From Hakim Bey
"Gone to Croatan"
WE HAVE NO DESIRE to define the TAZ or to elaborate dogmas about how it must be created. Our contention is rather that it has been created, will be created, and is being created. Therefore it would prove more valuable and interesting to look at some TAZs past and present, and to speculate about future manifestations; by evoking a few prototypes we may be able to gauge the potential scope of the complex, and perhaps even get a glimpse of an "archetype." Rather than attempt any sort of encyclopaedism we'll adopt a scatter-shot technique, a mosaic of glimpses, beginning quite arbitrarily with the 16th-17th centuries and the settlement of the New World.
The opening of the "new" world was conceived from the start as an occultist operation. The magus John Dee, spiritual advisor to Elizabeth I, seems to have invented the concept of "magical imperialism" and infected an entire generation with it. Halkyut and Raleigh fell under his spell, and Raleigh used his connections with the "School of Night"--a cabal of advanced thinkers, aristocrats, and adepts--to further the causes of exploration, colonization and mapmaking. The Tempest was a propaganda-piece for the new ideology, and the Roanoke Colony was its first showcase experiment.
The alchemical view of the New World associated it with materia prima or hyle, the "state of Nature," innocence and all-possibility ("Virgin-ia"), a chaos or inchoateness which the adept would transmute into "gold," that is, into spiritual perfection as well as material abundance. But this alchemical vision is also informed in part by an actual fascination with the inchoate, a sneaking sympathy for it, a feeling of yearning for its formless form which took the symbol of the "Indian" for its focus: "Man" in the state of nature, uncorrupted by "government." Caliban, the Wild Man, is lodged like a virus in the very machine of Occult Imperialism; the forest/animal/humans are invested from the very start with the magic power of the marginal, despised and outcaste. On the one hand Caliban is ugly, and Nature a "howling wilderness"--on the other, Caliban is noble and unchained, and Nature an Eden. This split in European consciousness predates the Romantic/Classical dichotomy; it's rooted in Renaissance High Magic. The discovery of America (Eldorado, the Fountain of Youth) crystallized it; and it precipitated in actual schemes for colonization.
We were taught in elementary school that the first settlements in Roanoke failed; the colonists disappeared, leaving behind them only the cryptic message "Gone To Croatan." Later reports of "grey-eyed Indians" were dismissed as legend. What really happened, the textbook implied, was that the Indians massacred the defenseless settlers. However, "Croatan" was not some Eldorado; it was the name of a neighboring tribe of friendly Indians. Apparently the settlement was simply moved back from the coast into the Great Dismal Swamp and absorbed into the tribe. And the grey-eyed Indians were real--they're still there, and they still call themselves Croatans.
So--the very first colony in the New World chose to renounce its contract with Prospero (Dee/Raleigh/Empire) and go over to the Wild Men with Caliban. They dropped out. They became "Indians," "went native," opted for chaos over the appalling miseries of serfing for the plutocrats and intellectuals of London.
As America came into being where once there had been "Turtle Island," Croatan remained embedded in its collective psyche. Out beyond the frontier, the state of Nature (i.e. no State) still prevailed--and within the consciousness of the settlers the option of wildness always lurked, the temptation to give up on Church, farmwork, literacy, taxes-- all the burdens of civilization--and "go to Croatan" in some way or another. Moreover, as the Revolution in England was betrayed, first by Cromwell and then by Restoration, waves of Protestant radicals fled or were transported to the New World (which had now become a prison, a place of exile). Antinomians, Familists, rogue Quakers, Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters were now introduced to the occult shadow of wildness, and rushed to embrace it.
Anne Hutchinson and her friends were only the best known (i.e. the most upper-class) of the Antinomians--having had the bad luck to be caught up in Bay Colony politics--but a much more radical wing of the movement clearly existed. The incidents Hawthorne relates in "The Maypole of Merry Mount" are thoroughly historical; apparently the extremists had decided to renounce Christianity altogether and revert to paganism. If they had succeeded in uniting with their Indian allies the result might have been an Antinomian/Celtic/Algonquin syncretic religion, a sort of 17th century North American Santeria.
Sectarians were able to thrive better under the looser and more corrupt administrations in the Caribbean, where rival European interests had left many islands deserted or even unclaimed. Barbados and Jamaica in particular must have been settled by many extremists, and I believe that Levellerish and Ranterish influences contributed to the Buccaneer "utopia" on Tortuga. Here for the first time, thanks to Esquemelin, we can study a successful New World proto-TAZ in some depth. Fleeing from hideous "benefits" of Imperialism such as slavery, serfdom, racism and intolerance, from the tortures of impressment and the living death of the plantations, the Buccaneers adopted Indian ways, intermarried with Caribs, accepted blacks and Spaniards as equals, rejected all nationality, elected their captains democratically, and reverted to the "state of Nature." Having declared themselves "at war with all the world," they sailed forth to plunder under mutual contracts called "Articles" which were so egalitarian that every member received a full share and the Captain usually only 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 shares. Flogging and punishments were forbidden-- quarrels were settled by vote or by the code duello.
It is simply wrong to brand the pirates as mere sea-going highwaymen or even proto-capitalists, as some historians have done. In a sense they were "social bandits," although their base communities were not traditional peasant societies but "utopias" created almost ex nihilo in terra incognita, enclaves of total liberty occupying empty spaces on the map. After the fall of Tortuga, the Buccaneer ideal remained alive all through the "Golden Age" of Piracy (ca. 1660-1720), and resulted in land-settlements in Belize, for example, which was founded by Buccaneers. Then, as the scene shifted to Madagascar--an island still unclaimed by any imperial power and ruled only by a patchwork of native kings (chiefs) eager for pirate allies--the Pirate Utopia reached its highest form.
Defoe's account of Captain Mission and the founding of Libertatia may be, as some historians claim, a literary hoax meant to propagandize for radical Whig theory--but it was embedded in The General History of the Pyrates (1724-28), most of which is still accepted as true and accurate. Moreover the story of Capt. Mission was not criticized when the book appeared and many old Madagascar hands still survived. They seem to have believed it, no doubt because they had experienced pirate enclaves very much like Libertatia. Once again, rescued slaves, natives, and even traditional enemies such as the Portuguese were all invited to join as equals. (Liberating slave ships was a major preoccupation.) Land was held in common, representatives elected for short terms, booty shared; doctrines of liberty were preached far more radical than even those of Common Sense.
Libertatia hoped to endure, and Mission died in its defense. But most of the pirate utopias were meant to be temporary; in fact the corsairs' true "republics" were their ships, which sailed under Articles. The shore enclaves usually had no law at all. The last classic example, Nassau in the Bahamas, a beachfront resort of shacks and tents devoted to wine, women (and probably boys too, to judge by Birge's Sodomy and Piracy), song (the pirates were inordinately fond of music and used to hire on bands for entire cruises), and wretched excess, vanished overnight when the British fleet appeared in the Bay. Blackbeard and "Calico Jack" Rackham and his crew of pirate women moved on to wilder shores and nastier fates, while others meekly accepted the Pardon and reformed. But the Buccaneer tradition lasted, both in Madagascar where the mixed-blood children of the pirates began to carve out kingdoms of their own, and in the Caribbean, where escaped slaves as well as mixed black/white/red groups were able to thrive in the mountains and backlands as "Maroons." The Maroon community in Jamaica still retained a degree of autonomy and many of the old folkways when Zora Neale Hurston visited there in the 1920's (see Tell My Horse). The Maroons of Suriname still practice African "paganism."
Throughout the 18th century, North America also produced a number of drop-out "tri-racial isolate communities." (This clinical-sounding term was invented by the Eugenics Movement, which produced the first scientific studies of these communities. Unfortunately the "science" merely served as an excuse for hatred of racial "mongrels" and the poor, and the "solution to the problem" was usually forced sterilization.) The nuclei invariably consisted of runaway slaves and serfs, "criminals" (i.e. the very poor), "prostitutes" (i.e. white women who married non-whites), and members of various native tribes. In some cases, such as the Seminole and Cherokee, the traditional tribal structure absorbed the newcomers; in other cases, new tribes were formed. Thus we have the Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp, who persisted through the 18th and 19th centuries, adopting runaway slaves, functioning as a way station on the Underground Railway, and serving as a religious and ideological center for slave rebellions. The religion was HooDoo, a mixture of African, native, and Christian elements, and according to the historian H. Leaming-Bey the elders of the faith and the leaders of the Great Dismal Maroons were known as "the Seven Finger High Glister."
The Ramapaughs of northern New Jersey (incorrectly known as the "Jackson Whites") present another romantic and archetypal genealogy: freed slaves of the Dutch poltroons, various Delaware and Algonquin clans, the usual "prostitutes," the "Hessians" (a catch-phrase for lost British mercenaries, drop-out Loyalists, etc.), and local bands of social bandits such as Claudius Smith's.
An African-Islamic origin is claimed by some of the groups, such as the Moors of Delaware and the Ben Ishmaels, who migrated from Kentucky to Ohio in the mid-18th century. The Ishmaels practiced polygamy, never drank alcohol, made their living as minstrels, intermarried with Indians and adopted their customs, and were so devoted to nomadism that they built their houses on wheels. Their annual migration triangulated on frontier towns with names like Mecca and Medina. In the 19th century some of them espoused anarchist ideals, and they were targeted by the Eugenicists for a particularly vicious pogrom of salvation-by-extermination. Some of the earliest Eugenics laws were passed in their honor. As a tribe they "disappeared" in the 1920's, but probably swelled the ranks of early "Black Islamic" sects such as the Moorish Science Temple. I myself grew up on legends of the "Kallikaks" of the nearby New Jersey Pine Barrens (and of course on Lovecraft, a rabid racist who was fascinated by the isolate communities). The legends turned out to be folk-memories of the slanders of the Eugenicists, whose U.S. headquarters were in Vineland, NJ, and who undertook the usual "reforms" against "miscegenation" and "feeblemindedness" in the Barrens (including the publication of photographs of the Kallikaks, crudely and obviously retouched to make them look like monsters of misbreeding).
The "isolate communities"--at least, those which have retained their identity into the 20th century--consistently refuse to be absorbed into either mainstream culture or the black "subculture" into which modern sociologists prefer to categorize them. In the 1970's, inspired by the Native American renaissance, a number of groups--including the Moors and the Ramapaughs--applied to the B.I.A. for recognition as Indian tribes. They received support from native activists but were refused official status. If they'd won, after all, it might have set a dangerous precedent for drop-outs of all sorts, from "white Peyotists" and hippies to black nationalists, aryans, anarchists and libertarians-- a "reservation" for anyone and everyone! The "European Project" cannot recognize the existence of the Wild Man-- green chaos is still too much of a threat to the imperial dream of order.
Essentially the Moors and Ramapaughs rejected the "diachronic" or historical explanation of their origins in favor of a "synchronic" self-identity based on a "myth" of Indian adoption. Or to put it another way, they named themselves "Indians." If everyone who wished "to be an Indian" could accomplish this by an act of self- naming, imagine what a departure to Croatan would take place. That old occult shadow still haunts the remnants of our forests (which, by the way, have greatly increased in the Northeast since the 18-19th century as vast tracts of farmland return to scrub. Thoreau on his deathbed dreamed of the return of "...Indians...forests...": the return of the repressed).
The Moors and Ramapaughs of course have good materialist reasons to think of themselves as Indians--after all, they have Indian ancestors--but if we view their self-naming in "mythic" as well as historical terms we'll learn more of relevance to our quest for the TAZ. Within tribal societies there exist what some anthropologists call mannenbunden: totemic societies devoted to an identity with "Nature" in the act of shapeshifting, of becoming the totem-animal (werewolves, jaguar shamans, leopard men, cat-witches, etc.). In the context of an entire colonial society (as Taussig points out in Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man) the shapeshifting power is seen as inhering in the native culture as a whole-- thus the most repressed sector of the society acquires a paradoxical power through the myth of its occult knowledge, which is feared and desired by the colonist. Of course the natives really do have certain occult knowledge; but in response to Imperial perception of native culture as a kind of "spiritual wild(er)ness," the natives come to see themselves more and more consciously in that role. Even as they are marginalized, the Margin takes on an aura of magic. Before the whiteman, they were simply tribes of people--now, they are "guardians of Nature," inhabitants of the "state of Nature." Finally the colonist himself is seduced by this "myth." Whenever an American wants to drop out or back into Nature, invariably he "becomes an Indian." The Massachusetts radical democrats (spiritual descendents of the radical Protestants) who organized the Tea Party, and who literally believed that governments could be abolished (the whole Berkshire region declared itself in a "state of Nature"!), disguised themselves as "Mohawks." Thus the colonists, who suddenly saw themselves marginalized vis-·- vis the motherland, adopted the role of the marginalized natives, thereby (in a sense) seeking to participate in their occult power, their mythic radiance. From the Mountain Men to the Boy Scouts, the dream of "becoming an Indian" flows beneath myriad strands of American history, culture and consciousness.
The sexual imagery connected to "tri-racial" groups also bears out this hypothesis. "Natives" of course are always immoral, but racial renegades and drop-outs must be downright polymorphous-perverse. The Buccaneers were buggers, the Maroons and Mountain Men were miscegenists, the "Jukes and Kallikaks" indulged in fornication and incest (leading to mutations such as polydactyly), the children ran around naked and masturbated openly, etc., etc. Reverting to a "state of Nature" paradoxically seems to allow for the practice of every "unnatural" act; or so it would appear if we believe the Puritans and Eugenicists. And since many people in repressed moralistic racist societies secretly desire exactly these licentious acts, they project them outwards onto the marginalized, and thereby convince themselves that they themselves remain civilized and pure. And in fact some marginalized communities do really reject consensus morality--the pirates certainly did!--and no doubt actually act out some of civilization's repressed desires. (Wouldn't you?) Becoming "wild" is always an erotic act, an act of nakedness.
Before leaving the subject of the "tri-racial isolates," I'd like to recall Nietzsche's enthusiasm for "race mixing." Impressed by the vigor and beauty of hybrid cultures, he offered miscegenation not only as a solution to the problem of race but also as the principle for a new humanity freed of ethnic and national chauvinism--a precursor to the "psychic nomad," perhaps. Nietzsche's dream still seems as remote now as it did to him. Chauvinism still rules OK. Mixed cultures remain submerged. But the autonomous zones of the Buccaneers and Maroons, Ishmaels and Moors, Ramapaughs and "Kallikaks" remain, or their stories remain, as indications of what Nietzsche might have called "the Will to Power as Disappearance." We must return to this theme.