Tag Archives: witchcraft

The Witchcraft at the End of the World. Peter Grey & Alkistis Dimech of Scarlet Imprint on AEWCH!

6 Oct

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Friends,
For a time now, we’ve been walking around with a stone in our shoe – an unavoidable feeling throughout the day. And that feeling is: it’s the end of the world. The end of the world shows up again and again in history, and we’re in one of those end times, it’s risen into public consciousness. That’s why I write it’s the stone in the shoe, we’re aware of it even when we’re not aware of it. How does this new presence change the way we walk, the feeling we have about the day and have about each other? How do we walk with the minor and major imbalances it creates? If something permeates the general consciousness, it has a different effect on us; it becomes a companion. So what does it mean to not just intellectually or creatively entertain ourselves with the apocalypse, but to actually experience it in our daily lives?

And there is, to paraphrase Marx using his own supernatural language, a spectre haunting the end of the world, and that spectre is witchcraft. It’s magic, the occult. Whether it’s the symbols of the political elite, the black magic conspiracy theories of Q Anon, the presence of new thought and new age in the US democratic primary, the resurgence in the interest in tarot and astrology, the aesthetics of witchcraft on Instagram, we see again and again the presence of a new and old version of looking at the world, paired with the constant presence of its end. The end of the world and witchcraft are siblings this time.Maybe it’s not surprising, since the end of the world is always brought by prophecy and oracles, always seen by the knowing in its portents. And the end is always changing the way we relate to time; when we think there’s an end of the road, so many of us move away from linearity and start to think in layers of time. In synchronicities and correspondences. In creative ruptures outside of the normal flow of things.

We think in witchcraft.

So, I needed to discuss all of this, and give it flesh. I invited two people I know working with witchcraft and art in the apocalypse – Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey. They’re also authors, performers, and the founders of the occult/witchcraft publishers Scarlet Imprint.One of the most interesting aspects of this conversation is that Alkistis and Peter and I come from differing traditions – they’re working with Babalon – the being that appears in Revelations, in thelema, in enochian magic and more.Whereas I am working with The Christ and the Archangel Michael via anthroposophy.So there’s a tension between our traditions – almost a sort of antagonism. What’s important to remember here is that through me and through Peter & Alkistis, a conversation takes place between these end of the world and beginning of the world beings – through Christ and Babalon. Conversations – real ones – become sites for the interaction of spirit as well.It is through that that tension found only in friendship that we ask a lot of big questions for our big time.

ON THE EPISODE

  • The rise of apocalypse in consciousness
  • The way the spiritual world selects or discards people to give itself life
  • What to do when we notice what we’ve lost and what we depend on
  • Why to look for spirits in experience, not books
  • The way location interacts with spirituality
  • The nature of spirits, the spirits of nature
  • How spirits get crowded out by other spirits that live with electronic devices
  • How do we differentiate between spirits (and which ones to not mess with)
  • The problematic view of Babalon and Christ versus the ones that creates a real view of humanity
  • Encountering a Christian sex riddle in Vietnam
  • The importance of sex in spirituality

SHOW NOTES

• For more Alkistis & Peter: here’s Peter’s talk, “Becoming No-Man” and here’s Alkistis’s talk, “Where the Daimon Dwells,” both from the Trans-States conference in 2017. Here’s Alkistis’s performance, “The decollation of flowers” and another, “Visitation.” Both of them have been on the Rune Soup podcast multiple times, and here’s the latest (and I think greatest, so far).• Scarlet Imprint has published the work of other AEWCH guests, including Phil Legard and Gordon White.

• I talked quite a bit about apocalypse with Mark O’Connell on AEWCH 105.

• Here’s a short article on the style of dance that has influenced Alkistis, butoh. Pictured below is a performance of one of butoh’s most profound elaborators, Tatsumi Hijikata.

• As Peter and Alkistis and I try to define what spirits are, I am reminded by Alkistis’s comment about spirits being “semi-material” of Valentin Tomberg’s passage in Meditations On The Tarot about ghosts: “Ghosts exist. This is not a question of belief; it is a matter of fact. There is an immense literature, without speaking of facts that one can find in the sphere of personal experience, which bears witness to the existence of ghosts. Now it is no longer a matter of believing or denying; now it is a matter only of understanding and explaining. Ghosts exist therefore. Thus it happens from time to time after someone’s death that this person or “something” of him or similar to him manifests in an outward and physical way (noises, movements, etc.) in the guise of an active energy. It is as if a certain quantity of energy, freed through death, but remaining condensed and not dispersed, manifests as an entity or as an individual “body”. … (p. 358)What, then, is a ghost?A ghost is always constituted as a consequence of crystallisation, i.e., crystallisation of a desire, a passion, or a purpose of great intensity, which produces a complex of energy in the human being.”

• To understand what spirits are, you can find a good and easy picture (not definition) of them in Lon Milo Duquette’s My Life with the Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician.

I talked about Wilhelm Reich on an “Against Saturdays” episode. And my saying about sex and individuality is “If you ever want to know how someone feels about freedom, start talking about sex.”

Until next time,
Love
CH

Why “stay the f*ck at home” is not enough. I talk with family abolitionist Sophie Lewis on AEWCH 106!

14 Apr


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AEWCH106TitleCard
Friends,
We need to talk about the regulations and messages of “stay the fuck at home;” of quarantines and police powers; of medicine and our bodies; and we need to do it now.

So I asked the brilliant Sophie Lewis -family abolitionist, and author of the challenging and fascinating book about the politics of gestation, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family – to talk about all this and more.

Sophie and I have intersecting influences; Donna Haraway was a huge provocateur for Sophie, and my mentor, Lynn Margulis, was a huge provocateur for Donna. What these influences have led to: a question about what the individual is, how we’re all connected, where our boundaries are.

This is an intense and wide-ranging conversation. I’m so happy to share it with you.

ON THIS EPISODE

  • Why being with our families is an intolerable proposition
  • How the right has seized resistance to the state in our time
  • How the left couldn’t be less prepared for this pandemic and why
  • The way the condemnation of magic and the non-critical acceptance of science has made us impotent in the face of the current events
  • Whether or not astrology is eugenic, even though tarot is great
  • How leftists can interrogate science now
  • What Sophie learned from her silence meditation retreat (and how being greeted with silence can affect change)
  • Why Sylvia Federici and political economy takes on witchcraft (and sex work) need to be critiqued (and, uh, I kind of go off)
  • Why individual self-care is a “pestilence.”
  • The lessons of hospice care
  • The value of strangers and strangerhood
  • Why the classical elements and magic matter to leftist theory
  • What if we didn’t reach for the tools of fear and fascism in duress?

SHOW NOTES

• For more Sophie, go to her website. There you can find her essay, “Momrades against Motherhood, Mothering against the World.” And we should all read Sophie’s great, brief essay, “The Virus and the Home” where she states, “A quarantine is, in effect, an abuser’s dream…” And here’s her essay exploring the problems with Donna Haraway’s Staying With The Trouble. Sophie is also a member of the Out Of the Woods Collective who you may want to look into. Finally, here’s a good discussion between Sophie and Joanna Biggs.

• As a supplement to Sophie’s essay read Des Fitzgerald‘s excellent short essay, “Stay The Fuck At Home,” and Natasha Lennard‘s essay, “Domestic Violence Is on the Rise With Coronavirus Lockdown. The Responses Are Missing the Point.”

• Assad Haider, who critiques the tensions between identity politics and class politics was on the show way back on AEWCH 26.

• And if you do want to hear about me talking Wilhelm Reich, here you go.

• Someone once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization. “I think it would be a good idea,” he said. At least that’s how the story goes.

• If you’re unfamiliar with Sylvia Federici‘s work, it’s useful to some, even if it deserves (serious and thorough) critique. Here’s Daniel Denvir interviewing her on The Dig. I’ve found Federici’s work mostly uninspiring and overrated; her essays about witchcraft and magic go something like: “Capitalism disempowered witches, but I don’t believe those people ever had power in the first place.” But as you can hear from Sophie’s take, Federici has been a huge figure for many leftists, and a sort of backdoor for some leftists into witchcraft (though mostly in an aesthetic sense). Some of my critique comes out on AEWCH 98 with Thomas Waters.

• Would you like to read (or re-read) “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway? Also, I enjoyed, though did not fully agree with her book, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. And here’s Donna’s update on the book that Sophie found wanting.

• Check out Elizabeth Wilson’s excellent book, Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body . And though I haven’t read her book Gut Feminism yet, I am excited to.

• Alyssa Battistoni’s essay about political organizing and disorganizing is “Spadework.” And here’s an interview with Alyssa – “Living Together Shouldn’t Put Us at War With One Another or With the Earth.” And for work by Sophie’s partner, Vicky Osterweil, go here.

• Here’s Douglas Crimp’s (pictured below) essay “
How To Have Promiscuity In An Epidemic” and many of his other essays are collected in Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics.

DG
 
• Sophie talks about abortion frankly and directly here.

Sophie mentions, briefly, Ann Boyer. I have yet to read her book, The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care, but I’m excited to.
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

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.
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