Monday, June 7, 2010

Comments on Daughters of Copper Woman

I ordered this little book from the library. It had been on a recommended list of Somebody (I don't remember who, except they were also a birth junkie). And I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it and how much I have been thinking about it lately.

The book is Daughters of Copper Woman (1981) by Anne Cameron. The book is in a the form of a collection of stories of the Nootka people from Vancouver Island and more specifically, about the women whose "roots go back beyond recorded history to the dawn of time itself." It is mythical and lyrical and touches on the spiritual and social power of women. I felt like I had my grandmother with me telling the story of our ancestors, except nothing like this ever happened in my family (and no native blood lines in my family unfortunately).

From the reviews that I have read, it may be considered a feminist book, but I haven't decided if I agree with that. I consider feminism as fitting into a man's world, which is not what this book is about.

There are a number of things that I loved about the book. In the legend, all women have descended from one woman-Copper Woman; in fact, she populated all four corners of the world. Her wisdom is passed down to all future generations, but in bits and pieces in each of us that we need to fit together. In the book, the traditional Nootka women were very powerful-members of warrior tribes, memorizers of traditions and many were members of an influential secret society. A woman honored her body-she participated in rights of passage leading to puberty, she was prepared for marriage and childbirth, and even death was treated as an honorable passing. Family and ancestors were honored. The women's collective was a very strong part of the community. And of course, respect for our Mother Earth was at the core of the stories and lore.

And then the book addresses the coming of white man and all the disease and transfer of power that occurred.

But aside from the nasty parts, it made me think about my absolute joys and then responsibility in raising a baby girl. I love that I can not only raise a child/ watch her grow, but also share with her in the many ways that it is amazing to be a woman. But then, in my own upbringing, being female was not celebrated. I don't know where to start in how to introduce this to her when the time is appropriate, aside from the literal and scientific things. How do you teach a girl about spiritually becoming a woman? Becoming a wife? Becoming a mother? What female rituals do we have these days? Shopping, spa days, lunches out?

On an easier note, my sister and niece just happened to visit this weekend, tying in nicely with the theme of the book. (They live far away so visits are short and far between). Despite seeing them only occasionally, Scarlett immediately sensed their familial relationship and doted attention on them non-stop. With no effort, I could see the community that is formed when aunties/sisters/cousins are together.

I will continue to think about the book's impact on my life. Yes, I want to celebrate how fortunate we are to be female. And I continue to hope that my work in my office will be a good example of balance in the female spirit.

Do you have rights of passage for your children?

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