In the dark of the night, we gather in the center of Salem Square, a green that has existed in the middle of Old Salem since the district’s construction in 1766. The cold light of the Moon Hirself pierces through the old pines and bare-armed oaks to illuminate our faces and signs with an eerie glow not unlike our phones’ flashlight apps. Three people become four when I walk through the dark to join them. Four become a dozen when together we walk back to the fence surrounding the green.
A dozen becomes thirty-something by the time we’ve circled up back in the center, and more will keep joining us. The organizers open the space for folks to share their feelings about the election. A lone FUCK TRUMP breaks the silence of our paused circle and the nearly sleeping city around us, and the rest of us laugh.
After a few moments more, we start off marching. A journalist for the local paper has joined us and is struggling to interview participants, record our answers, and snap photos while keeping up with the hike. He seems sympathetic, yet guarded, neutral, or even muted. A friend of mine agrees to answer some of the journalist’s questions, and intrigues the man by explaining he neither supports Clinton nor Trump.
Some of the organizers are not-yet-defeated liberals and Clinton supporters. Commenters and critics of the journalist’s article will later assume that most of us voted for Clinton. Of course, the article left out that some of us are involved in the International Socialist Organization, and that all of our fliers were distributed to eager and searching protesters by the end of the night.
Our march carries us up through Old Salem towards the cement white phallic Wells Fargo tower, and our chants of BLACK LIVES MATTER and DUMP TRUMP ricochet up the cobblestone walks and stone buildings all around us. Forty voices are magnified to a booming hundred.
Hearing my friend and the journalist discuss the historical toxicity of the U.S. presidency, from Washington to present, and later recounting his participation in protests of the Bush II installation, I am reminded that it is the office of the presidency and it is the state that I am opposed to, not simply the face that humanizes the system of power.
I remember that I have consciously rejected nearly every President I have lived through. I was too young to hate Bush I while he was in office, but I recall Clinton, I recall DOMA and DADT and NAFTA and the crime bill. I remember Bush II. I remember learning that calling him just Bush instead of President Bush made my father furious. The reign of Bush II was the first time I uttered the phrase NOT MY PRESIDENT. His administration and supporters brought me out of church and into the streets.
And I remember that Obama has never been my president either. I remember his refusal to support same-sex marriage equality. I remember the militarization of police that happened under his administration, the renewal of the Patriot Act, and I remember that “hate crimes” legislation, then DADT repeal, were pushed ahead of comprehensive civil rights legislation for LGBT+ people.
I remember watching the trans community be thrown to the side time and time again under all of these presidents (and the advocacy orgs that grew to power with them). I remember the conversion manual presented to my parents when I came out in family therapy. I remember the steadiest steps I ever took, walking out of their church in front of a mortified congregation. I am numb, as we sit here on the verge of a vice-presidency that constituency was sold, backed in the state only by a spineless and toothless minority party that just spent the last year demanding entitlement to our votes for two candidates who built their careers campaigning against our rights and emboldening the Right’s assault at the state level with “states’ right” talk Clinton is yet to express any deviation from.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I do not mean that Clinton is. I mean that there is no one who is my president. I mean that I reject the notion of this office and I reject the authority of the system behind it. I mean that I am ungovernable and that I am sovereign. I mean that I do not consent to the authority invested in this political structure. I mean that I have no gods and I have no presidents.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am saying that I reject the idea that 26% of the country electing someone to govern the rest of us constitutes “democracy.” I am asserting that 46% of this country is also tired of this shit and too tired of morally bankrupt parties vomiting candidates on us, rather than “too lazy,” to vote when everyone knows the stakes are so high. I am affirming that neither my liberty nor my security come from this state which has systematically denied me and threatened me with both. I am affirming that we have power, and that our minds and hands and voices shape movements that don’t require elections.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am opening the next chapter of our story, not just concluding a paragraph we have read and re-read for generations. I am daring to dream Queerer futures. I am placing my hope and faith and patriotism in comrades who join me on the streets, and all our friends who haven’t made it out there yet.
As our march carries us back to Salem from downtown, Aradia whispers a chant in my ear. I share it with those around me, but its radical notes fall flat to the left of the crowd. Still, I won’t give in to worry. I won’t give in to isolation. The Moon peeks through the pines and around a chimney, reminding me of persistence, patience, slow education, and long visions.
The next chapter remains unwritten, but so many spirits are assembled. The revolution will be spelled out. Not long now. Not long.
Pat is a writer living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His interests include post-capitalist economics, psychogeography, alternative religions, and contemporary life in the U.S. South. Pat presently serves as secretary for Mountain CUUPs in Boone, and is an organizer of Hoof + Horn Collective in W-S. Connect with him through https://patmosley.wordpress.com/
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When I was ten years old, my parents sat me down and with tight lips they explained that Daddy’s union was on strike and so we would be “tightening our belt” for a little while.
“How long?” I wanted to know. I wasn’t sure exactly what “tightening our belts” meant, but since my parents were usually worried about money I was pretty sure that it couldn’t be good.
He shrugged impatiently. His anger and frustration were all over him. My dad didn’t talk much, so when he did, I listened intently. “Could be a couple of weeks,” he said. “Could be for months.”
Months seemed like an eternity to my ten year old mind. “Why is the union on strike?” I scowled. Surely if the situation were understood, it could be fixed!
“Well,” Dad explained (having become accustomed to his strange, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who always had to know the reason why) “the company wants to reduce our pensions because they’re having financial troubles, and the union is having none of it. I’m not happy about it.”
“Why not?” I demanded.
“I just don’t think that striking was a good idea,” he said honestly. “I think it’s going to cost us a lot more than we’ll gain.”
“Well, if you don’t want to strike,” I suggested shrewdly, thinking of how much better it would be for my family individually, “why don’t you just go to work then?”
I never forgot my father’s response. His eyes flashed and he half stood up in his seat. “Never,” he hissed. “I am not a scab.”
“Dear,” cautioned my mother as she gave him a stern look.
I was stricken. I didn’t understand why my father had become so angry so quickly. “I’m sorry, ” I apologized. “What is a ‘scab’? Why do you have to do what the union tells you?”
His shoulders relaxed a bit. “A scab is someone who breaks a picket line when the workers of a company have decided that all work should stop. They’re traitors. The only means that workers have to protect their rights is to stand together, so if we don’t stand together, we have no rights. And they’re teaching you about how democracy works at school, right?”
“Yes.” Of course, they don’t seem to teach that to ten-year-olds anymore, but they still were then.
“Well, the union voted to strike,” he said firmly. “And I’m part of the union, so I have to respect the vote. You have to support the decision of the majority. That’s how democracy works.”
When I think about that time, I seem to remember my parents fighting a bit more, and some more frequent Kraft Dinner meals (which made me happy; I loved Kraft Dinner), and that was about the limit of the changes over the next few months that stand out in my mind. But the importance of unions was a lesson I never forgot.
So when the teachers went on strike at my school a few months later I supported them. They took the time to explain that a lot of what they were striking about had to do with class sizes; as well as some personal things, like job cuts and wages, since the BC government was in the middle of a period of scarcity politics. School wasn’t that far and in those days a child was actually allowed to go out in the daytime if they were home before dusk, so I stood in their picket lines with them. They eventually went back to work, but the fight continued. In 2002 the current BC Premier, then the Minister of Education, Christy Clark passed a law that denied the union the right to bargain class size and composition. The fight between the BC Teachers’ Union and the BC Government continues to this day.
The eighties were a time of unbridled right wing capitalism. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States; Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada; Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain. They preached the gospel that the corporate owned press and the billionaire-funded economic think tanks now pour into the ears of our leaders like poison; deregulation is the key. Labour is expensive. You have to support “trickle down economics” if you want to boost the economy.
All of these policies resulted in the Great Recession of the 1990s, the world I, from my working class background, graduated into. And one of the most significant propaganda campaigns that the Corporate Choir managed to inject into the public consciousness during that time, which we have yet to outgrow, is the myth of “Big Unions.”
“Big Unions lock up the labour market,” say the corporatists. “They make unrealistic demands upon industry until it’s not profitable to run the industry anymore. And look at all their big pensions and their high wages and their lunch breaks and vacation pay! You guys aren’t getting any of that, are you? Why should the unions do so much better than you do?”
Except that the Big Unions that they talk about aren’t nearly what we’ve been led to believe. Of the 14 largest national unions in Canada, one is a media performers’ union and another is a merged union that represents auto workers and people who work in communications, energy, and paper. And it didn’t save them from job loss when Conservative (politically expedient) budget cuts hit the CBC, nor the closing of several Canadian auto manufacturing plants.
Of the 14 largest national unions in Canada, five are teachers’ unions, two are postal unions, three are unions for public service employees, one is a nurse’s union, and one is an office workers’ and professionals’ union. Most of these unions have voted to strike in the past ten years. All of the teachers, the postal workers, the nurses, and the public service employees were just legislated back to work by the government that oversees their industry, since they were deemed to be “essential services,” without any kind of attempt to even negotiate worker rights or needs. Even in the rare cases where arbitration decided in favour of the unions, new legislation just arbitrarily changed their bargaining rights, and they had to take their governments to court. And the public let them get away with this, because the public was jealous of the benefits and higher wages that those unions had, and they did not.
What a beautifully executed bait-and-switch! Instead of hating the company we work for because they pay us slave wages, we hate the union because they don’t work hard enough for us. Instead of hating corporate owners for lobbying our governments to suppress the labour market by relaxing regulations, we hate the union guys for making more money than we do. Instead of demanding that shareholders crop the salaries of their Boards of Directors, or accept slightly lesser dividends, we get mad because company unions won’t let them reduce wages and cut pensions. Instead of getting angry at the corporations for hiring illegal immigrants or Temporary Foreign Workers at slave wages and abusive conditions, we get mad at the immigrants themselves. The corporatists have effectively turned us on one another.
Rather than asking why the union guys get all of the benefits they do – benefits that, once upon a time, were considered just decent and proper working conditions and compensations – what we should be doing is asking why the rest of us don’t. And when unions act on behalf of the people they represent, we should support their action, rather than bitching because we find it inconvenient. If we did that, they would support us in our struggle for the same rights, especially when we chose to form our own unions. There’s no reason why we couldn’t have the Retail Employees’ Union of North America; or the Gas Station Attendant’s Union. And those unions would have power to get things done.
This weekend Canada Post is threatening to strike. They’re striking because Canada Post wants to get rid of door-to-door delivery and not pay their employees overtime for overtime work. While the company is claiming that they can’t compete in the market because of this, their first quarter profit was $44 million dollarsbecause of their growing parcel service – so I don’t believe them. Because I believe in the rights of the worker, I will be temporarily shutting down my Etsy shop until the strike is lifted. I will not be sending packages by Purolator. I am not a scab.
Capitalism! The American Dream! Except that what we believe about capitalism, and how it actually works, are two different things. We’ve been told that the essence of preserving the economy involves making things better for the wealthy, so that they will make bigger companies and hire more people for more jobs, and thus the crumbs of their good fortune will “trickle down” to the rest of us. Except that it’s not true; wealthy people won’t part with their wealth unless regulations force them to.
We are told that the American Dream rewards the hard-working and the worthy, and that anyone can succeed if they try hard enough. Except that it’s not true; people in poorer countries are more entrepreneurial than people in wealthier countries, and good infrastructure is the key to building the wealth of nations.
We are told that you must pay good CEOs and Directors of large corporations top dollar so that you will get the best. Except that it’s not true; Board Directors often make decisions that are best for them in the short term, and really bad for the company itself in the long term (fancy that!) And by the way, you’re probably wrong about how much they’re getting paid. Most people think it should be about 10 times what the average worker in their companies get paid, and they think it’s actually more like 30 times. But they’re wrong; it’s really more like 300-400 times as much!
We are told that what’s good for the shareholders of a company is good for the company overall. Except that it’s not true; shareholders want to buy low and sell high, and quickly, and that means that often decisions are made in companies to cut corners, cheat, and patch instead of fix, until the whole structure collapses. Like with pretty much every automobile company you’ve ever heard of, and several large airlines.
We are told that the free market economy is the best way to handle things, because market forces will ultimately balance everything out. Except that it’s not true; there is actually no such thing as a “free market economy;” governments and corporations fix the conditions of the market all the time. So could we; and so we have in some ways, which is why “fossey jaw” is a thing of the past.
We are told that education is essential to the future wealth of a nation. Except that this isn’t true either; there’s almost no correlation. What drives the wealth of nations is actually manufacturing.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay; Ha-Joon Chang is a Cambridge trained economist who has won prizes for his work, and he’ll tell you better than I can, with figures to back it up. And he’ll explain it in a way that even an arts major like me can clearly understand.
I can’t say enough good things about this book! If you, like me, see the rot at the core of our economic system but you lack the words to tell people why it’s rotten, this is the book for you. If you don’t understand economics and you want to learn without taking a course, this is the book for you. If you think that capitalism is the best thing since sliced bread, and you think lefties are wingnuts who don’t understand how the world really works, this is still the book for you because you can acid-test your theories against an educated dissenting opinion. I wish that my Prime Minister would read it because I think he would run things a little differently if he did.
Over the next couple of months I’ll be writing an extended series focused around the theories presented in this book on Gods & Radicals if you want to know more.
I think that since September 2015 it’s going rather well. There have been a lot of interesting shifts in the way things are going in the world. For one thing, in October, the Liberal Party of Canada, headed by Justin Trudeau, finally toppled the Conservative Harper Regime, which was well on its way to transforming Canada from its social democratic roots into a Corporatist paradise. Those who support an anti-capitalist (or anti-corporatist) viewpoint can’t be as happy with that as we would be about an NDP victory in Canada, but it’s definitely an improvement.
For another thing, the American Presidential primaries have never been so interesting! It’s fascinating to see how Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who’s been speaking from the same place since the 1960s is suddenly a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. Not that you’d ever know this if you only followed the mainstream media! Their deliberately misleading coverage in their desperate desire to preserve the status quo has been even more interesting, and it inspired my last article.
But it’s a truth that in magick one must be especially careful of what one wants to accomplish, because you may end up with unintended consequences. Donald Trump may be one of those unintended consequences. Those of us working magick for change were not very specific about what form the change should take, were we? Clearly Trump is setting out to destroy the modern Republican party, which is clearly either our foe or a powerful ally thereof, but perhaps the cure is worse than the disease. It scares me a little that Americans seem ready to elect the 21st century equivalent of Mussolini.
So what’s to be done? Well, perhaps more magick is called for. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when you use magick to break down, you must also use magick to build up.
So it’s time now, I think, to call upon the growing and healing spirits of transformation. With spring (and March 15) just around the corner, it’s time to call upon that energy of renewal. When the system comes apart, what will replace it? Let’s all lend our energy to the United States right now, where much of the world’s future is about to be decided (like it or not,) and then let’s spread that power out into our own lands:
Use whatever your usual procedures are to enter into a Journeyworking (spirit travel.)
Visualize a bald eagle flying high over the land. See it flying high above you, searching. It cries as it finds what it seeks and it lands on the shoulder of Lady Liberty, who is bearing Her torch of freedom. She smiles and nods Her greeting to you.
Who is Lady Liberty? Is She just a symbol, a statue? Or is She something more? She bears a strong resemblance to Athena to me. I think perhaps She is a new goddess. And as an American goddess, the fate of Americans matters to Her.
Ask Her to lend Her support to those working for the cause of liberty, freedom, and justice in the upcoming Presidential election process. Ask Her to withdraw Her support from those who are not working in the interests of those causes. Ask Her not to take a side in personal political preferences, but to keep in mind the personal motivations of candidates that we cannot see and the long-term consequences that we may not be able to predict.
If you, like me, are not an American, then reach out to impress upon Lady Liberty how the American Empire affects the entire world, and why we who are not U.S. citizens care about the future of American politics.
As when dealing with the Wild Hunt, be aware Lady Liberty may ask you to perform a task in return. Listen for guidance. If you are willing to agree to the task, do so.
Visualize the torch of freedom illuminating those who are doing the work of freedom with a glowing spotlight or halo. Hear their words being amplified to spread to those who need to hear it. See that light spreading out over the United States, and then the whole world. And where it touches the yokes of the ones who would enslave us, let those yokes be burnt to a crisp.
The eagle takes flight over the illuminated landscape and lets out a cry of joy. Lady Liberty smiles.
Return to your body and make whatever offering you feel is appropriate.
And let’s cross our fingers!
* I deferred my intended subject for the next article because I felt that this was a little more urgent. My article on the pitfalls of internet media will follow next week.
I have been a practicing Witch for more than 20 years, and an active organizer and facilitator in the Pagan community since 1993. I am a third degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions, and an ordained Priestess and recognized Religious Representative in the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia. I was the first Local Coordinator in the Okanagan Valley for the Pagan Pride Project. I am a practicing herbalist (Dominion Herbal College) and a Reiki Master/Teacher.
We’re currently in the editing process of the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance! Pre-order, subscription, and underwriting information is here.
“As far as practitioners of nature spiritualities are concerned, the Wild Hunt offers an initiation into the wild and an opening up of the senses; a sense of dissolution of self in confrontation with fear and death, an exposure to a ‘whirlwind pulse that runs through life’. In short, engagement with the Hunt is a bid to restore a reciprocity and harmony between humans and nature.”
— Anthropologist Susan Greenwood
The word has spread around the blogosphere; the Wild Hunt is riding.
It’s early. Really early. For me, they rode in to BC and the Pacific Northwest US on the night of the last full moon, riding with the great storm.
Some say they’re riding against Daesh for their desecration of ancient Pagan religious sites. Some say they’re riding for something else. I think there’s a lot of reasons for them to be out riding.
The leader of the hunt depends greatly on the pantheon, and has been named as Odin, Holda, Berchta, Gwydion, Gwynn ap Nudd, King Arthur, Nuada, King Herla, Woden, Freya, Frigg, the Devil, Krampus, the Faery King, the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab, the Morrigan, Fionn MacCumhaill, Arawn, Artemis, Diana, Cernunnos, Herne the Hunter, and a variety of historical figures that have been slightly mythologized. The Steeds are nightmares or faery horses, winged horses, faery deer or skeletal beasts; the Hounds are hellhounds, Dandy Hounds, faery hounds, yeth hounds, greyhounds, wolves, winged wolves, ravens, raptors, transformed sparrows, Gabriel Ratchets, the Cwn Annwn and the Fianna. When I See visions of the Hunt, I see the Huntsman as Herne, because He’s the deity I follow and He and I have a “thing.” But Beth Wodanis Sees Odin, since she is a godspouse married to Him. Others will See the Hunt differently.
Some call them the Wild Army, the Furious Army or the Furious Ride. They are also called by the names of the Hounds; the Cwn Annwn and the Fianna of Fionn. In some myths they are the Unseelie Faery Ride, the Sidhe or the Faery Calvacade; in others they are the unquiet dead; in still others they are simply the Witches Sabbath. They might sweep along anyone in their path; or they might ride against the forces of darkness to take them up into the Ride. In his classic medieval book The Art of Courtly Love, Andreas Capellanus wrote of how the King and Queen of Love rode out in the autumn to strike down all faithless lovers. In a manner of speaking, Robin Hood and his band of merry men could be seen as another manifestation of the Wild Hunt, riding to protect the land and its people from the depredations of the wealthy elite.
I can think of a few “forces of darkness” I’d like to see swept along in the Ride; can’t you?
I, too, have been dreaming of the Hunt. Last night, I instead dreamed of the Round Table. King Arthur, who wore a Horned Crown, said, “All those who would take up arms against the foe; draw your swords and ride out with me!” And I reached out to draw one of the swords of the Round Table knights (or Kings, depending on your interpretation,) knowing I would not be able to draw it if I was not meant to, just as Excalibur can only be drawn by the true King. But it came away easily in my hand, with no resistance at all, and it felt as though it had been made for me.
Let us take a cue from Dion Fortune’s magickal experiment, and visualize the Wild Hunt riding against the true enemy we all know is out there, scouring the darkness from the land and taking them up into the Ride! Who will take up arms against the foe? Who will ride out with us?
The Magick: Tomorrow night is the full harvest supermoon in Aries, and a lunar eclipse. Visualize the Wild Hunt as you see it. Find the Leader of the Hunt and fly beside Hir for a while. Ask who the quarry is. Think about the “forces of darkness” as you understand them — the Kyriarchy, the Banksters, the CEOs of the large monopoly corporations, corrupt officials who do the bidding of their corporate masters, etc. — and ask the Hunter if E will help to scour them from the land. The Hunter may ask you to perform a task in return. Listen for guidance. If you are willing to agree to take on the task, do so. Visualize the Hunt riding against the quarry you’ve requested, riding them down or sweeping them up into the Hunt’s ranks, as appropriate. Return to your body and make an appropriate offering.
Footnote: I had not yet read Lee’s article The Hunt and the Hound, Part 1 (published Sept. 13) when I wrote this; however, I think this Working may work well in conjunction with his Working, and I will be creating my canine spirit house as part of this full moon rite. A canine skull mysteriously found its way into my compost pile; I have been cleaning it and wondering what to do with it. It seems I have an answer.
We women know a hard truth of our culture; our bodies are not our own.
We are told how our bodies are supposed to behave. How they are supposed to look (age/weight/height/hair/skin colour/breast size/genitals; the last of particular interest to women not visibly born “female”). What we should feed them. How we should decorate them. Whether or not we should use them as incubators and what we are allowed to do with them once a zygote starts growing. We are told to hide, and suppress, our body’s needs and natural functions. We are told that the functions that formulate the incubator are supposed to be hidden from polite company, from menstruation to breast feeding. We are told how we should wrap them, under what conditions it’s okay to unwrap them, and whom we should (or should not) unwrap them for.
After I overcame my childhood conditioning to suppress my sexuality, I wondered why. This is something that has puzzled me for many years. Why in the world does anyone else care about what I do with my body, whom I choose to have sex with, or how? I mean, think about it. How does it affect anyone else that I’m not sleeping with (or someone who’s sleeping with someone I’m sleeping with?) I don’t give two figs what kind of car my neighbour drives because its effect on my life is exactly zero.
I read all the Dianic literature and found it empowering: The Wise Wound, Goddesses in Everywoman, The Chalice and the Blade. Their theory was that because, until recently, your mother was a certainty but your father was an opinion, controlling women’s sexuality assured paternity and therefore, men would not find themselves in a situation in which they were struggling to feed someone else’s offspring. I believed it because it was the only thing that sounded plausible to me.
The men in my life were angered by this theory. They are feminists, and they are stepfathers. They chose to raise someone else’s offspring, knowing full well it was someone else’s offspring, and give their love even when that love has not always been returned. I didn’t give their anger much heed. I figured it was a case in which they did not recognize their privilege. I figured they would come around.
But there’s another theory, one that I’ve recently stumbled upon that makes much more sense. Like anything else it’s not new; I was excited when I discovered, as I was reading it for the first time, that Starhawk had touched on it in the Appendices of her classic book on magick and activism, Dreaming the Dark.
Patriarchy exists to preserve inheritance.
Patriarchy is all about class.
Expropriation and Estrangement
Starhawk believes that we can find the evidence in enclosure. In the sixteenth century a movement spread through England to enclose what was previously common land. All of a sudden, which family controlled the land and its use became of paramount importance. All of a sudden the people who lived on that common land became threats, because if land was held by common “squatters,” it could not be enclosed. Often, lone widows lived in such places and so they were favourite targets of the would-be landowners, since they couldn’t do much to fight back. Persecution increased against marginalized groups; that and widespread famines and possibly ergot poisoning led to revolutions and pogroms. Enclosure forced most of us out of the woods and fields and into places in which our livelihoods depended on wages, and since one could only farm what was now on one’s land, trade became vital, and not an enhancement to existing living conditions. We have seen the culmination of this trend in our current world economy, which depends on trading in raw resources and the forced labour of the developing world.
Knowledge became a marketable commodity in the new mercantile culture that was developing. Universities developed. Knowledge became something you could only have if you had the money to pay, and thus, graduates of those universities worked to preserve their monopoly on knowledge. This particularly affected medicine. Graduating university doctors spread the idea that anyone who did not have their certification was dangerous and stupid and might possibly cause real harm, even when the folk healing tradition was well ahead of the medicine of universities. Often this was also a women’s profession, so once again women became an incidental target. And “women’s medicine,” as a natural and unavoidable consequence of all of the medical practitioners being male, lagged behind and became a method of social control, culminating with the myth of the “hysterical woman” in Victorian times; an excuse to institutionalize women who did not behave according to the desired social mien. We are currently seeing the culmination of the ownership of knowledge, with every task requiring (expensive) papers to certify your capability, bizarre trademark and copyright laws that allow corporations to claim intellectual property over ideas created 700 years ago, and tuitions so high that only the moneyed class can generally afford to pay them.
In order to justify this culture of ownership and expropriation, the world had to be disenchanted. If the world has no life and no spirit other than what can be used as resources, there is no reason not to use it up. Once again, the bodies of (cisgender) women, who are bound visibly by biological needs and changes, and who hold the power of the womb, became incidental targets, as the needs of the body and the needs of the earth and its creatures were denigrated, and “spiritual perfection” came to mean transcending anything as filthy and low as biology and nature. We are seeing the culmination of this disenchantment now, in which faith is painted as a choice between the binary of absolute obedience to a patriarchal, distant god; or utter denial of the possibility of anything spiritual.
All of this is part of a culture of expropriation that derives from estrangement; estrangement from our nature, from our bodies, from the sense of the spiritual in the material, from people who are different from ourselves, even from one another. We are almost seeing the culmination of it now. We no longer know our neighbours. We no longer live in families any larger than the nuclear. Most of us these days are raised by single mothers. We don’t even talk to each other any more, except through phones and computers. As a result we are siloed in echo chambers of the ideas we support and our children sit across the table from each other and use their phones to converse. Almost by definition, Paganism and Polytheism, which see gods and spirits here within the earth, are natural enemies of this culture.
I was excited! Starhawk articulated it so much more effectively than I was able to.
Of course, it started long before that. While the theory of the ancient matriarchy has been essentially disproven at this point, it is likely that inheritance did not matter in the prehistoric world until there was something to inherit that did not belong to the clan as a whole. Chieftainships created a class of haves, and have-nots, which made tracking inheritance “necessary.”
How I Stumbled on This
I was writing a science fiction novel. In the process I created a society in which all the men were warriors, so of course, the women were required to do everything else. This society also had a noble caste who ruled over the other classes. And I found that the society quickly developed, through a natural process of cause and effect, into a patriarchy. Fascist societies, the ultimate in Corporatism, usually develop into patriarchies for this reason.
So I changed one condition; I made inheritance dependent on the female bloodline. Now clans were organized around the females of a particular family, and to become nobles of the clan, males had to marry into it. Technically the males inherited, but only through the females. Suddenly, it looked to outsiders like the males were in charge, but in reality, the females were controlling marriages and fertility, and through that, the process of inheritance. Over time, males began to develop traits that the females found desirable, and eventually it led to the breakdown of the class system and changing roles for males and females.
Why is it always the right wing who seems to support ideas that restrict the freedom of women? You would think that powerful women of the moneyed class would be in an ideal position to challenge the supremacy of the patriarch. But consider it. Keeping the classes divided is the only way in which to assure that there are haves and have-nots. In order to separate the classes, it is necessary to assure that the poor and the rich never mingle, and that requires controlling a woman’s fertility; and subsequently, her sexuality. This is why it’s so important to the moneyed Conservatives to prevent cisgender women (and trans-men) from controlling their own fertility and claiming their own sexuality outside of the imposed rules of the patriarchy. If women could do that, we wage-slaves wouldn’t continue to breed fodder for factories, would we? Especially not in the developing world. And what if a low-class male has sex with a high-class female and she has a child? That elevates him out of the have-nots, doesn’t it?
We women impose these unconscious limits on ourselves. Did you know that women do not call each other “sluts” based on their level of sexuality activity? According to a study conducted at university campuses by Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong, the key trigger to being called a slut by another woman is being from a different economic class. Why on earth would women perceive each other as being “trashy” for being more, or less, affluent than themselves? It seems to me that this is a subconscious method of social control, to prevent the classes from breeding together.
Also, we choose mates based on perceived status. It’s such a cliche that we make jokes about it; trophy-wives and sugar daddies. Men with money are considered sexy. Men buy expensive gifts and seek good jobs to impress women, and it’s considered the height of romanticism from him to buy us jewelry or that coveted diamond ring that proclaims our status as desired property.
We feminists think we’re above that. After all, we believe in making our own way in the world and not relying on other people for financial support. But consider this; assuming you are heterosexual, would you marry a man who made less money than you do? Most of us won’t. We think that “we can do better” and men who make less than we do are often perceived as freeloaders and “bums,” no matter how hard they work. Fortunately this is changing.
There’s one last point of note that supports this theory, and that is the Mosuo people of China. Often called “the last matrilineal society,” they have evolved a society in which all property rights pass through the female line. There is no permanent marriage and partners do not live together, even if they have a long-term relationship. Men live with their female relatives. And all the behaviours of control and sexual dominance are displayed by the women; all the behaviours of social manipulation and preoccupation with appearance is displayed by the men. In other words, property equals power.
It is in the interests of the Capitalists to maintain divisions of haves and have-nots. Kyriarchy is how they go about this in a (nominally) free, democratic society. They teach the rest of us to see one group as being superior to another, which leads to an interconnected system of privilege and disadvantage. Notice that the poor are the only identifiable group that it’s perfectly okay to discriminate against? Institutionalized discrimination limits the ability of the poor to get education, houses and jobs, and forces them to pay more for simple things due to interest payments, bank fees and “planned obsolescence.”
This is why it is necessary to consider all disadvantaged groups. The truth is that Kyriarchy cannot exist if we all stand together and refuse to see these artificial divisions.
In other words; sisters, men are not the enemy. Those who teach us that one group is better than another, are. And those who benefit from the status quo the most are usually the ones most invested in preserving it. The ones who benefit the most from this current status quo are white, white-collar, straight, wealthy, older men; in other words, the Corporatist 1%.
By extension, this means that anyone who challenges this status quo and demands change is our ally. It would help us all to march in Ferguson. It would help us all to defend women’s reproductive rights. It would help us all to support labour unions, advocate for anti-poverty groups, and march in the Pride Parade. Any one of these activities is a blow to Kyriarchy; which, in its death throes, will take the Patriarchy with it.
Why the Patriarchy is Doomed
Don’t worry; it can’t last forever. It was doomed from the invention of the Pill. When you can’t control a woman’s fertility, you can’t control her sexuality.
But social sanctions will try. And as long as we allow groups which are invested in the idea of patriarchy — such as religions or corporations — to dictate morality to us, then it will continue. We must stop calling each other sluts. We must stop trying to dictate to each other when it’s okay to sleep with someone and when it isn’t. We should feel free to make our own sexual choices and respect the right of others to do likewise. We should support the rights of all genders, especially because challenging the binary breaks up the division that is based in haves (men) and have-nots (women). The Kyriarchs know this and that’s why they find it so threatening and fight it so hard.
A great victory was recently won when the United States finally caught up to the idea that marriage should be a right for everyone. I am pleased to see another nail being hammered into the coffin as the worldwide movement for the rights of sex workers grows and we stop looking down on women who get more action than others.
When our social customs catch up to our physical and scientific realities, patriarchy’s inevitable end will crumble the support pillar that sustains the Kyriarchy; and it will collapse like a house of cards. We will see the dawn of a new age which is not dependent on human beings dividing themselves into superior and inferior classes. That day is coming. I believe it’s not far away.
Sept. 2 Update: edits made in response to suggestions from Keen on how to be more gender-inclusive (see commentary below).
If I were to recommend a single book to any pagan, polytheist, anti-capitalist or resident of North America, it would be Almanac of the Dead. Larry McMurtry writes in a blurb on the back of the book, “If Karl Marx had chosen to make Das Kapital a novel set in the Americas, he might have come out with a book something like this.” Perhaps, or perhaps not, since Karl Marx could not possibly have the same lived experience as Leslie Marmon Silko.
Silko is a Laguna Pueblo writer living outside of the Southern Arizona city of Tucson. Her 763-page novel spans the entirety of North America and Mesoamerica geographically, but it all revolves around the central nexus of Tucson. In the dimension of time, Almanac is simultaneously rooted in the codices of the past, unmistakably situated in the present day world of cocaine smuggling and television psychics, and oriented towards the apocalyptic changes-to-come of the near future.
This review is being published on May 13. One hundred and sixty-nine years ago, on this day in 1846, the United States declared war on the First Federal Republic of Mexico, formally initiating a war which eventually resulted in the annexation of New Mexico and Alta California, including most of what is now Arizona. The land in question, of course, was indigenous land, despite the territorial claims of the government of Mexico. The area surrounding Tucson (Tohono O’odham land, with a strong Yaqui presence as well) was not actually annexed by the United States until the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, but nonetheless, Tucson is a city defined by its location on the open wound known as the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a city shaped by liminality, and by the violence which gave birth to that liminality. Bank robber John Dillinger was captured there in 1934. Thousands of migrants continue to attempt to cross the harsh Sonoran desert—many do not make it all the way across. Silko writes, “Tucson was too close to Mexico. Tucson was Mexico, only no one in the United States had realized it yet.”
Almanac of the Dead was published in 1991, four hundred and ninety-nine years after a Genoese navigator first stabbed Taíno earth with the flag of Castile and León. In 1994, three years after Almanac was published, the Mayan rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation issued their First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle. One of Almanac‘s nineteen “books”features a guerrilla army-turned-native land reclamation movement dealing with very similar tensions between orthodox Marxism and indigenous communities. Of course, these dynamics are nothing unique to the Zapatistas, they have been grappled with throughout Latin America for many decades. Yet it’s clear from her tone that Silko isn’t just writing about history, she is writing about the ever-imminent near future, and her words resonate with just as much ominous portent in 2015 as in 1991. Perhaps even more so, given the benefit of hindsight, though it doesn’t take a prophet to predict that “California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado—all the southwestern states will run out of drinking water,” or a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Silko hints at the possibility of a sympathetic magic or subterranean convergence between the struggles of the like-minded, and the pages of her novel serve as a meeting ground for a vast array of characters whose real-life counterparts may or may not have met in the waking world. A few of Almanac‘s most memorable characters: Clinton, an Ogou-worshiping black man organizing homeless veterans into a “Poor People’s Army;” the Barefoot Hopi, who prophecies to prisoners of all races about “the day all the walls fall down;” Mosca, a superstitious drug dealer who quits his job to join the Barefoot Hopi’s nascent millenarian movement; Calabazas, a Yaqui smuggler and Mosca’s old boss, who “would never abandon what he called ‘the war that had never ended,’ the war for the land. He wanted to call every successful shipment or journey a victory in this war;” Zeta, Calabazas’s former partner-in-crime who “had not argued with him, but [who] had had her own ideas about ‘the war;'” Zeta’s twin sister Lecha, the aforementioned television psychic (now retired—or more accurately, in hiding), who is transcribing the eponymous Almanac of the Dead. “When the time came, all these scattered crazies and their plans would complement and serve one another in the chaos to come.”
Ultimately, Almanac is about sovereignty: the governments of the United States and Mexico have never had, do not currently have, and willneverhave the sovereignty granted by the land itself. Of course, in her particular imaginings of what indigenous reclamation of sovereignty might look like, Silko does not speak for all natives (no single writer does). Non-native anti-capitalists should be careful not to cherry pick only those authors whom they can use to validate their own political ideologies. Almanac of the Dead, however, is such a rich and complex work that any reader’s perspective is bound to be expanded by it. What Silko writes about is bigger than politics, bigger than any one religious tradition:
What was coming could not be stopped; the people might join or not […] It made no difference because what was coming was relentless and inevitable; it might require five or ten years of great violence and conflict. It might require a hundred years of spirit voices and simple population growth, but the result would be the same: tribal people would retake the Americas; tribal people would retake ancestral land all over the world. This was what earth’s spirits wanted: her indigenous children who loved her and did not harm her.
Heathen Chinese is the son of Chinese immigrants. He is a diasporic Chinese polytheist living in the San Francisco Bay Area (stolen Ohlone land). He practices ancestor veneration and worships (among others) the warrior god Guan Di, who has had a presence in California since the mid-1800s. He writes sporadically at https://heathenchinese.wordpress.com
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The world we have inherited is one where the Sovereignty of the Land has been broken. It’s not a single person’s fault. It’s not a specific generation’s fault. Throughout history, humanity has made a series of choices that have separated us from the spirit of the land, from the Otherworld, from nature itself. Our broken Sovereignty reveals itself in our poisoned rivers and oceans that are becoming barren, in the extinction of species and our dwindling biodiversity, in our melting icecaps and rising seas. Our unhealthy relationship to the Sovereignty of the Land is perpetuated when we vilify the poor instead of aiding them, when we foolishly act as if we have dominion over the Earth rather than acting as stewards of it, and when we turn our backs on justice in this land and do not stand in opposition to these false judgements of old men. As we withdraw ourselves from and choose to ignore the power of the land and the gifts of the Otherworld, the land sickens around us, our place on our planet becomes tenuous, and our societal priorities become selfish and obscene. As a species, we stand today at a crossroads, at a place in our collective Wyrd where the threads of our fates diverge, some leading to our continued survival, and some cut prematurely leading to our extinction among the multitudes of other species extinctions. Our path forward will not be an easy one no matter what choices we make, but there is a path ahead for us that will allow us a future, a path on which we encourage the return of the Sovereignty of the Land.
Before we can discuss restoring Sovereignty to the Land, we better take some time to define what I mean by the term. I will be referring to the primary three types of sovereignty that are used in most discussions on the topic and attempt to define them and untangle their meanings. The types of sovereignty that I’ll be referencing I’ll refer to as either political sovereignty, or the authority of a state to govern themselves or others, personal sovereignty also known as personal autonomy, and Sovereignty of the Land, the numinous power of the Otherworld channeled through the Sovereignty Goddess to the ruler of the land. These concepts are related, and each one has some influence with the others, but at their heart they all have different and nuanced meanings.
In a modern context, when the term sovereignty is used it is usually referring to political sovereignty. This is often the type of sovereignty that causes much of the confusion. It’s easy for us to look at the concept of Sovereignty of the Land in regards to Celtic lore and history and superimpose our modern concepts of political sovereignty over it. This can muddy the meaning of both types of sovereignty. The concept of political sovereignty, while crucially important to people’s lives, has become a corrupted by those with power. A militarily or economically powerful nation’s sovereignty is determined by their ability through war or trade to prevent others from imposing their will on them. In most cases, this type of political power is held through violence or the threat of violence.
A good case study of how this dynamic works is the state of Native or First Nations Peoples on this continent. Technically, Native Peoples have been granted “sovereignty” for their tribal governments to rule themselves. Although they had no real right to do so, the US and Canadian governments granted Native Tribes limited rights to self-rule and government. In reality, they took this step not out of the goodness of their hearts or some sort of concern for the dignity of the people, but to appease the Tribes after destroying their livelihood, culture, and lives. This continent was founded by people who, through murder, rape, disease, lies, and genocide, systematically wiped out vast populations of people. The European people who colonized this continent have absolutely no legitimate claim to it. They arrived and through a fluke of technological achievement, specific biological resilience, and an arrogant spiritual philosophy of dominion over all of creation, they took it. Their claim of sovereign rights to the land they occupy rests on the childish and dangerous tenant of “I took it so it’s mine”. With this in mind, the idea of these illegitimate foreign governments bestowing the right of political sovereignty to the peoples that had been living here for thousands of years is tragic and delusional and we must always look at this connection to violence when we consider political sovereignty.
Personal sovereignty on the other hand is rooted in the cultural values of personal autonomy and self determination. It is based on the concept of a fundamental human right to self-determination. Retaining our personal sovereignty has been one of the great struggles of our time and this struggle takes countless forms today. The right for women to make decisions about their own bodies, right to express your free will, and our freedom of speech, all fall under the category of personal sovereignty. Personal sovereignty does not come without responsibility and cost though. To be able to have the type of autonomy and freedom that we desire and still live in a world populated with other sovereign individuals, we must be operating from a place of high moral accountability. Accessing your personal sovereignty is reliant on an understanding and acknowledgment of other people’s sovereignty and rights. We must understand and accept that we are part of a greater whole, that our actions affect others and affect the heath of the planet around them. Our own honor, integrity, and sense of justice must guide our decisions, coupled by connections to our community and understanding of the ecological world around us. In this way, personal sovereignty is much more closely tied to the Sovereignty of the Land.
When we speak of the Sovereignty of the Land, we are speaking of a concept that has been obscured by the mists of time. We see this classical and historical concept of sovereignty throughout the lore of ancient peoples. At the heart of this type of sovereignty is a contract and partnership with the Otherworld, the unseen spiritual world. In the traditional sovereignty tale, a King is granted his right to rule though the Otherworld. This power flows from the land through the form of the Sovereignty Goddess. This power is usually transferred in the form of a mead cup or the act of sexual union with the Goddess. The Sovereignty granted to the King is not unlimited power over his subjects, but a fluid force, the magical power of the land itself. A power that must used for the benefit of both the land and the people lest it be withdrawn. The Sovereignty of the Land flows from the Otherworld, is mediated by the King and from him flows back to the people to sustain them. This contract, like most agreements with the Otherworld, is conditional and strictly regulated through a combination of ritualized behaviors (Geasa) and mutual obligations between the ruler and his people. The failure of a King to meet their obligations either by breaking their agreements with the Otherworld or their people, resulted in withdrawal of Sovereignty which had disastrous effects such as crop failures and famine, the death of livestock, disease and hardship. In a situation like this, the failed King would step down, die in battle, or be sacrificed to allow a more suitable King to take their place.
Sovereignty of the Land was never truly about power over the tribe or the land. It was responsibility to both. A good King was not selfish but selfless, willing to cede power and sometimes his life for the benefit of his people. The health of the people and land reflected directly on the ruler. A single person starving from lack of food was abhorrent to Celtic society and to have someone starve on your doorstep brought great dishonor to you. In this system of Sovereignty, there was a strict social contract between the leader and the people. Bound in layers of obligation, hospitality, and geasa, the King had a sacred responsibility to care for and provide for his people. Our ancestors knew that community is essential to our survival, and also knew that connection and relationship with the Otherworld was necessary for our continued survival. Those in positions of power in our world today have forgotten both of these things.
Our culture has cut all relevant ties to the Otherworld, and we have fetishized selfishness and self interest. We stumble forward, stepping on the backs of others with little care for their well being as we strive for personal gain. We are not appalled by our hungry neighbors, and we chose to create a land that is as dead as we perceive it to be. The Sovereignty of the Land has withdrawn from us and we have been left with a poisoned land and a broken society. Our leaders have failed us and we all suffer from their failings. We no longer live in culture where the leaders work for the benefit of the people and the land. Our leaders will not step down when they fail us and regrettably we can’t sacrifice them. We no longer have Kings ruling us and that is a good thing, because we live in an age where we can be more and more responsible for ourselves. Sovereignty has never left the land, we, as a society have chosen to ignore it and not to access it. In an age defined by self determination, it is up to us to restore the Sovereignty of the Land, to maintain relations and contracts with the Otherworld, to establish a mode of existing with the world and with each other that is sustainable and life affirming.
But how do we return Sovereignty to the Land and how will that change our course? How will our connection with the Otherworld help create a better world for everyone? How will this provide for us a viable path ahead?
At the heart of this type of Sovereignty of the Land is interconnectedness. It is the acknowledgement that as a society our future survival is dependent on working with each other, not fighting against each other. It is understanding that on a greater level, our society’s survival and our ecosystem’s survival are intertwined. When the health of our planet fails, our health fails with it. When we cut ourselves off from our environment, from our communities, and from the Otherworld, we wither like a plant cut from its roots. And we are withering. Our bellies are full and we are starving to death.
We can take these basic steps and reestablish the flow of Sovereignty in our lives and in our land.
– Establish and maintain relationships with the Otherworld. Honor your Gods, honor the spirits of the land, honor your ancestors and make your choices for those that will come after us, not for ourselves.
– Establish and maintain relationships with your communities. Get to know your community and take part in it, both locally and globally. Don’t ask what you are getting from your community, ask how you are helping it.
– Give more than you take, in all things. Wealth and power are a flow, not something to hoard and hold onto.
– Stand for Sovereignty. Speak out where you see sovereignty being compromised. Defend others’ rights and their sovereignty, not just your own.
Taking steps to restore Sovereignty will not save us, but it’s the start of the mindset that we need to thrive again. Like a spring that has been buried, the flow of Sovereignty awaits us. As we dig into the soil with our bare hands we can restart the flow again: many trickles make a stream, many streams a river and many rivers fill an ocean. We no longer need Kings to mediate the Otherworld for us, we can take our fate into our own hands and restore Sovereignty to our Land.