The Cloud Seeders: Part One

“The shooting of aerosols into the skies with hail cannons or dropping them from planes like bombs provides a disturbing image of war with the sky gods that runs contrary to the pagan principle of respectful relationship.”

From Lorna Smithers

Clouds over Penwortham Sept 2018

To you alone it is given to know the gods
And spirits of the sky, or perhaps not at all

Lucan

I. The Seeding of the Skies

Cloud seeding is a magical art worked by the land, the sea, the sky, the gods and spirits, humans too.

Clouds form when water vapour condenses on cloud seeds – tiny particles of dust. This happens when the land is heated by the sun, when air is forced to rise over hills and mountains, at weather fronts, and over rainforests and peat bogs where water evaporates from leaves and mosses seeding clouds. When the air cools and the tiny droplets of water vapour become larger and heavier drops they fall as rain, hail, or snow. Thunder and lightning are generated by the electric charges in storm clouds.

Since the earth’s birth as a cloud of dust and gas 4.5 billion years ago clouds have played an essential role regulating her temperature and bringing the rain that is a necessary condition for life. The existence of all beings is dependent on the climate and extreme changes have been the main cause of the mass extinctions that have come close to wiping all living things from the face of the planet.

For many thousands of years humans understood themselves to be part of an animate earth governed by gods and spirits some of whom brought about the seeding of the skies. They recognised their survival and the survival of the plants and animals they eat is dependent on external forces. Their spirit-workers were skilled in divining the weather. Rites existed through which communities participated in shaping the weather, calling on the gods to bring rain and to avert storms (amongst indigenous people in North America, Africa, Thailand, Romania, and elsewhere they still exist).

It was not until two thousand years ago, when Christianity began establishing its authority, that humanity’s link with the weather-gods was severed and the widespread persecution of witches began. The demonisation and rationalistic dismissal of animistic and polytheistic worldviews laid the ground for the hegemony of modern science and new mechanistic ways of controlling the weather.

The artificial seeding of clouds with salt, dry ice, or silver iodide is used across the world to create rain and prevent hail storms, for the purposes of war, and to defend capitalist interests. The shooting of aerosols into the skies with hail cannons or dropping them from planes like bombs provides a disturbing image of war with the sky gods that runs contrary to the pagan principle of respectful relationship.

In this three part essay, as an awenydd and Brythonic polytheist based in North West England, I will trace the history of the eradication of pagan beliefs and weather magic in Britain and Europe and show how this laid the grounds for the development of the technology of cloud seeding. I will argue that we need to relearn to listen to the gods and spirits who seed the skies to live in tune with the changing climate rather than developing coercive technologies which can only bring about further disasters.

II. Invoking the Weather Gods

From archaeological evidence and medieval Welsh literature we know the people of Britain venerated a number of weather gods: Taranis/Taran ‘the Thunderer’, Meldos/Mellt ‘Lightning’, Nodens/Nudd ‘the CloudMaker/Mist’, and Vindos/Gwyn ap Nudd ‘White son of Mist’.

Roman writers recorded Britain was ‘spell bound’ by magic. Vates or seers were ‘greatly respected’ and used ‘auguries or sacrifices to predict the future’. Druids claimed ‘to know the size of the earth and cosmos, the movements of the heavens and the stars, and the will of the gods’ and taught ‘in caves or hidden groves’, instructing ‘by riddles, urging worship of the gods’.

As the Gaulish Druids were trained in Britain we can assume they shared similar rites. In his Natural History (77-79) Pliny referred to a ritual in Gaul, which took place in an oak grove and involved the cutting of mistletoe with a golden sickle then the sacrifice of two white bulls with prayers to the gods for prosperity. Humans were also sacrificed. In his epic poem, Pharsalia (begun 61), Lucan spoke of ‘those who pacify with blood accursed… Taranis’ altars.’ This suggests sacrifices were made to Taranis. It’s unclear whether accounts of human sacrifices to the gods by the Druids were regular occurrences, made only in times of desperation and war, or Roman exaggerations. Archaeological evidence such as the Lindow Man shows human sacrifices definitely took place.

Because most Roman writers focused on extremes to vilify their enemies we have few records of benign rituals and none of weather magic. However, the identification of Taranis with Jupiter may suggest their rites were similar. Rituals for rain were offered to Jupiter in the Capitol. The Satyricon (1st century) depicted ‘robed matrons’ going ‘barefoot up the hill, with loose hair and pure minds to beg rain from Jupiter.’

Jupiter was also equated with Zeus and Pausanias (2nd century) recorded a striking example of cloud-seeding magic performed by a priest of Zeus from ancient Greece: ‘If a drought persists for a long time, and the seeds in the earth and the trees wither, then the priest of Lycaean Zeus, praying to the water and making the customary sacrifices, dips an oak branch in the surface of the spring, not deep. When the water has been stirred up there rises a vapor, like mist; after a time it becomes a cloud, and gathers other clouds to itself, and makes rain fall on the land of the Arcadians.’ One wonders whether a similar rite may have been offered to Taranis or the other weather-gods to bring rain.

Two Oaks Penwortham
Oaks were sacred to Zeus, Jupiter, Thunor, Thor, and probably Taranis

From ancient Greece and Rome we also have records of magic used to avert hail, snow, and storms. A bronze phylactery from a vineyard in Avignon invoked Oamoutha and Abrasax for protection against bad weather read: ‘Thosouderkyo vinyard oumixonthei, divert from this property all hail and all snow, and whatever might injure the land. The god, Oamoutha, orders it, and you Abrasax, assist! Iae Iao.’

Offerings of chickens, sheep, and blood from one’s finger were made to appease the weather-gods. Menstrual blood was known to drive away hail and whirlwinds and was used by the hail-wardens of Cleonae. It seems likely the Britons used similar kinds of magic to avert bad weather from their crops.

In his Description of the World (44) Pompomius Mela wrote of nine virgin priestesses who served the Gallic deity of the island of Sena. They had the power to ‘stir up the seas and the winds by their magic charms’, ‘turn into whatever animals they want,’ ‘cure what is incurable’, and ‘predict the future’. The existence of landmarks like the Nine Maidens suggests similar cults of priestesses who prophesied, shifted shape, healed, and controlled the weather existed in ancient Britain.

It seems possible the brand-waving ‘furies’ and Druids ‘lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations’ during the attack of the Romans on Anglesey were calling on the weather gods for aid.

After the Romans slaughtered the Druids and Vates they incorporated the British gods into the state religion via interpretatio Romana, equating them with their own deities and building altars, statues, and temples.

A Romano-British temple at Lydney was dedicated to Nodens (who was equated with Mars). On a mural crown worn by a Roman priest Nodens was depicted on a chariot pulled by four water horses flanked by winged wind spirits and icthyocentaurs showing his connections with water and the weather.

On an altar from Chester Taranis (spelt ‘Tanarus’) was identified with Jupiter. Taranis was pictured with a wheel, evoking the chariot wheels of the Thunderer riding the skies. An altar now in Tullie House Museum in Carlisle dedicated to the Great God Jupiter was decorated with a wheel. An altar from Castlesteads was similarly decorated and a mould for a wheel-god was found at Corbridge.

This demonstrates Mars-Nodens and Jupiter-Taranis were worshipped during the Romano-British period and suggests they and other weather gods were invoked in rituals to seed clouds and ward off storms.

III. Struck Down with the Avenging Sword

The roots of persecution for pagan worship and magic are found in the Bible, which condemns all magic practiced outside the cult of Jahweh and labels its practitioners as witches. In Exodus 22. 18 we find the law: ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ The Roman Emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity in 312 and, in 324, passed a law issuing the death penalty for pagan sacrifice.

Since the establishment of the code of law in the Twelve Tables in 450BCE malevolent magic was viewed as punishable by death, but more benevolent rites such as weather magic were widely accepted. Between 321 and 324 Constantine passed a law stating: ‘no implication of crime is to be attached… to the magic rites which are innocently employed in rural districts to provide against the fear of rain storms on the mature grape harvests their being battered by hailstorms.’ This suggests weather magic remained acceptable so long as it did not involve sacrifices to the pagan gods.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Constantius held the maxim: ‘Superstition shall cease; the madness of sacrifices shall be abolished’. In 354 he issued laws ordering the closure of temples ‘in all places and cities’ and that anyone who sacrificed should ‘be struck down with the avenging sword.’ The death penalty was extended to the worship of images in 356 and to consulting a seer in 357.

In 380 Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire: ‘we shall believe in the single Deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, under the concept of equal majesty and of the Holy Trinity’. In 391 Theodosius re-instated the laws against sacrifice, visiting temples, and revering images ‘lest he become guilty by divine and human laws’. He even prohibited domestic cult saying no-one may ‘venerate his lar with fire, his genius with wine, his penates with fragrant odours; he shall not burn lights to them, place incense before them, or suspend wreaths from them.’

The destruction of the pagan temples began with Constantine. He targeted sanctuaries dedicated to Aphrodite, Hapy, and Isis, which were served by transgender priests, reflecting his transphobia. During the reign of Theodosius in 386 Marcellus laid waste to the temple of Zeus in Apamea. In 388 Cynegius destroyed the temple of Zeus Belos in Apomae along with temples to Sin and Dea Syria.

The Serapeum of Alexandria was devastated by Roman soldiers and Christian mobs rallied by Theodosius in 391. The statue of Serapis, crafted from wood, metals, and precious stones such as sapphire, hematite, emerald, and topaz was brutally smashed with an axe, its jewels purloined by the church.

In 394 Theodosius extinguished the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta and disbanded the Vestal Virgins. Temples to Tanit, Cybele, Baal, and countless other gods were torn down, closed, or converted.

This trend spread throughout the Empire and beyond as Christianity replaced paganism. Here, in Britain, whilst some temples such as the temple to Nodens at Lydney were closed without destruction, others such as the temple to Jupiter Dolichenus at Vindolanda were destroyed and burnt. Pagan traditions with ancient roots were struck down within a few centuries by the avenging sword.

hand-holding-sword-good-free-photos

Part two will cover the medieval lore depicting the banishing of the gods of the mist and those who served them from Britain during the ‘Dark Age’ and the persecution of witches for weather magic as witch hunts spread across Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.


SOURCES

Britta K. Ager, Roman Agricultural Magic, (The University of Michigan, 2010)

Clyde Pharr, ‘The Interdiction of Magic in Roman Law’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, (Vol. 63), (1932)

Michael Routery, ‘The First Missionary War: The Church Take Over of the Roman Empire’, Vinland.org, (1998)

Philip Tilden, ‘Religious Intolerance in the Later Roman Empire’, (University of Exeter, 2006)

R. Kotansky, ‘Greek magical amulets: the inscribed gold, silver, copper, and bronze lamellae’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 116, (1996)

Scott Bradbury, ‘Constantine and the Problem of Anti-Pagan Legislation in the Fourth Century’, Classical Philology, Vol. 98, No. 2, (1994)

Sheila McGrath, ‘Taranis: Celtic Thunder’, Earth and Starry Heaven, (2017)

Stephan Harding, Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia, (Green Books, 2009)


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Profile July 2018 MediumLorna Smithers is a poet, author, awenydd, and Brythonic polytheist. She is currently exploring how our ancient British myths relate to our environmental and political crises and dreaming new stories. As a devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, she seeks to reweave the ways between the worlds. She has published three books: Enchanting the Shadowlands, The Broken Cauldron, and Gatherer of Souls and edited A Beautiful Resistance. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist.

Finding The Real

“Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, this is truly the time to get yourselves out of doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.”

From Emma Kathryn

bridge-dawn-environment-288164

‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’

~ Albert Einstein

The the darker months are almost upon us, and as you know, it is my favourite time. Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, now is truly the time to get yourselves out-of-doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.

Even for witches, there is always something new to be discovered. Perhaps that is the truest definition of what witchcraft is – uncovering the secrets of nature.

Sunday just past, this witch went walking, looking for those magical plants that can unlock the secrets of soul flight. And though none could be found, there were other hidden delights that set the soul ablaze.

It was my partner’s idea to go out early that morning. He’s an angler, a fisherman, and the river is his stomping ground.

The river is about a ten minute walk from my home. It’s one of those places that is split in two, a liminal space, if you will. If you head towards the retail park and just along the side of it, you can get to the Riverside Walk. It is nice there, if you like your nature a little more tamed, a little more controlled. The tarmacked path cuts through trees and bushes, but then opens on one side to reveal the river. There are benches that overlook the marina, and then you can cross the bridge and head into town towards the castle and the Riverside Park.

But for those of us who prefer the wild, there is a different side to the river.

You used to be able to go under the road bridge and across the train tracks to get to the river, but the gates there are welded shut now – closed for safety reasons we are told, but I’m guessing the real reason is money related. Anyway, you can still get to the wild river, you just have to cross the scrapyard now.

If you head away from the town centre, following the flow of the river, you go under a rail bridge and come to a small stream that joins the river. There’s a bridge across the stream, but nowadays it is blocked off in the middle, for the land on the other side is owned by British Sugar and we are not allowed there.

But for those of us who have grown up here, especially those who grew up on the council estates, the river was our playground as youngsters. We went where we pleased. Some of us still do. Nowadays though, we tell our children to stay away from the river, for I feel there is much lost, from one generation to the next and some of that, heck, most of that is knowledge. That’s progress for you I suppose, but when we were kids, we spent those lazy summer days at the river. The braver ones amongst us, usually the lads, would jump into the cold waters, usually from off one of the bridges, but us others would paddle. Most if not all of our parents were poor, the working kind of poor, and back then it was normal to be left alone or with an older sibling while they went out to work. That’s why we got away with so much more in those days.

However on this day, my partner and I didn’t cross the stream here. He knows another way for he knows this place better than I. So we made our way alongside the stream, pushing through brambles and thistles and nettles, the paths of his youth long overgrown and little used, if at all, now. More than once thorns, wickedly sharp, would scratch me, even through denim, and the nettles were higher than my waist, but still we pushed on.

Everything requires a sacrifice.

Of some sort at least, and in any case, the discomfort was momentary and soon forgotten. There’s a disused bridge, crumbling and overgrown and we crossed the stream this way. It was almost like being in a fairy tale, what with the crumbling brickwork and concrete, bindweed, brambles and hawthorn and the  grey sky above us.

I can’t really describe where we came out. There were enclosed meadows, and smaller areas of thick grass as well as marshy areas. The only way to tell where those boggy patches are is by the grass that grows in such places. Here thick green reeds shoot up, and it would be easy for those not used to such areas to end up muddy and wet.

As we walked, in the distance I spotted the unmistakable lope of a fox. He was some way off, but still, I pointed him out and we watched it for a few seconds before moving on. We walked on for a while until, about fifty metres in front we spotted another. We were down wind of it, and it and so remained undetected.

It was hunting. We watched as it would leap into the air, coming down hard with its front paws. Then it would stand still, it’s big bushy tail, red with a white tip, swaying, almost cat-like as it listened to where it’s prey hid. Then all of a sudden it would leap into the air again. Either it grew bored or its prey had managed to escape because after around five minutes the fox stopped for a scratch and a lie down. When it finally saw us, it turned and disappeared through the trees.

Watching that, the world of the everyday seemed a million miles away. It was a profound, sacred experience. Perhaps this is magic itself, that connection to the land, to nature. To the real. Sometimes in modern Paganism, I find this experience is what is lacking.

‘You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.’

~ Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

In the last couple of weeks, the hot topic in the Pagan and witchcraft sphere has been the Witch Starter Kits, produced by the fragrance brand Primrose, which were going to be sold by Sephora. Well, the Witch community was divided., and after a lot of backlash, the product has been scrapped. Some were appalled that a company were appropriating their religion, their spirituality, whilst others saw the kits as a good thing,  a way to reach those who might have no other option open to them.

I’m not even going to get started on what I think of the situation, though I will say that I think the discussions on both sides misses the point.

Whether or not the makers were appropriating witchcraft is neither here nor there, at least that’s how I see it. After all, that’s what the Capitalist State does. Everything is a commodity, everything is for sale. Nothing is sacred.

Witchcraft is already appropriated and sold. Look at all of the mass-produced tat, probably made somewhere by brown people with little or no worker rights. I went to my local Pagan Pride this year, and whilst I had a great time and bought a print from a local artist, there were so many stalls flogging cheap resin statues made in China, or the obligatory tumbled stone, or cheap and perfumed incense, stuff you could buy at any New Age shop.

The point is, none of that shit is real. Not really. We don’t need it for our witchcraft practise. We only need ourselves and, of course nature. Those experiences out by the river were real. It is difficult to describe, that feeling that you are home, that you could indeed spend hour upon hour out there. Time seems to move differently there. It seeps and pools here and stretches out there, so that you lose all sense of time. You think an hours passed and really, it’s been two or three.

That is real.

And everyday, our access to these areas are restricted. When all the land is lost, how will we connect to what is real? Then, all of the ‘things’ in the world will not help our crafts. When you have found that, what is real, what speaks to our souls, then you will know what it is I speak of here. And if you already have that connection, then you already know.

As the northern hemisphere begins its descent into the darker months, go out and connect with the land where you live. Find the Real where you are, wherever that may be.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


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New Podcast: Empires Crumble (from Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth)

The two co-founder of Gods&Radicals have a podcast!

Empires Crumble is a twice-a-month discussion on culture, history, politics, & magic with Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth. Episodes will be posted here on Gods&Radicals as they are released, or you can subscribe by Stitcher, iTunes, or by RSS feed to catch them before they are available here.

Three episodes have already been released:

Episode one: The Security State (69 minutes)

How has the security state changed in the US and Europe in the last 20 years? What were the effects of the Green Scare and the Patriot Act on resistance movements? Why do French radicals still take to the streets to resist their governments while Americans do not? And what can we do about all this?

Episode 1: The Security State addresses these questions. Listen via: (iTunes) (Stitcher) (Soundcloud) or in the embedded player below.

Episode 2: Capitalism’s Crisis (63 minutes)

In this episode, Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth discuss this current crisis of Capitalism, how Trump and other opportunists exploit this crisis (and are much smarter than you think), and how all of this has created the material conditions for civil unrest, fascism, and its socialist opposition.

Listen to Episode 2: Capitalism’s Crisis via (iTunes), (Stitcher), (Soundcloud), or in the embedded player below.

Episode 3: Fascism…Really? (54 minutes)

So, what exactly is Fascism? Is Trump really a Fascist? What about the Alt-Right? Is is possible to be Nationalist and not fascist? What do the actually-existing fascism of the 20th century tell us about what we’re seeing now? And how precise do we really need to be when we’re talking about Fascism?

Rhyd & Alley discuss all this in Episode 3: Fascism…Really? Listen via (iTunes), (Stitcher), (Soundcloud), or in the embedded player below

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Future episodes will be posted at Gods&Radicals. You can also follow the Empires Crumble Facebook and Twitter feeds.

 

 

“Die Early and Often”: Being Attis in the Anthropocene

“We are not going to be saved.”

From John Halstead

“The Awakening” by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. (National Harbor, Maryland)

In yesterday’s post, “‘What If It’s Already Too Late?’: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”, I faced the fact that we are … well, f**ked.  Our civilization is rushing toward its inevitable end.  And it’s going to take out a big part of the biosphere with it.

Cap and trade is not going to save us.  Renewable energy is not going to save us.  Nuclear energy is not going to save us.  Carbon capture is not going to save use.  The politicians are not going to save us.  The scientists are not going to save us.  The activists are not going to save us.

We are not going to be saved.

For so many reasons, we are going to fail … and fail badly.

Once we come to terms with that fact, the question becomes …

So What Do We Do Now?

“The real question is what is the social role of one who understands that all this will end?”

— Vinay Gupta, “Death and the Human Condition” in Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilised Times

What does socially responsible acceptance look like?

Well, let’s start with what it doesn’t look like …

I know it doesn’t look like throwing up our hands and doing nothing.

But I also don’t think it looks like more “expressive hobbyists” marching on weekends, rallying in front of empty government buildings with the hope of influencing lawmakers, and getting arrested for blocking traffic hundreds of miles away from the thing being protested–what Sophia Burns calls “catharsis politics”. (Been there, done that!)

I also don’t think it looks like more of the circle-jerk that is activist networking, where people from one activist organization agree to attend the events of another group with the expectation that the latter will reciprocate by attending the events of the former, thus creating the “comical scenario [where] 20 different organizations ‘endorse’ an event at which only 40 people show up”. (Been there, done that too!)

But I don’t think it looks like communist “base-building” either, at least not if it’s done with the ulterior motive of fostering an increasingly improbable proletariat revolution.  Even if the revolution were going to happen, it would be too little too late.

And I’m sure it doesn’t looks like endless quibbling over trivial details of Leftist political theory with online frenemies, alienating naïve progressives with superior cynicism, or sending passionate manifestos, heavy laden with Marxist jargon, into the etheric echo chamber. (See “Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck” by Nadia C.)

I think maybe it does look like building what Dr. Bones calls a “leftism with benefits”, acquiring land, skills, and resources to improve the lives of the exploited and oppressed in the here and now, while also creating spaces to which people can retreat to when as the shit hits the fan.  I think maybe it does look like building refuges, as Peter Kingsnorth suggests, for human and other-than-human life:

“Maybe you can buy up some land and rewild it; maybe you can let your garden run free; maybe you can work for a conservation group or set one up yourself; maybe you can put your body in the way of a bulldozer; maybe you can use your skills to prevent the destruction of yet another wild place …

“Ask yourself: what power do you have to preserve what is of value—creatures, skills, things, places? Can you work, with others or alone, to create places or networks that act as refuges from the unfolding storm?”

— Paul Kingsnorth, “Dark Ecology”

This is a rational response to impending disaster.  A compassionate response.  A good response.  One that has the virtue of at least reducing some of the suffering that will attend the end of the world.

But I’ll be honest.  I want something more than pragmatism.  It’s not enough to keep me going.  I want something more from the end of the world.

I want transformation.

And for that, I have to turn to religion.

We Are the Dying God

“Isis and Osiris” by Susan Seddon-Boulet

“I will go down to self-annihilation and Eternal Death;
Lest the Last Judgement come and find me unannihilate,
And I be seiz’d and giv’n into the hands of my own Selfhood.”

— William Blake, “Milton’s Journey to Eternal Death”

One of the things that drew me to Neo-Paganism was the myth of the Dying God.  There are several examples of dying gods in ancient pagan sources: Egyptian Osiris, Canaanite Ba’al, Babylonian Tammuz, Greek Dionysus … and Phrygian Attis, who sacrificed himself to the Great Mother goddess Cybele and was reborn as a pine tree.

“They say that the Mother of the Gods seeing Attis lying by the river Gallus fell in love with him, took him, crowned him with her cap of stars … He fell in love with a nymph and left the mother to live with her. For this, the Mother of the Gods made Attis go mad and cut off his genital organs … and then return to dwell with her.

“Now the Mother of the Gods is the principle that generates life; that is why she is called Mother.  Attis is the creator of all things which are born and die … For Gallus signifies the … Milky Way, the point at which body subject to passion begins. … Attis loved a nymph: the nymphs preside over generation … But since the process of generation must be stopped somewhere … the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into creation and is joined to the Gods again.  Now these things never happened, but always are. … Thus, as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we obtain a higher order?”

— Sallustius, “On the Gods and The World”, IV

In the rites of Attis, celebrated the week of the spring equinox, a pine tree was cut down and carried in a procession to the temple with lamentations.  His devotees would whip themselves and sprinkle the altars and effigy of Attis with their own blood. Those who were to be dedicated as priests of the Cybele performed self-castrations.  And on the third day, the equinox, the people celebrated the Hilaria (Rejoicing), when Attis is reborn–to begin the cycle all over again.

The details of the Dying God myth very with time and place, but the Dying God archetype transcends the local instances of the myth. James Frazer and Robert Graves articulated the outline of the archetype in modern times.  From these classicists, contemporary Neo-Paganism adopted the myth of the Dying God and gave it religious expression in the form of the Wheel of the Year.

The Wheel can be understood as the life cycle of the Dying God mapped onto the solar year.  Not just the life of the Dying God, though. The Wheel of the Year represents the cycle of his relationship to the undying Goddess in her triune form of mother-lover-slayer.  (Note: The genders of these deities can be interchangeable or altogether optional.) Starhawk explains the relationship of the Dying God and the Goddess in this way:

“The Goddess is the Encircler, the Ground of Being; the God is That-Which-Is-Brought-Forth, her mirror image, her other pole. She is the earth; He is the grain. She is the all encompassing sky; He is the sun, her fireball. She is the Wheel; He is the traveler. He is the sacrifice of life to death that life may go on. She is the Mother and Destroyer; He is all that is born and is destroyed.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

The myth of the Dying God teaches us about the meaning of death and the power of surrender.  It’s natural to want to live forever, but we are destined to die.  Death is part of the cycle of life, and nothing dies in vain. No matter or energy is lost. The movement of the Wheel–the Spiral Dance of the Goddess–sanctifies death, making it holy.

The myth of the Dying God and its embodiment in Neo-Pagan ritual has the potential to foster a transformation of consciousness toward death.  In Neo-Pagan ritual, we become the Dying God and symbolically enact a voluntary offering of our transient self to the Goddess who is the Great Cosmic Round.

“Ritualistic and mythical identification with the sacrificing God honors the life spark, even in death, and prepares to give way gracefully to new life, when the time comes for each of us to die. Waxing and waning, birth and death, take place within the human psyche and life cycle. Each is to be welcomed in its proper time and season, because life is a process of constant change. … The God is that force within us that chooses to surrender itself to the cycle, to ride the Wheel.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

By identifying with the Dying God, we renounce the need for control and permanence, for the sake of meaning and transformation.  As Joseph Campbell explained,

“When the will of the individual to his own immortality has been extinguished—as it is in rites such as these—through an effective realization of the immortality of being itself and of its play through all things, he is united with that being, in experience, in a stunning crisis of release from the psychology of … mortality.”

— Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology

This means more than merely accepting our fate.  It means shifting from an egocentric perspective, in which death is the ultimate evil, to a cosmic perspective, in which death is part of the cycle of life.  Rather than raging against the dying of the light, we surrender to the Wheel, and in surrendering, we are transformed.  This transformation brings no apotheosis, no individual immortality, but it enables us to realize the meaning of our lives as part of a greater whole which transcends us.

“The whole point of these esoteric ceremonies, rituals, prayers, etc., was to accept the death of the separate-self sense and thus rise to an identity or communion with the Great Goddess. This was a self-sacrifice, which allowed the individual to transcend the self.”

— Ken Wilber, Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution

Learning How to Die

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Illustration by Kent Williams, for the graphic novel, The Fountain, by Darren Aronofsky

“The ceaseless labour of your life is to build the house of death.”

— Michel de Montaigne

If we are to be the Dying God, then our job is to die.  According to Joseph Campbell,

“When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified–and resurrected; dismembered totally, and then reborn.”

— Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

But we actually do have a choice.  We can accept our fate and be willing sacrifices.  Or we can rage against the dying of the light and go out in a blaze of glory.  But there are costs if we choose the latter course.  As Starhawk explains,

“The God chooses to sacrifice [Himself] in order to remain within the orbit of the Goddess, within the cycle of the natural world, and within the ecstatic, primal union that creates the world. Were He to cling to any point on the wheel and refuse to give way to change, the cycle would stop; He would fall out of orbit and lose all. Harmony would be destroyed; union would be broken. He would not be preserving Himself; He would be denying his true self. His deepest passion, his very nature.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

Collectively, our society is in denial, and the costs of our denial are all around us: in the wrecking of the biosphere, in the extinction of millions of other species, in the poisoning of the soil, the water, and the air.

How do we return to the orbit of the Goddess?  How do we surrender to the Wheel?

Roy Scranton, author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization, writes that, if we want to know how to live in the Anthropocene, we need to “learn how to die”.  We need to find what Isabella Stengers and Phillipe Pignarre call “a modus moriendi“.  We need to learn how to die well.

Scranton’s suggestion for dying well is reinvesting in the humanities, relearning the art of bookmaking, and trying to preserve the best of our cultural heritage:

“If being human is to mean anything at all in the Anthropocene, if we are going to refuse to let ourselves sink into the futility of life without memory, then we must not lose our few thousand years of hard-won knowledge, accumulated at great cost and against great odds.”

— Roy Scranton, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization

But how do we choose?  How do we decide what to preserve?  What if we end up preserving the very parts of our civilization which caused all of this to happen in the first place?

And isn’t Scranton’s prescription just another “immortality project”.  Are we really embracing the death of civilization if we are still trying to preserve its best parts for posterity?

Becoming Compost

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by Em Strang

Donna Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, has a different idea:

Be compost.

Rather than humanities, Haraway writes of “humusities” or the “human as humus”.  Rather than humanism (or post-humanism), she advocates a multi-species “compostism”:

“Critters are at stake in each other in every mixing and turning of the terran compost pile. We are compost, not posthuman; we inhabit the humusities, not the humanities. Philosophically and materially, I am a compostist, not a posthumanist. Critters—human and not—become-with each other, compose and decompose each other, in every scale and register of time and stuff in sympoietic tangling, in ecological evolutionary developmental earthly worlding and unworlding.”

This kind of cryptic language is characteristic of Haraway.  (She calls it “tentacular” thinking.  Imagine literary tentacles reaching everywhere, grasping here and there, creating temporary webs of significance.)  Haraway experiments with words and phrases as a way of grasping at a different mode of being (or “worlding”), one which de-centers the human.  (This de-centering is reflected in Haraway’s substitution of the term “Chthulucene” for “Anthropocene”.)

Haraway calls this new mode of being “sympoiesis”, which means “making with”, as in making our world with other species:

“Nothing makes itself; nothing is really autopoietic or self-organizing. … earthlings are never alone. That is the radical implication of sympoiesis. Sympoiesis is a word proper to complex, dynamic, responsive, situated, historical systems. It is a word for worlding-with, in company.”

“The more one looks, the more the name of the game of living and dying on earth is a convoluted multispecies affair that goes by the name of symbiosis, the yoking together of companion species, at table together.”

In the face of civilizational collapse and mass extinction, Haraway rejects both hope in “technotheocratic geoengineering fixes” and “wallowing in despair”.  Instead, she urges us to “stay with the trouble”, to

“collect up the trash of the Anthropocene, the exterminism of the Capitalocene, and chipping and shredding and layering like a mad gardener, make a much hotter compost pile for still possible pasts, presents, and futures.”

One way to do this, according to Haraway, is to “make kin” with the other-than-human beings with whom we constitute the compost piles of the earth.

Making kin means seeing our kind “as humus, rather than as human or nonhuman”.  It means recognizing that “all earthlings are kin in the deepest sense … All critters share a common ‘flesh'”.  It means

“learning again, or for the first time, how to become less deadly, more response-able, more attuned, more capable of surprise, more able to practice the arts of living and dying well in multispecies symbiosis, sympoiesis, and symanimagenesis on a damaged planet …”

Roy Scranton seems to come to the same conclusion at the end of his second book We’re Doomed. Now What?:

“The dire and seemingly unsolvable fact of climate change—just like the unsolvable fact of our own morality—doesn’t signify the end of ethical thought but its beginning, for it’s only in recognizing the fact that our lives are limited, complicit, imperfect, and interdependent that we begin to understand what it means to live together in this world.”

— Roy Scranton, “Raising a Daughter in a Doomed World”

Haraway admits this won’t be easy.  Multi-species sympoiesis isn’t something that can be “donned like a magic cape”, she says.

But we can begin by thinking ourselves beyond our egocentricism and anthropocentricism and into relationship with the more-than-human world.  Haraway calls this “thinking with”.  Other writers have attempted to think-with the other-than-human.  Aldo Leopold’s “thinking like a mountain”, comes to mind, as does Robinson Jeffers “inhumanism”:

We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

— Robinson Jeffers, “Carmel Point”

Writing more prosaically, Roy Scranton explains what we need is a radical shift of perspective:

“We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars.”

— Roy Scranton, “We’re Doomed. Now What?”, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2015

Science Fiction or Speculative Fabulation?

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Make Kin, Not Babies

“It is through stories that we weave reality.”

“Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”

I began this essay with references to contemporary apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction, weaved in the ancient/modern myth of Attis/the Dying God, and now I return to science fiction, or what filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova calls “speculative fabulation”:

“A type of narration that enables one to unfold new worlds through arousing an appetite for what’s possible (what could or could have taken place). It is not just about understanding a totally new creation. The remarkable difference is that it is about placing lures susceptible of bringing forth today possibilities that were already in situations.”

Haraway’s “Camille Stories: Children of Compost” is an example of this kind of writing.  It tells the story of people living in a time of ongoing extinction due to climate change, the effects of which last for centuries.  The Children of Compost form communities of a few hundred people who migrate to damaged places and develop transformative practices for intentional kin making and work sympoietically to heal (and be healed by) kin in those places. This means intentionally reducing human numbers, while increasing the flourishing of all the species who inhabit a place.

In the Compost communities, children are rare, but precious.  When a decision is made to bring a new human infant into being, an other-than-human animal or plant symbiont is chosen for the child from among species who are threatened with extinction.  At birth, a few genes and a few microorganisms of the symbiont are added to the human child’s body.  The human child’s formative years are spent learning how to nurture the symbiont species, as well as the other species on whom the symbiont depends.

This commitment to symbiosis binds five generations of humans.  The Camille Stories relate the stories of five generations of Camilles, living between 2025 and 2425 in a part of West Virginia devastated by mountaintop removal. The Camilles are bound symbiotically to the Monarch butterflies, who migrate between Mexico and Canada, and work sympoietically to promote their flourishing. Storytelling is central to this work, as Haraway explains:

“compostists soon found that storytelling was the most powerful practice for comforting, inspiring, remembering, warning, nurturing compassion, mourning, and becoming-with each other in their differences, hopes, and terrors.”

But despite the deepening of the symbiotic bond and sympoietic practices over three generations, the fourth Camille is faced with the loss of monarch migrations, along with the loss of 50 percent of all species planet-wide.  Camille 4 must prepare Camille 5 for a new role, as a “Speaker for the Dead”, one who will remember, mourn, and “represence” the monarch, as a form of sympoeisis with the dead (what Haraway calls “symanimagenesis”).  Haraway leaves undetermined the question of the future of the Children of Compost and the possibility of a multi-species flourishing.  Rather than imagining a utopia, she “stays with the trouble”.

Haraway’s Children of Compost remind me of the resistance community at the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, living in the ashes of nuclear holocaust.  Except instead of preserving books, the literary legacy of humanity (like Roy Scranton suggests), the Children of Compost preserve the Book of Nature and the genetic legacy of the more-than-human biosphere. Instead of individuals passively memorizing stories from books, the compostists engage in storytelling, an active and communal process in which the “text” is always evolving.  Instead of preservation being solely a matter of the mind, the Children of Compost do the work of healing with their bodies and with their hearts, as well as their minds.  And instead of the image of the phoenix, which concludes Fahrenheit 451, Haraway offers the model of compost.

Last Words: “Die Early and Often”

How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
is
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?

— Galway Kinnell, “Another Night in the Ruins”

“‘Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar … Thou canst blind; but I can then grope. Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes.'”

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

At the end of the world, we are called be the flames … to be the ashes … to be compost … to be the Dying God.

This isn’t a very hopeful response, I know.  But as Robinson Jeffers wrote,

“Hope is not for the wise.”

It’s not exactly a hopeless response either, though.  It’s a kind of hopeful hopelessness or hopeless hopefulness.

“Hopelessness is the limit and beginning of a new kind of hope. You have to keep going–not to achieve dreams of beautiful mountaintop forests, but because life is more powerful than death. Hopelessness makes possible new hope, a faith in the basic tissue of life that is stronger than any disaster.”

— poet and Radio Free Iraq host, Naseer Hassan, as quoted by Roy Scranton in “Back to Baghdad: Life in the City of Doom”

If we are doomed–and we are–we must find a way between hope and despair.  Both hope and despair are products of our belief in the myth of progress and the myth of the individual.

We need different stories, different myths.

The Dark Mountain Project is one group of artists and storytellers who are trying to tell different stories,

“to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own–a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare–might recognise as something approaching a truth. It sets out to tug our attention away from ourselves and turn it outwards; to uncentre our minds. It is writing, in short, which puts civilisation–and us–into perspective.”

“Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”

Others are doing this as well. Haraway’s “Children of Compost” is one example.  The Neo-Pagan myth of the Dying God, as told by Miles Batty and others, is another.  And it’s not just writers who participate in storytelling, though.  Poets, musicians, filmmakers and other artists also contribute.  Examples of contemporary kin-making and dying-well include:

Haraway herself draws from a multiplicity of media beyond books, including music, anime, and even video games.  For example, she writes about her experience playing Never Alone, a video game created in collaboration Alaska Native community members.  In the game, the player moves between Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion as they leave Nuna’s home village to discover the source of an unprecedented blizzard and restore balance to nature.

Haraway writes that she “dies early and often” in the game.  I don’t think I’m reading too much into Haraway’s phrasing (is such a thing even possible?) to hear an echo of the political slogan “vote early and often”.  To “die early and often” echoes the advice of religious sages from many different religions to “die before you die”.  To “die early and often” means to walk the path of the Dying God.

To “die early” means to face our death, both personal and collective, the death of the myth of individuality and the death of the myth of human progress. It means to face our fate before it arrives on our doorstep.

Vinay Gupta is a contributor to the Dark Mountain Project and a kapalika, a member of the ascetic sect of Shiva devotees who traditionally carried empty human skulls as begging bowls. Gupta writes that one of the functions of the kapalika:

“is to strip away the lies about death, the mythology and the avoidance, and to spread hope by a simple fact: the avoidance of the truth of death is worse than death itself. Death cannot be avoided, but its avoidance can be avoided.”

— Vinay Gupta, “Death and the Human Condition” in Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilised Times

To “die often” means creating “new practices of imagination, resistance, revolt, repair, and mourning, and of living and dying well” (Haraway) and creative rituals of kin-making to embody our new stories and myths. John Seed and Joanna Macy’s “Council of All Beings” might be one example of such practices and rituals. There is much work to be done to translate these new stories and myths into practices of living and dying well in the Anthropocene.

I imagine such practices would yield practical goods, much like a “leftism with benefits”, but in a more-than-human dimension: multispecies mutual aid, if you will.  (Not a new idea, actually. Kropotkin’s conception of mutual aid was inspired by interspecies cooperation.)

Since we must walk the Dying God’s path, we should do so together, sympoietically, with our human-kin, yes, but also with all the other earth-kin with whom we are doomed to die.  “Living-with was the only possible way to live-well,” writes Haraway.  So too, dying-with is the only possible way to die well.

Sometimes this seems like an inadequate response, too little too late, and I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to save the world anymore–I’m trying to “stay with the trouble.”

We are doomed to walk the path of the Dying God.  We must do so not in the hope of survival or salvation.  Our job is not to survive … or even to birth a new world.  Our job is to die … to die well, to die-with, to die early and often, to die in such a way that the “ash heap of history” might become the compost pile of the Goddess.


Selected Readings

Bill McKIbben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012

Brad Werner, “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”, presented at American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2012

The Dark Mountain Project, Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilized Times (2017)

David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth”, New York Magazine, July 9, 2017

Donna Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene”

–, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)

Erza Klein, “7 reasons America will fail on climate change”, Vox, June 5, 2014

John Michael Greer, Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse, and the Hard Future Ahead (2016)

–, The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (2008)

Jonathan Mingle, “Scientists Ask Blunt Question on Everyone’s Mind”Slate, Dec. 7, 2012

Nafeez Ahmed, “Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise”, Motherboard, August 27, 2018

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2008)

–, “How science is telling us all to revolt”, New Statesman, Oct. 29, 2013

Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, “Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”, 2009

Paul Kingsnorth, “Dark Ecology”, Orion Magazine

–, “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist”, Orion Magazine

–, “Why I stopped believing in environmentalism and started the Dark Mountain Project”, The Guardian, Apr. 29, 2010

Robert Puckett, “Plucking the Golden Bough: James Frazer’s Metamyth in Modern Neopaganism”

Roy Scranton, Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene”, New York Times, Nov. 10, 2013

–, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization (2015)

–, “Anthropocene City: Houston as Hyperobject”, Mustarinda Magazine

–, We’re Doomed. Now What?: Essays on War and Climate Change (2018)

Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess (1979/1999)


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is one of the founders of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”. He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and here at Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also edited the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. He is also a Shaper of the Earthseed community which can be found at GodisChange.org.


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Into The Woods, Into The Dark.

“We struggle to understand that which our eyes cannot see, and so our minds revert to the years of conditioning we all have had. It is but another way at disconnecting us from our true selves, from our true nature.”

From Emma Kathryn

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Last night I went to the woods.

It always feels like a dream when I go into the woods at night. The first time I ventured beneath the boughs after nightfall it felt more like a nightmare.

The woods where I go to are close to my home, I’ve written about them before, the ones tucked away, across a field, hidden between the industrial estate and a housing estate. To get there from where I live you must go across the field and through the industrial estate. Even at this hour the factories are still lit up, still churning, still producing. Then you take a gravel track between a used tyre factory that makes playground surfaces and their storage facility. On either side are plastic covered piles, too high to see over. On nights when the clouds cover the moon and the stars it feels like you’re walking through a tunnel.

It feels like you’re the only person. It’s liberating and scary all at the same time, and all the while there’s the noise of production, the ceaseless hum and whine of machinery and the sound of the gravel crunching beneath my feet.

On one side, the fence ends and the trees begin. There’s a tall bank and if you look as you walk, your eyes play tricks on you. Sometimes you think you see something that isn’t there. I don’t look, lest I should lose my nerve. The dog stays close, as though she can sense the battle that wages inside of me. Just go home Emma, that traitorous part of my mind whispers, go home. Why are you even here? What’s the point? But I know that voice, I’ve heard it many times in my life. It’s that voice that tells you to close your eyes when things get tough, to turn the other cheek when you see something terrible, that makes you want to say stop. It’s the voice of fear.

But I ignore it. I must. I know that if I give in, if I turn and leave now, that I will regret it even before I reach my own front door. I know from experience that when we confront our fears, we reduce them and then get over them. For instance, I used to be afraid to walk across the playing field in the dark. And so I push on, feeling the burn in my calf muscles as the path ascends. When I reach the top, it opens out into a huge meadow. The grass is long and after the heat of the summer, it’s yellow, like straw.  Here the path forks. One path takes you around the meadow, the other leads into the darkness. This is the path I take.

The path heads straight through the woods so that it looks like it disappears into darkness. The woods on either side are pitch black, a dark shadow against the backdrop of the night sky. Even now I get that feeling as I approach. I don’t know if it ever really goes away.

Have you ever been in the woods after nightfall? It’s so dark beneath the canopy of the trees that you can’t see anything and even when your eyes have adjusted to the gloom, you still can only make out what is right in front of you. Your other senses take over, especially your hearing. You can hear everything. Twigs snapping and the rustle of undergrowth as the night critters go about their business. If there’s a wind, the trees creak as they sway. It’s easy to imagine all of monsters from all of the horror films you’ve ever watched are lurking within the woods, hiding in the dark. Even when you go with others, you still feel that.

Perhaps what is really so frightening though is that loss of control. We struggle to understand that which our eyes cannot see, and so our minds revert to the years of conditioning we all have had. It is but another way at disconnecting us from our true selves, from our true nature. Why are we afraid to be in the woods? Why are we afraid to be out alone in nature? We are a part of it, not separate from it.

So what’s that got to do with going to the woods at night, you may well ask?

For me, it is about confronting my fears. It is about facing them head on, knowing that really it is the confronting of my own mind. It is the first act of rebellion against a system that destroys the very thing from which we all come all for the sake of profit. It is about taking back our minds. As Hermeticism tells us, everything is mental, the all is mind, and so it is the first step in reclaiming ourselves.

But it is also more than that too. For when you conquer that fear, it gives you the opportunity to relearn, to form a relationship with that which you used to fear.

Last night I went to the woods and found myself in the darkness.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

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TRUE TO THE EARTH: Pagan Political Theology (A new release from Gods&Radicals Press)

Go directly to the advance sale page at this link.

Much more than traditions and customs are lost when an animist culture is suppressed or destroyed. Into the abyss of forgetting goes also an entire way of seeing humans, animals, gods, and the rest of nature, as well as the relationships these things constantly forge with each other.

These were also the worldviews of ancient Pagan cultures before the dominance of writing and monotheism supplanted them. Organic pluralism, an embrace of multiple, conflicting truths, and a deep understanding of the interconnection between humans and the natural world: all were core values of oral and animist cultures.

As global climate change and the collapse of Empire throw the earth and our modern societies into crisis, these core values are what humanity and the nature it destroys desperately need again.

In True To The Earth: Pagan Political Theology, author and professor of philosophy Kadmus weaves a narrative from the lore of Celtic, Greek, Norse, and indigenous traditions to show us how we once saw the world and how we can see it again. He unveils the modern assumptions which blind us from seeing the past and what we’ve lost, challenges the core foundations of literal, universalist thinking, and shakes us free from the unseen bonds monotheism has placed upon our understanding of ourselves and the world.

Well-researched and erudite, yet written in an engaging and accessible manner, True To The Earth offers back to us what we have lost, and gives us fertile soil from which a new earth-centered political understanding can arise.

About the Author:

Kadmus is a published academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy teaching at the college level. He is also a practicing ceremonial magician with a long standing relationship to the ancient Celtic deities.

Pre-sale

True To The Earth: Pagan Political Theology will be released 15 October, 2018. Gods&Radicals Press is offering advanced purchases at reduction from the regular price.

Advanced-purchase single copies of True To The Earth are available for $12.50 each (regular $16)

In addition, True To The Earth can be purchased together with Pagan Anarchism (by Christopher Scott Thompson), A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer (by Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth), and Witches In a Crumbling Empire (by Rhyd Wildermuth) for $37.50 (regular $52.00).

All orders will ship before the full release. All books within the package orders ship together when True To The Earth is released.

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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*

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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.