Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gallimaufry with Dreams

¶ Anne Johnson on Dream Weaving.

¶ Anne Hill writes about dreaming too. (Is this a blog meme? Ann + dreams?)

¶ Northern Path likes the new Beowulf movie.

¶ Peg is upset about people stealing Pagan music.

¶ Caroline posts collage Tarot decks.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For Librarians & Their Fans

The Zen Librarian said, "Reference service is like a man hanging from a rope by his teeth over a cliff, with his hands bound to his sides and feet resting on no ledge, and another person asks him for books about Enrico Fermi for a child's school assignment." More here. Then there is something more hardcore.

What, you want more librarian blogs?

(I will have you know that I was a demon shelver when I had my undergrad work-study job.)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jezebel the Polytheistic Princess

I am reading Lesley Hazleton's Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, which I picked up at the Doubleday booth at the AAR-SBL meeting.

Somewhat as Robert Graves did in King Jesus decades ago--but with better sourcing--she takes a familiar Bible story and re-tells it from a different perspective.

Jezebel (Phoenician "Itha-Ba'al" -- woman of the Lord) was a Phoenician princess united in a political marriage with Ahab, who was actually one of the more militarily and successful Israelite kings of the Omride dynasty. The Bible slams him for not being hard enough on polytheists, however.

As queen and then as queen mother, she plays the political game as best she can before falling victim to monotheistic religious violence incited by the prophet Elijah. It's telling that Hazleton describes Elijah as issuing a fatwa against her: He is nothing but a forerunner of the Islamic preachers of today, urging the young men to blow themselves up in the name of Allah. When the Bible speaks of "companies of prophets," I see the Taliban.

The story is told in the the Book of Kings, which Hazleton supplements with what archaeology has since learned about the kingdom of Israel.

It has been many years since I looked at 2nd Kings. It is supposedly a chronicle of Israel and Judah, but as Hazleton says, "It has the logic of a dream." But I was reading Jezebel with the Bible in my lap for cross reference (Hazleton provides ample citations.)

Jezebel's grandniece,known to the Greco-Roman world as Dido, helped to establish the city of Carthage, Rome's military and commercial rival. But Dido's real name was Elitha, which via the Carthaginian colonies in Spain became "Alicia," or so Hazleton claims. Meanwhile, Jezebel--Itha-Ba'al--became "Isabelle" (or Isabella or Isobel) by the same route.

Margaret Murray, the English archaeologist who cast Paganism as the "Old Religion" in early modern Europe, claimed that "Isobel" and its variants (along with Joan) was among the most common names of women tried as witches. (Is that why Björk chose it?) But, really, I think that that was because it was a popular name, not because it was a "witch name."

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Gallimaufry with Cocktails

¶ Having watched most of the "Thin Man" movies out of sequence, M. and I finished tonight with the last of them, Song of the Thin Man. It is notable for its proto-hipster dialog in some scenes and what I am sure are well-veiled cannabis references, slipped past the Hollywood censors of the day. I have a vision of a 21-year-old Allen Ginsberg, watching it and going "Yeah, yeah!" "Best minds of my generation," check. [Hidden] drug references, check. [Euphemized] "negro streets," check. Insane asylum, check. Jazz, check. It's almost all there. But no overt references to Patterson, New Jersey.

¶ A friend writes, "I am finally reading Her Hidden Children!! It is wonderful, Chas. Intelligent, concise, thoughtful, and respectful as well. Lovely, bravo, you are my hero. It is well written and pleasant to read. Your style flows like water over glass, never stumbling over complexities or data."

I can't marry her, so do I put her in my will? Flattery goes to a writer's head like a big glass of cheap sherry!

¶ You should bookmark Jason Pitzl-Waters' music blog, A Sweeping Curve of Sound. "Music, Blasphemy, Idolatry." I'm in. Links abound, including to his Pagan music podcasts.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Varieties of Thanksgiving Day

A Florida teacher wants to challenge the usual First Thanksgiving story with one about the Spanish in St. Augustine.

But [Robyn] Gioia, 53, has written a children's book, and just the title is enough to peeve any Pilgrim: America's REAL First Thanksgiving.

"It was the publisher who put real in capital letters," she says, "but I think it's great."

What does REAL mean? Well, she's not talking turkey and cranberry sauce. She's talking a Spanish explorer who landed here on Sept. 8, 1565, and celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. They dined on bean soup.

Couple of problems with that. While the Pilgrims occupy much more mythic space than their numbers justify (do you ever hear about the parallel Anglican colonies and their celebrations?,), the Spanish soldiers and missionaries in Florida occupy none, outside of Florida, where I suppose that they inspire the names of subdivisions. They came, they massacred some French Protestants, and eventually they gave up the territory.

We read about Ms. Gioia's efforts on the train coming home. On T'giving morning, M. called me to breakfast.

"Is it a Calvinist breakfast or a Papist breakfast?"

"Oatmeal and burned biscuits -- what do you think?" she replied.

"Only the Elect will be saved," I said.

And then we had bean soup at supper. As for the people who think that Thanksgiving should be a "day of atonement" or "day of mourning," let them eat cold tofu in the dark. I see too many people trying to make it back to the family home on this one day--a day that is more about social bonds than about history or religion. I, for one, cannot condemn them.


Monday, November 19, 2007

An Immigrant's Story

So here I am at the final joint annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature. The book show is always one of the best parts. It is of the size that is usually measured in "football fields."

Naturally books relating to Christianity dominate, as is true of the many multiple sessions where people are presenting papers.

I walk around, and I feel like an immigrant who has successfully integrated himself into his new country must feel. I recognize "the old country." Sure, the pop songs have changed and the postage stamps look different now, but I remember how to understand the language and even to speak it sometimes. (It's an effort.)

"Revelation" "Prophet" "Authority" "Redemption" "Church" -- I remember those words. But my new language does not need them.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to talk about. The new religious movements sessions are always fun--they attract those of us who enjoy religion as spectacle. On Saturday, for instance, I was introduced to the international vampire self-study project. Self-labeled vampirism -- quantified!


Gallimaufry with Geats

¶ Slate reviews the new 3-D Beowulf movie in heroic verse! I liked Beowulf and Grendel. Comparison will be fun.

¶ Staying in a San Diego waterfront hotel is like living in a Tom Clancy novel. Marines in dress blues suddenly fill the lobby. Helicopters and jets dash overhead. On Saturday morning I woke up to see the USS Nimitz moored across from us at Coronado Island.

But from the convention center I look over to a certain apartment complex on Coronado, where someone once important to me lived. Vanished youth, etc. M. is wryly accepting. She has her nostalgia moments too, after all.

¶ Jason Pitzl-Waters links to a news story about what happens when a church is "marital property".

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Friday, November 16, 2007

His Noodly Appendage

About to leave my hotel room for the off-program Pagan Studies session, I check the AP wire to learn that the most noteworthy session at this year's American Academy of Religion meeting is the one devoted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its followers cuts to the heart of the one of the thorniest questions in religious studies: What defines a religion? Does it require a genuine theological belief? Or simply a set of rituals and a community joining together as a way of signaling their cultural alliances to others?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Colors of Paganism

Remember the 1980s fad for having your "colors done"?

The Color + Design blog is applying it to religions too, and here are the colors of Paganism, as selected by Pagan blogger Yvonne Aburrow.

If you are planning to redecorate your house, you can pick "Green Man" or "Red Earth."


Monday, November 12, 2007

Gallimaufry is not a Irish Word.

¶ Dude, it's like this secret Irish slang, you dig? So don't be a twerp--glom onto this.

On the other hand, be careful of enthusiastic folk etymologists with a pocket dictionary and an agenda. It could just be a gimmick.

Time and Mind is a new journal of postprocessual archaeology: "The journal features scholarly work addressing cognitive aspects of cross-related disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology and psychology that can shape our understanding of archaeological sites, landscapes and pre-modern worldviews."

¶ Blogging will be light for the next few days. I have to ride the big silver snake to Southern California and the American Academy of Religion annual meeting. Berg should have a booth there--maybe I can find the journal.

So many bloggers go to events and post pictures of exhibitor booths and shots of happy people in hotel bars. I will try to avoid that -- unless I get something really good.

I will be checking out the possibility of freelance work too, which adds an extra urgency to the trip.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gallimaufry with Rice

¶ How is your vocabulary? I donated 300 grains of rice the first time that I tried this online game. Then the AI started serving up all these Latinate terms. Level 50 is the top?? (Hat tip: Odious and Peculiar.)

¶ Ancient Egyptians dealt with zombies too. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.) Pluvialis agrees: we need to know these things.

¶ Hecate is getting testy about media Witches. I think there is a Gresham's Law of spokespeople: the weird drive out the sensible.

¶ Deborah Oak wonders if Elvis is a god yet.

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Today is Samhain, Really, Unless It's Not

We celebrate the holy day commonly called Samhain not on one day, but on several. In other words, there is no one contemporary Pagan liturgical calendar.

As I write this, the actual moment in the solar cycle is about an hour away, according to Scott Monahan's useful archaeastronomy site. (Scott is also the videographer of the epigraphers arguing for ancient Celtic visits to America: Here is his latest YouTube video.)

So take your choice: the Pagan festival occurs on (1) the night of October 31st, (2) November 1st, (3) the full Moon nearest to November 1st, (4) a weekend night nearest to November 1st, (5) the day or night when the Sun is at 15 degrees of Scorpio in the tropical zodiac, halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice (Northern Hemisphere). Number 5 is happening right now.

I wonder if the push for official work-and-school-recognized Pagan holidays will force us to pick one of five choices and live with it.

Recently, an old friend complained in someone's blog comments that our holy day was being "commercialized." I beg to disagree. Let a thousand Spirit World stores open selling plastic tombstones and sexy witch costumes. The popular holiday of Halloween provides a sea in which we swim.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wilhelm Reich, nature religionist

When I wrote Her Hidden Children, I gave three pages to Wilhelm Reich, because I felt that his unconventional ideas on the body, sexuality, and life energy had as much to do with the intellectual underpinnings of American Paganism as did, for example, the anthropological theories of Sir James Frazer ("sacred kings" and all that).

Reich was all but burned as a heretic, but now his ideas are getting a second look as his papers are unsealed.

Physician-scientist Wilhelm Reich, best known for his claims of a cosmic life force associated with sexual orgasm, died in federal prison, and the government burned tons of his books and other publications and destroyed his equipment.

But half a century later, a small number of scientists and other believers are working to advance the European-born psychiatrist's work on what he called "orgone energy" - a theory largely forgotten in the scientific mainstream.

"Personally, I think it's going to be a long time before all of his work is understood and recognized," said Reich's granddaughter, Renata Reich Moise, a nurse-midwife and artist in the coastal town of Hancock.

If you live in New England, visit the Wilhelm Reich Museum. Rent a cottage and try some orgone experiments.


Gallimaufry with Nut Brown Ale

John Barleycorn Reborn is a double CD compilation of dark folk music from the British Isles.

¶ Staying with the British theme: if you see this, you must be in Glastonbury.

¶ Now this is embodied Paganism.

¶ "Sexy witch" Halloween costumes (big this year) require striped stockings. Why is that? The "sluts and slashers" aspect of costuming bothers some Pagans.

¶ Another example of group disfunction?

¶ I missed DOR Day. Next year I won't. (I do wish bloggers would abandon white-on-black type. The only thing more eyestrain-inducing is purple-on-black.)

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Altars at the Student Center

As promised, three of today's altars at the state university erected for the Day of the Dead (Día de los muertos).

An altar to Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, from the history and art clubs. Club members admitted that it was a bit short on Roumanian content. One girl speculated about an impaled head that she had seen somewhere; all agreed that a big spike would have helped.

After all, he was just a hard-working prince holding off the Islamic menace. For more Vlad-ophilia, read The Historian.

An altar to firefighters.

The Catholic student association altar. Off the the left, out of the frame, was a bottled pre-mixed mojito cocktail, which the builders agreed could not be left there overnight. (Apparently La Virgen likes mojitos.) The place is swarming with students after all.

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State-sponsored Paganism

Students are hard at work putting up Pagan altars in the student center. At least that is what it looks like to me, although I am sure that la profesora would differ.

I did not hear about a parade this year, however.

Photos to come.