Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gallimaufry at Cleo's

¶ Everything about Cleopatra. (The famous Cleopatra was actually the seventh ethnic Greek queen of Egypt of that name.)

¶ Everything about Alexander the Great.

¶ Those and more web directories at Isidore of Seville.

¶ Dianne Sylvan's "list of things I don't/do care about." As one of the comments said, it would make a good poster. (Via Executive Pagan).

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review: Apocalypto

Not one to rush into things, I finally watched Mel Gibson's slightly a-historical movie of Mayan imperial collapse, Apocalypto, a gory but amazing adventure story.

My father was a big fan of historian Will Durant, so I got the impact of the Durant epigram about the fall of empires at the beginning.

I know that a few blowhard Chicano Studies types complained about the movie, but face it, all those things such as slave raids and the sacrifice of prisoners to the gods were happening, there and of course in Tenochtitlan.

Ever since I took a graduate seminar in Mesoamerican religion with Davíd Carrasco, I have been suspicious of cultures with large, astronomically aligned buildings. They always seem to reflect a society where the king is the Son of Heaven and the Few rule the Many with a heavy hand.

I suspect that Stonehenge might have been produced by a Neolithic version of that cultural template too, for all that Pagans revere the place.

Or you might say that polytheism + imperialism = imperialism.

Along with prisoners of war, the Maya apparently favored sacrificing boys.

Gibson being Gibson, the movie's final message apparently is, "The world is a corrupt and violent place, so you are better off dying as a Catholic." Extra ecclesiam nulla salus and all that.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gallimaufry: It's Traditional

¶ When an ill-informed blogger writes that "Wicca Attempts to Control Life" on a right-wing site, commenters weigh in. The gist: (a) religion has nothing to do with politics or (b) all religions are bogus. It's nice to see street-level libertarianism thriving.

¶ Maxine Sanders' new autobiography Fire Child: The life & Magic of Maxine Sanders, 'Witch Queen' is on my to-read list. She says the first mid-1990s draft was it badly written, self-indulgent and absolute rubbish. And then she adds something that is true of all memoir-writing:

When I did start work on Fire Child there were details that were not recorded in my magical diary and should have been. However, magical life is often repetitive and would have proved boring to the reader. On reflection, the differences between memory and diary entries made fascinating personal analysis.

Update: Another reviewer discusses some inconsistencies in the book but still recommends it.

¶ Volume 3 of TYR Myth-Culture-Tradition has been published, and I am just starting to read it.

This third issue is a big one, 530 pages, with articles such as Nigel Pennick on "Weaving the Web of Wyrd," Joscelyn Godwin on "Esotericism without religion: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials," and Christopher McIntosh on "Iceland's Pagan Renaissance," plus many pages of book and music reviews. Impressive.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review: Beyond Lemuria

Imagine that cult film director Ed Wood was also a ceremonial magician.

Or imagine a merger of Dion Fortune and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. She would be perfect to introduce this film.

Imagine giant caverns underground filled with degenerate descendants of the Lemurians, accessible from the lower slopes of Mount Shasta.

If you can imagine all that, you should watch Beyond Lemuria.

Written by Poke Runyon, well-known in West Coast Pagan and magickal circles, and including several other veterans of that scene in its cast (as well as some much younger and cuter actresses to balance the mostly mature male cast), the movie was clearly a labor of love, with the director and cast enjoying themselves almost too much.

You can’t have an occult thriller without swirling visual vortices or bits of Central European menace: a black magician with a “broomhandle” Mauser pistol strapped over his robe, or a sinister Romanian carrying (oddly) the Hungarian name of “Zoltan.” And black magic must work, because that particular cabal seems not to need California license plates on their black SUV. Evidently they are invisible to the cops.

At the heart of Beyond Lemuria are a 19th-century occult bestseller, A Dweller on Two Planets, by Frederick Spencer Oliver and the “Shaver Mystery,” which sustained the sales of the old SF pulp magazine Amazing Stories for years, not to mention being a staple topic in Fate magazine as well.

Anyway, the good guys are all good and seek enlightenment. The bad guys are bad and seek power. “Other members of the expedition were expendable,” sneers the chief baddie.

A young initiate must choose between two paths. But evil is never permanently defeated.

You will have to buy it from the filmmakers or from Amazon, because you won’t find this occult thriller at Netflix or showing at the local cineplex. But once you own a copy, you can add it to your “midnight movie” collection. Think of it as Plan 9 from Inner Space.

Best line: “Now I don't care how politically correct and liberal you people are, believe me, these aliens are not people you want to have for your next-door neighbors,” delivered by Poke Runyon’s character of an over-the-top anthropology professor.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Sheer Terror"

Retired University of Colorado professor John Carnes (Philosophy) tells all in an interview:

1. Being a teacher is like being a farmer; your life follows certain cycles. How did you feel whenever a new semester came around?

Sheer terror! Every class constitutes a performance -- a 16-week performance -- and you have stage fright. I was never sure if I had chosen a text that wouldn't work, that I'd make a fool of myself in front of the class.

Via University Diaries, who would probably agree that most academics are basically shy people required to give public performances.

Yep, it starts tomorrow.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Feeling of Accomplishment, Sort Of

I feel all loose and floaty, for I have just completed . . . a book review.

It was all of 1,100 words. It took me three days. That's sad--I should be able to write 1,100 words just loosening up my fingers.

But it was of a book that I admire and for an academic journal in which I am trying to publish a longer article (not The Pomegranate but another journal.)

So it was almost like writing a response paper: "The authors make points X,Y, and Z. Which one was salient? Which sentences should I quote?" And so on.

Obviously, I cannot post the review here before it appears in the journal, but at some point maybe I can make a link from my book review page.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 04, 2008

Not Getting the Whole Blogging Concept

Some people just do not get the concept -- in this case, the concept of blogging.

When you write a blog, you either link to a web site you have visited (blog = web log, remember) and you comment on it. Even a Glenn Reynolds-ish "Heh" counts as a comment.

Or you write what amounts to an online diary entry. Those are the two main types of blogging.

But lately, thanks to Google Alerts, I noticed that some Pagan bloggers think that cutting and pasting Wikipedia entries counts as blogging. Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4. There are probably more.

If you cannot link-and-comment, or write about your day (or night), then there is always the Japanese option: Tell what you ate for lunch.


Meanwhile, read Doug Cowan's Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet for a broader perspective than I can offer in a blog.

Labels: , ,

In lieu of doing actual work ...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

El Niño Fidencio

I first heard about El Niño Fidencio ("Kid Fidencio") from Davíd Carrasco, my thesis advisor at Colorado, who grew up partly in El Paso.

A 1920s folk healer from the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, he continues to be channeled by present-day psychic healers.

That was the connection for me: the mediumship, which fit with some research in Afro-Brazilian religion that I was doing at the time.

Among the many Web sites relating to him are a Fidencio blog (in Spanish) and a bilingual Yahoo group.

Labels: , ,