When I was growing up, my paradise was a small island at the south end of Puget Sound. There were no roads to the island, so when I was a child, and later when I was a counselor, we would take a surplus World War II landing craft back and forth from the mainland.
Besides the landing craft -- which was rechristened ``The Walrus'' -- there were a few other items of military gear to be found at the camp. When we took the kids out onto the water, they had to wear heavy cork-filled canvas life vests the equal of which I've seen only in a few World War II movies. And in the mornings we ate our oatmeal in heavy white handle-less mugs that were also Navy surplus.
Camp Blanchet, one of three camps then operated by the Catholic Youth Association in Western Washington, was a place of magic, of long summer twilights, of the scent of ripening blackberries, of forests with huge cedar and fir trees, and sword ferns that grew taller than some of the youngest campers. Mock orange bushes were always deliciously, fragrantly in bloom during the summer sessions, as were ox-eye daisies, deep purple vetch, pink and white wild radish, and, in the forest, an occasional white or wine-colored trillium.
Our days were filled with fun: crafts, athletics, swimming, boating, and always singing, singing, singing. When I'm an old old lady in the nursing home and everything else has left my memory, I'm sure some of the songs we sang around the campfire will remain.
I attended camp as a child, worked there as a counselor when I was in high school and college, and sent some of my kids to this camp. Cousins galore also spent part of their summers there. The idea that it could be anything other than an oasis of peace, community and fun would be incredible to anyone I know who ever set foot on that magical island.
My memories of Camp Blanchet have been the back story to the horrible news that has come from Norway over the past few days. As a parent myself, I don't have to try very hard to understand the shock, disbelief, grief and anger that must be overtaking those parents who sent their kids off for an idyllic time on Utoya island, to have them come back home in body bags, or lying in beds in hospitals, maimed by bullets intended to do maximum damage by exploding when they entered a human body.
Years ago when I was a student at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, our teachers continually reminded us of the Parable of the Leaven. We were told we were to be the leaven, and it was our responsibility once we left school to bring change and growth and positive values to society. I'm sure this is very similar to what the youth on Utroya Island were told. They were the future of Norway's Labor party, which had as its core values democracy, and an open, free and inclusive society.
If you look at the photos of the kids who survived, or begin to read the names of those who have died, it will become very clear that these were not only blue-eyed blonds who looked like Anders Behring Breivik. You can see boys in Sikh turbans, and kids with Asian and Middle Eastern features. They were poster children for the new Norway, which is exactly the Norway Breivik hated. (They looked like kids from the multicultural California where I live).
I don't know if it's still online, but yesterday I had a chance to see the video Breivik made and posted on YouTube. He seems to have a rather elaborate fantasy of himself as some sort of avenging knight, out to keep Europe European and free from cultural dilution by, most particularly, Muslims, but pretty much anybody who didn't look like him.
One thing really struck me from this video. He was calling for ``unity, not diversity,'' ``monoculture, not multiculture,'' and ``patriarchy, not matriarchy.'' All three of his goals are exactly antithetical to the religious and cultural life I have chosen as a Pagan woman. All the women in my coven have come from somewhere else, as have most of us in the Pagan community. If I were to say the one thing we all have in common, it is that we are refugees who fled the patriarchy and its pernicious influence.
That patriarchy has, in most of our views, not done terribly well in terms of human rights, concern for the environment, commitment to diversity, and harmony throughout the world. With all three of the Abrahamic traditions maintaining , that the earth is theirs as sovereigns and masters, that women have their limited place, and that God is always on their side, blood has been spilled for millennia.
When I was a very little child, the first prayer my mother taught me was how to make the Sign of the Cross. Today, when I see crosses emblazoned on the knights pictured in Breivik's video, I shudder. Under this sign, new horrors were wrought. I don't want to be part of any tribe that picks up a religious symbol wears it, and, in its name, fills the streets with blood and the skies with smoke from bomb blasts.
Those of you who know me well know of my pride in being a Norwegian American. I've been proud of my family's long long history in Norway, and of the accomplishments of my family members here in the U.S. I've traveled to Norway, stood in the churchyard where so many of my ancestors' bones lie, and sat for hours on the rocks at Alta, tracing with my fingers the petroglyphs carved by some from my tribes thousands of years ago. After the Lillehammer Olympics, I was thrilled that champion skater Johann Olav Koss used his prize money to establish a foundation to aid disadvantaged youth. And I know that every time there's a natural disaster or people are displaced by war, Norwegians are there to help.
So I guess I am taking this recent tragedy terribly personally. I am so angry and so filled with grief that such a thing would happen. Someone at my coven's Lammas ritual said yesterday that on a purely statistical basis, the events of this weekend affected more Norwegians than people in this country were affected by 9/11.
A number of years ago, some members of the Heathen community who were concerned about the use of the sacred symbols of the old Norse religion by skinheads, neo-Nazis and others who would use them to repress people with different skin colors and racial backgrounds. So the tech-savvy Heathens erected a virtual nidstang in cyberspace. A nidstang is a kind of curse that dates back to Viking times. You can read all about it at this link. Scroll down to the red text to read the actual language.
This particular nidstang calls down punishment on evildoers if they do not halt their actions. In other words, this is a curse that's invoking consequences for evil actions done in the name of racism. The language of this nidstang is powerful, invoking many of the major deities in the Norse pantheon.
At one time there was a viable nidstang ring. Now, many of the links are dead. But I think it's time again invoke this nidstang against those -- like Breivik -- who would slay our own children rather than embrace a diverse world, who would crush the matriarchy and set the patriarchs back on their thrones, who would bear arms emblazoned with crosses or stars of David or who would invoke Allah while spilling innocent blood.
I am hoping this is my last word on the subject. And that despite this horrible blow, Norway can remain open, inclusive and democratic. So mote it be!