Monday, November 30, 2009

Pagan Studies Call for Papers, AAR 2010

This post is for anyone who has not already seen the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group's call for papers for next year's AAR meeting in Atlanta posted on some e-list or other.

For details on paper submission, see the AAR's page for that meeting. Note that some information will not be posted until later in December.

The Contemporary Pagan Studies Group invites papers that address one of the following topics:

1.  For session with Men's Studies in Religion Group, Pagan Masculinities: Male Identity, Gender Injustice and Power Relations. Who are the Pagan men, how is their understanding of masculinity constituted, and how are they affected by the   emphasis on the feminine in Pagan spirituality?

2. Paganism, Ethnicity and Ultra-Nationalism. The Right has increased representation in the European Parliament and some of those elected are Pagans with concerns about boundaries, immigration and ethnicities. We welcome papers that investigate this growing phenomenon and the contentious issues that arise from it.

3. Idolatry and Tangible Sacrality: The Conversation Continues. This panel generated such excellent discussion at the 2009 meeting that we felt it important to explore it further.

4. For session with the New Religious Movements Group,  papers on African-inspired religious traditions, such as Santeria, Vodun, Yoruba, and Candomble,
especially as those in the southeastern United States.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Blog It and They Will Come. But Why?

Real search-engine queries that brought Web visitors to this blog:

Is Depeche Mode synonymous with homosexuality? [I don't know; I missed the 80s.]

Booty shaking videos of Muslim women

Arvol Looking Horse fraud youtube [he is an American Indian activist on the "cultural appropriation" issue]

make shinto priest hat

food placed in creek for religion

[I have made food offerings at a crossroads, but in the creek??]

intercessory prayer for halloween sacrifice

sex colors for witches

Of course, now the Googlebot will index all those terms here . . .

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's Thanksgiving-Put Your Mask On

I have a long-standing interest in masks and masked ritual, going back to when I helped Evan John Jones with Sacred Mask Sacred Dance.

So consider than on the East Coast a century ago, Thanksgiving (or at least the last Thursday in November), rather than Halloween, was the time for masking and trick-or-treating.

Thanksgiving itself was a sort of irregular, off-and-on holiday until it was deliberately fixed to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season during Franklin Roosevelt's administration.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blogging Hermits

What is it with blogging hermits—or quasi-hermits?

Would Henry David Thoreau have had a blog? I am sure of it. Anyone who would edit his autobiography so that two years of experience fit neatly into one literary year has demonstrated the capability of self-romanticizing that blogging requires.

Sunday's Denver Post had a long piece about a man named Daniel Suelo who lives in a cave outside Moab, Utah, never handles money, dumpster-dives, etc.—and blogs about his life, courtesy of the long-suffering local librarians. (Somebody tell him that white-on-black fonts offer poor readability.)

I can see Diogenes the Cynic updating his blog at the public library too: ""

And there are others.

Lately I have been reading As The Crow Flies, who offers this thought:

If you want to be alone, it’s important to know, you can never get far enough away;  humans and their noise producing machines are everywhere.   One thought that helps me, is to think of myself as an alien dropped off on a planet of apes.   Then I can just sit back and enjoy the show—like going to the zoo.

But the post that sold me on her blog is this one.

I cannot get it out of my mind. Maybe it's because M. and I often go several days without talking to anyone else in person (not counting email). Without her (and the dogs), I would soon be wondering the same thing.

Cross-posted to Southern Rockies Nature Blog.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

J.K. Rowlings' Effect on Our Language

Recently M. and I started to experiment with geocaching. Since our rural home is adjacent to national forest land and located just off a designated Scenic Byway, it is a fertile spot—there must be a dozen or more caches within five miles.

But what I noticed when reading geocaching sites and forums is that a particular term is used for people who are out and about but who themselves are not geocachers. It is important that the caches themselves be concealed from these people.

The term used for such people, of course, begins with "m."


Friday, November 20, 2009

Pagans among Suspects in Priest's Murder

(Welcome, vistors from The Wild Hunt. Stick around, click a few links.)

A Russian Orthodox priest is murdered in his Moscow church, and suspicion falls both on Muslims and on Russian Pagans.

But note the titles of his books.

We know too much about people who shout "Allah Akbar" and then pull the trigger, but why the Pagans? Why bring them into the discussion?

Paganism in Russia is somewhat like what my Anglosphere readers are used to, but there are significant differences. Russian Pagans are more likely to have their own line of "blood and soil" rhetoric and to claim that they represent the true spirituality of their people, which puts them in direct conflict with the Orthodox Church, which itself has made that same claim since the 10th century.

The Russian anthropologist Victor Shnirelman is one scholar who has written a lot of on the topic. Being Jewish (as I understand), he is particularly sensitive to whiffs of antisemitism, as in this article, "Russian Neopagan Myths and Antisemitism."

The Pomegranate has published several articles on Russian and other Eastern European Paganisms. Abstracts are available online.

Kaarina Aitamurto, "Russian Paganism and the Issue of Nationalism: A Case Study of the Circle of Pagan Tradition," 8:2 (2006) 184-210.

Adrian Ivakhiv, "Nature and Ethnicity in East European Paganism: An Environmental Ethic of the Religious Right?" 17:2 (2005) 194-225.

Victor Shnirelman, "Ancestral Wisdom and Ethnic Nationalism: A View from Eastern Europe," 9:1 (2007) 41-61.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Which We Use 'the I-Word' at the AAR

Attendance at this year's American Academy of Religion annual meeting was down somewhat, an AAR staff member told me: about 5,000 instead of 7,000-8,000. He attributed the drop to the economy, not to the fact that the meeting was held in Montreal. I certainly heard no complaints about the venue.

Although I spent the Saturday being a tourist of magic, I was still able to make the main Paganism-related sessions.

The Contemporary Pagan Studies Group had three sessions, and they were well-attended by AAR standards, with more than fifty people at each one.

Our shared session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group went well. Suzanne Owen took on the whole question of how "indigenous" is employed in a paper called "Indigenous Religious Expressions? Mi'kmaq Tradition and British Druidry," that I would like to read more of.

Amy Whitehead offered an illustrated version of her paper published recently in The Pomegranate, but in retrospect, it really belonged in our standalone session with the theme of "Idolatry."

Yes, the I-word, sometimes subsumed in the broader term "materiality," as in Graham Harvey's presentation, "Materiality and Spirituality Aren't Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects."

The presentations were good, but of necessity just nibbled at the edges of topic, so I think that we will be having a session on "Idolatry Revisited" next year in Atlanta.

Our other session, "The Book and the Practice: The Relationship between Literature and Contemporary Paganism," reflected one of my ongoing concerns--let's move beyond citing the relationship between Stranger in a Strange Land and the Church of All Worlds and look at a broader range of "artistic representations ... and their influence on and the mutually interdependent relations with a variety of Paganisms as they are practiced today," to quote the language of the call for papers.

There is a lot more to do there too. At least we are not running out of ideas for conference sessions.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Should Work for Freelancers, Too

From the Motor City Hoodoo line by Coventry Creations of Ferndale, Michigan.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spices, Speak to Me

The Mistress of Spices is sort of like the wort-cunning herbalist witch archetype, only with (Asian) Indians and a Bollywood star whose "acting" is very stylized, mostly about eye makeup.

We ordered it from Netflix months ago, and it finally reached the top of our queue.

The whole movie is so stylized that it is more like a music video than a film. Artiness trumps story.

M. says it reminded her of Chocolat.

Will the spices win out over earthly love? Three guesses.

Labels: ,

Writers and Money

I am back from the American Academy of Religion meeting in Montreal, of which more later, where I also collected a freelance-editing check that I was owed.

When I collected nine days' worth of mail at the post office, I was happy to see that another check that was "in the mail" was in fact in the mail.

It's not always that way, as SF writer John Scalzi makes clear in this blog post about writers and money.

3. Writer pay is generally low and generally inconsistent. And if one writes fiction for some/all of one’s writing output, especially so. I’ve written in detail about writing rates and payment before so it’s not necessary to go into detail again right at the moment. But what it means is that if one is a writer, one does a fair amount of work for not a whole lot of money, and then has to wait for that payment to arrive more or less at the pleasure of the person sending the check. Unfortunately, writers like pretty much everyone else have fixed expenses (mortgage/rent, bills etc), and those people generally do not wait to be paid at the pleasure of the writer; you pay your electric bill regularly or you don’t get electricity.

I am reminded of a writer friend's favorite line: "My retirement plan is a family history of early heart attacks."

So far, however, he has outlived his father.

The only worse idea than writing is getting a PhD in Pagan studies. At least a couple of times a month I hear from someone who wants to do that and who wants advice on which graduate school to choose.

It's cheaper to go to the tattoo shop and have them tattoo "Unemployable in Academia" somewhere on your body.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

In US Air Force, Wiccans Outnumber Muslims

A friend passed on this column by political commenter Diana West, who notes in passing that there are almost as many Wiccans as Muslims in the American military--and more in the Air Force.

So far, I have not heard of any Wiccan dissatisfied with their military careers expressing themselves by killing their fellow service members.

Let's hope it never happens.

Labels: , ,

Montréal Magical Mercantile Tour

A group of Pagan Studies scholars started Friday at the big John Waterhouse exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It offered the largest selection of his paintings ever, plus sketches, drawings, and letters. When the docent suggested that "The Magic Circle" was not really about religion, she was quickly corrected. Poor, well-meaning, volunteer docent!

Then off to the first magical establishment, where we also got a presentation on the work of the Montréal Pagan Resource Centre.

And what's this? Another Waterhouse painting on a book cover! Extra points if you know which of his paintings has served as cover art for which book.

The shop cat stood guard while someone behind the curtain received a Tarot card reading.

Elsewhere, the price of gri-gri was $9.95 per sachet.

The door to the basement temple promised mysteries underground.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Writing Life Pulls Off the Siding onto the Main Line

I think of it as my secret Chicago hideout: the "you have to know where to look" Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago's Union Station. I'm not in town enough to justify a membership in the University Club, even if their building does look like Batman should be perched on the parapet. (The main clause there was a joke, readers.)

I've started mapping out what might be the next book after Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America. For two years, I have been trying to get started on a different project, accumulating stacks of research material, but writing only lightweight paper on the topic.

Maybe, to keep the railroad metaphor going, I was on the wrong track. (Wait, no, that is probably an animal-tracking metaphor.)  Now I feel a lot more energized, ready to kick some proposals around when I arrive at the American Academy of Religion meeting.

If it goes, I will post some appeals for particular, specialized information here as a form of "crowd-sourcing."

It feels good to have some direction again.


Monday, November 02, 2009

'True Samhain' is Friday

Now that the costumes are put away, note that Samhain calculated astrologically (Sun at 15 degrees of Scorpio) falls on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 6:42 a.m. Greenwich time, which would be roughly midnight on Friday here in the Mountain Time Zone.

Last year Peg and I had a little blog-discussion of the two dates.

Scott Monahan's archaeoastronomy page lets you calculate to the minute.

Check his "In the Movies" link for archaeoastronomical critiques, such as this one of National Treasure.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Organizing Halloween Ritual

I said that I was not going to post any more Halloween items. I take that back. Here is one more.

One decision we've made is to rebuff curious friends who ask to join our Halloween rituals. It seems like half the people I know want to be pagan on Halloween. I have no problem with a little religious tourism. I'm a bit of a spiritual slut. I have never turned down an invitation to a Seder. Bach thundering through a church transports me. But when I see visions of bacchanals dancing in my nonpagan friends' heads, I get a little testy. Certain experiences are too comforting, too sacred to be spectacles. For me, Samhain is one of them.

This is what happens when the news media notice you only one week a year.


Free-Range Kids Have a 'Scary' Halloween

One last Halloween post, and then I'll shut up.

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry speaks truth to power and rejects the nanny state on October 31.

If you want to see something really scary on Halloween, come to my apartment around 9 p.m.I'm letting my kids eat unwrapped candy.

They can eat any homemade goodies they get, too, and that unholy of unholies: candy where the wrapper is slightly torn. And on the very off chance they get an apple, they can gnaw it to the core, so long as there's not a razor-sized, dripping gash on the side.

There is more. Read the whole thing.