The Greatest “Occult” Movies

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Still need to see this.

From Ultraculture, a list of nine great movies about the occult and magick — and nine more.

But since there are “honorable mentions” as well, you get more!

Obvious choices (Rosemary’s BabyThe Exorcist), as well as films that present the subject in an exploitative manner (such as those of Dario Argento) have been left out… as have the Harry Potter movies, because that’s just too easy.

The list starts with Häxen: Witchcraft through the Ages (1922), and I have to say that that was one I quite half way through because I was falling asleep. Maybe Twenties audiences were different. But there is a YouTube video linked, and you can see for yourself.

They have Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet, but give his Orpheus just an honorable mention. I would have reversed them!

Lots of Kenneth Anger, of course.

The Anthropologist and the Ancestors

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Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto

Thanks to Sabina Magliocco, I read this interesting piece about a Dutch anthropologist experiencing an ancestor ritual, one involving both the ancestors of the people in New Guinea whom he is visiting and his own.

And even though science failed to explain everything, the way I viewed the world was based on the idea that everything – with time – could be explained with logic and observations of reality.

Most likely, spiritual manifestations were simply projections of the unconscious, the deceitful trickery of sensory impressions or misunderstandings of natural phenomena.

I had no problem leading a life without spirits, but even so, deep down I always had a nagging feeling that I’d cut myself off from a lot of experiences.

The photo with the article is too perfect. I have cropped it here.

In turn it reminded me of an collection published twenty years ago: Being Changed: The Anthropology of Extraordinary Experience. (The late Judy Harrow told me about that one.)

A reviewer wrote,

Anthropologists of recent generations have always expressed enormous sympathy with ‘non-rational’ modes of thought, with the ‘supernatural’ experiences of people around the world. What they have rarely in their scholarly writing admitted to doing is giving any credence to the ‘irrational’ themselves—though such beliefs have long been common among those who have lived and worked for extended periods in cultures different from those that dominate Western society.

Now, in a ground-breaking volume, leading anthropologists describe such experiences and analyze what can occur “when one opens one’s self to aspects of experience that previously have been ignored or repressed.” The ten contributions to the book include Edith Turner on “A Visible Spirit Form in Zambia,” Rab Wilkie on “Ways of Approaching the Shaman’s World,” and Marie Francoise Guedon on “Dene Ways and the Ethnographer’s Culture.”

Note that it came from a small publisher, not a university press! But these experiences do happen, and it is good to get them into print.

Meanwhile, if you are interesting in “going native” in the physiological sense, I wholeheartedly recommend Carl Hoffman’s Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art.

It’s the best combination of archival research, history, and walking the ground where it happened, talking to people who were there.

And this is getting away from anthropologists . . . but spirits and possibly angry tribal peoples have been evoked to explain the “Dyatlov Pass Incident.”

Writer Donnie Eichar followed much the same methodology as did Hoffman for his own 2013 book, Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Some people treated those deaths as “high weirdness,” but his explanation is more naturalistic — and fairly convincing.

Why “Aliens” Might Be Invisible

Magonia, the review blog of esoteric books (0r should that be, books on esoterica?), recently revisited two books on Unidentified Flying Objects from the 1950s by Morris K. Jessup, the first writer, they say, to use the term “UFO” in a commercial publication.

Ah, those were the days, I take it, when the assumed evidence for the reality of alien spacecraft was growing steadily. Soon we would know the truth! Governments would be forced to admit that there was Someone Else! Perhaps a disk-shaped spacecraft would float down onto the White House lawn — or in Red Square, why not? — and a being would step out, proclaiming, “We come in peace.”

Or, conversely, the aliens would not be peaceful, and Earth would have to put aside its wars and rivalries to unite in a battle to save humanity. We have all seen book and movie versions of these possible scenarios, going back to War of the Worlds in 1897, at least.

Astronomers have now found — by calculation if not direct observation — many planets that orbit their suns not too close and not too far — the habitable zone — and which, therefore, could possibly contain life “as we know it.”

But getting there is the thing. With our chemically fueled rockets, which are limited in size, even a trip to Mars would take half a year or more. And right now, that would be a one-way trip — although some people are still volunteering. It did not take so much fuel for astronauts to escape the Moon, but Mars would require quite a bit more.

“Hyperdrive” and “warp drive” are science-fiction plot devices, not technology that is anywhere in sight.

So when it comes to actual physical aliens visiting us, I see only two possibilities:

1. They travel slower than the speed of light, which means that they either have incredibly long lifespans or that they have learned to  “hibernate” while traveling for many years.

2. They travel faster than the speed of light using a sort of “hyperdrive.” But if they can do that, what else can they do?

They would have no need to land a spaceship on the edge of town, leaving scorched spots on the ground, drop a ladder, and climb down wearing silvery suits, looking for someone to put on their operating table and probe.

Instead, their technology would so far ahead of ours that it would seem invisible to us. And so might they. We would not even know that we had been observed.

That blog’s name, Magonia, pays homage, I am sure, to French astronomer Jacques Vallée and to the name of a land in the clouds., taken from a medieval French tale. Vallée borrowed the name when he wrote Passport to Magonia, introducing his “interdimensional hypothesis.”

Briefly, it states that the Visitors/Fairies/aliens etc. are not from Out There but from In Here, “visitations from other ‘realities’ or ‘dimensions’ that coexist separately alongside our own.”

Maybe they live in Icelandic boulders, or as someone in a dream once told me, “inside the walls.” Either way, they should not be disturbed. Contact with them can be extremely upsetting.

This idea has long made more sense to me than the idea of physical “flying saucers” coming chug-chug-chug through interstellar space. Now you see them, now you don’t.

She Started Life as “Astarte Lulu” . . .

. . . and ended it as “Louise.” But read who her father was. Muhler20141207_20141206

I don’t see any family resemblance though.

Still, there is a story here!

Animal Sacrifice and ‘Hard’ Polytheism

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A sacrifice to Kali in Nepal. (Washington Post)

There was some discussion last week at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting as to whether the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group should sponsor or co-sponsor a session devoted to issues surrounding animal sacrifice.

Some voices in the Pagan world suggest that you are not really a “hard” polytheist (truly understanding the gods as independent beings) unless you do it or at least accept its feasibility. Certainly it was a chief feature of civic Paganism in the ancient Mediterranean world. For many people, probably their chief or only opportunity to eat red meat was in the context of communal sacrifice.

At any rate, if being a hard polytheist is the goal and sacrifice is a way to get there, then these Nepalese Hindus in the middle of a sacrifice of thousands of animals are the “hardest” (and perhaps the longest and thickest) of polytheists.

A New ‘Guide’ for Lithuanian Romuva

Jonas Trinkunas, the leader of Lithuania’s Romuva Pagan movement, died last January — click here for video of his funeral.

His successor as “guide” has now been elected: Kriva Inija Trinkuniene.

Inija Trinkuniene was born in 1951  . . . in 1969 graduated from high school in 1974 . . .  at Vilnius University has gained a master’s degree in psychology. Since 1974 she has been working sociologist Academy of Philosophy and Sociology, since 2001 – at the Institute for Social Research, now called the Lithuanian Social Research Centre.

For more information and photos, here is a Google-translated article from Lithuania.

Get the Harvard Classics, Free

The Harvard Classics, also known as  “Dr. Eliot’s/The Five Foot Shelf of Books,”  are available as a free download.

From a time when university presidents actually cared what people read, as opposed to just the size of their donations:

What does the massive collection preserve? For one thing . . .  it’s “a record of what President Eliot’s America, and his Harvard, thought best in their own heritage.” Eliot’s intentions for his work differed somewhat from those of his English peers. Rather than simply curating for posterity “the best that has been thought and said” (in the words of Matthew Arnold), Eliot meant his anthology as a “portable university”—a pragmatic set of tools, to be sure, and also, of course, a product. He suggested that the full set of texts might be divided into a set of six courses on such conservative themes as “The History of Civilization” and “Religion and Philosophy,” and yet, writes Kirsch, “in a more profound sense, the lesson taught by the Harvard Classics is ‘Progress.’” “Eliot’s [1910] introduction expresses complete faith in the ‘intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization.’”

These books were in the public library of the Colorado town where I went to most of high school. The one that I checked out over and over, of course, was the mythology volume: Beowulf, The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel — tales like that. Over and over.

Sexuality and New Religious Movements

sex & nrmsSexuality and New Religious Movements, a collection edited by Henrik Bogdan (associate editor of The Pomegranate) and Jim Lewis, an American teaching in Norway, has been released by the academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

So far it is only in hardback, hence expensive.

Jeffrey Kripal, a noted scholar on sex and spirituality, has this to say:

Sex is not just sex. As anyone who has deeply engaged the history of religions knows, human sexuality runs the gamut from the most mundane fetish or fantasy to the profundities of charismatic authority, mystical experience, discarnate erotic encounter, alien abduction, even human deification. The essayists in this new volume demonstrate this still ill-understood truth in abundance and with astonishing historical and psychological detail. They thus take us further down the road toward a genuine understanding of our real situation in this weird, weird world.

I have an essay in there, written long enough ago now that I have trouble remembering what I said — and, who knows, I might want to revise some of those opinions. But the opening was good: it started with this sacred procession.

A New Investigation of Fairy Encounters

This request for help with a compilation of contemporary Fairy encounters and lore comes from Simon Young of the re-launched Fairy Investigation Society. The FIS was founded in 1927, died in the early 1990s, and in late 2014 it came back to life.

The survey (‘the fairy census’) is split into three parts: (i) for those who have seen fairies, (ii) those who have second-hand accounts of fairies and (iii) a more general one on fairy belief, which can be filled out by anyone who understands the word ‘fairy’, I did it with my four-year-old daughter yesterday . . . I have used the phrase ‘associated with the FIS’ in all press releases. I did this because I thought it might be a good way to attract extra members, as I was trusting in coverage around the world in the two years it runs. In the first forty eight hours we had forty detailed fairy sightings (in the first and second category). Just to put this in perspective the great and energetic Marjorie Johnson managed a couple of hundred sightings in her two year survey, 1955–1956. It would be great to get to two thousand, which would mean by far the biggest folklore survey of its kind.

He is also the author of a paper on the original Fairy Investigation Society, available at Academia. edu, along with other of his works.

Link to the survey.

I have previously mentioned Diane Purkiss’s historical survey of fairy lore, and I still hold the position that fairies are not your friends.

The Viking “Blood Eagle” Never Happened, Says Historian

ageofthevikingsA Swedish archaeologist reviews a new book, Anders Winroth’s The Age of the Vikings, and makes this observation:

Myself, I was intrigued to learn that the infamous, messy and impractical “blood eagle” murder method may just be the fruit of High Medieval writers misunderstanding one of the countless references in Viking Period poetry to carrion birds munching on the slain (p. 37). There is to my knowledge no osteological evidence for it. Also interesting to me, I can’t recall reading about the Spanish Moor Al-Tartushi’s report on life in Hedeby before (p. 197). But that may just be because I’m not an historian.

Funny thing, I had been thinking of that alleged method of torture/execution a couple of days before.

Read the rest at his blog: “New Popular Book on the Viking Period.”