Real money magic: my vote matters, your vote matters.

The miasma which leads a sizable majority of Americans not to bother to vote is the idea, “my vote doesn’t matter.”  I know better:  I saw a local race decided by one vote, and the loser didn’t vote for himself.  My vote matters.

Received yesterday:  this sigil, which I then empowered to pull that cloud of miasma from the eyes of any who see it by conveying this message:  “my vote matters.”

Put this sigil on paper money.  Money is a very effective tool for political magic, as the present state of affairs should demonstrate clearly.  I’m trying to put it over George’s third eye, as well as the eye of the pyramid.  (I hope to get it better centered with practice.)

[Sara Mastros.]

A little to the left . . .

An invocation to use, if one is the invoking sort:

For the good of the polis,
may the mist be made clear.
For the good of the people,
see the vote, hold it dear.

The more this is shared, the more it is implemented, the more effective it will be.  Reblog, share, retweet, slap the image on Instagram or run it around Tumblr.  Social media shares are good for rousing individuals out of torpor, but actually putting it on money works the spell on a deeper level that addresses how equating money with speech has distorted our political system.

Message from Selene

When I was a young man, I looked up into the sky one night while walking my dog, and swore an oath to the moon.

I cannot say exactly what I swore, because I don’t recall. For many years — decades, actually — I didn’t even remember that I had taken such a step at all. I admired the moon, but somehow over the course of time I forgot just how much I had admired the moon in the moment.

July, 2016, it came back to me as she turned my world upside-down. On the occasion in question I was submerged in a bath, reading for the first time Lunessence, a Selene devotional anthology to which I had contributed a piece about her and Poseidon. I turned to the page on which my offering, “Waiting for Selene,” was at that moment first beheld on paper by my own eyes. I read it as if for the first time, drinking in the dynamic I tried to describe between the two deities.

[raptorzysko]

I hadn’t looked at this piece since I had submitted it some months before, and frankly, I was impressed. Sometimes, the words I put together seem like they must be coming from another place than my own mere mind, and this felt like one of those times. Yes, I was impressed, but perhaps being impressed with myself wasn’t exactly what the gods were looking for. That’s when they turned my world upside-down.

The hand doing the tilting, I felt, was definitely Poseidon’s. While she is the gentle-but-irresistible pull of the tides, his is the relentless force of plate tectonics. Looking at my feet extended to the other end of the tub, my brain demanded to know why they instead appeared to be extending up above my head. Kinesthetically I knew they were not, but the information being patched through my eyes disagreed. If the planet’s poles had been reversed without warning I would not have been more disoriented than I was in that moment.

All the while, I understood the physical cause of this sensation to some extent. I have a condition which can alter fluid pressure in my inner ear, resulting in an altered perception of up and down. This is the condition which had been triggered, and I was confident the switch had been flipped by divine hand as a less-than-subtle message. Surrounded by water, reading about the goddess of the celestial body which controls the tides, turning my understanding of gravity inside-out got my attention. In a world of sensory overload, the subtle and quiet does not always make an impression. Sitting in that tub, I had no choice but to pay attention. I could no longer even read.

It was during those moments of extreme disorientation that I recalled an oath, one I had sworn decades earlier, on a night when the moon was full and I was out walking the dog. Things fell into place. I had reneged because I had forgotten not to, and I probably forgot because I didn’t make the oath as specific as it needed to be. If I’d made it more specific I probably would have remembered making it at all, for one. It would have included specifics about what I was offering to give, and whether I was expecting anything in return. If I’d be really thinking, I would have established a time limit, even something as simple as my own mortal life. I could have put in a lot of detail, and that might have prompted me to write it down. Who knows?

Oaths are not for the weak. They are not for the shortsighted. Many Christians avoid them entirely and with good reason, as I found out: they tend to linger about, their power unabated yet unrealized. I wonder what other youthful oaths I swore, which have not yet risen into recollection? What consequences might I endure as I rediscover those promises? Should I engage in preemptive reparations? Is it better to wait until they make their wishes known? Divine hypothetical conjecture seems madness, but ignoring obligations doesn’t feel like much of an alternative.

Corporations are [not] people

I’ve been trying for months to write about why corporations are not people. The reason this is such a struggle, I fear, is because corporations actually are people. They are treated like people by other people; what more is there to know?

When the Citizens United case was decided, it resulted in an outcry of, “corporations are not people!” Other than that specific tag line, however, there’s little to suggest that this is true. Mind you, I do not believe that corporations are people (despite being legally a “body”), but the notion that they are is thoroughly embedded in our language, therefore in our thinking. If we wish to separate personhood for corporateness, we need to start with the words that shape our thoughts.

A few examples of language that empowers faceless entities to be treated as people:

  • Someone taking over a local business in my community posted in a social media group, “We are a newly renovated laundromat in town which offers a variety of services.” I’m familiar with the storefront in question, but wasn’t aware it had signed up for Facebook, or even that the building was the requisite 13 years of age.
  • How did NASA see the space station cross the eclipse? Had the organization become self-aware, or was it actually the dedicated workers there who deserve the credit?
  • With what mouth does Exxon state a thing, or the White House deny an allegation?
  • As a friend of my library, should I invite it over for dinner sometime?
  • Exactly how does a legal fiction, possessing neither hands to write or a mind with which to think, make a decision about my medical coverage, and then notify me about it?
  • How does an organization show pride?
  • Discrimination is terrible, but can a bank really discriminate? Maybe it’s actually people doing all the discriminating?

Isn’t this all getting a bit personal?

Despite this purported personhood, corporations are not like humans. They cannot die a natural death, for one, and it’s awfully difficult to throw them in jail. Corporations, the name of which means “body,” have become in effect bodiless bodies, which Webster likened to golems]. In that insightful column, Webster commits the very same personalization to which I am referring: referencing a long-neglected automotive recall, he writes, “Rightly, many are horrified but few have the magical insight or the systems theory to understand how GM could be so stupid.” To wonder “how GM could be so stupid” is to presume that GM has sentience, is it not?

It’s language through which we grant agency, and through language that we ask spirit to enter what has been created. There’s a reason that corporations are compared to golems: we give them power, we give them life. What most of us fail to understand is that we don’t do that through law at all. It’s language which shapes thought to grant agency to corporations.

It was listening to Rush Limbaugh that got me thinking along these lines. (I highly recommend this as an intellectual exercise, especially for those of a different political bent than the man. Limbaugh is a slick debater, and understanding how to uses logical is instructive.) One of his ongoing routines at the time was about sports-utility vehicles. His intention was to salvage the reputation of the gas guzzlers, but his words planted a seed that took years to germinate in my mind.

What Limbaugh did was collect headlines about tragedies involving SUVs. They all had headlines which suggested the vehicle itself was responsible, such as “SUV plows into unsuspecting family.” Drawing upon the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” mindset, he drily proclaimed that these renegade vehicles needed to be stopped. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs, but I came to appreciate his point regardless. If it’s the SUV’s fault, then that means the SUV is a person.

Can humans create spirits? I suspect not, but they appear to be able to influence them by creating attractive hosts for them, the same way I can attract hummingbirds by putting sugar water in an attractive container, or ask that my patron deity dwell in a sacred image formed by my own two hands. Corporations, even more than SUVs, appear to be excellent hosts; they are all but accepted as having the same agency human persons possess. Given the varying ways humans treat other beings as commodities or property, that’s a big leg up.

When I think of corporations, I am actually imagining a wide variety of frameworks which are given rein to act in ways that humans do in our society; anything that has a corpora, or body, is a corporation. Nonprofits, churches, governments, committees, quilting groups, and cat-rescue operations fall into this broad definition, as do many forms of organizing that I know nothing about. If it’s conceived as an entity and is given agency through language or law, that’s all I need.

This isn’t just about the legal status of corporations, any more than enslaving a human being is entirely about laws that permit such an abomination. In his definitive work Animism, Graham Harvey presents the idea that what makes that particular worldview different is simply who is regarded as people. On a related note, in Debt: the First 5,000 Years David Graeber posits that slavery is only possible when the individual’s social connections are cut, thus rendering that individual a non-person It is the culture that permits humans to be treated as if they are property not people, and it is the culture which permits a collection of paperwork to be treated as if it were a person. In short, we are the ones feeding the golem.

Sometimes, when I try to articulate this problem in a conversation on the internet, I can all but see the eyes rolling as people dismiss the notion. Oh, it’s just a figure of speech, they say, and not the problem at all. Really? Is the idea that language shapes thought suddenly alien, then, or is it more difficult to accept one’s own culpability for this terrible situation we have created?

The figures of speech I’m referring to are the shorthand we use when referring to companies and other organizations. Exxon releases a statement, or the White House denies involvement in this week’s political dust-up. We like being considered a friend of our local library or NPR affiliate, perhaps, and get angry when an insurance company denies coverage for a procedure. When we learn about an unfamiliar corporation in the news, we immediately want to know who they are, and whether or not they’re evil.

I get that these are figures of speech, convenient shortcuts because we all know what they mean. I also get that when we look at the words of those who came before us, we do not necessarily know what they meant, and incorrect assumptions are frequently introduced due to a lack of context. In addition, I understand quite well that as much as language represents thought, it also shapes thought, and the evidence of that shaping culminated in the Citizens United decision. Corporations are people because we forgot that our figures of speech didn’t mean anything, and suddenly they did.

This convention is used as shorthand simply because it’s awkward to say that Exxon executives released a statement, a presidential spokesperson denied the allegations on his behalf, we donate regularly to support the library, and it was an insurance company employee who actually denied my Viagra (okay, that last was a bit ridiculous; I don’t think Viagra is ever denied). I know it’s awkward, because I’m a reporter and I have been trying for three years now to avoid personifying in prose that which is not a person in my mind. It’s not only awkward, it’s bloody difficult, too. However, in keeping with the idea that language shapes thought, I’m trying to reshape how I see the relationships in the world around me.

One tool I lean on is the passive voice, reviled because it removes the actor from the action. I prefer to talk about the people behind the veil, but if cannot ascertain their identities, passive voice reminds my readers that I’m not claiming that Skynet has become self-aware. A statement was issued from the corporate office, for example, or new unemployed statistics were simply released, actor inferred.

What I sit with is the fact that whether or not we are creating a new spirit with this collective thought process, we are creating a new way to shift responsibility — be it credit, or blame — away from individuals, and onto faceless entities.

If corporations are not people, then they are also not evil (or good, for that matter). It’s actually other people making the decisions and hiding behind that organizational smokescreen. People have faces. People live in the active voice. The lesson of history is that it’s a lot easier to commit atrocities if one has no face, just as it’s easier if the victim is invisible, faceless. If the faces of the victims cannot be erased, why do we erase the faces of the offenders?

Corporations are not people, but are we too lazy to prove it?

Clarification

I’d hoped never to comment on this nonsense again, but as there is at least one Wild Hunt columnist who clearly believes he (who by his own admission is not a journalist) has the facts straight about my resignation, and his column remains despite my specific request that it be retracted, I do have something more to say.

The blogger who has been allowed to publish “a public apology from the Wild Hunt” demonstrates that he is, indeed, not a journalist.  After praising a retraction (which, after the last time she pulled an article due to pressure, the managing editor swore to me would never happen again; she regretted the clear hit to the agency’s credibility and her clear claims of support for freedom of the press), the blogger writes this:  “The Wild Hunt is also working on internal changes to ensure that journalistic standards are more consistently maintained and has said that they will report back on that aspect sometime next week.”

The use of the word additionally shows a clear intent to imply that there is causality between the two events; I presume the writer sincerely believed this to be the case when it was written.  I was not asked if this was the case, and to the best of my knowledge no one else was, either.  The post was not changed even after the sad little acknowledgement of that fact was posted as an afterthought.

I’ve been told that as he is an independent contractor there is no way to control his actions, but I am surprised that position was taken in light of the fact that his post title deigns to speak for the organization.  That is inconsistent with the fierce brand protection I myself observed during my four years there.

The following comment was posted on Facebook, but as I have no control over whether it remains I repeat it here:

The decision to resign emerged over weeks, if not months. I was asked flat-out if I intended to do so the day the article was published; at the time I was unaware it was going to be pulled, and would not have resigned under those circumstances. Further, in the interest of a smoother transition I offered to stay on for an unspecified amount of time, but the managing editor (who asked if I was resigning) opted to make the decision effective immediately. According to her bio on the site, the managing editor “has taught public relations techniques at Cherry Hill Seminary.” Readers are welcome to draw their own conclusions about the timing of the resignation, and what message it may have been intended to convey.

My life is already blossoming with new possibilities to work in robust, professional environments that will likely get me paid far more than the $25 per article which is all Pagan support of the Wild Hunt will allow.  On that note, I leave my own readers with this thought:

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support Pagan journalism. I leave the determination of whether this journalist was supported, and otherwise how that support might manifest, to the reader.

On the Wild Hunt

A few hours ago, I ended my time at the Wild Hunt after a number of months of reflection on, worship over, and seeking guidance about what nourishes me and serves my highest purpose.  While it might have appeared sudden to most people, as it’s none of their business, it was anything but.

However, complete strangers have since approached me, asking if I “lost my job” over the last article I wrote.  I did not.

For one thing, no one can be fired from the Wild Hunt, and anyone who claims to have ever been fired is either ignorant or a liar.  This is independent contractor work, not a job.

I did not participate in an editorial decision to replace that news article with an apology.  I was not told my services were no longer needed, and I was not asked to resign.  I am simply in need of change.

While I mourn the change, I also know it will open for me new possibilities.  I wish those who carry forth the valuable tradition of truth-speaking all the blessings of Hermes in their work, and the knowledge that bright Helios watches them.

#trypolytheism

I tried to make Twitter relevant to me again last autumn. True to form, my effort garnered a lot of attention on Facebook, where my tweets have been cross-posted for so long that I forgot that was even a thing, yet barely a peep from the Twitterati. Maybe that’s because I’m not one of the cool kids, or maybe it’s because the cool kids really don’t use Twitter any longer. I can’t say for sure.

The effort, a series of tweets asking questions around the hashtag #trypolytheism, got a lot of unexpected reactions.

From among my Christian friends, there was some bristling, which was not entirely surprising. Polytheism doesn’t have much in the way of sacred branding, and it can be disconcerting to hear a message that different from expectations. That I was surprised by the particular individuals is simply a reminder that one does can be devout without being public about that fact.

The atheists — anti-theists, specifically — were a bit puzzled, because largely those folks think monotheism is the only alternative and don’t quite know how to react. I had at least one brief exchange about monoatheism and polyatheism, which I found amusing.

The Quakers mostly found it amusing. Quakers don’t tell others what to believe, even within the tradition; revelation is personal and continual. I don’t actually know which of the Quakers I know are Christ-centered and which are not, since belief is not something which is often broached in conversation.

Among comments from Pagans, though, I found a thread of accusation. “Why are you proselytizing?” one friend asked me.

I wasn’t, in fact; I was branding. Proselytizing is the hard sell, in my mind. Seems there’s been so much of that tactic that people get edgy when someone even talks about their religion. Raising awareness that there are possibilities beyond the monotheist experience is an important ministry; that’s not the same as trying to obtain a conversion. My religion does not include evangelism as a tenet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it in an effort to get people thinking.

I ended up stopping the experiment simply because I ran out of interesting things to say.

Well, I still think it was a catchy hashtag.