Archive for April, 2009
(Inspired by the recent Vanity Fair piece by Alex Shoumatoff, and reposted on my blog Women of Esoterica.)
I recently commented in a post for my blog Octopus Confessional on Alex Shoumatoff’s excellent article, Bohemian Tragedy, in the May issue of Vanity Fair. Shoumatoff’s article reveals the secrecy and greed of Grove members who are involved in “forest management” and “fire prevention” techniques by harvesting the redwoods in the Grove. Their cutting of the redwoods and other trees affects more than just private areas in a closely guarded compound; the aftermath affects entire eco-systems, within and without the Grove, including water systems and marine life.
Regarding the effects of these practices on the rest of us I wrote:
The Grove’s arrogance, power and disregard has affected not just themselves in their inner circle, but the outside world as well; the peasants, us, the no accounts, yes, the measly proletariat. The issue of salmon is a huge one; affecting far more than the meal on our dinner plates; it affects the environment as well as economy in many ways. The Grove calls all this harvesting “forest management” but there’s far more to this than simple “fire prevention” tactics, as Shoumatoff adeptly reveals.
The elitism, arrogance and power that is the foundation of Bohemian Grove is highly secretive, extremely protective of itself, and clings to these traits with rigorous tenacity. (Shoumatoff, a journalist, was kicked out of the Grove for trespassing — the legality of his treatment is in question. Shoumatoff takes part in an ironic history: The Bohemian Grove was founded by journalists in the late 1800s; today however journalists are banned from becoming members and are considered enemies of Grovers.)
Men — mainly white, Protestant men; few Jews or blacks, for example,have been members. As Shoumatoff writes:
They see themselves as the moral underpinnings of America’s greatness, whose central tenets are the Protestant work ethic: work hard and prosper and you’ll get into that great club in the sky. The Bohemian Club is like the Opus Dei of the Protestant American establishment. Very few Jews have made it in, and even fewer blacks.
The excluded include women,there are no women members. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the purpose of the Grove, which is to maintain power among the corporate-government complex. Herbert Hoover called the yearly meeting of fellow power elites “the greatest men’s party on Earth.” Sociology Professor Peter Philliips at Sonoma State, has said “This is a place men can go and hang out with people who are similar to them.” (Unclear if he is a member; I believe he is but not sure. However, he is an apologist for the Grove.) There have been a few “honorary” female members, as well as female guests, but these women are restricted as to access and privilege. They’re allowed to visit during the day, but cannot go into buildings except the City Club, and there they are kept to the downstairs. Access to the other camps on the 2,700 acre property is prohibited. Women guests, for example, spouses, sometimes visit, such as on the annual “Ladies Hi-jinks” night.
In 1979 the Grove was sued by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing but the Grove won. Judge Robert Kendall ruled that since men at the Grove “urinate in the open” the inclusion of women would “alter” the men’s behavior in a negative way. Pissing against trees seems to be part of the undercurrent of ritualistic behavior of Grove members. Shoumatoff makes reference to this penchant for tree pissing:
Another hallmark of the encampment is the promiscuous micturition—guys standing up to the redwoods and relieving themselves everywhere you look. Maybe they’re trying to symbolically assert their primacy over nature. But the amount of drinking that goes on, plus the fact that many members are elderly and likely have prostate problems and can’t make it back to their camp fast enough, also plays a role in what has become, if not a formal ritual, a group-reinforcing collective activity.
But back to women. While women aren’t powerful or rich enough to become members of the Grove, they are useful enough to work for the Grove. In 1981 the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, ruled that the Bohemian Grove had to start hiring women; the Grove appealed to the California Supreme Court and lost. Female employees of the Grove are restricted however; working only in a few select areas or “camps.” Presumably this excludes the rumors of prostitutes who are said to be present in the Grove during gatherings.
None of this is surprising; what else to expect from the industrial-global-banker-entertainment elite? Yet the Grove isn’t all just doddering old white men who piss against Redwoods and other plant life due mainly to alcoholic gluttony and enlarged prostates; it’s also the Fortean irony of members like ex-Grateful Dead musicians. And while women are not allowed in, is it any kind of victory if women were to become equal partners in weirdly goofy yet somber occult tinged rituals in the dead of night? It’s no comfort to me to know that there are women of power and wealth, in positions where global policies are made and implemented, that keep the rest of us hoi poli in our place, while they revel in the Grove. Those sisters would also exclude. We’d have a grove full of Margaret Thatchers; no appeasement there.
Another tidbit of irony comes to us by way of the Grove’s motto: “Weaving spiders come not here’ (see note at end of article) meaning, leave your cares behind, all you big powerful men you. Rituals invoking this intent are performed at the Grove; the “Cremation of Care” ritual symbolically burns away the burdens of the outside world. It’s tough being a member of the powers that be.
The reality is that policies and plans are put into place during these gatherings, and serious papers are presented on a variety of subjects affecting the world. For example, a list of topics presented at one Grove gathering are listed in a 2003 article by sociologist Peter Phillips for Counterpunch:
Additionally, there were daily lectures from world-class experts on global warming, war policy, school vouchers, mad deer disease, horse racing, stem cell research, terrorism, American-Russian relations, and marine ecosystem.
The paranoiac inclined Fortean can easily see the esoteric connections between those subjects.
The Grove’s two symbols, the Owl and the Spider, are both symbols of female wisdom. The Roman goddess Minerva is accompanied by an owl symbolizing the wisdom Minerva brings to the world. However, many, from the paranoid Christian anti-occultists to the unconsciously misogynist, the owl is the symbol of Lilith, which for many, represents Satan. This view ignores a more divine feminine perspective of Lilith. Regarding Spider, some Native American traditions “Grandmother Spider” weaves wisdom, bringing knowledge to others; but more importantly, Grandmother Spider is the creator! Women with Spider energy are powerful indeed.
Meanwhile, as cliché and basic Women’s Studies 101 it may sound, the fact is the men that are in power and come together at Bohemian Grove think little enough of women to include them in any meaningful — powerful enough — way. They’re useful, as servants, be they cooks, maids, clerks, hookers or wives of members but there their usefulness ends. In the Grove, what few women there are operate in a passive state, either as infrequent guests, or employees at the lowest rungs.
There are plenty of reasons to continue to rail against the Bohemian Grove meetings; for the above reasons, for the occult underpinnings, for their rape of the environment, to be a squeaky wheel. Take your pick.
“Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you longlegged spinners, hence!
Beetles black approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.” ~ William Shakespeare
“A quote from the 1st Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act 2, scene. 2. A charm to protect the sleeping Titania from tiny creatures common in England, all harmless, though once thought to be venomous.” From: “Weaving Spiders, Come Not Here” – What Is This Bohemian Grove?” by J. Mark Sovegin, 2008.
Alex Shoumatoff: Bohemian Tragedy, in Vanity Fair, May 2009
Peter Phillips:US Elites Celebrate Patriarchy, Racism and Class Privilege, in Counterpunch on-line 2003
Minerva, public domain
The popular film Twilight, from the equally popular book, was filmed in Oregon and Washington state. I haven’t had a chance to read the books yet, but plan to, though I don’t think I’ll see the movie; seems too young and commercial for my tastes. I’ll probably end up watching it on television some late night. . .
I am a vampire fan however, and loved the Anne Rice books, as well as the movie made from her series. I’m a huge fan of the HBO series True Blood, also taken from a book series. (new episodes begin in June.)
One of the scariest vampire films: The 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire with John Malcovich and William Dafore. (and Eddie Izzard!)
An excellent article in the May issue of Vanity Fair: Bohemian Tragedy by Alex Shoumatoff. Shoumatoff snuck into the Grove to investigate the harvesting of Redwoods. There isn’t that much money to be made in doing this, but there is great harm, so why continue? As Shoumatoff and others ask, why not charge membership fees and the like? Instead, arrogance combined with cold disregard rule. A man and ex-member named “Jock” has worked hard to get the Grove to see reason, yet nothing of the kind has happened. The money made from the harvesting of trees was used to “manage” the forest but the reality is very different:
But, according to Jock, the forest outside the main grove was in terrible shape. Hiking trails had been turned into logging roads, footbridges had been bulldozed and not repaired, and there was massive erosion in some places, some of it washing down into the Russian River, which once hosted the most abundant spawning runs of coho and king salmon and steelhead in California.
The Grove’s arrogance, power and disregard has affected not just themselves in their inner circle, but the outside world as well; the peasants, us, the no accounts, yes, the measly proletariats. The issue of salmon is a huge one; affecting far more than the meal on our dinner plates; it affects the envirnoment as well as economy in many ways. The Grove calls all this harvesting “forest management” but there’s far more to this than simple “fire preventation” tactics, as Shoumatoff adeptly reveals.
Bohemian Grove has long been a subject full of all the things an esoteric junkie loves: conspiracies, the occult, rituals, the power elite in costume by firelight, all the time taking themselves very seriously, even while seemingly winking and nodding towards the amusing nature of good old traditional fun . . . and there is a steady undercurrent in this mainstream presentation of this article. The arrogance and rape of nature underscores the darker conspiracy driven theories about the Bohemian Grove. After all, it’s the ruling class indeed, the elite, the powerful, the global-industrial-military-entertainment complex reveling in their power, hidden from the rest of us, that control things.
Strange too are the juxtapositions of culture icons within the Grove; ex-members of The Grateful Dead are members of the Grove, as well as Fortean ironies, like the name Bohemian itself, for there is nothing “bohemian” about the Grove at all. As Shoumatoff writes:
In the Bohemian Club, “bohemian” means something completely different from the free-living, poverty-stricken artist that the word usually conjures. It means toeing the party line, United We Stand. Unbohemian means being disloyal, betraying the pact, the global-dominance group. It’s the worst thing a member can be called.
Thug tactics at work; Shoumatoff is rudely, and no doubt illegally, treated, but who’s to care? And the audit that suddenly befalls one of the Redwood’s protectors also teeters on the illegal. But again, who’s to care, and who’s going to change it?
This isn’t about saving a few pretty trees, but about protecting ancient Redwoods that, if left alone, help the environment and help protect us from global warming, er, “climate changes.” This refusal by the rulers of Grove is both disturbing and puzzling; as mentioned, why not charge more from members, if money is the issue? Is the continued and stubborn desecration of the Redwoods a sacrifice to maintain power? It seems so.
Image source: State Symbols USA
This is the current Trickster’s Realm column for Tim Binnall’s Binnall of America. TR is a bi-monthly column I write for Binnall of America.
My friend “Lola” lives in the coast range in Oregon. Lola has a life long history of paranormal activity in her family including not just ghosts but UFOs, Bigfoot and other paranormal and psychic phenomena. These things seem to follow the family; particularly the women. There are some paranormal clichés involved: events happen more to the females in the family, some members have Native American blood, and at least one house is on Native American hunting grounds.
Lola, her husband and their children moved a few years ago to their present home in the coast range. We’ve visited them several times and it’s a great place; out in the country, on acres of land by a creek. The night sky is magnificent and far from city light pollution. There is something odd about the place however, and that is the space between their house and the shop. The shop is a large building; it could easily be a house onto itself. It’s placed in an odd spot; very close to the house; there’s only about six feet between the shop and the house, which makes for a dark, cold, narrow passage way to navigate through.
In the narrow dark space between house and shop there is a persistent feeling of something very heavy and large, as well as depressed, close by. Neither one of the children (young teens) will go out there at night, and they’re no wimps. They’re used to living in the country; many family members live in rural areas; they’re no strangers to the country. Lola doesn’t like to go out there at night either, and really, no one does, including myself or my husband. It’s not only the space between the buildings that has this heavy cold feeling, but the shop itself. The remodel work going on hasn’t seemed to improve these feelings.
The feeling I get when in this space is one of extreme heaviness, a depression as well as an oppression, of something very, very large. It’s a living, conscious entity but I haven’t been able to call it “human,” or “animal” — it seems to be both, as odd as that sounds.
The other day George had mentioned that he’s always felt it’s an animal spirit, and that this energy is one of great depression due to abuse. Right before he said that to me, I was thinking about this energy, trying to get closer to what it is. I received a strong vibration of mistreatment, but as to animal or human, it was still vague. It seemed wrapped up altogether. Then George said, out of the blue, “I’ve always felt very strongly that this animal energy had a lot of abuse energy surrounding it.”
Lola’s bedroom faces the shop, and their bedroom widow looks directly onto the building. She keeps the curtains closed at all times, because of the negative energy she feels coming from the building. There are strange claw marks on their bedroom window, high up and no one can figure out how they got there, or what made them. Whatever it was, had to jump up very high to make them; and why would it? It’s as if something was trying to claw its way into the bedroom. It’s possible a bear was looking in the window, (they do have a black bear problem in the area) still, the bear would have had to have been an exceptionally large one to reach that high.
Lola has had other strange experiences; one afternoon, while lying on their bed, she saw an entity appear beside her. The entity, in Lola’s own words, “Wasn’t human, but was trying to pass itself off as human.” Lola was clear it was a female entity, with a pale, almost white face, and a “wig” of dark brown hair cut short. Lola doesn’t know if this has anything to do with the energy between the buildings; but she does say this entity wasn’t a positive one.
The other day, Lola was working in the herb patch outside her kitchen, which is a few feet from the shop. She told me she kept getting a strong image of something dead buried nearby; something large and animal like.
There is a sad history to the place; a horse that the previous owners kept on the property was terribly neglected, and they left the animal on the property when Lola and her family bought the place. The poor thing suffered a great deal for years but fortunately, Lola’s family has worked closely with the horse, who is now very happy and healthy, and they’ve since bought other horses to join the family. The area where the horses hang out seems fine; but near this shop area, it’s another feeling altogether. And I’ve noticed the horses don’t go near there either, or in the upper field that faces Lola’s bedroom.
Something seems to have left an imprint; either a series of events, or one specific being, be it human or animal. Whatever it is, has been felt by many visitors.
There’s the issue itself of course: killing sea lions in order to protect salmon. Fish ladders are installed at dams to help salmon swim upstream so they can spawn. Sea lions hang out around the fish ladders in order to eat the salmon. Humans trap, relocate or kill the sea lions, in order to protect the salmon — which is an endangered species — and allow them to spawn. So we can eat them.
This cycle of eating, monitoring, capturing, killing, removing, monitoring, eating. . . costs a lot of money, provides jobs, provides food, continues traditions, promotes and supports industry, protects authority and infrastructures. The language used within this spiral is interesting in a Fortean-esoteric context.
Words like murder, killing, slaughter are rarely used. Instead phrases like “lethal removal” and “euthanasia” are used. Ignoring the fact that we are also predators, the word “predator” is used to describe the sea lion: “sea lion predation” which is “out of control.” (Yet according to the Sea Lion Defense Brigade website, sea lions have long co-existed with salmon and other fish in that area and the problem of overfishing was recognized as far back as the late 1800s.)
Do fish ladders help the salmon? If they get through safely, whether it’s from the predation of sea lions or not, it seems so. But according to the SLDB fish ladders kill many salmon:
dams harm salmon by closing off habitat, by killing fish in the turbines, and by creating warm, still bodies of water where, once, the river was swift, shallow, and cold. The salmon evolved over millennia to live in cold, shallow, fast-moving water. Warmer temperatures behind the dams kill the salmon. Those fish who are able to survive these conditions are faced with over-fishing, both in the river and out in the ocean.
On the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website, you can view “images of sea lion trapping.” One wonders why anyone would want to see that; this reminds me of the way we use animal imagery in our food ads to promote the eating and killing of animals. The very animal we eat is the animal image used to entice us to partake of a particular company’s meat/fish product. The animals killed to be enjoyed by us, as well as provide jobs and stimulate the economy, are glad to be sacrificed for our needs. Instead of honoring them we characterize them, reduce them to goofy, sometimes crazy creatures (Pollo Loco) or anthropomorphize them, which brings up some disturbing and interesting ideas about cannibalism.
Also on the ODFW site, there is reference to the “euthanasia” of sea lions that cannot be moved, or sent to zoos and aquariums:
Animals that are trapped and cannot be placed will be euthanized on site under the supervision of an ODFW veterinarian and an interagency Animal Care Committee.
The definition of euthanasia is one of humanely killing something that is ill. The etymology of the word comes from the Greek euthanatos “easy death.” The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines euthanasia as:
The act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
Of course the word is used to define killing in a number of ways in order to soften its effects; for example, animals in shelters are usually not sick in any way, they are killed due to lack of room, yet the word “euthanized” is used instead of killed, murdered, put down, or put to sleep.
The officialdom of dignitaries from agencies, including the Animal Care Committee, gives the ritual of animal sacrifice an approval from authority. Soft, compassionate sounding titles, like Animal Care Committee, creates an aura of holiness about the killing.
The ODFW site concludes by telling us permission was granted to the ODFW to remove sea lions from the dam:
On March 18, 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Idaho Fish and Game federal authority to remove – through lethal or non-lethal means – California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Note the language used: “authority to remove” “lethal or non-lethal means,” “sea lions preying on salmon” “steelhead listed for protection.” The hidden message is one of authority watching over all of us, including the attacked salmon by “predatory” sea lions. Authority — agencies such as the ODFW, the Bonneville Dam, the state — have come together to aid endangered salmon and rid their habitats of “predators.”
image source: UK Rivers Network