Mother. Music. Magic. Mystic. Medicine. Matriz. Moon.
“If we don’t train young people and middle aged people in Elderhood, we will have no Elderhood.”
- Stephen Jenkinson
I have a feeling, or some might call it an innate knowing, an intuition, that everything must change.
To me, it is quite clear that the way we have built our society here in the United States of America is not working. I also have a feeling, that the vision I am dreaming and imagining for us most likely won’t be something I see manifest fully in my own lifetime.
Paraphrasing Angela Davis, “We are the materialized dreams of those struggling against slavery, those who dreamt of a free society yet never lived to see the day. We are those who inhabit their dreams, those who fought for their dreams of freedom. And now, how will our own dreams inhabit the spaces by those who will come after us?”
Davis’s words humble me. Reminding me of this nanosecond in which we exist on the timeline of humanity, the timeline of life, the timeline of the universe.
If you were to leave messages that would support future generations, what would they convey? What shape would the messages be in? Story? Activism? Writing? Song? Dance? Painting? Something else? What would you do to try and assure it travels into the future? What makes a message worth delivering to the future?
For me, I use song as a vessel for messages of history, grief and rage, despair and joy, consolation and bereavement, magic and mystery, resilience, curiosity and hope.
For me, much of my life I have grieved an enigma, until recently I unveiled it: A lack of Elderhood or mentorship. I did not grow up with grandparents in my life. I grew up with hardly any guidance at all and the guidance I did receive, came from dominant North American culture which as an adult, I realized, was not the food for soul I longed for.
When I use the word Elder, I am referring specifically to Elders of European decent in North America. There are many Elders of many cultures who have so many wise teachings, some of whom have guided me on my personal path that I am forever indebted to. However, I am not speaking to, or of, them in this particular writing. That is because what my spirit is longing for are the stories, traditions and culture that my own ancestors have lost, had stolen or given up for survival along the way. Also, when I say Our in the writing that follows, I am referring to my ancestors and other people who identify as someone of European decent.
My young adult life was full of wandering aimlessly, spiritually starved, like an emaciated ghost latching onto cultural practices that I witnessed would feed others. Yet still, there was a hole that could not be filled.
As I began to dive into the history of my own DNA, a journey I began in 2012 - I learned the struggles of my ancestors (Jewish/Scandinavian/Northern European). I unearthed resiliency amidst constant diaspora, exile, witch burnings, deracination from our lands - from our communities - from our songs, our dances and our stories.
In the migrations to Turtle Island (the U.S.A.) our memories were replaced with stories of “discovery” (displacement of Indigenous People in the name of “God”) “victory” (genocide of Indigenous People) “economic triumph” (stealing Africans from their homelands and enslaving them) and “growth” (the free market, capitalism, human and land exploitation). In other words, what had been historically done to our ancestors, we now did (do) to others.
These quotation mark stories are not the stories I tell to my daughter. Nor will she tell to her children. What are the stories we are telling? And where are our Elders to tell us these stories? To remind us of where we come from... Of what we come from... Of our inherited legacies and our resposibility to dismantle many of them... Of our struggles, our failures, our lessons learned… of our interconnectedness and interdependence to all the animate and inanimate beings?
I have heard that people cannot self identify as an Elder. Elder is an earned status in the community. An Elder could be like a Bard - a story teller, a verse-maker, a music composer, an oral historian. An Elder could be someone whose eyes you can stare into and see an entire universe of joy and pain. An Elder bares wisdom from a lifetime of living.
Although I have witnessed Elders (or Elders in training) who do not look like “Elders,” their hairs have not yet all turned to grey and some of them are even in the bodies of children, I have been lucky to meet one living, breathing, aged Elder here in the PNW. A wise one that is holding containers of grief for entire villages, who is modeling what grief looks like for us, what vulnerability looks like, what peeling back the layers of toxic masculinity and white supremacy looks like, who is teaching us to sing, drum and share stories, to tend to the earth with our hands, to stand for justice and not be complicit with the status quo, that wholeness is possible.
These are the stories that are filling the deep, wounded hole I have carried all these years. They are filling it with a remembering of what I am responsible for, what I belong to and who I belong to - which is to the wholeness of earth and all that inhabit her. These are the stories I want to partake in. These are the stories I want to tell, to pass along, to give life and meaning to.
My life’s work is where story meets action, where dreams meet movement, where imagining meets creation.
I had a dream - the sleeping kind - where I was told to plant these seeds inside the children. The seeds I cultivate are of song. And I feel reverence to harvest song with you and your children. May we honor our Elders, our movements and the Land with song.
Alexandra Blakely (she/they) is a Jewitch, Scandinavian singer-songwriter, storyteller, leo & querist walking the path of ancestral healing and the reclaiming of lost cultural memories. These journeys are braided into her music. She lives between Duwamish Territory (Seattle, WA) and Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) and dedicates her life in service to holistic healing. Her movement pulses with an animist worldview that supports to alchemize and shift embodied and inherited systems of oppression towards life affirming ones.
It is through her own adversities that she explores vulnerability and accesses the interdependence of all animate and inanimate beings. She searches to fill intergenerational holes with rooting. Her music, filmmaking, storytelling and beyond focuses on moving through stagnant manifestations, whether they be on individual or societal levels, by going into the darkness and building fires.
She has trained in the work of Joanna Macy, sound healing, and is majoring in Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington where she is writing her thesis on white supremacy culture and embodied white supremacy as a societal ailment. She is currently skilling up in ceramics and grief work and reconnecting with her Jewish ancestry via Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.
“Ahlay’s music speaks to how to move through the world as a human that has a lot of privilege - that is processing; how do we take apart patriarchy? how do we take apart our own role in continuing cycles of racism and cycles of oppression? And it’s coming from a place of the heart and it is very inspiring for me as an artist to see someone else doing that work and doing it in a public setting and bringing so much of herself into it.”
-Erika Lundahl (She/Her)
“Their songs are like a current that pulls me in, wanting to hear more of them. They inspire me so much in how they process their sadness and the world’s sadness. The music they catch comes straight from the heart and the love, pain and happiness that move within her songs are the music that my generation needs to hear.”
⁃Femi Magical R.B., 12 (She/Her)
“Our movements need music. Movements have never won without music. Movements have never won without artists and songwriters and creators and I really believe that people fighting for justice take a lot of energy and hope and power from music. Ahlay’s music is such an eloquent and beautiful cry for us all doing out part.”
-Alec Connon (He/Him)
“Everybody who was part of her musical documentary got to do healing, got to process, got to unpack some of those emotions in a way that normally wouldn't have happened. I think that Ahlay’s music is deeply rooted in raw emotion. It's pretty real and honest in how she processes and how she is processing. And it’s kind of something that happens when you listen to music like that, it encourages you to do that processing yourself or maybe it evokes catharsis.”
-Aji Piper, 19 (He/Him)
“When Ahlay was making her documentary music video, she worked with my son. And the way that she did it was so intentional and thoughtful, thinking about the process that the activists she was working with were going through and their emotions and what that would bring to them and with an intention to bring growth and healing to them as well as making her own process… I’ve cried many times listening to her songs, they’re moving.”
-Helaina Piper (She/Her)
"Ahlay channels our collective greatest good, gives us a sense of hope, like sun rays through the clouds. You can feel the world we are dreaming for emerging and expressing through her voice, music and message like the breath of the divine.""
-Rebekah Erev (They/Them)
“I remember being with my community listening to this really incredible music in this dark theater and this gorgeous persons on stage healing the minds and hearts of everybody in the room.”
-Aliko Weste (He/Him)
“I was just so moved by the song that I stood up on the bench and I was dancing and was just having the best time of my life.”
-Shemona Moreno (She/Her)
“Every time Ahlay sings with her daughter… the way that their voices harmonize and intertwine with each other, the love that mother and daughter have for each other up there singing music that Ahlay has written - it's always so powerful for me - really inspiring.”
-Bex Lipps (They/Them)
“The trauma Ahlay deals with is something that touches every one of us deeply if we have or haven't experienced that type of trauma. Her music really helps to contextualize the reasons why I do what I do, the reasons why we do what we do.”
-Ryan Flesch (He/Him)