Saturday, August 28, 2004

"The Witches Next Door"

Crisis, a conservative Catholic magazine, offers a new article on evangelizing Pagans, which such quotes as these:

"Why should Catholics care about a religious system so alien to ours? The simple answer is: It’s there, it’s growing, and some ex-Catholics find it attractive. (A more flippant answer: Look at what we have in common; after all, we’ve both had problems with Protestant Fundamentalists and been maligned in Jack Chick comics.)"

It all comes down to the usual stuff: Jesus trumps the Horned God. Catholics should set aside any distaste with Paganism long enough to drag us back into the True Church.

But Crisis has bigger image problems right now: editor Deal Hudson has had to resign as President Bush's liason with Catholic voters after some skeletons fell out of his closet, as revealed by the National Catholic Reporter here.

(Thanks to Wendy Griffin for the original link.)

Friday, August 27, 2004

Another witchy movie

Keeping up with the theme of small-p pagan books and movies (see entries here and here), M. and I have now watched I Married a Witch, released in 1942 and starring Veronica Lake in her prime--all long blonde hair and sleepy, scratchy voice.

Robert Benchley, a well-known humorist of the time, plays best friend to the bridegroom, Fredric March.

The plot revolves around the stereotypical idea of the witch giving up her powers to marry a mortal, which meant that I had to endure M. making gagging noises every time Lake's character, Jennifer, would say something like, "I want to be good wife, darling."

The South African-born actor Cecil Kellaway, who plays Jennifer's sorcerer father, Daniel, apparently once had a guest role on the 1960s TV sitcom Bewitched, which was based on much the same premise.


Walking past the Chemistry building on my way to the parking lot yesterday, I had a random thought that it was 20 years since I had bought my first personal computer, a Kaypro II.

Offering a state-of-the-art 64k memory (that's kilobytes, not megabytes), it was also portable, which is to say that it had a handle riveted to one side, and its two sections could be snapped together to make something the size and weight of a heavy suitcase. I traveled with it belted into the passenger seat of my '69 VW bus.

But it got me through numerous freelance writing assignments , graduate school, and the production of Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, a forerunner of The Pomegranate.

And I am happy to say that the editorial copy for Pomegranate 6.2 went off to the copy editor in England today, meaning that we should have copies in hand in time for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Pagan Studies conference.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Almost pagan

Thanks to Nick Freeman, whose paper, "The Shrineless God: Paganism, Literature, and Art in Forties England," will appear in the next issue of The Pomegranate, I have been watching and reading some classics of literary, if not self-consciously religious, small-p paganism.

One was the film A Canterbury Tale, made during World War II by the writing-directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (a Hungarian refugee in England).

One appreciation of the film includes this comment: "Strange and poetic, A Canterbury Tale combined Christian metaphysics with a celebration of England's rural past that at times seemed almost pagan."

Powell and Pressburger also made The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which Winston Churchill allegedly hated, about an honorable but intellectually hidebound British officer.

M. and I also enjoyed the Foyle's War series, set on the south coast of England early in World War II. I am starting to think that its writers mined the Powell-Pressburger vein--not for plots, but for plot elements. Just so far I have noticed these in episodes of Foyle's War:

1. A band of small boys collecting scrap paper for the war effort find a document that aids the protagonist (A Canterbury Tale.

2. An aging Army officer, now reduced to serving in the Home Guard, who is outwitted in a war game by a less scrupulous younger counterpart (Colonel Blimp).

Most of Powell and Pressburger's films are available as mail-order rentals through Video Library.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Cutting-edge Pagan Music

Check the playlist for Jason Pitzl-Waters' next "Darker Shade of Pagan" radio show (also webcast) -- he is the magister of contemporary Pagan DJs.
'Where You At?

Rebecca of "What's in Rebecca's Pocket?" blog rediscovers the "Where You At?" bioregional information quiz, which first appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly, later known as Whole Earth Review, in 1981. I am glad to have done my part in disseminating it within the Pagan community.

(Whole Earth Review is no more, but the Web site still exists.)

Sunday, August 22, 2004


I am really too busy preparing for fall classes to blog right now, but meanwhile...

First, from CultureCat (11 August), this thought:

[Colleague who's just starting to learn about blogs, reflecting after our lengthy discussion of public/private and the pros and cons of real name v. pseudonym in blogging] "You know, academic blogging under your real name is sort of like the intellectual equivalent of going to a nude beach."

Second, from Dave Haxton's blog, another attempt to outlaw a plant, or the uses thereof. You will see from the design of this blog why I'm amused.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Another Pagan classic

I have been re-reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History, the leading entry in the literary genre of "when Classics majors go bad."

It was first published in 1992, and I did my part for her royalty payments by sending at least three hardcover copies as Christmas presents in 1993. Sales were good, Tartt's reputation soared, and some readers apparently worshipped at her feet.

Now I think it ought to be declared one of those unintentional Pagan classics like the film The Wicker Man. (The Fortean Times interview with director Robin Hardy is here.)

The Wicker Man's appeal lay in its portrayal of a fictional yet contemporary Pagan society, rather than its plot. The Secret History is a different sort of drug: it whispers of power and liberation in a seductive Romantic way, filtered through the mind of a 4th-century C.E. Hellenistic intellectual, the kind who would have referred to Christians as "atheists."

Monday, August 16, 2004

Conference on Canadian Paganism?

Some tentative organizing is underway for a conference on Canadian Paganism, with preliminary information here.

Meanwhile, the second annual Pagan Studies conference held just before the American Academy of Religion annual meeting is scheduled for 19 November in San Antonio. More information here.

Friday, August 13, 2004

More on the chaplaincy issue

Terry Mattingly of the GetReligion blog has two entries (first and second on the issues raised by the Contra Costa Times that I referenced yesterday.

So if this is the case, what set of universal standards or laws might U.S. military officials cite in order to limit the religious rights of witches, druids, wizards and other pagan folk?

Yes, indeed. The bureaucratic machinery is groaning and creaking as it attempts to deal with the fact that there is more to American religion than the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).

In fact, even though the United States does not count religious affiliation on its census, it may prove to be the military that does, thus providing us with some way of extrapolating affiliations in the larger population. Maybe, contrary to what I wrote earlier, Wicca will turn out to be "the fastest-growing religion" after all. Right now, who can say?

Meanwhile, as a former newspaper reporter, I continue to enjoy Mattingly's attempts to get the religion stories (and religion angles on other news stories) that the mainstream "pack journalists" miss.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Pentagon turns to Wiccan chaplain

Patrick McCollum, Wiccan chaplain in the California state prison system and advisor to Wiccan prison chaplains in several other states, is now advising the Pentagon on Wiccan soldiers' needs, according to the Contra Costa Times in this article.

The article requires registration. Why do newspapers make it more difficult for people to read their online content? But there is a way around the registration issue: if you don't feel like giving them your name, visit BugMeNot and pick up a generic password for that paper's web site.

Now on to the lead paragraph:

After U.S. military personnel pelted American Wiccan servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq with bottles and rocks as they worshipped in a sacred circle, the Pentagon turned to Patrick McCollum of Moraga.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Rebuilding a temple

A UC-Berkeley news release describes the partial rebuilding of the temple of Zeus, knocked down by earthquakes and/or Christians.

Speaking of earthquakes: The use of interlocking stones dissipates a lot of energy," said [engineering professor Nikos] Makris. "A single stone or stones connected with mortar or cement would be rigid and less able to effectively absorb the energy induced by earthquakes.

A further linguistic clue supports the seismic stability theory: The word the ancient Greeks used for the column drum, spondylos, also means vertebra. The temple columns were abiding by the same shock-absorbing principles as the human spinal column.

Leaving Lammas

What was the "moment" of Lammas this year? Not a formal ritual, but walking down an overgrown logging road in the Wet Mountains, looking for mushrooms in the grey-green firs. A soft, misty rain started to fall, enough that I had to dig my GI poncho out of my pack and put it on. The poncho always makes me feel a little sacerdotal--after all, the Christian priest's chasuble originated as a traveler's poncho or mantle, whatever you want to call it. I could break the mushroom and hold out a fragment: "Take and and eat this in remembrance . . ."

(The old liturgy. I'm dating myself. A past life, so to speak.)

School of the Seasons is a web site with information on "on spiritual practices and creative pursuits that match the energy of each season" and an email newsletter. (Thanks to Gaian Tarot Artist for the link.)

If you want to know the peak of the energy of each cross-quarter day, check this archaeoastronomy site. Many people, including Waverly Fitzgerald at the site linked above, seem to prefer the calendrical day--the 1st of August, whereas the actual midpoint is usually about six days later. The solution is to simply make it a "season" rather than a day!

By the time that the day itself came, M. and I had loaded the Jeep and driven down to Taos for a long weekend with friends. If you're in Taos and need a wireless connection that comes with a view of a blooming xeriscape flower garden, try the Wired cafe, tucked in behind Raley's supermarket on Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

And at home the wild Liatris is blooming, the signal of summer's end.

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Thursday, August 05, 2004

Passing of Joe Wilson

Joseph Wilson, one of the founders of the Pagan movement in America in the 1960s, died yesterday. He had suffered from chronic illness for many years and was on morphine for pain relief.

His new book, So You Wannabe a Shaman, Huh?, was just about to be published. That title expresses something of his personality: cantankerous but with a lot to say.

His autobiography is online, and I urge you to read it. (Thanks to Wren's Nest.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Rehabilitation of Rosaleen

Back in the 1950s, the artist and occultist Rosaleen Norton was the witchcraft scene in Australia, at least according to some of the older books I have read. Her relationship with Sir Eugene Goosens, conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, was a scandal, as were her paintings, some of which were confiscated as indecent.

Now that scandal has achieved folkloric status, and Norton's memory is a local tourist attraction, as you may read here (scroll to the bottom).

Things have changed a little.

Goosens, incidentally, worked hard for a new classical-music venue in Sydney; now the Sydney Opera House with its white "sails" is the tourism-poster icon of Australia. I think that it will be a while before there is a Rosaleen Norton retrospective exhibit in the lobby, but think of the connection.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Australian nanny state-ism?

Let's see, we have ...

1. A security guard licensed to carry a pistol, who is ...

2. Supposed to protect US $21,000 at a hotel from ...

3. An armed robber who who inflicts on her " a fractured skull, a broken nose and left hand, and possible brain damage ," so . . .

4. She shoots him (and there is no such thing as "shoot to wound" when your life is on the line), he dies, and . . . .

5. She is charged with murder.

Pretty soon I'm going to start sounding like Kim du Toit, if this keeps up. I'm glad that I live in a state where what should be the common-law right to self defense is written into the statutes.

Any Australian readers care to elucidate?
"The Village"

Those merry pranksters at Landover Baptist Church are at it again.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Let the games begin

Jason Pitzl-Waters at Wild Hunt blogs about the revived Nemean Games, where you do not have to be a world-class athlete to run the same race as did the ancient Greeks.

Meanwhile, PBS will be running two episodes next week of The Real Olympics, complete with the gore of chariot racing, the blood and flies from the sacrifices . . . or at least as much as can be put on television.