Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gallimaufry with Chariots

• Icelandic Pagans curse the nation's economic rivals. See what happens when you mix polytheism and international banking? (Via Pagan Newswire Collective.)

• I do like what Iceland may do for freedom of the (online) press.

• We are the Empire, and we have the chariot-racing to prove it. Video no. 2 is the better one. Go Greens. (Via LawDog.)

• American pop culture is not keen on reincarnation as a plot device?

• Once again, Wicca as "the Other" gets tangled up with current political debate

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

BeliefNet Article Looks at Wiccan Chaplain's Lawsuit

As mentioned here previously and at The Wild Hunt, Patrick McCollum, volunteer Wiccan prison chaplain in California, has sued the state to overturn a policy of hiring paid chaplains only from certain religions.

A new article at BeliefNet summarizes the case. Excerpts:
Supported by interfaith scholars and church-state separationists, the Rev. Patrick McCollum argues that the state policy has the "pernicious effect" of depriving inmates of other religious backgrounds from getting the services they need and deserve.

The court challenge began when McCollum, 59, a prominent leader in Wiccan and correctional circles, applied and was rejected for a full-time position as a chaplain in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"When I got to the personnel office, they refused to give me an application to apply for a state job because they knew that I was a Wiccan," said McCollum, director of Our Lady of the Wells Church in Moraga, Calif., and leader of the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association.

"They never reviewed my qualifications.
 Religious-studies professor and lawyer Barbara McGraw responds to an amicus brief in the case--from a conservative Christian group supporting the state's position--here:
In other words, genuine Christianity supports religious rights for all. Christianity was not at the founding, nor is it now a monolithic "ism" that justifies the domination and suppression of others--not even Wiccan/Pagans.
An amici curiae brief on McCollum's side filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, and other groups is also available (PDF file).

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Around the Pagan Blogosphere

• "Hard versus Soft Polytheism is a False Dichotomy."

• A recently discovered statue described as the god Odin and welcomed by some reconstructionist Norse Pagans, is--by Viking Period artistic conventions--either a woman or the goddess Freya, says a Swedish archaeologist. 

• The Necronomicon: "It's like the Bible but different" (YouTube video). Via

• At The Soccer Moms' Guide to Wicca: Unintentionally outed by the school district.

• Something that I wish more people would think about about: When is a wild animal an omen, and when is it just a wild animal?

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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.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's That Time of Year!

Are you ready for the cameras and notepads? It's the time of year when journalists notice the Pagans!

ReligionLink is on the job with story ideas. At least they admit that they are recycling their resource list from 2004. (No, that's not my telephone number anymore, sorry.)

"Oh, my" indeed.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sex and Witchcraft

The popular image of the sexually alluring witch goes back to Circe at least, was notable in the early modern period in the work of artists such as Hans Baldung, and got a big boost from Jules Michelet.

It keeps popping up today. Sometimes it is lightly disguised, as in the Craigslist posting blogged about here, where what the original poster seems to want is not a Tarot reader but a softcore porn model.

"Red Witch," an Australian blogger, has been collecting popular culture images of female witches (some of them NSFW, not surprisingly), with thoughts of doing a book.

Anyway, I started collecting the stuff you’ve see on this blog because it seemed there had been an evolution in the representation of witches, and I wondered whether the polarized version that I was familiar with (witches are either good/bad, young/old, sexy/hag) was actually the mid-point of an evolution in which the Witch is at first only bad/old/hag, then becomes either good/young/sexy or bad/old/hag, and then is only good/young/sexy. Since nobody that I knew of—and my collection on witchcraft was pretty complete even then—had discussed the history of the representation of witches, and the importance of good/young/sexy witch imagery to the growing social acceptance of witchcraft and Wicca, I wanted to understand it better.

Matilda, who appears to be in the UK, has some flirtatious fun with the witch archetype on her web site.

As far as the modern religion of Wicca is concerned, the sexual element was there from the beginning, when Gerald Gardner and his priestess/paramour Edith Woodford-Grimes created the "Southern Coven of English Witches." Where was his wife, Donna? Not interested in nudism, free-thinking, ceremonial magic, esoteric religion, and running a witchcraft museum, apparently.

(A good scholarly biography of Gardner as founder of a new religion still needs to be written. I would love to see it in the Pagan studies book series that I co-edit.)

At least Wicca is somewhat honest about its sexual element, with the centrality of the Great Rite and all. The fact is, however, that religion often has a sexualized component.

Every time that a Catholic priest, Pentacostal preacher, or Lutheran minister gets caught having sex with the wrong person, it is treated as a deviation from the standard. But sometimes spiritual practices lead to a stronger sexual vibe--and then what do you do with it?

I learned in graduate school, finally, from a professor of Asian religions why monks and nuns there often wear saffron robes. The color signifies their spiritual "heat." It's a warning—keep away!—like an orange road cone.

The East has sex scandals too—Sai Baba's is just one example.

In Christianity, however, the professed religious often wear black, brown, or white—neutral colors. "Nothing happening here." (Except for some of those Pentacostals ...)

Wicca tries to seize the hot wire and direct the current. When that works, it can be life-changing. When it does not work, you get the usual run of social and interpersonal problems.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Doreen Valiente remembered

Hecate reminds us that ten years have passed since the Wiccan world lost Doreen Valiente, who still does not get enough credit for her part in creating the religion.

I corresponded with her some in the 1980s, but, ironically, arrived in her home of Brighton just weeks after passing. Riding city buses with E. John Jones, he would point and say, "Doreen used to live on that street," or "Doreen had a flat in that building."

I got the impression at third-hand that there was a bit of struggle over who would become the official custodian of her papers and thus her memory--perhaps one of my British readers could enlighten us on that.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crescent Moon in Libra

Crescent Moon over Wet Mountains. Photo copyright Chas S. Clifton.
Low-light mule deer bucks. Chas S. Clifton

Two low-light images taken within a minute of each other from my driveway. The light was going fast, so one of the mule deer bucks' heads is blurred where he moved it.

You can make the associations yourself.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gallimaufry with Confusion

• The latest weird search query to bring a visitor to this blog: "Is New Mexico a polytheistic, monotheistic, or animistic religion?" Hello? New Mexico is a state. No wonder that for years New Mexico Magazine has had a standing column on geographical confusion called "One of Our 50 is Missing."

• A
TheoFantastique [Morehead] : Cinema has also changed in its depiction of the witch. Are fairytale depictions as in Harry Potter, as well as those which depict the empowerment of the feminine perhaps the most common modes of expression in contemporary film?

Carrol Fry: Yes, the empowerment of the feminine is the most popular adaptation, whether the film is supportive of critical. I’m sure this has to do with attracting an audience for the film. But Pagans might well feel that Hollywood slights their spiritual paths by concentrating nearly exclusively on feminist Wicca, and then just on the most sensational elements. By the way, there’s a strong subtext of feminist Wicca in
that no one much notices, most obviously in Sophie’s (named for Sophia from the Gnostic tradition) blunders into a Wiccan ceremony in which her grandfather is “drawing down the moon” as a coven ceremony. There are a few other witch films that are not part of the culture wars, romantic films such as I Married a Witch
and Bell, Book and Candle that are neither the silly version of witches (that have nothing to do with Neo-Paganism[sic]) such as the Harry Potter novels and films nor adaptations of Wicca.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Performance Studies and Reality Television

Living a cable channel-free life, I never saw Mad Mad House, but if you did and you want to read a performance studies-based analysis, I direct you to Jason Winslade's "You’ve Got to Grow or Go": Initiation, Performance, and Reality Television" (PDF file).

At the center of his analysis are the reality show's "alternate" characters, including the prominent Australian Witch Fiona Horne:

The five Alts were Fiona the Witch, Ta’Shia the Voodoo Priestess, Don the Vampire, Art the Modern Primitive and Avocado the Naturist. The use of just the first names and their “Alt” title was prominent in the show’s promotional materials and title sequence, in which their heads were placed paper doll-like (in South Park fashion) on small drawn bodies in cartoonish settings accompanied by equally cartoonish sound effects. For instance, a bubbling cauldron sound and a witch cackle accompanied Fiona’s brief scene. Further, these constructed characters exist as iconic figures in such settings as the Deliberation Room, where their gaudily painted portraits also feature prominently in the title sequence. These touches unapologetically fetishize and exoticize these characters and their “alternative” beliefs, perhaps to present them as more of a challenge to the mainstream contestants, who were predominantly young, white, upper middle class, and, if they had any religious affiliation, Christian.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

1734 and All That

A missive showed up in my inbox lately, written by some Wiccan Web denizen, who although in a coven (this part was confusing) had had some sort of vision or revelation involving the number 1734, which led him/her/it to my Witches' Voice piece on the so-called "1734 Tradition."

I say "so-called" because I think that there is less there than meets the eye. I am too young to have known its founder, Robert Cochrane, but I did know people who knew him, such as Evan John Jones -- who himself was never sure of Cochrane's bonafides.

Something you learn along the path is that magickal ability does not always come packaged with moral uprightness. Actually, the Catholic Church says much the same thing in its doctrine of ex opere operato, meaning that the sacrament is still effective even if the priest is a sinner.

In North America, the "1734" (it's a message, not a date) tradition derives from a series of letters that Cochrane sent over a few months in the mid-1960s to Joe Wilson, then serving in the US Air Force. The two never met; Cochrane's suicide interrupted the correspondence.

When you read those letters--or Cochrane's lengthier correspondence with the English magician William Grey--you can see him hinting at Great Mysteries, playing a game of "I'll tell you one of my secrets if you tell me one of yours first," and suggesting that students try a new technique, which, if it is successful, the teacher will then claim to have known about all along.

He had the mojo, but he also (somewhat like Alex Sanders) had an inferiority complex about the Gardnerian Witches, who had a ten-year head start. His response was to claim access to traditions more secret, more traditional, more ancient--and then try to find evidence for them.

On this side of the pond, Gardnerian Witchcraft had arrived in book form in the 1950s and in person (the Bucklands) in the early 1960s. The interest in the Craft, however, was far greater than one "legit" Gardnerian coven could meet. Consequently, all sorts of new forms of American Wicca sprang up. The Cochrane-Wilson letters were copied and passed around, becoming one form of non-Gardnerian "traditional Craft" that people could recycle to show that they too had the Real Old Stuff.

This new mix of Pagan, ceremonial magical, old-school occultism, and other elements flourished in Southern California, of course. If you read Ann Finnin's The Forge of Tubal Cain, you get a lively who-said-what-to-whom first-person narrative of the Los Angeles-area Craft scene in the 1970s--including some discussion of links between the Society for Creative Anachronism, other SF-fantasy fandom and the Pagan movement, an area that has not been researched enough.

Finnin and her husband Dave have been group leaders for more than 30 years, and part of The Forge of Tubal Cain is devoted to issues of running a coven, avoiding problems, building a group mind, and so forth.

The remainder of the book gives portions of the training and ritual used in their group, the Roebuck, which may be seen as an extensive ritual and religious system based partly on Cochrane's sketchy teaching and inspiration. I recommend it, primarily as a chance to hear the thoughts of Craft elders talking about the things that work and the things that don't.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Handbook of Contemporary Paganism in Print

My contributor copy of the new Handbook of Contemporary Paganism from Brill arrived. (You can tell from the price that it is intended primarily for the institutional market.) Here is the table of contents:
"The Modern Magical Revival," Nevill Drury

"The Influence of Aleister Crowley on Gerald Gardner and the Early Witchcraft Movement," Henrik Bogdan

"Earth Day and Afterwards: American Paganism’s Appropriation of ‘Nature Religion'," Chas S. Clifton

"Re-enchanting the World: A Weberian Analysis of Wiccan Charisma," Robert Puckett

"Contemporary Paganism by the Numbers," Helen A. Berger

“'A Religion Without Converts' Revisited: Individuals, Identity and Community in Contemporary Paganism," Síân Reid

"The Wild Hunt: A Mythological Language of Magic," Susan Greenwood

"Reclamation, Appropriation and the Ecstatic Imagination in Modern Pagan Ritual," Sabina Magliocco

"Alchemical Rhythms: Fire Circle Culture and the Pagan Festival," J. Lawton Winslade

"Pagan Theology," Michael York

"Drawing Down the Goddess: The Ancient {Female} Deities of Modern Paganism," Marguerite Johnson

"The Return of the Goddess: Mythology, Witchcraft and Feminist Spirituality," Carole M. Cusack

"Witches’ Initiation—A Feminist Cultural Therapeutic?" Jone Salomonsen

"Animist Paganism," Graham Harvey

"Heathenry," Jenny Blain and Robert J. Wallis

"New/Old Spiritualities in the West: Neo-Shamans and Neo-Shamanism," Dawne Sanson

"Australian Paganisms," Douglas Ezzy

"Celts, Druids and the Invention of Tradition," James R. Lewis

"Magical Children and Meddling Elders: Paradoxical Patterns in Contemporary Pagan Cultural Transmission," Murphy Pizza

"Of Teens and Tomes: The Dynamics of TeenageWitchcraft and Teen Witch Literature," Hannah E. Johnston

"Rooted in the Occult Revival: Neo-Paganism’s Evolving Relationship with Popular Media," Peg Aloi

"Weaving a Tangled Web? Pagan Ethics and Issues of History, ‘Race’ and Ethnicity in Pagan Identity," Ann-Marie Gallagher

"‘Sacred’ Sites, Artefacts and Museum Collections: Pagan Engagements with Archaeology in Britain, "Robert J. Wallis and Jenny Blain

"Wolf Age Pagans," Mattias Gardell

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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Pentagram in 1964

I have more reviews coming, but for now, here is a PDF download of the first issue of The Pentagram, August 1964, price two shillings.

As far as I know, it was the first attempt to create a publication for the various branches of British Witchcraft, then only about fifteen years old, and it lasted but a short time.

Consider the paucity of the reading list on page 3.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

It's Been Linked with the Darkness!

Confront your misgivings! Join the Rev. Peter Owen-Jones, Anglican priest, into this journey into the deepest heart of darkness -- among some ordinary-seeming Australian Witches.

"I'm aware of certain objects, quite frankly, that have always disturbed me."

A giggle-worthy proof that pith-helmet anthropology of religion lives on. Will the Rev. Owen-Jones go skyclad?

(Via Caroline Tully.)

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: Stewart Farrar: Writer on a Broomstick

Stewart Farrar was constantly writing (journalism, fiction, radio and TV scripts, and more) and recording events--even notes on every Wiccan circle in which he participated. When he and Janet visited our home in 1991 (their first speaking tour in the US), he narrated each day's events into a micro-cassette recorder, and I wondered if he would ever transcribe all those notes!

It should come as no surprise to readers of Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick that he identified with the Egyptian scribe-god Thoth and even believed that he had followed the occupation of scribe in a past life in pharaonic Egypt.

The story of how he visited Alex and Maxine Sanders' coven to write a magazine article, stayed, met Janet Owen (34 years his junior), and eventually married her as they led their own hived-off group has become a Wiccan staple.

But as a good biographer should, Elizabeth Guerra starts with his upbringing as a bright, sexually repressed (he made up for that later) boy in a Christian Science home, where the message was that illness results from one's own bad thoughts.

"This tenet remained with Stewart throughout his life," Guerra writes, describing how it ate at him after he suffered a stroke in old age.

As an adult, Farrar made his living playing the typewriter--even as an artillery officer in World War II he authored instructional manuals.

His initiation into Witchcraft and marriage to Janet brought on a creative surge. He wrote a series of magic-flavored novels and, with her assistance, a series of books on Wiccan practice.

There had been writers who were Wiccan before (Margaret St. Clair, to name just one), but now a professional journalist set out to describe and systemize everything. Consider this description from the catalog of Eight Sabbats for Witches's North American publisher:

Presents the detailed and dramatic rituals for each of the eight Sabbats - the seasonal ceremonies and festivals intimately linked with the waxing and waning rhythms of the natural year. Using their Book of Shadows (the witch's inherited handbook) as their starting point, practicing witches Janet and Stewart have added mythological and folkloric material, much of it personally gathered.

To complete the picture, they also give in full detail the rituals for Casting and Banishing the Magic Circle, and the often misunderstood Great Rite of male-female polarity. They include moving rituals for Wiccaning (the witches' equivalent of Christening), Handfasting (the witch wedding), and Requiem (funeral).

In a sense, it's technical writing and (although he never called himself one) doing theology. That's what happens when you try to impose intellectual coherence on religious experience.

One might say that the Farrars' work moved British Traditional Witchcraft (in the North American sense) a long way toward being a complete religious system.

Similarly, in the 1980s the Farrars gave space in their book The Witches' Way: Principles, Rituals and Beliefs of Modern Witchcraft to Doreen Valiente's attempt to track down the facts of Gerald Gardner's claimed 1939 initiation. Stewart always wanted to get the facts straight. As Guerra writes,

As a journalist, Stewart could never tolerate plagiarism. His attitude was that if you were going to educate people, then educate them: do not feed them lies, falsely claiming others' material as your own, and do not hide behind ego, because it does nothing to further the cause of education.

We need biographies or autobiographies of key Pagan figures, as I have argued before. Guerra's biography of Stewart Farrar (which includes tributes from others who knew him) is a worthwhile addition to our bookshelves.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Galimaufry with "Season's Greetings"

¶ The Bad Witch mulls the issue of Pagan Yuletide songs and greeting cards. But, please, no e-cards. Nothing says "I couldn't be bothered" like an e-card.

¶ I am reading Keith Hartman's The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse. It's not as noir as it thinks it is, but it's a fun read if you like cozy gay Wiccan Baptist futuristic Southern mysteries.

¶ Don't laugh, kids--this will be you some day. Rock stars of the 1960s and 1970s in their parents' homes.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Process Theology and Feminist Wicca

In her new book, Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought, Denver priestess and theologian Constance Wise argues that process theology is uniquely appropriate for Paganism.

When we speak of the "Web of Being," she writes, "the interconnectivity of events posited by process though is so expansive across both time and space that it can scarcely be grasped by human thought. On the other hand, process cosmology provides a clear way to talk about the Web (114)."

Process thinkers' understanding of deity leans towards the abstract. It is not "hard polytheism." But process thought does offer a useful and challenging way to think about inter-connectedness and the Goddess.

It is the fourth book in AltaMira's Pagan Studies series.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pointy Hats and Pacifism

My favorite Bay Area witchy bloggers seem curiously quiet about the appropriation of witchy imagery by the antiwar protesters at Code Pink.

I don't normally get into politics on this blog, but whatthehell.

From a rhetorical standpoint, I am not sure if anyone's set political views have been changed by street theater -- giant puppets and all that stuff.

You can see from the comments that the Code Pink women are not doing the Craft or the larger Pagan movement any good.

Do you think they would have chosen to dress up as Catholic cardinals or Shiite mullahs? How about some big-nosed Jews?

Or how about dressing in buckskins and feather headdresses, while waving rubber tomahawks in an "antiwar dance." Oh no, they would never do that. It might be offensive.

No, they pick the stereotype green-faced Halloween witch instead. They parody our religion for their futile cause. Somehow I don't feel the compliment.

One ex-military Pagan wrote to conservative columnist Michelle Malkin to say he was embarrassed by Code Pink too.

And that is the thing about today's Pagans: for every lefty pacifist there is one (or probably more) military Pagan.

I wrote a paper on this topic once, during the flap over Wiccans at Fort Hood.

UPDATE, 13 May: One commenter suggests that the green faces may have been PhotoShopped in on Malkin's page. He could be right; and if so, image manipulation hurts her credibility. However, a photo from the Berkeley Daily Planet, certainly no right-wing source, does show pointy hats and cloaks--but it is from an earlier Code Pink protest. Newer photos seem harder to come by--I suspect that the Berkeley news media by now regard Code Pink as just part of the weather and turn instead to stuff like fraternity stabbings.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Another Serving

¶ A body-art slideshow, beginning with the signs of the Zodiac. (Probably NSFW.)

¶ Read the comments and see where you fit in.

¶ For your polytheistic bookshelf: Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, via Executive Pagan, who is reading it and other books.

¶ Info on an article on Jack Parsons, ceremonial magician and rocket scientist.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wiccan to Brief Civil Rights Commission

From a friend:

Patrick McCollum has just been selected to be on a special panel to be one of 6 people to brief the United States Commission on Civil Rights -- for presentation to the United States Congress and to the President of the United States -- about the state of religious discrimination in America.

He will talk about the differential treatment that Wiccans and Pagans receive in government institutions and programs, with the hope that our legislators will enact new policies to further pluralism and end religious discrimination. This briefing will be held in Washington, D.C .on February 8th, 2008 and will become an official part of the Congressional Record.

This is obviously an incredible honor and it will be the first time in US history that a Wiccan has been selected to present a briefing to advise the United States Government. He reports he will also be sworn in to the Goddess, which is also an important first.

More as I hear about it.

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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.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tribal Gallimaufry

¶ Some people think that modern life is cold and heartless and that it would be better to live in a tribe. But what happens when the tribe's inner circle does not want you? Sometimes it means that you lose your fat monthly check, for one thing.

¶ Blogger/journalist Rod Dreher is heated about about sexy Halloween costumes for little girls. Like a lot of his commenters, I think that the costume pictured would be fun for a kid to wear and sexy only to a pervert.

In 1985, David Garland, now 39, of Liverpool, NSW, did something similar, but in reverse. While bicycling, he was struck by a four-wheel drive. He wasn’t expected to recover from his injuries, but did, only to notice that he could now see and hear things imperceptible to others.

And he ended up Wiccan.

¶ Weirdest search string to bring a reader here lately: this are leaking car, basement, wicca.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Manufactured Conspiracy in Wiccan Publishing

I have started reading Aidan Kelly's Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion, published by Thoth Publications but also available from Amazon.

In simplest terms, it's an enlargement and reworking of Crafting the Art of Magic, Book 1, which Llewellyn published in 1991--Kelly's study of the origins of modern Wicca, based primarily on textual criticism of various versions of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.

Kelly published one earlier article on the BoS in my own zine, Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, which had a run of four issues from about 1984-1986. It is sort of fun to see it referred to again.

Because there was only Book 1 and no Book 2 back 15 years ago, a whole conspiracy theory has arisen, for example, that American Gardnerians somehow had the book suppressed. Even Thoth's copywriters can't resist: the back-cover copy reads, in part, "When the first edition of thisbook was released, conservative Gardnerian Witches attempted to suppress it....Even though its first printing quickly [!] sold out, the original publisher, faced with death threats and boycotts, agreed to abandon the project..."

Horse shit. Elephant dung. Monkey poop. Here are some facts:

1. Llewellyn typically then (and now, I suppose) kept first runs short, usually under 5,000 copies. If sales were good, more copies would be ordered in similar increments. Even one of their top Wiccan authors, Scott Cunningham, was selling only in the mid-five figures at that time.

2. Shortly after Crafting was released, I flew to Minnesota to spend a couple of days with Carl and Sandra Weschcke, who own Llewellyn, and then-acquisitions editor Nancy Mostad, discussing the series that I was editing for them and possible other projects.

On our way to dinner the first night, Carl asked me if I knew when Kelly would send the ms. for Book 2. He wanted to publish it. After thirty years in the occult publishing business, he probably treated the displeasure of his reading public less seriously than he treated Minnesota mosquitoes. Death threats indeed. Controversy is good for publishers, as Thoth is obliquely admitting by trying to manufacture some.

3. But Kelly's own problems at the time prevented him from ever delivering the manuscript. With no Book 2 in the pipeline, Book 1 was allowed to go out of print -- as the majority of Llewellyn titles do after their first press runs. No conspiracy there, just business.

Since Amazon advertises used copies of Crafting at prices from $46 to more than $150, you get much more by buying the new book, despite the cover hype. I have some minor issues with it -- I wish that it more reflected research into Wiccan origins done since the first book was written -- but it is still worthwhile.

Thoth also has reprinted Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki's The Forgotten Mage. It is a key background book in the emergence of contemporary Paganism from the milieu of early 20th-century ceremonial magic and esotericism.

UPDATE 10/25: Greetings if you came here from Wildhunt. (Thanks, Jason.) As I hope I made clear in my response to one commenter, I don't want to turn a discussion of this dubious book marketing into a pro/con discussion about Dr. Kelly and his difficult relationship with other American Gardnerians. Don't want to go there, OK?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gallimaufry in italiano

¶ I have nothing against the Good People, but I don't think they belong in law courts.

¶ Wicca: it really is a fashion statement.

¶ Francesca Howell, author of Magic with Gaia, speaks at an Italian Paganism conference (YouTube). Crappy video, probably from a cell phone, but interesting English and Italian soundtrack. How do you say "public outreach" in Italian, anyway? She was formerly at Naropa University but currently is living in Milan.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Animal, Vegetable . . . Wiccan?

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is novelist Barbara Kingsolver's new nonfiction book about her family's year of eating locally. Or to quote the blurb: "With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it."

The book has a Web site with more information, recipes, and local contacts. All good.

But consider this excerpt from the late-June chapter on Kingsolver's experiments with cheese-making:

I'm not sure why, since it takes less time to make a pound of mozzarella than to bake a cobbler, but most people find the idea of making cheese at home to be preposterous. If the delivery guy happens to come to the door when I'm cutting and draining curd, I feel like a Wiccan.

Wiccans (a) do clandestine things in the kitchen, (b) make cheese, (c) are preposterous, (d) all of the above?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Wiccan Wedding & the Strangeness of Memory

My wedding to M. was conducted by the HP and HPS of our coven at a Forest Service group campground near Colorado Springs. The campground reservation cost $10 or $15 back then, and the wedding finished with a potluck feast. I think we paid for some cheese and champagne. My sister baked a cake. Invitations were photocopied.

M. worked then as a state parole department investigator. The agents from her office brought us some gift or other—and also presented her with a homemade necklace of chicken bones. Cop humor.

My mother, who had been invited (I couldn’t keep her away) brought a bunch of her relatives, who had not been invited. One Southern Baptist cousin pronounced the ceremony “an abomination.” (He manages to be friendly enough, however, on the rare occasions that we see him.)

The attendants passed a tray of (hippie whole-wheat) moon cakes for the guests. Everyone took one except my mother. “Come on, Mother,” my sister said, “When in Rome . . . “

“No,” Mother said, stiffening her Anglican spine, “I’m not Dru-ish.” I guess being outdoors in a grove of pines made her think of Druids.

We had not bothered to explain that this was a Wiccan wedding, wrists tied, blood drops in the chalice, the whole bit. We figured we would just go ahead and do it.

For M.’s Irish-American stepmother, there was no problem: We just said it was “Celtic,” and she was happy. And her father was satisfied simply to see that the wedding license was genuine.

M.’s brother-in-law played his guitar, and her younger brother shot a video. Her family, although nominally Catholic, was never terribly judgmental—except for one odd thing that M. learned only earlier this month.

For thirty years, her sister-in-law has been thinking that Witchcraft involves sacrificing small animals, yet she knows that M. is all for protecting animals. So she has lived with this contradiction for decades. On M.’s recent visit to their home, she said that she had seen some ferrets in our house at the time of the wedding, and she had always assumed that they were the intended sacrificial victims.

But we never had ferrets! We never had any caged animals, just cats (then) and dogs (now).

Memory is a very strange thing. Hopefully all has been made clear now.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hunting the Good Graves

Caroline Tully, an Australian Witch, has started blogging with an emphasis on artistic expressions about Pagan religion and remembering the dead.

Under the photo of a Black Sabbath album cover that she found inspirational once upon a time, she writes:

I may as well go on and say that I think my identification as a Witch also has a lot to do with musing on visual imagery, including art. We Witches do love our real-world ritual objects and our "be here now" physicality in the exercise of our religion, don't we?

I concur.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quick Notes

¶ I went away for a high-school graduation and a small family reunion in one of the non-fashionable parts of Colorado, a trip that prompted these thoughts in my other blog.

¶ Ian Jamison, a British Pagan graduate student, seeks people to take The Pagan Environmental Engagement Survey. In some instances, such as the political parties environmental groups listed and the assumption that taxation is the cure for pollution, it has a British slant, but Pagans from other countries will still relate to most of it.

¶ A New York Times article describes Wicca as "a religion under wraps."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wicca and Christianity

I have not yet seen it, but English scholar Jo Pearson has a new book, Wicca and the Christian Heritage. Amazon-UK link here.

From the publisher's catalog:

What is Wicca? Is it witchcraft, Paganism, occultism, esotericism, magic, spirituality, mysticism, nature religion, secrecy, gnosis, the exotic or 'other'? Wicca has been defined by and explored within all these contexts over the past thirty years by anthropologists, sociologists and historians, but there has been a tendency to sublimate and negate the role of Christianity in Wicca's historical and contemporary contexts.

Joanne Pearson 'prowls the borderlands of Christianity' to uncover the untold history of Wicca. Exploring the problematic nature of the Wiccan claim of marginality, it contains a groundbreaking analysis of themes in Christian traditions that are inherent in the development of contemporary Wicca. These focus on the accusations which have been levelled against Catholisicm, heterodoxy and witchcraft throughout history: ritual, deviant sexuality and magic.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Teen Witches and Sociologists

Cover of Teenage Witches, by Helen Berger and Douglas EzzyTeenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for Self, a sociological study of young Pagan Witches, will be shipping in a few days from Rutgers University Press.

I have heard co-authors Helen Berger and Doug Ezzy give presentations from their research, which is excellent.

From the Rutgers University Press catalog:

As Helen A. Berger and Douglas Ezzy show in this in-depth look into the lives of teenage Witches, the reality of their practices, beliefs, values, and motivations is very different from the sensational depictions we see in popular culture. Drawing on extensive research across three countries-the United States, England, and Australia-and interviews with young people from diverse backgrounds, what they find are highly spiritual and self-reflective young men and women attempting to make sense of a postmodern world via a religion that celebrates the earth and emphasizes self-development.

Not to be confused with Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Wicca's Legimacy as Religion

It is often a bad idea to read the comments on political blogs. They tend to degenerate into vicious name-calling by anonymous persons all too quickly.

A recent post on the pentacle grave marker case at the political blog Winds of Change bemoaned the fact that Americans litigate over religion:

I abhor the kind of attitude that leads to people hassling Christians over creches at Christmas, and that spurred the ACLU to threaten to sue a Christian cross off the seal of the County of Los Angeles California.

At the same time, blogger David Blue continued,

This long struggle for religious fairness for those who have died defending America has now reached a satisfactory end, mostly because George W. Bush shot his mouth off too much, and consequently it was better for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to settle, with a non-disclosure agreement, than to defend a weak case in court.

And he praised Jason Pitz-Waters' "brilliant, link-rich posts at The Wild Hunt Blog" for their coverage.

The comments that follow are interesting. Many commenters argue for fairness: given that there are hundreds of Wiccans in the military, they deserve the same treatment as followers of Eckankar and other new religions, not to mention avowed atheists, who have their own military grave marker symbol.

Some comments make much of the newness of Wicca, while others note that all religions start as new religions. I was impressed that a couple of comments came from names that I know from religious-studies circles.

Personally, I found the comment thread interesting because it reminds me that much of the blogosphere is an echo chamber. People read bloggers with whom they agree, or they read their ideological opponents just so that they can make nasty comments, usually anonymously. I read some of these comments, and I wonder, "How can anyone still think that way?"

But of course they do. It is good to be reminded.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Wiccan Prison Chaplain Responds

A Wiccan prison chaplain writes,

Because Normal Ordinary Responsible People (NORPs) cannot conceive of committing horrendous acts themselves, we find it difficult to think or believe that there are people who commit horrendous acts willingly. We struggle to understand the incomprehensible. Since most people accept that others think like they do, when we hear of someone who thinks differently, and we see the horrible, painful results of that thinking, we assume that something must have "driven" them to it--an unjust, dysfunctional culture, bad parenting or an abusive childhood, mental illness, or a host of other reasons. But this theory of criminal behavior is badly flawed.

With more than 2,000,000 individuals currently incarcerated in prisons and jails in the United States, we have the highest absolute number of imprisoned persons in the world. There are currently some 6,000,000 people under some form of court-ordered supervision; electronic monitoring, probation or parole. These numbers are appalling, but they amount to less than 5% of our population. That means that more than 95% of Americans manage to live their lives without committing horrendous crimes, in spite of the fact that they live in this same sick dysfunctional culture. More than 99% manage to do it without murdering anybody.

The inmates that I work with, if they're honest with themselves and honest with me, all say that they made a choice to commit crime, either through an active choice, or by going along with someone else's decision. Many of them can cite addiction or abuse, or a host of other extenuating circumstances, but they acknowledge personal choice at the center of their decision. When pressed for a reason, the most common is that "it seemed like a good idea at the time".
(Emphasis added. Quoted with permission from the original writer, Martin Anthony.)

So when someone (as has happened) tries to deal with, for instance, the Virginia Tech shootings by going all Reclaiming ("Each of us embodies the divine."), the appropriate response might be, "Fine, but if they are trying to kill me, I am going to try to stop them with my own innate divinity--and whatever weapons are handy."


Monday, April 23, 2007

VA Approves the Wiccan Pentagram

The first message (from a Pagan staffer at the American Academy of Religion) hit my inbox at 12:28 today, and then the Colorado Pagan email lists lit up: The Veterans Adminstration approved the pentagram for veterans' grave markers.

(Pentagram, pentacle, same thing as far as the news media are concerned. Personally, to me the "pentacle" is a disk with a pentagram engraved or drawn on it, but I won't quibble.)

Credit for the heavy legal lifting goes to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who report the news here. Credit also to Circle Sanctuary for serving as the plaintiff.

The litigation charged that denying a pentacle to deceased Wiccan service personnel, while granting religious symbols to those of other traditions, violated the U.S. Constitution.

“This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation’s veterans,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It is a proud day for religious freedom in the United States.”

From what I heard last November from the spouse of one of the lawyers involved, Americans United pretty well had the VA nailed for violating their own regulations and were counting on the potential embarrassment of a court trial to scare the VA into doing the right thing. It looks like that legal strategy worked.

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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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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, February 05, 2007

Lady Sintana

Morning Glory Zell, Tim Zell, Lady Sintana in 1978Morning Glory Zell and Tim/Oberon Zell of the Church of All Words with Lady Sintana (right) at the Church of Wicca Samhain Seminar in 1978. Photo by Chas S. Clifton.)

Jason Pitz-Waters links to a newspaper article about Sintana (Candace Lehrman) and the House of Ravenwood, one of the best-known covens in the Atlanta area.

Ravenwood was also the subject of a book by a group of sociologists of religion: Allen Scarboro, et al., Living Witchcraft: A Contemporary American Coven (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994). Being sociologists, the authors concentrated quite a bit on issues of authority--when you have a charismatic and strong-willed founder who claims to have retired, has she really retired?

There is too much Lord-ing and Lady-ing in the Craft, mostly a bleed-through from the Society for Creative Anachronism, and it only gets in the way. British Witches, I have noticed, coming from a land where those titles mean something (like it or not), tend not to use them.

Sintana, however, could get away with it.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Helen Duncan's Family Tries Again for a Pardon

Helen Duncan, Spiritualist medium
Mary Martin was 11 years old when her father taught her to box. She would come home from school scratched and bruised, her ears ringing with abuse from the playground. Mary Martin had the unhappy distinction of being the granddaughter of Britain's last convicted witch.

Descendants of Helen Duncan, the "last convicted witch," are trying again for an official pardon.

It was the Spiritualists who worked hardest to get the old Witchcraft Act repealed, but the Wiccans who took advantage of the change.

The Guardian article, in my opinion, is incorrect in this statement:

Gerald Brousseau Gardner founded the modern Wicca movement in the 1940s, 11 years before the repeal of Britain's witchcraft laws. Followers revere nature, worship a goddess and practice ritual magic. In the 2001 census, 7,000 people listed Wicca as their religion.

On the contrary, during the 1940s Gardner was still checking out various esoteric groups and collecting initiations, which gives the lie to his statement about being initiated in 1939 at Dorothy Clutterbuck's house and thus finding the spiritual path that he had always been seeking.

It is much more likely that he and his associates were able to create Wicca in the early 1950s, after it was no longer illegal to call yourself a witch and after he and Cecil Williamson had founded their witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man.

The Boscastle Witch Museum is its successor. And it has a blog.

My earlier post on Helen Duncan is here.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wicca's Charm revisited

I briefly mentioned Wicca's Charm earlier, but now Jason Pitzl-Waters links to an interview with author Catherine Sanders that includes this priceless evaluation:

It's a great resource for parents trying to understand why their teenager has suddenly started to wear all black and dance in circles around the backyard trees.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

She Went among the Witches

Waterbrook, Random House's evangelical-publishing operation, has announced Wicca's Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, a new journalistic survey of Wicca in America.

From the Web site:

Hundreds of thousands of people practice Wicca and other forms of modern Pagan spirituality in America today, and journalist Catherine Edwards Sanders wanted to understand why such belief systems are rapidly attracting followers. When a routine magazine assignment led her to realize that her stereotype of Wiccans as eccentric spiritual outsiders was embarrassingly misinformed, her curiosity compelled her to understand the Wiccan mystique. With the support of a journalism fellowship, Sanders spent a year interviewing neo-Pagans and witches and found that the lure of this emerging spirituality was not the occult, but rather a search for meaning in an increasingly fragmented and materialistic culture.

Publishing history repeats itself. The "routine magazine assignment" sounds just like the genesis of Stewart Farrar's What Witches Do (1969), while "journalism fellowship" echoes the writing of Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon (1979).

Adler, I am told, is also at work on her own re-working of DDTM, although I don't know if it will be a third edition or an entirely new book.

What I wonder about is how Sanders ended up with a publisher of chiefly Christian books, and what that placement bodes for this one.

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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Helen Duncan, accidental godmother of Wicca

A movement is underway in Britain to clear the name of Helen Duncan, a Scottish Spiritualist medium sent to prison during World War II under the Witchcraft Act of 1735.

She was convicted of faking mediumistic abilities, but as this reviewer says, some people thought she was a true medium at times:

Her partisans, and conspiracy theorists in general, looked back to 1941, when at an earlier séance in Portsmouth Helen had raised the spirit of a young sailor. In life, he had served in HMS Barham. News of his materialisation soon spread among the families in the port. This was a source of dismay to the Admiralty, who had not yet admitted that the warship had gone down.

A film is now being made about her life.

What is the Wiccan connection? After the war, British Spiritualists lobbied Parliament to repeal the 1735 act. Eventually, it was replaced by a milder law. The repeal occurred in 1951--and suddenly here was Gerald Gardner proclaiming the existence of the hither-to unknown Southern Coven of British witches.

Cynic that I am, I think that Gardner & Friends only felt safe to create the coven then, in part to furnish a "back story" to Cecil Williamson and Gardner's new witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man, which opened that year.

Indeed, it may be the museum that makes 1951 significant, and that invoking the repeal of the 1735 anti-witchcraft law was merely another of Gardner's dramatizations.

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Monday, May 31, 2004

A delayed reaction to Barbara Bradley Hagerty's NPR pieces

Two weeks after blogging about it, I finally listened to National Public Radio reporter Barbara Badley Hagerty's interview with the (mostly) teenaged Wiccans.

A thought struck me: Is Wicca still the only religion that requires a rebuttal? In this base, Bradley Hagerty goes to some teens at some big evangelical church in Colorado Springs for quotes about falling into Satan's clutches and that sort of thing.

Elsewhere in her series, someone outside that church discussed the Pentacostal Toronto Blessing, but it was still within an overall Christian context.

One non-rebuttal voice was the manager of Celebration, the leading New Age (for lack of a better term) bookstore in Colorado Springs. Twenty years ago, when Celebration was much smaller, that job was filled by the notorious MC herself. Originally, the woman who started Celebration, Coreen Toll, was highly skeptical about Paganism, being at the time pretty much of a "white light" New Ager herself.

To her credit, Toll, who started quite small (one shelf of astrology books and a rack of imported India-print dresses in one room of her house) and built the store up from there, later developed an apprecation of Paganism in its various forms (Ka-ching Ka-ching).

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

More Wiccan History

"The Founding Fathers of Wicca," a graduate-school paper by Susan Young, currently at the University of Alberta, explores Aleister Crowley's liturgical and other influence on Gardnerian Wicca. It was published in Axis Mundi: A Student Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, whose article index is here. The paper is in downloadable PDF format, about 180 KB.

Paganism on National Public Radio

This week, National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program has been running a series on new religious movements, including Paganism. The initial segment, which includes an interview with J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, can be heard online here.

If I am able to hear Thursday's segment on Wicca live, it will be picked up from KRCC's repeater somewhere on the highway around Wagon Mound, New Mexico.

That's right, the notorious M.C. and I are going on the road for a few days. Blogging will resume around the 19th.

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Sunday, November 09, 2003

A Voice in the Forest

Here is something that you won't read about in The Spiral Dance or most of the other how-to-be-a-witch books. It's rare, but it happens: covens that claim mediumistic communication with their Craft ancestors. I've heard it claimed for followers of Robert Cochrane and Gwydion Pendderwen both. Gwydion was a friend of mine, too, and I've had some experiences there, but I don't go for pestering the Mighty Dead on a regular basis.

About three years ago I read the first edition of A Voice in the Forest, published by a small press in Massachusetts and presented as spiritual communication with Alex Sanders (1926?-1988). Sanders was one the leading figures in Britain's Craft scene in the 1960s and 1970s--a bigger publicity hound than Gerald Gardner, even, but still, according to people who knew him, an effective and daring magician.

As far as publishers were concerned, one of his best assets was his then-wife and high priestess Maxine (b. 1946). The camera loved Maxine. And Maxine, although she broke with Alex in the 1970s, apparently endorses this book: "The contact described within the book was so obviously true it gave me goose bumps."

This book's author, Jimahl di Fiosa of Boston, says that the communication began in 1998, ten years after Sanders' death, and continues to the present day. A new, expanded edition of A Voice in the Forest Is to be published in April 2004.

I never knew Sanders, but I did know several of his students. I can't say whether the communications are genuine or not, but I'm more interested in the idea of them as yet another example of the constant discourse about Wiccan lineage.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

More on 'Bast'

A reliable source tells me that as of two years ago, Edghill was heading an 'ultra-conservative' Gardnerian coven. Maybe that outcome fits better than my hypothesis of disillusionment with the contemporary Wiccan scene. Or maybe it's the same thing.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

The 'Bast' Mysteries

I recently bought Bell, Book, and Murder, the 3-in-1 edition of Rosemary Edghill's "Bast" mysteries: three short mystery novels set in 1990s Manhattan whose protagonist is Karen Hightower (Craft name "Bast"), a thirty-something graphic designer. Her design business is called High Tor Graphics, both a pun on her name and a tribute to a famous SF novel.

While the mysteries are not always tightly plotted and leave lots of "Now why did he do that?" questions in the reader's mind, Edghill has a firm grasp on the Pagan scene, with its coded language and social nuances.

I read the first two in the series soon after they came out, but I never got around to the last one, Bowl of Night (1996). Although I'm a long way from New York City, I thought that I recognized a few people that I knew and some places too, thinly disguised. Was that Judy Harrow? John Yohalem? Bast's coven, Changing--does that sound a bit like "Proteus"?

Reading all three in quick succession, though, made me think they they charted Edghill's gradual disenchantment with the Pagan scene. By the end of the trilogy, Bast drifting away from the rest of Changing coven and trying out in her mind the possibilities for finding a new high priest (she's Gardnerian) and forming her own. But I would bet that if there were a fourth book, it would show Bast as a solitary, more emotionally disconnected from the world of gossipy metaphysical bookstores, festivals, and other Pagan dress-up events.

In the first book, Bast says, "The day I discovered that all Witches don't believe in magic was a great shock to me." Now I do not know Rosemary Edghill at all. I have never read her fantasy novels nor her romance novels. But I wonder if someone who writes fantasy was hoping to find a certain magic in Wicca, but she did not find it--and so she moved on.

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

Evan John Jones 1936-2003

On the 2nd, Catherine Bundock, John's daughter, notified me that he had died at home in Brighton (Sussex) on Sunday evening. I met John via letter and telephone in the early 1990s, when at the suggestion of Carl Weschcke, president of Llewellyn Publications, he contributed a chapter to my anthology Witchcraft and Shamanism, the third book in Llewellyn's Witchcraft Today series.

We did not meet in person until 1999, after we had worked together on Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance, a book which is about 80 percent John and 20 percent mine, at most.

I'll miss John's wry take on politics (Pagan and secular), Army life and life in general. A veteran of British campaigns of the 1950s in Malaysia and Suez, he retained a fascination for certain now-obsolete vehicles, such as the M2 halftrack, and I had just located a historic halftracks poster that I had been planning to send him as a gift.

There is a room for him in the Castle.

You can read John's chapter on Robert Cochrane, magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain, online.Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance is out of print but still available second-hand through such sources as Advanced Book Exchange.

LEFT: John Jones, left, and Robert Cochrane, in about 1965.

Dave and Ann Finnin of the Ancient Keltic Church contributed this recollection.

On Sunday, Evan John Jones, author of Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed and Masks of Tubal Cain exited this earth plane at the age of 67. While we were deeply saddened, we were not surprised. John had been suffering for the last ten-or-so years from emphysema and would wheeze while he puffed on the hand-rolled cigarettes he refused to give up. I suspect that he passed suddenly because the red-eared Hounds of Annwyn had to sneak up on him when he wasn't looking. They wouldn't have gotten him any other way.

We first met John Jones in the summer of 1982. He was a short, stocky Welshman with a pugnacious square jaw and flaming red hair who lived with his wife and three children in a neat little house on the outskirts of Brighton. We had contacted him through a mutual friend with question regarding the writings of Roy Bowers (a/k/a Robert Cochrane). John had been in Roy's group during the1960s and for the next twenty years (plus three visits and countless letters and phone calls), he gave us enough information and insight so that we could continue to explore Roy's system on our own.There is no way we can adequately express our gratitude to the man who was our teacher and guide for over two decades. What he taught us was priceless and we will miss him.

Dave & Ann Finnin

Clan of Tubal Cain

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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Wiccan autobiography, lack of

I have been reading High Priestess: The Life & Times of Patricia Crowther, which, admittedly, is a reworking and revision of two earlier autobiographical books by this English Wiccan priestess, Witch Blood! and One Witch's World.

Why do American Witches never write their memoirs? The nearest I have seen is Margot Adler's Heretic Heart, and even it is more about her "Red diaper baby" childhood and adolescence, dealing with the Craft only toward the end. Are we afraid of being put down for being "self-centered"? I can think of some people whose memoirs I would love to read, frankly.

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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Pokemon the Pagan

Here is a scholarly controversy that I had been unware of: whether there is a conflict between the teachings of Wicca and of Pokemon. That assumes that Pokemon has "teachings," of course.

Meanwhile, getting ready for a workshop on traditional European entheogens next summer, I'm enjoying revisting Eliot Cowan's Plant Spirit Medicine.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Wicca's appeal among the young

Wicca's Wicked Appeal among the Young

The Catholic news agency Zenit offers this interview with journalist Carlo Climati, author of a book called "Young People and Esotericism," on the growing menace of Wicca.

Sample quote: "If one wants to succeed in atttracting a girl, one doesn't have to buy an amulet but give her a bunch of flowers."


Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Wiccan books need "earth tones"?

A couple of months ago, Judy Harrow, author of several worthwhile books on Wicca, mentioned to me that publishers--or at least one of her publishers--have decided that such books' covers require (1) a pre-Raphaelite female and (2) earth tones. Check out the cover of Devoted to You, an anthology on the Pagan deities that she recently edited for Kensington Books. See what I mean?

In my darker moments, I wonder if Wicca has gone from being a mystery religion to a fashion statement in fifty years. If you're young, unconventional, angry at the world, you announce, "I'm Wiccan." You don't, however, want to say "I'm a witch," because then people expect you to "do things."

As for larger Paganism, check out this page of so-called Pagan blogs. Exactly what's Pagan about it?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Reprinting "Crafting the Art of Magic"

A round of discussion on the Nature Religions Scholars Network e-mail list about the desirability of reprinting Aidan Kelly's book on the origins of Gardnerian witchcraft, Crafting the Art of Magick Book 1 (there was no Book 2), which came out a decade ago from Llewellyn Publications. Although primarily based on textual criticism applied to the Book of Shadows, the book did make some strong points about the 1940s-1950s Wiccan revival, particularly the point that Gerald Gardner and friends were creating a new religion and that that was something that humans do. On the other hand, apparently valuable parts were edited out of the Llewellyn edition, there were editing errors, etc.

I may check with the editorial director at Llewellyn to see if she would entertain the idea, but I suspect I will hit a stone wall, based at least partly on how personally miffed Carl Weschcke seemed to be back in 1992 that Kelly had not delivered the ms. for the sequel. And despite the publication of Gus DiZerega's Pagans and Christians, there is still that Llewellyn prejudice against "scholarly" books.

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