Saturday, October 18, 2008

How I Got To Be A Neo-Pagan Witch--Part 6, Lefty Psychedelic Spawn Of The The San Francisco Renaissance

[a revenant post with additions & edits /// I put up a version of this post earlier; I'm leaving it up; but, hey! things change!]

Planning out the series of posts about how I learned magic, what led me to sink my roots deep in Neo-Pagan Craft practice, and why I participate in the world this way but not that, it became obvious that my spending teen aged years in the San Francisco Bay Area, immersed in its vibrant local culture, accounted for a lot.

But that it was going to be difficult to describe. I was in the middle of these many important influences, and they were pulling me one way and another all at the same time. Plus, they were happening, and they had--and were sometimes making--history.

What's more, today many of these then new and vital influences have lost their luster, been turned from their once daring origins to the ends of marketing and weary recitations of the old days.

As a sort of introduction to themes and subjects that I'll return to in later posts, here's a bare bones introduction--Lefty. Psychedelic. San Francisco Renaissance.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area when I did helped make me the Neo-Pagan Craft practitioner that I am today. I am a lefty psychedelic spawn of the San Francisco Renaissance, shaped by a diversity of local and regional cultural influences that may have culminated in the 1960s and faded away by the 1980s.

Strictly speaking, the San Francisco Renaissance generally refers to a group of avant garde poets active in and around San Francisco from the immediate post-WWII period through the 1960s. They were active presences in the local Bay Area culture, and their influence went beyond the poetic and literary into the overall popular culture.

Newspapers wrote stories about them. Radio and TV news reported on what they were up to. You could go to the art studios, galleries, lecture halls, and theaters to look at their works, hear their opinions and ideas and stories. You could even bump into them at the coffehouses, clubs, bookstores, churches, streets, beaches, forests, of buses. Local popular culture acknowledged them, even regarded some of them as notable characters, even celebrities. They made the Bay Area more interesting to live in, and the Bay Area valued them for it.

The San Francisco Renaissance, more broadly, encompasses a number of currents and movements in poetry, literature, music, studio and performing arts, philosophy, metaphysics, environmentalism, humanistic psychology, print and broadcast media, science and technology, cross-cultural awareness, and progressive politics.

Again, the Bay Area acknowledged all this, talked about it in public forums, kept itself interesting, even distinctive, with the diverse currents of the San Francisco Renaissance.

Avant garde. Innovation and experimentation in art, politics, and culture. That's what the San Francisco Renaissance meant to me. That's the seed that the San Francisco Renaissance planted in me. Make it up. Test it out. Learn from what works. Or from why it doesn't. Go on based on what you've learned. Try again. Try different. Try together.

Creativity is better than reiterating received custom. Change may be better than abiding by that legacy of tradition, particularly if that legacy squelches things to retain its dominance. Wholeness is better than separate things, separated places, people in parts. And it's worth making the effort to regain wholeness and to keep it whole.

Psychedelic . In the 1960s altering ordinary consciousness, often with drugs, gained in popularity. Musical forms and styles and modes of presentation came into being to sustain, or to promote, the insights and obstacles altered consciousness encountered. So did art styles, fashions, eroticism, politics, criminality, and other aspects of life style.

My consciousness got altered.

Lefty. The San Francisco Bay Area has a history strong in progressive politics. So does the region of the West. I thought then, and continue to think now, that a good deal of this grows from the character and the beauty of the Land. The mountains, valleys, rivers, sky, and what lives there want to be free. They want you to be just as free.

Looking back, I think that I had a predisposition towards participatory democracy and the common sense of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, plainly read. I liked Liberty. I still do. (I organized my first political action in

7th grade. I'm not saying this to brag, but to suggest that something within me, within my world view, moved me to live my beliefs.)

By 10th grade I was active in environmental causes, civil rights causes, and the peace movement. In small ways, to be sure, but active.

I got bulletins in the mail from The Institute for the Study of Non-Violence. Even though I resided in a military town, I resisted the military's grasping of my life and the lives of my friends and schoolmates. Right up the road, at UC Berkeley, a student political movement that favored most of what I did was taking shape. And taking to the streets. I felt myself a part of it.

To be clear, I didn't imagine myself politically precocious or socially visionary or any sort of leader, organizationally or ideologically. Holding these views, espousing these values, making these criticism, looking for and trying out these alternatives, taking these little steps to make a better community--just seemed like the right things for me to do.

Here I am, then, a Lefty Psychedelic Spawn of the San Francisco Renaissance, all prepared to step--reluctantly--into the realms of Neo-Pagan Craft. Or, more correctly, to be yanked in. By a Goddess.

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