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If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging Paperback – April 18, 2017
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She was born and raised in England’s bleak industrial northeast where I had my first job as a professional chemist in the 1960s and experienced pollution first hand. Drapes disintegrated after a year. The river Tees was acidic, greenish-brown, and iron laden from my employer’s process to make, ironically, whiter than white titanium dioxide.
Blackie describes her difficult working class childhood there, her abusive father who left when she was three and her alcoholic mother, in few words but with heartbreaking dispassion. She rose from this to a PhD in neuroscience, and employment with a major international tobacco company, which is how I came to know her almost thirty years ago. She worked at both its English and American headquarters. Living, as she has subsequently, restoring and running a croft in Ullapool in northwest Scotland, then, when that town became gentrified, battling the gales and hard manual labor on another croft on the stormy side of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, are a far cry from the comforts of a regular salary and first-class travel. After four years there, she and her second husband David, a former RAF Tornado pilot who breaks all stereotypes one might expect, gave up the struggle of running their large croft, and moved to the tranquility of Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. Through the crofting years she and David, who I have not met, also founded and managed Two Ravens press and published EarthLines magazine.
As an Anglo Saxon male in his mid-seventies I was unlikely to pick up a book on Celtic heroines. I am glad they provide the core of If Women Rose Rooted for the lessons their lives provide. For these alone I would recommend that my contemporaries both read and purchase it for their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and great-nieces. Blackie uses these heroines, and what some of the few current surviving native peoples do in their cultures, as exemplars for what she encourages women around the world to do, even if living in our increasingly unlivable environment which, after Eliot, she names The Wasteland.
Transformative power, and women’s role in developing it to halt degeneration of our fragile environment is Blackie’s third and major theme:
“Once upon a time, the people of our Celtic nations knew what the indigenous peoples of other lands knew: that our fate is inseparable from the fate of the lands we live on, and the fate of wider Earth”. “Women are spinners and weavers….Once we knew the patterns for weaving the world; we can piece them together again. Women can heal the Wasteland. This is what women do. This is our work.”
While Blackie puts much of the blame for the Wasteland on the west’s Judeo-Christian heritage and its support over the centuries for male domination in our society I am not convinced that this is the whole story. I am not scholar enough to argue with her, but do note, that male domination exists, with few exceptions, in most human societies, regardless of religion (spiritual path) or lack thereof. Even the Buddha, who with Jesus is one of two men I admire the most, has yet to see a female Dalai Lama. Hinduism may come closest to accepting female spiritual leadership with Ammaji, the hugging guru, and the currently best known, in the USA. It was the Bhagavad-Gita that Eliot, the Anglo-catholic, explores in the Waste Land. I believe he would have enjoyed Sally Kempton’s Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga.
My intent with this minor criticism is not to detract from Blackie’s call to arms. For all I know my remaining male chauvinism may be part of my genetic code, not my Judaeo-Christian upbringing, but that is irrelevant. Society needs to change its values for earth to return to Blake's green and pleasant land. Blackie herself is an eloquent exemplar as are many other women she describes of how we must change. May their numbers grow exponentially and may we men join and support them.