PORTLAND, ORE. –The stabbing attacks on a Portland train Friday, which were preceded by a hate-filled tirade by the assailant, have raised tensions in the Muslim community and, at the same time, local area Pagans have lost a beloved friend and family member.
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, one of two men who died trying to stop what police are describing as “ranting and raving” and “hate speech” directed at two teenage girls, had close ties to the Pagan world, although it is not yet clear what is own religious identity was.Namkai Meche grew up in Ashland, Oregon, where he graduated high school. A childhood friend, Christopher Landt, told a reporter for the Oregonian, “If he knew he was going to die, he still would have done what he did.”
Another high school friend, Andrew Harlan, recalled a friendship based in part on backpacking. Harlan said, “Whenever you go backpacking with someone, you have to bond with them. You have to trust them. As soon as you have that bond, it’s almost like you’re brothers for a time.”
It was his mother Asha Deliverance, who confirmed on Facebook that her son was one of the victims. Namkai Meche was also grandson of Freyja, who was initiated into the Craft by Aline “Macha” O’Brien as one of the first members of the Stone Dancers coven.
O’Brien described Freyja as a “dear friend” who “has worked with Earth mysteries all her life.” Earning a doctorate from Stanford, she and the late Beth Bone Blossom did “a lot of studying with a shaman in South America,” which Freyja then applied locally.
Her book Circling San Francisco Bay draws on her “pilgrimages and magical explorations of sacred sites” around San Francisco Bay, O’Brien explained. While she had met Namkai Meche, it was only once at Freyja’s 80th birthday celebration. The Stone Dancers, of which Freyja is a founding member, continue to circle, albeit less often than the monthly frequency with which they once met.
Just 23 years old when the attack happened, Namkai Meche graduated Reed College in 2016 after majoring in economics.
In a recent statement from the college, several of his professors remembered him using glowing terms. Professor Kambiz GhaneaBassiri described Namkai Meche as, “thoughtful, humble, smart, inquisitive, and compassionate,” while his thesis adviser Noelwah R. Netusil remembered him as a “very caring person, smart, hardworking.”
GhaneaBassiri, who taught Namkai Meche in an introductory to Islam course, told an Oregonian reporter that the student had tried to understand the perspectives of other people.
The accounts of what is now being called the Portland MAX stabbing paint a picture of an agitated man, who held white-supremacist views and had a violent criminal history. He attacked three men who were trying to protect the target of his racial diatribe: two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. It is Wild Hunt policy not to name perpetrators of such crimes, and focus instead on the victims and heroes.
Rachel Macy, who was in the car where the attack took place, provided a harrowing account of what occurred. The assailant was belligerent during the entire time, according to Macy’s account, and threatened violence more than once.
Passengers Rick Best, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, and Namkai Meche each tried to de-escalate the situation, eventually interposing themselves between the man and the two teen girls who were the target of his ire. Just before the train reached a stop, the attacker slashed each of the three in the neck with a knife. Best died at the scene, Namkai Meche at the hospital, and Fletcher remains hospitalized.
An aunt who was not identified by name told a KATU news reporter that she’d been on the phone with Namkai Meche during those last few moments. Hearing what she described as “the hate speech from a white supremacist,” she encouraged him to hang up and instead record it to give to the police later. That may have been what he was trying to do when, according to Macy, the assailant knocked the phone away and stabbed him.
“I didn’t mean for him to try to be a hero and get himself killed but he was trying to protect those two teenage girls,” the aunt said according to the KATU report.
“Taliesin was huge, just look at him, his soul didn’t even fit in his body, so much love. Stop the hate, that is the message, stop the hate. He had his whole life in front of him.”
It fell to Namkai Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance, to confirm that her child was one of the two men killed. She did so in a public Facebook post which read, “Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, [m]y dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland. He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”
A testament to public reaction, her initial post has had more than 315,000 reactions, 178,000 shares, and 73,000 comments as of press time.
Family members released a more formal statement which read in part
We lost him in a senseless act that brought close to home the insidious rift of prejudice and intolerance that is too familiar, too common. . . . In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward. . . . We ask that in honor of his memory, we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change. We choose love.
Best and Namkai Meche were remembered at a memorial service held at the Hollywood MAX station Saturday, and a crowdfunding campaign for their families has raised nearly $500,000. Another campaign has been set up to aid Fletcher, the surviving hero, with his medical bills.
According to Macy, his last words before being loaded on the ambulance were, “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”
What is remembered, lives.
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The work of journalist Terence P. Ward was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.