My latest essay at The Wild Hunt is up. Among other topics, I write about Hermes slaying Argos and ARGUS, wolves devouring Milo of Croton and Milo Yiannopoulos, and both Sigurd and Melampous in relation to animism and pipeline resistance.
The story is still unfolding about a man who lost his life to police bullets after an act of sabotage that disabled a section of Sabal Trail pipeline construction in Marion County last week, on February 26, 2017.
We know that there will be more to say in the coming days or weeks, as family and friends come forward with stories of James’ life. But we felt a need to acknowledge what has happened while the incident is fresh on peoples’ minds and questions are surfacing around his motivations, the value of the actions he took and the response of law enforcement.
First off, it must be noted that his action effectively disabled recent construction activity in a highly controversial area, mere miles from the crossing of preserves including Pruitt, Halpata Tastanaki and the Marjorie Carr Greenway, with sensitive wetlands and endangered species being impacted. This includes land which survived the decades-long Cross Barge Canal battle, only to be torn up for this pipeline.
Pipeline representatives have indicated that they anticipated getting this section in the ground early this week, but will no longer be able to do so as a result of the damage.
Second, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office has released an updated statement confirming that in the interaction with Marker, “no law enforcement officer was injured or fired at.” But we have not heard any statement from the Sheriff on plans to release dash-cam video footage that would justify their use of deadly force against Marker. While his act may have been destructive to property, there is no evidence of it being physically violent. At this point, the primary element of danger in the situation appears to be in the police decision to initiate a high-speed chase.
And lastly, while few details of Markers life are available publicly, we have learned that he was known by friends as a lover of the Earth and humanity, that he was a military veteran, that he participated in environmental/social advocacy, and that he was a father.
We understand that there are complex feelings among those who have been part of fighting this pipeline, and while we don’t wish to dismiss difficult conversations, we feel that focusing on honoring the sacrifice Marker made to take a stand against this pipeline is of a greater immediate importance than debating the strategy, tactics or morality of his action.
We send our sincere condolences to friends and family of Marker. If there is a public memorial site or event in the future, we will do our best to let folks know about it.
My latest article at The Wild Hunt, “Resiliency and the Spirit War,” is up.
Though She is not mentioned explicitly in the article, it was Ariadne who told me to do work around resiliency. Hail Ariadne!
The Guardian has an interesting article about villain hitters in Hong Kong, who are professional sorcerers specializing in curse magic. They are mostly elderly women, and they typically set up shop in stalls under bridges:
At roadside stalls with burning incense and an assortment of statues of deities, the sorcerers hit a paper effigy with their shoe while cursing the villain in question. If there is a specific target, patrons can write a name on the paper or bring a photo.
Once it has been beaten to shreds, the sorcerers rub the remains with a slab of pork fat and burn it. They then chant for good fortune, and all for just HK$50 (£5.25). […] The ritual originated centuries ago, when farmers in southern China performed the ceremony to drive away evil spirits. […] Aside from hexing enemies, the women advertise spells to cure illness, stop babies from crying, help souls crossover and even [sic] contact dead ancestors for marital advice.
Apparently, patrons have been targeting politicians lately: “As his popularity plummeted, Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, has been increasingly in the crosshairs of the roadside retribution vendors.”
A stream of people have brought Leung’s photo to be hit, Wong said, but she would not take credit for his decision not to seek a second term in elections next year. Tourists from neighbouring Taiwan have also stopped at her shrine, paying to curse their former president Ma Ying-jeou.
Political tension in Hong Kong exploded two years ago, resulting in nearly three months of street protests, road occupations and constant calls for Leung to step down led by what became know as the umbrella movement.
“People felt depressed and powerless in the immediate aftermath of the umbrella movement, as even such a large scale mobilisation failed to bring about any observable change,” said Mathew Wong, a politics professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Villain hitting offers another type of power. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “the concept of politics will have then merged entirely into a war of spirits…there will be wars such as the earth has never seen.”
This is a fragment of an altar to the Matronae Veteranehae, the Matrons of Veterans. It comes from the area around Embken and Wollersheim, which are neighborhoods of modern-day Nideggen, Germany. Various inscriptions have been found in the area, probably all from the same sanctuary. It dates from 150-200 C.E.
This partial inscription reads:
Which probably is short for: Mat[ronis] / Veter[anehis] / L[ucius] Sev[erinus] / Tac[itus?] –/—-, “To the Matronae Veteranehae, Lucius Severinus Tacitus–/—-”
The end of the inscription may have been a formula such as VSLM (votum solvit libens merito, “fulfilled his vow willingly and deservedly” or DD (donum dedit, “gave this gift”).
In The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland, Alex Garman writes:
“Veteranehae” derives from the Latin veterani which means retired soldiers. The name and the location of the site suggest that some of the surrounding farms were owned or managed by retired Roman soldiers. The inscriptions […] do not record any ranks or positions held. (55)
My column for The Wild Hunt this month is a book review of Benebell Wen’s The Tao of Craft, which is about designing and using Chinese 符 (fú) sigils. My review largely focuses on Wen’s nuanced approach to cultural context (and thus the question of appropriation, which she deals with well), working with spirits, and magic as a craft.
The Iceni were a Brythonic tribe living in what is now Norfolk. They voluntarily allied with the Romans when Claudius invaded in 43 CE, but revolted in 47 against the pro-praetor’s attempt to disarm them.¹ A colony of veterans was stationed at Camolodunum to dissuade further revolts. The coins of the Iceni included depictions of horses and wheels and flowers.
Though defeated in 47, the Iceni remained nominally independent under King Prasutagus. When Prasutagus died in 60, he named both the Roman Emperor Nero and his two daughters as his heirs. His wife, Boudica, was whipped, and his daughters were raped.² According to Tacitus, it was the veterans settled at Camolodunum who were particularly responsible for committing outrages against the Iceni:
For these new settlers in the colony of Camulodunum drove people out of their houses, ejected them from their farms, called them captives and slaves, and the lawlessness of the veterans was encouraged by the soldiers, who lived a similar life and hoped for similar license.
Furthermore, Roman moneylenders, including Seneca the Younger, demanded repayment of loans from the Iceni.³ Meanwhile, the Roman governor was busy campaigning against rebel Druids on the island of Mona (modern Anglesey).4 Queen Boudica led the Iceni and many other British tribes in revolt against the Romans.
Cassius Dio, writing well over a hundred years later, describes Boudica as being exceptionally tall, having a fierce glare, harsh voice, red-brown hair to her hips, a large golden necklace around her neck, a multi-colored tunic covered by a heavy cloak fastened by a broach, armed with a spear and riding a chariot.5
He attributes a speech to her wherein she declares, “let us show them [the Romans] that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves.” According to his account, she then released a hare from her cloak as a form of divination similar to Etruscan augury, it ran in an auspicious direction, and she then prayed to the goddess Andraste “for victory, preservation of life, and liberty.” He also names “Andate” as the Iceni equivalent of the Roman Victoria, and alleges human sacrifice in Her sacred grove.6
At Camolodunum, Boudica’s first target, the statue of Victoria fell down and turned Her back towards the enemy as if fleeing. “Women excited to frenzy prophesied impending desturction,” the ocean was seen to be blood-red, a submerged town was seen in the Thames, the theater was filled with the wailing of spirits and the Senate was haunted by a disembodied voice laughing and speaking in a foreign language.7 Archaeological evidence suggests that when Boudica’s rebels sacked Camolodunum, whatever buildings they could not burn, they methodically leveled to the ground.8 Boudica next defeated the Ninth Legion, then proceeded to attack Londinium and Verulamium.9 Archaeologists have found layers of charred rubble in London dating to Boudica’s revolt.10
The Roman governor withdrew from Mona, gathered 10,000 troops, and fought a pitched battle against the British rebels, who brought their families in wagons to the edge of the battlefield.11 When the battle turned against the Britons, the wagons impeded their retreat, and they were slaughtered: Tacitus claims that 80,000 Britons were killed on that day.12 Boudica died, either through committing suicide with poison13 or because of illness.14 In the entire uprising, Tacitus claims that 70,000 Romans and allied Britons were killed,15 while Cassius Dio claims 80,000.16
- Tacitus, Annals 12.31.
- Ibid. 14.31.
- Cassius Dio, Roman History 62.2.
- Tacitus 14.30.
- Cassius Dio 62.2.
- Ibid. 62.5-6.
- Tacitus 14.32, many of the omens also repeated in Cassius Dio 62.1
- Jason Burke, “Dig uncovers Boudicca’s brutal streak.”
- Tacitus 14.32-3.
- Museum of London.
- Tacitus 14.34.
- Ibid. 14.37.
- Cassius Dio 62.12.
- Tacitus 14.33.
- Cassius Dio 62.1.