Mole Brigade: for the outcasts

Those who have been sent to the shadows
who exist unseen yet reviled:
retreat beneath the ground

Move under their world
with stealth and secrecy.
Take your sustenance

Grasp it by the roots,
in the darkness
from which it grows.

Create paths through
the underworld;
build caverns underground.

When it is time to rise,
push mountains
through the soil –

Shake the surface
Destabilize their world
Plant gardens in the freshly churned earth.

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An Open Letter to Everyone Joining the Fight

Dear people who are aghast at the abuse in this country and the presidency and want to do something,

Welcome. Glad you could make it. We need everyone to jump in on this.

But here’s the thing: you’re late to the party. If you’re white and middle+ class, you’ve just arrived from the airport with coats in arms and bags on the floor. But coat check is full, and your baggage is tripping people up. Find another place for it, maybe at your white neighbor’s house.

Rather than making a “fashionably late” entrance, come in quietly. Listen to the conversations in the room to figure out what has already been said – you’ve missed out on hours of discussion. Pay attention to what people are doing, and ask if you can help clean up a bit so the party can continue. This is not the time to climb up on the counter and propose a party game.

Find a group that is talking about something you want to be involved in, and ask if you can join the conversation. Listen and ask respectful questions – again you’ve missed out on a lot of discussion.

Leave the party to check on your baggage frequently.

Once people at the party have gotten to know you, you’ve listened to their conversations, and you’ve unpacked your bags, you can propose the next activity. Always remember that this is not your house, and that you are a guest of the First People here.

If you find yourself succumbing to a cycle of rage and fatigue, remember this:

The news cycle is meant to inflame and desensitize you. Watch for the patterns:

A horrific story breaks. In a rush for ‘ratings’ (which also means likes and shares now) articles are published that highlight the horror. People rightly become enraged and want to do something.

And the articles keep coming, and keep coming.

A few days pass. Right about the time everyone is feeling overwhelmed, new information rises from the grassroots level (which is how long it takes for thorough information to be released). This information contains nuance that was previously missing.

Unfortunately, this cycle of overwhelm does not leave much space for the understanding of nuance. Everyone is experiencing some level of fatigue and secondary trauma.

This information is received as a relief, as a sign that “oh it isn’t as bad as we thought, thank god.” It becomes a reason to question the entire atrocity.

So shortly afterwards, the rage is forgotten, the story is shelved, and we wait for the next cycle with little change happening.

There is no conspiracy in this. It is the nature of information = profit and the enforcement of the status quo. But if you know the cycle, you can break the way it influences you.

Yes, what is happening is that bad. Yes, there is nuance and information that is lacking, especially at first.

Here is my suggestion: pick 1 – 3 issues that you will commit to working on and focus on those. You will be more effective and less fatigued. This is especially important for spoonie fam, and for all people who are experiencing the direct harm of the oppressive systems in this country.

Modern Monasticism: a revolutionary vision

Modern Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism: a revolutionary vision

There are a growing number of people interested in a polytheistic monastic lifestyle, or at least growing awareness of it as a possibility. Many of these modern-day monastics lead a life in which devotion is present in every daily activity, service to others is considered service to the divine, and hours are spent in study, devotion, and contemplation rather than excessive socializing or other external activities.

I consider myself among those interested in creating this way of life and working toward building awareness and acceptance of it within western polytheism and modern culture. This lifestyle is a powerful resistance to American society; indeed, it goes against almost everything this culture values. I see four main areas of resistance in which a monastic lifestyle serves:

Resistance to the exploitation of time and labor
Our time is one of the most precious gifts that we have. Why should we spend it in service to lining the pockets of the wealthy, when we could spend it in service to the divine and each other? Our time is not a commodity to be traded and our labor does not determine our worth as human beings. Our existence, our innate divinity and connection with the divine, is sacrosanct. The monastic is not interested in accumulating unnecessary wealth, in owning more than is needed for basic needs, or in engaging in activities that do not support devotion and service. The monastic’s productive time and labor is committed to meeting their own and other’s basic needs to allow space to open for contemplation and devotion – no more and no less.

Resistance to the disenchantment of daily life
Our modern lifestyles leave little time for appreciation and connection with each other, the world around us, and the divine. Our power as creative beings in relation with a great web of existence is reduced to a few shallow moments that we can wring from the constant pressure to produce and do and go-go-go. This disenchantment, this disconnection from who we are, is the core of the systems that harm us. The monastic who steps back from the external pressure, finds joy in the simplicity of daily life, and re-enchants their days with deep contemplation and connection with beings human and divine holds a key to remembering our true selves. Like The Hermit card, they hang a lamp showing us the way.

Monastics bring enchantment back to the community. As devotionalists and frequent mystics, they serve a bridge between the mundane and the sacred, bringing the sacred into the every day and making every day sacred. Through their creativity and service, they make connection with the divine more readily available, and in contemplation they access deep truths and awareness.

Resistance to oppression and the devaluation of human beings
As Silence Maestas wrote in a post on devotional justice it is much more difficult for people facing threats to their existence to surrender to devotion. I have experienced this myself – while in, and recovering from, my abusive marriage, and while faced with the financial and housing instability that resulted from my divorce, surrender has been incredibly difficult. If we want more people to be able to lead spiritual lives, we have to make sure their basic needs and safety are met.

If one truly believes that all humans contain some spark or aspect of the divine, then anything that harms and oppresses humanity should be revolutionized. Those of us who place ourselves in service to the divine are also placing ourselves in service to humanity. Not only out of compassion for other humans, but out of love for deity.

Resistance to resource extraction from the earth
Many pagan monastics regard all parts of nature, moving and unmoving, as having their own unique spirit or to be a part of the divine. Just as we consider humans to be divine, so are all of the other beings on this planet. So, the monastic also aligns themselves with the earth and the beings of the place in which they live. The pagan monastic is often inclined to spend time in contemplative appreciation of the wild and natural world which we are a part of, and to protect and learn from those places.

The concept of extraction and exploitation is in stark contrast to the values of service and devotion; thus, the monastic practices an anti-capitalist resistance, though often without naming it that way. As such, this lifestyle is not easily accomplished in this society. There are many systemic barriers, external and internal. But the call to create a contemplative life firmly rooted in devotion and service is strong.

For myself, the past two years of trauma and insecurity has been clarifying and informative alongside terrifying; the ongoing process of shedding my old life, my old expectations, my old attachments has been difficult and painful. During this time that I have spent in relative solitude, I have experienced joy, contentment, and loneliness. But I realized that the loneliness is not new – being dependent upon an abusive husband and abusive wage labor jobs for security, caring about other peoples’ perceptions of me and my work, forcing myself to be productive when my spirit was screaming for time to just be, was in fact incredibly lonely and isolating. Upon realizing this, and the harm I was causing myself, I embraced my situation as an opportunity for healing and transformation. Yet, embracing the situation would have been impossibly difficult if it were not for the generosity of friends and strangers who provided support in many ways.

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As I allow this process to unfold, the call to live my most authentic life becomes stronger. A contemplative life of devotion and service is a life that feels right and good to me, a life that engages in as little harm as possible and is aligned with my values and connection with the earth. One of the things that I gained in coming out of an abusive relationship was an unwillingness to harbor abuse towards myself or abuse towards others. I cannot harbor blame against myself and I cannot willingly subject myself to something that I know will bring deep pain for minimal reward.

This too is not easy in our culture. The culture of the United States, so deeply rooted in capitalism and colonialism, is incredibly coercive and abusive. Wage labor is one of the most coercive aspects of capitalism: requiring us to be in service to capital or risk starvation. What do we lose, what potential does not get realized, while all of us are working ourselves to exhaustion in service to capital? That is not the practice of service I am here for. I am not here to bow to kings and capitalists.

Perhaps this is the result of being overly idealistic, mental health issues, or just my basic constitution (all of which have been “suggested” to me at some point). But I don’t think so. I think it is, as my friend Danica says much more eloquently, a revolt of the soul. Working a wage labor job feels like chaining my soul to everything that I don’t believe in. And while I recognize that I can bring my spiritual practice of devotion and service to everything that I do, including a wage labor job, experience has shown me again and again that the cost is too great. The cost to all of us is too great.

And yet, we still live in a capitalist society. There is no opting out, there is no freedom to choose; there is no true consent. So, what does this mean for someone like me, who wants to live a monastic lifestyle? How can I best move into this space of deepening into my truth and purpose and doing my true Work, while also meeting my basic needs within a society that puts a price tag on existence?

I’m most interested in creating a life in which wage labor is minimally necessary, if at all. The past year has certainly shown me that I can make do with far less than I thought I needed, that indeed I can be very happy by fulfilling my basic needs. Some food in my pack, water in my canteen, a warm dry place to come home to and a way to leave it when I’m ready, a source of communication with the rest of the world, my pen and notebook, my devotion, and my dog. That’s all.

So, what does the material foundation of a monastic life look like to me? It is pretty simple really:

  • Land that is my own/held in commons/conservation with other people
  • A small house or other structure
  • Labor focused on meeting needs, trade and service-oriented self-employment income to meet remaining needs, occasional supplementation with wage labor

I envision communities that are supportive of solitude and spiritual service, with access to a beautiful expanse of land, to be in a relationship of reciprocity with people and place.

In the interim, I am working on creating as much of this contemplative life of devotion and service as I can. I’m removing my own blocks and barriers to practice, feeling into where my service is most needed now, and opening to divine and ancestral guidance. I can only continue to flow where the current takes me, remaining hopeful that when it comes time to leap, Maa will open Her hand. I will continue to resist the conscription of my time, the chaining of my spirit to capitalism as much as I can.

I seek out support and community around these values. One such community is the Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism group (the Facebook group is currently set to “secret,” if you are interested in joining let me know). I also look to the work and friendship of Danica Swanson of the Black Stone Hermitage. I draw upon the Hindu tantric and bhakti traditions; as an initiate of Shakta Tantra, devotion to Kali Maa is the thread that weaves throughout my practice and draws me forward to awakening. There is a long history of monasticism, mysticism, and service to look to, even in the Western world. This desire is not new; indeed, there is evidence of people devoting themselves to spiritual service from the oldest of indigenous cultures. But as another wise hermit friend who practices Advaita Vedanta asked me, now that I have expressed this desire can I release it to the universe? That too is a part of the path.

Do you enjoy my writing or want to support this vision? Consider joining me on Patreon.

Calling all Witches: a communique from Standing Rock

This is a repost of a communication from a clandestine group of witches at Oceti Sakowin camp. If you feel this call, please answer. If you can not be at Standing Rock, do the work where you are.

This is a call. Not to be heard, but felt. A call to be moved. A call to action.

Many of you now know of the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and innumerable other indigenous nations against the Black Snake called Dakota Access Pipeline. The prayer and action camp at Standing Rock has been sustaining a vibrant community in resistance to the pipeline since the spring, slowing down construction and withstanding militarized police harassment on a near daily basis. The 20 mile injunction placed on construction by the federal government has been lifted, and construction is now within just 6 miles of the Mni Sose River and the encampment. The battle has entered its most decisive moment.

Our indigenous relatives from across Turtle Island have come here to continue a struggle that has been kept alive for over half a millennium. They have come here as the original and sovereign land tenders, earth defenders, and water protectors of this place. As the original walkers of the path of right relationship. They have come here to take back power and to show leadership in the fight against exploitation and commodification, against the culture of colonization and inquisition, and for a healthy and bountiful world.

We are humbled and inspired by their initiatives, and unconditionally support them. Now is the time for us as allies in this anti-colonial struggle, to call upon our fellow comrades to join us on the battlefield.

To all who pray to our Earth and the water that cleanses her and brings forth life. To all who cast a circle and call in the elements, spirits, gods and goddesses, and deities; who ask for guidance from the spirit world. To those who listen to the ancestors as our descendants lay and wait. To those who align themselves with the cycles of the moon, the seasons, and the tides. For whom the cycle of life and death does not instill fear and aggression, but strength and comfort. To all who know how to listen.

It is time now witches, to deepen our work not only of casting spells and hexes, but of breaking them. We call forth the de-spelling of individualism, empire, spectacle, domestication, and whiteness.

It is time now witches to join us. Join us in spirit and join us in humility on this land. Bring your magick. Bring your prayers. Bring your bodies to the frontlines to protect all of creation. Come ready to take decisive action to kill this Black Snake. Come ready to follow in the path of indigenous warriors. We call you to join a frontline battle in a spiritual war that has been raging for centuries. A war against a dead civilization for all life on earth.

If you cannot come in body, take action from afar; the form of life of our enemies pervades all around us. If you cannot come, pray, cast, gather the coven, go to the wild, hold ritual, plan attacks. Ground yourself and continue to do the work. Continue to be moved.

We toss you a bundle of thread sweet witches, from the beautiful homelands of the Oceti Sakowin in each direction. It is the thread of centuries of resistance. Weave with it.

My Polytheism

My polytheism was born in the innocent, rebellious heart of a child. My polytheism was found in moonlight, was found in the air thick with moisture and meaning, was found not in resistance to the stares of God-the-Father, but in the imploring look of Mary-the-Mother. My polytheism was found in the awakening of memories and the voice urging me to “look just behind my eyes.”

My polytheism roots into the dark and fecund earth, finding place in the deep and silent places. It rises into the stars, casting itself into the universe that spins just as I do. My polytheism needs no authority, including the authority of the gods, and reminds me of the power that I hold in equal measure.

My polytheism is fierce and bloody. It is the wild dance that shakes time itself. It is the howling of black dogs at midnight. My polytheism cannot be contained and will shred any attempt at doing so. Just as you think you know what it is, it sheds its skin again.

My polytheism is devotional and ecstatic. I build shrines. I offer prayers. I perform ceremony. I speak with them as I would a lover – though they are not always or only that. My relationships with my gods are intensely intimate and born of great longing. In that I listen to their voices before those of any human claiming authority over my practice, I do put my gods first. My relationships with the gods is no one else’s business, unless I invite you in.

My polytheism is my heart reaching for what my arms could never hold.

My polytheism is engaged with the world. My gods do not want me to limit my polytheism to practice in front of a small shrine, or even to remembering them as I remember my own breath. My polytheism cannot turn from injustice any more than it could turn from the gods and still call itself polytheism.

My polytheism is as my witchcraft, my gods the gods of the oppressed and common people. My gods have opened my eyes again and again and again to the way that devotion must be followed with action, and is meaningless otherwise. They have opened my eyes again and again and again to the sources of power and the ways that those who seek to oppress the people wield and abuse it. They have opened my heart again and again and again to the most marginalized, to those who are pushed to the fringes of society – for the gods are most certainly there too.

Turn your eyes inward. Turn your heart outward. Put your hands to work. Liberate the people. Only then will they be able to turn themselves toward devotion.

My polytheism rejoices in community. It demands a community of people who are free of the tyranny of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. It does not demand to tell you how to be free, but it is willing to help you find the way. My polytheism seeks to build a community of connection. You are welcome, but you are not obligated. You do not need us to pursue your own path, but we are here if you want to sit around the fire.

My polytheism embraces paradox, lives in the multitude. It knows that it is but one piece, one star, amongst an infinite number of possibilities. It is the drop of water that represents the ocean, but is not all of the ocean.

My polytheism is mine, and my gods’, and it doesn’t belong to you. But if you show it the respect due a relationship, it will open its arms to you as friend.