The Screaming Ones

Become the screaming ones.

From Anthony Rella

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The screaming ones
live in the crags and cracks of sharp stones
live in forest hollow and the ridges of mind.

The screaming ones
suckle cold limp bodies of babies, plastic-choked beasts
swaddle bodies blown apart by blasts of drone and IED.

The screaming ones
confound the heroes upon ships sailing for wealth and murder
conjure them to colonize instead the choppy ocean waters.

The screaming ones
blast the stupefying spell of one-hour delivery
blast the somnolent happiness of convenience.

The screaming ones
cause the heart to itch and race, curing indifferent blood
rouse those sleeping in ease to the knowing of darkness.

The screaming ones
whelm us in surges of overwhelming sorrow
buffet us with tears and panic attack.

The screaming ones
accuse the bringers of death who condemn themselves
and weep in rage when they plug their ears with wax

for those who know the streets are paved in blood and bone
for those who know the crimes done, the crimes to come
Become the screaming ones.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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Review of Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries

Review of Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries, edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin (Mystic Productions Press. Scheduled publication date April 2nd).

From Anthony Rella

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Note: This is a review of an advance copy provided to this writer by editor Lee Harrington. This writer has a social acquaintanceship with some of the included contributor and co-editor Tai Fenix Kulystin, as both once sat beside each other in a graduate school class and one day Kulystin observed this writer doodling and said, “Nice Unicursal Hexigram.” This writer is also a member of the same spiritual community as contributor Adrian Moran. It is difficult to be a queer writer interested in magick without some overlap, apparently.)

While the term “queer” has veered closer to being a mainstream catch-all for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, it continues to retain all the layers of trauma, danger, and transgressive excitement layered into its historical uses. What is queer is that which could not fit into the norms prescribed to us, and thus needed to find its own space to grow: on the edges, in the cracks and corners wherein it could grow unfettered. Queerness exists for itself, and it is medicine that heals and brings wholeness to culture.

Thus queerness is elusive, evolving, pluralistic. So too is the collection of pieces gathered together by editors Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin in Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries. They have accomplished an impressive feat, publishing the voices and images produced by a wildly diverse and fascinating array of individuals along the axes of class, gender, race, ability, spiritual tradition, and more.

One significant theme threaded throughout the works is the queer magical power of embodiment. In the essay “Living with Attunement with Sensation Rather than Identity,” Z Griss offers a queer praxis in which the sensory body leads in anchoring and producing the self in all its emerging complexity. Rather than encasing our experiences in labels and identity scripts, Griss shows a productive arc in which the body teaches and reveals mysteries of the self. Yin Q’s “Blood, Body, Birth, and Emptiness: Queer Magic in my Life and Work” articulates power and possibility within stigmatized experiences around cutting and BDSM, transforming her experiences of cutting into “rituals that affirmed life, whereas in prior years, [she] had focused on the thrill of annihilation.” In “The Endlessly Unfolding Mirror: An Introduction to the Queer Sex Magic of Traditional Witchcraft,” Troll Huldren offers body acceptance and eroticizing the Abject as a path to magical power.

Another queer theme emerges as the multiplicity of identity and porousness of self. M.C. MoHagani Magnetek’s “thaMind-Sol Lady’s Revenge” tells of an experience of duality between the speaker and an alter-ego, in which both strive to seek effective strategies to maintain dignity in the face of transphobia. The Reverend Teri D. Ciacchi articulates an experience of self as multiplicity, using the pronoun “we” “to express my internal experience of being a collective
of beings, a multiverse of personas, an individual embedded in an ecological web of relatedness.” Ade Kola and Aaron Oberon in their respective essays explore the fluidity and multiplicity of identity through experiences of ritual possession, articulating ways in which deity contact becomes an unexpected site of queer transformations.

In an anthology of so many gifts, one of the highlights are the interviews of wolfie, who brings in the perspectives of First Nations queer elders Clyde Hall and Blackberri. wolfie’s “chapter 23: the plague years” speaks to their own history and experience of living through the height of the AIDS epidemic. Kulystin and Harrington dedicate this anthology “to our queer ancestors and magical forebears,” and reverence for those who came before permeates the work, particularly in pieces such as Pavini Moray’s “The Glitterheart Path of Connecting with Transcestors.”

Tradition and authority are particularly charged topics in any tradition, and for queer folks who have been marginalized by ancestral traditions, we have needed multiple strategies to mine a healing and empowering spiritual practice for ourselves.

These writers show several paths forward—even if one does not adopt their practices and beliefs, one can see practices of queering existing traditions, of redefining and reinterpreting the past in a liberating way, such as Yvonne Aburrow’s “Inclusive Wicca Manifesto,” Ivo Dominguez Jr.’s “Redefining and Repurposing Polarity,” Steve Dee’s “The Queer Gods of Alchemy,” Sam ‘Eyrie’ Ward’s “The Maypole and the Labyrinth: Reimagining the Great Rite,” and Steve Kenson’s “The Queer Journey of the Wheel.”

Other writers reveal paths of blazing bold new trails, or taking pieces from multiple sources and quilting them into a queer-affirming path, such as in Jay Logan’s “Hunting Lions and Slaying Serpents: An Execration Rite,” Adrian Moran’s “The Magic of the Eight Queer Deities,” and Thista Minai’s “Sharing a Sacred Meal.”

It would be remiss not to mention the inclusion of potent art and sigil work provided by Inés Ixierda, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Adare, Papacon, and Cazemba Abena. These artists show images of magic beyond binary identity, the interstitial spaces of power.


 

Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.

The Cresting Wave

“We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

From Anthony Rella

An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.My sitting practice had gone slack. I mean, I did it. I physically sat there. For twenty minutes, most days. But “I” wasn’t there. I’d be entranced with the fantasies and thoughts of my mind for much of the time. Each thought approached with its own urgency, its own need to be resolved NOW! None of which is new, it is the same tendency that has always needed tending. Yet I was not engaging with the practice of returning to presence as vigorously.

I’d withdrawn. I hadn’t fully realized it. First it was simply not watching the president speak. Then it was being selective about what articles I read. It was picking my battles, picking the causes I supported, and then noticing I’d not picked any in a few months. The eases of my privilege softened the urgency of it.

I was at a party of upper-middle class white people, culturally and demographically the same kind of people I’d grown up with in my adolescence, but most of who I’d never met before. We watched a slideshow presentation of the host’s recent trip to Dachau. She told us about all the different patches the incarcerated wore—including the Pink Triangle for homosexuals.

“There were gays back then?” asked an upper-middle class heterosexually married white woman. “I mean, people were openly gay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “There were transgender people too, but they were suppressed. Back then, there were openly queer people in the United States, too. But after an economic downturn there was a reactionary rightward turn, just like what’s happening today. They suppressed those people and erased our memories of them.”

She didn’t respond to that. This same weekend, the United States president’s administration sent instructions to the Center for Disease Control to not use seven terms. One of the words to be forbidden—people to be erased from memory—was “transgender.” “Fetus” was another, to erode sexual freedom and women’s autonomy.

It was a party. I was terrified. I felt another wave of this same historical movement cresting and these folks didn’t seem terrified and they didn’t know their history. They didn’t know the pattern to recognize it. Or maybe they knew it would break over someone else’s bodies.

The terror had been a slow heartbeat all year, coming into sharp focus and then fading into the background. After the election, the gods told me war was coming. I had dreams of violence and guns. Being fully unready to learn to use a gun myself, I decided to do some self-defense training. When I touched the tender edge of that terror, I would take a courageous leap forward and then back slowly into safety. A safety that isn’t really safe. A safety that is numbness and disengagement. But the party woke me up again. I wasn’t safe. People I love aren’t safe.

In my early days of taking up the Pagan path, so many of the books I read expressed an urgency with hope. Our modern lives were steering humanity toward destruction, they often said, but we have an opportunity to pull back, and these tools can help. Today, I almost feel a nostalgia for the moment when I still believed that. I don’t think humanity is doomed, but in my heart I feel we’ve passed the point when we could draw back. The fire has begun.

Now I think the work of humanity is to pass through the destruction and see if we can allow it to burn away what is sick and toxic and make room for that which is worth saving. Now my mind turns toward the descendants who will inherit the time of The Star, after the Tower has collapsed, where open space and fertile soil await. Those children will need much, and have great promise.

45’s presidency has definitely been an economic boon to psychotherapists. More than the president, however, the entire country’s political climate has woken up childhood defenses with a vengeance. It is absolutely about the people and events in charge, and you can also see the ways the client as a young person learned to deal with uncertainty, conflict, or problems in the family.

My own is that terror, reaching back to a childhood fear that if I didn’t “hold it together” and act as the emotional “rock” for my family, “everything would fall apart.” I wouldn’t be cared for, I’d be unloved. Being this “rock” meant being in some ways invisible, making sure others felt comfortable and at ease, especially at the expense of my own wants and needs. When there was a problem, I learned how to contort and bend myself rather than risk confronting the other people. This matured into a pattern of emotional self-denial, guilt, putting other peoples’ needs and comfort ahead of my own, feeling like nothing I ever did was “enough,” and then working myself until I felt total resentment.

This year I’ve been actively working to unravel that. Allowing this to run unchecked set me up for burnout and cynical withdrawal, which helps no one. Yet to unravel means reacquainting myself with the terror, facing it squarely, and not trying to “fix it.”

I need presence. I need practice to keep me returning to the world as it is. I picked up an old practice—counting my breaths, noticing the thoughts that rose between breaths, but staying with the count. Starting over if I got so caught up in a thought that I lost the count.

It is excruciating. And as I sit, bringing my focus to center and counting the breath, it occurs to me that when I practice, I must practice as though this is the most important thing in the world. More important than the thoughts that clamor for attention is this practice, making my awareness one with my breath.

After the election, an old friend and I had a conversation about her spiritual path. She had returned after a hiatus, experiencing profound and exciting openings while processing painful family trauma. We wondered about the value of spiritual practice in a time of political upheaval.

At the time, what I thought and said was: “We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

There were gays back then?

For every god I worship, there is at least one person from every political orientation who will tell me why I shouldn’t worship them. The gods I worship are contested. People who care nothing about cultural appropriation, who would gladly extinguish all nonwhite people and strip their cultures for parts, also court these gods. I do not live in a world of clean rules and simple answers. I mistrust anyone who does. The gods come to me, and I give them offerings and praise, and we grow closer to each other. My service to them includes supporting the people of their lands of origin, in whatever ways I can. 

The Rider-Waite-Smith Five of Pentacles used to trouble me. The art of this card often contrasts opulent religiosity with violent poverty. Having grown up learning the history of the Catholic Church, I associated this card with religious plutocracy, exploiting the religiosity of the people to gild their lavish churches.

Having read the work of Dr. Bones and Sophia Burns, I have come to sense another facet. The Five of Pentacles is the relationship between philosophical belief and material practice. If that church is worth a damn, those people in the snow should know they can find warmth and shelter inside of it. It’s the Black Panthers serving free breakfast for children.

What material result does my spiritual practice offer? When is it about bypassing, and when is it about service?

I was marching with a group of Black Lives Matter activists. Hearing the call-and-response chants, I thought about ritual artistry. The march needed people willing to take the lead in the calls. Anyone could respond, and most people did, but only a few loud voices started the next call, ideally people who were leading the march. Without those callers, the energy of the group would grow slack. If the callers weren’t listening to each other, the chants fell out of sync, or different chants competed.

No one called in my little cluster, so I took a risk. I discovered, to my surprise, that I had a big voice. Knowing I was a white male taking up space in a Black Lives Matter march, I listened to what the other callers were doing and decided my service would be to amplify what they did. When my voice got tired, someone else took up the role. When their voice got tired, I took up the role.

“No justice!”

No peace!”

“No racist—“

Police!”

We marched in front of the police station. The cops were a few yards away, watching. All of my childhood defenses and middle class, Midwestern cultural training came to the fore. Don’t make them uncomfortable. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And that clearly conflicted with the role I’d taken on in support, to shout out “No justice!” and “No racist police!”

That was a moment when I had my practices to keep me in service. What we were doing was larger and more important than my individual comfort, and if I was unwilling to let the cops be uncomfortable I might as well stop marching altogether. I’d spent years developing my skills in setting aside the reactions of the moment and keep to the task.

In the early days of my meditation practice, a Christian acquaintance challenged me. “So, what, if your grandmother was dying you would just sit there and meditate and it would all be okay?”

“Well, I mean, if my grandmother was dying I would probably sit and talk to her. I might meditate on my own, but the whole point is so I can be there for her.”

Spiritual bypassing would be sitting in meditation while my grandmother dies. It would be taking off my blindfold and leaving the enflamed building while others burn, or saying, “The flames are all illusion!”

I love the gods, and I desire access to a deeper wisdom than the collective mind that created our dilemma. I need the tools that calm nervous systems, that build and sustain the bonds of beloved community. I crave the rituals that align us with the powers of the earth and nature. I want us to have the skills and powers that can’t be bought or sold.

As a child, the ocean was a place of play and relaxation. In my early days of Paganism, the ocean became a symbol of the powers of Water, Daring, Passion, and Emotion. Lately, it has become once again simply the ocean. Its ongoing cresting, breaking, and receding is the manifestation of the deep cycles that govern many things, including the spiral of history. I feel the mystery of the waves in my body.

My practice immerses me in the living world, in the time I have been given. To be here more fully than I ever knew I could be. To not shy away from the flames or the terror. To know deeply that there is something in me that will not be burnt.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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A Peacock Angel Statement

I am the bird and snake braided in Being. I am the Lord of the Painted Fan. My talons clutch the bottom of the abyss of the seven hells as the eyes of my tail feathers fan throughout the seven heavens.

I am Evolution, the striving for integrity amidst the tension of myriad worlds and drives. I am the demand of adaptation, creative transformation. I desire your proud autonomy, not your shame-filled supplication.

My mirror reveals the truth: you are the image of God Hirself, ensouled with Hir divine essence, formed of earth with no greater obligation than to express your most sacred breadth, depth, and height. You are God knowing Hirself, bringing Hir to greater completion.

All queer people are beloved unto me. Every variation of form, body, and spirit is a holy mutation come to further the collective growth and liberation of humanity. To braid and synthesize the oppositions is to become queer. To become free of duality is to become queer.

It is your birthright, as an expression of God Hirself, to forge your body into the truest expression of who you are. It is your responsibility, as an expression of God Hirself, to tend the relationships that uplift and celebrate your heart. Through your love, desire, longing for touch and beauty, your admiration of the awe-inspiring spirit of humanity, you create beloved community.

I come to declare that no bodies are disgusting, unworthy of care, unworthy of protection. Each of you are born a star glowing brightly in holy darkness. To imprison a star, to compel it to distort its light for your comfort, is abhorrent. To constrain the course of a life because of the shape, color, and texture of a body is abhorrent.

To those who claim a creed that would dare call my children aberration, know that that with which you bind others is a binding upon yourself. Yet you defend your chains with such viciousness. You would blame others for your own spite, for the misery in which you dwell with only your righteousness as a comfort. I open the door to your hell and you spit in my face. That is your choice.

For my children, I offer boundless tears to quench the fires in which others would burn you. I offer you my sight that you may see the worlds that are within your power to reach. Your pride is my pride, and I celebrate you, beautiful and strange ones, bringing to your people the medicine they most need for their continuance, their freedom, their joy.

Let my joy kindle in your heart.

In your honor I dance.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.

 

Oh Death, Skilled with Her Scythe

come harvest these dried stalks
stifling thought and speech:
sterile language of war
beneath which slithers fear
and hope. Till our mind’s soil
until desire sprouts
from dormant seeds of joy.
Help us to grieve visions
desiccated by words
and seek essence of dream.
Lunacy rules us now,
renders us hungry beasts
fighting in barren fields.
Decalcify the mind
and let us learn anew
the speech of stone and tree,
the alphabet of bird.
For this earth will offer
everything we seek
when we can remember
the humble way to ask.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.

The Anger of White Men

One night when I was twelve, my cousins introduced me to the band Tool’s album Undertow. During the golden age of the compact disc, musicians could add “secret” tracks to their albums. This was a great motivation to listen to the album all the way through without skipping, well before playing songs at random was the norm. Sometimes there were “negative tracks,” coded in such a way that you wouldn’t hear the song if you skipped to the track, unless you rewound it into the negative count. The most common hidden track was tacked on to the end of the album—songs, skits, or other strange found content accessible if you sat through long minutes of waiting. The secret track of Tool’s Undertow album, “Disgustipated,” did this twice: it was the 69th track on the CD, with tracks 10-68 being a few seconds of silence, and after the song itself there is another, creepier conclusion.

The song begins with a preacher talking to a herd of sheep, speaking of a vision of carrots fearing harvest day, the day they will be devoured. Then a repetitive, hypnotic chant begins: “This is necessary. / This is necessary. / Life, feeds on / Life, feeds on…” I had no idea what to make of this, but more unnerving was the true ending of the album. When the song ends, there is a long stretch of cricket noises, before finally a man’s insistent, emotionless monotone tells a story. “It was daylight when you woke up in your ditch. You looked up at your sky then. That made blue be your color.” It continues, surreal and without any apparent plot, before ending with the sound of a phone hanging up.

My cousins lived in a house on land that had been in my family’s possession for a few generations, at the outer edge of a northern town in Indiana that lay in the nebulous boundary between rural and suburban. Behind their house was a dense forest that extended for miles, near as I could tell, broken by fields. Some summer days we spent hours in those woods and fields. It was a quiet, somber land. The kind of town that people imagine when they speak of Indiana.

I lived two hours away in central Indiana, a place further into the nebulous boundary between suburban and urban, where wealthier people lived. Not at all the kind of place people imagine when they speak of Indiana. During summers and long weekends my mom would drive me up an hour where we’d meet my aunt, who’d driven down, to transfer me between cars so I could go with them back to their place. It was a reprieve from the bullying and loneliness of my home life.

Musical exchange was a part of how my cousins and I connected. One was a boy my age, with whom I spent the most time, but occasionally we would be allowed into the space of his older brother, who initiated me into the adolescent mysteries of pornography, cigarettes, and marijuana. Though we were all part of the same extended Catholic family, these boys seemed less preoccupied with purity and punishment than I was. They read horror fiction and introduced me to industrial and heavy metal music, stuff that sounded like Satan. It terrified me. Of course I kept coming back for more.

That night, we discussed “Disgustipated” for far too long, sifting it for secrets. In those days, everything felt suffused with an occult meaning. Adulthood held its mysteries aloft, teasing us with the promise that eventually we would understand. I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking of the psychotic chanting and the man’s bizarre story. Nights at their house were quieter than the ones I had at home, even with the incessant noise of frog and cicada, giving my anxious mind ample space to ruminate. In my fearful imagination I saw, in the deep shadows of the forest, men in white Ku Klux Klan robes walking the earth, spreading terror. I sensed terror and anger from the land.

The distance between my cousins and I was as much class and sexuality as geography, I understand now. My father had grown up working class but was aggressively working his way up the white collar ladder, simultaneously resenting and wanting to impress his wealthier colleagues. I was a shy, anxious, introverted, unathletic Catholic kid who was terrified of sin and hell and only beginning to sense my queer desires.

My cousins, on the other hand, loved sports, breasts, heavy metal, and video games. While school came easily to me, both struggled, and at an early age they put a stop to my obnoxious tendency to correct their grammar. Their father alternated between teaching jobs and construction work, at times quitting his job in an act of defiance. The cousin my age inherited his father’s anger. He would get enraged at seemingly nothing, rant and rave, and inflict violence on the walls and floors of the house with whatever means available. All this happened when he was a kid, not even a teenager.

They were not the only white boys with anger. Friends of mine throughout junior high and high school knew it in various ways. They listened to white men singing angry punk and metal anthems, raging against political and social injustice, or venting personal grievances against lovers and parents. We went out in the dark to commit random acts of vandalism and property damage, just because. I participated in my way, even enjoyed some of the same music, but my anger was turned inward. We all sat around campfires, drinking, singing, talking, but I feared my queerness would get me exiled and beaten. Instead of raging against authority and injustice, I raged against my own sinful ungovernability. Boys who could have been my comrades I saw as potential threats, their anger something I learned to fear.

Why were we so angry? I wonder this often, particularly as the anger of white men glows brightly in our culture like hot embers, ready to ignite with the breeze. My imagination of Klan members in the forest was not random. Throughout my childhood I took note of the racist graffiti in bathrooms, heard the racist jokes shared between white people, and learned in school about the second, nativist wave of the Ku Klux Klan flourishing in early twentieth century Indiana. Then, as now, economic desperation had given rise to nationalist exclusion and white supremacy. Then, as we will see in the future, this brought only suffering and disappointment.

My cousins and I drifted further apart as time and class widened the gulf between us. I saw no future for me in Indiana, no path forward that would give me the social connection, cultural stimulation, and opportunity for intimacy I craved, so I moved to Chicago. When I was finishing my undergraduate education, I went back for a family reunion and confessed to my uncle and older cousin that I realized I was intimidated by the working world. My cousin, who never finished high school, grinned ferociously and said, “We’ll eat you alive!”

I let myself be hurt by this at the time, but now I wonder about the anger behind his words. He was smart. He read as much as I did. He wrote. His struggles in school and at home were largely behavioral. Years before he said this, I woke up to hearing my uncle throw him out of the house for some offense. Having worked with homeless teenagers, I understand better how deeply painful this rejection is, even for the most stoic child. He never finished high school, and his town had few opportunities for someone without a degree. When his parents eventually let him move back home, he seemed to withdraw entirely. Rarely any romantic relationship, getting a job working the night shift, coming home to smoke pot and sleep all day.

I wonder if his father had a context for valuing his son’s intelligence and encouraging him to cultivate that. I wonder if his father had his own failed dreams and grievances, his anger at being ruled by the whims of others. Nothing in my cousins’ lives encouraged them to reach beyond the limits of the town and its political and economic realities. I could very easily see either of them spending hours on the Internet, getting radicalized by the alt-right.

Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, has remarked that the band’s fans seem unable to appreciate the humor in his music. “Insufferable people . . . I’m sorry. Can’t help them. Way too serious. Too much. Lighten up.” Listening to “Disgustipated” now, I recognize the song as tongue-in-cheek, probably ridiculing folks who cannot accept our needs as animals to eat other living things. The closing story, according to the Internet, was a phone message left on Keenan’s answering machine by his landlord, possibly a rambling manifestation of a hallucinogenic trip the man was on. Meaningless drivel, so abstracted that searching it for meaning is akin to trying to weave a sock out of a spiderweb. Another promise of childhood proven to be an illusion.

During the summer of 2016, I was coming to the end of a long arc, seven years that included the dissolution and resurrection of my career. The recession of 2008 pushed me into the kinds of service jobs that I’d avoided for so long. This was the “being eaten alive” which my cousin had predicted, during which I learned that no one is too good for a job, all labor is challenging, and everyone deserves dignity and fair pay in their work. In a grief circle at a polytheist conference, I confessed something I did not understand: I felt cheated. I felt there was a life I was supposed to have that was now impossible, thanks to the decaying world and shifting economy. I recognized, as I said it, how entitled it was coming from a privileged white man. Yet there it was.

The more I thought on it, the more I recognized it as the same wounded entitlement shared by many white men. It is what Susan Faludi discussed in her book from the year 2000, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Rather than pathologizing this anger or essentializing this pain as a toxic ingredient of manhood, Faludi rather compassionately explores the ways that economic shifts have devalued the jobs, skills, and social roles of men without providing a life-affirming alternative. These conditions have only worsened as declining economic opportunities limit the opportunities of men and boys for whom middle management and programming work are not easily accessible. Instead, they have their parents’ basements and memes. It is the festering wound of white masculinity that drew so many toward a president who promised the impossible, that he could bring back a way of life long gone.

Remembering my childhood vision of terror in the forests, I contemplate of the relationship between European settlers and the land that would be claimed as the United States. People from distant shores, escaping enclosure and disenfranchisement, hoping this soil would be a place where they could establish the wealth and autonomy denied them. Unacquainted with the spirits of the land, people huddling together in their townships. The forest around them was an adversarial realm, harboring every person, plant, and animal hostile to the settlers’ presence. This fear of the forest is, I believe, engrained in the cultural soul of the white US citizen. Our literary history points to this, from the 2015 movie The Witch in which the forest harbors Satanic horrors; to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” in which the titular character witnesses a black mass outside the borders of his town. H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction epitomizes this trend in American literature. His white supremacy is central to his vision of horror, in my opinion, as every monster emerges from the bodies and spirits crushed under the weight of white identity.

As white men, anger and betrayal might be the unfinished business of our ancestors. Ours are the ancestors who learned to blame themselves for their suffering, to individualize their anger and see their neighbors as competitors rather than allies. Ours are the ancestors who sacrificed their unique cultures for the unsatisfying pseudo-culture of whiteness. Our ancestors allowed racism, sexism, and hatred of the other to divide themselves from those with whom they had common cause. All for the promise that if they simply worked hard enough, they would have wealth, ease, and love. A promise that has been broken over and over, a promise that increases the wealth and power of the elite while we cling even harder to the lie.

We have been given a shitty deal. Theodore W. Allen talked about white privilege as a “baited hook,” something that traps us even as it seems to give us a treat. Deep down, we know the wealth we desire comes from the oppression of others. We know our anger keeps us from the solidarity we desperately crave. The system that exploits our dreams and desires wants us to be hateful and wary of women, people of color, and queer folk. It wins when we see ourselves as competitors fighting over scraps rather than comrades who demand more.

Our ancestors oppressed and colonized, but that’s not all they did. We have ancestors who joined with Black people in the fight against slavery and segregation. We have ancestors who fought for freedom, social equality, better wages, the right for people of all classes, races, and genders to vote. We do not have to bear our burdens alone. All we need to do is be willing to share the burden of others. We can join them in the forest.

Let’s turn our anger to the people who benefit from keeping our wages depressed, not the people who take whatever they can get to support their families. Let’s turn our anger to the banks who foreclosed on our houses and the government that paid for their mistakes. Let’s turn our anger to those who would rather pay us to endanger our lives doing violence in foreign countries than spend that money investing in our healthcare, schools, roads, and bridges—all of which would create jobs. Let’s turn our anger to the corporate practices that dump waste in our water, that eviscerate our forests, that poison our health.

Our anger is fire. With it we can bring warmth to the world. This is necessary.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


Anthony Rella is one of the writers featured in several issues of A Beautiful Resistance. Click the image below to see all our publications.

Stepping in It: A Critical Response to The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jensen

Reviewed in this essay: The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jensen (Spinifex Press, 2017)


One of the strengths of the alt-right has been simply providing moral justification for men to embrace patriarchal oppression. Without a way out, without an identity of maleness and masculinity that is liberatory and egalitarian, men seem faced only with the identity of being the oppressor. Thus I was intrigued when I saw Robert Jensen’s The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men.

Robert Jensen writes from thirty years of study and teaching radical feminism, as well as a liberal Christian perspective, both of which deeply inform his perspective and contextualize some of my disagreements as a Pagan man. His book begins in a way recognizable to the witch: acknowledging the wisdom of his body which responded to radical feminism when his mind wanted to reject it.

In his first chapters, he outlines the problem of human inequality as beginning with agriculture, when patriarchal norms turned women into property and normalized male dominance and exploitation. Capitalist exploitation, then, is a consequence of patriarchy in his view, an outgrowth of the economic exploitation and objectification of the female body and the earth itself. Jensen applies this position to critique three contentious issues, listed here according to his chapter titles: “Rape and Rape Culture,” “Prostitution and Pornography,” and “Transgenderism.”

What I appreciate about this book is that his radical feminist perspective draws attention toward the larger socio-cultural factors that influence and constrain our choices. “Rape culture,” for example, provides a foundational argument that sexualized dominance reinforces patriarchal control: the threat of rape implicitly oppresses all women and frames sexual relations between women and men. He then teases apart the gray areas of sexual coercion that are not legally identified as sexual assault but nevertheless influence the choices of women.He accurately describes the normalization of sexual violence in culture.

While I do not believe he would be an advocate of the kind of sexual liberation I want, he argues well that we must be united in rejection of rape and sexual coercion to experience true sexual liberation, where all feel free to choose whom they share sex with.

The chapter, “Prostitution and Pornography,” starts from his core objection to sex work: that sexuality is expressed most fully in intimacy, and turning that intimate act into a site of commodified service degrades those who participate in it. This stance makes sense as both an outgrowth from his previous argument and an extension of his liberal Christian theology. It also speaks to the centralization of heterosexuality in his critique, for his formulation of patriarchy does not seem to extend to male sex workers and pornography made and exchanged between queer people. It is hard to make the same argument that I am engaging in patriarchal exploitation by watching gay porn, though exploitation may indeed be happening.

From my view of sex, it is a wonderful and sacred gift, and also one that is mine to wield as I see fit. My friends who are sex priestesses, erotic coaches, and sacred intimates engage in the exchange of money and sex in their own ways, bringing richness and healing to their clients. One key difference is their capacity to set the conditions of their labor, a capacity denied to sex workers who have been trafficked and enslaved, or who work for an exploitative pornography studio.

In the chapter on “Transgenderism,” his core question is whether “the transgender movement provides a politically productive route to challenging patriarchy.” In this, he raises questions about the ecological costs of transition, the medicalization of transgender identity, and the normalization of cosmetic surgery as trans care.

While reading this, some complicating questions came up for me. First of which is—who does Jensen imagine his audience to be? From the framing of the book, and knowing the historical relationship between radical feminists and transgender people, I assumed Jensen’s primary audience would be non-trans men. So discussing trans issues seems a strange direction, space that I wish had been used discussing how patriarchy contributes to ecocide or violence between men. The questions he raises about the ecological and social costs of gender-affirming surgery, including interventions that would be considered cosmetic for non-trans people, are questions that we must be confronting as a society about our medical practices as a whole.

The other complicating factor is that Jensen seems unconvinced that trans people should exist in a gender liberated world. If he does intend to engage trans people in good faith—when referencing trans people, he uses their pronouns and names with respect—then this makes his message unworkable. It is akin to anti-homosexual Christian activists who reach out to “lovingly” bring gay people back in the fold. No matter how much they couch their message in love and acceptance, the bedrock assumption is that you as a queer person should not exist, which makes them an adversary.

This adversarial stance arises from Jensen’s formulation of sex and gender. For him, the primary significance of sexual difference is reproductive capacity, with a recognition of intersex people. Other physiological differences between sexes, he argues, are largely overstated and unknowable given our current science. In his post-patriarchy world, we would be free to express our gender however we wish without the need to modify our sexual characteristics; thus, he sees genderqueer identity as unnecessary and the practice of transition as an alignment with patriarchy.

Dylan Ce/Curius Creature of The Alchemist’s Closet offers a contrary perspective from the lens of a genderqueer feminist in his article “Multiple Perspectives: Patriarchy and Genderqueer Identity”. He in some ways agrees that the expectation of sexual transition within the binary gender system collude with patriarchy:

“As a young genderqueer person, I believed that my only option was to identify as unequivocally male, especially in a public sense. Though I was femme in some ways, I focused on a core identity as a man and clung to it fiercely.”

Encountering and embracing genderqueer identity allowed Creature to move beyond the binary while still transitioning their embodiment.

The experience of being in a body that is “wrong” and needs change is itself a kind of bodily knowing, of the kind Jensen celebrates, but framing it as such troubles his theoretical minimization of sexual difference. People who engage in hormone therapy reveal the mutability of the body, how it is able to change its expression of secondary sex characteristics, and contribute to subtle but personally significant changes in personality, sexuality, sex drive, and emotional experience. Jensen talks of medical transition as a kind of violence to the body, but any surgical intervention is a form of violence. One does not gently coax cancer away, yet we do not pathologize people for their desire to have their cancer removed.

Overall, I disagreed with how Jensen framed his concerns as problems of “transgenderism” and not as problems arising from trans people attempting to survive under capitalist patriarchy. There is a problem of patriarchy imposing its beauty norms and binary gender expectations on trans people, compelling trans folk to engage in the pathologizing narratives and medicalization of their bodies and identities to be afforded the measure of dignity and autonomy that should be their birthright. Trans feminine people, furthermore, experience misogyny, sexual objectification, sexual violence, and constrained economic opportunities. Framing his argument in this way might have afforded a real opportunity to invite trans people into an alignment against patriarchy.

In the end, however, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men helped me sharpen and clarify my values against those of radical feminism. Thanks to Jensen’s definition of patriarchy, I better understand the strengths and limitations of that framing in building self-determination and liberatory community. Self-determination in body, sexuality, and labor within community are values I support. This book reminds us that radical feminism has something to offer that liberatory project, while unfortunately highlighting the tendencies that still alienate many


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.

The Gods of My Ancestors

A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred comes out 1 February. This essay by Anthony Rella is one of the many works featured in this edition.


“I got an image of you,” he said lying next to me. We were naked and enjoying the luminescence of limerence, those early days of high hormones, great sex, and mutual fascination. His hand passed over the length of me, not touching me, sensing my subtle body. “I think it’s a past life. You’re in ancient Egypt. You’re wearing simple clothes, like you’re a peasant.”

I’d been Pagan for about two years and was still figuring out what that meant. After years of seeking connection with spirituality through Catholicism, I’d found in Reclaiming witchcraft a welcoming, queer-affirming, ecstatic community that offered me tools and practices that were waking me up in new and powerful ways. What I continued to long for was a connection to the divine, to the Gods.

“That’s interesting,” I mused. “We all did this meditation once to our Places of Power. Mine was all black, black skies and black sands, with a giant black pyramid in it. And I was in jackal form. It seemed very Egyptian.”

Not only did it seem Egyptian, but when eventually I pushed myself to start doing actual research, I learned that the older name of Egypt, Kemet, translated as “the Black Lands.” Every time I went back to that Place of Power, I saw images of Anubis: hearts growing on trees, jackals.

A few months after the bedtime vision with my lover, I took another trance and met Anubis, who said, “I’m waiting for you.” I’d been waiting for a God to “claim” me, assuming that’s how it worked, and still it took me a while to get what Anubis was trying to tell me: the Netjeru had been waiting for me all along, giving me gigantic flashing neon signs pointing in Their direction, but it would be my job to follow the signs.

Part of my confusion and unwillingness to answer the call came from not knowing “which” gods I was “supposed” to honor. Some liberal and conservative pagans suggested I should start by “honoring the gods of your ancestors.”

The Delta of Many Legacies

I am a white man. My known ancestry is German, Irish, and Italian with some Sicilian. My paternal Italian and Sicilian ancestors were the most recent to come to the United States during the early twentieth century. My grandparents were the first generation to be born in the United States. My grandfather enlisted to fight in World War II. Fortunately for him the war was coming to a close, so he was deployed to Germany to oversee the postwar peace process. There he became interested in German culture and tried to learn the language. He’d tell us about the women who laughed at him when he mispronounced “Ich heisse” (My name is) as “Ich scheisse” (I shit). Much later in life, after retirement, my grandparents traveled to Germany and Austria, and grandpa ended up president of his local German club.

Their son, my dad, grew up in New York and Connecticut, as most Italian-Americans do, but decided to go to college in Indiana. As an adult, now knowing Indiana and New York, I do not understand his choice, but I get the urge to branch out from your family for a time. There he met and ended up with my mother, an Irish-German-American who grew up in Indiana.

On her side, we have records of the German family in the United States going back to the 1700s. At one point they were Pennsylvania Dutch, so for a long time I thought that meant we had Dutch ancestors too. Apparently it’s a misnomer. They were actually Deutsch which is German for “German.” United States whiteness mutated their language and names, as it does. The family ended up owning farmland in northern Indiana in a town with a road still named after them. My grandfather from that lineage grew up Lutheran but converted to Catholicism for my Irish grandmother, herself a Maloney, a surname translated as “descendent of a servant of the Church.”

My mother’s father, too, served in World War II, though his fortune was quite different. He was deployed to the Pacific to fight the Japanese and involved in Iwo Jima. Our grandmother told us a story about being at a party while the men were deployed, during which they broke plates because they had been made in Japan. My grandfather returned with several hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder and rarely spoke of his experience. Unlike my other grandfather’s expansive relationship with culture, my mother’s parents had an insular nativism and unquestioned prejudices against nonwhite people, freely using bigoted language even when it shocked my generation.

Catholicism gave my parents common ground, though Irish and Italian Catholicisms are quite different. Irish Catholicism brings a lot of the influences we negatively associate with Catholicism in terms of severity and denial of the body and sexuality, though it also evokes a high level of mysticism and awareness of the spiritual dimensions of reality. Italian Catholics seem far more about the culture, the pageantry, and the rituals that unite. In my experience, Italian Catholics listened to the guidance of their priests, bishops, and the Pope; then, they went to do whatever the hell they wanted; then, they came back for Confession and called it good.

The God of my recent ancestors has been Jehovah, the Christian God. My immediate ancestors prayed for the dead and honored a version of the divine feminine in Mary. Some of them believed that God, Mary, and Satan truly walk this earth at times, intervening directly in our lives. Some of them believe that Mary blesses her faithful, turning their rosaries gold to signify their devotion. Yet how could I honor a God whose churches said I was objectively disordered and living in sin as a gay man, whose teachings seemed increasingly out of alignment with my own truth? Yet if I did not honor that God, how could I feel at home with my family, who prays the rosary together in times of great need and crisis? These days, when Pagans and Polytheists say to “Worship the gods of your ancestors,” most seem to include an unspoken parenthesis of “(except the Abrahamic one).”

Heritage, Seeking, and the Gods

I’d not had a particular interest in Egypt outside of my childhood, when I loved all the stories of the old gods. For one school project, I did a report in which I listed all the Norse gods I could find and what they were “god of,” which I understand now is oversimplified and problematic but I was ten and not as wise at the time. The Greek myths, the Graeco-Roman overlaps, the stories of Christianity all intrigued me. As a baby witch trying to connect to ancestry, I looked to the Celtic, Norse, and Roman pantheons and myths to see if any of those Gods were interested in me. My community honored Brigid during Imbolc, and I felt a friendly affinity toward her. Another community that I worked with has a deep relationship with the Norse, but Freya and her kin seemed uninterested in me.

Roman religion was of a distant, intellectual curiosity, more for the questions it raised than the practices and deities associated. The Roman religion included practices of empire, in which distant gods were uprooted and brought to the capitol to ensure the empire’s dominion over its outlying people. Gods whose lineages, teachings, and practices originated across the known world, reaching back even to Egypt, worshipping Isis, an Egyptian Netjeru who became exalted upon the world stage. Indeed, images of Isis nursing her infant Horus preceded or perhaps inspired later images of Mary with her infant Jesus.

The more I thought about it, the less it made sense to me to think I had any idea who the Gods of my ancestors were. Given shifting migratory, economic, and political histories, I couldn’t say for sure that I don’t have any ancestors that trace back to Egypt. Or maybe my soul reincarnated from a past life in which it was dedicated to the Netjeru.

At this point I’m less concerned about the explanatory models. I simply know these are the Gods who call to my soul, to whom I am called, and studying what I can of Kemetic history and practice inspires and nourishes me. What concerns me more is the need to argue with these explanatory models and teachings that ended up having little to do with my experience.

The other unspoken parenthesis comes into play when white Pagans talk about people of color working with their ancestral practices. Some white pagans think that if you have any Black, Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander heritage then “the gods of your ancestors” absolutely cannot be the European ones. As though the descendants of slaves, who were forcibly brought to this continent and experienced years of servitude and sexual violence by white masters that produced children, have no genetic lineage to Europe! This has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with a false attachment to ethnic “purity,” a whiteness so fragile that any known drop of other ancestry pulls it out of the realm of whiteness. My father’s sister has two kids with a Black man. Though we share the same Italian-Sicilian grandparents, would a white Pagan counsel them to study Italian witchcraft?

My Italian and my Irish ancestors were only granted access to whiteness relatively recently. Italians were subject to racism and lynching even into the earliest twentieth century.1 The Irish experienced racial discrimination and oppression for years in the United States, until they were able to leverage white supremacy and political influence at the expense of people of color.2

I recognize, and get reminded when I forget, that I must humble myself in study and contemplation of a world and society for which I have little understanding. The Two Lands thrived for millennia, its remains still standing strong, but the teachings and ways of its people are very little like the life I have in the Pacific Northwest today. The Netjeru were as much entities of place as they are connected to the larger principles of life, the cosmos, and humanity. The inundation of the Nile is distant, I cannot comprehend its significance in a deep and direct way.

Transforming the Legacy of Whiteness

Not long after I began my courtship with Anubis, my father and his wife went to Italy so he could immerse himself in the language and research our family heritage. My sister and I were able to visit him in Florence. I marveled at walking the same streets as Dante Aligheri. Perhaps I even walked the same streets as my ancestors, though the ones we knew of came from small towns. At the Baptistery of San Giovanni, my sister was surprised when I pointed out the Zodiac imagery painted in its interior. The same Zodiac whose symbols have been found inscribed in Kemetic sarcophagi, symbols whose roots go back to Babylon. Inside the neighboring Duomo, we lit candles and knelt in prayer. I knelt awkwardly, the old prayers feeling a poor fit in my mouth, but I knew I was in the house of the God of my ancestors.

“Dear God, I’m not happy with you,” I prayed. “Your priests don’t think much of me. But if you care for my family, then I will honor you for that.”

After a few minutes I felt myself soften and begin to offer gratitude and respect for what I could. As much as I can bad-talk the Christian God and that religion’s impact on my life, I’d never felt like I was at war with Him so much as with His followers. I sensed a beam of spiritual energy touching my heart, emanating from the altar. It was not a conversion or a moment of divine ecstasy; it was a rapprochement. I felt we were at peace with each other.

Looking at the depictions of saints and holy beings around me, noticing their own halos, I wondered if my Work wasn’t so different from that of my Catholic ancestors and relatives. In my core witchcraft practice, we have a notion of what we call Self-possession, when the God Soul descends to permanently and immanently connect with the body and other parts of soul. Descriptions of this are of a sphere surrounding and intersecting the top and back of the head.

Here I am, though, being problematic again. As a white inheritor of Western culture, I’ve also gotten its legacy of attempting to erase difference and find some universal, transcendent culture that I can adhere to. This makes me more likely to look at foreign contexts and project my biases onto them, rather than humble myself to their difference.

And cultural purity is a bizarre concept. It defies millennia of documented exchanges and migrations. It defies how culture works, how it gets transmitted and transformed and reformed. How it becomes imprinted on the body, created through the body, transforms the body, but is not the body. A person who identifies as white in the United States has no claim to cultural purity. Whiteness is not an ethnic heritage. Whiteness is not a country of origin from which our ancestral practices, language, religion, clothing, and art emerged. Whiteness is a culture, insofar as it prescribes us to speak, act, believe, and dress in particular ways. It punishes those of us who do not conform, all the while trying to pass itself off as an apolitical universal norm. Cultural purity in the hands of whiteness is another weapon against people of color.

Whiteness is a culture, however, that has devoured its host mothers and become a parasitic monster that consumes other cultures, erases their origins, and then produces inferior products that it claims are its own invention. Yet whiteness insists upon its own superiority, the innate rightness of its economic and military supremacy. To honor the boundaries of other cultures, to humble ourselves to their difference and desires to differentiate themselves, is a resistance to whiteness and healing from white supremacy. It is a difficult labor of decolonization, one I struggle with often.

I have racist, sexist, and homophobic ancestors. I do them no disrespect by naming this. It simply is. They are also ancestors who served others, sought Truth, and reached beyond the limits of their cultures to build friendships. They are ancestors who ventured beyond the bounds of the known to enter new lands. I have ancestors who were human beings, who danced and sang and made love and hurt each other. What I don’t have are racially or culturally “pure” ancestors. So I honor the Gods of my ancestors of blood and spirit, all of them, all who care about humanity and our place in the cosmos.


1 See Guzman’s “The New Orleans Eleven: The Untold History of the Lynching of Italians in America,” and note that this does not mean Italians went through racial discrimination equivalent to Black or Native people: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-new-orleans-eleven-the-untold-history-of-the-lynching-of-italians-in-america/5372379
2 Please read How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev


Anthony Rella

09lowresAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005.


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The Pharmakon of The Millennial

A poison grows within the social landscape. Once it was a simple thought form, a name, a hope. With time that thought form has become imbued with fear and anger, engorged by our collective shadow, and become a parasitic egregore, fed by our media. So large and contentious has this egregore grown, such a target of collective consternation, that it may well be expanding into more numinous territory.

Archetypal psychologist James Hillman once said that the best way to access an archetypal energy is to capitalize a noun. Thus we can name this poison for what it is.

I speak, of course, of The Millennial.

The coddled one. The one who does not have enough sex or kids, lives with its parent, doesn’t buy a house, demands political correctness. The one who is deeply sensitive and easily offended yet simultaneously greatly powerful in its influence, able to censor any and all dissenting opinions. The one who received a trophy just for showing up. The one who ruins credit, democracy, technology. The entitled one. The narcissistic one. The one who is many, a whole generation.

I was born in 1982, which puts me at the older end of the various timelines set for when The Millennial crawled onto this plane from the dark womb of Lilith. In elementary school, I remember hearing a teacher explain that, since my class would graduate high school in the year 2000, we were the generation of the next millennium. It seemed so hopeful! We didn’t even know about the Y2K bug then. The millennium wasn’t terrifying; it shimmered with promise and brightness. No one told us we were entitled and lazy. If we dreamed big and worked hard, we were told, we’d take up our parents’ fire and build a greater future.

Some say The Millennial rose from the fetid swamp of middle class hopes and fears. Parents with the time and resources to be available and invested in their children’s development enthusiastically pushed their kids to sports games and school events, made sure they got internships, helped them fill out college applications, called their bosses, imbued their children with the hope and promise of better things to come. Beneath that, of course, was the constant terror of the middle class—the essential instability of their position, just one unstrategic choice or medical emergency away from financial collapse and loss of class privilege. Hence the need for so many extracurriculars, to make their Millennial darling distinct enough to move forward.

My experience didn’t match up to this template. My parents weren’t exactly the helicopter type. I was a latchkey kid for a while, more like the elder egregore of Generation X. When I was eleven, though, my parents brought the Internet home. This was back when the Internet was an amazing realm of occult knowledge, crackpot conspiracy theories, and profoundly accessible pornography. Back then, the Internet wasn’t a place to enshrine one’s self-obsession but rather to explore facets of one’s self through generating wholly autonomous identities. Eventually that road led to LiveJournal, Patient Zero of Millennial narcissism.

By my early twenties, I was well possessed by The Millennial. I graduated from college with a liberal arts degree into a sluggish economy. I did not feel adequately prepared for the white collar working world and my bosses sure gave me a lot of feedback that I needed. At one point, struggling to find anything but temp work standing at a photocopier making thousands of copies of documentation for a bank for low pay, I considered moving back home to live with my mother.

Around that time, the nascent archetype of The Millennial had taken shape in the collective consciousness. The confluence of entitlement, poor work ethic, and Internet-facilitated narcissism found an identity in the guy who was fired from his job when he called in sick and then posted pictures of himself at a party in a Tinkerbell costume, pictures his bosses saw. (Never ever friend your bosses on social media.) Non-Millennial folks rubbed their faces and wondered why The Millennial was so whiny when it had never gone through anything particularly difficult as a generation.

This story continues well after The Millennial lived through mass shootings, terrorism, wars based on fabrications and economic self-interest, a sluggish to failing economy that left it struggling to make enough money to survive, the reawakening of Fascism and white supremacy, the heartbreaking certainty that it’s too late to stop climate change, and the daily traumas of systemic racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration.

millenial-approvalThere’s no amount of suffering we can collectively experience that will legitimize The Millennial. Like all children, The Millennial needs to stop seeking parental approval and learn to legitimize itself and its own power.

When folks of my generation talk about these things, we get pushback that we’re insulting or delegitimizing the suffering and work of previous generations. The danger in talking about The Millennial is treating it like a real person rather than an amalgam that influences us. If we take The Millennial too seriously then we might find ourselves possessed by it, possessed by the generational politics that keep us divided instead of working together.

So it’s worth acknowledging that my generation did not create much of what we value and struggle with. We inherited the Internet, smartphones, queer theory, occultism, polytheism, environmentalism, postcolonialism, social justice, Marxism, and the concepts of safe spaces, microaggressions, and trigger warnings. Even the kind of absurdist humor most popular with The Millennial was originally made by Generation X; and Boomers created Monty Python and The Firesign Theatre. We are not the first to struggle and dream of a better society. Our dreams were fed by the activists, leaders, thinkers and creators that have come before us.

If we name The Millennial as the egregore it is, as magic workers and disruptors, we can befriend it and direct its power for transformation. In our cultural shadow the healing pharmakon grows. Let us look at those archetypal powers and flaws of The Millennial and see if it can offer medicine for our society:

The Helicopter Parent

The Helicopter Parent hovers ever over The Millennial, protecting them from danger and discomfort and drawing toward them resources and opportunities. At worst, The Helicopter Parent prevents The Millennial from experiencing the shocks and strivings that would grow their strength and capacity. The Helicopter Parent has evolved as The Millennial returns home after attempting to individuate. According to the overculture this is a sign of failure for both Parent and Millennial, their inability to make it in the economy. According to The Millennial, this is a sign of failure of the economy and society for making it impossible to survive.

millenial-helicopterAll of this points to toxified norms around class, family, and atomizing individualism. Moving away from one’s family of origin is not a universal sign of maturity and adulthood. Some families share the same house and land for generations, and maturity is learning to take one’s role in the interdependent, intergenerational fabric. Within The Helicopter Parent is an antidote to the “rugged individualism” myth that toxifies US culture. The Helicopter Parent reminds us that we affect each other, we can support each other, and no one makes it alone.

The Participation Trophy

These legendary items are touted as the symptom and cause of The Millennial’s fragility. These taught The Millennial they were a winner simply by showing up, regardless of their achievement. The overculture fears that this undermined an important lesson about winners and losers, about needing to struggle and compete hard for limited resources—in this case, status. This is the core lesson capitalism needs children to internalize so that we can perpetuate the system without question—Winners are better and if I don’t win it’s my fault.

millenial-trophyWhat if The Participation Trophy taught The Millennial that every person has worth, dignity, and value regardless of “winning” or “losing”? That we can compete, succeed, and fail, but we still deserve respect regardless of how well we do? The Millennial might start to think that everyone deserves healthcare and a living wage no matter what kind of job they work, or better, that we should have universal basic income. Indeed, it makes us a bit more skeptical of capitalism and all the Social Darwinist trappings we as a society still cling to to justify the existence of systemic oppression.

The Selfie

The Millennial’s narcissism is unrivaled. They’re always taking pictures of themselves! They’re always documenting every activity and posting it online to see. If it’s not witnessed in virtual community, it never happened. Too busy documenting life to live it!

Within this tendency is also the brilliant potential for creativity and self-expression, supported by a dramatic shift in access. For relatively little overhead, I could start my own online photo gallery. I could make a song and send it out into the world. I can make art of my life. I can organize protests and boycotts.

millenial-selfieCapitalism is doing its best to take in this potential and sell it back to us, to help us forget that we are the creators of the content that they’re selling. We are the drivers and owners of the cars they’re paying us to drive. We are the owners and maintainers of the houses they are paying us to rent. Companies like UBER and AirBnB have done an astounding thing, outsourcing all of their labor and risk onto contractors while still reaping the profits from that labor.

With the power of The Selfie, may The Millennial remind us all that it is our own image that’s being sold to us. We are the originators, the creators, the laborers, the means of production.

The Safe Space/The Trigger Warning

According to the overculture, The Millennial is always getting triggered and demanding that professors, authors, and other influential cultural figures censor themselves for its delicate sensibility. The Millennial’s concern for “political correctness”—not perpetuating white supremacy, patriarchal sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism—goes too far toward silencing anyone who dares have a different opinion. The overculture suggests this exceeds the bounds of justice and comes from The Millennial’s sensitivity to contrary opinions and pathological need for safety.

On a personal level, I once had a conversation with a man older than I about homelessness. I disagreed with him about giving access to resources like housing and healthcare to the homeless, in that I was for it whereas he felt it was a misuse of “his” taxpayer money. He screamed in my face about this while I worked to keep an even tone. After ten minutes of this, though, he concluded that I was being an oversensitive Millennial. It is the person who disagrees, incidentally, that’s the sensitive one, not the person who angrily shuts down any disagreement because they can’t tolerate it. That’s how the fragility that comes from privilege masks itself.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate sensitivity. Sensitivity is a strength. Sensitivity helps us to get accurate information, to connect to nuance. The sensitivity of the thermometer determines its precision in giving an accurate reading of the temperature. People who are sensitive have the power to bring up unaddressed problems, to bring people together, to heal, to love deeply and profoundly.

The overculture teaches us to look down on sensitivity because it inconveniences the harsh, casual cruelty we inflict upon each other. I’m supposed to laugh at your homophobic joke to prove that I’m easygoing and rational, even though you’re joking about me and my friends. I’m supposed to chuckle at jokes about racism, sexual assault, and transphobia even though they make me think of my friends who’ve been victims of that kind of violence. Often the accusation is framed such that “you’re being too sensitive.” What this phrasing suggests is that the person saying it knows that you have a legitimate grievance, but in their opinion you’re supposed to be as insensitive to the grievance as they are.

Psychological trauma has real consequences. Being triggered is, by all accounts, a horrible situation. The veteran who asks people respect their PTSD by not setting off fireworks by their house is asking for a safe space with a trigger warning. What we often fail to understand is how profoundly widespread psychological trauma is, and how it gets inflicted upon us through all of interpersonal violence and systemic oppression. A trigger warning is simply that—a heads up that we’re about to wander into potentially upsetting territory, so folks can prepare themselves. In truth, triggers may be so particular and idiosyncratic that we cannot possibly warn against them all, but from a sensitive perspective, we can accomplish a lot by addressing the big ones. We already do it when we rate movies for sexual content, violence, and language.

millenial-safeThe Millennial cannot turn the world into a safe place, but we sure as hell need to wake up to how unsafe it is, particularly for those of us who are people of color, women, poor, queer, trans, indigenous, disabled, and immigrants.

The Millennial casts light on the violence done to these people on a daily basis, both the extreme personal violence and the more widespread “death by a thousand paper cuts” of systemic oppression. The Millennial names these as forms of violence no longer to be condoned or ignored, but violence with consequences, consequences that haunt the bodies and souls of those who endure them, consequences that follow these folks even into the academic spaces meant to help us expand our minds. This is The Millennial’s power, to name, to publicize, to shine light on the structures of oppression and the violence that maintains them. When the powerful and privileged respond with anger and dismissiveness, it is because they feel a moment in which their own safe space has been punctured, their own biases and unexamined assumptions called into question.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


Presale for Pagan Anarchism by Christopher Scott Thompson begins October 1st!

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