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Posted by Heather Greene

TWH – Around the world, there are artifacts and other pieces of history brought together to celebrate, honor, explore, and preserve the practice of magic in its many cultures forms. These museums and gallery collections are dedicated to showcasing regional folk magic, Witchcraft, and other forms of the occult. There are also dedicated museums that focus on the history of Witchcraft persecutions and mass hysteria. Some do both.

[Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.]

Before we look at some of permanent museums and seasonal exhibitions, it is important to note that not all magic or occult museums have the same focus.

Often Witchcraft- and occult-themed displays are cross-pollinated with paranormal collections, such as is the case with the Warrens Occult Museum in Connecticut. In these collections, the subject matter is dedicated to paranormal-specific histories such as ghost hauntings. The Warrens Occult Museum, for example, is interested in the work of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren of “Amityville Horror” fame. While there may be some interesting artifacts related to the practice of Witchcraft as known in the Pagan community, paranormal museums have a different focus than the celebration and preservation of spiritually-honored magical practice.

Similarly, most lists of magic-related museums don’t differentiate between magic, as practiced by Pagans, and magic as in Harry Houdini’s craft. There are many museums dedicated to the art of illusion, such as in the American Museum of Magic. However, this collection and other like it should be confused with the displays found in museums dedicated to Witchcraft and the occult.

Just as with the collections focusing on the paranormal or illusion-based magic, some museums are solely dedicated to fictional magic, as is the case in a small museum in Stratford-upon-Avon, located near Shakespeare’s birthplace. Magic Alley and the World of Wizard’s Thatch is a little-known tourist location that is often listed as a museum of magic. However, its focus is Dave Matthews’ fictional world in the Chonicles of the Wizard’s Thatch. It has its own draw, but its focus is strictly fictional magic.

Today we offer our own list of interesting museums and exhibitions around the world that do showcase, in some form, the practice of Witchcraft, the occult, or magic within a spiritual understanding. Some collections take up whole museums, and some are part of a smaller display buried in a storefront or on book shelves of libraries.

Regardless of the size and scope, for the Pagan, Heathen, or polytheist, these sites can offer a connection to history through a common spiritual understanding, answer questions, or even inspire news ones.

Museums and galleries

  • Arguably the most famous museum is the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, at the southwestern corner of the isle of Britain. The museum has been a rich repository of artifacts and lore since 1960. Its collection has grown to more than 3,000 objects and some 7,000 books to cement it as a place of pilgrimage for Pagans of all stripes and a curious draw for tourists visiting the fishing village. A recent exhibition is “Poppets, Pins, and Power: the art of cursing.” The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is one of most extensive and dedicated museums on the occult, Witchcraft, and folk magical practice.
  • Possibly just as famous is the Salem Witch Museum. However, the Massachusetts-based site has a very different in focus than the museum in Cornwall. The Salem Witch Museum chronicles the infamous moral panic and witch trials that the area endured in the late 1600s. The Salem Witch Museum is not focused on Witchcraft practice, but rather on the preserving the city’s famed history. Along with that museum are a number of other historical sites that explore early U.S. regional history.
  • Similarily, in Zugarramurdi, Spain, the Museo de las Brujas shares the history of that region’s Witchcraft persecutions that occurred during the Inquisition. The museum was founded in 2007, the museums attempts to demonstrate both the reality of magical practice and the superstitions that were held throughout history.
  • The curators at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, located in Hólmavík, are seeking to preserve the history of magical practice found in that region of the world. According to the site, work on the exhibition has been on going since 1996. It includes Icelandic grimoires, runes, stones, and also catalogs the area’s Witchcraft persecution history.
  • In New Orleans, visitors can explore the city’s Voodoo history. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has been in operation since 1972, and is considered one of the most interesting small American museums. It is located in the city’s French Quarter, and offers a range of experiences and exhibitions, including readings, tours, and more.
  • Italy boasts a tarot museum. Located in Bologna, the Museo dei Tarocchi says that it treats art and tarot with some respect, showcasing that particular intersection. It offers “an opportunity to all artists who have been working on this subject matter and will bring to light what is often at risk of remaining hidden and of being forgotten.”
  • In Belgium, there is another tarot museum. Located in Mechelen and run by Guido Gillabel, this museum showcases “2500 contemporary and antique tarot decks, fortune-telling games, old etchings, funny tarot gadgets.
  • Owned and operated by Pagans, there is of course the new Buckland’s Gallery of Witchcraft and Magic. As we have reported in the past, Raymond Buckland originally set up his museum in the 1960s on Long Island. Over the decades and several moves, the museum is now located in Cleveland, Ohio. The collection includes the many items and books that Buckland had collected over many years of personal practice.
  • Another Pagan-owned gallery is located across the U.S. in Santa Cruz, California. Operated by Oberon Zell, the Academy of Arcana boasts the collections of both Zell himself, and Morning Glory Zell, including her extensive collection of goddess figurines. After Morning Glory died in 2014, Oberon launched the Academy to showcase the many Pagan and magical items that the couple had collected since the start of their practice 50 years ago.
  • Other similar museums located around the world include the Museum of Witchcraft Switzerland (Hexenmuseum Schweiz), and the Museum of Witchcraft and dark forces (Obscurum Thale)  in Germany,

Collections and special exhibitions

  • Cornell University Libraries boast an extensive collection of rare historic Witchcraft material, which also includes movie posters from Witch-related movies. The posters as well as the material are now on display in a special exhibition. The collection is called “the World Be’witched” and features “some of the earliest known writings on witches as well as 21st-century witchcraft movie posters to illustrate how popular views on witches have evolved over 500 years.” The exhibition is on display Oct. 31 through August 2018 at the Kroch Library’s Hirshland Gallery.
  • The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London also has a Witchcraft collection, and it is already on display. It includes the institute’s many books on Witchcraft, both academic texts and original source material. Curators of the exhibition, called “Accusations of Witchcraft,” highlight four specific cases of British Witchcraft to showcase the collection and inform visitors. The exhibition will be available through Oct. 31, and is located on the 3rd floor of IHR.
  • Not to be outdone, the British Library located in London has opened a new exhibition called “Harry Pottery: a history of magic.” While the exhibition does include material from J.K. Rowling’s famous book series, the focus is not on that fictional world. Curators have brought together the libraries extensive material and artifacts on Witchcraft to explore the history inspiring the books. “We unveil rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.” They also included the “original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, both on display for the first time.”

  • Connecticut’s Windham Textile & History Museum has staged a new exhibit called “Nightmare on Main” that features both Witchcraft history as well as fictional constructions. Located in Willimatic, the museum will run the Witch-themed exhibit through Nov, 17, 2017.

Libraries

  • Cardiff University Library, located in Wales, maintains a special Witchcraft historical collection similar to Cornell University and other large research institutions. Such libraries maintain historical documents used predominantly for research. Cardiff is not currently hosting an exhibition of its Witchcraft material.
  • Owned and operated by Pagans, the New Alexandrian Library has been operated since 2014 in its own building. Located in Delaware, the NAL is “dedicated to the preservation of books, periodicals, newsletters, music, media, art works, artifacts, photographs, and digital media focused on the metaphysical aspects of all religions and traditions.” Where most large libraries might have Witchcraft collections, the NAL’s entire collection is Witchcraft- and Pagan-related.
  • Across the country, the Adocyntyn Research Library provides the same service. Like NAL, Adocyntyn is operated by Pagans and its entire collection is devoted to the Pagan community. Adocyntyn has its own space located in Albany, California.
  • As we reported, Frederick CUUPS has just acquired a Pagan library collection. It is not yet available. However, it will provide yet another Pagan-run collection of material focused on the occult, Witchcraft, and magic.
  • Other examples of libraries that contain occult, magic, and Witchcraft related material include: the Ritman Library in the Netherlands and the University of Miami.

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Posted by Arash Azizi

Gholamreza Takhti in Tehran. Image from Namnak.com and distributed with the intention to share.

Listen in on a group of young Iranians talking about sports and you are most likely to hear about football. The global fever over ‘the Beautiful Game’ has for decades captured the Middle Eastern country and Lionel Messi is just about the biggest global celebrity here (if slightly hated for a goal he scored against Iran in the last World Cup). But Football has always had a serious rival in Iran: wrestling.

If in football, Iran remains something of a middle power (and that in the biased estimation of this writer), in wrestling, the country is objectively among the best in the world. Of the 69 medals that Iranian athletes have ever scored in Olympics, 43 were gained in wrestling. Three of those medals were won by Gholamreza Takhti, probably Iran’s best-loved athlete of all time.

As the fiftieth anniversary of Takhti’s death (On January 7, 1968) approaches, plans are already underway to commemorate him. He was recently honored by a bust installed in United States Sports Academy, a regional institution in Daphne, Alabama. At a time when the US government has adopted an ever more bellicose attitude toward Iran, events like this remind us of important people-to-people contact between Iranians and Americans.

Jahan Pahlevan: Takhti, the most notable Iranian athlete

The news of Takhti being honored in the US was widely shared by Iranians. This foreign recognition generates much pride as Takhti's historical significance goes beyond athletics. He is something of a modern-day saint, a mythical figure about whose life many fantastical stories are told, few of which are based on fact. But the stories do reflect the main trends of Takhti’s life and how he, inside and outside the ring, encapsulated values that many in Iran today feel nostalgia for.

Takhti was born in 1930 in a working-class district of southern Tehran. His parents were also born in the capital, although they descended from Turkic peoples of the old city of Hamedan. He competed in the Helsinki 1952 Olympics, and became one of the first Iranian athletes to win a medal in the global games. Four years later, during the 1956 Melbourne games, he would become the very first Iranian to win an Olympic gold together with fellow free-style wrester Emam-Ali Habibi, who won his gold later that same day.

Takhti in the 1956 Melbourne, winning Iran's first-ever Olympics gold — Photo from Fars News Agency

Takhti’s athletic achievements are considerable, however not central to his legend in Iran. Central to his hero status is a quality best described by an old Iranian concept: Pahlevani. Strictly speaking, Pahlevani refers to a traditional athletic ritual, now recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage“. The ritual used to train warriors of the ancient Persian Empire, centuries before the birth of Christ. But Pahlevani has also come to mean sportsmanship, fairness and devotion to people. The belief that Takhti was a Pahlevan par excellence is exemplified by the nickname he was given: Jahan Pahlavan, or in English, the Pahlavan of the world.

In the ring, Takhti was thought to always be fair to his opponents. Aleksandr Medvev, a Soviet wrestler known as being among the best in history, once told a story of how Takhti had refused to touch his right leg because he knew it was injured. But it is the stories outside the ring that have defined much of Takhti’s legacy.

A Committed Socialist and Political Activist

Growing up in the most tumultuous era of Iranian politics, Takhti was a committed socialist and political activist. He was 20 years old when the anti-colonialist Mohammad Mossadegh was elected as the prime minister of Iran. Backed by a large coalition, including the Iran’s strong communist Tudeh Party, Mossadegh nationalized oil assets and began standing up to the British and American-backed Shah. In 1953,Mossadegh was overthrown in a coup organized primarily by the CIA. Takhti was among the millions of young Iranians who had been actively supporting the prime minister.

In the aftermath of the 1953 coup, as the left and nationalists tried to organize a resistance, Takhti joined the Socialist Party founded by Mohammad Ali Khonji, a Bahraini-born lawyer who had left the communist party in 1947, along with many others who defined themselves as socialists not aligned to Moscow.

Already well-known as a national champion and an Olympian, Takhti was among the Socialist Party’s most popular figures. He was picked as its deputy general secretary. Takhti also sat on the Athletes Committee of the National Resistance Front, the umbrella anti-coup organization formed by comrades of Mossadegh, who had been put under house arrest after the putsch. In 1962, the congress of Mossadegh’s National Front elected Takhti as a member of its Central Council.

Takhti’s devotion to democratic and socialist values was reflected in his social life. He was known to be down to earth, organizing help for the poor and always taking time to speak to people who approached him. When a massive earthquake hit cities and villages in the plain of Qazvin, killing 20,000 and leaving many homeless, Takhti spearheaded fundraising efforts. The sporting giant hit the streets with a box around his neck and a megaphone at his mouth, raising unprecedented sums.  

Takhti's Opposition to the Shah

Takhti's vocal criticism represented a particularly dangerous threat to the establishment and he was put under enormous pressure by the imperial government. His death in 1968, at the age of 37 is shrouded in mystery.

His body was found in a room in Tehran’s Hotel Atlantic and the official cause of death was registered as suicide. Some support for this version of events is offered by the fact that he had registered his will two days before his death, giving the guardianship of his son, Babak, only a few months old, to Kazem Hasibi, a well-known anti-Shah socialist.

But in the politically charged 1960’s the deaths of anti-Shah figures were inevitably linked to the Shah’s powerful secret police, the Savak. Takhti had been arrested many times and the Savak had interrogated him regularly for years.

Jalal Ale Ahmad, a prominent anti-Shah intellectual, was speaking for many when he said: “Not even for a moment did anyone believe the suicide story.” 

Takhti: A Post-Revolutionary Hero

Even if Takhti's death was a suicide, many say he was driven to it by a brutal government.

Dariush Ashoori, a critical intellectual, saw something bigger in the demise of Takhti, “a man who was destined for defeat.” Just a few days after his passing was reported, Ashoori spoke of the death as symbolizing the fall of Iran’s traditional values:

Takhti was the highest reflection or the last glimmer of the light of our traditional Pahlevani tradition. That his light has died with suicide is decisive and meaningful. Takhti represented a moral behavior, a tradition, a universe of values with deep and ancient roots and in intense contradiction with the status quo.

Takhti’s legacy was to outlive the monarchical regime he opposed. After the 1979 revolution, he was celebrated by the new revolutionary regime, although his non-islamist background was erased. Recently shared on social media was a picture of a commemorative plate sold in an antique shop in Tehran which featured Takhti next to Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, as well as Ayatollah Shariatmadari, the popular cleric from the northwestern city of Tabriz who was quickly suppressed after opposing Khomeini’s power grab in the early years of the revolution.

Many tournaments were named after Takhti and almost every city has a stadium or more named after him. He came to represent all the values that the decadent monarchy had forgotten and that the new republic said it would reclaim.

Takhti alongside Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and Ayatollah Shariatmadari, the popular cleric from the northwestern city of Tabriz, among others. Photo from Iran-based Telegram channels.

Looking at the Iran of 2017, few citizens would agree that the heroic values of the socialist Pahlevan are reigning today in a society that is undemocratic, capitalistic and ever more consumerist. But his remains an example of model behavior for athletes and others. Masood Shojayi, the Iranian footballer who was barred from Iran’s national team because he took part in an European club game against an Israeli team, recently posted a picture of him, citing him as a role model.

Babak Takhti, in a widely shared message on social media, compared Shojayi with his father and lamented his exclusion. Half a century after an untimely death, Takhti’s shadow reigns over a society that has struggled over values for decades. That an institution in the US celebrates such a central Iranian figure shows that there is much more to relations between the peoples of these two countries. Beyond the fuming speeches of Khamenei or Trump, lies a mutual respect for the legacy of someone of Takhti's stature. 

Halfway

Oct. 22nd, 2017 09:59 am
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Posted by SuperUser

We've just passed the halfway point for Las Vegas shooting victims. 

  1. Lisa Romero
  2. Denise Salmon Burditus
  3. Rhonda LeRocque
  4. Victor Link
  5. Charleston Hartfield
  6. Chris Hazencomb
  7. Calla Medig
  8. Thomas Day, Jr.
  9. Jack Beaton
  10. Keri Galvan
  11. Rocio Guillen
  12. Cameron Robinson
  13. Jennifer Irvine
  14. Candice Bowers
  15. Kelsey Breanne Meadows, 28
  16. Stacee Ann Etcheber, 50
  17. Carrie Rae Barnette, 34
  18. Kurt Allen Von Tillow, 55
  19. Michelle Vo, 32
  20. John Joseph Phippen, 56
  21. Heather Lorraine Alvarado, 35
  22. Stephen Richard Berger, 44
  23. Bailey Schweitzer, 20
  24. Andrea Lee Anna Castilla, 28
  25. Erick Silva, 21
  26. Laura Anne Shipp, 50
  27. Patricia Mestas, 67
  28. Denise Cohen, 58
  29. William W Wolfe, Jr., 42

 

Gacela of the Remembrance of Love

by Federico Garcia Lorca, translation by James Wright

Do not carry your remembrance.
Leave it, alone, in my breast,

tremor of a white cherry tree
in the torment of January.

There divides me from the dead
a wall of difficult dreams.

I give the pain of a fresh lily
for a heart of chalk.

All night long, in the orchard
my eyes, like two dogs.

All night long, quinces
of poison, flowing.

Sometimes the wind
is a tulip of fear,

a sick tulip,
daybreak of winter.

A wall of difficult dreams
divides me from the dead.

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Posted by waddiwasiwitch

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SPIKE (looks at her): My soul. It's really there. Kind of stings.



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Column: California Wildfires

Oct. 21st, 2017 06:08 pm
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Posted by Heathen Chinese

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
— Robert Frost



At the time of writing, 22 different wildfires in Northern California have burned 217,566 acres, killed at least 40 people, and destroyed over 5,700 buildings, including entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa; an alarming departure from past wildfires, which have mostly affected rural areas. Over 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate and the smoke caused “the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area.”

[NASA.]

It is common sense that California’s prolonged drought exacerbated many wildfires, but last winter’s pouring rains were no relief, for they too abetted the intensity of the current fires by encouraging the proliferation of annual grasses, which have already died and turned into a fuel source. The fires have also burned the primary wine and marijuana-producing region of California, a region indisputably ruled by the god Dionysos, blackening the skies and bloodying the sun with the ashes of grapevine and cannabis. But Frost’s poem and the current fires bring a different set of powers to mind as well.

Ragnarök

In the old Norse poem Vǫluspá, the vǫlva prophecies to Óðinn that at Ragnarök, the forces of Múspellheimr, the world of fire, will attack the Aesir and Vanir:

51. O’er the sea from the east | there sails a ship
With the people of Múspell, | at the helm stands Loki
After the devourer | do the clown’s sons [fíflmegir] follow
And with them | the brother of Byleist goes


52. Surt fares from the south | with the scourge of branches
The sun of the battle-gods | shone from his sword

In Gylfaginning, the fire giant Surt is the guardian of Múspellheim and fights in the vanguard of the “sons of Múspell” as they cross the rainbow bridge Bifröst, causing it to shatter beneath them. While there is considerable contention about potential Christian influence in Vǫluspá and other accounts of Ragnarök, it is undeniable that the sons of Múspell and the “scourge of branches” are loose upon California right now.

Gylfaginning also contains a strange story in which Thorr and Loki travel to the castle of the giant Útgarða-Loki (“Outyard-Loki”), who challenges the travelers to a series of contests. Loki claims that no one is faster at eating than him, and his boast is contested by a being named “Logi:”

Then a trough was taken and borne in upon the hall-floor and filled with flesh; Loki sat down at the one end and Logi at the other, and each ate as fast as he could, and they met in the middle of the trough. By that time Loki had eaten all the meat from the bones, but Logi likewise had eaten all the meat, and the bones with it, and the trough too; and now it seemed to all as if Loki had lost the game.

In the morning, however, Útgarða-Loki reveals that “he who was called Logi was ‘wild-fire,’ and he burned the trough no less swiftly than the meat.” Dagulf Loptson analyzes this story as an illustration of the difference between Loki as sacred cremation fire and Logi as uncontrolled wildfire (150-151). Both are fire, but one preserves the bones for burial, and the other consumes them entirely. One is directed (though never truly tamed), the other is completely unchecked.

When Loki captains Naglfar, the ship made of dead men’s nails, against the Aesir and Vanir at Ragnarök, the distinction between Loki and Logi is effectively incinerated. All the world is cremated, all the world is consumed. Though some modern Heathens see Surt as “king” of Múspellheimr, Gylfaginning portrays him as a guardian, and Loptson theorizes that Loki may instead be seen as ruler of that land, thus explaining his blood-brotherhood with Óðinn as a pact between two kings. Furthermore, by parallel to Freyr and Njörðr, Loptson suggests that “identifying Loki as a hostage king of Múspellheimr may explain his presence in Asgard, as the Muspilli demonstrate no threat to Ásgarðr until after Loki and his children have been imprisoned, thus breaking the truce between the two nations” (139-140). According to this theory, the broken pact is the dissolution of the world.

Apocalyptic Polytheism

[California Office of Emergency Services.]

In Miðgarðr, it is clear that “mankind has broken the covenant with nature,” as Peter Grey writes in Apocalyptic Witchcraft (4). In California, indigenous tribes used to do controlled burns every year, and historian Mike Davis points out that in addition to climate change, relentless capitalist development of wilderness area makes it inevitable that houses will continue to burn:

This is the deadly conceit behind mainstream environmental politics in California: you say fire, I say climate change, and we both ignore the financial and real-estate juggernaut that drives the suburbanisation of our increasingly inflammable wildlands.

It is too late to restore balance between civilized mankind and nature, but that does not mean that we should not respond to the imbalance:

Apocalypse is not escapism as some suggest. It is being held in the jaws at the threshold of life and death. It is sacred confrontation and revelation. It is utopia and dystopia in eternal exchange. It sees through. In Christianity apocalypse is used by the world haters who argue for war, in the New Age as a panacea for those who long for ascension, I use it to awaken us from dream.

There is no other way to talk about apocalypse. I do not choke the inspiration in my throat. I will not simply watch the last dance or describe the dancers without losing myself amongst them. We must be brought to an awareness of the moment. (6)

The eternal exchange between utopia and dystopia is exemplified in the twin prophecies of Badb (here identified with the Morrígan, who in other texts is described as her sister along with Macha) at the end of the Second Battle of Maige Tuired, one full of blessings—”Strength in each/A cup very full/Full of honey”—and the other much bleaker: “False judgements of old men/False precedents of lawyers/Every man a betrayer/Every son a reaver.”

Like Badb Catha, the battle crow dancing on the points of spears, we must lose ourselves in the last dance, which is also the final battle. Our awareness of the moment demands action, even — especially — in the greatest moment of despair. As Grey writes in “A Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft:”

13. The War is upon us.

14. Choose then to become a Mask.

15. Those with nothing left to lose will dare all.

Disaster

Constant disaster (from the Latin roots dis + aster, “an unfavorable star”) is the new normal in these times of violent climate change, but it is the old normal as well. As was written on the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief page on so-called Columbus Day, “we must remember that for some communities, disasters have been unfolding for centuries, depriving people of life and liberty every single day.” In the wake of disaster, the state prioritizes maintaining its control above all else. Officials of the city of Santa Rosa imposed a curfew within evacuation zones to prevent looting. In Puerto Rico, police and military personnel stay “in luxury hotels with power, clean water, dedicated catered buffets, air conditioning and internet service while elderly residents with cardiac conditions lie sweltering in structurally damaged homes without access to any of the above.” And on October 16th, SWAT teams tellingly decided to spend their resources raiding Mutual Aid Disaster Relief’s base of operations in Puerto Rico.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a network founded on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. Their mission statement frames their project as “solidarity not charity,” explaining that they believe that “disaster survivors themselves are the first responders to crisis; the role of outside aid is to support survivors to support each other.”

They write in their guiding principles that they understand their relationships to be reciprocal: “We seek as much as possible to break down the barriers between givers and receivers of aid. Everyone has something to teach and something to share. And we all need assistance at times.” The ancient Greek word ξένος (xenos) meant both “host” and “guest,” for there was an understanding that the hospitality of the host would be reciprocated if they ever traveled to the home of their guest, a relationship divinely protected by Zeus under his epithet Xenios. In the Bay Area, mutual aid for wildfire survivors has already begun, both organized by people in the North Bay and with people driving up from other parts of the Bay Area to distribute supplies and volunteer medical skills.

Disasters also bring social tensions to the fore: “We recognize that disasters are times of localized upheaval and suffering, but are also opportunities for the rich and powerful to consolidate power.” In California, as elsewhere, one of the major tensions and consolidations of power is prison.

Prisoner firefighters. [CalFire].

The wildfires are being fought by prisoners: “The inmates, who roughly equal the state’s civilian firefighting forces . . . . receive $2 per day for their time spent in any of the state’s 43 inmate firefighter camps, and an extra dollar per hour while on a fire line.” The state has proven extremely unwilling to relinquish any part of its slave labor force. In 2016, when the state of California was considering reducing its prison population of 115,000 prisoners, “lawyers in the office of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris said that releasing too many prisoners ‘at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought.’” The state is literally keeping people in prison longer in order to be able to send them to fight fires. In North Carolina, however, fire provided an opportunity for liberation, the latest in a wave of prison revolts across the country. On Oct. 12 at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, “inmates started a fire around 3 p.m. at the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work. After the fire was started, several inmates tried unsuccessfully to escape.” Dionysos, destroyer of the dungeons and palace of Pentheus, inciter of slave revolts, possesses the epithet Eleutherios: Liberator. Even as his vineyards and marijuana grows burn, a chthonic sacrifice by fire, the use of prisoner firefighters does not escape his notice. Nor should it escape ours.

When I was still a little child, I admired the hardened convict on whom the prison door will always close; I used to visit the bars and the rented rooms his presence had consecrated; I saw with his eyes the blue sky and the flower-filled work of the fields; I followed his fatal scent through city streets. He had more strength than the saints, more sense than any explorer – and he, he alone! was witness to his glory and his rightness.

Along the open road on winter nights, homeless, cold, and hungry, one voice gripped my frozen heart: “Weakness or strength: you exist, that is strength.” You don’t know where you are going or why you are going, go in everywhere, answer everyone. No one will kill you, any more than if you were a corpse.” In the morning my eyes were so vacant and my face so dead, that the people I met may not even have seen me.

In cities, mud went suddenly red and black, like a mirror when a lamp in the next room moves, like treasure in the forest! Good luck, I cried, and I saw a sea of flames and smoke rise to heaven; and left and right, all wealth exploded like a billion thunderbolts.

-Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
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Posted by Rezwan

Kashmiri protestors raise slogans during a protest against the killing of a civilian on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Image from Instagram by Ieshan Wani. Used with permission

Over the past two months, at least 200 women in Indian-administered Kashmir have reported being attacked by masked assailants who cut off their braids. According to many of the victims’ accounts, the perpetrators ambushed the women inside or nearby their homes, and some allegedly sprayed chemicals to render them unconscious before chopping off their hair.

A woman's long hair is associated with her honor, and so forcibly cutting it short is not only an attack on her person but considered an attack on her honor as well. Despite their number, the incidents remain unsolved, and protests are getting fiercer by the day. The situation has highlighted the dangerous distrust that exists between locals and authorities in the already volatile region.

Over the past three decades, the people of the Kashmir Valley have demanded the right to hold a referendum on their independence. In that time, more than 68,000 people have been killed in sporadic uprisings and subsequent crackdowns. The Indian military has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of over 8,000 people.

Many Kashmiris, who live with a strong military presence in their region, are skeptical that security forces are truly in the dark about who is behind the attacks. Some even accuse the state of orchestrating the braid-chopping assaults as a way to frighten the population into submission.

Seema Mustafa explained at The Citizen independent online daily:

It is difficult to believe that these persons can strike at will, enter homes, and get away in Kashmir where even the movements of birds and leaves are tracked. Intelligence agencies that can flush out militants from thin air, have “no idea” about these persons who have the locals chasing shadows, and each other, at any time they so wish.

The “rumor milling and conspiracy theories” being tossed around are many, said Raees –ul-Hamid Paul at Kashmir Reader:

Some people believe that it is the revival of old tactics of New Delhi, creating fear and psychosis in the public to divert them from the sentiment of freedom. But a counter question can be asked, what was the need to use this tactic at this juncture when there was a relative calm on the streets of the valley and people were doing their normal business?

While certain others believe that the motive behind such incidents is to create a soft corner for the police and the mainstream politicians to whom the scared people report and narrate these horror tales. The other theory being propounded is to squeeze the space for the militants in the valley who take refuge in the houses […] because every alien person would be looked upon with doubtful eyes by the local population […] The [Director General of] Police, on the other hand, blamed separatists for exploiting this situation to stoke unrest in the valley.

The distrust in the authorities and fear surrounding the attacks in Kashmir has led to sometimes deadly instances of mob violence. A 70-year-old man mistaken for a “braid chopper” was lynched by his own neighbors in Anantnag. Migrant laborers, non-locals and even foreign tourists have been harassed by crowds suspicious of their motives for being there.

‘Attempts to create mass hysteria’

Some have linked the series of braid-chopping assaults in Kashmir to instances of women's braids being mysteriously chopped off in a number of other Indian states earlier this year.

In many of those cases, locals said it was the work of supernatural forces, or psychiatrists blamed mass hysteria: “From the available evidence, the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered sensorium, likely to seek attention,” the former head of the department of psychiatry at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences told the Hindustan Times in August.

There's been pushback, however, to framing the Kashmir braid-cutting as such. As Mustafa wrote for The Citizen:

And of course there is a third explanation that was hinted at initially, but now is not really heard of as the ghosts have overextended themselves. That the Kashmiri women are hysterical and braid chopping is a figment of their fertile imaginations. But this seems to have been scorched by the widespread of such incidents […] Besides, if this was the case one would expect the authorities to prove it so, and thereby bring the braid chopping inspired terror to an end.

The chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir warned that what was happening in Kashmir was meant to “create mass hysteria”:

But for the moment, Kashmiris remain without answers. Some residents have created night patrols in response. The police have registered dozens of First Incident Reports (FIRs) against alleged braid-choppers and rumor-mongers in Kashmir. According to the police, all the suspects detained so far turned out to be innocent and had no connection with braid-chopping. They are clueless and yet to capture those actually responsible and threatened legal action against those spreading braid-chopping rumors. Cash rewards also were announced to encourage people to report the culprits.

‘We Kashmiri girls feel insecure in our home now’

The situation has seriously impacted Kashmiri women's sense of security, wrote one Twitter user:

It also threatens to reduce the space for women to go without hijab and travel where they please, wrote Arshie Qureshi in Feminism in India. She described the “patriarchal responses” she has experienced since the braid-chopping began:

In the past one week, on numerous occasions, I was asked, rather dictated, by random men and women on streets to cover my head and when I refused, the usual response was that it was women like me who had brought about this infliction of braid chopping on the entire society. Saying this not only depicted their dislike for me not covering my head, but also a certain degree of support for braid chopping of women who refused to cover their heads.

[…] My parents have started becoming uneasy with my movement outside the house in early and late hours when the streets are mostly deserted. I observe most school going females waiting at bus stands accompanied by their parents, especially males. […] So not are their braids just being chopped, the already limited participation of women in public life is gradually shrinking.

Protests have spread across Kashmir region:

The local government in Kashmir has formed a committee to address the attacks and offer medical assistance and counseling to victims. But tensions remain high. Without credible answers, women's place in the public space, as well as peace in the region, seems more and more at risk.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_human_feed

Posted by Rezwan

Kashmiri protestors raise slogans during a protest against the killing of a civilian on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Image from Instagram by Ieshan Wani. Used with permission

Over the past two months, at least 200 women in Indian-administered Kashmir have reported being attacked by masked assailants who cut off their braids. According to many of the victims’ accounts, the perpetrators ambushed the women inside or nearby their homes, and some allegedly sprayed chemicals to render them unconscious before chopping off their hair.

A woman's long hair is associated with her honor, and so forcibly cutting it short is not only an attack on her person but considered an attack on her honor as well. Despite their number, the incidents remain unsolved, and protests are getting fiercer by the day. The situation has highlighted the dangerous distrust that exists between locals and authorities in the already volatile region.

Over the past three decades, the people of the Kashmir Valley have demanded the right to hold a referendum on their independence. In that time, more than 68,000 people have been killed in sporadic uprisings and subsequent crackdowns. The Indian military has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of over 8,000 people.

Many Kashmiris, who live with a strong military presence in their region, are skeptical that security forces are truly in the dark about who is behind the attacks. Some even accuse the state of orchestrating the braid-chopping assaults as a way to frighten the population into submission.

Seema Mustafa explained at The Citizen independent online daily:

It is difficult to believe that these persons can strike at will, enter homes, and get away in Kashmir where even the movements of birds and leaves are tracked. Intelligence agencies that can flush out militants from thin air, have “no idea” about these persons who have the locals chasing shadows, and each other, at any time they so wish.

The “rumor milling and conspiracy theories” being tossed around are many, said Raees –ul-Hamid Paul at Kashmir Reader:

Some people believe that it is the revival of old tactics of New Delhi, creating fear and psychosis in the public to divert them from the sentiment of freedom. But a counter question can be asked, what was the need to use this tactic at this juncture when there was a relative calm on the streets of the valley and people were doing their normal business?

While certain others believe that the motive behind such incidents is to create a soft corner for the police and the mainstream politicians to whom the scared people report and narrate these horror tales. The other theory being propounded is to squeeze the space for the militants in the valley who take refuge in the houses […] because every alien person would be looked upon with doubtful eyes by the local population […] The [Director General of] Police, on the other hand, blamed separatists for exploiting this situation to stoke unrest in the valley.

The distrust in the authorities and fear surrounding the attacks in Kashmir has led to sometimes deadly instances of mob violence. A 70-year-old man mistaken for a “braid chopper” was lynched by his own neighbors in Anantnag. Migrant laborers, non-locals and even foreign tourists have been harassed by crowds suspicious of their motives for being there.

‘Attempts to create mass hysteria’

Some have linked the series of braid-chopping assaults in Kashmir to instances of women's braids being mysteriously chopped off in a number of other Indian states earlier this year.

In many of those cases, locals said it was the work of supernatural forces, or psychiatrists blamed mass hysteria: “From the available evidence, the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered sensorium, likely to seek attention,” the former head of the department of psychiatry at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences told the Hindustan Times in August.

There's been pushback, however, to framing the Kashmir braid-cutting as such. As Mustafa wrote for The Citizen:

And of course there is a third explanation that was hinted at initially, but now is not really heard of as the ghosts have overextended themselves. That the Kashmiri women are hysterical and braid chopping is a figment of their fertile imaginations. But this seems to have been scorched by the widespread of such incidents […] Besides, if this was the case one would expect the authorities to prove it so, and thereby bring the braid chopping inspired terror to an end.

The chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir warned that what was happening in Kashmir was meant to “create mass hysteria”:

But for the moment, Kashmiris remain without answers. Some residents have created night patrols in response. The police have registered dozens of First Incident Reports (FIRs) against alleged braid-choppers and rumor-mongers in Kashmir. According to the police, all the suspects detained so far turned out to be innocent and had no connection with braid-chopping. They are clueless and yet to capture those actually responsible and threatened legal action against those spreading braid-chopping rumors. Cash rewards also were announced to encourage people to report the culprits.

‘We Kashmiri girls feel insecure in our home now’

The situation has seriously impacted Kashmiri women's sense of security, wrote one Twitter user:

It also threatens to reduce the space for women to go without hijab and travel where they please, wrote Arshie Qureshi in Feminism in India. She described the “patriarchal responses” she has experienced since the braid-chopping began:

In the past one week, on numerous occasions, I was asked, rather dictated, by random men and women on streets to cover my head and when I refused, the usual response was that it was women like me who had brought about this infliction of braid chopping on the entire society. Saying this not only depicted their dislike for me not covering my head, but also a certain degree of support for braid chopping of women who refused to cover their heads.

[…] My parents have started becoming uneasy with my movement outside the house in early and late hours when the streets are mostly deserted. I observe most school going females waiting at bus stands accompanied by their parents, especially males. […] So not are their braids just being chopped, the already limited participation of women in public life is gradually shrinking.

Protests have spread across Kashmir region:

The local government in Kashmir has formed a committee to address the attacks and offer medical assistance and counseling to victims. But tensions remain high. Without credible answers, women's place in the public space, as well as peace in the region, seems more and more at risk.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_gender_feed

Posted by Deborah Snell

A photo of Mara Fernanda Castilla, murdered by a ‘Cabify’ driver. Photo shared widely on social media.

The case of teenager Mara Fernanda Castilla whose life was cut short after taking a taxi ordered via the app Cabify has caused public outrage in Mexico and surrounding countries.

On the night of September 7, Mara Castilla was out having a good time with friends at a nightclub in San Andrés Cholula (in the state of Puebla, western Mexico). By the early hours of September 8, when Mara was ready to go home after the party, she ordered a taxi through Cabify but never arrived home.

Several days after her family reported her missing, it was confirmed that Mara's body had been found on a highway in Puebla, wrapped in a sheet and towels bearing the logo of a nearby motel. Shortly before the discovery, the taxi driver in question had already been detained by local authorities. The Governor of Puebla announced the development on Twitter, via a couple of tweets:

With deep sadness I send my condolences to the family of #MaraCastilla. RIP. The alleged perpetrator has been detained and will pay for this crime.

The full weight of the law against the perpetrator of this crime against #MaraCastilla. We will rigorously review the safety standards of @Cabify_Mexico.

Global Voices (GV) has recently reported from Mexico on Uber and Cabify services being flagged by many users for poor quality and the crimes against passengers.

#SiMeMatan (#IfTheyKillMe)

Following the discovery of Castilla's body, which showed signs of sexual violence, demands previously made in Mexico to address gender-based violence against women have resurfaced. During the barrage of #SiMeMatan (#IfTheyKillMe) tweets in May of 2017 — a campaign which aimed to ridicule the double victimization faced by women today — Castilla herself tweeted:

#IfTheyKillMe it is because I liked to go out at night and drink a lot of beer…

This same Twitter hashtag was revived on social media to remember Castilla and the hundreds of femicide cases in which victims are often blamed:

#IfTheyKillMe it will be considered a “crime of passion” not femicide, they will say that I was being provocative, I left with my boyfriend, I'm “slutty,” a drug addict…

Behind every woman tweeting #IfTheyKillMe there is an outraged woman hoping that #NotOneMore ends up being killed.

#IfTheyKillMe I'm sure it will be for having been to a concert or to the theatre at night, I'm sure it will be my fault for enjoying my life.

In March 2016, GV reported on gender-based violence in Mexico including the government's “solution” to the problem, further complicating the bureaucratic system. In May of that same year, GV interviewed an expert lawyer on the subject who confirmed that Mexican women have gotten used to “living with this constant impending fear.”

Protest marches against gender-based violence, as well as the inability of authorities to prevent and sanction it, have been held in 11 federal entities in Mexico.

Indignation transcends borders

Mara Fernanda Castilla's murder case was also publicized in Peru where the media kept up to speed with developments until it was disclosed that her body had been found.

The activist group Ni una menos Perú: Tocan a una, tocan a todas (Not one less – Peru: They touch one woman, they touch all) streamed the #NiUnaMás protest march on its Facebook page:

Screenshot of the ‘Ni una menos – Peru’ group Facebook page. The #NiUnaMás protest was held in Mexico City on 17 September 2017.

The case also appeared in daily newspapers in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, and even the United Nations condemned femicide via Castilla's case via ONU Mujeres México (UNO Women Mexico):

@ONUMujeres and @ONUDHmexico condemn the femicide of #MaraCastilla. More information: https://t.co/GMRMEHtGBU

Through the work of activist groups such as Ni Una Menos Peru and social media campaigns, pressure is mounting to tackle gender-based discrimination and challenge the underlying apathy toward these horrific crimes against women.

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Posted by rbfvid



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Posted by Senti Sojwal

Writers and feminist activists Attiya Taylor and Ailyn Robles started Womanly Magazine in 2012 as a way to circulate women’s health information and resources through the lens of art.

Since its inception, the magazine has evolved to include 20 women working in various roles to build and expand this innovative online platform. They define their mission as “to bridge the gaps between generations, cultures, economic statuses, borders, and any barrier that society tells us should set us apart.”

The first issue is on sex ed and features an incredible array of video, visual art, memoir, and more, addressing topics from female sexuality in Cuba to vaginal health.

For this week’s Feministing Five, I had the pleasure of catching up with Attiya and Ailyn about the creation of the magazine, their own journeys in health awareness, why it’s so important for women of color to educate ourselves about our bodies, and more! Check out the magazine and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @WomanlyMag!

 

Senti Sojwal: What inspired you to marry the worlds of art and women’s health in Womanly Magazine? What is your hope for how exploring these two issue areas in an intersectional way can empower readers?

Attia Taylor: I have been working in the nonprofit world for over 10 years, and my work has been primarily focused on the empowerment of girls and women. I also have a degree in communication, and love researching the ways that people consume information and connect with each other through modern media. When I moved to New York in 2012, I landed an internship with PAPER magazine, and quickly learned during that time that there were many facets of that career track that didn’t work for me, and my passion to serve. However, I still considered print media to be this classic and historic vehicle for the consumption of information. So, after working at Planned Parenthood, I thought about how to take the accurate and valuable preventative health information provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood, and put it before the eyes of women with limited education and access to that information. The end result of that thought process is Womanly Mag. Our goal is to make learning about health and our bodies fun, and digestible for adults. We are currently seeking out ways to make sure women not only learn this information for themselves, but share it with future generations.

Ailyn Robles: I grew up the daughter of an immigrant single mother who very rarely talked about her own health issues, and who was not exposed to the sorts of conversations we aim to create with the content in Womanly. Conversations revolving around sexuality, mental health, and reproductive health were very taboo in my home, despite how much my mother believed she was doing a better job at it than her own mother. Having had to pull words out of her for most of my life, I quickly realized how necessary it was to create intergenerational opportunities where we could learn from each other. Our hope is to continue creating and highlighting captivating artwork that will spark enough attention to make someone say “Hey, Mom,” or ”Hey, Tia, can I show you something?” Being both a visual artist and visual learner taught me the importance of digesting information in different ways. One of our goals is to make the magazine as accessible as possible as we grow, including translating content, as well as adding more visual and audio components.

Senti Sojwal: Issue 1 deals with Sex Ed and features visual art, memoir, video, and more. Can you each discuss one of the pieces featured in this issue and how/why it spoke to you in particular on this issue area?

Attia Taylor: The piece that affirms this work and the magazine for me is, Birth Announcement For Those Who Will And Will Never Be by a close friend and artist, Emily Carris. When we started discussing and researching sex education, we had a discussion around how limited past and present education is in relation to gender, sex, and sexuality. Emily’s piece brought a history of sexual education that is much less acknowledged in these conversations. She challenges us to think of slavery and sex through the lens of Black women, and their choices in history. I love that I can represent a magazine that changes narratives, and tells the stories that never get told.

Ailyn Robles: The Things They Carried drawn by one our art residents, Singha Hon, is one of the most representative pieces of the magazine for me. It’s impactful, inclusive, and insightful, yet simple. Singha’s piece brought to life what women look like to me – being both women with penises, as well as women who carry the weight of the world.

Senti Sojwal: What were your own early experiences in learning about your health and bodies, and how has that inspired you to women’s health activism?

Attia Taylor: I grew up with little to no discussion on sex education, or my body and my growth. In seventh grade, I had my mom order a book for me called Deal With It: A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life because I was naturally curious as to what was happening to my body. In school, we had very limited to no education on our bodies and health. It was the gym teacher teaching us about STDs in one or two classes. I believe that my lack of education kept my curiosity very fresh. I went on to take college courses on these issues, and spent a lot of my personal time learning about these new developments. I was a very shy and anxious kid, so I didn’t know how to ask questions about sex or women’s health at a very young age. I think my curiosity and knowledge and the disparity of education on these topics have married to create my love for women’s health activism.

Ailyn Robles: My mom would probably enjoy telling you about all the times I made her feel uncomfortable with all the questions I had growing up. I couldn’t understand why these questions were considered inappropriate, and why no one wanted to answer them clearly. I was a very curious and sexual teenager, but at the age of sixteen, our family began attending a church where I was guilted and shamed for having lost my virginity. There, I was told that women were responsible for the sins of men, and that I should not hug people because I was not aware of the sexual influence I could have over them. I had already bore witness to similar mentalities in families where young girls were blamed for the abuse by the men in their lives and so, at the age of 18 I left church, and promised myself to advocate for women in any way I could for the rest of my life.

Senti Sojwal: What are your hopes for the future of Womanly Magazine? How would you love to see it grow and evolve?

Attia Taylor: We have big plans for Womanly! There is a significant need and desire for women who look like me and my friends (and our mothers and grandmothers) to take control, learn, and educate themselves and their children on all aspects of women’s health. We will hopefully be able to reach a global audience through travel, research, and localization, and are joining an already growing community of wonderful people and organizations working to give women the opportunity to thrive and succeed in this world. Personally, I would love to have a large summit in the near future, to help forge this community, develop ideas, and come together to further our reach to those who need it most.

Ailyn Robles: We’re an ambitious bunch and know the importance of representation. Because we grew up without being able to see ourselves represented, our goal is to continue making the magazine as inclusive as possible. We also understand the strength that lies in community, and want to create more opportunities to broaden what this looks like. We want to hold workshops that are accessible to people of all backgrounds and incomes. We want to hold events where we celebrate different definitions of womanhood. And we want to continue handing over the pen to people who have historically been silenced, so that we can share the stories that so many women and people can relate to.

Senti Sojwal: Can you each share a feminist artist that you love and why?

Attia Taylor: We’ve had three Womanly Instagram “takeovers” so far, and because I curate the page, I was able to select the artists for each takeover. One of these artists was Sara Gulamali. She is a mixed media visual artist from London, whose work centers around being Muslim, Asian, and British in today’s society. I was so blown away by her takeover, and her work all-together, because she is only 19 years old, and is fearlessly making some of the most groundbreaking and thought provoking art.

Ailyn Robles: Yesika Salgado. The way she expresses not only the experience of being a first generation Latinx navigating two cultures, but also the experience of a self-made creative, I find so relatable. To be brave enough to follow what is in our hearts, and what speaks to us from a higher place is so challenging, and so admirable. She inspires me to continue inspiring myself.

 

Photo courtesy of Jorge Salinas

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Posted by Manny Tejeda-Moreno

I remember certain parts distinctly; or I should better say that the images are clear; some details less so. I was cooking something, but not in a house. It was a professional kitche; there were lots of pots and a few Dutch ovens. I also remember seeing a tin food mill hanging close by. I know I was preparing some kind of food, but it wasn’t a quick dish.  For some reason, I think it was a terrine of some sort. As I looked away from what I was cooking toward the entrance of the area, something happened. The pain was sharp and sudden. I think it was in the chest. I remember holding myself up with my left hand against the stove and a hat —my hat — flew  off to the side and on to a pilot flame. It burned, and I got burned trying to hold myself up, but pulling my hand away made me fall to the floor.

[Pixabay].

Then, when I hit the floor, I could see beneath the stove. It was black with charcoal dust, and I thought it needed cleaning. A moment later, someone was yelling — it was very muffled — and then I was flipped over. The rest I remember even less well. The yelling faded away. It got darker — at least as I remember it now it was a shimmering, odd sort of dark foam – almost like the edge of a fog made from soap suds, and it was sort of everywhere with no starting point. I stood up and waited around. Someone was there, but I don’t remember who.

The next thing I remember is sitting under a tamarind tree at home. It was the one in our backyard, my hands were covered in sticky pulp and I still had pieces of the husk attached to my skin from the goo. I remember more stuff later,  just as you’d expect.

The tamarind tree is my earliest memory. The earlier story is the one I told my parents as soon as I could talk. It didn’t go over well.

In a Christian-dominated society, toddlers talking of such things is neither entertainment nor encouraged. It’s an unappreciated and unwanted type of childhood storytelling that may require a physician, an exorcist or both. Such memories of survival are described by most Christian faiths as the workings of demons. Preexistence is heresy, And when I occasionally tell the story even now, I still creep people out, and it goes from discomfort to fear to anger.

Other faiths and cultures aren’t so sure about the demonic origins of memories crossing the death passage. The transmigration of souls is/was commonly accepted, not just among Hellenic Greeks but by Romans, Celts, Hindus, Jains as well as in the Yoruba faith. In the Yoruba tradition, reincarnation can happen and is often familial. The expectation of reincarnation is even embedded in names like Babatunde which means, “father returns.” While some souls may rest elsewhere, some come back.

I was fortunate. I was raised at the confluence of three religions, and what Catholics and Jews could not explain, the Yoruba could. My experiences were affirmed as normal, requiring spiritual rather than psychiatric attention.

When we approach the Samhain season, I end up reflecting on those childhood memories, and yeah, I really do get the creepy part about it. The transmigration of souls does imply that some of us are our own ancestors (whoops, eerie). I’ve seen the movies too, about the creepy kid doing weird things (someone cue Tubular Bells).

All of that doesn’t quite explain the emotionally-charged reactions around personal reincarnation stories. Reactions that range from simple disbelief to disturbing glances to calls for diagnosis, almost exclusively from parents. It’s not clear why, either. Parents may justifiably worry for their child’s welfare, but what I have come to learn is that these stories are troubling because they confront the illusion of control. The child becomes a vehicle for something that adults cannot explain nor command. Parents look for causes, altering the narrative from normalcy to pathology, from illness to demons; usually never considering that it might be part of the natural flow of the universe.

Reincarnation doesn’t just complicate our views on death, it complicates our view of children. Some children may have memories that extend their experience beyond their age. The presence of a past life suggests that age and agency are not conjoined, and while that may raise questions about the child’s consent to all sorts of things from  adultism to imposed medical procedures to belief indoctrination and faith involvement, it also raises questions about the perceived — even desired — order of the universe. The challenge when children remember is accepting the inability to explain what has occurred. The dominant faiths of the West are ill-equipped to offer guidance, so the usual formulas for control, like invoking authority, become lame. Offering explanations like possession and witchcraft means adults can avoid an uncomfortable confrontation with the unknown.

The very idea that souls transmigrate deeply challenges priestly authority and the common expectations of a well-behaved monotheistic universe. To obviate the structure is to undermine a basic belief that whereby choice and free will cannot extend beyond death. It is like accessing “other memory” with no spiritual mechanism to explain how it happens other than heresy, anathema or abomination. Monotheism isn’t required either.  The dogmatic mechanics of scientism will also drive emotional stances. When there is no explanation for what is happening, there is no means to control what is happening. That lack of control produces only fear.

Most seriously, in order to maintain control and authority, we suppress the sense of the natural. In the case of a child remembering, adults will subordinate a child’s sense of the universe. We often demand the children align their spiritual sense with adult expectations: a path that leads to fearing the spiritual world instead of working in it.

Quelling our inborn spiritual sense is a poor choice, one that our community has routinely experienced, that our sense of the world is flawed. I would argue it’s even a form of violence, a type that many of us have experienced. We collectively feel the onslaught of reeducation to mis-align our spiritual experience of preexistence with foreboding, and even oppressive adult spiritual architecture. We are victimized when people in power insist that our spiritual experiences are not real, merely the product of delusion or indigestion. Through it all, that tactic tears away at our self-esteem and trust our own spiritual sense. We have each survived this kind of gas-lighting as adults and as children.

Access to that spiritual ancestry is much of what Samhain is about, and it is the one sabbat that survived oppression by recognizing our access to spirit, now and as children. Long before the modern Pagan revival movement, our ancestors used trick-or-treating to resuscitate what had become a minor, lost even dead (pun intended) holiday.  The modern rise of Halloween happened through children. In a way, ancestors called back the sabbat of Samhain through its secular counterpart, Halloween. For many Pagans and non-Pagans, Halloween became a spiritual gateway: some fear it, some do not. Halloween may not be a sabbat, but it is certainly an entryway. There is something universally — even intentionally — clear about this holiday; something more is happening than just candy and costumes.

Our ancestors can be crafty folk. Whether present as children or guiding our society from the far side of the veil, they had a remedy to restore their presence, heal our senses and break our indoctrination through Halloween, we reclaimed Samhain. That reclamation is now a powerful blessing. It’s as much an invitation to explore the veil that we may have crossed when we entered this life, as it is an opportunity to explore it with the agency we may have denied children, and been denied as children. That is ancestral magic at work and an ancestral gift for us to honor this season. Remembering, perhaps, that some of our ancestors may already be here, and asking for candy.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
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Posted by Advox

Alaa and his wife, Manal Hassan. Photo by Lilian Wagdy via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

On 19 October, Egypt’s highest court of appeal postponed the trial of prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah to 8 November. The 36-year-old father and husband was a leading voice in the 2011 protests that helped to overthrow former president Hosni Mubarak.

Abd El Fattah is currently serving a five-year jail term for violating Egypt’s protest law, which prohibits public demonstrations without prior authorization by police. He has already served 3.5 years of his sentence. In Thursday's hearing, the judge withdrew from Alaa’s case and referred it to another circuit. As the reason, he cited “embarrassment” without providing any further clarifications.

Abd El Fattah is being prosecuted for taking part in a protest denouncing military trials of civilians in November 2013. Although several people were arrested for participating in the demonstration, all of them — apart from Abd El Fattah — have since been released or pardoned.

In a separate case, Abd El Fattah faces an additional jail term for “insulting” the judiciary over a tweet that criticized Egypt’s justice system for its lack of independence. This charge stems from comments he made during a controversial 2013 trial in which 43 NGO workers were sentenced to prison after they were found guilty of defaming the Egyptian judiciary.

In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that Alaa’s detention is “arbitrary” and identified several irregularities in his trial. “Mr. Abd El Fattah has not been guaranteed the international norms of due process and guarantees to a fair trial,” the group said.

Since Egypt’s 2013 military coup which ended the rule of elected president Mohamed Morsi, and brought to power general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands of activists, journalists and protesters have been imprisoned. Rights groups say 60,000 political prisoners are languishing in jail under Egypt’s flawed justice system. Violations under the system include ill-treatment, arrests without warrants, lengthy pretrial detentions, mass trials, military trials, and a disturbing rise in death sentences.

In another prominent case in Egypt, the trial of photographer  Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan) was once again postponed. Shawkan, who has been in pretrial detention for five years, will appear before court again on 24 October. He was arrested in August 2013, while photographing Egyptian security officers using undue force against protesters who opposed the ousting of Mohamed Morsi.

While the Egyptian government has taken a harsh approach towards public protest, their tactics for monitoring the activities of human rights and democracy activists extend deeply into the digital realm. Since the protests of 2011, there has been significant evidence that Egyptian state actors have used technical surveillance in order to target activists.

The German government reportedly canceled a security training for Egyptian police in monitoring cyber crimes and extremist content. According to Associated Press, the German government decided to cancel the training for fear that the police would use acquired skills to monitor citizens who have no connection to organized crime.  

New evidence of web censorship paints a bleak picture in Malaysia, India, Pakistan

According to the New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre, more than 23,000 web URLs are currently censored in India. The independent advocacy and research group obtained this information through a Right to Information request, which was fulfilled by the Cyber Laws and E-Security Group under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Group.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) reported at an open meeting last week that telecommunications operators have blocked 5,044 URLs since 2015, at the Commission’s behest. The majority of those websites, according to the Commission were either pornographic, obscene or “seditious.” pornographic, obscene and seditious

And in Pakistan, a group of independent researchers from Islamabad NGO Bytes for All and the Open Observatory for Network Interference documented more than 200 censored URLs using their own technical testing software. Commenting on the findings, Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director and Global Voices member Nighat Dad said,

The filtration technology has been there for a while in Pakistan and I think back in 2011 or 2012 there was a report on Pakistan’s internet exchange gateway and they learnt about the filtration method and how to block websites — it has always been there. It doesn’t come as a surprise that 210 URLs were blocked….I’m sure if you test all of those available in the country there must be several hundred URLs blocked.

No more Skyping in Qatar

The US-based video and voice calling application Skype confirmed that it is blocked in Qatar. In a statement, the service, which is owned by Microsoft, said there is “very little Skype can do about this situation”. Doha News reported that users in Qatar started reporting issues when trying to use voice-over-IP (VoIP) services including WhatsApp, SKype, Viber and Facetime, back in August. Neither regulators nor the country’s two telecom operators, Ooredoo and Vodafone, explained the reason for the suspension of services.

In other countries, regulators have blocked VoIP services in an effort to force customers to pay long distance call fees to local telecom operators, rather than use services like Skype or WhatsApp, which operate on internet infrastructure and typically come at no additional cost to the customer.

Japan’s ‘election hate speech’ database

A Japanese group known as the Anti-Racism Information Center recently launched a website called the “2017 House of Representatives Election Hate Speech Politicians Database.” The site purports to contain information about dozens of hateful, discriminatory statements made by various active politicians running for re-election.

The importance of being verified

Iranian human rights defenders and journalists have reported challenges getting help from social media companies when they face harassment and hacking on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Obtaining verified status can provide users additional protections against false reporting and politically-driven flagging of content, but Iranian users told Global Voices researcher Simin Kargar that they faced challenges obtaining verified status even after sending the required documentation. Additionally, there is no information available in Farsi on how to obtain verification or to guide users on reporting and documenting harassment on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Posted by Liz Williams

UNITED KINGDOM — A petition has been circulating around UK-based Pagan websites calling on Parliament to act in the wake of a proposed plan by the National Health Service (NHSE) England to stop prescriptions for herbal, homeopathic and other alternative forms of medicine.

[Pixabay]

Up until now, the NHSE has prescribed herbal and homeopathic remedies for patients. For example, it is used for those those patients who suffer from severe side effects caused by pharmaceutical medicines or for patients who have experienced no improvement in their health from those medicines.

In the UK, treatment is free at the point of delivery, although patients have to pay a basic fee (£8.60 per item) for each prescription. This chosen route has not been without controversy historically speaking. In 2010, Tom Dolphin, a leading member of the British Medical Association described homeopathy as ‘witchcraft.’

The NHS system is partly funded by a National Insurance scheme, which British citizens pay into through wages.

While it is of course possible to take out private health insurance, the NHS was founded in order to provide for everyone, including the poorest and most marginalized members of society. The system has been extended in recent years to include some alternative treatments. Over the last 5 years, the NHSE has spent over £600,000 on homeopathic treatments.

However, as noted, there has been dissent based on the assertion that homeopathic remedies are not evidence based. Now, the NHSE is saying that prescribing homeopathic and herbal remedies is a ‘misuse of scarce funds.’ NHSE chief Simon Stevens commented that “at best homeopathy is a placebo.”  He said that “NHSE funds which could be better devoted to treatments that work.”

The NHSE includes 16 other treatments in the ban and is encouraging patients to buy over-the-counter remedies for complaints, such as indigestion and sore throats with the aim of saving approximately £250 million a year. The ban covers some 17 items, including herbal medicines, Omega-3 fatty acids, liniments, and travel vaccines.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs (general practitioners), said that reducing prescription costs was desirable, but warned that the more vulnerable members of society could be significantly affected.

Stokes-Lampard said, “If patients are in a position that they can afford to buy over the counter medicines and products, then we would encourage them to do so rather than request a prescription – but imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or that don’t allow for flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society.”

Michael Marshall is the President of the Good Thinking Society, which has threatened to put the Department of Health up for a judicial review if it failed to blacklist homeopathic and herbal preparations. Marshall states:

This is very welcome news…Every credible medical body certainly knows that homeopathic remedies are just not effective for any conditions at all and it is great to see this strong statement from NHS England officially acknowledging the fact.

However, Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association and the creator of the recent petition, says the NHS plans were “bad for its already overstretched budget and for patients.”

She has criticized the report used to draw up the new guidelines, commenting that, “This recommendation is not cost effective as patients will be prescribed more expensive conventional drugs in place of homeopathy, which defeats the object of the exercise.”

Don Redding, policy director at National Voices, an umbrella organization which covers 140 health care charities, including the British Heart Foundation, suggests that this is bringing charges in through the back door.

He believes that that those who are unable to pay will now be unable to obtain treatment. This, he says, violates the ‘free at the point of use’ principle which underpins the foundation of the NHS.

Alternative medicine is a topic of considerable interest within the Pagan community. However, Pagans appear to be divided on the issue.

Those who practice alternative forms of medicine are skeptical about the ban and have been publicizing the petition, while others have reservations about the evidence-basis of some alternative practices.

Concerns have also been raised about making rash and unsupported equivalences between different types of practices.

Helen Compton says, “My initial reaction to the ban, as a herbalist, is that they are incorrectly lumping us in with homeopaths, nothing wrong with homeopathy but herbalism is a very different healing modality. ”

“The intent behind this incorrect conflation seems generally malign, to show herbal medicine as an ineffective waste of time,” Compton explains.

“Also, seems that it doesn’t make clear that herbal medicine largely isn’t available on the NHS, the ban concerns things like senna etc. It is limiting patient choice of generally safe and cheap medicines, not logical and I sense the hand of large pharmaceutical companies somewhere behind this.”

However, not all Pagans are critical of the ban, with some calling for tighter controls on alternative medicine and more extensive use of peer review.

Herbalist Helen Maria says, “unless they’ve been properly trained doctors are not qualified to prescribe herbs. It is not symptomatic prescribing like pharmaceutical drugs.”

Maria goes on to further explain, “[Herbalism] is individualistic and looking at the root cause. It is not really possible to go nettle = eczema because the cause of everyone’s eczema is different. Therefore I’m sort of happy they’re not doing it. On the other hand this smacks of further marginalising, and discrediting other healing modalities.”

There is a general consensus, however, that the ban is part of a move to induce patients to pay for a greater range of over-the-counter remedies, which is in turn an aspect of the funding crisis currently experienced by the British National Health Service.

The online petition, which has now reached over 16,000 signatures, will be open to signatures through March 13, 2018.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_human_feed

Posted by Karlo Mongaya

Screenshot of Fighting Crime 2 game.

More than 130 organizations from around the world have signed a petition urging Apple Inc. to remove from its app store a series of mobile games that glorify the “war on drugs” in the Philippines.

Addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the petition was developed and circulated by the Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs (AMPUD), a Thailand-based advocacy organization that promotes health and human rights protections for drug users.

The petition asserts that these games violate Apple's policies, which prohibit games promoting violence against human beings and animals. It urges Apple to conduct a formal review of the Duterte-inspired apps, remove apps that promote violence against drug users, and apologize for hosting these apps.

Duterte's drug war

Since assuming power on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made the anti-drug campaign a top priority.

But the anti-drug operations of the police (known as Oplan Tokhang) quickly became notorious as they led to thousands of killings of suspected drug peddlers. The police recorded 6,000 drug-related killings, but some human rights groups say the number of deaths is much higher, at 13,000. Even the international community has expressed alarm over the spate of drug-related killings in the country.

The Duterte government has been accused by various human rights groups of endorsing impunity by vowing to protect the police, including those involved in extrajudicial killings.

Some of Duterte's loyal constituents showed their support by developing mobile games inspired by Oplan Tokhang. These games featured Duterte and the country's police chief battling criminals and drug personalities.

Some of the Duterte-inspired games available on Apple. Photo from the website of the Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs

Playing war games

Last October 2016, Global Voices reported that one of these games, Fighting Crime, had reached two million downloads. Fighting Crime, developed by Tatay Games, allows the player to assume the role of Rody (Duterte's nickname). The player's objective is to shoot and kill criminals with a variety of weapons and special powers. The game ends if these enemies reach the president before he can kill them.

Another game, Tsip Bato: Ang Bumangga Giba! was developed by Ranida Games with the support of the Police Community Relations Group, a group within the Philippine National Police. Players can assume the role of chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa or of President Duterte driving a police pickup truck and shooting or running down criminals prowling the streets.

The act of running over enemies in the game is eerily reminiscent of the way a police van ran down indigenous and minority protesters in front of the US Embassy last year.

Screenshots of Tsip Bato: Ang Bumangga Giba! app.

Duterte vs Zombies, a game developed by Lemuel Levi Caldito, likens Duterte's war on drugs to a zombie apocalypse. Players control the character “Tatay Digong” (an endearing moniker for the president used by his supporters which literally means “Father Duterte”) battling criminals depicted as a brainless, blood-thirsty crowd of zombies.

Screenshot of Duterte vs. Zombies.

In their open letter, rights advocates pointed to some of these themes, decrying Apple’s complicity in the normalization of extrajudicial killings and impunity. The petitioners reminded the company that the games may be entertaining, but they spread a dangerous message:

These games valorize and normalize the emerging tyranny of Duterte's presidency and his government's disregard for human rights principles….these games may seem harmless and fun, but when they are placed within the context of existing realities, of real murders of people and the impunity of law enforcement, then these games become offensive and distasteful.

[…]

It is unacceptable that Apple is tolerant to making profit out of people’s unjust deaths and misery.

The letter also argues that the games violate Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines against objectionable content depicting violence. Indeed, the guidelines prohibit “realistic portrayals of people or animals being killed, maimed, tortured, or abused, or content that encourages violence” (section 1.1.2). These Duterte-inspired games are also available on Google Play Store.

The signatories of the petition include 131 human rights groups, rehabilitation centers, and other advocacy networks from over 30 countries including Australia, Cambodia, France, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States, among others.

This campaign against Duterte-inspired gaming apps comes amid rising protests not only against the killings but also the threat of the president to declare martial law if opposition groups continue to mount ‘destabilization’ activities against the government.

Public outcry against the excesses committed under Oplan Tokhang forced the police to declare the termination of the campaign early this month. The anti-drug campaign is now headed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_human_feed

Posted by Marko Angelov

Infographic depicting the years of first pride parades in the Balkans, identifying Macedonia and Bosnia as ‘black holes.’ Image by Reflektor, used with permission.

Three pride parades took place in the Balkans in recent months, and hate speech is more often met with legal actions. Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights is slowly increasing in many of the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Progress has not happened evenly across the region, however, and in some cases, political reasons rather than concern for human rights appear to drive change.

Zagreb Pride takes place every June in Croatia's capital city. After the first such pride suffered a violent attack in 2002, with 32 participants receiving serious injuries, the event had become a traditional feature of the Croatian capital, with thousands in attendance. 2017 was no exception, and the #ZagrebPride march from June 10 was organized as a part of LGBT Pride Month celebrated around the world.

In Serbia's capital, Belgrade Pride took place on September 17, and included the participation of openly gay Prime Minister Ana Brnabić as the “first head of government to attend a Balkan Pride event.”

Belgrade Pride banner “For а Change”. Photo by Subversive Front, used with permission.

Brnabić was appointed in June 2017. Many local analysts regarded Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's choice of a female and gay prime minister as a sly political move, aimed at impressing the European Union. Brnabić is often portrayed as a figurehead that falls in line with Vučić, who dominates politics, business, and media in the country, instead of advocating reform of her own accord.

For years, Belgrade's pride parades had been met with violence, leading at times to postponement or cancellation. But since 2015, they have been held without incident, prompting some cynics to comment that when the powerful Vučić wants, he can reign in the hooligans that have enjoyed full impunity for violent behavior in the past.

The latest of the three pride parades to take place was in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, on October 10 (#PristinaPride). It also had support by the government and passed without reported incidents.

Pride parade bashing fails to draw voters in local Macedonian election

However, two Balkan countries have never had an official pride parade: Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. And in Macedonia, homophobic hate speech was openly used by right-wing populist politicians and parties during the campaign for the October 15, 2017, local elections.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, the LGBT Support Center and the Coalition Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities strongly condemned statements by Stevco Jakimovski, a candidate for mayor in a Skopje municipality of Karposh. Hate speech is a criminal offense in Macedonia, and the three NGOs pressed charges against the incumbent mayor after he accused his opponent Stefan Bogoev of being gay (Bogoev is heterosexual) and claimed that homosexuality is “the most dangerous mafia” bent on infiltrating the municipality.

Two weeks ago, unknown perpetrators also distributed black propaganda leaflets against Bogoev, noting his friendship with a local celebrity whom they claimed to be gay. At the same time, a jeep owned by the friend's father was torched within the confines of the municipality. The leaflets, using similar language to that employed by the mayor in public speeches, warned about the “danger” of holding a pride parade in the area.

In the end, however, most of the citizens of Karposh municipality voted for the liberal candidate. Bogoev got 58% of the votes, against 37% for Jakimovski.

Varied attitudes towards the LGBT community in the former Yugoslavia

Could all this indicate a return to the more liberal values that characterized the former Yugoslavia (which was made up of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia)? Although Yugoslavia wasn't exactly a leader in LGBT rights, contrary to assumptions it wasn't a leader in the repression of sexual and gender minorities, either, especially when compared to Western countries.

Franko Dota, Ph.D. Courtesy photo used with his permission.

Croatian historian and activist Franko Dota recently defended a Ph.D. thesis on homosexuality in Yugoslavia (1945-1990), with a focus on Croatia. His work showed that the socialist society had addressed the issue in various ways at different time periods. Immediately after World War II, there were several show trials of gay men as exemplars of “bourgeois decadence,” but that stopped by the 1950s. A trend of gradual liberalization resulted in formal decriminalization of homosexuality in Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Vojvodina in the 1980s.

Dota's research also compared the institutional homophobia with that of other European countries at the time, discovering that the East was sometimes “milder” than the West. He revealed that from 1945 to 1977 there were around 1,500 trials against homosexuals in Yugoslavia, resulting in punishments ranging from fines to suspended sentences to prison. During the same period, there were 70,000 comparable actions in Western Germany, 20,000 in Italy (for “offending public morals”) and 50,000 in the UK (including computer science trailblazer Alan Turing).

In an interview with Croatian online magazine Telegram, published on October 12, Dota explained that by the 1980s mainstream medical professionals in Yugoslavia had adopted an informal position that homosexuality was not a disease, way before the World Health Organization came to the same conclusion. And a 1986 book by influential sexologist Marijan Košiček pushed against negative attitudes towards homosexuality within politics, law, religion and communist ideology, considering it a normal and healthy phenomenon.

Dota said:

Jugoslavija u početku nije prednjačila u progresivnim iskoracima, ali nije niti zaostajala. Ne možemo je staviti niti na najcrnju, niti na najsvjetliju listu. U nekim se stvarima zemlja pokazala daleko ispred svog vremena i zapadnoeuropskih trendova. To su mediji, koji su 80-ih mnogo liberalnije od američkih izvještavali o homoseksualnosti, to je dio zdravstvenog sustava, koji je pojavi epidemije HIV-a i AIDS-a pristupio profesionalno, a ne moralizatorski kako se uglavnom događalo u Francuskoj i Americi.

At the beginning Yugoslavia was not at the forefront in progressive initiatives, but it was also not far behind. We can't put it on the list of worst, nor on the list of best examples. In some aspects the country was far ahead of its time and Western European trends. For instance, the media in the 1980s were reporting about homosexuality in a much more liberal manner than those in the USA. A relevant segment of the health care system responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a professional way, without the moralizing that took place in France or America.

But across the region, the situation changed after the break up of Yugoslavia. “The 1990s were a time of strong re-traditionalisation and renewal of some patriarchal and extreme traditionalist and homophobic tendencies in society, due to the war(s) and other factors,” Dota said in his interview.

Robots, get yer robots!

Oct. 19th, 2017 06:07 am
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Posted by SuperUser

by liberal japonicus

Marty, in the comments, points to this interesting article

A 45 year old married father of two with a mortgage and a pair of college educations to fund. The remote yet persistent threat of a nuclear war is not what keeps him up at night. In fact, he might almost see it as a relief should it come. He is a bundle of raw nerves, and each day brings even more dread and foreboding than the day before. What’s frying his nerves and impinging on his amygdala all day long is something far scarier, after all. He, like everyone else, is afraid that he doesn’t have a future.

He is petrified by the idea that the skills he’s managed to build throughout the course of his life are already obsolete.

The article riffs on Vonnegut's novel Player Piano, though the idea of coming thermo-nuclear war as a relief has a Walker Percy ring to it, though Percy made do with hurricanes

As an indication of where my mind is, I immediately googled up sex robots, which the Guardian has been fascinated with recently. from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/27/race-to-build-world-first-sex-robot

There are 20 possible components of Harmony’s personality, and owners will use an app to pick a combination of five or six that they can adjust to create the basis for the AI. You could have a Harmony that is kind, innocent, shy, insecure and helpful to different extents, or one that is intellectual, talkative, funny, jealous and happy. McMullen had turned the intellectual aspect of Harmony’s personality up to maximum for my benefit – a previous visit by a CNN crew had gone badly after he had amplified her sexual nature. (“She said some horrible things, asking the interviewer to take her in the back room. It was very inappropriate”.) Harmony also has a mood system, which users influence indirectly: if no one interacts with her for days, she will act gloomy. Likewise, if you insult her, as McMullen demonstrated.

“You’re ugly,” he told her.

“Do you really mean that? Oh dear. Now I am depressed. Thanks a lot,” Harmony replied.

“You’re stupid,” McMullen shot back.

She paused. “I’ll remember you said that when robots take over the world.”

This function was designed to make the robot more entertaining, rather than to ensure her owner treated her well. She can tease him and say he has offended her, but Harmony exists for no other reason that to make her owner happy. At several points during my conversation with McMullen, she would interrupt us to tell him how much she liked him:

“Matt, I just wanted to say that I’m so happy to be with you.”

“You already told me that.”

“Perhaps I was saying it again for emphasis.”

“See now that’s pretty good. Good answer, Harmony.”

“Am I a clever girl or what?”

If she wanted to take Wolf Blitzer to the back room, I'd say not. Anyway, have at it or anything else that strikes your fancy.

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Posted by feliciacraft

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Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

Oct. 18th, 2017 09:55 pm
[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

A federal judge ordered the U.S. government to allow an undocumented teenager in its custody to have an abortion, after the Trump administration tried to prevent her from having the procedure. 

This study shows that 75% of victims who speak out against workplace sexual harassment experience some form of retaliation.

Read Shannon Keating’s essay on the sexual harassment of queer women, and the men who say women shouldn’t be queer unless they perform their queerness for male consumption.

New York City just expanded its paid sick leave law to include paid safe days for survivors of gender violence.

Hollywood’s female crew members are sexually harassed, too — and they don’t have the platform of stardom

Parental involvement laws are forcing foster teens to go to court to seek abortions.

In an unusual move, a Minnesota judge has allowed four protestors who shut off two oil pipelines to use the “necessity defense.” They can now argue that the threat of climate change from the pipeline’s oil was so great that their actions were justified.

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