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Wisdom from nature and indigenous cultures

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“Malidoma [Dr. Malidoma Some´] teaches that the healing power of nature, ritual and community is what the indigenous world offers to the modern world. In the indigenous world, community is integral to the harmony and balance of each individual.” from the mission statement of East Coast Village

africaThe modern world of science and technology has learned a lot from observing nature and indigenous cultures’ relationships with the natural world. Unfortunately, we have also missed most of what nature and indigenous cultures have had to offer, and we further facilitated that tragedy by calling such cultures hicks, savages, superstitious, ignorant and pagan (in the negative sense most people assign to that word).

Organized religion went a step further, claiming throughout history that pagans–including witches–worshiped the so-called “devil” and needed to be put to death for their beliefs. These beliefs were not only natural but threatened the knowledge and wisdom a culture based on patriarchy had to offer.

Today, for example, we look at prescribed drugs as compounds invented in laboratories and produced in factories. While synthesized drugs have brought quality control and the benefits of mass production, they also come with a price based on a patent that allows drug companies to charge hundreds of dollars for little bottles of pills with ingredients that are probably worth a few pennies.

Yes, it can be dangerous for people without an herbalist certification or an oral tradition of using plants as medcine, much less prescribe them from others. Yet, when the medical establishment condemns the practice out of hand, they are overlooking the fact that many major drugs, past and present, originally came from plants and were frequently discovered by observing what native cultures used for medicine. One expert says that 120 distinct chemicals that come from plants are currently used throughout the world.

In a recent news story (A Doctor Discovered Why Insulin Is So Pricy In America — And How To Buy It More Cheaply)  it was shown that insulin costs diabetes patients more than most of them can afford because a pricey biotech drug created in the 1970s took over the market so completely that the off-patent, generic insulin is no longer available in the United States. The whys and wherefores of medicines and their costs are part of a complex tangle of issues. The lack of natural drugs just might, in some cases, stem from our championing what comes out of a lab over what nature produces.

spellsensuousIn The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram argues that “Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain.”

We have been making excuses for years about the supposed Gods of science and technology at the expense of a shared relationship with the natural world and those who understand it. From time to time, we run across articles that focus on one indigenous culture or another that show one group has little or no cancer and another group has little or no stress and stress-related maladies. But such things usually stop at the curiosity-level “go figure” or the profit-motive level of “how can we synthesize what they know put it in a pill?”

ofwaterDr. Malidoma Some´, a widely known teacher of African wisdom, is the author of multiple books, including “The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community,” “Creating a New Sense of Home” and the now-classic “Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.”

On his website, Dr. Some´ writes that “It is possible that we have been brought together at this time because we have profound truths to teach each other. Toward that end, I offer the wisdom of the African ancestors so that Westerners might find the deep healing they seek.”

I don’t reject art, culture, science or technology. I do reject thinking they are all we have.  Dr. Some´ has things to teach us that we have turned a deaf and snobbish ear to for generations. Now we have a medical system nobody can pay for, global warming nobody knows how to fix and poverty that exceeds our comprehension. Something is badly out of sync and those who tell us that modern man is like a cancer upon the climate suggest that we ourselves are the problem.

Abram suggests we will never solve the major issues of life as long as we’re only willing to look at everything except nature and natural wisdom whether it comes out of Africa or the so-called “First Nations” (to use the Canadian phrase) who live invisibly among us.

I was taught what most kids of my generation were taught. Christianity is all there is. Paved streets are better than unpaved country roads. Science and technology are better than anything the witches, root doctors, and “illiterate savages” have to offer.

Undoing all that brainwashing can take a lifetime. If only, we could start fresh with our children and not addict them to false gods in the first place.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella about a granny and a kitty fighting the KKK that’s filled with the wisom of the natural world. It’s on sale today on Kindle.

“I loved the way Campbell made magic part of the fabric of the place…Readers of magic realism will appreciate Conjure Woman’s Cat. Highly recommended.” –  Lynne Cantwell, hearth/myth – Rursday Reads

 

 

 

 

Author looks at Congress and a slaughterhouse through satirical lens

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Marietta Rodgers

Marietta Rodgers

Today’s guest is Marietta Rodgers, author of The Bill (Second Wind Publishing, January 6, 2015). In the novel, Representative Joe Herkieze is trying to get his Hunger Relief Act passed and teenager Hope Price has taken a summer job in a slaughterhouse looking for enlightenment. This juxtaposition screams dark humor and satire.

Malcolm: Your novel The Bill is a political satire. Did you select this genre because you tend to view the world through a satirical lens or because satire seemed like a fitting approach to a story about a Congressman?

Marietta:  I do view things through a satirical lens sometimes, but the lens are more like reading glasses, where I wear them as needed as opposed to all the time. Satire is a good tool for highlighting flaws or short-comings, but it is also a way to goad individuals, groups and governments into improvement, by juxtaposing reality with absurdity and not having a giant chasm in between. The misnomer is that satirists are pessimists, or even misanthropes, but usually it is just a way to unlock human potential.

Malcolm: Did you have to do a considerable amount of research to write about the process a Representative follows to write, promote and get a bill passed?

thebillMarietta: I did research the process of a bill from the time of its inception to its fruition, because it isn’t as straightforward as people might think. These bills can get watered down or so bogged down in a committee, that they never see the light of day.  It’s good that we have checks and balances, but unfortunately what we have currently, is nothing more than obstructionism, that has little or nothing to do with the bill themselves, but more to do with party lines.

Malcolm: Obstructionism is bad for the country but good for satirists. Your book also features a slaughterhouse whose foreman is aptly named Piggy. I must confess, I haven’t read anything about a slaughterhouse since I read Upton Sinclair’s muckraking book The Jungle in school. How did you happen to select this industry for your novel, and how did you learn enough about a slaughterhouse to write about it?

Marietta: I did have to do research on slaughterhouse practices, because I too read The Jungle and thought I would be working away from that, but people would be surprised to note that some of the horrifying practices that took place then still occur. John Lennon famously said, “If a slaughterhouse had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” I think that is definitely true.

Malcolm: I understand George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is among the books that have influenced you. Is it partly responsible for your choosing satire as a genre and possibly for naming a slaughterhouse foreman “Piggy”?

animalfarmMarietta:  I wrote, The Bill as a satire, because it just felt natural. George Orwell could have written, Animal Farm (I’m sure he would have titled it something else) as a straight forward tale, without the use of satire, or the metaphorical use of animals to convey his dismay over Stalinism, but it would have been a halfhearted jab, as opposed to the knock out punch it delivered instead. It would have definitely lost a lot of bite in the telling. The slaughterhouse foreman’s nickname is Piggy, which was given to him by the other workers. I chose that name for him, because he is the head of an entire slaughterhouse machine, which slaughters not only pigs, but really human dignity as well.

Malcolm: Do you have a new satirical novel in the works or have you shifted your focus for your next book?

Marietta: I wrote a novel called, Loony Bin Incorporated, which is a satire of big business. It is tentatively scheduled to be available for sale, June 1, 2015. This was another novel, that I felt was better told as a satire. It employs a lot more lighthearted humor than, The Bill though. Currently, I have shifted my focus to writing short stories, that each revolve around the lives of tenants in a particular building in New York City.

Malcolm: What did I forget to ask you?

Marietta: “Vanity Fair” does the Proust Questionnaire, based on the famous questionnaire of the French writer, Marcel Proust. One of the questions they ask authors that I like is, what is your current state of mind? The answer: always a chaotic preoccupation of ideas.

Malcolm: I’ve found that chaos is often a writer’s best friend. Thanks for dropping by the Round Table today to talk about The Bill and the ways and means of satire.

thebillYou can read more about Marietta Rodgers at “Pat Bertram Introduces” and her Second Wind Publishing author’s page. The Bill is available in paperback and e-book.

Gateway to Glacier Trail

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from Gateway to Glacier Trail:

“Construction of Phase I of our project – from Coram to West Glacier – is slated to begin THIS SUMMER! With the existing path, that means there will be a full ride from Hungry Horse to the entrance of Glacier National Park!”

gateway

This trail ought to improve recreational opportunities on the west side of the park.

Malcolm

 

Herbs: Holy Ghost Root

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“Angelica Root (also known as Holy Ghost Root, Archangel Root, and Dong Quai) is widely thought to be a powerful Guardian and Healer, and to provide Strength to Women. We believe that Angelica Root is used by many people for the purpose of Warding Off Evil and bringing Good Luck in Health and Family Matters” – Lucky Mojo Curio Company

angelicarootThis biennial, Angelica archangelica, is known variously as angelica root, wild celery and holy ghost root. In myth, the Archanel Michael (or Gabriel) said it had medical uses, hence its name.

Herbs-Treat and Taste says that “because of its association with the archangel it was also believed to be associated with the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she was pregnant. One legend says that an archangel revealed in someone’s dream that angelica was a cure for the plague. Because of these holy associations it was believed that it would rid places of evil spirits and protect against witchcraft and evil enchantments.”

In folk medicine, it’s used variously to keep a home protected and peaceful, to ensuring that a marriage is a happy one, and to create the “Fiery Wall of Protection” that protects your property and yourself from evil people.

In folk medicine, the roots and leaves had multiple uses from purifying the blood to curing augues and infections as well as fighting coughs and colds. As an aromatic plant, it has also been used in pot pourris, essential oils and as a flavoring (similar to Juniper) in confectionery, perfumes and liqueurs.

According to WebMD, Angelica is used for heartburn, intestinal gas (flatulence), loss of appetite (anorexia), arthritis, circulation problems, “runny nose” (respiratory catarrh), nervousness, plague, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).

When researching my novels, I find the multiple uses of herbs fascinating because many have come into standard medicine and are now created synthetically, but also have purported magical uses or are old folk medicine remedies. As a writer, I an usually a bit vague in my descriptions of herbs and their uses because (a) I’m not a doctor or herbalist, and (b) Don’t want anyone to think that a fictional usage constitutes a medical prescription or an herbal tea.

Usages vary greatly depending on where you look and the culture you’re looking at.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300 Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella set in the Jim Crow era of the Florida Panhandle about Eulalie and her cat Lena who fight the KKK with spells and other magical means.

Seminole Pumpkin Fry Bread

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One of the first things I learned to cook was fry bread. Didn’t take long to get it right because it has very few ingredients and is one of those foods that (like making biscuits) is done by the feel of the dough rather than slavishly measuring ingredients into a mixing bowl.

If you work the hell out of the dough, you’ll ruin it like you can when making pasta. The dough works better if you make it one day, cover it over night with tin foil (AKA aluminum foil) in the ice box (AKA fridge), and make the bread the following day.

Seminole fry bread preparation at the 1983 Florida Folk Festival - State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Seminole fry bread preparation at the 1983 Florida Folk Festival – State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

There are a lot of variations, but pumpkin tops my list, though you can experiment with butternut squash instead of pumpkin. I like it plain, but some folks add cinnamon or nutmeg or vanilla extract (food Lord!) or even dust the tops with powdered sugar like they’re making Beignets in New Orleans (what the hell?).

If you’re using self-rising flour, then flour (about 3 cups), pumpkin (let’s say 4 cups) and sugar (a cup or less) is all it takes. With all-purpose flower, you’ll need a tablespoon of baking soda as well. And some cooking oil or lard. Pumpkins harvest in the fall, so if you have fresh, chop it up and boil it. If not, canned pumpkin works fine. (If you don’t want the pumpkin in it, use water or milk when mixing the flour. If you don’t want it sweet, leave out the sugar.) You can find traditional recipe variations here.

Let it sit over night. Don’t skip this step.

The next day, roll the dough into balls and then flatten them with your fingertips so they’re thin enough to cook all the way through before they burn on the outside. Taste the dough before you do this to see if it needs more sugar or is too sticky and needs more flour. Put the little cakes in a skillet or pan of hot oil (medium high).

Turn them when the edges get brown. Medium brown is what you’re looking for and that usually happens when the cakes float. Drain on a paper towel. Great for snacks or to go with your dinner.

If you like pictures to go with your recipes, the Seminole Tribune has a series of what-it-ought-to-look-like pictures here.

I don’t normally talk about food on this blog, but I mentioned pumpkin fry bread a fair number of times in my 1950s-era folk magic novella Conjure Woman’s Cat and that was enough to get me addicted to it all over again. Seems like everyone in Florida made fry bread in the 1950s.

In many Indian nations, making and eating fry bread is sacred and deeply linked to the past.

–Malcolm

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Sunrise from the Summit’

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When I spent a summer at the University of Colorado, I signed up with the mountain recreation department and climbed mountains every week. I always planned to go back and see how many of the state’s 54 14,000-foot peaks I could climb. Never did. Wish I had.

sunridesummitGlenn Randall climbed all of them. Better yet, he took pictures and put them together into a beautiful book. The book groups the photographs by the Front, Sangre de Cristo, Mosquito, Tenmile, Sawatch, Elk and San Juan ranges.

From the Publisher

“Award-winning photographer Glenn Randall dedicated seven years to climbing each of Colorado’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet with one goal in mind: to capture the glory of sunrise from each summit. His quest required hundreds of hours of planning and preparation, then scaling the peaks in the dark while carrying a pack loaded with camera gear. Randall’s reward and yours is this beautiful collection of unique and dramatic images that will put you on the summit just as the sun gilds the far horizon.”

In his the introduction, Randall writes, “Summits are magical places. Reaching the summit of a high peak gives me the exhilarating, humbling and awe-inspiring experience of being a tiny speck on top of the world. To me, mountaineering is a metaphor for the human condition. It embodies in concrete form the way we reach for the sky, yet can only climb so high.”

I agree. The pictures in this book are beautiful and give a small hint about what it’s like to be standing in the high country experiencing the view.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella about a granny and her cat vs. the KKK in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s. 99 cents on Sunday, March 8.