Land, Home, and the Gods

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To Frigg, I address these words.

Beloved, Who Suffered Two Griefs,

Whose ashen box and secrets are tended by Volla,

In Whose Name Hlin brings peace and rest,

At Whose command Gna flies upon the Hoof-Kicker,

By Whose grace gentle Lofn brings union,

By Whose good counsel the women of the Winnili

Put their hair down in the likeness of beards and were thus rewarded with victory.

Receive these words

And grant that my hearthfire always burns brightly.

“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.”

— Wendell Berry

Make the home the center of your life. For so many, home is lost in memory and dream. Nostalgia, a devastating longing. A force beyond our ken. What is it about the idea of home that is at once so comforting and so uncanny? It is precisely that link with those subterranean currents within us. The notion of home, so often retreating from us, brings us back to long forgotten memories. Not of our own childhoods, necessarily, although of course, the dollhouse world of the child is the model for the great world beyond. But the life of meaning and connection severed by industrial society. For where else is the power of the pre modern world felt more strongly than in the home and in the idea of the home. We cannot return to our home, any more than we can return to the wholeness that was taken from us. But we can reclaim something of our inheritance. We may light the fire in the hearth, call the gods and spirits to us, and make a new home for ourselves.

If we do not make a space within us and our lives for the gods and spirits to dwell, can we be surprised when we do not find them? Home is where the gods are. Home is not where the bones of ancestors lie, for the greater part of them dwells within us. We have all been driven hence, a vagabond humanity, and there is none who can find his home without seeking. Come upon your gods and you will need to build them a home. Gods and memories need a home with shadowy corners, nooks and crannies, garrets, attics, and cellars. They are tired and worn and are in need of refuge. They need places to sink down and sleep among the cobwebs and dust. And we will keep the fire burning on the hearth and fill the rooms with good smells and laughter and light. This is what Jung meant when he said that the spirits of the home loved old iron pots and pans. So much so was the divine alive in these simple old tools, that Jung developed friendships with the pots and pans at Bollingen Tower.

What kinship can the gods claim with things of steel and silicon? Veins of iron pulse in the earth, such things are known to gods and spirits.  The home binds us to the earth and through it, to the gods. Agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry writes: “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.” In other words, the gods dwell in the soil and we find our home in the soil. The pagan is the country dweller. The godly world is not to be found in the cities. Home cannot be made of concrete and asphalt. After all, if we are made by the place that we come from, what manner of thing shall we be when we live and die in cities that stretch to the horizon? Sure enough, we are become things that do not need soil, do not need home, do not need gods. Not soul and blood, but machine. And the logic of the machine is war against life. Berry: “It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.” Declare for the creature within! For land, home, and the gods!

As Wendell Berry and many others have observed, the modern industrial home is little more than a site of consumption. It is not a place for creation, for production. There is no joy in it, only distraction, which passes for entertainment. The energy of life is expended outside the home. The business of living, we pay experts to manage for us. To grow and cook our food. To build what we require. To create what we desire. The home, understood as a place of creative energies, on the other hand, necessarily connects us to the earth and to the divine. Hands plunged into soil, planting seeds. Hands bathed in blood, slaughtering livestock. Creation and destruction are alive inside of us. We have sacrificed everything to escape struggle, never understanding that struggle is what gives us meaning. It is struggle that connects us to the earth and gods.

Modernity and industrialism, we believe, frees us from work but in truth, all it does is deprive our work of any meaning. There has never been a more overworked human being than the industrialized one. Work becomes labor, crushing the body and soul. The idea of the home retreats into the world of dreams, while we are bled dry to pay for the meanest and most squalid tenements. Let the home and the idea of the home become a pillar of strength. Let the home become a site of defiance, a bold denial of industrial society. Let the home be made into a bulwark against the modern world.

Make the home the center of your life. Economy, of course, originally referred to the management of the household. The global market, inseparable from industrialism, in this regard, is opposed by the agricultural home. Home work does not occur in the marketplace. Nobody is making money or profiting by your work except for yourself and your family and kin. Cooking, growing food, cleaning, chopping wood, raising children, arts and crafts. Industrial society shifts this work away from the home. But when we work where we live, we become more profoundly connected to both our work and the place we inhabit. Such work, the work of the home, is rooted in the cycles of the natural world, and as such honors the gods.

The human world is in ruins. It will not get better. The sooner we can withdraw from it, the better. Timothy Leary was right when he urged young people to “drop out” in 1966. His message is all the more profoundly true today. Life in urban, industrial society has no future. The modern world has failed on all levels. Capitalism and industrialism cannot be reformed. The gods have fled. Whether or not we can become completely independent of industrial society is irrelevant. The fact that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to utterly separate should not be used as an argument against withdrawal. Connection to the gods and the land is ultimately more important than material self-sufficiency. To whatever extent you are compelled and able, withdraw from society and make the home the center of your life.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

 

 

The Path of Wyrd

“Why do we rage against modernity, enlightenment, and humanism? Because they are the ultimate forms of denial and repression. We suffer from a wound in the soul.”

From Ramon Elani

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“A wise man must understand how terrifying it will be, when the riches of all this world stand deserted, as now in various places throughout this middle-­earth walls stand wind-­blown, rime-covered, the buildings snow-­swept.”

“All is fraught with hardship in the kingdom of earth, the creation of the fates changes the world under the heavens. ”

— “The Wanderer”

Fate omnipotent bind the earth! Every day the world declines and falls!

Everywhere we see the signs of the unraveling that has come upon the world. This should surprise no one. We have been living on borrowed time for the last several hundred years. Some would put that number in the thousands or longer still. Some would claim that the sin was written upon humanity from the moment it dawned into cursed consciousness. Others would find it in the ancient practice of agriculture. Perhaps it is true that we were always destined to come to this moment, that every stage in our history was written by what had come before. Thus, following the views of Hegel, the emergence of consciousness, the development of written language, and the advent of agriculture contained, in embryo, the wretchedness of the techno industrial society. That there was no other path to follow. That our doom unfolded inexorable. That this is our fate.

But we were not made to be so lonely. We once had the cosmos in our hands and our hearts. Separated from the world, we die, and the world dies with us. Whatever else one may say about agriculture and so-called civilization, humanity was still of the land until the machine came. For all the suffering of feudalism and the dark ages, we were tied to the earth. We worked the land and give it our blood. We bonded ourselves to it. We have lost the cosmos because we have lost our connection to the land. And industrialism severed that connection, tore us away from our home. As it tears us from the land, it tears us from our bodies, and it tears us from the sacred. Ours is an age of unspeakable tragedy.

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Modernity is inseparable from industrialism. Indeed, modernity is the philosophy of the machine. A mechanistic understanding of humanity and the cosmos. A dream borne from a cold lifeless heart. Modernity is a spirit, an orientation, a worldview, a cosmology. In one hand, humanism: the notion that humanity is the center of the universe, that human suffering should be avoided at all cost, that human happiness is the goal of all endeavors. In the other hand, industrialism: the creation of mass society through mass production. Reason exalted. The uncanny subterranean power of the moon, displaced by the blazing sun.

The non human world is sacred, understood as populated by entities that possess agency and individuality. The world is driven by forces beyond human comprehension. Cyclical flux and change is the law of the world. Just like everything in the world, humanity bears a trace of this divinity, which it shares with all other things. This divinity is honored by recognizing humanity’s place as one among many intelligences and awarenesses. The worship of the premodern gods is consistent with this. Acknowledging the power of the gods above us, we gesture toward the fallibility of humanity, it’s weakness, the limits of its understanding, the contingent nature of our lives. This archaic structure, the knowledge that we are subject to powers beyond our control, that we live and suffer and are happy by the will of these powers, is preserved within our souls, the memories of our spirit. We can be reminded of this heritage when we experience the vastness of the wild, the passion of sex, the magic of poetry, the beauty of art, the thrill of the fight. These experiences bring us closer to our fundamental nature, which has been eroded by the modern industrial world, which privileges the intellect, rationality, and instrumental thinking. Morality and religion that deny meaning in the body. Pleasure reduced to a mere biological urge that needs to be occasionally satisfied, rather than a holy experience of the divinity within us and the cosmos. D.H. Lawrence writes:

“My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. Anger is blood, poured and perplexed into froth; but malice is the wisdom of our blood.”

The intellect separates us from the unity of the cosmos. We are individual but bound by the world. We have kinship with the non human world, which the modern world denies. It does not encourage us to see ourselves as the cousins of bears and the grandchildren of stones and mountains. Superstition is the name that modernity gave to the awareness that it represses.

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It is not a coincidence that modernity denies the spiritual nature of the world, while devastating the ecosystem. Reverence of the gods is the same thing as reverence of what is called ‘nature.’ The gods are the land. They are the representation of the land. As the gods demand sacrifice and worship from us, the land demands that we also place it above ourselves. That we acknowledge that we serve the land and exist by the will of the gifts of the land. Modernity denies both these bonds of reverence, service, and love. The gods, and the spiritual nature of humanity, are nothing but tales told to scare children and keep society ordered and controlled, so we are told. And yet, the godless world that modernity created is more highly administered than anything before. The earth itself is nothing but raw material for us to use as we see fit.

Modernity: time is an arrow, rather than a circle. Tomorrow is more important than yesterday. Unfortunately this has meant that we have no future. Following the ways of the past gave us a future. Turning on our backs on where we came from means we walk to our death. The endless process of birth, death, and rebirth is shattered. Now there is only death. Put another way, Marx defined it as the metabolic rift. A closed, endlessly sustaining system is ruptured, leading to a doomed system that will eventually suffocate on its own filth and waste.

Why do we rage against modernity, enlightenment, and humanism? Because they are the ultimate forms of denial and repression. We suffer from a wound in the soul. We see all around us the price of this repression. He who would deny the darkness within or seeks to imprison in a maze of reason it will find it rise again a thousand times deadlier and more foul. Whether or not the summum bonum is create a kinder world (and I will say that it is not), modernity has led us astray. Its promises of a better tomorrow have led to more suffering than the benighted wretches of the so-called ‘dark ages’ could have imagined. We have believed the lie that yesterday was always worse than today and today is always worse than tomorrow. Let us say this: if yesterday was worse than today, it must have been grim indeed. And if our dreams will only be fulfilled in the tomorrows to come then we are forever doomed in the infinite present.

Modernity claims to offer freedom. But freedom in words is not freedom in fact. To define is to control and exclude. As Freud observed, civilization or modernity did not confer freedom, as they claimed, freedom was greatest before such a thing existed.

Thus modernity must be attacked from two points. In the first regard, we can observe that its promises were empty and bankrupt. Either a massive fraud or a failed experiment. Modernity has not brought us to a worldly paradise. It has not conquered our demons. If anything it has emboldened them and merely granted them an even greater power to exploit and destroy both humanity and the non-human world. Modernity promised equality and we unquestionably find ourselves in a less equitable world than has ever existed. No serf and lord, no slave and emperor were ever so far apart in wealth and power than the poor and the rich of the 21st century. Modernity promised an infinite of better tomorrows, a vision of progress without limit. And yet we find ourselves in a world on fire, standing upon the very brink of human extinction.

In the second case, and perhaps importantly, the principles of the enlightenment, modernity, and humanism were ultimately misguided and doomed from the start. The enlightenment was a mistake, along with the forces it brought into the world. There is no peace in the cosmos. Not among the beasts of the earth, not among the shifting subterranean flows, not among the stars that are born and die in cataclysm. There is no freedom, all things are subordinate to powers beyond them. To paraphrase D.H. Lawrence, it is the most profoundly unfree who shout “freedom!” Enslave yourself to the gods, to your dreams, to love, to fate, to the earth. To be enslaved is to be bonded. To be bonded is to be connected. To be free is to be lost. Humanity will resist with relentless fury all attempts to be subjugated by other humans and institutions of human power. And so it is for every sapling that struggles for light amongst its fellows, so it is for every salmon that thrashes against the jaws of the grizzly, so it is for every fly that finds itself trapped by the spider. The world is endless struggle, for the gods as well as humanity. But we follow the laws of the gods, not the laws made by men. Freedom does not lie in being unfettered, unencumbered, unbound. This is the state of the exile. No, true freedom is found in utter surrender and obedience to the voice of the sacred within yourself.

Modernity promises bread, though it does not deliver. Damn the bread, anyway! As D.H. Lawrence wrote, “The human soul needs beauty more than bread.”

Winter

So here is my war against the modern world: restore the world of dreams! Let loose the madness of the moon. Dive into the abyss of beauty. Bury yourself in the dirt and the mud. Offer your blood to the forgotten gods. The intuitive, magical, noumenal world never truly vanished. We have blinded ourselves to its presence with four hundred years of delusion. We must not fear our darkness but embrace it and welcome it home. It must be claimed, it must be spoken. The wolf within humanity has roamed far and wrought calamities without number upon the world. Bring the wolf back to the bosom, for it is of our flesh and spirit. The passion of life and the agony of struggle are one and the same. D.H. Lawrence: “The blazing tiger will spring upon the deer, un-dimmed, / the hen will nestle over her chickens, / we shall love, we shall hate.” The tiger does not apologize and hate himself for his violence. He shines forth like a fiery star.

The true war against the modern world is not a war for racial or sexual hierarchy. The war against the modern world, a holy war, is debased by the bigots, who are only too quick to use it to pursue their own fantasies. Fantasies of male power, white power. As though the gods and the earth and the spirits cared for such things.

No, what we are after is something altogether more grand and ambitious. It is a war against an idea of time. It is a war against the linear, in all its various manifestation. It is a restoration of the law of cycles. It is a war, yes, a bloody war. Against industrialism, perhaps on some level, against humanity itself. But more deeply, the war against the modern world is a spiritual war. A war fought every day within our own souls. To renounce the modern world is to embrace fate, the eternal return, the dreamtime, the mythic world.

D.H. Lawrence reminds us that the hell we see in the world will be washed away in the end. Climate change will clean the foulness we have made. We can return to the cosmos and its living gods. Renounce what Lawrence calls, “the diseased stability of possessions” and embrace the flux and change of love and conflict, “the fight and the embrace.” So many do not want to return to the world and the sacred. Because the cycles of the universe are death and rebirth. Growth and decay. Joyous life and bloody slaughter. They turn their backs on vitality because it reminds them of death.

The Red King and White Queen are waiting for the sacred wedding. They have been kept apart for such a long time. They wait for the union that will give birth to the God in the Egg, who is both luminous and dark. Without the darkness, we cannot know the light. Modernity, in making war upon the former, eradicates the latter. We live in an age without darkness or light. A barren waste of lifeless grey.

There is only one path, the path of wyrd, the path that is unfolding before us.

“They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

– T.S. Eliot


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

How to Buy a Religion

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Source

What’s wrong with Sephora’s witch kit?

Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?

Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Karl Marx

Capitalism alienates.

It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.

Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.

Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.


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Pop-culture resurgence: Internet tabloid Vice offers dozens of witchcraft-themed articles. Source

Sephora sells to women.

The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.

Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.

Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz.  Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.


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Metaphysical shopfront. Source

Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:

The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.

The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.

This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.

In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.


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The nitrogen cycle. Source

When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.

But that’s not the only Paganism.

We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.

You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.

Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.

And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.

If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.

Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.

You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”

Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


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Rise From the Deep

“Beneath the modern, industrial world and all of its rationality, the world of intuition, dream, and madness is alive. And it is returning. As this world crumbles, the old world will burst forth and the gods will walk again. I will dream your ruin.”

From Ramon Elani

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“Thus Odin graved ere the world began;

Then he rose from the deep, and came again.”

–Havamal, the Words of the High One

We do not choose the forms in which the gods appears to us. It is carved into the hidden heart of the dream inside of us. It was written there in the dreaming world, before this world began. Turn your back on it at your peril, for it is madness in either direction. We are striated and sedimented things. We walk this dead and rotten world, while we dance at the gates of dawn. I am a contingent thing, a breath upon the wind. But I am too the flames of distant stars, I am a torch in the night. I was there when the earth was born, I was there when the first dream was dreamed.

I am now, I am again, I am always.

The gods, like the trees, don’t care for a one-sided conversation. In the end, if they have spoken to us for too long without receiving a response, they will cease trying. To follow the gods is to speak to them, not to speak to humans of them, nor to listen to humans speak of them. To follow the gods is to follow the signs they give, not the instructions of any man or woman who claims to know them.

The gods are the land, it is said. They are in the land and of the land. It is said that if you are not of the land then you are not of the gods of that land. Fools! The fen and moor, fjord and glacier exist within us as memories. They are memories from the time before. My memories are not only my own. My memories are yours as well. My memories are the land itself. My memories, my dreams are the home of the slumbering gods.

If the gods are tied to those places, then I must only seek for them in my dream. For where is the land but within ourselves? What is our blood but the water of the earth? What is our soul but the spirit of the heavens? Inside and outside. The land penetrates us and we penetrate the land. Where do I end and the land begin? We think the ground beneath us is solid. We think we know what we stand upon. And yet, the world we know is fragile as an eggshell. We drift through currents of time and place. Beneath the modern, industrial world and all of its rationality, the world of intuition, dream, and madness is alive. And it is returning. As this world crumbles, the old world will burst forth and the gods will walk again. I will dream your ruin.

We go in to go out.

We go up to go down.

The gods sleep within us.

There is only one way to find them, only one path to wake them.

Dive down, dive down. Deep into the sunless indigo sea. The gods lie there beneath the gentle waves. In the dimness, among strange and antique shapes. Structures forgotten. Memories left to gather sediment. Suddenly, a one-eyed face emerges from the murky water. Grim and mad, blazing with poetry, dark with blood. I know him. I too have sacrificed myself. I have made a gruesome offering of myself. And whatever gifts I received, I received them shrieking. I too picked up the knuckle bones and I saw the world that will come, in fire and wolf blood. There is only one sacrifice that means anything. The self to the self! What else have you to offer? Who else is deserving? Hang yourself and rise again. Pierce your side with the spear and the soul shines bright.

The whisper is what he brought back from the gallows. A secret. That is his gift. Words. A magic unlike any other. Not the changing of shapes or things. You may change a shape but not the thing itself. For you cannot change what you do not know. What is a whisper but a thing known? What is a secret but a kept word? Thus the whispers are the knowing of things put together, of things in their way, and in their place.

He bade write on the shield before the shining goddess,

On Arvak’s ear, and on Alsvith’s hoof,

On the wheel of the car of Hrungnir’s killer,

On Sleipnir’s teeth, and the straps of the sledge.

On the paws of the bear, and on Bragi’s tongue,

On the wolf’s claws bared, and the eagle’s beak,

On bloody wings, and bridge’s end,

On freeing hands and helping foot-prints.

On glass and on gold, and on goodly charms,

In wine and in beer, and on well-loved seats,

On Gungnir’s point, and on Grani’s breast,

On the nails of Norns, and the night-owl’s beak.

What will I not write upon? What is it that is written on beak of the owl? The word vibrates that upon which it is carved. The whisper is a way of knowing. Nothing controls like knowing, naming, speaking, writing. In this is comprised his evil, his woe-working, his swift deceit. I name a thing, and thus I rule over it. My dominion is the word. What I write upon is my kingdom. With my words, I bind it to me. Whisper, whisper. And I will write upon the wolf’s tooth and upon the raven’s wing. And I will know them, and they will know my sovereignty. Deed follows word. Therein lies its power. The word is a movement upon the tapestry. A storm that is felt throughout the worlds.

Of what do the whispers speak?

They speak of triumph. To bless the sword, speak and write the name of the Sword God, who gave his wolf’s joint.

They speak of birth. To bring new life from the womb of the mother, speak and write the names of the Three Sisters upon the palm of the hand.

They speak of the waves and the terrible sea. To come safe across the whale road, burn and speak to oar and stern.

They speak of the nine twigs of glory. To overcome the worm, to bring forth the apple and the poison both.

They speak of the dire thorn. To bring evil, severity. Blood icicle. It is to be shunned and never written. It is a cliff dwelling thing and abhorred.

They speak of the branches that bind flesh and blood together. Blood to blood and bone to bone, speak and write upon the branch and tree that faces east.

They speak law and judgement. With word and thought, he weaves those sundered together.

And the last whispers of all, the ones that shall outlive the gods themselves. For one day, the god will come upon a man hanging from a tree. And he will know him. He will paint his whispers upon the dead man’s flesh and sing soft secrets to him. And the man will descend. He will go down. And he will speak the whispers back.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

Of Gods and the Aftermath

It is rare that I find myself of the belief that the Gods will step in and shape your path. But in this case, I believe it is possible to make an exception.

From Prosper Bonhomme


My great comeback was supposed to be a review of a week-long festival. It would have been about revelry and dancing, about community and friendship. It was supposed to be a poetic ode to a population of pagans forging itself in fire, blazing new trails, carousing with the Gods in wild nature.

Now, surrounded by broken glass and shattered dreams, I am screaming on the side of the road.

“That’s not creepy at all.”

I look haggard, worn down and tired. The bags under my eyes are going to need to start paying fees for the extra checked weight I’m carrying. The run up I-75 north from Atlanta is extensive for anyone; going through the misty mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky is an even longer haul when you’re towing a trailer.

The thought was to catch some rest inside said trailer at a rest stop in southern Ohio, within spitting distance but past the perilous traffic of Cincinnati. But on my way to the facilities, the leery gaze of a gaunt truck driver was convincing me otherwise. I wet my hair in the sink and slide my bandanna back over it; the shower I had taken that morning at the RV Park seemed ages away.

This is the truth of traveling, the grit of it: you will sit in your own sweat and soil for hours, and you will have to live with that.

Leaving the bathroom, the truck driver is still there, still flashing me what would be a toothy smile, if he had teeth to fill it. “Hello, darlin’.” He drawls. Normally, I’d bristle. But I am too tired and too far from home to fight on foreign soil, so I cut a shy smile, raise a stiff hand to wave, then duck out and away.

Climbing into my trailer, I am awash in foreboding, with a soundtrack of rumbling, hissing semis surrounding me on all sides. It is only a little past two in the morning; the clock in my trailer ticks the seconds off for me. I have stayed up later, driven farther. “If you keep driving, you can make it home by six, maybe seven.” I announce to nobody as I stand, pulling a water bottle from a depleted 24-pack.

“If” is a relative term for me. I am Romani in my roots; given the choice between taking a break or continuing onward, I will always chase the sun.

There is a checklist I complete every time I take to the road; it only grows with the trailer attached to my vehicle. Is the step to the door folded back? Is the flap to the stove’s overhead fan sealed? Is the propane tank cover secure? Are the doors locked, windows and vents shut, tray tables up and the seats in the full upright position? Three pins to hold each moving thing in place, electrical plug secure and dry, battery covered—it’s an ordeal to feel safe enough just to get into the Jeep, let alone turn it on.

I pause every time, before the key hits the ignition, and rub the talismans hanging from my rearview mirror.

The first is a crow, for Morrigu—she is my patron, and I carry her with me always. Life is full of tactical choices, having a war goddess around doesn’t hurt your chances.

The second is a dog, for Hecate. She rules the crossroads and the liminal spaces in travelling. I do most of my work on the road, prepping spells before my journeys to toss out my open windows on the highway, petitioning her for whatever I hope awaits me at my destination: love, hope, prosperity, glory. She is the reason why I love to drive at night. Under the moon and stars, I feel safer than in sunlight.

The third is a cord, woven before I was born. That is all anyone needs to know about it. The secrets of what is in it, and what it stands for, are closely guarded in the sort of way that is left unwritten and whispered from ear to ear.

When the engine turns over, the sense of foreboding lingers as I toggle my brake control, disengage my overdrive, and test my trailer’s lights. When I pull away, it settles over me like a damp blanket. I decide that maybe instead of driving through the whole night, I’ll come to rest a little further north, at the rest stop in Piqua. I know the place. It’s better lit. It’s closer to home. It’s safer.

I just have to cross through Dayton first.

When the dust settles, I am facing south, and I am still screaming.

I was screaming when the trailer began to fishtail. I continued when it flipped and dragged itself across two lanes of the second longest north-south interstate highway in the United States, jerking my Jeep along behind it rather than the other way around. Which was worse, the harrowing, haunting sound of rending metal, squealing rubber, and crunching plastic on concrete, or the deathly loudness of the following silence—both overlaid with my shrieking vocals—is still a matter for debate.

Both still haunt my dreams.

I lunge for the car door, ripping it open before half scrambling, half stumbling out of my vehicle, falling to my forearms and knees on the ground. My phone breaks free of the electrical umbilical cord attaching it to my car’s radio and skitters across the shoulder, Siri shocked into silence for a few moments before he remembers his purpose:

“Recalculating!” He pings in a British accent, insultingly cheerful.

On the other side of the concrete divider I’m knelt in front of like the follower of a merciful, powerful God, is an off ramp. Siri thinks I have taken the exit.

For a second, I am stunned, because I thought for sure, in my screaming, that I would be taking a very different sort of exit.

When I turn my head to my left, my screaming becomes sobbing as I see it, still and silent in death: my trailer, only a month insured, twice driven, lying on its side and prone, like the deer carcasses I scavenge for my work. The air conditioning unit has been ripped off the top completely.

There is a vague, calm voice in the back of my head, calling for me: “you have to call 911. Call 911.”

Cars and semis rush by without stopping as I dial with shaking fingers, as I recount what happened to the 911 operator, who soothes me with dulcet tones, telling me a truth that should have been calming, but chilled me further.

“The police are on their way.”

I look to my Jeep, remembering the cases of bones in the trunk, the close to $500 stored in a lockbox under my back seat, and most importantly, a container—tucked away in my glovebox, for safekeeping—of prescription pills that are not mine, but are needed nonetheless, the effects of a healthcare system that was not made to help people like me.

I should have felt comforted, but in the current state of the world, I felt like a butterfly pinned to a board, waiting for an axe to drop. In the tarot, Judgement was never a kind card to me. So soon after The Tower, when its agents showed up, would they be true to nature? Or would they be reversed?

I watch as they survey my vehicle when they arrive, sauntering up like it’s a barbeque, not an accident. They ask me only if I have a license and registration—not if I am alright, that’s not their job to know—before joking with each other about morning shifts and their exploits of the previous weekend.

I fumble with the glovebox to retrieve my registration, pushing prescription pill bottles aside. The rustling doesn’t draw any attention, they are too busy laughing, except for one. The older one is jotting notes down on a pad—he is obviously pissed off, and the other two young cops keep prodding him. He picked up a split shift for tomorrow morning, because he wasn’t expecting, and I quote, “to be doing this all night.”

I slam the glovebox shut with a little too much force when I am done with it. The officer looks up, squints, but then decides it’s not worth his time to ask questions. I am saved by lazy incompetence.

“So, you were going a little too fast, huh?” His voice is deriding, decisive. He has already decided that I’m reckless and young. I’m impressed they haven’t made me take a breathalyzer yet. I guessed my cards right once again—it’s Judgement reversed. Confrontation. Weakness. Lost affections.

Joke’s on Judgement: for police officers there are no affections of mine to be lost.

“No.” I tell him, my voice flat, staring at the overturned trailer, unable to tear my gaze away from it. My baby, my baby—“When I’m towing, I can’t go above 60. It burns out my transmission.” The speed limit is 70.

The cop huffs, displeased with the lack of an easy solution. He will, indeed, be doing “this” all night.

There was a car. I remember it then, in the aftermath. Black, shiny, sleek and new. The symbol, the sigil carved onto its trunk is hazy in my memory, was it four interlocking circles? Was it a single circle, with an oval inside, crossed through with another curved line? What do those lines mean? I can’t tell a Honda from a Hyundai in full daylight when a vehicle is stopped, much less on a curve going sixty in the dim glow of orange streetlights.

It swerved into my lane. I swerved to avoid it; the trailer fishtailed. “No, no, no, NO!” The echoes rattle as the firefighters arrive with EMTs, they find me collapsed back on the ground in shock. I see more than one man roll his eyes at the uselessness of the police.

To this day, I have never met a firefighter I didn’t like.

They inspect me along with my vehicle and suggest I go to the hospital for the neck and upper back pain I’m in. One of them tells me to breathe. Up until that moment, I’m panting like I’m in labor. Processing catastrophe is a difficult birth.

One shines a flashlight to my face: in my screaming, I ruptured one of the delicate blood vessels in my sclera, and as a result my right eye is painted a gauche—or is it gouache?—bright red on white canvas. Another fireman approaches as they fit me into a neck brace for transport, asking about my car keys. In doing so, he tells me a chilling statement before I’m placed on the gurney.

“That hitch extender saved your life.” His tone is matter of fact as I direct him to the Jeep; the keys are still in the ignition. He explains that the hitch extender I had been so annoyed with purchasing, because my hitch jack crank kept scraping my mounted spare tire, had put the two centers of gravity for my vehicle and my trailer further apart. The extra length to twist, and that, had kept the Jeep from rolling with it.

“Good thing, too. Without you braking,” he points to the black line of burnt rubber leading to my vehicle and beyond it, “you would have hit the concrete there.” And if I had flipped the same way the trailer had, it would have been the roof of my car making that connection.

“We would have had to cut you out—”

“—But you’re fine now.” Another fireman adds, shooing his coworker away with a mutter. “You had to tell her that? Jesus, man…”

And with that revelation, I am loaded into an ambulance, and events begin to blur together—the ride, hasty calls to my father hours away, CT scans, and finally, blissfully, sleep.

Aftermath is a tricky thing to navigate.

It comes in the orchestra starting up every night when you close your eyes, to the tune of rending metal, squealing rubber, and crunching plastic on concrete, in the finale of screaming, even when you awaken. It comes in images of your car flipping, extra traffic in the right lane that sandwiches you between the front of a semi’s grill and your trailer’s kitchenette sink.

It comes in the sobs that choke you when you clean your trailer out, in the clothes pried from your fingers to go in trash bags, because you winterized your toilet with antifreeze, so it spilled and soaked into your favorite things, things that cannot be replaced.

It comes in the trickster mask you put on for your friends and family when they ask, because they will ask. You laugh and make jokes about the phantom car that sped away into the night, about how they’ll have to hire better hitmen next time if they want to kill you off so badly; did they think a mere car accident would do the trick? Your Romani family called you “thrice touched” now.

You have to stamp down old wounds that rear up, because you love to roam. You can’t linger on how many times your passion has tried to kill you.

It comes in the mail once insurance totals the trailer and the check is cut like a game of cards, dealt out in a shit hand. It’s money, but not nearly enough. It could never be enough, but they could at least try not to show how they stack the deck against you. It’s not just your money, it’s your family’s. It’s Daia’s hard work at odd jobs for just a little to help, it’s your younger sister cutting coupons because maybe, if we save on groceries, it can help—

Their disappointment is a heavier burden than your own, even when they try to tell you it doesn’t exist. But it does. It does.

It comes in frustration that the only thing sparing your life was four feet of a road’s shoulder and six extra inches of metal on your hitch, and of course, the tow company has stolen even that.

You call them every day, practically begging them to find it. Where did they take your tow hitch? It wasn’t in your car, it wasn’t on the side of the road. It shouldn’t have been removed anyway. Your messages languish, never returned, never acknowledged. Thieves, and state sanctioned at that. It’s a government contract keeping them afloat, plus exorbitant fees.

They make you pay just short of two hundred dollars to get your car out of impound, and they can’t even give it to you in one piece. Money lost and peace of mind stolen. The bastards.

You have a lot of people to hex in the aftermath, but you make sure to save strength for them.

However.

It also comes in whispers, reminders. You rub your fingers on your talismans when you get in your Jeep and remember how, on a hot afternoon three weeks and a thousand years ago, you put the bones from the convention you were vending in your trunk rather than back in your trailer—the way you had placed them when you had driven down—because you had a feeling. Thus, they are left untouched. In the trailer they would have been crunched into dust and ruined.

You remember the foreboding you felt when you left that dimly lit pit stop in southern Ohio, spitting distance past Cincinnati.

It’s nothing short of fate; the whole damn thing.

My great comeback was supposed to be a review of a weeklong festival. It would have been about revelry and dancing, about community and friendship. It was supposed to be a poetic ode to a population of pagans forging itself in fire, blazing new trails, carousing with the Gods in wild nature.

Instead, it’s about my own forging. It’s about how a strange feeling from a man in a rest stop marked me for a crash, about how a couple of swipes of my thumb over a talisman might have marked me not to die in it.

It’s about how seeing a crow in an Atlanta parking lot changed my packing plans in a way that saved my business. It’s about how the trail I’m blazing has suddenly shifted and changed, a metamorphosis that is less metastasizing and more mutation. It’s evolution.

It is rare that I find myself of the belief that the Gods will step in and shape your path. But in this case, I believe it is possible to make an exception.


Prosper Bonhomme

Conjured with the remaining detritus of the Great Black Swamp and a handful of teeth, Prosper Bonhomme is a nonbinary anarcho-queer witch. When they aren’t busy scouring the highway for bones to clean up and sell, they can be convinced to write for Gods & Radicals. Their own blog, Bonhomme Rouler, is woefully underappreciated. Bon is also on twitter, when they aren’t deemed too dangerous to be left unsuspended-er, unattended.


Gods&Radicals would like to know how we’re doing. Mind taking a four-minute survey?

Dreams in Fire

“What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.”

From Ramon Elani

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We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, but who is the other that hides in me?

-Arthur Machen

I awoke from dreams of fire. Dark hills loom on the horizon. Thin clouds drift through golden light. The hour is late in the day, later than we have thought by far. How have we come to this place? Where is this desert? A world burning and gods fled. How did we get here? We threw down the gods and worshiped ourselves. We loved ourselves too much. And what have we received for five hundred years of self-love? Ruin. No justice, no freedom. We sought to make the world a paradise for humanity. All the world brothers and sisters. Not a mouth hungry, not a body sick without a cure. Peace and abundance. There have been no greater crimes than the ones done in the names of these dreams. To paraphrase Robinson Jeffers, would that we were never anything more than worms and our lot would have been a kinder, more fortunate one. The crimes of the beast are nothing compared to the crimes of man. We are faced with the death of the world and it was done by our hands. We will burn a star right out of the sky. Says the Seeress: Would you yet know more? An acid ocean, a desert world, air we cannot breathe, water we cannot drink, life gone. By all of the gods, it makes the cruelty of barbarism seem kind and merciful. What a heaven we inhabited before we thought to cure ourselves of our darkness! This I swear, there is no crime done by the bestial part of man that can touch what has been wrought by the cold and rational heart of the machine. I spit endless curses, until I bleed from the mouth, upon those that seek to put the world and the gods beneath man, to put the pettiness of man’s society above life.

But can we not order things just so? Can we not remove the fetters and throw down the tyrants that oppress us? Can we not bring the light of truth and love to those ignorant and misled who torment us? The engineer comes with his technics and seeks to put it all to rights. And yet, and yet. Our lives are not our own. Humanity declares its independence and in so doing, brings hell to the world.

Made from stones and stars, we are. A glittering galaxy in a drop of dew, fading fast before the dawn. All the same, when the power to move things came into our hands, how quick we were to discard our true kin, the stars and moon. With what enthusiasm did we cast aside thousands of years of muck and blood and song in favor of this thing we called ‘society’ and ‘humanity.’ Consumed with human dreams, we closed the door within our souls to the dreams of the world. And so the light passed away from us.

To truly dehumanize our perspective means changing our response to the sufferings of humanity. If we truly seek to renounce an anthropocentric view of the world, we must unfortunately recognize that equality, justice, and freedom are unknown to the spirit of the cosmos. They are ideas that were banished from our lives forever when we named them. The engineer, the scientist, the statist, the capitalist gave us these words, and thereafter forever held their power. Now we beg them to give us what every pebble and drifting speck of dust could not possibly be separated from.

Reason, rationality, and the others are not to be found on earth, other than in the dreams of the same modern, Enlightened consciousness that enslaved and massacred the half the world. The same consciousness that gave birth to industrialism. To deny the existence of a world without suffering, exploitation, and cruelty is not the same thing as sanctioning, promoting, or celebrating the horror and vileness of the current state of humanity. We may be able to trade certain types of suffering for others. And doing so may constitute more than a quantitative difference. But as long as solving human problems, whether disguised or not beneath layers of superficial variation, remains our primary orientation, we will continue to maintain and reinforce an anthropocentric consciousness. Regretfully, we would be better off sitting on the mountaintop and dedicating our lives to prayer than trying to fight the battles that so many are preoccupied with. In the words of Dogen: “The imperial power has no authority over the wise people in the mountains.” These are understandable battles, perhaps. Worthy battles, perhaps. But nonetheless, battles which will bring us no closer to what we claim to seek. Perhaps with prayer and meditation we can return to the spirit of the world: “knowing that nothing need be done, is where we begin to move from.” There is no doubt that we stand in the midst of the Kali Yuga, the age of vice, of quarrel and contention, and the bull of dharma stands upon one leg alone.

We know that the spirit world exists, because we see it in our dreams. Our hidden parts, the parts that have been sealed shut by techno-industrial society like an oyster protecting the pearl within, remain connected with the spiritual nature of the world. It is within the unconscious, within the world of dreams that we confront the self that is beyond the self. And is this not ultimately the lesson of spiritual and mystical traditions? That all is one, all is not human. For that matter, human is not human. We are in the rock, tree, beast, and insect. And they are in us. For all is one, and that one is the spirit. Gary Snyder, once called the ‘poet laureate of deep ecology,’ puts it thus:

the world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in the mind, in the imagination than “you” can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams from dream to dream.

Gary Snyder offers us little as far as action and praxis. This is not a coincidence. The more we search for paths to follow, the further we are from the way of the world. We have only to effortlessly grasp the meaning of things and leave it at that. As it is written in the daodejing: “a path that can be followed is not a spiritual path.” Let us leave things to the spirit of the world. In the end, this is the way to ultimately renounce our anthropocentrism. If humanity is not the culmination of the natural world, then why should we assume that the world is ours to save. It will not be saved by us, no matter what path we try to follow. Our delusions of control will only become reinforced in the process. If we are gods, as techno-industrial society tries to convince us, then the world is ours to exploit or attempt to save. But if we reject the idea that humanity is the center of the universe then

it would be presumptuous to think that Gaia much needs our prayers of healing vibes. Human beings themselves are at risk—not just on some survival of civilization level but more basically on the level of heart and soul. We are in danger of losing our souls.

We don’t understand what we are, what we are made of. We don’t understand that this world we treat as the backdrop for our petty dramas and squabbles or as material for our conquests, is alive with spiritual energy and myriad entities and powers. We would not be able to ignore this fact if we threw ourselves into the fearsome and awe-inspiring heart of life. Once, we could perceive the leopard’s grammar. The law that says, ‘I will eat you. I will devour you. For you are weak and I am strong.’ Techno-industrial civilization denies the law of the world. The spiritual life of our ancestors taught us to honor the law. As Gary Snyder writes, “the archaic religion is to kill god and eat him. Or her. The shimmering food-chain, the food-web, is the scary, beautiful condition of the biosphere.” If we wish to recover what has been lost, what has been taken from us by techno-industrial society, we must look inward to find it. We must rediscover that we exist as spiritual beings in a living world that is simultaneously alive and divine. What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.


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Fire from the Gods on Evildoers

“Let us call to them to enter into, as is Their mandate, this iteration of the never-ending fight against the Powers of Wrongness;
the stealing and imprisoning of children.
Send down Your power to help us stand for Right Action.”

From Judith O’Grady

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At our MidSummer Ritual, the Deities addressed are Archetypical Seasonal Personifications rather than Deities of a specific Pantheon. They are the Oak King, Warrior for Right and for the Powerless (a modern analogy is King Arthur), and His Warrior-Band Leader, a sort of Joan-of-Ark figure without the visions and eventual burning-at-stake (Scáthach, if you’re familiar with Irish lore).

In the wake of recent news and responding to a Sending from the Gods, I made some changes.

This is how it came about:

I was in the depths of Morning Meditation (dozing) and the thought came into my head that our Druid Grove doesn’t have a specific processional for MidSummer (this is one of my ongoing projects). Suddenly my head was singing a protest song from my teen years (I was in the March on Washington in 1967).

“Hardly appropriate to Longest Day.” I thought.
…more singing, with Fierceness added. I listened harder.
“O, You have volunteers for the fight against the caging of children….. I see.”

Our processional song is now ‘Like a Tree Standing by the Water, We Shall Not be Moved’ with some new topical couplets in the verses. I also changed the Statement of Purpose:

Guiding Druid: Why are we here?

All: We are here to honour the Gods!

Guiding Druid: As our ancestors once did, so do we do today, and so will our children do in the future. This is the Holiday of Midsummer.

Come in good faith and with strong and open hearts for the Ritual of the Longest Day!

This is the time of Greatest Light, let it shine into our lives!

This is the triumph of the Oak King, Warrior for the powerless, Protector of the oppressed. He rides into battle; the Warrior Maiden, his War-Leader, at His side.

Together they ride the turning wheel up into brightness.

Let us call to them to enter into, as is Their mandate, this iteration of the never-ending fight against the Powers of Wrongness;
the stealing and imprisoning of children.
Send down Your power to help us stand for Right Action.

Unlock the cage doors, this sorrow vanquished with this day’s battle won.

Let their light shine into our lives today and always!

Bíodh sé amhlaidh!
All: Bíodh sé amhlaidh!

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I re-wrote the in-ritual invocation and thanks a little:

Guiding Druid:
Will the Oak King and the Warrior Maid also come?

Druids of the Occasion:
Triple, Triple, flow and ripple,
Praise and Honour; not a mickle

The Gates are open, as You see-
Cross here, with Fire, Well, and Tree

Without the Gods we fail and wither;
With thanks and love we ask Them hither.

Oak King’s Druid:
King of Summer, Mighty Oak,
Your triumph is the Longest Day!
Strong, You help the weaker folk.
Bright, You shine to point the way.

Shine Your brightness, we invoke;
Here, where we have come today.
Praises to You rise up like smoke,
And Offerings in glad array.

Warrior maid’s Druid:
Lead us victorious through the heat,
Warrior Maid, to Harvest Home.
Even cold in Winter’s deep,
As Your kerns we’re not alone.

You know the tiredness of Duty,
The loneliness of standing guard;
Let it all resolve in Beauty-
Led home by You, the way unbarred.

This is Your time, green and warm,
To bring all things to their fruition.

Your mighty tasks You will perform,
And we will send You our petition.

*suitable offerings are made*

IMG_0656.jpg

The Deities of the Holiday are thanked:
All that comes will surely pass,
Thank You for coming here today.
We, to you, are blades of grass,
We will go and You will stay.

Warriors, we thank you both;
Bold and sharp! Nevertheless,
You will help us, nothing loath,
‘Gainst the Powers of Wrongness.

But the biggest change was to add a Working, which in this case is an invocation to the ghosts of historical killings and a call to the Gods for intervention:

Now do the strong oppress the weak.
Rise again, Drogheda’s shadows,
No kingdom’s given to the meek.
And there are lies to be exposed.

The echo of history will ring,
Ghosts created at Culloden,
And ephemeral warriors bring,
To right wrongs done by evil men.

St Louis, ship of souls, sail on;
Now is the time for a crusade.
Come, whole and sound, from where you’ve gone,
Your memory has not decayed.

Powerful men have called up war,
To be waged on little children.
Memories! Clans!Allies and more,
All Beings for Good from now and then!

Bring Mighty Voices, even the odds,
I call Holy Fire down, Gods.

In my belief system the invocation for action on the part of humans changes the enforcement of the Second Precept (‘EveryBeing has Free Will’) to allow more direct action on people by the Gods. I am, to a certain extent, abrogating my free will to the use of the Gods but also I believe that more manipulation of events is available after invocation. So even though I no longer an American citizen, have no representatives, and cannot think of what I can do to help or change, the Gods will act on my request. And, I am sure, the petitions of many other saddened people like myself.

Bíodh sé amhlaidh!
Which is, roughly translated, ‘Let it be so!’ and is our Grove’s ‘Amen’.


Judith O’Grady

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is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).


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The Songs I Know

“The Spirit of the Depths had shown me how to awaken the dead,

How to bring forth the lost memories of the dream world,

How to touch the primordial power

That I thought I had banished from the world,

When I filled the womb of the gods with blood.

For the well beneath the tree is the well of dreams.”

From Ramon Elani

Odin-Norse-mythology-Wanderer

“The wheel of time cannot be turned back. Things can, however, be destroyed and renewed. This is extremely dangerous, but the signs of our times are dangerous too. If there was ever a truly apocalyptic era, it is ours. God has put the means for a universal holocaust into the hands of men.”

“The shadow is nonsense. It lacks force and has no continued existence through itself. But nonsense is the inseparable and undying brother of the supreme meaning.”

—C.G. Jung

I am a man of extraordinary violence.

I am the one who roars in the heart of battle.

I am the At-Rider, who drives down my foe.

I am the Evil Worker, the Man of the Spear.

I ride forth.

I am the one of Gaping Frenzy.

I drive men to madness.

I am the Resounder.

I am the Master of Slaughter.

I am the One Who is Merry in War.

I am the Hanging God.

I am the bringer of Runes.

I am the War Father.

 

I slew my father,

He Who Existed Before Time,

The First Being,

The undifferentiated consciousness,

The Slumbering God,

Substance and spirit of the cosmos.

He was beyond good and evil,

Though he was grim and terrible.

How he howled in the abyss of night.

What memories drifted and floated through his mind?

In a somnolent universe, what did he dream?

Will, Thought, and Spirit arose in fierce arms.

With my brothers I sundered him and split him.

And his blood drowned the world,

It spilled over from the Yawning Gap,

It drenched the stars.

And a shining fragment of ice,

The Primal Cosmic Egg,

The heart of ice,

The pattern of all things,

The bridge between the seen and unseen,

Burned through the fabric of the world.

And the ice poured into the Realm of Mist,

And there his kin grew strong and proud.

And upon those frozen plateaus

A lost kernel was buried in ice

And its power dripped between the worlds

And formed a well beneath the Tree.

For god is in the egg.

Far_away_and_long_ago_by_Willy_Pogany

I have Nine Twigs,

I see beyond the nine worlds,

And into the endless cycles of time.

I have seen the devastation that will come,

I have seen the vision of the Wolf that will come for me.

The Wolf is always there in the darkened forests of my mind.

I know that he is my ruin and doom.

I know that he will bring blood and fire upon the world.

And I know that I will see the world born again in water.

The Gods are not immune to fate.

I follow my destiny.

I am the Son and the Father,

I am the Cold Sky,

I am the Wanderer and Deceiver.

Those who wander do not remember.

I seek my shadow.

He is the damp and the moist,

The One beneath the dirt,

He is the sacrifice and I am the blade.

In the hollow beneath the tree,

He remembers everything

For he sits by the pool

That is fed from waters that flow

From that savage realm.

I have forgotten,

The world lives through forgetting.

But he who dwells among the mosses and dripping roots,

He alone carries the memories of what I destroyed.

My hoary uncle,

Lost in an infinity of dreams.

 

And I went down to him,

From my golden palaces and joyful battles.

I went down beneath the tree.

And I found him there lost in his endless wisdom.

I went down

To become whole,

To repair the gaping wound,

To atone for rending the world.

As I had climbed the tree,

As I had hung myself from the branch,

As I had pierced myself with spear,

As I had gone up

To gain the power of the Runes,

To gain the power to bind,

To control,

To create order,

The fire of the sea and the path of the snake,

The horror of the clouds,

The ruin of the harvest,

The Cliff-Dwelling horror,

The Home of Mortification,

The grain that brings famine,

The Grief of the humanity,

The rivers of ice,

And the destroying Sun,

The One Handed God of Temples,

The adornment of ships,

The iron that bends.

As I went up for these things,

So I knew I must go down to complete myself.

For chaos must join order.

 

My ancient uncle made me look into the murky waters of the well.

And in the well,

I saw rage unconquerable,

I saw power ungovernable,

I saw a consciousness unreasonable,

I saw a force unstoppable.

And I knew that I was blind,

I could not see myself,

Could not see the way.

I knew what I had rejected,

The spirit of the womb.

Among the clouds and winds, the lord of the sky,

I had lost the earth,

The body of my father, who was also my mother,

In the landscape I had carved in his bones,

This truth was written.

The truth was etched into the mountains,

Into the fjords,

Into the forests,

Into the rivers,

Into the glaciers.

But I could not read it,

For I could only read the runes,

The language of artifice and doom.

I could not longer read the words of the world below.

And therein dwelt my weakness.

I had made myself strong

Only with the power of heaven.

I knew that I was spirit without body,

And the spirit is nothing on its own,

But my destiny is to walk both paths,

To walk in two worlds,

To walk in all the worlds at once.

 

And so I begged my uncle to drink from his well.

And I learned the Nine Songs,

And what my uncle requested,

I gave him.

And I took my hand and raised it to my face,

And my fingers dug into my skull,

And I ripped my eye from my face,

And the world became all blood,

And the tree shuddered above me,

And the gods wept,

And tears of blood dripped into my beard.

My grim uncle took the quivering eye in his hand

And he cast it deep into the well.

And I fell upon my knees

And I plunged my fingers into the rich, wet dirt

And I screamed

As the cosmos became one

Within my shattered mind.

And I saw stars exploding,

Galaxies being born,

I saw the dragon stirring.

I saw everything that had ever been and would be.

I felt fate burning me.

I saw that all my knowledge,

Was nothing more than an attempt

To impose something knowable

Onto a universe that defied me.

Or had defied me.

 

Then I understood,

That all my wandering had led me back to myself,

Back to this madness.

How far must a star travel through space

Before it finds the part of itself

That it once thought lost?

As my soul came together,

The child came forward:

The knowledge that transcends knowledge.

The meaning that surpasses meaning.

That which can only be achieved through

The cosmic union.

The Spirit of the Depths had arisen within me.

And for all my rune might

I could not teach it,

I could not share it,

It was mine to bear alone.

The Spirit of the Depths had shown me how to awaken the dead,

How to bring forth the lost memories of the dream world,

How to touch the primordial power

That I thought I had banished from the world,

When I filled the womb of the gods with blood.

For the well beneath the tree is the well of dreams.

And in my dreams was the only path of truth.

And a thousand voices spoke to me,

And I heard the destiny of time,

That will outlast the longest night.

And my Sun became darkened

And my Moon rose on the horizon of my consciousness.

And as I had once lost everything

Upon that gallows tree,

So I lost everything again,

Beside the well of dreams.

For I am the God that is to come,

I am the God that is becoming.

 

And my uncle smiled gently,

For he knew as well as I,

That his destiny was to die for me,

Though his kin would survive the great destruction of the world.

He smiled patiently, lovingly,

And he showed me the horn from which he drank,

The horn that signaled the end of things,

The end of my power,

The time when the wolf within me

Would step out of the shadows and engulf me utterly.

And my uncle touched my arm,

For long before the time of the wolf

He would be cut down

And his head severed from his body

And I would use my charms and herbs

Upon it and keep it with me always.

The_twilight_of_the_gods_by_Willy_Pogany

It’s coming now, it’s coming soon.

The world of dreams will swallow up this rotten thing.

Our lives and struggles

Occur as so much flotsam

Upon a sea of unfathomable depth.

Sometimes gracefully, sometime fully of woe,

We float, dreamless, through a galaxy of powers.

Countless pasts and futures, overlaid upon each other.

The world we walk through is part ruin and part verdant growth.

Cycles, which, though we may long to escape, shall never end.

The world drives itself to its doom, unrelenting.

I have given up separating dreams from wakefulness.

I have abandoned the task of assigning truth to one,

And illusion to the other.

Give me deep and muddy waters.

 

“Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.”—Hermann Hesse


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

Down, Down to Troy Town

“But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town.”

From Ramon Elani

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“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. The God’s name is Abraxas.”

—Hermann Hesse

“In this world is man Abraxas, the creator and the destroyer of his own world.”

—Carl Jung

Roused from my sleep by turbulent dreams, I came to the riverbank. The river opened its eyes to me and galaxies were born and died in its eddying currents. Mist rose in hissing tendrils from moss and fern. The moon, a cold shining knife blade. Two figures emerged from the darkened wood, one wearing a mantle of straw, the other clad in twigs and alder and hazel leaves. Each was crowned with bark, with ferns upon their feet and masks of wood covered their faces. One carried a wand of hawthorne, the other a wooden sword. Hands clasped, they stood before me in silence. Then came forth a third figure, darker than the night and in its hands, a flaming sword. At the approach of this fell thing, the Wild Ones bowed their heads in unison and knelt upon the ground. The executioner raised his dire sword and I turned my head as the dolorous stoke found its mark. Soundlessly the two figures, hands still entwined, slumped to the earth and the dirt was stained with bright blood, which poured into the river below. A thong of shadowy mourners came and lifted the bodies onto a litter of branches, decorated with antlers. At the executioner’s behest, the procession began to move, and I, compelled by an urgency in my blood, followed. Then we came to a tarn, deep and still, surrounded by oak trees and standing stones. And the bodies of the Wild Ones were thus drowned in that black water. Down and down, through uncountable fathoms, I saw the bodies sink. A shudder passed through the world. The lips of the executioner moved: “guilty,” “guilty,” “guilty.”

Then came a number of young girls, with flowers in their hair. And they sang this song:
Now carry we Death out of the world,

The new Summer into the world,

Welcome, dear Summer,

Green Little corn.

Death will sleep beneath the oak tree,

Summer will soon be here,

We carry Death away for you

We bring the Summer.

Give us a good year

For wheat and for rye.

We carry Death out of the world,

And the New Age into the world.

Dear Spring, we bid you welcome.

Green grass, we bid you welcome.

We carry away death.

And bring back life.
The girls carried between them a small coffin and when they set it down, the executioner and all his attendants entered the coffin and the girls buried it beneath an oak tree. Then one among the girls spoke: “Of what was he guilty? For he was so good.” And three girls stepped forward, each bearing a chalice. “Weep not,” they spoke. “For what is sweeter than milk, honey, and brandy?” And the first of them poured sweet milk upon the dirt, the second, honey, and the third, brandy. At that, the sound of a horn broke the silence of those grim woods and a jubilant crowd passed before me. At its head, upon a fair horse, rode a figure robed in bark and crowned with gold. He was adorned with flowers and ribbons hung from his breast. Behind him came boys and girls bearing straw effigies upon tall poles. I remembered the words:
Those trees in whose dim shadow

The ghastly priest doth reign

The priest who slew the slayer,

And shall himself be slain.

 

And the King of the Wood came again into his kingdom.

And I awoke by the side of the river.

And I knew that as I slept, she goddess of the river had placed her tynged upon me. That I would be cursed to see the dying of an age and know that not I, nor any other, can prevent what is coming. For this world is truly a fortress of turns. And what has come is always fated to return. Against whom do we war but ourselves? To go out, one must go in. The law of history and the law of the maze are one and the same. As Rebecca Solnit writes: “sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.” One must not approach the hilltop but by the ringed paths that surround it. Remember, with every step, I have been here before, I will be here again. Nothing could be more profane than to walk straight to the center. No, the lines of seven folds must be obeyed. And why? Because unless we follow the circle path, we will find nothing at all when we reach the end.

But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town. We will come, in time, to deny everything in the world in our attempt to be free. Destiny, fate is abhorrent to the modern mind because it is so self evident. A vision of humanity that sits, impervious, upon a shining pyramid, looming over the barren plain cannot abide the notion that powers beyond us direct the course of all things. Borges, one haunted by the labyrinth:

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am.

We are the body of the cosmos. We are the dreams of the world. And we, and the world, are no more than mist and dew.

Within the maze, we look up at the eternal stars. Their implication suddenly becomes clear. We find that past and future are the same. We find that the present is the only illusion. There is only the endless rhythm of the tide. A wave that is always coming and going. There is a sensation, most acutely felt, of being pursued throughout our lives. Something implacably seeks us. It finds us in our dreams, in Troy Town.

Modernity fails because it teaches us to kill the monster. Confine it because we fear it. Trap it and bind it. Instead of the hallowed offerings we once gave freely, it now will take its own bloody rewards. And on its own terms, the price will be arbitrary and cruel. Then, when it has trespassed too far, we will hunt it, drive it down to Troy Town and butcher it and declare ourselves rid of its vileness forever. And then we will act surprised when its bloody lips spread wide again to devour us. We only sin against ourselves. Joseph Campbell:

Where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

The cycles turn, without end. We can escape nothing. We are destined to fight the same battles forever. Just as Holly and Oak, winter and summer, life and death. When we embrace this awful truth and walk the spiral path in Troy Town, we will once again dwell in the bosom of the living gods.

 

Amor fati, amor fati.

 


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.