White Purity and ‘Woke’ Nationalism

Social justice obsession with a fundamentalist view of cultural appropriation is a white-knuckled grasp on the dying construct of Whiteness, insisting that symbols and people and cultures are closed, divinely-created systems, and that races and cultures should never be allowed mix.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

Three Tales of Red Laces

1.

The old woman hit my leg with her cane. Hard.

I was strolling through the Turkish market along the Landwehrkanal in Kreuzberg, Berlin a decade ago. My partner and I were holding hands, getting drunk on the smells and sounds of the market. It was summer, everything felt luscious, the mundane world I’d known so far from that moment that the rap on my leg felt almost unreal.

“Ich hoffe das ist nicht nur Quatsch.

I stopped, looked at her. She was old but energetic, flexible enough to bend down and grab my ankle with a strong grip. My German was almost good enough to understand what she’d said, but that didn’t make what she was doing seem any more sensible.

I turned to my boyfriend, panicked and helpless. “What’s going on and why is she grabbing me?”

He looked at me, looked at her, and then shrugged. “She wants to make sure your boot laces aren’t just nonsense.”

I looked at her again, sheepishly. “Nein…” I sputtered. Ich bin…Links.”

The old woman hit my leg with her cane again, releasing my ankle. “Gut,” she barked, smiled, and then told me to tie my boots better.

2.

A few years later, I was back in Berlin again, this time with a different partner. It was Friday night, and we were getting ready to go to a club called Laboratory. For the uninitiated, Laboratory (formerly “Laboratory Faustus”) is a massive club located in the basement of a former coal power plant. The rest of the building houses Berlin’s most famous techno club, Berghain, but…we weren’t going to dance.

Watching me get ready, with a wry smile our host asked me if I needed a different pair of boot laces.

Naive me, so new and innocent in the world (I was 30), shrugged. “Why? Red’s not okay?”

He and my boyfriend both laughed at me. “I did not know you like fisting, but okay.”

“Wait–” I sputtered. “Red laces mean you’re a leftist.”

“Ja, on the street. But not in a sex club,” my German friend answered. “But all I have are yellow, so tonight you will be a piss pig.”

3.

Last week in the bourgeois hipster enclave of Portland, Oregon, in the United States, “activists” recently became outraged at a Dr. Martens advertisement bearing hidden “racist” meanings. The advert in question features a pair of black boots with red&yellow plaid laces.  According to “local anti-hate group activists,” the image of the boots are racist because, as the Southern Poverty Law Center informs us, red laces signify that the person is a fascist who has ‘shed blood’ for whiteness.

It is probably quite fair to say that those activists (or the very small minority of fascists who might wear red laces) don’t have any gay male friends, and have never met a European leftist.

Symbol & Sign

The fact that a basic symbol such as red boot laces can mean multiple things seems rather obvious. In fact, the very nature of a symbol allows it to contain multiple meanings, and those meanings can sometimes operate differently to people simultaneously experiencing the same symbol. A swastika on the foot of the Buddha or in Hopi art likely won’t mean the same thing to a holocaust survivor, for instance.

This isn’t just true of symbols, but also of words. In fact, playing with the tendency of humans to forget that a word can have multiple meanings is the core mechanism of most humor, especially in puns and other forms of word play. So, too, in literature, especially in poetry. In poetry, the various shades of meaning (connotations) of a word are what allows the poet to say much in very little, while the ‘double entendre’ in literature and drama plays specifically off the varying meanings of words, as seen in this line from T. H White’s The Once And Future King:

Gawaine and Gareth took turns with the fat ass, one of them whacking it while the other rode bareback

Most of us tend to grip towards one meaning of a symbol to the exclusion of all others, especially if we have little or no experience with other contexts for it. So unless you’re gay or familiar with gay sex jargon, you might not know that ‘bareback’ means sex without a condom. If you have not read much older literature you might have forgotten that ‘ass’ was a common word for donkey.

Sometimes we have trouble accepting the multiple meanings of a word or symbol. And sometimes, some of us insist that the word or symbol only has one meaning. This insistence, that a symbol only has one “true” meaning, is one of the core mechanisms of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States. It started with the command that the words of the Bible must be taken literally, rather than opened to dangerous ‘liberal’ interpretation. So when the authors of Genesis (God Himself, supposedly) stated that the world was created in six days, that’s literally what happened.

So it’s then quite amusing that ‘literally’ does not just mean ‘literal,’ but it also now means ‘figurative.’ I had the opportunity to witness an angry exchange by actual (literal!) fascists about a dictionary’s inclusion of that opposite definition (those are called ‘contranyms,’ by the way). “Cultural Marxists are ruining English,” one said. “They want to make women and men into their opposites and do the same for words.”

I interjected with a handful of older contranyms they’d probably forgotten:

I hope we can all literally weather the attempts of cultural marxists to literally weather away the meaning of our words. They’re literally cleaving the meaning from the words, when we know they should literally cleave together. They’re using these tactics as a literal screen for their attempts to literally screen out any of us who know that words only have one meaning.

Unfortunately, this sort of fundamentalist thinking about words and symbols is not limited to Christians or the far right. In fact, it has become one of the core doctrines in a lot of liberal ‘social justice’ thought, and not just when it comes to red boot laces.

Cultural Property

To see this, let’s look at the term “cultural appropriation.” In its most common social justice usage, it’s come to mean theft (usually by white people) of indigenous, Black, or foreign spiritual or cultural forms. Having dreadlocks, native headdresses (like war bonnets), or calling yourself a shaman while also being white are all examples of its popular meaning, and in some cases eating ‘non-white’ food or becoming part of a ‘non-white’ religious tradition are also considered cultural appropriation.

The term cultural appropriation didn’t originally mean this, however, and only began to mean what it does now because of the explosion of internet social justice culture.

To uncover the original meaning, we need only to look at the word ‘appropriation.’ To appropriate something is literally to turn it into property somehow, and also to prevent others from using it. So, for example, when a government or a corporation takes common land or resources away from the public and makes it their own, they’ve appropriated it. Or when a museum takes indigenous cultural artifacts away from the people (including skeletons) and puts them in a museum, they’ve appropriated those cultural items.

Interestingly, when the term cultural appropriation was first used, it referred to something completely different: the way that poor and oppressed peoples took from the dominant culture in order to create vibrant subcultures. As Shuja Haidar explains:

It may come as some surprise on both sides of the battlefield, but the Left has not always understood “cultural appropriation” as a form of oppression. This connotation of the term has become ubiquitous in today’s social media-driven political climate. But when it first came into use, “cultural appropriation” denoted very nearly the opposite of its contemporary meaning.

The idea preceded the term, as a product of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. For thinkers like Stuart Hall, cultural appropriation described the way subcultures were created… But the precedents ran deeper. Indian food in England, Negro spirituals in America, bathhouses in 19th-century France — these were all contexts in which members of what we might now call “marginalized groups” used elements of a dominant culture in altered forms, generating their own communities that could hide in plain sight.

Without understanding or even acknowledging the other meanings of cultural appropriation (and specifically the word appropriation), all the arguments about what is ‘appropriative’ become fundamentalist. Basically, a white person doing, saying, wearing, eating, or believing anything that could be said to have belonged to peoples and cultures who are not white is cultural appropriation.

This might be the dominant way of understanding cultural appropriation, but it isn’t the only way. The term itself contains the key to a larger concept, that of turning things into property. When a corporation sells native headdresses, dream catchers, or African-indigenous art, they have turned cultural and spiritual forms into products for profit. This is the very same thing the capitalists do to land and natural resources like water or trees. When a person tries to sell people spiritual teachings or services that aren’t actually sold by the cultures that came up with them, they’ve turned something available for free into something you must pay for.

Similarly, most people who use the term ‘cultural appropriation’ are likewise unfamiliar with the meaning of the word ‘appropriation’ outside of American social justice jargon. It’s a great shame, because just like the social justice activists who saw the Dr. Marten advertisement and screamed ‘racist,’ without knowing that appropriation has a much larger meaning they fall into fundamentalist thinking. They miss out on a crucial understanding of what the entire term meant when it was first employed, as well as lacking the knowledge to understand precisely what is happening in cultural appropriation.

When a cultural or spiritual form is appropriated, it is literally turned into property. A company that sells native head-dresses has turned a cultural tradition into a product that can be bought and sold. The war bonnet in its original cultural context was not something that was bought and sold–it was made for specific purposes, gifted by the community to someone. Appropriating it, then, is turning something that was never a product into a product to be sold for a capitalists’s benefit.

So when the term cultural appropriation is used to refer to people who are not of African descent who have dreadlocks, or people who are not of Indian descent who revere Hindu deities, the original meaning of cultural appropriation is completely lost. There is no property involved in those examples: no one actually owns gods or hairstyles, at least until the capitalists find a way to steal them and sell them back to us.

White Purity & Woke Nationalism

So why do social justice activists insist that white people shouldn’t adopt the cultural and spiritual forms of people who are not white?

In some cases, there is a more complicated injustice as play. Take the example of dreadlocks. In the United States, Blacks were (and often still are) severely oppressed for wearing them. So whites to wear them in a culture that calls Blacks who wear them ‘dirty’ is absolutely obnoxious, and can seem cruel (even if whites who wear them have never discriminated against Blacks with dreads).

This same obnoxious turn occurs elsewhere. For instance, in many cities and towns within the United States, laws were passed in the last century forbidding gardens and urban farming. These laws specifically targeted immigrants who raised their own food in their yards, and made it very difficult for them to survive. In many of those exact same places, it has been white middle-class people (particularly women) who have gotten those laws overturned so that they can have urban chicken coops and gardens of their own.

Some have called that second example cultural appropriation. Similar to this, some social justice activists have stated that white people shouldn’t eat collard greens because they are traditional African-American food (though they were actually introduced to them by the British, who got them from the Greeks). And here’s where we can start to understand what is really wrong with the social justice view of culture appropriation: it’s white separatism.

In a podcast with Alkistic Dimech and Peter Grey, Gordon White used the term “Woke Nationalism” to describe this particular kind of purity politics. “It’s the ‘nothing on the plate can touch’ idea” he said, adding that it was not much different from white nationalism.

He’s right. White Nationalists build their fascist ideology around notions of purity and separation. Whites and Blacks should never mix, never love each other (and definitely never have children together). Whites must be kept separated from other bloodlines and other cultures, must keep their culture distinct and pure. Whites must not do non-white things, adopt non-white customs or modes of dress or beliefs.

This is unfortunately the same logic of the social justice fundamentalist view of cultural appropriation. But while a White Nationalist claims that doing non-white things is tainting the race, the social justice activist claims that doing non-white things is theft. The end result is the same: a pure, untainted, culturally-distinct white race. White Nationalism and Woke Nationalism want the same thing, just for different reasons.

When they look to cultural forms and ethnic groups with a fundamentalist perspective, social justice activists repeat the same racism of white nationalists. Whites must only do ‘white’ things, whether that is the fascist desire to purify the white race or the liberal command to avoid ‘cultural appropriation.’ Social justice obsession with white purity becomes indeed a sort of ‘woke’ nationalism, a white-knuckled grasp on the dying construct of Whiteness, insisting that symbols and people and cultures are closed, divinely-created systems, and that races and cultures should never be allowed mix.

Both make the same two mistakes: there is no such thing as a white race, and cultures have never been pure.

Ending the White Race

Whiteness isn’t actually a tribal or cultural form (no one was “white” 500 years ago) and thus there is no such thing as ‘white ancestry.’ Caucasian isn’t a tribal or cultural term either–it was invented by a race theorist at the end of the 18th century.

Whiteness is a very recent idea, and comes from the complete erasure of ancestral and cultural histories. To be ‘white’ is to no longer have a cultural history; in order to become fully white, European immigrants (especially from places still not fully considered white in Europe, like Ireland, Poland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) needed to forsake their specific cultural and ethnic backgrounds. By doing so, they gained access to white skin-privilege in the United States and Canada and became assimilated into ‘whiteness.’ All their history, their beliefs, traditions, modes of dress and food and their languages were bleached out of them, but in return they gained a new settler-colonial identity which granted them a little more access to wealth and security.

We need to go a little farther here, though, because there is actually no such thing as ‘ancestrally-French’ or ‘ancestrally-German.’ Neither of those places actually existed three hundred years ago. Instead, one might have been ancestrally-Breton or ancestrally-Bavarian. Go back a little further and those ancestral connections existed on the level of village or countryside, not ethnic people-groups.

Even more fascinating, however, is that there were no pure or pristine cultures back then, either.

People moved, and moved a lot. They traded, they inter-married, their cultural and religious forms becoming mixed in precisely the way that terrifies both social justice activists and white nationalists. Vikings “culturally appropriated” by making clothing with Islamic verse on them. Celts “culturally appropriated” Egyptian and Greek deities in what is now London, 2000 years ago. Sephardic Jews and Moorish Muslims and Iberian pagans mixed their cultures and languages fluidly in Al Andalus. Semitic Phoenicians traded as far up to Cornwall, littering the Atlantic coasts of Europe with their artifacts.

Cultural exchange is not only an ancient thing, but it is unavoidable. When peoples come into contact with each other, they trade, they talk, they borrow, they teach and mimic each other. Likewise, racial purity is impossible–people have an odd tendency to want to sleep with each other, regardless of where they’re from.

That both social justice activists and white nationalists have trouble understanding this comes from the very same mechanism by which social justice activists saw red boot laces on an advertisement and screamed ‘racism.’  Both are certain that ‘whiteness’ means something, and both insist that whites cannot be anything else but what they’ve decided they are.

To get out of this mess isn’t easy, but it’s possible.

First, we must release our fundamentalist death grip on symbols and meaning, and especially our white-knuckled grasp on ‘whiteness.’ To do so, we’ll need to look at our past with a different perspective, rejecting the fundamentalist narratives of both white nationalism and ‘woke’ nationalism.

Because though whites have lost their ancestral connection, European spiritual and cultural forms didn’t just disappear because Americans forgot them. Here where I now live in Bretagne, spiritual and magical traditions still exist–there’s no need for anyone here to hire a plastic shaman or join an online witch course to learn about Ankou, the Korrigan, or any of the other spirits and gods of their land–they can just ask their grandparents. The same is true in many parts of Europe, especially in non-urban areas.

Reconnecting to cultural and ancestral traditions will require giving up something, though. Because whiteness is not just built upon the erasure of ethnic and cultural history, but also upon the lie that whites are enlightened, progressive, and ‘modern’ while all the rest of the world (now and in the past) was primitive, unenlightened, superstitious, and stupid.

Here, again, liberal social justice ideas actually get in the way of dismantling whiteness by painting the current regime of rights and technology as more enlightened than anything that existed before. Whiteness itself is founded upon this idea, the certainty that we know the true meaning of things. That the order of the world that came about with whiteness is the best one, that all other ways of being are wrong. In this way, even people who are not white but who hold on to this lie are making sure whiteness never ends.

And finally, we must talk about cultural appropriation in a way that actually fights those who are turning what belongs to everyone into property. The pharmaceutical companies and petty capitalists that patent ancient medicines, the universities that steal indigenous artifacts for ‘research,’ the media conglomerates who sell us fictive versions of our own history, all the plastic shamans and spiritual teachers who sell us knowledge that was once free, and anyone who would try to police our cultural, spiritual, and social expressions, be they white nationalists or ‘woke’ nationalists–they are the ones stealing meaning from the world.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He’s a poet, writer, theorist, and nomad currently living in occupied Bretagne. Find his primary blog here, his Facebook here, or support him on Patreon here.


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Cultural Appropriation, Nuance, and ‘Day of the Dead’

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The primary reason that white people, especially white Americans, appropriate from marginalized traditions is because they’ve been stripped of their own. And if we want white Americans to stop doing that, the best remedy is to encourage them to respectfully and carefully learn about and reclaim their own ancestral traditions.

From Alley Valkyrie

I spend a lot of time reading right-wing critiques of leftist tendencies and behavior. I do this not so much because I’m a masochist, but for many practical reasons. Part of it is the old ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ adage, especially in terms of what they’re discussing and thinking as it pertains to me and my kin. But more so, underneath the inevitable layers of distortion and exaggeration and hyperbole, there is almost always a kernel of truth in the critique. Very often that kernel of truth concerns a crucial point of error in the thinking or actions of those on the Left. And that error in thinking is so often related to points of nuance….or lack thereof.

The Left’s lack of attention to nuance only validates and strengthens the critiques of the Right.

Let me say that again for the kids in the back: it greatly strengthens their arguments, and as a result greatly strengthens their base. And in case you’ve been asleep for the past few years, their base is already quite strong, ever growing, and rather terrifying.

One of the best examples of this is the subject of cultural appropriation. Let me make the following clear at the onset: cultural appropriation is an actual problem, one incredibly damaging to marginalized peoples and cultures. That is not up for debate, nor would I ever try to debate it. And the general position of the right-wing (and sadly, far too many liberals as well) is that any and all complaints of cultural appropriation are nothing more than the overly-PC whining of “snowflakes”. Which is false. Absolutely false.

However, one of the things that has led the Right to such a conclusion is a very real, very specific, and very damaging behavioral tendency coming from the social justice-oriented Left. It comes more often than not from white people who aren’t actually part of the marginalized groups they are claiming to defend, acting from a sort of ‘purity politics’ as opposed to having an actual stake in the issue. These folks are quick to label pretty much anything as cultural appropriation, often without any historical understanding of what they are calling out and absolutely without any attention paid to detail or nuance.

I witnessed an epidemic of this behavior over the past month, in the form of online discussion going back and forth– almost solely by white people in the United States–regarding Day of the Dead and cultural appropriation. There was a dizzying number of personal posts, shared articles, and “community call-outs” warning all people of European descent to “stay in their lane” regarding “Day of the Dead,” lecturing them on how any attempts to celebrate such a holiday was an act of cultural appropriation that was harmful to Latin American people.

This is the perfect example of where the right-wing is actually quite accurate in their critiques. Such proclamations, especially without any real citations or historical backup, are nothing more than moral righteousness gone awry. They also double as erasure when it comes to the actual history of such celebrations.


When it comes to those of European descent, Americans in general are a people that lack ancestral or cultural ties. The loss of culture that comes with assimilation in the United States is not just a product of isolationism and exceptionalism, it’s also very much a product of our Protestant roots. Related to this is the fact that Catholicism was historically a minority religion in the United States that was often repressed, attacked, and subjected to widespread discrimination, especially prior to WWII.

Protestantism and Catholicism, while both acting in similarly hegemonic manners, with similar goals in terms of domination of thought, belief, and behavior, operate quite differently in their means towards that end. Catholicism has exerted and spread its power by adopting the crucial cultural elements of any given culture that it overtakes, rewriting and re-inscribing those elements into its own narrative. This accounts for why holidays like Christmas and Easter are chock full of pagan symbolism, for why the Romans built temples to Egyptian gods in Germany during the later years of the Roman Empire, and why practically any given ancient church or basilica in Europe was built right on top of a former Pagan sacred site. The Catholic strategy has predominantly been to annex indigenous traditions, and historically speaking it has been a very successful strategy.

Protestantism has often taken a different strategy, one most clearly seen in the birth, growth, and development of what we now call America. Instead of adopting the cultural elements of those they subjugated into their own narrative, Protestantism demanded an abandonment of those elements. It demanded that one forsake their own cultural traditions and assimilate into Protestant culture. This may not have been so painful for those Americans whose ancestors came from Protestant cultures, but for those whose ancestors came from Catholic cultures, it was a great loss. Countless celebrations, rituals, and folk traditions which are still practiced widely in Europe today are mostly lost to Americans whose ancestors came from those very countries and cultures where they are still practiced.

And of course, given how much Protestantism and Capitalism are and have always been close and convenient bedfellows in the United States, Capitalism has always been able to fill the void left by the abandonment of non-Protestant ancestral cultures. This is the primary reason why Halloween is not only considered by the rest of the world to be an American holiday, but within America it is arguably the most popular in terms of mass participation and cultural buy-in.

Despite a small but vocal group of fundamentalist Christians who argue otherwise, Halloween is the most part a secular holiday, one embraced by immigrants and American-born folks alike. It is for the most part focused on fun and consumerism, so much so that the majority of the population fails to recognize the way it acts as a substitute for what, in most cultures of Catholic origin, is a rather somber and reverent time of year, one in which remembrance and worship of the dead is the primary focus.


This takes me back to my point regarding the misguided claims of cultural appropriation. “Dìa de los Muertos” and the much larger concept of “Day of the Dead” are not the same thing. The former is specifically the form that the latter takes in Latin American countries. The latter is a tradition that both historically and currently is recognized across the Catholic world, both amongst colonized people as well as those who have historically been colonizers.

And yes, there are many problematic aspects when it comes to white Americans celebrating the former, especially the way it has been fetishized and commodified. Absolutely no argument there from me: as I said above, I would never argue that cultural appropriation is not a real issue that results in tangible harm. But extending that to referencing “Day of the Dead” as being something that white Americans should not touch is extremely misguided, especially because a significant amount of white Americans come from ancestral backgrounds in which Day of the Dead was and still is widely celebrated.

November 1 in France is what is known as “Toussaint”, or All Saints’ Day. Most businesses are closed. Most people have the day off. Church services on this day are as detailed as they are on Christmas or Easter. Florists work double-time all week to satisfy the number of orders of flowers that people take to the graveyard that day. Beyond the specific aesthetics and traditions that define Dìa de los Muertos, what’s going on in France here today looks rather similar to the former in terms of tradition and ritual.

Why, you ask? Because they have the same origin.

And the same can be seen over the course of the same week in Italy, in Spain, in Ireland, in Portugal, as well as other countries with strong ties to Catholicism. Because Day of the Dead as a whole is a Catholic tradition, one that was mostly lost to the descendants of Catholic immigrants to the United States due to the US being a country and culture conceived in Protestantism, a country which demanded assimilation into a Protestant aesthetic in exchange for the benefits of the ‘American Dream’.

Mind you, it’s important to recognize that the true origins of traditions such as Day of the Dead pre-date Catholicism and have pagan origins. That’s another reason why they are so insistently eschewed and suppressed by Protestants: because the Protestants recognize those origins full well and consider them (as well as so many other aspects of Catholicism) to be evil and “Satanic”.

And while in terms of pre-Christian traditions regarding the dead, “Samhain” is by far the most well-known (and therefore adopted into the majority of modern Pagan traditions), the traditions that currently take place in the aforementioned European countries not only are linked by Catholicism, they are similarly linked in regards to their pre-Christian origins.


When I read and hear this constant righteous lecturing on how and why white people have no business participating in Day of the Dead rituals, I also can’t help but to think back to the three weeks I spent in Mexico in 2010. I was there from mid-October to early November, over the course of the Dìa de los Muertos celebrations. And being a culturally-aware, social justice-oriented type who was always very careful to not engage in cultural appropriation and who wanted to “stay in my lane,” I decided at the onset to adopt the position of an observer throughout the various celebrations and rituals that were taking place.

But every single time that I stood back and chose to watch rather than participate, I was met with looks and gestures that ranged from confusion to hurt feelings. And every single time one of the locals encouraged me to step up and participate and would explain in detail what was occurring and why, as they were always under the impression that I was standing back due to lack of knowledge, as opposed to the fear and/or belief that to do so was inappropriate for a white person. Every single time, it was made very clear to me that not only was I welcome to engage in the ongoings, but that they actively wanted me to do so, that they considered it a matter of hospitality to make sure that I was actively engaged. Not only that, but a few people confided in me that in general, although they knew it was not my intention, it was considered rude not to participate.

And while I’m very aware that there’s a difference between being invited to participate in cultural rituals that are not your own and commodifying and fetishizing said rituals, whenever I see the most extreme versions of “white people cannot do this no matter what,” all I can think of were the reactions of my hosts when I chose to step back.

The bottom line is this: aside from the capitalist influence, which obviously is huge, the primary reason that white people, especially white Americans, appropriate from marginalized traditions is because they’ve been stripped of their own. And if we want white Americans to stop doing that, the best remedy is to encourage them to respectfully and carefully learn about and reclaim their own ancestral traditions. We can’t have it both ways. American identity is in part defined by a cultural hole, one which the shallow creations of capitalism simply cannot adequately fill. And so those who recognize that loss will try to fill it.

And they will likely try to fill it with what is easiest for them to access, which is why erasing the history behind celebrations like Day of the Dead and framing it as though it is solely a Latin American tradition that white people should not touch is a disservice to everyone affected. It does very little to stem the tide of cultural appropriation, it erases the history of Day of the Dead as it pertains to European ethnic groups, and the lack of nuance in such arguments only feeds and adds to the legitimacy of right-wing criticisms.

And so I repeat, once more: specificity and nuance are so fucking important when we criticize and/or judge and/or discuss issues such as cultural appropriation. If you’re going to call something or someone out, do your homework. Know your history. And for the love of the gods, stop sharing un-cited, prescriptive social justice articles that lecture people on what they should and should not do.


Alley Valkyrie

Alley Valkyrie is an writer, artist, and spirit worker currently living in Rennes, France. She is one of the co-founders of Gods&Radicals and has been interacting with a wide assortment of both gods and radicals for nearly twenty years now. When she’s not talking to rivers and cats or ranting about capitalism, she is usually engaged in a variety of other projects. She can also be supported on Patreon.


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Capitalism: The Religion?

“A corporation doesn’t need to convert anyone to destroy a person’s spirituality, it only needs to hollow out your spirituality and then sell you back the rotten guts.”


The idea of Capitalism as a religion is nothing new, though recently I heard the sentiment once again expressed. We here at the Patæconomical Institute for Sociological Study do not, cannot, shy away from ideas such as this, and a thorough study followed. Well, a study followed. Much of mundane economics is, as related by the character Shevek in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, “like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream.”

So, a study was undertaken. But no ordinary study, a Patæconomical study, in which we look at Capitalism, in all of its glory, without the human. What we found may astound you. Or it may stound you. It depends on how stoundable you are, I guess.

What exactly defines religion? That is a question which has had many a theologist, sociologist, philosopher, anthropologist, and various other forms of gist, er, and izer up late writing, arguing, and hand wringing over. The almighty G (Google not GOD, not yet at least) is helpfully unhelpful in giving no less than three definitions.

Religion: noun — The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

That seems fair, but also seems limited in scope by the preconceived notions of Abrahamic religions, or at least Mediterranean religions.

Religion: noun — a particular system of faith and worship

This is frustratingly vague.

Religion: noun — a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance. Example: “consumerism is the new religion”

Oh my! That is frustratingly vague as well, despite the confirmation bias baiting example. Almost as if Google knows what I’m writing about…

But anyway, since I am only seeking to establish a common meaning to a word, and not sell anyone on any meaning, I’ll say that when we discuss religion in the Patæconomical sense, we mean to say:

A system of activity, which someone ascribes both belief and importance, which may or may not involve some notion of power or Gods or truth.

Still frustratingly vague, but at least we crammed all that crap into one sentence!

Capitalism certainly seems to have features of a religion, but who actually writes down their religion as “Capitalism” on a census form? I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess vanishingly few, if any. Who then is Capitalism a religion for? Would you believe that it is a religion, but not a religion practiced by humans? If you had read my other article, “What is Patæconomics?” you may have guessed where this is going.

Since Patæconomics is the study of economics minus the human, a study of Capitalism minus the human would have to be the study of a religion of those non-humans. The measuring stick we will use to gauge the effects of the practice of that religion will be the gaping whole left over from our removal of the human to study these matters. The human element therefore remains invisibly visible. Or visibly invisible?

According to Marx, Capitalism gets over the crises of over-production by enforced mass destruction of creative forces, or by conquering new markets (or more creatively exploiting old markets). Joseph Schumpeter later elaborated the concept and made it central to his concept of “creative destruction”, the foundation of his economic theory which became the “Austrian School” of free-market thought.

aslyu4lksuu-matheus-ferrero

Patæconomicly, it is not enough simply to point out the self-destructive nature of Capitalism, and either admire/condemn or admire/admire the creative destruction of Capitalism as Marx and Schumpeter do, respectively. We must look to the Patæconomic reason for this, not in the context of dialectical materialism or free market thought, but as the activity of a religion made to serve the vampire spirits we know as corporations. Certainly, this activity of destruction or new market conquering allows for a glut of money (crystalized time, or blood if you like).

It is not enough that corporations exact a certain amount of loyalty from their employee/consumers. The engagement from the humans that corporations feed from must be total. The war is then against all non-human entities that could possibly distract from (or allow for escape from) the employee-consumer lifestyle. Do not mistake things like television or movies for such distractions or escape. That type of escapism is actually part of the employee-consumer lifestyle. On rare occasions, you may actually get a piece of Art snuck in there, but the damage is minimal and already accounted for.

religion-pullWhat I then mean as escape or distraction is contact with the spiritual (or otherworld, or astral, whatever you prefer to call it). A human being who has had a genuine encounter with spirit, if not immediately freed of his gilded cage, is well on the way to picking the lock. This is why virgin forests are cut down even though recycling and forest farms are things that exist. This is why pipelines that can be easily diverted from sacred sites are instead planned right through the area.

It is also why spirituality is being carved up and sold wholesale. Every human, unless they are dead inside, has this yearning to contact the spiritual. Understanding this, Capitalism aims not only to cut off this avenue of escape, but in true corporate fashion, to use it to its advantage. By selling spiritual knock offs cheap and easy, it both cuts humanity off from spirituality and distracts with something that seems spiritual, but only feeds our diminished ego in the same way every other product produced by a corporation does. The search for spirituality that is conducted under the auspices of consumerism is the never ending search for peak experiences that add to the ego’s relenteless self-fellating narrative. The new territory, the new market, that the true servants of Capitalism the Religion mean to conquer, is the spiritual. And the battle is and has been well underway.

nephrite-jade-yoni-egg-670x670

In these periods of market demolition or expansion, the powerless are always the first to suffer. You’ve seen the first blows of this war already delivered. One manifestation of spiritual consumerism is known well enough as “cultural appropriation.” But, being as many radicals are staunch materialists, they take the apparent at face value, and only see this on the spectrum of race relations. And though “cultural appropriation” does have that element to it, it at the same time exists in the context of spiritual consumerism.

religion-pullSpiritual consumerism is not only a threat to minorities, it endangers everyone. Even if you manage 100% to avoid willfully engaging in cultural appropriation, you may have fallen victim to spiritual consumerism. Cultural appropriation by dint of it being a matter of race is bad enough. But cultural appropriation does not just hurt those whose culture is stolen, shredded, and sold to the spiritually hungry. Those who partake of the spiritual that has been profaned in such a manner also suffer a grievous blow.

Yes, to engage in cultural appropriation, or any other form of spiritual consumerism, is to engage in self-harm! To become poisoned, one need only eat poison! When things of the spirit world: songs, dances, rites, prayers, etc. are turned into consumer goods (or outright stolen by the spiritually hungry), something private, personal and spiritual is turned into something material, mass produced, and very public. Not public in the manner that some personal interaction with a public rite is public, and yet also very personal, but public in the ego feeding Facebook way.

Public in a way that feeds the narcissism and disconnection required to perpetuate the employee/consumer lifestyle, “Oh, look at all the pictures of me at the crystal chakra alignment and sweat lodge spirit animal quest workshop that I went to! It only cost me 999.99 USD, and I got this cool medicine pouch with an AUTHENTIC amethyst! LOOK AT ME AND HOW SPIRITUAL I AM!public like that.

The confusion and argument over cultural appropriation, what it exactly is and where one draws the line, is then understandable. It was not being analyzed by those who are conscious of the spiritual, nor was it being examined in this larger context. It was a topic of examination and discussion for intellectuals analyzing and experiencing it third hand. But spiritual consumerism doesn’t stop with cultural appropriation and may even come in forms not readily identifiable in their outward appearance.

The most powerful shamans of Australia’s aboriginal tribes are initiated by the spirits of the dream time themselves. The spirits will put him to sleep, and perform a surgery on him, in which their old organs are removed, and new organs, as well as stones that convey power unto the shaman, are implanted. The shaman is then lead back to his people, and after a few days of light craziness, will begin training with other shamans. The use of objects implanted or worn to convey power of some kind exist the world over, and is a feature of many of mankind’s encounters with the spiritual.

 

Gwyneth Paltrow wants you to put jade eggs in your pussy. Assuming of course you have one. If you are not fortunate enough to have a pussy, and instead have your gonads on the outside, do not worry! I’m sure there is soon to be a jade cock ring coming your way. Anyway, according to GP’s website GOOP,

Yoni eggs, once the strictly guarded secret of Chinese concubines and royalty in antiquity, harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice. Jade eggs’ power to cleanse and clear make them ideal for detox, too.

“This particular jade, nephrite jade, has incredible clearing, cleansing powers,” says Shiva Rose; “It’s a dark, deep green and heavy — it’s a great stone for taking away negativity — and it’s definitely the one to start with.”

yoy-crash-courseNow, I am no one to tell you that you can’t put things in your pussy. You can do what you want. But you don’t have to pay 66.00 USD for the experience (Eris why not 666.00 USD for fucks sake!?). Also there’s a risk of toxic shock and infections, but like I said, you’re an adult, you do what you want. But if you are going to risk infection and death, at least don’t pay some corporate vampire for the privilege.

Kale chips taste like punishment. In fact, there is a lot of food out there nowadays that my wife categorizes as “punishment food.” Eating it tastes like punishment. The eating of food otherwise avoided is nothing new. The Jewish people eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as a remembrance. Certain Tibetan rituals involve long life pills that, I can tell you, don’t taste great. Some religions have observance through the avoidance of food. The idea of food connecting you to the spiritual, either by ingestion or avoidance, is as old as religion itself.

It is this connection to the idea of food = spirit, or food = purity, et cetera that give health (punishment) food and crash diets (punishment fast) their appeal and continued commercial success. One need only examine the terminology used in speaking of diets or health food or “unhealthy” food to see this connection at work. What was once a spiritual ideal, that one ate certain things or avoided eating certain things to embody, is now the ideal of the “perfect body”, as defined by the current consumer fad (but usually always some variation of skinny/muscular).

Of course this is part of the war of conquest of the spiritual being waged. To fear something used the world over, by every culture, to connect us to the spiritual, as a way to alienate us from the spiritual, and our food, and our own bodies, is a fell blow.

I could go on at length in all the ways that the human need to connect with the spiritual is exploited, turned against itself by the faithful of Capitalism. I shouldn’t have to. Now that I’ve told you about it, you’ll start seeing it more and more. Corporations instinctively know that the jig is up if you connect with the spiritual, and have been actively waging a holy war on spirituality, at behest of their god, for as long as corporations have existed.

Even the word, “spirituality,” is now so tainted that it sets eyes rolling when someone uses it as an adjective or description for themselves. A corporation doesn’t need to convert anyone to destroy a person’s spirituality, it only needs to hollow out your spirituality and then sell you back the rotten guts. As radicals, revolutionaries, and as people of the spirit, it is time for us to take back what is rightfully ours.

Some of you already have, some of you are on the way, and for those of you newly awakened who now see this threat for what it is, your fight starts now! The Invisible hand of Adam Smith, the fell god of these vampires, is at your throat! Fight damn you! Fight!


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.


Check out our books, including Christopher Scott Thompson’s latest, Pagan Anarchism.

We Need To Talk

Dearest pagan community, we need to have a conversation about cultural appropriation. I know; I can already imagine the sighs and the eye-rolls. “This again?” you may grumble. However in the interest of intersectional witchcraft, it’s a very damn important conversation, and one that I do not think is had enough in our circles.

Recently I got into an argument with a friend of mine in the community who posted a link to this Upworthy article about cultural appropriation on her Facebook feed and asked for our opinions about it. The summation of the article and video is that cultural appropriation is okay if your intention is good.

Um, what?

I screenshot the responses, but I’m not going to include them because they were terrible. Most of the respondents jumped on what I like to call the “anti-PC brigade” in which the excuse for whatever behavior someone is calling out is that people (specifically minorities) are being too sensitive about issues of oppression. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one! See the 7 Myths video (listed at the end of this piece).

Someone shared that they thought goth culture was being appropriated, something which while I can see how they would believe that, is not the same as ethnic or religious minorities having their sacred symbols stolen, commodified and de-contextualized.

Another person started talking about how the Irish were enslaved (another popular response) and I’m still not sure what that had to do with the conversation, other than an attempt at trying to say that Saint Patrick’s Day is an example of how cultures blend. It was a mess.

Anyway, attempted to call out my friend and was met with dismissal, tone-policing and personal attacks. I wish I could say that was new for me. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

Here’s the thing: cultural appropriation is wrong. I’ve heard every argument from “isn’t everything appropriated from something else” to “but I’m just appreciating the culture”. They’re all wrong.

I’m not going get into the details and nuances of why it is wrong; there are TONS of articles, videos and personal accounts as to why this is an oppressive behavior. It’s not up to minorities to educate you, please look them up yourself.
I will try to explain this once as simply as I can, because I want to go into what cultural appropriation means for our communities and why cultural appropriation is something radical pagans should stand against and call out.

What is it?

I like this definition best:

“Cultural appropriation is the process by which a member of a dominant culture takes or uses (appropriates) aspects of another culture (often a colonised culture) without that culture’s permission and/or without any understanding of the deeper cultural meanings behind the appropriated item.” (source)

Cultural appropriation is, at its core, about power. When one group has structural power over another and takes aspects, symbols or objects of a marginalized group without permission and erases the meaning behind them, something is lost or destroyed in the process. In a capitalist framework, the appropriated items may also be commodified as they are de-contextualized and sold for profit. It’s perverted, oppressive and wrong. Cecil Joy Willowe calls cultural appropriation:

“the power to steal, misrepresent, and/or corrupt cultural items from an oppressed cultural group.” (Bringing Race to the Table, pp. 68)

Some of the most popular examples of cultural appropriation include the bindi and the Native American (Plains) headdress or war bonnet. From my own culture I would also include the hamsa or Hand of Miriam/Fatima as a currently popular appropriated item.

Why is this important to discuss in Pagan communities?

In many ways, we are microcosms of the larger majority culture. For the purposes of this discussion I’m only going to talk about the context I know which is that of pagan communities in the United States, so when I refer to the majority culture I’m talking about the White Supremacist Capitalist Hetero-patriarchy in the United States. Due to a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in pagan communities, cultural appropriation is especially problematic.

It seems like everybody wants to be a shaman! Does anyone even know where the word comes from? Janet Callahan (Oglala Sioux) elaborates:

“The word shaman is particular to the Evenk and Buryat peoples of Siberia. Their practices are decidedly different than the practices of the tribes of North America. And yet, the same word was used by anthropologists to describe the spiritual leaders of Native Americans. This does a disservice to both the native Siberians and the Native Americans, all because English didn’t have good words to talk about this sort of thing. In either case, these spiritual folks were part of their community, and the community recognize them for their skills and gifts. Now there are Pagans using that word to describe their own practices with no links to any of the original cultures is involved.” (Bringing Race to the Table, pp. 44)

Anecdotally at a variety of pagan events I’ve seen White folks with dreadlocs, wearing bindis, mistakenly blending the imagery of Día de Muertos and Halloween, appropriating the word “g*psy”, and generally using sacred imagery from cultures that they do not understand. Another common practice I witness is White folks taking names that sound Native American or claiming Native ancestry to give them some sort of spiritual street cred. Not cool!

As a person of color I find this makes me uncomfortable and at times I find it highly egregious. When culture is appropriated, it is disfigured and stolen. In a way, the people who it comes from are erased. When cultural erasure happens, we lose something valuable. In the interest of intersectionality, I say again that pagan communities should not be a party to this!

Fortunately the conversation is starting. Many pagans have begun to write about cultural appropriation. Luminaries of our circles including Sable Aradia, Lupa Greenwolf and Crystal Blanton, among others, have all written excellent responses to cultural appropriation in pagan communities (please see the resources section at the end of the essay).

So what are our options? Let’s vision a little bit. How about true cultural exchange and cultural appreciation? I envision pagan communities alive with a plethora of people in all shapes, sizes, colors, of all sexualities, genders and abilities. I envision class lines dissolving. I envision respect for indigenous peoples of the lands we occupy. I envision a place for all people at the table and in the circle. Thank you for listening.

In solidarity and love, S.

Resources


Simcha Bensefis

DSCN3620Simcha is a rad non-binary QPOC brujx, community activist & voodoo devotee living on occupied Kalapuya & Chinook territory. By day they work in community mental health & by night they can be found spinning in circles & dreaming of faraway desert lands.

 

Culture is a Package Deal

As a biologist, I am very aware of how systems which seem to be one being are actually a lot of beings clubbing together (like sponges) and beings that seem to be a lot of unconnected beings are actually one system (like termites).

Humans like to think of themselves as single beings, but that is not only anthropocentric but also just plain wrong. We could not digest food without our gut bacteria, for example, but we prefer not to think of ourselves merely as a life-support system for their comfort. Even more telling, no living beings at all would exist without mitochondria (google it up, they are way cool).

Mitochondria live as individual beings in all of our cells and we, comprised of these many beings, consider ourselves as a single living being and self-aware. Obviously, we are imperfectly self-aware since we can communicate with neither our gut bacteria nor our mitochondria. But this concept forms a template that we can apply in a different way.

What if we are the mitochondria and the Earth Herself is the Living Being that is also a system? She, unlike ourselves and our bacteria, parasites, and organelles, is truly Self-aware and can communicate with her many parts, as well as those Spirits of Place or Events who have come to live here on the Earth.

This is a recognized biological theory, the Gaia hypothesis, named after the Greek Goddess. Biology shies away from identifying a Being as a Goddess even when using divine names, but the theory inescapably defines the Earth Organism as powerful and directed. As a believer as well as a biologist, I add wise as an attribute.

If we look at what Earth has done in Her physical manifestation and try to draw conclusions about Her intentions, it seems that She has acted to create life on Herself. By actions too numerous to discuss at length: the properties of water, the amount and salinity of the oceans, the action of amino acid chains, global forestation and plankton, the interaction between carbon dioxide and oxygen– She has fostered the occurrence of life. Clearly, She feels quite differently about being covered with living things than we feel about our eyelash mites. I think that She loves life. In the largest and most inclusive sense, She is our First Ancestor since it is from Her seas we evolved and on Her body we live. Step back into space and look at the pretty blue ball– we are not just connected to Earth’s myriad forms through association and choice but inextricably and transcendentally a part of the one organism.

However, apart from the evolutionary motherhood of Hertha, we have another ancient maternal ancestor. I mentioned mitochondria, those lovable and delightful organelles.
Mitochondria,_mammalian_lung_-_TEMThe theory is that when the first cell walled itself off from the rest of the lively soup that was, at the time, the world’s seas that some of the bits (scientifically called organelles) that providentially became part of the cell were mitochondria. Luckily for us, mitochondria dispense energy as their waste product and thus assist us (and all other living things) in being alive. This accidental-inclusion theory is suggested and supported by the fact that mitochondria, while part of every cell, are clearly unrelated to us and have quite different DNA than ourselves or anybody else they are riding around in.

Unlike larger life, mitochondria’s DNA mutate very little and so allow science to perceive the relatedness of beings by comparing their mitochondrial DNA (mDNA for short). We get our mDNA just from our mothers; it is a part of the egg which is our first cell and our father’s mDNA is subsumed into it. So, although our fathers have mitochondria as well (every living thing does), when we compare our cells we are comparing only our mother’s mDNA. This mDNA comparison, startlingly, shows that today’s human beings all have one maternal ancestor who lived some one to two hundred thousand years ago when modern humans were getting started up.

Of course other species of people (Neanderthals and some other humanish types) and other humans like herself were alive with her and but only her line of descendants successfully carries on to today and ourselves. Her sisters didn’t have daughters– or her granddaughters didn’t have daughters, it’s not an instantaneous thing. Knowing that our mDNA comes from her doesn’t explain why she is our ancestor; all speculation from ‘fabulously successful mutation’ to ‘random chance’ is possible but unprovable. But there she is, her legacy in every one of our cells, still largely unchanged.

This Universal Mother (known to google-fu as ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, a title I find too twee for acceptance) is our oldest ancestor, genetically related to us but otherwise profoundlydistant in both time and perception. Her brain was very much like ours and so then the WAY she thought was much the same as ourselves but WHAT she thought about was unimaginably different in specific but, I feel, akin to us in general. She was thinking about what’s for dinner, what her children were doing, how to understand the people around her– much like Facebook without the cats. I also believe that her emotions were similar to ours– wanting love, finding comfort in friends, feeling the bonds of kinship– and that she, called up to the edge of the Timeless Land Beyond Death by our remembrance of her, will speak to us about those all-encompassing human issues of the ideals and feelings that we share.

One of the giant philosophical problems in the struggle towards Right Thought and Right Action is and has always been the acceptance of universal personhood.

Historically, the first step in subjugation or conquest has been that ‘those people’ (‘that sex’, ‘that colour’, ‘that handicap’) are not really people, not like us, and that what we wish to inflict on them is different than it would be if inflicted on us. But it is obvious that we are all far more like each other than unlike (we are also far more like chimpanzees than not and more like lettuce than not but, really, one step at a time). We are not only all just ‘people’ but we all have one shared ancestor which makes us all one extended family. It sounds like a vague mystical pronouncement to say ‘Mother Earth made us and we are all related’ but, as it turns out, Science confirms this. We all have mitochondria (‘we are all made of star-stuff’ ) and we humans are all descended from one specific many-great-grandmother. When we invoke ‘the ancestors’ we are all sharing the same one.

Where does this lead us?

Well, we are all connected. As I have demonstrated, science shows us this. But if you (along with myself and Jung) believe in the collective unconscious, we are also connected in a less scientific way as well. Jung’s theorizing about the collective unconscious in 1916 definitively predates microscopic examination of cell organelles, gene theory and the double helix, and most proto-human anthropological discoveries, but gives us a different way to perceive that we are in communication with each other and our past. Simply put, Jung posits that all humankind shares a primordial collective understanding that allows us a commonality of thought. The same idea that I presented— that the Mitochondrial Mother felt about and responded to her surroundings in ways like us— but without the DNA. One person’s whiteness compared to another’s not-whiteness is trivial since we’re both similar to lettuce, cellularly. Sadly, however, I haven’t been able to think of a catchy slogan….

‘All Lives are Indistinguishable…But Let’s Pay Attention To The Ones At The Low End Of The Scale Until All Lives Are Valued Equally’ just doesn’t dance along well.
‘All of Us And Lettuce Too’ seems a little obscure.

So we’re all in the same club, ‘humans’, and none of us get to be exclusive founding members (I read dated English mystery novels for relaxation and often bump into that odd pronouncement, “Ours is an ancient family”, like my forebears were somehow new); how does that impact our behaviours? I have raised chickens; you put an order in with the hatchery and get a big cardboard box of chicks. They are all just a few days old; you take them home, set up the heat lamp, feeders, and waterer and then tip the box out onto the henhouse floor. The chicks all scratch and peck two or three steps
away from the box, huddle around the heat lamp, and take little beak-raising drinks from the fountain. All the rest of their lives, no one has to teach them anything (nor do they learn a great deal, the other side of the coin).

Chimpanzee_mother_with_babyPeople? Not so much. Just like other primates and many other animals, if they aren’t taught how to be themselves they never learn. Humans are so far down that evolutionary path as to create a hot-button twitch in biologists—

“Instinctively I knew/felt/responded/understood…..”
— causing the biologist to shriek “Not the Case!!!!” and sometimes fling down written material or turn off devices or irritatingly (for the non-biologists) correct speakers.

Humans have an instinctive fear of falling. It makes them startle and grasp and probably is connected to infant primates swinging through trees holding onto their mamas’ fur.

Babies have a few more (rooting, not breathing when immersed, etc) but adults?

“Instinctively I startled awake when sleeping relaxation caused my arm to slide off my body” is about the only accurate statement possible but, oddly, that’s not what most people think of when describing instinctive behaviours.

Where does this lead us?

We learn our culture, every bit of it. It’s not really a part of our collective humanness hidden in our unconscious mind. And every part is connected to the other parts (like the termites and sponges I started off with) and it works as a whole; you can’t snap off a tasty, glittery bit for your use and leave the rest behind. We’re all in the same club, but it’s the club of not-knowing. Or, as I have said to many a plastic-hat-wearing drunk,”If yer Granny didn’t teach you the words to ‘Danny Boy’ then shut the F up!”


 

Judith O’Grady

judithJudith 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’).  She also has an upcoming piece in A Beautiful Resistance