Tag Archives: magic

Conner Habib & David Graeber talk supernatural politics on Against Everyone With Conner Habib 99!

11 Feb
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AEWCH99TitleCardFriends,

Few people embody the intersections of this show’s interests quite as much as anthropologist, activist, and writer David Graeber. His field work, writing, and activism represent the best of what AEWCH does: turn an eye to spiritual concerns while taking direct and creative political action. David is a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of an almost overwhelming number of books, including, Fragments Of An Anarchist Anthropology, Debt: The First 5000 Years, On Kings (with Marshall Sahlins), and most recently, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.

So of course, I’m so happy to have him on the show to discuss, among other things, the supernatural currents that run through and underpin the political realm.
SHOW NOTES
• There’s so much more available from David – introductions to other books, anthologies, he’s edited, and a whole shelf of other books he’s written – so the best way to get a good overview of that is to go to his website. Also, I use some of David’s ideas to discuss the horror film Ready Or Not on the Horror Vanguard podcast, and I think it’s not a bad intro to David’s work.
• Of course, you should check out Marshall Sahlins’s work, and David references his debate with Gananath Obeyesekere.
BM• Grant Morrison’s Bat-Mite appearances are in the amazing Batman arc, The Black Glove which is collected as a graphic novel.
• David’s quote on debt: “Debt is the perversion of a promise, a promise that has been perverted through mathematics and violence. I’m not saying mathematics is bad, but the combination of mathematics and violence is extremely bad. A debt is a promise to give a certain sum of money, in a certain amount of time, under certain conditions. It is a contract that is ultimately enforceable through the threat of force. The problem is that through a genuinely perverse historical alchemy, we’ve come to see such acts of violence as the very essence of morality.”
• One of David’s best known essays is excellently entitled “ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIANT PUPPETS: broken windows, imaginary jars of urine, and the cosmological role of the police in American culture” and you can read it here.
• “There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect.” – Thomas Pynchon, from “Is It O.K. To Be A Luddite?”
Karl Groos was the philosopher and psychologist who David refers to in relation to play, self awareness, and child development, and is the author of The Play Of Man. David explores game and play more deeply in his excellent book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy.
• Apparently I misattributed the definition of magic to Dion Fortune! But it’s a common mistake.
• I talk a lot about leaning into subjective ways of speaking, and why it’s important, on AEWCH 93 with Sarah Maria Griffin, and on Rune Soup with Gordon White.
• David is currently at work on a book with David Wengrow, author of What Makes Civilization?: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West among other books.
• The organization I was Vice President of for two years, The Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, is still going, and I’m so proud of my work with them.
• You must have seen The Witch if you’re a fan of this show, right? Right?
• There was a tension (to put it euphemistically) between anarchist Bob Black and Murray Bookchin. You can check it out here.
• I talk about Wilhelm Reich on AEWCH 59 with Reich scholar James Strick.
Was Lenin a nudist? Well, yeah, probably!
• I haven’t yet read David’s “Radical alterity is just another way of saying “reality”: a reply to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro” but I’m going to as soon as I’m done with the show notes.
Heres The Same Old Song by Russell Means. Means’s essay is not actually an essay, for, as he states at the outset, “The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of ‘legitimate’ thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken.” 
VDJ• I was hugely influenced by Vine Deloria Jr.’s work, and his attack (seriously, that’s more the word for it than “critique”) on anthropologists remains salient. (And since I love him, here’s a photo of him.)
• Here’s more info on Malidoma Somé, and you can also check out his great book, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.
• I talk all about the problems with reducing the witchcraft to political economy, as well as the figure of the dewitcher on AEWCH 98 with Thomas Waters.
• I still like Giordano Bruno, in spite of the, um, persecution we carry out here. And I think he was just talking about the creation of elementals, which I discuss on AEWCH 67 with Daniel Joseph.
• David brings up his interest in Whitheadian concepts of time and space, which are explored, I think, most deeply in Whitehead’s The Concept Of Nature.
Conor McCabe has a great concept of capitalism as an “invasion of the money system” which we talk about on AEWCH 76. (That remains one of my favorite episodes, btw!)

Until next time, friends!
CH

The victims of witchcraft & the witchcraft of victims. Dr. Thomas Waters joins me on the latest episode of AEWCH!

4 Feb
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This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.
AEWCH98TitleCard
Friends,
I’ve been preoccupied with the way we’ve been preventing witchcraft, the occult, and magic from entering into serious philosophical and political (especially leftist political) discourse for a long time. Previously, witchcraft was the subject of ridicule. Now it’s claimed by Marxists, feminists, and others, as proof of their own theorizing. I’m happy that magic and the occult are being brought into discourse, but always in a way that seems to dismiss the phenomenon itself. So I invited Thomas Waters, author of the incredible Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times to talk about all of this. His book is the nail in the coffin of magical revisionism.
Thomas’s book looks at witchcraft from the 1800s to the present day in the UK and its colonies, but most importantly, it does so from a victim’s point of view. In other words, it starts with a serious angle, and stays with it. Along the way, you meet a host of weird and powerful figures, as well as tragedies, atrocities, and absurdities. And our conversation follows a similarly varied path. This is definitely one of my favorite episodes, and it serves as a companion to my conversational, informal episode “The Left Vs Witches.”
Most importantly, I think, we discuss the need for people who can thoughtfully interpret instances of witchcraft and magic in our time. The disappearance of these “dewitcher” figures has left us lost. These dewitchers use witchcraft as a way of seeing, and can teach that way of seeing to us.
I was happy, also, to get Thomas to express how his research into witchcraft changed him, and I’m sure he was happy to get me to talk about challenges to my academic research project.
Oh, and Thomas recites Wordsworth’s “Song For The Spinning Wheel” in the most soothing and mystery-filled voice!
In this episode
  • Witchcraft, belief, and placebo
  • The ways we dismiss witchcraft even as we admit it into “serious” conversation
  • Witchcraft as a first and last resort
  • Why witchcraft is not simply a tool of the disenfranchised but of people in power, too
  • The importance of dewitchers as people who sort through the bullshit & truth, the safety & dangers of witchcraft
  • Witchcraft as a way of reading, as a way of seeing
  • How disbelief in magic is colonialism
  • Why Thomas became interested in witchcraft
SHOW NOTES
• For more on Thomas, visit his page at Imperial College, which features links to articles and other projects. And if the episode wasn’t convincing enough, read this thoughtful review of Cursed Britain in the Times Literary Supplement.
• I mention the fact-filled (though perhaps theoretically unsatisfying) book Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture written and edited by Bader, Mencken, and Baker. It’s definitely worth reading.
• A great and harsh article on the appropriation of witchcraft for feminist revisionism is by Diane Purkis – “Managing Our Darkest Hatreds And Fears: Witchcraft From The Middle Ages To Brett Kavanaugh”
• I talk about capitalism, time, and magic on AEWCH 76 with Conor McCabe.
• Thomas mentions the book Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft by Robin Briggs, and it sounds great.
• Yes, she was linked to a secret police force.
• I highly recommend reading On Kings by David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins.
DF• My favorite (and the most fun!) book on the Satanic Panic in the US is called, appropriately, Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s. It’s filled with photos, drawings, and is a great read-a-bit-a-day book. 
• If you don’t follow Hookland on twitter, I suggest you check them out ASAP. They’re great.
• Thomas writes a lot about Dion Fortune’s book Psychic Self-Defense, but I think the best place to start with Fortune’s work is either The Esoteric Orders and Their Work or The Secrets Of Dr. Taverner (which is fiction but based on Fortune’s own life). Both books are excellent introductory books to the occult.
• I haven’t yet visited the Museum of Witchcraft, and I really really really want to. Anyway, until I get there, maybe you can go and I can live vicariously through you?
AEWCH 46 with paranormal researchers Greg & Dana Newkirk remains one of my favorite episodes of the show.
• And check out The AntiWitchby Jeanne Favret-Saada for a good ethnography of dewitchers. And her first book, which Thomas gives a rave review to, is Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage.
Running with the Fairies: Towards a Transpersonal Anthropology of Religion by Dennis Gaffin is a compassionate and fun ethnography on the fairy faith in Northern Ireland.
Until next time, witches,
XO
CH

Why we need the dark imagination. Me + Sarah Maria Griffin on AEWCH 93

10 Dec
LISTEN HERE OR ON iTunesSpotifyOvercastSoundcloud
This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.
AEWCH93TitleCardFriends,
Let’s enter the mystery together: You, me, and dark science fiction writer Sarah Maria Griffin. Let’s talk about violence and evil and owls. Let’s think about David Lynch’s uncanny power, and how magic works, how horror works. Let’s approach the paranormal, the dreadful, the uncommon.
Sarah is the author of multiple books, most recently the excellent novel, Other Words For Smoke, about a brother and sister encounter the sinister and strange forces in their aunt’s house. The book just won the Eason Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year 2019 here in Ireland. Her previous novel, Spare And Found Parts chronicles a post-apocalyptic world with a hopeful girl at its center, trying to move humanity forward while her machine heart ticks away.
Sarah and I had a profound and potent conversation, and after we finished the episode, we continued to talk about the entire world, and love, and fortune. And then all the lights on my block switched off. Now that’s a powerful connection!
This is one of my favorite episodes of AEWCH ever. As Sarah says at the end, we “move immediately past…small talk.” Couldn’t ask for anything more.
So excited to share it with you!
We discuss:
  • Magic, the paranormal and why they’re so troubling for people
  • Twin Peaks as evil and threat and occult power
  • Horror is No-One-Believes-You, Fantasy is We-All-Knew-This-Was-Real-Even-Though-You’re-Just-Learning-About-It
  • Why investigating mystery can fuck you up
  • Not-knowing as an act of compassion
  • Sarah’s leap in style and vulnerability in writing
  • Following desire and characters
  • The unendingness of Hell
  • Why questions are always appropriate tools
  • The tarot as anatomy (and why it gives us unsolicited dick pics sometimes)
  • What a world of caring about subjectivity looks like (and why Freud got that right)
  • Why there is no metric for violation or resilience
  • Fiction as a generator of compassion and empathy
  • The importance of speaking poetically
SHOW NOTES
• For more on Sarah, read her entertaining and thoughtful one-year memoir, Not Lost: A Story About Leaving Home. Here are here contributions to the legendary Irish lit magazine, The Stinging Fly. And here’s Sarah talking about empathy.
TP• I’m sure you’ve all seen Twin Peaks, but have you seen the newest season? It’s utterly terrifying and completely challenging. It is a true act of occult intensity. The episode we talk a lot about it Part 8. 
• Sarah mentions the eclectic and wonder-filled story collection Her Body And Other Parties by the great Carmen Maria Machado. She also gives a shout out to Leslie Jamison’s poignant collection of essays, The Empathy Exams.
James Tate was a Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning poet. He was an infrequent but happy friend of mine, as well. He died in 2015.
• If you’re American, you’ve probably heard of the spooky immersive theater experience, Sleep No More. If not, check it out.
• I really love the episode I did with experimental punk musician and author Tim Kinsella – AEWCH 43. He’s a hero of mine, and I feel blessed to have had the conversation. I posted a playlist on spotify of Tim’s music to go along with that episodes. It demonstrates his breadth and strangeness and inventiveness as an artist.
KD• A couple of first lines come quick on each other’s heels. First, I mention the first line of Sarah’s novel, Spare And Found Parts: “Just under the surface of the waves where the ocean met the land, a hand without a body reached for someone to grab it.” And then I mention the chilling first line of Kathryn Davis’s novel, Hell. “Something is wrong in the house.”
• Want to read Alejandro Jodorowsky on the tarot? Read his book on it, co-authored with Marianne Costa.
• I mention, briefly, a man who was harassing Sarah and other women in Ireland, and how she was compassionate in her response. For a quick summary of what happened, here’s an article in the Irish Times about it.
• There’s a great book by anthroposophist and inkling Owen Barfield on the move away from poetics and towards flat literalism. It’s titled Poetic Diction: A Study In Meaning.
Until next time,
XO
CH
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