So, here’s the thing: a lot of societal and cultural metaphors around magic and occultism are in the so-called West, frankly, bad and a product of the imprecisions in the English language about “power”, which themselves are inherently modelled on industrial-capitalist frameworks thanks to the Industrial Revolution, and steam power.

Think about what you mean when you use the word “power” or “intent” and ask yourself whether you are once again running on 19th Century colonialist ideas (for example see non-Indigenous misconceptions of mana) that boil down to thinking you’re a steam engine or some sort of closed system – because that’s what the whole popular idea of energy comes from.

Why? Because willpower doesn’t really exist.

Now something seems to be going on, when we do certain things. But are we hoodwinking ourselves – barking up the wrong tree, being led down the garden path -by the porting in pop-metaphor? Sure, it’s easier, but is the apparent ease and clarity obscuring insights? Is it preventing us from taking our place as part of a living world; not clockwork and piston but inter-and-intra-relating, inter-and-intra-being in an ‘animist’ cosmovision?

Consider the metaphors you use, and wonder how they’re using you. Because they are – we are thinking-with-and-being-with the ongoing worlding of a daimonic (agential) kosmos.

And that All is doing the same-with-us.

Remember, changing the metaphors we use can change the way we think, and how we are in the world.

This is why I mutter about kenning, as found in Old Norse poetry, but also as a method of indirectly approaching experience by folding in the world. Kenning is, in one sense creating a poetic metaphor, a circomlocution that describes a thing without direct nominalisation. A wheelchair user can be a throne-walker; the sea is not just the sea, it is the whale-road and also Aegir’s-cauldron, Poseidon’s-stable, etc etc.

“It is no coincidence that a kenning is a poetic term of art, a doubling and metaphoric circumlocution of a singular noun or thing – the sea becoming the “whale-road”, a sword seen as the “icicle of red shields”. A singular referent now exceeds itself, drawing the relationality with the whole world of those present. This indirectness, far from detracting from the referent, deepens the knowing. Each portion of the kenning exceeds itself also, thusly thickening the field of the sword or sea, and, in enhancing its relationality, enlivens each further. Further, this means that the poet acknowledges the excess of the referents, comprehending that kenning may build on kenning, and the full, totalistic mapping of a referent is doomed to fail in terms of completion. This goes even beyond the usual aphorism from astronomer Carl Sagan: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” For each element of the apple pie is capable of being defined by the relationality of all presences, in all forms, positions, and configurations in all possible and impossible universes – and each of these in turn relate to each other as they will. This then, is the joy and horror, the wonder and terror of an animate, fluxing kosmos – there is always more.”

Goêtic Atavisms, Frater Acher & Craig ‘VI’ Slee (See link above: also available on Amazon as well as from the publisher if you need that)

Do we want to live in a world circumscribed by misnomers, grandfathered in with extractive and clunky ways of perceiving the world? Or do we want to embrace the dis/abling wyrd strangenesses of the numinous?

The liberatory power of the dis/nomer – the radical proposition that there is always more than can be named, can be contained? That we might ken more if we embraced blurry, uncertain peripheralisms which spiral endlessly inward and down into pandaemonic, living, breathing labyrinths? If we immersed ourselves in relational eddies, tides and gyres eternally returning-and-coming-forth-again – dis/membered and re-membered anew? To dive into currents and flows – the multiplicitous assemblage of influences which are the very bodyof the oceanic river which Herakleitos warned us that we could never enter in the same place twice?

What might we notice is already happening, already ongoing, that we are amidst, then? Might we spot the plurality of Minotaurs engaging in their diasporic fugitivity, nomads in their myriad labyrinths, far older, wiser, and weirder than we thought we knew? Spaces of monstrously numinous sanctuary, far beyond the ken of the Theseus (their supposed slayer) and his identitarian regime of denial, his heroic ever-intact status quo.

Pity the ship-builders in their labour; they work do so under the threat of sword – or is it gun and bomb, these days? But while Theseus abandons Ariadne, Dionysos does not!

And while Theseus eschews the sea route to perform his labours in order to gain heroic glory and satisfy ambition, his oceanic ancestry has the last laugh – both mortal father Aegeus (thrown into the sea that bears his name) and he (thrown off an island cliff – presumably into the ocean) were reclaimed; seized by the sea and its thundering white horses.

What might it be, to be oceanically possesed as that hero’s mother was? To have one’s soul-sea stirred by the Earthshaker?

We can but dream on the matter – while also slyly noting that Athenians kept the Ship of Theseus preserved, as mark of divine heritage in their feted city ruled by the demos. What matters now, in these days when even politicians talk of the so-called “will of the people“, is matters of ancestry and history dismissed; lineages of language and its many influences ignored – no entanglements here, vine or otherwise, we assure you!

But thankfully, the ship-builders know the way of wood and net and weave. They know how many planks pass through their hands, how many nails struck, how much pitch is brewed. They know there’s more. They’re craftsfolk after all – assemblages are their business, whatever the material – they know what mattering is.

And isn’t it interesting that the Temple of Hephaistos in Athens was once mistakenly called the Thesseion – The Temple of Theseus, before the moderns realised their mistake?

Watch the words we use, and how they use us.

Be Seeing You.

Here is the talk I did at the WFSF conference with Loes Damhof and Martin Calnan in October 2023. In it, we explore the notion of disability as morally neutral, and what a shift in our views about ablity and abledness might mean for Futures thinking, amongst other things. Enjoy!

The thing about one’s partner cooking you and others a vast meal of roast pig and onions and potatoes and other sundry delicious things, when they themselves are vegetarian, as an act of love and Yuletide giving?

Well, I’m just grazing on leftovers since I woke up, and I keep thinking, “I’m just doing as my ancestors have done for thousands of years after a big midwinter feast.”

I think of boar as beast-of-battle, as lord of woods, fierce and terrible, the way pig is the eater-of-all, who is eaten – slaughtered, cured, crisped, cooked and condimented.

And with a mouthful of pig, teasing apart the protein changed by heat and condiments, now cool, I keep thinking about how pigs can go feral and regrow manes really quickly, or how chickens revert to having a breeding season. I keep thinking about how the pig feast continuity is also a break, a crack, a ritual that is both highly domestic, and yet loosens me from 21st century modernity in a way. An ancient ritual that simultaneously fetters and loosens.

I wonder, are these the moments of dis/continuity, liminal in-between eases that hint and beckon that we are, I am, in eating the-eater-of-all that is pig, realising something of the feral/domestic slash. Somewhen, where the environment, the interplay of more-than-chicken, more-than-pig, more-than-human fields and forces summons new-old responses to what is ever-ongoing.

Maybe that is what it is to eat, and be eaten in turn. To ever be one-with-many, to be an emergent coalescence bubbling up from the ancient fermentation of ancestral grief’s, joys, and hopes.

To be gone in a scant century if we stretch to our most, and yet be part of billions of those centuries across thousand of years of recognition of sun and moon and stars, and the way they shape our worldings?

Freyja, mistress of sorcery, taker of first of the battle-slain, teacher of Odin who himself is Slain-tamer – she rides a boar.

There is something here, as ever, about hidden things within the “human” of modernity, numinous leakages, signs and wonders, portents and portals, left behind ritual spoor so old that is purely “what we do, what happens”.

All that is required is that we notice, and do not give up sensing, for the sake of making sense.

On Purity

The precise balances in the universe are not products of clarity or distinctnesses but emergent qualities of mess, fuzz, sloppiness, blurring, complexity, and obscurity.

Thick and dark, a gleaming beacon like blood spattered on a leaf, the oceanic stink of salt and rot, the hot scent of iron in the cold-and-empty-(but-not)-night.

Purity is what happens when you’re too AFRAID to take a second look and find you may very well be wrong.

Heads up folks! If you want to hear me talking with Loes Damhof and Martin Calnan on (Dis)abling Futures at the World Futures Studies 50th Anniversary World Conference on Wednesday 25th October at 10:00 CET, you can!

Register for free for the online portion of the conference at this registration link.

Should be a fun little conversation. I’ll keep folks posted on the possibility of recordings – they’re running a 24hr talk schedule so who knows, there might be something there to snag your attention!

Grief as Gravity

This post was originally made for and shared with, the folks on Bayo Akomolafe’s We Will Dance With Mountains 2023: VUNJA! course, but I thought I’d share it here for wider(?) consumption. Bayo’s latest small essay A Grief That Laughs is also worth a (perhaps provocative) read.


This thought arose in response to something elsewhere, but I’ll share it here, and expand upon it because something like this question is always with me:

So, here’s a thought. Good old Fiona Kumari Campbell –  scholar of Studies in Ableism – often talks about encumbrance as the thing ableism attempts to negate. That is, an ableist society is one which despises encumbrance. In terms of the ranking, notification, prioritisation…of sentient life, those at the ‘bottom’ are the most encumbered, entangled etc.

They are less ‘free’ as per modernity’s idea of freedom, which is ultimate ‘self-sovereign’ – I am the highest ranked being, autonomous, and none shall restrict my ability or desires.  Note that the precise use of ableism is one which suggests a framework of ‘abled-ness’ as superior. Even the notion of ‘supremacy’ conjures an image of being untouchable. (This is why ableism is also intrinsic to most contexts of oppression. Any time any population is viewed as ‘less intelligent’, ‘less able to control themselves’ or ‘more emotional’, has ‘special needs’ or is a ‘drain on resources’, ‘lazy’, ableism is in play)

Being ‘a burden’ is seeing a thing, process, or a self, as an encumbrance a thing that restricts or curtails ability and autonomy. This only works because we selectively commodify certain entanglements, and not others. When they are presented so, they are not encumbrances but ‘aids to freedom’ or some such. A potential question is, what if entanglements can be processed as potential liberation. and encumbrances as processes which deepen our understanding of interdependency? This goes beyond ‘doing it because we love them’ and leaning into burden as noticing how we carry, and carry in turn – and how we are supported by others, or not in doing so. Even the cognitive shift is hard work, but if one can pull it off, it tends to shape-shift modernity’s concept of ‘care’ into something else entirely.

Because it admits that we are all dis/abling each other, and being dis/abled in our turns, what might this mean?

If, say, a speaker uses language we are unfamiliar with and thus meaningless to us, or someone asks us to move in ways that we cannot, find difficult, or exhausting, what then? Suppose for a second, just as an experiment, one leans *into* this dis/abling. What might happen.

Many disabled writers and thinkers explore the phenomenon of crip-time; the way crips, cripples, disabled and chronically ill folks experience different temporalities. They may need different amounts or kinds of time to exist, to process, to think, and be.

I was in conversation with some dear friends the other week, and one of them was speaking powerfully and rapidly about important things. Things I wanted to hear about, but my brain-damaged systems could not keep up with. So rather than burning through energy trying to keep up, I screwed my courage to the sticking post and made myself vulnerable.

Hold on a second,” I said, “I’m having real trouble processing. Could you slow it down – I need some time, crip time y’know?

Now, even though this person was my dear companion, I was nervous. What if I broke their flow, what if, even if they slow down, I’m still not going to be able to understand? What if I’m going to be a burden and disrupt the entire conversation and we lose this amazing vibe? But I asked, because I was becoming more and more dis/abled by the way the conversation was speeding by.

But I wasn’t asking, in order to become more abled – I’m a cripple, that’s never going to happen. I was asking because I needed to be more cripple, less abled.

And you know what happened, folks?

My companion stopped, and told me “Thank you, for saying that.” And then they began speaking slow, easy, deep, about deep and rich things. And later, they told me that the reason they said thank you? Well, I paraphrase: You asking me to slow down, they said, made me feel reached for, made me feel you trying to connect to me, and that felt good, felt like you cared.

And I did, and do care.

So much of modernity is about speed, about ‘getting it’, about perfect one to one transmission of information, without mess or loss. Sometimes, making things simple is mere reductionism, in service to speed.

Sometimes it is a pause, a prelude, a stumbling block inserted as gently as possible to trip, and shift our relation to our bodyminds, so we can stagger, fall, and, maybe help each other up – maybe pull each other down into a laughing, weeping, pained, exhausted heap.

If we are dis/abled, and dis/abling in turn, what then?

What if disability is larger than any of us, and the way we move with it is indeed, to paraphrase Bayo, to slow down in urgent times? What if the way to regulate nervous systems overclocked by modernity, is to shift and crip our relationship to time and space, to acknowledge our encumbrances, and how we encumber others in turn. Not as a methodology of getting rid of them, because we can’t – and the belief that we can become master and mistress, dominar of all we survey, that we can scramble up the pole to the top, is fundamentally an ableist proposition.

But as a methodology of sensing, rather than making sense and commodifying it as thing that can be got, or had, kept or hoarded. The essence of a container is to carry, after all. To carry and be carried in turn, to leak and slop and overspill.

Auntie Ursula knew this too.

For those who saw me talk about noticing the impossibility of stillness, perhaps you have a hint of what that sensing might be – the impossibility of being in control, where our own bodies give the lie to the concept of being ‘able’ to be still.

Here’s to crip-time, stumbling, and leaning into the way disability leaks into all our lives – after all, one either dies or becomes disabled in some fashion, no? And if so, maybe care is something different.

Something where care is not teleological
– not done to, or for, but is itself a dis/abling ontology where we are all vulnerable. Where there are no Instructors, only teaching, and the teaching  what happens when we trace our entanglements, where a fridge and a father’s laughter down a phoneline whisper something beyond divisions of sacred and profane, where academic language might be a disconcerting and arresting kind of poetry we’ve never encountered before, as well as the excreta of hundreds of years of thinkers shot through with the whiteness of so-called Enlightenment.

Suppose it’s ok to crip and crawl and stumble, to wave our feelers in the air in confusion and consternation, a confused cacophonous swarm of dis/oriented disabled dung beetles pushing our worlds of shit, following the paths of the Milky Way as we have done for millions upon millions of years and countless generations.

Suppose we even crip that “OK” into “inevitable”, “unanswerable”. Suppose all we can do is smile, and weep and scream, and hold each other as we mourn the injuries we receive and inflict; explore our wounds together, and allow the world to carry us as it will, as we are also worlds and worldings; the many countless weavings and braidings of baskets which we perform, but whiteness would have us look away from, gaze fast and fastening on the next thing, the next novelty, the next product of progress and evolution – beckoning us with promises of freedom, autonomy, and above all power?

I’ve said before, I don’t believe in power. It might be real, is very real, for a given value of real, as real as a Potemkin Village, an ersatz bulwark against porosity encumbrance, and above all, vulnerability. Smoke and mirrors coalescing into a heroic boot on a monster’s throat. Clean, shiny, ever-new-and-eternal order over messy primordial chaos.

What might dis/power appear as?

Failing. Not getting it. Missing more than hitting. Lying the f*ck down when every part of your body is screaming that you should be productive, should be doing something, should be doing something to get us out of this bloody mess.

Should contribute
. Should organise. Should fix. Should  solve. Should learn how.

Letting those Shoulds scream out elsewhere and meanwhile; playing with the thickness of your pain and exhaustion, your overwhelm, your overload, your nausea beacuse you have no other choice.

Noticing how it moves you, how half your movements don’t belong to ‘you’, but are those of ancestors, the subtle influences of soil and microbe, the myriad imagistic influences of mountains encountered, waters drunk from, plants (and fleshes, if that’s your thing) that ‘you’ think ‘you’ have eaten, but maybe, just maybe, inveigled themselves into your tissues and teeth for their own ends and desires.

Notice what comes and goes, and what stays, and yet where it comes and goes within that. Feel the luxuriant terrible wait of your own bones that throb and sing in concert with the rhythms of heart and lung – remembering that oxygen turns iron to rust and dust. Why should you, who breathe, be any different?

care (n.)

Old English caru, cearu “sorrow, anxiety, grief,” also “burdens of mind; serious mental attention,” in late Old English also “concern, anxiety caused by apprehension of evil or the weight of many burdens,” from Proto-Germanic *karō “lament; grief, care” (source also of Old Saxon kara “sorrow;” Old High German chara “wail, lament;” Gothic kara “sorrow, trouble, care;” German Karfreitag “Good Friday;” see care (v.)).

care (v.)

Old English carian, cearian “be anxious or solicitous; grieve; feel concern or interest,” from Proto-Germanic *karo- “lament,” hence “grief, care” (source also of Old Saxon karon “to lament, to care, to sorrow, complain,” Old High German charon “complain, lament,” Gothic karon “be anxious”), said to be from PIE root *gar- “cry out, call, scream” (source also of Irish gairm “shout, cry, call;” see garrulous).

If so, the prehistoric sense development is from “cry” to “lamentation” to “grief.” A different sense evolution is represented in related Dutch karig “scanty, frugal,” German karg “stingy, scanty.” It is not considered to be related to Latin cura. Positive senses, such as “have an inclination” (1550s); “have fondness for” (1520s) seem to have developed later as mirrors to the earlier negative ones.

Hidden in every word and world is an ancestry of grief. And in that grief, that cacophonous noisy wail, there is a song, countless songs, carrying a cosmovision only found if we feel the weight of those encumbrances, are rendered and re-membered as crooked and bent by them.

Weight is mass multiplied by gravity. Enough gravity, and space and time are bent into new shapes. Temporalities and spaces that exceed clock and maps’ attempted clarity and precision. Let us wail the gravity together, and discover what we have been trained to avoid.

Crip-time indeed.


Hello world.

I think it may be time to be in this space more. Social media uberplatforms are becoming moribund, and in all honesty, I think that’s a good thing. Please do check out the FYI  page for what I’ve been up to. I won’t bore you with laying it all out, but it’s been a busy few years, catalysed by our our ongoing pandemic, and making connections; relations that have led me to co-authoring a book as well as doing some speaking bits in concert with Bayo Akomolafe  et al, and co- lecturing in a seminar series in Ableisim in the Arts for a German university.

In a few weeks, I’ll be giving a talk, along with Martin Calnan and Loes Damhof, at the World Futures Studies Federation 50th Anniversary Conference in Paris – via Zoom. Provisionally entitled Dis/Abling Futures, I hope it’ll be a fruitful conversation for all. There may even be some somewhat useful writing to come out of it!

As I sit here in an ever-warming-October, with war in Europe and in the Middle East. there’s a lot to be said, but I think there’s more richness in the keening, in the inarticulate howl.

In the knowledge that we can’t carry this weight without being bent by it, my falling and skinning ourselves, letting blood low into the earth. The goês, the participator in that ongoing wail of loss-and-incapacitative generativity, the enfleshed daimonic field, the way-opener into the realms of death-in-life, and life-in-death is ever with us.

And the in the gravity of these times, may their croked path lead us to a carnival of joy and loss, in awe-fulin-betweenesses which allows us to overflow ourselves.

(Also, hello. I\’m not dead after all.)

A veritable horde has come together to help us manifest some of mine and Frater Acher\’s words, via Hadean Press in may 2023. Below is Acher\’s original announcement post:

A veritable horde has come together to help us manifest some of mine and Frater Acher\’s words, via Hadean Press in may 2023. Below is Acher\’s original announcement post:

Here is a sneak peak of what we are currently preparing for you: GOÊTIC ATAVISMS, Hadean Press, May 2023.

A whole motley crew of us is incoming together to bring this book to life: My partner in crime, Craig Slee and I wrote the content, Frater U∴D∴ is contributing a preface, Gianpaolo Tucci and his AI engine created the cover title based upon my design suggestion (draft below), and my long time magical companion José Gabriel Alegria Sabogal is currently sharpening his pencils to add his own iconographic visions of our joint Goêtic Atavisms.

Stay tuned via the Hadean Press webpage for further news in 2023.

Until then, have a magical winter solstice and a great break before we embark into the new year.


So yeah, that\’s happening!


I am a cyborg in lineage with Hephaestus.” – The Cyborg Jillian Weise

Forge-fire and seafoam. They say Aphrodite cheated, that she chafed at the marriage. They wish. That she was unfaithful. They have no concept of polyamory or, radical chthonic relationship anarchy amongst the More-Than-Human, the daemonic, do they?

What they have is Ancient Greek straight bullshit. Be it homo, hetero, or eromenos-erastes? State sanctioned norms makes it straight. We don’t make the rules. We make worlds and break them. Moment to moment, breath to breath, ebbs and flows. Crip time, crip space. Illegitimate, illegible.

You want to say that Aphrodite mothered us? Or perhaps Aetna? Want to say it was Charis? Want to say we descend from the spunk left on Athena’s thigh? Oh, you abled do so love your straight lines, don’t you. Your taxonomies, categories, your specs and measures. Want a family tree, without realising the roots are rhizhomes. We know lineage, indirect, crooked paths and labyrinths to get lost in; cracks to huff the sibyl-steam, sightless spasms and katabasis-crawlings. You want chrome and shine and light; we bring you hot and cold running darkness, occult plumber-spume.

Weighty, gravitic. In your world of speed, we shuffle, we limp, we gimp, we spaz, and strut. We roll and thrash and spit. Dead weight, to you. Over we go, under the bus, into the water down, and down. Sinking like lead, bodies inevitable transports to the ecstatic; the outsides-insides which are beside the legitimate selves you would have for us.

We’re always bastards. Illegitimate, illegible.

Listen. We cripped the Queen of Heaven. We made her immobile, Gave her the throne that shone, everything she wanted; deus-gleam payback. Made Mother one of us. Gifted her the crip-gnosis  – the daemonic lived experience. Returned her ferality. What? You thought Dionysos came to get us like an obedient whelp? The Liberator comes to the fetter-maker at the behest of the would-be free?  As if we’d not been drinking, conspiring, sharing breath together for aeons. As if we’d not been shifting, twisting, out of our skulls and skins together, faster than Athena from Zeus’ forehead?  As if we’d not taken counsel from our Grandfather Kronos, legs all Saturn-bound with lambswool, freed only when the times of Misrule are upon us. As if we didn’t learn how time fucks and is fucked with when you’re leaden-made.

As. If.

Stagger-drunk, spaz-swagger as we roll up Olimpos, sniggering at the reterritorialisation, slack lips and shivering limbs. Mama’s in and under the mountain now, back to archaic times. Heaven’s revealed as the Starry Cavern, the vasty gulfs of space felt as the upward-downward path. Grandma Gaea greets us all, leader of the countless, innumerable Mothers ever-animate. Gravitational-crip sorcery is like that, profusive, multiplicitous, generative. Doubleheaded poetry. What did you expect from Dactylos-kin? Our measurements and meter is always difference.
Forge-fire and seafoam. Kybernetikos.  Who says the organisms best equipped to steer aren’t those that move cripwise?

Thoughts on mythic morality

(Disclaimer/CN: This post discusses such things as depictions of rape, theft, murder, kinslaying and incest. None of what of what I write here should be taken as approval of, or apologia in relation to these acts.)

“You look at trees and called them ‘trees,’ and probably you do not think twice about the word. You call a star a ‘star,’ and think nothing more of it. But you must remember that these words, ‘tree,’ \’star,’ were (in their original forms) names given to these objects by people with very different views from yours. To you, a tree is simply a vegetable organism, and a star simply a ball of inanimate matter moving along a mathematical course. But the first men to talk of \’trees’ and \’stars’ saw things very differently. To them, the world was alive with mythological beings. They saw the stars as living silver, bursting into flame in answer to the eternal music. They saw the sky as a jeweled tent, and the earth as the womb whence all living things have come. To them, the whole of creation was \’myth-woven and elf patterned’.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien 

The above quote is a charming one, isn’t it? Tolkien’s invocation of another way of seeing, of existing, beguiles us with its sense of possibility. It is, like much of myth and story, fundamentally conservative – not in the political sense, but in the conservational sense. As an attempt to preserve, or at least, keep possibilities open in the mind of the reader, it’s pretty good. Of course, the wrinkle is – or some may say – that this took place in the distant past. Nobody, they might say, sees the world like this – or if they do, then their perception is deluded – because we are past that. We see the world representationally now, striving towards accuracy. Anything else is just superstition, is it not?

The mistake these stereotypical straw men make – within the context that I have breathed life into them for – is to suggest that a linear path between “then-now”, and “past-future”. Actually, they make several mistakes, not least because of their unexamined bias. I’ll not elucidate them all here, but suffice to say that our vegetative friends have not considered, amongst other things, the role of the cultural, historical, and philosophical structures which influence how we perceive and know things. In philosophy, such consideration of knowledge and how, why, what, and where we know things is called epistemology.

The thing with philosophy is that it covers many things: morality, ethics, metaphysics, linguistics, epistemology, sociology etc. We have words for all these things, and they are often their own disciplines. Philosophy – literally descending from “philia” + “sophia”, meaning affection or love for wisdom – can cover a kind of work in them all them all, precisely because understanding and using what is learnt in these many and varied arenas, and dong so well? Understanding the implications? Knowing that we know nothing for certain and that things are seldom as they first? 

This is wise, these things are wise, and so: wisdom is the useful, sound, and valuable deployment of knowledge and living life itself well.

Our straw men, conjured into existence by the magic of speech and words – shapings of breath digitized and transmitted across the planet to you, dear reader? They are brought forth into a world where the majority of its unexamined structures descend from the cultural shapings of men with pale skins. Dig further back, and deeper, and you will find that those men re-ordered, restructured and built upon the knowings and experiences of people who were not white or male. 

The structures of how we perceive, how we know what we know – even how we are taught to think, and express and feel? These did not come from nowhere – unfiltered and whole from the mind of one omnipotent, omniscient, Creator. Rather, many powers and potencies, principalities and agencies act all together. 

The flows of power, influence, propaganda, social and economic capital; the emotional and cultural response to events and experiences. All of these are contoured and shaped by the many. That many of the pale-skinned men shaped much of our world today is an accident of birth which is then compounded by economic and social factors based on climate, trade routes, geography, resources etc. This acquisition is then compounded  and backward rationalized – the accidental conflux of factors becomes a self-justification for ideas of false superiority, which drives behaviours which weight things in the favour of that group.

Make no mistake reader – there are still many worlds, even today. Bounded spaces, their boundaries staked out by those with the influence and ability to enforce them. That this is being written by a pale skinned man from North Western Europe is no coincidence. Nor is the fact that many will be able to read this, though my tongue is not what they speak natively – their first words carried a history different to mine. For various reason those people learnt my language which sneaks up behind others and mugs them in dark alleys, or engages in savagely lucrative trade deals.  

History literally is an accounting what has gone before, thus recounted by those later to be reckoned as accurate sources and authority. It is not all violence, theft and brutality. It is cultural exchange, trade, sharing, incorporation and diffusion also. All these things flow between in flux – this is influence. Influence is often codified and commodified under the rubric of power in an attempt to wield it more universally – which inevitably divorces it from its original context and forces a more acquisitive mindset amongst those who seek it, rather than seeking out points of influential confluence and integrating oneself within that.

The orality of history, and cultural transmission, is not something often thought of today. With the advent of writing, information and knowledge conservation shifts to the texts themselves as authority – the metaphor of something being “there in black and white” refers to newspapers, but the sense of it descends from textual authority. 

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the historic belief structure of those pale people is rooted in a distortion of a heresy of a Middle-Eastern monotheism, which in itself seems been an offshoot of various Middle-Eastern polytheisms. That Judaism has a central authoritative text, leavened with thousands of years of oral and written commentaries and arguments should be noted. That this text was itself an edited version which scholars believe contains multiple texts, and was added to and redacted from, in response to socio-political and religious reasons over time,  is also of note. That that text was selectively edited and canonized, before being translated in various languages in response to socio-political and religious reasons over time, is worth further note. 

That this collage of ancient material is elevated to holy scripture and used as basis for moral authority for the majority of the pale people for over a thousand years, and used as justification for imperalism, rape, murder, theft, oppression, oppression on grounds of sexuality, gender – and was a fundamental source of, and during, the social construction of the concept of race – would be shocking, were it not for the desire for that which is referred to as ‘power’ and ‘authority’. 

The singularity of authority and power presupposes scarcity. This is to say that fixed, codified protocols of behaviour, perception, and emotional affect allow definition and navigation in an unpredictable kosmos. By structuring experience, we make sense and it is by sense that we structure the world in a feedback loop. 

In a society based on orality, it is the stories that are told which preserve, iterate upon, and transmit knowledge and culture. In this, it’s worth quoting Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message.”What this means is that how a message is transmitted influences the message content and context. Similarly, it is how and by whom-as-medium it is transmitted which influences the message. Oral societies are often conservative in nature – there are ways things are done, and for reasons. Thus, to deviate from that is dangerous, precisely because things are done that way for a reason which benefits certain people.  Whether those certain people are an elite or a society as whole varies according to societal structures.

Those who deviate are dangerous for several reasons – they are unpredictable, which in many societies at one time meant that they are or were a potential threat. They are non-conformist, which implies they may not honour the social contract which is supposed important in keeping everyone safe and keeping the world-order-as-society knows it running.

Recall Tolkien’s charm? His elder possibility is a world-order or worldview (weltanschauung) which sees the numinosity in all things. It thus sees flux and agency and multiplicity.  In the case of polytheism and animism, the multiplicity of agents  and powers suggests a multitude of agents all acting on one another and interpenetrating – rather like ripples or interference patterns. Gods and “Big spirits” ( terminology that is pretty much synonymous in the mind of this author for the purposes of discussion) can be said to have mythic “mass”. A large stone dropped into a pond will make bigger ripples and cancel or interfere with smaller ripples generated by smaller pebbles. 

When considering gods as establishers of world-order – or even creating worlds, it’s instructive to consider that in many mythologies, this is accomplished by the overthrow of a previous order or set of structures, and their reconfiguration. Which is usually, to judge my many world mythologies, a polite way to suggest murder and butchery; fundamentally catastrophic  in all the linguistic and etymological senses of the word.. Once bloodily established, it is usually the actions and processes of the gods which keep the kosmos running. This accreted behaviour forms mores. Myth is thus a recounting of these behaviours and deviations therefrom, not simply as dry recounting but as felt experience which stimulates emotional and psychological affect which joins all participants (human and otherwise) into a shared epistemological framework.

In any society, the element of performance is key in any media – not just what the media ism but how it does it, as mentioned above. In an oral society where knowledge is shared through speech, whether by poetry or storytelling, the performance of the teller is key, as is the setting and context of the delivery.

Many myths depict rape, murder, theft,  trade, sharing, incorporation and diffusion. In this, they are as much like other forms of media as anything else. Likewise, it of course is the choice of those personally affected by such things not to engage with such things if they feel it would be detrimental to them. Yet, in dealing with myth, particularly if one views it not as synonymous with falsehood, but in fact expressive of some world-reality which forms the root of of our perceptions and experience, we often have questions of morality.

To say that myths containing rape, incest, murder, theft etc “offer a window onto a different time” or to suggest that the actions of a mythological figure are literally representationally true and thus that figure should be hated and despised is to present only a fairly shallow reading in the view of the author.

Let us take the Norse god Odin – he who, according the texts we have, committed near- genocide against giant-kind; slaughtering his own kindred the god (along with his brothers) butcher the primeval giant Ymir and use his body to make the worlds. The brothers then create humans by breathing life into two logs/trees found by the sea shore – far better then men of straw, no?

He steals the Mead of Inspiration (itself brewed from the blood of a murdered god) after seducing and tricking its giant-maiden guardian, but not before killing nine thralls in order to get close to her father – bearing the name Bolverk (evil-doer). He uses magic to impregnate Rindr after she turns him down repeatedly, making it so that Valli, the agent of vengeance over thr death of Baldr, is a product of rape – regardless that he is in the shape of/dressed of a woman at the time.

He attempts to have his way with Billing’s daughter, but is discovered and chased away by a pack of angry men. He sets up heroes to die in the midst of battle, abandoning them at the precise moment they need his aid. He is, in short, a major bastard. 

Did the Norse enjoy stories of rape? Was it a particular genre that pleased them? We have the images of Vikings as raping and pillaging, after all?

Certainly, there are texts that suggest they had a different view of sexuality and violence than we do today. But is perhaps our take on Odin in the myths we have had passed down to us heavily biased? Of course. For one, it appears the idea of Odin as chief god in Iceland was due to the preponderance of preserved texts. Archaeology suggests Thor was more popular with the population-at-large than the weird and terrible bastard wizard Stabby McOne-Eye the murder hobo. 

But Odin is the Master of Inspiration – and both kings and poets were buoyed by his patronage. That this is passed down, collected and written down by a Christian after Christianization of Iceland, and then translated to English, some eight or nine centuries later?

This influences the medium and message. Further, amongst certain neopagans and heathen polytheists, there is a tendency to look at the preserved texts in a similar way to the Bible. This is a product of the mutations of that North West European brand of heresy we mentioned, contextualized in sectarian manner (Protestantism has a lot to answer for).

Even if the myths are treated not as literal, we have been culturally contoured to look at myths which describe religious and numinous experience as exemplary. That’s to say, things that serve as examples or moral models, illustrations of general rules. In a sense, that’s akin to looking to police procedurals or popular movies, or 24hr news channels for a sense of morality today. Such things do contain troubling assumptions today – valourisation of violence if it “gets the job done” in movies, or  news stories inciting rage for political or social gain as example. Yet their key raison d’etre is experiential affect. Information and mores may be passed on and inculcated unconsciously, yes. But to view their content as explicitly and directly representational without bias? This is surely dangerous.

Furthermore, our attitudes to sexuality and violence, both as distinct groupings and how they interplay in all forms of media are worthy of critique – exactly what is acceptable and why? What is the historical and social context for this?

So if myth is not to be read as moral exemplar, what then? In this we must engage beyond a surface reading, if we so choose. As method of epistemic transmission and framing, myth is is not exemplary, but does aid in modelling. It is the response to myth that aids modelling not the myth itself. 

To say Odin is a rapist, a murderer, and thief is important – not because he is, or is not these things, but what that means  to the audience participating in the myth, both historically and currently in context. This is why his self-naming as Bolverk is so important, within the context of the myths. Performer and audience and mythic figure all acknowledge this behaviour as unacceptable to humans. 

Throughout the myth cycle, the “morally dubious” stories illustrate deviance from acceptability is only viable longterm if one is influential, and this motif exists across cultures. There are always consequences for such behaviour, whether it be the dooming of the world, or more subtle responses. Yet they serve a doubly illustrative function in the case of Odin, and other such figures (often Trickster or magical figures) wherein their behaviour and character is ambiguous precisely because of that nature – existing asocially, breaking rules and remaking them, surviving and prospering in impossible ways, in often hostile environments. This renders such figures “unsafe” “criminal” or “unnatural”, perhaps even queer in relation  to wider society. For such figures, it is the transmission of this quality via the myth which the narrative preserves, even when preserved and iterated upon by time. 

In this context, to state again, solely literal representational readings of myth are mistaken. This is not to say it is all symbolic, but rather that metaphor transmits information – an Iroquois story says their people learnt to tap maple syrup from squirrels. 

An Iroquois boy  saw a red squirrel cutting into tree bark with its teeth and later returning to lick the sap; the young Iroquois followed the squirrel’s lead and tried the same technique by cutting into the tree bark with a knife, thus discovering the sweet sap. Long derided as mere “myth” or “folklore” it took until the 1990s for a scientist named  Bernd Heinrich to observe and record it, publishing in a scientific journal – thus ‘legitimizing’ pre-existing indigenous knowledge. 

That such knowledge only became ‘acceptable’ or ‘real’ when performed outside of its original form tells us much about the biases of so-called ‘Western Culture’ as regards myth and folklore. Yet, this example proves the utility of such transmissions, existing over the centuries. That Iceland’s corpus of myth (even in those tales that remained to be written down) may contain metaphorically encode experience which can be re-experienced through felt-sense is made all the more likely, given the preservation of highly localized folklore and histories.

Questions of legitimacy or lack are defined by flows of influence and power – inextricably linked to agency and consequence. Myth is therefore conceivable as a manifestation of currents of social influence and should never be held as a fixed thing, whether or not one has positive or negative emotional response to its figures