historic process

poisonedyouthofyesterday  asked:

Hi I'm thinking about writing a romance novel that took place between the 1950s and 60s. The setting is in Kenya, Africa from the Mau Mau uprising against Britain until indepence. Could you kindly suggest how I can put that into words Thank you

Yeah dude, you know we can’t do your research for you, right? You know you’re going to have to spend many, many hours doing that research, right? So, how do you get started? And I hope I can assume this is a topic about which you are passionate because, done right, a project like this will by necessity consume you. 

Everything you need to know about what you need to know can be found in this Goodreads summary about one of the best-selling historical novels ever, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. It’s set in 12th century England and the overarching story is about the construction of the finest cathedral ever. 

Sounds fascinating, yeah? No. Not to most people, at least not that they think. It’s the detail and research and craftsmanship – and oddly, the relatability – that’s made it a bestseller for longer than most of you reading this have been alive. 

Follett, btw, began his writing career as a journalist; he got bored, went into publishing and began writing his own stuff on nights and weekends. The result: He’s sold more than 150 MILLION MOTHERFUCKING BOOKS in not quite 40 years. 

But let’s break down the book summary into what you’ll need to know to write: 

1. It’s incredibly detailed, in both natural and human scenery

2. It incorporates the Big Historic Events and People of the time period

3. It incorporates the small, personal events of the characters – things that might be unique to the time and culture and yet are universal to the human experience

4. There are many intriguing characters. We get to know their dreams, their labors and their loves.

5. Characters are shaped by details about their place in society.

6. There’s a damn good plot – betrayal, revenge and love – which is probably why the dude’s sold 150 million motherfucking books; this one alone has sold more than 18 million.

You need to be organized. This post here has good ideas and a list for getting started. Everyone’s method is going to be different, but if you need a place to start setting up your system, you could do much worse. 

If you aren’t already, you need to familiarize yourself with the primary, secondary and tertiary sources for the information you need. Once you dive down this rabbit hole, you’ll be well along the way to being able to find what you need to fill out your descriptions and your characters. Take notes. Keep track of your research and your sources. 

Never, ever forget that you aren’t writing a textbook. Historical fiction author Lindsey Davis has this advice and it cannot be stressed enough:

“You are not writing history. You are writing a novel. This requires you to master plot, characterisation, dialogue, narrative tone and description. Note that nowhere in my list do the words ‘research’ or ‘history’ appear.” 

(quote found in this book, which you might also find helpful.)

This is discussed elsewhere at length, and this blog can help more than we can, but please for the love of the stars do not whitewash or appropriate the culture of your setting. Don’t get caught up in white savior nonsense, a particular pitfall about stories set in Colonial and soon-to-be-post Colonial Africa.  

As we’ve mentioned many times before, the best way to write a good story that doesn’t fall into these traps is to write fully realized, well-rounded characters in a setting for which you’ve given your blood, sweat and tears to research. 

Our tags can help you with the other nuts and bolts of writing mentioned above. Writing tools might help with planning ideas, too. 

Good luck! 

– mod Aliya

…the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable - no less than their mind-images in our heads, the concepts - go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end…
—  Frederick Engels (1886) Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy

step by step process of the first page in my Dates Anthology 2 comic, “Kantha”

Dates Anthology is a collection of short comics and illustrations by over 30 artists focusing on positive queer historical fiction, and the kickstarter for volume 2 starts today! this volume doubles the size of the comics (10-16 pages each) and centers around the theme of “progress,” be it personal, technological or societal.

my comic, “Kantha,” focuses on a young bengali trans girl growing into her culture and her identity while learning traditional embroidery passed from mother to daughter.

CHECK OUT THE KICKSTARTER HERE to see more great comics and artists! various pledge amounts are available with different goodies, including a tier that comes with one of the original inked pages of my comic or the comic “Reflections of a Glassmaker” with pencils by Cat Parra, inks by me. any and all pledges are greatly appreciated!

Ancient Egyptian is the oldest known language; recently discovered examples of hieroglyphic writing date back to c. 3250 BC. The language existed for five thousand years (to the last written forms in eighteenth century Coptic documents) but over this period evolved through a series of five historical stages, with significant differences in grammar between the earlier stages (Old and Middle Egyptian) and the later stages (Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic). However as the written script was deciphered only in the last two hundred years, our understanding of both written and spoken Ancient Egyptian is still evolving, with various methods and theories coming in and out of vogue.
In this work, James Allen presents the first study to trace the changes in ancient Egyptian phonology (the study of speech sounds) and grammar throughout the entire history of the language, including a new analysis of phonology (in place of previous methods that relied solely on a comparison of words from related Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew). A short historical overview of the language’s written and spoken development is followed by a study of phonology, beginning with the various dialects of Coptic (attested as a living language for about fifteen hundred years) and working backwards to find evidence for these Coptic sounds in earlier phases of the language.
Part two concentrates on grammar, which is studied both synchronically (the workings of the language at each of the five historical stages) and diachronically (historical evolution and the process underlying these changes).
Complete with comprehensive notes, bibliography and indices, this book is essential reading for anyone studying the development of the ancient Egyptian language or who has a more general interest in linguistics and the history of language development.

The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study by James P. Allen, Cambridge University Press, 2013 - UK Edition
ISBN: 9781107664678

anonymous asked:

I've been wondering lately if there is much discussion in norse myth/lore along the theme of "gluttony" or discussion of cultural views regarding what we may now view as gluttony (particularly related to food)? You seem like the person to ask such a broad question - you have such thorough knowledge it seems.

Sæll (eða sæl), vinur minn,
(Hello, my friend,)

This is a very peculiar topic, but I quite like that. My first impression, after doing some research, reading, and thinking, is that gluttony as we understand it today (which is a fairly Christianized concept) does not quite stand in Norse mythology and lore. There was, however, a fairly similar social expectation for food to be shared with others. A traveller, for example, was to be given lodgings, and that often included a meal, as well; guests are meant to be given food and a host must not withhold, or else he or she is a poor host. Yet, there does not seem to have been a set amount on how much had to be shared. A host could have more food than the entire local community put together, but he or she (because women often controlled the food, which was no small task, mind you) did not have to divide it out and be left with the same amount as the rest. They simply had to share it when the social situation demanded it of them. There is a case in Njal’s Saga where a man refuses to share food during a famine, yet that man was not charged with gluttony by the author (although the thought may have crossed his mind). Instead, he was threatened with rán, an unsociable act of theft that typically resulted in a feud. In theory, the concepts of gluttony and this social expectation have the same function within a society, but the cultural ‘essence’ behind them is a bit different.

To answer this properly, though, we must consider at least two things: our sources and who wrote them. Much of Norse mythology is contained within two books, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, but bits of mythology are also scattered throughout other sources, such as Ynglinga saga and Volsunga saga. When considering themes such as gluttony in Norse mythology, we must first consider the authors who composed those texts, because we must ask ourselves whether or not they would have been concerned about gluttony to begin with. So, before jumping into the myths themselves, we should consider the cultural views of those who put the myths into writing, and how this society understood such a concept. For simplification, we will only focus on two sources for Norse mythology: the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, since they are the most cohesive sources that we have regarding Norse mythology.

The answer is quite long (perhaps even the longest that I have produced), and I hope that does not bother you. I had originally placed the information under a ‘keep reading’ tab, but it was not working properly for some people, and so I have since removed that. It is a fascinating topic in general, but there is much to be learned about the historical process here as well because I have constructed this answer as a progression of thought rather than just a definitive argument. That said, though, the answer may not be as straightforward as desired.



Pinpointing the exact origin of an abstract concept is always a difficult feat to undertake, and so finding an actual ‘origin’ may be an unfavorable place to begin. Yet, our understanding of gluttony as being a negative practice of excessive consumption does not actually seem to be a natural part of Norse mythology itself. Rather, it seems more likely to have been ‘seeded’ into the myths through Christianity. This does not mean that gluttony is completely irrelevant in terms of Norse mythology, though, because much of our material has indeed passed through Christianity’s filter. Thus, to discuss the role of gluttony in Norse mythology, we must first remind ourselves where gluttony as we view it today (as a sin, or as a negative behavioral trait in general) began, but also how this concept would have been understood in their own time.

To get into the medieval mind a bit, I am going to bring up a few biblical verses about gluttony from the Douey-Rheims’ translation of the Latin Vulgate (with the Latin text first, followed by the English translation). Although it is not directly applicable to Norse mythology, it will allow us to better understand the concepts affecting the minds of our medieval authors.

Isaiah 22:12-14

“Et ecce gaudium et laetitia, occidere vitulos et jugulare arietes, comedere carnes, et bibere vinum: comedamus et bibamus, cras enim moriemur. Et revelata est in auribus meis vox Domini exercituum: Si dimittetur iniquitas haec vobis donec moriamini, dicit Dominus Deus exercituum.”

“And behold joy and gladness, killing calves, and slaying rams, eating flesh, and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die. And the voice of the Lord of hosts was revealed in my ears: Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you till you die, saith the Lord God of hosts.”

Zachariah 7: 4-6

“Et factum est verbum Domini exercituum ad me, dicens: Loquere ad omnem populum terrae, et ad sacerdotes, dicens: Cum jejunaretis, et plangeretis in quinto et septimo per hos septuaginta annos, numquid jejunium jejunastis mihi? Et cum comedistis et bibistis, numquid non vobis comedistis et vobismetipsis bibistis?”

“And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying: When you fasted, and mourned in the fifth and the seventh month for these seventy years: did you keep a fast unto me? And when you did eat and drink, did you not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?”

Given just these verses about gluttony, and assuming that this was not a similar concept to be found in pre-Christian nordic lore or society, we can deduce that gluttony, if it were to appear in the Nordic myths of the Eddas and sagas, would be excessive consumption with an emphasis on selfishness. If our medieval authors were ecclesiastically trained, or at least familiar with the writing and copying of Latin texts and thus intimately familiar with biblical verse and Christian culture, then this would have been, generally speaking, what gluttony may have ‘looked’ like in their minds.

Now, there are several complications involved with this, but the most important of these is that our authors are often anonymous, meaning that we cannot be sure they would have such intimate familiarity with a biblical definition of gluttony. There are only two sources out of the four mentioned above that have a comfortably known author, and that is Snorri Sturluson and his Prose Edda and Ynglinga saga (contained within his larger work, Heimskringla). Yet, given the tone and treatments of certain subjects, it is possibly to assume, within reason, whether or not an anonymous author had a ‘Christian-oriented’ mind based on their use of language and narration style, or tone. The anonymous author of Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, for example, clearly demonstrates the Christian mind through his treatment of how that saga, and Hrolf’s final battle, came to a close.

Discussing Christian themes in these sources is tricky business, because they are not solely Christian nor are they solely pre-Cristian; they are blends of old and new, and thus separating them becomes rather difficult. Assuming gluttony to be a Christian-only concept, for example, is one such difficulty. Our lack of sources to help confirm a pre-Christian Nordic tradition regarding excessive food consumption or hoarding is another. And yet, assuming that pre-Christian Nordic lore had such a concept at all, and that such a concept held a similar negative context, would also be dangerous, because many of our source have passed through that Christianized filter. Even when looking at sources that perhaps did not pass through that filter, such as a runestone, there is still the filter of our own, contemporary minds to worry about. In fact, equating the Cristian-based understanding of gluttony that western society holds today (which has a long-rooted history) to a possible, similar concept in pre-Christian Nordic lore also brings us insecurities.

Yet, these debates will not be able to get us anywhere at the moment, for they obviously involve a long, winding path to a place we do not intend to walk to. My lack of knowledge in terms of gluttony in the pre-medieval Nordic world, or rather in any place outside of the Christian-medieval mind, could also be holding us back from a more concrete answer. Instead, it may be best to keep these complication in mind and move forward into the texts themselves.


A good place to begin such a broad journey is with the most secure source. When I say ‘secure’, though, I mean it in a fairly specific way. In terms of this answer, secure means that we know the author and date of the work in question. Since we know that Snorri Sturluson played a major role in writing down much of Norse mythology and lore, he is a suitable place to begin a discussion about themes of gluttony. Not only does he provide us with a time period to work off of, but also a voice.

Snorri Sturluson, born at Hvamm (in western Iceland) in 1179, was a historian, poet, and politician. Although he was a very secular man, caught up in matters far removed from traditional ecclesiastical concerns, Snorri was a learned and Christian author. Yet, he was not a cleric, unlike many other Icelandic writers during this time. (1.) Still, considering his Prologue, one could hardly argue that Snorri was completely detached from Christian learning. He wrote in the thirteenth century, which was a time of great political, economic, and social change for Iceland. The Church, for example, had gained more power and authority in Iceland (it was a native Church, but eventually becomes very much Norwegian, which, in turn, was more continental). While this happened, the Church “attacked the traditional power of secular chieftains,” which Snorri himself was. (2.)

While all of this turmoil unfolded, Snorri seemed concerned about his traditional succumbing to new order. As early as the twelfth century, at least, Latin stories, such a saints’ lives and chivalric romances, were being translated in Iceland. (3.) It is likely that Snorri saw this as superseding the tradition of the skalds, which could have been one motivation for writing his Prose Edda; he wanted to encourage his contemporaries to compose traditional poetry with traditional (and new) material and thus keep the art form alive and well. In such a sense, his Prose Edda truly does become a blend of cultures, which explains his purpose for aligning Norse mythology and lore to the newly encompassing Christian realm. In form, at least, the Prose Edda owes much to the influx of Latin works, particularly of Latin learned treaties. (4.)

In the end, although Snorri was passionate about his traditions, he was still a Christian, which means that Christian elements could have made their way into the retelling. Even though he was no ecclesiastically trained, he had to have been taught by someone who was (and if not he, the one before him). Even so, he lived in a Christian world, not a pagan one. His purpose was not to revive heathenry, but to revive the traditions within a Christian framework. He did not do this in a religious sense, though; his work is fairly detached and impartial. Even in the Skáldskaparmál, for example, he warns his readers against actually believing in the material. (5.) Thus, it is quite likely, then, that Christian themes like gluttony could have made their way into certain stories, whether consciously or subconsciously. Having this temporal context in mind, as well as Snorri’s personal ‘voice’, we might be able to unravel the question of gluttony a bit more easily.


The Prose Edda, despite its many flaws, is “the only comprehensive account of Norse mythology from the Middle Ages.” (6.) Yet, even if Snorri’s work was not particularly influential in his own time, it is definitely foundational to our understanding of Norse mythology today. In considering the theme of gluttony, though, there are several portions of lore that concern food and consumption in particular, especially in Valhalla and at feasts. The problem we will begin to run into is that food is often being referred to in a magical and ideal sense; when food is mentioned, it is among gods, not men. In the realm of the heavens there is no shortage of food and thus no shame in abundance, for all have an endless supply. This is suggested by the nature of food in Valhalla:

“…there will never be such a large number in Val-hall that the meat of the boar Sæhrimnir will not be sufficient for them. It is cooked each day and whole again by evening.” (7.)

In the Norse world, there seemed to have been a slightly different importance placed on food than there is in Christendom. For example, as the Hávamál will later attest to, there is a social expectation for the wealthy to hold great feasts for their guests, although these guests are often of high class themselves. Although this next portion of the lore does not say that a gluttonous man is to be shamed, it does suggest that a non-providing host would be shamed in a similar fashion:

“This is a strange question you are asking, whether All-father would invite kings and earls and other men of rank to his house and would give them water to drink, and I swear by my faith that there comes many a one to Val-hall who would think he had paid a high price for his drink or water if there were no better cheer to be got there, when he had previously endured wounds and agony leading to his death. There is a goat called Heidrun standing on top of Val-hall feeding on the foliage from the branches of that tree whose name is well known, it is called Lerad, and from the goat’s udder flows mead with which it fills a vat each day. This is so big that all the Einherjar can drink their fill from it.” (8.)

Although ending once more on a magical and idealistic source, such a passage begins with a strong tradition in providing food for guests of rank. Not only that, though, but it is expected that the host provide more than mere water. This, of course, is skewed to upper strata thinking, but still indicates an significance being imposed upon the nature of food. In terms of excess, though, there does not seem to be any negativity surrounding it, although there is an expectation that it should be shared with your guests. This is a bit different from gluttony, though, and so I would not be quick to consider them to be the same concept. The punishment for not sharing in excess is not considered to be sinful, but rather it is considered unsociable; a host does necessarily not need to provide for the needy, but for his guests.

This guest-host custom is actually a bit more complicated than that, though. It is not solely fixated on food, nor is it only a practice among the wealthy. In sticking to mythological material only, there is an instance in which Thor and Loki are guests in a peasant’s home:

“In the evening they arrived at a peasant’s house and were given a night’s lodging there. During the evening Thor took his goats and slaughtered them both. After this they were skinned and put in a pot. When it was cooked Thor sat down to his evening meal, he and his companion. Thor invited the peasant and his wife and their children to share the meal with him.” (9.)

This bit of lore actually brings even more complexity into the question concerning gluttony. For one thing, Thor is able to bring an unlimited food source to their table, because his goats can be sacrificed and brought back to life if treated properly. Yet, Snorri has also been very removed from these stories and thus does not offer much elaboration on their meanings. Thor shares the meal with the peasants, which could suggest that it was expected that one should share their food. If gluttony is selfishly hoarding and consuming food, then this social expectation to share food with others could suggest the possibility of a more social-based gluttony, rather than the moral and religious based understanding of gluttony that we have procured from Christianity.

Things begin to change once we consider the stories told in the Skáldskaparmál, though, which is not terribly surprising considering that there is speculation that Snorri wrote this portion of his Prose Edda before the Gylfaginning, meaning that it could easily contain a slightly different intent. It also has a different purpose than the Gylfaginning, because it aims to instruct a contemporary audience on applying mythology to contemporary skaldic practice, whereas the Gylfaginning was much more like a contextual background for the Skáldskaparmál. Literary debates aside, there is a more ‘active’ take on food customs from the very beginning of the Skáldskaparmál, when Loki is enraged that a giant eagle was being rather gluttonous:

“…it let itself from from the tree and sat on the oven and to begin with immediately put away the ox’s two hams and both shoulders. Then Loki got angry and snatched up a great pole and swung it with all his strength and drove it at the eagle’s body.” (10.)

I used the word ‘gluttonous’ a bit carelessly, but it is clear that Loki is upset (and rightfully so) because the eagle was selfish about his portion of the meal, which was meant to be shared. Of course, this tale may have a different intention overall, but this is still an evident moment where the selfish indulgence of food causes strife. Yet, it is still within the frameworks of an unsociable act, rather than a sinful act that would result in some spiritual damnation. We could debate this, though. If a person is a bad host, are they not punished by some divine force? In Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, Odin, disguised as a traveler named Hrani, puts King Hrolf’s behavior as a guest to the test. King Hrolf fails to accept Hrani’s gifts with appreciation, resulting in Odin denying him victory in a battle yet to come. Thus, a divine force could punish a person for not adhering to a social custom. This, however, did not involve food, which is a key difference between the Norse guest-host custom and gluttony; it does not have to be about food.

Taking a step back, though, there was never a heavy distinction placed between religion and society in the pre-Christian Nordic world; they were very much connected and inseparable. Even from a scientific viewpoint, religion and morality have a social function; they are ‘created’ to ensure that a group can work together more easily. The difference we have begun to observe, then, comes down to where the theme of gluttony is applied; is gluttony a spiritual failure or is gluttony an unsociable act? Although the Norse custom of guest-host behavior could involve food, and when it does it seems similar to the Christian notion of gluttony that we hold today, one could argue that the Norse had different connotations associated with it. Still, in the end, a sinful gluttony and an unsociable gluttony have the same role in a society, which is to ensure that food is shared when others are in need. I strongly advice against equating the two, though. The Nordic notion of guest-host behavior was not exactly the same as the Christian theme of gluttony, especially because that custom was not founded in food alone.

Having discussed these intricacies, we should be able to read our next example a bit more cautiously. In the Skáldskaparmál, Odin boasts about his horse, Sleipnir, to a giant named Hrungnir. In a “giant fury”, he chased Odin all the way into Valhalla, even getting past the gates! Since he had arrived, the Æsir treat him as a proper guest, for that is the guest-host custom that must be kept, even between gods and giant. Nonetheless, here is how Hrungnir behaves:

“…when he got to the hall doors, Æsir invited him in for a drink. He went into the hall and demanded that he should be given a drink. Then the goblets that Thor normally drank out of were brought out, and Hrungnir drained each one. And when he became drunk there was not lack of big words: he said he was going to remove Val-hall and take it to Giantland, but bury Asgard and kill all the gods, except that he was going to take Freyja and Sif home with him, and Freyja was the only one then who dared to bring him drink, and he declared he was going to drink all the Æsir’s ale.” (11.)

After this, the Æsir have Thor come into the hall with his hammer. They are unable to fight right away, though, because they must work around the social norms and customs that regulate guest treatment and host responsibilities. Eventually they do fight, and the Æsir are ‘avenged’. When we consider Hrungnir’s actions, he did two things that led to his ‘downfall’: he consumed more than was respectful and he cast various threats to those acting as his hosts. As a result, food is not the only issue here, although it clearly is a part of the problem. He was gluttonous in nature, but it was this in combination with poor guest habits that truly caused the violation.

Overall, these various examples from the lore preserved within the Prose Edda paint a complicated picture of ‘gluttony’ in Norse mythology. If gluttony is “excessive consumption with an emphasis on selfishness,” then there are indeed elements that do resemble gluttony. The giant eagle was selfish in his portion of food, which resulted in Loki being angered and attacking him. The giant eagle’s behavior was clearly a selfishness derived from excessive consumption, but more importantly of the best cuts of meat. Hrungnir was completely selfish in his consumption of the Æsir’s ale, which also encouraged anger among his hosts. Yet, this was also packaged with various, unsociable insults. Thus, there was a concept of gluttony in the Norse traditions of the Prose Edda, but this concept was not the gluttony that we know today. It may appear in a similar form, but it is intermingled with various other unique social norms and practices; food was never the only factor.


Now that we have looked deeply into this theme as it appears in the Prose Edda, we will turn to the Poetic Edda to better define what we have observed. Although the Poetic Edda consists of a great variety of poetry, this discussion will mostly be centered around the Hávamál. Not only will that poem serve to help us better understand this guest-host norm, but it also has a bit more to say about excessive consumption in regards to both food and drink. Of course, this perspective will complicate things, because it would be wise to remind ourselves of the caution that should be taken. The poems in the Poetic Edda are considered older material, but they were still written and compiled much later, in the 1270s, by far-removed hands; they are not free from possible alterations.

Most scholars agree that the mythological material contained in these poems is largely unaltered, but the social backing may have not gotten off as easily. Mythology, and the beliefs involved therein, were never standard nor stagnant; practice and belief varied on the basis of both region and time. As far as we know, “the localized nature of cults and rituals produced neither dogma nor sacred texts.” (12.) Thus, the contents of the Hávamál, for example, which has much to say about the doings of guests and hosts, may have been speaking more to a thirteenth-century audience using older, mythological motifs. We do not know the author who compiled these poems, nor do we actually know when and where these poems actually originated for certain. Such a claim (concerning a thirteenth-century influence) would require a lengthy discussion, though. The point I wish to make is that this material could be a blend of old and new, and that it would be unwise to assume otherwise. Although many of these norms have roots in a more distant past, they have not gone through time unchanged.

With that having been said, we shall turn our attention to this guest-host norm. The very beginning of Hávamál concerns the expectations of a proper host. When considering food, the host is expected to share; it would be viewed negatively if the host were to selfishly withhold food from a guest in need. Yet, even though this is fairly similar to gluttony, it still alludes us; it cannot fit nicely into our box. Nonetheless, here are the stanzas:

“ ‘Blessed by the givers!’ A guest has come in,
where is he going to sit?
He’s in great hast, the one who by the log-stack
is going to try his luck.

“Fire is needed for someone who’s come in
and who’s chilled to the knee;
food and clothing are necessary for the man
who’s journeyed over the mountains.

“Water is needful for someone who comes to meal,
a towel and a warm welcome,
a friendly disposition, if he could get it,
speech and silence in return.” (13.)

A guest ought to be brought in, warmed up with fire, given towels and clothes, provided with water and a meal, and given a friendly welcome and stay. When considering the theme of gluttony in the Prose Edda, these were the many of the other expectations that were intermixed with the importance of sharing in food. The Æsir had to be proper hosts for Hrungnir, after all, despite his poor behavior. Considering this list, though, food actually plays a far less significant role in this custom; gluttony, on the other hand, is solely fixated on food. The theme of food is present within this guest-host norm, but it is not central.

So what made Hrungnir a poor guest in terms of consumption? We know that he was insulting and unkind to his gracious hosts, but there was still the concern of his excessive consumption. His consumption habits also had far more to do with alcohol than with food. The Hávamál has much to say about consuming too much alcohol:

“No better burden a man bears on the road
than a store of common sense;
no worse journey-provision could he carry over the plain
than over-much drinking of ale.”

“It isn’t as good as it’s said to be,
ale, for the sons of men;
for the more a man drinks, the less he knows
about his own mind.”

“The forgetfulness-heron it’s called
who hovers over ale-drinking;
he steal’s a man’s mind;
with the bird’s feathers I was fettered
in the court of Gunnlod.”

“Drunk I was, I was more than drunk
at wise Fialar’s;
that’s the best about ale-drinking that afterwards
every man gets his mind back again.” (14.)

It is important to mention that these stanzas do not morally condemn those who drink too excessively. Rather, these lines carry the tone of guidance for a wise man to avoid being a foolish one; the emphasis is always on the mind. It is about what is ‘logical’ behavior and what will bring a man greater struggle and hardship. This is quite different from the Christianized theme of gluttony that western society holds today, which is generally rooted in morality and religious failure. Yet, this does not mean that a Christian author (or reader) would not have drawn a parallel between these stanzas and the theme of gluttony.

There is something to be said about food in particular as well, which is rather peculiar since drinking is often the focus, not food; there is much less concern about food, for there are many more stanzas about excessive drinking than there are about the excessive consumption of food. The Hávamál, however, does have something to say about food, although nothing very concrete. Here are the examples:

“The greedy man, unless he guards against this tendency,
will eat himself into lifelong trouble;
often when he comes among the wise,
the foolish man’s stomach is laughed at.”

“Cattle know when they ought to go home,
and then they leave the pasture;
but the foolish man never figures
the measure of his own stomach.” (15.)

These are, perhaps, the most convincing bits of ‘lore’ regarding actual gluttony in Norse mythology (at least out of those examined in this response). Here, Odin (although not actually Odin, but a poet using his ‘image’ to make a point) explicitly says that a man who consumes food to an excessive degree is “greedy.” Furthermore, there is a much more Christian-like tone to the words following that, saying that the man is greedy “unless he guards against this tendency.” That is, the tendency to eat too much. To say that this tendency is gluttony, though, is difficult. Is the poet condemning gluttony specifically here, or is the criticism still fixated on this man’s mind? Although the term ‘greedy’ alludes much more strongly to gluttony, the poem reverts back to ‘unwise’ and ‘foolish’. It is as if the poem briefly scraps the surface of gluttony, but then recedes back into the motif of Odin and his wisdom — from morality to sensibility. More context would be needed to make a definite conclusion (or another long discussion focusing on this specifically).


Having looked at the Hávamál, then, we are forced to take a step back and bring all of this information together, especially since a lot of material and intricacies have been discussed. Overall, the traces of ‘gluttony’ in Norse mythology have a much stronger basis in social practices than Christian gluttony, which seems to be far more individualistic and self-reflective. In the examples above, themes of gluttony, or gluttony-like scenarios, are interwoven with social norms that relate to food consumption within society. The giant eagle’s ‘gluttony’ was more about an unfair and unbalanced deal; he was to be given a portion, but not to selfishly take whatever he pleased. Hrungnir was ‘gluttonous’ (although mostly in terms of drink), but it was truly his poor behavior after his excessive consumption that led to strife. In all of these tales from the lore, food was never quite the only problem.

In the end, it seems that Norse mythology does not contain the same notion of gluttony that we do today. Some of our medieval authors may have noticed some opportunities to insert the concept into the myths, but they have done surprisingly well at avoiding this. Snorri Sturluson, for example, did his best to remain neutral about the material he was presenting (with the exception, perhaps, being the Prologue). He also had a very specific purpose behind his work. Although we cannot say the same about the Poetic Edda, having an anonymous author and an unclear date of origin (for the poems themselves), that work still shows a similar theme of gluttony that is entangled within social practices and behavior.

To conclude, Norse mythology has a similar theme, but it is skillfully blended with related social norms; we cannot extract a wholly gluttonous scenario or tale. There are a few reasons for this, but it is most important to note that, when approaching material with a ‘non-native’ concept, we must take care not to impose this concept onto the material. The same applies for forcefully removing ‘foreign’ concepts from something that time has permitted to enter it. It is surprising to see that Christian authors like Snorri Sturluson had not imposed this view onto the material when committing it to pen, but less so when considering his motivation behind doing so. In perhaps an unsatisfying response, gluttony is not present within Norse mythology, at least not to the form that it exists within our minds today. Elements of gluttony, though, are present, but they are combined with rather specific social norms. To truly understand the mythology that has been presented to us, and the various concepts that dwell within it, we must carefully consider who wrote them and when they were written. Then, we must be carefully not to alter the lore to serve our own bias or tendencies (at least when speaking in terms of historical practice).

Thank you kindly for asking. I do apologize for the long-winded response, but there are many intricacies and complexities to address. Still, I hope you find something beneficial from reading this response, although it may not be exactly the answer you were looking for.

Með vinsemd og virðingu,
(With friendliness and respect,)

1. Snorri Sturluson, Edda, translated by Anthony Faulkes. (repr., 1987; London: J.M. Dent, 1995), xii. [Free online version
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid., xiii.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., xvii. “…take this book as scholarly inquiry and entertainment. But these stories are not to be consigned to oblivion or demonstrated to be false, so as to disprove poetry of ancient kennings which major poets have been happy to use. Yet Christian people must not believe in heathen gods, nor in the truth of this account in any other way than that in which it is presented at the beginning of this book, where it is told what happened when mankind went astray from the true faith…” (64-65).
6. Ibid., xviii.
7. Ibid., 32.
8. Ibid., 33.
9. Ibid., 37-38.
10. Ibid., 59-60.
11. Ibid., 77.
12. Carolyne Larrington trans., The Poetic Edda. (repr., 1996; Oxfrod: Oxford University Press, 2014), xii.
13. Ibid., 13. (Stanzas 2-4).
14. Ibid., 14-15. (Stanzas 11-14).
15. Ibid., 15. (Stanzas 20 and 21).



Margaret Bourke-White wasn’t just the first woman photographer at Life— her images dominated the magazine’s inaugural issue when it premiered in November 1936. Her assignment to cover the building of the Fort Peck Dam was meant as a continuation of the kind of industrial documentation she excelled at while working for Fortune, but as the telegrams she sent back to her editors make clear, her interests went beyond the project itself to include the lives of people living in the nearby settlement. The cover image she produced remains iconic, and the accompanying photographic essay helped set the tone for what Life would be as a publication. 

The magazine’s editors described her work in their introduction:

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White had been dispatched to the Northwest to photograph the multi-million dollar projects of the Columbia River Basin. What the Editors expected—for use in some later issue—were construction pictures as only Bourke-White can take them. What the Editors got was a human document of American frontier life which, to them at least, was a revelation. Having been unable to prevent Bourke-White from running away with their first nine pages, the Editors thereafter returned to the job of making pictures behave with some degree of order and sense.

Margaret Bourke-White. Telegrams to Dan Longwell. October 27–November 4, 1936. Time Inc. Bio Files. New-York Historical Society.

Life. November 23, 1936. Time Inc. New-York Historical Society.

Processing of the Time Inc. Archive is made possible through the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation

Not to be pugnacious, but math describes the world spectacularly well and we have no idea why. Why do we expect math to describe particles but not people? And how could you answer that if you don’t understand why it describes particles in the first place?

Certainly it’s easier to correctly use math to talk about the physical world (as opposed to the social world), and without math there’s a whole lot less you can say about the physical world than about humans and societies. But some of our most important insights into human behaviour are more or less mathematically derived, and we’re only getting better at that.

I think the notion that math cannot productively be used to study fields like history comes mainly from three sources.

First, there’s a lot of terrible work in quantitative social science (regressions regressions regressions). Ironically, though, this research typically comes from the people who think the least about how to use math when talking about people and who have the least faith in its usefulness. That’s a self-defeating prophecy.

Second, as I’ve written about many times before here, the tight coupling of math and the physical world has been a tremendous generator of wealth in industrial society. We poured money into getting really good at engineering and the industrial applications of physics and chemistry, thereby making mathematically intensive jobs extremely competitive, and then we developed a huge mental barrier about math where the Math People deserve big fat paycheques because they’re destined by the invisible hand to be really good at figuring out how much concrete goes where. This is an area where plenty of anti-capitalists have been completely bamboozled by the market into either hating or revering math.

Third, it actually is a lot easier to study particles with math than to study people with math. For whatever reason, the #UnreasonableEffectivenessOfMathematicsInTheNaturalSciences outstrips the  #UnreasonableEffectivenessOfMathematicsInTheSocialSciences. There’s an egotistical “humans are complicated” cop-out that a lot of people lean on, but of course particles are complicated too. I do think, though, that a big part of this story is that the warts of physical science are invisible to people in a way that the warts of social science aren’t. There are a bunch of reasons why the math that is usually employed in physical sciences both is and seems tougher; quantitative physical science rushed along rapidly for whatever fundamental reason and became pretty tough to understand pretty quickly, it was dramatically materially boosted in the last ~150 years by its industrial and wartime relevance (which is point #2), and there are also strong incentives for social scientists to tell societies exactly what to do (and look like big old dopes in a way physical scientists don’t) when the researchers themselves don’t actually have precise or accurate enough tools to properly know.

An interesting case here is medicine: they have an extremely similar mathematical toolbox to social scientists, they’re studying very similar social and psychological problems, and they constantly screw up, but even when bad quantitative medical research causes the President of the United States to throw the full weight of his office behind a flu vaccination campaign for a flu that never happens, nobody says that you just can’t use math to study medicine. The reason we don’t doubt their methodology much is that they’ve also had a colossal number of successes, which in my view isn’t because medicine is more mathematically tractable. It’s rather because medical researchers have infinite money from all the people who want to be healthy, and that means they have a ridiculous volume of research activity and their field moves forward super fast. Plus medical doctors get big paycheques and we have a habit of respecting people in proportion to how much they earn.

What I’m saying is: obviously you can use math and computers to study history and other social fields. People should do that (and others should study them qualitatively), and inevitably we’ll have good quantitative and computational models of historical processes. I also believe these subfields actually have a strong track record compared to many other social science subfields – for example, I think the definition of cliodynamics as written includes Marx. Of course this stuff is not easy to study, and it never will be, and there are tons of traps you can very easily fall into, but sooner or later someone will get really good at using tools like computer simulations to study human society and when they do they are going to learn a hell of a lot of really neat stuff.

In thinking about colonialism as a form of structured聽dispossession, I have found it useful to return to a聽cluster of insights developed by Karl Marx in chapters 26 through 32 of his first volume of Capital. This section of Capital is crucial because it is there that Marx most thoroughly links the totalizing power of capital with that of colonialism by way of his theory of “primitive accumulation.” Challenging the idyllic portrayal of capitalism’s origins by economists like Adam Smith, Marx’s chapters on primitive accumulation highlight the gruesomely violent nature of the transition from feudal to capitalist social relations in western Europe (with an emphasis placed on England). Marx’s historical excavation of the birth of the capitalist mode of production identifies a host of colonial-like state practices that served to violently strip–through “conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder”–noncapitalist producers, communities, and societies from their means of production and subsistence. In Capital these formative acts of violent dispossession set the stage for the emergence of capitalist accumulation and the reproduction of capitalist relations of production by tearing Indigenous societies, peasants, and other small-scale, self-sufficient agricultural producers from the source of their livelihood–the land. It was this horrific process that established the two necessary preconditions underwriting the capital relation itself: it forcefully opened up what were once collectively held territories and resources to privatization (dispossession and enclosure), which, over time, came to produce a “class” of workers compelled to enter the exploitative realm of the labor market for their survival (proletarianization). The historical process of primitive accumulation thus refers to the violent transformation of noncapitalist forms of life into capitalist ones.
—  Glen Sean Coulthard, “Introduction,” Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

Liberals who complain that white workers who support Trump are “stupid,” and those Marxists who chalk it up to “false consciousness,” are two sides of the same coin.

First, there is no pre-given “true consciousness” for anyone to be tricked out of attaining. Consciousness develops via concrete historical processes and there is no “true” outcome determined in advance. Nor do people have a priori interests that they can be made to work against. Interests are, like anything else, produced in a struggle that is always on-going.

Second, although there may be a partial truth in saying that poor people turn to reactionary ideology when they are desperate and there are not strong alternatives from the left, this remains a (small) part of the picture. Ideology indeed has a grip on all of us because it is a critical part in how we understand ourselves and our relation to the world. Bourgeois ideology can make us act in ways which reinforce the rule of the capitalists while we feel that what we are doing is meaningful or even rebellious. However, ideology alone cannot account for everything. Bourgeois ideology would be disrupted by day to day realities (as it is to some degree all the time among the most excluded parts of the populace) if it were not backed up by certain structural factors. Ideology is most effective when it works in conjuction with economic and political concessions which reinforce the dominant “world-view.”

The support for white supremacy among white workers is the product of an historical processes of granting property and political power (however meager) to whites while at the same time excluding other nationalities and national minorities from the same. In return for social passivity (or at least for channeling resistance in ways that ultimately reproduce the status quo), and for acting as “shock troops” against the resistance of colonized people, white workers have been granted certain privileges, a process which has created a community of interests between most white workers and the bourgeoisie. Support for white nationalism is not a matter of white workers being tricked into “acting against their own interests.” It is a matter of white workers acting upon interests which have been created in the course of u.s. political struggle.

It may be that to some extent, white workers are having the rug swept out from under them, but historically privileged populations tend to cling harder to reaction when their position is perceived to be at risk. Again this is not a “false consciousness” but a product of historical processes which can be traced.

Framing reaction among poorer whites as if it’s a matter of those whites being “duped” into acting against some innate interests they supposedly have is in its own way incredibly condescending and arrogant. People who support Trump are not “stupid,” nor have they been “tricked,” and they know what their interests are: those interests are just not compatible with communism. And this is not to say that it’s impossible for these interests to be displaced. But, in the u.s. and canada at least, the development of revolutionary interests and consciousness requires an acceptance of total decolonization, which for settlers means accepting the relinquishing of land and political and cultural dominance. Some white people may be prepared for this but we’ve got to be realistic and acknowledge that if we’re waiting around for widespread support for decolonization among white people we’re gonna be waiting a long time.

I think this all needs to be said but to some extent i think discussing this shit so much puts too much emphasis on white people. Just strategically speaking, especially when looking at the global scale, revolution does not even depend on widespread support from white people, so i wonder about the productiveness of the left scrambling to rationalize support for white supremacy among poorer whites in the first place.

“… as for the schizo… she scrambles all the codes and is the transmitter of the decoded flows of desire. the real continues to flow. in the schizo, the two aspects of process are conjoined: the metaphysical process that puts us in contact with the “demoniacal” element in nature or within the heart of the earth, and the historical process of social production… schizophrenia is desiring-production as the limit of social production…”

-deleuze & guattari, anti-oedipus

anonymous asked:

Hi! c: thank you for existing. I was just wondering if you guys know any "holy grail" bts fics. For example EXO has; Absolute Chanyeol, Anterograde Tomorrow, 10800 etc. I was wondering if there were any not "must read" but a more deeper, heavier approach (could be depressing af, knowing anterograde) but just something of high quality, after reading ur left wondering the point in life. anyways i love you all and thank you for working so hard recommending <3 have a wonderful day :)

i think this compilation should have what you need. i know they’re must reads but they’re also plot heavy. you can also check out the tagpage for angst.

since im not 100% sure of what ur looking for when u say ‘holy grail’ fics here are some memorable psychological/angsty/deep fics that really stuck w me: 
- firework by markerlimes ; sugakookie
- the kickstart series by error401; yoonmin hitman au
- trying to behave (but you know that we never learned how) by christmasyoongi ; yoonmin, youtuber/prostitution au
- reprise by minverse; vmin reincarnation au
- a wonderful institution by bazooka; namjin wedding planner au
- loverboy by gangbay ; vminkook ; emotional manipulation au
- purple constellations by lili95276 ; taekook college au
- i’ll give you the sun by inkingbrushes ; break up make up au
- scentless flower by resonae ; yoonjin 
- all the king’s men by annafeu ; vmin and jikook ; historical au
- a procession of seasons by shikae ; yoonseok high school au
- wonder by wordcouture ; jikook apocalypse au; warning for char death

- admin nissi 

Kinda controversial but I still think this is ultimately true

“Proletarian internationalism (no war but class war) discloses the rallying cry for a “Free Palestine” as a retreat from the possibility of human community. Leftist support for reactionary nationalism on the grounds of siding with the underdog is both preposterous and repugnant. It is a wanton irrationality. Whomsoever brandishes the Palestinian flag sustains the general category of nationhood. And yet this left sentimentalism is also intelligible. Of greater interest than ostensible popular frontist rationalizations around my enemy’s enemy, is the how of leftism’s pro-nationalism. It appears in protest form against the historical process of demolition and bulldozing of that which has been defeated. The Left perpetually seeks another means for returning to the historically obsolete modes of religion, nation-state, and sentimentalized cultural particularity. Indeed, this seeking out of ways back, is the Left’s political function.

Historically, it has been the task of communists to simply refute this backward drifting of the Left, hitherto understood as mere opportunism or blatant racketeering. The refutation has always taken the same form: there can be no dialogue (and still less common cause) with the nation, with religion, with class. In their approach to leftism, it has been conventional for communists to fall into line with the progressive historical lockout of obsolete forms in the name of proliferating past potentialities. Evidently, this policy is inadequate and implicitly assumes the absolute unworthiness of all of that which is no longer supported by the present productive apparatus. While it is true that all past social forms institutionalized themselves as a specific mode of inhuman violence, repression, and denial, they also recorded something of an eternally renewed “passion and will” for the human community. The Left has imperfectly sought out connection to that which is good but buried in the past. This is not to suggest that a “return” to that which is otherwise lost forever is a plausible or even desirable option. National liberation is untenable and in all cases incompatible with human community. The no state, no religion, and no class demands, which communism makes upon society, remain invariant. There can not be and must never be a “free Palestine.””

anonymous asked:

ok i think this one's the ultimate: oscar wilde vs. henry james.

I have been pondering this all day. Because we all know, in every way he could possibly win, Oscar Wilde is going to fucking wreck Henry James. Henry James doesn’t stand a chance.

As far as brute strength goes, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was tall, tough, Irish, and could drink even the roughest of sorts from under the table. He just happened to look fab as fuck while doing it.

Do not pick a fight with Oscar.

The only problem is…………………. Henry James did. Henry James is the epitome of “fight me bitch” and had the biting tongue to back it up. Henry James didn’t care if he won or lost. He just wanted to fight. And the one person in the entire wide universe he focused all of his rage was our favorite aesthete. That’s what makes him dangerous. He knows he’s probably gonna lose, but that just pisses him off more and makes him fight harder. I’m not saying Harry would win in a cage match, because Oscar would knock him out in a few hits.

But I am saying Oscar might just get shanked in the process.

Rethinking African Religions: African Americans, Afro-Latinos, Latinos, and Afro-Cuban Religions in Chicago By Jadele McPherson


Spring 2007, Vol. 26, Issue 1, pp. 121-141 

Copyright © College Vanderbilt University. Department of Spanish and portuguese Spring 2007.

One day, after studying abroad in Havana, Cuba, I saw a familiar yet seemingly out-of-place object on my mother’s windowsill. I was confused as to why my mother would have a statue of Santa Barbara in her room. One would more likely find this figure on a Catholic altar or maybe on an elaborate altar of a practicing santero or santera, both of which my mother is not. “May I take that Santa Barbara for my boveda?” I asked her. Eyes and the corners of her lips dancing, my mother did not crack a smile. “Santa Barbara does not leave the house,” she announced. It had been there since before I was born, at times accompanied by perfume, rum, and cigars.

Like many practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions, my parents silenced my mother’s history with Regla de Ocha and Espiritismo (Spiritism) during my childhood and teenage years. As an African American with Caribbean ancestry (from my mother), growing up in African American, Latino, and Caribbean communities in New York City and New Jersey has led me to probe family silences around our religious practices and connections between our genealogy in the Deep South and throughout the Caribbean. These silences are informed by popular ideas about culture and race, and are also related to the silencing of intersections between African American, Afro-Latino, and Latino histories and cultures in academic migration histories and ethnographies. Investigating religious practices within these communities in the United States provides new perspectives on contemporary urban race relations, urban communities, and African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Latino identity constructions. This article attempts to break some of these silences by exploring African American and Latino relations and comparative race relations in Chicago’s Afro-Cuban religious practitioner community.

Rethinking African American Appropriation of Orisha Practices in the United States

Among the plethora of scholarship about Afro-Cuban religious practices, as well as their origins and development, there is a silence concerning how African Americans and Latinos have formed multi-ethnic religious communities through Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism in the urban United States (Trouillot 53). Frequently, Afro-Cuban religious studies do not take into account interrelations of Ocha to Spiritism and Palo practices, which are also linked to the ethnically and racially diverse body of practitioners. Afro-Latino and African American relations have reshaped their communities due to significantly increasing migrations within and immigration to the United States, especially in the past two decades. These silences are exemplified in the lack of scholarship about Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices in African American and Latino communities in Chicago.

Chicago variations on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices incorporate common narratives that link local African American and Latino experiences to the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora. Yet Chicago Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices also show that Afro-Cuban religions cannot be indicators of whether a cultural group (practitioners) is more authentically African than another. Local cultural identity, race relations, and migrations primarily inform how African American and Latino practitioners connect ideas of blackness, Africanity, authenticity, and ancestry in Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism to popular and academic African American and Latin American historical narratives.

Critics often characterize United States African American Ocha practice as an attempt to reclaim lost African identity. This loss of African roots is tied to a particular anthropological narrative about the cruel and inhumane Atlantic Slave Trade and North America. Slavery becomes an ambiguous trope within typical historical narratives: slavery, abolition, nation-state independence, and subsequent emergence of a new nation-state that defines its multi-racial population through national identity. Marronage, or the formation of free runaway slave communities, as in the case of the Saramaka of Suriname, also challenges the traditional slavery to nation-state narrative. This trope is often connected to ideas about “preservation” of African culture and “tradition.”

Herskovitzs’ scale of “Africanisms” created after his return from Suriname in 1929 first established the trope of the Saramaka as “the most African” in the Western hemisphere (Scott 277-78). Richard Price’s First Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People (1983) about the Saramaka fifty years later would become a hallmark in American anthropology, also asserting that the Saramaka were the most “African” of African Americans. Socio-historical processes of African enslavement that developed along distinctive trajectories throughout the Afro-Atlantic world cannot account for differences between African American cultures alone. The narrative that protestant Anglo-American colonial societies did not permit as much transmission of African cultural identity as did Caribbean and Latin American slave societies commonly treats U.S. African Americans as the least “African” of African Americans (277-78). It downplays structural racism in Latin America and the Caribbean; defining African American cultures according to what European colonial societies “permitted,” rather than recognizing that African Americans consciously developed cultural identities and historical narratives through varied processes in all slave societies. In this way, nationalist historical narratives and identities can be problematic for interrogating African American cultures. Too often they superficially insert African history and culture, negating African Americans’ roles in development of the nation-state through political and other spheres, and fail to account for the violent histories of oppression and marginalization of African Americans throughout the hemisphere. These narratives create separate cultural imaginaries for U. S. African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans (Dulitzsky, qtd. in Dzidzienyo and Anani 48-50).

Additionally, ethnographies celebrate Afro-Haitian Vodoun, Afro-Brazilian Candomble, and Afro-Cuban Ocha religious practices as the ultimate signs of African cultural authenticity in the hemisphere. Practitioners have popularized Afro-Atlantic religions by connecting them to broader historical discourses in the Diaspora, exemplified in the focus on ancestry in Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American religious practices. Rather than examining Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism as African “survivals,” ethnography illustrates how practitioners from Cuba to Chicago continually develop systems of belief hinged on differing racial ideology and cosmology from dominant society.

Walter King of Detroit, founder of Oyotunji Village in South Carolina, is often described as the “first” African American to become initiated as a priest into Afro-Cuban Regla de Ocha, which he did in Matanzas, Cuba in 1959. Focus on the unique Oyotunji African American community has allowed him to discuss African Americans in Afro-Cuban Lucumi practice (Palmie 77).

It still remains unclear exactly how long African Americans have collaborated with Cubans and Puerto Ricans in shared rituals, as African American and Latino practitioners have disagreed on aesthetics and ideologies in Orisha practice. Presently, in Chicago, some factions of African American practitioners apart from Oyotunji priest(esses) reject Cuba and Puerto Rico as authentic centers of Orisha practice and refer “directly” to Nigeria. This theology legitimizes Nigerian Yoruba practices, challenging the Caribbean as an authentic center of Yoruba religion. It is a root of tension among African Americans and Afro-Latinos in overlapping Yoruba religious practitioner communities (Nigerian Ifa vs. Afro-Cuban Lucumi). Yet many African Americans (as well as some Afro Anglophone Caribbean) houses in Chicago consistently work with Afro-Cubans in Lucumi rituals. However, whether practicing Ifa or Lucumi, African Americans have a point of entry into Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism that challenges the characterization of appropriation of Afro-Latino religious practices in historiography. As Zora Neale Hurston addressed in her ethnography on African American folk religion in Florida, known as Hoodoo, the silencing of cultural connections between African Americans and Afro-Latinos contributes to a skewed narrative about African American appropriation of Afro-Latino religions. Though Oyotunjians were interested in Orisha worship as a means to acquire “lost culture,” many African American practitioners embrace Orisha worship as a genuine recuperation of cultural heritage because it mirrors common beliefs and practices in African American culture rooted in the Deep South. Generally, African Americans in the United States do not view Hoodoo as a “religion.” They prefer to identify with Black churches, which condemn some aspects of Hoodoo practice, while incorporating others like “catching the spirit” as Christian and labeling cleaning a house with sage, incense or talking out loud to deceased family members as “cultural” (which African Americans do not always connect to being African) rather than religious practices.

In Chicago, African American Ocha practitioners are most certainly aware of Hoodoo, and many have strong kinship and cultural ties to the American South. Thus, local and cultural ideas about blackness and African cultural identity also inform authentic Ocha and Spiritist ritual practice, even in non-black Latino communities. As far as scholarship on the majority non-black Latino practitioners in Chicago and other cities, what motivates appropriation of Afro-Cuban religions has hardly been interrogated as it has been in the case of African Americans.

Eggun: Afro-Cuban Origins and Problematizing Authenticity

In The Altar of My Soul (2000), Afro-Puerto Rican author, scholar, and Ocha priestess Marta Moreno Vega narrates her story of initiation into Ocha in Cuba. During this process, she becomes part of a long family line of active and committed women santeras and espiritistas. Vega’s story recognizes that enslaved Yoruba Africans were not just brought to Cuba, but also to Puerto Rico (and other Caribbean islands), contributing to a conversation about legacies, tradition, and authenticity in the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora.

In Afro-Cuban religions, ancestry is a pivotal concept that privileges the Yoruba and Congo as African ethnic legacies. These ethnicities have become associated with African cultural “survivals” in specific Latin American and Caribbean regions. Despite the large populations of present-day Yoruba and Congo enslaved Africans brought to Cuba and Puerto Rico, these ethnic identities developed during what Stephan Palmie calls “ethnogenesis,” which describes the process of acculturation enslaved Africans negotiated to develop a common culture and identity in order to communicate with one another and to survive. Yoruba and Congo derived religious practices are not specific to Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, or Puerto Rico (they also exist in Colombia, Trinidad, Venezuela). As J. Lorand Matory demonstrates in the case of Brazil, Afro-Brazilians strategically formed Yoruba identity through transnational relations throughout the Afro-Atlantic world.

Within Brazilian and Cuban societies, there are local regional contestations around Orisha and Spiritist practices. In Cuba, Havana and Matanzas-style practices or heavily Haitian-influenced from the Province of Oriente represent main regional variations on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism. Regional differences in the Caribbean influence Ocha communities in the United States, in part because Cuba, like Brazil, remains a cultural symbol of “pure” and authentic African survivals of religious rituals. Cuban migrations that increased post-1959 have also resulted in a Cuba-centric Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practice throughout the United States.

Undoubtedly, Afro-Cuban ritual performance and music have also significantly impacted U. S. Orisha communal ceremonies. In Chicago, ritual performance ceremonies reify certain notions of Afro-Cuban authenticity while practitioners locally negotiate religious boundaries between Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism. While this article cannot explore extensively the influences of Cuban music on popular U. S. cultures, the commercialization of Afro-Cuban music has also led to the popularity of Afro-Cuban religious aesthetics in the United States and abroad. Examining dynamic contemporary race relations between African Americans and Latinos contextualizes contemporary relations in Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, when there are growing U. S. born generations of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Afro-Latinos after the 1970s.

Afro-Latinos: Shifting Communities and Cultures

In cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, and Milwaukee, especially after the Mariel Boatlift (1980), Afro-Cuban religious practices have thrived among non-traditional memberships. Outside of New York and Miami, African Americans, and more recently Mexicans, represent the majority of practitioners (McPherson 6, 9). Afro-Cuban religious communities challenge our notions of U. S. Latino and African American communities. This is also the case when considering the silencing of the Afro-Latino experience within Latino migration histories and Afro-Latino’s influence on African American and Latino communities.

While Cuban centrism exists throughout Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, in Chicago non-Cuban or Puerto Rican initiates contribute to a unique local practice while also legitimately practicing Afro-Cuban religion (McPherson 7). For example, Chicago Latino practitioners often place the statue (or candle) of San Martin de Porres, an Afro-Peruvian Catholic saint, on Ocha and Spiritist altars. Since San Martin de Porres is not part of the Afro-Cuban Catholic Orisha pantheon, practitioners use this saint aesthetically in altar spaces because he is a black familiar to the many Chicago practitioners who have emigrated from Latin America. While ethnography could reveal how Afro-Peruvians and indigenous Peruvians may use the saint in local religious practices today, the use of San Martin de Porres is also important for Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and other Latin Americans in the United States, whose national identities silence African heritage and culture (35). Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism practices allow Latinos from these regions to positively acknowledge a legitimate African heritage and past, which may have become important to them after experiencing racism and socio-economic hardships as immigrants in the United States.

Latinos who identify as black or African have long linked the African American and Latino histories and communities in the United States. The scholarship on Puerto Rican and African American relations in New York City, and emerging scholarship on African American and Afro-Cuban relations before the Cuban Revolution are exceptions to this historiographic silence in migration histories. Afro-Latinos and African Americans have experienced racial discrimination and oppression in the United States, but historically Afro-Latinos could occasionally leverage national “foreign” identity to access social privileges usually off-limits to people of African descent.

Assata Shakur, activist and writer, now lives as an African American exile in Cuba. In Assata: An Autobiography (1987), she recalls a time when her mother, not wanting to disappoint her daughter’s expectations of leisure, resorted to pretending to speak Spanish at the entrance of a “Whites only” amusement park in the South (during the 1960s). The stunt worked, and Assata and her family were admitted into the park on the grounds of being foreigners. “Foreign” nationality can trump black racial identity in the United States, where black is often synonymous with being U.S. African American. These nuances characterize both Latino and African American migration histories and community identity formations; Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities are also no exception to these nuances.

Ocha and Spiritism-Palo: Reshaping Race and Community in Chicago

While racial segregation separates residential communities of practitioners within the active Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist community in Chicago, prominent iles (“houses”), or centers of Ocha practice, have become multi-ethnic and multi-cultural spaces, especially over the past fifteen years. Another well-known and respected house of Ocha and Spiritist practice on the Southside has predominately African American elder priests and priestesses, yet includes African American, Anglo-American and Latino godchildren. An emerging practitioner house, located on Chicago’s Northside, is predominately Latino and Filipino and growing steadily. The elders in this house are a Puerto Rican priest of Chango and his Filipina wife, a priestess; there are also African American and Afro-Latino priests in their leadership. As these examples illustrate, it is difficult to find a large active house in Chicago that does not include both African American and Latino practitioners.

In all the aforementioned cases, and amidst a racially and ethnically diverse body of practitioners, a head godparent or priest/ess of the house is Cuban. Most of the multi-ethnic membership houses are recognized as legitimate Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist centers outside of the local Chicago (and Midwest) practitioner communities. A prominent priest, Reinaldo, neither Cuban nor Puerto Rican, was found slain with his remains stuffed into a suitcase in an ally two years ago. He was a well-known and respected Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist priest and continues to be important because of his status among Latinos in a Cuban-centric practitioner community; he also initiated many godchildren, mostly Spanish-speaking non-Caribbean Latinos.

Reinaldo was infamous for his elaborate tambores (Orisha drum ceremonies) that provided a rare ritual communal space, including African American, Afro-Latino, and Latino practitioners annually. Reinaldo’s large feast ceremonies always included new initiates called Iyalochas (bride of the Orisha) being presented to consecrated drums, demonstrating the growing number of initiates in Reinaldo’s large house. The ceremonies also showed the wealth in his house, required to hire prominent musicians, rent the space, and provide food for such an elaborate event. Prominent Afro-Cuban musicians (many born and raised in Cuba) from Miami were hired, and some Chicago priests were connected to Miami through ritual kinships.

An interesting example of such ritual kinship links lies outside of the traditional godparent-godchild relationships. Omo Ana (Sons of Ana) is a fraternal group of ritually initiated drummers who are the only authorized community members that can play consecrated drums at ritual performance ceremonies. As Omo Ana is a selective group, Chicago Omo Ana have a privileged link to important ritual networks of priest/esses in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Miami, and New York. The existence of Omo Ana in Chicago also demonstrates that Cuban centrism is perpetuated through ritual links to New York and Miami Ocha and Spiritist communities. Chicago priest/esses will only hire Omo Ana drummers to play consecrated drums for local ceremonies as in Cuban practice, while practitioners knowingly diverge from “traditional” Afro-Cuban ritual performance in other ways.

Chicago houses honor varying ideologies that bind initiated godchildren as well as different houses of practice. To address racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity among godchildren, Latino and African American priests/esses emphasize that anyone can be initiated into Afro-Cuban religions regardless of race and culture. For Chicago practitioners there is a tension between the acknowledgment of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican origins of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism and the romanticized notion of “raceless” Latin American societies. Common views about race among Latino priests/esses (many born abroad) influence practitioners, usually marking the United States as the originator of black-white racial conflict and negating racism, racial inequality and ideas of blackness in Latin America. Many Chicago practitioners then embrace the idea that Afro-Cuban religious practice is “raceless” (or a practice that is not influenced by race) based on the potent misconception that Cuba (and Latin America) is more racially equitable than the United States. These ideas about race can foster relations among godchildren who would not otherwise interact due to racial and cultural segregation in Chicago. Yet race, as in Cuba and throughout Latin America, marks practitioner relations and what are considered “authentic” Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist religious practices.

I spoke with Briana, a well-known Puerto Rican owner of a botanica on the Southside, about the racial and ethnic diversity in her house of Ocha, Spiritists, and Palo initiates (McPherson 26). She revealed approaches to Ocha and Palo that mirror Afro-Cuban history among a majority of Mexican practitioners. She is the daughter of a long line of Spiritists and descendant of a great-grandfather who was born in the Congo, and she feels that all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality have spiritual sensibilities to become Spiritist mediums. While she is a “lighter-skinned” Puerto Rican, she and her children genuinely acknowledge their African heritage through religious practices and beliefs. Her children are Puerto Rican and Mexican, a mixture common in Chicago, and all are initiated priests/esses into Ocha. Her eldest children are also initiated in Palo, and are Spiritists, married to fellow practitioners.

In Briana’s house anyone of any racial or ethnic background is welcome. Briana’s family history legitimizes her as the head godmother of the house and links her house’s religious practice to an authentic Afro-Puerto Rican past. For many of her godchildren, a similar Latin American family history and racial identity also legitimizes them as practitioners; they are mostly Mexican and Salvadorian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and African American. Yet especially her Mexican godchildren cannot afford to become initiated into Ocha, and so practice Palo, diligently, as it has cheaper initiations and rituals.

According to Afro-Cuban ideology, Ocha is a “higher” spiritual practice than Palo, since it deals with royal deities, the Orishas, who differ in temperament from nfumbe or dead spirits in Palo (McPherson 14). These religious distinctions stem from privileging certain African ethnicities over others during slavery and colonialism. Spaniards and white creoles in Cuba privileged the Yoruba as a more “regal” and “civilized” ethnic group over the so-called “Congolese.” Because Congos were often runaway slaves, they were thought to be more “wild” and “untamed” like the wilderness, they sought refuge from sugar mills, coffee, and tobacco plantations.

Many Ocha houses in Chicago do not practice Palo and do view the practice as one that is often used to harm people. It seems that many more non-Cuban and Puerto-Rican practitioners in the United States may have had intensive experiences with Catholicism or Protestant Christianity. Relating the Judeo-Christian “good” and “evil” to Ocha (good) and Palo (evil) may explain why United States practitioners are more likely to perceive Palo as a “dark” religious practice, and reject its ritual connections to Ocha and its validity as a religious practice. I have spoken to some Chicago Ocha practitioners who feel this way about Palo, while others still participate in communal cajon pa’ muerto ceremonies with fellow practitioners that are initiated into Ocha and Palo.

Despite the historical tensions between the Yoruba and Congo legacies, the tendency to equate Palo with tendencies to do wrong seems to be balanced with a view that Palo is a religion that “works faster” and is very spiritually “strong” in Cuba. And in this way, Palo and Ocha are understood as complementary systems of belief, and do not seem to correlate to ethnic or racial discrimination in Cuba (Palmie). Currently in places like Marianao, Cuba, the fact that ritual musicians often specialize in a single practice shows Cuban practitioners recognize the depth of each Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist ritual knowledge which takes years to acquire. Unlike ritual singers in the United States who often sing at Ocha, Spiritism, and Palo ceremonies, Cuban ritual singers specialize in one musical genre of Abakua, Arara, Ocha, Palo or Spiritism.

Nevertheless, in Chicago, African American and Latino houses alike tend to practice just Ocha and Spiritism. Spiritist and Palo, as well as ritual music and communal ceremonies are combined into ritual performance ceremonies known as the cajon pa’ muerto (ceremony for ancestors). In Chicago, this common ceremony also illustrates how practitioners condense Spiritism and Palo into one coherent practice (Spiritism-Palo) in ritual performance, since Palo ritual performance ceremonies are rare (McPherson 10-12). During all ritual performance ceremonies, spirit possession is an important focus.

Race in Chicago Ritual Performances

For example, certain priests, the majority of whom are black males, have earned legitimacy through consistent spirit possessions that Chicago practitioners consider genuine. Reinaldo’s large tambores were also racial performances, where skin color factored into the legitimacy of Orisha spirit possession displays led by Afro-Cuban musicians. In all of Reinaldo’s ceremonies, an Afro-Cuban male dancer (not always the same person) is hired to dance the ceremony, understood to be a spirit possession specialist among priest/esses. In Chicago, a dancer is often not hired for local ceremonies; while as in Cuba, certain dancers are known as spirit possession specialists in the community. Ritual kinships, reputation, race, body movements/gestures, dance, and extensive knowledge of ritual languages are the determining factors in the legitimacy of Chicago spirit possessions. Black practitioners of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism, regardless of ethnicity, are typically viewed as the most legitimate practitioners to embody spirit possession during ritual performance ceremonies.

As Spiritist and Palo ceremonies focus on African and Native American legacies and ancestry, there are typical archetypes that practitioners have as “spirit guides” that are manifested during ritual performance ceremonies: Congos, (enslaved Africans), gitanos (Spanish gypsies), indios (Native Americans), and arabes (Moors). These spirits are manifested during ritual possession in Spiritist “masses” (misas espirituales) when several prayers are read, practitioners smoke cigars, and Spiritist mediums give individual and communal advice, after identifying their race/ethnicity, giving their name and purpose for “arriving” at the ceremony (McPherson 17-19, 25). In some instances, the period before or after a ceremony reveals racial dynamics that inform sacred ritual spaces.

At the end of a Spiritist-Palo cajon ceremony, musicians begin to play Afro-Cuban rumba; the majority of practitioners are Cubans, a rarity in Chicago ceremonies. During an energetic part of the rumba, a black Cuban priest begins to dance. After he dances, people become excited, and another man (considered mulatto in Cuba and “black” in the United States) also dances a solo. After this, all the black people (mostly Cubans) in the room are encouraged to dance one-by-one by the host group of white Cuban santeras (McPherson 32-33). Instead of everyone joining in to dance, the dancing becomes an obvious performance, while the majority of attendees watch intently.

The rumbita is neither social nor purely removed from the preceding ritual context, occurring in a liminal space between the ending of the ceremony and the beginning of the social time when practitioners eat and enjoy each other’s company. The encouragement of black practitioners to demonstrate Afro-Cuban dances, which are difficult to learn, is in part a valorization of the Afro-Cuban origin of the ceremonial music and ritual context. The rumbita is an acknowledgment of the black practitioners as authentic representations of cubanidad (Cubanness) and Afro-Cuban religious ritual performance knowledge within a community of Latinos that identify as white (McPherson 32).

During ritual performance ceremonies in Cuba, specific songs and sequences are used in all contexts to “induce” a “genuine” spirit possession. In Chicago, while some practitioners are aware of this type of orthodoxy, it does not exist in the majority of active Latino houses. While musicians attempt to abide to these sequences, practitioners are generally unfamiliar with Afro-Cuban ritual songs. As a result, spirit possession is not so much induced when a specific spirit is “called” by musicians as in Afro-Cuban practice, but rather when a priestess begins “feeling” the music until they are unable to control being “overcome” by their guardian Orisha/spirit at any time during the ceremony. The timing of spirit possession is not observed in Afro-Cuban practice, beginning when the singer starts the Ilamada al santo, or calling the Orisha or spirit, through specific song sequences. Chicago spirit possession may happen during an oro cantado, sung at the beginning of an Ocha ceremony, while in Cuba, practitioners generally recognize that the oro cantado is the time to salute their guardian Orisha and the drums.

Spirit possession is intimately tied to knowledge of ritual language and dance movements, yet in Chicago it remains difficult for the majority non-Cuban and Puerto Rican initiates to learn lyrics to ritual songs sung in ritual performance ceremonies. This is often frustrating to local and visiting musicians. Ritual songs are usually sung either in Spanish with specific Caribbean vocabulary (“Manda humo pa’ la loma cachimba”) or in the Lucumi (Cuban Yoruba) or Congo (from Kikongo language) ritual languages (Warden 106). Afro-Cubans grow up exposed to Lucumi and Congo ritual songs and languages, while both Cubans and Puerto Ricans have strong knowledge of Spanish Spiritist songs. Many Chicago practitioners, especially those who did not grow up in Cuba, Puerto Rico, or with family or Cuban or Puerto Rican godparents learn ritual language as adults. As Briana says of her own godchildren, “In time, they always learn,” recognizing that it takes effort and dedication on their part to learn songs and the Puerto Rican “white-table” (mesa blanca) Spiritism practiced in her house.

On one occasion Maira, an Ecuadorian priestess of Yemaya who has initiated mostly Mexican godchildren, hosted a tambor in the Chicago suburbs. She is married to a Cuban Ocha and Palo priest, and before becoming initiated into Ocha and Palo by black Cubans, she was racist. Now Maira teaches racial equity and tolerance to her godchildren through her experiences. Maira became spiritually possessed with her guardian Orisha Yemaya during the tambor and she silently gestured her advice and demands to her godchildren. Priests present interpreted her gestures into advice and ritual objects she desired for her counseling (rum, molasses).

Although it is common to make requests for ritual objects and give advice during spirit possessions, Orishas normally speak through priest mediums in ritual language to communicate in Afro-Cuban practice. The speech of the Orisha is a ritual language that symbolizes a particular racial archetype, usually Spanish infused with “African words” and an accent known as bozal. In Chicago, Latino priests/esses that racially identify as “non-black” rarely attempt this racialized speech, and mostly Spanish is spoken during Latino ritual performance ceremonies (McPherson 11). Maira is recognized as a legitimate priestess in the community, but some priests present said while “silent” Orishas are typical in Chicago, the minimal dancing and lack of gestures associated with possession made them dunk her spirit possession was questionable.

Certain gestures characterize a “legitimate” spirit possession in Chicago: priests scratch their heads, their eyes roll backwards into the head, breathing becomes pronounced and heavy, and their bodies tremble fiercely. Additionally, in Afro-Cuban practices, certain dances identify the spirit or Orisha that is “coming down” or being embodied by the priest/ess. Many Chicago Latino initiated priests/esses only perform select dance movements that identify an Orisha or spirit, exposing a different form of spirit possession. While African American practitioners also often learn ritual songs and dances as adults, in Chicago many of these practitioners have learned ritual songs, gestures, and movements associated with “legitimate” Afro-Cuban possession. African Americans are often viewed as embodying legitimate spirit possession in Latino ritual spaces. This past February, during a guiro ceremony thrown by a recent initiate of Obatala (Briana’s godchild), an African American priest partially performed a legitimate spirit possession. Many attendees knew basic dance moves and ritual songs at the guiro. Despite this, no one was moved to spirit possession, except for an African American priest (Warden 141). He began to move and sway as is typical in ritual possession, yet right before his Orisha completely “arrived” he ran out of the room. This is typical in Cuban and Puerto Rican spirit possession but usually practitioners will not allow the person to leave the space, as the person is thought to be in an important transitional state. An elder Cuban priestess of Obatala chastised those present “!Despues de todo el trabajo que hicieron los muchachos, los dejan irse!”

Perhaps, as the practitioner was visiting another house, he did not know who would tend to him in a “possessed” state, or the second singer could not “call” his Orisha to induce spirit possession. Convincing dancing and gestures and the priest’s reputation from a well-known African American Ocha and Spiritist practitioner house still meant that Latino practitioners viewed the act as genuine spirit possession. They created an open space for the priest to dance energetically in front of the musicians, and began moving and clapping more enthusiastically with the priest while watching him intently.

In Chicago, spirit possession remains important to Spiritism-Palo and Ocha ritual performance ceremonies as it allows practitioners to interact with spirits they revere. Practitioners are aware of the ways spirit possession may differ in Chicago from other cities, yet both African Americans and Latinos have linked blackness, ritual language, and dance to a legitimate possession as is common in New York, Miami, and Cuba. However, blackness in Chicago is defined by local identities, and thus is usually only associated with the most dark-skinned Afro-Cubans, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Outside of Chicago, where there is more knowledge of ritual song and dance, blackness may be defined very differently in ritual spaces.


There has yet to be an extensive published study of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices in Chicago. In these multi-racial and multi-ethnic communities, practitioners embrace theology that does not restrict membership to African Americans and Latinos, who are the majority of all Chicago practitioners. Within these communities, race does play a role in the legitimacy and authenticity of practices, yet more ethnography would also be required to discuss racial tensions and problems within the community. Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism are innovative as well as varied. They are part of a socio-cultural system that African Americans and Latinos utilize to create their own narratives of their cultural and historical legacies in the United States and abroad. Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism are also defined by local migrations, immigration, and histories. Practitioners of all backgrounds relate to the importance of ancestry as emphasized in Native American and African narratives of oppression and marginalization. Uncovering silences in popular culture and academic historiography about Afro-Latino, African American, and Latino social networks reveal complicated relations and identity constructions. Further ethnographies in cities like Chicago on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities will advance Afro-Atlantic Studies, scholarship on Afro-Cuban religious practices, Latino migration histories, comparative race relations, black and Latino identity construction, and U. S. urban communities. In Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, African Americans and Latinos relate in private, closed, and intimate spaces wherein sacred practitioners negotiate and reconcile the practical with the magical.

In a completely unexpected turn of events, I have started to suspect that the strange “shame of being ashamed” that my mother instilled in me, the tendency to deny any hints of self-hate as if it were something you wouldn’t want to be caught at, may in fact be a cultural artifact. A distorted remnant of Prussian pride in the face of displacement, passed down through generations and twisted into something unrecognisable, directionless.

I, uh. I’m just. Reading. A novel. o.O;