Last week, the Western Massachusetts team attended the Sacred World Independence Day festival in Petersham, MA. By a curious twist of fate, I ended up playing the outrageous role of Master of Ceremonies for the evening musical performances. Basically, the guy who was supposed to do it dropped out, Jason needed someone, so I found myself up on stage with a lineup and a microphone at regular intervals throughout both nights that I attended the festival. This turned out to be a great opportunity to plug our Climate Summer workshop on movement building, as well as our July 14th rally in Northampton.
People seemed to respond well to whatever nonsense I had to come up with, which was good, because technical difficulties abounded and I ended up spending a lot more time up there than I had bargained for. At one point, I ended up bantering back and forth with a belly dancer for about ten solid minutes while the sound system underwent heavy maintenance, because, well, I’d already introduced her and the music wasn’t playing, so there was nothing for it but to keep going. And going. She was a great dancer, when we finally got underway, as were all the others. What is Sacred World Interdependence without belly dancing, after all?
One man came to play didgeridoo, and proclaimed that his inspiration came from “all the indigenous people of earth, whose ancient wisdom will show us the way.” I surveyed the crowd of predominately-white people with long hair and baggy clothes, who had trekked all the way out into the mountains to “connect with the land” or to touch some sacred flame of indigenous culture. When the didgeridoo man had finished, I stood up and said “let’s here it for all the indigenous people of earth! That’s you, that’s me, that’s all of us, unless we have any Martians in the crowd tonight?” Some good-natured hippies raised their hands and whooped at this. Then again, for all I know, they were from Mars. If ever you were going to find some aliens in disguise, it would have been here.
I think these people are out here trying to get in touch with some magic that they ascribe to “indigenous people” because something in their native culture feels hollow. They are not so unlike any other religious group we’ve visited, they just conduct their rituals in the woods, beset by mosquitoes. The thing that makes the magic, though, is not the fact that it’s appropriated from the “indigenous people of earth,” it’s because it’s conducted by earth’s indigenous children. These folks combine ritual mysticism, intense community support structure, and a powerful desire to seek and experience the divine. These techniques are just as prevalent among their Christian forebears among the “indigenous” whose land they conquered. These folks have turned away, though, they look to a different way of living, lost and thus romanticized, to fill the void in their parent culture. All of this has happened before, all of it will happen again, and as the lights from the solar stage power down, the drums begin to sound.