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 Get Over Fake News

All media is opinion, it has a perspective, and a political purpose. Some are very transparent and honest. Others not so much. Either way, the media we consume is a reflection of our core personal values, not the other way around.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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As you might have heard, Brazil ‘s population decided to blunder into the depths of blatant fascism last month. Aside from the nerve-wrecking concerns over physical safety, the environment (future of humanity), and basic human decency, we had to cope with the heart break of seeing family members come out of the ‘fascist-closet’. One popular coping mechanism has been to blame it all on Fake News. “They don’t really think this way, they’ve been manipulated by viral lies. Trust me, Google Steve Bannon”. Even though I want to believe this argument, all I can think as I hear it is: “Humans have amazing mental gymnastics abilities”.

We want to believe the problem isn’t Democracy, that it’s Fake News meddling with Democracy. But Fake News is not news, and it’s not new. Fake News is not something that will promote media literacy, it’s something that distracts us from that. We’ve already been reproducing false information for political purposes since before Brazil was a country (in fact it might be the reason why we are a country at all).

What came first, the personal values or the forwarded WhatsApp message? It doesn’t matter, because they depend on each other to exist, like the chicken and the egg. Or do they? Maybe I don’t truly know how chickens are born, what are facts and where do I find them? Maybe Bolsonaro didn’t really get stabbed, maybe the Gay Kit for school kids is real, who knows?

Scientific fact is based on consensus, and thanks to this we’ve been feeling pretty confident about things like chickens laying eggs and horses having hearts. Consensus and politics, on the other hand, seem to be concepts much, much further apart. The Democracy I’ve known has relied heavily on polarization, and regressive values, none of which are recent, or provoked by Fake News. The power to manipulate the population is something that can easily be framed as heroic; Google’s Jigsaw, for example, came gallantly on horseback to save children from the evil dragon Isis. But the very same power of manipulation can just as easily be framed as inauthentic behavior by Russian villains.

It’s possible to see, though, that there is a little something that holds the power to define what is a terrorist, who is the villain, who is the hero, and the victim. It’s not the big They; those in Power. Well, not only… They are the values we’ve internalized from our ancestors, and the eyes we choose to see them through.

A friend recently told me a traditional Quilombola saying:

“Those who sleep with someone else’s eyes, don’t wake up when they want”.

We all learn, we are influenced by things around and before us, we admire and we believe. But that doesn’t have to mean blindly following, it means making decisions that reflect our political principals.

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All media is opinion, it has a perspective, and a political purpose. Some are very transparent and honest. Others not so much. Either way, the media we consume is a reflection of our core personal values, not the other way around. But if we don’t know what our values are, or how to recognize how these values are represented in all the media being constantly bombarded at us, is it because we’re lazy, go-alongers, or bigots?

Let’s say someone in your family is worried about homosexuality being promoted at schools and wants to vote for someone who says homosexuality can be solved with a good spanking early on in life. Either they’re too lazy to find out whether this “promotion” is really happening, where, how, and what this means to children’s sexuality, if homosexuality is “taught”, etc. Maybe they are going along with people around them, and don’t have the means to step out of the group-think. Or, they’re simply homophobic and think we need to prevent homosexuality from spreading; they think the traditional family needs to be preserved, that gay practices are disturbing, and they just instantly relate to the message. Either way, the results are the same. Going through the effort of distinguishing between these seems like a waste of energy, and even potentially dangerous if you consider the rise in physical violence on the streets.

Unfortunately, believing in certain people’s right to exist is a radical ideology as widespread as veganism. While some on the left are out there desperate trying to prove what’s Fake, I’m here thinking that thanks to “Democracy” we can finally see how the lives of LGBTQIA+, indigenous, black, and poor people don’t really matter to the majority of voters…

What do we do with this information?

One might say: “Not all of us have access to information, or the ability to process and analyze a message”. Well, you are here now, reading and analyzing this. If you have a skill or resource, share it, because waiting for your Government to do it clearly isn’t gonna work. Autonomous skill sharing is paramount for strong community building, and it doesn’t mean to lecture others on personal political views.

One might say: “But who has the time to fact-check everything these days?”. We seem to have plenty of time to scroll, read, watch, forward, click, click, click. But to spend a few minutes alone with our own thoughts seems like a daunting task. Take a moment to think for yourself. Harvest an idea.

Guerrilla From Within

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When I took a moment to look inwards, to think about what I was looking at and through whose eyes, it felt like political therapy. Forget the piles and piles of information on-line, these are just useless things we hoard and get on our way. Instead, I looked at the information I gathered first hand: memories. Then I thought about how they made me feel. These feelings guide my political existence, and consequently my work with Gods and Radicals.

The fact that I work with media now is no arbitrary phenomenon, although it happened unexpectedly. I know first hand its power to move people, and people can (and should) make a movement to change the world. When we talk about the (ir)responsibility of other people who produce (Fake News) media, and our artlessness when we consume it, we tend to forget that when we share and talk about it, we are taking part in its production. In other words, in this technological landscape, we should all learn not only how to consume media responsibly, but also how to produce conscious and honest content.

Whenever I talk about the Patriarchy or anti-capitalism, it’s not because I’m brainwashed by feminist or communist media. It’s because men* have interacted with me sexually without my consent since before I knew what sex was. It’s because I constantly see misery and poverty since much before I knew what “class” was. And this makes me feel an array of negative emotions. Media has helped me find the vocabulary to express and process how these memories and reoccurring experiences make me feel.

When I was 12, a group of about 8 boys came to the back of the bus and surrounded me. Some people stood up and moved to the front because they didn’t want to be bothered or harassed. I stayed, listening to my Walkman. They started talking to me, saying I was beautiful, asking where I lived, where I was getting out, until one of them started masturbating under his t-shirt while the others laughed.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how this event impacted me, and its relevance in the construction of my political principles. First of all, I only understood the sexual connotation of what he was doing later. But what impacted me the most was the class disparity in São Paulo. I was on that bus going home from school, where a girl’s driver had dropped me off after some type of play date. The whole day hanging out at her house was a bizarre experience. She had big swimming pool, a tennis court, “Friends” in English on DVD, and basically her own section of a mansion. Then suddenly I was on a bus going back to my modest apartment, when these black boys showed up making me feel like my Walkman and the way I looked were extravagant luxuries.

I could easily imagine that they felt about me something similar to what I felt about that girl; a feeling of being from worlds divided by a deep, dark abyss. A separation close enough we can wave at or insult each other from a distance, but deadly if we tried to come together. More disturbing than the public masturbation, was the fact that while some people have private tennis courts and an array of useless glittery objects, others need to sniff glue in order to not feel hungry, and sleep on the street.

From this point on, I could take the fight outwards. If I understand my own pain, I can easily imagine the pain of LGBTQI+ people; the rejection, the self-doubt, the threat at every corner, and the wide range of potential violence. We will fight side by side.

From that point on I can imagine the struggle of Indigenous people. The displacement, and forced assimilation framed as charity. I see first hand the racism, and neglect, no one needs to tell me, all it takes is looking around with my own eyes. All it takes is showing up and listening.

From that point on I can imagine what it must be like for black people. If my body has been used and abused, silenced and erased, how can I not listen and understand the particular, and even more brutal ways this has happened to them? All it takes is to listen the way I wish I was listened to.

Look, I can’t guarantee where people’s imagination will take them. Plenty of people will look inward and not be able to find principles like honesty and empathy, because they’re buried deep under the desire for personal wealth, and repulsion for deviant behavior. But that’s fine, because that’s better than to deny; to deny the racism, to deny the genocide, to deny the violence we are inflicting on ourselves and our environment. This denial is the historical loop we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of.

From that point on, we find safe ways to bridge the abyss to our comrades, and we find the strength to fight together against those who are a threat to our existence.

Rules don’t have to guide us, integrity to our own principles can.

My body, people desire. My heart is squeezed for blood almost every day. It has hardened, and at my age it’s no small effort to squeeze out one drop. I love it, because I love me. It took me 30 years to realize that my self-worth is the rope around the neck of the Patriarchy.


Footnote:

*- If you have an urge to react to the word “men” by saying something like “but women abuse too,” think of all the times you have been abused by a woman, then use the feeling to try and relate to me, to how I felt when I was abused. Please refrain from using comments like these to correct me, or to point out how what I feel is wrong or invalid.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality, feminism, and anti-capitalism.download.jpg

The Cloud Seeders Part Three

“Recovering our pagan traditions we could learn again to swim in the skies, return with cloud seeds to sow new myths, new rites, to recite and paint the poetry of clouds”

From Lorna Smithers

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VI. AERIAL SPIRITS

The science of meteorology (from the Greek metéōron ‘thing up high’) has ancient roots. In his Meteorology 350BCE Aristotle developed explanations of the weather based on the relationships between the four elements: ‘fire, air, water, earth’. He provided an early theory of cloud formation: ‘The exhalation of water is vapour: air condensing into water is cloud. Mist is what is left over when a cloud condenses into water, and is therefore rather a sign of fine weather than of rain; for mist might be called a barren cloud… From the latter there fall three bodies condensed by cold, namely rain, snow, hail.’ His work was developed by his successor, Theophrastrus, in ‘On Weather Signs’.

Naturalistic explanations of the weather sat reasonably comfortably alongside polytheism. Once Christianity became the dominant religion, scientific principles were replaced by the doctrine of the Bible. Aristotle’s ideas were kept alive by Muslim scholars and revived in Europe in the 12th century.

During the Renaissance the four elements became central to philosophers and occultists. For Cornelius Agrippa, in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531 – 1533), the elements were the basis of magic: ‘As therefore the Fire is to the Aire, so Aire is to the Water, and Water to the Earth; and again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is the Water to the Aire, and the Aire to the Fire… he which shall know these qualities of the Elements… shall be perfect in Magick.’

In the Liber de Nymphis in the Philosophia Magna (1556) Paracelsus introduced spirits associated with the four elements: salamanders (fire), sylphs (air), undines (water), and gnomes (earth). ‘As a fish lives in the water, it being its element, so each being lives in its own element.’ ‘The sylphs/sylvestres ‘are the nearest related to us, for they live in the air like ourselves; they would be drowned if they were under water, and they would suffocate in the earth and be burned in the fire.’

Once again agency was attributed to spirits who shaped the weather. In a remarkable passage in Of Spectres (1593) Randall Hutchins spoke of ‘aerial spirits, who, straying here and there in the air, tread nearer us. Such can descend to lower regions quicker than thought and, having taken on bodies from the denser air, appear visibly at times.’ He claimed they appeared to his father as ‘men of the air’. ‘These spirits often disturb the air, stir up tempests and thunders. They do not retain one form, but take on various forms, and change these according to the manifold variety of attitudes they encounter.’

Robert Burton also wrote of ‘aerial spirits’ in his ‘Digression of the Nature of Spirits’ (1621), saying they ‘are such as keep quarter most part in the aire, cause many tempests, thunder, and lightnings, tear Oakes.’ Both Hutchins and Burton believed these spirits could be invoked by witches and magicians.

The paradigmatic example of an aerial spirit is Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (or The Enchanted Island) (1611). Ariel was bound to serve the magician, Prospero, who rescued from him a tree, where he was imprisoned by the witch, Sycorax. It is he who caused the tempest which destroyed the ship of Prospero’s brother, Antonio, the usurper of Prospero’s position as Duke of Milan.

At the beginning of the play Ariel boasts of his abilities ‘to fly, to swim, to shoot into the fire, to ride on the the curl’d Clouds’. It is slowly revealed he is a being of immense power with the ability to charm, bind, and imprison mortals ‘with Walls of Adamant, / Invisible as air.’ In one night he flies across the earth collecting herbs then to the planet that ruled each to increase their power to cure Hippolito

Although the name Ariel, with its –el (god) suffix seems related to the names of the angels, he is clearly an elemental spirit. He speaks of his origins in ‘the lightsome Regions of the Air’ and says ‘we Airy Spirits are not of temper / So malicious as the Earthy, / But of a Nature more approaching good. / For which we meet in swarms, and often combat / Betwixt the Confines of the Air and Earth.’

Through Ariel Shakespeare gave voice to an occult philosophy wherein aerial spirits occupied the sublunar regions between the celestial spirits (angels) and earth spirits and controlled the weather. His representation contrasts with Biblical doctrines in which spirits of the air were identified with devils.

The relationship between Ariel and his ‘master’ Prospero is complex and quite moving. At some points Ariel is willing to serve, ‘All hail great Master, grave Sir, hail, I come to answer thy best pleasure’, whilst at others he rails against his servitude, ‘Why shou’d a mortal by Enchantments hold / In chains a spirit of ætherial mould?’ At the end he is finally freed and the ‘Enchanted Isle’ flourishes.

Shakespeare’s artistic representation of a relationship between a magician and an aerial spirit with power and personhood at a time when witches and magicians who interacted with spirits were being persecuted was quite radical. Although learned magicians (usually men) were targeted less than uneducated witches (usually women) persecutions still took place. Giordano Bruno was tried in Rome on account of seven charges including ‘dealings in magic and divination’. In 1600 with ‘his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words’ he was hung upside down naked then burnt at the stake.

The Enlightenment, which ended the witch hunts by ending the belief in spirits and magic, also culled the Renaissance occult tradition. The scientific revolution replaced theories about aerial spirits with scientific laws. The potential for re-establishing our relationships with the spirits of the skies was snuffed out and would not gain popularity again until the occult revival of the mid-19th century.

VI. THE CLOUD CHAMBER

During the scientific revolution nature was subjected to the mechanical principles of Isaac Newton (1643-1727). With thermometer, barometer, anemometer, hydrometer, hygrometer, rain and wind gauges the skies were weighed and measured. Even the ever-changing clouds were classified and systematised.

In ‘The Modifications of Clouds’ (1803) Luke Howard established seven modifications based on Latin words: cirrus ‘curl’, cumulus ‘heap’, stratus ‘layer’, nimbus ‘rain’. 1. Cirrus 2. Cumulus 3. Stratus 4. Cirro-cumulus 5. Cirro-stratus 6. Cumulo-stratus 7. Cumulo-cirro-stratus vel Nimbus.

These replaced the older poetic names of which, sadly, only a few remain in living memory. In English: sheep’s backs, buttermilk, mackerel skies. In Welsh: cwmylau blew geifr ‘goat’s hair clouds’, cwmwl boliog ‘pregant clouds’, cwmwl cawn ‘reed-grass clouds’, cwmwl caws a llaeth ‘cheese and milk clouds’, cwmwl psygod awr ‘fish of the air clouds’, cwmwl torgoch ‘red-bellied clouds’.

The science of cloud seeding was discovered by the French pharmacist Paul-Jean Coulier and Scottish meterologist John Aitken. In papers published in 1875 and 1880 they conducted experiments with similar results supporting the explanation: ‘vapours condense on solid airborne nuclei’. Together they validated the ‘condensation nuclei hypothesis.’

In 1911 the Scottish physicist Charles Wilson perfected the cloud chamber – a sealed device containing air supersaturated with water vapour which detected charged particles by their condensation trails. Experimenting with a cloud chamber the American meteorologist Vincent Shaefer discovered that clouds can be seeded from dry ice in 1946. His colleague, Bernard Vonnegut, learnt that silver iodide, which has a similar crystalline structure to ice, works the same way.

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Soon afterwards governments across the world began experimenting with cloud seeding to modify the weather and for military purposes. In the early 1950s the British military conducted an experiment into rainmaking called Operation Cumulus. Its aims were clearing airfields of fog, ‘bogging down enemy movement’, and ‘incrementing the water flow in rivers and streams to hinder or stop enemy crossings’. There was also talk of exploding ‘an atomic weapon in a seeded storm system or cloud’.

Pilots poured salt, dry ice, or silver iodide, into the tops of clouds. A pilot called Alan Yates expressed his elation at bringing about a heavy downpour over Staines in Middlesex. On the 15th of August 1952 disaster followed. A terrible flash flood hit Lynmouth in Devon, destroying buildings and bridges and killing 35 people. Operation Cumulus was put on hold. The UK government has still not admitted to responsibility for causing this tragedy. The US military notoriously seeded clouds during the Vietnam War on the Ho Chi Minh trail to increase the monsoon season.

Across Europe cloud seeding is used to prevent hail storms from damaging crops and vineyards. When hail cloud formation is detected silver iodide is either dropped from planes or fired by hail cannons, seeding smaller hailstones higher in the atmosphere which melt before hitting the ground.

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In drier places cloud seeding is being utilised to create rain. The most ambitious project is taking place in China on the Tibetan plateau where tens of thousands of fuel burning chambers are being built to produce silver iodide which will be swept into the clouds by the wind. This will result in an increase of rainfall by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year across an area of 620,000 square miles.

The United Arab Emirates recently launched its £3.6 million UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement last year. Last year, in the first three months, 101 cloud seeding operations took place. This resulted in two months of ‘unusually wet weather’ and record rainfall was recorded in Dubai and Al Ain.

On the downside cloud seeding has resulted in a sudden temperature drop closing roads in Beijing, 600 accidents caused by rain in Dubai, and the flooding and floods that killed 100 people in Jeddah. Scientists have voiced concerns about unpredictable effects and the possibility it might change the climate.

Seeding clouds to prevent crop damage and create rain for the purposes of human survival is, perhaps, ethically viable. It seems less so when used purely for the defence of capitalist interests. It also used by car manufacturers based in North America to stop hail storms damaging the cars. People near the Nissan plant in Mississippi have voiced complaints about the noise of the hail cannons and farmers in Mexico have accused Volkswagen of ruining their crops by causing a drought.

Cloud seeding has also been used to create snow at ski resorts – the weather manipulated to provide pleasure for the rich. In a jaw-dropping example of ultra-capitalism, UK company Oliver’s Travels charge £100,000 to use cloud seeding to clear the skies in advance of weddings at select venues in France.

The most disturbing thing about cloud seeding technologies is they have the potential to be abused in wars for water. When they are in the hands of capitalists it will always be certain the poorest people will suffer along with the earth’s non-human inhabitants who are rarely given consideration.

Disasters such as Lynmouth and Jeddah provide just a taste of what might happen if we continue to treat the skies like a cloud chamber without consulting the sky gods or considering the global impact.

VIII. TO SWIM IN THE SKIES

In the paintings of Eugene Boudin (1824 -1898) awesome cloudscapes dwarf les parasites dorés ‘the golden parasites’ (the upper classes) and place humans within nature rather than above it.

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In his diary Boudin wrote: ‘To swim in the open sky. To achieve the tenderness of clouds. To suspend these masses in the distance, very far away in the grey mist, make the blue explode. I feel all this coming, dawning in my intentions. What joy and what torment! If the bottom were still, perhaps I would never reach these depths. Did they do better in the past? Did the Dutch achieve the poetry of clouds I seek? That tenderness of the sky which even extends to admiration, to worship: it is no exaggeration.’

It is the loss of this kind of worshipful attitude toward the sky and its gods and spirits that has resulted in cloud seeding. I believe this is something we need to win back as artists and pagans if we are to live in tune with the changing climate rather than working against it and causing further disasters.

Recovering our pagan traditions we could learn again to swim in the skies, return with cloud seeds to sow new myths, new rites, to recite and paint the poetry of clouds. To seed a new world based on respectful relationship with the gods and spirits of the skies, the animate earth and all her inhabitants.


SOURCES

Andrew Griffin, ‘Rain-free Weddings’, Belfast Telegraph, (2015)
Britta K. Ager, Roman Agricultural Magic, (The University of Michigan, 2010)
Boudin, ‘Skies’, Muma Le Havre, http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/collections/artworks-in-context/eugene-boudin/boudin-skies
Detlev Möller, ‘On the History of the Scientific Exploration of Fog, Dew, Rain and Other Atmospheric Water’, Die Erde, 139, (2008)
Franz Hartmann (transl), The Life and the Substance of the Teachings of Paracelsus, (Philalethians, 2018)
Jessica Brown, ‘Cloud Seeding: Should we be playing god and controlling the weather?’, The Independent, (2018)
John Vidal and Helen Weinstein, ‘RAF rainmakers ‘caused 1952 flood’’, The Guardian, (2001)
Luke Howard, ‘The Modifications of Clouds’, (John and Churchill, 1803)
Olivia Solon, ‘Rain Dancing 2.0: Should humans be using tech to control the weather?’, The Guardian, (2018)
Randall Hutchins, Virgil B. Heltzel and Clyde Murley (transl.) ‘Of Spectres’, Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4, (1948)
Shakespeare, The Tempest, https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/Tempest.pdf
Stephan Harding, Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia, (Green Books, 2009)
Stephen Chen, ‘China needs more water. So it’s building a rain making network the size of Spain’, South China Morning Post, (2018)
W. Stacy Johnson, ‘The Genesis of Ariel’, Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 3, (1951)


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.

The New Sun

“For empires crumble as I’ve been told, and in the rib-caged wreckage of gray leviathans I may glimpse some hint of the blueprint of this shared corruption. I may come to comprehend why I could never mend my own desolation. I may erase my station.”

From Christopher Scott Thompson

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Surrealist Prophecies #6

The sixth in a sequence of surrealist prophecies written using the divinatory technique of automatic writing (with subsequent revision). The theme of the sequence is the collapse of our global civilization due to uncontrollable climate change, leading to a mass rejection of both faith and reason and the re-enchantment of our world among the ruins of our failed creations. Some of the poems in the sequence are set before the Fall and portray the spiritual and emotional dilemma of our current crisis. Some describe the Fall itself, and the strange changes in thought and perception that will be needed if any are to survive a world in which humanity has been radically de-centered. Some describe the world to come, a world newly alive with gods and spirits yet free of all dogma or fixed belief – a world of beauty and strange magic.

The sixth prophecy was inspired by an Alley Valkyrie shirt design, and the “rib-caged wreckage” of the Colosseum. It describes the death of a mystic in the years before the Fall, and hints at the coming rebirth of both the individual and the world. The “brass sun” in the poem refers to the failed attempts of the Finnish gods to create a mechanical sun after the real sun was stolen by Louhi, the witch of the north wind. A world without a spiritual heart is a doomed world, and no technology can change that.

The New Sun

Instructions for a funeral –

Hold no tribunal.

That man was a gnostic,

If often caustic.

 

So make a new sun out of brass.

Bless it with burnt cash slipped from the pockets of the old Caesar

Who drools in his glass castle counting calculus,

And tell the fire I’m coming soon.

 

If you want to, sweep my room.

Croon if you need to, but do not keen.

Nobody asked me to shake my fist at archons,

If you know what I mean.

 

You know I was never one of those clashing cymbals,

Hollow of throat like a brash jackal.

I never brayed at any tomb.

 

And if I sang

A wordless song sometimes

Beneath the stars and moon

To unseen powers

And you ask what for –

 

Well, I was only waging war.

 

I wasn’t fond of flowers.

Gather up

Whatever broken coffee cup

You considered “ours,”

And tell them all

My time had come.

 

If it feels numb, don’t poke it.

Just rinse your eyes out completely,

Comb your hair out neatly,

And go home.

 

But as for me, I’ll be gone.

 

For empires crumble as I’ve been told,

And in the rib-caged wreckage of gray leviathans

I may glimpse some hint

Of the blueprint of this shared corruption.

I may come to comprehend why I could never mend

My own desolation.

I may erase my station.

 

My eyes may become the starry skies

That are not wise nor foolish

But only real.

My cuts may heal into healthy hillsides

Of humming bees.

My blood may flood.

My breath might bloom.

There are a million things I might become.

 

And in some life –

Some life I cannot imagine,

Some distant life –

I may look out beneath strange skies

And there glimpse your eyes.


Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson is an anarchist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth. Photo by Tam Zech.

On The Use And Abuse Of Rage For Life

“Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust?”

From Chris Wright

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“These are the times that try men’s souls.” How much truer is that statement now than in 1776! We’re poised on the precipice, peering over into the crocodile pit below, where fascists swarm and writhe in sanguinary anticipation. Humanity is on the verge of losing its footing and plunging headfirst into the open maw of reptilian sadism. Where you stand, in this climactic moment of history, determines whether you are reptile or hominid.

We know where the majority of the ruling class stands, in their contempt for the poor, for the future, for democracy, the working class, the natural environment, the impartial rule of law, social cooperation, community, and a rational public discourse: they’re on the side of the reptiles. Whether it’s the boorish, amoral mediocrity of a Brett Kavanaugh, the rank hypocrisy of a Lindsey Graham or a Susan Collins, the naked cupidity of a Jeff Bezos, the proud Israel-fascism of a Chuck Schumer, the unfettered evil of a Mitch McConnell, or the undisguised corporatism of a Nancy Pelosi, a Barack Obama, and virtually every other politician on the national stage, the ruling class despises morality and law as an insolent threat to its unchecked power. Almost as offensive as these people’s lack of all principles besides unwavering loyalty to the rich is their aggressive mediocrity, their transparent conformism and cowardice. One is stunned at the gall of such insipid nonentities to believe themselves superior to the rest of us.

Even from the perspective of their intelligence, these elitists don’t exactly distinguish themselves. Consider one of the more honored and allegedly intellectual specimens: Anthony Kennedy. In what I suppose constituted an attempt at self-criticism, he recently offered the following rueful analysis of the state of the nation: “Perhaps we didn’t do too good a job teaching the importance of preserving democracy by an enlightened civic discourse. In the first part of this century we’re seeing the death and decline of democracy.” The lack of self-awareness takes your breath away. The man responsible for the supremely anti-democratic decisions in Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. FEC, Shelby County v. Holder (which gutted voting protections for minorities), and Janus v. AFSCME (which by harming unions harms democracy), and who vacated his seat during the term of a president who prides himself on his authoritarianism and disrespect for the rule of law, is chagrined and apparently puzzled that democracy is declining.

Evidently the man is an imbecile, devoid of the capacity for self-critical reflection and empathic understanding of opposing arguments. And yet he’s an esteemed member of the ruling elite. (Precisely because, one might maliciously suggest, of his incapacity for critical thought.)

How maddening it is that such indoctrinated fools have power! It’s the blind leading the sighted!

Anyway, it’s for the rest of us to decide where we stand. Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust? Will we march in the streets, occupy offices, organize mass strikes, take over workplaces, and confront our political “representatives” wherever they turn and wherever they are at every moment of the day? Or will we remain the domesticated dogs we’ve become under the long-term impact of corporatization, bureaucratization, and privatization?

In a time of universal atomization and a zombified-consumerist public life, the redemptive power of collective rage shouldn’t be scoffed at. It is in fact key to the recovery of our humanity, our de-robotization, and to the very survival of humanity itself. We should embrace our rage, cultivate it as though it were the tree of life, cherish it, for its power of both motivation and social transformation is prodigious.

The plaintive cries of establishmentarians to restore “civility” in the public sphere are laughably self-serving and shouldn’t be taken seriously. “You don’t call for incivility,” Megyn Kelly says in response to Representative Maxine Waters’ call for exactly that. Angry left-wing responses to Trumpism are “unacceptable,” according to Nancy Pelosi. “We’ve got to get to a point in our country,” says Cory Booker, “where we can talk to each other, where we are all seeking a more beloved community. And some of those tactics that people are advocating for, to me, don’t reflect that spirit.” And poor, long-suffering Sarah Sanders sent out a tweet of Solomonic wisdom after the owner of a restaurant had asked her to leave because of her noxious politics: “[The owner’s] actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

In short: let institutions operate as they’re supposed to, and don’t enforce accountability on public officials outside the electoral process. By all means vote us out of office if you don’t like our policies, but don’t make life uncomfortable for us.

The truth is that, from more than one perspective, the decline of civility or politeness in the “political dialogue” is a sign of progress, not retrogression. Politeness upholds the politics of “respectability,” which is the politics of conservatism, hierarchy, and the status quo. It coddles the powerful, even as they’re enacting substantively uncivil, which is to say destructive, policies aimed at everyone who lacks the money to buy influence. The essence of politics, which is but war by other means, has always been “incivility”—struggle over resources, competing agendas, bribery, corruption, the defense of privilege against the unprivileged and the latter’s struggle to wrest power from the former. There is a “beloved community” only in the milquetoast liberal imagination of a Cory Booker. The task for actual democrats is to bring the war to the doorstep of the privileged, to make them viscerally aware of the stakes involved, even if it means directly acquainting them with the wrath of the dispossessed. They’ve been sheltered far too long.

Even from the other side, the side of the reptiles, there is something to be said for Trumpian insult-flinging and demagoguery. At least it serves to take the fig leaf of high principles and public-spiritedness off the reactionary policies of almost fifty years. When Obama deported millions of immigrants and separated tens of thousands of families, it seemed as if no one cared. Now that Trump is doing it (arguably in even more sadistic ways), even the establishment media expresses outrage. The vulgarity and blatant evil, in short, tend to radicalize everyone who still has a vestige of moral consciousness in him. That’s useful.

Ultimately, though, it hardly needs arguing that Trumpian “incivility” is disastrous, e.g., in its promotion of white rage and white supremacy. But this is exactly why the time has come for the politics of extreme disruption, as expounded and defended in that classic of sociology Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward.

THE USEFULNESS OF VIOLENCE

As Piven and Cloward show, mass social disruption and civil disobedience were essential to the victories of several major popular movements in the twentieth century: the 1930s’ unemployed workers movement (which indirectly brought forth the modern welfare state), the industrial workers movement that unionized the core of the economy, the civil rights movement, and the welfare rights movement of the 1960s that forced huge expansions of welfare programs. Even the scores of urban riots between 1964 and 1968 had a partially constructive impact. In the violent summer of 1967, for example, the Pentagon established a Civil Disturbance Task Force and the president established a Riot Commission. Seven months later, the commission called for “a massive and sustained commitment to action” to end poverty and racial discrimination. “Only days before,” the authors note, “in the State of the Union message, the president had announced legislative proposals for programs to train and hire the hardcore unemployed and to rebuild the cities.”

Without going into further detail, the lesson is already clear: not only “disruption” but even rioting can, potentially, be constructive, given the right political environment. This doesn’t mean riots ought to be encouraged or fomented, of course; they should be avoided at almost all costs. But when conditions become so desperate that waves of riots begin to break out, we shouldn’t too quickly condemn them (or the rioters) as hopelessly irresponsible, self-defeating, primitive, immoral, etc. The state’s immediate response might be repression, but its longer-term response might well be reform.

Other scholars go further than Piven and Cloward. Lance Hill, for instance, argues in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement that the tactic of nonviolence wasn’t particularly successful in the civil rights movement. SNCC’s peaceful local organizing in the early 1960s didn’t bring about many real, tangible gains: months-long campaigns succeeded in registering minuscule numbers of voters. White power-structures, racism, and Klan violence were just too formidable. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “moral suasion,” his hope to shame Southern whites out of racism, failed utterly. So the strategy shifted to provoking white violence in the full view of television cameras—and, as with the Deacons for Defense in Louisiana, inflicting violence as well (mostly in self-defense). By 1964 things were threatening to get out of control, with riots and some white deaths, so the government was able to pass the Civil Rights Act—which it proceeded to enforce only sporadically, usually when compelled to by violence or its threat.

Nonviolence was a useful tactic for getting white liberal support, but without the threat of black violence always lurking in the background it would have accomplished little. “One of the great ironies of the civil rights movement,” Hill says, “was that black collective force did not simply enhance the bargaining power of the moderates; it was the very source of their power.”

In general, the point is that people have to act in such a way that authorities will feel compelled to give them concessions lest social hierarchies be threatened. In the long run, needless to say, the goal is to replace the authorities, to empower people who actually care about people. But in the meantime it’s necessary to extract concessions—by putting the fear of God, or, far more frighteningly, of revolution, into the heads of the thugs at the top. The credible threat of violence can, then, bring results, as history shows.

One last example, perhaps most apposite of all, is the near-chaos that engulfed the nation in the early 1930s, as unemployed workers took to the streets and violated the “rights of property” on an epic continental scale. As I’ve related elsewhere, the epidemic of protest, “eviction riots,” and thefts in, e.g., Chicago between 1930 and 1932 impelled Mayor Anton Cermak to repeatedly appeal in desperation to the federal government. “It would be cheaper,” he told Congress in early 1932, “to provide a loan of $152,000,000 to the City of Chicago, than to pay for the services of federal troops at a future date.” Because of the panic that widespread theft and violence induced in businessmen and government officials like Cermak, Herbert Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation began that summer to give loans to states for providing relief to the unemployed. A year later, Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration started distributing $500 million worth of grants to the states, followed by massive jobs programs, and the New Deal proceeded to alleviate the misery of tens of millions of Americans. All because of the power of collective rage and defiance.

In 2018, after the consolidation of a reactionary regime on the Supreme Court, it is long past the time for organized collective violations of “law and order” and “property rights.” It’s time to badger elected officials at every moment of every day, and to foster political polarization so that the ground caves in beneath the feet of the “centrists.” Conditions aren’t yet desperate enough for collective looting and rioting—since, after all, the economy is booming! (right?)—but it’s necessary at least, in the coming years, to stoke such fears in the minds of the rich. Monolithic, sustained, savage repression cannot work for long in a nominally democratic country like the U.S. Radical reforms are inevitable—if, that is, we rise up en masse.

A “CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY”

The one good thing about Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is that it completes the delegitimization of the most undemocratic and typically reactionary institution at the federal level. Having an obvious perjurer, sexual harasser, overgrown frat boy, and overtly partisan hack on the Court strips away whatever patina of honor and impartial dignity that farcical institution still had. It has now lost all pretense of representing not only the will of the people but even the rule of law. This fact, too, will facilitate radicalization.

The entire political economy, and the august institutions that protect it, are being thrown into question.

The whiff of revolution is in the air, just starting to float, here and there, on the breezes blown back from the future into the present. The scent is positively revivifying.

It’s a good time to be angry. And to translate your anger into action.


Chris Wright

Chris Wright has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Notes of an Underground HumanistWorker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, and Finding Our Compass: Reflections on a World in Crisis. His website is www.wrightswriting.com.”

Wherefore the Despair?

“I offer you a different reason to fight, beyond hope and despair, beyond a hollow victory that only restores Status Q. A reason that can exist regardless of the chances of victory, regardless of the size of that dragon.”

From Patacelsus

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It was an ancient mound. The thief was sure that only he knew where it was, and in the dark, it looked even more defenseless than in the light of day. He could hear what sounded like a moan, as he broke through the outer wall. He broke through, and then he saw it all in his torch light. The gold. Wrought into plates, cups, torques, cuffs, rings, coins, so many coins. Gemstones rough and cut, silver pooled in solid lakes lapping shores of those gold coins. A hoard. And it was all his. But he heard it again. Louder, a rasping exhale, from deeper in the mound. The hairs stood on his skin. And for a moment he started. But he laughed at his own cowardice. Ghosts and spooks were for cowards who didn’t have the courage to seize hoards like this. It is just wind, air allowed to flow for who knows how long.

He reached out and took hold of a golden chalice, and the rasping exhale became an angry groan. A sound rolling like thunder from the depth of the barrow, a feint green light coming from the passage leading down. The hairs stood on his skin again, but now could not be banished by false bravado. He ran, the chalice in his hand forgotten but held fast. He ran, heedless of the laws of fate. He ran, a coward and thief whose avarice must now be put right by others.

Cornwolf had been king for many years. He sat and listened. He sat and listened to the descriptions of the dragon. He sat and listened to the stories of its green poisonous fire. He heard the laments of his people. The villagers, of how their homes have burned. The farmers, their crops burned and the land laid waste with poison. All knew that such a beast was the product of the wrath of the ancient ancestors. The thief was unknown, his whereabouts unknown, what he had stolen also unknown. The only option, aside from restoring what was stolen, was to slay the dragon. For any mortal this was certain failure, and certain death. But Cornwolf was no normal king, no normal man. When the fates branded his lot, they decreed him to be a hero. And hero he was, but the fear of his subjects were many. What would they do without him if he dies? What of the dragon? Should he not send his younger warriors in his place? But Cornwolf would not do this, send others to fight for him, like a coward sitting on a mound of gold? No. “Bring me my armor.” Only a hero could slay a dragon. The words having passed his lips, joy returned to his heart, long forgotten. The joy of living the truth of his soul had returned. Whatever the gods pronounce of his doom this day, he goes to meet it in joy. Even though he may fail and die, he rides out, heedless of the danger. For it is right that he should fight, even though it may well be hopeless. Cornwolf refused to live a life yielding to despair, and letting that despair lead him to wrongdoing and cowardice.

He died, killing the dragon. His people were indeed left to fend for themselves, but their worries, had they lived his example, would have been unnecessary. However, Cornwolf’s people were conquered in his absence. Instead of living a truth that he showed them, they mourned the loss of his person.

I often feel it now. I see the world to come, and the despair laps at the edges of my consciousness. The apathy, threatening to sap every activity of vitality and meaning. This is the danger inherent in Capitalist thought, meaning, and ideas. That if it can’t go on perpetually, that it doesn’t mean anything. That it has no purpose. It betrays how deep seated, in me at least, of how far the Capitalist indoctrination goes. Buddhism helps, as long as we’re talking the real deal, and not the “Boomer Buddhism” that Mark Chapman goes on about at length. But the ultimate truths of Sunyata can be difficult to integrate living in this world, in the day to day flow. I find a much more immediate antidote in the inspiration of our ancestors. In the heroes who understood what was required, what was needed of them. Above is a part of the final act of Beowulf. The old wizened king, rides out to slay a dragon. Modern interpreters point to this and say it is a cautionary tale, of a king casting aside his cares for his responsibility to his people, and tries to recapture his youth. Because of course they would; hollow scholars dreaming of recapturing their youth with some adventure, projecting that internal reality onto the material.

So I offer you instead another interpretation. Maybe this too is a projection. I leave it to you to decide if that matters. My interpretation of this portion of the tale is a hero, knowing the truth of his life, stepping up to do what is necessary. He gladly goes to give his life, knowing that for it to be any other way would be a lie, and bring nothing but personal misery, and misery for his people. The world burns, blasted by metaphorical poison fire, our due for the theft of riches from the Earth, from the burial mounds of long dead things, our ancestors. Indeed, our doom is pronounced, why fight it? Our rulers know what is going on. As they pronounce the devastation as a hoax, they build infrastructure to face the world to come. From the sea walls around Trumps golf resorts, to doubling down on coal, to hoarding resources, selling weapons, and building walls to keep refugees out; make no mistake, if that wall happens, it will be to fight off throngs of displaced people, hungry and violent like the ancient sea peoples, themselves displaced by disaster. Why fight climate change, environmental disaster, and the ultimate venusing of our planet? It is a hopeless fight, our doom, as I said, already pronounced.

It is a mystery to anyone who hasn’t touched mystery. It is a puzzle for those who live in a puzzle. Why do the Aesir and Vanir fight at Ragnarok? Why do the einherjar and the Ljosalfar fight? They know they will lose. And yet, when the blessed Queen of the Dead, in her guise as Hel comes to claim her due, they fight all the same. When the lies, broken oaths, and betrayals of Odin can no longer save the gods and delay Ragnarok, why does he still fight? Why do they all fight? The answer is simple for anyone to see, yet so hard to see in our modern times.

The environment can’t fight for itself. It is trying, the hurricanes in the years to come may destroy much carbon generating infrastructure, but this dragon is no mortal thing. It is the karma of Capitalism. The cause of our effect. Is it not heroism to defend the defenseless? Is it not heroism to fight for what is right, despite the outcome being known to end in failure? To use your gifts to help defend those who held you up when you were defenseless, who fed you when you hungered, and watered your thirst, who taught you and loved you. To not defend them is worse than cowardice. It is villainy. Capitalists are the worst sorts of villain. Their community holds them up, only to have them take a big ol’ shit on that community. “Why should I have to pay taxes, I only use the roads, public services, public resources, etc etc.” They paint themselves as heroes, but have nothing to offer that cannot be provided by a thief in a barrow. And you see them now, they don’t even think they need to lie effectively now. Show them real courage and they melt. They are heartless and soulless. They are dead already.

I offer you a different reason to fight, beyond hope and despair, beyond a hollow victory that only restores Status Q. A reason that can exist regardless of the chances of victory, regardless of the size of that dragon. That reason is: because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do even though you will likely, at a 99.9999% chance, fail. It is the right thing to do, even though you might die. You were going to die anyway, the coward gains nothing in his cowardice, but loses his chance to die a hero. I’m not saying you have to run out and die today. I’m not saying you should be reckless, or ready to throw your life away. I’m not saying your life is cheap, to be traded for a small victory. But as things “heat up”, I think you will all find your moments, where you must face death and choose your path. You won’t know your heart until truly until you meet that moment. If you understand your obligations, you who are noble of spirit, then you will know what to do, and why you are doing it. And your courage and strength will not have its foundation in hope or despair. It will have its foundation in the truth of your soul, in doing what is right, of living the life of a hero. Be more like Cornwolf.


Patacelsus

mal1A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.

Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic?

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions.

From Emma Kathryn

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If you are a member of the Pagan community (whatever that means to you – we’ll discuss community later), then you may well remember when a well know witch published a blog post that talked about the abuse she’d suffered from within the Pagan community. The post did cause a little bit of a stir. It made the snippets of the popular Pagan outlets, and aside from a few private blog posts from other Pagans and witches, not much more was said.

That woman was Sarah Anne Lawless, and you can read that particular blog post here.

Sarah’s story kind of touched a cord with me. You see, many years ago, a close family member of mine was herself in an abusive relationship, and I guess I saw a few similarities between Sarah and my family member. Both are strong, fierce women. Fiery and quick to speak their minds. I would hear people question why my family member would stay with the woman beater? She’s a strong woman, why did she put up with it? Why try to hide it? Maybe they like it, you would hear people say, even other women. And so when I saw those same things said or implied about Sarah, it made me realise, though I suppose I already knew it anyway, that this topic is one that spans all divides.

Curious to discover how things had turned out for her, I recently called Sarah, and we had a chat about what’s been done since first airing her experiences.

And the truth is, disappointingly little.

In fact, that wouldn’t be the worst of it. Not only has Sarah been all but shunned by those communities she thought she was a member of but her businesses have been attacked, with anonymous reports to various agencies about the products she makes and sells. The platforms which enable her to sell those items have also received anonymous reports and have even been suspended in some cases.

And all because she dared to highlight her instances of abuse within the Pagan community, by some of those within it.

I asked her what kind of reaction had she gotten from others, generally speaking. She replied:

“It’s been a bit of  a mixed bag. Some have been sympathetic. And from others, mostly men, I’ve either had complete denial or a misunderstanding.”

I also asked if other victims had reached out to her.

“Yeah, many have, sharing their stories with me. Only one other came forward to the police though, but here that’s not enough to carry forward an investigation. But I also get why others didn’t come forward. And who am I or anyone else to try to force these women to do something they don’t want to, especially after the trauma they’ve  already faced. If it helps them, sharing their stories with me, then that’s a good thing.”

And she’s been all but ignored by Pagan media outlets.

”I’ve been in touch with a couple of different places, but after initial contact, I haven’t really heard back from any of them.”

Indeed, here in the UK, it’s not been much of a story. It’s almost like there’s a wall of silence, or perhaps a wall of ignorance around the whole affair, and for me, this must lead us to question why.

IS THERE A PROBLEM? WHAT CAN WE DO?

So is there a problem with Paganism and how we respond to abuse claims? I think there is, and there certainly seems to have been in Sarah’s case.

I find the biggest problem is that Paganism seems to operate in its own atmosphere, away from the general rules we might ordinarily apply in real life. So, in the everyday world, if a woman, or anyone else for that matter, came forward with claims of abuse, those claims would be investigated. We would expect them to be.

I also think the fact that the word ‘community’ doesn’t really cover what it actually means to be a Pagan. The draw for many is the lack of uniformity, the freedom and independence to believe and worship however they see fit.

Take a moment to consider the many differing forms of Paganism, and then all the subsets and categories and regional differences and that’s without considering those who might be solitary or eclectic. When we consider Paganism in this way, it becomes understandable as to why defining a Pagan community becomes difficult. There is no one set of beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to worship.

And so if there is no community, how then can we begin to tackle the issue of abuse? By calling it out, whenever we witness it or are made aware of it. And from that call out, investigations must occur, and then the appropriate action taken. We must not close ranks, afraid that any truth may corrupt our beliefs. Instead we should root it out so it doesn’t corrupt or spoil the hard work and dedication that others have put in. We should expel it like the pestilence it is.

And abuse can be insidious. It can be incorporated into the very foundations of an order or tradition. There’s nothing stopping anyone from setting up any kind of group, and I really do cherish that freedom, but with it comes the responsiblity to call out and report abusers. If an abuser happens to be an elder or someone with a respected position within a tradition, this shouldn’t exclude them from any investigation or punishment if necessary. They should not be allowed to slip off the grid and start up elsewhere.

We should not excuse shitty behaviour because the one being a shit also happens to be some sort of leader, or someone with that kind of power, or has followers who look up to them. If anything, it is imperative that such types are called out and reported. We should call out fakelore where we see it, and let’s be honest, you come across it quite often in the Pagan sphere.

We also need our Pagan writers and journalists to not fear tackling such subjects. Of course there is that line, that is to not portray someone as guilty when they have not been convicted and all of that, but we must also tackle those stories and bring those issues to the fore. We need writers and journalists who are unbiased and tell the truth. We need publications to talk about these claims when they arise, and also about the issues that may arise because of them.

I will take a moment to just say a word or two about those accusations that are false, that are made out of malice and badness, that are untrue and told to inflict damage. As damaging as they may be, those false reports do not detract from the truth of most claims. Those who make those false claims should also be held to account, but then it all comes back to taking the time to investigate thoroughly all abuse claims.

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions. Doing so will only strengthen them. Doing nothing will lead to their fall.

We are witches and occultists and brujas and so much more. We have the power to make our crafts and traditions what we want them to be. Let them be places where abusers find no solace. Let’s do ourselves justice.


Emma Kathryn

epMy 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.

Little Common People

“Acknowledging and strengthening your supportive web of equals is Right Action. Not putting value on large status symbols is Right Thinking. Be quietly comfortable; if you are well ahead you should not aspire to enter the ranks of the wealthy but be sharing more.”

From Judith O’Grady

 

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I was presenting recently about the divination system I use, Ogham.

No, this essay isn’t about Ogham but in my introduction about them/me I touched on the way that my Druidry differs from many other modern Druids:

In Olden Days, Druids studied for 20-25 years to become literate in several languages, to memorize laws and teaching stories and then recite them, to play an instrument and sing, to make extemporaneous poetry, and other things. ‘Druidry’ was not a religion; ‘Druid’ was a title.

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Some modern-day Druids consider that achieving a Masters degree gives them approximately 20 years of education, or that being head of a Grove or well-informed about the old mythos and lore gives them the title. Or they just consider themselves as such because of their inherent status and importance.

Then they make assumptions about how things were in the Older Days and say,

“The Druid informed the people when the Holidays came, decided what the law stated, passed on the lore……”

I have no clear idea how Druids acted, believed, and worshipped in the Olden Days; not much instructional lore exists because Druids had a gease

(like a taboo but which was something that they might have to do as well as being forbidden to do and also varied from person to person)

against writing down their religion, dogma, beliefs, rituals, etc.

But I have read about history.

Before Modern Times common people mostly stayed where they were born all of their lives. Even as late as Pre-Industrial Age most non-noble, ordinary people travelled 15 miles or less from their home-place in all their lives. Travel was difficult and news disbursal was slow; so only what happened in your neighbourhood was well known. Then Market day would permit news from the surrounding area and near villages and towns to be traded along with speciality goods. Big fairs once or twice a year brought further news, imported goods, and professional performers.

More classes of people went to big fairs so the news would be different in scope. On market day you would talk over your own tradespeople, farmers, and miscreants but at a Fair the news would include kings, far-away wars, clan fights, all that constitutes history. Before Common Era you might see a Druid or hear what the Druidic opinion was about the history.

But it wasn’t that you existed in a sort of formless void between the occasional, accidental, fleeting contacts with the Big People. Common people had a rich and meaningful life that had its own complete history; just one that has never made it into the books. It needed no Druid to tell you what to think or do, you could decide on your own. You might consider your family or community history; if you felt you needed advice, counsel, or Magic you need not search out a titled person. In your real, small world there were Fairy Doctors, Wisewomen, Cunning People, and storytellers (seanchaí). Although people might travel quite a distance (in their estimation, not ours) to consult a Healer or Soothsayer those people continued to be viewed as people much like the applicant but with a skill…. something like making good cheese or excellent beer. A skill with a little mysterious to it— people in touch with the Other World or wise in healing were like blacksmiths, dealing in Magic but a common-sense kind, not too dangerous.

The stories the Seanchaí told (or, failing that, the stories that came from your neighbours in gatherings) were about the high people and had larger Magics and bigger events in them and (imo) were considered to be a little inflated for the grandeur of it. But the story about your neighbour being dropped in a bog by a Will O’the Wisp was taken as told if not connected with having a drop taken.

So having a skill, even being very very good at it, didn’t change your status. You still lived down the road and traded elixir for shoes or foretellings for a chicken. Maybe if word of mouth spread enough a lady might come for a Magic Potion and give a little bit of jewellery in exchange but you were still a small person, rooted in your own countryside, associated with your own people, secure in your own identity.

In the Pagan community there is a status than many aspire to— being a Big Name Pagan (BNP) which would (presumably) make you larger than life. You might be able to live, possibly live large, on your Pagan earnings! You could be fortune-teller to the stars! But no, if suddenly my readings of Ogham went viral or people flocked to hear me give out about Irish lore or Socialist Druidry (none of these is really viable even as a daydream) I would not become a BNP, I would still live the same small life as now and just share more.

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Because I want to live a small life as a goal. I don’t say to myself that perhaps I’ll win the lottery or get a fabulous job or be elected as Empress of the World and this small life is just for now. ‘Where I Am’ (the fifth direction) actually defines me and not ‘where I wish I was’. I want to be in the web of common people and connected to my many equals; this is the Right Place. I am a skilly-person; my skill is Magic and God-Speaking but I am not a religious leader, I am just religious. People can ask me about what the Gods are saying, what is Right Action and Balance in a given situation, herbal preparations and Magic, divinatory advice…… but I will ask for help in their skill in return.

So what about the coming End Times when all Small People should rise up?

In more recent Irish history there were the Troubles; that part of the island not included in the Irish Republic was at war. From my admittedly biased point of view the Freedom Fighters/Soldiers of the Republican Army/terrorists (small people) were engaged in an unequal war with a Great and Domineering Empire. Many other small people saw those soldiers as part of their community, equals and compatriots. Even if circumstances kept them from playing an active, fighting part the people actively fighting were still neighbours. Soldiers who were retreating from a losing battle could run through any unlocked door and have it locked behind them and, if necessary, answered afterward by homeowners who had seen nothing.

When the armoured cars drove into a supportive community the small people living there (part of the Great and Domineering Empire‘s battle plan was unequal hiring and pejorative housing allotments to ensure that their enemies stayed small) would stand outside their homes and clang the trash can lids on the pavement as the cars rolled by thus locating the enemy for the soldiers. If ordered to stop they could readily stop and leave the clanging to the person on the other side of the street.

There is no stigma in being small, quite the opposite. Small, taking up less room, is the Right Place. Acknowledging and strengthening your supportive web of equals is Right Action. Not putting value on large status symbols is Right Thinking. Be quietly comfortable; if you are well ahead you should not aspire to enter the ranks of the wealthy but be sharing more.

If you can fight, fight. If illness or age or family or fear keep you from fighting, stand in solidarity and bang your trash can lid.


Judith O’Grady

image1is 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’).