The following piece by Left Eye appears in A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred.
An office window opens,
A child raises his hand
A woman opens the door
A lover starts to smile
An office window opens,
A child raises his hand
A woman opens the door
A lover starts to smile
An office window opens,
It came like a cascade, like the torrent of a waterfall
It was every unbidden hope and dream
She emptied the bucket and
A flock of birds pours from the 50th floor onto city streets
The reams of paper were rain, quenching the longest drought
And as she scattered them, something inside and underneath cracked and splintered.
The city ruptured like an overripe fruit left in the sun.
A child raises his hand
Teacher, What is dioxin?
Teacher, How many languages will go extinct today?
Teacher…if the world ends and there’s no one left…what does the cracking of continents sound like?
He asks the teacher if she feels free when she goes to the airport.
He asks the teacher, how many of the pencils she bought with her own money.
He asks the teacher, when the night is still and quiet…if she’s happy.
A woman opens the door
The cold night gusts inwards, bringing the scents of mint and cinnamon,
her first words lace through the zephyr.
It is a promise,
on the other side, wild grass blooms.
It is a battlefield
On the other side is the child she has not borne,
Through the doorway, the arms of the galaxy swirl, slow and incomprehensible,
She looks over her shoulder, at the man standing within,
she says “I’m sorry,” and does not look back.
A lover starts to smile,
Dawn flows across the landscape
his eyes are bright, and something rattles in his bones like moths in a lampshade.
He stands on the roof, holding his lover’s face in his hands, as the sun comes up
Something boils in his throat, it climbs up his esophagus, slinks through his teeth, and bursts into flight.
He says, “I love you.”
I love you.
They will tell you that anarchy is throwing bricks, and not the smallest actions every day of your life. They will tell you that electricity does not run through your bones like a live wire, begging to be released.
That divinity is beyond your reach, nonexistent, the domain of the chosen, mediated by your betters.
They will tell anything to the walkers, the ones who trek through the desert and ruin. The singers, who cannot be caged again,
The dreamers, the seers, the outcasts, the children, the poor, the burning,
We are burning in a house of vacuum that loves to die
But at our best, we shimmer while we rot
Hold your god like fire on a windy slope,
clutch this thing of blood and heat to your chest,
Do not let them take it
It is yours,
This world, is yours.
Left Eye is a nomad, currently in league with Paumanok, seeking to constellate the Vox Nemorensis, for the benefit of all sentient beings.
This piece, along with many other works of beauty, is collected in A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred. Order it here.
Today’s the equinox; that of spring in the north and autumn of the south. It is the balance of light and dark, welcome in a time when all else is out of balance.
Sometimes balance is mere ease, a quiet slipping into equilibrium. But sometimes, balance is like lightning, a sky full of charged energy so unbalanced it must ground in explosive bursts.
Shall our balance be that of the seasons or the storms? Either is the way of nature.
Gods&Radicals, off-site and off-line
The good people at It’s Going Down interviewed Rhyd Wildermuth last month on their podcast. Rhyd and Lia Hunter were also interviewed this week about A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred on live radio on KOPN fm’s Chautauqua program (archive currently not available, but we hope it’s coming soon!). Look for more interviews soon to appear in the coming weeks.
Yesterday was the last of four A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred release parties. They were hosted in San Jose, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Baltimore, Maryland. This latest issue has been our most popular yet, and we’ve been excited both to meet our readers and engage in the fascinating conversations our work has inspired.
Below are some photos from the Seattle and Baltimore events.
Updates on Publications and Distributions
We are deeply happy to announce we were able to hire a distributor for our US publications. Previous to this, all our shipments were sent out by volunteers (usually, the managing editor) during whatever spare time was available. Now that we are selling many, many more books, this method wasn’t working so well.
You’ll note that all our order forms now include a $1.50 ‘distributor’ fee. This is basically a handling fee, and goes directly to pay our (really awesome) distribution team. This also means that publications will arrive much faster than previously!
The call for submissions for the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance will begin in May. Expect an announcement of another upcoming publication soon.
What’s Going On In France?
Perhaps you’ve heard about the massive protests again keeping the police busy in several French cities, especially Paris. Many of these events are specifically in response to police brutality, much like the Black Lives Matters protests in the United States. For great video and photo-journalism, check out Taranis.news. (Pagans familiar with the Gaulish and Celtic god of storms will find their title rather clever).
Also, Gods&Radicals co-founders Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie will be in France this week. Expect more posts about resistance to oppression from the eastern side of the Atlantic soon!
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.
Anthony 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.
Like this piece? You will probably love our print and digital publications, including our journal A Beautiful Resistance and Christopher Scott Thompson’s new book, Pagan Anarchism! Find out more here.
The following are reflections from radical Pagans in the protests on 20 and 21 January, 2017.
District of Columbia, 20 January
ROUGHLY 20 MEMBERS of the Pagan Cluster gathered on Friday to take part in the #DisruptJ20 “Festival of Resistance” march from outside Union Station to McPherson square. Our contribution to this march was a collaborative, three-part moving ritual that unfolded over the course of the day.
As we gathered outside Union Station, our group cast a circle, invoking both the Ancestors and Descendents to witness and bring their blessings to our work. We sang “We are sweet water, we are the seed/We are the storm winds that blow away greed/We are the new world we bring to birth/ A river rising to reclaim the earth!” as we danced a Spiral Dance, raising energy to wrap our group in a protective energy for the rest of the day.
When the march got underway, we shifted into the next part of our ritual; a dis-spelling. We understood the inauguration itself as a major spell working, an attempt by the Trump Administration to ensnare the world in a net of oppression and glamour through pageantry and power. Our intention was to weaken the integrity of that spell. As we marched through the streets, we sliced, cut, hacked, sawed, and slashed at the cords of this net of oppression. As we walked we sang
“We are the knife that cuts the spell / By sacred flame and holy well / As we will so mote it be / All Earth’s creatures shall be free”.
Reaching McPherson square, our group joined together for a final Spiral Dance. This time we danced to weave in energies of justice, liberation, and protection into the space we had created, transforming the net of oppression into a living web of connection. As we moved, we sang
“Let it begin with each step we take / And let it begin with each change we make / And let it begin with each chain we break / And let it begin every time we wake”
PATRIARCHY was smashed a bit today. For everyone who says that women could not rule with the same stregnth and determination that men can please consider the unique peaceful marches of today. Not one arrest. That’s because Matriarchy and the Goddess decended upon the crowds in intergenerational peace. It was palpable. But did it linger?
Will we capture a movement or was it an expression of a funeral for what once was? They didn’t know they were planting seeds. The youth were there. They will remember, many thier first communal expression of solidarity. We capture that and we’ll be just fine.
We still gotta water the seeds to make them grow. Sometimes it will even take some painful fire. But we’ll nature them, and they will grow. We don’t have to tear it all down if we can get them to grow! Some of it gotta go tho. Keep repeating: “the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 36 years young”. Then get mad and do something about it. Organize the Youth. Set Fire to thier brain. Give someone shelter from the rain.
–Anakh Sul Rama
District of Columbia, 21 January
WHY DID I MARCH? Because I watch us fragment ourselves and waste our power in meaningless squabbles that boil down to “you are not pure enough to stand with me so go away or I will withdraw”. Meanwhile, the opposition stays on target and takes more and more power away for themselves only. I see it in government, in paganism and Heathenry, in various ethnic and gender-identifying groups. I say, “find the common purpose and stand together for this issue. We don’t have to like each other to work for a common good.” I went to the march in DC yesterday to stand with women of all ethnicities, genders, ages, backgrounds, religions, and levels of experience in political action. I went with hopes to witness the birth of an energizing movement and also with plans for responding to volatile and violent situations.
I went as prepared as I could be for law enforcement with shields and batons, rubber bullets and tear gas, because they had been deployed the day before. I went with emergency numbers written on my body that will still be there in 4 days because Sharpie doesn’t wash off easily. I went with a plan for 4 separate meeting places in case it went badly. I was afraid because it is true – I have never been hit, been gassed, been screamed at by cops, been trampled. I went because my white skin and middle-class background can be a shield to people whose skin in not white and whose background is not WASP-American-middle-class. I went *because* most law enforcement will hesitate to strike me and that can give someone else a chance to get farther away. And I went because the oaths I made to a couple of my gods means I cannot stand by in strength and safety and watch others pay my debts.
I am posting my joy that it was peaceful. A peaceful march of novices, for those who have never been pushed to march before, this means many will march again. Every time they come out, they meet real people with stories of experience more violent, more frightening than they have imagined, whose stories are filled with pain and fear and loss. By standing beside others, we draw strength and we learn and we grow braver and stronger. Most important for the novices, positive and uplifting early experiences build courage to face the more volatile situations. If yesterday had gone badly, how many of those millions would have gone home, retracted back into their safe worlds, and given up? How many of those novice allies are only now finding the threats that their own doorsteps and are without the examples of elders to show them how to respond?
Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), 21 January
“Debout, debout!” comes the static-filled call from the raging granny on her microphone, somewhere far into the crowd. Another microphone, this time pushed into the face of my partner, the only visible man in our small group. The reporter introduces the radio station she works for, asking for a soundbite explaining his reasons for showing up to a ‘women’s event.’ My mother, her face like a stone statue, interrupts the reporter and speaks: “I am angry. I am afraid.”
We’re not marching, but I wish we would. Place-des-Arts is beautiful in that cold modern way—steel, cement, and glass which fits the gray light of January—but with the five thousand people assembled here it is hard to hear the speakers on their stage, especially while nearby construction workers use their jackhammers to break up the cold cement of the terrace right outside the Hyatt Regency.
I think of hotel magnates and tourism which are just one facet of the inexorable cogs of gentrification. I think of the unrest in Saint Henri. I think of the lack of overt police presence here this Saturday morning—very different from the earlier Friday night protest where forty riot police officers attacked a few dozen student protesters on the street. But here there are baby-boomers and paragons of respectability present: labour union representatives, party members of Quebec Solidaire and the NDP, respectable and famous journalists such as Sue Montgomery speaking to the crowd. There are parents with their babies here, standing in the cold for four hours. The police won’t attack this crowd, and besides, the police and Montréal’s municipal leaders don’t feel threatened by this gathering. Here in Québec, the fantasm of fascism and Trump seem like far-away concerns, nebulous, outside ourselves.
We are protected by the 45th parallel and by that esprit insoumis québecois that absolves us of all settler supremacist culpability.
My friends and I hold a small eulogy for the anarchist venues and other gathering places that have vanished from Montréal thanks to gentrification.
We talk about the community spaces that have been shut down, the places that were burned down or condemned, targeted by the city and its police. I share my experiences of watching how over the past ten years lesbian, queer, sex-worker, transgender, radical, revolutionary spaces one after the other have died out like canaries—but this coal mine is just this late-stage zombie capitalism, and the toxic vapours are just liberal progress.
But there’s hope here too. The communist party came out to pass flyers. Trans-inclusive signs can be spotted. I see a sign calling for the abolishment of borders which states that nobody is illegal. A little boy holds a sign saying: “Water Is Life.” I see Black Lives Matter pins and poster-boards. My personal favourites: “Hey Justin, stop kissing Trump’s ass” and “Vivement le socialisme!” One of the speakers mentions that we are not protected by American-style imperialism, racism, sexism, and colonialism here in Canada. We have many of the exact same problems here, too. We listen to Mohawk and Cree speakers, drummers and artists who speak of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and remind us that we are on stolen, un-ceded indigenous land—Tiohtià:ke. And when several of my friends notice a lone Trump supporter on the margins of the crowd who has attracted the attention of several media outlets, we casually move closer to him and quietly obstruct his fascist poster with our own signs.
This is not the first day of our resistance. The work began long ago, a legacy started by those who knew they might not live to see its results. I hope you’ll join us.
–Gersande La Flèche, Tiohtià:ke (Montréal)
District of Columbia, 20 January
I went to DC on Friday to participate in the J20 Festival of Resistance with a group of Reclaiming witches from Baltimore and the DC/VA area. We chanted, drummed, and worked magic as we marched with several thousand others. The Festival of Resistance was a mostly peaceful, permitted march so it hasn’t received the media attention the other protests have, but it offered an outlet for those who wanted to bring their families, or who aren’t willing or able to participate in riskier activities. It was the perfect energy for magical political action.
I was struck by the emptiness of the MARC train to DC, by how many more protesters there were than Trump supporters, and by how many protesters and Trump supporters seemed to be experiencing the day through the lens of a camera or screen of a smartphone.
St. Louis, 21 January
I ATTENDED the Women’s March in St. Louis on Saturday. We were expecting about 2000 people. The crowds were estimated to be about 13,000. It was peaceful, it was joyful.
The thing that struck me was that so many different factions had come together in common cause. By the end of the march, we had solidified into a cohesive resistance to hate and divisiveness. His vision is not ours.
District of Columbia, 20 January
I’VE BEEN PROTESTING for two decades now. Having cut my teeth on the anti-globalisation protests in the early part of the last decade, then the massive anti-war protests soon after, I came to expect a certain energy, a certain direction, a certain intersectionality, a certain group spirit. But when Obama was elected, that revolutionary drive seemed to disappear.
Obama seemed to convince many people, especially (but not exclusively) whites, that things were ‘okay,’ even as Blacks were increasingly murdered in the streets and Arab children blown to bits overseas, capitalism ground lives to dust, the environment got more polluted and the state accumulated more and more power under a smiling, kind president. Radicalism got replaced by electoral politics, action replaced with deliberation. Many left-groups turned to in-fighting, the revolution suddenly mere theory instead of being-together outside Capital. Intersectionality was replaced with identity politics, solidarity replaced by segmented academic constructs, and it seemed nothing would change this.
We have Trump to thank for reminding us what we’re really about.
I saw the first signs of the return to solidarity at Gay Pride in Orlando on 12 November, just after the election of Trump. I stood with my Black lover next to a Black man and his white lover, beside a white woman and her Black lover, in front of a white man and his Black lover all celebrating not just our gayness but standing together against a new regime of terror against all. The intersectionality that Liberalism destroyed (and replaced with shallow identity politics) returned with a vengeance as we marched with large Latino and Black families, young girls with cornrows giving candy to old queens in heels, Black trans women and old white women walking side-by-side against hate and a new regime of racialized violence.
DC was like that, too. Though I saw much to give me hope, more than anything it was this fact, the great admixture of miscegenating culture donning black hoods and face-masks, wielding puppets and hammers to smash the state in a solidarity we’d all forgotten.
This solidarity became most poignant when I walked with friends to catch up to a march. Trump supporters wearing three-piece suits and “Make America Great Again” caps shouted obsenities at us as we passed them, or yelled TRUMP in our faces like an exorcist might scream JESUS. But their anger was that of fans leaving a football game where their team lost: their rage could not touch us.
A Black woman joined us for a little while as we walked. She said she’d come towards us after seeing our friend’s sign and our stickers. She told us she was relieved to find us after being yelled at so much by Trump supporters. “A ten-year old boy shouted shit at me” she said. He pushed her. She told him to say “excuse me” and the boy’s mother intervened. “You don’t owe her anything,” said the white matriarch. We ourselves had witnessed white boys and girls as young as 8 shouting obscenities at us and others, encouraged by their parents.
That’s the world they’d build, if we gave them the chance. But with bodies and signs and hammers and bricks, those who came out made clear we’re not going to give them that chance.
What are we for, if not to show this can all be different? That solidarity means giving protection to those targeted, rather than endless debates over who is more oppressed? The hatred is real and virulent: it’s time to stop talking and do something, and that’s what we all did in DC that day.
I hope it continues.
Sarasota, 21 January
I WAS PRESENTLY surprised to find a robust crowd of over 10,000 (according to organizers) in Sarasota, FL for a rally and march across the Ringling Brother’s Bridge. The mood was jubilant. Many I spoke with had never attended a march before. The crowd was overwhelmingly white, although there were some Black Lives Matter signs in view.
The police were present, smiling and acted as chaperones.
District of Columbia, 20 January
MY EXPERIENCE at J20 reflects the way everything around me seems to actually work: bad things are happening, but you can’t see them. You don’t see what’s really going on, which makes it easy to ignore it if you are willing to ignore it. I can hear people yelling for everyone to run, but I don’t know why. I’m walking down the street with some friends, and everything seems fine – so why do I keep hearing the explosions of concussion grenades from one block away? We can see the smoke, but we can’t see what’s burning and we don’t know who set the fire. This sense that there is no way to understand what is really going on – that no one is ultimately responsible for any of it – is at the heart of capitalism. Trump isn’t actually the cause of the smoke. He is only the trash that got set on fire.
–Christopher Scott Thompson
Portland, 20 January
It was a shit-show.
Minneapolis, 19 January
WE WERE GOING to take to the streets Thursday night, hoping to catch the cops off guard the night before the inauguration. We were going to fill the spaces of a wealthy, gentrified neighborhood with sound, with dancing bodies wearing binders and wigs and pink balaclavas, setting off smoke bombs and roman candles. We were going to loudly declare that we could find joy in our bodies and in art and each other no matter what was to come. We got off work early. Organized rides. Ate dinner with gently quaking hands. Made game plans to manage any flares of social anxiety, cops, violence, PTSD, or chronic pain. We got ready.
But the cops got there first. Some pulled up on the curbs, flashing their lights, stealing our scene. Some snuck into parking lots, down residential streets, silent, patient, watching. The crowd never gathered. Many never stepped out of their cars. Everyone felt robbed of a highly anticipated sneeze, left with nothing but dashed expectations and bodies flooded with hormones.
So we drove away. Pulled off somewhere, debating what to do next. Words clipped, jaws clenched, breath audible in the quiet. A few of us dared to slink along sidewalks, scoping out cruisers, before retreating to the bar to get royally wrecked. One asked a muscle-bound stranger to punch him, please, punch him, just punch him in the gut. Two of us went home, escaped into shared body heat and generous gulps of red wine. I disclosed truths I hadn’t before and laughed at wounds still bleeding, ignored how raw my voice sounded, even to me, even through wine.
The weekend came and we sobered and rallied. We’re still organizing, networking, drawing up plans. But I won’t forget that night. By denying us movement and space and sound and joyful retaliation, our own momentum was used against us. The cops poisoned us with stress hormones and broken hearts, a physiological landmine we planted ourselves.
The denial of public space and public voice is psychological warfare. It is not to be underestimated.
Portland, 21 January
I’M A WHITE GAY MAN who got married last October. This past Friday afternoon as one of my coworkers was complaining about the possibility that their commute home might be disrupted due to the possible anti-Trump protests I responded that the reason I’m wearing a wedding ring is that a black trans person picked up a brick and threw it at the police. Stonewall was a riot, and was, arguably, the spark for the gay rights movement. I feel a debt to speak out for those more vulnerable than myself and to fight against policies that will harm many in minority communities.
That is why I marched as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence in the Women’s March on Saturday. I have several identities, however, and it made me aware of the different ways we need to be fighting against fascism. My role as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence is very public. How could it not be when I am covered in clown makeup and glitter? And it was wonderful to see 100,000 voices raised in Portland against Trumps policies of hatred and to see so many messages of inclusion. But I was also aware that this was a more mainstream and “liberal” march. I know that there are others out there in the shadows who are taking more… messy actions. And in my less known and less flashy role as a witch that I may be called on to make some tough and uncomfortable decisions. Revolutions aren’t decided over a cup of tea. May I have the strength to stand when called upon whether the situation requires glitter and sass or stealth in the shadows.
–Sister Krissy Fiction
Hawai’i, 21 January
I MARCHED in a small town in US-occupied Hawai’i—for women, for all genders, and against the Trump regime. It really was all combined here. There was a surprising turn out, over 3,500 people, which would be something like 10% of total population in a place that can seem disengaged and is very dependent on tourist economy and pretty much lacks public spaces. We marched down a highway under a hot sun. Many people driving by showed their approval. A fair amount of diversity with lots of signs for trans rights, Black Lives Matters, and many other issues. I talked to a lot of people, and many were aware that deep changes and long-term resistance is needed. My partner and I felt energized and met an inspiring homeless advocate/artist. I feel like a lot of people were caught by surprise but that new connections and links are being made. I would have liked to have seen a lot more linkage with decolonization and anti-capitalism. We brought a bit of Pagan magic into the march via a Libertas/Liberty sign.
Manchester (New Hampshire), 20 January
THE EVENT I attended on January 20th was attended by a group that was small but unified in our radical politics. Only a few dozen of us were there, but all those who spoke or held signs showed they knew that all our struggles (workers, queers, people of color, religious minorities, and others) are inter-connected. It was powerful to be in that group, and even more powerful to return home to my new community and talk about our place in things to come. While I’ve been called to many protests by Morrigan and Lugh, this season and this protest I am called by Brighid as I carry the spiritual hearth of my new home with me out into the increasingly uncertain world outside.
We hope these inspired you. Please feel free to tell us your stories in the comments, and resist beautifully!
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A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacredis the third issue of the Gods&Radicals journal. This is the foreword, by Margaret Killjoy.
These are the moments we’re made for, you and I.
We were not born for easy lives, we were not born for happy lives. We were born to, in the words of Octavia Butler, shape change and be shaped by it in turn. Because God, according to Butler, is Change.
* * *
There’s a scene in a movie I love, a scene I think about far too often. The movie is Edelweisspiraten. It’s about the Edelweiss Pirates, a youth subculture from Weimar Germany that started as a sort of cultural resistance to the authoritarian and patriotic norms of Nazi Germany and transformed into an autonomous guerrilla resistance force as the situation became more dire.
At one point, our heroes—let’s be honest about what they are, heroes—are raiding a Nazi storeroom. One of the Pirates is terrified. He’s freaking out. “C’mon guys, we’ve got enough, it’s time to go.”
That’s me. I’m the scared kid. I’m fucking terrified of what’s to come. I’m fucking terrified because I know I’m going to fight and I know that I’m not constitutionally built for conflict. I know both of these things because of years of experience in fighting for what I believe—sometimes physically—and the years of anxiety and therapy and PTSD that have been the result.
Despite the toll that fighting has taken on me, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. These are the lives we were made to live. The work we do, in any field, will slowly destroy our bodies. I wear my trauma like I wear my tattoos and I will not let myself be ashamed of either.
Even if you’re the kid who’s scared shitless, be the kid who’s scared shitless who still throws down.
Cultural shifts are the long game of revolution. When I write a novel, my hope is that one day someone will read it, consider my point of view, and adopt the parts of it that make sense to them. Since every action is a spell cast for more the same, writing books is a spell cast for more people to write books. Books are not revolutions. But ideas can spread this way—hopefully less through individual “great” works that influence everyone as much as through many books with many ideas that permeate through numerous iterations by numerous authors and artists of all sorts.
Cultural shifts are the long game, but they are starting to bear fruit. We’re starting to win some major battles. Ideas that only a half a generation ago belonged only to the radical fringe—like a culture of consent or the self-determination of gender—are mainstream.
The rise of reactionary politics—exemplified in the English-speaking West by Brexit and Donald Trump—is just that: a reaction. It is the last, desperate attempt by a dying cultural force. It’s an attempt we need to take seriously. It might still win. But while the reactionaries have been the ones to move the war into the political realm, it was a war we started. We started it by challenging the cultural status quo. We started it by daring to be ourselves, by daring to be free.
Cultural shifts are the long game. It’s time to focus on the short game: politics. Fortunately, the immediacy of the situation removes electoral politics—perhaps the most banal and impotent expression of politics—from our toolbox. When I say politics, I simply mean “the ways in which we organize power within our society.” It’s time to take that power ourselves and spread that power out to others. It’s time to transform our aesthetic cultures in cultures of resistance. It’s time for action.
Every action you take is a spell cast for more of that action. Defend people. Stand up to bigots. Hospitalize bigots if need be, or maybe get hospitalized in the attempt. Spells are often costly. That’s fine. They should be. The work we do might destroy us.
For decades now, at least in the Western world, politics have remained locked in place. The status quo was a pin thrust through the heart of our society, sticking us in one spot on the board of possibilities. Elections, then, were like a mob of people gathered around the pin, carefully unsticking it, and shifting it by scant inches before thrusting it firmly back into place.
That pin is unstuck. It can move in any direction, any distance.
It was our enemies—let’s be honest and call them what they are, enemies—who unstuck that pin. But their hold on it isn’t secure. If we act, now, we can take hold of our lives and our culture and make a break with the awful reality of the old status quo, all while fighting those who would turn the bad-dream world we’re used to into a living fucking nightmare.
My metaphor of a pin in a map falls apart pretty quickly, though, because it’s not a single pin. It’s millions, billions of pins: each of us as individuals and communities. As an anarchist, my job isn’t to move every single pin—every single person, every single community—to the position I hope to occupy on the political map. My job is move myself and my community. My job is to help others move themselves to where they hope to be.
An anarchist world isn’t a world in which every living person calls themself an anarchist. An anarchist world is a world of possibilities, in which no institutional power can force communities and individuals into subservience.
These coming years probably won’t go well for us, but let’s be real: on a long enough timeline, nothing does.
We’ve been preparing for years and decades. We’ve been laying the seeds of resistance. It’s time to see what we can harvest.
I hope we are ready, because it is time.
Margaret Killjoy is a gender-deviant author and editor currently based in the Appalachian mountains. Her most recent book is an anarchist utopia called A Country of Ghosts. Her next book, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, is forthcoming from Tor.com in 2017. She blogs at birdsbeforethestorm.net.
A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred is available for pre-order at a discounted rate.
A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred is the third issue of the Gods&Radicals journal. It will be released on 1 February, and presents the work of 16 writers and 4 visual artists. It’s currently available for pre-sale.
On the 19th of June, 1937, an exhibition opened in the city of Munich. Called Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst,(1)” it housed paintings, sculptures, and other works carefully curated to warn against the scourge of degenerate art. Amongst the stated goals of the exhibition was the “deliberate and calculated onslaught upon the very essence and survival of art itself,” along with “the common roots of political anarchy and cultural anarchy.” (2)
Included in the collection were works by the Swiss painter Paul Klee. One hundred and two of his paintings had been seized, though a rather famous one survived in the hands of the Marxist mystic philosopher, Walter Benjamin. The piece was called Angelus Novus, and Benjamin would later write about it, without revealing that it was in his possession. Its angular and stark depiction inspired his famous conception of the “Angel of History.”
Before Walter Benjamin’s attempted escape through Spain to the United States, the mystic had entrusted the painting to his friend, the student of the transgressive Sacred, Georges Bataille. The painting itself is transgressive, an incomprehensible Sacred, wishing, as Benjamin wrote, “to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.(3)” But the angel cannot: its wings are caught, it must continue on this new wind, leaving the wreckage of history behind, progressing not towards some great evolutionary goal, but merely away from the ruins of the past.
That the painting was seen as degenerate makes the Angel of History more fascinating. The Fascist current of history, the one which awakens strongly now in our present, cannot abide degeneracy and sees it everywhere. Fallen, fallen are we, decadent pale shadows of our once great glory. Our blood is too mixed, our house too messy, our genders and sex too confused, our borders unfenced, the land crowded with foreigners, our children dirtied by the melanin of others. Make America Great Again, restore the Empire, save Liberal Democracy, uphold the rule of law, return to us an innocence that never was.
Where the Fascists see former glory, the Angel of History, passed hand-to-hand by degenerate leftists, sees only wreckage. Walter Benjamin would not survive the Nazi attempt to restore Germany to its mythic former glory, but the Angelus Novus did. One even suspects the Angel of History did have time to awaken at least some of the dead. Benjamin haunts these pages, as does Bataille’s search for a transgressive Sacred, as does the Angelus Novus itself, all collected in the messy, fierce, resurrection of a degenerate left sacred.
What is a sacred left? What is left of the sacred? What is the left sacred? These are the interweaving themes of this third issue of A Beautiful Resistance, watched over by the Angel of History, its wings forced open by a wind from another world.
We are pleased to announce the pre-sale of A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred.
“We’ve been preparing for years and decades. We’ve been laying the seeds of resistance. It’s time to see what we can harvest.
I hope we are ready, because it is time.”
from the Foreword, by Margaret Killjoy
A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred is the third issue of the Gods&Radicals journal, edited by Lia Hunter & Rhyd Wildermuth, with a foreword by Margaret Killjoy, and words and art by:
Erynn Rowan Laurie • Left Eye • Lorna Smithers Dr. Bones • Rocket • Yvonne Aburrow Sean Donahue• Loïs Cordelia • Marion Le Bourhis Christopher DeLange• Brianna Bliss • Lia Hunter Rhyd Wildermuth • Anthony Rella• Hunter Hall Finnchuill • Nina George • Nimue Brown•William Hawes
In addition to pre-sale copies, we are also offering a special subscription rate and a book package varying by geographical area.
(*Poster note: cylinder shipping rates for non-US addresses are currently too expensive for us to offer the poster outside the United States).
All pre-sale and subscriber copies of A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred are scheduled to ship globally by 5 February.
Awaken to the sounds of apocalypse:
Quiet house. Distant traffic.
Water boiling once the kettle is switched on.
The striking of a match.
The hiss of candle lighting.
And my prayers…
I am sure in other places
Apocalypse sounds different.
Children petulant from lack of food.
Fighting over money
or who gets to use the car,
Who takes the bus.
The concussion of a bomb
From silent skies.
Apocalypses don’t come sudden.
They can sound like day to day.
We run after each other
Arms upraised to catch a falling world.
They keep telling us the sky
Is firm above,
But it is slippery as their lies,
That tell us nothing we don’t know.
This world is ending.
Every sound announces so.
Some day we will waken to the sounds
Of a new world.
What will that sound like?
A woman rolling over to make love.
A kettle hissing.
A match striking.
And a child eating his breakfast.
Beginning or ending,
The ordinary things are what we have.
T. Thorn Coyle is a magic worker and Pagan committed to love, liberation, and justice. Thorn is the author of the novel Like Water and the collection of magical tales Alighting on His Shoulders. Her spiritual writing includes: Sigil Magic for Writers, Artists & Other Creatives; Make Magic of Your Life; Kissing the Limitless; Evolutionary Witch-craft; and Crafting a Daily Practice. Thorn works to build a society based on love, equity, justice, and beauty.
The rise of the far right across Europe and the United States is deeply linked to the failure of the left to provide realistic and convincing alternatives to the present system. With nowhere else to turn, members of declining or stagnant classes are easy prey for fascist movements that prey on prevalent feelings of resentment and fear. Unless we build real alternatives to the present system, we will continue to lose ground to the far right.
A century ago, the idea of activism was born of a philosopher—Eucken—who preferred the mystical to the material, and that preference still lingers on today, for many still believe that action, even when disconnected from any coherent strategy, can magically lead to a kind of societal awakening. Social justice warfare, in turn, emerged from some of the Internet’s more unsavory recesses as an insult concocted to belittle those who take issue with bigotry. But vitriol aside, the term betrays a faith that unites social justice warriors and their critics (a faith, to be clear, that is all too common today): that arguing with and attacking strangers online is a form of political engagement as significant as planning a picket or a boycott once was.