The Anger of White Men

One night when I was twelve, my cousins introduced me to the band Tool’s album Undertow. During the golden age of the compact disc, musicians could add “secret” tracks to their albums. This was a great motivation to listen to the album all the way through without skipping, well before playing songs at random was the norm. Sometimes there were “negative tracks,” coded in such a way that you wouldn’t hear the song if you skipped to the track, unless you rewound it into the negative count. The most common hidden track was tacked on to the end of the album—songs, skits, or other strange found content accessible if you sat through long minutes of waiting. The secret track of Tool’s Undertow album, “Disgustipated,” did this twice: it was the 69th track on the CD, with tracks 10-68 being a few seconds of silence, and after the song itself there is another, creepier conclusion.

The song begins with a preacher talking to a herd of sheep, speaking of a vision of carrots fearing harvest day, the day they will be devoured. Then a repetitive, hypnotic chant begins: “This is necessary. / This is necessary. / Life, feeds on / Life, feeds on…” I had no idea what to make of this, but more unnerving was the true ending of the album. When the song ends, there is a long stretch of cricket noises, before finally a man’s insistent, emotionless monotone tells a story. “It was daylight when you woke up in your ditch. You looked up at your sky then. That made blue be your color.” It continues, surreal and without any apparent plot, before ending with the sound of a phone hanging up.

My cousins lived in a house on land that had been in my family’s possession for a few generations, at the outer edge of a northern town in Indiana that lay in the nebulous boundary between rural and suburban. Behind their house was a dense forest that extended for miles, near as I could tell, broken by fields. Some summer days we spent hours in those woods and fields. It was a quiet, somber land. The kind of town that people imagine when they speak of Indiana.

I lived two hours away in central Indiana, a place further into the nebulous boundary between suburban and urban, where wealthier people lived. Not at all the kind of place people imagine when they speak of Indiana. During summers and long weekends my mom would drive me up an hour where we’d meet my aunt, who’d driven down, to transfer me between cars so I could go with them back to their place. It was a reprieve from the bullying and loneliness of my home life.

Musical exchange was a part of how my cousins and I connected. One was a boy my age, with whom I spent the most time, but occasionally we would be allowed into the space of his older brother, who initiated me into the adolescent mysteries of pornography, cigarettes, and marijuana. Though we were all part of the same extended Catholic family, these boys seemed less preoccupied with purity and punishment than I was. They read horror fiction and introduced me to industrial and heavy metal music, stuff that sounded like Satan. It terrified me. Of course I kept coming back for more.

That night, we discussed “Disgustipated” for far too long, sifting it for secrets. In those days, everything felt suffused with an occult meaning. Adulthood held its mysteries aloft, teasing us with the promise that eventually we would understand. I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking of the psychotic chanting and the man’s bizarre story. Nights at their house were quieter than the ones I had at home, even with the incessant noise of frog and cicada, giving my anxious mind ample space to ruminate. In my fearful imagination I saw, in the deep shadows of the forest, men in white Ku Klux Klan robes walking the earth, spreading terror. I sensed terror and anger from the land.

The distance between my cousins and I was as much class and sexuality as geography, I understand now. My father had grown up working class but was aggressively working his way up the white collar ladder, simultaneously resenting and wanting to impress his wealthier colleagues. I was a shy, anxious, introverted, unathletic Catholic kid who was terrified of sin and hell and only beginning to sense my queer desires.

My cousins, on the other hand, loved sports, breasts, heavy metal, and video games. While school came easily to me, both struggled, and at an early age they put a stop to my obnoxious tendency to correct their grammar. Their father alternated between teaching jobs and construction work, at times quitting his job in an act of defiance. The cousin my age inherited his father’s anger. He would get enraged at seemingly nothing, rant and rave, and inflict violence on the walls and floors of the house with whatever means available. All this happened when he was a kid, not even a teenager.

They were not the only white boys with anger. Friends of mine throughout junior high and high school knew it in various ways. They listened to white men singing angry punk and metal anthems, raging against political and social injustice, or venting personal grievances against lovers and parents. We went out in the dark to commit random acts of vandalism and property damage, just because. I participated in my way, even enjoyed some of the same music, but my anger was turned inward. We all sat around campfires, drinking, singing, talking, but I feared my queerness would get me exiled and beaten. Instead of raging against authority and injustice, I raged against my own sinful ungovernability. Boys who could have been my comrades I saw as potential threats, their anger something I learned to fear.

Why were we so angry? I wonder this often, particularly as the anger of white men glows brightly in our culture like hot embers, ready to ignite with the breeze. My imagination of Klan members in the forest was not random. Throughout my childhood I took note of the racist graffiti in bathrooms, heard the racist jokes shared between white people, and learned in school about the second, nativist wave of the Ku Klux Klan flourishing in early twentieth century Indiana. Then, as now, economic desperation had given rise to nationalist exclusion and white supremacy. Then, as we will see in the future, this brought only suffering and disappointment.

My cousins and I drifted further apart as time and class widened the gulf between us. I saw no future for me in Indiana, no path forward that would give me the social connection, cultural stimulation, and opportunity for intimacy I craved, so I moved to Chicago. When I was finishing my undergraduate education, I went back for a family reunion and confessed to my uncle and older cousin that I realized I was intimidated by the working world. My cousin, who never finished high school, grinned ferociously and said, “We’ll eat you alive!”

I let myself be hurt by this at the time, but now I wonder about the anger behind his words. He was smart. He read as much as I did. He wrote. His struggles in school and at home were largely behavioral. Years before he said this, I woke up to hearing my uncle throw him out of the house for some offense. Having worked with homeless teenagers, I understand better how deeply painful this rejection is, even for the most stoic child. He never finished high school, and his town had few opportunities for someone without a degree. When his parents eventually let him move back home, he seemed to withdraw entirely. Rarely any romantic relationship, getting a job working the night shift, coming home to smoke pot and sleep all day.

I wonder if his father had a context for valuing his son’s intelligence and encouraging him to cultivate that. I wonder if his father had his own failed dreams and grievances, his anger at being ruled by the whims of others. Nothing in my cousins’ lives encouraged them to reach beyond the limits of the town and its political and economic realities. I could very easily see either of them spending hours on the Internet, getting radicalized by the alt-right.

Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, has remarked that the band’s fans seem unable to appreciate the humor in his music. “Insufferable people . . . I’m sorry. Can’t help them. Way too serious. Too much. Lighten up.” Listening to “Disgustipated” now, I recognize the song as tongue-in-cheek, probably ridiculing folks who cannot accept our needs as animals to eat other living things. The closing story, according to the Internet, was a phone message left on Keenan’s answering machine by his landlord, possibly a rambling manifestation of a hallucinogenic trip the man was on. Meaningless drivel, so abstracted that searching it for meaning is akin to trying to weave a sock out of a spiderweb. Another promise of childhood proven to be an illusion.

During the summer of 2016, I was coming to the end of a long arc, seven years that included the dissolution and resurrection of my career. The recession of 2008 pushed me into the kinds of service jobs that I’d avoided for so long. This was the “being eaten alive” which my cousin had predicted, during which I learned that no one is too good for a job, all labor is challenging, and everyone deserves dignity and fair pay in their work. In a grief circle at a polytheist conference, I confessed something I did not understand: I felt cheated. I felt there was a life I was supposed to have that was now impossible, thanks to the decaying world and shifting economy. I recognized, as I said it, how entitled it was coming from a privileged white man. Yet there it was.

The more I thought on it, the more I recognized it as the same wounded entitlement shared by many white men. It is what Susan Faludi discussed in her book from the year 2000, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Rather than pathologizing this anger or essentializing this pain as a toxic ingredient of manhood, Faludi rather compassionately explores the ways that economic shifts have devalued the jobs, skills, and social roles of men without providing a life-affirming alternative. These conditions have only worsened as declining economic opportunities limit the opportunities of men and boys for whom middle management and programming work are not easily accessible. Instead, they have their parents’ basements and memes. It is the festering wound of white masculinity that drew so many toward a president who promised the impossible, that he could bring back a way of life long gone.

Remembering my childhood vision of terror in the forests, I contemplate of the relationship between European settlers and the land that would be claimed as the United States. People from distant shores, escaping enclosure and disenfranchisement, hoping this soil would be a place where they could establish the wealth and autonomy denied them. Unacquainted with the spirits of the land, people huddling together in their townships. The forest around them was an adversarial realm, harboring every person, plant, and animal hostile to the settlers’ presence. This fear of the forest is, I believe, engrained in the cultural soul of the white US citizen. Our literary history points to this, from the 2015 movie The Witch in which the forest harbors Satanic horrors; to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” in which the titular character witnesses a black mass outside the borders of his town. H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction epitomizes this trend in American literature. His white supremacy is central to his vision of horror, in my opinion, as every monster emerges from the bodies and spirits crushed under the weight of white identity.

As white men, anger and betrayal might be the unfinished business of our ancestors. Ours are the ancestors who learned to blame themselves for their suffering, to individualize their anger and see their neighbors as competitors rather than allies. Ours are the ancestors who sacrificed their unique cultures for the unsatisfying pseudo-culture of whiteness. Our ancestors allowed racism, sexism, and hatred of the other to divide themselves from those with whom they had common cause. All for the promise that if they simply worked hard enough, they would have wealth, ease, and love. A promise that has been broken over and over, a promise that increases the wealth and power of the elite while we cling even harder to the lie.

We have been given a shitty deal. Theodore W. Allen talked about white privilege as a “baited hook,” something that traps us even as it seems to give us a treat. Deep down, we know the wealth we desire comes from the oppression of others. We know our anger keeps us from the solidarity we desperately crave. The system that exploits our dreams and desires wants us to be hateful and wary of women, people of color, and queer folk. It wins when we see ourselves as competitors fighting over scraps rather than comrades who demand more.

Our ancestors oppressed and colonized, but that’s not all they did. We have ancestors who joined with Black people in the fight against slavery and segregation. We have ancestors who fought for freedom, social equality, better wages, the right for people of all classes, races, and genders to vote. We do not have to bear our burdens alone. All we need to do is be willing to share the burden of others. We can join them in the forest.

Let’s turn our anger to the people who benefit from keeping our wages depressed, not the people who take whatever they can get to support their families. Let’s turn our anger to the banks who foreclosed on our houses and the government that paid for their mistakes. Let’s turn our anger to those who would rather pay us to endanger our lives doing violence in foreign countries than spend that money investing in our healthcare, schools, roads, and bridges—all of which would create jobs. Let’s turn our anger to the corporate practices that dump waste in our water, that eviscerate our forests, that poison our health.

Our anger is fire. With it we can bring warmth to the world. This is necessary.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


Anthony Rella is one of the writers featured in several issues of A Beautiful Resistance. Click the image below to see all our publications.

Elowah Falls: Tears of the Singing Waters

After a rough night of grieving, I woke a little late and fired up the computer a little too soon to start working. I immediately jumped into juggling several important community-related things. Then I had to take a break to pay bills and well – that is never a fun experience. By then, I was done – stressed, frustrated, and sinking into despair. It was time for some nature therapy. I dug some clothes out of a bag (I hadn’t gotten to the laundry, either – no added stress there!) and hopped in the car. I knew I was going to go for a drive through the Columbia River Gorge on the Historic Highway, but I didn’t know where I was going to stop yet. I was thinking “waterfall” but since there are dozens in the Gorge that didn’t really narrow it down. But I really enjoy just getting in the car and seeing where it takes me – intuition, spirits, and gods guiding the way.

I passed all of the waterfalls on the way out, and thought maybe I would stop at Horsetail Falls, since I hadn’t felt the urge to stop anywhere else. When I didn’t get the nudge there either, I started to feel like maybe I would just turn around and go home. But then I remembered I hadn’t continued out Highway 30 to it’s junction with the interstate. I drove a couple more miles and pulled off at the parking area before I got back on to Interstate 84. I looked at the sign – Elowah Falls trail. Oh! I had read about Elowah Falls, and the name struck some chord in me*. I checked in and got the definite ‘Yes – GO!’ so I tightened my hiking boots and set off, not really sure where I was going or what to expect.

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The trail is just under a mile to the falls, with a few hundred feet of elevation gain; its just enough to make me feel like I’ve worked to get there. Combined with the first time on a trail with no field guide, the exertion and the unknown was enough to start wearing down the walls I’d put up to hold myself together. The trail parallels the interstate for the entire length of it, adding some frustration and a heaping dose of paradox.

It is beautiful – vibrant rain forest above and below, roaring highway to the south. It is such that you can’t actually hear the falls until you get close enough to see it peeking through the trees and you start descending a series of switchbacks. It is a bit labyrinthine – trees growing across the trail at odd angles, washouts and rocks, green leaves and flowering plants obscuring your view.

And then you start to feel the water – the air sings with it, the earth softens with it. The trees and rocks are covered in moist moss. I dipped my hand into the pool beneath the small stream falling from the rocks and touched the sweet water to my head. 20160526_151522 (1)

A few more steps and I stopped, my breath caught as a rush of energy went through me and tears came to my eyes. Opened before me was a great amphitheater where water played, cascading over rocks and singing with such playful joy. Elowah was falling majestically from the cliff. It felt like another time, another place; something out of a fantasy novel. The spirit of this waterfall presided over it all with a kind and joyful, reverently guarding presence. 20160526_152110 (1)

As I came to the falls a crow flew over my head, joining a hawk high in the sky. They did not seem to do the usual territorial debate, rather they circled and danced in the sky. Dozens of swallows flit above me, birdsong resonating through the open canyon. There were no other embodied humans there.

 I wept.

I usually do, at waterfalls. At least the ones that aren’t displayed as tourist attractions. Something about the singing in the air, the joyful play, the gentle power – the timeless presence that is constantly in movement. It resonates with my watery-airness in a way that is comforting and fills me to overflowing.

And I think about how grateful we should all be that such beauty exists. That sense of awe cannot be replaced or duplicated.* And yet, our capitalist society doesn’t appreciate it enough at all, beyond value as a resource. I wept for the highway that cut through this place, wept for those beings, human and non-human, who used to be here. Oh, the land spirits in the Pacific Northwest are strong and lively beings, make no mistake. But what must it have been like before we paved it over? Before we ran out and murdered the indigenous peoples that knew them as kin? Before we named new spirits in the name of progress?

I marveled at the fantastic geological formations, at all of the forces that merged and dance and broke apart over millions of years to create this place. I watched the faces in the waterfall, and formally introduced myself to the spirit there.

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As I left the Gorge and made my way back into the city I had to stop the car to cry again. I can’t really tell you what that was about. It was a moving cascade of things. Rather like a waterfall.

I’ve returned many times since this first visit, at different times of day and in different states of my own being. Each time the face of the falls has offered a different glimpse, had different songs to share. I feel the pull to this place as I feel the pull to my own altars, to my own heart, in this relationship we are developing.

 *A note on the name of the falls – Elowah. In the brief research I have done, it seems no one is claiming to know the meaning of the name or why the falls were named Elowah. A mountaineering club had the name changed in 1915. If it is/was a word in the language of the indigenous peoples, I haven’t been able to find it. In Hebrew, Elowah is another word for God. I got the sense that the spirit of the falls liked the name okay and the feel of the word is appropriate, but it is not the right name. As is usually the case.
**Even when we can’t access wild spaces, we can be grateful for their existence. The sense of awe that they inspire is not the only source of such awe, but it is one source, and is not more or less valid than any other.

Originally published on Call of the Syren

Shady pine trees and rivers of light

About a fortnight ago, I attended a Witches Sabbat on unceded Algonquin land and territory in the Ottawa Valley. The purpose of the Sabbat was working with land spirits as well as with working with curses, a contentious topic in many circles of witchcraft in the west. This writing here consists of my personal experience at the Sabbat participating with the pine forests and the Bonnechere river, as well as the community of powerful witches assembled there that weekend.

The way that people stitch themselves together happens
Slow, slow, slow
—Meklit Hadero

The fire, the conifers, the constant chorus of cicadas, frogs, and toads. The pine needles that coat the forest floor, a soft tapestry soaked in cedrus deodara that protects and nourishes. I learned long ago that many conifers do indeed drop their needles (and sap), like many deciduous trees, and that this act is both aggressive, and protective. The needles soak the ground in pine essential oils, changing the acidity levels of the soil and killing harmful microbes and bacteria. Plants that cannot stand the pH of the pine needles will not grow here, and will be killed, but many other plants and creatures flourish here, protected by the pines that reach upwards and onwards for the sun.

The ecosystem of the pine forest at Raven’s Knoll becomes a metaphor for the workings of the Witches’ Sabbat. Our curses, our sorrows, our poisons, and our fury, are like those pine needles—but instead of poisoning us, or this place, we create soft earth under the soles of our weary feet, and for the forest to thrive on.

“To the Sabbath! To the Sabbath!’ they cried. ‘On to the Witches’ Sabbath!” Up and down that narrow hall they danced, the women on each side of him, to the wildest measure he had ever imagined, yet which he dimly, dreadfully remembered, till the lamp on the wall flickered and went out, and they were left in total darkness. And the devil woke in his heart with a thousand vile suggestions and made him afraid.

—Algernon Blackwood, The Complete John Silence Stories

Our workings seem demonic, haunted, haunting, and possessed when viewed from the outside. How can we work in the pitch black of night? From the outside, it may seem like our ceremonies are odious, strange and unsettling. Restraint is left at the fork in the path where the country highway becomes a country road. Here we scream. Here we shake. Here we weep, or cry, or laugh—is there anything more magical, more satisfying, more infuriating than a good, witchy, cackle? We keep ourselves on tight leashes outside this forest. The full might of who we are—queers, transgender people, indigenous people, elders, parents, millennials, witches—scares a lot of people. One just has to glance at the pages of the Malleus Maleficarum, or even simply at current events, at the ongoing destruction of the earth and the colonization of all the beings within, to witness how ancient and far-reaching that fear is. We keep ourselves on guard, outside this forest, anxious and watchful, but here, amongst pine trees, as our screaming voices rise to the ceiling of the forest and erupt into the sky, we remember that to make these sounds, these promises, we must remember how to breathe fully and without reservations—to properly exhale, to properly sing, to properly speak, we must remember to breathe.

We must arrive as well-behaved guests, fresh and ready for whatever might happen. Much as we try to leave our baggage, emotional and otherwise, at the threshold of the forest, some baggage creeps and clings too strongly. In the mere weeks before arriving at Raven’s Knoll, I dealt with some of the darkest evils that spring up when least expected: cancers and tumours growing within family and loved ones who are simply far too young; the funeral of my beloved grandfather; the uncontainable sorrow and fears of mothers and sisters; and the ever-constant stresses of dealing with unending bureaucracies and hospitals, anxieties over failing to finish university by now, anxieties over writing rejections, anxieties over projects that never begin or end. That feeling, I’m sure you know the one, of years compressed into weeks and the lingering exhaustion that sits on your chest as you try to remember each deadline, each promise, and each failure without breaking into frightened sobs.

On my first morning in the forest, I woke up at four in the morning in order to finish working on an enormous research paper that I needed to have finished by the end of May, or else I would not graduate from my undergraduate degree. I’d been trying to finish it in the weeks before the Witches’ Sabbat, but finally, with mosquitos and flies buzzing in my ears, the noon sun dusting the trees above with light, I typed the last word of the essay and finished formatting every, last, bloody, citation. With a freedom I had not felt in weeks, I threw myself more or less fully-clothed into the sweet-watered Bonnechere river to celebrate. Gliding through the sunlit water was my first victory during a weekend full of treasures. As I swam into the slow, happy current, I felt unbearably glad, even after everything that had happened. I’d felt whittled-down for weeks, to my bare bones, and the Bonnechere—which was named from the French bonne chère, or good cheer— let me float in her light. I followed a few small, adventurous freshwater fish, and dug my feet in the soft river bed for a while.

I returned to the fire pit and to the workshops just in time to help discuss and create the curses we would be casting that night at dusk, the curses that we would design to protect the forest, its guests, and all the year-round residents within, from the dangers that visitors to the Knoll might bring with them. We banished abuse, neglect and cruelty. We banished assault and rape. We banished those that would harm the land, those that would litter and threaten the forest with fire or the river waters with pollution. We banished by cursing—a curse like those pine needles, a curse that would ultimately help heal the land from the trauma dealt to it by humans. Much of the forest at Raven’s Knoll had been clear-cut and the land used for monocultures before it had been acquired by its current caretakers.

Have you ever witnessed the disturbing reality of a clear-cut forest? Even now, as the trees grow again, you can tell that something is, well, off. I witnessed it last year during the Witches Sabbat at the heart of where the clear-cutting occurred not many years ago. Even just at the level of the ecosystem, it’s clear that something brutal and sad happened here, that large parts of this forest lacks the kind of biodiversity that usually accompanies new growth after a forest fire or when farmland is allowed to go a little wild, on its own, for a decade or more.

Sometimes, at Raven’s Knoll, if you shut up, listen, and watch carefully, you see the signs and scars of trauma. You hear in the evening wind through the trees that this isn’t your land. It’s a reminder, if not also a subtle threat, that we’re all temporary guests here, that the land will outlast us and our hubris, and we all have to make amends—especially us settlers—in order to heal.

A witch who cannot hex, cannot heal. A witch who cannot cut, cannot seal.

It felt right, in more ways than one, to work on that curse. Cursing is a contentious topic in witchcraft, but it has a long, long history. Before the twentieth century there were exceedingly rare, or perhaps no portrayals of witches as beings of sweetness and light. Witches tended to walk that liminal line between shadow and sun. Most medicines are also poisons: they wouldn’t be medicines if not for their poison. Yet cursing today is both frowned upon and cast aside. It’s seen as an invitation or encouragement of uncontrollable evil, harm, cruelty into the caster’s life and the lives of their loved ones. Cursing involves, sometimes quite literally, jumping into darkness, of naming what is not often explicitly named, of recognizing that one being’s poison (such as pine needles) is another being’s home. Cursing involves grappling with ethical dilemmas that have no morally preferable solution, as well as those situations that do. Cursing involves realizing that some relationships are too complex for straightforward, generalizable answers. Cursing involves realizing that cursing is a complicated endeavour to be treated with respect during the entire process. And there is no wiggle room for errors. Clarity, even while here in the bog and the mud, covered in sand and dirt, has to be maintained or else shit will hit the fan. Cursing is the dark side of the moon.

After the curse, my hands, feet, and thighs were red-raw from dancing, screaming, singing, clapping, and stomping. Lightheadedness and dehydration settles within, as the songs of toads, frogs, bugs and crows come to us from the forest and the shore of The Cauldron. In a few glorious hours as night fell, we poured all of our malice, might, hurt, and anger into a large poppet of sticks, clay, and cloth, and when we threw it into the fire, we screamed, sang, and cheered as we watched the fucker burn.

Get the fuck out of here, asshole. This is not your land.

Then, at midnight, we donned white shirts and scarves and masks, and we began a procession under the stars through the forest to The Cauldron, a freshwater spring from an aquifer deep underground. With songs and hushed whispers we arrived at her warm, sandy shores.

After one last shout and call to the spirits of land and place, the last magic working of the night started as honey and drink was passed around, witches spat wine all over our white clothes and in our faces, and water scented with flower petals was splashed and thrown over us. With one last hurrah we dived under the black waters of The Cauldron, whispering our prayers under our breath or giggling as we dared ourselves onwards and into inky waters in the middle of the night. I was reminded starkly of The Mabinogion, of the cauldrons of ancient goddesses such as Ceridwen, where from their sacred brew a few drops fell to impart great knowledge and wisdom, or where dead warriors were brought back from death and reborn.

Jumping into that fresh-water cauldron which snapping turtles and frogs call their home, after an evening and night of blasting and banishing, creates relief from grief. Cursing, I discover as I hold my breath in the dark water, is a little bit like grief. The act of cursing for such a powerful purpose reaches deep inside you and cuts out something, maybe something bad, maybe something good, but something that had become a part of you and that you now know you must learn to live without. It’s like a forest fire that blazes and destroys what you love, what you hate, what you need, what you want, what you have become: without that fire renewal would be impossible, change would be impossible, and, especially, healing would be impossible.

One last word: a special thank you to all the organizers and all witches and guests who helped make this year’s Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll an extraordinary success. And thank you, thank you, thank you to the pine forest and the Bonnechere river.

Further Reading

Cover image is mine, a photo taken of the pine forest near the wetlands in Raven’s Knoll. This essay was originally posted at http://gersande.com/blog/shady-pine-trees-and-rivers-of-light-the-witches-sabbat-at-ravens-knoll-2016/


Gersande La Flèche

unnamed (1)Gersande La Flèche is a nonbinary transgender artist, writer, and programmer who lives in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), Québec, of Colombian, Breton, Italian, and Québecois-Irish ancestry. They are an animist particularly interested by the philosophical questions created by posthuman and nonhuman theory, and like to write about ecocritism and environmental ethics, as well as diving into subjects such as colonization, feminism, literature and video games at Gersande.com.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mesa_Arch,_Canyonlands.jpg

Windsong

Mesa-top twilight smudges smoky sage around on the wind
Counter-world dreamtime seeping in, whistlings that round on the wind

Will you grasp and mark the rising tide of howling crescendo
Or be lost in noise of sprawl, pod, and team that pound on the wind

I once lost track of the medicine that I held so blithely
When a nightmare of wings hunted me, I was downed on the wind

Go tuck the holy broken things in the midden, and return
Lay low, the night spirits are screaming up the mound, on the wind

Come cast the water, the sand and salt, and make your circle bed
Relearning, shakingly, to rely on the ground, on the wind

Raining brings ancestors close to whisper what we always knew
Restoration, spirit life, memories that surround on the wind

Such songs sowed Kokopelli, forlorn flute soon to awaken
Call up the ancient new seductive healing sound on the wind

~~~

Windsong is written in the poetry form called the ghazal, and was inspired by the Navajo Night Chant, which evokes the night winds/spirits that howl up the sides of the mesas as night falls… and haunts you until you sow it into a poem with other elements of the cultures of the American Southwest, a re-enchantment message from the ancestors, and a wink from Kokopelli. 😉


 

Lia Hunter

LiaHA student of anthropology and philosophy, lover of learning and homeschooling mother, Lia Hunter grew up in a conservative Christian cult and had to learn critical thinking the hard way, now values it highly, and looks behind all the cultural curtains. She came home to Paganism in 2000 and blogs at SageWoman blogs (The Tangled Hedge) and her personal spirituality blog (Awenydd of the Mountains).


 

The Second issue of A Beautiful Resistance is now available for pre-order!

Who Lives Here?

By Judith O’Grady

judith 3

 

I live in what I describe as ‘a tiny urban farm’. In fact, I live in an edge-of- town not quite suburban house with (because it was built in the ’60’s) a fairly generous yard which is about 90% garden. We do grow vegetables in the few sunny spots (largely in bags and bins on the driveway) but actually the majority is an herb and native perennial garden, certified by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (helps me fight with by-law about not cutting it down). The older parts have been in place for 15ish years and the whole is fairly mature, which means that some of it is huge and about 1/4 to 1/3 wasn’t planted by me– if you don’t mow, things will volunteer in. We maintain slight control— we weed (‘thistling’ is a verb with us, I tell the helpers “top of the list today is thistling…”) and we build beds on the few patches of grass left because the best way of getting rid of grass is to paper over it; if you try to dig it up it just comes back in the middle of what you’re trying to grow.

Almost every morning (as well as any other time I am free) I sit on the back deck and drink coffee. Mostly, I just drift (‘meditate’) and often I look around at how things are doing and what needs done next session (I am moderately handicapped and so I have helpers) but today I found myself thinking about the end-of-world. A week or two ago, someone on Facebook posted about going somewhere and seeing chipmunks. Which is fun since chipmunks are the Beanie Babies of the rodent world but also laughable to me since our yard is FULL of chipmunks. Sixish years ago, we had ONE chipmunk (well, likely two) in the organic, full-of-seedheads yard. After a few years, Chipmunk decided that the kids might as well stay on since there are lavish plants, many routes of safety, and much spilled birdseed.

So we had SOME chipmunks.

judith 2It’s a pretty good environment, and now at maximum load of chipmunks. If you sit down anywhere for five minutes you will see about six (or possibly three twice). We never try to trick them into perceiving us as not-dangerous and taking peanuts from our hands so it’s not the best destination-wildlife- experience ever, but a lot of fun. So I was unfocusedly watching the chipmunks and noting the delightful Goldfinches at the birdfeeders (what we do, in case you’re planning a fierce rebuttal, is fill them about half the time— support but not expectation— and leave a bunch of seedheads around as well) and I found a book I read some years ago came to mind.  ‘A World WIthout Us’, which is not a new but a very well-done book.

What if all the people were gone? He doesn’t dwell on this but zips right past to the other side; what happens to everything else? It’s a very encouraging and thought-provoking book; he discusses how fast cities will break down (it’s wonderful how fast New York City, that paved-over brick where I had so many and so beautiful hallucinations of the lost forests when I lived there as a teen will disappear) and how re-growth will occur using the no-go zones as between North and South Korea and on Cyprus as templates.

“Some of you chipmunks will have to move on when no one is filling the birdfeeders,” I thought. But still a pretty good place— we have mature pines between our back and the weedy, rarely-mown highway noise barrier strip with a family of little Red Squirrels (who favor pines) in them. Only ONE family, no hangers-on— Red Squirrels are described as ‘very territorial’ in the nature books which translates as unimaginably aggressive. I have seen the Red Squirrel hide inside the birdfeeder in order to ambush the grey squirrels stopping by. This even though ze is less than half their size. Because they are mainly on the ground the chipmunks do not (usually) provoke the Little Red and the Little Red Family would carry on in our absence just fine. So the chipmunks are okay.

“Hmmmmm, the waterfall pond would fill up with gunk without a recirculating pump and someone scooping out Maple keys, but the fish pond (which is larger) would be all right even if the bubbler was shut off.”

judithWater is crucial to wildlife. Although not so much to the plantings, two Summers ago we had a fierce and protracted drought and all the neighbors’ yards browned-off completely; two years or a dry Fall and they would have died. My front yard? Not a banner year but not suffering either.

Alan Weisman mentions this in the book as well, that places that already have natives and hardy spready plants will serve as foci for the places that will become empty. We noticed a phenomenon like that this Spring. No one hurried to mow because the city is going to dig up the edges of the street as part of a sewer/water project. A friend came over to dig up some plants and asked, “Why do you have no Dandelions?” I had not noticed, but it was so— where they were competing with grass in the walkways there were lots; in the Wildlife Garden where they compete with Yarrow and Gravel- Root there were none.

I am a biologist and a Plague-Believer (the world will like be swept by a >90% kill plague due to crowding, global transportation, and the mutability of viruses rather than the blowing-up of bombs, etc even though humankind is endlessly imaginative) although I don’t dwell on it. But it is a comforting thought that my yard will protect the wildlife that lives here and the plants I have nurtured will spread out into the neighbors’ yards once the poison once put on it is gone.

I am happy with that as my memorial— the Very Local Land Spirit will still remember me when I am gone.

 

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’).

Liberation Magic

 

May 2015

This monthly column will appear on the Friday prior to the Dark Moon. It will be more than just a column however. My hope is that this will develop into a group of practitioners joining energy and intention to combat the effects of capitalism and help bring about a better world. In order to build this community, I encourage discussion regarding your experience of the Work in the comments. I also want to honor the diversity of practice within our communities and invite suggestions for future workings.

Each column will have two types of workings – one baneful working and one healing working. This will make some people uncomfortable, but it is an intentional decision. This is not the place to argue for the use of baneful work, and much has been written about the radical nature of witchcraft and the place of cursework within it, so I will refer you to Jason Thomas Pitzl’s Witchcraft Manifesto, Sarah Anne Lawless’ Curse Collection, and Byron Ballard’s interview on Willful Bane: The Joy of Hex.

If you are opposed to cursework or do not feel you have the appropriate experience to accomplish that work, then you have the option of only doing the healing working. If you are doing the baneful working I encourage you to also do the healing working. The Work presented here will be of a basic-intermediate nature so as to remain accessible to the most people. You are welcome to adjust the working to suit your personal practice and style of magic.

The meeting of Light and Dark (Abandoned Rail Tunnel, Donner Pass, CA) Photo by Syren
The meeting of Light and Dark (Abandoned Rail Tunnel, Donner Pass, CA) Photo by Syren

Moon in Taurus

The moon moves into Gemini early in the morning on the 18th and Mercury stations retrograde later that evening, so I would recommend starting this work sometime over the weekend. This month will be a foundational practice and so will not include any cursework; we’ll just be developing the foundation for moving forward. The Moon in Taurus is a good time to start these workings to help us build a solid foundation and stick-to-it-ness and to always bring us back to the Earth. So we will begin with a simple working to connect us to spirits of the land where we live and build an allyship. You may very well already have a practice similar to this – adjust accordingly.

Find the closest “nature” to you. This may be a tree planted in a city sidewalk, a body of water, or a deep forest. You could also do some research and find where a river or forest or other sacred place used to be. The only important thing is that this is a place that you have regular access to; you will be spending a fair amount of time here so the easier the access the more likely you will be to continue the practice. Go to the place you have chosen, bringing with you an offering of water and any other natural offering that you feel is appropriate, and pen and paper. As with any new relationship, you should start by introducing yourself and saying why you are there. Say something like this: “I’m [name] and I’m here to get to know the spirits of this place so that I may better fight for/serve/honor/understand you as I work to bring an end to Capitalism and it’s effects. I bring you an offering of [x] and am open to experiencing what you have to share with me, if you are willing.” (You can place any caveats you feel are necessary – it is important to be very clear about what you are open to and not open to in both directions, just like any relationship consent is key so address this on an ongoing basis).

Give your offering and then begin to open yourself to the place. Ask the spirits of this place if it is ok for you to be there and if they want to work with you. Take a few deep breaths, breathing into your third eye/mind, your heart, and your sex, then sending your energy into the earth. Continue breathing into your energy body that surrounds you, expanding it outwards until it surrounds this place. Now listen. Pay attention to everything around you, noticing the specifics of this place. Take down notes of what you hear and see and any messages that are given to you.

When you are ready, give your thanks and make a commitment to return to this place often. You are developing a relationship with the spirits of this place to better understand the effects of capitalism on Them and Their place and build an ally relationship; doing that requires frequent interaction but only commit to what you know you will do, to build trust.

Continue returning to this place throughout the Work that you do. As the relationship develops, listen to what these spirits have to say, but also keep in mind that spirits have their own way of communicating and verifying what they tell you can also be important. It is perfectly ok to question the spirits you are working with and even to develop a “secret password” to identify your allies – you don’t automatically believe everything your friends say or trust that an odd text message comes from them without verification. Keep notes and refer to them often.

So that’s it for this month. Have fun and do let us know how things go in the comments! If something comes up that you need help with you are welcome to reach out to me as well.

Next month we’ll work on developing a symbol for and identify the egregore of Capitalism, so that we have something more concrete to direct our magic towards.

In the meantime, resist beautifully.