Divinatory Drawing, February 12th, 2017
The astrological activity that this drawing is based on is documented in my Icon Alchemy astrology blog post for the day, though it's also partly in reaction to the Tarot card I drew for the day.  The Tarot card indicated that not over-thinking things (which advice I endeavored to take for most of the afternoon and evening), but it also indicated a potential need for a different perspective.  When looking at the astrological aspects for the day, I saw themes which I've previously used a pretty standard set of symbols to represent, and I really didn't want to fall back on those same images this time, especially not given the overall feeling to these three aspects taken together.  

The planets each cover multiple areas of human life, and in the case of the transcendental bodies (which Neptune, Pluto, and Chiron all are) those areas are affected by societal and global forces rather than just those specific to individuals.  Each of these aspects involves our emotions and intuitions (the Moon) bumping up against big, impersonal forces, and being transformed in the process.   

I decided to reduce these aspects to one word each in order to see what images they conjured for me.  These are the words that I chose:

Lies.  Loss.  Pain.

Since I've come home to Washington to face my stepmother's ongoing terminal illness and the recent death of my maternal grandmother, family history has been on my mind a lot.  So what these words conjured for me was a defining episode in the life of my paternal grandfather, which not only determined the course of his life but which shaped my father's life and mine as well in ways which I've only recently begun to understand.  

When I was in grade school, we were assigned a basic geneology project, to learn the cultural heritage of our parents and grandparents.  I asked my father about it, and in the course of telling me what he could recollect about both his and my mother's ancestry, he told me that his father and his father's brothers were sent to three separate foster homes when their German preacher father neglected his family in favor of a religious and scholarly obsession, and their mother went back to a reservation in Kansas.  No information about her other than a white-washed name: "Emma" and a date:  1892. 

As a child, I simply accepted this narrative of my great-grandmother quietly abandoning her children.  My own mother had left when I was three, my father's parents had divorced when he was young, and my father was adopted by his mother's second husband, with whom he'd had a chilly relationship.  My grandfather was a silent man who I knew mostly through infrequent telephone calls in which his second wife did most of the talking.  Family for me simply meant dysfunctional, and so there was much that I didn't question until years later.  

My father had a strained relationship with his mother, my beloved grandmother who died shortly before I graduated high school, with whom I'd had the most positive relationship of any family member after my parents' divorce.  I could never quite understand why he had so much trouble communicating with her, why their interactions were so cold and stilted under a layer of false cheer, hesitant at best, disappointed and bitterly silent more often.  My stepmother told me after he died that he'd told her when he was a boy my grandmother was kind to him when she was around, but as a single mother in the 1950s working as a nurse and going to school for her PhD in psychology, she simply wasn't around much, unlike his friends' mothers adhering to the 1950s housewife template, and he'd never forgiven her for it. 

It wasn't until I came across the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, and was introduced to the study of epigenetics and intergenerational trauma that it hit me:  My family was replaying my grandfather's wound, first in my father, then in me.  Combined with this realization was the information that many Native American children who have been taken from their parents were told that their parents had abandoned them when in fact this simply wasn't true.  In addition, their clothing, language, and customs were stripped from them.  Their hair was cut, visually and viscerally breaking ties with their ancestry.  

Strong souls (or lucky ones) may have been able to move forward from this and still claim their Native heritage afterward, but if my grandfather was able to, he never made mention of it to me.  He worked at the San Diego zoo, and every winter sent me subscriptions to Zoo News and Ranger Rick, because apparently it was important to him that I know about his work and care about the natural world.  His second wife was a merry woman of Mexican origin who everyone called "Chica," a sharp contrast to his first wife, my pale blonde grandmother.  I think that my grandfather tried to assimilate, and marrying my grandmother was part of that effort, and then at some point he realized that the buried Native portion of his soul needed someone who could express those qualities that more closely resembled the mother he never spoke of.  

My father in turn felt abandoned by his father, but turned all of his feelings of loss and resentment on his mother, mirroring the story of abandonment internalized by his father, a story my father passed on to me regarding my own mother:  "Your mother abandoned you."  And as I know from talking with my mother over the years, no story of a parent leaving is ever that simple.  

Those aren't the only parallels.  My father's adoptive father was descended from one of the first white missionaries in the state of Washington, whose son translated hymnals into Chinook jargon in order to better convert the Native folk here, removing culture if not by violence himself then by proselytization that ran parallel to the violence of others.  And like his father before him, like his daughter after him, my father was expected to remake himself in his adoptive father's image, a white-washed image, a conqueror's project in civilizing the savage, "The White Man's Burden" expressed in the oppression of a child.  Like his father before him, my father was a silent man, so I have had to piece together clues over the years with very little to go on, but the similarity of some of the shared experiences that have crossed generational lines have jumped out at me, right down to the forced cutting of hair to sever any visible connection to the reviled absent parent (mine).  

I have often said that my face is a face of genocide, as the Native in me has been thinned out over generations, not only bred out but forcibly removed from memory.  The damage that was done in the process is not only a loss of one portion of my heritage, but just as damningly the addition of all of the destructive patterns of relating to family and self, my grandfather's trauma (and perhaps his mother's too) changing the expression of his genes, and my father's, and mine, warping both history and future through hidden channels that have steered our destiny down a painful and nihilistic course.  I have heard it said that we are confronted with situations that mirror those of our parents in order to learn from their mistakes and try not to make the same mistakes, to work through their stories repeating themselves in our own lives in the hopes of coming to a happier ending.  I have no children of my own, and would like to believe that the chain that has bound my father's line for these past four generations is now broken, for better or for worse.  But I know that we all have an influence on the world, and it matters what stories we tell now because of how they shape the future with what they obscure or reveal of the past.

I do not know the real story of my great-grandmother, and given how little information I have to go on, I probably never will.  But I think that if I wish to not be any more a part of the destruction of her people and their legacy than I have been simply by virtue of my birth and my (mostly) white privilege, then I owe it to her not to leave her forgotten in a history known only to the dead.