I’ve liked the musician Rufus Wainwright for some time, but I didn’t realize that he was the son of Loudon Wainwright, whom I’ve just recently discovered. Loudon’s a singer/songwriter who’s been around for even longer, and who I like even better than Rufus. His song Father and Son was written for Rufus, but I think the Peter Blegvad song Daughter that he performs here is more appropriate for today.
I take so many things for granted in this country that I don’t often think about having to fight for my very basic freedoms, such as the freedom not to be sold into a slave trade. But in many countries, people (especially women) don’t have that freedom.
Which is why I’m happy to share with you what I learned about the Asgarda.
In the Ukraine, women are often victims of exploitation and sexual trafficking. And since Stalin, women in the entire former Soviet Union were decidedly second-class citizens (and still are treated as such in many places). One movement that’s gaining momentum against this sort of thing (and against oppression in general) is the female-only tribe, Asgarda, that’s growing in the Carpathian Mountains. The legend that inspired them? From their website:
It is said that Ukrainian women were always most beautiful, merry, good-natured, talented, and generous, as well as courageous, selfless, faithful, and wise. Foreign historians were amazed at the span of knowledge of our women. They could read, write, they had equal rights with men, they were respected, and their advice was taken.
In Ukraine a woman was always a guardian, protector, and priestess. She had the knowledge of medicine, treatment of illnesses, medicinal herbs, and laws of nature, universe, and religion. She was able to sing, dance, play musical instruments, and write poetry and songs. She knew astronomy and astrology… Everything she did, she did with goodness and love.
Personifying the modern incarnation of this is Katerina Tarnovska. She is the 30-year old woman who founded Asgarda, which currently has about 150 members (all women, mostly teenage girls) living together and studying martial arts, independence, literacy, life skills, and science. Everything she can think of — including traditionally male traits — that these young women will need to be autonomous, powerful, brave and successful.
What she has to say about it is simply wonderful and timeless, and her message comes out clearly even through the difficulty of going from Russian to English:
In spite of aspects girls-amazons study all sciences necessary in every day life. Laws and rules of life. Ability how to associate correctly and how to achieve your purpose. Skills of creating family, housekeeping or your business activity, growing up children. Woman-warrior – is a perfect woman.
Another teacher at the school, Volodymyr Pylat, says the following:
The most important fight in the life person conducts with itself. Working upon its body the person becomes not only healthier, achieves progress in its measures, but also becomes self-discipline, develops skills in controll of its spirit, mind and body, further develops its adroitness, personality, strength of beliefs, firmness, courage, bravery in deeds.
All these skills are as necessary for women as for men. Now women don’t occupy second-rate role in the society, so if they are improving themselves, they are improving society. That’s why they need martial systems as means of stamping body, spirit and mind.
While it’s shameful that women are still treated unequally in many, many circumstances, I think it’s wonderful that something like Asgarda exists, and that literally hundreds of women will have their lives improved by taking advantage of this opportunity. It always makes me feel good as a human being to know that there are amazing people out there doing things as amazing as this. It’s just got “this is the right thing to do” written all over it.