A Statement from Starhawk on the Las Vegas Tragedy

Starhawk's Statement on the Las Vegas Tragedy

My heart is breaking for all the families and loved ones of the victims of Las Vegas, for the lives cut short and the creativity, love, joy and beauty that those who died will not now get to experience.It’s human nature, in these moments, to ask why—to want a motivation, a sense of some sort of reason. If we can identify a reason, we can exert some control over future events, or so we think.  But we don’t know why.  Or rather, we don’t know the specifics of this ‘why?’.

There is a larger ‘why’ when we look at the epidemic of mass shootings and random violence—even beyond the easy access to weapons that against all rationality and instincts of self-preservation we continue to provide.

A society works when we have a social contract, an understanding of a base level of care and mutuality and responsibility for one another’s well-being, when we have a structure of common beliefs and values and an understanding of what it is to be a decent human being. A strong social fabric provides a structure that can hold people together when their internal structure breaks down.

That contract has been broken.

We no longer agree on what’s true, what’s valid, what’s decent, or what’s important.  We are steeped in lies and corruption and falsehood coming down from the highest levels of power.

In the face of all that, in the aftermath of the killing sprees and the denial of the environmental catastrophe threatening us all, I say that to be a decent human being is to care for something beyond your own self-interest. A decent human being cares for others, does not blame victims but takes responsibility for easing suffering and sharing burdens, and speaks the truth, even to power.  A decent human being feels empathy for others, and acts from love.

We saw many examples of courageous and selfless behavior in Las Vegas.  Let us remember that, and take some hope and solace in these challenging times.

Some Monuments I’d Like to See

The Nazi violence in Charlottesville has had one positive backlash—

(Dinah Rogers/European Pressphoto Agency)the taking down of Confederate monuments on a mass scale.  I’m all for it—as they glorify a system of brutal racism and oppression. And if it leads on to downing Washington and Jefferson, as the the racist-in-chief warns could happen, well, maybe that would be a good thing. Most monuments glorify war leaders and politicians, and maybe it would do us good as a country to take them all down, wipe the slate clean, and decide on a different set of values we might want to revere.

In any case, the public squares of our country are now dotted with empty plinths begging to be filled.

I would like some monuments in every town to heroic child care workers, those dedicated women and men and gender-fluid folks who tend children not their own, wipe their noses, comfort their tears, and prevent them from beaning other children with toy trucks.  How about a Caregiver’s Monument, honoring those selfless souls who love and care for someone with Alzheimers or ALS or any debilitating disease?  Could we have some statues of people who stop on the freeway and help stranded motorists change tires?

Or if its history you want, let’s get rid of the dudes with the swords on horseback and raise up some statues to the true and awesome heraism of the mothers who gave birth under slavery and nurtured children they could not protect from abuse, from sale down the river, from separation and abandonment, yet gave them the love that formed a core of strength to survive.


How about honoring the courage of the immigrants, not just the Pilgrims but the potato-famine immigrants, the ones who came fleeing the pogroms and the Chinese workers who built the railroads, all the ones who do the low-paid, thankless jobs that actually make life better for other people, the housecleaners, farmworkers, day laborers, nurses?

But whoa, let’s back up here—before we do that, how about honoring the original indigenous nations whose territories our neighborhoods are built upon?  And make them commemorations not of battles but of the fortitude and beauty of  everyday life—gathering acorns, showing a child how to use a bow, preparing food, singing in prayer.  Or, if you truly feel white people are neglected, why not commemorate the peasant rebels or the Witches who died in the flames?

Too depressing?  What about some statues of animals?  Not just war horses, but a big, faithful, affectionate poodle or two, some cats, a dolphin, and a lot of endangered species.  I’d like to see a monument to a hundred of the best healing herbs, or a rosebush, or the humble earthworm who does so much to create fertility in the land.

 What would our cities, our towns, our psyches be like if instead of worshiping heroes of violence and power we revered images of life, of everyday acts of kindness and caring, of nourishing and nurturing and human resilience?

It is possible that violence is sometimes necessary in this brutal world, but do we have to put it up on a pedestal and make it something to aspire to?

Take them all down, I say—every bronze conqueror and warlord, and give me one simple statue of a goodhearted person holding out an open hand to welcome a stranger. 

A Birthday Gift

Starhawk_gardenDear Friends,

In just a few days, I’ll be sixty-six years old. Maybe I should be retiring—but with the Arctic melting and a climate change denier in the White House, it doesn’t seem like the moment to sit back and crochet afghans.  Climate change is not just carbon—it represents massive ecosystem degeneration—and ecosystems include people, too.

We need to respond with massive ecosystem and social regeneration, and that’s why I spend so much time teaching our Earth Activist Trainings, which combine ecological design with a grounding in spirit and a focus on activism and organizing.  Together, our trainings offer a powerful set of tools for reviving desiccated landscapes and renewing ravaged communities. And by offering Diversity Scholarships, we’re able to get these tools into the hands of folks from frontline communities who most need them.

And so I’d like to ask you all for a birthday present Our scholarship program has been amazingly successful, building new networks and increasing diversity in the permaculture movement.  Success generates more demand, and we currently have more people wanting scholarships than we have grants to support.

 I just hate to say ‘no!’  So I’m asking for a birthday present, not for me personally, but for the work.

Can you help?  Could you donate $66?  Or $660?  Or $6?  Maybe there’s somebody out there that could kick in $6600?  (If you did, I’d definitely crochet you an afghan—during the program while my co-teacher is presenting!)  Feel free to donate whatever you can.  Donations are tax-deductible, and any amount will help and be deeply appreciated!

EAT students deep in process

Earth Activists in Training! Photo Credit: www.brookeporterphotography.com

I’m not doing a fancy GoFundMe, or setting up a flashy website–I’m just asking!  We have a Donate page on our Earth Activist Training website—check it out and take a look at our courses and programs while you’re there.  We need to raise $10,000 right now.  Can we do it by my birthday, June 17?

We have a stellar group of students requesting scholarships for our upcoming Midwest trainingJune 25-July 9—from black youth working on urban gardens to a whole group of water defenders from Standing Rock.  My dearest birthday wish is to be able to say ‘yes’ to them all!

Thank you so much for your support—it has a huge ripple effect!


You can donate HERE to support Earth Activist Training Diversity Scholarships!


Poets and Heroes

This weekend is the funeral for a young man named Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, who, together with veteran and father Ricky John Best and poet Micah David-Cole stood up against a white supremacist spewing hate and threatening two young women on the Portland Metro.


Taliesin’s death has especially hit home for me, because, while I didn’t know him personally, he is part of our extended community of Pagans and Witches and activists.  My heart goes out to his family and loved ones, and to the families of Ricky John Best.  Pride and honor are a small consolation for such a loss.  Love and healing, also, to Micah David-Cole, who survived, and who reminds us not to idolize the heroes and forget the young women who were the targets of such destructive hate.

For those young women, I pray that they might come through with the deep knowledge of their own precious worth and sacred beauty, that they may be surrounded by a community that cherishes them, and that their own courage and agency be recognized and fostered.

Acts of hate are acts of terror, meant to reinforce the constant low-level fear carried by every person of color, every woman in a racist, misogynist society—that your mere presence, separate from any act you might take or thing you might do—can make you the target of violence at any moment.

Against that tide, we need everyday heras and heroes, poets and fathers, lovers and protectors—all of us to commit to acts of common decency and humanity.

We are living in a world bathed in a foul atmosphere of vitriol, scorn and lies, amped up by the run-up to and outcome of the elections, reinforced by social media.  It’s like a poisonous miasma, as if somewhere on the astral plane demonic mills are churning out a bath of psychic smog.  Every diatribe on the internet, every racist statement by a leader or politician, every misogynist tweet is like a forced-air furnace blowing toxins into our atmosphere.

The corrosion creeps into everything, even our personal relationships.  We who consider ourselves progressives are not immune—too often we respond to one another with that same energy of castigation and vitriol.  And the damaged and broken among us are most susceptible.  When your psychic defenses are cracked, it’s all too easy for the poison to seep in, fill you up and spill over.  When it does, it finds channels already laid out for itby Trump and Fox News and white-supremacist websites and all the purveyors of prejudice and hate.

Any act of common decency is like a small window letting in a breath of fresh, clean air.  A great act, a sacrifice of such magnitude as what took place on that Portland metro, is a powerful act of magic that opens a great portal.  Such love is a powerful force; such fierce compassion is a wild, cleansing wind. Into the toxic stew of hatred and lies and vitriol reinforced by that pathetic man who has seized great power, now pours a gale of truth and love.


Now it is up to us all to pry open that portal even further, to assert with our daily choices and actions that to be truly human is to care for others, to fight lies with poetic truths, to fight the ugliness of hatred and violence with beauty and courage.

We are each faced with small choices, every day, that can pour a breath of compassion and caring into the dank air.  Let out memorial for these heroes be a wide-open door, and through it let the storm winds blow!

Thanksgiving at Standing Rock

The sign at the main entrance to the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock says, “This is a place of prayer and ceremony.”  

To be honest, I was afraid to go to Standing Rock.  Not so much of the cops, despite their violent assaults on peaceful protestors, but of the cold and the discomfort.  In my mind, I’m like those wizened, tough old biker crones in Mad Max—but in reality, I’m a fat old lady with asthma, arthritic knees and a compulsion to pee multiple times throughout the night, and camping out in freezing weather is no longer something I contemplate with alacrity.

Moreover, the crisis in North Dakota and the election crisis coincided with various personal crises that culminated with the urgent necessity of packing up pretty much everything in the house I’ve lived in for thirty years to prepare it for renovations and partial sale, and a related financial crisis.  So it wasn’t the best time to go—but the Thanksgiving weekend seemed to be about the only window of time I could go, and the weather wasn’t going to get warmer.


I also wrestled with the question of what my role should be as a white ally of an indigenous-led movement.  Was it an act of colonial violence for me to come, an assertion of white privilege?  Should I just donate the money my ticket would cost, and stay warm?

But I’m a public person, with a platform of writing and speaking, and I knew I would be a more effective advocate if I went there myself.  And I hoped to be able to make some contribution.  My training collective, Alliance of Community Trainers, would be there, and my old action buddy Lisa Fithian had been there for weeks and was organizing actions.  So I interrupted my marathon of packing and cleaning, and went.

And as soon as I saw the sign, I knew I was right to come.  For decades, I’ve been writing and speaking, organizing and teaching around the simple concept that spirit and action go together.  Activists need some kind of spiritual base to sustain what is very hard, sometimes dangerous, and often frustrating work.  And spiritual folks need to be engaged with the world, taking action to alleviate suffering and protect the sacred.

So how incredibly affirming it was to walk into a place where everything is grounded in ceremony and every action is seen as embodied prayer.  Lakota spirituality is not my tradition, although deeply aligned in values and world view.  But I have no authority or permission to hold ceremonial energy or lead—and so I was blessedly free to listen, absorb, and do my personal work in a way that I rarely get to do in my own tradition.


I sat at the Sacred Fire and listened to people speak from the heart about the struggle.  I got up early to go to the water ceremony, led by women, where we processed down to the Cannonball River to offer tobacco.  I was given permission to offer our Waters of the World, and when an Irish-American woman gave some water from Brigid’s Well, I asked to share one of our Brigid Chants at a time when many people were sharing songs.

I sat in meditation at the Global Prayer for Standing Rock, and heard one clear message that said to me: “White people can’t heal until they come to terms with the Witch persecutions.”

For so many decades, I’ve been writing and teaching about the forgotten heritage of the ancient Goddess traditions in Europe and the Middle East.  I’ve been working to recover, or create, the rituals and ceremonies that link us to sacred nature and community.  I’ve proudly called myself a Witch, in an attempt to uncover and reclaim that heritage.

And I’ve also gotten worn down, tired of endlessly explaining the same things over and over again, tired of fending off the same nervous jokes or correcting the same misunderstandings.  I’ve been more excited to learn the practical ways of earth-healing, to share the formula for compost tea rather than the esoteric formula for some magic spell.

But over and over again, at Standing Rock and elsewhere this year, I’ve been brought back to the importance of that early work.  Young people simply do not know the Goddess history—and for people of European heritage, it is vital to know that we also have indigenous roots, have ancestors who knew that water is sacred, and traditions we can connect to that can help us anchor in the land.  So many people hunger for that connection—and we don’t have to take it from someone else although we should always be willing to listen and learn from other cultures.

Sunday was our day for a women’s action.  Lisa had arranged for me to connect with Cheryl Angel, a Lakota elder who was leading the action and to stay in her yurt.  We woke before dawn for a women’s sweat, poured by a Dineh poet, singer and songwriter Lyla June. As I stumbled out into the dark and cold and found my way to the fire, I noticed Lyla June was wearing a tee-shirt emblazoned Boudica—the ancient British woman warrior who led an uprising against the Romans.


A Statue of Boudica in London. Boudica was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

A group of about twenty or more women undressed and crammed into the lodge, and Lyla June spoke to us from the heart about her life and sacredness of water.  Then she began to talk about the Witch persecutions—about how the brutal murder of women in European history has separated those of us with that heritage from our indigenous roots.

I was amazed, and again felt deeply affirmed.  After the sweat, I led a training for over a hundred people in some of the magical activist tools we’ve developed for nonviolent direct action.  Then we scrambled to get ready for the action—a march through the camps and out onto the bridge and the barricades that separate us from the drilling sites.

The march through camp was beautiful—although at a faster pace than I would have preferred.  Cheryl Angel was very determined to have a silent, prayerful action, and people were very good about holding the container of silence.  I was mostly praying not to have an all-out asthma attack before we even got to the barricades, and thankfully that prayer was answered.

The elders at Oceti Sakowin had asked that no one do actions that weekend, in order not to divert attention from the eviction notice, and because they were worried that actions might not be completely nonviolent.  But we had received permission from one of the elders, who asked that we stop at the Sacred Council Fire to do ceremony.  When we got there, however, we found that the elders were not in agreement.  Some of them wanted us to go back—but Cheryl listened respectfully, and then simply led us on.

At the barricades, the next obstacle was our own security, who were acting more like cops than cops, telling us we had to go back, that they had ‘orders’.  Eventually, they let the elders through, and I followed Cheryl, LaDonna who is from the area and owns some of the land we’re camped on, and a group of others, including another Reclaiming Witch, River.

I stood behind Cheryl and listened to one of the most powerful moments of pure nonviolence I’ve ever experienced.  She prayed aloud, apologizing to the earth and the waters for our failure to protect them, speaking to the police who stood on the other side of the barrier and telling them that our prayers were for them, too, and for the safety of their children and grandchildren.  She spoke with such heartfelt power, sometimes crying, sometimes smiling—and I was watching the faces of the officers change, from that stone-faced cop look to meeting her eyes. I saw their faces soften, and saw them begin to nod.  LaDonna spoke, telling them how she had grown up there, how she knew them and had gone to the same schools, how her father had been a law enforcement officer.  By the end, when Cheryl told them we were going down to the river to do ceremony, they agreed.

Although I’ve written about nonviolence, practiced and trained people in it for decades, I generally think of it as a great experience.  I am ever-hopeful, but rarely convinced, that we can truly change the hearts of our opponents, and more often think of it as a strategy to galvanize the hordes of those who are unconvinced or uninformed, and marshall political pressure on our opposition.

But listening to Cheryl, I began to to believe that maybe we can invite even the police to our table, that maybe a strategy for this time of ever-consolidated power might be, as I wrote in The Fifth Sacred Thing, to fight on the terrain of consciousness, to contest not the guns but the mind that chooses whether or not to use the gun.  “Consciousness is the most stubborn stuff in the cosmos, and the most fluid.  It can be rigid as concrete, and it can change in an instant.  A song can change it, or a story, or a fragrance wafting by on the wind.”


We went, down a steep bank and over muddy ground.  I stood behind Cheryl and was able to give her some of our Waters of the World, water we have used in ceremonies and for offerings at sacred places for more than thirty-five years, that includes waters from every continent and ocean and many, many political actions.  She gave it to the river, with prayer.

Then we walked back.  The action was over, the silence held.  Will the prayers be answered?  That will depend on the support and the political will we can all muster in the coming weeks.

For myself, I am grateful I decided to go, and even more grateful and humbled by the immense commitment and faith shown by the water defenders.

I had to leave the next day, as the weather changed and a blizzard blew in.  This week, with the eviction notice, the struggle intensifies. Please send prayers and every form of support to those who will remain in much rougher circumstances than I experienced.

Water is sacred!  Water is life!

This article, from Indian Country Today Media Network, outlines many of the options for giving material support to the struggle. The Reclaiming Spiral Dance cell is donating $500 to the legal collective. If you are in a position to give material support, these are the most pressing needs right now.


What Now?


Painting: “Light Weavers” by Autumn Skye Morrison.

People often turn to me for comfort, and I’m not sure what solace I have to offer on this morning when the country has been submerged under a wave of toxicity.  It’s a moment when we crave some deeper faith in goodness, but my faith is not, ultimately, a comfortable one.

The Goddess, as I understand her, is not a personality, not a Big Mama who somehow guides your life and makes everything turn out all right, not a love-worn blankie we can cling to when we desperately want something to make us feel better.  She represents the great cycles of birth, growth, death and regeneration that move through nature and through human lives and history—cycles that include death and decay and loss. But her promise is simply this—that out of decay ultimately comes regeneration.


So today is a day to commit ourselves to the forces of regeneration—even if we can’t see clearly what they will be or how they will manifest.  Reach out to your friends and community.  Consider how you can have one another’s backs.  Consider how you can have the backs of those whose sacred and precious lives have, today, become all the more precarious and risky—people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, Muslims, the LGBT community, women, the defenders of water and justice.  Consider how we can somehow still protect and heal our threatened and beautiful earth. Plant a seed today, or create something beautiful; care for a child or an elder or a person on the street.  Be kind to someone.  Be kind to yourself.

And do it as a magical act, an act imbued with intention: that whatever comes down around us, we will choose compassion.  We will serve regeneration.

We always have that choice, and whenever we do, whenever we choose love over hate, we become one small weight to tip the balance.

Today, be good to yourself.  Heal.

And tomorrow—consider how to organize and take action, so that out of  decay we can bring some new rebirth.


Painting: “Chrysalis” By Autumn Skye Morrison

Pre-Election Day Thoughts

A while back, I wrote a post explaining why I was supporting Hillary Clinton for president.  It garnered more comments—and more ire—than anything else I’ve ever put up on the internet.  Now that the election is looming, I want to respectfully respond to some of the things I’ve heard…


“How can you vote?  With all you’ve done and written, how can you participate in this corrupt, money-driven system?  I thought you were far more radical than that!”

Political strategies and tactics are not jealous lovers.  You don’t have to be monogamous.  Direct Action will not feel betrayed if you also vote from time to time—you can be poly in your tactics.  And I am.  Of course I vote!  If you’re a woman, or a person of color, or a person who doesn’t own property, or even a white male who doesn’t belong to the nobility, centuries of struggle and many deaths have bought you the right to vote.  I vote to keep faith with peasant rebels and suffragist hunger strikers and civil rights workers braving the lynch mobs of the South, if for no other reason.  But there is another reason—because who we vote for has an enormous impact on real peoples’ lives.


“I’m voting for Jill Stein to send a message and build a third party that will be a real alternative.”

You can do that—but if you are in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico or New Hampshire I would beg you not to!  And even ‘safe’ states aren’t necessarily all that safe—nor is our democracy should Clinton win the electoral college but lose the popular vote.

And the message has already been sent.  It was sent by Sanders’ near-win in the primaries, which we can build on if Clinton wins.  But if Clinton loses, the Democrats will not turn around and say, “Oh how wrong we were not to choose the more progressive candidate.”  They’ll say, “The country has swung to the right and we must head right or be left behind.”  That’s what happened when Reagan won, and Bush, and Nixon, for that matter, and even though I believe they are entirely wrong-headed, whoever wins will claim a mandate.

The way to build a third party is from the ground up, starting with local campaigns and building a base and an infrastructure.  That’s what the right wing did—taking over things like school boards and city councils.  That’s where the Green Party is most effective and successful, and I’d like to see more of it.


“I won’t vote out of fear.”

“Don’t make decisions out of fear” is one of those helpful rules of life we tell ourselves when we need some extra confidence.  And there are times when it makes sense—say, when questioning whether to dive headlong into a wild, passionate love affair.

But sometimes fear is an appropriate emotion.  Should you dare to dive headlong into a pool without checking for rocks beneath?  To eat that unknown mushroom?  To dance freely and spontaneously out into traffic? 

Fear is the Goddess’ way of keeping us from doing really stupid things, and there are times to listen to fear, and heed it.  Fear can be a life-saver!  And in this election, fear of a Trump victory is an absolutely rational emotion—and that alone would be a good reason to vote for Clinton. 


“I must choose what my heart tells me.”

This is a good, romantic reason for choosing art instead of accounting for your college major—but it really has nothing to do with voting.  Because what our hearts tell us is mostly that we want something completely other than anything the system offers—and we already know that.  But at this moment we have a serious choice between two versions of what the system offers—and one is much, much worse than the other.  Now is one of those moments when we need to use our heads and think strategically.


“The Democrats are just as bad.”

No they’re not.  What they are is not as good as we hope they’ll be.  Yet Clinton’s policies are very good on some key issues: gay rights, women’s right to choose and women’s equality, and civil rights.  She’s running on a Democratic platform that is the most progressive ever, that includes raising the minimum wage, returning to free public universities, expanding and improving Obamacare and adding a public option—bringing us closer to a single payer system, appointing a decent set of justices to the Supreme Court that will uphold civil liberties, and rolling back Citizens’ United.  She believes climate change is real and will be susceptible to public pressure to rein in the oil companies and be a stronger protector of the environment.  Her foreign policy is hawkish but at least it lies within the realm of sanity.  It’s not like she’s running against Gandhi—she’s running against “Why have nukes if we don’t use them” Trump!


“The lesser of two evils is still an evil, and I would therefore be evil—or at least, morally impure—if I voted for her.”

Noam Chomsky wrote a brilliant critique of the ‘moral witness’ approach to voting—pointing out that the point of lesser-evil voting is precisely to do less evil—and that’s good!  Here’s what he has to say about moral voting:  “The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.”

You can read his full critique HERE.


So when you vote, think about what world you want to wake up in on November 9…

Scenario One: 

Hillary Clinton wins big, and progressive forces celebrate and then mobilize to push for real action on climate change, an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline, an end to militarized policing and the rampant murder of people of color, economic policies that benefit the disenfranchised, and a sane foreign policy.  We build on the momentum from Sanders’ campaign and see some key changes get made. 

Scenario Two: 

Donald Trump wins, and every racist and bigot in the country celebrates.  Every bully has a field day: every misogynist now has license to grab and snatch and harass as they please.  He appoints Supreme Court justices that repeal Roe vs. Wade, uphold the rights of white cops to shoot people of color with impunity, and decide that gay marriage—indeed, gay sex, is once again illegal.  He repeals Obamacare and anyone with a Latino last name lives in fear of deportation.  He undoes every gain that has been made around climate change, and derails every international negotiation.  He carries his bullying personality into foreign policy discussions and embroils us in war after war, perhaps even pulling that nuclear trigger.  Progressive folks spend the next phase of our lives fighting for things like keeping some minimal funding for health care, keeping ourselves out of jail should we happen to love someone of the same gender or need to terminate a pregnancy or worship in a mosque instead of a church, keeping some small measure of economic gains for the middle class (forget the poor) and digging our bomb shelters before the nuclear retaliation hits.

Scenario 3: 

Hillary Clinton wins small—possibly the electoral college but not the popular vote.  Trump makes good his threat to contest the election, whips up his supporters to roam the streets in vigilante groups. A lot of people get hurt or even die—most likely, women, people of color, gender-nonconforming people, or anyone who looks suspiciously Latino or Muslim. 


So, folks, we’re down to the wire. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Get out there and vote.  No politician will get us where we need to go—but I believe Hillary Clinton’s election will set move us forward in the right direction.  And then the rest is up to us!

Bad Hungers

In the third and final presidential debate this week, Trump spoke a line that undoubtedly cost him the last of any Latino support he might have had.  Speaking of immigrants, and with his face in his usual squint of disapproval, he muttered archly, “We have some bad hombres here… and we’re gonna get ’em out.”

Or at least that seems to be what he intended to utter.  I think if you’re going to insult people in their own language you should at least learn to pronounce it correctly.  What he actually said was not ‘hombres’—men—but ‘hambres’—hungers.

And in that he is correct.  There are some bad hungers out there, and they might account for Trump getting as far as he has. Even if he is soundly defeated, as I firmly hope he will be, those hungers will continue to gnaw away at our common fabric unless we pay attention and address them: 



This isn’t a bad hunger in and of itself—we all feel it.  It’s a primary need, perhaps even stronger than sex.  And millions of people in this country are struggling to maintain their sense of self-worth, because it’s very hard to feel worthy when you lose your house, when your job goes away, when you are scraping pennies together to pay the electricity bill. Where this hunger turns bad is when we gain that sense of value by putting someone else down, when we elevate ourselves by denigrating another person or another group. It’s like the energy-drink of self-esteem, a cheap shot that pumps you up for a moment but doesn’t truly nourish. Or maybe, like cocaine; (what about that sniffing? Just saying….) dangerously addictive.



This arises from Hunger Number One, above, and Trump has turned it into a national sport.  When something distresses us, the go-to reaction is to blame somebody else.  That is how politicians serve us so well—better, even, than your ex-spouse. Trump is a master at it—he manages to blame Clinton for everything that has or hasn’t happened in the last thirty years—as if she had been Absolute Monarch instead of Senator and Secretary of State in a system with many conflicting powers contesting one another.



It’s natural, when somebody hurts you, to want to hurt them back.  Most of us learn to resist this urge sometime around kindergarten, but it remains in those deep recesses of the heart. When we blame, we desire to punish. Seems only fair. You hurt me—I long to hurt you, to teach you a lesson. This hunger is dangerous, as it can so easily instigate violence. Trump’s election—should the Gods hate us all—threatens to unleash the pitbulls of violence against women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims and anyone else who becomes a target.


Bad hungers are not just the purview of the right wing.

We are all susceptible.  I hear people on the left, disappointed that Sanders is not our candidate, wanting to teach the Democratic Party a lesson, eager to blame Clinton for everything including Trump’s candidacy itself, looking for conspiracies behind every rock, or feeling powerless, giving up on the political system altogether and giving away the power they do have.

Resist the Bad Hungers!

Fill yourself up with real self-worth, not based on money or shallow attention, but real relationships, community, the work you do that means something to you. For every hour you spend reading the internet or obsessing about conspiracy theories, spend two walking in nature, or playing with your kids, or working on something you care about.

Then go out and vote, not out of petulance, but out of hope, for the person you believe will create the best conditions over the next four years for building deeper community, planetary health and true abundance. 

I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton—although I know she’s not perfect.  But I admire her courage under fire, I applaud her strong defense of women’s rights, and I trust her to move us in the direction I want to go.  Not to get us there—that’s up to us to organize, pressure, and envision the new world.  But to create the best conditions in which we can do so.

Debate as Rorschach Test—or Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

Watching the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in the wake of the release of Trump’s sexual assault tapes, was a gut-churning, visceral experience for me and, I suspect, for every woman who has ever suffered from sexual assault or the fear of rape. Clinton won my admiration and respect for her grace under fire, and her ability to remain focused, clear and smiling while Trump stalked her.

Trump literally threatened her, saying he’d jail her if he becomes president—a new low in American politics—and then proceeded with a display of disrespectful and intimidating body language, pacing, turning his back, and looming up behind her for all the world as if he were auditioning for the role of predator in a film noir thriller.

Every communication involves both text—the words we say—and subtext—everything else, tone, body language, syntax, etc.  Trump’s text was bad enough:  besides threatening to jail Clinton if he wins, he promised to ramp up the nuclear arms race, support more development of oil and coal, and continued to defend his racist, sexist positions on women, people of color, immigrants and Muslims.  But his subtext was downright creepy—from the dismissal in his tone every time he mentioned his ‘locker room talk’ to the lurking, snuffling monster imitation of his physical presence, not to mention the venom in his voice every time he said the word ‘she’. 

Yet even while he dissed and dismissed Clinton, he also attributed to her almost Godlike powers, continually complaining about how, although she’d been in politics for thirty years, she hadn’t solved crime or education or poverty or a host of other problems.  As if she were a Queen with absolute power, not a participant in a system with multiple conflicting powers, checks and balances.  Or maybe not a Queen, but that other deep archetype of female power—a Witch!

Oh, a Witch!  For decades I’ve been writing about the legacy of Witch persecutions and how they leave us with a collective fear and distrust of women’s power.  I’ve embraced that archetype to attempt to transform it, but watching the debate and the discussions around this election, I see how deep and powerful the unconscious images are.

As disturbing as Trump’s performance was, I find it almost more alarming at how many people—including friends of mine that are staunch progressives—join in on the chorus simultaneously inflating and disparaging Clinton’s purported powers.  “A vote for Clinton is a vote for murder/suicide”.  “If Clinton is elected, your children will become cannon fodder.”  “Clinton showed her true colors, and they were ugly.”  “Calling all Hillary sheep…the poor lambs are so going to be disappointed if their savior Queen is elected. But in their usual stupidity they will excuse her by telling themselves that Trump would have been worse.”

Huh? What is going on?  Why this venomous hatred for a woman who actually has one of the better progressive track records of recent times?  Granted she’s a long-time, professional politician, who has made mistakes and compromises.  Yes, she takes money from Wall Street—so does every other politician except Bernie Sanders who made a huge step forward by showing just how far you can go on small donations.  But he is the exception. As long as politics are dependent on money, politicians will be beholden to money.  Why this intense hatred so specifically focused on Clinton?

At the end of a talk I gave last week in Santa Barbara, a young woman approached me and said something I found extremely insightful about the current political moment.  Her name is Margaret Gregston, and I want to credit her because women so often don’t receive credit for our contributions.  “People think they hate Hillary Clinton, but really they hate the political system,” she said. “Hillary Clinton is bearing the brunt of people’s dissatisfaction with the whole thing, just as women always catch all the flak.”

Thank you, Margaret!  Much has been written about the misogyny involved in the virulence of people’s hatred for Clinton.  But there’s an aspect of this that goes deeper than simple misogyny.  It goes to the heart of the risk all strong women take when we stand up, especially publicly—the deep archetype of our collective fear and mistrust of powerful women.  We risk being seen as the Witch—She whose powers are immense and unfathomable, scary and malevolent.

Where does that archetype come from? Dorothy Dinnerstein, in The Mermaid and the Minotaur, a book that came out when I was a young psychology student, talked about the projections that burden women. As infants, we see our mothers as the Goddess-like source of nourishment, comfort and well-being, and yet even the best mother fails us at moments.  We awake hungry, or uncomfortable, we get ill or injured, and because Mom appears to us to be all-powerful, we believe her lapses in care are deliberate slights, and her limitations are purposeful withholding. 

At the same time, Clinton bears the brunt of another common projection onto women—the Mom Who Spoils Your Fun, the dull, fuddy-duddy restrictor of pleasure, the enforcer of homework and bedtime, the Responsible but Boring One.  She pays a price for being sane, rational, responsible, committed, with a long record of actual political battles and achievements, wins and losses. How mundane, how dull, compared with Trump who gets to play both Rebel Adolescent in revolt against that same political system we’re all frustrated with, and Flashy Divorced Dad offering us a trip to the bizarre horror-show amusement park of his fantasyland,  while every now and then channeling the authoritarian Voice of Dad, telling Hillary she should be ashamed of herself.  No wonder his supporters aren’t disturbed by his bullying and lies—they don’t see themselves suffering the brunt of them, they want to be him!  While nobody sane wants to be Hillary—slogging along in the trenches of public service, valiantly trying to talk about children’s health care while dodging a hailstorm of accusations and the fallout of her husband’s transgressions.

So, I’m speaking to my friends and allies on the progressive side—can we stop the viciousness? Like her, don’t like her, criticize her, but leave off the venom, please!  Your vitriol hurts women—all of us.  It reinforces the archetypes that see women’s power as dangerous and malicious, the same archetypes that contributed to the burning of Witches and that make women vulnerable targets of male rage.

Vote for Jill Stein if you like—I won’t. I don’t believe a protest vote makes sense at this moment.  We had our protest vote—that was Sanders, in the primary, and it was tremendously effective.  It pushed the Democrats farther to the left than they’ve been in decades, and we can build on that—if Clinton wins.  If by some fluke she loses to a bigoted, racist bully, at best we’ll spend the next four years desperately scrambling to limit the damage.  Every racist killer cop will take heart and the alt-right will claim a mandate for racism, rape culture, climate catastrophe, and possibly nuclear war.  We will lose whatever small margin we still have left for addressing climate change and avoiding massive global environmental meltdown.

At this point, Trump’s chances of winning seem slim.  But even a slim chance is still a chance, and surprises can happen—look at the Brexit vote, where all the predictions were that it would lose. 

I would rather see the Green Party focus its efforts on local elections, on running people for school boards and water boards and town councils where Greens can be effective in important ways.  That’s how the right wing gained their power base.  Stein’s policies are great, but she has no experience that would qualify her to fight off the sharks in Washington if by some miracle she got elected. 

I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton—because I support her policies on women, on children, on climate change, on the human rights of people of color and immigrants in this country.  I want to see her appoint the next Supreme Court justices so that we have a chance to overturn Citizens United and get rid of the worst abuses of money in politics.  I am wary of her foreign policy, but I believe with her as president we will be in the best position to organize, to increase the progressive base and push for those bigger changes in the system that we all want to see.  I also think that those traits people don’t like about her—her ability to strategize and her political savvy and insider knowledge—are exactly what’s needed for her or any politician to have half a chance of getting anything done in this current polarized climate.

  But whether you do or don’t agree with me, please get out there and vote!  There is much more at stake than the presidency—there’s the House and Senate, local and state elections, referendums and local issues that have vital impacts on real people.  We need a Democratic landslide to send a strong message that we reject racist, sexist inflammatory politics and that they won’t be rewarded.  We need to break the obstructionist Republican deadlock on the House and Senate.   We need to do everything we can to turn the country back from a dangerous, destructive path of hate and discrimination.  Clinton is not Emma Goldman or Mother Teresa—nor is she Cruella de Ville.  She’s a real, human being with a solid track record and policies I partly don’t like but mostly do, and I’m proud to support this strong, savvy, responsible woman whom I believe will move us forward on the vital issues of our time.

Death and Mystery

We like to think things happen for a reason. We like to think that if we are good, and play by the rules—whether they are the larger rules of the mainstream world or the rules we have crafted for ourselves out of our own vision of how life should be—then good things will happen to us. Possibly we need that comfort to go on living in a world full of accident and malice.

Of course that comforting belief has a terrible corollary—that if bad things happen, we somehow deserve them, or have brought them on.

Yet goodness is no true bulwark against loss and death and disease. Good people die, while those who are full of hate and greed and selfishness appear to thrive.

The Goddess doesn’t offer us easy comfort or consolation. We don’t have heaven to reward the good or a hell to punish the bad. We might believe, as Martin Luther King says, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice—but we observe that it has a long, long way to go.

Rebecca Tidewalker died yesterday. I don’t know why. She was a lovely young woman whose life was about service and love and work for justice, an artist, dancer, ritual-maker and teacher. She didn’t smoke. She ate organic food. She had a sweet and loving heart, and a deep willingness to look at her own shadows and do her own work. She had a loving partner and was joyfully seven months pregnant when she was diagnosed with fourth stage lung cancer. She embarked on a healing journey, together with her partner and her loving and supportive community, that became a model of how community can function at its best.

Her story should have had a happier ending. If anyone deserved a miracle cure, it was her. If ever there was someone who could call on the healing power of Witches and Mary and Jesus and a circle of loving friends, it was her.

Why should she die, why should her loving partner be bereft and her baby son left orphaned, when people who smoke and eat junk food, who spew hate and prejudice, who neglect their kids or abuse them, who wallow in greed and violence are still walking around alive on the good green earth?

I would like to believe that things happen for a reason, but that’s a belief for good times, to comfort us with some sense of security and continuity.

Bad times demand we confront the mystery—that we don’t know why. That there is no reason. That sometimes we just get dealt a really raw hand.

Or if there is a reason, a larger pattern, it’s so big we can’t see it. We’re staring at one puzzle piece, not the picture.

All we know is that we can choose how to play the hand we’re dealt. We don’t have faith in some ultimate judgment that will right all wrongs. But we do have faith that if we face our challenges with courage and love, we serve the great forces of healing and regeneration that surround us. A brave, loving and compassionate soul is like a light, that calls forth the best in everyone around her.

Rebecca and her community of loved ones and supporters have been a beacon for us all, an example of how community can be at its best.

A mist obscures a

Shining star. We can’t see it,

But the light remains.

There is no reason—no pat answer to the question, “Why him?” “Why her?” Or the question, “Why me?” that we all ask.

But there is meaning, the meaning that we make.

Rebecca Tidewalker, Iridaea, Solas, and all the loving community that surrounds you, I thank you for the way you have made death and disease and tragedy also mean love and connection and faith. I honor your courage, through my tears.

Weaver, Weaver,

Weave her thread,

Whole and strong into your web.

Healer, Healer,

Heal our pain,

In love may she return again.