Water Stars and Wombs
Sidney Rose McCall
Why is it that the great [white] historians and philosophers of history all posit that there was no “female past?” Why is the idea of a feminine prehistory, a forgotten mother-dawn, so quickly dismissed in the ivory intellectual spaces and alabaster halls of academia (most of them built by the hands of enslaved laborers)? Is it a coincidence that the empire-building societies that dominate our short, human history (and textbooks) tend to be painted in patriarchal palettes that celebrate the innovation and cultures of civilizations that were built by souls, darkened, and dehumanized by the so-called “civilizers?” The answer is simple. We reduce the womb—Venus—to a starless Black body that we can consume, corrupt, and commodify as we choose, stealing her water and starlight to fill the voids created by patriarchal practices that reshape the rivers and waterways of our souls. Like the sung but unwritten mother-dawns of the past, and like the river Goose and Mississippi of today, we are, as Ancestor Toni Morrison once said, “straightened out to make room for houses and livable acreage.” When rainwater storms bathe these manmade structures in blue, they call them ‘floods’ and ‘disasters’ but Morrison tells us that the water “is not flooding: it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
The fact that the many ancients referred to the various waterways as bodies of water, reveals our ancestral dream of remembering how our bodies and our becomings are rooted in water. Water is a life-giver, a womb that shapeshifts between memory, miracle, and magic. The deserts and canyons are shaped by the memory of water, just as our shrinking everglades, rainforests, and shorelines remember the sweet, salt, and rainwater that shaped their becomings before man straightened them out. Before there was land, there was water, and before there was man, there was a wom(b)man.
Archivist and digital storyteller, Carey @pressed.roots once wrote that “sometimes I feel like the Mississippi river, trying to straighten myself out, trying to live in between the lines designated around me. But the different corners of myself, my different rivers, they slip over the edge. The way it all won’t fit, the density of the rushing water, the spilling + expressing. I think it’s just how god made me, queer like the Mississippi river water.”
We are literally the water-made stars of the universe, both eternal and already extinguished, well-worn and struggling to live between the manmade lines and barriers that were not created for us to exist. Our wombs are filled with water, and, like the twisted, dried up, straightened out and spilling, flooded, rushing waterways, we are always trying to find our way back. But, unlike our ancestral bodies of water, we young water creatures are so tangled in the lines, barriers, and structures that fracture and fragment our existence that, rather than spilling over and flooding the manmade world with rain, sweet, and saltwater, we remain stagnant, trapped within these sterilized constructs and structures. From our dreamspaces to our memorials carved into soil and stone, we struggle to reconcile the destruction, the eradication, and the commodification of our memories, waterways, and wombs that gave birth to the creative, spiritual, revolutionary, ordinary everyday moments and miracles that manifest as magic – marvelous and mad – in this tadpole world.
We must remember that all embryos, the little tadpoles of human life, are inherently “female.” But “men” are the ones who make a brave transition in vitro from the “fem” to the “male.” While this metamorphosis is a natural process, uninterrupted and remembered by the body’s water, these “men” are taught that maleness – that manmade line – must disrupt and dominate the ancestral waterways and land. Motherland becomes Fatherland, and maternal wisdom becomes paternal imperialism. Perhaps that is why so many men, especially those in academia, are rooted in misogynist philosophies and practices . . . they exist in sterilized societies that teach them, by example and lesson, to be non-feminine, non-women . . . but their bodies remember that he came from the feminine and the wom(b)man. Before his, her, or their becomings, we were all sisters – tadpoles, comets, and water stars with different compositions and flows moving, remembering, dreaming, and returning to ourselves. Our lifelong journeys are constants streams and watersheds of becomings, but we cannot truly become if we do not understand where and what we come from. To reclaim, we must first remember and as Anissa Janine Wardi muses in Water and African American Memory, “encounters with water often function as both confrontations with traumatic memory and rites of healing.”
Across West Africa and the larger Black Diaspora, the symbol of Sankofa is best recognized as a bird turning its head back toward the tail feathers. This striking image manifests from the Akan proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenkyiri” which roughly translates to “It is not taboo to go back and get something after you have forgotten it.” To move forward, we must Return to the past and reclaim our history. Womb wellness helps inform that Return – cultivating a space of reflection that allows for us to remember our shared histories, landscapes, and ways that intersect across water, space, and time.
My purpose in cultivating womb wellness is not to establish an absolute reality (philosophically or historical) but to encourage community members to wade through the water to uncover the troubles and truths about this world. Our worldviews are merely half-formed, incomplete systems of reality – half-formed because our water-womb-memories cannot truly flourish within the lines and lies of imperialism and white supremacy, and incomplete because, in our becomings, we are always growing even after we are gone. Our impermanence and embodied experiences are made immortal in the memory of water and through history and storytelling, we can begin to uncover our ancestral roots and routes that flow beyond the straightened-out structures and barriers. To live bravely is remember “and to remember this world is to create it” (Morrison) for belong to the past just as much as we belong to the future.
Bravely wade through the water, for it is never too soon to remember / remember / remember your womb.
This March we are looking at Liberation Through Womb Wellness.
Join us over four sessions of history + storytelling. We are uncovering our ancestral roots + routes to learn how to live beyond imperialism + white supremacy.