The Cloak. Last I checked death and enslavement are not listed among the ingredients on a Hershey chocolate bar. But listed or not they are in there. As stories of the company’s involvement in West African cocoa production continue to come to light, especially at this time of year, Hershey responds with some surprise and much regret. But the practices don’t change and they continue to engage in efforts to obscure the true contents of their products.
The Swagger. In just two weeks Oregon voters will decide on whether they have a right to know what’s in their food. A GMO right to know initiative was defeated here in Washington last year. Hopefully Oregon will be more successful. But it’s tenuous. Corporations have barged into this election and spent well over nine million dollars to defeat the initiative. As you can see, Hershey features prominently on this list.
What is it they don’t want us to know? Actually I think many of us are pretty clear about the answer. Perhaps a better question is when will this cloak and swagger end? For the citizens of Oregon hopefully it will end soon.
The indigenous spiritual ancestors of Ireland counsel us to be in right relationship with the Earth, the sacred, and community. There is nothing particularly startling or revelatory in this. Echoing universal spiritual traditions and cosmologies, these are global truths for a global community. It is from our global community that I offer this story – as we approach Halloween a very appropriate tale of horror.
At night Drissa is locked into a small room along with 17 other boys. They have all been tricked into a life of slavery. They thought they were being offered good jobs. They thought they could buy bicycles, clothes, and food for their families. Some were released by their families who believed promises of a better life for their sons. Many families were paid $1.50 for their children, others were duped into paying the passage fee from the village. But the boys are all now slaves to the West African cocoa plantations. They are controlled through brutality. They are controlled through psychological terror, told that they are under a magic spell and if they try to run away they will be paralyzed. Still some dare to run as Drissa did. Once re-captured, as they most always are, they are stripped of their clothes, their hands tied behind their backs, and viciously whipped for several days – the captors shouting, “How did you break my spell?” Some boys do not survive. Those who do have infected wounds and, without medical attention, rely on the maggots feeding on their flesh to clean the wounds and save them from gangrene.
Horrific? Well, multiply this story by 1,817,000. For that is the number of children a Tulane University study reported to be enslaved in the cocoa industry between 2007 and 2008. Most of them young boys between the ages of 6 and 16.
Who, you might ask, would buy chocolate from these farmers? The $13 billion American chocolate industry imports 729,000 tons of cocoa beans and processed products each year. Although the supply chain is concealed, convoluted, and difficult to trace we know it’s a long list of companies that buy chocolate from these farmers. Hershey, Nestle, and Mars top the list but there are others – and when we purchase our Halloween candy from these companies we add our names to that list.
Being in right relationship with the sacred, we see the divine in ourselves and each other. Being in right relationship in community, we extend this vision to every person on this planet. This Halloween tale of horror is truly scary. But it’s not about being scared. Perhaps it’s about being scared sacred.
Of course what’s cool about Halloween, Samhain, is that it’s dark outside. Candle lit pumpkins, ghosts floating in the bare branches of trees, and wee goblins emerging from the shadows just wouldn’t have the same impact in July. So for those of us living in the northern hemisphere the darkness is essential.
Yet beyond what might emerge from the shadows of a moonlit landscape, the real scare can come from what might emerge from the shadows of our own inner landscape.
As we move through the seasons of the year we always come again to this one. The season of darkness. Generally not a popular favorite but one that holds great gifts if we can accept the invitation to offer hospitality to the dark and receive the wisdom waiting for us there. There is the wisdom of turning inward to the light we hold – much as our ancestors gathered inside around their winter hearth fires. For them the darkness was a time of music and stories. For us it is within the dark that we see clearly the light of our own soul and attend the music and story of our spirit.
There is the wisdom of embracing our shadow self as much as we celebrate our light. For only in accepting our own dark shadows can we find true balance. Only by shining a light into those shadows can we disempower any monsters lurking there. Yes, it can be daunting. Yes, it can be scary, sometimes really scary. But it is, after all, the work of the light. Your light.
Beyond getting my plastic pumpkin filled with candy I never saw the point of Halloween. Our carefully chosen costumes were always severely compromised by the galoshes, hats, mittens, and heavy overcoats required for the cold winds and even snows of eastern Washington. And the whole scary thing never did anything for me. Gypsy was always my favorite costume.
Only in recent years have I come to appreciate this holy-day as one of the most important of the year. And for my Irish ancestors it was indeed a holy day. Not unlike celebrations of other cultures, including the Day of the Dead, it was a time for celebrating those who had died. The veils between worlds are thin and ancestral communion was both expected and anticipated.
But to appreciate this anticipation requires a very different cultural context than the one I grew up with. It requires an appreciation for the continuum of life through birth, life, and death – and many lives. It welcomes a knowing that when we exit this earthly plane we return to a spiritual realm. This is the genesis of the Irish wake tradition for it was truly a celebration of one leaving the travails of this world and going home to Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth, a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy. Who wouldn’t celebrate that? And who wouldn’t invite communion with folks from such a place?
This time of Halloween, or Samhain (sow-in) as is the Irish holiday, is an opening to all things that live in the thin veils and shadows of this reality. It is intense and it can be daunting. But it’s beyond scary.
Meri traveled to Ireland with me one summer. Not too many years ago. She created this video as a love letter to and from the Celtic spirit of Ireland. Lovely images and rhythms of that sacred place. Enjoy!
With each passing day we slip further into darkness. It is the reality of this season and some might argue a reality of our world. Last night as I lit a candle for dinner I was reminded of the power of one single flame to light a dark room. And yesterday I was reminded of the power of one single person to create light in the darkness of the world.
Malala was barely eleven years old when she became a champion for girls’ education in her Pakistan homeland. She was only fifteen when she was shot in the head for her advocacy and for speaking out. Now seventeen, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
When I heard this news on NPR I was disappointed to hear one of the people interviewed comment that this award was all the more remarkable because Malala didn’t even have a Ph.D.. As Malala would assert, education is important. But as her example demonstrates, the only thing we need to know is that it only takes one flame to light the darkness.
It’s often a mystery how people find my blog. But according to my site stats there is one consistently popular search: magic bunny out of hat. Or words to that effect. This particular wording was in the list of most popular searches this week. It was over a year and a half ago that I published a post on magic entitled No Hats. No Rabbits. And ever since that post has been multiplying visitors like…well, rabbits. Perhaps it’s time to consider working with a new animal totem. Perhaps I already am.
After years of traveling to Ireland, connecting with the indigenous ancestors there, several powerful initiations, and the encouragement…well, more often insistence…of my teacher I have made a soul promise to bring forward and share this ancestral wisdom. In that sharing people were surprised. For there is nothing particularly revelatory in this wisdom of being in right relationship with the sacred, the Earth, and in community. There is nothing new. It echoes the ancient knowing of indigenous peoples throughout the world. The message is universal and it’s simple.
The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the heartbeat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And launched a campaign of subjugation and genocide that would sweep across this nation leaving a wake of devastation and destruction. So many people, cultures, histories, and traditions lost. Perhaps the greatest tragedy for our human condition is that this treasure of indigenous wisdom is diminished when we need it the most. For me Columbus Day has long been a day of mourning, not celebration.
Two days ago the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on the same day as Columbus Day. Last week the Seattle School Board took the same action. Seattle now joins Minneapolis and South Dakota in designating this day to recognize and honor the first peoples of these lands. As the president of the Quinault Indian Nation said, “Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington.”
In celebrating indigenous peoples we celebrate their indigenous wisdom. And whether it is the ancient knowing of the Salish people, the Irish, or cultures around the world, it is the wisdom light of hope. A light we need desperately. A light worthy of celebration.
To embody the transcendent is why we are here. Sogyal Rinpoche
When we search for deeper meaning in our lives we are called to awaken. To our Buddha nature, to Christ consciousness, to the Light of our sacred selves, to the global wisdom of indigenous cultures and spiritual traditions. Author of two significant books on the Boyne Valley sacred sites and landscapes, Anthony Murphy is passionate about an Irish awakening to the Tuatha Dé, Ireland’s indigenous spiritual ancestors – and an enthusiastic advocate of my book, A Legacy of Wisdom, which explores the power and possibility of this ancient wisdom.
An awakening with and through the spiritual energies and heritage of Ireland. While Anthony, I, and others are becoming zealous about this we haven’t heard much about an Irish awakening in the global conversation. So I was both delighted and surprised to receive a blog link with extensive writing about this. From Hawaii.
Kau’ila Pele is a Spirit of Light working with energies on this planet and on a mission to assist humanity’s awakening. “You know in your souls that this work is essential. Good people are coming together, sharing knowledge and expertise, thus preparing the way for the light.” Pele says this work must be in collaboration with Gaia, the Earth, and the energies she holds. And this is where Ireland comes in. The power of the landscape and the the energy of sacred places are key to this awakening and “Ireland has the densest concentration of sacred sites.” Pele concludes that only “when the Irish people awaken and realise who they are” will this work of the Light be successful.
To experience this powerful energy is why I lead sacred journeys to Ireland every year. It’s never been about seeing stone circles. It’s always been about awakening.