… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Politics

The Magickal Battle of Britain!

At the end of July, David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, announced plans for a nationwide ISP porn filter. Apparently, by 2014, broadband users will have to voluntarily opt IN to view porn as the default setting will be to block porn sites. This is supposedly in an effort to restrict paedophiles and protect young people from inappropriate material.

However, the Open Rights Group quickly found out that it wasn’t just porn that was falling under the censor’s axe but also subjects such as anorexia and eating disorder websites, alcohol, smoking, web forums, and “esoteric material” to name but a few (see HERE).

The pagan community in the UK has rightly gone up in arms. Some are dismissing the hoo-ha and saying “It’s been debunked” … although what they think has been debunked I don’t know as the censorship plans still stand in spite of the petitions being signed. Others say it’s a non-issue because it’s “easy to opt in” but my first thought to that is, yes and then the ISP has YOUR details as one of the people opting in to see blocked content (what better way for the government to keep an eye on the rabble-rousers and those who run against the ever growing conservative line in British society?). “Esoteric material” can cover everything from Satanism to Wicca, information sites to business sites and, let’s not forget, blogs! On a point of principle, why should I as an occultist and pagan have to opt IN to express my spiritual beliefs when a Christian, Jew or Moslem does not have to? Where is MY freedom of expression and choice?

It’s at times like these that social networking really comes into its own and I have been thrilled to see how quickly government e-petitions were drafted:

Petitions:-

David Cameron Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship
&
ISP filters should not be set to On by default

(Please follow the hyperlinks and sign if you are a UK resident.)

But in addition to this, pagans and occultists of all kinds have rallied to form a group waging a magical battle against the curtailing of freedom of expression and the rise of censorship in the UK.

I would like to draw your attention to The Magickal Battle of Britain, a Facebook event that gathers together an ecumenical group of occultists and pagans of every shade you could imagine with the sole purpose of building a cone of power in the run-up to 17th December. Here is the group’s statement of purpose:

Freedom to express and create is essential for human development, and in the U.K this freedom has been steadily undermined in an exponential way, that is near impossible to keep track of, let alone protest.

The title of this group,’The Magickal Battle of Britain’ harks back to a time time when war was necessarily fought on other levels, in less than conventional ways.

Our freedom can be fought for with our own weapons. The weapons of art and magick, or if you prefer, the weapons of art and suspension of disbelief.

Images, sound, cut-ups, sigilisation, meditation, sex with focus, charms, fetish and mantra. These are only some of our creative tools and these can create clarity in focus and chaos in their ability to subvert oppression.

This page is about creating change.This isnt about which angle your approach comes from,but about where it is directed.
Directed at fighting oppression, censorship and control of expression.

If we start building the energy now,by the 17th of December when we gather in spirit and intent (whatever your actual geographical location)we will have built one immense and VERY effective cone of power!

Group and individual meditations every Sunday at 9 pm Greenwich Mean Time until the 17th December.

These can be done anywhere and aim to join us in solidarity, focus and snowballing strength.

If you don’t have much time, you can tune in by glancing at the sigil created by Dis, that is on the banner of the page (above St Pauls) Otherwise a meditation on a strong image of what we don’t want (authoritarian controlling state, police with batons, misrepresentative puppet media for example) followed by an image of what we do want. Individual Freedom of Expression.

This is an open event/group so please follow this link HERE to join and add your personal creative magickal expression to a battle that is long overdue.

If you do nothing then, in my mind, you forfeit your right to complain as the government slowly and inexorably curtails your individual creative and spiritual modes of expression. This IS still an issue, and until we have won the battle against fundamentalist, conservative (with a little ‘c’) censors it will remain an issue. If you wish to continue to enjoy your place on the fringes as different, other, unique, creative, pagan and FREE to do as you please (And it harm none, do what thou wilt … Do what you will shall be the whole of the law …) then shake off the apathy! Sign the petitions! And join the battle on the astral to keep our country a place of extreme creativity, love, lust, magick and freedom of personal expression!

Magickal Battle of Britain Sigil

Seshat

©StarofSeshat 2013

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Indians [sic] and shamans [neo-sick]

My German family emigrated to America in the 1950s. My Oma (grandmother) became an educator (assessor of children’s learning levels and needs) on the Navajo Reservation, where my family also lived for a while.

In my late teens and early twenties I travelled from the UK to spend time living with my grandmother in an area called the Checkerboard because squares of land belong to the Navajo Nation (a dependent state existing within the independent state of America) and some squares belong to the Federal Government of the US.

While there I took up Navajo language classes and met a Navajo woman who worked for the Navajo Nation Government. Her work involved travelling hundreds of miles daily over the Reservation. She invited me to travel with her for four months and during that time she adopted me as her daughter, introducing me to Navajo or Hopi Native Americans as her daughter.

First point:
Native Americans are NOT Indians
Native Americans are NOT American Indians
Native Americans are NOT North American Indians

They are Native Americans because they are the original people native to that continent; any other name carries with it a shed load of political hegemony and implicit colonial abuse.

I learned a lot from my Navajo mother and her friends about what was considered acceptable to Native Americans, what were sore points, how their history affected them … how thousands were deliberately wiped out by white Europeans distributing plague-ridden blankets among them; how some native peoples have been completely exterminated. Their history is no less painful, political and rife for misunderstanding than the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Holocaust, to name but two.

After my time on the Reservation, I went to Germany where I spent a year beginning my translation career. There I encountered a heavily sunbedded female with a suede, fringed jacket, plaits and feathers in her hair. She “identified” with “Indians” [sic]. I felt sick to my stomach at her ignorance. No. Don’t give me any bullshit about naive enthusiasm: if you are truly interested in a Native Path then do your research, learn the history, the current politics and the current discussions around the misappropriation of native culture and spirituality, which continues to this day, and is felt by so many NAs to be a continuation of the colonial hegemony they have had to suffer for centuries.

Following on from this: the word “shaman” has become a word bandied around as easily as “witch” (I will deal with that another day). Banging a drum, chanting and speaking to imaginary spirits does not make you a shaman. Pretending that you “journey” every time you touch a rock does not make you a shaman, nor does it make your experience “shamanic.” The concept of “journeying” has also been watered down to be meaningless half the time.

There is no documentation of shamanic culture per se in the British Isles. If you refer to Celtic shamanism, the same point applies as there is no documented proof of exactly what the Celts did except for tales told by Roman historians, and the Romans defeated the Celts … we all know what history is like when written by the victors (blood sacrifice, baby-eating, water poisoning, with the odd truth thrown in – who can say what is true and what isn’t?).

I met two shamans/medicine men on the Reservation and they gave me none of the “foot in both worlds” bullshit, none of the “hang on, I’m just speaking to my spirit guide, Jack”.

If you look at shamanism as practised amongst Native peoples in America (there are many different peoples – different languages, different religious practices, although most will have a name for themselves that translates as “The people” – consider the Navajo word for themselves “Diné”), and if you look in particular at the shamanic practices still found in Siberia you will see a very different picture from the neo-Shamanic practices of British/European wannabes.

As a knowledgeable friend concurred, calling yourself a “traditional shaman” is a tautology shouting “fluff” because true shamanism is by definition “traditional”. However, the word “traditional” sells more books, doesn’t it? Kerching! $££$$£

Shamans are known for communicating with spirits, but again, this is not a running conversation with an ancestor sitting on your knee, your hand up its spiritual backside as you channel its wisdom. No. Communication with spirits is usually within the context of an ecstatic ritual, or within a ritual context that will suspend the natural (or more apparent) senses.

Be warned that not all is what it seems. I have met two shamans. One I had more contact with than the other. But they were not bullshitters.

If you are interested in Native American spirituality – remember that there are many, many different Native American peoples and that not all are the same. Have the courtesy to research their history and their current politics. Read authors such as Ward Churchill – academic historians; don’t just read people with fake names like Starhawk (who is a respectable neo-pagan but NOT a Native American).

And if you come across someone calling themselves a “shaman”, add “neo” in front plus a large pinch of salt. Don’t part with money. Trust your gut. And read around the subject.

©StarofSeshat 2011


Anger in the blood

I was reading today on a friend’s blog about Leonora Carrington. Finding this another, yet very different, inspiration similar to my reaction to Valentino, I sought out her book “Down Below”. This book is unfortunately out of print, in spite of a Virago reprint in the 1980s.

Having gasped at a few ridiculous prices ($75!!!) I found it on an anarchist collective online bookshop. Intriguingly it appears they had a shop in Edinburgh (I couldn’t find any reference to it still going) … but I am sure this is the bookshop that was my haunting ground while I studied there. I recognised the authors and tone of the titles – somehow I just knew it was the same place. I treasured my collection of Ward Churchill essays from there for years, and it still educates me in my opinions of wannabe white ‘native’ playgans.

I had been so sad to see it dwindle and go; students are just not made for activism these days in the UK – they scoff (rather than scoff AT) consumer products and aim for a career in some “blah-blah industry” so they can afford to scoff more Stuff. I don’t know any young person who has marched against unjust wars, for women’s rights, or gone on anti-fascist marches … And living in a rural area is no excuse. These issues affect us all; but instead there are too many kneejerk, tabloid-led mentalities amongst both the kids and their parents – MacDonald’s and Labels over Educations! Guns over Mentalising!

But it gave me a brief blast of nostalgia to find AK Press again and I shall probably buy more from them, once my money coffers are a little higher: the tax man has cleared me out (hopefully my final bit of blood money after having to close my business in March).

Coincidentally, last night I got back in touch with an old schoolfriend. He was a French exchange student now working for the European parliament as a political journalist. It was with him that I went to his hometown of Strasbourg and marched against Jean-Marie Le Pen and his associates: the largest demonstration again Neo-Nazis ever seen in Europe, and I don’t think it has been beaten yet. There were 70,000 of us on the streets and it took all day to march from the beginning to the end of the demonstration route,

Quote from an article you can find HERE:

The 70,000-strong demonstration against the fascists’ annual conference in Strasbourg in March 1997 marked a shift in the anti-nazi movement. The town was virtually shut down as activists marched through the streets chanting “Never Again” and “F for Fascist, N for Nazi, Stop the National Front!”

Recently there has been a lot of debate in the UK over the teachers’ strikes. I saw one poster designed to look like a road sign, with a worker digging but the title “Down tools!”; someone had scribbled underneath, “Lazy bastards!” And that really summarises debate and resistance within the UK today: an A4 poster and a scribble in Biro.

For my own part, these days my health prevents me from travelling to marches, but I still try to counter racist, ill-informed opinion when I find it (more specifically on the internet … lots of it out there) – although it is at a severe cost to my mental balance as I get so passionately and angrily involved. My days of rocking the boat are probably over – curtailed by illness, although I still have my voice, however small. This is why it pleased me no end that anarchist and socialist collectives like AK Press still exist (somewhere out there in the world).

But don’t think that I’m saying “It was different and better when I was young”; twas ever thus that mankind was on a downward spiral as soon as s/he stood on two feet. My studies in paleontology teach me how we are a mere speck in history and will not even come close to a fraction of the period in which dinosaurs lived. Hope for the future? We will die. Our children will die – and due to corrupt governments fighting wars for oil and resources – our children have already started to die before us and shall continue doing so.

An acquaintance raged to me about “the people” wanting windmill power and greener energy and that the government wasn’t doing enough … I countered that “the people” were not willing to be “one-car” or even “no-car” households, they were not willing to have just one TV (or no TV!!); People want everything and they are ignorant of where ‘everything’ comes from. If it changes a person’s lifestyle then suddenly it’s not so important … comfort over ecology; outrage over education (so much easier to be “shocked” and “horrified”, to bond with other “outraged” people, than to actually inform yourself and take an active stance) – “Lazy bastards” indeed, myself included at times as I am no paragon.

AK Press – a reminder today of what I once was before the years battered me down and illness stole the rest of me; at least that is how it feels most days. But there is still a spark of resistance in me, the person I was in essence hasn’t changed: I still hate racists (especially ones who pretend they are making a political point when it is still just lazy racism … oh I know, don’t tell me, “Some of your best friends are …{fill blank}” Tsk. Predictable). My father said that once. I was about 12, listening to him mouth off about black people to his friends and out came the, “Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are black people!” And I looked up thinking, where are these black people? At 12 years old, living in rural Britain in the ’80s, I had not yet even seen one, and don’t friends, let alone “best friends” come to your house?  I knew a hypocrite when I saw one. I knew racism when I heard it and it angered me as much then as it does today.

Next to racism I would place a hate of ignorance; and by that I don’t mean a lack of education, because that can happen for various reasons and a list of qualifications doesn’t make a person intelligent. I know plenty of people with educations who are thick as shit. It’s the tabloid opinion and the ignorance of “I heard this in the pub/read it on the internet”, the ignorance of thinking that you have uncovered a point of law previously unseen by anyone in Europe that proves that a certain people are racist … because there is no better disguise for a racist than to get your foot in the door and accuse the Others of the same: I’m not racist, they are. So maybe one (ignorance) will always feed the other (racism)… there are very few Svengalis or Hitlers with malicious motivations driven by a hunger for power; it’s mostly about lazy thinking, ignorance and FEAR of difference and change.

Yes, I am angry. I have the anger of 4 generations of a family killed and mentally maimed by racism flowing in my blood. When I was nine I was taken aside by an old woman and told the story of my family; she said, “Blut zeigt sich” – blood will show; she meant that I would never be able to hide from my heritage and that it was with me forever. So, I make no apologies for being angry and for hating racism – whether it’s expressed by a hardcore Neo-Nazi or ignorantly enforced by doe-eyed well-meaning Playgans. To the former I say, “Fuck off and die” to the latter I say, “Have the decent respect to research the history of the native people you pretend to emulate, speak to them and see how they feel about the cultural appropriation of their spirituality by white people – sticking feathers in your hair does not make you Native American, and banging a drum does not make you a Shaman.”

©StarofSeshat 2011


Ludlow Book-Feast and Bun-Fight

I had been looking forward to the Ludlow Esoteric Conference and Book Fair for several months. It did not disappoint, although the entertainment and lessons came in unexpected ways!

The Green Witch has given a very fair assessment of the lectures that day, including a good summary of the nasty little showdown at the end of Ken Rees’ lecture. I too have signed up for The Regency discussion group, and look forward to hearing more about it.

The research I did prior to the conference as background for the lectures oddly took some of the interest out of the lectures for me. The first talk on John Dee and Edward Kelley’s travels told me nothing new, although I enjoyed looking at the copious slides (even though one person said it was a poor excuse for showing the family’s holiday pics 😉 ). I think my stamina has waned in some respects and I find it quite tedious now to sit through a lecture unless the speaker is brilliantly interesting as Guy Ogilvy was last year (I could have listened to him talking about alchemy for hours and only felt more rejuvenated not exhausted by his speaking). And yet I can read for a day and always feel immensely satisfied; writers do not necessarily make speakers, and speakers do not necessarily do justice to their subject matter. Although I did enjoy Ken Rees’ talk – an entertaining, balanced and academic view – not something we see often in the pagan world. I will certainly attend more conferences (it’s good for my soul like metaphysical porridge and green tea!) but ultimately I shall always prefer a book which I can put down every now and then to make a cup of tea or cuddle the rat (that is not a euphemism, I do mean cuddle the rat!). As such I was happy to abandon the main part of the day’s lectures in favour of getting to know Arnemetia and Mereth better. This was personally a more valuable and nourishing experience than any lecture. I was overwhelmed that day by the care shown to me by my dear Green Witch, as well as Arnemetia and Mereth, who (although we have communicated for over a year) were meeting me in the flesh for the first time. I have rarely encountered such genuine kindness, and it did my spirit good. Apart from which, days out with the Green Witch are always Good Days.

It was interesting that my urge to protect myself psychically for the conference – an urge which had pestered me for a few days – was justified. There was one rather toxic lady there who was leaking nastiness. I sat near her at one point and spent a lot of my time shielding from her. The last thing I wanted was to draw her attention and thankfully I slipped under her radar. It’s always worth trusting your instinct and setting up protections – it’s better to be protected and not need it, than unprotected and covered in someone else’s psychic ooze!

One major highlight was the book fair. I heard one man say that the Ludlow Conference was his excuse to buy occult books for the year, and I can well understand why. Throughout the year I scan second-hand bookshop shelves for occult books of interest. Generally I buy what I find, but this book fair (a modest 5 stalls) was a collection of gems that made it difficult to choose. If I had found any one in isolation in a bookshop I would have been pleased, so to see so many in one room was utterly bibliorgasmic for me! My library on Egyptian magic/spirituality/mythology is expanding nicely. Once I have my core list of titles I shall be setting up an intense reading/re-reading schedule. The results will be formulated in my very own book of Egyptian Magic, a sourcebook for me to use and peruse. I can’t wait … well, actually, I can, because I know the journey is going to be just as enjoyable as the destination.

A very satisfying day in all. Some interesting ideas bandied around between the Green Witch and Mereth (which I hope come to fruition, to the benefit of us all). Next stop the Thelemic Symposium in Oxford and then Witchfest International!

© starofseshat 2008