So, I haven't posted in a while because I've been busy and because the word program I was using was actually a temporary thing that my mom had on this computer and it ran out or stopped working or some such and I'm trying to figure out how to get another one without, ya know, paying for it.
And I been busy. All good stuff - work, daughter, art, music, snow, good things. I set up a BDSR Bandcamp and put up a bunch of songs. But I haven't been doing this thing, which I don't feel good about because I usually do three or four a month and I feel like I should put something up once in a while at least. So, enjoy some photos of my mom's back yard which she also left on this computer.
Oh yeah, uh, religion is the best thing people ever came up with. I haven't been depressed or dropped acid. I rode my skateboard to the mailbox and back t'other day. I'm reading The Gateless Gate again - it's awesome. My daughter turns five next month! Holy Shite, seems like just yesterday she was in diapers. Not Noise, meditation, look both ways, smell the coffee.
I was recently thinking about compiling a list of the Top Ten Most Satanic Songs for this space, but could only really determine the one that would be in the number 1spot. Then it occurred to me that I use the image of Satan, the Devil, in two distinct ways and that I have never clarified what the fuck I’m talking about. Here and now shalt that mistake be corrected.
The Devil is, of course, a Christian character. Christianity, as we all know, has a rather warped sense of morality, some of which it inherited from Judaism and some of which it developed all by itself. The image of the Devil, goat legs, horns, general ugliness, came from Pan, the Greek god of the wild, embodiment of the animal nature of humanity, a piping, dancing, nymph-fucking id. Christianity vilified Pan because he represented all of the physical urges, the joys of the body, relegating the god-given and natural desires of the flesh to the same degree of evil as the actual sins which Jesus actually spoke against. Gradually, the “sins” of the body, which are external, became more “sinful” than the sins of the mind/spirit which are harder to point out in other people. Having sex somehow became worse than being greedy, which, taken to its most grotesque extreme, yields the Westboro Baptist Church, a group of utterly hateful and loathsome assholes who use a couple of verses from the Old Testament, taken deliberately out of context, to justify becoming exactly the people that Jesus was most violently angry with: the money-changers in the temple.
In October ’02, when the Beltway snipers were shooting people up in Northern Virginia, I was working in a restaurant. There was this squatty, bald mental midget who came in every morning to clean the place, one of those fervent born-agains who wears T-shirts that say things like “1 CROSS + 3 NAILS = 4GIVEN”. He was yammering at me about the snipers one morning and said something like “I know the good Lord says forgive, but the flesh is weak and I think they oughta hang those guys when they catch ‘em”. Apparently, he thought that Matthew 26:40-43 was a ready-made excuse for just not trying to do what Jesus said to do, a ridiculous and all-too-common misreading of what is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Later, he sexually assaulted a waitress.
That aside aside, I’m not really trying to go the direction of critiquing Christianity’s inanities. What I’m after here is an explanation of what the Devil means to The Big Drum In The Sky Religion. For that, I should turn away from Christianity to paganism, which is somewhat iffy since “paganism” is a big, jumbled mess of different beliefs, so why don’t I just drop that and say what I mean without trying to link it to anything.
Greed, deceit, selfishness, malice, bigotry and cruelty are fucking wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of the flesh is not fucking wrong. Cheating on your girlfriend is wrong because of the deceit involved, not because of the sex involved. Dancing around a bonfire in the middle of the night, whacked out of your skull on peyote and Night Train, naked and sweaty, participating in a filthy orgy and singing praises to the Morning Star is not sinful. Being rich, which means having more than you need while others have less than they need, is sinful. Being gay, okay; hating gay, no way. Is this making sense?
One of the points that I make here and everywhere, over and over, is that myth and religion are about living a genuine life. Every person is born with a purpose, a defining and vital driving force, and the goal of living is to find that whatever it is and live it. Jesus’ purpose was bridging the divide between people and God, which meant death by crucifixion. The Devil who appeared to Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 4, Luke 4) was trying to convince Jesus to do anything other than fulfill His purpose. Prince Gautama was similarly tested by Mara. Parcival encountered numerous obstacles in quest of the Holy Graal. Arjuna experienced paralyzing doubt at Kurukshetra. In all these examples, and many, many others, the hero holds to his purpose despite doubt, doing what he is supposed to do, even when it means death. That’s what it means to live a genuine life. The Devil in these stories appears as “the Prince of Lies”, telling the hero that he should forgo his particular purpose in favor of security, wealth, power, a normal life. An example would be a person who wants to major in modern dance, but goes for the business degree instead because s/he wants to make a good living. If your heart says “modern dance”, anything else is wrong.
When my daughter was born, I experienced a moment of temptation. I thought “I’m a father now. I have to stop messing around with art and music and get a real job.” Because I was familiar with myth, I was able to recognize that thought for what it was and respond appropriately: “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Art and music are what I am supposed to do. I have always known that. I have never been able to really imagine anything else. I paint houses and do restaurant work to make a living, and I do enjoy those jobs, but my real calling is art and music. Actually, I should say that my real calling is learning about myth and religion and spreading what I’ve learned. Art and music are the methods I’ve been given. And writing. I don’t enjoy writing the same way I enjoy art and music, but I use it because it allows me to express ideas that I can’t express in those other forms. Eventually, I’ll get around to using movies as well.
Of course, raising my daughter is more important than any of that, but I’m teaching her by example. I must follow my own gods-given path in order to teach her to follow hers. She is the future; I am the past. She is the one who is coming, whose shoelaces I am unfit to tie.
Figuring out what one was made to be and then becoming that is the great task of life. It is terribly difficult and means constant struggle. The Prince of Lies never stops placing obstacles in the path. All are called to this course, but few even begin.
I woke up from a dream this morning, a drinking dream. I don’t have them often, but I do still have them. I couldn’t remember this one very well, but I know I was drinking and drugging. Drinking dreams are the only nightmares I have anymore and they always freak me out. It took me a while after waking to calm down. For those who can enjoy drugs and alcohol without losing themselves, there is no sin in drugs and alcohol. I am an alcoholic/addict. If I drink or take drugs, I lose myself; I become a voracious consumer of drugs and alcohol, a hungry ghost, incapable of pursuing my path. That is death, spiritual death, immediately, physical death soon enough. If you can take drugs or drink without losing yourself, no problem, no sin. I don’t have a romantic/sexual partner right now, but if I did we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of any church and we would certainly engage in sexual practices not approved by the Bible. Occasionally enjoying anal or oral sex with a willing partner doesn’t cause me to lose myself or deviate from my own path, no sin.
So, according to the Christian, Sleep’s Dopesmoker is of the Devil because it’s a slow, sludgy glorification of marijuana that rips off Black Sabbath. Cool. I love Dopesmoker. Dopesmoker makes me laugh. Dopesmoker does not make me want to smoke dope. I would call Dopesmoker “Satanic” because it’s big, dumb metal, but I do not mean that Dopesmoker, in itself, leads anyone from their own path. Makes sense? Devil-horn-hands, pentagrams, goat-heads, deviant sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, those things are all “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would say is perfectly fine and dandy. Lying, stealing (in most cases), rape, corporate malfeasance, &c. are “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would call truly evil, because they cause harm to self and others.
The confusion comes from being pagan in a society dominated by Christians.
I hope this clears it up. When I say things like “Stalagh’s Projekt Misanthopia is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s really, really fucking cool. When I say “Monsanto is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s an evil corporation that profits from deceiving and harming people. The word “Satanic” can be good or bad. I generally assume that a person of reasonable intelligence can tell what I intend by the context.
I describe songs as “Satanic” according to a vague and poorly defined sense of je ne sais quoi – they just seem that way. The riff matters, obviously. The message of the lyrics, though relevant, has less to do with it than the impact of the music. “Sympathy For The Devil” is clearly Satanic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Satanic as a motherfucker. “Sister Ray”, Satanic. “Telstar”, “Lola”, “Fox On The Run”, “Land Down Under” and “Bloody Hammer” are Satanic as Hell. Conversely, “Back On The Chain Gang”, “Come And Get It” and “Radar Love”, though awesome, are not Satanic. “Rebel Rouser”, “Come On, Eileen”, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Stuck In The Middle With You” are almost-but-not-quite Satanic.
So. That said, the single most Satanic song in the history of rock is Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”.
The Spotted Opossum and I were in the car t’other day, going from A to B. The Slits’ Cut was playing at low volume, just sort of there in the background. I’m always conscious of the music I have on when my daughter is around because I’m trying to raise up a smart, active, assertive and riotous grrrl with good taste. The Slits started off as a gang of thrashing, bashing teenage hellions with more attitude than aptitude and evolved into a punk/reggae, feminist assault unit who punched out some great grooves without losing their edge. They carved a place for themselves in the rock’n’roll sausage party, basically ensuring that punk, unlike all other forms, would have some menstrual blood on its tracks. Good goddamn job, says me.
S’anyway, during a lull in the conversation, the grrrl caught the refrain “Don’t take it serious” at the end of “So Tough” and asked me about that. I explained that they were saying not to take things so seriously, that some things are not worth getting bothered about. I was coming at it from that angle because little kids, including mine, have a tendency to get really upset over matters that are, in the grand scheme, pretty fucking trivial. Part of my Daddy job is teaching her that her emotions are fine and good, but that they need to be regulated in some ways. One simply cannot function well in society unless one can control one’s emotions. Understanding that some things can be ignored or brushed off is part of emotional maturity.
She acknowledged the validity of that interpretation and offered an alternative. Perhaps, she suggested, the Slits were addressing someone named “Serious” and they were telling Serious not to take something. Like, maybe they had some Halloween candy and Serious was trying to take it. “Don’t take it, Serious.”
I agreed that this was possible. She asked who was named Serious. I said I didn’t know of anyone by that name. We arrived at B, got out of the car and our talk drifted on to other things.
This morning, after a last-minute wardrobe change, some minor abuse of the roomie’s cat and a hurried search for something to take for show’n’tell, we managed to get down to the car where she suddenly announced that she remembered who Serious was. Serious, she informed me was a dog who belonged to Hunter O’Ryan. I was still struggling with consciousness and was distracted by trying to get her to school and me to work so I was slow to catch on. I thought she was talking about characters in a kids’ show or some something that she’d heard someplace and partially understood. It took me a moment to get it: Sirius is the Dog Star, associated with the constellation Orion, the hunter. We go to the planetarium at the local university occasionally. They have free shows every Saturday, the earlier one for kids. Last summer, we saw a cartoon about Orion, his legend and how he became a constellation. I had completely forgotten it. If you’d asked me, I would’ve assumed that she had too, that it had just sunk onto her brain as one of the fun things she and I have done together.
Nope. She obviously held onto far more information than I would’ve thought any four-year-old could. Of course, this is a four-year-old we’re talking about. She can remember the name of my roommate who has a cat, but not the other one and she sometimes needs help getting her underpants on right, but still. That she remembers from a cartoon six months ago that Sirius “belongs” to the hunter, Orion, is pretty amazing and cool.
What I’m taking from this incident is that my kid is really fucking smart. I already knew that and I’m certainly aware that few people who aren’t immediately involved in our lives give a shit. Parental anecdotes about amazing kids are a dime a dozen. It does tie in with a theory I’ve had for a while about the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and manifestation of the bodhisattva of Divine Compassion, Avalokiteśvara. See, I’ve always treated my daughter like an intelligent person. I’ve always talked to her as if she was an equal, obviously taking into account her ability to understand words and concepts, and answered her questions as completely as possible. I encourage her constantly and I’ve provided her with many opportunities to learn, i.e. visits to the planetarium, art galleries, farms, as well as classes in dance, music and simple construction. She loves classes. She’s taking swimming lessons right now – her Mommy signed her up for those, so she gets the credit there. We have the girl in a Montessori school, which she loves, and we read to her daily. Certainly, she was born healthy and with some inherent capacity for intelligence, but we’ve done what we can to facilitate her growth.
The Dalai Lama, a compassionate and kind man by any standard, was raised to be compassionate and kind. He was found/selected as a toddler and grew up in a Tibetan monastery where his education was specifically directed toward his position as Dalai Lama, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that he grew up to be somewhat kind and compassionate. How else could he have turned out? Sure, he’s a reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, so he had a predisposition toward compassion and kindness, but all sentient beings contain Buddha-nature, so we’re all capable of awakening to Divine Compassion, reincarnation of a bodhisattva or not. Why don’t we? Because we’re taught not to. We’re taught that we are individuals, entirely separate from other individuals. We are, of course, individuals and thank the gods for that, but we are also aspects of a greater, eternal and infinite, whole. Realization of that fact is essentially Nirvana.
Any individual raised to believe s/he is intelligent, kind, compassionate and essentially at one with all that is must necessarily believe it to be so, at least as much as her/his capacities allow. Her Mommy and I have taught the Spotted Opossum that she’s a smart kid and she has proven she is, so much so that it sometimes surprises her Mommy and I, who were raised with different thought-forms. All of this is fine for raising kids to be smarter and more compassionate than their parents, but it goes further. I was not raised to excel at much. My parents did not set high standards or go out of their way to put me into situations that would enhance my natural capabilities. The under-funded public schools I was forced to attend certainly didn’t encourage me to pursue my interests. I had to find ways to learn about and engage in the activities that mattered to me, not all of which were positive or constructive. Eventually though, my diligence in finding and following my own course paid off. By the time I got sober and started getting effective treatment for my depressive disorder, I was quite experienced with alternative forms of self-education. I had learned to wrap my head around apparently incomprehensible concepts, accept paradoxes and embrace mutually exclusive ideas. As I delved into the world’s vast treasure trove of myth, I found that I could easily understand what was being said.
The sound of one hand clapping? Clap with one hand. That’s it. That’s all there is. Enlightenment is nothing more than that. Love your neighbor as yourself? No problem when you realize that your neighbor is of the same essence as yourself, though individuated on a different time-table and manifesting another aspect of the One. It really is that easy, if you set high standards for yourself and put yourself in situations that will facilitate the growth of the self you want to be.
Suppose you want to attain to Nirvana. You simply tell yourself that you, like all sentient beings, already possess Buddha-nature and then put yourself in situations that will help you realize that fact. You might think that I mean go join a Buddhist monastery. Nope. Buddhist monasteries are filled with people who are absolutely convinced they cannot attain to Nirvana. They’re working and working and struggling and mediating because they believe they can’t be Enlightened. It seems like a paradox, but it’s really just a logical error. It’s the same as the Bill of Rights granting everyone the right to “the pursuit of happiness”. Friend, if you’re pursuing happiness, you’re not happy and you never will be until you stop pursuing.
Anyone, at any age, can change how they think. When you change how you think, you change how you live. As Funkadelic said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow”. It is not difficult. It does take a certain amount of effort and it doesn’t happen instantly. Well, some things do happen instantly. I have experienced moments of satori, when dots are connected and realizations occur, but mostly it’s just a matter of deciding to be something and then acting like you are that something until you are. That’s how I became a shaman, how I conquered death, how I became one with the One.
Of course, I do still get upset over trivial things from time to time, until I remember not to take things so serious. I’m playing a game called life in the zone of middle dimensions and sometimes I get caught up in the game. That’s just part of the fun of playing. It really is just a game, though.
Anybody can change. Anybody can conquer fear, keep their head when those about are losing theirs, enjoy the luxuries of poverty, walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil. It’s all about what you tell yourself.
So. What do you want to be?
Autumn is the dying time. The trees shed their leaves, the creeks go dry, the earth goes cold. Animals crawl into holes to hide and sleep. There are few birds and they don’t sing, just shiver and pick at whatever carcass they can find. Dawn comes later and dusk, sooner. The veil between the living and the dead, no more than a veil at any time, is thinnest now, with ragged holes to peek or creep through. This is the time of shutting down, closing up, preparing for the cold to come. It is right and good that we think of death now, display death’s symbols and paint our faces as corpses.
We know, of course, that spring will come, as it always does. The animals and birds will return, the flowers will bloom and the riverbeds will swell with rains and melting snow. The world doesn’t die, only seems to, for a time and then returns to joyous, abundant life. ‘Round and ‘round roll the seasons as Terra Mater turns and turns forever and ever, unto the world’s end, amen. And why shouldn’t we celebrate the time of death? Are we not the same as the earth from whence we came? Do we imagine that our own deaths will somehow be different?
Everything natural is round. Day rolls into night into day as the seasons roll, the planet rolls, the Milky Way rolls, around and around. All of time and all of space are ever-turning circles, cycles, ceaseless rotations. Wheels within wheels.
My daughter, the Spotted Opossum, is four-and-a-half. I am forty-four-and-a-half. She finds it amusing that our ages end the same. And so they always will. She is at the beginning of her life this time; I’m in the middle of mine. She understands that death is only sad for the living, who are deprived of their loved one. The dead go to be with God, perhaps returning in another form or the same form, she doesn’t really know because I don’t really know and I tell her so. I’ve told her that death is nothing to fear and she wants to believe that. In time, she will. She’s had very little experience with life, doesn’t understand even the basic concepts of time or space. There’s no way someone so young can grasp that death is life’s other side.
It wasn’t easy for me to learn it. I once feared death. I once feared life. Fear drove me to dark places, to alcohol, drugs, suicidal ideation, insanity. I’ve courted death, jerked off to death, slipped into unconsciousness certain that I’d not wake up. I have killed and caused to be killed. I have held bloody human flesh. I have lost control of cars, dragged myself out of freezing water, been on the wrong end of swinging blades, tasted gun barrels, overdosed. I’ve seen the dead, heard the dead, walked with the dead. A man I knew died a few days ago, sixty-six-years old. He was in Vietnam, deep in the shit, with confirmed kills still fresh in his mind. We called him “Pastor” because he was one. Another man died a few days ago, Lou Reed, seventy-one. I never met him, of course, but his music blew my mind twenty-five years ago and still does today. The Velvets, I mean, and obviously Metal Machine Music. Both of them were recovering alcoholic/addicts, as am I, and it’s surprising, really, that they managed to hold on as long as they did. Maybe I’m closer to the end than the middle. We’ll see. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon. I’ve got a lot of shit to attend to before I shuffle off this mortal coil, a lot of work to get done. I might not have the final say on that matter, but I’d put up a goddamn fight, that’s for sure. I expect to be around for a bit longer, long enough to get tired and start to look forward to death as one looks forward to sleep at the end of a long, hard day. That’s how my paternal grandmother went. She was ready. She told me.
One my mother’s side, it’s not at all unusual for the old and failing to report being visited in the night by dead relatives who tell them not to be afraid. When somebody mentions that Uncle Arlen or Aunt Bon was in their room the night before, everybody knows they’ll be dead soon. I wouldn’t mind that.
I’ve been talking about physical death. There are other kinds. We’ve all experienced transitions in our lives, experiences that changed us in deep, profound ways which we were unable to comprehend until later, if ever. That’s a type of death. I experienced it when I got sober and again when the nurse put my newborn daughter in my hands. In both cases, the person who I had been ceased to be and a new person came into existence. In both cases, I had to figure out how to let go of the person I had been to be the person I had become. When I got clean, I was pretty close to physical death, in no good shape mentally and utterly ignorant of spiritual matters. When the girl came out, I was ten years straight and ten years into the study of myth and religion. I perceived that I had crossed a threshold of sorts, that I had entered into a new form of existence. That’s what religions mean when they talk about death and resurrection. People who are physically dead do not physically get up and call on their old friends before floating up into the sky. Metaphorical deaths happen all the time, many times to each of us.
Then again, there is the matter of identification. Who am I? Am I the body that houses the spirit for a brief time or am I the spirit that uses the body and casts it off when it is no longer useful? Am I the ego which clings to status, security and fondly held notions or am I an eternal, ever-changing monad which is playing at being temporal? Am I a blip that exists for a moment in an inconceivably vast and ongoing universe or am I an inconceivably vast and ongoing universe which is seeing itself through the eyes of a blip for a moment? I know my answers to those questions and knowing them, I really don’t think about it much. I don’t have to think about it. Thinking about would only distract me from the game that I’m playing, the game of being alive in the realm of middle dimensions. It’s a good game and I’m trying to play my hand well, according to my understanding.
Death isn’t the end of the game, not really. Well, it can be, I guess, if you choose to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land or something. I expect I’ll come back. I’ve got a list of things to do that I don’t think I can get through in one lifetime. Whether I make it to ninety-one, like Grandma, or go out in a fiery explosion tomorrow, I’ll have to come back to finish what I’ve started, which is the total transformation of human consciousness. No shit. The myths and religions of the world are all about living life and transcending death and I’m pretty sure that if people understood that they’d stop being such insufferable assholes all the time. The only way this world is going to become the place I want to live is for it to be radically changed, so I’m going to change it or die trying and come back to try again.
Also, skulls are cool. Halloween is fun. Old horror movies are great. We’ve been watching Hammer horror movies lately. Gary Oldman was really a better Dracula than Christopher Lee, but whatever. The classics are classic.
In case you were wondering, yes, the title is a reference to Sonny Curtis’ “Love Is All Around”, the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Terrible song, great show. Sing it with “death” instead of “love” and it’s just as true.
You’re gonna make it after all.
Occasionally, I make comments in this space that an uninformed reader might misinterpret as mildly misogynist. I have a somewhat twisted and dark sense of humor and I frequently make the mistake of assuming that other people will know where I’m coming from and when I’m joking. I have also had no good luck with romantic/sexual relationships, which fact has certainly colored my perception of women. I do frequently find the females in my life to be somewhat frustrating and inexplicable. I am sure that there are inherent differences between males and females. None of which changes the fact that I am a feminist. I absolutely believe in gender equality. The fact that men and women perceive the world differently does not make one way better. Actually, the best course of action is for each gender to learn as much about how the other gender views the world so that each can increase their own awareness and become more whole and integrated.
Feminism isn’t ultimately about making sure that female laborers get paid the same wage as their male counterparts, though that is an obvious and necessary step. The final goal of feminism, the final goal that I’m working toward at least, is for all human beings to recognize how gender divisions create personal divisions, i.e. how each individual is negatively affected, so that everyone can embrace those qualities and aspects of themselves that are associated with the other gender and become a fully functioning, complete human being.
I am physically male. I have all the primary and secondary physical characteristics that are associated with males: penis, testicles, beard, broader shoulders than hips, &c. I am also artistic, intuitive, introverted and somewhat passive, attributes our society views as female. Another way of saying it would be that I am a yin man. My inner processes are more yin than yang.
Yin and yang, of course are the main pair of opposites in Chinese mythology. The black half, yin, is associated with female/wet/dark/passive/&c. The white half, yang, which is red in Chinese tradition, corresponds with male/dry/light/aggressive. All possible attributes align with either yin or yang, though how exactly they align might depend on circumstances. Neither is better than the other. Men and women are generally more yang and yin, respectively, but there are cases in which a male should act more yin or a female act more yang. Both should be options.
I want to point out here that the yin/yang symbol is one symbol. Many, if not most, people see it as two halves: a yin half, with a spot of yang and a yang half with a spot of yin. According to this (mis)interpretation, males should recognize the spot of yin in them and females should recognize their own spot of yang. Feh, says me. Each person contains equal amounts of yin and yang. Each person is the entire circle. The yin and yang portions are shaped as they are, as opposed to half-circles, to represent the constantly circulating interplay of yin and yang. Now one, now the other, as circumstances require.
My daughter fell off of a chair recently. As she fell, I lunged forward, thrusting my right hand forward to grab the back of her head, preventing it from striking the floor. I don’t mind if she falls occasionally, especially if she’s being kinda reckless. Falling down is educational. She certainly wasn’t going to suffer any bodily injury falling off a chair so I wasn’t concerned about her body, but I wasn’t about to let her skull come into contact with the tile floor. My hand provided sufficient protection. She was a little surprised and chagrined by the fall, but not hurt. I suggested she be a little more careful and that was that. I don’t know whether that particular incident, which just happened to pop into my mind at the point when I started writing about it, is an example of yin or yang, nor do I think it matters. I have achieved a degree of integration that I’m comfortable with.
In the past, I struggled with it a lot. I have never felt like I really fit in with the majority of people around me, but I felt more unlike males than females, so I tended to associate with women. I’m heterosexual, but it wasn’t all about macking on chicks. Actually, it wasn’t even mostly about that. I just felt more comfortable around women than around men, who I viewed as mostly misogynists. At a few points in my life, I rode the swinging pendulum to the other extreme and behaved somewhat misogynistically myself. Norse mythology helped me a lot. The Norse gods and goddesses are pretty extreme in their gender roles, which helped me to identify their various characteristics, sort them out in me and figure out how and why those characteristics worked together. It wasn’t a conscious process. I didn’t pick up a book on Norse mythology in order to figure out which parts of me were more Thor and which parts more Freyja. I read Norse myths because I like to read myths and later I realized how I had been affected. Greek mythology might do the same thing: the Greek pantheon is similar to the Norse, but I’ve never really liked the Greek myths that much. I dunno why.
Anyway, I’m more internally yin. Externally, I’m pretty yang. Probably many people who know me in only a superficial way would be surprised to learn that I view myself as yin. It doesn’t matter. Most everybody knows me as a person who opposes inequality whether its gender-, racial-, or any other form of inequality. I’m fairly blunt about it and I take it further than most of the liberals I know who tend to be kinda mealy-mouthed about it. Fuck sexism. Fuck racism. Fuck homophobia. Fuck the oppression of the poor, which doesn’t have a name – poorism? Capitalism? Oh yeah, that’s what it’s called. Fuck capitalism. Fuck all that shit.
The integration thing is something that we have to work on as individuals of course. Myth helped me with it, but I have the advantage of being male. I am absolutely certain that women can benefit from myth just as well as men, but women have to do more work. Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s Parcival is a magnificent piece of work. The point of that book, the best version of the Parcival story which is the best part of the Grail cycle, is the importance of having a quest, a goal, a thing to strive for. Parcival commits himself to finding the Holy Grail. He searches without respite, even after he has been told by a divine messenger that he will never succeed. He searches because the searching is what gives his life meaning and in the end, he does succeed. That is exactly how we should live: striving to attain the one true thing, whatever it is, that gives life meaning without being distracted by anything. That’s how Gautama went to the Bo tree. That’s how Jesus went to the cross. It’s a wonderful message and I think about Parcival in the wilderness when I’m struggling to find a way to continue to do the things that I do. Women can find that inspiration in Parcival just as well as men can, but they have to first identify with a male lead character. That may not be a huge step – it certainly isn’t one women haven’t gotten used to – but it is one more step than I had to take. There are myths with female leads, of course, but precious few. The lion’s share of myths are aimed at a male audience and have males in the lead.
I’ve been thinking about this stuff recently because of the Spotted Oppossum. She’s really into princesses these days, which is cute and fun, but I’m trying to raise up a strong, confident, assertive grrrl so I’m a bit concerned about the pink-washing she’s getting from the entertainment industry. We started watching the Disney/Pixar movie Brave t’other night. It has some scary parts that were too much for her so we turned it off. I watched the rest alone and was impressed. It’s not perfect, but it does present a strong, assertive female character, a princess, of course, but a tough one, who refuses to submit to tradition when it comes to her right to live her life her own way. It’s a good message. I talked about it with the grrrl the next day and her curiosity is piqued. She wants to watch the rest of it, if I skip the scary parts. She also wants a bow and arrows.
So. Kind of a meandering, unfocused ramble so far. That’s how it goes, huh? BDSR recordings tend to be that way too, don’t they? That’s yin. Allowing something to progress organically, accepting the various twists and turns and double-backs, going wherever it goes, is a yin style. If you’ve been to college, you’ve been exposed to that scholarly writing style where the first paragraph is the statement of intent or whatever and every paragraph after it has a specific reason and it’s all very formulaic and dry and dull and painful to read. That’s yang taken to the extreme. Making things happen is yang; letting things happen is yin. Again, both have their benefits. It seems pretty unlikely that I’m going to edit long, meandering BDSR jams into a smooth, three-minute, verse/chorus/verse/bridge/solo/chorus, normal, yang song anytime ever, because that ain’t my style. My artistic sense is yin and I’m quite capable of getting all yang up in here about it.
Let me just state right here that, most of the time, I have only a vague idea of what I’m doing. Seriously, I’m winging it more often than not, strolling right in where angels fear to tread. It consistently surprises me how well it works out.
As Espresso Shaman, I’m the one who assembles/produces/slaps together all BDSR releases. I do put some little thought into what goes where and how it’ll all end up, but I also jam shit together somewhat higgledy-piggledy and randomly. Sometimes, I realize why something goes together a certain way long after it’s finished.
That happened tonight. I was at work, confined to the dishpit, listening to some BDSR cd’s that I had in the car. I like to listen to BDSR sometimes when I just wanna trance out. One of my motivations as a musician is to create music that I can listen to when I just wanna trance out because I frequently wanna just trance out and the right kind of music makes that happen a lot easier. So I was listening to The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack, thinking that it was a pretty decent release and I was happy with it and then I started free-associating.
There’s a long section on that’n where a voice chants “everything you do is wrong” over and over while another voice slowly says “I am yesterday, today and tomorrow. I have the power to be born a second time. I am the source and creator of all the gods.” over and over. The first voice is Danny Elfman – it’s a sample from Oingo Boingo’s “Same Man I Was Before” – the second is Smokin’ Joe Campbell and I can’t remember the title of the DVD that I stole that from. I got it from the library, that’s all I know. Anyhoo, I was thinking that the section goes on a little long and then I remembered that when I was putting that part together, I decided to repeat the Oingo Boingo sample 666 times because the voices that Elfman says “start shouting at me ‘everything you do is wrong’”, voices in his head, voices which I’ve heard in my own head, are infernal. That’s what the Devil tells you. You’re wrong, you suck, you’re no good, your dreams are for shit. That’s the Prince of Lies telling you that. So it made sense to have it 666 times. Smokin’ Joe Campbell is the voice of transcendence, the voice of Brahmā, the ultimate and unknowable energy that creates, sustains and permeates all that is and more, of which the other gods are representations. As human beings, we live in the Zone of Middle Dimensions, between the opposites, caught in the middle, constantly torn between “good” and “evil”, but Brahmā/Wakan Tanka/God(head) is not caught in the middle. Rather, the ultimate and unknowable energy is all that is and more, which means that it is both good and evil, but because it is beyond pairs of opposites, it is neither good nor evil.
That’s paradoxical nonsense, I know. When you start mucking around with transcendence, paradoxical nonsense is something you get used to. I’m trying to convey something like the free association thing I had going on whilst listening to Trout Mask at work.
The voice over against the Devil telling you “everything you do is wrong” is not a voice telling you “everything you do is right”. That would be another Devil. The Devil is nothing more than your own ego arrogantly trying to convince you that it is all there is. Poppycock, says me. There is a whole hell of a lot more than your ego, but your ego doesn’t want you to know that so it takes on different disguises to tell you lies. Many people think that “everything you do is wrong” is what God says, or rather what the Church says, and they’re right. The Church has toned down the whole absolute authority business in recent years, but it’s still there. That’s bullshit. You wanna go to Heaven? Fine, do what the Church tells you to do. But if you wanna do better than that, like for example if you wanna actually become one with the One, you gotta break past what the Church says. Somebody – maybe Meister Eckhart – said something like “the Church is the final defense against experiencing God”. This is what is meant by the saying “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”. See, if you meet the Buddha, it means you’re not the Buddha. It’s like how if you’re acting on your inalienable right to “pursue happiness”, you’re not happy because if you were happy you wouldn’t be pursuing it. The goal of Buddhism is not to venerate the Buddha, but to become the Buddha. Yeah, I know all about Amitābha and all that Pure Land jazz, but even with that, the final goal is to realize one’s own Buddhahood. You’re it, right now.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says “he who drinks from my mouth shall become as I am and I shall be he”. So what does that mean? When the Devil tempts Jesus, he appeals to His hunger: “cause these stones to be made bread”, he says. Jesus responds “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” and we know that Jesus is God because he also says “I and the Father are one”. So Jesus is saying that whoever hears His teaching and understands – has ears to hear – will become as He is, which is God. See what I mean? Understand the teachings of Christ, who came to Earth to bring about the atonement, i.e. “at-one-ment”, of human beings and God. That’s exactly the point of Buddhism.
My favorite clean joke: A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.”
To know that one is at one with the One is Enlightenment. To become reconciled with God is to become at one with God, which is to become God. This is what the serpent was offering Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: eat of this fruit and you will become as God is. Adam and Eve committed no sin at all. They were simply trying to become one with God. Trouble was, God wasn’t ready for that. The most poignant and overlooked passage in the New Testament is that bit about the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asks some of His disciples to keep watch while He goes to pray. What He’s praying about. of course, is how much He would like to not be crucified the next day, but “Thy will be done” and that’s pretty major shit right there, but He keeps going back to check on the disciples and keeps finding them asleep. That’s when He says “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. That’s the moment when God, in the form of Jesus, a simple man from Nazareth, understands the weakness of His creation. There is nothing like that until that moment. Read the Old Testament, I dare ya. What you’ll find there is an omnipotent God demanding the impossible from human beings who can’t ever fucking live up. Read Leviticus, for shit’s sake. Nobody can follow all those rules. When Jesus acknowledges the weakness of the flesh, it’s the first time God understands weakness. That’s when God and man are reconciled. That’s when the “sin” of Adam (and Eve) is wiped clean. At that moment, the barrier between God and man – a barrier God put up – collapses. In the East, of course, there never was a wall around Eden, but it all comes to the same thing: there is nothing between the individual and divinity. The Creator and the creation are of the same substance, infused with the same energy, are the same.
There are still infernal voices, of course, which is why it can be a bit tricky to realize one’s oneness with the One. More people than I care to think of have gotten a taste of this truth and gone mad. That’s part of what the Church and the Pure Land sect do – protect people from too much knowledge. I’m not worried about it because I know that I have no credence. I can go around spouting off ultimate truths all day long and nobody’s gonna pay any attention because I’m just some nutjob in a weird hat. The fact remains: Christ and the serpent were offering the same thing.
This isn’t original, of course. The whole Christ=serpent thing was well-known to the Gnostics, those freaky early Christians who wandered off into the desert and had orgies or whatever and who had the foresight to bury their texts good and deep before the authorities, representatives of what became the Church, came out to slaughter them. I knew all this in my brain. Knowing something in your brain because you read about it in something Smokin’ Joe Campbell wrote is not the same as wandering around to it in your own way, which is why free association is good. Free association helps you find your way, your own way, from A to B and from B to eternity.
This is what I had going on in my head while washing dishes and trancing out to The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack tonight at work. It was a good time. I like washing dishes and trancing out to BDSR and I certainly enjoy wandering around in the Comparative Mythology section of my brain. I hope that BDSR can facilitate this sort of wandering and epiphany – that’s another motivation for me to do what I do. I want to communicate what I’ve learned and experienced.
The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack is available from HysM? They’re in Italy. The whole thing is on youtube. Search for “the big drum in the sky religion trout mask” and you’ll find it.
Happy trances to you, until we meet again.
Senior year of high school, my girlfriend and I would frequently spend Saturdays driving over the mountains to Charlottesville, which is a larger and more culturally diverse city than Harrisonburg. One of our stops was always the Plan 9 record shop. She liked music, of course, but, as one would expect, I was the cratedigger. There wasn’t much information to be had on underground music trends in our corner of the rural South, so judging albums by their covers was standard operating procedure. I picked out a few duds, but mostly my instincts, supplemented by rumors and recommendations from knowledgeable friends paid off.
One fateful day, I was flipping through the “P” section and found Pussy Galore’s Groovy Hate Fuck (Feel Good About Your Body). Honest to Christ, I had never seen so many cuss words on a record cover. The album title had “fuck”, song titles had “pussy”, “cunt”, “bitch”, “fuck”, again, and offensiveness beyond just cussing. “Cunt Tease” and “Die, Bitch” screamed misogyny, but there were two females in the band, which implied that these punks were in possession of a dark and subversive sense of humor that matched my own. Given the context, “You Look Like A Jew” had to be a sarcastic jab against anti-Semitism in the same way that Black Flag’s “White Minority” was a mockery of white power skinheads. I tucked Groovy Hate Fuck under my arm secure in the knowledge that this was a winner.
Back at my girlfriend’s house, I dropped the needle in the groove. It was even better than I could’ve hoped. For those who don’t know, Pussy Galore were the skuzziest, fuzziest, most untalented scumpunks our nation’s capital ever produced. Groovy Hate Fuck (Feel Good About Your Body), which is actually two EP’s re-released as an LP, is an unbelievably raw and filthy collection of malignant hate-spew and arrogant swagger submerged in botched power chord riffage with junkyard percussion. None of the four guitarists could play. The singer comes off as the most self-centered nineteen-year-old goon to ever sniff glue while shoving a high school girl’s face into his crotch. The distortion sounds less like Super Fuzz or Big Muff than the result of having wretchedly cheap and damaged equipment. It all sounds like it was recorded on a boombox. I had never heard anything so simultaneously megalomaniacal and horrible.
Pussy Galore were mostly kids from Northern Virginia, which is actually northwest Virginia, the congested urban sprawl around Washington D.C. The one exception was Bob Bert, the drummer, who had quit Sonic Youth after Evol, because he thought they were becoming too commercial (!). Bert was with PG until they called it quits and hasn’t done a lot of interest since. Other members of PG included Neil Hagerty, who formed Royal Trux with his glamour-trash girlfriend, Jennifer Herrema; Julia Cafritz, who was in Free Kitten with Kim Gordon and various other one-offs; and Jon Spencer, of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. They produced some amazing work after Groovy Hate Fuck: a full-length cover of the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Right Now!, Dial “M” For Motherfucker and the “Sugarshit Sharp” EP. During their time, they did learn how to play their instruments relatively well. Steve Albini did some production work, which bettered the sound without making it slick. Members kept dropping out. The last album released by PG, Historia De La Musica Rock, was a forgettable batch of blues and early rock covers. But, holy fuck, the early shit turns goat piss into gasoline.
I have played PG’s cover of “Tumblin’ Dice” for a number of people who claim Exile as their favorite Stones record, without telling them what it is. Every one of them stood there slack-jawed and wide-eyed while I exhorted them to identify the song. Not a single one was able to recognize what they were hearing as “Tumblin’ Dice”, so distorted and incompetent is PG’s rendition. Every one of them expressed horror and disbelief when I told them. Friends, that’s how shockingly awesome this filthy din is.
Years and years later, after Royal Trux, Sonic Youth and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have long since broken up or stopped producing anything remotely interesting, early Pussy Galore has all the gritty, shitty, drunken backseat fucking energy and force that it ever did. There never was any chance that any band so fearlessly dedicated to being dirty, in all senses of the word, could ever have anything like mainstream success, which is fucking tragic, but also kind of okay. Most kids can’t handle and don’t want actual raw power, which is why hair metal’s posturing and pomp sells like hotcakes while bands like PG labor in obscurity. Early PG tracks like “Teenage Pussy Power” and “White People” would be wasted on the majority of kids like punk pearls before pimply swine.
I should point out that kids today don’t get to experience the tension of standing in a record shop trying to suss out a record’s contents by the cover art. The internet makes all music accessible at a click, devoid of its cultural context and place history, with no need to gamble $8.99 on a possible loser. That’s an advance, I suppose. I enjoy being able to quickly and easily find weird and obscure bands without cost or the need to get dressed and if kids today are too apathetic or stupid to check Wiki to find out how Pussy Galore, Flied Egg or Anima Sound fit into the bigger picture, fuck ‘em. It isn’t absolutely necessary to know where, when and how Saddhu Brand fit into the grand tapestry to enjoy the sounds they laid down, but I wanna know what there is to know about bands I dig. It matters. Ash Ra Temple and Hash Jar Tempo might be running, naked and baked, through the same sonic poppy fields, but one of those bands blazed the trail that the other is following and that makes some kinda difference.
We’re living in a conformist culture, these days. Punk is available at the mall. I saw an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of a friend, wearing a Misfits T-shirt t’other day. That kid don’t know nothin’ about no Misfits and if her Mama knew much, she wouldn’t be lettin’ the girl wear that shirt. Walk up to anybody under thirty sporting Black Flag’s bars or the Ramones’ American eagle and ask ‘em to name one song. If they can, they’re probably still posers. Kids think they’re challenging norms by donning get-ups from Hot Topic, which is good for a laugh – there’s this one kid with two-tone hair, lip ring and baggy bondage pants who cracks me up every time I see him – but kinda shitty. Fake rebellion cannot possibly satisfy. I can’t quite justify claiming that pseudo-rebellion leads to school shootings, but kids who blow away their classmates and themselves seem to always listen to mass-produced bullshit like Marilyn Manson or Slipknot. PG had a song titled “Kill Yourself”, but to my knowledge, no one listening to PG ever actually did. If you’re actually deviating from society’s norms, you don’t need to take an AR-15 to school. You got better shit to do, like listening to Valhalla’s 1969 LP, Valhalla, and trying to figure out if it rocks or sucks.
Whether you call it “Babylon” or “Samsara”, the normal, mainstream, popular reality is no place for seekers of the Divine. Enlightenment means leaving the world behind, either by retiring to a hermitage in the wilderness or by changing your mind, altering your mind by any means available. Weird, unpopular music is one of many options.
Now might be a good time to rock out to some BDSR.
It is no secret that this here Espresso Shaman has ingested a veritable shitload of chemicals. I was a walking pharmaceutical dump for a number of years and I don’t do that stuff anymore. Mind-altering substances do figure into many of the world’s faith traditions – most, actually – so altered states are within my area.
First, I need to define a term: an “entheogen” is a “god-containing” substance, as opposed to a “hallucinogen” which is a drug that makes you see weird shit. For my purposes, entheogens are derived from plants and have been tested and approved by traditional use. So peyote, fly agaric, psilocybin, tabernanthe iboga, silene capensis, salvia, morning glories, ayahuasca, Syrian rue, pitcheri, uncured tobacco, cannabis, kava kava and/or San Pedro are entheogens and blotter acid is not. I know, many people have seen god(s) on acid and many people have taken peyote just to get fucked up and listen to Ten Years After, but I’m sticking with that definition. There are several synthetics which appear to have some entheogenic properties, most notably DMT, but those haven’t been around long enough for any serious research to have been done so I’m leaving them out.
All traditional/pagan/primitive/nonliterate peoples, with the possible exception of those living above the Arctic Circle have used entheogens. As far as I know, all peoples that use entheogens acknowledge that they are a shortcut, a less-than-ideal way of achieving a desired state. Again and again, I have read accounts of grass-clad heathens telling anthropologists some variation on “In the early times, shamans didn’t need to use (whatever) because they were stronger. Now our shamans are weak and they need (whatever)”. The substance does the job, but other ways are more desirable. I’ll get back to that.
Eating a handful of ‘shrooms and listening to Ten Years After might be a lot of fun, but it is not even close to proper entheogen use. I’ve eaten ‘shrooms. We were probably listening to Royal Trux instead of Ten Years After, but it comes to the same thing. Getting fucked up is not seeking the divine. I can’t stress that enough. In any real shamanic/entheogenic-type situation, the shaman would have to go through a training period, an initiation into the correct use of the substance. She or he would have to come to know the specific deit(y/ies) within the plant/cactus/fungus, to develop a relationship with them. Use of the entheogen would take place under specific conditions, usually in combination with other, non-chemical, methods for achieving an altered state, i.e. fasting, sleep-deprivation or self-flagellation. Under no circumstances would any real shaman ever “trip balls”.
I know a few hippies who have been to South America. Every one of them has ingested a few of the substances listed above and every one of them will happily tell you about the good times they had drinking mescal and tripping balls on San Pedro. Fucking hippies.
If you want to use an entheogen – and I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should – you would first have to fast for forty-eight hours, at the very least, and stay awake for thirty-six hours, at the very least, before ingesting the substance. That most of that time should be spent in prayer and meditation goes without saying. Self-inflicted suffering – heat, cold, pain, and discomfort – can only help. Hanging upside-down for a while is good. Chewing on habaneros is always helpful. The many different cultures that use entheogens all have their own preparatory rituals which any student of spirituality would do well to research whether he/she intends to ingest entheogens or not - Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade, is a damn fine place to start. After all that, you can eat the ‘shrooms.
Then again, if, as our sources say, the only reason modern shamans use entheogens is that they are weak, might’nt it be better to eschew their use? Should one settle for what is, admittedly, a less-than-ideal pathway to Divinity? Is it not more desirable and advantageous to follow the very best course? Of course, it is.
Fasting, sleep-deprivation, self-inflicted suffering can bring about altered states without chemical assistance. It takes a little longer, but that’s actually better. Mohandas Gandhi, who certainly knew about fasting, said “There is more to life than increasing its speed” and I couldn’t agree more. The long, slow, tedious and boring method is almost inevitably the better, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. I’m not going to get into the details of my own practice here because some things are private, but I do employ non-entheogenic methods to achieve altered states. And I do encourage others to do the research and follow the time-tested techniques. They work.
I must admit that I am not entirely certain that I would not use an actual entheogen. I am sure that they can yield benefits when used the right way. As I type this, Italian Ice, BDSR’s Ambassador to the Third World, is wandering around some tropical rainforest with a Hare Krishna, eating various cactuses and slime molds. Her reports to BDSR HQ have been quite entertaining and insightful. If I ever found myself in Peru, being offered ayahuasca by a local medicine man or if I were somehow allowed to take part in a peyote ceremony with members of the Native American Church despite the fact that I am a dirty wasi’chu, I would probably drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I don’t expect to be in either of those situations any time soon. It would be a big thing for me to ingest any mind-altering substance. I’d have to think and pray and be absolutely sure, but I might do it.
Another thing happening as I type this: the fine young fellows at HysM? are burning copies of Entheogenocide, which should be hitting the market very soon. This one is a slight deviation from the typical cacophony you’ve come to expect from BDSR: fucked-up stoner-sludge metal. It’s heavy, man, heavy and dark. 66.6 minutes of heavy, dark, stonerage in open G6 tuning, Locrian mode. You can pre-order it now.
Recently, I announced via F’book and G+ that I was adding “shamanic advice columnist” to the already lengthy list of services that I provide. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I am a shaman and healing work is part of that, but it’s kinda difficult in this culture to get people to seek out shamans, especially in this town where I am known more as a cranky old weirdo than a frequent traveler to and from the Spirit World, so throwing it out to the online community seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before I’m witching off warts and sucking bad magicks out of people in exchange for gifts of tobacco, goats and cash.
Several people responded with questions, most of which were not serious. One young lady, did ask a couple of questions, which I shall treat with below. She used her real name, but I’m going to rename her “Need Information Period” to protect her privacy and because it seems to be how these things are done.
When will I get my first period?
- Need Information Period
NIP, a girl's first period is called "menarche", which comes from Greek "mene", "moon", and "arche", "beginning". That you have not yet reached the "First Moon" of your life indicates that you are trapped, physically and psychically, in childhood, a state of being which, though it has certain pleasures, is changeless. You must break out of your stagnancy. I would suggest going into seclusion, preferably in a natural setting, fasting, going without sleep and praying. During the third night, offer a blood sacrifice to the Earth Mother. It doesn't have to be much - cut the insides of your thighs and let the blood run into the Earth. Menarche should occur within two days of the offering. If it doesn't, consult me personally. A more intense ritual would be needed in that case.
What would you advise me to do with my menstruation once I finally get it?
- Need Information Period
Well, NIP, that is a complex issue. Before I delve into your bleeding vagina, I should touch on a few things.
I am male and therefore have never experienced menstruation first-hand. My thoughts on the matter are, like so much else of what I’ve said in this space, uninformed and ignorant. I wouldn’t even venture to comment on this subject if it wasn’t already covered by so many of the world’s faith traditions, but it is, which puts it in my realm of knowledge.
The Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, of course, generally denigrates and reviles all things female. One of many examples of this is:
“And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.” - Leviticus 20:18
Or, in other words, bloody sex is icky and bad and wrong and anybody who does it should be ostracized and left to wander and die in the desert, which is just stupid. There is, in fact, absolutely nothing wrong with uncovering a woman’s blood fountain and getting all messy. Feh to Leviticus, says I. However, it must be noted that I do not totally disagree with the Biblical writers, who at least acknowledged the import of menstruation. Among the pagans of antiquity and the modern era, menstruation was associated with powerful magic. Menstruating women were subject to many taboos, lest they accidentally interfere with the normal course of events. For example, menstruating women were required to stay away from hunters and the tools of hunting on the grounds that their “female magic” might negatively influence the “male magic” of the hunters and cause a food shortage. There is recognition of female power. The Biblical writers removed the power aspect and twisted the whole thing into misogyny. Feh again.
Following the Bible’s example, Western society in general has denigrated women and all things associated with them. In the past hundred years or so, women have made enormous progress toward equality - seriously, the Feminist movement has changed the culture unbelievably in just a dozen decades – but not without certain compromises that are, in the long run, harmful to women. Work-place equality has mostly taken the form of women proving that they can do the same work as men, which is fair enough, but which forces women to act as if they are men. Men don’t get periods, which means that they aren’t bleeding out of their genitalia for a week every month, which means that women are expected to pretend that they aren’t either, when in fact, they are. Of course, women are further forced to deny the fact that they experience certain intrinsic aspects of being female by the disgust, fear and loathing which our culture has for menstruation. No woman in the work force or out is immune from insulting comments about “that time of the month” any time she displays emotion or disagrees with the male consensus on any issue. Probably half the pain and discomfort women feel when they’re menstruating is the result of having to pretend that they’re not.
Fuck that noise.
What I would suggest NIP and all other females do with their menstruation is a radical departure from Western society’s norms. I won't suggest a return to a pre- or non-Biblical state of being, because for one thing, the information isn’t available, and for another thing, we now know that bleeding women don’t radiate waves of potentially harmful magic. I’m going totally rogue here, making shit up, but the shit I’m up-making is consistent with the basic premises of traditional paganry and I am completely serious.
Recognize and honor the Goddess within you, NIP. Chart out your cycle and take those days off work. If you get your cut early, just call in sick. Spend shark week in seclusion, meditating on the awesome power of your sex. Obviously, this tree-hugging dirt-worshiper would opt to go out to the Nat’l Forest, squat over a hole and bleed out while trancing out and running wild with various spirits, and I do heartily encourage that kind of activity, but I understand that not all femmes are quite ready for that. It’s a major step from popping over the counter painkillers and pretending nothing is happening in your vagina to all-out pagan menses rituals. It might be better to start gradually: take off work, turn off the phone and spend a quiet few days contemplating your womanhood. Relax, meditate, get together with some female friends, preferably ones who are also menstruating. Take a walk in the park or woods, but nothing too strenuous. If you have a sex partner, get a little messy. At the outset, you’re trying to undo the negativity you’ve been taught to associate with your period. After a few months, getting your period will stop being something dreadful and will start to be something you look forward to, a respite from the rest of the world. At that point, it would be easy to stop. This Espresso Shaman would, of course, encourage you to go further: to make that time of the month the starting point for intense meditation and ritual, focusing all the while on the awesome Goddess power inherent in all females. Whether you do that or not is really up to you.
The worst thing you can do with your menstruation, NIP, is fight it. Midol and vodka might mask the pain and discomfort, but the price will be the full realization of your Self.
I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to go about this advice column thing. For one thing, I need to come up with a suitable pun for the title. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll consult the Spirit Animals and see what they have to say.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.