Friday, January 28, 2005

Banning the Runes?

Robin Runesinger at "Voice of the Valkyrie" worries that the European Union might ban runic symbols as symbols of "hate." I fear that it might well happen. Being nonsensical never stopped a bureaucrat.
In defense of "spell books"

Jason Pitzl-Waters blogs BeliefNet's article on the proliferation of Wiccan spell books.

My response to this proliferation? A big "So what?" In fact, I would say that writer Carl McColman's statement here lacks historical perspective:

Indeed, if one quality of recent Wiccan literature is worth noticing, it's the instructions on casting spells. This seems reasonable enough: after all, aren't Witches known for their magic-making abilities? Gardner and many other writers on Witchcraft tended to discuss spellcraft only as a single aspect of a greater spiritual whole, but the trend in publishing in the last 10 years has been to emphasize spells while marginalizing the spiritual and religious elements of Witchcraft.

Publishing has its fads, and this one simply reminds me of the late 1960s-early 1970s, when do-it-yourself magic books starting popping in supermarket checkout aisles as well as bookstores. Paul Huson, anyone? Sarah Lyddon Morrison? Sybil Leek? Elizabeth Pepper?

Some people came to the Craft through those books; some of them even say, "It all started with a book I found in the supermarket check-out aisle." You might learn more here.

Perhaps McColman simply has not been around long enough. His mistake might lie partly in taking Gerald Gardner's writings as normative and in assuming that everyone who came to the Craft came wanting a "religion." He himself admits that his own interest is in Christo-Pagan-Celtic mysticism, a Victorian creation itself, but that is another story.

So who could be upset? Only those who crave respectability, those who want to be invited to the interfaith council luncheon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Inanna descends to the Underworld

It's the S/M Underworld, and all the characters are Barbie dolls in this version. A fast Internet connection is helpful.
The lost library of Rome

Classical scholars are calling for more excavation at the Villa of the Papyri in Ercolano (Herculaneum) because even more ancient books may be buried there.

Once the villa had been stripped, 200 years ago, the tunnels were sealed. But last week a group of the world’s leading classical scholars gathered in Oxford to demand that the site be reopened. They believe that there is a better-than-evens chance — “quite likely”, is how Robert Fowler, professor of Greek at Bristol University, puts it — that the villa may have possessed at least one other library still to be uncovered.

Thanks to new technology, ruined scrolls that were unreadable when they were found can now be read:

[The call] follows the first detailed analysis of the 1,800 papyri, now largely unrolled and deciphered thanks to a technique known as multi-spectral imaging (MSI). What appear to the naked eye as jet-black cinders are transformed by MSI into readable text. Thirty thousand images are now legible on CD-Rom; suddenly poems and works of philosophy are speaking again, 2,000 years after they were sealed in their cedar-wood cabinets in the summer of AD79.
Enter the garden

A virtual tour of artist Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot garden.
A plain-spoken Iowan

When Des Moines County, Iowa, tries to make druggists log who buys pseudoephedrine, lest they be methamphetamine chemists, a local resident "speaks truth to power:"

"Quite frankly, I think the two biggest frauds at the local level are economic development and the war on drugs. Based on the way we're going, the only manufacturing we're going to have in this county is meth manufacturing. You [local officials] haven't done anything for the war on drugs and never will be able to, and you certainly haven't done anything for economic development."

(Thanks to D'Alliance.)
Wiccans in our midst, once again

WorldNetDaily, known to its readers as "WorldNutDaily," headlines, "Wiccans Meeting on Air Force Base." (The shock of it!) The chaplains, as usual, are outspokenly in favor of the idea. Most military chaplains do support the idea of Pagan congregations.

This quote illustrates a weird kind of acceptance for Pagan military personnel:

Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association [the "family values" people], said he didn't see how the Wiccans' meetings could be stopped, as long as the participants are not "committing violent acts or subverting the American government," adding, "I disagree obviously with their faith, but I don't see it as a threat to the military."

Wildmon noted that he has a much bigger problem with Muslims in the military.

"They ought to say no Muslims in the American military," he told WND. "Wicca doesn't teach, as far as I know, what Islam teaches about killing the infidel. Muslims in the American military are a much greater danger to the institution than is Wicca."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Far-seeing Zeus

If Pagans wrote Chick tracts, they might come out like this. (Thanks to The Pagan Prattle.)

Monday, January 24, 2005


A compact essay by Tyrsson connects fingernail clippings, New Year's resolutions, and the end of the-world-as-we-know-it.
Magic in the Academy

Morgan Luck's comprehensive Web site on the Academic Study of Miracles and Magic has a new online home, including links to academic and other papers on mircles and magic.
Is required?

The publication of this article in Sunday's Denver Post lit up the biggest Colorado Pagan e-mail list.

Of course, we recognized a pentagram ring--and the reference to reading Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land rings a big Pagan-history bell, about the founding of the Church of All Worlds in the 1960s.

But now people are asking, "Is monogamy subtly put down in the Pagan community? Is there pressure to be polyamorous?"

One poster, a divorced mother with a steady boyfriend, notes, "When I was married, I found it hard to find support for monogamous relationships in the community. The implication seemed to be that if you were monogamous, you were really just repressed and needed to get with the program."

The high priestess of a Boulder coven, married 25 years, talks of people assuming that she must be polyamorous. "When potential initiate/students come to me on a first information-gathering chat, they often ask if it is required to sleep with the [high priestess] or [high priest]." The answer for her is no, absolutely not.

It's an aspect of Pagan life that isn't discussed too often outside the arena of plain old gossiping. When your religion--many forms of Wicca, at least--is heavily erotic in its symbolism, does that symbolism cross over into personal behavior? Like Carrie Bradshaw, I will leave the question hanging.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Killing for the gods

The idea promoted by writers such as Jonathan Kirsch that polytheists are less likely to wage religious warfare than monotheists (including, for instance, Communism as "secular monotheism") does not mean that polytheistic societies had no religious violence.

Consider the new evidence from forensic anthropologists that not only the Aztecs but also the "peaceful" Mayans indeed engaged in large-scale human sacrifice, including children.

Using high-tech forensic tools, archaeologists are proving that pre-Hispanic sacrifices often involved children and a broad array of intentionally brutal killing methods.

For decades, apologists for these cultures have blamed the Spanish for their so-called propaganda about the "peaceful" Indians whom the Spanish just wanted to conquer and enslave. Certainly the Spanish conquistadores committed plenty of atrocities, recorded and protested at the time by those priests and laymen who objected to them. But the Spanish also recorded what they saw in Aztec society.

I once wrote a paper for a graduate seminar with Davíd Carrasco arguing that, again contrary to the apologists' view, the Spanish reports of self-mutilation, bloodletting, and self-flagellation by the Aztec priests were probably correct. I quoted Ignatius Loyola and other Catholic religious who advocated self-flagellation, for example, to argue that the Spanish knew these practices when they saw them.

Prof. Carrasco is quoted in the article. I take no credit for shaping his thinking. The man has an ego the size of El Templo Mayor all by himself.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Bad dogs and other fine T-shirt ideas.

Once I crawl out of the hole that is the first week of the semester, I will post more. That's a promise.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

More on the "poison path"

This looks interesting, but will it hold a candle to Dale Pendell's work (the third volume is supposed to be out in August)?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

You've got heresy

Originally filmed in French as Le moine et la sorcière ("The monk and the sorceress"), this 1987 take on the Inquisition is available dubbed in English as The Sorceress, and it packs some surprises. To quote the Internet Movie Database plot summary:

A Dominican friar visits a 13th-century French village in search of heretics. Despite the opposition of the local priest and the indifference of the villagers, he finds a seemingly perfect suspect: a young woman who lives in a forest outside the village and cures people with herbs and folk remedies.

When the monk arrives, all full of bright ideas, I could not help thinking of Prof. Hill in The Music Man. You know how it goes: "You got trouble, folks, right here in River City . . . . and that rhymes with 'H' and that stands for 'heresy.'" But what rhymes with 'H'? Shakespeare used "ache," but that does not work anymore in spoken English.

Forget the silly rhymes and watch The Sorceress. I liked the cult of St. Guinefort the greyhound, once you get past the beginning.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Northumberland rock art

An elegant Web site of Bronze Age rock art from Northumberland, in northeastern England. Pagan by definition. I would love to see the same thing done for southeastern Colorado, with our mysterious "Ogham" and not-so-mysterious cowboy/sheepherder rock carvings.

Friday, January 14, 2005

You can ask Dr. Shulgin

"Ask Dr. Shulgin" is now a blog by Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, renowned chemist and expert on entheogens. Its subtitle is "Imagining a world with real drug education." Yeah.

It's sponsored by the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Witchcraft Bibliography Project

It's an online bibliography devoted to historic portrayals of witchcraft with a European focus.
'Dream Nazis' and others

Brad Hicks has been blogging on "subculture engineering," the three personality types within affinity groups, volunteer-based organizations, religious groups, etc. His most recent entry replies to some of his commenters.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Beat misery through blogging

After a very unsatisfactory day involving the county clerk, an underperforming car dealer employee (no one named "Candy" has ever won a Nobel prize), and a Chesapeake Bay retriever, I wish that Mondays came with "rewind" buttons. But they don't.

So onward--to movies.

We ended our trip to Utah and watched another Mormon-themed movie, Latter Days. You won't find Richard Dutcher anyone near this one: the plot involves the seduction of a Mormon missionary in Los Angeles by a gay neighbor, the impossibly gorgeous Wes Ramsey.

Meanwhile, anyone moving to Utah should pick up a copy of Green Jell-o and Red Punch: The Heinous Truth about Utah. It's a guide to Utah culture in the spirit of Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors.

Then, in the spirit of the bumper sticker, "Doing my part to piss off the Religious Right," we watched Kinsey at a theatre in downtown Fort God

According to some, pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (together with Hugh Hefner and, I don't know, maybe Helen Gurley Brown) nearly destroyed Western civilization.

For Kinsey's fans, finding out that masturbation or homosexuality did not make you insane was liberating.

It's a conflict between inductive and deductive reasoning, in a way. Kinsey, a natural scientist, was inductive: he gathered data--lots of data--and then drew conclusions. His detractors are deductive: they want to start with stated truths ("Thou shalt not . . .") and make experience fit those truths.

For example, if "X" percent of married American women have sex outside of marriage, it becomes more statistically "normal." Does that make it acceptable, or is it still wrong? There is the battleground.

Kinsey could not answer that question: emotional and spiritual realities were outside his method. His data collection too, especially on the first book on male sexual behavior, had some problems. But at least he provided data of types that no one before him had provided, and so he forever changed these moral debates.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The divine with a wet nose

You might not think of southern India as being particularly dog-friendly, but this Tamil family certainly is now. Read the last paragraph in particular.

When Bark magazine puts "Dog is my copilot" on the masthead, there is a whiff of irony. Not here.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Pueblo and Colorado Springs

Compare the "You might be from Pueblo if" quiz with the Colorado Springs Independent's recent feature, "You are sooooo Colorado Springs." (Link may change.)

I always put it this way: if you go to a party in Pueblo, you might be asked, "Where did you go to high school?" In Colorado Springs, you would be asked, "Where did you move here from?"

That's not always true: Pueblo's dark side manifests itself when it seems like everyone is somebody's cousin, and some us can claim roots in the Springs. Given a choice, these days, I'm partial to Pueblo--but then I work there.

Thanks to Don McCullen for the Pueblo quiz and to my students who had fun discussing the questions.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Medieval sorcery

From The Guardian: "A mural which has come to light in Tuscany has been identified by a British university lecturer as the earliest surviving representation of witchcraft in Christian Europe.

"A book published in Italy by George Ferzoco, director of the centre for Tuscan studies at the University of Leicester, argues that at least two of the women in the porno-erotic wall painting are sorceresses.

""I have no doubt that this is by far the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches," he said."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Moab is not yet destroyed

One of the guys whose rants are collected under the name of the prophet Isaiah once ranted," “On the night when Ar is sacked, Moab meets her doom/ on the night when Kir is sacked, Moab meets her doom" (Isaiah 15:1).

I can say that Moab is still here. I am, however, in Moab, Utah, whereas the prophet was ranting about biblical Moab, the area east of the Dead Sea--now part of Jordan. "Ar" and "Kir" were its so-called capitals.

The funny thing is, when you read those guys ranting ("Damascus shall be a city no longer!"--When was it destroyed?), the more they all sound like Osama Bin Ladin.

Meanwhile, here in the other Moab, it's a good time for visiting places like Arches National Park without the March-through-October crowds.

What annoys me about places like Arches--and many other places--is that the most amazing geological formations are named for the Christian devil. Here it's "Devil's Garden," which has the largest collection of natural arches in the park. Or think of Devil's Tower, Wyoming, to name one prominent example. Or Devil's Hole, a steep side valley off the Arkansas River canyon above Cotopaxi, Colorado.

On the other hand, if Pagans had settled this area in historic times, there would be hundreds of rock formations with names like "Penis of [fill in name of fertility deity]." It would be almost boring.

Internet access here courtesy of the Mondo Cafe and the Red Rock Bakery.