on May 25, 2015, 9:11 PM,
by Chas Clifton
and received No Comments ».
(National Museum of Denmark)
The acidic peat surrounding this grave of a Bronze Age girl, labeled a “priestess” for her elaborate jewelry, preserved her clothing and hair but not her skeleton. The burial was found in 1921, but only this month did analysis reveal that, for instance, the wool in her skirt came from the Black Forest region of German, but also that she herself may have traveled back and forth.
The Bronze Age teenager was wearing a wool skirt belted with a large bronze disk with spirals on it.
“She looks, in a way, very modern, in this kind of miniskirt and a kind of T-shirt,” [Danish researcher Karin] Frei told Live Science. (Her unique fashion sense has inspired scores of Pinterest-worthy re-enactments.)
We seek proposals for an essay collection entitled The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947, to be proposed to Ashgate’s new Among the Victorians and the Modernists series. Focusing on the development, popular diffusion, and international networks of British occulture between 1875-1947, the interdisciplinary volume will capitalize on the recent surge of scholarly interest in the late Victorian occult revival by tracing the development of its central and residual manifestations through the fin de siècle and two world wars. We aim to challenge the polarization of Victorian and modernist occult art and practice into discrete expressions of either a nostalgic reaction to the crisis of faith or a radical desire for the new. The collection will also map the affinities between popular and elite varieties of occultism in this period, recognizing the degree to which esoteric activities and texts relied on and borrowed from the exoteric sphere.
on May 14, 2015, 1:30 PM,
by Chas Clifton
and received 3 Comments ».
On 4 December 1969 a press party was held for a documentary film on Witchcraft, Legend of the Witches, directed by Malcolm Leigh. Among the media types attending was a magazine writer on assignment, a fifty-something man named Stewart Farrar, but that is another story.
Legend of the Witches offers a very Margaret Murray-style reading of the “Old Religion” — which everyone in the Craft wholeheartedly believed in then, I think — complete with the “Plantagenet dynasty as pro-Pagan sacred kings” legend, the bit about Joan of Arc being “really a witch,” and the alleged founding of the Order of the Garter as a group of covens with royal patronage.
One cult-movie site says, “Legend Of The Witches remains one of those films so ephemeral and so synonymous with the very concept of ‘collectable’ that you sometimes wonder if people are refusing to buy it or maybe even refusing to acknowledge its availability in order to preserve the legend.”
It is all presented very seriously:
The narrator (whose name does not seem to appear on the credits, and who employs the quintessentially polite, Ealing-trained yet slightly foreboding tone of voice so beloved of most contemporaneous documentaries, not too dissimilar to the camp voiceover that links the tracks on the equally-legendary 666 album by Greek prog-rockers Aphrodite’s Child) delivers several pieces of information which, although maybe not entirely grounded in fact, seem well-informed and at least blessed with a certain degree of enthusiasm for the subject.
The star is Alex Sanders, assisted by his Witch Queen, his wife Maxine in her bleach-blonde days. Sanders leads coven ritual, sacrifices a rooster and divines from its entrails, performs poppet magic at great length, and officiates at a Luciferian Mass, thus indulging his love of ecclesiastical vestments.
That era was the peak of his publicity seeking, and Maxine was the most photographed nude Witch of the 1960s. In her autobiography Fire Child she writes,
[In 1969] the requests for interviews and documentaries continued; filming took priority over ritual wrok. The new flat was constantly abuzz with people who wanted to know the witches for one reason or another. If we were not filming or appearing on some television show, people would crowd into the living room to listen to Alex talk. They were beginning to worship him. Alex was, in my opinion, developing megalomaniac tendencies. He gegan to use tacky shock tactics that did not portray the Craft in a true light (p. 159).
The video is available on YouTube, as linked, and elsewhere. You can also buy it on Amazon. I would not show it to new students without a lot of explaining, but then I am one who is more offended by historically unsupported statements than by chicken sacrifice.
He speaks of Hellenismos mainly, but what he says — as the commenters note — is broadly applicable.
Briefly, his thesis is that the Internet privileges communicators — the “chattering classes” — over doers.
Now I am a card-carrying member of the scribal class — somewhere in the house there should be an old Colorado Press Association ID card, and even rarer, in my desk is my Universal Life Church press pass — so should I be offended.
Not at all. Sannion makes some interesting points.There is more to Paganism(s) than the blogosphere and Twitter. But often you wouldn’t know it. Read the whole thing.
In writing his monumental works on sexual behavior, Kinsey not only collected data with questionnaires, he created data (filming his research assistants having sex, for instance) and appropriated other people’s data, sometimes lying about his sources.
In the most notorious case (I think this was in the movie), he based his narrative on the sexual experiences of children on the precise and detailed records kept by one particular pedophile, which he took at face value. (But was that a scream of pain or an orgasm?)
A British Channel 4 documentary on this controversial research has never been aired in the United States (What’s up, PBS?), but you can see it on YouTube. It’s very good.
In retrospect Kinsey’s judgment in not anticipating such misinterpretations, and in placing so much emphasis on this one man’s evidence, can be questioned.
Note the use of the passive voice, favored by institutional spokesmen who do not really believe in their own message.
I don’t know if Kinsey ever read Crowley’s notebooks, but the very association is enough for some people to condemn him just for that.
For Kinsey, it was all data. “Kinsey worshiped data,” says one of the people in the documentary. Even Nazi pedophiles. But I see no evidence that he ever used Crowley’s sex-magick diaries, despite looking for them.
UPDATE:Crowley scholar Marco Pasi tells me that Kenneth Anger did share some of Crowley’s diaries with Kinsey — but is there evidence that Kinsey used them in his writing?
on May 8, 2015, 4:38 AM,
by Chas Clifton
and received 1 Comment ».
Academic bloggers Megan Kate Nelson and Elizabeth Covart are re-thinking the way that we wear badges at conventions—and other forms of labeling. What might work better than NAME and INSTITUTION (or for the non-affiliated, CITY)?
In Nelson’s post, I like “Academic lineage, a la Game of Thrones. Everyone always asks anyway (which I find bizarre when you’re 15 years out of graduate school), so you might as well cop to it.”
It’s true, at the American Academy of Religion, House McCutcheon sneers at the remnants of House Eliade. We might as well be open about it.
on May 7, 2015, 11:33 AM,
by Chas Clifton
and received Comments Off on The Slut, the Priestess, and/or the Poet.
Sappho holding a lyre, by Charles-August Mengin, 1877.
A recent article in The New Yorker, “How Gay was Sappho?” re-examines two questions about the famous poet of antiquity:
1. Was her poetry really “personal,” as opposed to something like the Iliad, which clearly was created for public performance?
2. Although she lived on the island of Lesbos, was she really a small-l lesbian? In ancient times, apparently, Lesbos was allegedly famed for a different sexual practice.
But then Sappho is no ordinary poet. For the better part of three millennia, she has been the subject of furious controversies—about her work, her family life, and, above all, her sexuality. In antiquity, literary critics praised her “sublime” style, even as comic playwrights ridiculed her allegedly loose morals. Legend has it that the early Church burned her works. (“A sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness,” one theologian wrote, just as a scribe was meticulously copying out the lines that Obbink deciphered.) A millennium passed, and Byzantine grammarians were regretting that so little of her poetry had survived. Seven centuries later, Victorian scholars were doing their best to explain away her erotic predilections, while their literary contemporaries, the Decadents and the Aesthetes, seized on her verses for inspiration. Even today, experts can’t agree on whether the poems were performed in private or in public, by soloists or by choruses, or, indeed, whether they were meant to celebrate or to subvert the conventions of love and marriage. The last is a particularly loaded issue, given that, for many readers and scholars, Sappho has been a feminist heroine or a gay role model, or both. “As far as I knew, there was only me and a woman called Sappho,” the critic Judith Butler once remarked.
Every so often a new scrap of her poetry turns up — a recent such discovery sparked this article. Isn’t there a complete scroll of her poems buried somewhere in a jar or a collapsed villa, waiting to be found?
Twenty-seven hundred years later, we still collect her fragments and yearn for more.
on May 6, 2015, 2:30 PM,
by Chas Clifton
and received 1 Comment ».
This cartoon was not part of the New York Times story, in case you wondered.
A campaign to legalize LSD, MDMA, and other psychedelics in Norway reaches for ancient precedents. Didn’t the Sami (Lapp) shamans maybe use entheogens? What about those Viking who allegedly chewed on Amanita muscaria?