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The Shieldmaiden Blog

Feb - 13

Courage in Kinship

I’m settling back in following my adventures at PantheaCon and reflecting on my experiences there. It was the first Con we in the Coru attended as a priesthood, so we were kept very busy with lots of introductions and questions about who we are and what we do. We also had given ourselves a packed schedule of workshops, rituals, and other activities that didn’t leave much room to breathe. (If anyone in my readership felt you were getting the brush-off from me at any point, please accept my apologies. I really did want to talk to you, I just was overscheduled and couldn’t stop to talk.)

One of the big themes for me this Con was kinship. Naturally, since this was a central focus both of our Morrigan devotional ritual and of the blood drive. But it was also borne out in more personal ways. We shared our suite with some allies of the priesthood, new friends from up north whom we met during our trip to the Western Gate festival last October. We began the Con as new friends and allies, but after spending days eating, laughing, working, and doing deep ritual together they all felt like deep kin. There it is – kinship through shared devotion. What so many people have been saying they felt after the Heart is Our Nation ritual.

The heart is the only nation, we sang. Our voices lifted upward to the Morrígan, and we made an affirmation of our sovereignty. (Teo Bishop)

We called upon kinship and sovereignty, and over the last few days I find myself feeling and becoming more aware of the threads that tie us all together. (Stephanie Woodfield)

I heard stories starting the next day of people who, inspired by the depth of kinship that they felt, took courage to begin conversations with others who they hadn’t spoken with in years. I hear stories of people moved by the strength of kinship to take on greater challenges, take a stand, fight for something. Acts of courage.

This is what kinship means.

Because these acts of courage aren’t only supported by the strength that we feel when we know we are not alone. I can do this, because I’m not alone here. What I also see is that acts of courage are driven, are made necessary by the reality of kinship. I must do this, because I’m not alone here.¬†Kinship brings the recognition that whatever we face, we are in it together; we, this species somewhere between ape and angel, hearts pumping blood, souls always seeking a place; we, born from stars and mud and hunger, the inheritors of the whole human legacy of beauty, wonder, and violence, and the endless longing for liberty. We have Gods to inspire us, spirits to aid us, but who will save us but ourselves? All our human kin need us each to find the courage that is in us, stand forth and give our best. That courage is kinship.

As we readied ourselves for the ritual, we painted each other’s limbs and faces with blue paint.

Blue painted Coru priests after the kinship ritual

Blue painted Coru priests after the kinship ritual

Spirals, meanders, stripes, claw marks. The idea had come to me a few weeks earlier to paint ourselves for the ritual, as some of the old Celtic and Pictish tribes were said to have done. To evoke a sense of kinship with tribal marks, though I meant something different by it than my ancestors did, surely. A dream came back to me, forgotten for some time. Last summer, the night before we planned this ritual, I’d had a dream.

The Coru were performing an invocation in tribute for an old man of our community who had died as a result of mistreatment by an abusive police or security authority. We were chanting to the Morrigan at his memorial. Then one of the other priestesses turned to me and gave me a message from Her. “The Queen says it is time to resist.” And she handed me a pot of woad paint. I saw the people gathered, the community coming together, speaking words of courage to act in defense of the human rights of the community. We painted our feet blue with the woad and they called us the Blue Heels. The blue-painted feet were meant to show our fighting spirit, and our motto was “We stand fast,” as was said by the Morrigan in the Second Battle of Maige Tuiredh.

I’d forgotten this dream once we got into the planning of the ritual, but remembering it while we painted each other, something came to me: this truth that kinship itself is resistance. In a civilization that strives to divide us, to alienate us from each other and even from ourselves; in times of drone warfare, economic feudalism, class warfare, and the national security state, any act of courage and kinship is a form of resistance. Kinship does not just give us the strength we need to resist these forces. It is in fact the key to our survival and overcoming. In such a world, kinship itself is heroic.

I must do this, because I’m not alone here. For the kinship that I bear you, I will do this thing. I will act like I care. I will stand for something. I will give of myself. I will take a risk. These are the words of heroes. Heroism is love in action.

Do you stand in kinship? What will you stand for?

8 comments on Courage in Kinship

  1. Coyote says:

    If we’re not here to help one another then why are we here?
    A long flowing question :)

  2. Soli says:

    For me, the most important part of Pantheacon is connection. Making new ones and strengthening those already in place. I keep wishing for this where I live and I don’t have enough of it. Always triving for more.

    1. Morpheus says:

      Yes, I always really value the opportunity at PCon to meet new people whose interests intersect with mine, and also to meet people in-person who I’ve corresponded with online. We are lucky in the Bay Area to have a relatively dense community of other Pagans around, but it can be tough in areas of the world where Pagans are more dispersed. Where do you live?

      1. Soli says:

        I’m in Connecticut. Sometimes I get hints of people out here whose practices and attitudes are more like the people I value out west, but they tend to hide. I always suspect it’s a mix of the general type of people to be found along with the statewide infection of introversion.

        What’s still amusing to me is that when I go out west, people think I am a local.

  3. I agree with you that our kinship connections — both human and non-human — are what will save us, insofar as it’s possible to be saved, in times of difficulty and tumult. And I appreciate your emphasis on the responsibilities of kinship, which I think are sometimes harder to see than its privileges, although they go hand in hand.

    Since coming home from PantheaCon, I’ve been thinking about what it means to stand in kinship in terms of concrete steps. One thing that’s emerging for me is that kinship and community need to have room for our differing personalities and passions. When we restrict our understanding of these things to what we can all agree on, everyone loses out. Kinship also requires concrete actions for me, in addition to ritual ones. Some of these I’ve already found: I volunteer at a food pantry, teach people how to shake off limiting beliefs and stories, and put lots of hours into my spiritual community at home. But I’m going to seek ways of expressing my kinship with other-than-human beings, which it is important to me to affirm, particularly with the natural world. Thank you for the inspiration to pursue this!

    1. Morpheus says:

      I agree – I actually think kinship requires that allowance for autonomy. We do not have to all agree in order to be kin – we just have to agree to treat each other with the care and respect of kinship. All of your work seems to honor kinship, from what you describe here. And thank you for the feedback on how this is manifesting for you as we go forward from the ritual.

  4. Thank you for this important post. I love hearing your thoughts about what you and the Coru are doing.

    What I’ve found to be true for me is that I must be thoughtful about how I interpret the idea of kinship and where that leads me. I deeply honor the work you are doing and how that work is manifest in the world and I also recognize that I simply don’t have time to do all the things, to support all the things I want to support. I have to continue to make choices and hear about cool and powerful things that I simply don’t have the energy or time for! And I’m jealous that I can’t do all the things of power I want to do!

    My main offering to my kin is to be involved in the movement to source our protein from sustainable, un-cruel practices. I’m an animal person, not a farmer. Being connected to those who raise and hand-kill pigs and cows means that I can provide those connections to folks who might not even consider that option. Raising our own rabbits for meat means that I can provide that meat to others. Keeping chickens for eggs means that I’m making a good vegetarian source of protein available as well. In my perfect world, every meat eater would take a turn at this work, to have a hand in the killing that brings us life.

    1. Morpheus says:

      Jenya, I think what you do with the kind-farming and compassionate slaughtering of meat animals is very courageous. And is a good example of kinship manifest – you’re providing a spiritually wholesome food source for people in your community. People may not fully appreciate how powerful that is, with our habitual easy access to trucked-in food, but I think it’s incredibly important. Keep doing that thing you do!

      I don’t think we as the ritual organizers had in mind that people should choose any specific way to express and manifest kinship – just to encourage everyone to really feel it in their gut and be moved from there to give their best in whatever endeavor is theirs, for the love we bear each other.

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