Extinction Remembrance Day

November 30th is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. I believe commemorations like this can be channels for the grief that any authentic living in this time must confront. Definitely a good day to mark for those with an animist bent.

More information can be found at this website.

https://www.lostspeciesday.org/

I’ve also found valuable thoughts from Lo (Keen) on extinction on this blog: https://rotwork.wordpress.com/

I’ve written a couple of poems and tributes to the lost birds of the Big Island of Hawai’i for this day.

A distinctively human consciousness arose in Paleolithic

linguistics and painted its wrestle with abyssal animal mind,

staving guilt of hunt and anxiety separation

with ritual’s diplomacy:

ochre and feathers

and sorcerers dancing on the edge of worlds,

occasionally falling off into the pit of bones.

now centuries of the rites cast aside,

suppressed volcanoes of grief wait unaddressed

and sedimentary layers of numbness press on our continents—

a society looks for the forgotten

who peek occasionally from sedated dreams,

in pixar and pokemon-alert smartphones

(the children were out in August—I hadn’t known there were any,

but there they’d gathered near where the stream gushes by the supermarket unseen)

while outside barely known

the Sixth Extinction rages on.

We the truly lost species as tectonic plates grind on.

Here on the island of Hawai’i there are at least ten species of bird that have gone extinct since the arrival of whites in the late 18th century. There are many more if the entire archipelago is included. Hawaii has suffered more extinctions and more endangered species than any other US state. The majority of these lost species are of a group of birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers that underwent diverse speciation as they adapted to a multitude of island environments much like the finches that led Darwin to theorizing evolution. In many cases their habitat was destroyed by sugar plantations and cattle ranching; also the introduction of rats, mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit (there were none before the Europeans came), mongooses and cats have led to the demise of others.

The Hawaii mamo, Drepanis pacifica, last seen in 1898.

220px-drepanis_pacifica-keulemans-1

The greater Koa finch, Rhodocanthis palmeri. Last confirmed sighting in 1896.

170px-zzzgreaterkoafinch

The lesser Koa finch, R. flaviceps, 1891.

220px-telespiza_flaviceps3

The Kona grosbeak, Chloridops kona. 1894.

220px-chloridops_kona

The Hawai’i o’o, Moho nobilis, last seen in 1934.

170px-moho_nobilis-keulemans

The ula-‘ai-hawene, Ciridops anna, extinct at the latest by 1937.

220px-ciridops_anna

The greater ‘amakini, Viridonia sagittirostris, last seen in1901. Lost to sugar plantations destroying its habitat.

220px-zzzgreateramakihi

The lesser ‘akialoa, Akialoa obscura. Last seen in 1940.

220px-akialoa_obscura

The Hawaiian rail, Porzana sandwichensis. 1884 or maybe 1893.

250px-hawaiirail

The kioea, Chaetoptila angustipluma, 1859.

250px-chaetoptila_angustipluma

All images Wikipedia, public domain.

 

An Elegy

before the cattle, before the sugar,

before the mosquitoes and rats

brought by whalers’ ships,

before the plantations

how much richer the island life—

when the lost birds could be heard cracking

the naio fruits, flitting in gold epaulettes and black dress

among the ohia trees,

opening the seed pods in the koa groves,

sheltering from fierce noon sun and plundering

nectar with long curved beaks. Your flights

haunt, a lost net of sorrow.

.

Standing Rock

Many of you are aware of the protests and violence happening in North Dakota, I’m sure, but there are aspects of what is happening I’m not seeing much talked about. I’ve written a fair amount about the Dead—and here we had a desecration of the Dead occurring on the Land over the Labor Day weekend, a desecration of native burial and other sacred locations in North Dakota just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Sioux/Lakota Treaty Lands (Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868).

 

An appalling attack made by hired oil security with badly trained (abused?) dogs biting and bloodying the Protectors of the land and water, a violence that carries long shadows of the long history of genocide in the Americas. “This demolition is devastating. These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.” -Dave Archambault II, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/09/04/manning-and-then-dogs-came-dakota-access-gets-violent-destroys-graves-sacred-sites-165677

 

Dakota Access Pipeline pushed through in its bulldozing, using info that had been provided in court by the tribe regarding locations of burials, using it for the counter-purpose of destroying sacred sites and burials when they thought the outside world wouldn’t be looking (even though there was an injunction).

 

Something I find of note is that this is magical warfare, the attempt to demoralize the ‘other’ by destroying their most holy places and destruction of graves of their ancestors (a very ancient practice).

 

A crude attempt at erasure and violence but the Protectors are standing strong and prayerful at Sacred Stone Camp. But a federal judge has now denied the request to stop the pipeline construction even though it would have 200 river crossings. What now? And what of the Dead?

 

siouxreservationmap

Map from Wikipedia.

A positive statement today from the Office of Public Affairs (source: justice.gov):

The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

 

Plenty of info at Democracy Now:

http://www.democracynow.org/topics/dakota_access

How to help:

http://sacredstonecamp.org/faq/#howtohelp

http://standingrock.org/    

Report from a Windy Place

The winds are blowing hard. Last night they howled and moaned, things clattered and knocked about outside. A light rain falls. A storm is expected tomorrow. It seems to reflect things happening far away in the national ‘center’. I think of David Abram’s intuiting of the wind as spirit. This has been a difficult year on a personal level. When you have a local focus and animistic practice big moves, changes of geography and ecology are painful. At times I have been nearly overwhelmed with what the French call mal du pays (yes, the French have a much better word for what English makes do with homesickness; readers of Haruki Murakami, that animist novelist, will recognize this term, and know Lizt has a musical piece by this name). Local spirits left behind. Meeting new ones, but that takes time.

 

Things are shifting, realignments occurring on the macro-level. This is happening within our pagan/polytheist communities as well. Unpleasant things have come to light this year, things that weren’t exactly invisible before, but like seeing peoples’ masks slip, and seeing such ugliness revealed.

 

Rootedness is good for animism, good for learning ecological ways. But uprooting can be needed, so a god tells me. And there are much greater ones, much greater uprootings. I received rebuke (it hurt), my complaints getting in the way of doing the work. The storm warning says trees will be downed. Be prepared. Stock up on water, batteries…

 

A god shows me we must make otherworld sanctuaries, places not of this world. With our gods-given gift of imagination we co-create these places. They will be needed.

 

The winds blow harder. I am much more aware of the sky here. The stars. Much of my practice has long been deeply earth-focused (and still is) but the sky is becoming more prominent. There are times for flight. I receive lessons. I watch the birds, especially the white ones. At times it is necessary to fly high above the cloud layers, above the storms to high mountain summits, to the Cities of Knowledge, to the abodes that shine with the light of the Shining Ones.

IMG_1641

We need to unleash the imbas, the awen, the intuitive flows. I touch the odd vitreous substance of the castle walls. There are others here too, others heeding have flown here.

 

I went up on the mountain, almost to the summit. Iron-red and black cinder all about. I was light headed, this one was this-worldly but not really, it all intersects, the heavens and the earth. Some build bridges with science, some with poetry. I was oxygen deprived, I was drunk, the light was tangible. Poetry flit in the thin air, the god wanted me to go there for a long time, I could see for two hundred miles. It’s necessary at times to go high above the cloud layers above the storms to high summits.

 

 

In Honor of a Sacred King

This post got delayed due to the horrific massacre in Orlando.

There’s been some discussion here and there this year of sacral kingship, including something on this blog awhile back https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/sacral-kings-traditions-defense/ …. Here in Hawai’i, Kamehameha the Great is such a king who maintains a kind of guardianship over the islands to this day. On Saturday, June 11th, I had the opportunity to celebrate the king’s birthday (a state holiday). In the little town of Kapa’au stands a statue of this sacral king who spent part of his childhood in the vicinity. On his day, huge leis (20 feet long) are offered up to him, among other offerings early in the morning, followed by a parade and other festivities, including traditional chanting. Quite inspiring.

http://www.kamehamehadaycelebration.org/statue-ceremonies.html

8130542

 

The statue itself has an intriguing history, having been created in Paris in 1878, put ona ship that sank off the Falkland Islands and was eventually salvaged and placed in Kapa’au in 1912. Kamehameha, who was born around 1736, unified the archipelago and navigated the kingdom through the treacherous waters of international relations during the late 18th century and early years of the 19th. Kamehameha authored the Kānāwai Māmalahoe, the “Law of the Splintered Paddle”, which protected rights of non-combatants in war. He is very much the object of reverence in various sites associated with his life. In a story reminiscent of other sacred heroes as a boy/young man he was able to lift a stone that prophecy could only be lifted by the would be king. The stone stands in front of Hilo’s public library today and receives offerings.

IMG_1101
The stone in front is the stone the young to-be king lifted.

Becoming Placed, Part I

Some asked me to put my notes from my presentation at Many Gods West up, so here you go. This text is something I talked from.

I have to preface this with a note that since the conference I have seen some bloggers (let’s just call them humanists) using disenchantment in a diluted metaphoric way, specifically making claims like ‘enchantment does not require gods, spirits, magic’ and the like. The word enchantment literally means using song/chant to magic. Let’s not lose this term, which has a long history in pagan and polytheist discourse and a key role in historical studies of the transition from feudal Europe to early modern Europe and the radical change in social/economic relations called capitalism. Sociologists and historians specifically used the word because of the people of western European countries losing their ‘beliefs’ and relations with non-human others, certainly including of the ‘invisible’ kinds: fairies, hobs, trolls, demons, and a myriad more, and was part of the process of making the modern world of objectified resources, all freed for exploiting. This is a case where reenchant/disenchant/enchant do have a vital core meaning.

Becoming Placed: Imagination and Reenchantment

Part I: Disenchantment or How We Became Unplaced

As this is a huge topic, I’m focusing a lot on one key player in the western history of disenchantment: Francis Bacon (1561-1626) because of the enormous impact he had and central role in the development of science.

To understand Bacon and his thinking it’s necessary to understand his historical context, including religious struggle, his Puritan sympathies, the backdrop of technical skills, poor laws, etc. His father had benefitted in the great upheavals of the closing of the monasteries and the seizing and redistribution of the vast lands of the Church under the Protestant monarchs. This was a time of enclosures of common lands and resistance against them. As the subsistence economy of feudal times began to be disrupted and broken up large numbers of displaced people were on the roads, the vagabonds. This is the world he grew up in, what Max Weber called the Protestant Revolution and the birth of capitalism. Bacon flourished and was in government under James I (James VI of Scotland) who in his younger years was paranoid of being harmed by witches, and even thought he had almost been drowned by them during a voyage with his bride from Norway to Britain. The king wrote a famous tract on diabolical witchcraft, the Demonomanie. Bacon was very aware of the investigations and procedures that were used at the time on the bodies of women in witchcraft investigations, and the rhetoric of that will permeate his scientific work.

Bacon had some of the strongest influence on the development of modern science, and his rhetoric is especially revealing of his disdain for the natural world and how it must be violently interrogated. He also saw himself very much at odds with the Renaissance magus or with the alchemist. And his rhetoric also shows his acute awareness of witchcraft interrogations and torture.

A few quotes from the ‘great man’:

“The magus was wrong in thinking his effort was to assist nature.”

James I, his patron and book on witches referenced below:

“For you have but to follow and as it were hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lea and drive her afterward to the same place again…..Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object—as your majesty has shown in your own example” (Merchant 168).

“For like as a man’s disposition is never well known or proved till he be crossed, nor Proteus ever changed shapes till he was straitened and held fast, so nature exhibits herself more clearly under the trials and vexations of art (mechanical devices) than when left to herself.” His rhetoric of the womb is particularly revealing: “There is therefore much ground for hoping that there are still laid up in the womb of nature many secrets of excellent use having no affinity or parallelism with anything that is now known…only by the method which we are not treating can they be speedily and suddenly and simultaneously presented and anticipated.”

Bacon believed man could recover the power over nature that had been lost when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Merchant 170).

More thoughts on female Nature:

“She is either free and follows her ordinary course of development as in the heaven, in the animal and vegetable creation, and in the general array of the universe; or she is driven out of her ordinary course by the perverseness, insolence, and forcedness of mater and violence of impediments, as in the case of monsters; or lastly, she is put in constraint, modeled, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man; as in things artificial. 170

Nature would not come on her own—she had to be bound and forced. Miners and smiths Bacon thought were the pioneers. People should forsake “Minerva and the Muses as barren virgins, to rely upon Vulcan” (171). Alchemists should throw out their books. Go completely empirical and material, in other words.

The new system of investigation, that is modern science, would combine mechanical technology and the new method of science, a “New Organon”. It aimed “to endeavor to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe’. Bacon believed this was a divine bequest to man.

And so a new objectivity was made: the role of observing. As Ran Priur, a green anarchist has written: “To observe something is to perceive it while distancing oneself emotionally and physically, to have a one-way channel of “information” moving from the observer thing to “self”, which is defined as not being part of that thing” (Green Anarchy 59).

And so Bacon’s most ambitious book was New Atlantis published in 1627, a year after his death. Here he envisions a utopia with research facilities that eerily foreshadow contemporary laboratories. A highly scientific and Christian (Protestant, of course) culture is revealed in the remoteness of the southern reaches of the Pacific, a small continent named Bensalem. It is governed by a patriarchal scientific body called Solomon’s House. The narrator of this fiction was on a ship that had been traveling from Peru to Asia but became adrift in the infamous doldrums—and for such a long time that its stocks ran perilously low. But at the time of their direst need they saw clouds piling up on the horizon, a sign of land. Soon it turns out that they have been sighted and a small boat comes up to them and escorts them into the harbor of this land. There they are quarantined. The oddest think about this scientific nation is that they are unknown to Europe and Asia and the rest of the world but they know about every nation, having been surveilling them for centuries, basically. They are aware of current events as well as the history of the various nations. Solomon’s House practitioners seem to know all, casting a scientific gaze across the planet. Its agents have long disguised themselves as members of various cultures and passed among them incognito. Then they return with their reports and surveys. The governor who visits the sequestered men from the ship questions their selected elite and some questions but not all and reveals the history of this hidden nation. Long ago their nation had been better known and they reveal the tale of how Bensalem had converted to Christianity via the descent of a mysterious pillar of light which rotated on the nearby sea, and which revealed a box containing the Bible. In the ensuing years a blend of science and religion had proliferated; the eye of Bensalem, as the country was called seems like a colossal and haunting eye that is able to veil itself (some mythic resonance there!). A vision of science as invisible itself, yet always gazing on a world that it has penetrated, is a trope that would play out tremendously in centuries to come.

Nineteen hundred years previously, this Atlantis of the Pacific was governed by a kind of Platonic philosopher king named Solomon who founded the Institute, called both Solomon’s House and the College of the Six Days’ Works. The governor related to the men that the House was named for the Hebrew king and that it held the book of Natural History written by that wise king—a work that had been lost to the rest of the world, and that through familiarity with this text and cataloguing the Biblical God’s works had come the other name of the College. This shows the heart of Bacon’s ideology, that namely the earth had been created for Man, and that it was time that men learned how to use all of the resources that god had provided that lay in wait; in utilitarian fashion all species and aspects of the planet inherently existed for human exploitation and with the new scientific method were ripe for the taking.

“The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible”.

The governor goes onto describe Solomon’s House and some of its key projects: it is an amazing document with Bacon being quite prescient about many things to come. There are deep underground mines and chambers where various experiments are carried out as well as high towers up to half a mile in height with observatories. There are establishments which sound remarkably like places for genetic engineering. “We have means to make…diverse new plants, differing from the vulgar. “By art likewise, we make them greater or taller than their kind is, and contrariwise barren and no generative; also we make them different in color, shape, activity—many new kinds….We make a number of serpents, worms, flies, fishes, of putrefaction, whereas some are advanced(in effect) to be perfect creatures, like beasts or birds, and have sexes, and do propagate. Neither do we do this by chance, but we know beforehand, of what matter and commixture, what kind of those creatures will arise.” Sounds like a manifesto for Monsanto! Bensalem’s shadow could be the plastic continent now arising in the eastern Pacific, the so-called Great Garbage Patch.

From such vision the laboratory science of Robert Boyle could be grounded later in the century (which has set the tone for lab science all the way to today). This new science would be stamped with a Protestant character…sober and chaste as technoscience remains. Science historian and theorist, Donna Haraway writes of the knowledge produced that was, “constructed to have the ground-breaking capacity to ground social order objectively, literally. This separation of expert knowledge from mere opinion as the legitimating knowledge for ways of life, without appeals to transcendent authority or to abstract uncertainty of any kind, is a founding gesture of what we call modernity.” Immeasurable violence was required for its founding.

A breather: there was so much resistance to the enclosures, the draining of wetlands and loss of common lands, the deprival of rights to use woods for sustenance, etc. at the times. Some inspiring examples of this comes from the Fen Dwellers of East Anglia, whose tavern protest songs display a life lived in deep relationality, and heart-breaking loss as early agribusiness interests drained the fens. Here is a song:

Fen song

 Come brethren of the water, let us all assemble,

To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble

For we shall rue it, if’t be true, that Fens be undertaken,

And where we feed in fen and reed, they’ll feed both Beef and Bacon.

The feathered Fowls have wings to fly to other nations;

but we have no such things, to help our transportations;

We must give place (oh grievous case) to horned beast and cattle

Except that we canal agree to drive them out by battle (Merchant 60).

 

Newton and Descartes on Space

 

Descartes was most interested in measurability. For him, place was a subordinate feature of matter and space, parasitic on res extensa. For Newton place becomes nothing but a means of measurement. Place is dissolved into absolute space, place at best becomes a marker. Places are conceived as mere parts of space; the geometrizing of space that occurs there belongs properly to mechanics, that is to laws governing material bodies at rest, or in motion….the aim of Newtonian geometry is measurement. “Therefore, geometry is founded in mechanical practice,” says Newton, and is “nothing but the part of universal mechanics which accurately proposes and demonstrates the art of measuring.” But the basis of measuring is precisely the regularity, the homogeneity of the space to be measured. In this way, too, the triumph of space over place is assured, given that implacement, moving into place asks merely to be experienced or perceived, not to be measured…” (Casey 147).

This radical predominance of Space occurs in the zeitgeist (and its corollary of measurability) of the early capitalism of the times….It can hardly be accidental as a new economic orientation, capitalist relations for which everything was resource to be used, measured, sold for profit that the absolutism of space which dissolved all places reigned. All while place after place was being conquered, and peoples decimated and enslaved in vast new worlds, whose wealth needed to be measured and sent to Europe. Even those illimitable regions of the sea were lined with longitude and latitude. All must be measured, quantified and made open, after being stripped of qualities.

 

After having just transited through three airports I brought up airports as de-placed spaces. Edward Casey quotes philosopher Lassiter on such interchangeability that has become ubiquitous in modern life: “for the modern self, all places are essentially the same: in the uniform, homogenous space of the Euclidean-Newtonian grid, all places are essentially interchangeable. Our homes, even our places for homes are defined by objective measures.” And flying is the quintessential modern activity. Great point was brought up by an attendee: airports, and these other deplaced sites can be mythologized as the sci-fi writer J.G. Ballard did brilliantly.

The ocean is also for the westerner (but not at all for the Polynesian, or Micronesian for example), a nearly endless emptied out SPACE, devoid of place, an abstraction of the Newtonian world.

In consideration of all this I keep wondering why do Pagans always talk about SPACE, creating sacred space and so on, but not much about PLACE?

References

Francis Bacon. New Atlantis.                                                                                        Edward Casey. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History.                                   Donna Haraway. Modest_Witness @ Second_Millennium.                                 Carolyn Merchant. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution.                                                                                                                  Uncivilized: The Best of Green Anarchy.               

 Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism.