(A ritual prayer for Titania’s exorcism, to be performed next week after she comes back from a thorough cleaning and parts replacement.)
In the name of Velocipe Cycladia,
Goddess of bicycles and protector of riders,
Muse of mechanics and engineers,
Who hast inspired and brought forth the greatest achievement of human technology: the Bicycle;
We confidently undertake to repulse the attacks and deceits of poor maintenance.
Cast out from this Bicycle all corrosion and corroding agents.
Defend her components from gungeing up, her metal parts from bending and snapping, her chain from stretching.
From cracks and gouges, we beg You, Great Goddess, preserve the structural integrity of her frame.
Let not her sprockets wear down, nor her bearings become pitted.
O Lady Liberator, keep forever lubricated and freely moving her chain, bearings, sprockets, cables, pulleys, and pivot points.
Protect her tires, that they not be pierced or punctured with road debris, nor worn to the casing; and keep her tubes free of leaks and tears. Grant that her struts and spokes be strong, and her wheels true.
May her bolts remain bolted,
her fasteners fast,
her clamps clamped,
her loctite tite,
and her nylocs locked.
May any mistreatment, abuse, weirdness, improper maintenance, and sadness instilled in this machine by previous handlers, be cast out now and forever.
We drive you from this bicycle:
all unclean spirits,
all corrosive powers,
all cracks and abrasives,
all incorrect lubricants, solvents, and salts.
The sacred sign of the Wheel commands you, as does also the power of the mysteries of Velosophy.
Deign, O Goddess Cycladia,
to grant this Bicycle’s rider the foresight to maintain her,
to clean her as needed, and occasionally lube her chain;
to check tire pressure and brakes before each ride;
to replace parts as they wear out;
to apply grease before bolting.
Grant this rider the strength, courage, and humility to bring forth this Bicycle unto a qualified Mechanic when necessary.
Fill this rider with the spirit of love and dedication worthy of Your blessed Bicycle, that together they glorify Thy creation.
May Velocipe Cycladia be with this bicycle,
and with thy spirit.
Velocipe Cycladia is the Goddess of bicycles and cyclists.
I had to make her up, because Madonna del Ghisallo just wan’t cutting it: not enough imagery, not enough paraphernalia, and no exorcisms I could find.
My new-to-me bike Titania needs an exorcism. Sometimes, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself, so I am writing it. (On the other hand, if I want bike repair done right, I take it to the shop. That’s the mechanic’s expertise; mine is art and making up new religions.)
Although not before named – or perhaps under many names – Cycladia has appeared with the bicycle almost from its beginnings. Evidence is in numerous vintage posters:
I removed some of these figures from their backgrounds, for possible future use:
But the Lady Liberator, at the top of this post, is my favorite. The bat-winged helmet especially inspires awe. So she will appear again in my next post, accompanying the exorcism prayer I composed today.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a miracle.
I mean this in the biblical sense. Biblical miracles are horrific, bringing death and destruction. The Ten Plagues of Exodus were miracles, or at least “wonders.” The miracles of Revelation are even worse.
A miracle isn’t a fluffybunny event. It is an act of God.
The COVID pandemic is a power greater than ourselves. We can’t stop it; we understand very little about it. It brings us to our knees.
I am in awe of it. I have watched humanity killing the planet my whole life, with obvious warnings of dire consequences. But this Spring’s COVID shutdowns were the first time I saw humanity do anything about it. It was short-lived, but amazing: flights grounded, industry slowed, pollution abated enough to reveal long-hidden mountains for the first time in years.
All of that ended after only a few months. Nothing to see here, folks; go back to paying attention to MONEY. And so contrails again fill the skies, mountains retreat back into smoggy shrouds, and the gears of commerce grind away.
Biblical miracles are famously unheeded, which is why it took all Ten Plagues for Pharaoh to relent. God makes clear commandments; humans don’t follow them. This is the whole story of the Old Testament. Even after occupying the Promised Land, the Hebrews can’t get their shit together, and Jerusalem falls over and over again. The New Testament is no better, especially the ending.
The COVID-19 virus makes its demands pretty clear: Avoid crowds. Stop industrial slaughterhouses and factory farming. Don’t go to (non-essential) work. Spend time with your children; actually raise them. Stay home from school. Stay home, but go outside; look at the sky, feel the sun, breathe the fresh air. Attend to Reality over money. Don’t go to bars, don’t party, don’t crowd into spectacles like sportsball. Calm the fuck down. Take a goddamn break from your hyper-consumer lifestyle.
We still need food and shelter and medicine, the sustenance and maintenance of our lives, and the virus doesn’t seem to have anything against these. The virus clarifies what is essential and non-essential. It turns out much of human activity isn’t essential. We already knew that; the virus urges us to stop denying it.
The pandemic makes another biblical suggestion: a Jubilee cancellation of debt. We can’t stop the gears of commerce, we argue, because we’re all in debt – if we don’t earn money, we will die! Our society won’t forgive debts, but what if we simply froze them, until a vaccine or cure is found? A year (or however long it takes) out of commercial time. Don’t end, but suspend the non-essential economy. All debts, for everyone, everywhere, frozen*. A global time-out. That would be a miracle.
I don’t believe in the biblical god. But I do believe in Nature, and natural consequences. The coronavirus is just one of many disastrous and inevitable natural consequences of human activity. Animal agriculture and overpopulation and global industrialization will do this; it’s a wonder it’s taken so long. It’s also a wonder how gentle the virus is, all things considered. It could have been more like ebola, with a much higher death rate. Plagues of the past have been far deadlier. The Black Death killed 50% of some European regions. We are getting off lightly here.
My response to this miracle is awe. Others respond with denial, or panic, or exploitation. So it has been written; so it ever was, and ever will be. I have long felt like I’m living in a dystopian novel, but right now I also feel like I’m living in a biblical prophecy. What a wonder, to witness these times!
*What about money to run the essential services? Our economic system accumulates vast reservoirs of money in billionaires. If these reservoirs can’t be used, then what exactly is this system for?
Many battles, much polarization; we are splitting into sides. Online especially, there is right and wrong, good and bad, the “right side of history” and the wrong. Even saying “the right side of history” implies petty, idiotic opinions are of world-altering significance.
The Book of Revelation is the ultimate story of Good vs. Evil, black vs. white. It’s also the ultimate revenge story. John of Patmos was a persecuted early Christian, exiled to a penal colony, expelled from society; cancelled, as we’d say today. He was righteous and angry. He had time to imagine, in elaborate detail, the comeuppance of his oppressors. Isn’t this what we all do, if we have the time? Imagine our torturers being tortured tenfold in return, in delicious detail. It is notably un-Christian. You are supposed to forgive. You are supposed to understand. You are supposed to seek peace, to love thy enemy.
Not John! John fantasizes his enemies getting stung by locusts, rained on by fire, and cast into the pit of hell. In Revelation, neither he, nor Jesus, nor God Himself have compassion for sinners. Won’t his oppressors be sorry when they see John and his ilk rise up into heaven, while they get hurt and humiliated and tortured! Haha, turnabout is fair play! John may be motivated by that, but as far as his Jesus and God are concerned, this is simply the nature of things, the arc of justice, the “history” one is on the right or wrong side of.
Revelation’s End of the World is imagined as a war. It feels like war right now. My own little battle hill, Mount Ladyfeels, feels like a war between women and misogynists, reality and fantasy, mental health and mental illness, truth and lies. But which side is which? Each end of the pole believes it has Truth on its side. I try to stay out of fights, but I’ve gotten into this one: women don’t have penises, women are female, humans cannot change sex, gender is oppressive. To the other side, this is hate speech and I’m a nazi.
Armageddon is online. Armageddon is the Last Battle, saints against sinners. No nuance whatsoever. Have a look at twitter. Every ban of a TERF is a demon cast to hell. Look at Reddit. GenderCritical permanently eliminated: 65,000 subscribers consigned to the abyss. An angel holds the key. Righteousness is triumphing over evil! Except it’s backwards. Black is white and white is black. We’re polarized like a horseshoe magnet. Which pole is which?
So things morph in Revelation. Candlesticks are stars are churches. Seven candlesticks are also a menorah, the Jewish community from which Christianity emerges, as the Child emerges from the Woman Clothed With The Sun. Seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven churches, seven eyes of the Lamb, seven heads of the Beast. Good sevens vs Bad sevens.
Good woman, the Mother, vs Bad woman, the Whore of Babylon. The women don’t fight, they merely appear as symbols for one side or the other. There’s a third woman, the Bride of the Lamb, who is a city, the New Jerusalem. Mother, Whore, and Virgin (bride), sort of like the Triple Goddess Maiden-Mother-Crone, except no Crone. I am a crone, so I wonder what happened to Her. Is She the Whore now? In Online Armageddon, older feminists are denounced and despised. Yes, maybe that’s us.
My Animated Apocalypse will also morph, like the language of John the Divine. But in the end, even black will morph into white. Throne will morph into Beast, Lamb’s eyes into dragon’s heads, up into down, heaven into hell.
How will it end?
Why do we seek stories of “the end of the world”? The world does not end. It keeps going and going. We end though. And societies end. Someday, Civilization will end; perhaps that’s what we mean by the End of the World.
The end of the world is nothing new. The Book of Revelation has always fascinated, as people have always felt on the edge of abyss. Apocalyptic fiction continues to be written; Revelation is merely our most famous early example. This world has been ending since it was created, and it is created anew every day.
The End of the World may be an egoistic projection of us mortals, who can’t cope with the inevitability of our own deaths. If we go, our egos dictate, the World goes with us. Persecution heightens ego. When you’re a scapegoat, as John was (and as I have been), your ego is deeply wounded, along with the rest of you. It enlarges. Narcissism is a consequence of trauma. Dwelling on the End of the World is a defensive projection, to deflect the reality of death from the inflamed ego.
Civilization has never been stable, as Against the Grain by James C. Scott amply illustrates. While Civilization itself persists in various forms, individual civilizations, or societies, always fall, the individuals comprising them regrouping anew. But Civilization didn’t always exist. Humans once were bound to the rest of the natural world, without literacy or other advanced abstractions. “Everything that is created is destroyed,” say the Buddhists, so someday Civilization will go. Like Derrick Jensen, I’m rooting for this Fall, because Civilization is killing the planet.
John’s Apocalypse, though, is more the opposite: the triumph of Civilization, and the final Fall of Nature. The New Jerusalem is a city, not a forest. It is fully paved. John rapturously describes the purified metals and minerals comprising it. Nature is completely tamed; there is but one Tree, around one river that emanates from the Throne. It’s all right angles, planes and walls.
In my personal theology, a just End of the World would be a return to Nature: humans disappearing into a platonic abstract New Jerusalem, and the Earth, finally rid of us, recovering at last. But the world does not end. I will die, but the world will continue. The only end I will live to see is my own. Until then, my ego needs something to do, and dwelling on the Book of Revelation is it.