hierarchical vision of liberty that grew up in colonial Virginia and the broad lands of the Chesapeake.

Hegemony and hierarchy, the uprights that held the rungs of Virginia’s social ladder. Hegemony was a condition of dominion over others and a dominion over themselves. When a traveler named Andrew Barnaby spoke of the colonial Virginian’s he observed “the public and political character of the Virginians corresponds with their private one: they are haughty and jealous of their liberties, impatient of restraint, and scarcely bear the thought of being controlled by any superior power.”

In Fischer’s opinion that was the key of Virginia colony’s definition of liberty; the power to rule. To rule over others, not to be ruled by them. The opposite of the power to rule was slavery. You didn’t have to actually be a slave, just have lost your power to rule over others.

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command,
Arose from out of the Azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
Britons never will be slaves. James Thomson

There’s almost innocent arrogance in this verse. Britain, protected by its namesake stormy Channel, has the right to rule; Heaven has spoken. Simply by being the sons of southern England’s landed gentry, Virginia’s gentry assumed the right to rule over others.

In Virginia’s hierarchical paradise, your status was determined by the liberties you possessed. The big land owners on the top rung of the ladder had the most liberty. They controlled most of the land and had enough power to negotiate favorable tax rates and limitations on the power of the colonial government from sympathetic governors. Granted the colonial government, at least in the first generations, didn’t have a lot of responsibilities. The patriarchal head of the new world manor regarded his dependents, those with less liberty as his responsibility. This protection could extend to immediate family, wards, house servants, visitors, farm workers and slaves.

Next came the thirty percent or so of the population that were small farmers and tradesmen. They were expected to bend the knee to the gentry and the established church, but they could give orders to the landless laborers they employed.

The laborers seem to have had at least one liberty. They could quit and look for a job somewhere else. But in a colony with large separated land holdings and few towns that may not have counted for a lot.

At the bottom of the ladder were the slaves. They had no liberties that the law was obliged to recognize. Anything they were granted was dependent on their masters. The masters had the liberty. They had none. Fischer uses a term, laisser asservir. It literally means the “right to enslave.” He doesn’t explore where the basis of the belief of the planters that they had the right to enslave others. It may go back to the whole concept of “Britannia Rules the Waves.” We have the right to do this simply because we’re British and it’s mandated by Heaven. I feel another headache coming on.

The ideal of hegemony was not only public, but personal. The ideal colonial member of Virginia’s elite was a master not only of others but of himself. To be truly free, you must rule your thoughts and actions; not be ruled by them. And while they believed in minimal intervention by the colonial government they also believed that part of their personal liberty was the duty to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of their station. Well, that’s one saving grace I suppose.

I’d love to go back to the 1780’s and invite the likes of Jefferson, Adams and Washington to a little get together.

Whew. On to the Quakers and the Backcountry.

Cross posted in Women On.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When British emigrants came to the New World they brought more than thier religious beliefs and folkways. Each group; Puritans and dissenters, Quakers and Pietists, exiled Cavaliers, British borderers and Irish economic refugees brought their own conception of liberty.

The colonists of New Englanders had some conceptions of liberty that were unique to their settlements. David Fischer argues in Albion’s Seed that the word liberty was used in four different ways that would probably strike modern Americans as unusual.

One use of liberty described liberty or liberties that belonged to the community or communities rather than the individual. Writers, from the founding of the colony for the next two centuries spoke of the liberty of New England, the liberty of Boston, or the liberty of the town. There is evidence that Sam Adams wrote more often about the ”liberty of America” than the liberty of individual Americans.

This concept of collective liberty was consistent, to New Englanders at least, with restrictions on individual liberty that modern Americans would find very restrictive to say the least. In early years of the Massachusetts colony, potential colonists couldn’t settle there without permission from the general court. Persons who were judged to have dangerous opinions, in the eyes of the authorities, could be and occasionally were shipped back to England. Not every Tom, Dick, or Harry was allowed to move into the colony without permission.

Those colonial New Englanders accepted restraints, but did insist that the restrictions be consistent with the written laws of the Commonwealth. And they insisted that they had the right to order their communities in their own way. Not the way it was done in Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or in some cases even England.

Liberty or liberties had a second meaning in New England. One that had roots in the counties of East Anglia where many of colonists and most of their pastors left when they emigrated. Individuals could be granted the liberty to do something that they normally couldn’t do. For example, certain individuals could be granted the liberty to fish or hunt in certain areas while that liberty was denied to others. In some cases the liberty granted depended on someone’s social rank. For example a gentleman could not be punished with a whipping unless the crime was extremely serious and “his course of life was vicious and profligate.” (the author didn’t provide any examples) Those of lesser rank, had a lesser liberty: they were limited to forty stripes or less if they were sentenced to a flogging.

And codified in the fundamental liberties of the colony was the right of any man, inhabitant or foreigner to come before the courts or town meetings and have his voice heard. And if he couldn’t plead his own cause he had the right to ask someone else to speak for him.

And there was a third kind of liberty in New England. It was referred to as Soul Liberty, Christian Liberty or Freedom of Conscience. This did not mean freedom of conscience in the way we understand it. This was freedom to practice the true faith as defined by the fundamental law of the colony. This liberty did not apply to Quakers, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, or even Presbyterians who did not agree to a very restrictive definition of reformed theology. And the definitions could, and often did, depend on the whim of the local minister. Basically, it meant they were free to persecute everyone else in their own way. I know, I’m getting a headache just trying to wrap my brain around the idea that the freedom to serve God in your own way in your own community could be defined as the right to hang Quakers for preaching in the town.

And, at times, liberty was used in a fourth way. It described an obligation of the “body politicke” to protect individual members from what the author calls the “tyranny of circumstance.” The Massachusetts poor laws may have been limited but the General Court recognized a right for individuals to be free from want in a basic sense. It wasn’t a question of collective welfare or even social equality.

In Fischer’s opinion these four ways of looking at liberty; collective liberty, individual liberties, soul freedom and freedom from tyranny of circumstance were all part of what the New Englanders sometimes called ordered liberty. The New Englanders had their ways of defining liberty; other colonies and their settlers didn’t always agree.

I'm hoping to do an entry for each region.

Cross posted in Women On.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Peace between nations,
Peace between neighbors,
Peace between lovers,
In love of the God of Life.
Peace between person and person,
Peace between wife and husband,
Peace between parent and child,
The peace of Christ above all peace.
Bless oh Christ our faces,
Let our faces bless everything,
Bless oh Christ our eyes,
Let our eyes bless all they see ....

Prayer said on the western isle of Iona. From Noragh Jones book
Power of Raven Wisdom of Serpent

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I guess you could say I’m stumping for my other blog here.

I started Green Woman’s Spiral Dance as a place to work out my spiritual spiral. In many ways that hasn’t changed. We run heavily to dissenters and Quakers in my family. I’m not sure how comfortable my Puritan ancestors would feel about my semi pagan explorations. I suspect at least a few of the Quakers would at least sympathize with my search for the Inner Light.

So, what have I discovered so far? First a big thanks to all the other curious folks who have done so much heavy lifting. We live on the west coast, and almost no one in the family tree has, as far as I can discover, also made the trip. I’ve also discovered that success is as much luck as persistence. Mom was going through old pictures from my grandma Heaton’s collection. She was pretty good at labeling pictures; her handwriting really sucked though. And one shot was labeled as pa’s mother with the lady’s name. That’s where the fun began. It turns out that grandma didn’t spell great great grandma Tabitha’s last name correctly. Or a lot of people on the Ancestry website didn’t spell her name right. Take your pick.

Here’s where the luck starts to come in. In 1900 Tabitha Jane (Riley) Smith was living in the household of her son William and my grandmother Audrey was already born. So I had three generations to work from and her entry tells me what state she was born in; Ohio. Then I could play with other census records. You go back a little further and find a record for Louis (Lewis) C Smith, his wife Tabitha Jane and their children including William.

Both Lewis and Tabitha appear in the 1860 federal census entry for a William Riley. Lewis is listed as a farm worker aged 19 born in Indiana. Tabitha was all of 14. And that’s it for Great great grandpa Smith; I hit the brick wall. He wasn’t born for the 1840 census. And his family probably wasn’t the only one missed for the 1850 count.

Federal census records have some significant gaps. One of the largest is that the wife’s maiden name is not listed. Yippee, great grandma is named Hortense. Hortense who? They didn’t put her maiden name on the tombstone she shares with great grandpa John. Census records did list their birth state as Ohio. Family records show that John was born in Meigs county. When another tree uploaded information about a Hortense Robinson who married a John Heaton, both from Meigs County, I crossed my fingers and went for it.

John may be a common name but Hortense isn’t. She’s the only one I’ve come across so far. And the family had a habit of using a wife’s surname as a middle name for a child or grandchild. Susannah Fenn married Phineas Robinson, Their son Fenn married Lidia Crane. Eli Crane Robinson had a daughter named Hortense who had, among other children, Walter Crane Heaton. And Walter, known in the family as Uncle Joe (can’t imagine why) was grandpa Ernie’s big brother. Might not stand up in a court of law, but it looks pretty good to these eyes.

And we do go back. The lines I can trace got here early; mid seventeenth century if not sooner. I want to explore where and why? Why uproot your family, pack them aboard a hundred feet or so of wooden ship, spend nine weeks or so crossing the North Atlantic risking shipwreck, disease and bad food to fetch up in a wilderness?

I’m being a little selfish double posting. I see that there are folks checking out this blog from many different places. Who knows I might get lucky and some will recognize a family name. I could use some company on the roller coaster.

Cross posted on Green Woman's Spiral Dance.


I’ve been dipping my toes in some of the comments sections over on AOHell (yes, Lisa there does lie madness). Considering how some of the posters feel about the Huffington Post, I wonder how they’ll feel about the merger with AOL. After all there’s no site I know of that’s crazier than AOL, so where can they go? :-)It can be useful place to pick up journal ideas sometimes though. There are folks on those boards who treat the word Liberal as if was an insult. I guess in their eyes it is.

I’ve got to tell you though, as possible insults go, liberal is about as mild as it gets. And since a few of them claim to be Christians, I’d love to ask them if they’ve read that pesky little verse about hating your neighbor. I seem to remember that Jesus said something along the lines of “saying that you hate your neighbor in your heart is the same as murdering him.”

I’ve been researching my family tree over the last year. And the ancestors seem to run heavily to New England dissenters and seekers, Mid Atlantic Quakers and the odd Maryland or Virginia Roman Catholic. I’m sure there’s the odd Anglican in the mix, too.

A distant cousin four centuries or so removed, Thomas Gerard, went to the stake with Robert Barnes in July of 1540 for being too Protestant. They hanged three Catholics the same day because they wouldn’t sign the Act of Supremacy that made Henry VIII the head of the church in England. Henry, it seems, was something of an equal opportunity oppressor when it came to religion. (did I really say that?)

Ironically, Thomas Cromwell who pointed out to Henry that if he was head of the English church he could basically grant himself a divorce and get on with the business of getting a male heir without interference from Rome had gone to the block two days earlier. He’d let the genie out of the bottle, miscalculated how far Henry was willing to go on the road to reformation.

A great uncle a dozen or so times removed, John Gerard, spent a stretch in the tower in Elizabeth’s time for being too Catholic. He was a Jesuit who had been functioning as an underground priest. He managed to survive, finally went into exile for good and wrote his memoirs.

Members of the family have probably been called ranters, levelers, diggers, schismatics, heretics, papists, atheists and/or blasphemers. Remember, being called a Puritan or a Quaker was not meant as a term of affection. Heck, being called a liberal is relatively tame.

And that was while they were in England. Once they arrived in the New World each group became targets for the others. Roger Williams came into conflict with the Puritan leadership in what became Massachusetts and ended up founding Rhode Island.

Thomas Hooker was no believer in universal suffrage, but did believe that if you belonged to the church (and were a man) you should have the right to vote even if you weren’t a land owner. He and his followers helped found Connecticut.

Quakers who showed up preaching in Massachusetts were lucky if they were just kicked out of the colony. Come back and you risked being flogged at the back end of a cart while being paraded through the town. A few insisted on coming back a third or fourth time and finally faced a date with the village hangman. Not that many, but it's scary how fast the persecuted turn around and become persecuters.

I guess that set the pattern for what has happened over the years. As long as there was someplace else to go, we could get out of Dodge if we couldn't get along with each other. But, now there’s no frontier to run to; we have to stay where we are. Hopefully, somewhere along the line we’ll finally grow up (sort of) and learn to get along (maybe).

Thursday, February 3, 2011


A little change of pace. It’s kind of hard to believe that Celtic spring began on Tuesday. The Celtic seasons turn about six weeks before the solstices and equinoxes. Hard to believe the Celts would call it spring when half the country is frozen solid.

Here is something from another tradition half a world away. The Irish Celts knew the green lands and were never far from sea or river. The Ute traveled the dry lands and mountains but, both respect and love the mother earth and what she can teach us.


Earth teach me stillness as grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring as a mother secures her young.
Earth teach me courage as a tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitations as an ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring,
Earth teach me to forget myself as melted show forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness as dry fields weep with rain.

Ute prayer from American Indian Healing Arts

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Words aren’t enough when the Other breaks through and there are times when I wish I’d taken art instead of more math and science than I had to. Or, I might have ended up driving myself crazy trying to put on canvas what I see in my head. Perhaps that is the only home such visions can have.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling winds tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

This is a fragment of larger piece known as Saint Patricks’s Breastplate. Probably written long after Patrick’s time and it's a verse that seems to be left out or treated as optional. Call her the Great Mother, the Divine Feminine, bless me if I know. But, I was granted a vision for each line. Whatever barrier there is between us and…..what we can’t see with human eyes opened a window for a moment. Just a glimpse. It’s probably for the best. I don’t think we’re meant to see more than a flash and it’s already fading.

Are they sisters? Wild, glorious, shimmering and free. Burning with sun fire, filling the sky with moonlight, shimmering with star diamonds, flashing with lightning, windswept, dancing,dancing, dancing. Old as the great black cliffs on the Oregon coast. I can see them, could see them. But, it fades already. I don’t think they’re meant to be captured. Barely meant to be described.

Note: These appear on their timetable not mine. I've read the verse before. It's in Tom Cowan's Yearning for the Wind. Today....I got sideswiped. And I have the headache to prove it.