Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ukrainian Asgarda

I'm not sure what to make of this. Anything smacking of ninja or amazons is pretty darn acceptable. And sex trafficking is such a problem that aggressively fighting back is necessary and admirable. But the impulse to separate from society as a defensive maneuver, viewing society as an enemy, is common to many fanatical movements. Removing oneself in the name of purification from the chaotic pluralism of actual society also erodes reason. Fantasy takes root and flourishes when a person no longer has to give reasons to others for what one believes and does, or at least rehearse imagined reasons. Fantasy isn't intrinsically bad. But its extreme forms can be pretty dangerous, especially when armed to the hilt.

What do you think? More here at Planet Mag.

In the Ukraine, a country where females are victims of sexual trafficking and gender oppression, a new tribe of empowered women is emerging. Calling themselves the “Asgarda”, the women seek complete autonomy from men. Residing in the Carpathian Mountains, the tribe is comprised of 150 women of varying ages, primarily students, led by 30 year-old Katerina Tarnouska. Reviving the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons of ancient Greek mythology, the Asgarda train in martial arts, taught by former Soviet karate master, Volodymyr Stepanovytch, and learn life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women.
Photographs by French photographer, Guillaume Herbaut


Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

I think first of the poet Orpheus being torn in pieces by the Maenads, of the ancient notion of dismemberment or sparagmos, and of Euripides and his chilling play The Bacchae.

All of which sent me to Wikipedia, where I ran across this quote from WF Otto:

The Bacchae of Euripides gives us the most vital picture of the wonderful circumstance in which, as Plato says in the Ion, the god-intoxicated celebrants draw milk and honey from the streams. They strike rocks with the thyrsus, and water gushes forth. They lower the thyrsus to the earth, and a spring of wine bubbles up. If they want milk, they scratch up the ground with their fingers and draw up the milky fluid. Honey trickles down from the thyrsus made of the wood of the ivy, they gird themselves with snakes and give suck to fawns and wolf cubs as if they were infants at the breast. Fire does not burn them. No weapon of iron can wound them, and the snakes harmlessly lick up the sweat from their heated cheeks. Fierce bulls fall to the ground, victims to numberless, tearing female hands, and sturdy trees are torn up by the roots with their combined efforts.

It would be good to read some of the women of Asgarda's poetry, to hear some of their chants, perhaps to talk with them.

Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

You know, that first comment of mine is not right.

What the Asgarda really reminded me of, right away -- particularly with that first photo -- was one of those folding covers that Annie Leibovitz does from time to time for Vanity Fair, featuring all young Hollywood posed and fraught with indecipherable significance.

And then the mythologist in me had to jump in and think of Orpheus and Euripides, of course.


I wonder where, between pop culture and depth psychology, these women actually live -- and I still think it would be good to see some of their poetry.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Whoah! A bunch of male reactions! So I'd better weigh in. I'd better also qualify that I don't find those reactions offensive.

I think that many of us have had a temptation to the woods - to live in nature, be strong and capable. It certainly was a big part of my childhood fantasies. I didn't go this far, but I spent a lot of time in whatever wild I could find.

And Amazons - yes! Ukraine is close to where they actually lived.

Further, Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, has a tradition, particularly from WWII, of going to the woods to survive and fight the enemy.

Those woods themselves are archetypal. I immediately recognized them as the locale I had imagined when I was reading fairy stories or Baba Yaga. Orson Scott Card used them very effectively in "Enchantment." I'm thinking of spending some time in them again soon.

Ukraine is so dysfunctional just now. It didn't manage to complete its transformation out of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s; the "orange revolution" was a pale attempt, now clearly failed, to make that transformation. Its history is so tied to Russia's that the two may never be able to untangle.

I'm wondering whether these women are as paranoid as our militias in the northwest mountains, and to what degree their paranoia is justified.

This could turn out very badly, or the women could just move on to "real life" with a strengthening experience in their past. I hope it's the latter.

Anonymous said...

Wow, fascinating - thanks for posting this.

I see alienation in these young women, but ultimately they are a symptom of failures in governance. So I don't see them as dangerous, or a threat - more like the canary in a coalmine cliche'. The question I have is: How representative are they? If they are a vanguard for for a larger disaffection in the population I would think that bodes ill for the future.

troutsky said...

I live in a community surrounded by the "paranoid.. militias in the northwest mountains" and believe me these women are doing what most of those wanna be's can only dream of.I also think these women are way more legitimate in terms of practice and theory given their circumstances. It would not be too early for more of us to consider forming protective clans given the accelerating breakdown of government and civil society.Bravo Amazons! A model for late capitalism!

Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

Curiouser and curiouser:

They have a web presence, and seem to be both the separatist forest commune portrayed above, and also a martial arts school and associated theater troupe with roots in Ukranian folk art.

parvati_roma said...

Good news if they're becoming popular/trendy in Ukraine as a "cultural vanguard" - as useful counterweight, necessary because Ukrainian women have been type-cast as an "export commodity" for WAY too long!