Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic?

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions.

From Emma Kathryn

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If you are a member of the Pagan community (whatever that means to you – we’ll discuss community later), then you may well remember when a well know witch published a blog post that talked about the abuse she’d suffered from within the Pagan community. The post did cause a little bit of a stir. It made the snippets of the popular Pagan outlets, and aside from a few private blog posts from other Pagans and witches, not much more was said.

That woman was Sarah Anne Lawless, and you can read that particular blog post here.

Sarah’s story kind of touched a cord with me. You see, many years ago, a close family member of mine was herself in an abusive relationship, and I guess I saw a few similarities between Sarah and my family member. Both are strong, fierce women. Fiery and quick to speak their minds. I would hear people question why my family member would stay with the woman beater? She’s a strong woman, why did she put up with it? Why try to hide it? Maybe they like it, you would hear people say, even other women. And so when I saw those same things said or implied about Sarah, it made me realise, though I suppose I already knew it anyway, that this topic is one that spans all divides.

Curious to discover how things had turned out for her, I recently called Sarah, and we had a chat about what’s been done since first airing her experiences.

And the truth is, disappointingly little.

In fact, that wouldn’t be the worst of it. Not only has Sarah been all but shunned by those communities she thought she was a member of but her businesses have been attacked, with anonymous reports to various agencies about the products she makes and sells. The platforms which enable her to sell those items have also received anonymous reports and have even been suspended in some cases.

And all because she dared to highlight her instances of abuse within the Pagan community, by some of those within it.

I asked her what kind of reaction had she gotten from others, generally speaking. She replied:

“It’s been a bit of  a mixed bag. Some have been sympathetic. And from others, mostly men, I’ve either had complete denial or a misunderstanding.”

I also asked if other victims had reached out to her.

“Yeah, many have, sharing their stories with me. Only one other came forward to the police though, but here that’s not enough to carry forward an investigation. But I also get why others didn’t come forward. And who am I or anyone else to try to force these women to do something they don’t want to, especially after the trauma they’ve  already faced. If it helps them, sharing their stories with me, then that’s a good thing.”

And she’s been all but ignored by Pagan media outlets.

”I’ve been in touch with a couple of different places, but after initial contact, I haven’t really heard back from any of them.”

Indeed, here in the UK, it’s not been much of a story. It’s almost like there’s a wall of silence, or perhaps a wall of ignorance around the whole affair, and for me, this must lead us to question why.

IS THERE A PROBLEM? WHAT CAN WE DO?

So is there a problem with Paganism and how we respond to abuse claims? I think there is, and there certainly seems to have been in Sarah’s case.

I find the biggest problem is that Paganism seems to operate in its own atmosphere, away from the general rules we might ordinarily apply in real life. So, in the everyday world, if a woman, or anyone else for that matter, came forward with claims of abuse, those claims would be investigated. We would expect them to be.

I also think the fact that the word ‘community’ doesn’t really cover what it actually means to be a Pagan. The draw for many is the lack of uniformity, the freedom and independence to believe and worship however they see fit.

Take a moment to consider the many differing forms of Paganism, and then all the subsets and categories and regional differences and that’s without considering those who might be solitary or eclectic. When we consider Paganism in this way, it becomes understandable as to why defining a Pagan community becomes difficult. There is no one set of beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to worship.

And so if there is no community, how then can we begin to tackle the issue of abuse? By calling it out, whenever we witness it or are made aware of it. And from that call out, investigations must occur, and then the appropriate action taken. We must not close ranks, afraid that any truth may corrupt our beliefs. Instead we should root it out so it doesn’t corrupt or spoil the hard work and dedication that others have put in. We should expel it like the pestilence it is.

And abuse can be insidious. It can be incorporated into the very foundations of an order or tradition. There’s nothing stopping anyone from setting up any kind of group, and I really do cherish that freedom, but with it comes the responsiblity to call out and report abusers. If an abuser happens to be an elder or someone with a respected position within a tradition, this shouldn’t exclude them from any investigation or punishment if necessary. They should not be allowed to slip off the grid and start up elsewhere.

We should not excuse shitty behaviour because the one being a shit also happens to be some sort of leader, or someone with that kind of power, or has followers who look up to them. If anything, it is imperative that such types are called out and reported. We should call out fakelore where we see it, and let’s be honest, you come across it quite often in the Pagan sphere.

We also need our Pagan writers and journalists to not fear tackling such subjects. Of course there is that line, that is to not portray someone as guilty when they have not been convicted and all of that, but we must also tackle those stories and bring those issues to the fore. We need writers and journalists who are unbiased and tell the truth. We need publications to talk about these claims when they arise, and also about the issues that may arise because of them.

I will take a moment to just say a word or two about those accusations that are false, that are made out of malice and badness, that are untrue and told to inflict damage. As damaging as they may be, those false reports do not detract from the truth of most claims. Those who make those false claims should also be held to account, but then it all comes back to taking the time to investigate thoroughly all abuse claims.

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions. Doing so will only strengthen them. Doing nothing will lead to their fall.

We are witches and occultists and brujas and so much more. We have the power to make our crafts and traditions what we want them to be. Let them be places where abusers find no solace. Let’s do ourselves justice.


Emma Kathryn

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

You can follow Emma on Facebook.

How to Buy a Religion

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Source

What’s wrong with Sephora’s witch kit?

Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?

Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Karl Marx

Capitalism alienates.

It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.

Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.

Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.


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Pop-culture resurgence: Internet tabloid Vice offers dozens of witchcraft-themed articles. Source

Sephora sells to women.

The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.

Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.

Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz.  Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.


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Metaphysical shopfront. Source

Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:

The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.

The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.

This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.

In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.


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The nitrogen cycle. Source

When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.

But that’s not the only Paganism.

We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.

You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.

Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.

And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.

If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.

Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.

You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”

Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


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Anti-fascism and the Left’s Euro-Secular Arrogance

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And that cannot be done without interrogating the secular arrogance of the left’s “founding fathers.”

An editorial, from Rhyd Wildermuth

Perplexity, shock, and a revulsion she tried to temper with all else she knew of us rippled across her face after we said the words to her:

“We’re pagan.”

“But you two…you’re both anarchists and anti-fascists! How…how can you two also believe that stuff?”

We’d met through my partner. Both were in the same graduate history program; her work focused on the Nazi extermination of Jews during the Shoah and the ways those histories have been written since; his focus was upon the alternative occult and queer communities in Berlin that the Nazis both crushed and appropriated in their march to power.

Most of our bonding came from our life experiences, however. We were all anarchists, had done anti-fascist work, were all queer, and had lived similar counter-cultural lives. Despite all we shared, despite already being good friends, my partner and I had been quite scared of telling her what we believed.

The conversation which followed our confession was long and sometimes heated. But it was around a table on a balcony overlooking a lake, with food and tea and German beer, and because we were all friends who genuinely wanted to understand each other (rather than merely wanting to be heard), we not only stayed friends but became better friends.

I remember what she said to us that night, because it was the first time we’d ever heard anything of the sort: “this goes against everything I have known, but I believe you that it’s possible to be Pagan and not fascist.”

Especially to those with shorter histories in anarchist and anti-fascist spaces, this conversation might not seem very significant. But for me, more than ten years ago, it felt like pure freedom and hope. Before then, whenever I told other anarchists or communists in the US or Europe that I was a Pagan, the response was almost always something along the lines of: “Wait…you’re a fascist?” Those who didn’t immediately make that conclusion instead responded with words less accusatory but no less dismissive, such as “that’s all nonsense.”

I’d been derided enough times that I learned to keep my beliefs as private as possible. I learned to smile pleasantly when atheism and anti-religious dogma was repeated in speeches at protests and organizational meetings. “No gods no masters” was an unquestionable foundation of every anarchist gathering, never to be challenged. And though my entire experience of the living world ran counter to the secular-scientific atheist consensus in the anarchist and socialist groups I worked with, keeping silent about what I believed was better than being lectured, laughed at, or more often: labeled a fascist.

So when my friend (herself an atheist, an anti-fascist organizer, and later a curator of anti-fascist and anti-nationalist museum exhibitions in Germany) accepted my apparently contradictory positions (being against fascism, being deeply Pagan), relief flooded my soul.

Her acceptance gave me the confidence to broach the subject with others in political spaces. Though most of the conversations repeated the same dismissals (or worse) that I had experienced before, I was able to slowly find others who would cautiously confess that they themselves also held similar beliefs. I remember an IWW and Solidarity Network organizer telling me in an anarchist bookshop (after looking around herself first to see who might hear her say it) that she read tarot. I remember a leftist social worker who also did sex work admitting she kept an altar and did protection magic. And I remember meeting a burnt-out anarchist magician coming to life again upon finding someone he could finally talk to about his work.

European Leftism, European Atheism

There are several reasons we had all felt both embittered and scared of being open about our beliefs.

Most of these reasons are historical. Anarchism and communism were both first articulated in Europe during a time when being anything other than atheist marked you as anti-intellectual and aligned with bourgeois values. Proudhon, Marx, Stirner, Bukunin–pretty much all of the early philosophers of anarchism or communism (with Tolstoy a significant exception) were not just dismissive of spiritual beliefs, but aggressively hostile.

Any astute reader of the aforementioned paragraph, however, will note that the philosophers of whom I am speaking are all of European origin or derivation. This is an important fact, because the atheism that was carried into leftist thought was a European atheism. Being European, it bore with it utterly unnoticed colonial conceits. While many were influenced by indigenous (including Iroquois) forms of autonomous self-government and anti-colonial struggle, the European narrative of progress (which posits that all societies eventually “progress” from animist and polytheist beliefs into monotheism and finally atheism) prevented these philosophers and theorists from accepting the metaphysically animist nature of the cultures that inspired them.

This arrogance is what then allowed communists, anarchists, and socialists to argue that indigenous cultures would need to relinquish their non-scientific (that is, non-European) beliefs and worldviews in order to achieve full liberation. No gods no masters was not just a rallying cry but an imperative, and this has in no small part led many indigenous cultures to reject some leftist ideologies as continuations of colonial oppression.

This arrogance was rarely subtle in the leftist spaces in which I moved. I listened to socialists, anarchists, and communists (sometimes to crowds of thousands) say that First Nations and indigenous peoples of other continents must eventually come into the 21st century and “throw off the chains” of shamanic and other traditional beliefs. Never once did I hear this challenged in those spaces.

As non-indigenous adherents to reconstructed Pagan beliefs, my partner and I had even less ground to stand upon in these arguments. Though the “backwardness” of indigenous people gave them some time to change, we were white, which meant we were supposed to have moved beyond such beliefs centuries ago. We were “lifestylists,” according to the worshipers of Bookchin and  “immature” according to the Scientific Socialist currents birthed by Trotsky and Lenin. But worse than this, we are also “crypto-fascists.”

There is another root to this accusation. The history of Paganism and occultism in Europe during the 19th and  20th century is unfortunately rife with fascist forms. Esoteric fascists such as Julius Evola evoked Pagan forms in their writing, Theosophy and the Golden Dawn both had adherents who were sympathetic to fascist forms, and of course some Nazis attempted a re-invigoration of ancient Germanic religious beliefs. But socialists and anarchists also evoked Pagan forms, and the aformentioned occult traditions (Theosophy and the Golden Dawn) had more intersections with leftist groups than they did with the right (*a good source for more on this is Affective Communities by Leela Ghandi). Further back, as Peter Linebaugh has shown repeatedly in his works, leftist and anarchist resistance to Capitalism in Ireland and England often evoked ancient pagan gods (particularly the Whiteboys in Ireland and the Luddites in England) and pagan forms (such as May Day) as part of their resistance.

So while a case can be made that Pagan, esoteric, and occult forms are fascist and do not belong in leftist or anarchist movements, the exact case can also be made that they were important parts of leftist and anarchist movements from the very beginning. Thus, leftists who label Pagan beliefs as fascist by pointing to historical connections are only ever looking at half of the evidence, if they are even looking at all.

Why they would appear to miss that evidence has been addressed succinctly by post-colonial historian Dipesh Chakrabarty in his work, Provincializing Europe. Basically–European secularism is an artificial narrative, and it is one which attempts to overwrite its own non-secularism. Erasing traces of folk traditions and religious beliefs within European (and generally Western) societies helps European societies and intellectuals see themselves as more “advanced” and “modern” than the rest of the world. That is, this secular-atheism is a product of its own colonial arrogance.

The continuation of this arrogance in Anti-fascism

Anarchism, Communism, Socialism, and especially Anti-fascism has never really interrogated this arrogance. This becomes a particular problem now that we are seeing increasingly public displays of aggressive white nationalist, anti-immigrant, and extreme right rhetoric in the United States and Europe.

This rise is absolutely cause for concern. Unfortunately, the violence of their ideologies and their actual physical violence has initiated quite a few panicked and uncalculated responses to their threat, some of which spread patently false information. In such a panicked state, we can clearly see the symptoms of this un-examined arrogance.

For instance, consider this image from the U.K. group Brighton Anti-Fascists:

Text reads:” Know your enemy–NeoNazi symbols & codes Nazis and white supremacists often use codes and symbols to disguise their true politics. Memorise these symbols–if you spot one (of[sic] more) of them, you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!”
I encountered this image with great dismay after it was shared by another anti-fascist group. Dismay might not even be the correct word: I was horrified by the inclusion of one particularly image–that of the Valknut (third image from the left on the bottom row).

The Valknut is an ancient Nordic symbol found on stone work and textiles, and while its precise original meaning is unclear, it’s usually thought to have indicated the procession of ancestors and to honor warriors who died in battle. Currently, its most common uses are amongst those who adhere to Heathenism or Asatru, religions derived from Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. Some followers of these religions profess racist, exclusionary, and even fascist beliefs, but many more do not. I personally know several antifascist organizers who use this symbol, including one who has it tattooed on his body.

Claiming that the presence of the Valknut indicates that “you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!” is, therefore, no more true than claiming that a person wearing a cross is a child-molester or a person carrying a prayer mat in order to pray towards Mecca is a terrorist. That is, while there are Heathens who adhere to fascist beliefs, and no doubt there are fascists who adorn themselves with the Valknut, there is no correlation between the symbol and the violence of the extreme right.

The presence of the Valknut in this list of “NeoNazi symbols and codes” is not only misinformation, but it has other effects as well:

  • It damages the credibility of the anti-fascist organizations who disseminated it. Any reader aware of the much larger non-fascist and even anti-fascist uses of the symbol immediately understands that Brighton Antifascists don’t actually know what they’re talking about. People are thus less likely to take anything else they say seriously.
  • It causes unfair and damaging defamation of people who use the symbol and are not fascist, putting them into situations where they have to “prove” themselves not to be fascist.
  • It makes anti-fascism in general elsewhere lose credibility among those who are not yet politicized. Anti-fascists are often criticized for being “alarmist,” “fanatic,” and otherwise unable to distinguish symbolic meaning from actual threats; lists of symbols and codes that signify someone is a fascist increases this perception, and when those codes are demonstrably false such accusations become irrefutable.
  • It undermines years of work that anti-fascist Heathen groups (like Heathens United Against Racism/HUAR) have done to prevent their religious beliefs from being co-opted by white nationalist, supremacist, authoritarian, and explicitly fascist groups.
  • Perhaps worst of all, it increases the already-high fear and anxiety felt by oppressed peoples in a damaging way. The trauma experienced by those against whom the marches, rallies, and repeated identity-based violence of the various extreme-right groups occurs is already deep; inflating their fear through false information only helps those who wield terror against them.

The importance of this work

The Valknut is hardly the only symbol that that has been recently mis-labeled (see my previous critiques of such panics regarding the Tyr rune, red boot laces, the Black Sun and egoism, and the wolfsangel.)  And some of these mistakes can be ascribed to mere panic or a puerile fundamentalism that mistakes the symbolic for the real, much in the same way that Christian fundamentalists publish lists of “signs” your child is into the occult.

But a larger criticism is necessary.

The larger issue is that leftist, anarchists, and anti-fascist spaces in European and Anglo-American contexts have too long failed to re-evaluate their inherited Euro-atheist arrogance. The Valknut is an artifact of the pre-Christian cultural existence of Europe, one which has persisted into the present through folk customs and art. It’s part of the paganism that European secularism–especially now in its Anglo-American leftist forms–tries to forget it ever was. And by forgetting, it gives over those who find meaning in such things to the very fascists it claims to fight.

Much has changed already regarding the arrogance against Paganism and magical traditions in leftists spaces.  Some of this change is on account of my work and the work of other writers at Gods&Radicals, as well as more clear-thinking anti-fascist theorists such as Shane Burley. This collective work has brought us to a place where Paganism, witchcraft, and occultism are now much more accepted as authentic expressions of autonomy and resistance.

Heathens unfortunately remain too often smeared as crypto-fascist by anti-fascist groups and the larger public. Worse, these smears and misinformation campaigns comes at a time when white supremacists are actively recruiting in Heathen communities, making it much harder for Heathens to fight off their advances.

Knee-jerk assumptions, simplistic reductions of symbols and beliefs, and a willingness to discard spiritual and cultural symbols in our fight to stop a nebulous Fascist threat will not only lead us nowhere good, but will aid the recruitment efforts of the people we are claiming to oppose. It not only shows us as ignorant but willfully arrogant: our “enlightened” European-derived secular-atheism is the only true way, and any who find meaning in spiritual symbols are at best foolish or, more often “fascist.”

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans ; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And importantly, greater acceptance of non-Christian and non-Atheist cultural and spiritual beliefs supports a much larger work: abandoning the colonialist arrogance which still sees European-derived civilization as superior in its secularism.

As this arrogance is abandoned, indigenous and colonized people will able to claim more space to articulate their animist and ancestral beliefs, without being dismissed as uneducated or backwards in leftist spaces. It’s this larger work we must be committed to, a work that cannot be accomplished by sacrificing the beliefs of others on the altars of purity or the fight against fascism, nor can it be accomplished without interrogating the secular-atheism of the left’s “founding fathers.”


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is one of the co-founders and co-editors of Gods&Radicals. His recently released collection, Witches In a Crumbling Empire, is available now. You can support him on Patreon, and listen to his podcasts with Alley Valkyrie, Empires Crumble.


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Junkyard Nemeton

“This forest, or another forest – forests without end. As faith retreats and reason sleeps those times shall come again.”

From Christopher Scott Thompson

Photo by Niilo Isotalo on Unsplash
Photo by Niilo Isotalo

Surrealist Prophecies #3

The third in a sequence of surrealist prophecies written using the divinatory technique of automatic writing (with subsequent revision). The theme of the sequence is the collapse of our global civilization due to uncontrollable climate change, leading to a mass rejection of both faith and reason and the re-enchantment of our world among the ruins of our failed creations. Some of the poems in the sequence are set before the Fall and portray the spiritual and emotional dilemma of our current crisis. Some describe the Fall itself, and the strange changes in thought and perception that will be needed if any are to survive a world in which humanity has been radically de-centered. Some describe the world to come, a world newly alive with gods and spirits yet free of all dogma or fixed belief – a world of beauty and strange magic.

The third prophecy centers around Rudolf Otto’s concept of the numinous as the immediate presence of the Other, often experienced as a “terrible and fascinating mystery” and described by Otto in The Idea of the Holy as “daemonic dread… the horror of Pan.” In “Junkyard Nemeton,” an abandoned junkyard becomes a druidic grove as the trees advance, and the numen walks in the reborn forest. In this case, only a few lines from the final poem have their origin in automatic writing.

Junkyard Nemeton

Dead cars and broken plastic crates with empty bottles bloom.

Roots twist and turn while weird lights burn, out there beyond the gloom.

Discarded wedding rings and books, lost toys and headless dolls.

The forest grows and no one knows what comes and goes, what calls.

There’s something there, with tangled hair. It walks, and drips, and moans.

The song that calls me to the night sounds sweeter than my own.

I step across the muddy ditch and jump the broken fence.

Between the trees, the night-owl sees, and flees in self-defense.

I raise my hands in recompense and mutter words of prayer.

Strange laughter fills the junkyard night. I whisper “who is there?”.

Novitiate, initiate, at last I shall be shown.

The lies that brought me here tonight seem truer than my own.

I lived my life in constant strife, in service to a creed.

But here at last I have no past, for here there is no need.

I stepped across the border and I crawled across the wall.

Here reason sleeps and faith retreats. The forest eats them all.

I’m startled into silence by a long and lonely moan.

The truth that called me here tonight seems stronger than my own.

Ten thousand years now disappear. In some forgotten time,

My ancient dead here bowed their heads as I am bowing mine.

This forest, or another forest – forests without end.

As faith retreats and reason sleeps those times shall come again.

I speak, but I could never tell the things that I was shown.

The words that I would need are so much stranger than my own.

The wings that flap, the eyes that see, the creatures with their call.

The mountain past the forest looms – strange, black, and fat, and tall.

The birds, like gods, are eating flesh. Skulls guard the cave of bears.

Nine-fold the numen walks tonight, and dogs are howling there.

In polar coldness, near the heart, flame flickers on a stone.

The star that leads me to the light is brighter than my own!


Christopher Scott Thompson

CSTshortbeardBW

is an anarchist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth. Photo by Tam Zech.


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Solstice Musings

As I write this, the solstice is almost upon us. I always think that this time of year takes on an almost dreamlike quality, and time seems to warp into something else so that the New Year and Imbolc seem like distant memories and like yesterday all at the same time.

From Emma Kathryn

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Your skin like dawn

Mine like musk

One paints the beginning

Of a certain end

The other, the end of a

Sure beginning

~ Passing Time by Maya Angelo

I think it was Stephen King who once compared writing to time travel or being psychic, perhaps both. I can’t remember where I read it, but it certainly stuck with me because he’s right (of course he’s right, it’s Stephen King!). But consider the idea for a moment. Here I am in my present, the day before the solstice talking to you in the future; as you read this, you’ll be in a form of communication with my past self. See, psychic time travel indeed!

In all seriousness though, time is a funny old thing really, when you think about it. We think of it in terms of minutes and hours, days and weeks, something that is quantified and measured, and so it is in a way. It helps keep the machine going, to measure the hours of work right down to the second, but also because we now live linear lives, moving from one stage to the next: school, college, work, family, more work, retirement (though for many there is little prospect of a comfortable retirement if, that is they even get one at all. My generation probably have to work ’til we drop).

But time is not just linear. Sometimes its a spiral, and sometimes its slick and slippery and slides by too fast for us to notice, and when we do, it’s too late and we can only reminisce and look back on memories we didn’t even know were memories yet. Sometimes though, time can seem heavy and thick and moves like glue, slowly, agonizingly slowly, flowing by. And sometimes it gathers in the shadows, shimmering like a hidden cave pool,  and in these places time seems to gather and stand still, if only for a moment.

For me, the summer solstice, or Litha if you follow the wheel of the year is like that.

As I write this, the solstice is almost upon us. I always think that this time of year takes on an almost dreamlike quality, and time seems to warp into something else so that the New Year and Imbolc seem  like distant memories and like yesterday all at the same time.

I like being outside at this time of year and so last night I went to the woods with some witch friends of mine. It was still light, the sun still had heat, though beneath the trees it was comfortably cool and smelt of the woods, you know that smell; earth and mulch, soft smell of old decay, the smell of new green.

We found our place, a small clearing and tidied away the rubbish that had been left there, drink bottles and crisp packets. Part of me is glad that still others come to the woods, but it saddens me that they have so little respect for it that they would toss their rubbish upon this sacred ground. The trees here are elder, hawthorn and birch, and they’ve grown so that they look like they are dancing, entwined together as they reach towards the light. Sitting beneath these trees so close to midsummer, time takes on that feeling of nostalgia, all sepia tones and line dried linen scent. It becomes thick and flows  like treacle. When Shakespeare wrote A Mid-Summers Night Dream, he really did capture the essence of this time.

The woods felt alive, and even the constant throb of the industrial estate that borders it becomes nothing more than a drone, a background noise you soon learn to ignore. The woods will not be quieted, and they still cling on, despite the increasing encroachment from both sides, on one houses, the other factories.

Litha is generally seen as a time of fun. Traditionally the hard work of preparing the land and sowing would be over and the harvest still some weeks away. The dog days of summer have arrived and soon schools will finish for the summer break. It’s time to ease off. If only. Now, for so many, they have lost their closeness to the land, and so have fallen out of sync with the natural cycles of the land. You can feel a hint of it though, can’t you, especially when on a beautiful morning in the height of summer, instead of being able to enjoy this time, instead we must head into our air conditioned offices, windowless factories and spend the most glorious of days doing meaningless work. And that’s if you’re lucky. All you have to do is take a look at the world to see just how much worse we could have it.

This time of year always reminds me of the summers of my youth, when all of the kids from the estate would walk the mile or so to an old  abandoned concrete barge that sat at the edge of a lake connected to the river by a small stream. All of our parents worked, and in those days it was perfectly acceptable for older brothers and sisters to babysit. Only  older brother and sisters don’t want to stay cooped up inside, and so us younger ones were taken along too, much to our delight. Anyway, we would go there and swim in the lake.  Some of the older ones would jump off the concrete barge in to the deeper parts of the lake, though I never dared. On the way back, we’d stop at a church and drink from its outside tap and pinch plums from trees that overhung from the edges of gardens.

Those were the days! Those summer days! How long ago they seem and yet I can still feel the cold water on my skin.

And now, the solstice is almost here, feeling like that again, and it is time to face the fact that half the year has gone already. Time to pull ourselves from the past, and as you do, it dawns on you how lucky you are, or it does me anyway. Here I am writing about midsummer and the land and the good times, and yet the world is going to the dogs. You only have to take a quick glance at the news to see that. It would almost be funny, like some sort of joke if it wasn’t actually happening.

And what can we do against the face of empire? What can we, the poor and the powerless do in the face of such a colossus? It’s easy to feel helpless. And when we feel helpless, we can do only what we can to try an alleviate it. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to work on your connection to where you live.

Let the solstice be the time when you connect to the land and those around you. Build those relationships for those things can often be the bedrock of solidarity. Don’t waste time, because, as we have already discussed, time is a tricksy thing indeed, and before you know it will be gone.

Go out if you can and delight in the beauty of a new day and feel that connection to land and to others, even if it’s the only thing you can do, everything starts with the land. Enjoy it while there’s still time.


Emma Kathryn

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

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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COURSE: ALL THAT IS SACRED IS PROFANED (July)

(To go directly to the enrollment link, click here)

All That Is Sacred is Profaned: A Pagan Introduction to Marxism

What exactly is capitalism? How did it arise from the severance of people and land? What was Marx on about, and is Marxism still relevant? In this five-week distance course, we’ll study the Marxist framework through a Pagan lens.

Designed and instructed by Rhyd Wildermuth, participants of All That Is Sacred Is Profaned will learn through videos, texts, and online conversations:

  • What Capitalism is, how it works, and how it came about through historical processes.
  • How Capitalism relates to slavery, colonization, and other forms of exploitation.
  • What is meant by class and class struggle, and why your boss needs you but you don’t need your boss.
  • How wages work, and why we are never paid what we’re “worth.”
  • Who Marx was, why his work still matters, and how Marxist materialism enhances Pagan thought.
  • How Race, Gender, Sexuality, and other oppression categories are understood through Marxism.
  • What the differences are between Autonomous Marxist thought and Totalitarian Communism.

This course is specifically designed for those with little background in Marxism or academic environments.

General Information

Course Length and Schedule: The course will last for five weeks, from 1 July, 2018 until 3 August, 2018

Time Commitment: Participants will be expected to devote a minimum of four hours each week (20 hours total) to the course. This expectation includes time devoted to reading course texts, viewing video lectures, and engaging in conversation with other participants.

Cost: $40 US per person. Subsidies are available for low-income participants.

Maximum participants: 25

Course Requirements: Participants need have no prior knowledge of Marxist theory nor experience in academic settings. Physical requirements include internet access, a computer or smartphone capable of accessing course materials and viewing videos, and each participant will need to create a login (free of cost) for Discord.

Course Materials: Each participant will be given a printable pdf that comprises the primary textbook for the course (written by Rhyd Wildermuth), as well as access to five ten-minute video lectures. In addition, a guide to using the private Discord server for participant discussions will also be provided.

Venue: Weekly course conversations will occur on a dedicated Discord server, where participants will engage in discussion with each other and the instructor, as well as be able to communicate directly with the instructor.

Cancellation/Refund policy: Full refunds of payment are possible up until the end of the first day of the course. After that, the course is 50% refundable until 7 July. No refunds can be given after this date.

Other policies: In the very unlikely event that a participant creates a hostile environment for other participants or the instructor, and if attempts to address the behavior do not correct the problem, the instructor reserves the right to end a participant’s participation. The above cancellation/refund policy will apply in such cases.

Enrollment process: To enroll, remit payment by purchasing the course access at this link by 29 June. On 30 June you will receive links to course material and the private Discord server. Links to video lectures will be provided weekly during the course.

Subsidized enrollment: If you would like to request one of the 5 reserved slots for subsidized enrollment, please send us an email at Distro@ABeautifulResistance.Com. You do not need to explain your income situation to us, only let us know how much you will be able to pay instead. (Please note: these slots are on a first-come, first-served basis).

About Académie Hérétique

Académie Hérétique (Heretic Academy) is a series of online course offerings from Gods&Radicals Press. Académie Hérétique‘s focus is on political theory, philosophy, esoteric and occult studies, history, and tactical skills for people with little to no academic background or previous knowledge of the subjects taught. Instructors are committed to accommodating varied learning backgrounds, styles, and abilities as much as possible.

Académie Hérétique courses are priced at the lowest rate possible that still enables us to fairly compensate our instructors for their labor, and subsidies are available for those who cannot afford them.

To stay updated on upcoming course options, please subscribe to the Gods&Radicals Press mailing list.

The Land Under Our Feet

Llyn Dinas, below Dinas Emrys (photo by author)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Mayday. It’s Beltane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the forests die.

Now species older than humanity breathe their last.

Now the oceans rise and storms rage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Beltane. Happy Mayday.


Rhyd Wildermuth

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


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Equinox Musings – Connections

“We dream of space travel to distant planets, of the stars, all the while forgetting that the stuff that makes the stars, that makes the universe, makes us too.”

From Emma Kathryn

pexels-photo-323314

The world is a mysterious place.

It’s funny to think that so many go through their lives oblivious to the magical other-world that resides within this one (or perhaps it is this world that resides in the magical one), either way, so many people are unaware of it.

We’ve forgotten we are a part of it.

Instead of going out and living, truly living and connecting with this world, we watch films that take us to new and fantastical worlds, we watch nature via documentaries through our telly boxes. We dream of space travel to distant planets, of the stars, all the while forgetting that the stuff that makes the stars, that makes the universe, makes us too.

And in the forgetting of our real world and our real selves, we are sold false ones instead. We buy endless crap to try to fill the void, thinking that if we just buy this new phone or that brand of clothing or this new car, then we’ll feel better. Only it never works. We might feel better momentarily, that is until the novelty of the new stuff wears off and they just become things, like the rest of the things we buy. The circle is never-ending, at least until you take a step back and realise it’s all shit, all designed to keep us spending, to keep us docile. It’s time to break the cycle.

As I write this, it is the spring equinox, or if you follow the wheel of the year, Ostara. I’m outside, in my garden, or rather sitting on my porch. Sunrise is still ten minutes or so away. I love this time of day, there’s no one around, no sounds of traffic. It’s like you can actually really relax.

It’s cold still, though the last of the snow has melted and narcissus and crocus are almost ready to bloom, to unfurl their yellow and purple petals, providing the first splash of colour of the season.

The dawn chorus is in full swing as the birds begin to get ready for the mating season, pairing up and nesting. There’s a couple of blackbirds that nest in the wall of ivy that grows in my garden, just beside the house, as well as a quarrel of sparrows. Every morning, the male blackbird perches in the wild cherry tree that grows at the front of my garden and sings his little black heart out, marking his territory. His song is crystal clear and melodic. It cuts through the early morning air with the delicate clarity of a glass bell, combining with the rest of the feathered choir. Yes, the dawn chorus is truly one of my favourite things about spring time.

If Imbolc is a time for the unfurling of roots, of planning and scheming, then Ostara is the time for those plans, so carefully laid down, to be put into action. The season of fertility and growth is upon us, everything is beginning to awaken. Spring is a time of energy and activity, and so we too must take our cues from nature, from the season. It is time for us to begin our work.

Sometimes I think that we, as a species, have fallen out of sync with the natural cycles of earth and of nature. The modern technological world has made it so easy for us. We live in climate controlled homes all year round; our days stay remarkably (or perhaps unremarkably) the same, day in day out. We get up, we go to work for eight or more hours a day, too tired to pursue our own interests, and it’s the same with our children too, except they are in school for the best part of the day, and longer if the parents rely on the school for childcare.

I’m not proposing (here at least) that we shun the comforts of home, or that you quit your job tomorrow ( regular readers will know how I feel about the capitalist system and how we are enslaved to it), instead, I suggest that we make a start in reconnecting to the land, to nature.

To retune ourselves to the natural rhythms of life, to the cycles of nature and the land in our own locality means that we must be willing to put in at least a little effort. It’s not enough to visualise in meditation sitting out in nature, to imagine a deep connection to it. It’s certainly not enough if you never make an effort to get outside.

In mainstream paganism, I feel that the natural world is sometimes overly romanticised – think the earth mother offering us all of her gifts, her bounty. I guess you can tell that I’m going to disagree with this view of nature. Nature does indeed give us all that we need to live, but that does not mean that these things are easy to come by, that we don’t have to put in the work or effort. It doesn’t mean we can just do what we want, take what we want. Nature is not all love and light, and to go out without understanding this is to risk your own safety.

The pagan mythic of the wild wood and building a connection, a relationship with it or any other large natural formation, mountain, lake, whatever, is indeed romantic, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want that. But for many, the reality is only a dream. For sometimes it can be hard for us pagans to realise that sometimes, quite often in fact, the wild wood, the mountain, the lake, do not want a relationship with us. It’s true. I have felt it myself.

I took my dogs out once, not to my normal woods, the ones I write about here, but to a larger one. I am a witch, and tracks are not for me, so off the track we went. It was such a nice walk, a warm spring day, the dogs were running through the trees, loving their freedom. We walked and walked until we came to a part of the woods I didn’t know. I was looking forward to exploring, always on the look out for plants to forage and what not, but then the atmosphere changed. I thought it was just me, spooking myself, and so I forced myself onwards. I looked back to find the dogs waiting about  two or three metres back, and no matter how much I called, whistled and cajoled, they wouldn’t go any further. Instead we turned back the way we had come.

Sometimes we are just not wanted. I believe it’s because the land remembers, and though we as individuals may be innocent, the crimes committed against the land by humanity are too much and thus great effort is required to regain what we have lost. The land remembers.

So with all of that said, building a relationship with the land, with nature needs to start small, and the best way to do this is to start with where you live. It doesn’t matter where you reside either, just for the record, whether that be the city, town or countryside. Before, when I’ve written on the subject, I’ve had people say that it’s all well and good for us country folk to talk about building a connection to the land, but for those who live in cities, then to do so costs money and time. To that I say forging a connection does take time, of course, but I truly believe you do not have to spend a penny. You don’t need to transport yourself away from where you live. Every place has a spirit, and forming relationships with the genius loci, the spirit of the place where you live will be more than fulfilling, even if it’s a relationship with a stunted and lonely tree, a patch of wasteland where only weeds grow (of course the sorcerers and witches will know that really, there’s no such thing as a weed,an unwanted plant!).

Let the season of fertility and growth inspire you. Take yourself outside, go for a walk around your neighbourhood, learn the natural rhythms and cycles where you live, what grows where.

The best place to forge relationships with the land and spirits of place is the place where you live. Let Ostara be the time for action.

Happy Ostara.


Emma Kathryn

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

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.

The Cresting Wave

“We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

From Anthony Rella

An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.My sitting practice had gone slack. I mean, I did it. I physically sat there. For twenty minutes, most days. But “I” wasn’t there. I’d be entranced with the fantasies and thoughts of my mind for much of the time. Each thought approached with its own urgency, its own need to be resolved NOW! None of which is new, it is the same tendency that has always needed tending. Yet I was not engaging with the practice of returning to presence as vigorously.

I’d withdrawn. I hadn’t fully realized it. First it was simply not watching the president speak. Then it was being selective about what articles I read. It was picking my battles, picking the causes I supported, and then noticing I’d not picked any in a few months. The eases of my privilege softened the urgency of it.

I was at a party of upper-middle class white people, culturally and demographically the same kind of people I’d grown up with in my adolescence, but most of who I’d never met before. We watched a slideshow presentation of the host’s recent trip to Dachau. She told us about all the different patches the incarcerated wore—including the Pink Triangle for homosexuals.

“There were gays back then?” asked an upper-middle class heterosexually married white woman. “I mean, people were openly gay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “There were transgender people too, but they were suppressed. Back then, there were openly queer people in the United States, too. But after an economic downturn there was a reactionary rightward turn, just like what’s happening today. They suppressed those people and erased our memories of them.”

She didn’t respond to that. This same weekend, the United States president’s administration sent instructions to the Center for Disease Control to not use seven terms. One of the words to be forbidden—people to be erased from memory—was “transgender.” “Fetus” was another, to erode sexual freedom and women’s autonomy.

It was a party. I was terrified. I felt another wave of this same historical movement cresting and these folks didn’t seem terrified and they didn’t know their history. They didn’t know the pattern to recognize it. Or maybe they knew it would break over someone else’s bodies.

The terror had been a slow heartbeat all year, coming into sharp focus and then fading into the background. After the election, the gods told me war was coming. I had dreams of violence and guns. Being fully unready to learn to use a gun myself, I decided to do some self-defense training. When I touched the tender edge of that terror, I would take a courageous leap forward and then back slowly into safety. A safety that isn’t really safe. A safety that is numbness and disengagement. But the party woke me up again. I wasn’t safe. People I love aren’t safe.

In my early days of taking up the Pagan path, so many of the books I read expressed an urgency with hope. Our modern lives were steering humanity toward destruction, they often said, but we have an opportunity to pull back, and these tools can help. Today, I almost feel a nostalgia for the moment when I still believed that. I don’t think humanity is doomed, but in my heart I feel we’ve passed the point when we could draw back. The fire has begun.

Now I think the work of humanity is to pass through the destruction and see if we can allow it to burn away what is sick and toxic and make room for that which is worth saving. Now my mind turns toward the descendants who will inherit the time of The Star, after the Tower has collapsed, where open space and fertile soil await. Those children will need much, and have great promise.

45’s presidency has definitely been an economic boon to psychotherapists. More than the president, however, the entire country’s political climate has woken up childhood defenses with a vengeance. It is absolutely about the people and events in charge, and you can also see the ways the client as a young person learned to deal with uncertainty, conflict, or problems in the family.

My own is that terror, reaching back to a childhood fear that if I didn’t “hold it together” and act as the emotional “rock” for my family, “everything would fall apart.” I wouldn’t be cared for, I’d be unloved. Being this “rock” meant being in some ways invisible, making sure others felt comfortable and at ease, especially at the expense of my own wants and needs. When there was a problem, I learned how to contort and bend myself rather than risk confronting the other people. This matured into a pattern of emotional self-denial, guilt, putting other peoples’ needs and comfort ahead of my own, feeling like nothing I ever did was “enough,” and then working myself until I felt total resentment.

This year I’ve been actively working to unravel that. Allowing this to run unchecked set me up for burnout and cynical withdrawal, which helps no one. Yet to unravel means reacquainting myself with the terror, facing it squarely, and not trying to “fix it.”

I need presence. I need practice to keep me returning to the world as it is. I picked up an old practice—counting my breaths, noticing the thoughts that rose between breaths, but staying with the count. Starting over if I got so caught up in a thought that I lost the count.

It is excruciating. And as I sit, bringing my focus to center and counting the breath, it occurs to me that when I practice, I must practice as though this is the most important thing in the world. More important than the thoughts that clamor for attention is this practice, making my awareness one with my breath.

After the election, an old friend and I had a conversation about her spiritual path. She had returned after a hiatus, experiencing profound and exciting openings while processing painful family trauma. We wondered about the value of spiritual practice in a time of political upheaval.

At the time, what I thought and said was: “We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

There were gays back then?

For every god I worship, there is at least one person from every political orientation who will tell me why I shouldn’t worship them. The gods I worship are contested. People who care nothing about cultural appropriation, who would gladly extinguish all nonwhite people and strip their cultures for parts, also court these gods. I do not live in a world of clean rules and simple answers. I mistrust anyone who does. The gods come to me, and I give them offerings and praise, and we grow closer to each other. My service to them includes supporting the people of their lands of origin, in whatever ways I can. 

The Rider-Waite-Smith Five of Pentacles used to trouble me. The art of this card often contrasts opulent religiosity with violent poverty. Having grown up learning the history of the Catholic Church, I associated this card with religious plutocracy, exploiting the religiosity of the people to gild their lavish churches.

Having read the work of Dr. Bones and Sophia Burns, I have come to sense another facet. The Five of Pentacles is the relationship between philosophical belief and material practice. If that church is worth a damn, those people in the snow should know they can find warmth and shelter inside of it. It’s the Black Panthers serving free breakfast for children.

What material result does my spiritual practice offer? When is it about bypassing, and when is it about service?

I was marching with a group of Black Lives Matter activists. Hearing the call-and-response chants, I thought about ritual artistry. The march needed people willing to take the lead in the calls. Anyone could respond, and most people did, but only a few loud voices started the next call, ideally people who were leading the march. Without those callers, the energy of the group would grow slack. If the callers weren’t listening to each other, the chants fell out of sync, or different chants competed.

No one called in my little cluster, so I took a risk. I discovered, to my surprise, that I had a big voice. Knowing I was a white male taking up space in a Black Lives Matter march, I listened to what the other callers were doing and decided my service would be to amplify what they did. When my voice got tired, someone else took up the role. When their voice got tired, I took up the role.

“No justice!”

No peace!”

“No racist—“

Police!”

We marched in front of the police station. The cops were a few yards away, watching. All of my childhood defenses and middle class, Midwestern cultural training came to the fore. Don’t make them uncomfortable. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And that clearly conflicted with the role I’d taken on in support, to shout out “No justice!” and “No racist police!”

That was a moment when I had my practices to keep me in service. What we were doing was larger and more important than my individual comfort, and if I was unwilling to let the cops be uncomfortable I might as well stop marching altogether. I’d spent years developing my skills in setting aside the reactions of the moment and keep to the task.

In the early days of my meditation practice, a Christian acquaintance challenged me. “So, what, if your grandmother was dying you would just sit there and meditate and it would all be okay?”

“Well, I mean, if my grandmother was dying I would probably sit and talk to her. I might meditate on my own, but the whole point is so I can be there for her.”

Spiritual bypassing would be sitting in meditation while my grandmother dies. It would be taking off my blindfold and leaving the enflamed building while others burn, or saying, “The flames are all illusion!”

I love the gods, and I desire access to a deeper wisdom than the collective mind that created our dilemma. I need the tools that calm nervous systems, that build and sustain the bonds of beloved community. I crave the rituals that align us with the powers of the earth and nature. I want us to have the skills and powers that can’t be bought or sold.

As a child, the ocean was a place of play and relaxation. In my early days of Paganism, the ocean became a symbol of the powers of Water, Daring, Passion, and Emotion. Lately, it has become once again simply the ocean. Its ongoing cresting, breaking, and receding is the manifestation of the deep cycles that govern many things, including the spiral of history. I feel the mystery of the waves in my body.

My practice immerses me in the living world, in the time I have been given. To be here more fully than I ever knew I could be. To not shy away from the flames or the terror. To know deeply that there is something in me that will not be burnt.


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 a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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