Archives For Paris

The recent terror attacks in Lebanon and France have sent shockwaves through Europe and the United States. On Nov 12, Beirut suffered a double suicide bombing killed 43 and wounded more than 200 people. That was quickly overshadowed by events the next day in France, where 129 people have died and over 100 were wounded. Daesh has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

In response, France has initiated a military campaign against suspected terrorist targets in Syria and has arrested over 100 suspects. Anti-immigration protests are taking place nationwide, and theits President has proposed changes to the French constitution that would expand his powers. Belgian officials are considering shutting down what what they call “certain radical mosques” in Molenbeek, an area that has been linked to a major terrorist attack five times in the past 18 months.  And, the Governors of 26 U.S. states have now said they will not accept Syrian refugees unless there is a stringent screening in place.

As this international crisis continues to evolve on a macro scale, these brutal attacks and their aftermath, have affected people on the micro level, including many Pagans who live in both France and Lebanon.

In Beirut, two suicide bombers struck at rush hour in a busy shopping district. Daesh said that they chose the neighborhood because it is home to Shiite and Palestinians, both of whom it views as apostates. Although Beirut has endured such attacks in the past, it had been relatively calm and peaceful for many months.

downloadLeyla, a polytheist living in a suburb of Beirut said that the city isn’t as a dangerous a place as many Americans may think. She said, “[It] has been calm for months. Then the bombing happened. The bombing was shocking. We are shocked. We have been enjoying cafes and visiting friend, now we stay at home.”

She added that the bombing by Daesh has also increased tensions between Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees living in Beirut. She explained that many homes are filled to overflowing with extended relatives who had to flee Syria. “I pray to Ashtarte to bring peace to our country and to the whole of our place. We have so many refugees from Syria, but now they are suspicioned. Yes, you trust your family from Syria, but others? Are they refugees or men with bomb belts? We do not know.”

Leyla said that she is also worried about France’s military actions, but even more so she worries that Daesh will take over Lebanon. “The attacks on Daesh by France are good and bad. Daesh must be stopped. After they swallow Syria, they swallow Lebanon.” Leyla added that she especially fears what will happen to Pagans like herself and to her family. “[Daesh] will kill all pagans, all Christians, all those not them. It is known they kidnap and keep for raping women who aren’t Islam. But bombs from France will not stop them, only kill innocents. Bombs spread sadness.”

The suicide bombings in Beirut were barely making onto the world’s radar when the Paris attacks happened. Attention was immediately diverted. Leyla said that she’s hurt, but understands, “We, too, were more shocked [of the] attack in Paris than attack here. Paris is thought so safe and Lebanese have special ties to France. If such acts happen there, how is anyone safe?”

In France, the attacks took the form of several suicide bombings and shootings. The first explosion occurred outside the Stade de France, located just outside of Paris. The attacker attempted to gain entry to the facility, but was stopped from entering. Another suicide attacker blew himself up at a fast food restaurant near the stadium. Meanwhile in the heart of Paris, gunmen attacked patrons at the Le Carillon bar, and then crossed the street to attack diners at the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant. Then came yet another attack on diners a few streets away at the Le Café Bonne Bière and La Casa Nostra pizzeria. The next reports of shootings were at the La Belle Equipe bar, further south. The final attacks happened at the restaurant Le Comptoir Voltaire and in the 1500 seat Bataclan concert venue.

download (1)French officials have said that it appeared there were “three coordinated teams” responsible for the attack. While most of the terrorists have been identified as native French citizens, one of them may have slipped into France by pretending to be a Syrian refugee.  

French Pagans, like their co-religionists in Beirut, responded to the attacks with shock.

Babette Petiot, a French Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside, said, “Everyone is shocked, but how not to be, it is the biggest attack on France since WWII. From what I have seen, the reactions were prayer, the Ligue Wiccane Eclectique organised Saturday night a Facebook event for people to pray or have a small personal ritual. And on French blogs, it was mostly about sharing love and sending love.”

The Facebook prayer event was created for “Wiccans and pagans who want to unite to pray for the victims of the shooting in Paris of 13.11 and their families, we offer a ritual convergence tonight at 21h Paris time.” Organizers asked people to “direct [their] thoughts, comfort and peace to the souls of those shot and their relatives, and the injured of Paris.”  According to the event page, 42 people participated.

The prayer event included the following chant:

Paix en nous, paix en eux,
Paix autour de nous et paix autour d’eux,
Paix ici, paix là-bas,
Paix à [Paris] et et paix dans le monde,
Apaisons les tensions, accueillons la …

Xavier Mondon, spokesperson for La Ligue Wiccane Eclectique, said that he hasn’t sensed any fear or anger in the city. He said the mood was more one of sadness, “And, also, a willingness to be united, all together against this craziness. That will not last: French people like to argue, and are not always in agreement with each other. But for this moment, there is a willingness to unite and be present.”

Ms. Petiot said that tensions have risen in France, and that there have been some retaliation directed at Muslim communities. She said that this sentiment could affect the upcoming December elections and tilt them in favor of the far right and its anti-immigration platform. She also added that this political calculation may be affecting how the current French government responds.

Petiot explained, “France was already engaged in Syrian conflict beforehand alongside our US allies. François Hollande, our president, has a nickname: ‘Flamby’ [a very soft flan au caramel dessert]. As you can imagine, it is associated with weakness, spineless, softness … Like doormat if you see what I mean. After the refugees crisis in Europe, that is still carrying on, he mostly followed Germany’s and Angela Merkel’s opinions. Friday night, he was in the Stade de France, at the soccer match France-Germany. It is believed he was one of the targets in those terrorists attacks. Because of this, he had to react ‘strong’ and ‘hard.’ “

Mondon, who lives in Paris, said that he himself hasn’t heard much criticism of the president. “I have not heard anyone criticizing Hollande about the raids. Truthfully, there is little talk of politics. It is now a time for contemplation and for solidarity. Politics will come later.”

In a previous interview with The Wild Hunt, Petiot describes France as a very secular country, one in which religious people are somewhat looked down upon. In that article, Petiot explained that the French have a very different relationship with religion, “There has always been this vision of [religiosity] as something for the poor, non-educated, or for women. [This] explains partly why secularism is such a big deal. I’m almost sure a French person will far more easily talk you about sex than religion.”

The existing cultural divide between a small minority, who are described as overtly religious, and the over 80% of French people who do not describe themselves as religious. This may be partly what Daesh wished to exploit. The Wild Hunt asked Petiot and Mondon for some insight into how France’s cultural views of religion affect the current situation.

Mondon explained that French secularism is not an anti-religious sentiment. “On the contrary, it permits all religions to co-exist. Muslims, just like Christians, Pagans, Atheists and even followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, have a right to express their beliefs. It is absolutely permissible, except for in public schools or public administration. As far as I can see, this passive coexistence and respect for differences has not been threatened [by recent events.] On the contrary, the current feeling of national unity is moving us closer to this ideal.”

Going into more detail, Petiot had this to say:

France was a colonial power. Most Muslims [here] are second or third generation in France. They are Muslims by tradition, like most french Christians, who go to church only on Christmas and weddings and such, so do Muslims in mosques. They spend Eid with family, try to do the Ramadan but drink alcohol and live mostly like everybody else. We have 7% of the French population who declare themselves Muslim. But only a very small part of this is really openly religious, with hijab or abaya worn by women and djellabas bearded men …

This small group is [seen as] the real problem. French motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” By their attitudes and outfits they negate the motto, because of religious beliefs, ‘I will not dress like you, we are not equals, we are not brothers.’ They do not realise, but it is very aggressive, especially to those born during WWII and the flower power generation. You know, something lost in translation … 

She explained how most French people feel that if you have a religion, “we are very happy and proud of you. [But] the problem begins when you show it off … I find it gross and rude, and certainly not acceptable!” Petiot further added,

As for the refugees, it is a completely different problem. Those people were living lives very similar to our own, most of those are educated and fled for their lives, they had enough money to attempt the daring trip. Unfortunately, and because of a very small proportion of visible devout Muslims, those refugees are perceived like a threat. And frankly, it is stupid …

I believe most French people don’t really recall their own history. Because of our geographic [location], we are at the center of population flows: celts, gauls, franks, romans, goths, hiberians, vikings, sarrasins … And we have been also great invaders … and not only in Europe! I believe mixing is a formidable chance. I believe in humanity.

Some Pagans events in Paris were cancelled after the President declared a State of Emergency, but outside of Paris, events are still happening. Petiot said, “As for me, this weekend, I will share an art exhibition with a few of my fellow artists. I am completely changing the layout and I will present calligraphic artwork on freedom theme. And we will share art, culture, music and obviously food! And we will drink wine, in honor of the innocents who were killed, in honor of those who survived, in honor of all our [First Responders] and for the conviviality. Because it is our way of life since the dawn of time.”

12241655_1193971017288508_5910561519292085530_nOn Saturday, Nov 14, La Ligue Wiccane Ecletique, based in Paris, held a vigil and ritual for its city, country and for the many victims of Friday’s terrorist attack. The ritual was organized through the Facebook event service and was to be held within the homes of each of the participants, or “chez vous.” At exactly 9 p.m. participants were told to follow the prescribed ritual outline and recite a specially written prayer for peace. The results and other words of prayer are now posted on the site.

The Wild Hunt is currently in touch with Ligue organizers in Paris and also has reached out to others affected by the recent worldwide terrorist attacks. We will be following up with more on this story as the events unfold over the next day.

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Doreen Valiente FoundationIt was just announced at Witchfest 2015 that the Doreen Valiente Foundation in association with the Centre for Pagan Studies would be sponsoring two special exhibitions of their Doreen Valiente collection and other related works. The first event, titled Mystery, Magic, Folklore and Witchcraft in the British Isles, will be presented in Preston Manor, Brighton. It will run for several months, approximately April to September. The second exhibition, titled Where Witchcraft Lives, will run later in the year at a dedicated site in the same city.

It isn’t surprising that these two events are being held in Brighton. This is the same city in which Valiente was honored with a Blue Heritage Plaque in June 2013. She became the first witch to earn such an prestigious historical honor. A year later, Gerald Gardner earned the second such recognition. The fundraising and sponsorship for the two commemorative plaques were coordinated by the Foundation and Centre. The upcoming Witchcraft exhibitions will also be sponsored by both organizations in association with the local Royal Pavilion and Museusm of Brighton and Hove.

In addition, the two organizations announced an upcoming February book launch for Valiente’s new biography, which is being written by historian Philip Hesleton. The book launch is scheduled to be held at Treadwell’s Bookshop in London, Feb. 21. For updates on the exhibition, there is a dedicated website with a digital newsletter. Updates about the book will be posted to the Foundation and Centre’s main websites.

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PECNYOver the past year, the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York City has been petitioning New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the Port Ambrose LNG project. As explained by PEC organizers, “This would have built a liquefied natural gas station off the coast of Long Island. While billing itself as an import station, it likely would have flipped to become an export station, sending fracked gas to a mirror station in the UK.”

The project’s construction and operation would have disturbed an already very busy port region. In addition, spokesperson Courtney Weber said that the project could create “a terrorist target, prevent the construction of an off-shore wind farm, and become a potential catastrophe had we another storm like Sandy.”

PEC maintained its aggressive letter writing campaign for the past year, “gathering several hundred signatures from Witches in New York State.” And just this week, the state announced that Cuomo had vetoed the Ambrose LNG project. Weber said, “Another exciting victory for Gaia. Thank you to the New York State Pagan community who has supported the effort to stop the construction of this monstrosity.  Let’s keep the momentum going! There is more work to be done!”

In Other News

  • The Adocentyn Research Library held its first ever “Friends of the Adocentyn Research Library” meeting. Organizers posted that it was successful with its small turnout of dedicated people. The library is located in the Bay Area of California, and holds a “collection [covering] Wiccan, Pagan, Reconstructionist, Afro-Diasporic, metaphysical and esoteric content.” The intent of the friends group is to help facilitate the library’s purpose and objectives, in all forms of its development. They will be hosting another meeting on Jan 10 and plan to be at PantheaCon in Feb.
  • For those readers living in the Rockies, the 2016 Colorado Celtic Weekly Planner Desk Calendar is out. Available through Denver-based Isis Books, the weekly calendar is a unique publication that maintains its focus on the local area. The description reads, “The New Moons, Full Moons, Equinoxes and Solstices are correct for Mountain Time, even for MST and MDT! It contains a treasure trove of information on following the Celtic tree path, including information on each tree for this particular region.”
  • Michigan Pagan Fest 2016 is now calling for submissions for workshops and presentations.The headlines for next year’s event include Orion Foxwood, Judika Illes, M.R. Sellars, and Lady Bona Dea. The musical guest is Lord Wrayven. The event will be held in Belleville, Michigan from June 23-26 and includes camping, drumming, workshops, vendors and more. The workshop submission deadline is Feb. 1.
  • Artist and author Kari Tauring has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish her two latest albums. As she explains, “Ljos (Light) and Svart (Black), named after Snorri Sturluson’s above ground and below ground elves, the beings of Summer frolic and Winter’s almost complete blackness in the far North.”  Money raised will be used the complete the two albums, which were started in 2014.  Tauring expects the albums to be released by late Spring 2016.

[This is a literary version of a presentation being presented at the Many Gods West conference on August 1st. Columnist Rhyd Wildermuth now has a Patreon support page.]

“I think I need to tell you something.”

I’m trying not to scowl at the man who’s interrupting me again. It’s a Lugnasadh, two years ago, a warm sun pouring through the willow branches onto my ruined circle.

I’m still grumpy with him. Today’s the first time I braved a public druid ritual to honor the wheel of the year, sitting in a park along Lake Washington in a small grove not far from the ruins of a highway on-ramp. I’m in an area not often frequented by most people except a certain sort of people, but I thought I was far enough away from their recreation to remain unbothered.

Image public domain

Image public domain

Besides I look dour, and I’m sitting with lit incense surrounded by feathers and stones, a grizzled man with a shaved head, doing bizarre druid-things in an obscure corner of a massive park. I figured no-one would approach me.

But this guy? He walked right through my circle, clutching a book, oblivious to everything except my sudden barking, “Hey!”

I’d yelled at him. I’m not really proud of that. He was elderly, perhaps in his early 60’s. And I rued my reaction even more when he returned.

In my defense, though, I was sitting not very far from a gay cruising area where men—often married and officially ‘straight’–would have quick, detached sex with strangers in bushes. I love the area itself—haunted, post-apocalyptic, a place where humanity’s failed attempts to conquer nature still linger in ruins.

I’d chosen the place because it was far enough away from ‘mundane’ folks that I’d be ignored, relying on its reputation as a sexual playground to drive middle-class white families away. But this meant I risked being interrupted by men suspecting I was on-display in their outdoor bazaar, and I’d occasionally notice some awkward man or other, still wearing his tie and wedding ring, tentatively approaching me before noting the lit candles and incense and steering back toward easier prey.

So when this man walked, utterly oblivious, through my circle? You can excuse my moment of rage. I figured he was trying to hit on me, ignoring all the signs I’d put out to ward them off.

I guess I should tell you something else, though. I’d just asked the gods for a guide for the mystery they were showing me. A dark bard in the underworld had shown me a vision of massive destruction, and I was a bit confused. What did any of that mean? I was a bit wrecked, really — I knew there was something I needed to understand, but I couldn’t, and I’m sitting at the gate of Lugnasadh begging for a guide and this f**ker just walks right through my circle.

Maybe you’re laughing. I am, now.

(CC BY-SA 3.0) Union Bay, by Joe Mabel

(CC BY-SA 3.0) Union Bay, by Joe Mabel

“I think I need to tell you something,” he said, returning to the edge of my re-cast circle after a few minutes of sitting by the water, reading. He was staring at me, or actually at the pile of crow feathers in front of me.”

I relaxed my scowl. “It’s okay, really,” I answered. My concentration was broken; this ritual wasn’t happening anyway. And then, not really knowing why, I invited him over to where I was sitting and handed him a crow feather.

I didn’t expect his awe when I did this. I felt I should give him something. He was eyeing them, and I had plenty. They fall from the sky, after all, but he then started tearing up.

“Feathers — she gives me feathers. I…”

I was getting confused, but fiercely intrigued.

When he’d gathered his thoughts, he continued. “I just need to tell someone this, and now because you gave me a feather I think I needed to tell you. My wife just told me she’s taking me back to an island where we first met 25 years ago. Can you believe it? I’ve been with her 25 years, and I didn’t know I could ever be in love like this.”

I wasn’t in love; I hadn’t been for awhile, actually, and was a bit bitter about this. Still, it was hard not to tremble in deep joy with him as he told me about her, staring at the feather in his hand.

And I don’t know why I tell him this, and I don’t know why he’s telling me any of this, but it’s all happening. And, anyway, I’d asked for a guide. “Leave that feather on the island,” I suggested.

He shook his head knowingly. “I will! Thank you. Thanks for hearing my story, and again, sorry I interrupted you.

“I’m not sure you did,” I said to myself, watching him walk away, dazed, happy.

What is Water?

I worship Brân, the Welsh Giant King, the Blessed Raven. With all the grand works both Odin and The Morrígan are up to, I sometimes like to remind people that there’s another Raven god, but he’s onto his own stuff, and it’s mostly all revolution anyway.

I met Brân on an island, and in some mountains, and one time just walking down the street. I had a vision of him standing thousands of feet above a valley wearing a rippling black cloak that later proved to be millions of ravens consuming his flesh. Then, a few months later, I saw that very valley in the same storm-lit skies from the side of a mountain in France with my physical eyes.

One time, I was with a dear friend exploring an island in the middle of the Willamette river. I remember thinking of Brân the entire time that we were there and laughing when our mutual companion, noting how much difficulty we were having fording the cold river back to the shore, said “you should lay down in the water and let her cross over you.”

Fording the Willamette (photo by Alley Valkyrie)

Fording the Willamette (Photo Cedit: Alley Valkyrie)

I could go on, filling pages and perhaps books with such meaningful occurrences, what Jung called ‘synchronicity.’ But more than likely, you get the point, because such things have probably happened for you, or maybe, reading this, are about to, because gods and meaning are both contagious (Sorry about that—I may have just given you a flu from the Otherworld.)

Importantly, though, these events which weave a tapestry of meaning for me run generally counter to the main thrust of meaning in Capitalist society.

In Capitalist society, Gods don’t exist; just like homeless people don’t really exist; just like stars are really just large balls of flaming gas. But to this I must answer, the stars are balls of flaming gas if animals are mere food and trees are mere fuel, humans mere workers and puddles mere bits of water.

That is, what something really is does not begin to describe what something means. Looking for the material being-ness of a thing, rather than its tapestry of meaning, is to destroy it. It is like disassembling a flower to know what a flower really-is, or like pulling out the veins, tendons, bones, and organs of your lover and arraying them before yourself on a table so you can learn why you love him.

That is, dissect a thing to know it and you’ve killed it, or at least made it no longer meaningful.

Take water. Water is made of the bonding of several atoms, atoms are tiny particles held together through poorly-understood adherence principles which can be split and reconfigured. That definitely doesn’t tell us what what water actually is, let alone what water means.

Water can be in several forms, gas, liquid, solid. It dissolves things, makes other things expand. It freezes at 0 degrees Celsius (which is a measurement of heat—which is agitated particles–calibrated to that transition point of liquid water into ice), and it boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

But what’s a glacier, then? What’s an ice-cube? What’s snow? And what’s a lake, and how is it different from a river, and different from rain, or from a tropical waterfall as against the cold torrent of a northern cascade? What’s a glass of water, or what’s a bath, or a shower, what’s the difference between steam rising from a tea-kettle or from a pot of soup or escaping from the pressure-release valve of a steam engine? What’s the mist that settles on your skin as your children play in sprinklers on a summer day, and what’s the mist that sprays your face on a cold day overlooking crashing waves? What’s the snow falling on your tongue as you laugh with a lover, what’s the snow falling on bleak streets as you wonder if you’re lover’s car is safe on the road?

The answer to “what is water?” cannot be answered without also answering “what does water mean?”

And what water means is rarely the same to each person. The same lake where two trembling lovers declare their love to each other can be the lake where a mother goes to mourn her drowned child. What does that lake mean, then? When we ask each other the meaning of that lake, how do we determine what it ‘really means’ past all the varied opinions and experiences and feelings of that lake?

We have two problems here. To know a thing enough to refer to it, we must have some idea of existence outside the realm of meaning, and some way to abstract (or extract) its ‘essence’ to speak about it. But by doing so, by speaking of a thing outside its meaning, we do great damage to it.

On the other hand, to know the full meaning of a thing would take more than an eternity.

Who am I, really? I’m a story, not just a human—I cannot be fully known by being dissected, and every attempt to do so results in some sort of brutality against my body or meaning. Any title, any name conjured to define (de-fine, to make finite, to give ends and boundaries to) me limits my existence, closes off my meaning. I am Rhyd; I’m a gay man; I’m 38; I’m a writer; I’m a poet. I’m an anarchist; I’m a lover; I’m a brother; I’m a social worker. I’m a bard and I’m a gods-worshipper. I would need an entire lifetime to define who I am with words, and this says nothing for all the meaning I have to others.

Llyn Dinas, Wales (photo by the author)

Llyn Dinas, Wales (photo by the author)

What’s Meaning Mean?

But what, then, is meaning? We create meaning. Meaning is a social-act, a kind of intercourse between us and the world, and us and each other.

Let’s look at Truth, briefly. What is the meaning of Truth? Truth is what something really-means or really-is, beyond all appearances or beyond all the socially-woven threads of meaning.

But what’s a tapestry, really, without all the threads which weave it? It’s no longer a tapestry.

What are you, really, when we get to your core existence? A dead and dis-membered pile of bloody muscle and gore.

If we try to get to the Truth of a thing by reducing it, we get inert material. But if we try to get to the full truth of the thing the other direction, we face an even more impossible task, because the Truth of who I am isn’t something I alone can determine. In fact, if I am the sole arbiter of the Truth of myself, that makes everything a lover has ever thought of me, or what an enemy has ever feared of me, an utter lie.

So, Truth and Meaning both exist on the same field and are mostly interchangeable, except that Truth has an opposite (falsehood), while Meaning has no opposite except its absence—Meaninglessness.

And if something is Meaningless, it means it’s something we reject, we throw out, or ignore. Meaningless people do not matter to us, meaningless events become excluded from our narratives, and the very feeling of meaninglessness is what we call despair.

What does Meaning mean? What’s the meaning of meaning?

These aren’t just the malicious mischievous questions of a mad bard, but the very crux of our problem. Meaning can’t be reduced, it only expands. Meaning has no cognate, and the only other word in the English language that comes close to functioning as its synonym is not Truth, but Love.

When I love someone, they have meaning for me. They are meaningful to me, I derive meaning from them, we mean something to each other. When I do not love someone, they hold no meaning for me; they are meaningless to me, or they mean no-thing to me.

When something means something else, or when someone means some thing, we are stating that there’s a correspondence between one thing and another thing. In translation, we might ask what amour or Liebe ‘means’ in English, which is to say ‘what word in my language corresponds to that word in yours?”

As I stated a little bit ago, “meaning” is a relational word, and there’s no co-incidence that something “meaningful” to us is often said to give us ‘reason to live.’

From the ancient philosophers, alchemists, astrologers, and magicians we have the search for the key to correspondence between one thing and another. From the modern science, we have the search for the reason for the relationship, the reckoning of something’s being and existence and its correspondence to natural laws.

That is, they both search for the same key—meaning. Not Truth as we think of it, but Meaning. What does it mean when an organism behaves in a certain way to certain stimulae, and why does it do that? What does it mean when planets conjunct or I cast a circle and something appears, and why does it do that?

Meaning is the very key we seek, the relationship between one thing and another, the foundational drive and ‘reasons’ things are what they are, and the very stuff which makes our lives livable—that is, full of meaning.

Meaning is what we actually mean when we speak of magic, and the very core of human existence. Trees don’t appear to seek meaning, nor do stars or crows. And while some animists might object to the inherent anthropocentricism of such a statement, I’ll say it anyway—humans are the only seekers of meaning we’ve yet encountered, and it’s perhaps the one identifiable social contract we have both with each other and the world.

We create meaning. That’s our magic, not just that of a poet or artist, but also that of a lover or a child or a friend, the sorcery both of warrior and bard, king and slave. We are meaning makers, and meaning is the thread which weaves us together.

The Jetztzeit

Walter Benjamin, a Marxist philosopher and theorist, suggested that before any revolution there’s a revolutionary-moment, a time-out-of-time—the Jetztzeit (now-time). Just before that moment, all the events which would lead people to desire a revolution had occurred and seemed to rush into a single moment. The time after the Jetztzeit is an entirely new thing, all the moments stretching out from that radical still-point. If you’ve seen Doctor Who, you might recognize this idea. In the series, there are certain immutable moments in time that cannot be changed by a time-traveler because all other moments spring from it.

Two cards from Tarot, The Fool and The World, explain this quite well. In many depictions, The Fool is about to step off into the great unknown with only what is carried in a small bag. And in many depictions, the World is a moment of completion, an eternal moment of unity, the culmination or ending of a cycle just before a new one begins. After the World? The Fool, and after the Fool?

The Magician.

Jean_Dodal_Tarot_trump_01Benjamin’s idea was that there are certain moments in which everything can change, in which the course of history (that, of course, a narrative of meaning) can be altered, shattered, and a wholly new-thing can arise from the actions taken during that moment, the now time or Jetztzeit.

But how do you know you’re in the Jetztzeit, or the revolutionary moment? It takes a certain awareness within that moment to recognize the meaning contained within that moment, the ‘revolutionary potential.’ It’s the moment of the magician, the revolutionary, the poet, who acts not according to all the meaning that has existed before, but to create a new meaning in that now-time.

A man stumbles through an invisible ritual circle a moment after another man has asked for a guide. This is a Jetztzeit, a moment both meaningless yet pregnant with meaning, both the Fool and the World together. My first reaction was one of anger and frustration; I had not yet recognised the thread of meaning attached to his appearance and my request. The Jetztzeit almost disappeared, were it not for his return and my calming.

And in that moment when I recognize not what it means that the man had walked through but what it could mean, I performed a kind of magic, moving from The Fool to the Magician, finding a correspondence and a reckoning and a relationship between two otherwise disparate amounts.

And I use the word recognize here, not ‘understood.’ Because what was really The Truth of the man interrupting my ritual? There was no Truth, only potential meaning, and it was for he and I both to understand. I needed to recognize his meaning, not just what he might mean to me, just as he recognized my meaning, not just what I might mean to him. Meaning is never a solitary act.

But sometimes others try to create our meaning for us, and to take our meaning from us.

The Poet, the Priest, the Politician

On June 17, a man named Dylan Roof sat in a prayer service of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and as the people gathered, praying, he shot ten of them before escaping. Nine died.

Coming after so much recent, extreme violence against Black people in the United States, it was not hard to piece this meaningless event into the narrative of white-violence against the descendants of former slaves, particularly because the church he chose, and the victims whom he shot, were Black.

But we should remember this—the event is only itself, standing outside of meaning. It is a meaningless event until we thread meaning through it. That’s not to question that narrative at all—in fact, there’s an insidious war against Blackfolk in this country that has flared to new levels of horrific violence and daring.

I bring up the event as outside of meaning, however, because of one of the first narrations of the event to be broadcast by FOX news. In that segment, a conservative Black pastor is questioned regarding the event, and he states that, rather than being an attack against Blackfolk, the shooting was a clear attack on Christianity. From his viewpoint, the secular and anti-Christian sentiments in America have become so strong that people were shooting Christians in their own churches, and it was time for Christians to arm themselves to protect their religious beliefs against the infidels.

There’s a lot to be said about this interview, particularly regarding the source, as FOX news is hardly known for speaking on behalf of the oppressed, unless by ‘oppressed’ we mean white straight Christian males.

Return to the question of meaning and the Jetztzeit. There are certain events which stand outside the apparent ‘normal’ course of history, or rather outside our narratives of meaning. These events present threats to our way of understanding the world.

For a white, conservative pro-Capitalist Christian heterosexual male, whose comfort and power in society rests upon being told he is doing nothing wrong and the world is his (which is what we mostly mean by the word ‘privilege,’) a mass shooting of Blackfolk by a young white straight guy in a Christian church presents an almost violent threat to the meaning of his life and the society in which he lives.

To most of us, it’s unquestionable that this shooting was part of the long history of violence against Blacks in America, even before the murderer’s racist motives were revealed. But for the narrative of a ‘post-racial’ secular Capitalist American society, the massacre became a sort of tear in the tapestry-of-meaning that needed to be repaired—and quickly.

A much larger event from 14 years ago had a similar effect on the narratives of power. When two planes crashed into the financial center of New York City, it took days and weeks for that tear to be repaired.

Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, did significant work tying together the psychological trauma that individuals and societies suffer and the political usefulness of those traumas. Natural disasters like the flooding of New Orleans or manufactured disasters such as the collapse of economies, such as what Greece is enduring now, are often sites of extreme political and economic violence, and seen by many of the powerful as a chance to re-assert a certain authority and political ideology upon people experiencing psychological, emotional, and physical ‘traumatic shock.’

What she’s referring to is similar to Waltar Benjamin’s Jetztzeit, as well. Disaster defies meaning, regardless of how many televangelists want to blame every hurricane and tornado on gay marriage. Breakdowns or gaps in the normal functioning of society create similar openings in our narratives of meaning.

In those moments, what I call ‘traumatic gaps,’ there is typically some struggle to attach meaning to an event, either to pull the thing back into the main narrative of the powerful (as in the case of 9/11, or the attempt to definite the Charleston shooting as an attack on Christianity), or by those who sense within gap the way out of one world into another.

Many Gods, No Masters

(Stealing our Meaning back)

What does it mean that gods are appearing to us? Really, what do they mean at all?

I’m afraid to say, and also delighted to say, it means nothing at all, or not yet.

Obviously (but I’ll re-iterate it anyway), I’m not saying gods don’t exist, otherwise attempting to rebuild the cult of Brân the Raven-King is a rather silly thing to do. Nor am I saying gods are meaningless. If anything, they are a fount of meaning itself, the patterns upon which we weave the rest of our threads of meaning.

Gods aren’t an ideology or a narrative. Rather, like us, they are meaning-makers. They create meaning with us, just as we create meaning with them.

But as you know, we’re not really supposed to believe that gods exist. Often, either we’re thought crazy, or assured that our experience of a goddess is actually part of some bigger Goddess, and this is a way others attempt to steal our ability to create meaning or claim the meaning of a thing.

But why try to claim the meaning of something? The answer is precisely also why I’m an Anarchist–authority and power.

We talk often of the Catholic Church and its destruction of ancient religions, but rarely do we look directly at the processes they used to do so. Beyond the sword of conquest, the pyres of the heretics, and the axes used to cut down sacred trees, there was a much more systematic theft of meaning enacted by Christians hoping to gain power over people–the Saints.

leon bonnat

The Martyrdom of Saint Denis, by Leon Bonnat

Take St. Denis, the patron saint of France.

“St. Denis” was beheaded along with two companions when he climbed a druid-hill to evangelize them. They sacrificed him, but when his head fell off, he caught it and walked with it in his hands down the hill 6 miles to a place where he finally dropped dead. From his neck sprung vines and wine, from his head sprung a fountain.

Denis (Dennis) is the Gaulish-Latinate derivative of Dionysos, and St. Denis’ martyred companion was Eleutherius. Diónysos Eleuthereús, you may know, is “Dionysos the Liberator.” And the place where he was martyred? It became named “Le mont des Martres” or Montmartre, the red-light district where sex and wine flow freely, popularized for Americans by the films Moulin Rouge and Amelie.

That’s right. The sex-and-wine district of Paris is an ancient Druid site.

It’s not hard to see why the Church might need to displace the worship of Dionysos (and the druids) in a city like Paris and claim him, embodied in a saint, as one of theirs. It helped secure their rule, especially since Dionysos The Liberator was worshiped by the underclasses and slaves.

Diónysos Eleuthereús “The Liberator” brings us back to Walter Benjamin’s Jetztzeit. An intervention or appearance of a god for us now is so unusual, so outside the apparent course of historical narrative, so ‘meaningless,’ that there is a rush in the moment of our experience of them to create meaning around it, to ‘close off’ the traumatic gap they break open, to slam shut that gate.

As with the Jetztzeit, the moment of a god is a potential moment of liberation, even revolution, a tear in the tapestry of power around us, and a traumatic gap that others will seek quickly to close. Like the shooting in Charleston on the one hand, or the many acts of rebellion against Capitalism by Blackfolk on the other, the narratives of the powerful always try to close their own meaning, their own sorcery, around the Other world that we glimpse in those moments.

The meaning of our gods is currently not allowed to disrupt the main narrative of our society. It’s possible one day it might, but we should also be wary of who shapes that meaning. There’s already a golden bull on Wall Street, a sea-goddess on a Starbucks logo, plastic replicas of shrines to ancient gods in Disneyland and Las Vegas, and mass-produced films shaping the imagery and narratives of gods like Thor and Loki.

Perhaps our gods are not yet quite a threat to the powerful, but what this really means is that we still do not claim our meaning as our own. As long as we’re happy to enjoy the safety and protection of systems-of-meaning which devalue forests and Black bodies, our gods will be our own personal secret story.

But if one day we seize the moment of the poet and the revolutionary, embrace the Jetztzeit of the gods, and seek to reclaim our own meaning, than we should certainly expect resistance.

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This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.


Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson [Photo Credit: Haukurth (Own work), CC lic. Wikimedia]

As the sun’s light was blocked by the moon’s travel, members of Iceland’s Ásatrúarfélagið broke ground for their new temple in Reykjavík. The ceremony was the next major step in a quest that began in 2006. Columnist Eric Scott detailed the history and plans for this temple in a January article “Temple on the HIll,” interviewing both the architect and organization’s leader, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson.

The Icelandic Review described the Friday event, saying: “The ceremony began at 08.38, at the start of the eclipse, whereby the boundaries were ceremonially marked out, candles lit in each corner, and local landmarks honored. When the darkness was at its height, at 09.37, a fire was lit in what will be the center of the chapel.”  The Norse Mythology Blog posted a photo from the actual ceremony on its Facebook page and on its Twitter account.

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A Pagan mother living in Paris has set herself a lofty goal of creating a new Pagan cafe in the city. Krynn Aïlhenya, a French Pagan and Parisan local, said that she’s very active in trying to develop and grow France’s Pagan community. On her new crowd sourcing campaign, she said, “Un espace convivial pour les païen(ne)s de toutes traditions, où discuter autour d’une pinte.” [“A welcoming space for all pagans of all traditions, where they come and talk over a pint.”]

Aïlhenya said that she and the other organizers hope that the space expands beyond that one simple description. Once in full operation, the Pagan cafe would also serve as a “a library, an esoteric shop and could host events like Pagan celebrations, exhibitions, and conferences.” Provided in both English and French, the IndieGoGo description notes that they hope to open by the end of 2015 in the very center of Paris.

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On March 18, a gunman opened fired in Mesa, Arizona killing one person and wounding five others. The suspect, Ryan Giroux, was quickly taken into custody. It was not long before the media discovered that Giroux’s was connected to the Hammerskins White Supremacist group. Unfortunately, this detail was made more pronounced by the very large tattoo on the man’s chin – the Hammer of Thor.

After learning of shooting, HUAR quickly offered a statement in reaction. It reads in part, “This individual and his associates are notorious for corrupting many aspects of Heathen practice for advancing their white nationalist agenda by grossly dishonorable means including, most shamefully, the hallowed Hammer of Thor … We, the members of Heathens United Against Racism, denounce Giroux, his associates, and any others who assisted him in perpetrating his terrible actions.” Several other Heathens and groups have issued similar statements, such as Alyxander Folmer. We will be continue to follow this story.

In Other News … Interviews and more Interviews

  • On March 8, The Goddess Diaries Radio interviewed Z. Budapest. In the 40 minute interview, “Z shared her story of being prosecuted/persecuted for practicing her craft in the“last witch trial” in America. Her courage to stand in her truth paved the way for woman to freely practice Goddess Spirituality in our country today.”
  • In conjunction with Paganicon, Lupa Greenwolf is interviewed by PNC-Minnesota writer Nels Linde. Greenwolf talks about her background, her practice and her work on the new Tarot deck. She said, “I have a very deep love of learning about nature, to include learning through books and documentaries.
  • Linde also published another interview done in conjunction with Paganicon. In this article, he speaks with Rev. Selena Fox about everything from her life passages workshop, to political activism, and to the future of Circle Sanctuary. When talking about transferring responsibility to younger people, Fox said, “We need to do more of this. We not only need to do education, but need to inspire and guide action. We need to find ways to take responsibility as individuals, as households, and as communities to work together for a healthier, sustainable world with equality, liberty, and justice for all.
  • ACTION’s 2015 Ostara edition is available. In its 54 pages, Christopher Blackwell includes interviews with Black Witch, Allison Leigh Lilly, Lee Davies, David Parry, Linda Sever, Lorna Smithers, and Stephen Cole.
  • Finally, the Atlantis Bookshop in London celebrated its 93rd Birthday. As they posted, the “beastly” celebration included tea, cakes and “cheeky cocktails.” Now owned by Geraldine Beskin, Atlantis was founded in 1922 by Michael Houghton. It has been one of the cornerstones in London’s Occult and Witchcraft community for nearly a century. Happy Birthday to Atlantis!

That is it for now. Have a great day.

Update 3/23/15 2:45pm: We originally stated that the Paris cafe was to be the first in the city. However, we recently were informed otherwise and have corrected the text. 

One of the most obvious legacies our modern world holds from its pre-Christian “pagan” past are the visual arts. There wouldn’t have been a Renaissance without the art and writings of the Classical world, and the pagan-humanist hybrid that began there has been an integral part of the fine arts ever since. Pagan symbolism is such an ingrained part of art’s language, that it can become unconscious, at least until it becomes politicized. However, a growing trend within the world of fine art is making the connections between art, Paganism, and the occult, explicit. I recently mentioned the “Sigils and Signs” show in Brooklyn, the Manhattanhenge ritual performance art piece, and the “Collective Tarot” project, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For example, the photographer Katarzyna Majak recently opened a show at the Porter Contemporary gallery in New York entitled “Women of Power,” a body of work that “explores the power of women as she searches for female wisdom and plurality of spiritual paths hidden within monoreligious Polish society.”

Julia, An Independent Witch; Enenna, Wiccan Coven Leader; Maria Ela, Shaman Wise Women Council (Katarzyna Majak)

Julia, An Independent Witch; Enenna, Wiccan Coven Leader; Maria Ela, Shaman Wise Women Council (Katarzyna Majak)

“The women of wisdom, healers, enchanters, visionaries and spiritual leaders depicted in Majak’s vibrant photographs often facing discrimination, have taken great risk in being photographed. This is the first time many of them owned their power publicly. Majak’s journey with the Women of Power began when one of them accompanied her in a ritual to say ‘good-bye’ to her wedding dress, and the journey continued from woman to woman as the artist became fascinated with their alternative wisdoms on female power.”

Another New York space, the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, recently wrapped up a solo exhibition by Nicola Verlato, who tells the Huffington Post that his work illustrates a conflict between monotheism and polytheism.

"If" by Nicola Verlato (from the "How the West was Won" show).

"If" by Nicola Verlato (from the "How the West was Won" show).

“Polytheism survives in the western world through pop culture, and in several countries like India, which are becoming more prominent in the modern world, and are largely polytheistic. In our overwhelmingly monotheistic culture this task has been relegated to the field of entertainment; pop culture has now essentially taken on the task of creating the mythologies of our time. There are several artists today who are, more or less, consciously working on mythologies, as painters and sculptors. They work mostly out of Los Angeles, and are usually listed under the definition of Pop surrealists. I think our work may possibly be considered a contribution towards a cultural shift.”

Meanwhile, the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris showcases “The Masters of Disorder,” art that depicts figures of disorder and chaos, and those individuals, shamans, medicine men, artists, and sorcerers, who negotiate with them. The exhibition mixes traditional tribal art with modern and contemporary pieces “to free what used to be labeled as tribal art from the limits of ethnology and judge it from a purely aesthetic angle.”

“The exhibition looks at the figures of the disorder, entered the pantheon of our beliefs and cultures, Dionysus Seth Typhon, and technicians, shamans and other intercessors here called “masters of disorder”, responsible for negotiations with the forces of chaos. In this constant compromise between turbulence and reason, rituals are the preferred mode of negotiation with the powers that govern human societies. Along with these sacred rituals, feasts, revelry, carnivals or festivals of fools seem to be the other way, profane, allowing the unleashing of transgressive impulses.”

It’s a provocative concept, one that places the idea of chaotic external forces, and the need for ritualized interactions with them, into the here-and-now, instead of in a fossilized past. It also places the modern artist into a pantheon of magic-workers and ritualists.

As I said earlier, these examples are simply a sampling of a phenomenon that is far larger, other examples are easy to come by, and there are new ones emerging on a regular basis. They collectively portray a process of re-enchantment, a new direction and purpose after what some called “the end of art” during the height of post-modern conceptualism. A new emphasis on the roles artists can play in our society, and the importance of art in exploring the liminal in our lives. It is a process that I think our community should be more actively engaged in. While we have been admirably embracing the poetic arts, plays and theater, crafts, and functional art, I think we could be doing more, collectively, to support the fine arts: painting, sculpture, photography, installation, in our community. Not simply because it would benefit Pagan visual artists, but because it would also help us connect with our own roots in the use of art as a means of magic and communication.