Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Van Briggle

The local PBS station is running a documentary tonight about Artus Van Briggle, a leading Art Nouveau potter of a century ago whose short, brilliant career ended when he died in Colorado Springs of tuberculosis. (The studio and factory built around the time of his death is now the Physical Plant headquarters building for the Colorado College.)

His wife, Anne, was a designer too and kept the business going for a few years after his death. The new owners moved to a highway location and made it all quite touristy, but the current owners have toned down the "gee whiz" stuff and returned, at least partly, to the roots. New designs continue to come out "in the spirit" of Artus Van Briggle.

About 25 years ago, I opined that if you were a true Colorado Springs Witch, you had your grandmother's Van Briggle candlesticks on the altar. Well, I did. Gods, the things people can find to be snobbish about.

Today's Van Briggle staff seems to be an interesting mix of longhaired or dreadlocked artistans, old ladies who have been there for thirty-plus years, and bluecollar guys who have found an offbeat factory job that they like.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Pastors on the playa

Over the past several years, the annual Burning Man event in Nevada has gained a higher and higher profile. In some quarters, this event is viewed with alarm. Is it a convocation of "earth-worshipping pagans" and a preview of Hell?

Does the Lord tell you to "lead a team to Burning Man"? Does it speak to one of the favorite notions of Abrahamic religion, that, "historically, God has chosen the desert as a backdrop when He wanted to strip the peripherals away"?

The third writer, Randy Bohlender, adds, " I go to Burning Man because I want the church of the future to learn lessons that can only be learned when one goes to where the future is headed. " (I have given the links in order of increasing theological liberalism, as I see it.)

Undoubtedly, some Burners would flinch at seeing a Christian spin put on this determindly non-sectarian even--or a capital-P Pagan spin either. A Pagan theologian like Michael York, with his position that "Paganism is root religion," could argue that Burning Man undoubtedly contains Pagan cultic elements at an almost unconscious level, an observation that would probably delight Thomas Horn, the first author linked to.

I suppose it's a dubious sign of success when people start trying to "spin" your event to fit their theologies and ideologies.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Jason Pitzl-Waters offers his observations on one of the latest occult-scare books, Dewitched. True or not, the publisher starts out with the "fastest-growing religion" meme.
The Lost Books Club

I'm with Maud Newton when it comes to Vance Bourjaily!
AAR-SBL Musings, take 1

I actually left San Antonio, Texas, site of this year's American Academy of Religion-Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, on Tuesday the 23rd, but that was the beginning of a two-day drive home through the live oaks, cotton fields, mesquite, and prickly pear of West Texas, the Llano Estacado, buttes, and lava fields of NE New Mexico, and eventually home.

Other attendees were already home and blogging by then, Robert Puckett, for example. I will link to other religious-studies bloggers when I find updated entries.

The AAR-SBL annual meeting is Mardi Gras for intellectuals. Think and drink, think and drink--or at least that was my experience, somewhere in the fog of the final hours of the last night in Equinox Publishing's hospitality suite.

UPDATE: The SBL bloggers, being if anything even more textually oriented than us AAR members, have started in already.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Pagans in Natural History

Natural History reviews two books by scholars of Paganism Sarah Pike and Sabina Magliocco.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Paint your statue

Art historians and archaeologists know that the creamy white marble statues of ancient Greece and Roman actually were painted.

Now this article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica shows photos based on research on microscopic paint particles. The Guardian has the story in English. (Thanks to Cronaca.) Totem poles in the Pacific Northwest were originally painted too.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Shinto's struggle

Although I have never visited Japan, I have often wondered if Shinto in some ways best resembles classical Paganism, in so far as the shrine and the gods come first--there is not the idea of minister + congregation.

In Pagan Theology, Michael York asks something similar about Hindu temples.

Shinto, says this Japanese writer, is looking more and more like tourism.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Road trip

When I came out of the university's Music building late this afternoon, the crescent Moon hung in the sky, veiled by a high, thin layer of cloud. I blew her a kiss, which they say is an old Craft custom, and which I always do the first time I see the New Moon each month.

A legend says that when the philosopher Proclus (412-485 C.E.) arrived in Athens at age 19 to study philosphy (Athens being still a seat of Pagan learning in an officially Christian Roman Empire), he called on his teacher, Syrianus, who allowed him only a brief visit, because it was the New Moon, and the professor had private ritual worship to perform.

But looking out the window after his new student departed, the older man saw Proclus "take off his shoes and do obeisance to the crescent moon in the open street." Proclus' willingness to thus proclaim his Pagan allegience openly won the teacher's respect. (C. Bigg, Neoplatonism, 1895)

What did Proclus do? Kneel and lower his head like a Muslim at prayer? (Considering the connection between Allah and the earlier Arabic Moon God, maybe so.) Perhaps some rogue Classicist can tell me.

Speaking of that, I am adding Rogue Classicism to the blog list.

I will be on the road and/or at a conference for the next week. Time and Internet access permitting, I will post something here.

Finally, a word from M., spoken after picking her way through the canines snoozing around the wood stove: "Who spilled dogs in the living room?"

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Frantic last-minute writing

Professors, accustomed to stories of their students working all night to complete a paper that is due the next day, themselves like to joke about finishing a conference paper on their laptop computers in the airplane en route to the conference.

In my case, it will probably be a motel somewhere in west Texas, between here and the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Antonio. (To get in the mood, I watched The Alamo, in which Billy Bob Thornton makes a fine, non-stereotypical David Crockett.)

I may be making final notes on Michael York's Pagan Theology for a panel devoted to the book at the Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies on the 19th. In essence, this involves expanding my cover blurb ("audacious redrawing of traditional religious boundaries..." etc.) into a ten-minute presentation.

As far as Paganism is concerned, I have always been leery of people who wanted to rush into "doing theology." It seemed that what we needed were poets, ritualists, makers, and doers rather than theologians (or "thealogians," for whose who prefer the grammatical feminine). But York does present "Pagan theology" as an entity in itself, rather than merely as the mishmash from which "true religion" arose.

As Wendy Griffin said in her own cover blurb, he treats Pagan theology as its own entity rather what looking at what it is not when compared to Judeo-Christian tradition.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Hiding out in the valley

Blogging has been a minimum lately. On Friday the 5th, I set off for three days in the San Luis Valley, winding up here, where the sandhill cranes far outnumbered people, and where Jack the Chessie got to make a couple of "hero dog" retrieves.

Duck-blind reading during the slow mid-day hours included the second annual issue of Tyr the journal of Northern Paganism, Nordic myth, and capital-T Tradition edited by Michael Moynihan and Joshua Buckley. This latest issues, which includes a CD sampler of revived Nordic folk and Pagan music, is available for US $22 from Ultra, P.O. Box 11736, Atlanta, Georgia 30355. (Make checks payable to Ultra.) I blogged the first issue here.

Together with quite a wide range of book and music reviews, this issue includes an article by Stephen McNallen, "Three Decades of the Ásatrú Revival in America," and a long, interesting piece by Collin Cleary, "Summoning the Gods: The Phenomenology of Divine Presence," plus numerous others.

Stephen Edred Flowers, another important writer on Germanic religion, offers "The First Northern Renaissance: The Reawakening of the Germanic Spirit in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries in Germany, Sweden, and England."

Other writers include Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, Charles Champetier, Michael Moynihan, Steve Pollington, Nigel Pennick, John Mathews, Christian Rätsch, Markuss Wolff, Peter Bahn, and Joscelyn Godwin.

Monday, November 08, 2004

One Druid Down

Fr. William Melnyk, the Episcopal priest in Pennsylvania who was also an active Druid, has resigned.. His wife, Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, also a Druid and Episcopal priest (no "-ess" allowed), faces disciplinary action.

My last post on this issue is here. Notice that the man must suffer more; women lead us into temptation, but a man is more morally culpable. Thus says the patriarchy.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Get hammered

There is an upscale Ásatrú vodka market?
National Treasure

"Hey," says M., watching the trailer for Nicholas Cage's new movie, "It's a heist movie." (She likes heists and capers.)

I think it looks more like The Da Vinci Code for Deists. We shall have to find out whose judgment is more correct.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

All that I will say about the election

While Internet pundits dissect the election, I just wish to point out that neither national party seems to recognize that environmental protection is a bipartisan issue. Bush's lame response in the last debate about off-road diesel engines, and Kerry's failure to exploit the issue are both symptomatic.

Here in Colorado, for example, an amendment requiring utility companies to generate and/or buy a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources (wind or solar, primarily), passed even while the state went for President Bush.

Likewise, the Salazar brothers, Ken and John, who both stressed environmental protection and opposition to big, expensive water projects in their respective campaigns for the U.S. Senate and House were elected as Democrats in our "red" state.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

So you want to work in a bookstore?

Then read "Tales of a Book Monkey." It's the English version, but chain bookstores, I suspect, are about the same on either side of the pond.

"Bookselling was weird. I spent eight long months in that nether world of overstocks and pyramids, lost souls and bipolar customers."

Monday, November 01, 2004

Episcopalian Druids, continued

I am up to my elbows in student essays and tests, but Jason Pitzl-Waters has a good round-up of the continuing controversy, with links to more reasoned voices within the Episcopal Church. The anti-Druid reaction continues apace . . . and also here.

I do mean to respond to some of the more reasoned comments that I have received, but the job has to come first and, oh yeah, the election.