A Starseed "cult" leader went viral on TikTok....but the true history of Starseeds is far weirder and includes fringe futurists, multi-dimensional transmissions in Folsom Prison, and ancient aliens who look like the Virgin Mary.
"I'm a starseed," begins a TikTok by Unicole Unicron, which went viral in August.
The self-proclaimed "pop star cult leader" (who uses the pronouns xe/xir) characterizes starseeds as alien consciousnesses born into human bodies.
@unicoleunicron what is it like to be a starseed?
♬ join unicult - Unicole Unicron
Unicole Unicron goes on to say that starseeds are smart, psychic, lonely types who often have mental illnesses. This definition is in line with those who join Facebook groups like "Newly Awakened Starseeds, Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow Children" or "Galactic Federation Of Starseeds And Lightworkers" or read Gaia articles that say heady things like, "Starseeds are traveling souls from other planets who incarnated on Earth to inspire and heal human beings, and to participate in the planet's evolution."
Thanks to xir's viral TikTok (as well as a VICE article from 2016 titled "I Was Brainwashed by a Feminist Digital Cult Leader"), xe has become the platform's de facto starseed representative–which I find unfortunate, because xe's content sets my teeth on edge.
Admittedly, I find most starseed content on TikTok to be superficial and tone-deaf to the shifting needs of young people spiraling into post-dystopian ennui. My criticisms are not based in skepticism about the starseed concept—I have long identified as a starseed myself.
Instead, I rail against the centering of the stories of white American and European starseeds for a variety of reasons. During the Black Lives Matter protests in June, I felt compelled to call out a lot of starseeds for their spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity.
@hichaweon ##starseed ##starseeds ##starseedsunite ##witchtok ##witch ##babywitch
♬ Starseeds are spiritually bypassing and it is ewww - Hi, I'm Chaweon
Starseeds are not just white people who commune with the aliens via the Galactic Federation Council. Your local starseed may be a power-hungry politician on Capital Hill...a single mom living on a Native reservation...or a Black sci-fi writer attending an MFA program. Some remember past-life memories of life in the Sirius star system, have alien-human hybrid DNA, or have made contact with an Acturian spaceship that no military radar can detect. Brad Steiger's 1975 book,
Gods of Aquarius (whose success helped put the term "starseed" into pop culture) even mentions starseeds who have visions of The Virgin Mary.
The centering of white stories has always been an issue in the New Age community, and TikTok has also been criticized for boosting white creators over BIPOC creators.
Fortunately, there have also been viral starseed TikToks by Zia Puig-Mannah, a Lebanese-Venezuelan trans, queer, and disabled theorist, artist, activist, and Ph.D. student at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). They are well-known for channeling "light language," which is a healing modality that incorporates sound and movement.
Zia explains, "I telepathically receive frequencies/vibration from extra-dimensional beings and/or group consciousness—and turn them into gestures, sounds, and/or art pieces that factually affect, shift, change, alter the nature of our holographic reality."
@light.matters_ 👽 ##starseed ##spirituality ##fyp ##foryou ##meditate ##lightlanguage ##alien ##5d ##witchtok ##hybridchildren
♬ original sound - Zia🧿
Zia's way of conceptualizing starseeds is similar to my own. They say, "I thinkfeel [Zia's own term] that defining 'starseeds' simply as 'souls coming from another planet' constitutes a dangerous trap. it is a simplification of the entanglements making the multiverses, of the workings of consciousness, and the complexities of our journeys as multidimensional beings having a human experience."
The Timelessness of Starseeds
It may be tempting to say that the starseed is a modern concept due to its New Age aspects, but in actuality, starseeds have been recognized since the beginning of mankind. Diverse cultures from all around the world, including Egyptian, Zoroastrian, Norse, Chinese, and indigenous people in North and South America, have spoken about powerful entities who came down from the sky to help humans (sometimes even falling in love/lust and having hybrid children with said humans).
Native tribes in the Americas talked about "star people" with the everyday familiarity that cultures in the British Isles discuss the fae. Some of the most compelling mapping of UFO and starseed info comes from Indigenous people, as recounted by books by Professor Ardy Sixkiller Clarke. Brad Steiger, who was initiated into the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Tribe, writes in Gods of Aquarius that there is even some conjecture that elves, little people in cross-cultural folklore, and the fae may be aliens after all.
The book also has an entire chapter devoted to the Egyptian goddess Sehkmet, and features numerous mentions of old-school occult and witchy influences, such as The Theosophical Society's Helena Blavatsky's contact with "The Masters" and Robert Anton Wilson's synchronicity with the Sirius star system after he performed a Holy Guardian Angel ritual.
Ancient cultures often referred to these types of entities as goddesses, gods, or angels, but in today's post-religious world, the word "alien" can be used as a synonym for what were once considered deities.
"I believe we are all Starseeds. It is just that indigenous people know that; that is how we are brought up," says Barbara Hand Clow, whose book The Pleiadian Agenda: A New Cosmology for the Age of Light (1995) helped bring starseeds back into mainstream consciousness. "I am part Cherokee, and was trained in the traditions as a child, so I always understand that I came from the stars."
The actual term "starseed" was solidified in the early 1970s by Dr. Timothy Leary, famed Harvard psychologist turned psychedelic-hippie-icon. Initially arrested on trumped-up drug charges, Leary spent time in Folsom Prison because he had tried to break out of another prison. During this incarceration, Leary co-wrote Starseed: Transmitted from Folsom Prison, which was followed by Terra II: The Starseed Transmission.
These books, which contain passages about how humans have "nervous systems capable of communicating with and returning to the Galactic Network," impressed famed astrophysicist
Carl Sagan so much that he visited and befriended Leary in prison. Leary also explored SMI2LE (Space Migration, Increased Intelligence, and Life Extension), which are far-out and environmentally dystopian ideas about how humans will awaken to their alien origins, leading them to realize that they don't have to be tied to Earth, thus leaving and colonizing a new planet when Earth's resources run low.
Leary's futurist ideas were based on the theory of panspermia, which gained traction back at the turn of the 20th century through the work of Swedish Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist Svante Arrhenius. Arrhenius postulated that life on Earth was "seeded" by microbes from outer space (hence "panspermia"), providing an exciting alternative to Darwinism and other Earth-based evolutionary theory.
Contemporary starseeds have taken the idea of panspermia one step further, aligning it with the myths of their ancestors. It isn't just microbes from alien meteors that seeded life on Earth—it's the actual aliens themselves. "I understand myself to be a Human-Sassani hybrid, and a Sirian-Orion Starseed," says Zia. "In my private sessions with my students, I always make the spacetime to explain that humans are technically the result of genetic programs between diverse alien races. We are all made of/with alien and primate DNA."
This more expansive framework is also echoed in Gods of Aquarius. Even though the book is often considered the granddaddy of pop starseed-UFO information, much of it is also about the exploration of alien as archetype, as "protean-psychoid," where "protean" means it is reflecting the context of the time period and "psychoid" is related to the psychological state of the observer (e.g. the starseed).
In other words, aliens are both "real" and also accessible symbols that allow modern humans to make sense of our visceral, numinous, multi-dimensional experiences. When starseeds describe star systems and alien races, they are speaking on many levels, and often are speaking about different things.
Thus, someone who identifies as an Andromedan starseed would be different from a Pleiadian starseed. Many starseeds have had first-hand experiences of interacting with aliens since childhood, but some (like me) don't have those memories. For us, articles with headlines like "10 Ways to Know if You're Pleiadian" are not particularly useful. Instead, the best way to figure out if you're a starseed (and what kind) is through self-awareness and reflection.
Aliens and the Archetypal Journey
Leary's futurist idea of hybrid alien-human lineage, as well as humanity's eventual exodus from Earth, can be viewed as modern retellings of deep archetypal journeys. As reports of alien sightings around the world increased after World War II, so did the publication of science fiction stories and portrayals of alien contact on TV and movies. It may seem odd to include pop culture phenomenon into an analysis of "objective" history, but as underlined by the academic work of Hayden White and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, it is often in art that the deeper more authentic history is hidden.
A prime example of this can be found in Afrofuturism, an artistic movement that started with Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount), an accomplished jazz musician and philosopher who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, taken to Saturn, and told by aliens to "transport Black people away from the violence and racism of planet Earth."
Sun Ra - Space is the Place (1974) youtu.be
Sixty years later, there's talk about "decolonizing your mind" when recounting an exotic past on a linear timeline–and yet, when it comes to ideas of a shared future featuring aliens and space or a Star Trek-esque unity, much of the conversation is still white AF. Much of mainstream media reporting of the New Age movement is centered around those who exploit woke capitalism, like Gwenyth Paltrow's GOOP, or around those who embody neo-hippie ethos.
It's no wonder that conspiracy theories and derision towards starseeds abound. The most common argument seems to be that "starseed" is a label that a bunch of hippies from the 1970s and 1980s decided to bestow on their neurodivergent children (along with "Indigo/Rainbow/Crystal Children"). This is evidence of the privilege of white starseeds, who have the time and resources to either put their kids in private "Starseed only" academies or homeschool them. These parents are often spiritual anti-Vaxxers who refuse to medicate their progeny, lest the kids' vibes are lowered.
@nerdymixedpan Please, stop using Starseed and Indigo Child when you just mean spiritual, we need to be able to see who the cult leaders are ##cult ##psa ##starseed
♬ original sound - Tat
The actual history of starseed children is based on alien abduction, rather than being born neurodivergent. Starting in the 1960s, parapsychologists started to test children who claimed to have fantastical powers (they could bend spoons and do other impossible feats) after returning from alien abductions. Many of these children were also able to astral project and would even schedule playdates on alien spaceships with other kids in the study.
Matrix - Bent The Spoon.wmv www.youtube.com
These children, however, soon grew tired of bending spoons. They didn't want to stand out; instead, they wanted to blend in and utilize their gifts in deeper ways. Many adult Starseeds have undergone similar transformations, trading in the more performative aspects of their identities for deeper realizations that add value to their and their loved ones' lives.
There's a lot of criticism that the alienation that starseeds feel is common to all humans, but it's usually more than just the feels. Often, starseeds concurrently experience health issues, psychic phenomena, a higher-than-average interest in the topics of astronomy, astrology and aliens, and life synchronicities that lead them to learn more about starseeds.
"The deepest trait that I discovered in some starseeds was a longing for 'home', without really knowing where 'home' is, or what that even means," says Rebecca Campbell, whose
Starseed Oracle cards are very popular amongst mainstream tarot and Oracle card collectors. "I believe that this inner longing is likely due to the soul memory of places that are more 'home' than here."
And there are so many places that may be called home. "Each star has a very different pattern just like every person or culture does," say Barbara Hand Clow, a renowned astrologer. "So, in that regard, I think there are strong starseed connections from the Pleiades, the Sirius system, the Orion system, and Andromeda Galaxy. The Starseed connection that may be most relevant for Earth is the involvement of Earth with the planet Serpo in the Lyra stars."
And while the stereotypical starseed is someone named Lilac Comet who does nude yoga and insists "I'm here on a mission to help humans ascend...namaste," the truth is that there are plenty of narcissistic starseeds with Jesus-complexes. A century ago, Helena Blavatsky warned against "Star Rishi," who are deluded starseeds who want the ego boost of being labeled an ascended alien master.
Dangerous Starseeds and TikTok Wanna-be Cult Leaders
Similar to the way I feel compelled to call out starseeds for spiritually bypassing American systemic injustices, I also feel compelled to call out a potential Star Rishi. Behold this TikTok, where tears roll down Unicole Unicron's face while beseeching others to join xir's cult.
I dueted xir with my own mock-cult, and admittedly, I went pretty hard. Within days, xe deleted that particular video of xirs and then promptly blocked me.
@hichaweon ##duet with @unicoleunicron ##toiletmagick ##occultok ##starseed ##starseeds ##fakewitchtok ##witchtok @selkigirl @cocothespookylibrarian
♬ join unicult - Unicole Unicron
Beyond your garden variety wanna-be cult leader, there are also starseeds who are hostile and even dangerous to humanity. There have been plenty of wars amongst aliens, as well as intra-societal violence. When asked if there are evil starseeds, Barbara Hand Clow answered, "Oh yes, there are."
Unlike days of yore, today's world relies on a strict binary between mysticism and science. The modern concept of starseeds can feel unorthodox, even blasphemous, because it erases those dividing lines.
In Gods of Aquarius, Steiger writes, "What is at stake is not merely 'doing things' in a new way [such as changing political affiliation, moving out of cities, etc]...but (deeper than these external changes) accepting a new frame of reference for one's thinking and one's emotional life… Social, political, and financial changes are to some extent related to the more basic process but of themselves are ineffectual in terms of essential human transformation."
When someone identifies as a multi-dimensional being, a starseed, they break out of the polarized, binary thought processes that dominate most of humanity. Of course, most people who identify as starseeds simply transfer their binary thinking into alien mythology, but more and more people are breaking out of that mold.
For me, my identity as a starseed has only deepened my appreciation for this human form, which I affectionately call my meatsuit. My journey is multi-dimensional and intersectional, and the question of whether aliens are "real or not real" is not even the point. Fulfilling "love-and-light" stereotypes is also not the point, nor is staying in the box constructed by white privilege's New Age agendas.
"From my perspective, being a starseed is not a destiny but a choice," says Zia. "We all have the potentiality to remember our multidimensional wisdom—those who choose to do so might tend to identify with the term 'starseed' in this here, in this now. But the term 'starseed' is just the signifier we have come to have to speak about the ways in which some folks have come to understand their relationships with the self, the others, and the cosmos."
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