Thursday, April 29, 2004

Fine wine, rich coffee

It's always nice to have your lifestyle validated. Maybe the study shows correlation rather than cause and effect, but why take a chance?
Explosive Fruit

Checking my blog visitor log the other day, I saw that someone had used Google's translation service to read it in French. The phrase "originally published in The Pomegranate" had been translated as "� l'origine �dit�es dans la grenade."

"La grenade" . . . of course! The Engish word "pomegranate" comes from the Old French pom grenate. That connection trickled into my consciousness after a moment's thought. (Hence "grenadine," the syrup made from pomegranates or currants.)

But I still enjoyed the metaphorical possibilities: our journal--which is now at the printer--as a grenade tossed into seminar room of religious studies. It sounds like a poetic image by one of the more violent Futurists of the 1930s.

In early 20th-century American slang, small bombs thrown by hand or launched by a rifle have been called "pineapples" (cast iron fragmentation-style) or "lemons" (sheet metal fragmentation-style) -- but not, so far as I know, "pomegranates."
Why are you reading this?

The revolution will not be blogged, says Mother Jones writer Geoge Packer.

"The constellation of opinion called the blogosphere consists, like the stars themselves, partly of gases. This is what makes blogs addictive � that is, both pleasurable and destructive: They're so easy to consume, and so endlessly available. Their second-by-second proliferation means that far more is written than needs to be said about any one thing. "

Well, that's it. I'll stop. I'm off to the low-rent coffeehouse in the Masonic temple building, a small town coffeehouse with no wireless Internet access and hence no one generating "little spasms of assertion." And I will stop at the hardware store, the realm of the tangible.
Counter-attack on The Da Vinci Code

Cronaca and Bookslut (27 April entry) both have entries on the flood of new books out to counter the spurious history, not to mention the "feminism, anticlericalism and pagan forms of worship" of The Da Vinci Code.

From the New York Times: "The Rev. James L. Garlow, co-author with Prof. Peter Jones of Cracking Da Vinci's Code and pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, said: 'I don't think it's just an innocent novel with a fascinating plot. I think it's out there to win people over to an incorrect and historically inaccurate view, and it's succeeding. People are buying into the notion that Jesus is not divine, he is not the son of God.'"

Author Dan Brown welcomes the controversy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

50th Anniversary of Witchcraft Today

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today, a fascinating book, although flawed by the author's pretense that he is a sort of anthropologist reporting on "them," the witches, rather than in fact what he was--co-founder of the modern magical religion of Wicca.

An American edition was published later by Citadel, now part of Kensington Books. My old copy (4th paperback printing) is dated 1973.

Now Citadel has re-issued Witchcraft Today with the original text and illustrations plus additional annotation and four additional essays. Those new contributors are Judy Harrow, the project's editor, plus historian Ronald Hutton, Wren Walker of The Witches' Voice web site, and Tara Nelsen, a graduate student, bookstore owner, and Pagan activist from southern Illinois.

Harrow, in particular, has produced some fascinating work, tracking down nearly every one of the sources upon which Gardner drew (in his slapdash way), producing what amounts to an annotated bibliography of the original edition. In addition, she indexed the book--it always lacked an index--and wrote a second essay with reading lists, focused on all the themes, such as spellcraft, which Gardner touched upon.

Preparing annotated bibliographies may not seem as sexy as writing about spells or shamanism, but they provide a true service to future researchers. Like the centennial edition of Charles Leland's Aradia: or The Gospel of the Witches, which I was privileged to write an essay for in 1999, the appearance of this edition marks one more step in the maturation of contemporary Paganism.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Absintheurs of the Web

When the snow melts, I know the wormwood will be flourishing. Perhaps it is time to think about absinthe -- like this guy (See 31 March 2004 entry). Or there are the commercial versions.

. . . summer afternoons ahead . . .

Sunday, April 25, 2004

April in the snow

Blogging is a bit difficult right now. Thanks to a major spring blizzard, my home has had no electricity since Thursday night, the 22nd, and telephone service was restored only yesterday. I might also credit the local rural electric cooperative, which has not had anyone trimming trees out our way for at least ten years. Now their guys have to be out in the knee-deep snow and rain, clearing the power lines. (In fairness, it looks like some utility poles snapped off out on the praire west of Pueblo as well.)

So just link dumps today, as I work at my office on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The War of the Sweatshirts

Things are getting a little tense out there in Abrahamic Religions Land.

New papers posted on my home page

I will be putting some older essays and conference papers on my home page. For now, here are two:

"Fort Hood's Pagans and the Problem of Pacificism" --Why Starhawk's writings are not the best source for Wiccan attitudes towards war.

"If Witches No Longer Fly," (104 kb PDF file) -- An essay on contemporary Pagans and Solanaceous plants, originally published in The Pomegranate.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Watch out for Denver Nick

This Tarot-reading is serious stuff, says the Pueblo Chieftain, the local daily paper, in this article.

But I tell youse, standards are slippin'. When I was younger, Gypsies always drove Cadillacs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Canaanite festival update

Based on photographic evidence, the former spring festival of Ashtoreth and Adonis (one possible origin of the Christian Easter) has been moved to August, as least in Tel Aviv, where planning is underway for the seventh annual Love Parade.

"For the seventh year in a row, the palpable tension that exists on the streets of Tel Aviv is about to be washed away by an onslaught of good vibes, techno beats and body paint, as the annual Love Parade comes to town" (Travel Channel).

Two Israeli photogs with long lenses have posted web albums of last year's celebration: Tommy's photos give you more of the parade floats and the crowds, while Verti goes more for female flesh close-up.

The fastest-growing religion?

The notion that Wicca is America's fastest-growing religion has achieved meme status. Everyone says it, but who started it?

Thanks to Jim Lewis, I have been looking at some of the data collected by the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted at CUNY, and comparing sociological changes in American religious populations between 1991 and 2001.

Just a few observations from the "key findings" section:

Religious identification is down: "In 1990, 90 percent of the adult population identified with one or another religion group. In 2001, such identification has dropped to 81 percent."

"The proportion of the population that can be classified as Christian has declined from 86 in 1990 to 77 percent in 2001"

"Although the number of adults who classify themselves in non-Christian religious groups has increased from about 5.8 million to about 7.7 million, the proportion of non-Christians has increased only by a very small amount."

"The top three 'gainers' in America's vast religious market place appear to be Evangelical Christians, those describing themselves as Non-Denominational Christians and those who profess no religion."

Data on Wiccans and other Pagans seems a little shakey, because comparative numbers from the 1991 survey are mostly missing. Also, although the summary does not address this issue, I suspect that many contemporary Pagans are still shy about naming their affiliation to some stranger doing a survey.

Wicca: 1991--84,000
Wicca: 2001--134,000

Druids: 1991--not reported
Druids: 2001--33,000

Santeristas: 1991--not reported
Santeristas: 2001--22,000

Non-specific Pagans: 1991--not reported
Non-specific Pagans: 2001- 140,000

That is a 160-percent increased in the self-reported number of Wiccans. By comparison, the self-reported number of Muslims rose 208 percent, from 53,000 in 1991 to 1,104,000 in 2001. Things don't look so good for the meme, do they?

Another factoid: "As in 1990 so too in the current study, the Buddhist and Muslim population appears to have the highest proportion of young adults under age thirty, and the lowest percentage of females."

There is much more -- have a look.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

All the sagas in one place

Visit Saganet for a complete (Norse and English) searchable compilation of all the pre-13th century Icelandic sagas.

The material consists of the entire range of Icelandic family sagas. It also includes a very large portion of Germanic/Nordic mythology (the Eddas), the history of Norwegian kings, contemporary sagas and tales from the European age of chivalry. A great number of manuscripts contain Icelandic ballads, poetry or epigrams. These Collections are kept in The National and University Library of Iceland, The �rni Magn�sson Institute in Iceland and in the Fiske Icelandic Collection at Cornell University. All manuscripts, on vellum and paper, and printed editions and translations of the Sagas as well as relevant critical studies published before 1900 are included and available through the Internet.

And it's amazing. (With thanks to Languagehat.)
Cougars in Cornwall

Reports of out-of-place large cats in Britain are most common in the the southwest, says the BBC.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

When I hear the word 'transgressive,' I cock my Browning*

University Diaries has a great entry (18 April) on a tempest in a creative-writing teapot at San Francisco's Academy of Art University.

What caught my attention was her reference to Paul Fussell's book Class. Although he later claimed, perhaps disingenously, that he wrote the book as a joke, it remains one of few accessible studies of a social issue that is more taboo to discuss in America than are fantasies of being a serial killer.

* from a line by the German playwright Hanns Johst, "Wenn ich Kultur h�re ... entsichere ich meinen Browning," often wrongly attributed to Air Marshall Goering of the Third Reich and translated as "When I hear the word Culture, I reach for my revolver."

(As some of my regular readers know, John Browning [1855-1926] is more known for designing the 1911 Colt .45 automatic pistol.)

Dealing with evangelicals

About ten days ago, while I was working at home (revising the book), the notorious M.C. took the dogs for a walk in the woods, leaving me without my first line of defense. As I was pouring a cup of tea in the kitchen, someone knocked at the front door -- and it did not sound like her characteristic knock.

I went to the door. There were two of them: men, thirty-ish, dressed "cowboy formal," each clutching leather-bound Bibles, the King James Version, no doubt. Their shiny, well-muffled sport-utility vehicle had crept up the gravel driveway, and I, back in my study, had not heard it.

I opened the door, polite guy that I am. I forget now what my visitor said, but his purpose was clear. "You've come to the wrong house," I replied. No terribly witty, but it worked; they said goodbye and left.

Encounter number two was by email, from an evangelical Canadian professor whom I know just slightly from the American Academy of Religion's "new religious movements" group. He wrote to say that he was working on a book on NRMs for Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher.

I do not question that he is a legitimate scholar, not at all, but his phrasing was unfortunate: "I was wondering if you could send me a list of the 25 most influential witches in modern times."

In the context, it was a legitimate question, but it hit me all wrong. It was too much like, "Give him another jolt, Boris. He'll crack and tell us who his associates are."

The correct response would be, "Witches? That's a lot of silliness. There are no witches." (see Gerald Gardner's Craft Laws, nos. 131-132 in Lady Sheba's version -- but those in the linked document are not numbered).

But, too polite to do that either, I suggested several good reference books, such as the Rabinovitch and Lewis Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Pagan Studies marches on

The book series on Pagan Studies that I co-edit with Wendy Griffin has now grown to four titles. If all goes well--if the publisher accepts my ms.--then two books should be ready in time for the American Academy of Religion-Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in November.

First would be Researching Paganisms: Religious Experiences and Academic Methodologies, an anthology edited by Jenny Blain, Doug Ezzy, and Graham Harvey.

I will have a piece in it called "Drugs, Books, and Witches," which the editors have put in the section, "Challenging objectivity, theorising subjectivity."

Second, as I blogged on 12 April, would be my book, Her Hidden Children.

In addition, Wendy is working on a book called Goddessing: Contemporary Women and Ritual Magic, while Barbara Jean Davy is preparing the first undergraduate textbook on Pagan Studies.

I can't wait to see the book display.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Man Who Would Be King

The Man Who Would Be King, the 1975 movie (based on Rudyard Kipling's novel), starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine, is one of my favorites of all time.

Now an English writer, Ben Macintyre, suggests that Kipling's work was based on the life of an American adventurer in Afghanistan. NPR has the audio report. He also got involved in camel-breeding in the American West.

LEFT: Book cover, The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Book progress & link dump

I am a little drained today, having finished revisions on my book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Contemporary Paganism in America. On Tuesday I will e-mail files to my editor at AltaMira Press, followed by the printouts. Naturally it is not as long as he hoped, and he was already asking me today if I planned to do the indexing myself--or have the cost charged against my royalties. Indexing, what a thought. Maybe after the semester is over I can think about indexing.

Meanwhile, Tarot artist Joanna Powell Colbert comments on a friend's Goddess rosaries.

Archaeology magazine's web site offers a collection of articles on the original Olympic Games and some myths about them.

They also have an interview with art historian Kenneth Lapatin, author of a recent monograph, Mysteries of the Snake Goddess, arguing that the famous Minoan "snake goddess" figurine was a late 19th-century fake.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Passion of the Bunny

After reading this, I wonder what the good people of Glassport Assembly of God have planned for Christmas.

Religion-beat journalist Terry Mattingly has more.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Tropic of Night

If I had to describe Michael Gruber's new novel Tropic of Night in Hollywoodese, I would say that it's "(Miami crime writer) Edna Buchanan meets (ethnobotanist) Wade Davis."

Detectives, sorcerers, preschoolers, santeros, this world, the otherworld, all handled deadpan:

"I read threat in the way they were standing: two Latina women in tan servant's uniforms, a dark woman with shopping bags, with a little girl and an older boy in tow; a zombie; two thin Oriental guys in cook's whites speaking Cuban Spanish, and a very fat copper-skinned woman with a cane and a palm fan, all typically what you would find at any such corner in low-rent Miami, except maybe for the zombie."

Thanks for the tip to Steve Bodio, whose own latest book is Eagle Dreams.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Masonic conspiracy

The wacko Islamic jihadis are not obssessed only with the so-called worldwide Jewish conspiracy, says New Statesman writer Nick Cohen, they also are keeping alive the fantasy of the evil worldwide Masonic conspiracy! Read more here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Why do they always take her picture?

Pagans are not the only ones complaining how certain flamboyant figures (example or example) get media attention whether they are "representative of the community" or not.

Religion-beat journalist John Dart (April 1 entry) shows that that complaint is heard in other religions as well, because, he suggests, religion-beat reporters' input is not heeded.
Now we will see if the Druids' curse still works

Magic planned against stone circle vandals.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Pagans and Jedis, O My!

The Sunday Herald reports results of a recount of religious affiliation in Scotland, paid for the the Pagan Federation in the UK.

Thanks to Cat McEarchern, American doctoral student at the University of Stirling, who says that he thinks the Pagan numbers are low.
Church of the Eternal Source co-founder dies

I learned just recently of the passing in January of Don Harrison, one of the founders of the Church of the Eternal Source.

Since he was a teenager in the 1940s, Don had been drawn to ancient Pagan religion. In 1967 he started to publish a modest neo-pagan discussion magazine in Los Angeles, which he called Julian Review after the Emperor Julian.

Later, through the pioneer Southern California Pagan group Feraferia, Harrison met Harold Moss and Sara Cunningham, who joined him in founding the Church of the Eternal Source in August 1970 as an umbrella for groups and individuals wishing to follow reconstructed ancient Egyptian philosophy and religion.

In addition to creating many items of art, furniture, and temple furnishings based on Egyptian prototypes, Harrison wrote three historical novels, The Spartan, The Alexandrian Drachma, and The Lion Warriors.

(My thanks to the Rev. Harold Moss, CES, for the photo and information.)

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Mutilation bad, murder ... well, OK

I thought that the right-wing bloggers might have made this one up, but it's true. The Council on American Islamic Relations, a self-described civil-rights organization, issued a press release condemning the mutilation of the bodies of the four American civilians killed in Falujah, Iraq, on Wednesday, 31 March.

The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group cited a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that prohibits mutilating bodies (Hadith 654.3).

Not the murders, mind you. Evidently the killing was Islamic. But mutilating corpses and hanging them from a bridge over the Euphrates River is un-Islamic.