Archives For Druidry

We Need More Dreams

March 28, 2014 — 1 Comment
Berlin Raben

My favorite piece of graffiti in Berlin.

My latest Sense of Place post is up, the fourth (and final) in a fiction series exploring what Paganism might become, what we might build.

“To transcend nature, you must hate it. To conquer nature, you must hate others. And to profit from it all? You must be human, a human without gods.”

I had decided to write fiction for the theme because I’ve always been struck by something Ursula K. Le Guin had said in a reading I attended almost 12 years ago.  I was a young, dream-struck punk in Seattle, soaked in hopes and a bit of terror as the Iraq war began, as the anti-Capitalist tendencies of the streets seemed to finally ebb in the face of so much despair and fear at government surveillance, post- 9/11 crack-downs on (racial and political) minorities, and the crushing sense that the anti-globalisation and anti-war movements were utterly futile against such monolithic complacency and insecurity began to stifle that hope.

She’d been speaking of the “usefulness” of fantasy, at a time when so much of the narrative of serious thought had been on theory and the criticism of fiction was (and still is) derisive of anything speculative.  And I’d asked a question and we’d spoke a bit, and she said something along the lines of “how can we know what we want to build if we can’t imagine it?”

I sometimes wonder if the imaginative powers of the human soul should be seen as an active, physical faculty which must be exercised lest it atrophy, must be fed well lest it become gluttonous upon empty, masturbatory fictions.  I know for myself, years of playing fantasy games fed an urge but never fully satisfied, filled but never sated.  Certain visions of the future make me nauseous rather than hungry, particularly the exuberant dreams of ubiquitous computers (I reserve the right to break a pair of Google Glass if someone insists upon wearing them around me) and newer and greater technologies that will further separate us not just from Nature, but from each other.  The joy with which some people speak of such “progress” doesn’t just make me ill, it greatly disappoints me.

That exuberance isn’t imagination.  Very few of the technological futurists, the trans-humanists and all the rest ever really imagine anything different, they only imagine more of the same, and more of the same for a small amount of people.

Take alternative energy.  Dreams of new and more sustainable energy sources– so we can stop relying on oil and coal–always start from the very un-imaginative premise that we should keep doing precisely what we’re doing, just in a nicer, cleaner way.  Rather than the end of automobiles and pavement, the “fantasy” is that we can have more of them without destroying the earth, as opposed to finding some other way to build society.  We’re like addicts looking for less harmful heroin.

The internet and cellular communications that we have are really faster methods of doing what we already did before, and still for a small amount of economically privileged people.  Consider: according the most recent estimate, 250 million iPhones have been sold since they were first created, but there are 7 billion + people on the earth.  This “revolutionary” thing people have been on about hasn’t changed the world, but has only made a small amount of (mostly white) people stare at rectangles in their hands for too long.

And if the imagination is a faculty which we humans (possibly and unfortunately alone, I suspect, amongst the natural world) possess, one would hope we’d be able to come up with something better with it than virtual reality glasses and teeth-whitening strips for people hoping to escape a pale and vapid life and undo the affects of too much corn-syrup.

It’s for this reason that the rallying cry of the altermondialists (known as “anti-globalisation” folks in America) was “AnOther World is Possible.”  I think we need more dreams.

Strings (Ostara, 2014)

March 23, 2014 — 4 Comments

It isn’t untrue to say my life is composed of strings.  Cords of cotton and nylon to bind together my affects, to blouse the cuffs of my pants over the boots bound to feet by laces.  Thin leather strips to close cloth bags holding cards, wooden tiles marked with archaic letters,  thicker pouches of stones and coins corded shut by suede.

There are the heavier ropes, braided hemp woven through the grommets of my rucksack, the strong thick leather of my belt, the suspenders crafted for me years ago by a lover.  The thick lengths of tree fiber, grown together, which support the weight of my body upon a chair, a bed, across a floor.

Then, the thinner strings.  The copper wire twined around the wand of Alder, binding to it feather of raven and crystal of earth.  That same wire ties together the braid in my beard, itself composed of myriad thin strands of hair which also covers much of my body.  The threads–oh, the threads!  Filament of plant and animal fiber woven together into cloth to cover my flesh where hair and nudity are insufficient or unaccepted.  Thicker fabrics cover me when I sleep, shade out the light from my room in the morning, dry my skin after showers.

Also, those newer of connections, the other wires, channelling within them like veins and nerves below flesh amberic currents and signals between artifice and signal, generation and illumination.

Strings and wires and cords bind me and embrace me and restrain me, but they are not mine alone.

There are other filaments, unseen but always felt, invisible but ever-present.  Some tie you to me, thoughts and dreams, laughter and hatred, what is shared and what is feared.  I meet you and we are tethered, sometimes anchored, sometimes set aloft like connected balloons slipping from the hands of children into the endlessness of sky.  Some tie me to you, affection or dislike, duty or admiration, care or casualty, love or loss.  Some are like chains which weigh upon the soul, but many others like long stitches which keep us together.

Not just in present, either.  There are the threads of fate woven into my form and existence at birth and from even before, the tugging strong rope of destiny unfolding, and all the myriad unfollowed threads of stories and sorrows, possibilities and failures still loose.

I’ve heard existence spoken of as a web, but I have never quite felt this true.  Webs are spun to constrict and trap, to bind and kill.  A broken strand does not destroy it.  Its patterns can be predicted, its geometry assured.

No.

Rather, then, a tapestry, woven from time and the self, of threads countless and coloured, and each strand is you, and you, and you, and some of them are me.

We do not weave alone, and we are not the only ones at the loom.  What are we weaving, we whose cords are cut at the end of life, who become re-spun into new threads?

Some threads are the gods.  And this is a thing I do not understand, but from which I cannot look away: the gods seem almost the pattern we learn to weave, but I do not know how, nor do I know why.  And I do not know why they weave with us, and why we weave with them.

I hope one day to find out.

Gods and Radicals

March 6, 2014 — 17 Comments

I’m a part of what weaves my story, but there are sudden bursts of searing insight which remind me that I am not the only who weaves it, nor are my choices ever only my own.

Shall I explain? How can I, really, except to impart fragments just as I view them–not shattered, but patch-work glimpses of glittering reflections strung along by fascinating threads.

First of all, did you know gods-worshippers are a fantastically radical lot?  Not just strange or queer, but good gods do they seem to exist with a burning fire ready to torch the darkness.  And funny, as I forgot this of myself, that what I want to tear down is a hedge between here and Other.

I met a particular person today, an occasional Pagan writer, a gods-worshipper, and a ferocious activist whose whole form and persona vibrated with what could only be called a sort of divine delight.  Her work is known to many, including enough people where she lives to find her personal life and impending move to another city mentioned in the local alternative paper.

This person, Alley Valkyrie, mentioned the same goddess had demanded social justice from her as who has done so for many others.  A goddess who demands those who worship her go out and fight injustice, particularly related to the homeless.  That is, a radical goddess.

Against the (Paralyzing) White Light

A topic in our conversation particularly fascinated me.  We’d spoken of a certain passivity within Paganism when it comes to matters of environmental damage, war, and other human calamities.  That is, “meditating” for peace or carbon reduction; similar to another thread of thought that suggests “changing oneself” will change the world.

I read a post by another Brigid-worshiper awhile back regarding how certain tendencies within Paganism are not only unhelpful but actually tend to result in harm to victims of very real things.  There is a kind of optimism which isn’t optimism at all, but rather a denial of human suffering which sustains injustice.

I intend to track a bit more of this in my book, but this sort of thing isn’t Pagan at all, but rather a colonization of a certain Capitalist/Liberal logic within Pagan which cripples its revolutionary potential.  It’s parallel to why certain folks find discussions of tolerance revolting, which makes them sound unfortunately reactionary.  It’s also why our discussions of privilege are going nowhere.

Liberal discourse defangs radical acts and discourse by offering itself up against a great void, presenting itself as our only hope against the throngs of witch-burners, fag-haters, fundamentalists, and totalitarians, and it does so by giving us inadequate tools to understand our oppression and un-freedom.  Amongst these is one of the more preciously-held tenets of Paganism, an inherited Universalism that we’re all, essentially, out for the same truths on our own individual paths and therefore all worthy of respect and affirmation.

The defense contractor, the multi-national banker, the polluter, the small-minded local business tyrant, and the gay-basher aren’t worthy of respect, affirmation, or tolerance.  Nor is meditating for world peace or an end to homelessness anything more than a pathetic masturbatory exercise.  I say “may there be peace in all the realms” during my druid rituals, but I’ve no illusion that my words alone change anything, anymore than voting changes anything.

This is why the position of so many gods-worshippers is a radical one, a severe one, an awfully serious one.  Sacrifice and actions matter more than words or intent.

Radical Gods

Some might know of an earlier dispute between some gods-worshippers on the necessity of social justice, and now that enough time has passed over the issue I feel it’s worth mentioning something that didn’t seem to get addressed.

Some gods are out to save the world.  Some aren’t.  But I think both sorts of gods benefit greatly from the acts of the followers of each.  It’s seems so obvious that it’s probably awfully easy to miss: both sorts are doing precisely what their gods demand of them.

Those of us who worship a gods and goddesses who demand we do stuff in the world for them need the ones who worship those who demand contemplation, ecstatic worship, and ponderous ritual.  It’s from them that we even have any clue what other gods are up to in the world, and they’re the ones developing for the rest of us tools and oracles and methods to interact with our own gods and the spirits around us.  They’re the mystics (whether they see themselves as such or not) who sacrifice an awful lot of their time to the gods so the rest of us learn how to.

And on the other hand, the mystics need the ponderous intellectuals who are working on the larger implications of what this means, or the valiant and whimsical street-warriors to bring the gifts, given by their gods to them, given then by them to us, to wreak upon the realm of the material and social the will of the gods we all revere.

If gods are real (and they are), then they affect the world.  And what’s particularly fantastic about their effect is how they do it, how they wield some of the most glorious, fantastic tools to enact their wills into the world.  Some tools are pretty useless at some things but perfectly suited for others.  I’ll a pretty decent writer, but I’ve got a two-beer limit before I take my clothes off and really can’t get ecstatic for the life of me, so my mystical communions are pretty limited to walking myths and occasional visions.

But I’m okay with this, as there are others doing it damn well and teaching methods to help the rest of us.

Likewise, I’m pretty good at politics and fighting on behalf of others, but good gods I’ll never quite be like the fantastic person who bought me tea this afternoon.

Neither of these are excuses for not trying, and trust me–the folks I know whose devotion is staggering do nothing but inspire the fuck out me, be they the activists or the mystics.

I mostly bring this up to point out that us gods-worshipers are a pretty fierce, burningly radical lot, are united by our physical, very-real actions for our gods, and are rather likely to reforge the world, precisely as our gods intend.

And this makes my radical, god-worshiping heart pretty damn thrilled.