The state of the suncult

Upcoming Melbourne events:

Suncult Social:
2pm, 3rd June, Melbourne CBD
https://www.facebook.com/events/234918437260320/

Winter Solstice Ritual
16th June, Melbourne CBD:
https://www.facebook.com/events/202804910484241/

It’s been four weeks since my last post here, and it’s not from a lack of love or interest.
I have monstrously bad executive dysfunction. I’m taking steps to be better.

I’ve been mulling over in my mind the direction I want to the SGP to take, since it’s important to me for it to stay rooted in Anarchist principles, and it’s still in such an embryonic state. This raises the question of how much input to take on from others. I’ve concluded it’s a matter of trust in the core, indivisible, elemental spirit of the SGP. I have some people in my life who already grasp it seemingly instinctively, and I treasure their input.
Defining that spirit in a way that is easily transmittable to others will come later, but it is something that will be done.

In the meantime, softness and kindness are the most vital aspects of the culture of this tradition. This work hurts, it’s raw and vulnerable and real. It’s scary and confronting and challenging. But people will play much harder, push themselves so much further when they feel safe. We need to dig down past the defense mechanisms to get to honesty and truth, and with that comes powerful, liberating and dangerous vulnerability. And with vulnerability, the opportunity to dig out the shrapnel poisoning us from the inside out. The shame, insecurity, pain, grief and many other ills. No deflecting humor or minimizing cynicism. Just truth.
How to get to that point of truth and safety in play is something that we will develop and hone and produce; it’s a journey in itself, but also a skill that can be taught.

As I walked home tonight, massive squawking fruit bats flew overhead, and silent ringtail possums crept across branches. The half-moon lit up the cloudy night in that grey hazy way you only get when it’s cold.
The winter solstice is only three weeks away, and yet the ground is blossoming with mushrooms, lichen and moss. Even in the most downcast moments, so long as we are truly alive, growth never stops.

I feel capable. Not confident or energetic, but filled with a quiet determination. The SGP is slowly putting down roots, even if on the surface things seem slow, or dormant. But it’s growing, and it will be beautiful when it blooms.

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This isn’t really about marriage equality

‘For you I take a holy risk to love as I must,
love is the law, the only law that matters’
-Reclaiming witchcraft chant by Ravyn Stanfield

I went to the beach yesterday, and swam for the first time in years. I’d loved swimming once, but body dysphoria and abuse had robbed me of the pleasure. I was fat and strange and bullied for it as a child. I was very young when I grew large breasts and the feel of spandex swimclothes was insufferable to my autistic sensitivities. In bathers all I could feel were other people’s eyes all over me and my chest, worsened by their sticky words. People threw me in pools and even tried to drown me. During my school’s compulsory swimming program I began telling my male teachers I had my period. The women I told I had the flu, because they’d know I wasn’t menstruating for a month straight. When that excuse wore thin, I’d ‘forgotten’ my towel and gear. They didn’t believe me and gave me detentions. Detention meant nothing to me; I’d sit at the back of the classroom and read every Friday afternoon. I didn’t have anywhere better to be.

Yesterday, a friend suggested we go to a pool, or the beach. I said I didn’t want to go to the pool for fear of disease. Although the both of us are prone to ear infections, public pools fill me with more than just germaphobia; a visceral disgust. Rafts of snot and used bandaids and laughter that made me want to rip off my own skin with my bare hands. Chlorine bloodshot eyes hiding tears.

But it was gloriously warm yesterday, and the sea was fresh and calm, so I said yes to the beach. It’s hard to learn to say yes to what you want and no to what you don’t, and knowing the difference. To have people take you seriously when you change your mind. I wore an old t-shirt and boxers because I don’t own anything else. I’m fat again now but flat-chested and tattooed and stubbornly body neutral. There were other people there, enjoying the warmth and the sun, but they were tourists. The liminal; this is my realm. I was able to ignore the occasional odd looks of judgmental teenagers, dismissing it as a folly of youth. I swam.

It was a baptismal experience. Two of my greatest loves, my parents, the sun and the sea. A rebirth into a better version of me. The first time I ever took my shirt off in public was at the beach. This wasn’t a true first, a reclamation or victory, but it was a Rubicon. One of many.

I made an offhand comment to my friend about how people have lost touch with the world around them, too absorbed into the constructed, manufactured reality of the human. That we no longer have the ability to read the winds by looking at the clouds or tell the date by the stars. My friend couldn’t accept the beach was natural, a pristine sandbank extending so far from the shore, believing the sand to be imported. To him, the sand was too real, like a postmodern dream. There’s a walking trail where one can see how dramatically the shape of the coast has changed by comparing it to Impressionist paintings of the Heidelberg School of the late 19th century, shifted about by the waves in the natural bowl created by the very narrow opening to the bay. The Boonwurrung land that I love and through love wish to know.

He told me rain had been forecast-it was raining over the bay at that moment, far in the distance, but I knew the clouds wouldn’t make landfall judging by their size, shape, and the speed of the wind. They didn’t that evening, at least nowhere near me.

Not long after, we both spotted an insect floating on the surface of the glassy green water. It was a bee, and I immediately wanted to see if it was still alive. My friend was worried for me, that I shouldn’t use my bare hands to pick her up. I did anyway. I knew she wouldn’t sting me. She didn’t. Cradled against the wind in my palm, she immediately began grooming the salty water from her legs.
I’ve never been stung in my life, partly through luck, occupation, and love. As a child I never had a forest to run wild in, so I’d spend hours observing insects in our yard instead. I loved cicadas, dragonflies, mantises, beetles, bees and case moths best.

I carried the bee the long way back to shore and gently nudged her off my hand in the shade with some flowers nearby. My thoughts and statements are often punctuated by what others may consider coincidence such as this, but I know it’s a dialogue. We’re in a constant conversation with the world around us. To ignore it is the source of a well of deep emptiness that results in a drive toward apocalyptic self-destruction. Anything to escape the pain. Pay attention, it was telling me, disconnected from my body and the natural world, suffering. The entire biosphere of our world is as one organism, one community. Listen. It’s speaking truth to power.

Today I spent most of the day lying in bed feeling surly, tired and hurting. The day the marriage equality plebiscite results were released. It was a win, but the cost was too high, the percentage too low, the outlook too grim. Then I heard thunder and rushed outside to feel the first few drops of rain on my skin and relief from the oppressive heat and stress and uncertainty I’d been holding on to. It hit me like a wave. I could feel the love and strength and relief of the queer ancestors and we wept together. I opened all my windows to let them in, to wash away the tension.

There is still sand in my hair. Small victories.

Sailing on Melbourne’s tall ship, Enterprize

The sea is a pivotal part of my paganism, so on the 10th of April I took a short voyage with some friends aboard the Enterprize from near my old home town on the Mornington Penninsula to the Docklands, to celebrate my birthday from a few weeks prior.

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The bow of the new Enterprize.

The original Enterprize was a timber two-masted, topsail schooner built in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1830. It was a coastal transport vessel and was used largely for coal, supplies and occasionally livestock.

Although Europeans had sailed up the Yarra river in 1803 on a surveying trip as far as Dights falls in Abbotsford, they did not return to begin the settlement of Melbourne until August of 1835, when the Enterprize was hauled upriver and moored at the site of what is now Williams street.

The original Enterprize disappeared off the Hobart shipping register due to being wrecked on the Richmond River in NSW in 1847, with the loss of two lives.

The new replica Enterprize was launched in 1997, constructed partly from reclaimed materials using traditional boat building techniques.  With an overall length of 27 meters, the rigging is hemp rope and the sails are hand-sewn flax cloth. The bulwarks are Cyprus pine grown on the Royal Melbourne Golf Course and the floor timbers are Jarrah wood salvaged from Melbourne’s old station pier. Below the waterline the hull timber once made up the floor joists of an old Freemantle wool store and the ship’s ribs include wood salvaged from New Zealand brewing vats. The heritage of these recycled materials gives her the feeling of being close in spirit to the original and not just an empty simulacra.

She’d been giving short passenger rides on the afternoon of the trip, so we got to watch her coming in to dock on Mornington pier from a distance as we walked down from the red sandy cliffs above.

After giving a quick offering of some whiskey to the boat and the sea off the end of the pier (I wasn’t able to get rum on short notice) it was time to go.

After a brief flurry of activity hoisting the sails where myself and my companions scampered about either trying to keep out of the way or be useful in helping pull rigging, we were off with a calm but favorable wind.

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The main mast.

Crewed by personable, good-humored volunteers, it’s a quiet ship that hums gently with a diesel engine. The crew love her and she seems happy to soak up their affection-especially the magnificently crafted solid wood steering tiller which happily invites touch. Constructed as faithfully as possible to the original ship, the Enterprize is a real Melbourne icon.

It was a peaceful voyage with a minimal crew and only a small handful of passengers. Although the bay was calm with only small waves, I was still stumbling about like a vodka-filled toddler for most of the trip.

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Port side rigging and bulwark.

Being a traditionally rigged vessel, after spending the afternoon and evening aboard I felt covered in a light coating of tar. The skies were clear and we were gifted with a beautiful sunset, and then a view of the clear night sky with far more stars than I’m accustomed to seeing deep in the light-polluted suburbs where I live.
The sea was playful and friendly as she usually is towards me and I felt content to simply enjoy the experience, staring out across Port Phillip and along the coast in the distance.

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Sunset.

After sunset, pulling in towards the city, Hobson’s bay glittered with sleepy, golden Sunday evening lights as we approached, the sky smudged with smoke and steam.

Cruising up the Yarra back to her home in Victoria Harbour highlighted the contrast of a Melbourne young and old as we passed the new shipping control tower then the old one, abandoned since 1985.

The busy shipping lanes were quiet and largely deserted and dormant; solitary human figures moving about on shore looked out of place, like the peculiar figures in a Jeffrey Smart painting. A lone man jogging along the wharf,  a hooded figure hunched over at the edge of a floating 24-hour boat refueling station.
A huge European freight ship stood silent in the distance; the vast temporary car lots used for moving imported cars off ship lit but empty.

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The Brutalist underside of the Bolte bridge.

The harbor is a vast and awe-inspiring vista of industry, huge machines and ships that are peculiarly alienating in their immensity, dwarfing any human.

We passed serenely under the Westgate Bridge while the crew folded the sails, then under the festively glowing Bolte bridge, until we were back on dry land all too soon.

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Cruising along the Yarra river with the Bolte bridge in the foreground.

The Enterprize runs regular trips of varying lengths (and prices) making it accessible to a broad range of people. I highly recommend the experience to anyone with an interest in Melbourne’s heritage, sailing or the sea to give it a try. She’s a gentle ship, but the capricious sea has caused her deck to see plenty of digestive carnage from seasick passengers. Be sure to take some ginger first.