Clowns of God

It is a sacred day today.

Today the sun is in the same place in the heavens as it was three years ago the day I first wrote to Milo:
Dear Mr. Yiannopoulos, I teach at the University of Chicago.
I told him that I had been watching his videos and how much I admired the work he was doing, and I told him about my blog and the posts that I had done on feminism and chivalry.

He wrote back immediately:
Rachel: thank you! I will take a look. Do stay in touch. M.
It was like the answer to a prayer, the first in a litany of exchanges that continue to this day. (I know, you’re jealous, aren’t you? I would be.) And then, a day or so later, a friend sent me an article featuring Milo—and I knew I was looking on the face of God.

My colleagues in academia will love this one. “Why doesn’t she just go ahead and write the erotica she wants?,” one suggested on Twitter yesterday (I paraphrase), comparing my writing on Milo to “all those pained readings of the Song of Songs that claim it ain’t about folks gettin’ down” (I quote).

Ah, well, I have blogged a little bit about that. But then every medievalist knows how medieval Christians read the Song of Songs as an allegory of the love for Christ and the soul, or Christ and the Church, or—in the commentaries that I wrote about in my first book—Christ and Mary, his mother/daughter/sister/bride.
You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you. Come from Lebanon, my bride; come from Lebanon; come, you shall be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards. You have wounded my heart, my sister, my bride; you have wounded my heart with one glance of your eye and with one hair of your neck. —Song of Songs 4:7-9 (Vulgate, Douay-Rheims with changes)
Steamy stuff, eh? Nothing to see here but animals fucking, right? Lions and leopards, you know what that means, right? Right? 

My academic colleagues like the one tweeting about me yesterday have their minds in the gutter: “y’all KNOW the next step is an A/B/O alt-universe fic where Milo is an alpha and RFB has been on suppressants—I mean A DIET OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA—her whole life. you know it.”

I had to look up A/B/O fic (trust me, it is exactly what you imagine), but there is no question that Milo is an alpha. Did I say I was his bitch? Milo would say “mom.”
I sleep, and my heart keeps watch. The voice of my beloved knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled, for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night.” I have put off my garment; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? My beloved put his hand through the key hole, and my belly trembled at his touch. —Song of Songs 5:2-4 (Vulgate, Douay-Rheims with changes)
This is a book of sacred scripture, the most sacred book in the Bible according to many Christian mystics. Is it humiliating to imagine God loving the soul in this way? Is it degrading to imagine God—the “voice of my beloved”—saying these words to his mother, sister, daughter, and bride?

My Twitter adviser (a.k.a. “Scary abortion lady”) would beg to differ: “WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST WRITE MULTICHAP POLITICAL FIC WITH A HEALTHY DOSE OF RELIGIOUS ALLEGORY LIKE A HEALTHY PERSON?” In other words: “How dare she write as if Milo and she see something REAL? How dare she pretend that what she is writing about has anything to do with God?”


It’s almost as if she wishes she could see, if only she knew where to look. If only she knew how to see what I see—when all she sees is beasts. Animal degenerates, fucking for the sake of that elusive “redpill.”

Some people are such animals.

Have you heard the news this week about how Milo wanted to attend the Midwest FurFest in his fursona as a snow leopard, and how the SJWs of furrydom got him banned? Talk about an alpha! I can imagine all sorts of fantasies with him! Certainly, the furries who have protested his desire to join them at the Furfest can. Fun fact: Typing with paws is clearly hard!

You are not welcome at MFF 2019. I hope i see tou there because ill beat you and your friends asses with a tire iron. —Xavier the Fox
we will be breathing down your neck, waiting, watching, ready to make example of that little pretty-boy smile, and who you how we handle little fascist cowards like you. / scum like you and your cronies are why i keep strapped at cons, and why many others do the same. My people are out here, ready to deal with trash like you, in numbers you could only fucking fathom in your most vivid, pant shitting nightmare. —Zakumei
I get it now you just want the money your just a literal narcissistic psychopath —BeorthWulf Teh Wolf 
Just letting you know ahead of time, a huge portion of us in the fandom and a particularly massive number of us whom attend conventions, have backgrounds in security, law enforcement, armed service, bouncing bars, etc. / so when you threaten to encroach on our places of community, and read your ugly head / know we’ll be watching and waiting. ready for an opportunity when you inevitably fuck up, / so mind your own, journalist boy. you’re fucking with powers beyond your kin. —Also Zakumei
More fun facts that I learned this week about furries: most of them are guys—some 84%, according to furscience.com’s surveys. More than 75% of furries are under the age of 25, and 83.2% are white. They are five times more likely than the general (human) population to identify as homosexual, and nearly 60% of them are enrolled either full or part-time in post-secondary education. They also are more likely to report having been bullied while they were growing up. But why take animal personas—fursonas—as a way of expressing themselves? I didn’t get it. I couldn’t see.

I asked some of the furries in Milo’s Telegram chat if they could help me. What was it like at the furfests? Was it like a fencing competition, where everyone gathers together in a single hall of the convention center? Or was it more like an academic conference, with papers and meet-ups in separate rooms? What did they need badges for? Would they be at the hotels with other non-furries at the same time? And so forth.

But the thing that confused me most was the costumes—sorry, fursuits. Why were they so bulky? They didn’t look much like real animals to me, more like caricatures of animals. Was being a furry about taking on a particular character? Did the furries feel more like themselves in their fursuits? Or wearing a fursuit like taking on a different character altogether? Did people at the cons ask to take pictures with the furries?

The furries were generous with their answers. Yes, the furfests were like other fancons: they have panels with speakers on “furry fandom” topics. They have places for buying fur merchandise—furries are big into art. The best part about being there was seeing friends from the fandom, getting to wear their fursuits, going to parties. One told me: “It’s kinda like performing as well, especially when it comes to say, walking outside of the convention center and running into people not part of the con. For the most part, they love seeing us.”

I asked: “It must be really fun to have that kind of effect on people—being so much larger than life, as it were. Do people ask for photos?” Another answered: “Often. Furfags and photos are synonymous.” And then the furries started showing me pictures—and I saw.



I had it all wrong. Furries weren’t trying to look like ferocious beasts. Nor, contrary to popular rumor (and Milo’s fursona art), were they necessarily trying to look sexy (although some of that fur—mmm...!) They kept telling me, and I didn’t get it. Furries were about having fun. Furries were about mischief and whimsy and silliness (See? They have fun faces! And giant eggplants! And warning signs!) Their fursuits are based on those worn by sports mascots—and we all know what mascots are like! (Well, maybe not at the University of Chicago, where *ahem* fun comes to die, but you know!)

Furries are, as Milo has told them, degenerates (he says it with love!) because furries, like Milo, are tricksters.

Delight makers.

Clowns.

Just like the animals frolicking in the margins of the medieval prayer books.

Just like the sacred clowns of the Hopi Indians from the American Southwest where I grew up.

I told Milo about them in one of our first email exchanges, about a month after I saw the photos of him in Out.
RFB: I still need to tell you about the sacred clowns of the Hopi: the koshare or, as Bandelier called them in his novel about the Anasazi of the Southwest, the “Delight Makers.” They are tricksters and storytellers. On the border between holy and mischievous.
MY: Ding ding
RFB: Does that mean you want to know more?!
MY: I feel an affinity and YES of course
RFB: Okay! So most of what I know comes from a novel that Adolf Bandelier published in 1890 based on the researches that he did in the Southwest, particularly around the ancient pueblos. His name is on one of the more famous of the monuments, in Frijoles Canyon near Los Alamos (of atomic bomb fame). I grew up going to this site regularly: it includes ruins of both one of the pueblo “apartment” buildings and cliff dwellings along the side of the canyon. It was great fun as kids to climb the ladders into the caves, but the climax was always the climb up into the ceremonial cave, five or six steep ladders up the side of the cliff. In the cave, there was a kiva, a underground chamber that you have to descend into from the top. As Bandelier tells the story, these kivas (there are also some down on the canyon floor) where were the men of the pueblo would meet for their sacred ceremonies (no women allowed!). 
For the novel, Bandelier drew upon stories that he had collected from contemporary Hopi about their religious practices, so what he describes as the ancient medieval ceremonies (the ruins date to around the 12th century AD) are probably more accurate as descriptions from the 19th century. The “Delight Makers” or koshare were one guild of men, rather like a fraternity, whose function in the ceremonies was to make mischief: 
“Their jests are necessarily of the coarsest; nevertheless excellent local hits are made and satiric personalities of considerable pungency are not infrequently indulged in....  If one of the spectators has the misfortune to display immoderate enthusiasm, forthwith he is made the target of merciless jeering. One of the merry-makers goes up to him and mimics his manner and actions in the crudest possible way. The people on the terraced roofs exhibit their joy by showering down corn-cakes from their perches, which the performers greedily devour. These things are delightful according to Indian notions [here Bandelier the story-teller shows Bandelier the anthropologist's cultural prejudice—RFB], and are well fitted to show how much of a child he still is, —a child however, it must be remembered, endowed with the physical strength, passion, and appetites of adult mankind.” [The nineteenth century has a lot to answer for in making it impossible to talk about religion without this kind of condescension, but never mind. Another topic!—RFB] 
The clowns make rude jokes, pantomimes, sexual innuendos, tease the women, mock the men, tear through the apartments and overturn everything. Their function is carnivalesque, but also sacred, necessary to the ceremonies in ways Bandelier suggests but doesn’t fully explore. Reading over the description now, they are both funny and terrifying, a bit menacing—but also essential. As I read it, they break open the sacred with their jests because they ridicule authority, propriety, order; and yet they are in service of the sacred, not opposed to it (which is why I think Bandelier missteps somewhat in his anthropology). I have always wanted to know more about them after reading the novel. Watch this space: I will send some photos.
The climb up to the ceremonial cave (although they seem not to call it that anymore). 
 
The kiva where the men would meet. (You climb down the ladder into the room.) 
 The usual way the koshare are depicted: as striped clowns.  
Oh, and one other thing about them: the idea is that in the masks and paint that the dancers wear, they are not just performers, but embodiments of the sacred: the dolls that you see in the shops in the Southwest are “kachina,” more like sacred idols (think images of Mary). But the kachina become present in the performers. I have known about these images my whole life, but I haven’t learned as much as I feel I should about them. Looking over another of the classics in the literature right now, Frank Waters, Masked Gods (1950), I think I know why: the study of the traditions, like the study of medieval Christianity, is hopelessly infected with anti-Catholicism, making it almost impossible to sift innuendo of the sort Bandelier injects from actual appreciation of the sacred in the traditions.
I had hoped to convince Milo to dress as a koshare for Halloween, but he insisted, “No horizontal stripes!” Now I know why! His fursona has spots, not stripes—but I was right on the black-and-white coloring. I find it highly appropriate that I am writing this post on what is for Milo’s Telegram chat Sharia Tuesday, when no women are allowed. It also makes sense to me that furries are predominantly men and that their costumes are so much larger than life. And it makes sense to me (although I am curious what they think after reading this post) that so few of them identify as Christian (about 23.5%), while far more identify as spiritual but not religious—except, it would seem, when it comes to deciding who belongs and who doesn’t at the Midwest furcon, witness the efforts to have Milo banned, almost as if they were...afraid of his power to delight. In appropriate trickster fashion, Milo has promised to show up at the FurFest anyway, mischievously presenting himself as an Official Platinum Elite Sponsor and offering furfans the option to help support “MFF shenanigans for me and the boys” by purchasing signed copies of his welcome note. Meanwhile, just like their Hopi antecedents, the furries are overrunning the main chat with their antics, posting photos and stickers, making faces at the other men in the chat and teasing them for not wanting to talk about furries—so much so that some of the men are even wishing for the women to come back!


Three years ago when I first started blogging about Milo, I had no idea it would be so hard to help my colleagues see what I see. I had no idea that it would take three years and over a hundred blog posts (this one is number 101) to describe what I saw in the photo of Milo as a clown. I knew what it meant immediately and told him so:
Bravo! The devil hates laughter. You are like King David, dancing before the ark of the Lord, making yourself ridiculous to the world out of joy for the truth.
Do you know the story of the clown of God? Tomie de Paolo did a beautiful children’s book version of it. I keep thinking of it when I hear you talk about recovering our ability and freedom to laugh. The clown or juggler or jongleur (to give it its medieval title) serves God and his Mother by tumbling out of love for them; in the miracle story Mary comes to him and wipes the sweat off his brow because she is so delighted by his service. It is the reason, I am convinced, that medieval manuscripts have all the grotesques that they do in the margins: God loves laughter, particularly when it exposes lies.
To date, my colleagues on Twitter seem not to have gotten the joke. I wonder why.

By the by, if you’re wondering, the furries tell me that Fencing Bear is a proper fursona. No wonder Milo calls me “mom”!

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