We were raised to believe witchcraft was not only real but also part of a deliberate effort by the devil to lead us astray. Our parents claimed that Jay’s Journal — which told of one Utah teenager’s descent into “satanic paganism” — was an actual autobiography. Most of us were encouraged to read it as a manual for how to avoid the devil’s snare. Some of us saw through the bullshit, speculated about the location of Jay’s hidden grave, and followed rumors into cemeteries late at night to divine which anonymous headstone was his. Jay, we had learned, had not become possessed by some supernatural evil. He had been a troubled teenager whose trauma made Mormon Country difficult to survive. Mormon Country isn’t made for outsiders who find themselves marginalized by the dominant culture. We paid our candlelit respects over sunken headstones and decaying bones.
We survived. We grew up. Now we venture out into the Utah desert on the “Wolf Moon” — or, the first New Moon of the new year — to sit huddled together around a campfire pushing back against the darkness pressing in from beyond. In a world gone mad it’s usually those who abandon established norms who appreciate the creeping darkness most. Who seriously leaves the warmth of their heated homes to brave the winter in honor of forgotten rituals? Cold is uncomfortable. But so is compassion.
Many who abide by the usual societal standards consider compassion to be a luxury. A facet of humanity that can be bypassed for expediency or profit. Those of us exchanging words of love and connection around the same fire know that it is crucial to the survival of our herd. We reach out and lift up, and in so doing we enrich ourselves. Here we are free through helping one another, commiserating and laughing together, and feeling honored by our peers in their accomplishments. Here we teach each other what it means to bear the burden of caring, so that each new visitor can carry it forward.
In these volatile times — where darkness carries with it a fascist taint — we turn our conversation toward how to fight, how to organize, and how to overcome. We ask ourselves, “how do we light up the darkness?” This journal is our answer. We write because we believe that, by sharing our stories, we connect with others who might need community to combat isolation. We write to deconstruct the forces of oppression that marginalize, isolate, and harm anyone who doesn’t behave as expected or belong to the “norm.” We write to understand our world, the people who belong to it, and the darkness that threatens it. We call our project Lucenti — a latin verb meaning “to shine light,” or “to light up what’s obscured by darkness” — because that’s what we seek to accomplish.
Out in the desert, we throw another log on the fire and watch the perimeter of our camp grow a little wider. We take off our gloves, toss them on the ground at our feet, and warm our hands palms up against the light. We talk of offering sanctuary to wayward travelers.