Temaskalli from Codex Magliabechiano folio 77r
This weekend I mourned the state of our nation like never before. I cried inconsolably as the news and especially the images emerged from Charlottesville. As POC, as women, as queer people, as poor people, we have always experienced hatred and violence targeting our very existence. As a historian I teach students about these outrages and traumas. As a community organizer, I see the effects of systematic racism and violence on the lives of people in my community. I wonder if perhaps emotionally, I had become numb. Sunday, that wall tumbled down and I wept, feeling helpless and overwhelmed.
Then, my friend, two-spirit medicine person, educator, and activist Lea Arrellano put out a call to roll out our medicines. The tears of helplessness turned into tears of remembering. We still carry our ancestral knowledge and traditional medicines in our bodies, in our families, and in our communities. We need them as much as we need our political organizing.
And we need our traditional medicines more than ever-- our temaskalli, our yierbitas, our sobadas, our ceremonias, our rezos, our pláticas, and the comfort of our abuelitas and abuelitos. Why? Because we live in dangerous times. We live in an atmosphere of fear, anger, hatred, and imbalance. We are stressed. We are weary. We are consumed by anger and disbelief. We are unsettled to see the impunity with which white supremacy now shows itself and to witness the dismantling of civil and human rights for which so many generations courageously fought. We are tired of seeing it, talking about it, reading the news about it. Or at least I know, I am.
I want to know what to do.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about Black Panther Fred Hampton who said we can’t fight fire with fire, we have to fight it with water. He said you fight racism with solidarity. Today, we have to fight hatred with love. To fight with love requires that we be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced. In a time of imbalance, it is critically important for us to seek balance.
Our ancestors told us this was a “slippery” earth, like walking on the highest mountain, with an abyss on either side. To avoid falling into the darkness of the abyss, we must be conscientes. We must not allow ourselves to be pushed or pulled off our path of balance by others. It’s not a journey towards perfection—we could never achieve that.
Instead, it is a heart-centered path.
Without our hearts, without the movement of our corazón, we could not live, of course. For our abuelitas and abuelitos, yollotl, our heart is more than the physical organ, however. Our hearts are the seat of memory, consciousness, and ethics. Out of balance, we can suffer from an affliction of the heart, yollococolitzli. (Remember when your mama or your abuelita asked you if you had a coco?)
Sunday night, my beloved Diana and our friend Lucia lit sage, prayed, and sat in silence. It was a simple gesture but one that immediately helped strengthen my heart. We remembered the power of our prayers and our plantitas. We remember the power of a circle.
Today, I ask what is the medicine that you carry for yourself and your community. How can you help fortify yourself, your familia, and your community to fight fire with water? As Lea says, let’s roll out our medicines. This is a time of healing and strengthening for all of us.
Photo by Diana K. Bynum