Sometime in the near future, we’ll be announcing the release of a cd titled Turning Trickster, from the young, fresh cannibals at HysM?. The reading featured in the title track comes from The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, by Paul Radin, an anthropologist whose works we have praised in this space several times before.
Trickster is a universal mythological figure appearing in various forms all over the world. To the big three monotheistic religions, Trickster is the Devil, the Archenemy, to be fought and resisted. Among other, less uptight peoples, Trickster represents the fuzzy line between Creation and Destruction, Chaos and Cosmos. The world that we live in, the physical, is a tiny island in a vast sea of unknowableness, the metaphysical – Trickster is an invader from that sea. Oddly enough, he was/is/will be sent here by the Creator to set things in place.
Trickster is an id, constantly seeking food, sex and ease. He is vain and easily offended, stupid and utterly without scruple. To satisfy his incessant urges, he won’t even pause before using deceit, murder and rape. Certainly, he is thwarted in his plans and punished for his crimes in many ways. He is humiliated, injured, even killed, though he springs back to life after every death, learning nothing from his experiences. Trickster tales abound with the basest of humor – fart and poop jokes, the mishaps of Tricksters enormous and self-acting penis, his ongoing arguments with his own anus. Nothing is too coarse or loathsome to factor in. And it must be remembered that this Trickster is a Deity, an emissary of the Great God, sent to Earth to establish the forms of the world, the ways that people should live.
There are many examples of Trickster making some physical feature of the landscape. His interactions with various animals end with the establishment of their particular characteristics, i.e. the skunk’s coloring or the turkey vulture’s bald head. The beaver’s flat tail, or the opossum’s hairless one, is certainly explained by stories of those animals’ encounters with Trickster. This aspect of the character, which this Shaman’s daughter finds so intriguing – “Is that really why the beaver has a flat tail? Is that really true?” – should not be overemphasized. Trickster is less about the length of the rabbit’s ears than the Nature of the Universe.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a question that no one who lives with Trickster would ever ask. Only in a monotheistic, merit-based philosophy, fundamentally corrupted by capitalism, could such a thought occur. In such a system, the world created by God must be just and good deeds must be rewarded, in the here and now. Calamity and ruin visited upon any individual or group must therefore be explained by their wickedness or by the choice of God to use disaster as a teaching or testing tool. It’s as if I were to fling my daughter into the Shenandoah during the heavy springtime flow to punish her for wiping a booger on the sofa or to test her faith in my ability to rescue her from the same. Every time there’s a hurricane or drought, some whackjob preacher steps up to proclaim that God is angry about gay marriage or abortion and is showing His displeasure by punishing the community afflicted, whether they deserve it or not.
Feh. Those who live with Trickster – and it should be obvious that The Big Drum In The Sky Religion soundly embraces him – have no need or desire to cast blame on victims of misfortune. We live by certain principles, the principles that were established in Trickster’s wake, but we know that the world we live in is governed by an anarchist. Disasters and destruction happen because it is the very nature of the world that they should. Obviously, crimes will be punished, but many misfortunes happen because that’s just the fuckin’ way it is and there’s little to be done about it. And that’s okay. In fact, looked at from a certain angle, it can be rather amusing.
Life is brutal and ugly at times. Horrible things happen to good people. Get used to it.
And life is astonishingly beautiful at other times. Right now, spring is springing in the beautiful Valley of the Shenandoah. The birds are raising quite a ruckus, the grass is greening and the animals are frisking about. We’ve survived another winter – most of us anyway, pour one out for R.R. and the other homies who ain’t with us anymore – and it is a fine time to be alive. Trickster is surely whistling as he walks on this day, looking for something to eat and someone to fuck. Methinks I’ll do the same, after another cup of coffee.
But actually, I won’t, because I am not Trickster. Today is a day for me to fast and my spiritual path no longer includes random sexual encounters. The thoughts and desires are surely still present, but I have the power to choose not to act on them, because I live just over the line from chaos, in the ordered and human zone. Chaos is a fun place to visit, but I don’t live there anymore.
The guy from HysM?, Stefano, contacted me about possible cover art for the cd. I was little help. It’s nigh impossible to accurately portray Trickster because he is of a time before the establishment of forms, neither human nor animal, or maybe both and a Spirit as well. Usually, he is shown as a man with a coyote’s head, but he can be a bird as well. Or anything else the story calls for. Stefano threw some images together which I heartily approved.
So that thing will come out. In the meantime, I think I’m gonna go out and fuck some shit up. It is certainly a day to fast, but I may have to reconsider that bit about finding someone to fuck. It is spring, after all.
In case you didn’t see the smoke signals, My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush 2: Escape From The Fallen Planet has been released. It was the smoothest, easiest and fastest comp this Espresso Shaman has ever been involved with. Thanks to all who participated.
Now, enough of that. Onward and upward: Announcing the next two installments! Maybe the next two, definitely one of the next two. The other that I’m announcing now might be the next one or it might be the eighth or something, due to the fact that participation in it is somewhat limited. The other that I’m announcing now is open to all, so I suspect it’ll fill up first. And the full title of that one will be:
My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush (#): All Natural. This one is the standard premise of the series – women’s bodies correlate with nature in nearly all known myth systems, past or present. Our modern world tends to objectify, denigrate and exploit both. Strip-mining and rape are two obvious examples of the violent extremes. Mostly, the objectification, denigration and exploitation take on subtler forms and are presented not as violent, but as benign, if not benevolent.
Someone chose not to participate in this project on the grounds that women defibulate for a plethora of reasons, including beauty and hygiene. I didn’t bother to enter into a debate – he didn’t want to contribute a track, so be it. But it’s pretty clear to anybody who thinks it through that beauty is always socially conditioned and that if a hairless crotch is somehow more “hygienic”, then shouldn’t men shave too? The reality is that women are bombarded constantly with messages about their bodies – that they’re too fat, wrinkly, smelly, hairy &c. As a man, I wear a beard or don’t and it matters not a whit. Let a qualified female applicant show up for a job interview wearing a skirt that reveals hairy legs and that fact alone will disqualify her. Meanwhile, coal and oil companies continue to destroy the planet.
Full disclosure: I believe in man-made global warming, but if it turns out that I’m wrong about that, I don’t care. Whether climate change is the result of human actions or not, I’m still a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. I don’t need climate change to convince me that coal mining is fucking wrong. The poisoning of rivers in Virginia is enough. (Last time the US government had to send truckloads of bottled water to southwest Virginia because the ground water, and therefore the tap water, was contaminated by toxic waste from coal mining was January ’14).
As of this writing, this writer does not participate in any form of direct action. I don’t blow up mining machinery, block logging roads or set fire to oil companies’ office buildings (though I certainly appreciate it when others do). Art and music are my weapons of choice, as ineffectual as they are. I do not believe for a moment that some insignificant V/A compilation of unpopular music made by malcontents is going to change anything, even if said malcontents are truly sincere and internationally dispersed. This comp series is not going to solve anything. I do it because I have to do something. As a person of faith, I am compelled by my conscience to pursue the right, no matter how hopeless it may seem. And I have a daughter. I was an eco-feminist before the Spotted Opossum came along, but she really made it seem more important. Worst case scenario: I’ll be able to tell her I tried.
So, All Natural is open to anyone who wants to send in a track or two. Nobody gets more than ten minutes. All songs remain the property of the artists. Distro must be free. I really like the method of distro for Escape From The Fallen Planet – everybody puts the full comp up on their own Bandcamp or whatever site they use to make their music available. There might be problems with it, but at this moment it seems right for this project. I expect it’ll continue. I’ll probably decide to impose a deadline at some point, but for now it’s open-ended. Think on it a while. See what ya come up with.
The other thing, the one that will take longer to put together, will be Mad Pride Goeth Before A Fall, which title refers, obviously, to the “Mad Pride” movement. This one continues the eco-feminist theme, but adds a layer: crazy people. Participation is limited to artists/bands that have some direct involvement with some form of madness, either temporary or permanent and who are willing to be public about it. The diagnoses of participants will go in the “About this track” section on Bandcamp. For example, if the BDSR track is made by this Espresso Shaman alone, it would say “Dysthemia, reoccurring major depression, psychotic features, alcoholism/addiction”, because that’s what I have. If someone else participates in the BDSR track, their diagnoses, if any, would be added. Some of the other participants in BDSR have been diagnosed with something, some haven’t. This seems pretty clear to me, but I’m insane so it might not make sense. I’d be glad to clarify if anyone has questions.
Basically, if you’ve ever been crazy, even if, like myself, you’re doing pretty good now, and you’re willing to own up to it, you can contribute.
The reason for the exclusionary nature of Mad Pride Goeth Before A Fall is that mental disorders are about the most marginalized fuckers in any population. Right now, people of color are struggling with police violence and discrimination in the USA. LGBT&c. people are making some progress toward equality under the law. Women are not on the same level of social power as men, but the gap is narrowing. All these are good and righteous causes, well worthy of the support of those who, like me, are not of color, queer or female. Keep up the good fight. But there are crazy people too. I think it’s pretty fuckin’ plain that there will be a black lesbian president before there’s a schizophrenic one and that’s fine. Christ knows, four days without my meds and I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the nuke button. I’m not saying there should be crazy, drugged-out Senators or anything stupid like that, but we do exist. Some of us are suffering terribly. I haven’t seen any city-wide marches for depressed people or Youtube fads of idiots pouring ice water over their heads for bi-polar disorder.
It’s really just a way of saying “Hey. We’re here. We make music. Angels talk to us. We care about women and the planet.” Obviously, the marketing will be a bit different.
Obviously, if you’re mad, you can contribute to both of the above.
And again, no deadline; ten minutes max; prob’ly distro through Bandcamp.
Hope to hear from you.
I told a therapist once that I saw myself as an ideological revolutionaire dropping drops of figurative LSD into the collective thought pool. I was batshit crazy then, stewed to the gills, nihilistic and utterly powerless to have any sort of influence on anyone other than making them want to avoid my presence. Still, it was a good metaphor and my therapist was suitably amused. She deserves credit for her patience and tolerance. Sometime later, she made the arrangements for the taxpayer-funded, twenty-eight-day rehab retreat, where/when I began my spiritual journey, which has, so far, been weirder and more pleasurable than anything I experienced as a result of chemicals or psychosis.
The internet existed then, but I wasn’t plugged in. Gaining some measurable of mental stability and spiritual consciousness, I engaged in the world around me, physically and virtually, clumsily trying to communicate my seemingly profound insights about the worlds of form and spirit. At first, I was frustrated that no one seemed to be listening, but gradually, the desire for an audience dissipated and it became enough for me to just fling the ideas out there, willy-nilly, entheogens cast into the stream of collective unconsciousness. Surprisingly enough, some souls responded.
The internet is so easy, so accessible to anyone in a tin-foil medicine hat. Every one of us has the ability to blog about whatever random bullshit we think about while folding our laundry. Every fool with a Casio or a bucket to bang on can have their very own Bandcamp. Every raving maniac can set up their own website, free of charge, to broadcast their gibberish to the entire human race or to no one if no one clicks, but somebody will because no matter how ridiculous, malevolent or unhinged you might be, there is someone who agrees with you. The internet makes it finally possible to find and commune with those losers.
The bookkeeper at the restaurant where I work asked me to find a way for us to avoid paying licensing fees for the music we play in the dining room. I came up with a few solutions, some more unrealistic than others. We could, for example, download a years’ worth of music by musicians on Bandcamp who have offered their songs for free and waived their intellectual property rights – my own band is but one of many who have done such – and play that music in the dining room, thus exposing ourselves and our customers to all manner of new music by artists who are less motivated by the love of money than by the desire to communicate and share their sounds. Not for one moment did I think that was a viable alternative, but it is possible.
Certainly, a massive amount of what gets posted is garbage. There are the misguided and talentless, the bedroom imitators and the plain old malcontents. Misogyny, racism, homophobia and incoherent rage abound on Bandcamp, Tumblr and everywhere. Countless singer-songwriters upload their plaintive and insipid paeans to lost loves. Endless teenage pop-punk bands cover Green Day. Armies of friendless miscreants channel their petty gripes through stompboxes and call it power-violence. That’s the nature of democracy. Idiots and ne’er-do-well’s have equal access to soapboxes.
And what about intellectual property rights? Does the fact that somebody wrote or recorded a piece of music really give them the right to be paid for that act again and again? It’s worth thinking about, I suppose, but I’m not terribly interested in that debate. Some friends of mine once released a single that was a mash-up of Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause” and some Herb Alpert song. It was well-done, hilarious and arguably made a statement. They were sweating bullets, worried that Mr. Alpert was going to sue them into the fires of Hell, but they got away with it. I think they sold three-thousand copies – three full runs of a thousand each – before they decided they’d pushed it as far as they could. Another friend was caught selling bootleg cd’s by an agent of some band of millionaires and subsequently forced to close his record store. He was guilty, sure, guilty of selling music that he didn’t like, but which would help him to pay his rent and put food on the table. He had not in any way harmed the musicians who were bootlegged, didn’t impair their ability to gold-plate the toilets on their yachts or pack cocaine up their nostrils, but he lost his shop and had to go work in a factory. Phuck those rock stars.
So, debate it if ya wanna. I know where I stand. Most of what I steal falls into the “fair use” category, or so I’ll claim if I get sued. Fortunately, there are so many people jacking samples and posting them that the chances of me getting caught are slim to none unless I do something stupid to attract attention. Pussy Riot probably wouldn’t care that I used a piece of one their songs. Buffalo Springfield, or their label, might have issues with my use of “For What It’s Worth”, but as we learned from Negativland, being sued can be good publicity.
Really though, I’m much more intrigued by the opportunity the internet gives me to find out about shit that would never otherwise enter my little corner of the world. I have been able to reach people all over God’s green Earth, make friends, share music freely and discover all kinds of crazy stuff, music certainly – Zamrock, obscure inter-war blues and gospel, Sixto Rodriguez, middle-Eastern psych, Tuvanese throat-singing, countless hordes of outsiders flailing at guitars in their basements – as well as movies – the films of Estus Pirkle, Klaus Kinski’s spaghetti westerns and megalomaniacal rants, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Begotten and Slaves Of The Cannibal Queen, the early works of William Shatner, Finis Hominis, hours of ephemeral films, B-horror and sci-fi, dystopian futures, the entire “Billy Jack” series, fucking Manos: Hands Of Fate, for Christ’s sake. It’s all there, the collected works of humanity, readily available for perusal, good bad or indifferent. Whatever you want.
Do what thou will with the internet. As for me, I’ll be recording whatever comes to hand, running it through a fuzzbox and putting it out there. It’s always pleasurable when I get a notice from Bandcamp saying that I’m running out of free download credits, but it makes no difference. I will continue to fling metaphorical soma into the thought pool because I enjoy doing so. The restaurant work pays the bills so I don’t need to get paid for the music. If someone is inspired, entertained or comforted by my output, as I have so been by the works of others, works that I did not pay for, that’s wonderful, but not important. I do what I do because I love to do it. The internet has freed me from the need to buy cd-r’s or blank cassettes to spread my gospel. I am the voice of one crying out in the World Wide Wilderness and I have been shocked to find fellow travelers, like-minded spirits and collaborators where I expected to find a Void.
The Reason For The Season Of The Witch
For a thousand years or so, the official position of the Catholic Church was that there was no such thing as witchcraft. Occasionally, the Vatican would get a report about some villager who claimed a witch had spoiled his milk or caused his mule to come up lame. These reports were simply ignored.
After the Black Death wiped out a third of Christendom, people started looking for someone to blame. During the fourteenth century, belief in black magic became widespread. Those accused of witchcraft were tried and when convicted, made to spent a day or so in the stocks and then repent, a relatively light punishment. Farting in church was treated more severely.
Then in 1487, a book was published: Malleus Maleficarum, “the Hammer of Witches”, was a lengthy and laborious tome dedicated to the idea that witches, most of whom were female, were everywhere, corrupting society, defiling all that was sacred and fucking the Devil in the forests on a nightly basis. No lurid detail of the nocturnal liaisons between Satan and his whores was omitted. Pope Innocent VII issued a papal bull declaring the Malleus to be the absolute truth and ordering the secular powers to cooperate fully with the Church in rooting out and destroying all witches or face excommunication. What followed was an orgy of witch-burning that lasted two centuries.
All over the European continent, people accused their neighbors of having direct, very carnal, knowledge of the Devil, and of being his servants. The accused were tortured until they confessed and then tortured until they named other witches, a process that completely depopulated some villages. Witches who had spilled their guts and condemned everyone they knew were burned at the stake. In areas of the Rhineland, all firewood was dedicated to the burning of witches, requiring more to be carted in.
Eventually, the craze for witch-burning ran its course. People found other things to do. But why did it happen in the first place?
Any fool with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (Human Services) can tell you that it’s dang nigh impossible to successfully repress anything. You may be able to keep some unpleasant aspects of your psyche in the dark, out of your consciousness, but they’re still there and whether you know it or not, they’re sneaking out. I can think of several people right off the top of my head, people I know, who have all kinds of allergies, ailments and chronic disorders that don’t respond to treatment and I can see from across the room that those people are suffering the consequences of choosing not to recognize certain truths about themselves and then take the necessary steps to change how they live. I used to be one of those people. All the shit that I tried to push down just kept coming out in weird ways, so I tried harder, piling up more chemicals and defenses and avoidances until I was backed up in a hole and realized that I was gonna have to face up and do some serious work or die. Actually, I was so fucked up that I’m still working on it.
So what happens when an entire civilization tries to repress a major portion of its collective psyche? That society goes off the beam, that’s what. Under the heavy hand of the Church, Europe struggled to believe “facts” that contradicted the evidence of the senses, dehumanize humans, break nature, unfeel emotions, subjugate the best parts of their creativity and deny the pleasures of their own bodies. Add to that the fact that the institution that was selling them protection from God’s wrath was failing to protect them from God’s wrath again and again - Europe was wracked with pandemics of bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, cholera, &c over and over – and then telling them that it was their own fault. Fuggin’ A, those poor bastards couldn’t even rub one out without the certainty of eternal damnation. It’s no wonder they were all so barking mad they were ready to accuse, condemn, torture and burn everybody in town the moment they got the chance.
What is a witch? A witch is a person – almost always a woman – who has sex with the Devil and gains powers greater than other people. In a misogynistic, Christian society, where sex was only for procreation and only those born to noble lineages had power, witches represented the ultimate in rebellion. They were everything that was anti-. From our enlightened perspective, it’s obvious that not one of the countless people tortured and burned for witchcraft ever fucked the Devil. I bet none of ‘em even played footsie with the Devil, but they burned anyway.
Would you wish you could be a witch if you lived in medieval Europe? I would. I would wish for the freedom that being a witch would provide. Sure, it came at a cost, but not a bigger one than what the Church demanded.
Still, the Church provided stability. Look around sometime; ask yourself how many of the people around you have chosen stability over freedom. If you can find one person who has made the other choice, let me know ‘cause I’d like to meet ‘em. Stability wins over freedom every time and it sure did in Europe after 1487. The Church had to be supported – it was beginning to crumble – and if people had to burn, so be it.
The witch-burning craze didn’t just fizzle out. The Church finally figured out that the strangle-hold method wasn’t working. Educated men all over Europe were making discoveries that contradicted the most basic premises of Catholicism: the Earth orbits the Sun! Jupiter has moons! Diseases are caused by tiny bugs, not daemons! The Church realized that it had to yield some ground or lose the entire field. With that loosening, the general population was able to stop burning each other.
The presenting problem went away, but the underlying issues continued on and still do. As western society became more and more secular, as the power of the One, True Church diminished, the image of the witch changed. Now, witches are Halloween decorations unless they’re naked. Either way they still represent female powers – untamed, unpredictable, magical, potentially dangerous, wantonly sexual – that are less repressed in our society, but still somewhat marginalized. We may have convinced ourselves that there is no horny Devil waiting in the shadows to leap out and drag us off to Hell, but we have not yet integrated the shadow-side of our collective Self. We have not accepted that the Earth was not created for our exploitation. We have not accepted that there are some among us who, though they are not heterosexual, are capable of love and loving relationships. We have not begun to ensure that the poorest members of society are able to get the most basic needs. We have not learned to refrain from violence. We have not stopped acting as if women were something not quite fully human. We have not stopped looking for someone else to blame. We have not even faced up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong.
We do have a lot of drugs, both prescription and street. We have mind-boggling porn. We have mass-shootings two or three times per week with the occasional mass-stabbing for variety. We have bigger, brighter wars and “God hates fags”-Baptists protesting the funerals of dead soldiers. We have Glen Beck urging us to carry concealed weapons to church. We have hydraulic fracking and radiation leaks. We have smart phone apps.
The word “witch” comes from Old English “wicce”, wise. A “wiccan” was a “wise one”; wise in her knowledge of healing.
Witches are among us, whether we recognize them or not. They can be scary old hags in pointy hats or lascivious Devil-fuckers or they can be healers. Every “we” is made up of individuals so how we choose to interpret our witches will depend on how each individual in our “we” chooses to interpret his or her own inner shadow.
The Season of the Witch is now. The Reason for the Season of the Witch is us.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.