Wherefore the Despair?

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

From Patacelsus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patacelsus

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

Lessons From Martial Arts – Part Two

“Fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes.”

From Emma Kathryn

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As many of you may well know, I am a fighter. An actual fighter. I’ve trained in boxing, kickboxing, muay thai with a dash of grappling thrown in for good measure and I’ve had many fights. The truth is I like a good tear up. I know, it’s strange, well, to most people at least, but what can I say other than I’m a strange kind of woman!

I have written on this topic before for this site and you can read that article, the part 1 to this part two here.

So why a part two, you may well ask. As with most topics of interest, they become even more so when discussing them with others (that’s why I think community, or rather solidarity within communities is a good thing, and also why I like the open and honest discourse between people). So I was talking with an occultist friend of mine the other week, and the topic of fighting came up. I think I mentioned how fighting can have practical lessons in witchcraft as well as in life. Anyway, he asked me what it’s like to get hit in the face.

It’s a common question to those who don’t fight, even to those who might train but don’t spar or fight. The idea of putting yourself in that situation, with the full knowledge that the person standing in the opposite corner is going to try to hit you, to hurt you even, is so alien to people. It is a weird scenario to put yourself through, and no matter how well I might try here to explain it, unless you’ve gone through it yourself, it really is hard to comprehend.

I think he was quite surprised with my response, because I told him that getting hit in the head, or even the face doesn’t really hurt. Yes, you might get rocked, or even knocked out, but the actual blow usually doesn’t hurt all that much at the time, thanks to our amazing bodies and adrenaline. The real pain comes when you take a body shot, a punch, or worse, a kick, to the liver or to the floating rib. Oh my goodness that pain!

So why a part two? Well, the answer is that fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places  left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes. I honestly believe that my training (over ten years!) and my fighting have given me good insight and experience to extend that fight into other areas.

Stepping into the ring, or even the gym might not suit everyone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share those lessons I’ve learned in there with others who might put them to good use. I often like to say that we should never choose to stop learning, to stagnate and that there are always new lessons to be learnt.

Start Small

Within the fighting world, when reputable fights are held, opponents are always closely matched where ever possible, including aspects like weight and experience. You’d never put your first time fighter in with a world champion. Why would you? It doesn’t make sense, after all, the aim of the game, or the fight rather, is to win, and it’s the same in real life when it comes to fighting, to resisting, to building that solidarity within your community, whether that’s the physical community where you live, or one you belong to because of some other shared feature.

It’s okay to start small. In fact, you have to.

I’ve written here before about how the state undermines communities so that people become disassociated with those others who are like themselves in some way, and how when that happens, the common feature they share, in this case, the land, is then attacked, usually for profit that will disappear never to be seen by anyone in the community.

In instances such as this, the first step is to get together with your neighbours. Talk and discuss but also laugh, have fun and build those connections, those links, friendships even. That is where true resistance starts, because it won’t work if we don’t stand together.

Just this evening, as the last of the open green community spaces is about to be stolen from this already poor estate where I live, I was talking to my neighbour, laying plans of attack. Attack isn’t always physical, at least not at first. It must start somewhere.

No Fighter is Alone

Before a fight, unless it’s a last-minute replacement, usually due to injury, you have an eight week fight camp. Every fighter will train on a regular basis anyway, three, four, five times a week perhaps, but eight week fight camp is something else. It’s eight weeks of gruelling training, six days a week, sometimes twice a day if you’ve got weight to cut. You’ve got tough pad sessions, sparring, conditioning, road work. It’s not fun (only kinda, in a weird way).

But in all of that, you’ve got your coach. My coach is the best coach! He really is a great guy who goes way over and beyond what’s expected of him for his fighters. Weekends and holidays spent travelling around the country, unpaid, cornering fights (many amateur fights too, amateurs do it for fun, unless you’re really something else, there’s no money for the fighter, and thus, the coach. It is a labour of love!).

It’s your coach who has your back. My coach is one of the old school kinds, but he will beast you and tell you straight when he knows you are slacking or can do better, but he does it for your own good.

Then there’s your team mates, your fellow fighters, your squad. These guys go through it all with you, the pain, the hours in the gym, the strict diets and tight weight cuts. They get it, they understand, and on fight day, when it’s a lot of hanging around going through the weight checks and the medical and the waiting, they are there and you can talk to them knowing that they totally understand what you are going through at that exact moment in time. It’s a kind of solidarity in itself.

In resistance, we are not alone either. Community is the key. Solidarity with those who face the same threat. Building links within your community can start with something as simple as going for a drink with your neighbours (does anyone in the UK remember the time before all the local pubs were shut down? Is it just me wearing the rose glasses of nostalgia that seems to think that something has been lost in the closing of such places, places where people could meet and drink and talk about the shit that affected them?).

I was just talking to my sisters the other day about the games of rounders people from the estate would play on those long summer nights when we were kids. Sometimes they’d start just by a dad taking his kids and their friends on the field for a quick game, but before long there would be about twenty or thirty people , adults and kids, having a great time, all for free. Hopefully, we can revive such traditions, because community links are important.

Every Fighter is Alone

I know, I know. But it’s true as well. Because, as a fighter, no matter how good the team behind you, when you step into that ring, it’s all down to you. Yes, you have your coach in your corner and your friends and family in the crowd cheering you on, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ve just got yourself to rely on.

In life, no matter the support systems we may have available to us, it is up to us as individuals to decide for ourselves the fight we want to fight. Physical fighting might not be for everyone, but there are other ways to join in the fight against empire, the capitalist empire that crushes all beneath it in the name of profit.

Last week, myself and around seventy others from the estate went to a meeting set up by the council regarding the proposed redevelopment of where I live (an excuse to build houses on the only bit of land left to the community). My neighbour, an elderly woman who’s lived on the estate for god knows how long, stood up to the council, and she uses her power and knowledge as a councilor to fight them wherever she can. Shes’ already responsible for making the council come out and say they will no longer look into the compulsory purchase of those privately owned houses, a minor victory in the scheme of things, but major to those who risked losing their homes.

Know your individual worth, develop your individual skill set, whatever that might be, because it is only by those individuals making those small lonesome acts that the community can then come together in a more organised way.

Keep Your Head

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the very sound advice to keep your head. Don’t lose your cool because you have a set back, or even a loss. If you lose your head in a fight, it’s bad news. People who don’t fight think that anger in a fight helps, but it doesn’t really. It might spur you on to train harder, perhaps when you fail at something, that kind of anger makes you keep at it, but anger bordering on rage is not good. Once your head goes in a fight, everything goes out the window, the game plan, the advice from your coach, even your own common sense.

I’ve seen it happen, when fighters get so frustrated in a fight that they end up not fighting to the best of their ability and then lose.

The same is true in life, in every aspect of it. In the fight against empire, keep a cool and level head, even when things get hard. The opponent want’s you to get frustrated, to make a mistake , to lose pace and give them the lead.

How many uprisings never happen because those who would take part are too busy arguing amongst themselves on social media? You’ve seen it yourself, I’m sure, people arguing with those who really are not too far removed from themselves, over a word or phrase misused or misunderstood or some other minor miscommunication.

So there you have it, just this fighters tips she’s learnt in the ring and shared in the hope that they will help others too!

Resist beautifully people, in whatever way you can.


Emma Kathryn   

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

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Lessons From Martial Arts

You can hear the crowd quieten down, hear the MC as he introduces the next fight. You’re in a corridor, waiting for your name to be announced. This is the quiet before the storm. When the intro to your entrance music starts, so does the adrenaline. You’ve worked out to this song, pushed yourself to your absolute limits, endured pain and sacrificed so much, and in those first few bars of the song, all of that, the grit that got you through it comes back. And then it’s time. You walk out through the crowd, not really seeing them, so focused are you at the task at hand. You climb through the ropes and get your gloves checked by the ref whilst your coach utters the last bits of advice, wipes your brow with vaseline, but not too much. When he leaves the ring, that’s it, you’re on your own. The stare down when the ref calls you and your opponent to the centre of the ring, then back to your corner. You wait for the bell to clang, to call you into action. It’s time.

From Emma Kathryn

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I am a kickboxer and boxer. People are always quite surprised, when on meeting me or coming to my home, that I am a fighter. ‘But you’re so ‘small’, or ‘so nice’ or ‘so quiet’, they say when they see my trophies or photos, but the truth is I just love to fight. There is something so addictive about it, about that whole world.

I’m so very lucky to have such a good gym in my town. It’s becoming world-famous and just seems to breed good fighters. My coach is the old school kind, the kind that’ll shout at you and beast you, but he’ll also do anything for his fighters, talk about going the extra mile.

As I write this now, it is Christmas eve eve, but now, as you read this it is NYE eve, and naturally, for many, as the new year fast approaches, we start to think about the year past, our achievements and failures, and we think of the coming year, and what we hope to achieve.

Now, I’m not generally one for new years resolutions, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I have learnt from martial arts, and how they can be applied to everyday life and the good fight. To any kind of fight or struggle really. Because nothing is ever given for free. We must take it, and we must do so through action.

Anything Worth Doing Is Going To Be Hard Graft

How many of us know this truth. When training for a fight, it gets hard. You ache all the time, sometimes you feel like absolute shit in the gym, like you just cannot do it, and the same is true in life.

When having to go out to work all of the time (and as I write this I am currently half way through five days of twelve-hour shifts), as well as fit in family time and all the other stuff we have to do, it can be easy to step down from our beliefs and morals. They get squashed out, or squeezed in when we get five minutes and in doing so something, quite a lot in fact, is lost. We become mere shadows of ourselves.

Sometimes even the most hardcore of us feel low, and might even question whether or not they can go on, whether they have the energy to do so. When faced with the giants  of governments and capitalism, it can seem like a colossus task, and we all have probably asked ourselves when feeling vulnerable just what the point is. It’s at this point when we must remember and take heart from the fact that anything worth doing in life is never easy. It takes time, effort and sheer will.

If You Don’t Believe, You Won’t Achieve

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My coach often says that, when preparing for a fight, if you don’t truly believe in yourself and your ability, then you will lose, and he’s right. You have to have the right mindset and attitude.

I’ve often heard people who don’t fight say that they think all fighters are cocky and arrogant, and in a way they are right, and that’s because in the fight game, you must have that kind of self belief and confidence. If you don’t think you can win, then why bother even stepping into the ring? I have lost fights before, and the main reason for doing so is a lack of confidence, for whatever reason, on that particular day.

We all have bad days, and that’s okay, but if you don’t have that inner belief and confidence in whatever it is you are trying to achieve, then you are already fighting an uphill battle. You’ve already beaten yourself.

So what can you do to foster self belief? Well it is hard, but it is something that builds up with experience and effort. Sometimes it’s only when we look back that we can admire our wins and achievements, that we realise, that actually, we can succeed. So whatever you want to achieve, start small. Find that small spark of courage within and tend it. Feed it. Keep at it and it will grow and burn bright.

Hard Work Beats Natural Talent

We all know those people who are good at anything they turn their hand to. Some folks are just naturally talented. They just seem to have that knack. But as my coach says, hard work beats natural talent any day of the week.

Natural talent can only take you so far. Anyone who trains in any kind of sport will be familiar with that one person who is just good at what they do. But what often happens, particularly as they get older, they spend less time in the gym. I can remember, at an old kickboxing club, at an interclub tournament, I was matched against this woman who everyone thought was the bees knees. Even to the extent where someone asked me if I was sure and had I agreed to this fight. But, I knew I had put the hard work in, trained hard and trained well and I came away with a unanimous win.

So the point is, work hard at what you do, at what you want to achieve. Don’t let things slack off, because it is easy, oh so easy to do. So many people whom I admire work seemingly tirelessly at what they do. One of my friends is always out and about, demonstrating and protesting against fracking, she puts me to shame. Another comes under fire all the time for standing up for what they believe, for sometimes saying stuff that they know is going to lead to another shit storm because others won’t like it. It’s hard work, but you know what, they are winning. And they are winning because they put the work and effort in, and in doing so inspire so many others in so many ways.

There’s No Such Thing As An Undefeated Champion

So, okay, technically there is, strictly speaking, but the point I’m making here is that those fighters who have lost and then come back to regain their title are often treated like heroes of epic proportions, fighters like Ali, for example.

Losing is shit, excuse the language, but it really is, in fighting and in life. So, over the coming year, do not get down hearted over workings that, well, just don’t work, for whatever reason,or setbacks in your environmental and political fights. It is how we deal with these losses that counts. Pull yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on it! Which leads on, naturally, to the next lesson.

A Loss Isn’t A Loss If You Learn From It.

And my coach is right about this one too.

I once lost a fight because my opponent managed to keep me away with side kicks. She was a lot taller than me, and I couldn’t get close enough to utilise my own skills. I was so pissed off afterwards, because I felt like I hadn’t really been in a fight, and lost anyway. It was so frustrating. So we went back to the gym, and we drilled getting in close, blocking, movement and other techniques, and you know what, I’ve never had that problem since.

So, whilst losing is crap, don’t get so down hearted that you don’t come back better and stronger.

Look at Rhonda Rousey, MMA megastar, she really did so much for women’s fighting. Love her or loathe her, there’s no denying what she did for her sport. But when she lost to Holly Holmes, and devastatingly so, she never really recovered from that loss, at least that’s how it seems to the outside world.

So dismantle your losses. Look at what you did and learn to be constructively critical of yourself. Pick yourself apart and figure out what you did wrong, what didn’t work and why, but also what did work and why and how can that be replicated across other areas.

If you learn from your losses and defeats and come back stronger and better, then you haven’t really lost at all.

Be As The Elements

No shit! This is actual advice from my coach.

Earth equals stability, essential for balance and power.

Water equals fluidity, the smooth swiftness of a roundhouse kick, or the flow of a combination.

Air equals space, and the use of it is what separates good fighters from great ones, the ones who can slip and weave and find the space to get a shot off, then move again to avoid being hit.

Fire is, obviously, that passion, the fire that gets you through the pain and the tiredness and the sheer hard work and effort.

The sorcerers among us will already, no doubt, be familiar with the elements and their attributes. We can use this same philosophy in life, in our own fights and struggles. Stand strong, but also be fluid enough so that you don’t stagnate. Find your niche, your space, what you are good with, your talents and abilities, and use them in whatever areas you are passionate about.

It Only Takes Three Steps…

…To take the centre of the ring. When the fight starts, you come out from the corner. Controlling the centre of the ring shows dominance and puts your opponent on the back foot. Sometimes, that distance from your corner to the centre can seem like a mile long, but it only takes three steps to claim the centre.

Do not be ashamed to start small. Take those first three steps, start your own journey of resistance. Everything gets easier after that, or you get used to it, you’ve already gained your momentum. You just have to start. You’re already here, reading this, on this website and that can only be a good thing!

So there you have it, just some of the teachings given to me by my coach, and by martial arts. Of course, there are the more obvious lessons, like how to fight, because self defence is never something one should take lightly. At the very least, you may as well go down swinging, you might as well fight back when your backs against the wall because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Violence is often the last recourse of the oppressed and down trodden.

So a big shout out to my coach and friend, Dean, head coach and owner at Suggy’s Gym, and let 2018 be the year of Resistance!


Emma Kathryn

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

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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