Mmm hmm. I’m Southern. Raised by a woman who came across the river ’round about fourteen wearing homemade dresses and knowing how to chill milk in the river. I was ashamed of this kind of living, speaking, loving and dying all the way through my doctorate degree. Now, I’m ashamed of that.
Let’s chat a bit about being Southern, being Country, being a Hick and why all that is just alright with me. Ya’ll ever seen Southern Christians pray? Cook for a funeral? Hold hands? Raise babies? I have. Made me a much better Craftswoman. Something in this red clay Alabama dirt, something rich and wild left by the Trail of Tears, runs in my blood like muscadine wine. I’m just outright okay with that. I never did have much truck with folks who couldn’t make peace with their roots. Now, I do not expect that other cultures are not just as fine, as I have had the honor of being entrenched in a few and found them to be just as sound. I reckon they have their traditions and memories and love and food. My celebration and declaration of the wonders of the South is not in resistance to others that are just as valid. No, it’s just that I know this place, these histories, these smells. And they are righteous.
Someone near and dear to me, a Northern brother who came to the South and called it home, asked me recently what I thought of those who have a few preconceived notions and derogatory words to say about the South. My answer to him was the same as my Grandma’s to me about twenty years ago: “Let them think what they want. Let us look crazy as a bessie bug. We like it that way. Keeps our secrets safe.” I’d add that it also assures us of cheaper living, more land and a mystique that I prefer. But, just for fun, let me dispel a few tidbits for those who are not privileged:
We have been practicing the craft on this land long before a ship showed up.
Praying is magic. Pure and sweet.
Family and their traditions are the stuff of honor here. Storytelling keeps our ancestors alive.
Banjos, fidders and harmonicas tell better stories than people.
Fried chicken, collard greens and homespun butter are vessels for healing and divination.
Elocution, when done nice and slow like molasses dripping off a biscuit, takes time and patience. Slower sometimes is better, if you know what I mean.
When our Elders go a bit hatty, we set (go with the linguistics here) Grandma on the porch, hand her iced tea and a pellet gun. Now. That’s respect.
Southern land holds the reverence and deference of a church. Those connections are taught at birth. Pagan? Oh, hell yeah.
Haunted houses are like a Tuesday down here. Well, I know more Christians who hex Mr. So and So’s house on the way by on a Sunday drive than I do Pagans. We are born believing in spirits. Anyone ever heard of Savannah?
The oral tradition is alive and well. Everyone here knows everyone’s lineage, comments on those who don’t respect that fact, and enacts a certain justice against those that would beat their wives, leave their chillun’, or lay around ornery and lazy and not support their own.
“Their Own” means something here. For real.
Yes, yes, we harbor a shameful history of racism and bigotry. So does the rest of the country. Truth is, I don’t have a single friend who doesn’t despise this fact. Nor do I have a single memory of my life without my African American, lesbian and gay and Muslim friends embedded within in them. Folks don’t talk about that. Doesn’t make for a good movie, I suspect. Let the rest of the country think what they want. Then go read The Help. (And do shut up about the title.)
Last one, I Swannee. (Folks down here don’t like to swear. Grandma always said a river can take it.) We respect “the old ways.’ Now. That can be anything from grinding corn like our Cherokee ancestors to feeding strangers. Is there anything more righteously, heartily Pagan than that?
I have spent so many decades in shame over these deep roots of mine that I refuse to feel anything but sanctified over exalting them today. Why would any of us, no matter what our upbringings were, deny our heritage? Is it not in the truth-telling of our beginnings that we find ourselves? As a craftswoman, I refuse to sidestep notions of political correctness when it comes to accessing the spiritual realm. Big Momma (aka Mother Goddess) would have my little, white ass over such a move. And she knows how to throw a shoe.
I write in testament to my roots. I write as sacrement to my heritage. I write in hopes of handing down something that smells of the earth from which I sprung. I write in honor of who I hope to still be. As far as I can tell, that’s the least we can do.
And I’m Pagan Hick.