The Sisters of the Valley
March 31, 2016 2:09 AM   Subscribe

Of course, not ALL nuns grow weed. In fact, we’re pretty sure most nuns DON’T grow weed. But these nuns are no ordinary nuns. These nuns are The Sisters of the Valley, the subject of a fascinating series of photographs taken by photographers Shaughn Crawford and John DuBois. [Possibly NSFW as discusses marijuana use] posted by chavenet (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

What would be a good name for such a convent?

"Our Lady of the Chronic Hope"

"Sisters of the Green Buddha"

This is great!
posted by theorique at 2:45 AM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

So then, they're not nuns.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:21 AM on March 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Certainly aren't the Dominicans who enflamed my nascent, 7 year-old Irish joyful rage, but I'd welcome communion with them any day.
posted by lometogo at 3:45 AM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

So then, they're not nuns.

Sister Christine:
..., Catholics don't have a patent or monopoly on the gathering of a Sisterhood, the uniform, or the names 'nun' or 'sister' and even if they did, here in America, their orders are diminishing and the Catholic nuns, themselves, are going extinct. We have created a new age order that attracts young nuns. And requires spirituality in the work done. Prayer sown into the medicines made. Scholastica, the first sister of record, afterall, was self-declared. And why was she self-declared? Because her brother, Saint Benedict, founded the first monastery and there was no room in that inn for divine feminine leadership. She did her own thing. They had wealth. That's why they were both 'on record'. There is evidence they didn't create the concept, either.
posted by MtDewd at 4:36 AM on March 31, 2016 [8 favorites]

I was like, "It's a little weird that they're copying medieval French headwear when they have no historical connection to it via a traditional religious order, but ... "

Meeusen began dressing like a nun in November 2011, during the height of the Occupy movement. Outraged with news reports that the US Congress had decided to classify pizza as a vegetable, she decided, “If pizza was a vegetable, I was a nun. So I put on a nun outfit and started going out to protests, and the movement dubbed me Sister Occupy.” Sister Kate says that she never wanted to fool people into thinking she was a “real” nun, but she enjoyed the way that her habit changed how people interacted with her


I am ... not entirely sure whether I find this offensive playacting with my faith or not. I am not usually bothered by people's use of Catholic symbols even in very blasphemous ways, but this actually kind of bothers me. Maybe because, protestations to the contrary, they DO want to borrow the authority and dignity of traditional Christian nuns by aping their dress. I don't know.

Also their wimples appear to be made of pillowcases which COME ON.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:47 AM on March 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

You don't have to be Catholic to be nun.

Given the relatively looser hanging episcopal way of doing things, I could imagine they would be welcomed, or at least given the time of day. I wish they would.

Because I tend to agree with McGee, 't'ain't funny.

Because cultural appropriation. Because neither hot nor cold. Put up or shut up.

Or get off the pot.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 AM on March 31, 2016

If monks can make beer / wine / liqueur, then why not? Cannabis has a long history of entheogenic use. Personally I'd be more worried about the religion part than the herb part.

(But, yes, these particular nuns are just play-acting. It makes for fascinating pictures and memorable branding, but it doesn't do much to dispel stereotypes of cannabis users as kooks and eccentrics. Then again, they've every right to their freak flags thusly. Better cannabis nuns than inculcating-intricate-webs-of-sexual-guilt nuns, I suppose.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:28 AM on March 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not as cool as getting-arrested-protesting-nuclear-weapons nuns, though.
posted by XMLicious at 5:54 AM on March 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Eyebrows - out of pure curiosity (I'm being entirely sincere), how do you feel about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
posted by Sophie1 at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

"how do you feel about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?"

On a quick glance through the website and reading the "sistory," doesn't really bother me. They seem to be using nuns more in a satirical commentary way -- nobody is intended to think they're "really" nuns, and they're playing on the history and look of nuns as a sort of exegesis on cultural attitudes towards sex and on their own work and on Catholicism, which may not thrill every Catholic in every situation, but seems like a fair use of the symbols. (Also I think a lot of nuns I've known would find them amusing rather than offensive, and agree with a lot of their work and goals.)

I think what bothers me here is that
1) they want to leverage JUST the clothing (which actually has meaning to some people and isn't just an outfit and I don't quite want to say "appropriation" because Catholicism was a dominant cultural institution in the West for over a millennium and I think dominant cultures are in a different position w/r/t appropriation and also I'm not bothered by habits as, like, Halloween costumes or anything, so it's not like straight-up appropriation but it's not thrilling)
2) without any real connection to the tradition that would give coherence to the borrowing (like, there are unaffiliated, unchurched Protestant women who wear wimple-like headdresses borrowed from Catholic nuns as part of their spiritual practice, and that doesn't strike me as disrespectful -- slightly an odd choice, but not disrespectful, and connected to the tradition)
3) in order to trade on the legitimacy and trust that the clothing gives them -- "she enjoyed the way that her habit changed how people interacted with her."

Point #1 is what makes me give it a side-eye like I do with rosaries as fashion accessories (I'm like "that's disrespectful, but whatever, it's not really hurting anybody, it's just rude"). But Point #3 is what I think makes it actually troubling and upsets me, using the "costume" to gain trust and to get people to confide in her about their problems ... especially given the crisis of leadership trust in the Catholic Church due to the sexual abuse scandal, and some more minor crises of excommunicated priests misleading local communities of Catholics about their status and using their priestly trappings to get money, or confidence, from those people ... I don't know, it's unsavory. It may not be hurting anyone currently, but it's the sort of thing that definitely COULD lead to hurting people by conning them?

I'm probably overthinking. It probably only deserves a suspicious side-eye. But it makes me uncomfortable and it feels disrespectful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 AM on March 31, 2016 [10 favorites]

Indeed. I understand the concerns and definitely think they could have done something less appropriative if they wanted to make a statement.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:12 AM on March 31, 2016

God bless them
posted by Ber at 10:15 AM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's an interesting enough story, but my ideal is Sister Corita Kent.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:06 PM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

These are my kinda nuns. As a polytheist Pagan who is a devotee of Norse deities and land spirits, and has long felt called to a life of spiritual service and had visions of living in a nunnery, I have often wished I knew of a serious devotional monastic order I could join that operated something like this and was compatible with my Earth-based spiritual practice. I wear a habit and prayer beads in private sometimes as symbols of my devotion, but they are my own creations and not associated with Catholicism in any way. Pagans and polytheists don't have a monastic tradition to follow yet, so we're on our own for now.

I would love to visit them someday. I applaud their work and hope they inspire many more such efforts!

They may be seen as eccentrics, but they are absolutely doing holy work.
posted by velvet winter at 9:56 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

> they are absolutely doing holy work

They're about as holy as your average etsy seller of handmade soap. Adding marijuana does not automatically make something sacred -- just smelly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on April 1, 2016

Adding marijuana does not automatically make something sacred.

No, but in making their medicinal cannabis products to help suffering people, it certainly sounds like they are doing what I, and many of my fellow Pagans, would call holy work. They are clearly taking a spiritual and service-based approach with the plants:
Before the ingredients are distributed into the pots, there is a prayer huddle. Sister Kate takes the hands of the seasonal sisters and they all close their eyes. "Thank you for calling us to do this divine work," she says, softly and slowly, with conviction. "Let our medicine travel safely and do the work it needs to, and then let the people using our medicine do the work they need to do. Keep our hearts pure and their hearts pure. Keep our minds pure and our hands steady."

[...] At the end of the day, the sisters just want to heal those in pain.
Monks have been brewing beer at monasteries and considering that part of their holy work for centuries; why shouldn't nuns who make cannabis salves and other herbal healing products at nunneries get the same kind of respect for the work they are doing?
posted by velvet winter at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2016

For me personally it makes perfect sense for it to be sacred, but in English the words "monk" and "nun" are usually referring to formal traditions of asceticism within Buddhism, Christianity, or Jainism, where the adherents have left some or all of their previous life behind to pursue ascetic practices and spiritual contemplation or work. (And I think also subordination to a community or an authority, explicitly naming that to be of greater importance than one's personal interests, are another common thread?)

In the case of a cloistered Catholic order I'm familiar with, at least, someone who has taken their final vows has given up all of their personal possessions, said goodbye to all of their friends, and maybe sees their closest family members once per year unless a family member dies. (Though I think that's at the far end of the spectrum and there are also orders that live, work, and pray together but without as much separation from the larger society, and don't get up in the middle of the night to pray.) A friend of mine, even after having lived at an abbey full-time for several years, was still very careful to note that she wasn't a nun because she hadn't taken final vows.

It definitely would be awesome for there to be a pagan or pantheistic ascetic order that people devote their lives to which does ritual dances during the full moon and is a persistent community that cares for its elderly and stuff like that. It's not totally clear to me that this is what they're trying to do, when they talk both about taking vows of poverty, but also about franchising and doing a half-million dollars in business in a year, but maybe it is. Either way though it at least sounds like a good place to work with compassionate people running things, making products that help the customers they've got those testimonies from.
posted by XMLicious at 10:27 AM on April 21, 2016

It definitely would be awesome for there to be a pagan or pantheistic ascetic order that people devote their lives to which does ritual dances during the full moon and is a persistent community that cares for its elderly and stuff like that.

Yes. It would be awesome to have many monastic orders like that, especially ones that cared for their elderly. That's something like what I've been called toward for the past five years or so (although I wouldn't describe it as ascetic.) The Maetreum of Cybele, which is the only legally recognized Pagan convent in the USA as far as I know, is all we've got at the moment, though there are other Pagan and polytheist groups making inroads in similar directions. We don't have an organized monastic tradition yet. I expect that we will one day, though perhaps not in my lifetime.

It's not totally clear to me that this is what they're trying to do...

That's a fair point, and is well taken. In the media they are portraying their work as having a spiritual component, but it does sound more like they are "spiritual but not religious," as it were; they don't describe themselves as theists of any sort. Nonetheless, their work can serve as potential inspiration to others who might feel called toward a spiritually focused life in such a setting, but don't have many options at the moment. They've certainly inspired me, for one! If their abbey were near me, I'd go and visit for sure. Maybe they'll inspire more Pagans to further develop and pursue their own visions of a monastic life. I hope so.
posted by velvet winter at 7:27 PM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

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