Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My First-Draft Paper on the 'Crisis of History'

My CESNUR paper, "In the Mists of Avalon: How Contemporary Paganism Dodges the 'Crisis of History,'" has been published on line at the organization's web site.

It is sort of quick and lightweight, but I want to work more on those ideas in the future.

In the immediate future, however, I need to come up with something for my guest-blogger spot at The Wild Hunt. Warning, it's more likely to be snarky than deep.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Yes, I did take the tour of the Cathedral of the Madeline. After a day of listening to talks on Mormon violence--and violence against Mormons--the cathedral felt like Goddess religion. (The Lady Chapel, after all.)

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Blogging CESNUR, 2

Yesterday's CESNUR plenary session focused on Western esotericism, which is getting more respect as a "player" in history.

Gordon Melton passed out a fancy diagram of the Western esoteric tradition, including everyone from Swedenborgians to flying saucer religions to Wiccans.

Wicca was placed under ritual magic, although at some distance. Fair enough: ritual magic is an important root. But I think there needs to be a long dashed line connecting to classical Paganism (which was not on the chart), indicating a connection that was literary rather than person-to-person.

For those of you familiar with new religious movements sessions, yes, "Ragged Brian" is here.

Trying to decide whether to take the tour of the (warning, Flash) Cathedral of the Madeline tomorrow to renew my acquaintance with ecclesiastical architecture. ("I think the woods are more impressive," says M., the dedicated animist.)

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


After the better part of two days on the road, M. and I arrived this afternoon at a Homestead Suites hotel in Salt Lake City, where I will be attending the CESNUR conference.

The trip started off on a sour note, because my previously trusty-if-aging G4 PowerBook laptop developed a series disk-access problem on Monday night, taking the last version of my paper with it.

So, fellow professors, if your students say that the computer crashed the night before their papers were due, sometimes they might be telling the truth. (On the other hand, "grandmother's funeral" is probably made up.)

I will be reading partly from handwritten notes on Friday, I suspect.

We began with a long detour to Colorado Springs to drop the PowerBook off at Voelker Research, where the service techs considered it gravely and offered a 50/50 chance of data recovery in five or six days.

Ah, Colorado Springs, where there is no east-west through highway and never has been. Eventually by a series of zigs and zags known to locals we cleared town about 2 p.m. Then Ute Pass, Wilkerson Pass, Hoosier Pass, Vail Pass and westward into the desert until we finally called it a day in the motel oasis of Green River, Utah.

Every time I go through Green River I more and more get the feeling that it is picking up the people who cannot afford to live in trendier Moab.

Weirdly, it was raining in Green River today. That must be an event. It turned the land a darker shade of tan.

In fact, it's raining all over Utah, as witness the photo of the hotel's back garden, which looks semi-tropical. I was happy to drop the bags, pop the top off a bottle of Polygamy Porter (which ought to be the official beer of CESNUR), and relax.

M. has discovered that Whole Foods, Nordstrom's, Barnes & Noble, a public library, and a large park are all within about two blocks, so she has everything she needs, she says.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

On the Road

I leave today for the annual CESNUR conference on new religious movements, to be held this year in Salt Lake City, so you know which not-so-new-anymore religious movement will be heavily discussed in the presentations.

My paper is a thrown-together mess, but at least it has me thinking about how it could become the introduction to a book that I could write—or co-write, perhaps. More on that as it develops.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

From Abortion to Icelandic Music and Back

So Jason decides that he would rather blog about abortion than Iceland Paganism, which leads me to follow the Icelandic Paganism link, as I have read all the usual blather that followed the murder of Dr. Tiller.

Thus I am lead to the documentary Screaming Masterpiece, about Icelandic music, which is now in my Netflix queue.

Must get back to work now -- I have to finish my paper for the CESNUR conference.

Back when I had to teach first-year composition, the joke was that students in search of a topic tended to fall into well-worn ruts: abortion, gun control, the drinking age, etc.

Dealing with the first one was easy, after a while. I just issued a classroom fatwa that only people who had had an abortion could write about the topic.

The real purpose, of course, was to segue into a discussion of pathos and how hard it was to write convincingly about a topic with which one has no emotional connection.

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