Xander the Archivist

The main blog of Xander Pendrake, the Written in Forbidden Ink Admin

So I got an idea last night that I had to try out. I have occasionally used tarot cards to help me tell a story. I would do a three card draw and and make a story based off of interpreting the cards. This has served to help me with writer's block a number of times. Yesterday it occurred to me to make a podcast based off of it. Today I recorded a test episode and released it.

The premise is this: I do three draws of three cards each and make a story based on the cards. The first card represents the main character, the second card represents a challenge they face, and the third card represents how the resolution comes about. I improvise a story and tell it. There's now writing, no editing of the story and very little eiting of the audio, to preserve the improvisational feel.

The stories aren't my best stories, but they are fun to tell and they help me feel like I've accomplished somethin creative. Moreover, it helps me to work on plot and story structure.

I think this will become a weekly podcast. Take a look at my creative mastodon account if this is a thing you would be interested in following.

“And ye harm none, do as ye will.” This is the Wiccan's central law and the guiding principle behind my personal philosophy. But is it anarchist? That is a question that has been echoing in the back of my mind. The common wisdom among anarchists is that defense of self and others takes priority over nonviolence, and that violence is justifiable when used against the state. How can such a philosophy coexist with the idea of doing no harm?

Consider a Wiccan under attack from a fascist sympathizer. In such a scenario, defending yourself is preventing harm, and any harm caused by doing so is forgivable. This is a view that is not just my own – Scott Cunningham describes a spell for binding and enemy to prevent them from harming you in Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practioner, and his “Law of the Power” contains this line:

The Power shall not be used to bring harm, to injure or control others. But if the need arises, the Power shall be used to protect your life or the lives of others.

Therefore we can see that self-defense and Wicca are completely compatible. And self-defense is a big part of anarchist philosophy for a good reason: we cannot rely on the state to protect ourselves against state-sanctioned violence. Therefore we must protect ourselves with our own power, magical or otherwise.

Violence for the purpose of de-platforming fascists, on the other hand, is harder to justify. But as the recent string of milkshake incidents has shown, it's not necessary to use violence to de-platform fascists in every scenario. Hitting someone with a milkshake can hardly be considered “doing harm.”

Another thing to keep in mind is the idea of diversity of tactics. Not everyone can make it to a march, and not everyone is capable of defending themselves or taking violent action. That does not mean that there aren't other methods of praxis that these anarchists can be participating in. There are environmental acts such as seed-bombing, subtle acts such as silents agitation (a.k.a. anarchist stickers and graffiti), and economic acts such as creating a solidarity economy and supporting those in need. Hell, I'm doing one of these things right now: creating anarchist theory and propaganda. And at the very least, doing what you can to take care of yourself is a radical act under capitalism.

Anarchism and Wicca are natural allies, and the idea of doing no harm does not negate this. Take up arms in self-defense and in defense of others, de-platform fascists, take care of the Earth, and never forget the sisters they burned.

Covens seem to be what the majority of people think of when they think of witches these days. Popular culture abounds with pictures of secret meetings under the full moon in dark robes and groups of witches gathered to worship Satan in the black sabbath. Even in the wider pagan community, this seems to be the case, with the prevailing idea being that “only a witch can make a witch” – that is that one needs to be initiated into a coven or tradition to be a true pagan. Solitary pagans are often called “eclectic pagans,” and it would be a mistake not to see a hint of derision in the term. The predominant belief seems to be that lineaged traditions and covens are somehow more legitimate than solitary pagans. That could not be further from the truth.

It is important to note that the phenomenon of initiation arose from a time period where being a Wiccan or another variety of pagan practitioner was illegal. It was not until the nineteen-fifties that the last anti-witchcraft bill was repealed in the United Kingdom. Initiation served as a safegaurd against those who would defame or persecute pagans for their beliefs, ensuring that initiates were truly devoted and would not sell the coven out to the authorites. Now that pagans are able to worship more openly, initiation is but a formality. Or at least, that is how it should be.

With initiation, covens can effectively control who gets to worship their gods. They may filter out those they do not desire, and this gives them a sort of religious power over others. There are reportedly cases of covens rejecting those not of European descent, although none would admit to it in person. It should come as no surprise, then, that I view such a process as inherently incompatible with the anarcho-pagan philosophy.

This is not to say that covens cannot be anarchist. A coven that keeps itself open to outsiders, that does not keep its traditions secret and that makes initiation merely a formality is in keeping with anarcho-pagan philosophy. But the coven that keeps its beliefs secret, that refuses members on a basis of anything other than harmful conduct, or that believes itself somehow superior to solitaries and/or other covens by virtue of lineage is not anarchist.

The solitary practitioner, on the other hand, is much more in keeping with the anarchist mindset. When you are a solitary, no one can tell you that you chose the wrong gods, or they you're performing the rituals improperly. They can't tell you what robes to wear (or not wear), or enforce a requirement on the types of ritual jewelry. Nor can anyone get mad at a solitary for missing a full moon ceremony by a few hours.

Aside from the “freedom from,” there is also “freedom to:” freedom to come up with your own ritual forms, to celebrate the sabbats and esbats your own way, to write your own spells and make substitutions as necessary when using spells written by others. There is the freedom to choose gods which you personally feel attached to, to mix Celtic traditions with Norse runes, or even to make your own alphabet of symbols. This freedom is the unique advantage of the solitary pagan.

The major disadvantage that the solitary practitioner has is that they are divorced from the community that other pagans, being themselves the members of a coven or some other collective, may enjoy. This is not a minor issue; solitary practice can, at times, feel lonely and isolating, particularly if one does not know any other pagans in the area or where such people might be found. This is not an insurmountable burden, however, as the age of the internet has made it so that communication between solitaries is easier then ever before. One can easily find pagans on the various social networks that dot the internet, and there is a particularly large pagan presence on Mastodon and its forks. It may not be the same as meeting with a coven in person, but it can help to shrink the distances that divide people in the real world.

Magic and pagan practice should not be hoarded, the privilege of a select few initiates. To do so is to rob the masses of a religious path that marries the old and the new, that can serve as an impetus for revolutionary thought and environmental action, and that can help a society that has isolated itself from nature find a deeper connection with the Earth. To be pagan is to be free, and solitary pagans are perhaps the most free of all of us.

Part of being a pagan is building a relationship with your gods. Worship of the gods is the main focus of paganism, and it is this spiritual connection that makes a pagan truly a pagan. Without a focus on deity and spirituality, paganism would just be a form of sorcery or magecraft. And while there is nothing wrong with sorcery and magecraft (I've known a few Chaos Mages), those of us who wish for a more spiritual connection with the Earth may find that looking towards ancient beliefs helps strengthen our connection with the Earth and each other.

Pagans draw their deities from ancient mythologies. Many Wiccans simply follow the Mother Goddess and Father God/Horned God, twin deities of nature. Some Wiccans give these deities names from mythology, others simply call them the Lord and Lady. Other pagans are polytheistic as opposed to duotheistic, and worship many gods. One friend of mine follows Asartu, the reconstruction of the Old Norse religion, as so worships the many gods of the Norse Pantheon.

When choosing your deities, there are basically two paths to follow. The first is to do research on the deities of your ancestral region. if you're greek, being a Hellenistic pagan may work for you. If you're Irish, you may choose to worship the Tuatha De Danann. This gives the worship of your particular deities a personal touch.

But what if you aren't of European descent, or don't feel a particular tie to your ancestors? I hold that is completely valid to worship a pantheon you hold no biological connection to, but that speaks to you personally. If there is a particular mythos that captures your imagination, go for it! I see no reason pagans should restrict culture on ethnic grounds, considering most of us are white.

One important note, though, is that you should try not to appropriate religious deities of cultures that have been historically repressed. While it is true that paganism was, until recently, looked upon with suspicion and repressed, this cannot be compared to the genocide that has befallen people of color around the world. So if you're not of Roma descent, don't go around appropriating Roma practices, for instance.

Whatever deities you choose, be sure to do some research on them so that you know a bit about what panthoen you are choosing. Remember, the point is to build a rapport with your gods, a working relationship of reverence. It is not a transactional relationship, but one of mutual love and respect.

For myself, my background is primarily in Wicca, but I am of Italian descent on my father's side. So I worship the God and Goddess, but have been considering identifying them in more concrete form as two Roman deities: Diana and Janus. These two deities have uniquely Roman origins, and thus they feel authentically Italian to me.

Diana has been Hellenized and associated with Aretmis, but she actually had a separate origin in Italy as Diana Nemorensis (Diana of the Wood). Her sanctuary was at the Lake of Neimi, and was originally a grove with a cult image as opposed to a whole temple. The cult image depicted her as a threefold goddess, associating her with the moon an the hunt, motherhood, and the underworld and magic.

Janus, on the other hand, is a deity that was never Hellenized. He was associated with beginnings and endings, as well as doors, passageways, and the sun. He is also listed as one of the names of the father god in The Book of the Holy Strega by Raven Grimassi, although the authenticity of Grimassi's work has been called into question. Janus is often depicted as having two faces, to show his nature as the god of beginnings and endings.

Diana as the moon goddess and goddess of magic fits nicely with the Wiccan belief, and it is even believed that her cult may be the source of the original mother goddess. Some scholars have refered to the witch cult in Europe as a Dianic cult, for instance. As for Janus, the notion of beginnings and endings fits nicely with the theme of the wheel of the year. But I also fondly remember a book from my childhood in which a double-faced coin with an image of janus on the front and keys on the back served as the door between worlds, allowing a young boy to travel back in time. That book was The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop, and it was a favorite of mine. So worshiping Janus also plays into my childhood memories, and the themes of fantasy and traveling between worlds that are frequently featured in my writing. It adds a nice personal touch to my pagan practice, and helps me to feel rooted in my beliefs.

All in all, I encourage you to find the gods and goddesses that speak to you on a personal level and begin forming a relationship with them, no matter who they en up being. Developing a relationship with the gods can be one of the most rewarding parts of pagan practice.

I've recently become a practitioner of paganism, primarily Wicca. This is mostly due to my feeling that I needed a spiritual outlet, and was dissatisfied with Christianity. But after dipping my toe into the waters of paganism I found that there were a multitude of different deities and practices, all by people trying to recreate “The Old Religion.” There are Hellenistic pagans, Celtic pagans, Saxan pagans, Gaelic pagans, and of course, Italian Stregas.

Being a quarter Italian myself, I have taken a look at the beliefs and practices of Italian witches, an in a book titled The Book of the Holy Strega by Raven Grimassi, I found a most interesting passage, quoted from the titular character:

“As this Age progresses great trial and tribulations shall befall the people of all nations. And out of the ashes shall arise the new world of reason. People shall no longer be ruled by governments. Nor shall one people oppress the other.”

This passage shocked me, because in it I can see the light of anarchist thought. It was a prophecy about a coming age that sounded very much like the ideal world I would love to live in, free of gender biases and oppressive governments and ideologies. It was a passage that awoke a pride in my pagan beliefs, as though they were emblematic of my free-willed nature.

The actual book in question is somewhat controversial, as it the author. Apparently the authenticity of Grimassi's work and of the story of Holy Strega is debated. But to me, that's beside the point. All neopagan beliefs are a modern attempt to recreate what was lost when the Christians began hunting witches. Our religions are new, and we should embrace their new parts as well as the old. We are free-willed, and we will not be silenced.

I then did some research on anarcho-pagansim. There has been some writing on the topic, but mostly in a reference to primitivism. I find primitivism to be a limited philosophy, which ignores much of the scientific progress that has allowed humankind to flourish on this Earth. Paganism and science should not be enemies. Rather, we should embrace both the spiritual and the scientific, and allow people to explore both the immaterial and the material. To this end, I would like to propose a definition of anarcho-paganism that does not limit it to a pagan primitivism.

Anarcho-Paganism: A Definition

A black and purple flag with a white and black pentagram in the center

Anarcho-paganism is the belief that pagan practices can act as a guiding principle for anarchist thought. It co-exists with other forms of anarchism, and has a particular intersection with anarcho-ecology. Anarcho-pagans keep the gods of their choice, worship as they see fit, and work to undo the hierarchies that have led to the oppression of pagan beliefs in the past. Anarcho-pagans revere nature and understand that they have a duty to heal the planet and do everything they can to avoid its destruction by human hands. Anarcho-pagans recognize that science has been colonized and utilized against humankind, but do not reject it, as it was climate scientists who discovered the truly dire circumstances the planet is in.

Anarcho-pagans embrace all kinds of pagan worship from all kinds of practitioners. Covens, solitaries, pagans of color and queer pagans are all part of the incredible pagan community that dwells on this earth and all should be welcome. Anarcho-pagans reject all forms of discrimination both within their communities and without.

A Rede for the Anarchist Witch

This is a Rede based on the one in my Book of Shadows. It's primarily Wiccan focused, but gives an idea about what a anarcho-pagan philosophy could look like.

Above all else, an it harm none, do as you will. All you actions shall be reflected thrice: once upon the body, once upon the mind, and once upon the soul. Therefore let all your actions be just. Do not use the power for selfish or evil ends. Use it only for the good of self or others, and only when there is a clear need. Do not accept money for use of the power. Do not use the power to harm, except in the defense of yourself or others. Do not trust governments. Always remember the sisters they burned. Fight always against tyranny for your ways were once repressed and may still be. Honor your gods and let none tell you your ways are wrong. Do not tell others that their ways are wrong. Yours is not the only path, nor is theirs. Rejoice in nature, for it is where you come from. Take care of the Earth, and work to slow the process of climate change. The Earth is being killed and we must save it. And this be the Rede of the Witch.

My ways are very Wiccan, and so is this Rede. But do not let that stop you from writing your own. Mine is not the only way.

I hope this brief essay can help to unite pagan anarchists and stir a push for modern spirituality in the anarchist community. Just because we reject all masters does not mean we have to reject the gods. Blessed Be!

CW: Police Brutality

Your Father always taught you to be grateful for the police. He brought you up saluting the police department's parade float at thanksgiving, and donating to the local fundraisers.

“Remember,” he said, “The police officers are the last line of defense against criminals.” And you nodded, and believed him. But it became harder to believe when the state ordered your house bulldozed to create more farmland.

The thing about environmental disaster is that you can deny its existence up until it hits your doorstep, but you can't deny the bodies that pile up afterward. As the effects of climate change hit, people demanded action fromt he government, and the government responded. The United States entered a State of Emergency, suspending normal rights and governing behaviors. They built arcologies where the wealthy could live in an environment approximating temperate, and put everyone else they could to work in the fields surrounding these artificial paradises.

You work in one of these fields, as does the rest of your family. You are given a small cut of the produce, but the majority of what you grow is collected and shipped out via trucks to the arcologies. And as the climate continues to grow hotter, the land produces less, and your cut diminishes. But always there is a bounty headed towards the arcologies.

Eventually, desperation causes you to act. Then next time a truck rolls through to take food that you grew to the arcologies, you and a few other desparate farmers lie in wait. Suddenly two of your comrades pull a microfilament fiber taut across the road. It slices through the truck's front tires, and the truck skids to a stop at the side of the road.

Now it's your turn. You run forward to the truck. As you do, a police guard gets out of it. He is tall and muscular, obviously augmented with grafts and cybernetics. You pull out an electromagnetic pistol you stole, hoping to shut off some of his enhancements. But with a few massive steps, he is right up next to you, twisting your arm and throwing you to the ground. The last thing you see is a police drone fly out from the truck and open fire on the other farmers. The last thing you feel is the pressure of the policeman's boot on your skull.

CW: Horror Story

It stood at the entrance to the shop, tall, in a dancing pose, showing off costumes that one would find within. Sometimes it was a wizard, sometimes a witch, sometimes a knight, sometimes a princess. It was currently dressed as a jester, in Red and Black. There was no particular reason for this choice: John just thought it was a nice touch. He dressed it at night, as he always did when changing the store display, and looked forward to what would happen in the morning.

John opened the store as usual. He dusted off the counter and swept the floor. Then the bell at the door rang, and Jeremy walked in. They greeted each other, as they always did. Then Jeremy turned to face the manikin.

“Ugh, jeez, boss, what's with the new manikin? The old one was OK, but this one is just ugly,” said Jeremy.

“Do you mean the new outfit? What's wrong with it?” asked John.

“No the outfit's fine, just the face on this manikin is gross. Are we getting ready for Halloween Early or something?”

“What are you talking about?” John walked out from behind the counter to the entrance and looked at the manikin. He nearly dropped the spraybottle of Windex he was holding.

The Manikin had changed overnight. Where once there has been no face at all, there was now a white plastic rictus of a grin, a hooked nose, and two narrow eyes, all sculpted out of white plastic. John took one look at the manikin, and his mind was flooded with scenes from just about every horror movie he had ever scene. A story began to form in his head, one with a grisly conclusion.

“Throw it out,” he said.

“What?”

“Throw out the manikin. And the costume. In fact, don't bother undressing it.”

“But wh—”

“Just do it.”

A few minutes later, the wretched thing was in the dumpster out behind the shop. Just to be safe, John had Jeremy lock the dumpster as well. Convinced that a horrible fate had been avoided, John went about the rest of the day as normal, though Jeremy was quite bewildered.

Later that night, as John was sweeping the store, he heard a sharp, high-pitched cackle. John turned around to find the manikin standing by the back door, it's red and black outfit covered in grime. It opened it's hand, and a padlock fell from it's hands, the shackle bent into an unrecognizable shape by some inhuman strength.

“Why would you do that, John?” it asked, though it's plastic mouth never moved. “Haven't I always done good work? Never complained no matter how many ridiculous outfits you dressed me up in? Honestly, you should treat your employees better.”

John tried to scream, but the manikin moved incredibly fast, and soon two plastic hands were around his throat and squeezing. As John began to lose consciousness, he swore he could hear a distant laughter reverberating through the store.

The problem with reading horror stories before bed is that, of course, you can't sleep. You tell yourself that it's just an autonomous response to fear or that you're just anticipating the nightmares that you might have. But deep down, you know that the real reason is that you're afraid of something coming to get you in the middle of the night. So you read something else, or find something to watch (quietly with headphones). Or maybe you just listen to some music (again, quietly, with headphones) and stare at the ceiling for a time. Eventually, you are able to find a way to sufficiently distract yourself and go to sleep.

Suddenly, your alarm goes off, and you get up to get ready to go to work. But something's wrong. Your clock says that it's seven in the morning, but it's still dark out. There is no light coming through your windows, not even the red and purple twinge of sunrise. You look out the window, and something immediately catches your eye: the moon. When you went to sleep, it was a waning crescent. Now it is full. You look down from the sky, and find that your neighborhood has disappeared. In its place is a forest of what appears to be red coral. It stretches on for an impossible distance.

Immediately, you begin looking for your house-mates. But when you go down the hallway and knock on their bedroom door, no one answers. You knock on the door to the bathroom. Again, no answer. So you open the door. No one is inside. Frantically, you search all the rooms on the upper floor. You find no one. So you run downstairs and begin searching the ground floor. And that is when you see the shadow through the window in the front room.

The shadow is large and many-limbed. It slinks through the coral forest, circling the house. you hear a low noise, something between the timbre of a growl and a rolling drumbeat. Then the shadow disappears and you hear a scratching at the door.

The scratching noise starts at the bottom and gradually works its way up. Then it stops, and the doorknob starts to rattle, as if something is playing with it, or perhaps trying to figure out how it works. You stare at the door, wondering if you remembered to lock it last night, and hoping beyond hope that you are still sleeping and, if you try hard enough, you can wake up, wake up, wake up...

With my last attempt at hosting a WriteFreely server failing horribly, I have decided to give it another shot. So far nothing has imploded. I will be making news posts on this blog, as well as short stories. I intend to quantify each with a tag in the title.

I hope that you enjoy writing here, and reading what is written as well. I want this to be a safe place for everyone who loves writing and isn't a shithead. if you want to join the community, visit https://apply.inforbidden.ink. I can't wait to see what everyone writes!