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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Quest for Canada is a new series of articles that will appear alternately in both my Witches & Pagans column 49 Degrees and my Patheos blog Between the Shadows.  It will be published once a week in an alternating schedule between the two blogs.   Links will be provided in both blogs.

I believe in new gods as well as old gods.  When you invest spiritual and emotional energy into a concept, it acquires its own egregore; and when enough people do it for long enough, it develops a very powerful egregore.  Most of my readers will have heard of Lady Liberty, or the American Dream.  Simon and Garfunkle wrote a beautiful song about searching for the spirit of America, which was remembered recently in a political campaign ad.  I, as a Canadian, went in search of the spirit of my own country, Canada.

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Brown Girl in the RingBrown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge, the 12 Awards in 12 Months challenge, the LGBTQ Speculative Fiction challengeand the Vernon Library Summer Reading challenge. I was going to read this for the Apocalypse Now! Challenge, but the world was not destroyed and therefore, it does not qualify.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it! I have encountered some of Nalo Hopkinson’s short fiction before and was intrigued, but this novel received a lot of awards and a lot of critical acclaim, and was her first explosion on the scene. One of those awards was the Aurora Award, which is Canada’s tribute to our science fiction and fantasy writers, so naturally I was honour-bound to read it eventually anyway, but what a pleasure!

In this novel of magical realism, which takes place in a dystopian Toronto that has been abandoned by the Canadian and Ontario governments after an economic collapse, Ti-Jeanne has just recently left the father of her baby to live with her grandmother because he is a drug addict who has gotten mixed up with the local organized crime syndicate who runs the inner city, called the Posse, and she realizes that as much as she loves him, he’s no good for her and less good for the baby. There is no police force in operation in the urban remains, none of the city’s infrastructure is supported, and economy has gone back to bartering and growing what one can in the remains of the city’s many iconic parks, so there is little consequence for participating in crime and the Posse has a free rein in the city. The leader of the Posse, Rudy, has made a deal with a shady hospital to provide a human heart for a transplant to the Premier of the Province (for you Americans, that’s like the state governor.) Rudy has learned that Tony, the father of Ti-Jeanne’s baby, has been skimming off the top of the drugs he has been selling for Rudy to support his own habit, and has blackmailed him into fetching the heart from one of the local urban residents – by force. Tony was once a nurse before his habit got him fired.

What makes this scenario really interesting is that Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother, Gros-Jeanne (yes, for those of you who speak French, the names are deliberately symbolic) is a Caribbean immigrant who is a priestess of a Caribbean Afro-Diasporic tradition. The Afro-Diasporic traditions are syncretic faiths such as Voodoo and Santeria; Gros-Jeanne never specifies her tradition and actually says that they are all essentially the same. This turns the sordid scenario into an epic spirit quest in the Caribbean spiritual tradition, taking place partially in the physical world and partially in the spirit world. Much of the magic, until near the end of the book, might only be happening in the minds of the characters, and best of all, the Voodoo is real. I am a Wiccan priestess and have had the opportunity to learn just enough about Voodoo from practitioners that I have met to recognize the rituals, the symbolism, the magical practices and the spirits themselves.

The overall effect is an exercise in surrealism, told with a masterful hand. The language is simple but the characters and the story are deep. I don’t dare tell you anymore for risk of spoiling the story. I will say that I loved everything about it, from the story itself, to the mythic themes of Caribbean culture that were mined to create the story structure, to the evocative descriptions, to the use of modern iconic places to create a sense of realism, to the theme, which, ultimately, is a complex examination of what “family” actually is. I find myself beaming with Canadian pride in Nalo Hopkinson, and I highly recommend this novel to pretty much anyone.

View all my reviews

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Tonight Canada had a moment kind of like the moon landing or Woodstock or JFK's assassination.  Years from now we'll be telling our grandchildren where we were when we watched The Tragically Hip's farewell concert.

Yeah, you probably don't even know who they are, do you?  At the most you're scratching your heads and muttering, "Yeah, that's some Canadian band, right?"  Yeah, okay, you're right, and you're horribly wrong too.  For about thirty years the Hip has been writing Canada's soundtrack for life.  We often wondered why they never seemed to catch anywhere outside of our big-but-small country, especially since they would fill every stadium to standing room only when they played in any major Canadian city.  But now we know the answer.  It's because they're as Canadian as mounties, beavers and inukshuks; as Montreal steak and poutine; as curling and lacrosse and hockey. Probably it's just that no one else but us could fully appreciate them.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Morrison, Thanks for sharing! I have always been fascinated by Canadiana. I've heard of The Tragically Hip, but have never li
  • Mylène Chalifoux
    Mylène Chalifoux says #
    ...it is in total amazement that I am reading your post now. I woke up this morning, needing to connect with my spiritual essence

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Happy Canada Day!  I thought that it might be fun to celebrate Canada Day by sharing the meaning and magick behind a few of Canada's national symbols.

Maple Trees by David Wagner. Public domain image courtesy Publicdomainpictures.net
Maple Trees by David Wagner. Public domain image courtesy Publicdomainpictures.net

Maple

One of the most striking of Canada's national symbols is the maple leaf that adorns our flag.  Something that people come from all over the world to see is the beauty of our maple forests in Central Canada showing In the fall.  Though at this time of year, the leaves of the Canadian maple are still green.  This is one and the same with the famous maple tree that produces the sap that becomes maple syrup.

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Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, December 3

The push for green energy drives forward in Britain. Scientists create "bionic" roses. And the demographic impact of China's recently reversed "one child law" are considered. It's Earthy Thursday, our weekly segment on science and Earth-related news. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

On November 11 this year, I reposted last year’s article that I was inspired to write after witnessing the gradual evolution of a Canadian cultural ritual around Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day) that took place at my local cenotaph.  As you might expect, this year I took my lunch break early, since I was working at the bookstore, and when my men came to fetch me I went over to the cenotaph again, shoveling a sandwich in my face so that I would be free for the ceremony.

There had to be twice the number of people who were there than last year.  I recognized the lovable dog I’d patted and the cute little girl in the pink jacket I’d smiled at; who was now a little taller.  This time the cenotaph gate was still locked, but there was a scuffed poppy wreath already laid in front of it.  My friends and coveners, who were there last year, came back as well, everyone with a poppy and a look of determination.  I scanned the crowd and the gate for the elderly veteran whose words had so moved me last year; but he wasn’t there. Then Jamie nudged me and pointed.  “Looks like the people might force them to bring it back to the cenotaph,” he said.  “Check it out; we have cops and everything.”

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