Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

24 October 2019

Inklust #24: Lessons from Circe




Let me say what sorcery is not: it is not divine power, which comes with a thought and a blink. It must be made and worked, planned and searched out, dug up, dried, chopped and ground, cooked, spoken over, and sung. Even after all that, it can fail, as gods do not. If my herbs are not fresh enough, if my attention falters, if my will is weak, the draughts go stale and rancid in my hands.
Circe, Madeline Miller

I have been studying witchcraft for a year. It's creative and interesting, learning to use herbs, draw sigils, design spells suited for the purpose, memorise incantations, choose the moment, focus. Focus, focus. All this requires understanding your own intent, honing it to a sharp point.

...the draughts go stale and rancid in my hands.

This past year I learnt how little we actually know of what we want—past what we're asked to want, past what's appropriate, past what makes money, past a stagnated dream we've probably outgrown. What do we want when all the jockeying and the incentives to parrot a well-learnt response go away?

Strong will, the capacity to bend reality to your desire by magic or otherwise, requires an intimate connection with oneself. Everything, everyone, works to keep us from achieving that. (Our systems are fragile. We don't know this, don't think of it, but they rely entirely on our self-doubt—our bottomless need to find some solution outside ourselves, coupled with the suspicion that we are never quite doing enough, never quite good right here.)

I also realised how much of our shared reality is magic: Our belief in the stability of money. Our unquestioned treatment of corporations as people. The misguided belief that consumption of the right things will yield preservation of the planet at large.

Consumption is always the hero. Magical thinking. The wrong kind, though. It's the kind that fuels addiction.

Think on Circe: What it means to make magic with the earth, with space, with yourself, this moment; to sharpen the deepest part of you into a subtle knife. Don't let the draught go stale and rancid in your hands.

Photo Credit: "Circe Invidiosa" by John William Waterhouse. The title means "Jealous Circe"; she's pouring the draught that will turn Scylla, "her rival," into a monster. In other words: Just another "inspired" man capturing a woman mid-catfight. Sigh. But I like it because of that tilt in her head, the furrow in her brow: She's concentrating. Even after the potion-making's over, one must still do the work of intent and execution. Circe works hard. She does not fuck around.

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What is "Inklust"? Boy am I glad you asked. Here's the manifesto: part I and part II.

23 October 2019

On the Spin #3

Current mood: Witchy. Also: Gangster of the Oregon Trail.

Listening:
  • Dolly Parton's America, a 9-part podcast series about our very own pop goddess of the (political) crossroads. If you thought of her as a punchline, there's a reason for it. Did you know she wrote "I Will Always Love You"? Some of her oldest "sad-ass songs" have a mythic backstory: They hail from grisly murder ballads she heard as a little girl in the country, themselves evolutions of murder ballads that traversed centuries and the ocean. Even if you love Dolly, you have nothing close to a full picture of what we inherit from her culturally.

  • The Missing Cryptoqueen. An 8-part podcast series about Ruja Ignatova, who masterminded OneCoin, the biggest ongoing crypto-scam in cryptocurrency's short life. On this quest to learn what became of her (she vanished into thin air!), we learn how she leveraged cult tactics and MLM motivation—not to mention piles of princess dresses—to mount a scam so epic it makes me feel... well, unambitious, frankly. This bitch is Frank Ocean.
  • Clipping's music is a modern example of storytelling as medicine, a shamanic tradition as old as community.

There's this song Clipping did called The Deep that recounts the history of an undersea people who hail from the pregnant women on slave ships who were flung overboard.


It won a Hugo Award and has been transformed into a novel by Rivers Solomon. Read all about it.

Reading:
  • Pharmako/Gnosis by Dale Pendell, the last of a trilogy on poisons/plant allies, and not just the usual suspects; nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and chocolate count among them. (Surprised? Learn how they came to dominate our cultures, and in some cases not be seen as drugs at all, or at least be seen as the least of the evils, which isn't remotely true.) It is poetry, chemistry, botany, politics, folklore. It is our story through eyes shared with silent manipulators. Here's a passage from the second book, Pharmako/Dynamis, about our culture's addiction to fossil fuels: "Every speed junkie uses until it is gone. That’s what we’ll do, I’m afraid.”
  • L'homme qui savait la langue des serpents (The Man Who Spoke Snakish) by Andrus Kivirahk is a translation of an Estonian bestseller, where it draws from cultural lore. On its face it's about how a country becomes industrialised—what is gained and lost. Mostly, it's about what is lost: A sacred connectedness to people, land and animals in exchange for overwork, nifty gadgets and prestige. Also, if you were born able to speak Snakish and fear you're evil because of Harry Potter, this book will tell you you're not a creeper; you've just inherited a mythic talent that'll ensure you never go hungry, unlike the dummies around you. Well, provided you live in the forest.
  • Honoring Your Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestral Veneration, by Mallorie Vaudoise. I developed an ancestor veneration practice this summer and am stunned by how it's changed my mind, daily movements, and relationship to family or local history. There's a school of thought that posits our lack of cultural space for ancestor veneration, which is anomalous in the story of civilization, is central to why we are neurotic about death and have, to boot, yielded toxic-AF systems. I don't know if I believe that wholesale, but I believe it's at least a contributor.
Something I'd read if someone wrote it: 
  • A comparative essay on the work of Billie Eilish and JPEGMafia. They are both of our time, approaching its Ionescan absurdity in ways more similar than different. Don't @ me.
Studying: 
  • Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. It's fucking hard, but not how you'd expect. I feel like Hermione without a Time-Turner, and boy am I going through a lot of candles and sea salt!
  • Babaylan. The modern approach to reclaiming the pre-colonial Filipinx community "witch" is intellectually satisfying and meaningful: kapwa (a word for "me," but also "us") is used as a compass to approach decolonization, and also animism. Babaylan is also broken down into the dynamic embodiment of five community roles: Visionary. Teacher. Healer. Warrior. Priestess. I love all of this, every last drop. Some Babaylan reclaimers are intellectuals; others are healers with gorgeous planty Instagrams; others, tribal tattooers; others, practitioners of Arnis Kali Eskrima (which I still practice... sometimes). Babaylan moves through us and blooms kaleidoscopically. Everyone is cross-pollinating to strengthen themselves and the whole.
Playing:

Something I wish:
  • I become a Twitch streamer who plays old-ass vintage games, mumbles my strategies, curses my stupid youngest son Harold for getting lost again, and ruminates over the future of the planet. People love it, and I make all the monies. You know that shit ain't happening, though.
Looking forward to: 
  •  Justice for His Dark Materials. 

20 October 2019

Running a company sucks.


Reasons:

  • People assume that if you're a founder or shareholder, you're rich. This is false at least 98% of the time; shares mean nothing for a long while, especially in services, assuming they ever mean anything. Meanwhile, the founder generally pays herself less than almost anyone else for as long as feasible. (Money is a talent acquisition or retention tool. She needs no acquiring, and can't just leave.) 
  • People feel really good about speaking their truth to your power, even when they're absolutely wrong and have zero frame of reference. Yet there is so much you can't say back or explain, in great part for this reason: You understand why it's not in their interest to identify with an employer (was it ever in yours?), and recognise that asking them to is both shitty and futile.
  • In relation to the above: When someone complains about the money they make, how hard it is, and how that's your problem, you can't say, "I've been struggling to pay rent for years, LOL; in fact, pulling from my laughable savings is the first thing I do in a month when I still have to pay you and you sabotaged all attempts to win that new client, thanks for that btw"
  • No matter how long the company lasts and what good it's done, its end as we know it will always mark it in history as a failure. (Do we remember AOL fondly? Do we ever think about how much of America it got online? No and nope.)
  • It is hard to find people who tell you the truth about how things are going without hedging for their interests. In fact, anytime most people find themselves alone in a room with you, they perceive it as an opportunity to hedge for their interests.
  • There is always a better thing you could have done, and a better state the company could be in, and it is always your fault.
  • You no longer identify with friends' problems—particularly the complaints about their shitty bosses. They identify with you less and less. As time progresses, you realise how few of them you actually ever want to see again.
  • Your relationship to your partner or spouse changes. They talk a lot about your ego. You think a lot about your guilt.
  • You fail at many things, every day.
  • If you are a woman, people will consistently question your thinking, level of engagement and experience far more than they would a man. This is most flagrantly true if you have a male business partner.
  • If you have a male business partner, people will assume you are sleeping together or have done.
  • I still haven't figured out what to do when meeting with an employee who clearly believes I am hitting on them, or is clearly trying to pick me up. It is unnerving. 
  • The problems never stop. And they're never the problems you set out to solve in the first place.
  • The problems you set out to solve in the first place exist for reasons you didn't see when you set out to solve them. 
  • I think a lot of people start companies because they think it's a good way to become free. You are not free. You are bound in ways you can't imagine. Your partnership is a marriage that everyone must reckon with, including romantic partners. Your company is a child whose needs will never escape the Terrible Twos, and who will frequently clamour for your attention, either because it is legitimately sick or because it just likes it when you look up (who's to know which, and when?).
  • You can never just stop when you're too tired, don't want to anymore, or have become depressed.
  • You need a whole new crew of people to help you solve your problems, or at the very least in whom you can confide. Most of these people you'll have to find. And most of them you'll have to pay for.