Recently I gave a presentation on ancestor worship among modern Heathen women at Trothmoot. Diana Paxson had been kind enough to give up her spot just so that I could speak. After my presentation was over, Diana spoke about something that she’s been thinking about a lot, the American Alfar.
Diana told us that on a recent trip to Washington DC, she and some friends went around the National Mall visiting the statues and monuments of some of our national heroes: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to name a few. They stopped at each of the monuments and performed a small ritual to honor these revered American ancestors. Diana noted that the National Mall is kind of like a Buddhist prayer wheel or a pilgrimage route. As people circle the mall visiting the monuments, energy builds up and is given to these Alfar.
If anyone doubts that our founding fathers and mothers are indeed our Alfar, one only needs to look at the painting that graces the eye of the Rotunda of the Capitol, titled “Apotheosis of Washington.” Apotheosis means to deify or glorify. When this fresco was painted at the end of the Civil War, Washington had already achieved semi-divine status in the minds of most Americans. In the years since, I think he has maintained that status.
In these troubled times for our country, I agree with Diana. We should remember our American Alfar and pray for their continued care. To quote Diana in Part 2 of my interview with her on the SHEathenry Podcast, “When you think about it, the Declaration of Independence, that basic concept of equality, opportunity, and justice, they couldn’t fulfill it then, but they set it.” It is up to us to continue to strive to fulfill the goals set in that document, as well as the Federalist Papers and the Constitution.
To take this theory a step further, let’s think about what’s been happening in the South. In the past few months, there has been a lot of controversy concerning statues of Confederate generals being removed from public spaces. As a modern Southerner, I have felt conflicted by this issue. Let me be clear, I wholeheartedly agree they should be removed and placed in places that are appropriate for remembering history: museums, historic battlefields, and historic cemeteries. They are part of our past and while they shouldn’t be forgotten, they are also a painful reminder to our African-American neighbors, friends, and family that their ancestors were held in bondage and that there are still terrible injustices taking place today based strictly on the color of one’s skin. Nonetheless, it has hurt my heart a little to see some of these statues taken down. Viewing this controversy through the lens of the Confederate generals actually being Confederate Alfar, the whole mess (and my conflicted feelings) makes more sense.
I grew up hearing, “the [Civil] war ain’t over.” In a sense, I suppose they were right. The fight we face today, however, isn’t really about the outcome of the war nor is it over the statues themselves. The fight is really over the soul of the South and all of the United States. The continued power given to the Confederate Alfar is holding us back and it’s why there’s a conflict over this issue at all. We’ve been feeding them power for the past 150+ years. That’s why it’s so hard for some people to let them go, we gave them power over us.
If the gods have given us anything, it’s the power to choose what to believe in. I believe in the Alfar for all Americans, not a privileged few. I choose to disregard the Alfar of the Confederacy and to honor the Alfar of all Americans. Hail Washington! Hail Lincoln! Hail Eleanor Roosevelt! Hail Dr. King! May we continue to move toward the fulfillment of the goals set by our American ancestors in the Declaration of Independence!
Update: After the act of domestic terrorism that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, we spoke to Destiny Ballard, an amazing Heathen who I have the utmost respect for. She also happens to be a woman of color. You can find the two part episode here and here. Destiny lives in Oklahoma and has had learned a bit from her Native American neighbors over the years. The Cherokee have a rich tradition of their own wights, who they call the Little People. When the Cherokee were forced to migrate from their homelands in West North & South Carolina, East Tennessee, and North Georgia, they asked their Little People to come with them and when they got to Indian Country (now Oklahoma) they gave them a place to move to. That’s what we need to do with the Confederate monuments and the wights who have attached themselves to them. We must explain what is happening, ask them to release their hold on those public spaces, and give them solutions on where they can relocate. Like I said before, those appropriate places are things like historic battlefields, historic cemeteries, and museums. There they won’t be forgotten, but they will be in a place where the monuments they inhabit can be put into their historical context.