Living Tribal in a Democracy

“You’ve moved away from each other. You’ve torn apart your families, disassembled your smaller communities in favor of huge cities. In these big cities, there are more people, but fewer ‘tribes’, groups, or clans where members see their responsibility as including the responsibility for the whole. So, in effect, you have no elders. None at arm’s reach in any event.”

Neal Donald Walsh

I grew up dismissing the value of what my ancestry had to offer me, which was overshadowed by a patriarchal system that defines women from that point of view.  I was influenced by a young and modern generation that assumed they had life figured out, and as a result, tended to ignore the older generation’s way of thinking.

But shortly after I became a mother, things changed. I began searching into my personal genealogy and quickly became fascinated by what I discovered about my ancestors’ cultural identity, my “tribe” whose tribal ways date back thousands of years. Within a decade, I awoke to answers I’d been looking for: Who am I?  Who are my people? I already knew where I came from – Iraq, but the physical distance between that place and myself and the human misery associated with it, kept me from truly understanding and appreciating its ancient history, culture, and language.

My mother and I

My research shed light on my people, the Chaldeans, an indigenous Aramaic-speaking group whose lineage dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and it shifted my views. In television and movies, tribal lifestyles are stereotyped as backwards or romanticized as mysterious and belonging to uncontacted tribes. I soon realized that if not documented, the rewarding side of this ancient tradition will be wasted. So in 2007, I began filming a documentary that included interviews and archival footage. I  interviewed my mother, sisters, nieces, cousins, and uncle’s wives about how it feels, as women, to live tribally in a democracy. They shared their perspectives, how, despite their assimilation to the westerner lifestyle, they continue to be connected to their instinctual tribal ways that most people repress in civilized life. They embodied an East-West wisdom that we are all in need of today. I called the documentary Living Tribal in a Democracy. 

Over a decade has passed since I began the documentary. Between raising my children, working on various creative projects, and caring for my elderly mother who lived with us, I worked on it sporadically. After my mother passed away in February 2019, I screened and discussed a ten-minute segment of my documentary at Wayne State University at an event called Creative Many. The story received positive feedback and the organizers encouraged me to continue with the project. That’s when I realized it was time to revisit and complete the work. The community’s cultural identity endangered, I felt it especially important to systematize the memories of its people and heritage.

This is when I realized that the story also needs to be written into a book that, similar to the documentary, explores the role that ancient Mesopotamia played in the birth of our contemporary culture. In this book, I show that, although women played a major role in building the cradle of civilization, the rulers of that region tried to destroy/hide that knowledge. This great loss has had consequences for the world. 

The book raises the following questions, which I myself, as someone living tribal in a democracy, struggled with for decades and went to great lengths to find the answers: Are tribal societies models for future societies? How can tribalism and democracy coexist? Would it do the world good to return to some of the old ways, with smaller communities, a higher regard for feminine sacredness, the family system, and the elderly? How can we learn from the ancients, who are often romanticized as warriors or noble savages and we assume live in faraway or remote lands, in the jungles of Peru or in restricted areas such as Indian reservations, and neglect to see their presence in our backyard? Are we aware they do live with us here today? What was the role of women in ancient Mesopotamia, where once upon a time, kings attributed their right to rule through their official marriage to the goddess?

My mother and her great grandson, Mateo

Some of this material became the topic of my book Mesopotamian Goddesses. The rest I bundled up in my upcoming book Little Baghdad: A Memoir About an Indigenous People in an American City, which will be published by the end of this year. As for the documentary, the completion and release of that project is still to be determined.  Meanwhile, it’s shelved among my umpteen projects that want to bring to memory the wisdom and importance of ancient ways which revered nature, feminine sacredness, and community. 

Once someone asked me why I felt I needed to write so many books. I thought it was a strange question. Would someone ask a surgeon why there was a need to perform operations on a regular basis or a teacher, or any other profession? Still, I reflected on that question and realized that part of the joy in writing my stories is the self-discovery that occurs in the process. How can you connect to the power of your own lineage and discover the richness, beauty and wisdom as well as the wounds and traumas that lie there? Your lineage doesn’t have to be physical heredity, but can be a spiritual lineage. Looking at your heritage will help you come to terms with and understand who you really are, what role you play in the story you’re in, and how to change, if you so desire. 


Every month, I interview remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m letting loose and sharing morsels of my life.

Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power

Archaeological evidence suggests that women in ancient Mesopotamia held high governmental and religious positions during the Garden of Eden period when goddesses and gods coexisted peacefully. The Garden of Eden was said to have had a design and a rhythm, a yin and yang concept. We seem to have lost that paradise because of the veil of ignorance. I believe that, to re-establish that equilibrium, we must first heal our that land by resurrecting specific stories and re-enacting them on the page and in our collective memory.

I spent the last few months posting on TikTok about the goddesses in my book Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power. Although I have done many presentations on this topic, I have not read this book since it was released in January 2019. Re-visiting these goddesses through the pages brought me back to the realization of the power that women had in ancient times.

Source: Wikipedia

In the book, I draw from my extensive shamanic training and connection to my Mesopotamian roots to bring forth a transformed understanding of feminine consciousness, guiding the reader through powerful yet practical exercises to manifest their dreams and create a healthy marriage within the one’s self, home, and society. I share my interest, research, and connection to Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and the amazing women who lived there historically, explaining where that region is today (in Iraq), its link to the Bible, and the culture and people that came from there. Each deity has her own chapter in which I tell her story: Enheduanna, a princess, priestess, and the first writer in recorded history; Gula, the Great Healer; Namshe, the goddess of Social Justice; and many others.

Today I’ve completed my Mesopotamian Goddesses TikTok series, and next I will start posting about Pomegranate, which we just completed the rough cut of! Working on the Pomegranate script, the book, the audiobook, and now the film, has been an amazing unforgettable experience. I’ve produced and directed a feature documentary before, but never a feature narrative. It’s a whole other ball game, requiring the kind of patience, talent, and collaboration that made me understand why I often heard along this journey that “Most films don’t get made.” I’m so glad we were able to make Movie Magic happen!

If you’re interested in mythology, history, feminine strength, spiritual lessons, heritage, love, then you will enjoy reading Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power.

It’s available as an eBook and in print.

Source: Wikipedia

Every month, I interview four remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m now beginning a series on Pomegranate.

Partaking in Others’ Act of Power

I have been enjoying listening to audiobooks for years, imagining the day one of my fourteen books would be available in this format. Then one day out of the blue, my niece Sandy asked if she could create a sample audiobook narration  from my book Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School. I thought this was a lovely idea and gave her the go-ahead. When she sent the audio for my approval, I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting her voice to be so engaging and professional in its delivery. 

Through our conversations, I learned about her earlier interests in theater and acting and her current desire to shift careers from a yoga instructor to an audiobook narrator. The stars having aligned, as they say, I asked if she would like to narrate Pomegranate.  She was excited about the opportunity but had her reservations, since she hadn’t yet narrated an entire book and there was a lot involved, such as numerous male and female characters of various age groups and ethnicities. But I have a knack for discovering talent – it’s all around me actually – and I said, “Let’s give it a try.”

The time, effort, coaching, proper recording space and equipment, and the ability to self-direct as well as receive direction from me, created a priceless experience for both of us and a lovely audiobook. What was amazing is that ACX, the Audible.com platform, approved it from the first get-go which says a lot about Sandy’s professionalism. (Tune in on June 30th when I’ll be interviewing Sandy and she’ll discuss the process – see info. below). So far we’ve had wonderful feedback, the story resonating with listeners because it’s funny, it’s real, and it asks important questions. 

One of the first things I learned from my four-year apprenticeship in Lynn V. Andrews’ mystery school is the Act of Power, a transformation practice to help you reach your dreams. This practice propels all my projects, but particularly Pomegranate. The most magical part about it is that when you help another with their Act of Power then the blessings are doubled and tripled – as was the case with me and Sandy working together. 

Do you want to partake in our act of power? Since we just announced the release of the audiobook on May 25, it would be so meaningful if you can take a listen to the 5 hour 25 minute book on Audible – the 525 is pure coincidence 🙂 – and leave an honest review. It would be a great help in getting the word out. You can click the image or link below to get to it.

If you don’t have an Audible membership, you can get the audiobook for FREE with a 30-day Audible trial.

Just CLICK HERE TO GO TO AUDIBLE, start the trial process, and get the Pomegranate audiobook!

Thank you so much in advance and we hope you enjoy the book!

And if you listen and enjoy it, please tell a friend or two about it!



Every month, I interview four remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m currently running a series on Mesopotamian Goddesses.

HERE’S THE GUEST LINE-UP FOR JUNE 2022:

Creating the Audiobook for “Pomegranate”

A guest blog by Sandy Naimou

The births of my children gave me less and less reasons to travel.  The pandemic helped me to embrace being home-bound.  But now, my children were two thousand miles away and so was the comfortable quiet solitude of my home.  It was time that I take the next step in my life.

It was my first trip to the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, where a small group of us were there to take on various projects that would keep us busy for the next year.  I was going to take a series of related classic texts written in the early 1900s and produce them into audiobooks.  Audiobook narration was that “next step in my life” and I was in the middle of producing Weam Namou’s book “Pomegranate,” which had to take a back seat while on this trip.

On the Krotona campus, the first early morning was still and chilly.  The rest of the residents were tucked away in their respective adobe-styled dwellings, but the birds were actively singing and fluttering about.  Michigan’s bitter January weather was behind me, but I was grateful on this first morning in the mild winter of the Ojai Valley that I had my light winter jacket where I could hide my hands away.

I walked through the Sanctuary of Connections on the campu, a garden for contemplation.  Step by step, my eyes sensed the newness in my surroundings.  At the start of the path a statue of a Lioness stood to greet those who entered.  Weathered, but revered, various offerings were placed around her majestic stance.  The plaque on her throne read:

“Touching the forehead of the lioness

Speaking the name of one who suffers

Forming the connection to nature

Embrace healing powers.”

Then I found I was moving to a statue to symbolize a world religion, and another statue and another.  Great traditions that hope to uplift humanity:  Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Sufism, Indigenous traditions, Hinduism, Theosophy, Judaism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and the teachings of Krishnamurti.

As I approached the end of the path, a small shining sphere caught my attention and brought me closer to the tree from which it hung.  I felt a deep connection to the tree before I realized what I was seeing and sensed it pulling me in, rather than being pushed by my own curiosity.  The sphere glistened within its small, bare, and modest foliage, the branches of the tree thin and the leaves spare.   I walked closer, still not knowing what it was.   There it was, the smallest pomegranate I have ever seen, and the only one I have ever seen on an actual tree.  The fruit’s skin had burst open, and its seeds were exposed.

I was surprised, no, I was astonished.   There I was, experiencing a parallel path with the fruit staring at me and my own life, and that moment moved the lines to create a clear intersection.

After deep soul searching in 2021, I realized that I wanted to shift away from teaching Yoga full-time to narrating audiobooks.  It was very much a “mid-life crisis” experience and through deep inner listening and self-observation, I began to realize this was the next step.  Although, when do we actually truly “know” this sort of thing? All we can do is be open to continue learning about what the steps might be.  For instance, when I began, I thought I would only be able to work on non-fiction books since I don’t read fiction and I’m not a trained actor.  And then it occurred to me that I was avoiding the things I had, once upon a time, loved to immerse myself in, but stopped doing when I was prohibited from going away to college to study acting.  I was avoiding fiction and I was avoiding acting.  When Weam was impressed with my initial reading of her book in October 2021, I realized that I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, avoid either one anymore.  

And standing there in the Sanctuary of Connections, looking at the little ruby red pomegranate, I understood that the steps I have taken through the garden of my life are moving me in the direction that I am to go. 

As a second-generation Chaldean-American immigrant, Weam’s book spoke to me, a book which I know quite intimately after multiple readings, recordings, and analysis. In portraying the characters, I was eventually able to incorporate their personalities within my own being, bringing me closer to these cultural roots.  

But more than that, the book spoke to me on a spiritual level, one that goes beyond imagined lines of nation, culture, religion, and gender.  Immersing myself in it, I was able to incorporate the character’s souls in my own being.  Their desires and struggles brought me to the Sanctuary of Connections within my own heart.  Weam’s experiences and the story she shares with us, helps us to see that these desires and struggles transcend all the societal labels, these imaginary lines, that we are exposed to everyday which make us feel separate from each other.  

For ages we have been trying to teach each other that we are all One, through traditions, religions, stories, and laws.  And yet, it seems that these teaching tools, in our limited ignorance, have been used to create divisiveness in our hearts and minds.  But there is hope.  And beautiful stories like “Pomegranate,” which holds within its center the Sanctuary of Connections, will help us create a future of Unity instead.  

Author Bio: Sandy Naimou has a B.A. in psychology & M.L.A. in women’s and gender studies.  She teaches Yoga, serves on the board for The Theosophical Society in Detroit, and, as you already know, is an aspiring Audiobook Narrator.  

https://www.sandynaimou.com/


Check out my YouTube channel to learn about this week’s guest, who I’ll be interviewing live. Subscribe to my channel and set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

We are exploring the effects of global war and trauma during May.

Here’s the guest line-up for May 2022:

Honoring Other Narratives

For Women’s History Month, I interviewed women of various backgrounds who are making changes for themselves and others as they use their voices and make their dreams come true.  They included: 

Zilka Joseph – an Indian American and Bene Israel poet whose new book, “Our Beautiful Bones,” was nominated for a PEN and Pushcart prize. Watch the interview

Zoe Moore – an independent Hospitality EDI Strategic Consultant who engages leaders of organizations through her speaking, writing, educational courses and consulting. Watch the interview 

Vicki Dobbs – the founder of Wisdom Evolution and head cheerleader for The You First Revolution. Watch the interview

Natally Boutros –  a first-generation Chaldean American born Actress who was raised in Michigan and co-stars in my upcoming feature film, “Pomegranate.” Watch the interview

Some time ago I was looking for a quote on the freedom of speech, and I came across this:

“I may not agree with what you have to say,

but I will defend to death your right to say it.”

I thought this quote, cited as something written by the French writer and philosopher Voltaire, was perfect! As I dug a little deeper, however, I discovered that the quote was actually misattributed to Voltaire. “Again?!” I thought to myself. This is not the first time a quote written by a woman was attributed to a man. The phrase is that of an English author named Evelyn Beatrice Hall. She wrote it in her book “Friends of Voltaire” (1906) as she imagined what Voltaire might have thought.  

This powerful phrase not only shows the importance of the First Amendment, our right to freedom of speech, but it’s interesting how sometimes we take a quote, a history, a narrative and run with it – only to discover years or decades or thousands of years later that it is not entirely true. A good example of this are the legendary women of ancient Mesopotamia, whose stories were buried, literally, until archaeologists began to dig them up in the 1900s. 

One such story that emerged was that of Enheduanna, who historians now recognize as the first writer in recorded history.  She is dubbed the “Shakespeare of Sumerian literature” and wrote and taught about three centuries before the earliest Sanskrit texts, 2000 years before Aristotle, and 1,700 before Confucius. Yet hardly anyone has heard of her, aside from those historians that take the accuracy of history seriously. What a missed opportunity for our educational system not to be aware of Enheduanna’s works and include them, like Shakespeare, into their curriculum. 

I wrote extensively about Enheduanna and other ancient women and goddesses of that region in my book, “Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power.”

This disk was found in the temple of Nanna's consort, Nin-gal (Great Lady), and dates to around 2300 BCE. It depicts Enheduanna, the world's first recorded author, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god at Ur.
This disk was found in the temple of Nanna’s consort, Nin-gal (Great Lady), and dates to around 2300 BCE. It depicts Enheduanna, the world’s first recorded author, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god at Ur. 

We can use our efforts to silence peoples’ voices, but it will return in different forms and be ten times more powerful. Or we can learn to listen, to truly listen to others, to the sun and the moon, and to our animals. Listening is not a chance to interject own views, or to force or manipulate someone to think, speak, or act the way we perceive is “correct.” Our views and feelings are not always “correct.” There is a lot in the universe that we can learn from, but we won’t be able to do that, to grow and evolve, if we prevent others from speaking, and instead constantly interject our rights and wrongs. 

When we truly listen, we give ourselves an opportunity to hear the things we are afraid of, so that we may heal ourselves and those around us, so that we may transform our relationships and experiences into something beautiful. 

Exercise: 

Choose someone you disagree with and write down ten of their good qualities. If your mind automatically jumps to, “This person doesn’t have ten good qualities, no way!” Ask yourself what are you resisting? Why are you afraid to look at their other side?  

After you do that, write ten things you dislike about yourself and why. When you complete that list, decide how you will change at least one of those ten things so that you can live a healthier lifestyle – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. 

This exercise will help you realize that each of us has a lifetime of work on ourselves let alone trying to change someone else. In focusing on what we are thinking, saying, and doing, we are listening to the most important person – ourselves – and then we will have mastered the art of listening to others. 

Each one of us has an inner power which can be honored through listening. True listening involves actively paying attention to the words and sounds that you hear, to absorb their meaning and understand the speaker’s narrative and story.

Check out my YouTube channel to learn about this week’s guest, who I’ll be interviewing live. Subscribe to my channel and set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

We are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month during April.

Here’s the guest line-up for April:

Interview with Ahmed Al Mamoori, Archaeologist & Director of Basrah Museum

Ahmed Al Mamoori is an archaeologist and is the Director of Basrah Museum, housed in a former palace of Saddam Hussein. Ahmed is the inspector of antiquities responsible for relations and negotiations with landowners and other interested parties. He oversees the survey and inspections of sites and monuments in preparation of the new Basrah Museum.

He received his education at Babylon University with a BA in Ancient Archeology. In 2019, he became director of Basrah Cultural Museum. His publications include The Architectural Styles of the Church of Mar Gurgis, Erbil published in the Daily Newspaper in 2018. Ahmed has received additional training for the maintenance of cultural heritage during a course in Beijing, and he has participated in several archaeological fieldworks at the University of Manchester, the University of Wales, and other institutions.

Interview with Kathleen McBroom, a Docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Kathleen McBroom is a docent with the Detroit Institute of Arts. She enjoys working with all kinds of audiences to share amazing pieces of art drawn from the museum’s extensive holdings. Kathleen is also a librarian and an educator. She’s worked with pre-schoolers, graduate students, and just about every level in between. In addition to being an instructor at the University of Michigan and Wayne State, Kathleen has also worked at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, Lawrence Technological University, and the Dearborn Public Schools.

Interview with Reni Stephan, Assyrian American Artist

Reni was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1981. In hopes of a brighter future, his family decided to leave their home country when Reni was ten years old. This dream was made a reality as they entered the United States in 1993, and Reni was immediately enrolled in elementary school. At an early stage of his life, Reni discovered a profound love for drawing. His talent was undeniable and noticeable by his teachers.

During his high school years, art became Reni’s priority. Taking many classes in this field, his artistic interests swelled, and Reni began to realize that he could fuse his passion for art with the dedication he had for his ancestors’ culture he’d left behind. Reni pursued his college education in Creative Studies in 2005, where he furthered his reach and began painting and sculpting. Inspired by Western art, as well as legendary artists, Reni dedicated his life to his crafts. With each piece that Reni creates, he strives to remain true to his Assyrian and Babylonian heritage and ensure its survival through his portrayals. Not only does he seek to influence all generations of Assyrians, but he also hopes to inspire the people of the world.

In recent years, Reni has been commissioned to create several large artistic creations in places of worship, community organizations, and commercial establishments. His signature style speaks volumes about his creativity, and enforces his personal message that he echoes “I was born to re-create my ancestors’ art despite its destruction by ISIS.”

Interview with Prof. Geoffrey Khan from University of Cambridge

Professor Geoffrey Khan is a Semitic Language Linguist, Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. He studied for a B.A. degree in Semitic Languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian, Ethiopic) at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, which he completed in 1980. Thereafter he went on to graduate studies in the same institution and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in 1984 for a thesis entitled Extraposition and Pronominal Agreement in Semitic languages, which concerned form and function of various syntactic structures in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian and Amharic (subsequently published as Studies in Semitic Syntax, 1988). In 1983 he moved to Cambridge, where he was employed as a researcher on the Cairo Genizah manuscripts in the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research group at Cambridge University Library.

In 1993, Professor Khan was appointed as Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic at the University of Cambridge. He has subsequently remained in Cambridge, being promoted to Reader in Semitic Philology (1999-2002) and Professor of Semitic Philology (2002-2012). In 2012 he was elected as Regius Professor of Hebrew, which is his current position. Some of his honors include election as Fellow of the British Academy (1998), election as Honorary Fellow of the Academy of the Hebrew Language (2011), election as Fellow of Academia Europea (2014), election as Honorary Member of the American Oriental Society (2015), election as Extraordinary Professor (Honorary) by the University of Stellenbosch (2016), the award of the Lidzbarski Gold Medal for Semitic philology by the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (2004) and the award of honorary doctorates by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2017) and the University of Uppsala (2018).

Visit this website in the near future to view the Aramaic archives nena.ames.cam.ac.uk

Interview with Raya Nassif, Ancient Language Specialist

Raya Nassif lives in Babel governorate, specializing in ancient languages. She graduated from the University of Babylon. She is the creator of content related to antiquities and ancient Iraqi civilization. One of the topics that she talks about is the Epic of Gilgamesh that is presented in a video format amongst other ancient texts.

Watch Raya’s YouTube videos https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfG9tfnuWjrTYL8Rvgr2pKQ