Thursday, October 30, 2003

Comprehending the Great Vowel Shift

I love reading about the history of the English language. If I have 20 minutes to fill in my rhetoric class, I can give an impromptu lecture on that history, which I title (to myself) as "Why the English Language Is Like a Club Sandwich." But never having formally worked with the International Phonetic Alphabet in a linguistics class, I never felt that I truly comprehended the "Great Vowel Shift" that marks part of the transition from Middle to Early Modern English.

Thanks to the Web, this site, by Melinda Mezner of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, makes it all comprehensible. Read the IPA text, listen to the sounds. After that, the diagrams might make more sense. Warning: lots of small sound files to download.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Barbie, the Hot Pagan Witch

I am in debt to Mark Morford's SF Gate column on the latest, must-have Barbie doll. (Mattel offers a dark-complexioned version as well.) She would be just right to look down on you and your plushies while you are reading some of Llewellyn Publications' latest teen-witch fiction. Read an excerpt online if you dare.

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Witchcraft Medicine

Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants is a collaboration between three German anthropologists: Claudia M =üller-Ebeling, Christian Rätch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl. I ordered it because I'll read anything that R�tsch has written, and, unfortunately, not enough of his work has been translated from German to English. (The translator here is Annabel Lee, whose work also appears in the journal Tyr -- see the October 18 entry.

The book is more a study of cultural transformation using texts and art work. The three "explore the demonization of nature's healing powers and sensuousness, the legacy of Hecate, the sorceress as shaman, and the plants associated with witches," to quote the back-cover blurb.

This book is more historical than hands-on; from a practitioner's position, I would rank it behind Dale Pendell's work. But it's still fascinating and inspiring.

One warning: don't trust anthropologists making etymological arguments. "Cathar" (the heretics) does not derive from the German word for "tomcat." (Storl gets it right: it's from the Greek word for "pure.") Nor does Boogie-Woogie, I will bet, derive from the same Indo-European root as the Russian Bog, "god."

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Demeter on a John Deere

I love a good conspiracy theory, especially when it involves what I always thought was one of the most innocuous of fraternal orders. You will find a calmer discussion here.

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Smile When You Say 'Tradition,' Partner

Last week I found in my campus mailbox the first (only?) issue of Tyr: Myth-Culture-Tradition, a new journal focusing on �satr�-Odinist-Heathen thought. It's quite a bit like The Pomegranate started out to be for the more broadly defined Pagan community (including A-O-H), before The Pom morphed into a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The first issue of Tyr was dated June 2002. I cannot find a web site to link to, but here is one online review.

I'm always interested in what Joscelyn Godwin has today on esoteric subjects--here, he writes about the man who put the T in Tradition, Julius Evola--and on the evolution of the followers of the Indo-Europeanist Georges Dum�zil. But the trouble is, you never know when you are going to step over the edge when reading Tyr. Turn the page and someone is claiming that the his Heathen rock band's music "resonates" with people of European origin because "DNA will out, you know."

Uh, yeah. I once thought that that was why I was so thunderstruck the first time that I heard bagpipes playing when I was a child--my sliver of Scottish ancestry. On the other hand, I always liked blues music too--even did a blues show on my college FM station. Maybe my banks-of-the-Mississippi River ancestry is more important than DNA? Who knows? This "blood and soil" stuff so easily can be warped.

More information:

Subscriptions US $16 domestic; $25 foreign (airmail)
Ultra, P.O. Box 11736, Atlanta, Georgia 30355

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Inspiration in Paganism

"I had been a Christian pastor for 15 years when I found true inspiration in Paganism." And he has written a book. His use language on the Web page, at least, shows some background in evangelical Christianity.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Trudging Along with Baskets of Corn

This Denver Post article on carrying corn to Chaco Canyon helps to illuminate the world of Bone Walker and the Gears' other Anasazi novels. (See entry for 28 September 2003.)

NOTE: I do not know how long this link will be good, since the Denver Post does not make its archives available forever. If the link does not work, visit the Post and search the archive for "Chaco."

The more I think about Chaco, the more I wonder if the great kiva of Casa Rinconada was not perhaps the Southwestern equivalent of the Nuremberg stadium, site of the Nazi Party rallies filmed so memorably by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Smokey and the Sacred

My paper "Smokey and the Sacred: Nature Religion, Civil Religion, and American Paganism" has been accepted for a special issue of the journal Ecotheology, edited by Graham Harvey.

The publishing agreement, however, forbids me from publishing more than the abstract online. (But maybe if you ask nicely.) I will supply a complete bibliographic citation to the printed copy as soon as it is available.

Maybe it's the first Pagan Studies paper to invoke Smokey Bear as a godform, following the footsteps of Gary Snyder's "Smokey the Bear Sutra."

OK, so he is somewhat discredited as a forester in these "prescribed burn" days. Sometimes demigods have a come-down.

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Sunday, October 05, 2003

Bone Walker

I have just finished Bone Walker, by the prolific Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, last in a series of novels set among the Anasazi people of the Southwest in about the 13th century. It is the third of a series, actually, and in the words of the authors' Web site, "Bone Walker ties all the threads woven in The Visitant and The Summoning God together."

The Gears used to be archaeologists. No doubt they got out of the profession due to its apparent high homicide rate, if we are to believe them, Tony Hillerman, Jake Page, and other writers. I always knew that archaeology was a high contentious and even vicious field; now we see that it is probably the most murderous corner of Academia.

If you read Bone Walker, personal knowledge or a map of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, is essential.

The interesting thing about the Gears' novels is that they incorporate current archaeological thinking, e.g., how might the cannibalism documented by Arizona State University's Christy Turner have occurred? Was there really religious warfare between followers of the "kachina cult" and other people?

Frankly, I wonder if the religious-warfare angle is not overdrawn. It sounds too much like 16th-century Europe: "Die, Protestant dogs!" I like to think that people who did not have "holy scripture" telling them what to do would be more likely to go to war for the usual reasons--resource control, prestige--and less over dogma or the nature of the gods.

For people who must spend a lot of time outdoors, the Gears do include some oddities. For instance, these Anasazi warriors skulking in Chaco Canyon are always trying to sneak from one town to the next in the "period of darkness between sunset and the rising of the New Moon." Now think about that. One thing about us Pagans--we at least know when the Moon comes up.

And one woman, the beautiful but deceitful Obsidian, she of the perfect full breasts, goes jogging down the Great North Road with the warriors. Did the Anasazi invent the sports bra?

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"Pagan Thoughts"

Jason Pitzl-Waters' "Mythworks," to which I linked on 24 September, has now been recast with a new identity.

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