Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spiders and Owls: Women's Exclusion From Bohemian Grove

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

1 comment:

Liara Covert said...

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