Easter Island, Cultural Identity + Northeast Philly
I remember once in high school, my best friend Emily excitedly telling me about Stonehenge. I was clueless on the topic and she said in her contagiously passionate voice, "Yeah, NOBODY knows how it got there!" I didn't think much of it but thought it must be cool if Em was into it. Giant stones. Ancient times. Mystery.
A few decades later, I saw a National Geographic show on it and I was like, oh yeah, I've been meaning to learn about Stonehenge! So I watched it. And loved it by the way. But what happened next, was so worth it.
The National Geographic (Disney+) experts were so accommodating and kindly popped on another show for me next, one that I must like being that I enjoyed Stonehenge. It was on Easter Island. I was like, SURE! And I did, indeed, love it. Before I get into why, what happened next was a bit serendipitous.
About an hour later, it was getting dark and me and my littlest were getting sleepy. We plopped on the sofa to watch tv for a few. Typically the kids might watch a short episode of Barbie or Lego Avengers, but this time I wasn't feeling cartoons. I just said, "Let's see what's on," (SO RARE). I popped on a channel and once the commercials ended my jaw dropped - the final segment on 60 minutes was about EASTER ISLAND. Meadow said, "Look, Mommy, Easter Island again!" It was so funny. We watched in awe, again.
Easter Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, is full of mystery in many ways similar to Stonehenge, but offered me so many layers of thoughts to ponder. As I was learning about the mysterious island, which features magnificent stone statues called moai, I kept thinking about the Disney movie Moana. And looking into it further, it was because Moana was of Polynesian decent and born to explore, just as the people who settled on Easter Island were.
This 2017 article from The Conversation details astronomical navigation, a topic which Moana attempted to showcase. It's rather brief and goes through how to navigate using the your hand, the horizon and the stars. Simply amazing, right?
My astrological studies have taught me that astronomy and astrology used to be intertwined. To have knowledge and practice in one, you also had knowledge and practiced the other. Eventually, the schools of thought branched off and are now viewed very differently.
If you search for reasons to support or deny any argument at all, you will find them. With that, you will find many reasons why astrology is or is not "real." I've dedicated some years now to studying the ancient system of astrology and I appreciate it as a sacred art, so to me, it is very real. I see though how easy it may be dismissed as so much of the beauty and mystery is layered and detailed - so much can be missed without a foundational understanding of the system.
There also requires a leap of faith, one that some people are simply unwilling to take, to participate in entertaining thoughts that planetary positions lend various energies and the decision lies within each of us how we will harness or succumb to those energies. I can understand how that is a stretch. We always have a choice. Sometimes the choice may be to simply not believe. And that is perfectly acceptable. What one sees as truth is not the truth of all. But what one sees as truth, may indeed be the truth of one, still being truth even if to no one else.
And so, what I hear in stories of Stonehenge, where people gathered to celebrate solstices, and what I hear in stories of Easter Island, a land discovered using indigenous astronomical navigation, makes my heart flutter. I see astrology alive where ancient stories may mention only astronomy because those schools were intertwined at that time. It makes me smile because I can't help but see astrology everywhere I turn, even in these ancient mysteries behind the disguise of astronomy.
Then we can dig deeper. The Polynesians were explorers. It was deeply rooted in their culture. Which to me, is a beautiful attribute, because I deeply value exploration. I have a moon in Sagittarius, adventure awaits me! Through studying astrology though, I understand that it's not likely for every person in a certain culture (inside a specific time frame) to genuinely feel passionate about one particular thing, in this case, exploration.
That led me to wonder how this might translate to modern society and the culture in which we each live and how these cultural values may subtly confuse us when we are asked to consider our own personal identity - separate from the culture in which we dwell.
Of course the context of culture will always be present as a backdrop, but to extract one's personal dreams, desires, beliefs, needs and lessons in a particular lifetime can be helpful in settling into one's own skin. From there one can loop in cultural beliefs and values and then be able to tweak and adjust from a place of awareness and not simply herding.
But we learn differently. At least I did. The cultural lessons seemed to come first, after all, Saturn doesn't return for 29 years. We may receive cultural lessons via osmosis, not even realizing what we sometimes absorb, is not in alignment of our particular identity. Sometimes what we learn from our environments is healthy and safe and also confusing when we go out into the "world" realizing this place is unlike our "safe" world at home.
Sometimes what we learn to be valuable is dangerous, racist and mean and we don't even know that because it's what we have been fed for decades. We think the food is healthy, but turns out, it's McDonald's.
It's not until we have the opportunity to swim away from our conditioning, tread the waters of "Where the hell am I?" and digest the quiet thoughts in our own head can we know how to properly proceed in a way that is in alignment with our inner compass.
My cultural conditioning left me dizzy. There's no one to blame, I'm starting to see that this happens to most of us. I think I just finished treading the waters of "Where the hell am I?" and I'm starting to digest the quiet thoughts in my own head.
It has helped me tremendously to seek out writers, people and stories that inspire and resonate with me and to hold my focus on them. It quieted a lot of confusion.
Growing up Catholic in Northeast Philadelphia, I saw the world as one massive cement grid. Nuns were mean, priests were boring and farms didn't exist. When I was a senior in high school and my mom took me to visit the University of Pittsburgh, I was shocked to learn that once we left the city limits, most of the state of Pennsylvania was covered in farmland. I had no idea. I grew up in a very small bubble that felt safe and sound, I had love and fun, but absolutely no idea of ideas and places that existed beyond what I was experiencing.
And I'm an explorer! Now I understand why I felt so often that there had to be more. Now my mind overflows with stories of so many topics I adore...neuroscience, astrology, love, alchemy and transformation.
Through many of these quests into topics we're drawn towards, we start to see threads of ourselves that were present all along, even when we didn't notice. Stepping aside from the cultural conditioning and getting to know ourselves better helps bring those threads into focus.
How might one get to know oneself better? Astrology is a great place to explore. A professional reading may blow your mind open in ways you didn't realize were possible.
And learning about a culture of explorers, one that I have absolutely no ties to, has left me feeling exhilarated and as if I've been on a voyage, even though I've basically been quarantined for months.
Photo by Thomas Griggs on Unsplash