A New Luddite Rebellion

We do not revolt because we might fail. People might get shot or imprisoned, vulnerable people might suffer more than they already do, police oppression might increase, and all that effort could be wasted forever. And though these fears have always been good fears, our reliance on technology for re-assurances of certainty has amplified our inaction.

This is not a controversial statement: if many of us can barely try a new restaurant without relying on smartphones to take away the very minimal risk of an awful meal, why would we expect ourselves to face actual, real risk?

A manifesto from Rhyd Wildermuth

“Welcome to the modern world. It’s just like the old world, except it doesn’t work.”

–Peter Grey

My friend and I were both hungry; me perhaps a bit more so since I’d been traveling all day, hadn’t eaten that morning and it was now mid-evening.

“I’ll take you to dinner,” I told him. “Somewhere close–maybe pizza.”

“Okay,” he answered, and then started looking at his phone. “This place has really good reviews. Just need to take two trains.”

I was really hungry. “How long will that take?” I asked.

“45 minutes, maybe an hour.”

I shook my head. “Seems far and will cost a lot to get there. Isn’t there a place nearby?”

It was his turn to shake his head. “None with good reviews.”

“I don’t care,” I answered, probably a bit too curtly. The hunger was irritating me greatly. “Let’s just walk to one of them.”

So we did, set out into the cold city night, finally coming to an Italian restaurant. I looked at the menu, the prices were decent. “Perfect,” I said, turning to him.

“I can’t find any reviews on Trip Advisor though,” he answered. “But there’s one about a mile from here with a lot of reviews…”

Exhausted and frustrated, I snapped back: “Food’s food. I’m buying anyway…let’s go in.”

“But it might not be good,” he replied, until suddenly seeing something on his phone that made him excited. “Nevermind, I found it. Good reviews, we can go in.”

I’ve thought about this interaction very often since it happened a few months ago. My friend isn’t stupid; in fact, he’s very intelligent, and his magical insights into the world are often quite profound. Nor is he hardly alone in succumbing to the peculiar sort of paralysis of inaction I’ve recounted here. In fact, I suffer from it often too, as no doubt you likely do.

The desire to know if something is good before you try it, to want certainty about the uncertain–that’s hardly a new thing. But what is new, deeply radically new, is our reliance on social media (and the corporations which run them) and technological devices to give us that certainty, to tell us it’s going to be okay, to remove the risk that an action might not result in the absolute best conditions.

As with a night out at a restaurant or a date with a person met online, so too with any of the actions we might take towards revolution. We look to Tumblr and Twitter to gauge the sentiment of others, to divine if our groups and theories and plans are popular enough, have all the required sign-off’s from every possible identity focus-group, and nod sagely when told ‘that won’t work’ by whichever correctly-branded social justice personality happened to come through our feed that particular minute.

We do not revolt because we might fail. People might get shot or imprisoned, vulnerable people might suffer more than they already do, police oppression might increase, and all that effort could be wasted forever. And though these fears have always been good fears, our reliance on technology for re-assurances of certainty has amplified our inaction. This is not a controversial statement: if many of us can barely try a new restaurant without relying on smartphones to take away the very minimal risk of an awful meal, why would we expect ourselves to face actual, real risk?

Those Satanic Mills

If you feel this way of critiquing technology seems bizarre, anti-modern, ‘primitive,’ or appears to ignore all the ‘good’ that technology has done, you might be tempted to describe all this as ‘luddite.’ And you’d be correct, and not in the ways most moderns have come to understand what the Luddites fought for.

The Luddites have always fascinated me. Men and women, sometimes cross-dressing, stealing into oppressive factories in the middle of the night to smash looms to stop production: that’s quite hardcore, regardless of why they did it. Besides the awesome acts of industrial sabotage, however, two other aspects of what the followers of King (or Ned, or Captain) Ludd did two hundred years ago are extremely relevant to us now.

The first aspect is their anarcho-paganism. They all claimed to follow a ghostly captain or leader who urged them on their night-time strikes against the industrialists. The stories they told about exactly who He was varied just as often as their actions: Ludd lived under a hill, or in a well, or under a church, all three places not ironically located “somewhere” in Sherwood forest, where Robin of Locksley and his fellow rogues were said to hide. Ludd was a spirit, a king, or a general (“No General But Ludd/Means The Poor Any Good” went one of their chants), or just a captain amongst them, or even the ghost of a man named Ned Ludd (killed after sabotaging a factory, goes the stories).  Like other similar groups such as the Whiteboys and Molly Maguires and Rebeccas, the Luddites invoked the mythic against capitalists and the State to great effect, at least while their resistance lasted.

And that brings me to the third aspect of the Luddite resistance, the part which I find most haunting as another year on this earth passes for me (I’m 41 today, it seems). To explain this aspect, though, we need to step back a bit and look not just at the Luddites themselves but at the era in which they fought and the strange (and eerily familiar) historical circumstances which created the world around them.

If industrial capitalism has a specific birthdate and birthplace, it was 1769 in Derbyshire, England. It was in that year and in that place the very first modern factory was built by Richard Arkwright. The sound of the factory was compared to “the devil’s bagpipes,” a fact memorialized in this poem by Lorna Smithers:

When Richard Arkwright played the devil’s bagpipes on Stoneygate a giant hush came over the town. The blistering whirring sound against the pink horizon of a sun that would not set over clear sights for two centuries of soot and smog was damnable. Yes damnable! Gathering in storm clouds over Snape Fell.

You who have seen a premonition might have heard the village seers tell of smoke for flesh charry knees and the squalor of shanty towns. Red brick mills turning satanic faces to the coin of their heliotropic sun: Empire.

Piecers running between generations bent legged beggers, tongue in cheek defiant. Weavers watching shuttles slipping through fingers like untamed flies. Luddites sweeping across greens with armaments and gritted teeth…

It took forty years for Arkwright’s new terror, “those Satanic mills” as William Blake called them in 1804, to finally spark the resistance movement known as the Luddites. In that space of time, Arkwright’s first mill multiplied into 2400 similar factories spread throughout England (mostly in the major cities), an average of 60 a year.

So, in two generations, Britain had gone from a place where there was no such thing as a factory to a place where there were several thousands. In four decades, an entire society which had started out knowing nothing about industrialization appeared to become irrevocably industrialised, and it was at that point the Luddites struck.

But why then? Why not before? And why fight what appeared to be inevitable?

Against the Modern World

A Foxconn factory (maker of most smartphones) in Wisconsin.

We must first ignore the modern interpretation of what a Luddite is. They weren’t ‘anti-technology’ or slow-to-adapt old people hopelessly left behind in a new world. Nor where they only concerned with fighting for better wages for weavers (who, before the factories, were able to support themselves and large families on the income from their specialized trade).

They were people close to my age and somewhat younger, the oldest people alive in Britain who could still remember the old world before factories, but still also young enough to actually work in them. They were a generation that stood on a threshold between the pre-industrial world and the new industrial capitalist order.

Imagine if you will what it must have been like to see your parents and the older people in your villages, towns, and cities starving because they could not or would not adapt to this brave new world. Many of them were too old, feeble, or weak-sighted to work in the factories, and anyway the factory owners preferred children as young as five to do much of the nimble work (and they couldn’t fight back). So while you see the older generation starving and destitute, you also see your own children or younger siblings coming home from the mills with broken fingers, strange bruises, and unmentionable wounds from their 14-hour day crawling under machinery to tie broken threads or retrieve loose bobbins.

And then there’s you, you and others your age, still young enough to work in many of the mills yet old enough to remember when the world wasn’t like this at all.

Now, it is almost impossible for us to imagine a world before factories, even as in many modern liberal democratic countries very few of us have actually stepped foot in one. That’s not because they aren’t around anymore: they’ve moved mostly to Asia and Africa, where exhausted workers are crammed up like cattle in a slaughterhouse to make the phone and laptops you’re probably reading this on (as well as the clothes you’re wearing, possibly the chair you’re sitting on, and most of the stuff inside the home where you lay your head at night) for little or no wages.

And it is almost impossible to imagine what society was like before the factory. What was it like to only wear clothes made by yourself or people who lived nearby? What was life like before the cities swelled with displaced peasants blinking in the light of dawn before the gates of textile and steel mills, hungry and exhausted but jostling each other in line for a job that day to feed their family? What did the streets and town squares look like at night before everyone had to wake up at dawn to go to work? How did we relate to each other before wages became the only way to survive? And what did society look like before mass-production, when no one ever wore the same thing, when ‘pre-packaged experiences,’ monoculture, and conformity were literally impossible?

It is almost impossible to imagine the world before factories.

Almost, but not completely.

Because we are living in a similar world to what the Luddites experienced.

“All that is sacred is profaned…”*

(* from The Communist Manifesto)

If you can pinpoint any places in western history where technology severely altered the way human society functioned, I suspect there are three. The most obvious one is the industrial revolution, which was also the birth of capitalism. The one before that changed the world as well (but much more slowly) was the invention of the printing press, which gave to early merchants and the bourgeoisie the power to disseminate literature outside the strictures of religious and royal decree. And while we tend to see that invention as a net gain for humanity, we must remember that mass-printing and distribution has always been primarily in the hands of the rich, with the rest of us merely passive consumers.

The third–well, that’s the era we’re in now, the computer/internet ‘revolution.’

The first ‘node-to-node’ digital communication happened in 1969, 200 years after from the birth of Richard Arkwright’s steam-powered looming frame. But being military technology, it took more than a decade for that technology to filter out to non-military capitalists and become the ‘World Wide Web.’ In the following decades, we’ve gone from a world where random (“risky”) human interactions occurred only in public spaces to one where most such interactions now occur ‘online.’ Here’s some other stuff that has changed:

  • 30 years ago, there were no smartphones or texting; in 2015, 98% of all Americans 18-29 years old had a cellphone.
  • 17 years ago there was no Wikipedia, 14 years ago there was no such thing as Facebook, 12 years ago no Twitter, 11 years ago no Tumblr, and 7 years ago no Instagram.
  • In 1984 only 8% of US homes had a computer of any sort; in 2010, 77% did.

These are all merely statistics about technological saturation; they tell us only as much as the figures about factories in England between 1769 and 1810 told us. But we don’t need to dig very far to understand that this technological change has radically altered what it means to be a human in a capitalist society.

For instance: before cellphones, you could only be reached at home. That meant if you needed to wait for a call you had to stay by the phone, but it also meant that your life was less likely to revolve around the ability of someone to get a hold of you immediately. There was no expectation that your attention could be gotten at any hour of the day because such a thing was impossible.

Before texting and email there were letters. You had to take the time to decide what you were going to say to someone, write it out on paper, post it in the mail, and then wait some amount of time for a reply. Thus human interactions were slower and more ponderous and most of all more intentional. Even the angriest of letters wouldn’t arrive until the next day at the earliest, and this slowness meant there was always at least a little time to rethink your immediate fury, unlike now with our instantaneous ‘send’ buttons.

Social media, however, probably represents the largest shift in how we relate to each other and also how we see ourselves. To have large groups of friends you had to do stuff for them, and with them, call them on weekends or send them letters, catch up with them for coffee or go to their parties or invite them for dinner, take vacations to see them or host them in your home. Now you need only post an update and read theirs to feel you’ve performed acts of friendship.

Accompanying that shift has been an increasing feeling of isolation and alienation. So many people now self-diagnose with introversion (as with trauma, or social anxiety, or many other ailments) that one wonders how humans ever managed to talk to each other before the internet.

The general response to this apparent increase in alienation is to state it has always been there, that being connected to each other more via the internet has helped us talk about it more, and that anyway we are #Blessed the internet came around to let us all be social despite our fear and misanthropy.

But in this case particularly, those of us who stand on the same threshold of change that the Luddites also stood upon cannot help but remember–we all did fine without social media. Better, even. We got over our shyness and anxiety because we had to, and the internet appears to have merely enabled us to not get over such things, to not address our social anxiety and fear of rejection and instead hide safely behind a screen.

Before the internet, binge-watching television (“Netflix and chill”) or staring at a screen for hours a day was a sign you’d given up on yourself and the world around you, were depressed and really just needed a friendly face or to go for a walk. They were symptoms of serious depression, indications that some large issue in your life has been unaddressed for too long and the things to ‘get you through’ had become addictions which prevented you from seeking help.

Now those things are all proud marks of ‘self-care’ enabled by technology without which we’d all surely be miserable, lonely humans. Nevermind that we are still miserable, lonely humans, and probably more so now.

Non-Binary Poly Radical #Blessed Vegan Cruelty-Free #Resister Queer Theorist Influencers Unite!™

Less controversial but even more unaddressed is what this new ‘technological revolution’ has done to our ability to survive, to earn enough money to eat and pay rent. The much-vaunted and ridiculous ‘internet of things’ has made it so we rarely get to ‘own’ the things we pay capitalists for, and must re-sell parts of ourselves constantly in order to compensate for dwindling wages and no savings. This is the curse of the ‘millenial’ (a marketing term that, like so much else, somehow became a ‘fact’ in capitalist society)–to have no steady income but to have thousands of Instagram followers in the hopes of one day having enough to be an ‘influencer’. To face insurmountable college debt and no way to secure housing but to get thousands of retweets on Twitter.

It is not just the fate of millenials. I’ve had two posts shared over 100,000 times and one seen by 1.5 million people. And yet I haven’t been able to afford eating more than twice a day in years, and have been nomadic for the last five years because 1.5 million views doesn’t pay rent.

The answer to the poverty experienced by more and more people (again–not just millenials) is to ‘monetize’ your life. Or as put in a rather brilliant essay about nomads like myself at It’s Going Down (“Living In A Van Down By The Instagram”):

The point here is not to whine about how we all can’t be special snowflakes or social media super-stars; the point is to state that capital is colonizing all aspects of our lives, including online worlds, and attempting to make us in turn generate profit, content, and value during all waking moments, either online or off. And, there’s no better backdrop to do this than when we are constantly traveling, as we in turn are utilizing and activating our social networks for the sake of monetizing them. Thus, we are pushed to take photos and tag corporations in the hopes that maybe one day we could get $50 for a sponsored post. To fundamentally turn ourselves, and our lives, into brands.

As was pointed out in the new book, Now, by the Invisible Committee, this has become both the economic baseline as well as central anxiety of our time. We aren’t just driving somewhere and enjoying a podcast or randomly picking up a hitch hiker, we are instead missing out on an opportunity to sell our labor power for Uber or Lyft. We aren’t taking photos to share with loved ones, we are building up our brand and trying to gain followers, which we will then sell to multinational corporations. This is the logic of the gig economy applied to all aspects of our lives, at all times, and in all scenarios.

To monetize yourself, though, requires you make yourself more sell-able, becoming a brand, a product, constantly adapting to market demands. Or as Badean wrote in “Identity In Crisis:”, in the Journal of Queer Nihilism:

“The collapse of traditional subject positions is managed through the proliferation of a new positions: app designers, graphic designers, cyber sex workers, queer theorists, feminist publishers, social network engineers, trend hunters, eBay sellers, social justice activists, performance artists, porn directors, spammers, party promoters, award winning baristas.

We are forced to continually define ourselves, to enact countless operations upon ourselves so as to produce ourselves anew each day as someone worth taking to market — our basic survival depends on the ceaseless deployment of increasingly discreet technologies of the self.

Everything is for sale: our sex appeal, our fetishes, our tattoos, our radicalism, our fashion sense, our queerness, our androgyny, our fitness, our fluidity, our abnormality, our sociability. Facebook and Twitter function as the new resume.

We are caught in the unending necessity to be continually educating, training, exploring, perfecting, and fine-tuning ourselves. Our continual self-invention is both economic imperative and economic engine.”

No doubt this seems dire enough, but one more dark truth emerges from this constant race. Because if we are constructing our identities in order to become more sale-able to people (be that for money or Facebook likes or even just to be noticed in this new hyper-gendered micro-radical hierarchy of new identities), how do we even know who we are anymore?

To be honest, I don’t always know. I am a radical queer anarchist pagan nomad punk fag brother boyfriend theorist bard druid, but none of that actually tells me what I am, only the hashtags people might use to define me on a social media post. Labels that once gave meaning now become indelible brandings. Try to shift any of those identities and the world (or the social media world, anyway) pushes back…hard. And just as often, those labels themselves are fiercely contested: I cannot count how many times I’ve been told I’m too ‘masculine-presenting’ to be allowed to use the term queer.

So who am I? Who gets to decide? And why are we using capitalist tools to mediate those discussions in the first place? Or is it possible it’s those very tools which have triggered these crises in the first place?

Not All Revolutions Are Good

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

(The Communist Manifesto)

The shift wrought by internet technology wherein identity is now the very battlefield of our ability to survive in the world may seem utterly different from any other struggle which has come before. In context of the struggle the Luddites and the early communists and anarchists fought, however, not much has really changed.

The rise of industrial capitalism triggered vast shifts in social relations which are to this day still being constantly disrupted. It should thus be no surprise to us that ‘disruptive technology’ is a statement of pride for many of the new architects of this current upheaval, an upheaval in which we also take part when we celebrate the destruction of older forms of relating (binary gender, hetero-normative society, class-based politics). What ‘good’ comes from these disruptions unfortunately seems fleeting and probably is. Because while it is a beautiful thing that acceptance of gender variance and queer sexuality have become so prominent, it’s a sick joke to say a poor queer or trans person desperately trying to pay rent by sleeping on a friend’s couch while letting out their bedroom on AirBnb, turning tricks on TaskRabbit or bareback hookup apps, and desperately looking for the perfect filter to get their Instagram account another 100 followers has somehow had their life ‘improved’ by these disruptions.

Yet, to this current horror in which we all find ourselves, perhaps the Luddites might shrug and say, “at least you didn’t have time forced upon you.” Because along with ‘disruption’ of the factory from hand-craft and laborer to factory and wage-slave came the beginning of an oppressive order of time.

Clocks became no longer curiosities but requirements. Suddenly, knowing if it was half-past eight or just ‘morning’ became the crucial difference between feeding your family for a day or starving on the street. Time literally had to be disciplined into us during the birth of industrialization, often times by christian moralists like John Wesley working on behalf of the factory owners.  Time became something that you “spent” rather than something that passed, work became measured not by what needed doing according to the season but what the factory boss demanded you do within a set number of hours.

Before industrialization, work was task-oriented. You planted at some times of the year, harvested at others, ground wheat and fixed carts, wove cloth and made clothes not when an arbitrary number declared it was ‘time’ to do so but when the thing itself needed doing. And work itself was determined by how long you wanted to take doing the task, not how many hours the boss said you needed to stand at a counter or else be fired.

When attempting to imagine what that world was like (not very long ago), we tend to imagine it for ourselves, what our own life might have been like. Harder to imagine, however, is what all of society itself was like without clocks as over-seers. Imagine then what life would be like if not just you but all your friends and all the people in your town lived life without clocks, and you get a little closer to understanding precisely what the Luddites were fighting for.

A New Luddite Rebellion

It was against such radical, world-altering shifts that the Luddites broke into factories at night, smashing looms. One imagines they wanted their time back, they wanted their children and parents back, wanted the ability to survive without working in factories back. They wanted back the rich texture of a society where you knew the people who made your clothes, talked to the people who grew your food, or were those people themselves.

We are living in another such time. People older than me lived most of their childhoods without the internet and do not (or cannot) adapt to a world where everything about them is on display, sold piecemeal through Facebook updates and Instagram photos.

Those much younger than me do not know a world without cellphones, do not remember that it was possible to make new friends and meet amazing lovers without connecting first to an always-on device in your pocket. How many of them know you can arrive by train to a foreign city with just a paper map and a notebook and have the best trip of your life?  How many will ever get a chance to experience what it was like to not just survive but actually have a pretty decent life in a city on less than full-time, barely-above minimum wage as I did in Seattle 15 years ago? And most of all, how many of them will ever know that risk and uncertainty is not something to be avoided at all costs but very often the thing which makes life worth living in the first place?

I barely remember what that was like.

I also barely remember what it was like to be anonymous, to have hours and hours of free time without devices I felt like I needed always to be looking at, constantly notifying me that emails and texts and retweets and messages are coming in. To have long conversations with strangers while waiting for a bus, to make new friends on the walk to work or find an awesome lover by chance while whiling away the day at a cafe. And most of all, I barely remember what it was like to know who I am without labels–to not need to call myself anything but my name, and have that be enough.

I want that all back. If you are close in age to me, you probably do to. If you are younger than me and don’t know what that was like, perhaps my telling of it is enough to entice you to want it also, and if you are older than me you might be shaking your head, having already mourned what’s been lost.

More than anything, we need this all back. Not just our time (consumed constantly by always-on devices and relentless updates). Not just our Selves (boxed in, categorized, labeled and shelved by any number of ‘identities.’). Not just our ability to pay rent and eat and still have enough money left over to enjoy the ever-dwindling number of months and days we have on this earth. Not just all that, but we need our will back, our reckless desire to act in the face of risk and uncertainty, the chaotic and unscripted interactions between ourselves and the world which make our lives not just exciting, but mythic.

And therein’s the key to the ritual invocation we must perform to take back what we’ve watched slowly sold off of our lives with each new screech of the devil’s bagpipes. There are spirits, gods, and ancestors who keep the memory of the old worlds even as we forget. Ludd was one, and though his followers failed to stop the horror born of the factories in England, some of us still remember their attempt. Be it Ludd or the Raven King, Brighid or Dionysos, or perhaps all the old gods and heroes summoned together, we can make another go at stopping this new horror waking upon the world. From the shattered remains of the past we can reconstruct a new resistance against this increasingly senseless drive towards self-as-product.

And if we fail, we will no doubt be smeared by many for being ‘anti-modern’ just as the Luddites were, dismissed and forgotten by many others, but definitely remembered by some, just as the Luddites are still remembered now.

We may indeed fail. The risks are very, very great, and there’s no Trip Advisor listing to assure us that there will be good food and pleasant ambiance after our uprising. Perhaps our failures will be re-tweeted across the world, Facebook Live videos streaming our defeat to countless millions using greasy thumbs to scroll through the comments. We’ll lose Instagram followers and potential Influencer sponsorships while the rich and powerful of the world destroy more forests, gun down more poor people, and start more wars.

We probably won’t win. But I’m gonna try anyway, because I want my life back.

And maybe you do, too.


Rhyd Wildermuth

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


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Detritus

These three poems explore the theme of detritus – ‘waste or debris’. The term derives from the Latin deterere ‘wear away’. Drawing on this additional sense they attempt to wear away the ignorance that has led to the build-up of detritus threatening our environment and its inhabitants with a world’s ending. Each poem is based on a dream.

~

Hurricane Garbage

We hear it coming –

it’s like the morning when they empty the dustbins;
the rumbling of wheels in the sky,
the sky god’s garbage truck
inside out upside down
the biting mouth
that chewed the garbage is regurgitating a hurricane.

A shoal of thirteen million plastic bottles
has rattled from the deep into the sky’s crescendo.
They are playing each other like a glockenspiel.

I see wars amongst the plastic cutlery.
Plastic shopping bags are swollen demonic ghosts
with bulging foreheads branded with high street names
chased by chip papers and cellophane and cigarette packets and butts.

Mattresses and sofas are pranging their springs.
Fridges are buzzing like frizbies.

Little girls of the wind are smashing cans
and shaking lollipop sticks.

Four have their heads through the nooses
of a four pack and are singing
a strange dirge.

Hurricane Garbage is blotting out the sun
and rattling like the apocalypse.

We know we should run
but we just stand
and stare.

~

Sarcophagus City

I dreamt of sarcophagi.
Grey the city.

Midnight blue the cloak
of my god

who I served with prayers
tucking offerings

in plastic wrappers round stony
bodies of the dead.

Slowly I forgot my words.
Doubt unfolded

me in frail threads on a wind
that was not a wind

and did not unfold the city
as it was too still.

The wind that never was blasted
the tower block

where I made my bed. I could not
wake from the softness

of too many pillows and dream
myself home again.

~

Self-portrait as a rat at the world’s end

It will be the rat, he told her, that first emerges from the crud
and crap
David Harsent

After the world ended
I hung suspended, head first,
by I knew not what over a four-sided black hole.
Four ladders were guarded by four egg-headed men
with bony white fingers pointing down.

So I went, head first,
on palms or elbows or claws,
I knew not what, whatever was left of me
moving like a mist I could not see or feel

down
down
down

until I did not know up from down
crawling scuttling pitter-pattering on I knew not what
through a tunnel through which all the waste
of the dead world flowed:

plastics bobbing in a river of faeces and bog roll with human limbs.

As I dove in sleeker than an otter
paddling with a pink tail growing stronger and heavier,
sharp-toothed, whiskered, knowing what I was
I knew my soul was a survivor.

~

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist, and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd recovering lost stories from the land and myths of forgotten gods. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and The Broken Cauldron,  and the editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist.

Left-Sacred: an introduction

A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred is the third issue of the Gods&Radicals journal. It will be released on 1 February, and presents the work of 16 writers and 4 visual artists.  It’s currently available for pre-sale.


On the 19th of June, 1937, an exhibition opened in the city of Munich. Called Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst,(1)” it housed paintings, sculptures, and other works carefully curated to warn against the scourge of degenerate art. Amongst the stated goals of the exhibition was the “deliberate and calculated onslaught upon the very essence and survival of art itself,” along with “the common roots of political anarchy and cultural anarchy.” (2)

Included in the collection were works by the Swiss painter Paul Klee. One hundred and two of his paintings had been seized, though a rather famous one survived in the hands of the Marxist mystic philosopher, Walter Benjamin. The piece was called Angelus Novus, and Benjamin would later write about it, without revealing that it was in his possession. Its angular and stark depiction inspired his famous conception of the “Angel of History.”

Before Walter Benjamin’s attempted escape through Spain to the United States, the mystic had entrusted the painting to his friend, the student of the transgressive Sacred, Georges Bataille. The painting itself is transgressive, an incomprehensible Sacred, wishing, as Benjamin wrote, “to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.(3)” But the angel cannot: its wings are caught, it must continue on this new wind, leaving the wreckage of history behind, progressing not towards some great evolutionary goal, but merely away from the ruins of the past.

That the painting was seen as degenerate makes the Angel of History more fascinating. The Fascist current of history, the one which awakens strongly now in our present, cannot abide degeneracy and sees it everywhere. Fallen, fallen are we, decadent pale shadows of our once great glory. Our blood is too mixed, our house too messy, our genders and sex too confused, our borders unfenced, the land crowded with foreigners, our children dirtied by the melanin of others. Make America Great Again, restore the Empire, save Liberal Democracy, uphold the rule of law, return to us an innocence that never was.

Where the Fascists see former glory, the Angel of History, passed hand-to-hand by degenerate leftists, sees only wreckage. Walter Benjamin would not survive the Nazi attempt to restore Germany to its mythic former glory, but the Angelus Novus did. One even suspects the Angel of History did have time to awaken at least some of the dead. Benjamin haunts these pages, as does Bataille’s search for a transgressive Sacred, as does the Angelus Novus itself, all collected in the messy, fierce, resurrection of a degenerate left sacred.

What is a sacred left? What is left of the sacred? What is the left sacred? These are the interweaving themes of this third issue of A Beautiful Resistance, watched over by the Angel of History, its wings forced open by a wind from another world.

  • A goddess of the poor and outcast speaks in Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Brig Ambu.
  • Gods topple off thrones in Rhyd Wildermuth’s Awakening Against What’s Awakened.
  • An office window opens and love awakens in The Necromancer, by Left Eye
  • The wild fights with fang and claw in After Procopius, by Lorna Smithers.
  • Rot is decomposed and grown into new life in Nina George’s Modern Sin-Eaters.
  • Nimue Brown explores a line-less cartography in The Druidry of Mapping.
  • William Hawes sees in pre-linear time the path to the future in The Reawakening of Tribal Consciousness.
  • In Bell Unrung, Lia Hunter mourns the toll of what we do not embrace.
  • Anthony Rella’s Gods of My Ancestors contemplates the messy history of blood and deity.
  • An Angel whispers, a carpet is stained, in Hunter Hall’s Yellow Tape & White Carpet.
  • Chimeras and hybrid monsters lead us to the world outside of fences in Finnchuill’s The Impure Object of The Left Sacred.
  • Revolution smells like swamp rot and rum in Dr. Bones’ Fear & Loathing At The Crossroads.
  • All the beauty of the many-gendered dead sing in Rocket’s Prayer to the Mother(s).
  • A writer scribbles final notes to the future in Yvonne Aburrow’s The Safe House.
  • Sean Donahue dances with the Angel in Against the Winds of History.
  • And in Solidarity Networks, we outline a strategy for all those wondering ‘what next’ as fascism rises in the nations of the world.

This issue was co-edited by Lia Hunter and Rhyd Wildermuth, foreworded by Margaret Killjoy, and also proudly displays the artwork and photography of Lois Cordelia, Marion le Bourhis, Christopher Delange, and Brianna Bliss.

May all that is messy, degenerate, unrestrained, and feral about you awaken, and may you dance in the winds of history.


  • 1 German: Degenerate Art Exhibition
  • 2 From the introduction to the exhibition.
  • 3 Thesis IX of Walter Benjamin’s On the Concept of History

You will probably love our print and digital publications, including our journal A Beautiful Resistance and Christopher Scott Thompson’s new book, Pagan Anarchism! Find out more here.

Plotting the Fall of the King

Said Arthur, “Is there any one of the marvels yet unobtained?”

Said one of his men, “There isthe blood of the witch Orddu, the daughter of the witch Orwen, of Penn Nant Govid, on the confines of Hell.”

From Culhwch and Olwen


British colonialism soaks through English-speaking Paganism like fetid morning piss. Glance through the shelves of witch bookstores and, once you get past the how-to’s on crystal communication and appropriative dream-catcher spirituality, you find books full of it: delusions of chivalric murderers, bent-knee begging for noble sovereigns, and bourgeois rituals of lords and ladies playing sex by sticking dull knives into etsy-bought chalices.

This should not surprise us. Wicca—the most prevalent of the Pagan traditions—was started by a British Colonial Administrator (Gerald Gardner) and a one-time member of two British fascist groups (Doreen Valiente; National Front and Northern League). Why wouldn’t modern Paganism find itself stained with the trappings of Empire?

No place is this seen more than the spiritualisation of the Arthurian myths. Equal parts feudal nostalgia and patriarchal obsession, the Pagan longing for the return of Great Sovereigns who might restore the balance of the world is inseparable from the nationalist fictions of fading white dominance.

Along with King Arthur (that giant-killing, witch-slaughtering thief), many traditions, particularly Druidry, find deep alchemical meaning in the form of another problematic figure: Taliesin. Born Gwion Bach, a boy tasked to watch a cauldron for a witch, he stole wisdom from a witch-goddess and went on to serve kings. Whereas Prometheus stole fire from the gods to help humans, Taliesin stole the creative force of the world to serve the imperial ambitions of slaughtering empire.

While Peter Grey challenged Pagan elders for their desire to defang witchcraft, and I have aggressed them for their allegiance with Capital, Lorna Smithers has done something even more dangerous than either of us. In The Broken Cauldron, the awenydd and poet becomes the Old Mother of the Universe herself, rebirthing beheaded giants and slaughtered witches through the starry cauldron of poetry.  In the otherworld halls of the Gatherer of Souls she collects their bones, caresses their withered heads, and speaks their condemnations into our polluted, irradiated present.

Several figures recur in her mythic wanderings, suppressed blackened figures given scant reference in the Welsh lore. One such is the witch, Orddu (Welsh: Very Black), slain by King Arthur to claim a vial of her blood. According to Culhwch and Olwen, the servants of King Arthur volunteered to go fight her first so that his honor would not be stained (what King would want to be seen fighting a common woman?) Servant after servant fought against her and failed, wrestled to the ground by her bare strength alone, until Arthur himself was ‘man enough’ to fight her.

He slayed Orddu, split her in two, and collected her blood. Another trophy for a British king, another relic in the Royal museum, given three paragraphs in the Welsh bardic lore until Orddu’s bones are gathered again by a rogue awenydd:

I cannot abide the story of Orddu’s death. How Arthur came as he always came into every story, every world, every myth, with his hatred of witches, with his living knife, to put an end to wild, recalcitrant women. Now I’ve laid it to rest I’ll share another story instead.

I shall tell what this fatal blow and the blows on the Witches of Caerloyw cost Prydain (“Prydain will fall! Prydain will fall! Prydain will fall!”). Not only the fall of the Old North and the Men of the North. The rise and fall of the British Empire (it had to needed to fall). But the splitting and bottling of magical women for over a thousand years. Draining of our blood. Boiling of our flesh. Testing if we float. Giving us The King James Bible and The Malleus Maleficarum. Taking away our prophecies and visions, gods and goddesses, our fighting strength. Confining us to virginity and chastity belts. Cutting us off from plants and spirits, rocks and rain, rivers and mist, otherworlds.

Over a thousand years on we are but shadows of ourselves. Mirrored pouts tottering on high heels. Watching ourselves on selfie-sticks. Worshipping televisions. Still split in half, bottled, boiling, floating, banging to get out.

Arthur was not just a witch-killer, but a giant-slayer, slaughtering ancient land-god after land-god to gain their cauldrons and their power. Subduing the earth beneath him, sending the old ways under hill into Annwn, even then following after. Accompanied by the sycophantic Taliesin, he stole what the land hid from him. Amongst these otherworldy ‘spoils’ was the cauldron of Annwn, once held by the Welsh giant Brân whose head once protected Britain from invasion. We read in the Welsh triads that Arthur dug that up, too, finding it unseemly that the common people relied upon a land-god, rather than their slaughtering, arrogant king.

It’s in this last fact that we glimpse the reason for Paganism’s Arthurian obsession. Tales of a king who needed no godsonly strength and the magic of his advisorsread in the context of British colonialism suddenly seem less like myth and more like imperial propaganda. The gods of land subdued, the power of witch-women destroyed: For traditions claiming to venerate the earth and the divine feminine, the prominence of Arthurian forms and Taliesin start to seem hypocritical.

chernobyl-1986
Broken Cauldron, Chernobyl

Orddu is not the only dark shadow re-awakened into Lorna’s poetry. Taliesin stole the awen from Ceridwen, who did not brew it for herself. Rather, the draught was boiled and stirred for her malformed son, Afagddu (Welsh: Utter Dark), later also called Morfrân (Welsh: Sea Raven). When first I encountered the story of Taliesin’s birth and Ceridwen’s chase, I took no delight in it. The selfless act of a mother to grant her disfigured child wisdom was sabotaged by the thoughtlessness of a child who later upheld kings and helped kill giants. What is there to love in this story?

And anyway, what happened to Afagddu?

Lorna answers this question delightfully, repeatedly giving Afagddu voice. Most startling is his tale in her piece, Sea Raven:

There’s been another disaster at the chemical plant, three people injured, one missing presumed dead. That young man’s name was Gwion Bach. He was employed in the control room in charge of the 30,000 gallon reactor vessel. His task was to keep the paddle stirring at several thousand revolutions a minute and monitor the changes in heat and pressure.

He was an absentminded sort, so lost in daydreams he didn’t realise the paddle had stuck. The temperature rose over 300°F. By the time he’d filled the cooling jacket it was too late. With a sound like a jet engine and deafening crash, the reactor exploded with a blast that broke every window.

Gwion was seen staggering from the control room like a drunk toward the toxic brew, dipping his finger in and putting it to his lips, his hair standing on end, before my wrathful mother leapt from the offices and he hare-footed it away with her hot on his heels.

Retelling ancient myths in modern settings is a tired trope, but Lorna is not writing urban fantasy.  Rather than recycling old stories for new audiences, she expands the (nuclear) core of the broken cauldrons and shows that they are still shattering.

After all, what else is atomic energy but a cauldron of shattered stars? When oil spills pollute the earth and oceans, is this not also the poisoning of the land after Gwion shattered Ceridwen’s cauldron? And the industrialisation of war: does not the giant-forged Cauldron of Annwn still bring forth unspeaking, obedient warriors?

For King and Country, I bore the cauldron whilst Arthur’s advisers listened to wheezing chests and throats of phlegm; counted blisters; bandaged weeping, reddened skin. I fought off green waves of nausea as it buckled my knees and wore a hollow in my spine.

When I heard an old woman’s lament, I repeated my mantra, plugged my ears as she screamed while the soldiers of Prydain unleashed poisonous gases at Loos and the Somme and foreign men drowned in yellow-green seas.

The powerthe magicof the awenyddion is to bend time around them and dance in those re-connected threads. The greater magic still is to pull you into their dance, to weave you into those threads so that, when you have left, you and time are still tangled in knots.

Post-colonial theorist Dipesh Chakrabarty wrote of these ‘time-knots’ in his introduction to Provincializing Europe, a book whose confrontation of European (and especially British) exceptionalism makes irrelevant most of the stories of kings and empire:

“what allows historians to historicize the medieval or the ancient is precisely the fact that these worlds are never lost. It is because we live in time-knots that we can undertake the task of straightening some part of the knot (which is what chronology is). Subaltern pastsaspects of these time-knotsact as a supplement to the historian’s past and in fact aid our capacity to historicize.”

It’s precisely this that Lorna does. Afagddu, Orrdu, Diwrnachthese are the subaltern pasts Paganism tries to deny. By telling their stories, we hear the cauldrons shatter again not because they are in the past, but they are shattering even now.

Ecological destruction, technological optimism, capitalist exuberance and industrialised warfarethese are the only stories kings can tell. The boy Gwion became the thief Taliesin, and the suppressed blackened ones spill out from oil wells, explode from shattered nuclear reactors, poisoning the world.

And we come to the final horror of our Paganism when we remember that both Capitalism and Industrialisation (and as Lorna points out, the very first nuclear reactor) each started in the same land where Arthur slayed witches and giants, where Taliesin broke the cauldron. And like that broken cauldron, they have all swept like choking black poison out to every part of the world.

“What lies in the cauldron now you have done away with the knowledge of wise women? Split the witches in half? Killed the giants? Driven to the seas the most ancient of boars? You are on the wrong quest, looking for the wrong grail, the cure-all that does not exist.”

If even our Pagan myths are the self-delusions of empire, then what is left for us? Though we who hear the silenced voices might raise the dead so that they might use our lips, will this ever be enough to stop the endless sundering? What good would be the reawakening of that suppressed blackness, the beheaded gods of land?

I do not know; but blackened witches, beheaded giants, and disfigured crows insist we try anyway:

Feathered arches of black wings tore from my shoulders and cracked open. My feet shrunk into claws and my body tightened into bird-form. With a black-beaked scream I flew away from the Court of the King of Suffering and broke the Spell of Nine Maidens.

Yet the death of the dead did not stop the bloodshed. Today corpses are flown in on steel horses, driven down long, wet roads to be laid on slabs in mortuaries. I no longer wish to raise them. I travel the country winged, cawing my truth and plotting the fall of the King.

In such plotting perhaps is a path far less blood-soaked than the shattering of our world.


Lorna Smithers’ book, The Broken Cauldron, is available here.


Rhyd Wildermuth

6tag_221116-215034Rhyd is a co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He was born in Appalachia, lives nomadically, speaks with stars and dead things, and likes tea.

He is an anarchist, theorist, Pagan, Marxist, punk, and really damn good cook.

He writes at Gods&Radicals and on his own blog, Paganarch.

Weekly Update: 18 September

Awesome writing elsewhere

We’ve got a lot of really cool links for you!

We’ve heard this is pretty cool: The Burning Times Never Ended:A Story of Disenchantment and Re-membering Resistance

Crystal Blanton has a great column over at The Wild Hunt on #MyPolytheism.

Also at The Wild Hunt, Heathen Chinese has written an essay looking at the post-colonial resistance and Tupac Shakur.

We’re big fans of ROAR Magazine, and also of David Graeber. So this interview is pretty exciting.

Rhyd Wildermuth was a guest on the Tree of Life Hour discussing his essay, “Fuck The Good People.”

Pipelines? Totally safe!!!

Some good news. The United States Government was about to kill 45,000 wild horses. Outrage changed their mind.

Poet, writer, and editor of the second issue of A Beautiful Resistance Lorna Smithers has a new book coming out!

And some reminders!

The call for submissions for the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance ends 1 November.

We have a neat instagram account. And we’re also on twitter, tumblr, and facebook. And possibly hiding behind your compost bin.

And a teaser!

We’re about to announce the publication of our first book!  But we’re not ready to announce it yet. So we’re sorta being jerks. But check back soon!

magicofcrimedrbones

 

The Unopened Door

“Don’t open that door,” Brân said before we cut off his head and brought it back from the war. We’ve been stuck here with it eighty years. It never speaks. Nothing happens anymore.

Life’s an endless party. I drink a can every morn, with a light and breezy head look out the window where the tides ebb and roll, open another one. The days are always the same unspiralling cigarette by cigarette.

We’ve got stores of food and nobody has to do any cooking. Cornflakes for breakfast and microwave meals. It’s curry night every night then every night there’s bawdy jokes and dancing.

When we turned the music up, Brân used to sing along but his baritone got too big for our small pop songs. When Pryderi tried to cheer him up by putting a party hat on his head it shrivelled and fell off as he narrowed his gargantuan eyebrows.

Nothing makes him smile anymore. Not even Taliesin’s rude rhymes and limericks.

We know the Awen’s gone sour like the milk we cannot find sniffing round refrigerators that never hum or leak are never empty or grow mould.

“You’ll never find it,” says Manawydan, always in the background shaking his head. The one who keeps his brother’s orders yet stares with longing at the sea.
There’s only so much beer one can drink. Only so many games of cards and poker and gambling chips. Only so many songs that speak of nothing but the emptiness of bliss.

My life’s become a blur of repetition but for the increasing nagging in my soul.
Remember, remember, what’s behind that door? There’s a reason we have to keep it shut, I’m sure.

That’s the point, if you remembered… but I cannot… I cannot hear my soul. I’m getting edgy. I’m off the beer. Heart racing, clammy handed, I’ve got the shakes. Looking at Brân’s head’s beginning to make me queasy. Something within me small, trembling, winged is trying to escape.

I can’t believe they’re reading the same old newspapers, circling the same Monopoly board, leaving no empties where the ash trays never spill.

Manawydan’s asleep on the slouchy chair dreaming of flying away as a great black seabird. He isn’t going to stop me opening that door.

They’re engulfed in the game. Glifau’s got Regent Street and Oxford Street but Pryderi’s heading for Bond Street on double sixes. Ynog’s on the edge of his seat because he’s stuck in jail. Gruddieu’s counting coloured notes. Something’s telling me to remember…

Still I slip from my seat and round the back of the settee. Try to look inconspicuous, like I’m stretching my legs, trying to get a better view in.
That door. That door. It’s a plain old thing: white painted, brass handled, just like the other ones except for the DO NOT OPEN sign Pryderi made from cardboard and string for a joke.

P1140278 - Copy

They haven’t noticed me sliding toward it, reaching out, touching the cold metallic handle. Do you really want to end your time on Gwales? Remember everything that should be shut out?

Brân’s eyes flash open.
Without a doubt. I turn the handle and look out. A sea breeze whips in with plaintive cries of gulls telling of every loss we have ever suffered, every kinsman and companion lost, staccato of gun-shots, crash of bombs. The broken cauldron that birthed the Awen and split the atom.

As I look across to Prydain in eighty years nothing has changed. They’re still birthing warplanes from slick white aerodromes and building glassy universities to teach deadly technologies. Sending young men away and bringing us back useless with headless comrades.

I remember every single thing including why I should not have opened that door. The colour fades from Brân’s cheeks. The colour fades from us all. Not a year has passed. Not a thing has changed. We must face the world again and bear Brân’s head with us.

*This story is based on the Assembly of the Noble Head from the Second Branch of The Mabinogion which can be read HERE.


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd based in Lancashire. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist and is a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd and Dun Brython.

 


Click here to order A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here.

Our first issue, A Beautiful Resistance: Everything We Already Are is also available.  The digital edition is now only $6 US

The Fire is Here

 

A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here will be released very soon.

Here is the introduction, written by editor and poet Lorna Smithers.

Information on ordering is available below.


I.

‘I hunted out and stored in fennel stalk the stolen source of fire that has proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends. Such is the offence for which I pay the penalty, riveted in fetters beneath the open sky.’
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

‘Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and, on the evening before the twentieth night, the last nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, “Brigit, take charge of your own fire ; for this night belongs to you.”’
Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland

A stolen fire passed down by generations.

We are the flame-keepers of a questionable heritage.

In many cultures fire is taken from the gods and gifted to mankind by a trickster, who suffers for their hubris, or is kept alive by a group of virgins serving a goddess. These are the costs and vetoes of fire.

Fire, of itself, is amoral. It lights and heats our homes. It burns in the furnaces of factories and power stations and burns them down. It inspires revolutions and burns martyrs. It burned the victims of the Holocaust.

The uses we make of fire are our responsibility. When we look back at its misuses we are suffocated by horror, fettered by sky gods as eagles descend to peck upon our guilty livers.

However, we remember Prometheus was unbound. The unfastening of fetters is a Herculean task. By learning to listen to voices consigned to the flames, walking through fire and awakening to uncomfortable truths, gifting back to the gods (“fire… belongs to you”) we can become good flame-keepers.

II.

‘Svasud is the name of the father of Summer. He is a man so content that from his name comes the expression ‘it is svaslight’ referring to what is pleasant. The father of Winter is alternately called Vindloni or Vindsval (Wind Chill). His is the son of Vasad (Damp Cold). These are cruel and cold-hearted kinsmen and Winter takes its nature from them.’
Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda

‘there was to be battle between Gwyn and Gwythyr every May Day until Judgement Day, and the one that triumphed on Judgement Day would take the maiden.’
Sioned Davies, The Mabinogion

Eternal Summer is founded on the death of Winter.

For thousands of years we have been stealing fuel for our fire from the underworld: the bones and breath of dead worlds.

The smog-blackened chimneys of mill towns, the concrete towers of coal-fired power stations, a million million vehicles chugging on oil have together contributed to the asphyxiating build-up of gases that may postpone the next Ice Age.

Glaciers are calving. Sea levels rising. Last winter in northern England heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away venerable old trees and an historic pub, flooding towns and cities and leaving hundreds of people bereft of belongings. This summer is set to be the hottest on record again.

The dialectic between summer and winter is represented by the battle between two gods: Summer and Winter Kings, and their courtship of the sovereign goddess of the land.

On May Day Summer’s King wins and takes the goddess’ hand in sacred marriage. Winter’s King dies and retreats. He returns for his beloved at summer’s end. But for how long?

If either King keeps her forever it will bring about the end of the world.

III.

‘Whoever until this day emerges victorious, marches in the triumphal procession in which today’s rulers tread over those who are sprawled underfoot. The spoils are, as was ever the case, carried along in the triumphal procession. They are known as the cultural heritage. In the historical materialist they have to reckon with a distanced observer. For what he surveys as the cultural heritage is part and parcel of a lineage which he cannot contemplate without horror.’
Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

 

‘It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’
Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Our heritage is as questionable as the stolen fire in which it was forged.

It has taken two devastating world wars, and the dedicated effort of thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, to put into question the ideal of progress which drove the industrial revolution and gave rise to dehumanising and militant right and left-wing ideologies.

Benjamin died of an overdose fleeing the Nazis at Portbou. His Theses on the Philosophy of History were passed on to his colleague, Theodor Adorno, by Hannah Arendt. Another manuscript, which some scholars have speculated may have been his completed Arcades Project, was forever lost.

The transmission of our heritage and connection with our ancestors are fragile and fraught with danger. They run beyond paganism into interconnectedness with all humanity.

When we look into the flames of a fire we see what collectively we share with the rest of the world: a shared history, a shared responsibility.

The shadow cast by that fire will never go out.

It reminds us as pagans, magic-workers, devotees of our gods, of the need to sustain the fire of love for each other and our seared earth.

On May Eve we gather around the fire in love. We hold hands in the darkness.

We are flame-keepers of a stolen fire brought at great cost.

The fire is here.

Use it wisely.

 

The Fire Is Here is the work of 26 writers, 5 artists and 2 photographers. The narrative flickered into life as the contributions arranged themselves into a tapestry bound together by summer’s burning thread. Taking the form of a Beltane / May Day rite it crackled and roared.

The first section IGNITEs the Bel fire and calls in the revolutionary spirit. THE SICKNESS AND THE MEDICINE forms a journey of purification where the ills of capitalism are exposed and cures are found at its ailing core. SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TRIALS OF LOVE focuses on relationship with the land, gods, and each other and gives voice to the tribulations and joys of love. The spirits of the greenwood offer A FOREST ALLEGIANCE and lead to the storytellers’ grove. With fire in our heads we confront our social and political situation and depart with revolutionary ancestors leaving FOOTSTEPS IN THE EMBERS.

The title The Fire Is Here is borrowed from the title of an inspired piece in the journal by Heathen Chinese. My introduction was born from meditating on Li Pallas’ stunning cover art. The layout and design have been completed by Li. I was thrilled when Emma Restall Orr agreed to write the foreword and more so when I read her thought-provoking words.

It has been a pleasure and honour to bring together these thoughts and visions as an act of service to the authors and their lands and deities. To witness pagans from all paths coming together in resistance to capitalism ‘to create the world we want now’(1).

As a way of introducing the individual pieces, as an awenydd and poet, I have chosen to compose a cento. This is a poetic form crafted from the words of others. For the artworks I have used a combination of titles and personal impressions.

These words are a spellbreaking,
a subterranean fire.
In the valley of sickness
we are healed by what can end us
six hundred feet deep
raise the tainted cup
in the soul of every man.
Only connect! A bond in blood.
We are living on Turtle Island.
The ancient new seductive healing sound
clothed in enchantment
myth and folklore
addresses the False Kings.
The Mother of the Gods answers
“My body is not acreage
savage, immoral, uncivilised, wild,
Earth Mound Mother, Sustain-her of Life.
Come voice yourselves
from tree heart to tree top
in revolutionary magic
shake up the sanity of everyday life
in the Holy Grove
pen roaring and bloody words
trembling and flooded with moonlight.
Tell stories in the summertime.
Hold close the fire until it burns your mind.”
The magic-wielders are waking up.
Soulfood for imagination
the fire is already here.
The dead wait for us who are willing to cross
then heal. Then build. Then sing.

***

As Summer’s King triumphs I go to mourn the death of my god.
May the gifts of this journal fire your inspiration
and guide you through the wakening wood.


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd based in Lancashire. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist and is a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd and Dun Brython.

 


Click here to order A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here.

Our first issue, A Beautiful Resistance: Everything We Already Are is also available.  The digital edition is now only $6 US

A Beautiful Resistance, #2!

After the wild success of A Beautiful Resistance: Everything We Already Are, we’re pleased to announce information about our second issue.

This edition of the Gods&Radicals journal is being edited by Lorna Smithers, an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, She’s a Lancashire poet and author of Enchanting The Shadowlands, and her work has been featured in many collections, as well as on her blog and here at Gods&Radicals.  In addition, her piece “Devil’s Bagpipes on Stoneygate” was featured in the first issue of A Beautiful Resistance.

We’re also happy to announce that Emma Restall Orr has agreed to foreword this issue.  Emma Restall Orr is an English animist, anarchist and mystic, ever challenging the complacency of the Western mind, author of the pagan ethics ‘Living with Honour’, the animist metaphysics ‘The Wakeful World’, and other texts.

A Beautiful Resistance will enter the world on Beltane, 2016.

We are happy to offer a Pre-Sale discount from the cover price.  Pre-sales help determine our initial print-run, as well as helping us pay the editor, copy-editors, and cover artist ahead of the initial sale.

We are now also able to offer subscriptions and purchases to European Union readers, as well as those in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.  Rates and information about ordering can be found here.

We are also happy to accept Underwriters for this issue.

Underwriters

Gods&Radicals is a non-profit, anti-capitalist pagan publisher registered in the state of Washington and currently in application for tax-exempt status.  Our only revenue comes from sales of our publications and kind donations from the community.

We would love your help.

Underwriting an issue of A Beautiful Resistance would go a long way to help keep our per-issue cost low, as well as helping us compensate writers, copy-editors, and each Journal editor for their work.

We’re happy to accept donations in any amount. Underwriters who donate $50 (US) or more can choose to have their name listed on a special gratitude page of the upcoming journal to thank them for their support.

Underwriters who donate $100 or more can also choose to receive a perpetual subscription to A Beautiful Resistance

The deadline to become an Underwriter of the second issue of A Beautiful Resistance is April 1st.

To donate any amount or to become an underwriter, follow this link. And thank you!