broken hearted

I can seem very down on religion at times, and indeed I do have very serious criticisms of organized religions, their teachings and their apparent effects. However, I feel a lot of understanding for people’s attachment to their religions, and their need for it. I know that religion has historically been the repository of values both admirable and appalling, and of identities bound up with people’s shared sense of being human (an association I think is inevitably problematic). Religion is virtually the design on the nursery wall of humanity, but unfortunately it too often keeps us as children. It’s true that there are problems with religion, but also true that the  problems are not just with religion, but with all kinds of human society, at least as far as I can see. We work with imperfect materials, and we make progress like hallucinating builders, trying to discern reality from fantasy, benefit from harm, in the consequences of our creations, as everything constantly morphs, albeit sometimes slowly enough for us to hope for a subsisting progress.

I believe in the individual, and I am a Satanist myself, but I know that people are driven by pain and fear, and I know exactly what that does, and what the offer of shelter does. It’s the same process used in brainwashing, and what happens (however happily, you can hope) in every family on the planet. Human beings are malleable, vulnerable creatures. It can’t be my concern if the world is going to change; I have to be concerned with my world practically. But if there is a possibility of the world changing, and being less subject to fear of the individual, demonized source of all our talents and creativity, then understanding the people caught in religion is I think relevant. It’s honestly not that difficult, when you look into the eyes of common human pain. It doesn’t matter what I am, I am always going to feel closer to them than to some elitist plonker, because I know what it feels like.

We did see a quite astonishing documentary on TV about British jihadis, which was actually very emotional. There were quite a few people interviewed, some who had been really active in establishing the beginnings of the British jihadi movement back in the 80s and 90s. These were people who recanted their former extreme beliefs, and in some cases regretted the path they had taken with a kind of remorse that I don’t really have a sufficient word for. In almost all cases these youngsters (as they were at the time) had been driven by pain and deep problems, and had found shelter and solace and meaning, acceptance and a place, in a confluence of religion, distorted mentorship and the bad opportunity of foreign political conflicts. I don’t think the religious blue print was guiltless (to say the least), but it wasn’t so long ago that large swathes of young westerners believed that progressive change would only come ultimately through violent revolution or the use of force, and anything less was a bourgeoise naivety. But they were hippies and punks and students, and most of them weren’t actually going to do something. I remember that time. These muslim kids just had worse luck.

I think the situation has become somewhat different now, and I doubt that it all bears a resemblance to the people interviewed in the documentary. The horrors get worse and the recruiting has got crazy and chilling. The results are appalling. But I know people who grew up in the 70s and 80s with horrible racism directed at them and their children. Of course they will freakin’ well withdraw and stick together. I feel safer living in an area with a large Bangladeshi population (no “freak” or “queer” abuse from them, ever), so what the hell must they feel like? And then we have supposed left-leaning liberals who think they are being “progressive” by bowing down to religion and ethnicity. These are people that the mainstream society (at different levels) have applied both a carrot and a stick strategy towards, saying both “you’re hated” and “you’re welcome”, but only as something other, defined by traditional forms. I think there is a big place for secularism in our society, and we should not be giving religion of any sort political or legal power or privilege. But if you can break the spell, you are left with the people who needed the spell, just to live somehow. You will still have to look into the eyes of that need.

People don’t do deathly things because they want to die. They do them because it seems like life to them, compared to what they are getting away from*. That’s why they are a small minority within a minority. Religion is a factor, obviously a crucial factor, but it really isn’t the root cause of this. It honestly goes deeper.

Every psychopathology is attempting to articulate a resolution. If we want to solve that, someone needs to listen. Not accommodate the illness, not collude with the problem, but find out what is actually coming out of the throat of a situation. Because if you can’t understand hurt, you can’t understand anything about human beings.

documentary film maker Deeyah Khan with a British former jihadi – photo at

* I know this isn’t always so, people can be psychopaths and sociopaths, but those are more isolated instances

red as rust and sweet as honey

Probably due to the conjunction between the Sun and Mars that occurred this week, I have had some reason to think about the red planet, though I actually feel some real curiosity and interest about Mars in any case.

There’s a lot of traditional bad vibes attached to Mars, he’s a bit of a bad guy to a lot of people really, as the litany goes something like: war, violence, aggression, murder, rape, destruction and the kind of wildness that people don’t consider romantic and noble. But is that really the story?

There is a clue in astrology of course, for though he is traditionally the “lesser malefic”, he is in modern astrology associated with energy, vitality, drive and sex, as well as aggression and conflict and accidents. When we say sex of course, we don’t so much mean flirty, toying eroticism and all the refinements of love making. The eroticism of Mars is a fiery, locked on chemistry where you know already that full consummation is gazing right into you, intelligently and deeply.  You might say “no thank you” and so might they, but the horse power is on the tracks, and it shakes and humbles all. Not the chase and the charm, but the timeless end game. Put it down, condemn it as you like, try to control it as you will, the eroticism of Mars is the unfurled plot line of eroticism. Which in part is probably why Mars rules Scorpio as well as Aries.

If Mars is destructive, it is the destruction that life depends upon. If his wildness isn’t all nice or controllable, that’s because that is what real wildness necessarily includes. So have a heart for a god not so simple.

His metal is iron, that rusts red, that colours our blood red also, so that the blood can carry oxygen to our cells to burn fuel, and carry carbon dioxide away to dispose of the waste of respiration.

Iron that conducts lightning, and forms much of the heart of our own planet Earth, and gives us (along with nickel) a magnetic field that protects us from the radiation of space. Iron that is one of the last elements to be formed in stars, which can only be burned into heavier elements by the star exploding as a super nova.

Iron than gives rose quartz its delicate pink colour. Is it a surprise that Mars’ mineral is what gives rose quartz its pretty, misty colour, with its association with the heart? I don’t think so really.

And if Mars has an association with blood and muscle and exertion, there is surely an association somewhere here with menstruation and childbirth?

According to Ovid, Mars himself was born from Juno without being fathered, except by the touch of a special flower which Flora provided for Juno. The tale goes that Juno wished to bring forth a child all of her own, as Jupiter had brought forth Minerva from his head without a mother. Juno’s own child was Mars.

In fact Mars has associations not just with war, but old associations with agriculture. The kind of war he was associated with was a protective fight that should lead to safety and peace, not jubilation in  bloodshed. He is very different to the Greek Aries in this sense. He has associations with the wild as well, and with forests, but again there is a sense of a balance here. Wilderness must have its place, so that cultivation can as well. Mars’ animal was the wolf, which we endow with endangered nobility often nowadays (and I find them extraordinary and beautiful animals), though our fairy tales betray an older prejudice.

Some years ago me and my husband had a therapy business, combining hypnotherapy and Reiki. We had a number of concessionary offers, eg for students, and one of the concessions was for military veterans. I found people’s reactions to that to be puzzling, because some were quite bemused, almost verbalizing “why do you do that?”. Why would you make special offers for soldiers? Like, is that a necessary thing to do? As if no one should be looking after the soldiers themselves, as if that were a strange idea. It reminds me of people who seem to resent firemen their wages. Like, can’t they just get on with it, doing that physical, risky stuff? Didn’t they sign up to be sacrifices? Well, no. They signed up to protect you, and be respected for it, not to be your willing sacrifices. And I do wonder what part the eye on the blood sacrifice has to play in our attitudes and subconscious relationships to martial issues?

And as blood flows through the vampire myth with an almost mystical allure, morphing between sex, seduction, violence, bestial transformation, immortality, life, soul, magical power, the body and it’s transcendence, I would say that Mars has his place there as well.

Richard Gardner used to say that blood sacrifice was one of the fundamental characteristics of human civilizations. I don’t know how accurate that is anthropologically, but he made a poetically persuasive argument. Basically that we are here to transform energy, and the bargain basement way of doing it is bloodshed. That’s part of our relationship with the Earth, and with being here. It doesn’t need to be blood, but in the absence of a finer consciousness, blood becomes the default. Richard thought we could do away with this subconscious need for bloodshed through the cultivation of good will. Gurdjieff also used to characterize human civilizations as going through cyclical processes of periodically destroying everything that they had built and developed, a process which his Beelzebub bewails as a tragedy. Richard was of the opinion that we couldn’t transform consciousness (and so energy) effectively without the free and enlightened exploration of Mars’ other domain of sex, so enlightened sex also becomes a remedy for social violence, as well as much else in his view. Love transforms energy basically, so that violence does not need to do it as a default. On this he was in broad agreement with Wilhelm Reich I think.

The transformation of energy must inevitably fall partially under Mars’ domain astrologically, because he is our personal, passionate and fully embodied experience of energy. So it makes sense that Mars is associated with sex, drive, energy, violence (and you should probably add sacrifice), and of course, transformation of energy. He should also be associated with a profound kind of healing.

Mars is a great and mighty need. The Wolf cannot be condemned or denied by a few inches of conscious awareness, and a mountain of righteousness. Blood and sex will have their way, because what both he and they spell out is the transformation of consciousness.

It is not Mars’ fault if we choose our own default of denial. But it is an ever present opportunity, that we could have such wonders and bliss in a world where our relationship to energy was affirmative, enlightened and free.

 detail from "Mars and Neptune" by Paolo Veronese, retouched electronically. Original image in public doamin via wikimedia commons

detail from “Mars and Neptune” by Paolo Veronese, retouched electronically. Original image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons


“we live in a world where we have to hide to make love,

while violence is practiced in broad daylight”

John Lennon

I saw the above quote this morning, and like so much of John Lennon’s perceptions, it was awesome in its simple clarity. A clear perception makes questions possible.

Coincidentally we were in town yesterday sitting outside a cafe,  and a really delightful thing happened. An enormous and joyous naked bike ride went down the end of the road. Just lots and lots of naked people on wheels, all shapes and sizes, ages, sexes, naked and beautiful and bringing laughter and surprise. Also a few disgusted expressions from passers by, just a few, but mainly people seemed just amused or supportive.

My reaction, after simple delight, was that we so need more nakedness. It was so healthy to see naked people, not naked models, or the standard (usually slim, young and female) consumer depictions of  the unclothed, but real naked people, with bellies and dangly breast, smooth and hairy, genitals showing without it being a big deal. Happy, real nakedness. It was wonderful.

Yet as per Lennon’s observation, our culture still finds it hard to get it. You can have films that show appalling violence, and video games that do the same, but passionate consensual sex gets hedged around with restrictions. A face full of hate is ok, or a fist used to hurt, but what is dangerous and too much? An erect penis, a vagina, an anus.

Moreover, what is the spill over of this into our life and living culture? What on earth is wrong with public nakedness? What is wrong with seeing someone have consensual sex? We watch people box and bloody each other, and seriously injure each other at times. Why is watching people fuck less acceptable than that? We can happily see someone dressed to kill (literally) for war, but we shy away from someone dressed for something entirely natural and pleasurable, and overwhelmingly associated with affection. What is our culture saying to us, and to our children?

We need less violence and less hurt, and less valuation of violence. We need more nakedness, more life, more love and more sex.

I don’t think the promotion of the one is unrelated to the suppression of the other. On that I tend to feel that Wilhelm Reich may well have been on to something.

World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) in Zaragoza (Spain) – By Enrique Matías Sánchez (Quique) (dsc_5495) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons