Rituals Against The Prisons

Editor’s note: We received these rituals via an anonymous email and are passing it along to our readers. We also recommend invocations to Dionysos Eleutherios (Dionysus the Liberator), as well as Hecate, Brig Ambue, and other gods of outcasts, those considered “criminal,” and gods who rule over the transgression of walls and boundaries.

We have also made this post available as a downloadable .pdf designed for printing as a flier. See the end of this post for the file and printing instructions.

Solidarity with prisoners and those who fight prisons everywhere.

Ritual of Protection for Prison Rebels

Cleanse yourself and your working space

Make offerings of tobacco to the land and the indigenous ancestors
of the land you are on,
and the lands beneath the rebelling prisons
honor the sovereignty of the indigenous ancestors and their living descendants
deny the legitimacy of the so called United States
denounce the wickedness of its walls

Make offerings of water, wine, or rum to the abolitionist ancestors
especially those whose uprisings bookend the dates of this strike
to Nat Turner and George Jackson and all who fought with them
to the Attica martyrs
to all those rebels named and unnamed who came before

Light a red candle

Ask the abolitionist ancestors to protect and strengthen the prison rebels
to be wakeful as you are being wakeful
to be watchful as you are being watchful
to tend the flame as you are tending the flame

List the names of specific prisoners who have been targets of repression,
including but not limited to:
Michael Kimble, Ronald Brooks, Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Kevin Rashid Johnson, Keith Malik Washington, Randy Watterson, Tod J Martin, and Jase Duras

List the names of specific prisons that have seen uprisings, including but not limited to:
Sterling (Colorado), Hyde (North Carolina), Lanesboro (North Carolina), Central (North Carolina), McCormick (South Carolina), Burnside (Nova Scotia), Saguaro (Arizona), Folsom (California), the Northwest Detention Center (Washington), all 11 prisons in New Mexico, and various other prisons in Halifax, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

Keep vigil over the candle for as long as you are able

Remain open to messages from the spirits

Thank the ancestors

Allow the candle to finish burning.

Hex Against the Prison System

Gather those you trust

Banish the techno-vampiric-apparatus which lives in your pockets

Plan an attack
against one of companies profiting from prison labor
[these lists are readily available]

find a target near you

scout, witness, intuit, employ psychogeography to discover
which spirits are present
the gaps in surveillance
escape routes

Choose a weapon
egg: to carry the hex
wheatpaste: to adorn walls
superglue: for the locks
paint: to inscribe sigils, mantras
rocks: to open the way for the spirits
fire: to purify

Consult the spirits by way of divination to doublecheck the plan

Wear dark colors for protective energy
and a mask to cultivate a state of ek-stasis (being outside of self)

Light a black candle

Pour out offerings of wine or water
to the darkness
to the night
to the stars and moon
to the crossroad spirits
to the city itself
and the wild things in it
and to the web which connects
our gestures across space and time

Extinguish a burning herb in a bowl of fresh water
with which to
Wash your weapon
While praying:
an attack, a blow,
a jailbreak, complicity
which joins and multiplies
the storm of refusal
against the prison world
wild fire to the prisons
until all are free

Activate your sigils – (A) /// FttP

Carry out your attack

Get away without looking back

Leave your tools at a crossroads

Discard ritual attire

Thank the spirits
the web, the wild ones,
the city itself,
the crossroads,
and starry night

Full Moon: August 26th
New Moon: September 9th
Sun in Virgo—the sign of careful planning


You can download a printable copy of these rituals to distribute widely. We’ve designed it to fold in half as a booklet.

Simply download the file: Rituals Against Prisons. Then, print the two-paged document on one piece of 8.5×11 (“letter”) paper. Make sure to follow instructions on your printer or copier for duplex printing if you have not done this before. Then, fold in half (with the title on the outside right).

Down, Down to Troy Town

“But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town.”

From Ramon Elani

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“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. The God’s name is Abraxas.”

—Hermann Hesse

“In this world is man Abraxas, the creator and the destroyer of his own world.”

—Carl Jung

Roused from my sleep by turbulent dreams, I came to the riverbank. The river opened its eyes to me and galaxies were born and died in its eddying currents. Mist rose in hissing tendrils from moss and fern. The moon, a cold shining knife blade. Two figures emerged from the darkened wood, one wearing a mantle of straw, the other clad in twigs and alder and hazel leaves. Each was crowned with bark, with ferns upon their feet and masks of wood covered their faces. One carried a wand of hawthorne, the other a wooden sword. Hands clasped, they stood before me in silence. Then came forth a third figure, darker than the night and in its hands, a flaming sword. At the approach of this fell thing, the Wild Ones bowed their heads in unison and knelt upon the ground. The executioner raised his dire sword and I turned my head as the dolorous stoke found its mark. Soundlessly the two figures, hands still entwined, slumped to the earth and the dirt was stained with bright blood, which poured into the river below. A thong of shadowy mourners came and lifted the bodies onto a litter of branches, decorated with antlers. At the executioner’s behest, the procession began to move, and I, compelled by an urgency in my blood, followed. Then we came to a tarn, deep and still, surrounded by oak trees and standing stones. And the bodies of the Wild Ones were thus drowned in that black water. Down and down, through uncountable fathoms, I saw the bodies sink. A shudder passed through the world. The lips of the executioner moved: “guilty,” “guilty,” “guilty.”

Then came a number of young girls, with flowers in their hair. And they sang this song:
Now carry we Death out of the world,

The new Summer into the world,

Welcome, dear Summer,

Green Little corn.

Death will sleep beneath the oak tree,

Summer will soon be here,

We carry Death away for you

We bring the Summer.

Give us a good year

For wheat and for rye.

We carry Death out of the world,

And the New Age into the world.

Dear Spring, we bid you welcome.

Green grass, we bid you welcome.

We carry away death.

And bring back life.
The girls carried between them a small coffin and when they set it down, the executioner and all his attendants entered the coffin and the girls buried it beneath an oak tree. Then one among the girls spoke: “Of what was he guilty? For he was so good.” And three girls stepped forward, each bearing a chalice. “Weep not,” they spoke. “For what is sweeter than milk, honey, and brandy?” And the first of them poured sweet milk upon the dirt, the second, honey, and the third, brandy. At that, the sound of a horn broke the silence of those grim woods and a jubilant crowd passed before me. At its head, upon a fair horse, rode a figure robed in bark and crowned with gold. He was adorned with flowers and ribbons hung from his breast. Behind him came boys and girls bearing straw effigies upon tall poles. I remembered the words:
Those trees in whose dim shadow

The ghastly priest doth reign

The priest who slew the slayer,

And shall himself be slain.

 

And the King of the Wood came again into his kingdom.

And I awoke by the side of the river.

And I knew that as I slept, she goddess of the river had placed her tynged upon me. That I would be cursed to see the dying of an age and know that not I, nor any other, can prevent what is coming. For this world is truly a fortress of turns. And what has come is always fated to return. Against whom do we war but ourselves? To go out, one must go in. The law of history and the law of the maze are one and the same. As Rebecca Solnit writes: “sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.” One must not approach the hilltop but by the ringed paths that surround it. Remember, with every step, I have been here before, I will be here again. Nothing could be more profane than to walk straight to the center. No, the lines of seven folds must be obeyed. And why? Because unless we follow the circle path, we will find nothing at all when we reach the end.

But with what desperation do we seek to deny the cycles of time! That it were not so is the dearest wish of humanity. Any catastrophe imaginable would be preferable to the secrets hidden in Troy Town. We will come, in time, to deny everything in the world in our attempt to be free. Destiny, fate is abhorrent to the modern mind because it is so self evident. A vision of humanity that sits, impervious, upon a shining pyramid, looming over the barren plain cannot abide the notion that powers beyond us direct the course of all things. Borges, one haunted by the labyrinth:

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am.

We are the body of the cosmos. We are the dreams of the world. And we, and the world, are no more than mist and dew.

Within the maze, we look up at the eternal stars. Their implication suddenly becomes clear. We find that past and future are the same. We find that the present is the only illusion. There is only the endless rhythm of the tide. A wave that is always coming and going. There is a sensation, most acutely felt, of being pursued throughout our lives. Something implacably seeks us. It finds us in our dreams, in Troy Town.

Modernity fails because it teaches us to kill the monster. Confine it because we fear it. Trap it and bind it. Instead of the hallowed offerings we once gave freely, it now will take its own bloody rewards. And on its own terms, the price will be arbitrary and cruel. Then, when it has trespassed too far, we will hunt it, drive it down to Troy Town and butcher it and declare ourselves rid of its vileness forever. And then we will act surprised when its bloody lips spread wide again to devour us. We only sin against ourselves. Joseph Campbell:

Where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

The cycles turn, without end. We can escape nothing. We are destined to fight the same battles forever. Just as Holly and Oak, winter and summer, life and death. When we embrace this awful truth and walk the spiral path in Troy Town, we will once again dwell in the bosom of the living gods.

 

Amor fati, amor fati.

 


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

The Sword Radiant

“If there was ever a thing of beauty among our race, it was the part that held the light of the star and the crash of the waves upon a rocky, inhospitable shore.”

From Ramon Elani

“The spirit of the depths spoke to me: ‘Look into your depths, pray to your depths, waken the dead.’”

“There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell.”— C.G. Jung

I stand upon a hill and gaze to the north, where the sky is filled with flames. The whispering trees sway gently. Urging me to wander, filling my heart with the bittersweet madness of wandering. But I have walked so long already. I have wandered and now have finished with wandering. All will happen as it has happened a thousand times. This is the curse of wandering. Again and again, the wanderer finds himself standing before monuments he cannot remember. Only that he stood he before and he will stand here again. Onward and onward he will be driven, pursued by maddening storms. The self runs but its path is only to circle the endless stones. Life and the cosmos will always be elsewhere. The beast will always be full of bitterness and hunger, as it runs across the plains. Because what it hunts is its own self.

*Who liveth alone longeth for mercy,

Maker’s mercy. Though he must traverse

Tracts of sea, sick at heart,

Trouble with oars ice-cold waters,

The ways of exile—Weird is set fast.

But I bind myself to this hill. Here I will stand until ruination. I will not find my home and my mother through movement. I will find her by digging my grave and standing within it. My mother, the moon, gazes down upon me. I can sense her light from beneath, as well. A pillar of light, extending into infinity. Where shall I seek the barrows? Where are the ancient kings buried, with all their war-gear? Where does the radiant blade shine beneath the dark earth? I know, I know.

Thus spoke such a ‘grasshopper’, old griefs in his mind,

Cold slaughters, the death of dear kinsmen.

What is there to search for that you will not find within yourself? We have buried much of ourselves with them, the dead kings. We have put aside their cruelty, their bloody masks. And yet we have torn from our hearts the beating drum of life and the cosmos. What is left of humanity? What force ever animated these sickly limbs with a sublimity to match the soaring falcon above the dusky hill? The falcon soars that he might rend the flesh and bathe himself in blood. We know, we know.

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No weary mind may stand against Weird

Nor may a wrecked will work new hope;

Wherefore, most often, those eager for fame

Bind the dark mood fast in their breasts.

If there was ever a thing of beauty among our race, it was the part that held the light of the star and the crash of the waves upon a rocky, inhospitable shore. Where has it been driven? Driven beneath the barrow, denied with the blood. For, do not mistake, the blood and the light are of the same substance. We can extinguish the one only by hiding them both in the darkest places of soul. One hand holds the fire, and the other holds a blade dripping with gore. And yet, whose blood? Our own, of course. But we are done with fathers and the things of the father. The prohibition against blood-letting is the domain of the father, as are all prohibitions and the logic of law.

There stands in the stead of staunch thanes

A towering wall wrought with worm-shapes;

The earls are off-taken by the ash-spear’s point,

That thirsty weapon. Their Weird is glorious.

Dig, then. Dig into the black and musty earth. Dig out the sparkling blade from a realm of worms and rot. The sword carried aloft, the moon shining at its apex, for I am of the moon. Never forget: “Who would be born must first destroy a world.” The sword shines in the heart of the jewel. And the one who wields it is the maker and annihilator of worlds. Hesse once wrote, “I am a star in the firmament.” The star knows not morality or mercy. Seek not, nor ask for mercy. Mercy is not a quality given from one divine thing to another, but from a master to a slave. Blazing in the void of space, the glory of the star is combustion and the gentle light that it shines upon the faces of the dreamers, who gaze up at the night sky. Gentleness we may find, perhaps forgiveness as well. But never mercy. To struggle into becoming is the fate of the world.

A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be

When all this world’s wealth standeth waste,

Even as now, in many places, over the earth

Walls stand, wind-beaten,

Hung with hoar-frost; ruined habitations.

The wine-halls crumble; their wielders lie

Bereft of bliss, the band all fallen

Proud by the wall.

We have come unto our kingdom and found it ashen and decayed. A lie was written somewhere. We followed a path that circled the tower but never approached the steps. So we flee to distant places. The soul is thrown beyond. The horn is heard among the standing stones upon the hill, where the wolf moans to the wind and the bear digs among the moss and roots and the hawk shrieks for slaughter. The song echoes among the bogs and watery places, where dark things slither and dim lights shine beneath the murky water. Reason has made a waste of the world and buried the flaming heart and the weeping sword. Wraiths wandering among the fallen stones speak to us of times gone by. The White Bull and the crescent blade that slit his divine throat. Even as now, even as now. Like Hesse, we are doomed to endlessly traverse the “hell of inner being.”

Where is that horse now? Where are those men? Where is the hoard-sharer?

Where is the house of the feast? Where is the hall’s uproar?

Alas, bright cup! Alas, burnished fighter!

Alas, proud prince! How that time has passed,

Dark under night’s helm, as though it never had been!

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There is no pain we cannot endure, for indeed, we carry with us the sorrows of the eternal courses of the world within us. Within the heart, all has come and gone and come again. There is no death we have not suffered. The cup is filled and drained and will be filled again. Yet here we stand, alive in a morning world, though our souls dwell in the evening. We have been raised by the Sun, in a Sun land, but we long for our mother the Moon and the icy mists of the forest in twilight. The noumenon rises like a mountain into the sky within the soul. It is not outside of us. Its fragment pulses in the moments that we truly live, like a germ of ice that brings with it the promise of a demon called the glacier that grinds down the ages of the world.

Storms break on the stone hillside,

The ground bound by driving sleet,

Winter’s wrath. Then wanness cometh,

Night’s shade spreadeth, sendeth from north

The rough hail to harry mankind.

The dead live within us. They slumber in the hidden places of the psyche. In this ancestor-less time we have sealed their tombs. And we evoke their names in a manner both crass and profane to strike out against anything as long as it is not within ourselves. There must be a surrogate for the slaughter. Those who will not battle within their hearts will seek a victim for their impotent rage. May they be buried by grains of hail, that nothing will grow from their malice and I will cast a shadow upon them from the north that will bind their vulgar tongues and feed the monster within them, who they will not fight, and who in time will make their existence an inescapable hell. And I will curse them to wander forever among the lost stones of their own fear and stupidity and self hatred. Woe unto them who run from their demons, for they will bring ruin upon ruin to the world. The creature will be fed, one way or another. One war or another. One sacrifice or another.

In the earth-realm all is crossed;

Weird’s will changeth the world.

Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us,

Man is lent, kin is lent;

All this earth’s frame shall stand empty.

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Dive down and waken the dead! Find the demon that time immemorial has twisted and generations of denial and repression has cursed. There lies your foe. Unearth the tombs, shatter the bands of iron that seal them. And the spirits, faced and bested, will fight for us, will trace the edge of the rusted blade until it shines like a beacon through the ages. And the sword held on high will burst into flames and radiate its light into the heart of the star that beats dimly within our blood. And a flame will rise in the north, where I stand upon my hill. And I will not weep for the end of a world. And I will plant the tip of my spear in the dark earth. And I will raise the sword to the moon!

*Excerpts of “The Wanderer” as translated by Michael J. Alexander


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


Politics and Witchcraft, Practical Intersections: Protest

Magic has been variously described over the years. For our purposes, let’s say it is the raising of energy and directing it toward a goal, to create change in accordance with will. And if that’s not an accurate description of political demonstrations, I’m not sure what is.

Ritual-Political Theory, from Vera Northe

Image: May Day 2017, Paris (see original and many more at Taranis News.)

May 1st, 2017. A may-pole and drums and people from many different local groups dressed for the occasion. Under a hot sun, framed by trees with new leaves, we were reminded why we had gathered, although we all already knew. We raised power, and after a time (and, as will often happen with large groups, a little disorder), we released it. As happens with any such public gathering of people overtly proclaiming their beliefs, there had been a few people trying to start trouble with us, but they didn’t really succeed. Then there was food, and we came back into the everyday, but we remained talking together for several hours.

I’m not describing a Beltane ritual; the may-pole was hung with red and black streamers and the local groups all carried political signs. I’m describing a May Day rally and march in New York City. May 1st is a day doubly sacred to many leftist pagans, a day of political and religious significance. The meaning gets all intertwined like the ribbons around the may-pole: liberation, creativity, work, and magic, the energy of everything coming alive after a long dark winter.

The question of whether witchcraft should be political is a tired one. People frequently bring up the perhaps legendary account of New Forest covens repelling Hitler, or the works Starhawk has written on political organizing and magic, or the actions of the W.I.T.C.H. organization, or even the recent much-publicized Trump hex. But to me, one of the strongest arguments that witchcraft and politics go together is structural and practical. Because the very act of public political demonstration follows a form familiar to all of us.

With the growing visibility of large-scale movements thanks to social media, we’ve all heard someone say, “What good is protest?” This is said not in a good-faith disagreement about tactics, but by people who think, I’ve got mine so what’s everyone else whining about? “What good is protest?” said by a commuter whose route to work was blocked. “What good is protest?” followed by, “they already have their rights.” Or, as one man (an ivy league graduate) once growled to me, “They should all be shot.”

“What good is protest?” they ask, and if we are tired of explaining history, we might simply reply, “It’s magic.”

Lady Liberty/Lady Death (May Day NYC 2017)

Protest As Ritual

Magic has been variously described over the years. For our purposes, let’s say it is the raising of energy and directing it toward a goal, to create change in accordance with will. And if that’s not an accurate description of political demonstrations, I’m not sure what is.

Sometimes, the pieces of a political demonstration are discrete and orderly, a clearly planned ritual. Scheduled speakers from various organizations remind the crowd why they have gathered, sometimes bringing visibility to a little-known cause, sometimes reading demands, sometimes speaking generally but keeping the energy rising, leading chants, or singing songs. Then, there may be a march to another location (or in some cases, when the march itself is the main event, there may only be speeches at the destination). The march itself is usually peppered with chants, keeping the energy high. The destination is usually a point of significance, often a capitol building, a city hall, a bank, a police station, or similar seat of power. It is there that the energy usually is released, often with more chanting and drumming, and perhaps a reading of demands.

This was the sort of thing which I attended on May Day. Shortly after I arrived at Union Square, the official program began, with speakers from immigrant groups, unions, and Palestine solidarity groups. Most of the speeches were pro immigrant, pro worker, and against capitalism and US imperialism (and against Trump’s policies specifically).

As a side note on the flow of energy within a political context: Susan Sarandon made an appearance and I found her speech quite weird, along the lines of many liberal speakers I’ve seen at other rallies (most notably the Moral Monday demonstrations in North Carolina). Liberalism doesn’t work along the same magical lines as radicalism: Sarandon looked at the energy of the crowd and urged us to take that energy and…vote in the next local elections. To be clear, when I say “liberal,” I’m not commenting on her own personal politics, which I’m not acquainted with, but rather the category her call to action falls into. Radicals and magic-workers alike know that raised energy cannot be saved up for over a year and then released. It must be given somewhere to go right away.

While everyone was queuing up to leave Union Square for the larger rally occurring at Foley Square (which is located just a block from city hall), I asked my friends who had been participating in other marches and demonstration all day across the city how this May Day compared to others they had seen in New York. Their immediate response was, “the energy is definitely different.” They aren’t occultists, but people who are well experienced in radical political movements, labor strikes, and other actions on the left often talk of energy just as proficiently as occultists do. They went on to speculate that much of the difference in energy came from the fact that anti-Trump sentiment has drawn new people to what would usually have been a largely labor-focused rally. Additionally, they noted a much larger presence of the masked Black Bloc, probably partly in response to the threats which neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups had been posting on social media to disrupt May Day actions in New York.

Union Square emptied very slowly, each group of people with their cluster of banners and signs filing out toward 14th street. We’d barely gone a block before everyone stopped and the police began broadcasting their sterile declaration that walking in the street and blocking the sidewalk is illegal. The energy of the march was fractured; we had no voice telling us what to do, only the police blocking us. We turned around and made our way back to the square, and after regrouping, started off down the sidewalk on Broadway which is where we were initially supposed to go anyway. While everyone was regrouping, my friends checked twitter and realized Mayor deBlasio was set to speak at Foley Square. They began to discuss how the tactics of policing had changed around protest for a few months after deBlasio entered office, taking a hands-off approach, only to crack down again once deBlasio walked back his rhetoric around policing.

This is another point to remember when discussing the magic of political demonstration. The power difference between institutions (such as the police) and the people in the streets is astronomical. A show of disapproval from the NYPD had more weight with the mayor than years of demonstrations by the residents of the city. The energy of having police present at every protest is something that must be taken into consideration as well. It’s as if inquisitors were required to be present at and control the flow of every witches’ sabbat. If you’ve experienced brutality even once when demonstrating (and many of my friends went through a lot of police harassment during Occupy Wall Street), you know that even if the police aren’t messing with you this time, they could do so with impunity if they decided to. And the audio disruption they frequently employ in the form of giving directions over the PA has an instant dampening effect on the general energy of any demonstration.

After the false start, the march marshals worked hard to get everyone going in the right direction, hanging together so we wouldn’t be separated and stopped by the cops, trying to restart chants which had died down. The march continued to Foley Square, where the news reported about 5,000 people total gathered. The Mayor and other elected officials addressed the crowd, but the crowd also addressed them by being there, directing the raised energy toward them and toward city hall. And my friends and I went for food and drinks, following through with the entire form of ritual although we didn’t mean to, we simply felt a need for food, water, and conversation.

Protest As Magic

Anyone who is practiced in demonstration or in magic knows that you don’t always have to do the full ritual. Sometimes it’s best to arrive directly at the heart of the matter. One cold January Saturday on break at work, I checked Twitter and saw that Trump had signed a Muslim travel ban, and that several refugees were being detained at JFK airport. I checked my phone again after my shift to find a text from my partner: “Do you want to go down to JFK?” I hadn’t seen yet the extent of what was going on but I immediately said yes. When we arrived, we followed the sound of drumming to an enormous mass of people, shouting and chanting and drumming non-stop. Although this action had been planned, a “pull in case of emergency” demonstration organized by immigrant and refugee activists, it was no orderly ritual. The demonstrators released the energy as they raised it, in desperation and yet in confidence that by sheer force of will, we would win. The volume of energy by the demonstrators was met by a stiff show of force from the police. An hour or so after I arrived, the entrance to the terminal was surrounded by cops in riot gear, and they had been announcing nearly the entire time that we were all subject to arrest if we stayed. But the mass of energy-raising people remained undeterred, meeting the threat of physical violence with drumming and chanting, and by the time my friends and I left, we heard that the first detainee had been released.

That wasn’t the only magical act that night. Word got back to the main protest that other protestors were attempting to join us, only to be barred by police from entering the train to the airport. My friends and I left while this was still going on, and arrived at the train terminal to find it packed with people being blocked from accessing the turnstiles by NYPD officers. So we stayed put and began demanding that they be let through. The governor had already ordered that protestors should be allowed to access the train to the airport, but the cops on the ground didn’t know that until we’d been sitting in for some time. We found out on twitter and made it known to the entire crowd, forcing the police officers to call their superiors for orders, and, once they did, they had to let everyone through (as we left we passed a cop pacing through the now-empty lobby yelling into his phone, “All of them?? You mean to tell me we’re just letting all of them through??”).

Demonstrations, like magic, rarely work that quickly, and, like magic, require mundane action. While the protestors outside the airport made known their will for change, putting their collective thumbs on the scales of probability (to borrow another explanation of how magic works), lawyers inside worked on behalf of the refugees while television cameras broadcast the events of that evening nationwide. While we sat in at the train station, we showed the police officers the reports on twitter that the governor had ordered them to stand down, and then told them over and over that they were disobeying orders, a combination of mundane action (giving support for our demand) and magical action (speaking into existence what we wanted to happen).

Protests, rallies, and marches raise power which releases to upset business as usual among politicians and the media. But its greatest effect may be on the practitioners, the demonstrators themselves. It spurs the participants into further action, the kind of sustained action in the mundane world which will create lasting change. It may inspire people already involved in organizations; mass show of support for a cause revitalizes weary activists. People often join movements and organizations because of awareness brought by a mass demonstration. And, like the inception of Occupy Wall Street, what was meant to be just a demonstration may turn into more; people may be inspired to simply not leave.

Like flashy public rituals, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into large political demonstrations. And that work, too, is work which witches and pagans are well prepared to enter into. This is where demonstrations come from, and this is where much of the energy raised goes. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Until then, see you in the streets!


Vera Northe

Vera Northe was raised as a Puritan and grew up to be a witch. She currently lives in New York.


 

Night Hunting

ONCE UPON A TIME, I wrote more fiction than anything else. Film noir and surreal horror combined in a genre I thought of as “gothic noir” although publishers describe it as urban fantasy. The anti-hero of my fantasy novels was a man known as Noctiviganti – a homeless fugitive in our world, but a secret police commander in the otherworld. Destined since birth to inaugurate the revolution that would destroy all he served, Noctiviganti remained blindly loyal to the tyrannical fairy queen out of sheer fanaticism. (The series was written before I was aware of the strong connections between fairy queens and popular resistance, as chronicled in “Pagan Anarchism.”)

The series was both a pulp adventure story and an extended meditation on the consequences of misguided loyalty to authority. The first three novels in the story were published, but four of them remain unpublished and will probably never be published because I no longer own the rights to them. (Thanks, Capitalism!) I still think they were good novels, but as often happens to authors my thinking has moved on. If I was writing the series over again now, it would be very different.

Revolutions made by “great men” do not improve peoples’ lives. We don’t need some prophesied hero to ride in and save us, and no dark, brooding loner is going to wander in from the wasteland to kill the bandits and save the town. What we need is to stand together, to take care of ourselves and each other, and to fight back through mass resistance rather than grand solitary gestures.

In the Noctiviganti novels, war magic is called “night hunting.” A night hunter is a person or spirit who comes into your dreams with ill intent. In my novels, this is always described as an intentional act. In real life, it’s not so simple. Some night hunters might be the deliberate product of a magical sending (if literal witchcraft is part of your belief system) but many of them are manifestations of underlying emotional forces that are not triggered consciously but unconsciously. The visceral hatred and bile of millions of closet fascists and bigots has just been unleashed into our collective dreamspace, and is perfectly capable of inspiring nightmares of evil spirits and night hunters. In my worldview, those spirits are real whether they are sent intentionally or not – but if you want to think of them as psychological metaphors and archetypes, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

In the spirit of resistance and solidarity, I offer this Night Hunting ritual. The ritual is designed to incorporate both defense and offense. Psychic defense against night hunters and war magic, followed by counterattack against the new regime and its fascist supporters.

The ritual is divided into five parts, designed to be performed over five separate nights. You can perform one part each night for five nights running, or one part per week for five weeks, or however you want to do it. You can even do all five parts in one night if you have enough time and energy for it.

The ideal is to perform the ritual over and over again, so that you’re constantly renewing and reinforcing your own wards as well as striking at the forces of repression. (This ritual is not intended as a substitute for direct action in the waking world, but as a tool to help people maintain resiliency for that daily struggle.)

Many rituals can only be performed by people with a lot of space, privacy and resources. Many pagans don’t have those things, so I prefer to design workings that can be performed with no resources at all other than a spot to sit or lie down in. Throughout the ritual, you should interpret every physical action as a visualization. You won’t actually be offering food or wine or incense (unless you choose to). Instead you’ll be offering the mental energy of your own imagination.

To perform the ritual, just read the instructions then close your eyes. Visualize whatever is described – or your own personal variation on it – with as much vividness and clarity as you can manage. Don’t rush the visualizations. Each of the five parts of this ritual should last a half-hour to a full hour, leaving time for the images to shift and mutate and for the spirits to interact with you.

When you complete a visualization, open your eyes again and read the charm attached to that section of the ritual. Close your eyes again and visualize the things described in the poem. You can perform the entire ritual this way without anyone in your house even realizing what you’re doing. All they need to know is not to interrupt you while you’re “resting” or “meditating.” Better yet, you can do the whole working while everyone else is sleeping.

I hope this ritual proves useful, either as something you might actually try or as the inspiration to create your own.

First Night

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SIGIL: The Black Rose.

VISUALIZATION: You sit at a great table overflowing with offerings – wine and bread and delicious foods of any kind you can imagine.  Our Lady of Anarchy, robed in black and weeping blood, holds out a black rose for you to take. She blesses your struggle and gives you strength and courage. A great host of spirits crowds behind Her, the powers of the natural world. They have come to you to join in the feast. Break bread with the spirits and eat together.

CHARM:

Oh you spirits of light

Winged in flight, will you hear me?

Raise your hands and command

That no evil thought come near me.

 

Oh you spirits of night

Dripping water in the darkness

I must ask you to stand

Sword in hand, clothed in harness.

 

Oh you ghosts and you gods

Those I love, those that love me

Please abide at my side

And deny the heart that hates me.

 

There are those who wish me ill

Those who seek to harm in secret

If they wish to work such woe

Let them know their hate and keep it.

 

In the dead heart of the night

When they whisper words of treason

What they send shall turn and rend them

And deprive them of their reason.

 

Let it hang around their necks

As a weight too great to carry.

Till they cut the cord they’ve woven

Let them never yet be merry.

VISUALIZATION: The host of spirit allies rises from the table to defend you in solidarity, knowing that you will defend them as well. Together you turn back the power of any ill-wishing on those who sent it.

Second Night

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SIGIL: The Squatters’ Symbol

VISUALIZATION: The lightning bolt Squatters’ Symbol glowing in front of you, blessing and warding your space while reminding you that all living beings need and deserve a safe place to live regardless of social concepts such as private property. All around you in the darkness, people who share your space huddle together against a storm. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls outside, yet nothing can enter your protected circle.

CHARM:

I ward the east with flame and water,

Sealing off this door.

I raise this pillar to the skies.

No ghost with evil in its eyes

Can enter anymore.

 

I ward the south with mirth and music,

Locking up this gate.

I raise this pillar to the south.

No revenant with grinning mouth

Can come here bearing hate.

 

I ward the west with smoke and spittle,

Blocking off the path.

I raise this pillar to ensure

No demon through the western door

Shall enter in its wrath.

 

I ward the north with blood and fire,

Closing up the walls.

I raise this pillar to the night.

No fearsome or unwholesome wight

Gains entrance to these halls.

 

I ward the four directions, praising

Death’s dissolving grace.

I praise the pillars of the land,

The mighty dead who rise and stand

On guard around this place.

VISUALIZATION: Drawing the sigil at each of the quarters, as spirits rise to stand on guard and ward your space.

Third Night

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SIGIL: The Black Cross

VISUALIZATION: Kneeling on the floor in prison, handcuffed or chained. The power of your gods flows through you and you begin to grow, shattering whatever binds you and then bursting through the walls as you utterly destroy the prison.

CHARM:

Oh I am the wings with which I fly

And I am the wind, and I am the sky.

And I am the sun of the city of light,

And I am the star, and I am the night.

And I am the snake in her mountain home,

And I am the mother’s mournful moan.

 

No harm can nightmare do to me:

Power of powers I have on thee.

 

And I am the dawn, and I am the flame,

And I am the word and the song and the name,

And I am the red of the leaping spark,

And I am the blaze that flashed in the dark –

That lit the dark and made the sun,

And stars like candles, one by one.

 

No harm can nightmare do to me:

Power of powers I have on thee.

 

Oh I am the smith and the hammer too

And the note of the anvil so clear and true.

And I am the singer, and I am the song

That praised the right, that shamed the wrong.

And I am the healer whose caring hand

Can crack the ice and wake the land.

And I am my eyes, so bright and true,

And you’re in me, and I’m in you.

 

No harm can nightmare do to me:

Power of powers I have on thee.

VISUALIZATION: Larger than life and totally free, you identify your spirit with the power of your gods. Soaring through the heavens, you are bound by nothing.

 

Fourth Night

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SIGIL: The Black Army Flag

VISUALIZATION: The Revolutionary Dead in arms before you, ready to wage spiritual warfare against the forces of oppression. An army of those who fell in every uprising in history, determined to complete the work they began.

CHARM:

Shadows of the vale of horrors

Where all journeys end,

Drink this cup of blood and fire,

Know me as your friend.

 

Drink this clotted wine and gather.

There is one who stands,

Blocking all the paths before me.

Bind his upraised hands.

 

Seal his lips with locks of iron

Fill his limbs with lead.

Cross his eyes with letter Xs

Fill his dreams with dread.

 

Douse the stars that fill his heavens,

Break his brittle pride.

Leave him powerless and hopeless

Till he steps aside.

VISUALIZATION: Offering a drink from your own hands to the army of the dead, you direct them against your chosen target. Be clear about your intentions while visualizing your target. For instance, you don’t want to visualize a particular person “stepping aside” without imagining the closest allies and subordinates of that person doing so at the same time. Otherwise, the cure could be worse than the disease!

 

Fifth Night

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SIGIL: The Black Cat or Sabocat

VISUALIZATION: A screeching black wildcat standing before you and your friends and comrades. The cat seems to be starving, yet is fierce and terrifying. You feed the cat from your hands together and it grows larger and larger. The more you feed it the bigger it gets, until it bounds off suddenly to hunt its prey.

CHARM:

Feral cat, so fierce with fury,

Screeching with enraged defiance,

Lightning cat like living fire,

From the pyre of their violence.

 

Yellow-eyed, with claws unsheathed,

Wild with grief, though kicked and beaten,

You are growing great with power,

From our own hands you have eaten.

 

Those who kicked you, those who beat you,

Parasites in halls of power,

Cower terrified before you

When you go forth to devour.

 

Hunter cat, the time is on us!

Howl your haunting cry forever.

Till the lords of earth are broken,

Let us hunt their dreams together!

 

VISUALIZATION: Bounding through the streets of the city or between the trees of a dark forest, hunting the lords of the earth and their lackeys in the form of a giant black cat.

Image Credits:

Christopher Scott Thompson

cst-authorChristopher Scott Thompson became a pagan at age 12, inspired by books of mythology and the experience of homesteading in rural Maine. A devotee of the Celtic goddesses Brighid and Macha, Thompson has been active in the pagan and polytheist communities as an author, activist and founding member of Clann Bhride (The Children of Brighid). Thompson was active in Occupy Minnesota and is currently a member of the Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist organization. He is also the founder of the Cateran Society, an organization that studies the historical martial art of the Highland broadsword. Thompson lives with his family in Portland, Maine.


Christopher Scott Thompson is the author of Pagan Anarchism, available from Gods&Radicals.

The Devil Has Spoken

At long last, McCrory has conceded!

Like a duped sitcom mortal, Pat McCrory spent the last month comically unable to save his seat as governor no matter what he tried. Republican judges, his pals in the NCGA, and even many Republican voters ultimately flushed the one-term disgrace.

While the conservative toad will go down in history as the defender of HB2, a legislative assault on transgender people, progressive municipalities, workers, and LGBT+ people as a whole, his role in other Carolina travesties should not be ignored. The people of this state have been mobilizing against McCrory and the GOP’s bullshit since the start of his term, and his re-election loss is a reminder of what we’re capable of accomplishing.

For some Pagans, this is also a more specific reminder of what we are capable of accomplishing. I remember the passage of HB2. I remember holding each other in candlelight and re-learning the urgency and necessity of Queer Love that would be needed again after Orlando (and again after Oakland).

I remember the Dark Moons and Full Moons that followed. I remember our priestess, a Trans Dyke, wielding a Masonic sword and commanding the wights and devils of our circles. I remember summoning up that Horned God other Wiccans turn away from in panicked fear, that Lord of Earthly Delights we embrace, the Light-Bringer, the Accuser, the Adversary, the first to question the authority of gods, Lucifer, our comrade.

Skyclad and screaming on the mountain wind, I remember our magic worked those spring evenings. This was not worship. This was not devotional adoration. This was the ritual work of revolutionary demands. Wights were ordered to hound McCrory in the media, and the Devil was set loose on his power itself. That we still live in a world of presidents and governors, capitalism and corrupt state power is a testament to our lack of faith, persistence, and imagination, not the failure of these spirits that arose and acted in accordance to our direction.

We offered no food, no offerings, no incense, or incentives to the devils we conjured. No praise and no adoration was bargained to them. And although I have described these rituals and magical workings elsewhere, I have held back gratitude in acknowledging the diabolical forces we count among our comrades.

Today I proclaim that the Devil is alive and magic is afoot! Say what you will about the Devil in Wicca, but to at least one coven in North Carolina, the Devil is among our circle, and he makes our magic manifest. Hail, you Devil who is so worthy of respect!

And to that race of oppressors still in office and still in power: be warned, the King of Earth and Hell is at hand. Cling to your golden bull and your false pantheon of capitalist bigotry, but listen to the winds and listen to the streets, because there the Devil is laughing at your fate. Your Tower will fall and your empire will crumble.

The Devil is comrade to the people, and I would be remiss to celebrate McCrory’s loss or the role of the Devil in that magic without emphasizing the obvious: this magic became material because it was brought into the material world outside of circle. Whether the Devil Himself inspired the material activism and public outcry against the McCrory administration, or whether the Devil was simply an archetype accessed or performed (consciously or unconsciously) by those outraged at McCrory’s reign is a theological discussion Satanists and Pagans have been debating for the better part of at least the last century, but at the end of the day, there was a sustained public objection to McCrory’s politics that enabled this victory, supernaturally supported or not.

Does that mean all the Devil talk is worthless? No. Even for atheists, ritual work can be cathartic. Finding power in a group of people so intentionally hated by so much of this state is necessary healing, and an incentive to continue doing the material work that produces political change.

From my perspective, the symbol of the Devil is also a critical one for the U.S. South, given the near-paralysis Christianity frequently leaves us with. Although Christians continue to play a significant role in this state’s justice movements, their religion is also the one that more often than not incites the injustice that demands response in the first place. The Devil speaks to that power they possess, questions, criticizes, and opposes it relentlessly. The Devil is a refuge for those cast off by society. He is an archetypal accuser, adversary, and advocate–a character of courage in a world that wants us to feel powerless. Where Christian values voters side with crony capitalism and bigotry, I see Satanic values voters siding with the marginalized and oppressed. In a world where Christian values are equated with hatred of trans people, I want to stand clearly with the Satanists who count trans people among their friends and families, and who advocate for them socially and politically across this state. Where Christianity shelters the Klan while disowning their own Queer children, I favor the Satanic Witches, Faggots, and Dykes chasing the White Knights out of this state.

Ousting McCrory is an excellent blueprint for what is possible–for Witches, for activists, for marginalized communities–moving forward. It is also, obviously, not the end. Just as the defeat of neoliberal Clinton will not usher in a utopian world with Trump, my expectations for Democrat Roy Cooper (who campaigned on NOT addressing “social issues,”) are low enough that I anticipate much more diabolical ritual work in the years to come. Nevertheless, the Christian god and his followers aren’t the only arbitrators of morality in Carolina politics anymore.

Those in power best remember that as we all watch McCrory’s fall.


Pat Mosley

What’s A Nice Atheist Like Me Doing At Gods & Radicals?

“The Sources” by Emy Blesio (oil on canvas)

 

Recently, some criticisms of the Gods & Radicals community have included condemnation of the inclusion of a self-proclaimed atheist — me — among the contributors.1

What’s an atheist doing at Gods & Radicals?  It’s a fair question.

The truth is, while I am an atheist, I am also a non-theistic humanist, a Gaian pantheist, an archetypal polytheist, a naturalistic animist.  And which one I answer to really depends on how you ask the question or what aspect I am choosing to emphasize at the time.

I am but atheist north-north-west.

When the wind is southerly, I know a god from a geist.

My worldview does not accommodate supernatural beings that exist separately and independently of human beings — and in that sense I am an atheist.

And yet, my world is full of gods.  Let me give you an example …

Each morning, I wake up and greet the rising sun with arms upraised and an invocation of Indra, adapted from the Rig Veda, on my lips:

Scaling heaven, splendor encompasses you,

Chariot-Borne, sun-bright, and truly potent,

You pour forth, bursting the clouds,

Giving life to sun and dawn …

You say the sun is no god?  What is it else that rules outside our selves?

I saw that there are, first and above all,
The hidden forces, blind necessities,
Named Nature, but the thing’s self unconceived :
Then follow, — how dependent upon these,
We know not, how imposed above ourselves,
We well know, — what I name the gods, a power
Various or one: for great and strong and good
Is there, and little, weak and bad there too,
Wisdom and folly : say, these make no God, —
What is it else that rules outside man’s self?

— Robert Browning, “The Ring and the Book”

Do I believe the gods are real?  Of course!  What could be more real than the sun?

For ages, humankind, we’ve wanted to celebrate what brings us life. What is this thing that allowed us to emerge. …

The Sun. The Star.

That right there is the source of all of our myths and allegories and hopes and dreams. It gave life to the world; gave birth to life.

Its core burns at ten million degrees and it consumes millions of tons of matter per second – we ourselves are made of remnants of its fallen siblings.

The preconditions for our humanness, that, certainly, is what god is right? ‘Let there be light!’

— Jason Silva, “What is a God?”

But you say, it’s impossible to interact with this god?  Not so.  I interact with it every morning when I open my eyes to the growing light.  I interact with it every time I step outside and feel its warmth on my flesh, my cells absorbing  its rays.  I interact with it every time I take a breath of air which is warmed its radiation.  I interact with it every time I eat a vegetable which transformed its energy into life-sustaining matter.

True, the sun does not hear or respond to my prayers.  You might say it is indifferent to me.  And yet, in a sense, I am an extension of the sun.  I am its energy transformed into living matter.  I am the light of the sun made conscious, capable of reflecting back on itself, seeing and appreciating its own warmth and beauty.  “Indifference” does not seem a fitting word to describe this relationship.

“I want to know why beauty exists, why nature continues to contrive it, and what is the link between the life of a lightning storm with the feelings these things inspire in us? If God does not exist, if these things are not unified into one metaphorical system, then why do they retain for us such symbolic power?”

— Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

Why does the sun hold such beauty and power for us?  Because there is a sun within us too, an inner sun god.  Indra, to whom I call in my invocation, is just one of the names of this god.  He is the power of the sun personified.2  Indra is my internal sun — the part of me that is called forth by the sight of the rising sun.  The sun god without speaks to the sun god within, and the sun god within responds.

Have you ever felt the sun rise within you?  Words like “archetype” and “symbol” are inadequate to capture this experience.

You say this Indra is not real because he is “in my head”?  It’s true it is all in our heads, but if we think this makes them less real, then, as Lon Milo DuQuette has written, we have no idea how big our heads really are.

For the pioneers of modern psychology, Freud and Jung, the deepest levels of the psyche merged with the physical body and the physical stuff of the world.  Ecopsychologists like James Hillman and Theodore Roszak extend Freud’s id and Jung’s collective unconscious and draw the rational conclusion that what these terms imply is literally the world.

The most profoundly collective and unconscious self is the natural material world.

— James Hillman, “A Psyche the Size of

the Earth”

What meaning does the phrase “merely psychological” have if the psyche is “the size of the earth”, a literal anima mundi which suffused with subjectivity, interiority, intimacy, and reciprocity.

But you say this Indra is not real because he is not separate from me?  But if that’s the case, then you and I are not real either, because we are not separate:

We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Our interconnectedness makes us more, not less, real.  From this perspective, the more we emphasize the separateness of the gods, the less real they become.

What does any of this have to do with being a “radical” or with anti-capitalism?

In order to answer that, I need to explain briefly the relationship between capitalism and the disenchantment of the world.

According to Morris Berman, “The story of the modern epoch, at least on the level of mind, is one of progressive disenchantment,” which Berman defines as “nonparticipation”  and “alienated consciousness.”  A disenchanted consciousness sees everything else, even living beings, as objects — objects to be bought and sold, in the case of the capitalist form of disenchantment.

Capitalism is one of the driving forces behind the disenchantment of the world.   It alienates workers from the products of their labor, but it also alienates us from the physical world, from nature (including our own bodies).  Capitalism disenchants the world by reducing everything to resource and commodity, fungible and without intrinsic meaning.

Nothing we come upon in the world can any longer speak to us in its own rights. Things, events, even the person of our fellow human beings have been deprived of the voice with which they once declared their mystery to men.

— Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counterculture

This disenchantment of the world happened, not when we stopped seeing gods and spirits in nature — gods and spirits can be objectified too — but when we stopped feeling our connection to nature, when we lost our sense of essential participation in the world.

The view of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were all seen as wondrous, alive, and human beings felt at home in this environment. The cosmos, in short was a place of belonging. A member of the cosmos was not an alienated observer of it but a direct participant in its drama. His personal destiny was bound up with its destiny, and this relationship gave meaning to his life.

— Morris Berman, The Re-Enchantment of the World

The re-enchantment of nature, then, is a means overcoming capitalist alienation.  It means relating to nature once again as our home — in the deepest sense of that word.  (The prefix eco- means “house”.)  It means cultivating a profound awareness of our interconnectedness — our kinship  — with every other living being — and, yes, even with the rocks and other unconscious, yet animate, matter.

So let’s go back to my morning ritual …

When I raise my arms in greeting to the sun, I am re-storying myself to my proper place in the universe.  I am re-placing myself in the vast cosmic drama which began billions of years ago, when stars were born and died, and spread their life throughout the universe.  I am re-calling the time when the rays of the sun gave life to our first simple-celled ancestors.  I am re-membering how my body and yours evolved in response to the sun — how our sensory organs were shaped by a long and delicate process of interaction with the world around us, how our eyes were shaped by and then finely tuned by the light of the sun and its reflections off of the myriad surfaces of the natural world.

… when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.

— Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I am also reviving the energetic process which sustains my life today.  I am re-cognizing my kinship with all other life — both human and other-than-human, both plant and animal — all life that depends on the energy from the sun — as well as to the winds and waters whose cycles are driven by the sun’s rays.  And I am re-connecting the experience of the light and warmth outside of me to the experience of psychological light and warmth inside of me — as above so below.

This simple gesture of greeting the sun is one way of re-enchanting the world.  Ritual gestures like these work together as an antidote against the disenchantment of capitalism …

… the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

— Rachel Carson, “The Sense of Wonder”

Doing this reminds me of my place in the cosmos — not a “stranger in a strange land”, not a exile from heaven, and not a mere consumer of widgets and producer of GDP — but a child of Sol and Terra, kin to wolf and salmon, redwood and moss, earthworm and parasitic wasp.  Knowing I am a part of this earth, and it me, and that my destiny in continuous with it, helps me see capitalist alienation for what it is.  It helps me find ways to resist that alienation and to imagine a different kind of life.

So am I an atheist?  Yes, but that’s not all I am.  I am also a worshiper of many gods … and a radical too.  And as surely as the earth is my home, so is Gods & Radicals.


With gratitude to Rhyd Wildermuth and others who have defended my participation in this community.


Endnotes:

1 I am not the only non-theistic writer at G&R.

2 Indra was a sun god in his earliest form in the Rig Veda. In later forms, he became a god associated with rain and lightning.


John Halstead

John Halstead is Editor-At-Large and a contributor at HumanisticPaganism.com. He blogs about Paganism generally at AllergicPagan.com (which is hosted by Patheos) and about Jungian Neo-Paganism at “Dreaming the Myth Onward” (which is hosted by Witches & Pagans). He is also an occasional contributor to GodsandRadicals.org and The Huffington Post and the administrator of the site Neo-Paganism.com. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment,” which can be found at ecopagan.com. He is a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community, which is described at GodisChange.org. John is also the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


Both issues of A Beautiful Resistance are available not just in print, but as digital downloads as well.  Follow these links for Everything We Already Are  and The Fire is Here.

 

Raising the Power of the People: Protest as Magickal Ritual

“When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”

– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Standing in a circle, we start to chant. Full-throated, rhythmic, and loud, we invoke the honored dead and name our intent. As our bodies move, I feel the energy rise and flow. Hundreds of people are here, focusing all our wills on a single point, sensing the nature of the physical space change around us and hearing an egregore form itself out of us. We process through downtown and find the laws of the ordinary world negated, transcended, pushed aside by our raised fists and the beat of our legs as we shout, “Whose Lives Matter? Black Lives Matter!” Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the hundreds of other Black women and men and nonbinary people that the police have murdered this year – we know the dead are with us, demanding justice. We know that white supremacy will fall because it will be made to fall; we will see this working through.

 


liftarn_a_raised_fist
A well-known magickal hand gesture

Mass protest is magick. That’s literal. It’s not just the accouterments of ritual – although, of course, chanting and processing and invoking the dead often feature prominently. When hundreds or thousands of people gather and focus their collective intent to effect a change in the world, that’s magick. And, indeed, anyone who’s been to a truly powerful demonstration can testify that energy gets raised there, and it’s strong. The surrounding space becomes something different. It’s no longer a shopping mall or an intersection, any more than a consecrated altar is just a few knickknacks on a coffee table. It’s where the protest egregore – “The People,” let’s call it – redefines the marketplace or the thoroughfare as the agora or the Nordic Thing, the self-aware Commons, where the powerful become weak and everything becomes possible.

And, indeed, the ordinary rules do collapse. The People can occupy busy intersections, shut down the infrastructure of commerce and government, and block interstate highways. Under normal circumstances, no one could do anything like that, and very few would want to try. We have to raise the egregore and sanctify the urban space first. Protests happen between the worlds as surely as any devotional ritual or coven working.

 


“My initiations and elevations changed my perception of reality, and they eventually brought me closer to the things that matter.”

Jason Mankey

If an initiation’s done right, you come away transformed. The world doesn’t look the same afterwards, and eventually, you start forgetting how you ever could’ve seen things like you used to. Once you receive the Mysteries, you don’t simply lose them again; once you realize how racist-patriarchal-imperial capitalism dictates the social world, you no longer can’t notice it all around you. Sure, that awareness can come through study or conversation or – rarely – individual perception sharp enough to push past the hegemony of the ruling class. In real life, that’s rarely enough. It usually takes initiatory ritual to break through a lifetime of ideological conditioning. Most of us get there through the direct, firsthand experience of the power of the People. March in protests and participate in that egregore, and you won’t be the same. It’s no coincidence that both ritual theory and Marxist philosophy use the language of inducing a shift in consciousness. Once you’ve encountered the Mystery, your old worldview is no longer sufficient. There’s a change in you, and you find the world changed in turn.

Sometimes, Pagans bemoan our relative lack of developed theology. Our self-definitions are less likely to dwell on systematized belief than on experiences 0f ecstasy. By and large, “Paganism” is a heterogeneous mix of initiatory esoteric currents and orthopraxic public polytheisms. What links us is partly just a shared subculture, but also a broadly held sense that religion needs to be rooted in relationship and practice, rather than textual authority or assent to particular articles of faith. Pagan theology certainly exists (and, considering how young our traditions are, it’s probably better developed than the odds would have suggested). However, it mainly tends to explicate ritual practice and ecstatic subjectivity. Our exegesis isn’t of holy books or infallible prophets’ words; rather, we create theory to account for what we do.

Of course, revolutionary political theory does the same thing with regard to the practice of participatory social change. This website, in large part, involves individuals who find themselves in both streams, identifying and expanding the points of resonance between them. Most of us here have gone through the initiation of protest. We’ve helped raise the egregore of the People, and that necessarily informs our worldviews. We can (and do) theorize at great length about those experiences – but, at the same time, reading isn’t enough. No one should confuse a Book of Shadows with a practical tool like an athame; no one should confuse political theory with practical tools like the People’s Mic, the banner, and the megaphone.

You can encounter it yourself. Don’t take this on faith. Confirm it. Go protest. Raise power. Evoke the People. Shift your consciousness. Transform the world.

 


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Sophia Burns

Sophia Burns is a communist and polytheist in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a writer and editor for The North Star and an officer in RATPAC and the Communist Labor Party.

Sophia Burns is one of the authors appearing in A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here.

 

 

The Importance of Bees

I have always been fascinated by bees. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting inside a Forsythia bush (like Lilacs in colder climates, Forsythia hollow out as they grow making little ‘houses’) watching the bees carrying purses of pollen on their legs. Once I stood in front of a butterfly bush catching bees in my hand, holding them for a moment, and then letting them go.

It was quite a while before one finally stung me. As enchanting as they are to a child— the fuzziness, the cartoon roundness, the mysterious sense of purpose— the more you learn about them as an adult the more wondrous they become.

Biologically, they are one of the pivotal beings of the Earth; without them pollinating, the wasteland awaits. And, for humans (particularly Northern humans), they are agriculturally vital as a source of sweetness. Tree sap (Maple and Birch predominately) and honey are the only sugar sources in the cold North and, although sugar has been demonized by post-moderns, back when we were hunter/gatherers and early agriculturists sweetness was hard to come by and prized.

Bees are also one of those Magical, untouched species (like most cats) that co-exist with us but unlike actual domesticated beings (dogs and dairy cows) have not been twisted away from their wild beings.

They are meaningful to the feminist as well, exemplifying the imagined workings of an all-female egalitarian society. Well, yes, there are drones and a queen but their rôle is limited. Drones appear to some human observers to have an idyllic life; they laze around sipping nectar, do no work, and then mate. But Nature is a stern Mother; drones are created by parthenogenesis only when they are necessary, the act of mating kills them, and if there are any left at the end of the Summer they are the first to be kicked out of the hive in preparation for the cold season.

The queen when anthropomorphized seems to be an absolute ruler with a crowd of sycophants filling her every need, but actually she is trapped and kept from moving about by the ladies-in-waiting around her. She only flies once in her life, gathering up all the sperm she will need from the ‘successful’ drones (who then die). She then spends all the rest of her time laying eggs— if production falters through sickness or age the workers will create a new queen and kill the old one. It’s the workers with their heads full of instinctive behaviour that actually run the hive and make honey; and they are all, like Maoists in blue pyjamas, visually identical sisters.

Bees also have great religious significance to me. Bees and Ravens are the two kinds of messengers from the Other World that also live a real life in our world. Ravens, when not living in the deep woods, eating carrion, and getting grumpy with others, carry messages from the Gods to our world. But, just as the raven becomes a ‘real’ bird when ze crosses the boundary, the message becomes an unusual occurrence, a ‘coincidence’ and can be ignored or mis-interpreted. Bees, on the other hand, do not change there to here and bring back intangible good things in the pollen sacs on their legs— contentment, good health, healings. As one of the Ogham, they associate with Ur/Heather and are an omen of good fortune.

Judith Bee 5A number of years ago the Goddess to Whom I am dedicated instructed me to interact with people more. Something I find difficult since I am paralyzingly shy and don’t really like doing things for the first time ever. My son winkled me onto the Internet to chat, argue, and make friends but that, as it turned out, was not enough for Her.

“Go out into the real world and interact with people face to face in religious endeavour.” She admonished.

Since I am an Irish Descendant I picked Druidry and attended the only ‘Druid Grove’ then extant in my city. It, like many North American Groves, is affiliated with Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)

ADF is like and unlike my personal religion, of course, but is largely about praxis and does not demand many actual beliefs: fairly comprehensive polytheism, absence of religious circles and watchtowers, non-emphasis on the dualtheistic binary, and Indo-European pantheons. Add to this a heavy emphasis on lore, and I’m mostly satisfied. ADF does, however, use a strict framework of steps, actions, and sequence that all public (all Holy Days are mandated public) rituals must follow. Again, nothing too startling: we prepare ourselves for ritual, we address Mother Earth, we prepare and open a gate to the Other World, we invite the Kindreds and Deities to cross, give offerings, receive an omen, are given blessings, thank Everyone, and close the gate. It makes a nice sameness— when I attend some other Grove’s ritual I can easily follow and feel comfortable knowing what will come next.

As you will see if you look at the website, there is lots and lots of information. When it gradually became clear that my injunction from the Goddess required establishing a Grove, I carefully copied out the sequence and headings of the ritual as a part of my preparation for writing a religious service. In the same way that ADF mandates action but not belief, these are immutable steps but how we voice and enact the moment are left up to the organizer. I write formal poetry and so wrote the standard form of our ritual in poetics, and I am a Found-Object Artist (doesn’t that sound fine? I make things out of junk and repurposed stuff) and so made all the ritual objects/props myself.

Partly, I see the entire ritual as an offering and so want it to be a welcome one to the Gods and addressed Beings. Additionally, I see it as a piece of theatre and so want it to have ‘punch’ as well as religious meaning. Finally, since sometimes I slide towards personal belief rather than ADF dogma I want to be as enclosed by the recognizable and ‘correct’ framework as possible.

Our Grove, as well as many Groves, move about— we go inside in the Winter /Dark Half and outside in Summer/the Bright Half and we are sometimes asked to provide ritualization for opening or closing events altogether elsewhere. So, on the one hand, we need meaningful religious objects, on the other hand they must be available and moveable.

The preparation for opening the gate to the Other World is a dramatic and pivotal step and a good example of my varied impulses and criteria; ADF describes this as “re-creating the cosmos” and explains that “Sacred Center is most commonly represented as Fire, Well and Tree”.

So, every Grove needs a well and few have one available in their ritual space nor will it be a movable object. Many Groves use a container of water but dramatically a bucket of water is a chancy and unconvincing prop. I made a ring of many-shaded blue silk waves/ripples/drops that packs into a fresh-water clamshell— the officiant pops open the shell and a big loop of bright blue ‘water’ falls out.

Fire can be problematical as well– sometimes Groves are in public parks where fires are not allowed (I was a part of a ritual where the police came to insure the safety of the park), someone has to specifically be a fire-tender and not wander off, sometimes it’s raining. So we have a staff crowned with a gold plastic fake-mistletoe bunch. The officiant reaches up, pops open the wrapped-around string of Mardi Gras pop-it beads, and a 3′ multilayered pennant in red, orange, and yellow gauze streamers out. After the ritual I have to lay it carefully out on a table and fan-fold the gauze back inside the red brocade wrap and reset the poppers, but at the moment of ritual it is very satisfying.

Judith Bee 4The Tree is the most important of the three symbols. I started with a big stick, original about 8′ tall but (no surprize) it wouldn’t fit in a car that way so I sawed off the bottom to make it more manageable. On the top is a representation of Fionn’s Window.

And inside that a tree made of wire and beads. (The streamers hanging off the bottom are the roots in this world).

When I first saw the bee patches that Alley Valkyrie made, not only was I enchanted by the art, but I saw a way to enact ADF-mandated ritual in a way aesthetically pleasing to myself. The ‘order of ritual’ describes the action as ‘unveiling’ which I wrote as:

Unveil yourself, Sacred Tree,
Grow in all worlds, one in three….

But ADF recommends incense. I don’t personally like incense, it smells like something objectionable burning to me. But, my prejudices aside, lighting incense as a stage action is terrible. Either you have to have an already-going fire at hand (see problems above) or you have to bring out a distinctly non-magical lighter and then everyone waits for the incense to catch. And sometimes it doesn’t and then what!

But I realized that I could get a bee patch by sending a donation to the Wild Hunt (glad to do it, actually I gave and the Grove gave both) and use it and the extra, dark green, leaf-patterned scarf I didn’t need when I made the personification of our Watershed Spirit and make an actual veil!!
Triumph of art and aesthetics (jazz hands here)!

Alley graciously helped by sending me an extra compliment of the right kind of bee patches. As you can see, the bee flying UP towards the Other World has less-fancy passage spirals, while the bee coming down FROM the Other World has extra-glittery trails and sparkling gifts of intangible good things attached to her back legs. I could say that I included my dog as a size comparison (she is a ‘boxer mix’) but actually I just couldn’t resist a good photo-bomb.

As the ritual begins, the scarf is looped over the top of the Sacred Tree (the Irish term for the World Tree is ‘Bile’ pronounced bee-lay, nothing whatever to do with your liver) with the roots tucked inside.

Judith Bee 3The top (in this position) of the scarf has three (the Magical number and what I had around) glass horseshoes attached, filled with embroidered french knots of luck, with five (same) tiny pewter bee buttons trailing french knots of good things weighting it down in the up position because when the Bile is outside we don’t want the veil to blow off prematurely.

When the tree is unveiled, the officiant picks up the top/end and drops it down the front.

Judith Bee 1The Being beside the Bile is the Personification of the Spirit of the Watershed the Grove sits in, whose un-needed scarf is the veil. Ze is largely made of gleanings as well.

I buy some components, of course. I try to buy things from artisans if I have to buy something new. I buy things from thrift stores, and post-season craft store sales, and I trash-pick. But a surprising amount is given to me— I have a big section of free-standing shelves in our crawl-space storage area loaded with carefully sorted junk. Stuff that looked appealing years ago or that I didn’t need for a project, stuff picked up outdoors, other people’s discarded projects or de-stashing, junk that looked appealing to other people so they gave it to me…..

My belief is that everything has the potential to be Magical because the entire World is both real and Magical together. Every scrap the Gods make holy is no longer trash, but also every ritual implement in our Grove’s rites is a voice acknowledging our dedication to trying to do better for the World. We go out in the cold rain to pick trash or slog through the mud to plant seeds— we don’t schedule rain days, we just go when we planned to and Ottawa has not-the-nicest weather. About one in four events is actually pleasant….

When we act we are then re-sacralizing our intention for Right Action so that when the Keeper of Sacred Space holds up a stick with a plastic ornament and cloth tatters on one end or lowers a re-purposed scarf with sequin strings sewed on the Gods will visit, and Imbas will fire in our heads.

And perhaps more people will pick trash, and make things out of other things, and try to fix things when they break. Or not buy someone else’s Magic, but fabricate their own. And listen for the voices of the trash telling them that the Whole World is one system. Does the trash have voices? Only very tiny ones that are easily ignored, but they are a part of the World-Song. How big a part is up to all of us.

It’s like the dating advice that on a fancy, impress-you date the thing you should pay the most attention to is how your date treats the server, particularly if something is less-than-perfect. I could commission an artist to make me a one-off religious bibelot and have, at deservedly great cost, a more beautiful glory-piece than I could ever buy from Pagan-Artifacts-R-Us or even make myself. But that isn’t the meaningful decision; tiny lifestyle choices are also religious acts.

Will I carry my plastics back home or throw them in the trash when there is no recycle bin handy? When I unwrap something outside do I put the wrapper in my pocket? Do I trap unwanted insects in a glass and carry them outside? When my clothing wears out do I cut it up for rags, and does that work because it was natural fiber to start with? When I bought it, did I check the country of origin?

No Nazgûl will swoop down from the sky screaming “How was that fish caught!?!”; I am left alone in the grocery store holding either the cheap or the very expensive can of tuna.

Judith Bee lastJust do one thing. Then another……..


 

Judith O’Grady

judithJudith is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).