“Our era is calling us into unknown territory. This uncharted place cannot be held in your hand but is a realm within the mind. This is a prohibited realm, as taught to us by our foremothers and forefathers. This forbidden world is the land of self-love.
In many cultures and in many ages, humanity has defined itself as a misfit of creation. Whether it is Adam and Eve as blemishes in the heavenly Garden of Eden, or our current self-assignment as “the planetary pest,” there seems to be a profound sense of non-belonging in our collective unconscious.
Today we are being asked to move beyond this misunderstanding of self. We are being asked to muster enough faith to remember that everything in creation is wanted and here for a reason. We are being asked to re-assume our identity as beloved children of the Earth.
Something alchemical occurs when one holds oneself in one’s arms and says to oneself: “You are precious and I love everything about you: your perfections and your imperfections.” I would challenge you to look into the mirror and say this, but one must be ready for the experience. If you are anything like me, it may trigger some very strange, foreign and maybe even uncomfortable sensations. Not because it isn’t true, but because it has been so many hundreds of generations since many of us have actually said this to ourselves and meant it.
The poem I share here is based on the Diné philosophy that we are not only accepted by Creator and Creation, but that we are celebrated by Creator and Creation. We in turn celebrate Creator and Creation. This all makes for one grand party that my Diné ancestors knew quite well.
In fact, our European ancestors knew this world quite well, too. The only difference between the white woman and the red woman is the white woman’s ancestors were slaughtered and tortured much further back in time. We often forget the 8-9 million European Medicine Women who were burned alive, drowned alive, dismembered alive, raped, beaten and/or tortured as “witches.” We often forget how this not only harmed them, but spiritually wounded their brothers, husbands and sons who loved them. These were the women who prayed to stones, who made herbal medicines, who knew the land and the language of the land. We often forget how this episode and others served to severe our connection to the sacred motherland of Europe and engendered this sense of non-belonging.
Even in the face of this trauma, it is never too late to abandon the lie and enter the forbidden dimensions of self-love. For it is not the Creator who forbids us, but the dark. We are not only permitted by the Creator to enter this land, we are begged to enter it. For only then, will the party start again. Only then, will humanity know the joy it was created for again.
The topic of this poem is Hozhó (zh is pronounced like the j in taj mahal). Hozhó has been translated as beauty, but it means something more close to joy. Joy/Hozhó is the natural result of knowing oneself. Because to know oneself is to understand the grand celebration we are a part of. It is to know, profoundly, without a doubt, that we are loved, profoundly, by the Creator.
There are many things that keep us from feeling loved by the Creator. For women, rape can make us feel unlovable if we think it was our fault. For boys, domestic violence can make them feel unlovable if they believe they failed to protect their mother. It is our divine task to fight through the voices that say we are unloved and unworthy and find our Creator.
Only when we accept the truth of our beauty, will we let go of fear and insecurity. And only when we let go of fear and insecurity can we begin to have a real relationship with Mother Earth. A relationship that is not based on domination, separation, hierarchy, or other forms of insecurity, but a relationship that is akin to the relationship between a tree and the sun. Like this tree, we become the grateful receiver of life who, in the midst of this gratitude, is moved to give life to others, lovingly offering everything it has (shade, fruit, wood, beauty) to all that it sees.
What is really spectacular is when you have a community of these givers. In the context of the forest, even the giver is gifted with blessings unconditionally. It is not a trade. It is two beings that happen to be pouring out their heart at the same time, overtaken by the splendor of living in and as Creator’s design.
This is who we were created to be. Perhaps the pain we feel is the pain of trying to be something we are not. We are not the black sheep of the earth. We are the welcomed sons and daughters of the land. Remember this, and you will be doing your part to heal the whole earth.
It is dawn.
The sun is filling the sky
and my grandmother and I
are singing prayers to the horizon.
This morning she is
teaching me the meaning
Although there is no direct
translation from Diné Bizaad
(the Navajo language)
every living being knows
what hozhó means.
For hozhó is
every drop of rain.
It is every eyelash.
Every leaf on every tree.
Every feather on the bluebird’s wing.
Hozhó is undeniable beauty.
It is every breath we give to the trees.
And every breath they give to us in return.
Hozhó is reciprocity.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks a language that
grew out of the desert floors
like red stone monoliths.
A language like arms
out of the earth
reaching into the sky,
praising creation for all
of its brilliance.
Hozho is remembering that we are a part of this brilliance.
It is finally accepting that
you are a sacred song that brings the Diyin Diné’é
to their knees in an almost
Hozho is re-membering our own beauty.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks the language of a
She speaks the language
of hooves hitting the dirt
for she was a midwife and would
gallop to the women in labor.
She is fluent in the
language of suffering mothers;
fluent in the language
of joyful mothers;
fluent in the language
of handing a glowing newborn
to its creator.
Hozhó is an experience.
But it is not something
you can experience
the eagles tell us
as they lock talons
in the stratosphere
and fall to the earth as one.
Hozhó is inter-beauty.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks the language of the Male Rain
which shoots Lightning Boys through the sky,
pummels the Green Corn Children
and huddles the horses against cliff sides
in the early afternoon.
She also speaks the language of the Female Rain
which sends the scent of dust and sage into our hoghans
and casts rainbows in the sky.
Us Diné, we know what hozhó means!
And you! You know what hozhó means!
And deep down I think we know what hozho
does not mean.
Like the days we walk in sadness.
Like the days we live for money.
Like the days we live for fame.
Like the day the conquistadors came,
climbed down from their horses
and asked us
if they could buy
We knew this was not hozhó
because we knew
you could not own a mountain.
But we knew we could make it hozhó once again.
So we took their silver swords
and we took their silver coins
and we melted them
with fire and buffalo hide bellows
and recast them into beautiful
squash blossom necklaces
and placed it around their necks.
We took the silver helmets
straight off their heads
and transformed it into
a fearless beauty.
We made jewelry:
Hozhó is the transmuting of broken bones.
Hozhó is the prayer that carried us
through genocide and disease.
It is the prayer that will carry us through
through this global fear
that dances like a shadow
in our minds.
This morning my grandmother is teaching me something
She is teaching me that the
easiest (and most elegant) way
to defeat an army of hatred
is to sing to it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees
‘It will do this,’ she says, ‘because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found Heaven.
It has found Hozhó.’
And so my grandmother is talking
to the colors of the sky at dawn
and she is saying:
(beauty is restored again…)
It is dawn, my friends.
Copyright 2016 (c) Lyla June Johnston
~ not some New [C]Age mumbo jumbo… This hits the nail on the head ~
An extract from Barry Long’s book MAKING LOVE ~ SEXUAL LOVE THE DIVINE WAY
“I teach man and woman how to be true to love and how to be honest in their relationships. I help them to discover a divine love beyond all sexual imagining. The key to the mystery of divine love is to see love as it is, and not as you think it or imagine it.
The cause of most of the unhappiness on earth is that man and woman have actually forgotten how to make physical love. This is the greatest tragedy of all time. The forgetfulness has been going on and slowly getting worse for so many thousands of years that it’s now a tragedy for the whole of mankind. There can be no mass solutions. The problem is too personal and too deep. Everybody has to do it for himself or herself, or it can’t be done.
Woman’s basic unhappiness, her perennial discontent, is because man can no longer reach her physically. Her emotional excess, depressions, tearful frustrations, even premenstrual tension and the conditions leading to hysterectomy and other uterine problems, are due to man’s sexual failure to gather or release in lovemaking her finest, fundamental, female energies. These extraordinarily beautiful divine energies are intense and exquisite and when left untapped in woman, as they are now, they degenerate into psychic or emotional disturbances, and eventually crystallise into physical abnormalities. The womb gives birth to all things.
Man’s basic unhappiness, his perennial restlessness, is because in forgetting how to make love he’s abandoned his original divine authority and lost sexual control of himself. His emotional or psychic degeneracy manifests as sex obsession. All men, without exception, are sex obsessed. This means compulsive sexual fantasising, chronic masturbation (even when living with a partner), sex repression leading to anger and violence, and the universal symptoms of chasing wealth and getting lost in work. Busyness and wealth-gathering compensate for being an inept lover and are cover-ups (in both sexes) for the inability or fear to love.
Because of his neglect of love, neglect of woman, man suffers from premature ejaculation, guilt, anxiety self-doubt, impotence, sexual atrophy masquerading as sexual disinterest, sexual abstinence due to repressed fear of failure, sexual bravado and lack of true wisdom – all of which he inflicts on woman, aggravating her basic discontent and his own restlessness.
No matter how much a woman loves her man and wants to give her love to him, she will not and cannot give up all her divine energies if he is not yet himself, fully integrated or aligned with love. As very few men are themselves, the gap of unhappiness between man and woman keeps on growing.
To be a fully integrated male, a man has to assimilate in his body the divine female energies that woman can only release to him through right physical lovemaking. But the man has to be man enough. He has to be able to love her enough; that is, love her selflessly during the actual act of lovemaking. He has to be able to absorb and express sufficient love in his body to reach the highest part of her, and love enough to extract the divine energies from her deepest centre. To be able to love in this way is the authority man has lost – his only true authority over woman.
This requires pure love. It does not depend on technique. A man may develop his sexual technique but he cannot use expertise to make divine love. Exciting sensations are gratifying and give him a form of authority, but they are not the love that woman craves. He may satisfy her, like a good meal. But soon she hungers again and eventually despises her appetite or herself, because she knows she is not being loved.
Man has failed to serve love and failed physically to serve woman, who is the personification of love. The penalty for man is woman’s tyrannous emotionality. Wherever he loves, or tries to love, she will one day shock him, stun him, devastate him by suddenly revealing herself as the fiendess, the living demon of emotion.
The fiendess shows herself when he is attached and can’t just walk away. A man who has not yet experienced the hatred of the fiendess has not yet experienced love. A woman who has not yet seen herself being the fiendess has not yet connected with her love.
To man, the fiendess of emotion in woman is hell on earth. This is the part of her he cannot handle or understand. The demon of his own failure to love comes to life to scorn, abuse and torment him. He is terrified of it. He bluffs and blusters his way through. But finally, as he grows old in the relationship and gives up for the sake of some peace, the fiendess will conquer him and force him to surrender the last vestige of his manliness and authority. Then they both grow old together, feeling safe, but half dead as they lean on each other in the awful world of compromise.
While the world continues as it is, the fiendess will not allow man to forget his failure to love woman rightly. Woman must be loved. The future of the human race depends on woman being loved because only when woman is truly loved can man be truly himself and regain his lost authority. Only then can peace return to earth. Yet woman as she is now cannot be loved for long (or for good) by man as he is now. Together they are trapped in a vicious cycle and if left to their own ideas of love, there is no way out for them.
Woman has learned to make love through man who does not know how to make love. Hence the dreadful mess that love is in. Since time began she has been manipulated and encouraged to feel that the finest expression of her love is to please man sexually. The truth is the other way around. The finest expression of love is to have man delight her sexually. This he can only do when he can forget his preoccupation with orgasm and be sufficiently selfless or present in love to collect and receive her divine energies. For him, these are the finest expression of her love.
By teaching her to please him and satisfy him down through the ages, man has taught woman to desire him, to project herself sexually, to make herself attractive to him. He addicted her to an emotional and physical craving for his sexual attention. And he did this by neglecting to love her.
Woman had no affirmation of love, her true nature, since there was no man to love her rightly. So she settled for sexual excitation, which man had persuaded her was love. Men addicted her to this by teaching her that there is no purpose to physical love outside of making babies or selfish pleasure.
Man in his selfishness taught woman to be selfish. He taught her to excite him physically whenever love was not present; to project herself sexually for their mutual entertainment through clothing, make-up, dance and posing. And he encouraged her to let him excite her (and himself) through digital stimulation of her clitoris to the point of orgasm, instead of loving the beauty of her whole body.
The loveless narcotic of sex numbed her and like all addictions, engendered fear – fear of losing him or his attention, and fear of other women in the form of jealousy and female competition. If she didn’t satisfy him another woman soon would. And with this went the intimidating thought sown in her by all her sexual partners: that if she didn’t comply she’d be left alone.
As a reaction to this male infamy woman discovered cunt power – the power to tease man and manipulate him without delivering the goods, or by denying the goods when he wanted them. But the spell of cunt power, being largely imaginary, soon wore off after she let him enter her body. He would soon tire of her and go off with another.
Woman’s subconscious dependence on the fluctuating sexual attention of men rules her choice of partner. She may go for either an exciting man whom she thinks she can control, or an agreeable and safe partner whom she can quietly bend to her wants. Both kinds of partnership usually end – either in disaster or boredom and indifference.
Male sexuality is put into woman in sexual intercourse and, because it is substantive, it stays on in her. Its effect is a periodic wispy shadow of depression that she can’t explain but accepts as normal. It clouds her perception, making her feel emotional and not herself. The same male sexuality is the active outgoing selfish drive which made the world a violent and loveless place. In woman, this destructive shadow of man subtly influences her choice of partner. So very seldom is he Mr Right.
The male shadow in her is doubt. And it is the shadow that chooses. While woman wants the right to choose she has to make a choice; and then she must live with the shadow, doubt, in the man and in herself.
Woman in her natural state is not dependent on man. She loves him. And in love there is no dependence, and no fear of losing. She is the passive, attracting principle. She is an irresistible living magnet. She draws to herself a right man to love her truly and divinely. There’s no choice in it.
For woman today to return to her natural golden state – of pure love – takes time. But having suffered enough from man’s sexuality, she gradually learns not to compromise when there is not enough love. Finally this brings her a man who can remove the shadow from his love.
A woman is only ever less than her true nature because of man’s lack of love. She went off into her dream of love to escape his sexuality. Her babies have long been a substitute for his love. Unlike man, a real woman can exist without sexual intercourse or masturbation. She waits for love, not sex. Woman only lusts for man when she identifies with the male sexuality he has induced in her. ‘Nymphomania’ is a male invention and fantasy projection, like sex-shops, pornography and prostitution, all kept going by male sexuality and lack of love in all concerned.
Woman has been utterly fooled by man, pathologically brainwashed. And as modern woman congratulates herself on her progress in breaking down male domination in the world, she fails to perceive that she is as firmly hooked as ever on his orgasmic sexuality and his clitoral substitute for love. Her protests are really about love, not equality; but that’s not heard in the strident male arena.
It is man’s world and he built it on the strength of sexual aggression. Male domination began in sex and in sex it continues unabated. Woman cannot alter this position by marching with banners or withdrawing from sex. She has tried all the means at her disposal down through the centuries; none has worked and none will. The solution is for her to be in command of love. That does not mean to be in command of the man. It means to know inside herself what is right and true and stick to that, even if it means the man leaves her. Woman is love. All she has to do is realise that, by giving up her self doubt and fear.”
People don’t have to be sacrificing goats and virgins around a buncha lit candles while chanting shit to be practicing evil.
This world/society (Civilization) we’ve all been brought up in is BUILT off of the very “dark arts”/”witchcraft”, SORCERY that they’ve always claimed to be against.
Coercion. Force. Rape. Fear-mongering. Control. Manipulation, ect. To traumatize. ALL of this shit, on a personal & collective level, is evil. That is the real “dark arts”. The real trickery, the real “witchery” (in terms of what they say that word is supposed to mean).
This “civilization” and the so called “freedom” that THEY “GAVE” you (and how any other human can even give you your freedom/rights in the first place is beyond me), is an illusion. This shit the majority of you all think is “life” (Civilization); separated from our Mother Earth, is a deep, deep trance/spell.
If you agree with or justify (try to, anyway) ANY of the things that have come about due to this world, you are indeed under their spell. And by buying into their propaganda, spreading it around, you perpetuate this massive spell.
This “civilization” has been the ULTIMATE PROJECTION cast upon us.
The very institutions, religions, entities, societies, cultures, what the fuck ever, who condemn others (especially women), proclaiming that they are evil terrorists, and in particular obviously, screaming about “witches” and “witchcraft” and any form of so-called “dark arts”; are the ones actually using it.
THEY’RE the ones manipulating/using “sorcery” to keep us all under their control.
I’m not gonna break it down because it’s obvious.
…but here’s another quotation from Lucy Pearce’s book ‘Burning Woman’, because thank you, Lucy.
The Dark Arts of the Patriarchy
“Despite claiming distaste and disbelief in witchcraft, our [perverted] masculine culture has a powerful understanding of the dark arts. It’s how they’ve kept their stranglehold on power for all this time.
It is not that they are cleverer, stronger, divinely endowed or even in the majority, despite their claims to the contrary.
It’s that they use forms of mind and spiritual control, more subtle, but not that much less powerful, than the overt violence we stood witness to in the last section.
The dark arts are psychological reminders of the real violence that can be played out without warning on our bodies and minds. But because they are invisible, and take place in the shadows, they are a more insidious form of control and when confronted can easily be denied, laughed off or turned back on the recipient as crazy imaginings.
Some of the most common of the dark arts of coercion that are commonly used in our culture include:
– shame, humiliation, embarrassment, discrediting difference as ‘madness’
– controlling bodies — through strict dress codes, veiling, starvation… [& quite obviously THE BASIC NECESSITIES OF LIFE ON THIS EARTH such as food, water, housing, clothing, ect. and forcing/coercing us all to have to SLAVE LABOR just for these things, our basic necessities for our “survival” that has already been provided FOR FREE VIA THE EARTH HERSELF.. DUH?]
– banishment or threat of banishment
– rewards… and threats
– repression and dissociation
– imposing hierarchy and clear authority
– keeping people small, powerless, impoverished and infantilized [as I said above]
– exhaustion and lack of adequate rest or recovery time
– unattainable standards
– a focus on the external
– closely policed spiritual and sexual experience
As a trained teacher, I recognize that we are taught many of these in our arsenal of control. As a parent I know that all mainstream parenting advice centers round them too.
Those are the tools of coercion, the rules of play in the patriarchy. Naturally they are the back bone of most patriarchal religions.
First they are used against us by authority figures when we are younger, when they are physically more powerful than us, and can enforce them. Then we learn to internalize them, creating a super-ego, or internal authority figure which continues the job on their behalf.
Each of these weapons in the arsenal of dark arts is a complex energy trap, taking our natural power and turning it against ourselves in a deadly game of self-policing in order to survive.
Whilst the dark arts remain nameless and invisible, they keep control of us: sticking to us like spiders’ webs in the dark, confining our movements, filling us with unconscious fears of what might happen next.
Each of these dark arts works to activate fear within us.
The fear of being found out, the fear of being shamed, the fear of rejection, the fear of pain, the fear of loss of freedom or finances, the fear of abandonment and the ultimate fear — the fear of death.”
…another mini ventilation…fuck your bullshit.
Originally published at inthewake.org
When some people hear that we want to “end civilization” they initially respond negatively, because of their positive associations with the word “civilization.” This piece is an attempt to clarify, define and describe what I mean by “civilization.”
One dictionary definition1 reads:
- a society in an advanced state of social development (eg, with complex legal and political and religious organizations); “the people slowly progressed from barbarism to civilization” [syn: civilisation]
- the social process whereby societies achieve civilization [syn: civilisation]
- a particular society at a particular time and place; “early Mayan civilization” [syn: culture, civilisation]
- the quality of excellence in thought and manners and taste; “a man of intellectual refinement”; “he is remembered for his generosity and civilization” [syn: refinement, civilisation]
The synonyms include “advancement,” “breeding,” “civility,” “cultivation,” “culture,” “development,” “edification,” “education,” “elevation,” “enlightenment,” “illumination,” “polish,” “progress,” and “refinement”. Of course. As Derrick Jensen asks, “can you imagine writers of dictionaries willingly classifying themselves as members of ‘a low, undeveloped, or backward state of human society’?”
In contrast, the antonyms of “civilization” include “barbarism,” “savagery,” “wilderness,” and “wildness.” These are the words that civilized people use to refer to those they view as being outside of civilization—in particular, indigenous peoples. “Barbarous,” as in “barbarian,” comes from a Greek word, meaning “non-Greek, foreign.” The word “savage” comes from the Latin “silvaticus” meaning “of the woods.” The origins seem harmless enough, but it’s very instructive to see how civilized people have used these words2:
- The quality of being shockingly cruel and inhumane [syn: atrocity, atrociousness, barbarousness, heinousness]
- A brutal barbarous savage act [syn: brutality, barbarism, savagery]
- The quality or condition of being savage.
- An act of violent cruelty.
- Savage behavior or nature; barbarity.
These associations of cruelty with the uncivilized are, however, in glaring opposition to the historical record of interactions between civilized and indigenous peoples.
Let us take one of the most famous examples of “contact” between civilized and indigenous peoples. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the “Americas” he noted that he was impressed by the indigenous peoples, writing in his journal that they had a “naked innocence … They are very gentle without knowing what evil is, without killing, without stealing.”
And so he decided “they will make excellent servants.”
In 1493, with the permission of the Spanish Crown, he appointed himself “viceroy and governor” of the Caribbean and the Americas. He installed himself on the island now divided between Haiti and the Dominican republic and began to systematically enslave and exterminate the indigenous population. (The Taino population of the island was not civilized, in contrast to the civilized Inca who the conquistadors also invaded in Central America.) Within three years he had managed to reduce the indigenous population from eight million to three million. By 1514 only 22,000 of the indigenous population remained, and after 1542 they were considered extinct.3
The tribute system, instituted by [Columbus] sometime in 1495, was a simple and brutal way of fulfilling the Spanish lust for gold while acknowledging the Spanish distaste for labor. Every Taino over the age of fourteen had to supply the rulers with a hawk’s bell of gold every three months (or, in gold-deficient areas, twenty-five pounds of spun cotton; those who did were given a token to wear around their necks as proof that they had made their payment; those did not were … “punished” – by having their hands cut off … and [being] left to bleed to death.4
More than 10,000 people were killed this way during Columbus’ time as governor. On countless occasions, these civilized invaders engaged in torture, rape, and massacres. The Spaniards
… made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mother’s breast by their feet and dashed their heads against the rocks … They spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.5
On another occasion:
A Spaniard … suddenly drew his sword. Then the whole hundred drew theirs and began to rip open the bellies, to cut and kill – men, women, children and old folk, all of whom were seated off guard and frightened … And within two credos, not a man of them there remains alive. The Spaniards enter the large house nearby, for this was happening at its door, and in the same way, with cuts and stabs, began to kill as many as were found there, so that a stream of blood was running, as if a number of cows had perished.6
This pattern of one-way, unprovoked, inexcusable cruelty and viciousness occurred in countless interactions between civilized and indigenous people through history.
This phenomena is well-documented in excellent books including Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present, Kirkpatrick Sale’sThe Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, and Dee Brown’sBury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. Farley Mowat’s books, especially Walking on the Land, The Deer People, and The Desperate People document this as well with an emphasis on the northern and arctic regions of North America.
There is also good information in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States andVoices of a People’s History of the United States. Eduardo Galeando’s incredible Memory of Firetrilogy covers this topic as well, with an emphasis on Latin America (this epic trilogy reviews numerous related injustices and revolts). Jack D Forbes’ book Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism and Terrorism is highly recommended. You can also find information in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, although I often disagree with the author’s premises and approach.
The same kind of attacks civilized people committed against indigenous peoples were also consistently perpetrated against non-human animal and plant species, who were wiped out (often deliberately) even when civilized people didn’t need them for food; simply as blood-sport. For further readings on this, check out great books like Farley Mowat’s extensive and crushing Sea of Slaughter, or Clive Ponting’s A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations (which also examines precivilized history and European colonialism).
With this history of atrocity in mind, we should (if we haven’t already) cease using the propaganda definitions of civilized as “good” and uncivilized as “bad” and seek a more accurate and useful definition. Anthropologists and other thinkers have come up with a number of somewhat less biased definitions of civilization.
Nineteenth century English anthropologist E B Tylor defined civilization as life in cities that is organized by government and facilitated by scribes (which means the use of writing). In these societies, he noted, there is a resource “surplus”, which can be traded or taken (though war or exploitation) which allows for specialization in the cities.
Derrick Jensen, having recognized the serious flaws in the popular, dictionary definition of civilization, writes:
I would define a civilization much more precisely, and I believe more usefully, as a culture – that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts – that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from latin civitatis, meaning state or city), with cities being defined – so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on – as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.
Jensen also observes that because cities need to import these necessities of life and to grow, they must also create systems for the perpetual centralization of resources, yielding “an increasing region of unsustainability surrounded by an increasingly exploited countryside.”
Contemporary anthropologist John H Bodley writes: “The principle function of civilization is to organize overlapping social networks of ideological, political, economic, and military power that differentially benefit privileged households.”7 In other words, in civilization institutions like churches, corporations and militaries exist and are used to funnel resources and power to the rulers and the elite.
The twentieth century historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford wrote one of my favourite and most cutting and succinct definitions of civilization. He uses the term civilization
… to denote the group of institutions that first took form under kingship. Its chief features, constant in varying proportions throughout history, are the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor, the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes.8
Taking various anthropological and historical definitions into account, we can come up with some common properties of civilizations (as opposed to indigenous groups).
- People live in permanent settlements, and a significant number of them in cities.
- The society depends on large-scale agriculture (which is needed to support dense, non-food-growing urban populations).
- The society has rulers and some form of “aristocracy” with centralized political, economic, and military power, who exist by exploiting the mass of people.
- The elite (and possibly others) use writing and numbers to keep track of commodities, the spoils of war, and so on.
- There is slavery and forced labour either by the direct use of physical violence, or by economic coercion and violence (through which people are systematically deprived of choices outside the wage economy).
- There are large armies and institutionalized warfare.
- Production is mechanized, either through physical machines or the use of humans as though they were machines (this point will be expanded on in other writings here soon).
- Large, complex institutions exist to mediate and control the behaviour of people, through as their learning and worldview (schools and churches), as well as their relationships with each other, with the unknown, and with the nature world (churches and organized religion).
Anthropologist Stanley Diamond recognized the common thread in all of these attributes when he wrote; “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home”.9
This common thread is control. Civilization is a culture of control. In civilizations, a small group of people controls a large group of people through the institutions of civilization. If they are beyond the frontier of that civilization, then that control will come in the form of armies and missionaries (be they religious or technical specialists). If the people to be controlled are inside of the cities, inside of civilization, then the control may come through domestic militaries (ie, police). However, it is likely cheaper and less overtly violent to condition of certain types of behaviour through religion, schools or media, and related means, than through the use of outright force (which requires a substantial investment in weapons, surveillance and labour).
That works very effectively in combination with economic and agricultural control. If you control the supply of food and other essentials of life, people have to do what you say or they die. People inside of cities inherently depend on food systems controlled by the rulers to survive, since the (commonly accepted) definition of a city is that the population is dense enough to require the importation of food.
For a higher degree of control, rulers have combined control of food and agriculture with conditioning that reinforces their supremacy. In the dominant, capitalist society, the rich control the supply of food and essentials, and the content of the media and the schools. The schools and workplaces act as a selection process: those who demonstrate their ability to cooperate with those in power by behaving properly and doing what they’re told at work and school have access to higher paying jobs involving less labour. Those who cannot or will not do what they’re told are excluded from easy access to food and essentials (by having access only to menial jobs), and must work very hard to survive, or become poor and/or homeless. People higher on this hierarchy are mostly spared the economic and physical violence imposed on those lower on the hierarchy. A highly rationalized system of exploitation like this helps to increase the efficiency of the system by reducing the chance of resistance or outright rebellion of the populace.
The media’s propaganda systems have most people convinced that this system is somehow “natural” or “necessary”—but of course, it is both completely artificial and a direct result of the actions of those in power (and the inactions of those who believe that they benefit from it, or are prevented from acting through violence or the threat of violence).
In contradiction to the idea that the dominant culture’s way of living is “natural,” human beings lived as small, ecological, participatory, equitable groups for more than 99% of human history. There are a number of excellent books and articles comparing indigenous societies to civilization:
- Chellis Glendinning’s My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization (Shambhala, 1994). You can read an excerpt of the chapter “A Lesson in Earth Civics.” She has also written several related books, including When Technology Wounds: The Human Consequences of Progress (Morrow, 1990).
- Marshall Sahlin’s Stone Age Economics (Adline, 1972) is a detailed classic in that same vein. You can read his essay “The Original Affluent Society.”
- Anthropologist Stanley Diamond’s book In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization (Transaction Publishers, 1987).
- Richard Heinberg’s essay “The Primitivist Critique of Civilization.”
These sources show there were healthy, equitable and ecological communities in the past, and that they were the norm for countless generations. It is civilization that is monstrous and aberrant.
Living inside of the controlling environment of civilization is an inherently traumatic experience, although the degree of trauma varies with personal circumstance and the amounts of privilege different people have in society. Derrick Jensen makes this point very well in A Language Older than Words (Context Books, 2000), and Chellis Glendinning covers it as well in My name is Chellis.
(because I’ve been thinking a lot about all this “witch” shit today and a topic I have yet to ventilate about, lemme continue on by quoting some of Lucy Pearce’s book ‘Burning Woman’ cuz it is potent) — from Chapter 2: A History of Burning Women — for my sisters.
her fire burns hot.
flames lick through me.
but, there’s no stake holding me here.
no, here she burns for me,
the goddess of fire,
to remind me that
deep in my belly a fire should be raging,
the women of my line,
did they fear this fire?
was fire too close to the history of this line of women immemorial?
I see them, their faces dark,
no firelight in their souls,
no burning in their core,
no fuel to fire longing and desire, to give volume to voice.
this fear of fire,
how deep does it run?
I see them,
a line bleeding back into the dark bowels of centuries past where
no flame burns.
dark faces, tightly drawn skin reminding me of my own jawbone.
how powerful was this message?
put out your light, woman.
by fearing our own fire,
we douse our own flame.
we cannot live what we are here to do without fire.
In order to fully understand our own limitations, hesitations, blocks and anxieties, we have to delve into our his-story. Both the official his-story that we have learned, as well as her-story that has been suppressed. We need to become conscious of the culture that we have numbed to in order to survive. We have to bring into conscious awareness that which goes sensed but unspoken: the threat of being a woman who lives to her own tune in this world.
‘W’ IS FOR WITCH
Whenever I hear a guy say, “She’s too wild, too much, too hard to figure out, too complicated, too intense, too hard to handle, too emotional, too opinionated, or crazy.” I hear, “I’d have burned her ass at the stake back in Salem. She’s too connected … I won’t be able to tame her.” ~ Jenny G. Perry
We are the granddaughters of the witches they were never able to burn. If history teaches us that a “witch” is nothing more than a woman who doesn’t know her place, then damn straight, I consider myself a witch. ~ Ruby Hamad
When I learned my alphabet, W was for witch. The archetypal Burned Woman, there in front of my pre-school eyes. R wasn’t for rapist or P for pedophile or psychopath. But there it was: W for witch.
We are taught about the dark feminine early, we imbibe the warning of the witch with our nursery stories. Beware the solitary woman who lives in the forest, casts spells ad will eat human children for breakfast. And as a perceived pretender to patriarchal power, of course she was depicted in a silly black hat with a phallic broomstick poking out from between her legs.
Want to discredit a woman in the real world? All you need is one word.
Still. In the 21st century. Just this week an Australian Federal Minister called a respected political journalist who wrote about a sexism scandal that a senior colleague had just resigned over, “a mad fucking witch”.
The W word has been a one-word death sentence to women for centuries. The fire starter. It has been used to condemn women who inhabit the outlying edges of our patriarchal culture and flatly refuse to have their lives decided for them. It has been used to shame and silence those who speak up. As well as those who chose not to marry or have children, who healed using unknown means, who cursed the wielders of power for their inhumanity, who attended deaths and births, or have followed their own spiritual and sexual impulses.
The witch represents the patriarchal fear of women’s power, embodied in an individual. She who must be destroyed so that society can prosper. But look a little closer and her spells, her abilities to do the supernatural, to enchant, to shapeshift are, I would argue, paranoid reversals of the Bible. Her powers are spookily analogous to those assigned to the great heroes of the Bible. But if patriarchs’ were done through men, via the power of the male God, then hers, done not in the name of God, must be done in the name of his shadowy counterpart — the Devil.
The witch (AKA a powerful woman) has been pitched as a direct threat to the carefully constructed male dominated system of “divine right”. And so the System has done everything within its power to erase, discredit and disconnect women who exhibit any form of power, and label them witches. With society’s blessing. Because, throughout history, where women have never been considered as human as men, witches were not human at all. They do not deserve our pity or defense, we are told, we are well rid of them. They would destroy everything we hold dear. And so we must destroy them first.
We have been told enough fairy stories in our girlhood to know to beware of the witch. We have read enough his-story to know that as women we don’t want to be mistaken for her. The desire to live, to be accepted and to belong, keeps most of us in our places. And so we spend out lives running from the darkness, trying out hardest to be good and work hard and keep others happy.
To me, a witch is a woman that is capable of letting her intuition take hold of her actions, that communes with her environment, that isn’t afraid of facing challenges. ~ Paulo Coelho
So when we feel the fire rising in our bellies, we also smell smoke in our nostrils. We feel passion and sense danger. And so we step back, pipe down, play it safe. For fear of what if. Because his-story has taught us clearly: “bad” girls are branded as witches. “Bad” girls get burned.
When we feel the upwelling of power within us, our bodies respond with deep fear. Far deeper than just a worry about losing face or looking silly. But rather the threat of losing our lives or those we love. The fear is real. Our bodies know it.
Whether you believe in past lives, in the collective unconscious, the recent scientific discoveries of the cellular transmission of trauma down the generations, or simply in historical awareness, we remember the Burning Times. We remember the high price that was paid for living according to your own inner voice, following your heart, questioning societal norms and being different to your tribe. ….
Times are changing.
And yet still we are haunted by the Burning Times of old. They are still alive in us. We must dig deeper.
The Burning Times
There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. ~ The Bible, Deuteronomy 18:10
For centuries around the world, the ultimate punishment for women was public death by fire. Perhaps the most well-known Burned Woman was Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake for her actions and beliefs.
She was not alone. In Europe between 1470-1750 figures ranging from a conservative 35,000 to a truly terrifying (though discredited by mainstream his-storians) 9 million women were burned as witches. But as Brian A. Pavlac, PhD, Professor of History at Kings College, London, who specializes in the history of the witch hunts reflects, “even the lower figure of under 50,000 dead would have meant over a hundred thousand put on trial. Then, considering all the personnel involved in the justice system as court officials and witnesses, friends and family members, and those who even felt the ‘fear’ caused by the hunts, millions of people’s lives changed, usually for the worse, because of the witch hunts.”
Whilst the Catholic church started the craze, with the publication of The Hammer of the Witches, from 1542 and 1735 a series of Witchcraft Acts were enshrined into law by parliaments around Europe. The punishments — imprisonment, torture and death — were focused on individuals who were deemed to practice witchcraft and magic. Common accusations of witchcraft included: raising storms, giving the evil eye, killing people or livestock or causing bad luck.
To justify the killings, both Christianity and secular institutions created ever broader definitions of witchcraft including being “associated with wild Satanic ritual parties in which there were much naked dancing.” Ah, yes, naked dancing. Dangerous stuff that!
And whilst the victims of witch burnings included men and children, Brian A. Pavlac notes that “some witch hunts did almost exclusively target women, in percentages as high as 95% of the victims.” Whilst Anne Barstow, author of Witchcraze reminds us that the members of the legal system, its “judges, ministers, priests, constables, jailers, doctors, prickers, torturers, jurors, executioners” were nearly 100% male.
Radical feminist, Marxists scholar, Silvia Federici, points out in her acclaimed book, Caliban and the Witch, that the witch burnings were systematic, happening at the same time as bloody land grabs in Europe and the New World, concurrent with massive increases in the Catholic church and nation states’ power and wealth. This domination and brutalization of nature, native peoples and women was one and the same. It has been argued that witches were burned to coerce women into accepting “a new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources.”
Notes Alex Knight in his essay, “Who Were the Witches? — Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism”: “The witches were those women who in one way or another resisted the establishment of an unjust social order — the mechanical exploitation of capitalism. The witches represented a whole world that Europe’s new masters were anxious to destroy: a world with strong female leadership, a world rooted in local communities and knowledge, a world alive with magical possibilities, a world in revolt.”
But it wasn’t just witches who were burned. In England burning was the most common punishment for women for many other crimes against the patriarchy: plotting to kill the king or any other superior (i.e. male) including her husband. Or for coining (counterfeiting money) which, when you are kept out of the economic system by dint of your gender, would be a reasonably common way to try to gain currency for yourself.
It matters. It does. Because those flames the burned our foremothers in their hundreds of thousands, burn us still today, albeit metaphorically, for exactly the same reason.
They were burned simply for speaking their own truth. Otherwise known as heresy, “any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.” To be heretical was to be dead.
Look again at the word: Heresy… Her say…
A woman lived under threat of being burned alive for living, speaking or acting in any way which contradicted or questioned the cultural norms which surrounded her: medical, spiritual or hierarchial. She was burned for earning a living on her own terms. The very systems which told her at every turn that she was a sinner, was less than a man, limited her power, authority, sexuality and economic survival.
Men were burned at the stake it’s true, but with far less frequency. The official reason given for the dominance of burning women is that they did not want to expose a woman’s body — heaven forbid, we must ensure her modesty even in death — as happened when a person was hung, drawn and quartered. But even the (male) commentators of the time, could see the contradictions: “There is something so inhuman in burning a woman, for what only subjects a man to hanging” (The Times, 1788).
The woman on fire was not a private act. She was burned in public, as a warning to all women: disobey and this will be you.
Women have not been burned at the stake in England since 1790 and the last trial for witchcraft in the US was as recent as 1833. But sadly, it is not ancient history.
Witch hunts still occur today in societies where belief in magic is prevalent, including sub-Saharan Africa, rural north India and Papua New Guinea. According to the World Health Organization, around 500 women a year are killed as witches in Tanzania, and between 2010 and 2012 over 2,100 reported (in 2012) on six witch camps where women who have been accused of witchcraft can flee to safety. And in Saudi Arabia (a country with a 57% male population) witchcraft is still legally punished by death. In 2015, ISIS was reported as having burned two women as witches, and their husbands too, on accusations of “sorcery” and using “magic for medicine”.
In India the practice of “widow burning” or sutee was officially outlawed in 1829, but continued well into the twentieth century. Women who had been widowed would “voluntarily” be burned alive beside their husbands. Though many were bound and forced in order to “show their devotion”. This is even more hideous when it is understood that young girls would be married off to much older men. So a girl may be widowed at eleven, having been married for two years, and would then either face a life of shunning and starvation as a “widow” whose sins — in this life, or karma from a previous incarnation — were believed to have brought about the death of her husband. A man’s death was always considered the “fault” of his wife.
I want to stop. I want to stop these words and stories, but still they keep tumbling out. I want that writing it will stop this happening. I want to never read or write another list of facts like that again.
But we must learn to see and feel. To feel it fully in our bodies allows us access to the Feminine. We cannot flinch from this reality, from the fear and control and domination of the Feminine by the masculine as it is played out by fathers and husbands and priests and judges in village squares and kitchens and mosques and churches and courts of law around the world.
We must learn to dig down for the very real roots of our fears as they are played out in the world.
We are not crazy.
We are not paranoid.
We are not imagining things.
This is what we fear when we feel our power rising.
This is what we know.
This is real.
[I was gonna stop here… but you know what? Lemme keep going…hope ya don’t mind, Lucy]
The purpose of honor killings is to maintain men’s power by denying women basic rights to make autonomous decisions about marriage, divorce and sexuality. ~ Madre
The right to life for women is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions. ~ Hina Jilani
Hear me when I say, this is not just dry history. It is still happening. Women around the world are being burned, simply because they are women.