Saturday, March 31, 2007

Martin Brennan at Anubis Caves

Boulder, Colorado, resident Martin Brennan is known for writing visionary books about ancient megalithic monuments, such as The Boyne Valley Vision.

A new video clip shows him discussing the mysterious carvings that appear to be synched to the equinoctial sunset shadows at "Anubis Caves," a site in the Oklahoma Panhandle. You can view them at filmmaker Scott Monahan's site or at the Mythical Ireland site.

The case for a Celtic connection was made by Barry Fell, Gloria Farley, and the late Bill McGlone, particulary in his book Ancient American Inscriptions: Plow Marks or History?

I have discussed this issue before. It truly baffles me. McGlone makes a plausible argument for the transatlantic origin of these symbols and writings, except . . . .

Why here? Why in far western Oklahoma and southeastern Colorado? There were no great trading cities here 2,000 years ago and no gold nuggets lying on the ground. According to conventional archaeology, there were only a few people here, living the simplest hunter-gatherer lives. They were probably similar to the people encountered by the Coronado expedition in the 1540s living along the rivers (little rivers, mostly) of the High Plains and hunting buffalo when they could.

It's a hell of a long way to go for a Druidic vision quest.

Nevertheless, the other more contemporary puzzle is why these alleged Celtic inscriptions are so ignored by contemporary Colorado Pagans, most of whom have never heard of them. If you had Stonehenge only four hours' drive from metro Denver, wouldn't you go there now and then?

UPDATE: While I concentrated on the alleged Celtic presence in the Southern Plains, I should point out that other students of the inscriptions claim a Punic (Phoenician or Libyan) presence also. It is hard to discuss all this without getting into the politics of diffusionism and the turf battles between Old World and New World archaeologists, all beyond the scope of this blog.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Polytheism at The New Stateman

The New Statesman, a British news magazine, has been offering polytheists a platform in its online religion column:

A Blackboard Epiphany in Ancient Delphi (March 19)

The Ancient Gods of Greece Are Not Extinct (March 20)

A Liberal Religion (March 21)

Worshipping the Ancient Greek Gods (March 22)

How Did I Become a Druid?" (March 26)

Worshipping the Sun of God (March 27)

A Brief History of Druidry (March 28)

How Being a Druid Affects my Life (March 29).

Collect the whole set. (Via Tropaion, a blog on Neo-Hellenic religion.)

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Cremation, public lands, and commerce

Ladies in White, from the left, Catherine Goodman, Pat Cross-Chamberlin and Fran Coover, in the Rattlesnake Wilderness in Montana.Ladies in White, three women in Missoula, Montana, tried to start a business scattering human ashes--what the funeral industry calls "cremains"--on national forest land.

The U.S. Forest Service doesn't like the idea, because they see a "slippery slope" towards permanent monuments:

But the Forest Service has long had a firm policy against commercial scattering, said Gordon Schofield, the group leader for land use here in Region I. If ashes are scattered “the land takes on a sacredness, and people want to put up a marker or a plaque.”

The Ladies in White say their practice is environmentally benign, although they do accept that like other public-lands commercial users (guide services, for instance), they need a permit.

Currently, the official position on private scattering is "don't ask, don't tell." (Some of us writers do tell, however.)

What a wonderful tangle of American religious issues: "nature religion" in the broadest sense, the change in funerary practices, representatives of some Indian tribe sticking their oar in, the organized environmentalists, and the bureaucrats in the middle of it all.

Take a look at Catherine Goodman, the woman on the left. What is that on her head--antlers? a crescent crown?

Via Ann Althouse's blog, where there are lots of comments.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Keeping it real with Robin i' the hood

A flashback to the 1980s: M. and I have been watching some episodes of Robin of Sherwood.

This was the "Pagan" Robin Hood, thanks to the appearance therein of Herne the Hunter, not to mention bits of ceremonial magick.

Back in 1983, the show was a cult favorite in several senses of the term.

Now, it makes me think "Sir Walter Scott (think Ivanhoe) meets Dennis Wheatley." Or Hammer Studios in the Greenwood.

And then there is the issue of knitting. Dear reader, when you see characters wearing knitted "chain mail," you know it's a cheap production.

If you see male characters wearing knit tights, you might surmise that the director made his girlfriend the costume manager, because knitting was not even known in 12th-century England--not even by hand, let alone machine-knit.

In fact, if 12th-century male characters are wearing short tunics and tights, then the historical research for the film probably consisted of watching the 1922 version of Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., which seems to have set the fashion for most subsequent adaptations.

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The National British Pagan Burial Mound

I blogged earlier about how some British Pagans have borrowed the rhetoric of North American tribes, wanting their own version of NAGPRA and control over the remains of prehistoric British people.

Blogger and academic Yvonne Aburrow suggests that such remains, after study, might go into a national burial mound.

It would be wonderful if a keeping place for the ancient British dead could be specially constructed, perhaps in the form of a very large Iron Age roundhouse, or a burial mound, where the dead could be kept in special shrines, with all the details known about them and their lives displayed near them, but still allowing archaeologists access for research.

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Polytheism, not Tradition

Keep an eye on the International Year of Polytheism Web project.

This is really more of a conceptual art piece than any sort of reconstructionism (definitely not reconstructionism or capital-T Tradition), although it has been mentioned earlier in the Pagan blogosphere.

Still, if anyone wants to "wants to overcome the epoch of the monotheistic worldviews (and its derivatives such as 'The West' and 'The Arab World') through the reconstruction of a polytheistic multiplicity in which countless gods and goddesses will eventually neutralize each other," I wish them well.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


¶ From an obituary of Frank Conroy (once director of the Iowa Writer's Workshop) on what a writing teacher does:

"You have to get across to them that the work is separate from them. That's what good work is: a life independent of the life of the author. So you have unintended qualities in the prose -- personal tics, pretending to write, instead of really writing. All writers have to go through this and get it past them. I try to make that quicker for them rather than longer.

¶ "The Law of Attraction." Jeff Lilly at Druid Journal has a great round-up posting.

¶ I always wondered how much money it takes to get people to appear on "Wife Swap."

Then an acquaintance who is active in Paganism-and-popular culture was contacted by a staff member for the show. (An illiterate email, she said, which made her think he was some kind of Internet troll instead.)

It's $10,000. And, yes, they want more Wiccans. We're the reliable "other" now.

At one time, Wiccans were rare enough in the public eye that we were seen as a motley collection of individuals. Now we are a class, a group, so it is possible to stereotype us. That is a measure of success, in a sort of back-handed way--except when too many negative traits are projected onto us. This process is know as "alterity," if you speak PoMo.

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If you blog it, they will come

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I could not write books without them.

The interlibrary loan librarians.

Even more heartening is [the] observation that interlibrary lending is "the only professional service I can think of in which the provider pays the cost." The faith our libraries show in the ability of that service to somehow, someday, contribute to a greater good is remarkable, and yet usually goes unremarked.

The greatest resource sharing our libraries practice is sharing their faith in us.


The most controversial anthropologist

One episode of a BBC series called Tales from the Jungle on famous anthropologists examines the "shamanthropologist" Carlos Castaneda (d. 1998), appropriately described as the most controversial anthropologist ever.

For those of us who can't watch the Beeb, it is available in segments from YouTube.

There are also episodes on Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead.

Without Castaneda, there would probably have been no "neo-shamanism." Without Mead appealing to Western notions of the noble--and sexy--savage, the "sexual liberation" of the 1960s would have lost one of its ideological underpinnings. And Malinowski, of course, largely shaped 20th-century ideas of ethnography.

The videos are a little hoked-up--and I wish that the BBC would consistently identify the talking heads on the screen. They do include Castaneda's son and ex-wife, who in the video defend much of his research (although not his actions), and Jay Fikes, an anthropologist known for his work with the Peyote Way in Mexico and the USA, who is more critical.

The video focuses on the cultish last years of Castaneda's life in particular.

For more on Castaneda, read Richard DeMille's two books on him, as well as Dan Noel's The Soul of Shamanism. Also the Sustained Action website.

Via Savage Minds.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Banning Pagans on aesthetic grounds

An Australian reporter dumps on tacky (to him) Pagans.

Pagans infested my university, were constantly pulling out ouija boards at parties and could often be found in the bush near my home, dripping candle wax on one another and swapping Tori Amos albums.

And the commenters dump on him, although signing yourself "Shining Wolf of Indiana" might just be playing right into his hand, you think?

Meanwhile, my university is not what you would call trendy. We are heavy on "non-traditional" (over 25) students, and even a surprising number of the "traditionals" are working full time and/or are married and/or have a kid.

So imagine my surprise at spotting my first (apparent) furry in an English composition class next door to my office, wearing some kind of loose top, a short skirt, and a long, racoonish fake fur tail hanging over the skirt.

We are already wild animals, as Gary Snyder points out. But some of us want to be cartoon animals.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed.

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• When driving east from Colorado, I often make a short pilgrimage to Carhenge.

• BeliefNet has cut me off again. Restoring this blog to BlogHeaven is a "top priority," my contact there said. That was three days ago. Again, I am baffled; I have not changed my RSS or Atom feed settings or anything like that. Eventually, I will just stop caring.

• "I guess we're mainstream now--and thus ripe for parody," said the person who emailed me this item from The Onion.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Prince Charles, thatch, and the collapse of civilization

The Prince of Wales recently was quoted as saying McDonald's restaurants "should be banned" (in the United Arab Emirates, if not the UK).

What do we call that, "nutritional mercantilism"?

Although I admire him for his environmental work and his line of organic foods, I laughed pretty hard at Steve Stirling's fictionalized version of the prince in A Meeting at Corvallis, the final book of his post-Collapse trilogy. (Yes, I know, trilogies . . . )

I have mentioned Stirling's fairly realistic Wiccan characters, but the third book offers an England where now-King Charles rules, and he has imposed his aesthetic taste on as much of the nation as he controls. Houses must have thatched roofs, while farmers and laborers must wear the old cotton smock when they work outdoors. "De national dress, mon," says a Jamaican immigrant turned farmer.

Update: Alice Thomson calls the prince a true prophet.

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My continued fascination with Gleb Botkin

I recently found a Wikipedia entry on Gleb Botkin. I still think that he is one of the most fascinating figures in American Paganism, with a life whose arc connected the lost world of the Russian royal family to the contemporary Pagan revival of the 1950s and 1960s.

He is worth a biography of his own, I think.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wicca, ELF, and insomnia

I had a lot of trouble sleeping this past week. Too much waking up with full bladder around 5 a.m. and then being unable to return to sleep, sliding instead into the pre-dawn jim-jams. "My Wasted Life" and other such perennial themes.

Pre-dawn wakefulness always reminds me of one of the first Church of Wicca Samhain seminars that M. and I attended in 1977 or so. We were among the “young folks” at those gatherings--there was a larger middle-aged contingent that was less into religious Pagan Witchcraft and more into dowsing, remote viewing, experiments with ESP, energy healing, and various kinds of “fringe science.”

Several of the men, including, of course, Gavin Frost and Loy Stone, had been trained as engineers and had an engineer’s pragmatic attitude towards magic, broadly defined.

One speaker gave a talk about the military’s experiments with extremely low frequency radiation (3–30 Hz), which is utilized by our navy and the Russians to communicate with submerged submarines. He suggested that these nefarious experiments were causing mental disturbance in humans—possibly because the frequency chosen was close to the Earth’s own natural radio frequency—after thirty years I do not remember exactly.

To prove his point, he asked the audience if they were frequently awakened around 4 a.m. Hands shot up around the room.

All I could think about was that with at least four time zones represented, “4 a.m.” was not just one moment.

But later, as I aged, I realized that four o’clock was a fine time to lie awake and think about all the failures and worries of your life, and that doing so just seemed to be part of middle age.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Mysteries for our troops overseas

Shulawitsi, the Little Fire God, member of the Council of the Gods and Deputy to the Sun, had taped his track shoes to his feet. He had wound the tape as Coach taught him, tight over the arch of the foot.

Those sentences open Tony Hillerman's Dance Hall of the Dead (1973). I read them probably in the early 1980s, back when the Santa Fe-based author of mystery novels was largely a cult favorite in the Southwest. Cruising down US 666 back then, you would watch your rear view mirror for Officer Jim Chee, who in my imagination does not look like Adam Beach.

After those two sentences, I was hooked.

I picked up a copy of Dancehall of the Dead today along with some other paperback thrillers (Elmore Leonard, Patricia Cornwell, Carl Hiassen) at Hardscrabble Books (appropriate name, eh?) down in Florence. Two old ladies were discussing Hitler, whom they seemed to think had been born a Jew. (Where do they get this stuff?)

When I finish the books, they will go into a box for Operation Paperback.

Operation Paperback collects books (and some magazines) for American military personnel in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. You register with them, and they give you a list of recipients who will turn share the books.

To pacify local members of the "Religion of Peace," who might otherwise blow a gasket, there should be no pictures of scantily clad women, so be careful with the motorcycle and lowrider magazines if you are mailing to certain countries. (The Web site will explain.)

US Highway 666 is no more, of course. Certain wacko members of the "Religion of Love" lobbied the feds to change its number, lest they be forced to drive on the "Highway of the Beast." Sheesh.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sacrificing sheep in Jerusalem

Cambridge University classics professor Mary Beard recently suggested that today's Hellenic Pagans were inauthentic because they did not sacrifice animals.

Set aside the Pagans for a moment. What about Jews?

A small but controversial movement in Israel wants to revive Temple-based religion, including sacrifice.

The present-day Sanhedrin Court decided Tuesday to purchase a herd of sheep for ritual sacrifice at the site of the Temple on the eve of Passover, conditions on the Temple Mount permitting.

The comments on the article pretty well represent a spectrum of Jewish religious squabbling, from the ultra-orthodox who think that the state of Israel is an affront to their god, to those who think that sacrifice is "cruelty to animals" and those who think that it is not, to those who just want to kick the Muslims off the Temple Mount. Oy vey!

Via Mirabilis.

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