Heathen Chinese writes the TWH monthly column, "Tiger's Leap." He is the son of Chinese immigrants and 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.
Psychogeography is the effect of place upon the psyche and the importance of the psyche within the landscape. The term was first discussed in the early 1950s by Guy Debord of the Situationist International, who attributed its coining to “an illiterate Kabyle.” The concept itself is simple, ancient, and foundational to an animist view of the world. In his essay “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Debord defines the term rather dryly and pseudo-scientifically as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” The occultist and writer Alan Moore (who explores psychogeography in his graphic novel From Hell and in his novels Voice of the Fire and Jerusalem) adds another layer of nuance to Debord’s definition by emphasizing that consciousness also embeds itself into the landscape in turn: “in our experience of any place, it is the associations, the dreams, the imaginings, the history—it is all the information that is relevant to that place which is what we experience when we talk about a place.”
Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
— Robert Frost
At the time of writing, 22 different wildfires in Northern California have burned 217,566 acres, killed at least 40 people, and destroyed over 5,700 buildings, including entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa; an alarming departure from past wildfires, which have mostly affected rural areas. Over 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate and the smoke caused “the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area.” It is common sense that California’s prolonged drought exacerbated many wildfires, but last winter’s pouring rains were no relief, for they too abetted the intensity of the current fires by encouraging the proliferation of annual grasses, which have already died and turned into a fuel source. The fires have also burned the primary wine and marijuana-producing region of California, a region indisputably ruled by the god Dionysos, blackening the skies and bloodying the sun with the ashes of grapevine and cannabis. But Frost’s poem and the current fires bring a different set of powers to mind as well.
The name of Spartacus has withstood over two millennia of slavery and empire, and become immortalized within the insurrectionary tradition. The personal name of his wife, “a prophetess (μαντική) subject to visitations of the Dionysiac frenzy,” has been not been passed down by the written record, but her title—the prophetess—endures, as does her source of inspiration: the Dionysiac frenzy. The revolt which began with the prophetess, Spartacus, and a handful of his fellow gladiators lasted two years (73-71 BCE) spread across Italy to include thousands of liberated slaves, as well freeborn “herdsmen and shepherds” who joined the uprising. The rebellion terrified the Roman elite, threatening the very center of the empire both geopolitically and socially. In the United States, slavery was never abolished: it was codified as “punishment for crime.”
Whiteness is dead. James Baldwin proclaimed it back in 1972, prophesying ominously that there would be “bloody holding actions all over the world, for years to come.” The holding actions have gotten bloodier and bloodier with the rise of Trump and the self-described “alt-right,” but these are death throes of a doomed egregore. Whiteness is damned not by progress, but by entropy, by the truth that “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” It’s become cliché to state that “race is a social construct,” but from an occultist’s perspective, that which was birthed through sorcery can and must be killed by the same means.
Gordon White’s Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits, published by Scarlet Imprint in 2016, challenges the overly materialistic shortsightedness of both academic and “ancient aliens” theories regarding the development of human “civilization” during the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic periods. As the subtitle of the book suggests, White offers a spirit-working chaos magician’s perspective on the question of of “civilization” and its relationship to spirits and star lore, utilizing data from a wide swathe of scientific disciplines. “Instead of measuring a civilisation by its density of sprockets, what happens when we consider civilisation to be a collection of values, thoughts, mythologies?” White asks, “What happens when we count up the non-physical sprockets?” (9)
White begins his book with a chapter on the limitations of scientific answers to this question, ranging from methodological problems such as the non-publication of findings due to political or careerist reasons, the deliberate limitation of access to evidence, and blatant fraud, to thornier issues of interpretation: the inevitable gap between facts and interpretation, confirmation bias towards exclusively materialist explanations when dealing with spiritual or mythic subjects, and racist assumptions about “primitive” cultures “progressing” into “civilizations.”