Monday, June 21, 2004

The Anglo-Saxons had a word for it

And the word was utfus, meaning outbound or eager to be on the way. Most students of Old English (e.g., me in Prof. Harper's class years ago) encounter it in Beowulf, at the ship-burial of Scyld, forebear of Hrothgar, whose mead hall, Heorot, will be invaded by the savage monster, Grendel. (I suspect that the Old English letters thorn and edth will not display for everyone.)

Þr æt hyðe stod hringedstefna,
In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,
isig ond utfus, aæþelinges fær.
ice-flecked, outbound, atheling's barge:
Aledon þa leofne þeoden,
there laid they down their darling lord
beaga bryttan, on bearm scipes,
on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,
mærne be mæste. þr wæs madma fela
by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure
of feorwegum, frætwa, gelæded;
fetched from far was freighted with him.

I feel utfus now, ready for a quick trip across the Atlantic. Blogging will resume in early July on my return.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Pagan Studies audio files

The organizers of this year's ASANAS conference on new religious movements have put several presentations online as MP3 files, including talks by J. Gordon Melton, Graham Harvey, and Leuan Jones. Visit the download page if you have a high-speed Web connection: these files range from 18-30 megabytes in size.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Stonehenge still rockin'

The BBC marks the solstice with a recap of the tumultous history of public festivals at Stonehenge since the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Prime Minister Thatcher took a hard line (doesn't it sound like John Ashcroft today?):

"Mrs Thatcher would later tell the Commons she was 'only too delighted to do anything we can to make life difficult for hippy convoys', adding that "if the present law is inadequate we will have to introduce fresh law'."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Cheer up with camels

It's a little off-topic for this blog, the "The Religious Policeman" has an interesting post on camels in Saudi Arabia.
Chief returns as orca, tribal members say

Luna the whale is a reincarnated chief, say First Nations people in British Columbia. Luna arrived in Nootka Sound about the same time as the elder chief died in 2001.

"That means a lot in that my late father expressed to a couple of members that he was going to come back as a killer whale," said Mike Maquinna, chief of the Mowachaht First Nation. More here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

'Aspecting' Deity

An interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone at Witches' Voice offers some first-hand description of "aspecting" a deity as well as a different twist on Wicca-as-nature religion. (Thanks to Wild Hunt.)
If you're goin' to San Antonio

Cat McEarchern has posted the program for the 2nd annual Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies, to be held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion-Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in November in San Antonio, Texas. I'll be on a publishing panel.

If you're goin' to San Antonio,
be sure to wear some footnotes in your hair.

(A poor parody of the original hit song.)

Monday, June 14, 2004

A Caravaggio moment

We spent the weekend at the Front Range Pagan Festival (one of three annual festivals in Colorado that I know of), held at a private campground southwest of Denver.

It's a low-key (sometimes too low-key) event, with lots of kids and dogs--no stages for performers, no communal kitchens, etc.

The image that I will take away, in fact, involves some of those kids. On Saturday night, as the drummers were drumming and people were singing, two of them, seated on camp chairs, were lost in a game of chess over to the edge of the bonfire circle. An older boy, maybe 12 or 13, shone a flashlight down on the board, while the orange light of the fire caught lit the sides of the players' faces, while also striking part of the older boy's features under his floppy Army-style boonie hat.

To add to the composition, a girl of about 3 years was peering in the shadow over the edge of the chessboard, uncomprehending but captivated by the movements of the chessmen.

Their stillness and the composition of the group were classical, and the lighting was worthy of Caravaggio or some other Old Master. I wished for my camera, but I don't think any film emulsion (or the digital camera) would have captured that little girl in the shadow.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Current Reading

I will be leaving tomorrow for a long festival weekend; paradoxically, I hope to get some reading done, toward the paper that I'm writing for the Bath Spa UC "Exploring Consciousness" conference. So it will be a weekend in the woods with some of the old-timers: Jeffrey Burton Russell, Carlo Ginzburg, Norman Cohn, and others.

I just received a copy also of Ken Dowden's European Paganism, illustrated with ornate 19th-century engravings of muscular, curly-bearded barbarians. Not cheap, even through Powell's.

Dowden writes, "I wanted to show paganism in action, see what it looked and felt like, let the reader see the evidence and listen to the authors, even boring old Caesarius of Arles and grumpy Maximus of Turin."

And all the while contemporary Paganism will be in action in the temporary autonomous zone of festival-time.

Monday, June 07, 2004

"Are you ready to get your Jesus on?"

is a line from Saved, a new high-school comedy set in a private Christian school, and it's already being denounced predictably as "extremely offensive" from that quarter. National Public Radio's Bob Mondello's audio review is here.

Yes, if you have recovered from the culture-war battle over Mel Gibson's Passion, get ready for another one.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Another candidate for Atlantis

A German archaeologist thinks that he has found the site of lost Atlantis, the BBC reports.

Satellite photos of a salt marsh region known as Marisma de Hinojos near the city of Cadiz show two rectangular structures in the mud and parts of concentric rings that may once have surrounded them.

"Plato wrote of an island of five stades (925m) diameter that was surrounded by several circular structures--concentric rings--some consisting of Earth and the others of water. We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described," Dr Kuehne told BBC News Online.
Psychological polytheism

The Juggler links to a piece by a writer discovering the psychological polytheism of James Hillman.

"Hurray," I say. But I have to say too that Hillman's psychological writing takes some getting used to. The best introduction might be the collection A Blue Fire, introduced and edited by Thomas Moore.

And let me put in a plug for Ginette Paris' books Pagan Grace and Pagan Meditation too.

Psychological polytheism rejects the idea of a single, true "self," instead admitting that we all function as a collection of selves, Hillman seems to suggest too that "soul" (one of his favorite words, and used in his own way) is made over time rather than bestowed by a creator deity.

Hillman's thinking is often capital-A Archaic; in other words, more in line with the previous 30,000 years of human culture than with 20th-century psychology. But he also does what philosophers should do: tell you how to live. Here's a sample from the Scott London interview linked above:

Hillman: It's important to ask yourself, "How am I useful to others? What do people want from me?" That may very well reveal what you are here for.

London: You've written that "the great task of any culture is to keep the invisibles attached." What do you mean by that?

Hillman: It is a difficult idea to present without leaving psychology and getting into religion. I don't talk about who the invisibles are or where they live or what they want. There is no theology in it. But it's the only way we human beings can get out of being so human-centered: to remain attached to something other than humans.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Somehow I always suspected . . .

The Salt Lake City Weekly has a feature story on how Jay's Journal, that staple of the nice-kid-caught-up-in-the-occult genre, is basically a fake. (Go Ask Alice is another.)

Titled Jay's Journal: The shocking diary of a 16-year-old helplessly drawn into a world of witchcraft and evil ... the book changed Alden from a sensitive, questioning young man with a high school girlfriend and sympathies toward Eastern religion to a curious teenager who unwittingly finds himself participating in vile satanic rituals, crazed sex with a girlfriend named Tina and outrageous acts of supernatural black magic. The book remains true to Alden's fate, however. By book's end, Jay kills himself.

Me, I was never caught up "the occult." It's because I knew that "occult" is an adjective--as in "the occult what?" (Sheesh, talk about a "disease of language.")

Thanks to The Pagan Prattle.
War is not just between soldiers

Sometimes I play computer games. Tropico, also known as "SimCuba," was a favorite, as were Atomic Games' Operation Crusader and Stalingrad. I played every variation on the latter, until I was convinced that I could have won the Battle of the Don and saved most of the Romanian forces too. (Just take Gen. Von Manstein's advice: stage a "communications breakdown" with Berlin and then evacuate Stalingrad, no matter what Der Fueher says.)

But I digress. The point here is that this article, using the language and humor of computer war- gaming, makes some valid points about not only the current Iraq and Afghanistan fighting, but on whatever will follow them as well.

Thanks to Belmont Club for the link.

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Goth menace and bureaucrats at play

What happens when a town gets a six-figure federal grant to study the pseudo-problem of Goth kids? Not much, except that people in charge get to travel to lots of conferences.

Instead, the draft report shows that $54,000 was spent on salaries for Ford and her secretary, whose duties included buying furniture and equipment to set up their office; doing research "utilizing the Internet, library, Barnes & Noble bookstore, A-to-Z Comics, Spencer Gifts and Hot Topics"; interviewing police and school personnel; poring over police and school reports for any instances of goth-related criminal activities (they found none); and creating checklists and a brochure about goths.

The whole story is here.
After Troy, Alexander

The official site for a new movie about Alexander the Great, starring Colin Farrell and directed by Oliver Stone, accompanied by a fan/critic's site.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

"Sampling Paradise" revisited

Writer Erik Davis rewrote his article on Goan trance music, "Sampling Paradise," for a new anthology out from Routledge, Rave Culture and Religion, edited by Graham St. John.

Read the whole thing here; meanwhile, a sample paragraph:

Techno historians already know that English working-class kids brought raves back from Ibiza, the cheap vacation island off of Spain whose weather, slack, and lack of extradition treaties made it a Goa-style hippie colony decades ago. The original Ibizan DJs were certainly freaks, mixing Tangerine Dream in with their disco. But the holders of bohemian lore will tell you that the esoteric lineage of electronic trance dance lay further east, in Goa. When I spoke to Genesis P. Orridge, the leader of the magickal techno/industrial outfit Psychic TV, he said that "the music from Ibiza was more horny disco, while Goa was more psychedelic and tribal. In Goa, the music was the facilitator of devotional experience. It was just functional, just to make that other state happen."
"Rebutting" Wicca

I did write to National Public Radio reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty to share my question about why only Wicca, of the various new religious movements covered in her series, deserved to have someone outside its faith community comment on what was wrong with it--in other words, evangelical Christians.

Here is her response. Actually, at least the first two paragraphs are from the "boilerplate" response that she used for everyone who wrote in to criticize her reporting, and apparently there were quite a few of those. You might say that I am somewhat appeased, but not entirely convinced. (The lack of capital W on Wicca is hers.)

Dear Chas,

Thanks for your note. I have received many emails complaining that I had interviewed Christians in the wiccan piece. I should say that, had I to do over again, I would not have put them in. I discussed the issue beforehand with my editor, and we decided to do so, because this is the context in which the two teenage girls in the story were living. Colorado Springs is the most "evangelical" of all cities... a point that came out in the final edit, now to my chagrin... and so these wiccan teens have to deal with this kind of peer response all the time. Both of them went to evangelical churches before they found wicca. My intent -- and clearly it was misconstrued -- was to show the context of their lives. But, we had to cut the piece by 40 seconds, we took out the nuance in that section.

Let me also address the Toronto Blessing piece (I did not do the one on Soka Gokkai). In the Pentecostal piece, we had a long section about how the Toronto Blessing is not of God, it's evil, it's mass hypnotism of the ilk you might find in Vegas. I felt the portrayal of wiccan teens was very sympathetic, and if anything, the Christian teens look hard and reactionary.

This was our thinking. I certainly never intended to offend, but to do the most nuanced job I could, given the constraints of a 12 minute piece. But this reminds me, once again, that NPR has the most thoughtful and informed listeners. I appreciate your writing me, Chas, and especially appreciate the kind tone of your note.



Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Maxine Sanders interview

The Wiccan/Pagan Times has an interview with Maxine Sanders, another pioneer of the Craft. It was her often nude and then-blonde self who appeared skyclad in so many late-1960s and early-1970s books and articles, such as the Time-Life Books Man, Myth and Magic encyclopedia, not to mention various British tabloids, who loved the combination of her good looks and the persona of her former husband, Alex "King of the Witches" Sanders.

Left: Maxine and Alex Sanders in the late 1960s.

In the 1980s, Maxine seemed to drop out of sight. All I heard was that she was living somewhere in London. So this interview is a treat.

She remembers: In the sixties, word of mouth found a covenstead, or chance, if you believe in such like, which made the process of seeking Initiation somehow more magical. Most covens were extremely secretive. Fear of persecution was real, which made the coven bond extremely strong and the words "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" passwords that were upheld. Persecution could result in job loss, family upset or worse, and more frequently, violence.

Thanks to The Juggler for the link.