The Tragedy of Brazil’s National Museum Started Much Before the Fire

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Texto em Português (BR) aqui.

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“It’s a National duty to rebuild it from the ashes, even if it is not the original it will forever be a memory of the royal family that gave us our independence.” (Marcelo Crivella, Rio de Janeiro’s Governor)

It’s safe to say the whole country of Brazil was dumbfounded watching the National Museum literally go up in flames, as if it was our turn to be destroyed by the aliens from Independence Day. When it was over, we were all left oscillating in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, mourning the loss of irreplaceable objects, and 200 years worth of people’s work.

We’ve been careless with our material History and irresponsible in preserving memory for as long as this Museum existed, why are we so upset now? Our indignation seems to come from shame for not living up to an European standard of possessing History.

Ten years ago there was a criminal fire that destroyed an indigenous community not far from where the Museum is, and virtually no one took to the streets. We talk about all the records of Indigenous languages that were lost inside this Colonial building, but what are we doing to the Indigenous people alive here now? We don’t see them as having history, we see them as obstacles for development. This is what truly makes me oscillate in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, year after year.

Part of the fascination we had with that Museum wasn’t necessarily all the valuable objects that were inside, it’s about who attaches value to these things. The royal atmosphere of the space comes from it being one of the few places with authentic European style architecture in our country. One of the people in their fundraising video from last year said that when you walk up the stairs of the museum you can easily imagine walking into a Gala from the Royal Family, which is why she fell in love with the place.

The National Museum is the oldest scientific institution of Brazil. Let that sink in. Academia, alongside the Monarchy, and the Catholic Church, were Medieval institutions introduced to us hundreds of years ago, that today we still feel the desperate need to preserve without properly accessing the genocidal role they’ve played in our lives. While I see the tragedy of the event and feel the horror of the loss, I think it’s important to address our internalized Eurocentric views that lead us to believe Europe and European institutions are the havers and holders of History.

The concept of what it means to be a Human being, as developed in Western Europe in the 16th century, was very much tied to the idea of Having history, and therefore of being civilized. The loss of this “History”, these artifacts, brings up from our colonized idiosyncrasies the feeling of being less human. Tragic is how we still treat our Indigenous and Quilombist communities as less human, as not really having History, or not worthy of having their land and their homes preserved.

Haven’t we seen what happens when we leave History in the hands of European Institutions? They steal, then whitewash, distort or destroy. Egypt, for instance, has wanted its treasures back for years. They were colonized and Europe has profited from what they stole ever since. We as a society are still struggling to unlearn the teachings of an ethnocentric campaign that created the idea that Africa has no History. We learned that the evolution of humanity has been Northwards and Westwards, and we conveniently forgot that Egypt is black and African, not white and Northern Mediterranean like Greece.

Brazil also had its memory distorted, and we go along with it. Indigenous peoples were massacred and portrayed in Europe as savage animals. To this day European museums proudly display the works of white men who painted naked Indigenous women alongside made-up animals and plants. Here we internalize that rhetoric, we whiten ourselves, and reject all other ancestry.

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process. As, if not more, important than rebuilding this institution is combating epistemic-genocide which has been annihilating our people and our History for hundreds of years.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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


TRADUÇÃO PORTUGUÊS

A tragédia do Museu Nacional começou muito antes do incêndio

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O país inteiro ficou perplexo ao ver o Museu Nacional literalmente em chamas, como se fosse nossa vez de ser destruídos pelos alienígenas do Independence Day. Quando acabou, oscilamos entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, lamentando a perda de objetos insubstituíveis e 200 anos de trabalho de muitas pessoas.

Fomos descuidados com nossa história material e irresponsáveis com a preservação de nossa memória desde sempre que este museu existe, por que estamos chateados agora? Nossa indignação parece vir da vergonha de ter falhado em alcançar um padrão europeu de possuir História.

Dez anos atrás, houve um incêndio criminoso que destruiu uma comunidade indígena não muito distante do Museu (em Camboinhas), e praticamente ninguém foi às ruas. Nós falamos sobre todos os registros de línguas indígenas que foram perdidos dentro deste edifício colonial, mas o que estamos fazendo para proteger os povos indígenas vivos aqui agora? Nós não os vemos como tendo história, nós os vemos como obstáculos para o desenvolvimento. Isso é o que realmente me faz oscilar entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, ano após ano.

Parte do fascínio que temos com o Museu não é necessariamente todos os objetos valiosos que estavam ali dentro, é sobre quem atribui valor à essas coisas. A atmosfera Real do espaço vem do fato de que é um dos poucos lugares com arquitetura de estilo europeu autêntico em nosso país. Uma das pessoas no vídeo de “Campanha para a requalificação do Museu Nacional” do ano passado disse que quando você sobe as escadas do museu pode-se facilmente imaginar um baile da família real, e é por isso que ela se apaixonou pelo local.

O Museu Nacional é a instituição científica mais antiga do Brasil. A Academia, juntamente com a Monarquia, e a Igreja Católica, foram instituições medievais introduzidas aqui centenas de anos atrás, e que hoje ainda sentimos a necessidade de preservar sem analisar adequadamente o papel genocida que elas tiveram em nossas vidas. Embora eu veja a tragédia do evento e sinta o horror da perda, acho importante abordar nossas visões subconscientemente eurocêntricas que nos levam a acreditar que a Europa e as instituições européias são detentoras da História.

O conceito de o que significa ser humano, desenvolvido na Europa Ocidental no século XVI, estava muito ligado à idéia de ter história e, portanto, de ser civilizado. A perda desta “História”, esses artefatos, traz de nossas idiossincrasias colonizadas a sensação de sermos menos humanos. Trágico é como ainda tratamos nossas comunidades indígenas e quilombolas como menos humanas, como não tendo realmente história, ou não dignas de ter suas terras e seus lares preservados.

Não vemos o que acontece quando deixamos a História nas mãos de instituições europeias? Roubam, depois embranquecem, distorcem ou destroem. O Egito, por exemplo, quer seus tesouros de volta há anos. Eles foram colonizados e a Europa lucrou com o que eles roubaram desde então. Nós, como sociedade, ainda estamos lutando para desaprender os ensinamentos de uma campanha etnocêntrica que criou a idéia de que a África não tem História. Aprendemos que a evolução da humanidade foi em direção ao norte e ao oeste, e convenientemente esquecemos de que o Egito é negro e africano, não branco e do norte do Mediterrâneo como a Grécia.

O Brasil também teve sua memória distorcida, e aceitamos. Os povos indígenas foram massacrados e retratados na Europa como animais selvagens. Até hoje, os museus europeus exibem com orgulho as obras de homens brancos que pintaram mulheres nativas nuas ao lado de animais e plantas inventados. Internalizamos essa retórica, nos embranquecemos, e rejeitamos nossas outras ancestralidades.

Se vamos falar sobre o descuido com qual lidamos com artefatos valiosos, devemos também falar sobre como atribuímos valor a esses artefatos, e o inegável Etno / eurocentrismo envolvido nesse processo. Tão importante quanto, se não mais do que, reconstruir esta instituição é combater o epistemicidio que tem aniquilado nosso povo e nossa história por centenas de anos.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Edita o site de Gods and Radicals, é filósofa e professora.

The Land Under Our Feet

Llyn Dinas, below Dinas Emrys (photo by author)

Tribes which hadn’t spoken to each other in decades gathered together on frigid northern plains to face down hired mercenaries, police, infiltrators, and their army of bulldozers.

At the same time on the other side of the planet, mothers raged and fathers wept to Allah as their children were shot dead for throwing stones at other bulldozers and other mercenaries called “soldiers.”

A few hundred years ago, women laid their children in graves dug shallow into peat.  Beneath threadbare cloaks clinging to shoulders laden with what little they could carry, they cursed landlord and king while boarding ships to take them across a cold sea into servitude.

At almost the same time in the land to which those other women traveled, other women clawed into dry hard earth with nails made brittle from famine. There they buried their own dead in their own shallow graves–all those who died on the march from the fecund swamps that were once home along the trail of tears.

As you read this, undocumented refugees and artists hide behind barricades in a forest, shouting and jeering at and sometimes fleeing police armed with grenades and truncheons. The police advance and with sledgehammers smash homes where children were born and lovers held each other in desire; then they retreat to their own homes in time for dinner before sleep to begin the destruction the next day.

In high mountains a village mourns a shaman whose songs led them and many others into the arms of the goddess of a sacred plant. Her body riddled with bullets, like so many others murdered for the sole crime of being in the way of those who wanted the land upon which she lived for something more profitable.

The brutal repression of the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, the violent oppression of Palestinians, the Irish famine, the forced marches of indigenous people and the murder of their leaders, and the French government’s violent eviction of the Z.A.D. from Notre Dame des Landes: these are the stories of capitalism, the blood and sorrows of millions soaking into the land under our feet.

Today’s Mayday. It’s Beltane.

It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of revolt.

For anarchists and communists, it’s a sacred day, marches and riots to remember martyred workers. For Pagans and witches, it’s a sacred day, when forest and sun dance like sex and the life it breeds and the meaning it gives.

One chants of resistance, the other sings of joy, and under both is the land under our feet.

Capitalism began only a few hundred years ago with the forced expulsion of peasant from land in Europe and the forced expulsion of colonized from their land across the waters. Evictions, massacres, enslavement, settlement and re-settlement: without these things there could have been no Capital, no factories and what they produce. Marx called these acts “primitive accumulation,” theft of wealth and labor and most of all land by force and law.

But this is not just our history, this is our now.

The money funding the bank which forecloses on a poor Black family’s home is the labor stolen from Africans enslaved and land stolen from commons enclosed.

The investment capital that gentrifies a white neighborhood is the alchemical product of cheap labor and the forests in which First Nations hunters stalked Elk and Bear.

The bulldozers used to demolish the homes of Palestinians are the bulldozers that tear down homeless and refugee camps, that move the rubble of bombed homes and move the dirt into mass graves.

The guns used to shoot the child throwing rocks are the guns pointed at the Black kid just trying to walk home from the store, the guns which kill American kids in their classroom are the same guns used to subdue Mexican teachers demanding better pay, guns hoarded and wielded by police and soldiers everywhere to prevent us from taking back our collective birthright: the land under our feet.

Under all of this is land. Humans live only because of land, we eat and drink and breathe because of land. Without land our gods are naked and cannot speak, our children are hungry and cannot live, our ancestors forgotten and cannot be heard.

Paganism is about that land. Anti-capitalism is about that land.

Colonialism, Capitalism, Empire: these are the names of the story of how humans are ripped from land, severed from the gods and each other and themselves.

Now in the crush of cities we rush from rented space to work, from work back to rented space. Now in towering tenements we open foil packets into boiling water as children cry, sirens wail and televisions declare the future is now and capital always.

Now the forests die.

Now species older than humanity breathe their last.

Now the oceans rise and storms rage.

Now backlit screens become our society, likes and retweets our comfort, all because we have forgotten we are also the land under our feet.

Today is Beltane. Today is Mayday. People are dancing. People are being shot. People are shouting in rage. People are fucking each other, people are sighing at another day of wretched work.

Gods&Radicals exists because they are connected by the same thing. We write because we remember the land, remember each other, remember ourselves. We remember our gods stolen from us by sword and cross and dollar, springs and forests taken from us by fence and judge and profit, ancestors and offspring asking us when the cruelty of Empire will finally end.

We are witches, heretics, dreamers and bards. We are guerrillas, organizers, rioters, saboteurs.

We long for the liberation of others and for the liberation of ourselves, the coming time when around burning barricades or crackling hearths we can be ourselves again. No longer laborers for others, no longer criminals under the tyranny of law. No longer illegal and refugee, no longer colonized and conquered.

No longer anything but the land under our feet, and those who live upon it.

Happy Beltane. Happy Mayday.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is one of the founders of Gods&Radicals. He lives everywhere, but mostly in Rennes, Bretagne. Follow his newsletter here.


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What does calling Brazilian women “sexy” actually mean?

An article on the impact colonialism has in the lives of Brazilian women today.

By Mirna Wabi-Sabi

 

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Photo by Douglas Barros, set in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), iconic architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, in Niterói, Brazil.

Niterói is the city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, and its name means “hidden water” in Tupi. The leader of the now extinct Temiminó tribe, Araribóia, founded Niterói in the late 1500’s. It’s the only city in Brazil to have been founded by an Indigenous person. In the 16th century, Portuguese settlers married Indigenous women and rewarded Indigenous leaders, such as Araribóia, with expensive gifts and prestigious positions. In return, the Indigenous tribe would join the fight against other Indigenous tribes, and European settlers from France and the Netherlands.

These other European countries that fought Portugal for control over the colony were not as successful in collaborating with the locals. This was because they preferred to preserve the racial, religious and cultural segregation for racist reasons. Despite the Pope’s claim that Indigenous people had a ‘blood defect’, Araribóia eventually converted to Christianity and changed his name to Martim Afonso. Portugal’s ability to convert the Indigenous to Christianity, and to have mixed marriages and offspring, lead to ‘successful’ alliances in war and land development. Of course, these alliances were not motivated by sentiments of equality, but instead by patriarchal capitalist interests.

Today, the few people in Niterói who remember Araribóia consider him a traitor for converting to Christianity and for allowing the Western domination of his tribe. It’s becoming widely known, though, that Indigenous collaboration with Europeans was done ‘at knife point’, and was also a survival strategy that allowed for the preservation of a small portion of the Indigenous population. My great-great-grandmother was an Indigenous woman who was ‘hunted down by lasso’ by the much older white man who was my great-great-grandfather, and I can safely say this is a common tale among Brazilian families. Whether this story can be taken literally or not, Christianity, marriage, sexual assault, and slavery were a brutal reality for Indigenous women nevertheless.[1]

Statue of Araribóia in Niterói. Photo by Mirna Wabi

Mixed marriages, or miscegenation, became an unavoidable part of Brazil’s sense of identity. It’s been considered a weakness to be fixed through racial cleansing, or a source of power, beauty and pride if well managed. Unlike the United States’ ‘one-drop rule’, white Brazilian men tried to claim that they could genetically ‘fix’ the ‘lower’ races. This concept came from white European men who wanted to justify their sexual relationships with women of color, and their emotional attachment to the families they were creating. “The sexual fantasy of the erotic encounter with the Other is simultaneously the fantasy of whitening/browning the nation by eliminating “Africanoid exaggerations”” (Alvaro Jarrin, 2010). This was the beginning of Brazil’s mingling of medical research, race, and beauty.

“Cosmetic citizenship” is a term used by Alvaro Jarrín in 2010 to describe Southeastern Brazil’s relationship with beauty in connection to race, class and gender hierarchy. We still struggle with the white supremacist ideology imposed on us during hundreds of years of colonization, and we hold the Brazilian working class (economically) hostage to white bourgeois beauty (and behavior) standards. We associate beauty with health, wealth, white(er)ness.

Too many people talk about the plastic surgery phenomenon in Brazil and the sexualized exoticism of Brazilian women as something we brought upon ourselves, claiming Brazilian women have nice asses and are wild in bed because that’s what they are ‘by nature’, as if that statement was an objective fact (the neutral gaze). This idea is reinforced by the media and by popular culture, which is dominated by white capitalist patriarchy in Brazil and abroad.

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The view of Rio from Niterói, over the Guanabara Bay. “Guanabara” comes from the term ocean-breast in Tupi. Photo by Nicolas Prieto

Whoever makes claims that Brazil is past colonialism because we’ve become some kind of superpower needs to stop listening only to the Brazilian elite, and start listening to the Brazilian masses. We have an incredible amount of resources, and we struggle every day to seize control of them. We are not an American style imperialist power, even though the Brazilian elite might want that. They are mesmerized by the American dream of financial success and by the European dream of white supremacist racial cleansing, while the majority of the population is held financially hostage and struggles to survive.

Even though the Brazilian elite participates in this oppression, it doesn’t mean Western powers aren’t responsible. In fact, they are responsible for the destabilization of all of Latin America for hundreds of years, and still are today. Brazilian women should not and will not be reduced to the stereotypes of being sexy and spicy, nor subjected to exoticism and harassment. As a Brazilian woman, I’m tired of white Western Europeans trying to educate me about my own country, and even on how I should perceive myself.

Niterói is my hometown. Much of our Indigenous heritage has been devalued, destroyed and forgotten. The legacy of this destruction defines us today. The white supremacist sexual assault of Indigenous and African women, the slaughter of Indigenous peoples, languages, spirituality, and culture; these are all still part of our lives whenever we see a Christian church, whenever we forget what the names of our neighborhoods mean, whenever a woman feels pressure to conform to an elitist and racist beauty standard, whenever we reject our Indigenous blood and heritage, and whenever we worship foreign currency over nature.

So, next time you see the “Brazilian Issue” of something with a picture of a big ass on the cover, see it for what it really is: the colonized female body being dissected, analyzed, criticized, sexualized, and sold.

(Additional references: bell hooks, Angela Davis, Gloria Wekker)

Footnotes:

[1] TW: rape. This is not only true in Brazil. “Indigenous women in the US experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country” (Aljazeera). See Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast on Pocahontas and Rape Culture.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is an intersectional feminist and decolonial activist from Brazil currently investigating Indigenous heritage. She publishes zines (Something Printed for Reading), and organizes educational events (DIY Workshop).


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Book Review: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Capitalism! The American Dream! Except that what we believe about capitalism, and how it actually works, are two different things. We’ve been told that the essence of preserving the economy involves making things better for the wealthy, so that they will make bigger companies and hire more people for more jobs, and thus the crumbs of their good fortune will “trickle down” to the rest of us. Except that it’s not true; wealthy people won’t part with their wealth unless regulations force them to.

We are told that the American Dream rewards the hard-working and the worthy, and that anyone can succeed if they try hard enough. Except that it’s not true; people in poorer countries are more entrepreneurial than people in wealthier countries, and good infrastructure is the key to building the wealth of nations.

We are told that you must pay good CEOs and Directors of large corporations top dollar so that you will get the best. Except that it’s not true; Board Directors often make decisions that are best for them in the short term, and really bad for the company itself in the long term (fancy that!) And by the way, you’re probably wrong about how much they’re getting paid. Most people think it should be about 10 times what the average worker in their companies get paid, and they think it’s actually more like 30 times. But they’re wrong; it’s really more like 300-400 times as much!

We are told that what’s good for the shareholders of a company is good for the company overall. Except that it’s not true; shareholders want to buy low and sell high, and quickly, and that means that often decisions are made in companies to cut corners, cheat, and patch instead of fix, until the whole structure collapses. Like with pretty much every automobile company you’ve ever heard of, and several large airlines.

We are told that the free market economy is the best way to handle things, because market forces will ultimately balance everything out. Except that it’s not true; there is actually no such thing as a “free market economy;” governments and corporations fix the conditions of the market all the time. So could we; and so we have in some ways, which is why “fossey jaw” is a thing of the past.

We are told that education is essential to the future wealth of a nation. Except that this isn’t true either; there’s almost no correlation. What drives the wealth of nations is actually manufacturing.

Don’t believe me? That’s okay; Ha-Joon Chang is a Cambridge trained economist who has won prizes for his work, and he’ll tell you better than I can, with figures to back it up. And he’ll explain it in a way that even an arts major like me can clearly understand.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! If you, like me, see the rot at the core of our economic system but you lack the words to tell people why it’s rotten, this is the book for you. If you don’t understand economics and you want to learn without taking a course, this is the book for you. If you think that capitalism is the best thing since sliced bread, and you think lefties are wingnuts who don’t understand how the world really works, this is still the book for you because you can acid-test your theories against an educated dissenting opinion. I wish that my Prime Minister would read it because I think he would run things a little differently if he did.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be writing an extended series focused around the theories presented in this book on Gods & Radicals if you want to know more.

View all my reviews

“Stealing Them Back”

Updates

We just learned who will be doing the foreword for the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance!  We’ll announce them on March 1st (sorry to be a tease!).

Also! March 1st is the deadline for submissions to the next issue.

Decolonizing Paganism

A very important criticism of “modern Paganism” is that it’s often quite colonialist, particularly in North America.  From the appropriation of First Nations beliefs by mainstream Paganism to the appropriation of African Diasporic Traditions by Polytheists to justify animal sacrifice, it would seem Paganism is unavoidably Colonialist.

Here are some links that may help us answer the question, how do we decolonize Paganism?

Occasional Gods&Radicals author Heathen Chinese has written a review of Pantheacon, but rather than focusing on the “Big Names,” he draws attention to indigenous voices and struggles:

Pantheacon is an annual “conference for Pagans, Heathens, Indigenous Non-European and many of diverse beliefs,” which is held on the unceded land of Tamien Ohlone-speaking peoples in the city of San Jose, California….

A really useful resource on the matter of decolonizing our beliefs and relationships is the site, Awakening The Horse People. We particularly recommend this essay.

And though there are vital problems in the historical analysis of this essay, some of the questions the author asks are quite relevant regarding the ways Pagans–especially Wiccans and Polytheists–view Empire.

InstagramCapture_f5284d7d-4db3-4982-a56e-f5b17c0978c9(1)And we received a letter-to-the-editor regarding A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer which brings up some important questions regarding Paganism as a white, male, Colonialist religion.  Since we did not secure permission to reprint the letter, we’d like to summarize their critique and our response

They’d read A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer and thought it was great except that Alley and I seemed to ignore the fact that modern Paganism was created by upper class colonialist white guys (like Gardner, Crowley) and is sustained by Capitalist whites selling books and seminars. How dare we suggest that Paganism isn’t anything but white colonialist bullshit?

A reply, from Rhyd Wildermuth:

We tend to take the opinion that, rather than being created by white middle-class men, Pagan beliefs were co-opted by them. You’re right–there is a lot of bourgeois books and festivals and teachers who profit off of Paganism and Witchcraft. Our hope is to overthrow them, or at least displace them enough that the rest of us can reclaim it from them.

Instead of tracing the birth of “modern” paganism to Wicca and Gardner/Crowley etc., we trace it back further, to the early resistance to industrialisation and Capitalism. Luddites, Whitboys, and many other early resistance movements invoked gods, spirits, and magic to fight landlords and factory owners.

Silvia Federici has convincingly shown that the creation of the ‘working class’ was founded on the death and oppression of women-as-witches.

Yet, as you say, the narrative of modern paganism is that white men with colonialist jobs (like Gardner) founded this stuff. This narrative remains specifically because they need us to believe that. They need to make sure that we don’t question the Capitalist system from which they profit.

They stole our paganism. They stole our witchcraft. They stole our gods.

We’re stealing them back.


Writer Highlight: Syren Nagakyrie

syrenOne of the founding members of Gods&Radicals, as well as the treasurer of our board, is Syren Nagakyrie,  According to her bio, Syren is a Polytheistic Goddess-centered Witch, feminist, herbalist, and radical bridger of worlds. She is a Priestess in relationship with various Goddesses, primarily Hekate. Her heart sings for the sea, her body yearns for the mountains; her spirit is a Wandering Hermit.

Along with her work behind the scenes for Gods&Radicals, Syren has written several pieces, including her series, Liberation Magic, a review of H. Byron Ballard’s recent book, and a poem, Dis-Re-Member-Ment:

My torso becomes a tree
Beautiful and strong
Standing tall and proud
Among its sisters and brothers
And the tree is cut down
Used as logs in a pyre
Flames burning high
In this ephemeral state

She just returned from India helping to organize work for gender-based domestic violence, and is writing about her reflections here.


 

Quote

Every attempt to rethink the political space of the West must begin with the clear awareness that we no longer know anything of the classical distinction between zoē and bios, between private life and political existence, between man as a simple living being at home in the house and man’s political existence in the city….
…In the camps, city and house became indistinguishable, and the possibility of differentiating between our biological body and our political body — between what is incommunicable and mute and what is communicable and sayable — was taken from us forever.
Georgio Agamben, Homo Sacer
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These Words Change EVERYTHING… #ReGenesis3_16

by Katherine Cunningham.

‘Tis an honour to hold your attention. This, with your time and energy make up the trilogy of your power, and I am grateful to have been given it here.

Poetry and Magicks, conjuring with words. We do it all the time, speak something into existence. There is a time of rhyme in my head, where everything has meaning,
a metaphor,
to understand what the matter is for.
All can be seen for the double entendre’s.
Words weave worlds, the stories we tell ourselves and each other.
Our Warp and our Weft,
Our Right and our Left,
Dissolve Coagula.
There are words that bind us, written millenniums ago to contain us. These words will change now that we have voice, now we can wield the pen, keyboard and microphone.

Words. What are their value? What do they cost, cost us? To use, to share, to rid ourselves of the fear, the self-loathing. To purge that knowing that we may well be mad. Deepen the meaning, the value and no longer do we have so much blah blah blah…

Thoughts, Words, Acts and Deeds. These are some of the tools of creation. Thoughts that push forward and hold us teetering at an edge, daring us to a complete nakedness of self that we may shed anything between.
Between the words.
Between the worlds.
We are the veil that we pierce with our sight.
Our rites becoming, re-inventing woman.
Our rights are determined by how we will allow ourselves to be spoken to, by that sharp and critical mind within. Only the reflections true unto themselves any indication that we are in true communication with the soul.

Medicine. Words as medicine. For the soul, for the heart, they create a start, a thread where the spirit can follow all the way up from the cunt to the crown, turning our suppression upside down, it gives us a boost, for a moment, something to step up upon, but then OVER.
So that we can see our brother, true and real in his own shit and glory,
not our projected story
that has him seventeen shades of disgusting.
Not his but our resisting of the real steel man,
the tin can
without a heart, is flesh and blood with real feelings like we are.
So much more like us than different.
So much so contained by that mind that rules us all.
So much still ruled by death.

SHE LOVES YOU.
ALL of you.
AND you are going to die.
Terror Management Theory… an incredible set of words
that illustrate just how much we are controlled by the words,
that make up the story, that tell us of the meme’s,
that are the tapestry of OUR society.
The back drop to our epic adventures as we return unto ourselves. For we are the veil. Words have power to conjure the other side, of ourselves, each other and everything else they can muster.

A woman’s issue of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the soul bearers of consciousness.  In our bones we know Her, we yearn toward Her, we know She belongs to us & we to Her.”
–Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves

Words are as medicine. Not the words that are spoken at us, entirely, nor just the words that are spoken out loud. ‘Tis the resonant of truth that the ancients used, the rest of the word, beyond its truncated depths of noise our language has become. And yet in a heartbeat we drop down into some of the deepest utterings of soul that we know. The range of human emotion, the scale of human effect, the notions of wisdom and knowledge as having two separate sources and there perhaps tenor.

The source of the voice,
the word of choice.
The feeling or thinking, the flow or the marshalling of all that procession into a direction to make a point, OR there is the gentle castings of genuinely moved felt state that would hold you in the deepest grief.
The highest joy.
Sustaining or dissolving as we see fit to decide
which part of the ride
we will be on.
That’s the beauty of the word adventure, tis you choice, your thoughts, words, acts and deeds.

All our own to utilize and yet words can still be used to tell lies. The spin, the confusion, the noise to create or destroy. Using words on paper to bind, laws to force, attempting the course of coercion, the power of word gone wrong. We need to find the correct words to make this right. For our environmental plight is very real. We have a whole lot of human choosing not to feel. The atrocities they are committing in money’s name, playing a game that we all get to pay for. Our next 7 generations will be paying for. These words, ”YOU SHALL NOT PASS”, they feel like the right words, the ones that can conjure a real rage to fight all these smoke and mirrors. These marketers.

Words, our beloved tools of expression that can be held open to hear within. Creating pathway, latticing throughout all our hearts woven, bring us to the edges of self, each other. Capable of feeling the whole depth of the word LOVE. Can you see us? Using the power of this word LOVE. Growing gardens, making art. Mining the imagination not the earth. Trusting the human worth to get this, figure this out, before it’s too late, before we have destroyed too much. She loves me and I am going to die. But while I live, I have words to Share.

The distance between your mind and your body is a ratio of external influence and internal fortitude. The further away you are the more others can pull your strings. I have always had a deep desire to create connection with primal source. The place within that knows. That understands the big picture and the little one, the vision and the details, as well as the very next moment to be with that incredible place of perfections.

Spirituality 1.0 is the broadcast from the pulpit, the “one and only truth” then we granted ourselves. Spirituality 2.0 where we got to have some conversations with the text, the scribes and the original authors, meet those behind the story. Occasionally creating new stories, manifesting different authors, getting a handle on this story telling thing to such a level that the cinema becomes the pulpit.

Understanding story and truth to be whole lot of fuzzy around the edges, where the lapsing over from one reality to another becomes more about the value of fiction so that the fact can be comprehended. If there is just facts, there is little context, meaning or value, till we give a story. Any good marketer knows that, create the story behind the mission, you have an emotional buy in, to the product. Emotional buying in to the story. The ones where we feel, are pulled into something “not real” yet we feel it. We know this story, the meaning here, the value of it being said out loud. Like watching a scene in a documentary, facing the reality that someone lives in. This is the power of a story, and how it moves us. That’s the point of a story, to have an effect, hopefully, if not it just passes through us like water.

Spirituality 3.0 is perhaps where we are the ones writing our story? Or are we looking to a state of truth that we share? A place that is real enough for us all to live there? The Utopia that has been long dreamed of and projected far far away in the heaven state. When in reality, it is HERE, NOW and OURS, to create.

Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong… isn’t there?” Thank you Alan Moore, V for Vendetta.

These are words, Genesis 3:16 that were so powerful they destroyed a woman’s right, to trust and know the true power in birth. Herein lay the core of the curse. We took those words, we chewed on them, we swirled them around in our hearts and heads until we could devour the pain and suffering they had caused. Until we could discern why they were still being used. How to disarm the violence they had ensured.

We took Genesis 3:16 and turned it on its head.

I give you ReGenesis 3:16

#ReGenesis 3_16
#ReGenesis3_16

REGENESIS 3:16 To Women WE Say: “We will greatly increase your JOY in childbearing. With ECSTASY you will give birth to children. Your Desire will be yours to own and no-one will rule over you.”

Use #ReGenesis3_16 … MAY IT GO VIRAL!

‘Tis estimated there are over 6 billion bibles in print. That’s A LOT of re-writing to do. So, in true creative trust, we need to be inventive in how we reproduce this version and share it with the world. That as a truth it may sweep over the original and be installed in our new world order. Build it in pictures, in tapestry, in song. In meme’s, cartoons and stickers. Share it. We have a long way to reach, through to back of our own brains first, then out to our circles of influence. Each layer receiving it as they can. Reach delicious one, for this may be the core of a truth that we ALL need to heal.

Using the #ReGenesis3_16 hashtag will keep us all connected to what we are creating to make this world anew. If there is any part of this writing that has stirred you, please, step into this. See what your version looks like, what your offering can change.

KatherineCunninghamSince 1995 Katherine Cunningham has been stalking the core purposes of the menstrual experience, the why and the how to use this force of nature, for good not evil. She has explored harnessing this fertile force so that any woman can learn to be deeply within her innate power. She has a core strength that will hold you safely through the threshold of profound change. She is an activist, an educator, a writer, an orator, a mother, a blood witch, a lover of life and ALL the juicy in it!

Mannahatta circa 1609 / Manhattan circa 2015

The Welikia Project

Mannahatta circa 1609 / Manhattan circa 2015
Mannahatta circa 1609 / Manhattan circa 2015
Mannahatta then, Manhattan now
Mannahatta then
Manhattan now

So.

Did your stomach just drop? I’m sure you feel the weight of the import of whatever messages these images may convey. They can carry a lot of messages. One isn’t sure where to even begin… First, perhaps we should dwell in the emotions that rise; feel them, watch them, name them. These images give a visceral experience. Why?

For many of us, this place isn’t even our home, and we may have never even visited. But it still hits home, doesn’t it?

Something in us knows that something important is here in front of us.


These images are from the Welikia Project (formerly the Mannahatta Project) – a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society to rediscover the ecology of the New York City area before colonization.

Welikia (pronounced “way-LEE-kee-uh”) is Lenape for “my good home”. Lenape is the Native American language spoken in the New York City region at the time of first contact with Europeans.

The goal of the Mannahatta Project has never been to return Manhattan to its primeval state. The goal of the project is discover something new about a place we all know so well, whether we live in New York or see it on television, and, through that discovery, to alter our way of life. New York does not lack for dystopian visions of the future…. But what is the vision of the future that works?” – from Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City

One of the main messages in this special view of the past we don’t usually get to see – the land before our cities began – is one of avoiding urban sprawl, for the future of current natural areas.

With more and more of the human population moving to cities, with several mega-cities of 10 million people or more on the horizon, and with a growing urban sprawl development pattern in the USA and elsewhere, we realize that we have the opportunity to “do” cities a better way. Going back to 1609 allows us to see what NYC was before it was a city and to reimagine the city’s development in a way that would incorporate more of the natural cycles and processes (such as the hydrological cycle) that made the island the ecological gem that it was. This is not merely an academic flight of fancy. Rather, in undertaking this exercise, we will discover ways in which we can restore some of the ecological processes lost to NYC in particular, and more broadly, we will learn how to create cities that are more “livable” for people. For instance, maintaining natural waterways like streams and incorporating more open space and tree plantings into city planning would increase a city’s aesthetic value, water quality, and air quality for city folk. Making cities more pleasant and rich places for people to live will increase city folks’ standard of living, attracting more people to cities and minimizing sprawl development between cities where the ecological gems, the “Mannahattas” of today, currently reside.” – from the Welikia Project “About” page

Whether we “do” cities at all, in the future, and whether or not one prefers that cities might one day return to their primeval state, for now, if we do have cities, it’s important that we integrate them into the local ecology, instead of just paving over it, erasing it, and forgetting it was ever there and that ecology exists and matters, to us as well as to wildlife… matters to our lives right now, as well as to our common future.

The Welikia Project includes – besides the fascinating interactive map of Mannahatta/Manhattan – resources for teachers, students, and researchers, and an expanded effort to do the same research for all of New York City’s boroughs, with the ability for you to sponsor a block of your choice. This might be an excellent contribution for a coven, grove, or other group to make together, or for Pagans and others in New York City to make to get helpfully involved with the land under their feet.

Could something similar be done in our own locales, elsewhere in the world? Of course! Soon after reading Lorna Smithers’ moving piece, here at Gods & Radicals, on culverted waterways and resacralizing landscapes, I happened to go to my local river festival and found a booth for a project looking for support to bring not one, but two culverted streams that converge and flow into the river near my house back above-ground, and reclaim land currently crusted with run-down shops on the site to create a park and informational signage about the reclaimed waterways! We can do this. Look around, or start something, yourselves.


Thanks go to The Decolonial Atlas (a blog worth following!) where I discovered the Welikia Project, with a stomach-dropping shock to my system when I first saw the images I brought over here to share.

Book Review: Almanac of the Dead

By Heathen Chinese

Used for review purposes only.
Used for review purposes only.

If I were to recommend a single book to any pagan, polytheist, anti-capitalist or resident of North America, it would be Almanac of the Dead. Larry McMurtry writes in a blurb on the back of the book, “If Karl Marx had chosen to make Das Kapital a novel set in the Americas, he might have come out with a book something like this.” Perhaps, or perhaps not, since Karl Marx could not possibly have the same lived experience as Leslie Marmon Silko.

Silko is a Laguna Pueblo writer living outside of the Southern Arizona city of Tucson. Her 763-page novel spans the entirety of North America and Mesoamerica geographically, but it all revolves around the central nexus of Tucson. In the dimension of time, Almanac is simultaneously rooted in the codices of the past, unmistakably situated in the present day world of cocaine smuggling and television psychics, and oriented towards the apocalyptic changes-to-come of the near future.

This review is being published on May 13. One hundred and sixty-nine years ago, on this day in 1846, the United States declared war on the First Federal Republic of Mexico, formally initiating a war which eventually resulted in the annexation of New Mexico and Alta California, including most of what is now Arizona. The land in question, of course, was indigenous land, despite the territorial claims of the government of Mexico. The area surrounding Tucson (Tohono O’odham land, with a strong Yaqui presence as well) was not actually annexed by the United States until the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, but nonetheless, Tucson is a city defined by its location on the open wound known as the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a city shaped by liminality, and by the violence which gave birth to that liminality. Bank robber John Dillinger was captured there in 1934. Thousands of migrants continue to attempt to cross the harsh Sonoran desert—many do not make it all the way across. Silko writes, “Tucson was too close to Mexico. Tucson was Mexico, only no one in the United States had realized it yet.”

Tucson. Credit: Matthew Schallan.
Tucson. Credit: Matthew Schallan.

Almanac of the Dead was published in 1991, four hundred and ninety-nine years after a Genoese navigator first stabbed Taíno earth with the flag of Castile and León. In 1994, three years after Almanac was published, the Mayan rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation issued their First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle. One of Almanac‘s nineteen “books” features a guerrilla army-turned-native land reclamation movement dealing with very similar tensions between orthodox Marxism and indigenous communities. Of course, these dynamics are nothing unique to the Zapatistas, they have been grappled with throughout Latin America for many decades. Yet it’s clear from her tone that Silko isn’t just writing about history, she is writing about the ever-imminent near future, and her words resonate with just as much ominous portent in 2015 as in 1991. Perhaps even more so, given the benefit of hindsight, though it doesn’t take a prophet to predict that “California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado—all the southwestern states will run out of drinking water,” or a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Silko hints at the possibility of a sympathetic magic or subterranean convergence between the struggles of the like-minded, and the pages of her novel serve as a meeting ground for a vast array of characters whose real-life counterparts may or may not have met in the waking world. A few of Almanac‘s most memorable characters: Clinton, an Ogou-worshiping black man organizing homeless veterans into a “Poor People’s Army;” the Barefoot Hopi, who prophecies to prisoners of all races about “the day all the walls fall down;” Mosca, a superstitious drug dealer who quits his job to join the Barefoot Hopi’s nascent millenarian movement; Calabazas, a Yaqui smuggler and Mosca’s old boss, who “would never abandon what he called ‘the war that had never ended,’ the war for the land. He wanted to call every successful shipment or journey a victory in this war;” Zeta, Calabazas’s former partner-in-crime who “had not argued with him, but [who] had had her own ideas about ‘the war;'” Zeta’s twin sister Lecha, the aforementioned television psychic (now retired—or more accurately, in hiding), who is transcribing the eponymous Almanac of the Dead. “When the time came, all these scattered crazies and their plans would complement and serve one another in the chaos to come.”

Ultimately, Almanac is about sovereignty: the governments of the United States and Mexico have never had, do not currently have, and will never have the sovereignty granted by the land itself. Of course, in her particular imaginings of what indigenous reclamation of sovereignty might look like, Silko does not speak for all natives (no single writer does). Non-native anti-capitalists should be careful not to cherry pick only those authors whom they can use to validate their own political ideologies. Almanac of the Dead, however, is such a rich and complex work that any reader’s perspective is bound to be expanded by it. What Silko writes about is bigger than politics, bigger than any one religious tradition:

What was coming could not be stopped; the people might join or not […] It made no difference because what was coming was relentless and inevitable; it might require five or ten years of great violence and conflict. It might require a hundred years of spirit voices and simple population growth, but the result would be the same: tribal people would retake the Americas; tribal people would retake ancestral land all over the world. This was what earth’s spirits wanted: her indigenous children who loved her and did not harm her.

Heathen Chinese

heathen chinese

Heathen Chinese is the son of Chinese immigrants. He is a diasporic Chinese polytheist living in the San Francisco Bay Area (stolen Ohlone land). He practices ancestor veneration and worships (among others) the warrior god Guan Di, who has had a presence in California since the mid-1800s. He writes sporadically at https://heathenchinese.wordpress.com


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Bonfire Circle

The Enchanted

Imbalance

Everything is spinning out of balance. The world is being polluted and corrupted, and it’s decaying while still alive. Mega-storms, droughts, fracking quakes, and rising seas eat entire island nations and devastate helpless communities which are then swarmed by hungry, opportunistic corporations that sell off and buy up what’s left, and build hungry empire in their place. Entire mountains have been eaten by mining operations, which also leave the land and water around them toxified. Racism bides within social institutions and quietly mows down swaths of people of color, and stands on the necks of those who remain. Colonies of bees die off, Monarch butterflies cannot make their annual migration to overwinter and reproduce, hundreds of birds fall from the sky at once, mysteriously slain. Many, many species of Earthlings are going extinct and taking a lot of the balance and creative diversity of nature with them — taking pieces of the whole with them — now forever secret. Most members of our own species live difficult, oppressed lives in or under the purview of stratified societies and empires which invented poverty and wealth, race and class.

 

Empires

What need did humanity have of empire, in its incredibly long existence? It had none, for hundreds of thousands of years… eons filled with kin and culture and integration with the abundant world. We had wholeness. Now we have fragmented, unbalanced lives being pushed by clocks, pulled by disjointed narratives and misconceptions, stomped by greed, and our only defense the solid reality of community, love, and nature… when we are lucky enough to find islands of it amidst the cacophony of ticking time-which-is-money, manufactured desires, and hyper-individualistic isolation in which this terminally ill culture is drowning.

The decision to unbalance society and exclude all of the community (even the eco-community) except the men (and often only certain privileged men, at that) from the communal decision-making and interest-considering was one of the first steps on this unbalanced, destructive path. Pathological patriarchy arose to control women, and to ensure the tracking of sired children — tracking which hadn’t been necessary in matrilineal societies that took care of all children. Some long-ago group of men thought they needed to ensure that their efforts would only benefit their own children, not the community. Selfishness triumphed over communal responsibility, and became codified into law.

Ownership and inheritance became important to them. Their society was stratifying, and they needed to get on top of the heap. The alternative was poverty and slavery. Dominance became important too. Having dominion over not only your family and community, but neighboring communities and even all living creatures became a cultural value and driving subtext in the script. If [empire], then [be emperor]… or as close to it as you can get, otherwise you’ll [be fodder]. A LOT of fodder lies at the bottom, and only one emperor at the top, with an inverse pyramid of wealth held at the top and a heavy lack of enough resources at the bottom. It’s pyramid shape of hierarchy is inherently unfair and unjust.

 

Cultural Script

We’re still working from this script, a few thousand years later. But not for long. This script is not sustainable. This play chews up the set and buries most of its actors. There won’t even be an audience left, at the end.

This is not the only script ever performed, nor the only one possible. It’s only the most recent. Imperialism is relatively new in human history. Capitalism is even newer – only about 300 years old — and even more destructive. Capitalism is a natural outgrowth of the kyriarchal complex of cultural concepts like patriarchy, dominionism, hegemony, colonialism, wealth, and hyper-individualism that have busily been infecting the cultures and peoples of Earth and rewriting their cultural DNA, re-scripting their histories and futures with lies and false promises.

And we can be done with it.

We can cancel the terrible show and start writing and rehearsing, or even remembering one that does not eat our children and destroy mind, body, soul, Earth, and connection. It made us forget what community is, and what sacred means, but we can find them again. Some of us have already begun. Some of us in indigenous communities never lost them and can share them. There are paths strewn with fulfillment rather than endless hunger. We can find the paths with vital air to breathe, clean water to refresh, and solid ground to stand and circle with each other upon. Our ancestors knew them, walked them, danced them. Some continued to remember them throughout empire, despite the illusions of usurious capital and divine right of kings, and preserved markers for us in myth, symbol, and language. Nature, itself, contains markers and inspiration. Our home and kin are calling us.

Bonfire Circle
Image from https://500px.com/lehoslav

 

The Call

We are some of the first in generations to hear the call of nature, spirits, gods, and ancestors, and our own connected souls. We are some of the first to gather again in circles and remember, to listen to wind and stars and recall. We are organic circles of community, not mechanical pyramids of empire. We remember who we are, we remember all Earthlings are family, and we remember that we belong to the Earth — the Earth does not belong to us. We are now charged with finding the paths again and showing each other the way before this path leads an entire world into chaos and premature death. We must heal this sickness, for are we not the healers Earth has produced in her time of need? Do you not feel the calling of the oppressed, the ancestors, our children’s children, and the Earth, chanting our names and the great need?

We are the enchanted, who will answer the call of justice and of healing, and re-enchant the world, singing up reconnection and dancing up a real future. We have the magic – will and intention, the calling and the help of truth. Let us be the good ancestors who take up these Witches’ brooms, Druids’ sickles, and Heathens’ hammers to clear away, to build, and to relight the sacred flame at the heart of the world.


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