Cora Anderson’s birthday is next week (January 26), and I have been thinking about her. Not just because of her birthday, which I usually celebrate with poetry or pie (both if possible!). But also because of this week’s presidential inauguration, in which Joe Biden was sworn in as our 46th president, and Kamala Harris as our vice president—the first woman, the first Black woman, and the first person of Indian descent to hold so high an office in our country.
Yet the height of the inauguration for me was the poem read by 22-year-old Black poet laureate Amanda Gorman, a long spoken-word piece that rang with hip-hop rhythms. I kept thinking, Cora would have loved this.
Victor too, I’m sure. But I never met Victor. For that matter, I only met Cora once, when she was bedridden and near the end of her life. Though the Andersons are my great-grandparents in the Craft, I know them mostly through family stories: tales told of their wisdom and their foibles, shared by initiates who knew them whenever we gather.
If you are looking for a witchcraft tradition to connect you with an international community of people who share a consistent philosophy—sorry, this isn’t it. Faery is a family. Families are messy and organic; family members fight with each other fiercely and love just as fiercely. We don’t hang together because we’re developing an ideology or creating an organized religion. We’re together because we recognize each other on a soul-deep level.
Victor Anderson approached the world as a multiracial person. He condemned American racism in interviews and celebrated the cultures and spirituality of Indigenous people and people of color. Learning from world cultures, especially marginalized world cultures, was one of the Andersons’ core values.
But Victor Anderson was not a guru to whom we can abdicate our moral responsibility. I cannot, on the basis of Victor’s life, tell you that “Faery is an essentially anti-racist witchcraft tradition” or give you a ten-step checklist for how to be properly anti-racist. (You can find such materials on your own in any case!)
We look up to the Andersons as we look up to beloved ancestors of blood. They were teachers and our grandparents in the Craft; to some of us, they were cherished friends. Therefore, though we take their teachings seriously, we don’t look to the Andersons to tell us our ethics, beliefs, or political philosophy. Those are our responsibility as individuals, as people who are living in the 21st century. It would be presumptuous for me to try to speak for the Andersons, even if I quoted their interviews. Like all people, they were dynamic and evolving. I know their views changed with the times, and neither of them saw more than a few years of the 21st century. I cannot know how they would have reacted to any current events.
And yet… I think Cora especially would have loved this year’s inauguration.
When I visited Cora, I hoped to ask her about her and Victor’s poetry, and to hear something about her experience of witchcraft. Sadly for me, she was often in and out of her body at that time, and conversation was difficult. But there was one thing that Cora definitely wanted to talk about: the potential election of Barack Obama. She was tremendously excited by the prospect and wanted to know that we shared that excitement.
I can only imagine that the inauguration of Kamala Harris would have thrilled the Andersons. Perhaps they would have seen in her the face of our Star Mother, whom Victor sometimes described as a lovely Black woman wrapped in the imagery of the American flag. As poets, perhaps they would have wept—as I did—at the sight of Amanda Gorman elegantly performing her poetry, calling us through pride into love:
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
I am thinking of Cora today, and of Victor too. And so I suggest—if you are seeking Faery, if you might want the Andersons to be your teachers, your grandparents in the Craft, or your friends and guides—honor Cora on her birthday next week. Read Amanda Gorman’s poem aloud. And pray that our nation and our leaders be held under the hand of Love.