Saturday, November 29, 2003

Gods of the Blood

How to meet the Asatruar at an academic gathering--walk around carrying a copy of Mattias Gardell's Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Gardell, a Swedish historian of religion, also wrote an earlier book on the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), In the Name of Elijah Muhammed. Both are published by Duke University Press.

From the cover blurb: "Gardell outlines the historical development of the different strands of racist paganism--including Wotanism, Odinism, and Darkside �satr�--and situates them on the spectrum of pagan beliefs ranging from Wicca and goddess worship to Satanism."

To Gardell, both the racist Pagans and earlier groups such as Christian Identity arise from a version of the "cultic milieu," a shared basis of attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions, which is why he calls them more a counterculture than a movement. The actual groups keep breaking up, changing, and coalescing, but the counterculture as counterculture persists, because it embodies its own form of attitudes which are actually common enough in society at large: about nature, about government's misuses, about a reaction against modernity and for capital-T Tradition.

I think these people need some help with naming. You have to understand as a reader that Wotan's Kindred is not the same as Wodan's Kindred is not the same as Wotansvolk (USA) is not the same as Wotansvolk (Sweden).

It's a worthwhile book, but I did find one geographic howler, which shook my confidence a little. He describes the federal prison where David Lane is incarcerated as "deep underground in mountainous Florence, Colorado." Um, no. I watched it being built, and, granted, the maximum security complex surrounds inmates with so much concrete that they might as well be deep underground. But Gardell must be one of those who thinks that all Colorado is mountainous. About 40 percent of Colorado is the High Plains, and Florence is on the edge of that region, in a gentle river valley with the prison only slightly higher. (Hardscrabble Creek passes not far away after it emerges from the mountains). Considering that Gardell includes a photo of Lane taken in prison, I don't know how he came to write that sentence.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Jeff Foxworthy doesn't know what he started . . .

Now it's the "You might be a Goth redneck Pagan if . . ." quiz.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Idol thoughts

After three days of hearing papers and networking at AAR-SBL, our brains were full, so half a dozen friends and I headed for the traveling Etruscan exhibit at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum. It was wonderful to get away from the convention-hotel district.

The exhibit on ancient Etruscan life was organized by subjects: feasting, domestic life, war, the gods, etc. In a case of religious items I saw several small handbells. One looked almost identical to a "Sanctus bell" that I remembered from my altar-boy days, the kind rung at key moments during Mass. There is probably a line of unbroken ritual ringing of small bells from ancient northern Italy to your nearest parish church.

The jewelry case held a ring with a carnelian set in gold. One of the Pagan women raised her hand: her ring was almost identical.

You exit the exhibit into a special gift shop, of course. There among the reproduction Etruscan ware was a statuette of Diana that looked familiar. I turned it over: the label said "JBL Images," which is the old name of Sacred Source. Yes, their India-made idols were scattered throughout the shop. They must be the Wal-Mart of idolatry. (Does that make Mythic Images the Target of idolatry?)

Wear your carnelian, ring the bell, honor the gods of the city--does anything ever really change?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Off to see the Pagan Studies crowd

I've been turning off the overhead fluorescent lights in my office, leaving just the desk and reading lights on, so that I can watch the eastern sky turn mauve over the prairie. Today is effectively the first day of Thanksgiving break, and that means leaving for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, this year in Atlanta, a city in which I would otherwise have no interest what so ever. (The AAR is slowly divorcing itself from its parent, the Society for Biblical Literature; annual meetings will go their separate ways in a few years.)

Eleven years ago I attended my first AAR-SBL meeting in San Francisco. I knew no one other than my professors from graduate school. (I had attended a couple of religional AAR meetings only.) It was huge, overwhelming (probably 7,000-8,000 attendees), humbling. I felt outclassed and out of place, a nobody, in his first year of teaching at an unknown state university.

In 1995 (Philadelphia), the first group of scholars working with Paganism and/or "nature religion" got together just for a meet-and-greet. "Nature religion," of course, can be either a euphemism for Paganism or, as in the case of Bron Taylor's or Catherine Albanese's work, something much broader. We still have not bridged that gap.

By 1997 (San Francisco, again) we were applying for "consultation" status in the AAR--a regular meeting slot, in other words. We were turned down and kept on presenting papers and having panel discussions in the marginal "additional meetings" category. And that year Fritz Muntean and Diana Taylor started The Pomegranate (see links on the right), which is now a bona-fide peer-reviewed journal. And in 1998 (Orlando) I met Erik Hanson of AltaMira Press, who was bidding for but did not get Bron's and Jeff Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature project, which went to Continuum instead. But thanks to that contact, I got to know Erik and eventually signed to write Her Hidden Children: I will be taking a rough draft ms. to Atlanta with me.

And this year our little additional meeting has grown to an all-day Pagan Studies session.

I'm still humbled, but now it's by the way in which interest has grown, the volume of scholarly writing has exploded, and by the fact that I'm editing The Pomegranate. Now I'll be approaching people to publish papers, soliciting book mss. for the AltaMira Pagan Studies series . . . suddenly four days don't seem like enough.

Expect more news here in about a week.
"Cosmic Truths of the Ages, Revealed" (Fated, part 2)

A newspaper article on Fate magazine and its editor, Phyllis Galde.

My "Part 1" here.
Gorey Details

For all your Edward Gorey needs--but do they have the sorrowful Lab from The Sopping Thursday, or all Gorey fans all "cat people"?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Watching the news . . .

Not surprisingly, The Drudge Report was first with this story, in tandem with Religion New Blog. It's right up both their alleys. I found it ironic that the woman herself, obviously not playing with a full deck ("I had cut myself. I do that kind of out of habit now."), could say in her own defense that she was into Satanism, not Witchcraft. Like that will help her?

The Pagans have been happier with the outcome, so far, of the "prayer" lawsuit story. One issue: most Pagans I know do not speak of prayer. Offering Pagan "prayers" in front of a legislative body is, I suspect, just another step on the road towards meeting in rectangular buildings with pews.

Monday, November 10, 2003

It was Fated

After letting my subscription lapse about three years ago, I have re-subscribed to Fate magazine.

I have to admit I missed it: the UFO sightings, the "True Mystic Experiences" from people who could not possibly be making it all up (this is not the Penthouse Forum, folks).

And the wacky ads: "The most frightening book in print," the Atlantean crystal headband (only $59.95), the "free" Tarot readings, and all the ads from world-famous psychics and mediums.

In 1994 Llewellyn Publications bought Fate from the small company that had published it since 1948. Knowing better than the earlier publishers, they promptly changed its small, "digest" format to a fullsize 8 x 10-inch magazine. In fact, I had an article published in that first "full-size" issue on the archaeological anomaly of "Colorado ogham" inscriptions.

But it looks now like the conservative readers won: Fate is back in the digest format, only with some process-color pages instead of only black and white photos.

Maybe I should buy the poster of the first issue cover, complete with flying sauces that look remarkably like compact disks with a notch cut out of them. Who knew?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

A Voice in the Forest

Here is something that you won't read about in The Spiral Dance or most of the other how-to-be-a-witch books. It's rare, but it happens: covens that claim mediumistic communication with their Craft ancestors. I've heard it claimed for followers of Robert Cochrane and Gwydion Pendderwen both. Gwydion was a friend of mine, too, and I've had some experiences there, but I don't go for pestering the Mighty Dead on a regular basis.

About three years ago I read the first edition of A Voice in the Forest, published by a small press in Massachusetts and presented as spiritual communication with Alex Sanders (1926?-1988). Sanders was one the leading figures in Britain's Craft scene in the 1960s and 1970s--a bigger publicity hound than Gerald Gardner, even, but still, according to people who knew him, an effective and daring magician.

As far as publishers were concerned, one of his best assets was his then-wife and high priestess Maxine (b. 1946). The camera loved Maxine. And Maxine, although she broke with Alex in the 1970s, apparently endorses this book: "The contact described within the book was so obviously true it gave me goose bumps."

This book's author, Jimahl di Fiosa of Boston, says that the communication began in 1998, ten years after Sanders' death, and continues to the present day. A new, expanded edition of A Voice in the Forest Is to be published in April 2004.

I never knew Sanders, but I did know several of his students. I can't say whether the communications are genuine or not, but I'm more interested in the idea of them as yet another example of the constant discourse about Wiccan lineage.

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Thursday, November 06, 2003

Danish Pagans Gaining Recognition

Articles from Scandinavian papers here and here summarize efforts by Forn Sidr, which means The Old Custom in Norse, to be an officially recognized religion in Denmark, able to perform legal marriages and so on. (Links are via Religion News Blog.) You may also read a longer story in The Guardian.

The Danish Forn Sidr is not to be confused with this one, which is what you will find in a Google search. The English-language version of the Danes' website is here.

My students always display expressions of amazement when I tell them that a Danish baby is automatically a member of the state Lutheran church unless he or she opts out. This Danish site would enlighten them.


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

'Ghosts' in print

My essay "Ghosts" has been published in the November issue of Colorado Central magazine. Naturally, I'm delighted that the editors, Ed and Martha Quillen, liked it, even though it is probably more "literary" than their usual editorial mixture.

I wrote it last May, composing parts in my head while driving the back roads of Park County, Colorado, on the way home from the trip to Eagle Rock that the essay describes. In some cases, I found myself on the same roads that Dad and I had traveled the previous December on what would turn out to be his last trip into those mountains.

Errata: In the "Florence 2003" section, "windy roads" should be "winding roads." And I can explain the discrepancy between the number of musicians in the Pearl DeVere funeral-reenactment photos and the text. Really, I can.


Traditional Medicine versus Addiction

As long as I'm blogging the BBC, let me point out this story on the effectiveness of traditional therapy, including the use of entheogenic ("psychedelic") plants in a shamanic context to overcome drug addiction in Brazil.

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I Have Been Waiting for this News Story

Ever since I heard that Saddam Hussein was draining these wetlands, I had enough reason to hate the guy. And ever since the invasion of Iraq last spring, I have been wondering if someone�American troops, British troops, local contractors--I don't care who--would show up with some earthmoving equipment and start correcting the situation. It looks like that might be happening, according to the BBC's website. On the other hand, there's not enough water in the Euphrates any more.

Maybe Iraqis need to take up the infidel custom of holding Ducks Unlimited banquets and auctions to raise money for wetlands restoration.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Johm William Waterhouse Revival

The Neoclassical (or some would say Pre-Raphaelite) painter John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917, is enjoying a posthumous career illustrating books on Paganism.

His painting "The Sorceress" appears on the cover of Witchcraft Medicine -- see entry for October 29 -- while "Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses" is on the dust jacket of Ronald Hutton's latest, Witches, Druids and King Arthur, of which I will have more to say soon.

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Do You 'Write like a Wo/Man'?

Paste at least 500 words of your text here, select the appropriate genre -- fiction, nonfiction, blog entry -- and see what happens.