Posted by The Wild Hunt

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice or artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

 

 

It’s like the plant you forget to water. You forgot to water it and now it’s wilting. When you see this, usually you’ll feel shame and berate yourself, but then you shrug it off and water the plant, reviving it.

Your altar is like that plant. If you forget to care for it properly, it’s going to wilt. The trick is to take note and change your behavior when you see it wilting. Apologize, acknowledge you fucked up and then do something to revive it. If not, your wilting plant is just going to die.

Shame is not a completely evil emotion, but rather an uncomfortable tool for us to recognize that our behavior is not congruent with the life we want to lead and who we want to be.

— Anna Griffith, Feeding the Spirits


In the modern capitalist economy, many of us are not even employees as such but independent contractors. Precariat rather than proletariat. Such is the case at the Patheos Pagan Channel, which is a Pagan-managed section of the Patheos interfaith website. The Patheos website is now owned by Beliefnet, a Christian evangelical organization with some deeply sinister connections. When Beliefnet tried to impose a contract giving them the right to control all content, bloggers on the Patheos Pagan Channel raised objections. The company replied by cutting off their access to their own blogs, in violation of the terms of the existing contract.

It doesn’t matter if you work for a co-op, a non-profit, a Pagan-owned business or as an independent contractor for a Pagan blog site. Capitalism is capitalism.

— Gilbride, Down With Pagan Capitalism


Those who are poor, ill, and struggling are a vulnerable, easy target for haters and blamers. It’s the demographic least able to fight back, least likely to have energy or resources to take you to court or otherwise seek justice and rebalance.

We like to think we know. We like to think we’re clever enough to see exactly what’s going on in someone else’s life. We think if something wouldn’t hurt us, or make our brains stop working then it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone else either. We are persuaded that our life experience is a fair measure of someone else’s struggles.

What it means, when we walk this path, is that we only judge other people, and never have to judge ourselves.

— Nimue Brown, The urge to judge


I’m not going to sit here and say that covering cured my depression. That would be an incredibly simplistic statement for a complicated issue, and it’s not like covering was the only approach I took. Besides, it’s not like I’m cured anyway – I still have good days and bad days, the same as anyone struggling through. But I will say that I personally find covering to be an incredibly useful way to help manage my depression and anxiety symptoms. I checked with other ladies who cover and a few of them reported the same type of thing, so it’s not isolated to just me, either.

—Caer, Head Covering and Mental Health


Mental illness is all within the brain, it is in the very physical matter. A hallucination will have its roots within the person seeing it. Chronic depression and anxiety will be caused by the imbalances in the brain.

But a spiritual revelation in the shape of a vision will be from the exterior, because it is the spirit revealing itself to the person. In the case of anything acting upon the person that may be causing symptoms such as anxiety or depression, (negative energy attacking, bad spirits lingering around, a spell gone haywire) it is often exterior acting upon interior.

— from Hallucination or Revelation? Attempting to Distinguish Spirituality from Mental Illness


I am the wife, I handle the household stuff, and my kids are all still in elementary school. You know who writes spiritual blogs from that point of view? Evangelicals and Mormons. People in big, organized, conservative church systems that heavily stress missionary work and raising children in the faith.

Pretty much all the more liberal and DIY paths — humanism, pantheism, Paganism, Unitarian Universalism and its like — are pretty much for grown-ups. Kids are, at best, a problem to be solved. It’s not that helpful to me, it doesn’t speak much to my life, but I don’t blame them. Sometimes kids are a problem to be solved. . . . . It’s pretty hard to be all deep and enlightened with a bunch of kids in your face needing things all the time. Which is why most of the biggest, most accomplished writers in this area are childfree to varying degrees. I get it.

— The Doubting Druid, Daily Practice with Kids Underfoot


I treat them as individual beings in their own right. I look at lore as a way to get to know them, to get to see aspects of beings it is impossible for me to fully comprehend. And I respect the fact that I will never have a complete picture of a single deity, the same way I respect the fact I will never have a complete picture of another human being. It is impossible to fully comprehend the depth of anyone else – hell, we have trouble comprehending the depth of our own unique selves.

I can look at my own lack of knowledge, lack of comprehension, and not only accept it but be comfortable with it. And it is in being comfortable with that lack of knowledge that I can find the faith required to believe that the gods are speaking to me when they seem to be doing so. Even if I sometimes feel that I’m making it all up in my head, how do I know that isn’t a method the gods use to communicate? Why would I deny myself that potential conduit of connection? That potential avenue to develop a relationship?

I refuse to discredit any potential forms of connection, any potential conduits for the information the gods wish to pass on to me. My goal is to listen, to understand as much as I am able, the messages that they wish to share. Because if there is anything that connects gods and humans, it is the desire to have someone who is willing to listen.

— Kyaza, Communicating with the Gods


I absolutely would not be comfortable using a god’s name as my craft name. All I can picture is that you are willingly and openly taking on . . something of the god if you take their name. I can’t definitively say it’s their spirit, personality, vices or just essence. It’s more amorphous than that. But I really do believe that if you take on a god’s name, you are welcoming their direct self into your life. And far more than just when you’re worshiping, working with or honoring said same god. It seems to me that I would not want that kind of attention or burden. Hell, I’m not even ready for the attention that comes from formally dedicating myself to a god for a permanent, official, proper relationship. I’m more a fan of devotion, working with, and honoring as I may, on my own time.

— Emily, On Using the Names of Gods


I advocate co-opting the elevator speech (sometimes called the 30 second commercial), a term generally mentioned in the context of job hunting, where it is designed to act as a way for you to sell yourself to prospective employers. The main difference between the personal 30-second commercial and the conversational 30-second Pagan infomercial (other than the fact that you aren’t trying to get a job) is that we aren’t selling Paganism (that would be proselytization), we are ‘selling’ the idea that we are just everyday people with a different religious opinion.

Because that’s all we are. Everyday people with a different flavor of religion.

— Thalassa, Explaining that Pagan thing

Posted by The Wild Hunt

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

  • Ken Ham’s organization, Answers in Genesis (AiG), has filed a suit, making the claim that the National Park Service denied to one of its members a research permit due to his Christian beliefs. According to the case filed this month, Dr. Snelling of AiG was interested in collecting rock samples at the Grand Canyon National Park to “investigate geological phenomena from the perspective of one who believes in the truth of the Old and the New Testaments.” Park officials denied the permit, offering him alternative sites and reportedly calling the proposal “outlandish.” Americans United agrees with the decision, saying, “AiG as an organization has little regard for sound science. […] This is theology, not science.” Snelling’s attorney and AiG believe that Snelling’s constitutional rights have been violated, not only citing RFRAs but also Trump’s new executive order. The new case (Snelling v U.S. Department of the Interior, et. al.) was submitted May 9 to the Arizona District Court in Phoenix for jury trial.
  • The Argus Leader published a story on Ásatrú and Heathenry in prison. The article includes a short video interview with Jody Hadley, who found his practice while in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. “Ásatrú helped me become a better person. When I first went to prison, I was a dirtbag. I lied, I was a thief,” Hadley told the news outlet. The story goes on to detail some of the hurdles faced by some Heathen groups due to the public’s awareness of supremacist groups claiming Heathen religious origins. “One idiot does not a community make,” said Ásatrúar Sam Lopez, who is also the father of an incarcerated man who practices Ásatrú in prison.
  • For “World in Words” podcast on PRI, radio broadcaster Sonia Paul explores the various ways that Americans learn about Indian history and Hinduism in California. She speaks to a variety of individuals to enter the debate on what is being taught, and why. “Many Hindus in California resent that their religion is associated with poverty and caste discrimination.” It’s more than “caste, cows, and curry.”
  • According to the BBC, a statue representing the Greek goddess Themis was removed from a square in Dhaka, Bangladesh after protests from Islamists. According to reports, the statue was only six months old. Protests from conservative groups began in February, and after consideration, the prime minister agreed to remove it. However, secularists then entered the debate with counter protests. As the BBC reports, the statue is being removed “to help keep the peace.”
  • “The spell is working,” believes Los Angeles Times writer Diana Wagman. She begins, “I cast a spell on the president. I was not alone. Thousands of witches, believers and people like me all over the world performed ‘A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him’ under the waning crescent moon last month. It was not meant to physically hurt him, only to keep him from succeeding at his tasks. Now he’s complaining he’s the object of a ‘witch hunt.’ Maybe the spell is working.” In the article, she said that she planned to do the spell again May 23.
  • But, wait, did New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer just call Trump a pagan? In an article “The Pope and the Pagan,” Andrew Sullivan concludes that Trump is “neither religious nor irreligious. He is pre-religious. He is a pagan.”
  • In a lifestyles article for Wired Magazine, writer Julian Sancton explores the seemingly growing interest in polyamory within the Silicon Valley community. Sancton speculates,”Perhaps that’s because making [polyamory] work is as much an engineering challenge as an emotional one, requiring partners to navigate a complex web of negotiated arrangements. (There’s an app to keep track of that, obvs: The Poly Life.) Some enthusiasts even claim it’s the way of the future.” One valley-based polyamorist told Sancton, “If life extension is possible, we might have to think about relationships differently. It’s pretty hard to have an exclusive relationship with someone for 300 years.”
  • Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship grove was featured in Salon magazine in May. The long and detailed article, written by Caitlin Dwyer originally for Narratively, is titled “Meet the modern day Pagans who celebrate the ancient gods” and features ADF’s Columbia Grove based in the Pacific Northwest. Dwyer visited the group during for ritual and participated in the experience. She concludes, “When it doesn’t work, it looks like cheap theater. But when it does, something inside turns like a combination lock until it clicks, and then slides open. After all, there is nothing like watching the world respond to you.”
  • A recent Big Think article opens with this question: “What would you think if you were looking into the night sky and saw a purple column of light streak vertically in front of you?” The Northern Lights, typically align horizontally and are a different color. The Big Think article then goes on to describe this new phenomenon, which has since been unofficially named “Steve” by the citizen astronomers in Alberta, Canada who first discovered it. The European Space Agency has confirmed its existence and, according to reports, it can be seen from Canada’s Hudson Bay all the way to Alaska.
  • Lastly, David Lynch’s popular Twin Peaks series from the 1990s is now being re-imagined for contemporary audiences. The new show picks up 25 years after the last, in the hope of captivating audiences in the same mysterious way the original did. Recently, occult historian Mitch Horowitz interviewed David Lynch about the show, film making, and his personal practice of transcendental meditation. The full hour interview can be heard on Interfaith Voices.

Posted by Nathan Hall

It goes without saying that there is music beyond the Pagan label that feels quite comfortable in a Pagan setting. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails, and on and on, have always appealed to Pagans in that kind of way, though most of the members of those bands have never come out as being Pagan themselves. There is a deeper discussion to be had about that subject. But, it is one for another time. Today, I’m going to focus just on one of those type bands – one that affected me in that very way: Soundgarden.

Lead by Chris Cornell and his snarling, howling, and quite beautiful singing that ranged four octaves, some songs felt more akin to ritual than rock ’n roll. The following article, a letter to Chris Cornell, was written shortly after hearing about his death May 18 of an apparent suicide.

Chris Cornell at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[Courtesy gdcgraphics/wikimedia commons]

Dear Chris:

I know what you’re going to say already. I hear you echoing across the emptiness of the void between us. We never had much anyways; it was a tryst at best. You’re going to say something like that the moment passed you by; that you were stuck in the past like a paper doll, cut into a sloppy relief with safety scissors and left forgotten in a drawer. That you were never creative, that you were never creative enough, that is, to escape the you-ness of you.

It’s 1991, and I’m wearing husky jeans. I’ve got glasses on that look like they were created by a shop teacher for what he thought was the shop teacher look. I’m wearing a frumpy purple sweatshirt with a green triangle on it. I’m walking in a department store. K Mart? Venture? Definitely wasn’t Shopko; those were years later in Wisconsin when my life was already halfway into the violent spiral that it became.

There sat a display full of CDs just below eye level. This was the time when music was still bought in stores. In my periphery are blue jeans; giant red letters span the top of the album in an exaggerated, elongated font.

SOUNDGARDEN, it says.

A gold wheel that looks like a saw blade spins in front of an oily purple background; a triangle in the center borders an esoteric symbol.

Looking more closely, I see white letters that fill the border of the triangle. BADMOTORFINGER.

At a young age I had started listening to metal music. I had all of Metallica’s tapes, some Megadeath, Slayer, Motorhead, AC/DC, and Judas Priest. I was a tween metal head. And, while Soundgarden had been around for a while, this was the first time they had made it to the Midwest. It was early grunge days then. Pearl Jam’s Ten had just been released, but I hadn’t really gotten into it yet. Later that fall, Badmotorfinger followed its lead.

The latter was the bridge for me from my metal phase to my grunge phase. It was a terrible term, grunge, one that even the bands so-labeled recoiled from. But it’s how we know it now.

Album cover for Soundgarden Badmotorfinger.

This album, your album, opened up the maws of change, transformation, of life, of witchcraft, and of drugs. It forced me to learn how to process the music, to read through the lyrics, to experience empathy, and to be introduced to the idea of the shadow self.

Just three years later, June 30, 1994, am 15 years old and going to my first rock concert with friends – no adult supervision. Soundgarden is touring to support Superunknown, Kurt Cobain is already more than two months dead.

Like you decades later, also a victim of suicide.

I’m nervous and excited. Tad and Eleven are the openers. For some reason my friends and I brought action figures with us, Batman is the only one I can remember. We throw them on stage in some hope that if one of the band members touch it, they’d be touching something that we held, transferring some of their rock god status to us.This was sympathetic magic before I even knew what to call it.

You come onstage with the rest of the band, open with “4th of July,” appropriate this close to the holiday. It’s hot, I jump into my first moshpit and get thrown around, but not hurt. People pick me up quickly when I fall. Guitars and drums create a primal rhythm, and you’re screaming on top to them. Smoke machines are pouring into the crowd and lights are strobing a staccato. It’s like the witches sabbat brought to the physical world. I’m in a trance and feel like each cell in my being is screaming alive for the first time. Little nuclear reactors firing up with the energy of the universe pulsing through and out.

A couple songs in, after “Slaves and Bulldozers,” I throw the last action figure, I had saved Batman for this moment. Arcing through the air, I quickly lose sight of it, but I soon discover that it hit you because you’re suddenly yelling at the crowd to stop throwing shit at the stage. Then you take the microphone stand and bring it down hard, ending the last mission of the caped crusader.

I am terrified but simultaneously elated. My friends are screaming and high-fiving me and in some way, some of that rock god status has been momentarily conferred to me.

Years pass and I get into drugs, mostly psychedelics and marijuana, as well as occultism. I’m trapped in a town of 700 people and feel like I’m in that room, a thousand years wide that you wrote about on Badmotorfinger. That spinning golden disc keeps opening up the world of possibilities though: some good, some bad.

I find Buckland’s big blue book and the Satanic bible; I get bored with the latter but find a kernel of something that I’m looking for in the Complete Book of Witchcraft. But again, I’m on my own with this stuff – no coven within 100 miles of where I live. And if there is, they aren’t taking on kids. So I get into Cunningham, who gives me some hope by contradicting Buckland, saying that I can initiate myself.

So I do, in the woods, like I imagine real witches do.

In hindsight, it’s more of an initiation into adulthood than anything else. At that moment, I made the choice to step into something larger. I stepped into the Craft and into a world of personal responsibility, though it would take a lot longer to begin to actualize it.

I stepped away from that town, away from the crushing mental prison, a metaphorical rusty cage, and the institutionalized apathy and fear that ruled it.

Now, we’re in the present. It’s twenty-some years later, and you’re gone, Chris. You were one of the earliest sentinels in my life, a guiding spirit who sang about the darkness that tormented you. It wasn’t emo though; it was authentic. I found a kindred spirit who helped guide me out of my own dark places.Toward self-discovery, toward a life far away from the claustrophobic home I had known, toward a new identity, toward my Craft and my own realization of the natural world.

What I believed about you was that your lyrics were a way of processing the shadow self. You struggled with drug addiction; you were well versed in the benighted, harrowing realms through which a soul struggles. In reading and singing along with your words, I was able to process some of those elements of my shadow, as well.

At some point, I moved on. Your music stuck with me, but I didn’t stay in touch like I did before. I enjoyed your acoustic, solo stuff, but even that faded into the background of everything else that was happening in my life.

Now that you’ve moved on to the Superunknown, it’s hard to accept that you died of suicide. I’ve struggled with lifelong depression and occasional suicidal ideation. But for all the help and strength, solace and transformation you provided me you still succumbed. It was written through so many of your songs, most of the time right out in the open.

But I always felt, hoped, it was part of the processing of your shadow self.

Matt Cameron, drummer of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, was one of the first to respond after your passing, saying, “my dark knight is gone.” In the darkness of life, I learned to find the paths that were not away from it, but by growing comfortable with it. In more ways than one, you lead me toward witchcraft and the occult and through them, a sense of ownership of my own choices.

That spinning disc on the cover of Badmotorfinger helped me to find that which is hidden, to not recoil from the unfamiliar but to bring it close and learn from it.

Hail to the dark knight, may you live forever in song.

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order The Complete Revanche Cycle (omnibus) HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass Predator
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Harmony Black Series Interview with Craig Schaefer

The Revanche Cycle is one of my all-time favorite series, it is a series primarily focused on revenge. Some characters are trying to enact it, while others are trying to escape it. Featuring a solid cast of female characters, a strong political undercurrent & a slow build-up to the world's history & magic system. This series is one that I recommend to as many folks as I can.

Previously I had reviewed the first two books in the series and also managed to interview the author to get his viewpoint. This is what Craig said about his creation:

 “The Revanche Cycle is a sweeping epic fantasy with multiple viewpoint characters, set in a fantasy world vaguely reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. It's about a lot of things. It's about conspiracies, political intrigue, and poison. It's about the relationship between church and state, and how religion is used (and abused) to shape policy. It's about faith, and culture, and overcoming the obstacles society throws in your path. It's a story about women.”


Intrigued? Here’s the omnibus blurb to get your appetites whetted completely:

Control the papacy, rule the world.

As Pope Benignus withers on his deathbed, conspiracies swirl across the empire. Bounty hunters and assassins flock to the frozen north, searching a city of thieves for an exiled politician while a storm of war and witchcraft brews on the horizon. As gambits play out, contenders die and the dominoes fall, a rare few will determine the course of history.

Livia Serafini. Pious. Zealous. Driven. With her sights set upon her father's throne, Livia refuses to be a pawn of the conspirators that surround her. She'll risk it all to rise above the tempest and lead her people to peace. Her pure-hearted ambitions may cost more than she knows: her reputation, her life, even her very soul.

Mari Renault. Honorable. Brutal. Lost. A war orphan from a land under a conqueror's yoke, Mari is haunted by the horrors of her past and an impossible dream of knighthood. When she finds her dark savior, she'll learn how dreams can come true...and how a ragged refugee girl can become a champion of the night.

The Owl. Brilliant. Ruthless. Sadistic. The witch and her disciples, on a mission of vengeance, are lured into the battle for control of the papacy. Despite all of her well-laid plans, the Owl soon finds herself walking a strange and twisted road. One that pits her against the most deadly foe of all -- her own coven -- and rekindles passion in her ice-sheathed heart.

Renata Nicci. Honest. Devoted. Daring. She's just a dockside tavern barmaid. That's what everyone tells her. That's all anyone ever expected her to be. But when her lover Felix is swept into a battle between banking families and the machinations of a criminal kingpin, she'll take up a blade and cross a war-ravaged land to save him.

Four women, four lives on a collision course. When the dust settles, their world will never be the same...if anyone is still alive to see it.

With the launch of the omnibus edition yesterday, the omnibus will normally be priced at $9.99, however for this holiday weekend, it’s priced at $0.99 only.

Now that’s simply a steal, you get four terrific books and a complete series read at an impossibly low price. So go ahead and buy this omnibus edition folks, trust me you won’t regret it.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*


Official Author Website  
Pre-order “A Dragon Of  A Different ColorHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

Rachel Aaron's Heartstrikers series is another self-published series that has become a staple favorite of mine. Since reading Rachel's debut book I've been a fan of her writing style and her imaginative plots. Since the series debuted in 2014 with Nice Dragons Finish Last. After last year's No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, many readers (similar to me) were left stunned with all the plot twists in the end of the book. So as Rachel mentioned in her interview with us:

"The next book will most definitely be all about the fallout from this one while also creating fallout of its own. We’re in the meta level climax now, and things are rolling. Algonquin’s on the war path, the world’s being shaken in all directions, the Chinese dragons are coming to deal with Bethesda’s mess, and it’s going to be great! You thought things were bad before? I have not yet begun to bring down the hammer!"

So yesterday it was really amazing to see the fantastic cover art (see above). It's done by series regular Anna  Steinbauer and features both Julius & Marci. On a side note, this is the first time, that characters are making a repeat cover appearance (Julius with NDFL & Marci with OGDDA). We also have a blurb to go along with it as well:

To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives.

Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who's always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.

The book is all set for pre-orders on Amazon so get your orders in folks. As for me, I'll be begging pleading with the lovely author for an ARC. So lookout for the review closer to the release date (July 28, 2017).

Posted by Manny Tejeda-Moreno

True story: The Earth is not the center of the universe. Neither is the sun. Most likely, the universe has no center; it’s at once both infinite and bounded, but tell that to the wrong person, in say 17th-century Italy, and you found a one-way ticket to sacrilege. Just ask Giordano Bruno.

But you actually don’t have to go that far back to see how a dominant authority pushes back against new ideas, sometimes aggressively. For example, stress doesn’t cause ulcers, neither do bad eating habits. The medical establishment once believed that ulcers were caused by caused stress and over time that became untested medical truth. In 2005, after two decades of being dismissed and even ridiculed, Drs. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren received the Nobel Prize in medicine for establishing that bacteria are the actual causes of over 90% of stomach ulcers. Their ideas had been called rubbish, because the medical power-elite had certified belief as fact.

Each in its own way is an act of heresy; the essence of modern Pagan transgression. They each represent a rejection of the norms that were established by a powerful patriarchy controlling through belief and not evidence. They each represent a moment of liberal insight that broke through the fog of dogma.

The statue of Giordano Bruno in Campo de’ Fiori, Rome [photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno].

And, of course, that is a dangerous process because dogma is a very, very safe place. It is a place of narrative symmetry where the world and our place in it is perfectly described. If we believe, the world becomes a simpler place. It also fades in color and relief because that fog remands complexity into monotony. Ultimately, the extravagance of individuality is subverted to the anonymity of conformity.

Regardless whether it is science or religion, when belief becomes an ultimatum, the intent is to suppress. It is a tactic of the patriarchy; the dominant overarching institution present in the world today that has sought our subordination for millennia. It began with establishing the most basic — indeed the simplest — of rules: identifying who is right and who is wrong, good and evil. Who belongs and who does not belong. With them, who is transgressing and that transgression is sin.

As a concept, sin is designed to make you feel flawed and outcast. It strips belongingness and replaces it with guilt. Rather than empowering an individual, sin promotes doubt, shame and- down the line- subservience through a need for cleansing. The type that can only be offered by the patriarchy.

The rise of modern psychology as field of science in the West laid bare the emotional damage that the concept of sin wrecks on individuals. Sin became increasingly recognized as a mechanism of control that suppressed individuality and repressed authentic living. Promoting the act of shaming and instilling emotional vulnerabilities into individuals through dogma are strategies that Pagans have been staring down in defiance for decades.

There are movements afoot to stifle that freedom within our community. From defining our relationships to deities to prescribing the parameters of “harm none,” some parts of our diverse community have sought to identify what constitutes moral code. It’s a mistake. The world is already full of enough would-be bullies and mores, that we have no need to hand over new rules for controlling us.

There seems to be a rise in some quarters to convene acts of shunning, to define our morality, and to even align Paganism to monotheism so we can be less outcast. Yes, you read that right, I’ve now heard too many times in the past month that we should frame polytheism as practice looking at divine representations of the same god. Or conversely flirting with the other darling, pantheism, where reality and a monotheistic deity are one in the same. All in the context of adopting codes of common theological belief and conduct because of the reprehensible behavior of some individuals who happen to be Pagan.

Frankly, these arguments all head to the same place: monotheism with sin. Or, more clandestinely to a patriarchy, redux and incognito.

For ourselves and with limited support and infrastructure, I think that we’ve have done pretty well without invoking creedal structures of faith. That’s something that the Abrahamic faiths brought to the table: some central requirement that must be believed to be considered part of the religion. Creedal faiths create community by identifying belongingness through common belief.

While the creedal nature of Judaism is debatable, the Shema Yisarel in Deuteronomy 6:4 condenses its monotheistic nature and center: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The proclamation of monotheism and the supremacy of the one god is a core tenet of Judaism and essentially a requirement for the construction of the Covenant.

Similarly, Muslims must profess the Shahada, the twin testimonial of faith: ”There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Rejecting any part of the Shahada essentially means that you are not Muslim. Accepting the testimonial places you in community almost regardless of your practice.

The same is true for Christianity which consolidated major aspects of its creedal nature in the First Council of Nicea that started on 20 May, 325 CE and lasted until just before the solstice. That council established some of the core tenets of the church. Most famously, perhaps, is the Apostle’s Creed that forms the earliest statements of Christian belief. Among those beliefs is the trinitarian nature of God, the suffering of Jesus Christ, and the redemption he offers through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection. These are the essential elements of belief. It is a statement of faith that becomes an essential requirement to be in communion. If you don’t believe in Christ’s sacrifice for your salvation from your transgressions, you basically are not a Christian.

Creeds offer empowerment, belonging and community. But in their extreme, creeds also lead to fanaticism and sober consequences.  It doesn’t take much to see it. Turn on the news, or ask Giordano Bruno.

Flowing [photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno].

Rejecting the concept of sin — a likely outcome of creed construction — while accepting the diversity of belief is both the trodden path to apostasy as well as the most fundamental form of Pagan liberation. It is sin that defines our lack of fitness for religious involvement and demands remediation for imperfections defined by powerful others in our society. It is also the idea of sin that Pagans render powerless. We can be ourselves without adding guilt and shame.

That’s not to say we cannot have expectations of conduct. In many ways, we already have them. Our expectations of hospitality, honor, and respect are hallmarks of our community. We teach them at Pagan festivals. We also offer a consequentialist view of the world that we share with other devotional faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism. We learn to own our actions, reaping and sowing.

In the African traditional religions, we have a concept called Ori;  it literally means “head,” but it also means your spiritual sense of who you are. It is intuition, destiny and authenticity. Part of the task of divination is to help us express our Ori and learn how we can better live in balance and acceptance of who we are, our Iwá Pélé. As we learn who we are, we balance the energies around us and within us, and thus improve and heal ourselves. We strive to fulfill who we are and the balance lets us move through the streams of destiny – everything flows, and our balance lets us move effortlessly.

That’s not free reign to live in ways that damage others and the world around us; we still live in both a spiritual and societal interconnected web. Instead, as we learn to stop harming and we begin accepting. We navigate the demands of the world composed and at ease. We can honor, respect and accept those around us and build community and strength, and we can leave justice to Justice.

One of the great strengths of reconstructed Paganism is to build unconditional acceptance of the self. That process undermines the patriarchal controls that declare what is wrong with us while promoting a wholeness for ourselves that is powerfully centering in a society that — at best — tolerates our presence. That’s also consistent with modern psychotherapy: help people explore their failures, fears and frailties while offering them the tools to overcome them. We don’t need sin or creeds to define who we are and what we can do; we need self-acceptance.  That strips us of anxiety and births our authentic selves.

That genuineness lets us do great things, think great things and ask great questions, sometimes in the face of the worst oppression. We might even be remembered for them.

Just ask Giordano Bruno.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order Where Loyalties Lie over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Price Of Faith
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic trilogy completion interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey. Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Everybody knows Drake Morrass is only out for himself.

As the fires of a dying city burn on a distant shore, Drake sees an opportunity to unite the other pirate Captains under his flag and claim a crown for himself. If he is to succeed he will need allies and the Oracle named Keelin Stillwater, the best swordsman in the isles, as Drake's right hand. With enemy ships sailing his waters and setting fire to his cities, and the sinister Tanner Black threatening to steal the throne before Drake has even sat in it, Drake must somehow convince the other Captains that his best interests are also theirs.

Author Rob J. Hayes, after his successful completion of his award-winning grimdark trilogy, The Ties That Bind, now continues the saga of First Earth.

FORMAT/INFO: Where Loyalties Lie is divided into four parts which are spread out over fifty-seven ship titled chapters with a titled prologue and an epilogue. The narration is in third person omniscient via Drake Morass, Keelin Stillwater, Elaina Black, T’ruck Khan, Damien Poole, first mate Princess & Arbiter Beck. This book is the first volume of the Best Laid Plans duology and can be read as a starting point to the First Earth saga.

May 26 2017 marks the US and UK e-book publication of Where Loyalties Lie and is being self-published by the author. Cover art is by Alex Raspad & cover design is provided by Shawn King.

CLASSIFICATION: Focusing on a wide character cast of pirates and epic sea battles, Where Loyalties Lie is the grimdark version of Pirates Of The Carribbean if imagined by Joe Abercrombie.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Rob J. Hayes is an author who appeared on to my radar when I read his debut The Heresy Within a little over 4 years ago. Since then after reading & thoroughly savoring the rest of his debut trilogy, I was simply convinced of his ample talent and the mysteries that were abundantly present in the First Earth world. This new duology has been delayed for over a year and the author has talked about the reasons over here on his blog. He even has provided a timeline of events and thankfully the author was able to get back the rights to these books and here we are with the first book. Before I start my review, for full disclosure I was an alpha/beta reader for this book and its sequel.

The book begins with a pirate town burning and Drake Morass’s pirate crew watching it along with their captain. Pretty soon the news spread and the pirates are wary of being hunted, among one such pirate captain is Keelin Stillwater. A person with a secret past who is hunting for a specific thing, Keelin is one of the rare pirates that chooses to avoid bloodshed whenever possible. He’s the exception among the seas where brutality & betrayal seems the norm. Both these pirate captains are gunning for something and they will have to strive to overcome their mutual distrust for their survival. We also meet Elaina Black, daughter of feared pirate Tanner Black and a dangerous person on her own. Elaina is running for her own deal however has to be careful of fraternal jealousy. Following up on the POV list we have a few other characters such as Arbiter Beck, Captain T’ruck Khan, Princess (who’s a guy) and a few others. They don’t get the same amount of page time but they are very, very interesting none the less.

The main focus of the story is one of ambition, betrayals and plotting. All of this occurs via the characters and namely Drake Morass is situated in front and center of this story, Drake was a minor but important character in the previous trilogy and his background actions fueled a lot of the plot twists. This duology though stands separate from the events of the previous trilogy and while it shares a few characters from the previous work (who made minor cameos in the books). New readers can easily pick up these books and will be snared up in the events. Drake again is in the thick of things and we begin the book with him and we end with him as well.

The characters are what make this story come alive in a very visceral way, beginning with our two main POV pirate captains Drake Morass and Keelin Seawater. Who couldn’t be more different than each other, Drake is calculating at all times but can be bloodthirsty, enigmatic and certainly the most feared person on sea. Keelin on the other hand is driven by his past and will do almost anything except irrationally murder folks. These two characters are what fuel the narrative as we find out what reasons might force them to work together. Let’s be clear Drake is the biggest enigma of this series and possibly one of the biggest in this world wherein most things are unknown or hidden. Drake’s exploits while being legendary are also grim. They make him out to be a monster but a good-looking and charming one at that. In this book we get to see all of his personas. The cruelty, the tall tales (that sound implausible but hold more than a ring of truth), the vicarious nature of his plots which almost always pan out as he planned and his daredevilry at accomplishing his lofty goals (some of which are laid bare within this duology). He’s the main engine for the plot of this book and manages to be a scene-stealer all the way. On one level while the readers will be horrified by his actions, on a pure character note, he is impossible to ignore.

Keelin Stillwater has a lot to live up to and the readers will get to read all about his past as well as the internal struggle he fights. Keelin has previously appeared in a small bit in The Price Of Faith but unless one is eagle-eyed you will most likely not picked up on it. Keelin is a good mirror to Drake and it’s fun to compare them both. The biggest surprise is Elaina Black who along with Arbiter Beck and T’ruck Khan are the dark horses of this story. They start out as small characters but by their actions at the end of the book become core characters. The author has even written a short story focusing on Beck and Elaina Black which acts as a prequel (to this duology) and a nice introduction to the pirates. Every character introduced is someone that’s fully fleshed and you want to read more about them. I think that’s the hallmark of a good writer and Rob J. Hayes is certainly fulfilling that mark.

Another thing about this story is because it focuses on pirates, it also shines a light on characters that don’t always show the best aspects of humanity. This story is filled with violence, betrayals and visceral surprises. About the first aspect, truly no one is safe in this story and the violence is quite interspersed within the story and we get various scenes that will horrify readers but make sense within the confines of the story. However I must warn readers that there’s one scene involving Tanner Black and Elaina Black which will shock you beyond anything. It’s a very disturbing scene and one that’s present to showcase the terror and disgust. Tanner Black makes Tywin Lannister seem like a doting parent & that’s saying something. The action sequences are almost always over water or feature some terrific scenes of ship boarding. In the previous trilogy, the action was more on a personal level however with this book, Rob J. Hayes certainly exalts things to a grand level. The best action scenes are ones featuring T’ruck Khan and I believe he’s a character that will be imprinted a lot on readers’ minds.

The pace of the story and the plot twists will keep the readers hooked and engaged throughout. One of the things that surprised me about this book was the love story within it. To be fair there’s two love stories going on (neither of them in the classical way) but if you really want to get down to brass tacks, they can be called as such. Let me be clear, the romance isn’t the focus of the story in the least. As a reader I just happened to notice it and found it funny to compare both those threads. The book ends on a solid note and because this is a duology, we can expect the next book (The Fifth Empire Of Man) to end things in a brutal manner as all the plots come to a head.


Lastly what I also loved about this book, was the action and the epic battles. This book is possibly one of the best nautical fantasy ones that I’ve ever read. The only other titles that I can think which come close are Paul Kearney’s Sea Beggars series and his Monarchies Of God series (which featured quite a lot of sea action as well). There’s also the Red Skies Over Red Seas by Scott Lynch but this book obliterates them all by being almost entirely set on water (or surrounded by it) for about 95% of the time. Sure there are events which take on land but these are mostly tiny islands which are out in the open seas. The next best thing about the book is the world that’s featured in the books. I loved the First Earth world introduced in The Ties That Bind trilogy but with this duology, the author showcases a very, very different aspect with the Pirates and the seas. He even manages to give us a look in to the magical side of things with the sea goddess Rin & the Drurr. The First Earth world is a complex one and it’s very much evident from this book that how much time the author has invested in crafting it. Eagle-eyed readers will even catch references to events happening around in the wilds and to the author’s short story “Pre-Emptive Revenge featured in the GrimDark Magazine.

Drawbacks to me were next to none as this is the first volume and I felt that this book can serve as an excellent starting point to Rob J. Hayes’ violent & exciting First Earth saga. I must point out that this book is quite grim (but not bleak) and very, very violent. There’s one really graphic sexual violent scene that’s sure to raise hackles for some but it’s not there to titillate and makes sense from a story & character point of view. Overall I feel that this book is one that explores pirates quite unlike any other fantasy books I’ve read so far in the genre.

CONCLUSION: Rob J. Hayes recently mentioned how long it took for him to release this book for no fault of his. As a friend, I can very well vouch for his frustration at that. However as an unbiased reader, I have to say this is the first time when anybody has so successfully merged two different sub-genres of fantasy to give us a story that’s very, very good. Where Loyalties Lie is the perfect fusion of Grimdark and epic nautical fantasy that you never thought possible. Check this book out as I've a feeling that it will be one that readers will be talking about a lot more in the months to come.

Posted by Liz Williams

LONDON —  On April 29, The Theosophical Society in London hosted a memorial day to honour the late 19th century occultist Florence Farr. For years, Farr has been seen merely as an adjunct of the men of the period due to her being the mistress of George Bernard Shaw and a friend of W B Yeats, among others.

But Farr is now taking her place in academic study, as well as occult history, as a polymath in her own right. Actress, magician, novelist, composer, musician, director and teacher, Farr was an instrumental part of the esoteric society of the Golden Dawn.

Farr at the Folly Theater [Public Domain]

Born in 1860, Farr was initiated into the Isis-Urania temple in 1890 under the motto Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data, or “Wisdom is a gift given to the wise”, and she remained an integral part of the organization for some years. During that time, she also continued with her acting career and was well known in her day; she was the first actress to perform in Ibsen’s plays in Britain.

Farr worked with Shaw, who hated her interest in the esoteric. However, Farr didn’t care, and lost interest in acting as she became increasingly involved in the production of the Golden Dawn’s rituals.

Aleister Crowley became enamored of her, but it isn’t known if they had an affair: Farr was determined, after a brief and unsuccessful marriage, not to be beholden to a man again.

Farr eventually worked with Wallis Budge at the British Museum, studying Egyptian texts, and became a prolific writer, producing numerous articles and two novels. The Liverpool Mercury, among others, reviewed her work positively, saying of The Dancing Faun: “The writing reveals in almost every sentence the cultured artist whose every stroke adds strength and beauty to the picture.”

In addition to her fiction, Farr produced a work on Egyptian magic, writing:

In studying Egyptian Magic one has at once a thoroughly scientific satisfaction. One is troubled with no vague theories, but receives precise practical details; we observe that every square inch of the Upper and Under Worlds is mapped out. The strength that such a system inherently contains was proved by the long duration of the archaic Egyptian civilization.

Like many occult and esoteric groups, the Golden Dawn became increasingly prone to rifts and schisms. Farr denied progress to Crowley on the grounds of his ‘sex intemperance,’ for instance. In 1902 she severed her ties to the organization.

She continued to perform, but after 1912 went out to Ceylon to run a school. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and died on April 17, 1917.

One hundred years after her death, Farr’s achievements were honored by the Theosophical Society in Gloucester Place, London, which is an appropriate venue as Farr attended functions at this very building.

Performers at April 29 memorial day dedicated to Florence Farr [Photo Credit: Isabella Van Der Roux]

Organized by Isabella Van Der Roux, the event began with a series of academic presentations, beginning with an introduction by Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwells Bookshop, followed by a short sequence of academic analyses of Farr’s work by Allan Johnson of the University of Surrey and others.

In the afternoon, a video presentation was given by American musician Robin Bier, featuring a replica of the musical instrument, similar to a psaltery, devised by Farr, and a collection of Farr’s recited verse.

Caroline Wise then gave a talk on the influence of Farr on British occultism, as well as on her plays. Wise’s discussion was was followed by two pieces of Farr’s dramatic work, The Beloved of Hathor and The Shrine of the Golden Hawk.

Approximately 40 people from a variety of traditions attended the event, which reflected the growing interest of academia in the history of the occult in the UK, as well as the continued interest of contemporary practitioners in the work of the Golden Dawn.

Speaker Allan Johnson, for example, lectures in English Literature at the University of Surrey, but is also the director of the Magic, Language, and Society project, a collaboration between the University and Treadwells Bookshop which “explores the connections between language and magic, enchantment, mysticism, esotericism, and the occult.”

The memorial day was considered a successful event of substantial interest to the British occult and pagan community, and the money raised during the event will be donated to a breast cancer charity.

Posted by Meg Sri

On Monday evening, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, in what is now being described as a terrorist attack. 22 people perished, with several more injured, in the most deadly incident of terror to strike the U.K. since 2005.Heartbreakingly, several of those targeted and injured were young girls out to enjoy an unforgettable evening of pop music, many with their families. In a message posted online, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The event struck a sorrowful chord with the entire world, and solidarity, grief and support were quick to pour in. However, with the hurt and heartbreak also came the inevitable ugly reactions from hate-mongers on the right, who were eager immediately to turn the deaths of young concert-goers into political capital. Piers Morgan, Britain’s bigot-in-chief, took less than twenty-four hours after the attack to condemn the ‘Muslim community’ for not ‘weeding out’ those whose brains had been ‘warped.’ Vitriolic newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins, meanwhile, took it two rungs up on the Pyramid of Hate from discrimination to a call for genocide, tweeting that the U.K. needed a “final solution“—  you read that right— to the problem of Muslim terrorism. Hopkins has been reported to the police for her words. Meanwhile, another newspaper columnist, Allison Pearson, called for a Japanese internment style mass internment of Muslims in response to the attack. And because Fox News can never be left out of the fun, anchor Geraldo Rivera chose to use the grief of families losing teenage girls to paint the entire city of Manchester as a ‘hotbed of Islamic radicals.’

We’ve been reminded time and again that such dramatic, bigoted and sweeping remarks feed right into the strategies employed by terrorist groups, and are exactly the kind of divisive reaction they seek from their attacks. We’ve been consistently told that Islamophobia plays right into the terrorist narrative, and makes the soil fertile for further growth of domestic and international terrorism.

But it isn’t just strategic choices that must guide our response to the attacks. It must be our sense of empathy, for the victims and the grieving families, and the city of Manchester — one of England’s most diverse. It must be our sense of ethics, from refraining from using violence to feed convenient political narratives at the helm of a general election. It must be our sense of basic human decency, to recognize the humanity of the victims who deserve to be cherished and not used, and to recognize the humanity of the Muslim community who form an integral part of Manchester and who were quick to condemn the attack, help people back to safety, raise money for those affected, and live now in fear of additional hatred, violence and backlash.

It is the lowest, basest form of reactionary political cowardice to exploit the slaughter of young girls to further a narrow-minded political agenda.

This argument is not to say that no political analysis should be given to the causes of any tragic incident, or that we should not be thinking about the ways in which further violence can be stopped. Large scale violence that targets women, for example, must be analyzed for the links it has to toxic masculinity. We cannot ignore how the lessons that we teach young men can influence the ways in which they grow up to enact violence on to women. Mass shootings must prompt a discussion on gun ownership because we must understand how easy access to guns is directly, statistically and verifiably correlated to increased deaths. That fix is legislative and relatively uncomplicated.

What we face here is an entirely different situation. What chauvinists like Hopkins or Morgan desire is not an honest analysis of the complex geopolitical roots of terrorism, but an excuse to demonize an entire ethnicity of people. There’s no analogy between asking for a cultural change in patriarchal attitudes, or for laws regulating the purchase of an item, and asking for multiple communities of people — who only have a religion in common — to be incarcerated, increasingly surveilled and discriminated against.

The use of young girls is especially vile. Not only are young women always exploited to be an excuse for bigotry — see for example transphobic bathroom policies — but the policies that these right wing commentators push for have a direct impact on the lives of other young girls — the women and children who suffer under Islamophobic policies. To pit the lives of some young girls against others and in the name of some sort of feminist protection of these girls is both divisive and disgusting.

The good news is that the city of Manchester seems to have overwhelmingly rejected this divisive, bigoted and hateful politics. When protestors from the English Defense League  — a xenophobic ‘Britain First’ right-wing group — attempted to hold a display in the city following the attack, they were outnumbered by Mancunians condemning their message. Reuters recorded one man saying to the protesters, ‘‘The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism.’ Messages of #standtogether abound on social media, while faith leaders are planning a unified action to reassure and console their respective communities.

It is in times of deep despair that the character of society is truly tested. We must ask ourselves not only how we will emerge after an incident like this, but also how we will quell hate in the wake of such horror. We must condemn, banish and exile the likes of Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins and Geraldo Rivera from the public eye. There must be consequences for callously exploiting the death of children, and we cannot let them do so in vain and throw it in our faces. In the wake of Monday evening in Manchester, we cannot stand for any forms of terrorism that follow.

Header image via

Posted by Meg Sri

On Monday evening, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, in what is now being described as a terrorist attack. 22 people perished, with several more injured, in the most deadly incident of terror to strike the U.K. since 2005. Heartbreakingly, several of those targeted and injured were young girls out to enjoy an unforgettable evening of pop music, many with their families. In a message posted online, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The event struck a sorrowful chord with the entire world, and solidarity, grief and support were quick to pour in. However, with the hurt and heartbreak also came the inevitable ugly reactions from hate-mongers on the right, who were eager immediately to turn the deaths of young concert-goers into political capital. Piers Morgan, Britain’s bigot-in-chief, took less than twenty-four hours after the attack to condemn the ‘Muslim community’ for not ‘weeding out’ those whose brains had been ‘warped.’ Vitriolic newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins, meanwhile, took it two rungs up on the Pyramid of Hate from discrimination to a call for genocide, tweeting that the U.K. needed a “final solution“—  you read that right— to the problem of Muslim terrorism. Hopkins has been reported to the police for her words. Meanwhile, another newspaper columnist, Allison Pearson, called for a Japanese internment style mass internment of Muslims in response to the attack. And because Fox News can never be left out of the fun, anchor Geraldo Rivera chose to use the grief of families losing teenage girls to paint the entire city of Manchester as a ‘hotbed of Islamic radicals.’

We’ve been reminded time and again that such dramatic, bigoted and sweeping remarks feed right into the strategies employed by terrorist groups, and are exactly the kind of divisive reaction they seek from their attacks. We’ve been consistently told that Islamophobia plays right into the terrorist narrative, and makes the soil fertile for further growth of domestic and international terrorism.

But it isn’t just strategic choices that must guide our response to the attacks. It must be our sense of empathy, for the victims and the grieving families, and the city of Manchester — one of England’s most diverse. It must be our sense of ethics, from refraining from using violence to feed convenient political narratives at the helm of a general election. It must be our sense of basic human decency, to recognize the humanity of the victims who deserve to be cherished and not used, and to recognize the humanity of the Muslim community who form an integral part of Manchester and who were quick to condemn the attack, help people back to safety, raise money for those affected, and live now in fear of additional hatred, violence and backlash.

It is the lowest, basest form of reactionary political cowardice to exploit the slaughter of young girls to further a narrow-minded political agenda.

This argument is not to say that no political analysis should be given to the causes of any tragic incident, or that we should not be thinking about the ways in which further violence can be stopped. Large scale violence that targets women, for example, must be analyzed for the links it has to toxic masculinity. We cannot ignore how the lessons that we teach young men can influence the ways in which they grow up to enact violence on to women. Mass shootings must prompt a discussion on gun ownership because we must understand how easy access to guns is directly, statistically and verifiably correlated to increased deaths. That fix is legislative and relatively uncomplicated.

What we face here is an entirely different situation. What chauvinists like Hopkins or Morgan desire is not an honest analysis of the complex geopolitical roots of terrorism, but an excuse to demonize an entire ethnicity of people. There’s no analogy between asking for a cultural change in patriarchal attitudes, or for laws regulating the purchase of an item, and asking for multiple communities of people — who only have a religion in common — to be incarcerated, increasingly surveilled and discriminated against.

The use of young girls is especially vile. Not only are young women always exploited to be an excuse for bigotry — see for example transphobic bathroom policies — but the policies that these right wing commentators push for have a direct impact on the lives of other young girls — the women and children who suffer under Islamophobic policies. To pit the lives of some young girls against others and in the name of some sort of feminist protection of these girls is both divisive and disgusting.

The good news is that the city of Manchester seems to have overwhelmingly rejected this divisive, bigoted and hateful politics. When protestors from the English Defense League  — a xenophobic ‘Britain First’ right-wing group — attempted to hold a display in the city following the attack, they were outnumbered by Mancunians condemning their message. Reuters recorded one man saying to the protesters, ‘‘The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism.’ Messages of #standtogether abound on social media, while faith leaders are planning a unified action to reassure and console their respective communities.

It is in times of deep despair that the character of society is truly tested. We must ask ourselves not only how we will emerge after an incident like this, but also how we will quell hate in the wake of such horror. We must condemn, banish and exile the likes of Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins and Geraldo Rivera from the public eye. There must be consequences for callously exploiting the death of children, and we cannot let them do so in vain and throw it in our faces. In the wake of Monday evening in Manchester, we cannot stand for any forms of terrorism that follow.

Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

Almost two-thirds of the country’s $1.3-trillion student debt is held by women, most of them black women who struggle the most to pay it off. 
The costly, traumatic nightmare of being undocumented and pregnant.

In the wake of Alexandra’s viral law review article, lawmakers are proposing legislation to address non-consensual condom removal. Problem is: they’re criminal laws. Alexandra argues in a piece for Broadly that what we need are civil laws, not more criminal statutes.

“Just because someone might not threaten a person to their face in the same way they would online, it doesn’t mean that threat or hate is any less real.” Jessica Valenti on Facebook’s policy toward online bigotry.

A new Department of Justice memo walks back the Trump administration’s original attack on sanctuary cities.

“There’s a bill making its way through the [New York State] legislature that can help people like me, who are the faces of abortion statistics, to access the care we need in our home state.”

The ultimate feminist Latinx reading list.

Posted by Cara Schulz

WAUZEKA, Wis. — Two Milwaukee area Pagans were charged with entering a locked building during a first court appearance Monday. Brandon Wantroba, known as Alabaster Dubois Degrandpre-Lysone Chiaramonti, and Elizabeth Percy Ryder, known as Fiona Dawn Feria, were discovered by Crawford county sheriff’s deputies at the Kickapoo Indian Caverns near the town of Wauzeka. They were living at the former tourist attraction in an attempt to gain the property by adverse possession.

The pair wished to create a Pagan sanctuary.

[Photo Credit: http://www.pamrotella.com]

The 83-acre property, which was shut down in 2011, was known for its cave system. It contained an underground river, large chambers, and thriving bat population. That cave system, which had been attracting tourists since the 1940s, also caught the eye of Mr. Chiaramonti and Ms. Feria.

“We were searching for a place with caves to make into a sanctuary and found this one abandoned,” said Feria.

The couple said that they first tried to contact the owner of the property, the family of  Delores Gaidowski, who died in 2014. Gaidowski’s family had put the site up for sale in September 2015, which is currently listed at the reduced price of $499,000.

However, Chiaramonti and Feria received no reply. They then contacted an attorney to find out if they could take the title to the property through adverse possession.

Adverse possession is a process in which a person who is not the owner of the property lives on, and makes material improvements to, the property for 16 years and is then granted title.

The attorney reportedly advised against using this tactic, but Chiaramonti and Feria say he did give them guidelines on the legal process.

They say that they arrived at the caves on May 7 and set up camp in what was the gift shop at the front of the caverns. “The property was a mess. There was trash everywhere and we worked to clean it up,” says Feria.

Chiaramonti agreed the land was being abused and wasn’t cared for.

On May 10 the Sheriff’s office received a call from the property’s caretaker that someone appeared to be staying in the gift shop. A deputy responded to the call and talked with Chiaramonti and Feria. After noting the lock on the gift shop door had been forced, the pair were arrested.

[Photo Courtesy Chiaramonti and Feria]

Both Chiaramonti and Feria say they followed the guidelines for adverse possession and were looking to take care of the caves and surrounding property. Their dream was to create a Pagan sanctuary where all Pagans could feel welcome. They had renamed the property Silent Grove and posted a sign with the new name.

Feria, a disabled veteran, is still looking forward to raising the money to buy the property. Chiaramonti, formerly of New Orleans, said he feels an obligation from his now deceased mother to create a Pagan sanctuary.

The pair has competition for the property. The Mississippi Valley Conservatory (MVC), a non-profit environmental group, is also looking to purchase the caverns. The group says it wishes to protect the bat population, which is endangered by white mouth disease.

As of yet, the MVC needs to secure grant money for a possible purchase.

MVC has also accused the pair of sending them threatening letters. Feria denies that, saying they never sent a letter to MVC.

She did admit to sending a letter to the owner’s reality company, asking them no to no longer contact them. But, she added that the letter wasn’t threatening.

Chiaramonti and Feria’s next court appearance is June 5. Both are out on bond. The single charge they face, entering a locked building, is a class A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 9 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Posted by Sejal Singh

The White House released Trump’s spending budget yesterday — and it calls for “unprecedented cuts to programs for poor and working-class families.”

Here are just a few of the stunningly cruel cuts Trump laid out:

  • $72.5 billion in cuts to programs for people with disabilities – most prominently, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which already gives people with disabilities the absolute bare minimum they need to live a decent standard of living. Trump’s massive cuts to SSDI break his campaign promise never to cut Social Security.
  • $143 billion in cuts to federal student loan programs – and it would eventually eliminate federally-subsidized Stafford loans entirely, saddling some students with thousands more in student loan debt.
  • Nearly a third of funding for diplomacy and foreign aid. Foreign aid is less than 1% of the budget – and it is literally lifesaving for those it serves, providing services like HIV/AIDS treatment, fighting tuberculosis and malaria, and providing clean water.

Trump’s budget is yet more proof his agenda isn’t about populism — it’s about plutocracy.

Some of the White House’s most brutal cuts are to programs that working families desperately need: it calls for almost $200 billion in cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. According to the most recent data, approximately one in five American children relied on SNAP for food. On top of slashing food stamps, the budget calls for massive cuts to WIC, a nutrition assistance program for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and kids under the age of five. Hey, Mike Pence, how does taking food out of the mouths of toddlers fit into your “culture of life”?

The budget also takes an axe to Medicaid – piling a $610 billion in cuts on top of the already staggering $880 billion embedded in the ACA repeal, for a total 47 percent cut to the program. Forty. Seven. Percent.

Women make up a majority of Medicaid beneficiaries – so women, especially women of color, would bear the harsh burden of Trump’s proposed cuts, losing access to essential healthcare. Medicaid standards vary quite a bit state to state, but more than half the states provide Medicaid eligibility to pregnant people with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. In other words, Medicaid is the only insurance program many pregnant people, especially people of color, can afford – and the insurance program that covers nearly half of American births. Medicaid also covers about 37% of American children: a harsh reminder of how hard it is for working-class parents to access stable employment with health insurance. Trump’s budget suggests dismantling a health insurance program that serves as a lifeline for ten of millions of moms and young people. During the campaign, Trump promised not to cut Medicaid – a promise he’s now broken twice, and in spectacular fashion.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, Trump’s budget would defund Planned Parenthood, preventing them from receiving federal health funds for providing irreplaceable health services to the low-income patients they serve.

The Administration (very implausibly) suggests that they’re proposing a balanced budget. So where’s all this money going? You guessed it: sweeping tax cuts for very wealthy Americans.

The Administration will try to spin this as a middle-class tax cut. More analysis is needed to know exactly how proposed cuts would shake out – but, as Joe Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center, tells CNN “the majority of the benefits go to high-income people.” Take, for example, the estate tax, which the Trump budget suggests eliminating. The estate tax kicks in when someone passes away and their heirs inherit their wealth – but it only kicks in on estates worth more than $5.5 million. It is a tax cut that exclusively benefits the wealthiest .2 percent.  This is the budget Paul Ryan dreamed about during those college keggers.

The Trump budget is a plan to gut the programs that help working-class moms feed their kids and take them to the doctor. It’s a plan to tear apart an already precarious social safety net: the programs that help people get back on their feet when they get laid off, that help students to go school on a full stomach, that help people with disabilities keep a roof over their heads. This budget is a plan that makes it even harder for working people, especially working women, to build a decent life for themselves and their families – all to finance massive tax cuts for the very wealthiest people in the country.

These cuts are horrifying, but they’re not law yet. The President’s budget now goes to Congress for approval, where it always gets a dramatic makeover. And these cuts can’t pass without at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning they can’t pass without support from at least least eight Senate Democrats. That means Democrats can, at the least, force Republicans to drop the most destructive elements of Trump’s plan – and constituents can demand their representatives of both parties reject this dumpster fire of a budget.

Header image via Huffington Post

Savage Love

May. 24th, 2017 04:00 am[syndicated profile] savagelove_feed

Posted by Dan Savage

A guy spends too much time thinking about his local barista during sex with his girlfriend by Dan Savage

I have two female sex partners who want to be breath-play dominated. I know the practice is dangerous, and I employ the rules of consent and communication a pro-Dom escort friend taught me. But is there a legal release document we could sign that protects consenting adults in the event of an accident or death?

Ruminating About Consensual Kinks

Restricting someone's air intake is always dangerous, RACK, and while we all too often hear about people dying during solo breath play, aka "auto-erotic asphyxiation" (an activity no one should engage in ever), we rarely hear about someone dying during partnered breath play. (I recently discussed partnered breath play with Amp from Watts the Safeword, a kink-friendly sex-ed YouTube channel. Look up Episode 533 at savagelovecast.com.)

That said, RACK, someone can't consent to being strangled to death by accident.

"The lawyers in my office discussed this, and we agree that there is no way to 'waive' or 'consent to' criminal negligence resulting in substantial bodily harm or death," said Brad Meryhew, a criminal-defense attorney who practices in Seattle. "I don't think you'll find any lawyer who would draft such an agreement. Even if an agreement were executed, it is not going to constitute a complete defense if something goes wrong. There are principles of criminal liability for the consequences of our decisions, as well as public-policy concerns about people engaging in extremely dangerous behaviors, that make it impossible to just walk away if something goes wrong." Another concern: Signing such a document could make breath play more dangerous, not less. "A person who had such a waiver might be tempted to push the boundaries even further," said Meryhew.

And now the pro-Dom perspective...

"As consenting adults, we assume the risks involved in this type of kink," said Mistress Elena, a professional Dominant. "But if you harm your partner or they become scared, shamed, shocked, or, even worse, gravely injured, it's the Dom's problem. At any time, the submissive can change their mind. Some cases have been classified as 'rape' or 'torture' afterward, even though consent was initially given. It's our job as Dominants/Tops/Leads to make sure everyone is safe, consenting, and capable."


I'm a 32-year-old guy, my gal is 34, and we've been together for two years. Every time we get it on or she goes down on me (though not when I eat her out), my mind wanders to fantasies involving porno chicks, exes, or local baristas. A certain amount of this is normal, but I'm concerned that this now happens every time. When I'm about to come, I shift my mind back to my partner and we have a hot climax, but I feel guilty. Advice?

Guilty Over Nebulous Ecstasy

I've been asked what biases advice columnists have. Do we favor questions from women? (No, women are just likelier to ask for advice.) Are we more sympathetic to women? (Most advice columnists are women, so...) Are we likelier to respond to a question that opens with a compliment? (Of course.) But the solvable problem is our biggest bias. Some people write in with problems that they'll need an exorcist, a special prosecutor, a time machine, or some combo of all three to solve. I could fill the column week after week with unsolvable problems, and my answers would all be variations on ¯\_()_/¯.

Your letter, GONE, is a good example of the solvable problem—a letter likelier to make it into the column—and, as is often the case, the solution to your problem is right there in your letter. You're able to "shift [your] mind" back to your partner when you're about to come, and when you eat her out, your mind doesn't wander at all. My advice: Make the shift earlier/often and engage in more activities that force you to focus (like eating her out). Problem solved.

P.S. A lot of people allow their mind to wander a bit during sex—supplementing the present sensations with memories, fantasies, local baristas, etc. If it keeps you hard/wet/game and isn't perceptible (if you don't start mumbling coffee orders), your partner benefits from your wanderings.


My college girlfriend and I were together for four years. The relationship ended 10 years ago when she cheated on me. She did eventually marry the guy, so, hey, good for them. She recently gave birth to a boy. She gave her son my name as his middle name. Nobody in either family has this name and it isn't an especially common name. I've asked dozens of people with kids, and nobody can think of a reason why a person would give their child a name anywhere close to an ex's name. Thoughts?

Nobody's Answers Make Offing Sense

Maybe your college girlfriend remembers you a little too fondly. Maybe a family friend had the same name. Maybe she met someone else with your name in the last 10 years, and she and her husband had a few threesomes with that guy, and she remembers those fondly. Maybe you'll run into her someday and she'll tell you the real reason. Now here are a few definitelys to balance out all those maybes, NAMES: This is definitely none of your business and you definitely can't do anything about it—people can definitely give their children whatever names they want—and there's definitely no use in stressing out about it.


I've been reading your column forever—like "Hey Faggot!" forever—and your response to CLIF (the guy whose wife could no longer orgasm from PIV sex after having a child) is first time I've felt the need to gripe about your advice. My wife was also the "Look, ma, no hands!" type, and it was amazing to be able to look into her eyes as we came together. But after a uterine cyst followed by a hysterectomy, something changed and that came to an end. It was a pretty hard hit for us sexually and emotionally. Toys, oral, etc. had always been on the table, but more as part of being GGG than as the main source of her coming. For a long time, it put her off sex as a source of her own pleasure. Things have gotten much better, but I'd be lying if I said we didn't occasionally talk wistfully about that time in our relationship. I can empathize with what CLIF is going through. When we went through this, we did research and spoke with doctors wondering the same thing: Is there some way to reclaim that PIV-and-her-orgasms connection. We even thought of writing you, the wise guru of all things sex, but am I glad we didn't. In response to CLIF asking for some fairly simple advice, you bluntly said that it's not a problem that she can't come from PIV sex. You ignored the fact that up until fairly recently, she could. Then you suggest that, because he hasn't mastered the subtle art of acronyms, he might be a shitty lover whose wife has been faking orgasms for years and is just tired of it. Dick move, Dan.

A Callous Response Only Negates Your Motivation

You're right, ACRONYM, my response to CLIF was too harsh. But as you discovered, there wasn't a way for you and your wife to reclaim that PIV-and-her-orgasms connection. So CLIF would do well to take Dr. Gunter's advice and embrace how his wife's body works now and not waste too much time grieving over how her body/PIV orgasms used to work then. recommended


On the Lovecast, Nathaniel Frank on the marriage-equality movement: savagelovecast.com.

mail@savagelove.net

@fakedansavage

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Posted by Lori Adelman

Don’t miss Roxane Gay on how the new season of The Bachelorette is a necessary shift in the conversation about Black womanhood.

#FreeBreesha: Breesha Meadows has just accepted a plea deal that could see her back home and with her family at the beginning of 2018.

 

Who should you listen to on abortion? People who have had them.

Stop conflating sex work and trafficking.
Two awesome feminist Kickstarters to check out:  A feminist retelling of Pan and a food stamps cookbook to help people of color & low income folks eat healthy!

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