Recently by Jessa Crispin:


On the surface, it looks a lot like your typical Sunday School. There are children gathered at the feet of the woman teaching the class. They are singing Christmas carols, listening to stories about how we as people came to be on this earth, making arts and crafts. It could be taking place in any church basement across America.

Until you start to listen to the words of this particular version of “Silent Night.”

Silent night, holy night

all is calm, all is bright

planets gracefully circle the Sun

Stardust cycles through everyone

Life abounds upon Earth

Life abounds upon Earth

They begin another song, this one without the familiar melody.

In the beginning

was the Great Radiance

14 billion years ago

out of the fireball

came simple hydrogen

and helium from that great glow

The children gather now to make what look like rosaries, and the instructor spreads out a large selection of beads. Only, rather than using them to count prayers, the beads are there to help the children contemplate the stages of life development. The first bead represents the Big Bang, next the formation of the stars, then the birth of the planets, the beginning of life on Earth, and so on. More… “Earthly Intervention”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.


Although it’s the men of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn we associate with the magical order, specifically the great poet and mystic W.B. Yeats and the sociopath and con man Aleister Crowley, women were fundamental to its running from the very beginning. Unlike the Christian churches they mostly came from, either Catholic or Protestant, women were allowed to be priestesses, allowed to write doctrine, allowed to design ceremonies. Not only allowed, but simply did. For these independent-minded late-19th-century and early-20th-century women, moving from the dominant religion to a religion of the occult and mystical moved them from subordination into power.

The rise of the Golden Dawn, and Spiritualism in the United States, came at a troubled time. There was widespread poverty, a rigid patriarchal system, disease, and high mortality rates in children. With so much instability, it was difficult for many to simply live their lives with dignity. Alcohol consumption was high, domestic violence was treated casually, and many died young. In such times, it can be difficult to imagine how to get through tomorrow, let alone how to envision a better future. More… “The Feminine Mystic”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.


Writing this in late October, it seems clear to me that no matter what happens on Election Day there will be no feeling of victory. I will drink to forget, not to celebrate, whether the next president is declared to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

If Donald Trump becomes president, this will be an obvious disaster for Muslims, for women, for African-Americans and Hispanics, for those living below the poverty line . . . basically for everyone in this country who is not a billionaire. And it will be a disaster for the world, as Trump’s administration is sure to worsen, if not set off, humanitarian crises around the globe.

But as a feminist, I am offended by the idea that I am supposed to be excited about the possibility that Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and I am tired of people confusing “women” with “feminists.” Because with her neoliberal agenda, her history of dismissing the needs of women and children, and her internationally hawkish nature, Clinton’s election is a victory for one woman, not all women. More… “False Feminism”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.


In his book Varieties of Religious Experience, William James wrote about the power the irrational holds over the rational:

If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.

So what do you do as a rational, intellectual person who is fighting a group that is in the grips of their intuition? How do you combat the power that holds? It doesn’t make sense to right the irrational with the rational. You can explain to, say, a Trump supporter very coolly that his economic policy would have disastrous ramifications, or that his foreign policy approach could very well lead us into decades of conflict, but if he’s caught up in a nationalistic fever, especially one that is being used to shore up a fractured sense of self, you will only antagonize and never sway. More… “The Shlomo Sand (Inter)view”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.


There was an older man at a dinner party, relaying the history of his marriages. His first one, he told us, was a disaster. He was too young, she was too young. It lasted only a few years and then it ended angrily. He thought he’d never remarry, but then he decided he wanted to have a child. He married another woman, who turned out not to want children, but, he assured us, he eventually “wore her down.”

There are all sorts of struggles that take place within a marriage. Conflicting desires create situations without the possibility of compromise and so one partner tries to overpower the other’s will. Wives do this as well as husbands. But there was something about the way the story was told that caused the women at the table to immediately exchange worried looks and inhale deeply at the words “wore her down.” He wanted a child, but for that he needed a woman’s body. He procured a woman’s body, and when that body was not compliant, he forced compliance through manipulation and control. The man was a writer, and so I am making the assumption that he told this story with a particular intention and that that intention could be analyzed. I understand that this is probably unfair.

More… “No Giggling Ghost”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.


When It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us was published in 1996, the book was met with the kind of response that a serious nonfiction writer dreams about. The ideas presented in the book became the topic of conversation across the land, politicians and commentators felt obligated to respond to it, it won awards, including a Grammy for its audio book edition, and it became so ubiquitous, both in sales numbers and in impact, that it started to become heavily parodied.

Any writer would be thrilled. Moved, even. And yet this particular writer also has to watch while someone else, taking credit for her work, takes all of the credit.

Hillary Rodham Clinton may have won the title page and the cover image (and the Grammy), but at best she was just one of many voices filtered through the actual writer. It Takes a Village… More…

On my way to the cafe here in Trieste, I walk past the Scala Dublina, the Dublin stairs. It’s number 12 on the official James Joyce tour of the city, and the rest of the walk will take you to a cafe he liked, a restaurant where he ate, the shore where he went swimming with his son. (You will not find on the tour the apartments he was thrown out of when he couldn’t make the rent or again when the woman he was living with out of wedlock, Nora, started to show signs of pregnancy.) A bespeckled Joyce peers at you from the side of the stairs, on his little commemorative plaque, to let you know the great man himself used to walk up and down these stairs so many years ago.


James Joyce: A New Biography by… More…

Margaret Fuller looked around her Cambridge social circle and found her suitors lacking. The gentlemen of Cambridge looked at Margaret Fuller and found her lacking as well. This was, of course, late in the 19th century. She was not what you would call traditional marriage material. She was willful, brilliant. She loved conversation about philosophy, art, literature, the social issues of her time. She lit up a room, and did not know her place. She was close friends with some of the greatest Transcendentalists, the best minds of her time, particularly Emerson. She was a writer herself and an obvious bluestocking, what with her own book being called Woman in the 19th Century. So of course she was poison in the realm of courtship.


The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography by John Matteson. 528 pages. W.W. Norton & Company…. More…

The discussion about the murder had been going strongly, until I offered up a roadblock. “What exactly was going on in that house?” I asked my students.


Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell by Elaine Forman Crane. 256 pages. Cornell University Press. $60.95. Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris by Sarah Maza. 352 pages. University of California Press. $24.95. New in paperback.

I had assigned Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I did not intend to derail the conversation with my question — I had thought the answer, my answer, would be obvious to all — but it turns out I did.

Jackson’s story is a wicked little tale of a 12-year-old girl who poisons her entire family save two: an uncle who miraculously survived, and an older sister who… More…

Would you be the same person if you were a different gender?


Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities by Ken Corbett. 288 pages. Yale University Press. $26. The Metaphysics of Gender by Charlotte Witt. 168 pages. Oxford University Press. $24.95. Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. 232 pages. AK Press. $17.95.

This question opens Charlotte Witt’s The Metaphysics of Gender. Witt reports that when she asks this to the people around her — her colleagues, her family, her students — she gets mixed responses. She doesn’t get too specific about who says yes and who says no, but I wonder if it breaks up along boy/girl lines. How many of the men she encounters say yes, they would be the exact same person, essentially, had… More…