A look at the pervasive toxicity of occulture and possible cures.

7 months ago

Latest Post C-Star vs E-Star: A Quick Rundown by David R Lee public

It was mid 2019. We were all talking about the End of the World. Like many other people I spoke to, I had been having crazy dreams as well. I had been on a Writer’s Retreat a few months earlier, and while there, overlooking a stormy bay on the West Coast of Ireland, on the Beara Peninsula, birthplace of the Cult of the Cailleach, alone in that quiet house of reading and writing, of reflection and inspiration, I had some vivid and shocking dreams that hurled me from my bed at 4am with an urge to vomit and drink loads of water. The Wise Woman who runs the retreat, on hearing about this, just nodded and said “oh yeah. Purging dreams” … It perfectly described how they felt. Like I was getting the poison out.

I had another one a couple of weeks later where I came into contact with some kind of Hermetic Magical Order, who, it became apparent, were Fascists. They were White supremacists, patriarchal, homophobic … I woke up full of anger and anxiety. And I went and sat and smoked in the kitchen thinking about it.

It struck me that if I’m on this spiritual, magical path, and other people all around the world are discovering it too, then obviously the Bad Guys are as well. It’s naive to think that today’s Fascists aren’t learning magic, using it, and organising. They’re good at that.

And it struck me that the message of this dream was: “Find the Others. And prepare to do battle” … Stirring stuff. But I felt a bit lost. I didn’t know how to go about it. How do we actively use our spirituality and magic to fight for good in the world? Or is it just a way to disappear into ourselves, to hide from what’s going on, to Spiritually Bypass all the real issues? To engage in endless online feuds and gossiping with the “Occult Community”, such as it is? I wished there were a Druid Grove, a Coven, an Order, a group that I could join. My dreams were telling me there was work to do … I needed to find my team!

I had been thinking about this more and more. It was absolutely right to talk about Julius Evola and René Guénon … Even though many of the Occult Revival magickal orders were pretty progressive and free-thinking, in a very 19th century way, many more of them were naturally classist, with an “aristocratic” bent of mind, and naturally racist, Imperialist, misogynist … This idea of them “scooping up lonely frustrated young men” reminds me very much of the phenomenon that we saw raise its head in Gamergate, in the ructions in fantasy and sci-fi fandom, and roleplaying circles …

The Ubernerds, who used to be often socially maladapted young men, feel totally embattled as women and people of colour, queer people, non-Europeans, and basically everyone else has now “been admitted” to geekdom, despite the best efforts of these wannabe gatekeepers. RPGs, fantasy and sci-fi fandom, have always had a very interesting split between the very progressive, idealistic, romantics that they attracted, and the right-wing ultra-traditionalists, who like these things because they seem to them to tell a very Western European Hero tale, in which men were men, women were women, and might meant right. OF COURSE magick is much the same. Particularly, I would argue, Hermetic Ceremonial Magick, and Chaos Magick – male-dominated, and traditional, for Hermetic Magick, and plugged into geek culture, for Chaos. One thinks of Jordan Peterson; in his misuse of Jung, he might as well be INVITING young men to become fascist magicians!

What even ARE this Nonsense??

In the dream, this magickal order that I discovered was something akin to the Nazi occult; I had been reading about how some Norse Pagans are attracted by the kind of Aryanist, White Supremacist thinking that the Nazis engaged in, how they use the symbols of the Runes and the Norse gods to advocate an ethnically pure Northern European supremacy. I know that there are also people who use this kind of thinking in conjunction with Celtic symbology and gods. Obviously, it’s totally contrary to the mainstream of these pagan groups right now, but that fringe is there. However, in the dream, they were not so much magic-practising pagans, as rather a type of Golden Dawn style Hermetic magickal order. It’s interesting that the “Golden Dawn” is now being used in Greece as the name of a Far-Right political party. I think that Hermetic Ceremonial Magick has always drawn a certain number of power-hungry fascist-leaning men. It’s often been quite a boys’ club, homosocial, and not very empowering to women; current claims about “Western Civilisation” being under threat from immigration and Leftist “Cultural Marxism” seem to me to map all too easily onto the concept of “the Western Magical Tradition”, and the idea of its being “special” to Western Civilisation can all too easily become a reason to believe in a neo-Imperialist way in the superiority of Western European culture …

My fear is that there are orders and organisations out there who are allied to the Dark Powers of Fascism, Capitalism, Imperialism. Someone said recently “If you want to see today’s most successful sorcerers, look at the billionaires”. I’m afraid that because those of us on paths such as Nature-based spiritualities and Animist and Eco-aware ideologies tend to be a little bit all “peace and love”, that those ruthless and organised magicians that are no doubt gathering on the Other Side are going to brush aside our efforts easily in sacrificing the living world to their greed and power-obsessed egos. I’m afraid they’re already doing it … Extinction Rebellion shows that there is a groundswell against them; they even have a magickal sigil now! Perhaps their ranks are full of magicians, witches, and druids … I wouldn’t be at all surprised, and this gives me hope.

Sunset on the City Skyline … Is Paris burning?

So what can we do? Well first of all protect ourselves: I feel myself under the protection of my gods and spirits, and I believe there is great power in meditating, especially in groups, for peace and for the future of the Earth. But somehow this dream seemed to be calling me to action. To do something more direct. To actually fight. What that exactly is, I don’t know yet. I find it encouraging, for example, that there seems to be a general resurgence or a coming out into the open of interest in magic, the spiritual, the pagan, the animist. I also work tirelessly in my teaching (I’m a high school literature teacher) to reflect my eco-aware outlook, and to arm my students against disinformation and the lies of modern society … without teaching them to be paranoid and scared, of course; I just constantly emphasise the ideas of “how to live the good life”, and “how to live in harmony with one’s world, and one’s soul” … They rarely even notice I’m doing it. But there’s more we can do, as Druids and as magickal practitioners (I have a background in witchcraft and ceremonial magick and Chaos magick as well, before I came to Druidry formally). We need to be ready to stand our ground; remember, the Druids of the Celts would use their powers in war as well as in law, lore, and teaching.

I think that one of the key concepts that we must centre in our efforts is Animism. The knock on effects are immense, everything from engaging in permaculture to debunking materialism. Materialism and rationalism have held sway for pretty much the last three hundred years, give or take the romantic poets and the symbolists, but it’s the foundation of not only our modern world system but also capitalism and consumerism. And actually, though it’s anathema to mention it in the academy, many academics, particularly those on the cutting edge of physics and philosophy of mind are coming down more and more on the concept that consciousness is primary, if not ALL there is! They’re mostly afraid to talk about it for fear of losing grants/tenure, but they’re there.

As for the Chaos Magicians and the financial sorcerers: they are basically using capitalist magic. Chaos magic has lost a lot of its punk aesthetic and become a way of playing the system with sigils and invocation of powers that you don’t respect or have a relationship with for personal gain. We know that the Uber rich have been will-working in more or less occult ways for the last hundred years at least. They’re using the international finance system as a magic system, and sowing discord and conflict among the slave classes to keep them busy. All the Culture War stuff is that: a distraction. None of them actually cares about those hot button issues, but they foment them to keep us divided and at each others throats about gender pronouns and bathroom bills, or abortion and immigration. You think for a minute they actually CARE about immigration and Brexit? Not at all! They’re immune from all the effects of it. Trump himself was transformed into an Egregore, an avatar of the whole dark seamy side of America. And boy did it work. His Twitter presence was a vast hypersigil of hate and fear. And it was hypnotising all of us.

In the Autumn of 2018, I was going through a very dark, depressive, hopeless period. It was reflected in my teaching: with my Final Years, I did a big unit on Dystopias, where we’d basically read 20th century dystopian fiction, and then just read the news … It was all happening. I’ll never forget assigning the first couple of chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale one week, and then, right then, were the Brett Kavanagh hearings. One of the best and the brightest of my wonderful students put her hand up straight away as I asked for reactions, and said “Brett Kavanagh getting elected to the Supreme Court is how Gilead begins to happen” …. We read Nineteen Eighty-Four, we read Brave New World, we read The Road …. But then I had to tell them, had to reassure them somehow: “If this is indeed the Apocalypse – and it is – it doesn’t mean it’s the End. It just means that the World we have known is going to have to come to an end. Whether in Catastrophe, or a mass-awakening, or, more likely, a bit of both. You are the ones who are going to build the New World that comes after. Let’s learn about how to do that.”

It was powerful stuff. These kids are amazing. They were out on Climate Strike. They were blockading the school in solidarity with the lycée kids that had been rounded up and made to kneel, hands on their heads, while heavily armoured robocops patrolled among them and joked about how they could fuck them up. These kids all want to change the world. One will study robotics, to make machines to help the disabled. One wants to be a space-engineer. One wants to specialise in women and girls’ education in developing countries. One wants to become an Arts promoter and bring artists to their audiences (she’s also 2nd in France Tae-kwon-do champion, and a jazz singer!). Another one wants to study neurobiology and psychology with a minor in literature, so that she can explore the human soul …. Others are seeking degree courses that enable them to fight climate crisis, on the scientific and also on the sociological/humanities side.

And one of my kids turned in an essay entitled “Animism, Pantheism, and Alternative Religion in Willa Cather’s My Antonia” …

I teach these kids, with a huge weight of knowledge that their generation is being asked to be heroes, by the previous generations, including mine, that failed to step up to the challenge. I’m getting too old to be a young hero on his quest now; I’m becoming the Mentor, the Teacher, the Historian. And that’s why I need to be a Druid. I want to minister to them, and to all of us Seeking. We have lost our way, lost our Spirits, lost our ceremonies, our rituals. We need a new spirituality that recognises us as part of a Spirit Ecology that includes all living and all “non-living” parts of our Earth. This way lies our salvation. But it’s a desperate struggle. It’s against all the odds.  It’s a 100 to 1 shot. But you know what Terry Pratchett says: “Hundred to one shots ALWAYS work.” … They always do. Because we have magic on our side. And the Earth. And the Spirits.

It feels like I slip into a rant about all of this at the drop of a hat. It’s just that it is so GODSDAMN vital. We need to get out there and not just use our spirituality and magic as a means of personal growth. It has to be about community and rewilding the Earth too. We need to connect with the masses. Little by little, we will. We’re on the cusp of a Reawakening. I have to believe that.

But where do we find the sources we can legitimately draw on? It seems that in the Occult and Pagan communities, more energy is spent on scolding and gatekeeping than on actually doing anything, sometimes. I think that there are ways of engaging with other cultures’ spiritual tech and worldviews that are respectful and honest. We have a lot to learn from each other. But we also have to do it from a place of humility, recognition of our sources, and to do the godsdamn research! Far better is to actually go and learn from the People themselves, whichever People they be. If they accept you, if you come to them with humility, if you ask permission, if you have their blessing, then good. If you take some clichéd stuff and then start setting yourself up as a Shaman or whatever and charging money for it, then you probably suck.

I mean, I’m Irish, and Anglo people, especially Americans, have been appropriating our spiritual shit forever. Wicca in particular. Our gods, our practices, our festivals … All in a sort of Celtic Mist kind of way that has little to do with the actual lore, the actual practices, and the actual history of them. But you know what? That’s okay. Because we’re Irish, we get the best of both worlds: we get to be White English speakers who ALSO have a genuine and rooted Native tradition. Our own language. Our own rich paganism that has passed down, admittedly in colonised and adapted and adopted forms, but in our folk traditions and in our Celtic Christianity, and in the medieval writings that recorded much of the earlier oral culture (albeit in a way that reflected the Church’s version), we still have something. The Irish Brehon legal system survived Christianisation. The fili or poets/bards survived up until the 17th/18th century. They kept much of the old lore alive, and living, and changing, and adapting. I’m finding neo-Druidry of the Tradition I’ve joined a pretty good fit for me, but it’s very British for the moment; it mostly relies on the Welsh sources, with a few nods to the Irish here and there. But sometimes I wonder: If English Druids are using Welsh and Irish material based on the fact they are linked to the Ancient Britons, isn’t THAT cultural appropriation? Do Anglo-Saxons have a right to Druidism? Or should they be basing their paganism on Saxon and Norse sources, and invoking Wotan?

And my answer is: no, it’s actually okay. The British Isles are a melting pot of ethnicities, it just happened centuries ago. All the White British and Irish come from six or seven distinct ethnic groups, with different belief systems and spiritual cosmologies. But all of them have been brewing and changing and mixing and melding for all that time. We are one People. It’s the same with North American First Nations: there are hundreds of them! Some of them have a lot in common, some very little. But I WANT a world where we can respectfully practice Japanese martial arts, or Buddhism, or Indian Tantra, or Arabian Geomancy, or Kimbanda or Santeria, or Hoodoo, or, yes, Celtic Mist style neo-paganism, and where that can all be okay. We just have to realise that we are the privileged ones, and try to go to the sources, the authentic sources, and try to respect and be humble before them.

And what happens next is then not so much appropriation as syncretism. As evolution, as spiritual expansion. The more other worldviews we truly try to understand, embrace, and incorporate, the richer we are, spiritually.

It’s a case of recognising the commonalities, and then picking up the divergences, and trying to create a coherent whole from them, or for each person to create a coherent and respectful path. I’m a firm believer that there as many paths to the Divine, if you want to call it that, or the Otherworld, the Ineffable, the Cosmic, as there are traditions. Maybe even as many as there are Seekers. Respect, humility, and asking permission must be our watchwords.

But it’s not cultural appropriation to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day or honour Brighid, despite your lack of Irish blood. It’s not cultural appropriation to try to experience the genuine cuisine, traditions, folklore, religions, magicks, of a given place, as long as you’re not stealing it and profiting from it. If you come truly meaning to learn, truly open-hearted, truly filled with love and recognition for our fellow-passengers through Eternity.

So often these days, the discourse in the Occult and Pagan communities has been cannibalised by the question of Cultural Appropriation.  And you know what? It kills me. It kills me that we, mostly White, privileged Westerners, are sitting here tearing each other apart about our White Guilt, which is actually itself a form of privilege. I note of course that there is a significant minority in Druidry, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Paganism who are People of Colour or non-Western themselves ; we ought to be foregrounding those voices ; what’s more, the vast resources and teachings of African Traditional Religions, Asian Spiritualities and Mysticisms, Indigenous North and South American Traditions, Syncretic Carribean and Latin American/European Traditions, Oceanian and Pacific Indigenous Traditions ; these are not resources to exploit for European-descended people, but they certainly are things we would do well to pay attention to, to learn about with respect and humility, to exchange, and learn and grow together with. But while we’re tearing each other to shreds over who is and isn’t allowed to practice what, to believe what, to claim what, you know who is laughing at us? Yes, them, the Fascists. They love that we spend all this time hand-wringing and pointing the finger at each other about wrongthink and cultural appropriation, or so called political correctness (which, by the way, was invented by the Right as a derogatory term for basically respecting diversity), as we here on the Left do (because we’re Druids and Pagans, right? I choose to assume we’re mostly progressives, Earth-respecting, diversity-respecting, human-rights respecting)(NB I’ve noticed that while this might hold for a slight majority of Druids and Witches and Pagans, it is absolutely not the case in the wider Occult community. There is a large proportion of practicing Occultists, as discussed above, who are pretty fashy. They’ve really come out of the woodwork lately, and particularly in their intersection with the Conspiracy Theorists. Both Old School Occultists and New Age Woo-Woo have more than their fair share of bullshit Imperialist wankers in them).

But they LOVE seeing us do this. They have no such qualms. They are United in their White Supremacy, in their authoritarianism, in their pillaging of the environment. They love nothing more than seeing us going into conniptions over subtle questions of semantics and respect. And playing “holier than thou”. They don’t care. It keeps us busy.

And meanwhile, they are taking our symbols of North West European paganism and using them as powerful Runes of Fascism. Look what the Nazis did to the swastika. They turned it into an Egregore-Sigil of enormous power. And it is returning. It is being sprayed on Jewish tombs and shops in France. On the houses of Jewish people. The Norse Runes are under consideration of being banned in Sweden, so bound up are they becoming with blood and soil narratives and movements.

And this is the danger for us. Our movement IS also partly about ancestry and the Land. And that is EXACTLY why it must be open to all. We must be generous with our heritage. We, as Irish, Welsh, British, Norse, French, whatever else, have gifted our paganism to the world. We must accept All within it. This is not cultural appropriation. This is syncretism. This is the way forward. What the French call métissage.

But meanwhile, what do we DO?

I consider such literally Down-to-Earth ideas as permaculture, as reclaiming unused Land and growing community gardens. I’ve heard of a recent scientific report that recommended fighting climate crisis simply by …. planting billions of trees. Rewilding the planet.

We can do this.

We can March and protest. We should. We must.

We can enchant for peace, and to protect the protesters from government Fascist violence.

But I believe we must also re-enchant the world.

We must live with recognition of the Spirit in everything. In effect, we must readopt an Animist worldview. And that has so many corollaries. It implies respect for all living and “non-living” beings. Because they are all living. For all human and non-human persons. Because they all are persons.

We must also see the world as magicians. We must perform conscious ritual. We must work in vision, with the spirits, the ancestors, and the Fae, the elementals, and whoever else you happen to work with. We must reinstate the Gods, the Goddesses.

And we must tell our stories. We must teach our children, and our charges, that there IS a spiritual dimension to us. That we are not just dross matter. That the world is living, breathing Spirit.

We must teach the ancient tales, the folklore, the new stories of magic and mystery. We must treat each day like the glorious opportunity for magic and synchronicity that it is.

We must draw attention to the everyday magic we all engage in.

We must fight the Materialism, the Capitalism, the Consumerism of the Dead Monoculture, in every way we can. Rewild the human experience. Re-enchant the world. Sing it into being.

Only thus will we beat them. They are using magic against us. The symbols and rituals of Capitalism, of Consumerism, of the Cult of the Living Dead, are everywhere. The big brands and corporations have created powerful Egregores that the masses bow down and worship, and feed with their worship. They grow stronger. You’d be surprised how many billionaires and CEOs, and politicians actually have a (twisted) understanding that they are doing magic. They may call it “branding”, or “marketing”, or “spin”, but they are literally changing reality through the force of their will and their powerful system of symbols and correspondences. And most of us, despite ourselves, are also part of it. And the Fascists are merely their tool, but what a powerful tool.

I think that some of the things being suggested as paths of resistance are already happening.

I see these things happening in communities, going back to what’s local.

My vegetable Co-op, sourcing and pre-paying locally grown vegetables. The meetings and distributions happen in my local Co-op café, where they run workshops on sustainability and time-bartering, on cooking, writing, reading to children.

My friend who dedicated her paid unemployment time to the Zero Waste Movement.

People thinking about co-living situations and self-sustaining permaculture. I think it can happen, by spreading the word globally online, and then by organising locally.

But then again, is this enough to counter the Fascist machine?

Movements like Extinction Rebellion give me some hope that it is a start.

Companies are accused of “green-washing” now, but only because it’s become trendy to be Green for many middle-consumers. But these are mostly privileged, urban folk. how to reach the vast swathe of disenfranchised struggling people?

We need to be asking all these questions.

How to topple the technocratic Centre Right that is our only option in Europe against the Fascist Far Right?

And in America …. Every bit of news I hear dismays me. But there are millions wanting, needing to take action. They must be moved to act.

Resist, rewild, re-enchant. Make ritual, connect with the Land, travel in Vision. Meet your helper spirits, and make your pacts with them. Find the Others. Prepare to do Battle.

We need to recentre the discussion. Instead of throwing around accusations between ourselves about who’s “holier than thou” and who’s a “wrongthinker”, just because they have concerns about the ways in which our discussions around gender, or race, or immigration, or sexuality are polarising us …. Let us stop trying to demonise and ostracise those who are part of our own community, who are fundamentally on the same side as us. Let us rather turn our attention to the real Enemies, who are tirelessly working to fuck the world. Let’s not get distracted by dissension in our own ranks.

In my quest to “Find the Others” as Timothy Leary advocated, I called together a meeting, that Summer of 2019, of an Occult Dabblers’ Discussion Group. We were from a variety of backgrounds: a Wiccan Buddhist, a Catholic mystic, a Steiner-trained Initiate who is just starting to explore her Cuban background with Santeria, a concert pianist who is clairvoyant and has had out of body experiences and works with energy, a yoga and meditation woo-curious person, and me: who started off with Wild-Magic initiations, and then studied Hermeticism and Chaos magic, before realising I had a calling to Druidry.

The thing I really like about Druidry is that it’s NOT just about manifesting material success, getting wealth, power, women … Druidry is about living in the world with Love and Compassion. About recognising our place in the Natural World, and connecting with the gods of my ancestors. About fighting for the Land, and the Spirits, and the People. But it also needs to be about stepping out between the warring armies, and calming them with words. It also has to be about speaking poems so powerful that they change minds, invoke storms, and rain down destruction on our enemies. Neo-Pagans are all about peace and love; EXCEPT the ones who are all about hate and White Supremacy. They’re willing to fight. Are we?

My eclectic rag-tag bunch of Seekers decided that night that we would start meeting at full moons, and exploring the basics of magic together: we would combine our powers and energies in group ritual. It will not be Wiccan, or Druidic, or Catholic, but a melting-pot, an Athanor, in which we would transmute the base metal of our flawed souls into a holy blast of energy, which we would direct where it was needed. There was work to do. There was a war in the Otherworld as well as this one, and to think otherwise was to be naive.

We were to engage in direct action. We were to teach, and preach, and campaign, and protest. We would get out on the streets. We would work at re-enchanting the world. We would carry this attitude, this awareness of the signs and synchronicities and guides that show up for us, and direct it at fighting the Enemy, and working for the Enchanted World. We all needed to wake up out of the comfortable dream of self-reflection and self-development that so many pagan paths can end up in. It’s a dead end ….

However, it was not to be. There are as many valid paths as there are practitioners. Ask a group of five Occultists or Pagans a question, and you’ll get ten different answers. Our little Magic Circle imploded as soon as it was created, riven by ideological differences, personality clashes, differing values. And then the World was shut down by the Pandemic, and all bets were off. But thinking back to a little over a year ago, I see the urgency and the need to act, and they have not gone away. There was a time of Solitary Confinement, and, for those of us with the privilege of food, shelter, and broadband, a time for reflection and deep confrontation with what our lives might mean. I believe we will come out of this Initiatory Experience with more readiness, more urgency, than we ever had before. The fragility of Everything is only too apparent, now. As is the precariousness, the vulnerability, of all these Systems of the World that we were led to believe were inevitable and eternal. No. It can be stopped. We’ve seen it. The Plague Year has exposed the Crack in Everything ; it’s where the light gets in.

There’s an expression in French : reculer pour mieux sauter. We back up to take a better leap. We pause, gather ourselves, take a run up … and leap. A leap of faith. A shot in the dark. A hundred to one chance. But … they always, always work.

Vera Petruk, The Old Tarot, The Fool Card

This article was originally published at and used with the author's permission.

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Malachas Ivernus

Published 7 months ago


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