Feeding My Little Archive to Bigger Ones

Brilliant idea of the day: clean my desk. No, I don’t mean just shove things to the edges and sweep up the crumbs, I mean uncover some mahogany!

I spent the last two weeks of August crashing to meet a deadline for a special issue of the Journal of Religion and Violence devoted to violence and new religious movements. Wicca is, of course, a new religious movement, but it is an outlier in many ways, as I discuss (no charismatic leader, no millennarian prophecy, etc.)

Two years ago, in a post titled “Kicked Back in Time,” I wrote about receiving cartons of material relating to the murder trial of a Texas Wiccan leader: witnesses’ depositions, correspondence, legal paperwork, psychic impressions of what really happened and where, dozens of yellowed newspaper clippings, not to mention a tape cassette of one witness’s statements after he had been hypnotized by the sheriff of Deaf Smith County.1)The incident occurred in a neighboring county. The sheriff had a reputation as a hypnotist, apparently, and the 17-year-old witness’s parents requested the session.

Then Massimo Introvigne2)Founder of CESNUR [Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni] announced that he was guest-editing this issue of the journal, and I submitted a proposal, which was accepted — and then I procrastinated until, oh no, it’s due at the end of the month. And I wrote it. Chores went un-done, the dog got minimal walks, but I generated my 8,000 words. And damn, that felt good.

The journal is published three times a year, online only, and apparently costs $45/year with access to the archives. I do not know when this special issue will appear.

So let’s not lose the momentum. Let’s get back to Project X.

Problem: There is a low, two-drawer file cabinet next to my desk whose top is stacked with books I need. And there was a substantial pile of files, printouts, partial rough drafts of book sections, and who-knows-what on the desk itself. Plus more in a desk drawer.

In the filing cabinet were . . . files, organized by subject (“New Wiccan Church,” “polytheism,” “sacred prostitution,” “Victor Anderson”) that had built up over the last thirty years. Some was material used when writing Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America or various articles; some I never got around to using — and I probably never will.

Solution: it goes into one or more cartons and goes to the New Age Movements, Occultism, and Spiritualism Research Library at Valdosta State University in Georgia. (The source materials for the murder-trial article belong in Texas, however.)

Many of the Pagan magazines I used for book research already went to the American Religions Collection at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It even has its own name! (Scroll down at the link.) Got to spread the wealth.

Now if I can get all the material from the desk top and drawer sorted into a fresh set of file folders, I might actually be ready to make use of it. (Never fear, there is plenty of digital material too!)

For today, the writing life is the filing life.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The incident occurred in a neighboring county. The sheriff had a reputation as a hypnotist, apparently, and the 17-year-old witness’s parents requested the session.
2. Founder of CESNUR [Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni]

Being a Solitary Pagan Does Not Mean that You Celebrate Alone

They’re putting on a Mabon festival, so why not go to it? (Photo: Colorado.com)

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the fall equinox (Mabon) is nearly upon us — 1:54 a.m. Universal (Greenwich) Time on Sunday the 23rd. For North Americans, that is Saturday evening.

What will you do if you are a solitary Pagan? At Under the Ancient Oaks, John Beckett suggests, for example, slicing open an apple and contemplating the pentagram concealed in its inner structure.

Which sounds very sensitive and contemplative  . . . and lonely and depressing.

John is a smart guy and a good writer, but there is another option. Now, like Samhain and Yule, is one time when the whole society is celebrating — or at enough of them that you can ride the energy that is out there in the polis.1)A city-state, or a body of citizens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis.

Festivals! All around you are harvest festivals. I wrote once about attending the nearest winery festival — it was a good time.

I don’t see Mabon as a time for quiet contemplation. The season’s energy is “outer,” not “inner.” Eat, drink, and celebrate the turning of the Wheel!

Come Saturday, M. and I will be at the El Pueblo Museum farmers market, just below the bottom edge of the photo — and then we will have to visit some booths and listen to music. And buy some fire-roasted Pueblo chile peppers — that is a sacred obligation.

Maybe I can slice one open and contemplate it, before it it is chopped and tossed into the skillet.

Happy Mabon! (Or to the people that you meet, “Happy equinox!”)

Notes   [ + ]

1. A city-state, or a body of citizens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis.

Emily Dickson is the High Priestess of a new Tarot Deck

Emily Dickinson as the High Priestess in the American Renaissance Tarot.Read this interview at Reality Sandwich with Thea Wirsching, who together with artist Celeste Pille has created the American Renaissance Tarot deck,, based on leading writers, artists, and activists of the 19th century such as Emily Dickinson,   “I’ve seen the American Renaissance period described as the literature that appeared in the years 1830-1865,” Wirsching says, “but for this project I’ve expanded the range to 1825-1875, to include early comers and late bloomers.”

She continues,

I think it’s become fashionable to criticize and even to hate America, particularly in liberal and academic circles. Many of us are walking around in a lot of shame over who we are as a nation, and feel uncomfortable taking pride in a country that was built on the exploitation of African slaves and the genocide of indigenous people.  And while I don’t think we should ever forget those horrific facts in our history, we’ve also thrown the baby out with the bathwater and rejected the knowledge that American culture has also been productive of incredible writers, thinkers, visionaries, and spiritual savants. I think collective shame keeps the left from embracing an educated patriotism that could help us turn the political tide; this project celebrates outspoken abolitionists such as Thoreau and Lydia Maria Child, successful black men like Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany, and philosophical innovators like Emerson.  These Americans inspire pride and reverence in our history.

The project is more than half-completed, and as things are done today, it is at least partly crowd-funded. I’ll make a donation . . . but they had better have Nathaniel Hawthorne in there some place!

Rodnoverie: A Quick History of Russian Pagan Revival

Kaarina Aitamurto, a Finnish scholar who has studied the Russian Pagan revival extensively, has written a short history of the Rodnoverie movement(s) and their founders and exponents for the World Religions and Spirituality website. (Think of it as an online scholarly encyclopedia.)

In the 2000s, the Rodnoverie movement grew rapidly due to the Internet. In Russia, the Rodnoverie was among the first religions to seize the opportunities of the online space. Small communities created sites and displayed photographs of their festivals online. The availability of footage of rituals also created some uniformity in the ideas of what Rodnoverie festivals should be like. Individuals in remote parts of the country could participate in online discussions and seek likeminded people in their areas. In these discussions, many revealed that they had thought that they were the only ones adhering to the pre-Christian faith and expressed their enthusiasm to find these online and offline communities.

Rodnoverie was the subject of her PhD research, and she lists her publications on her University of Helsinki website.

Women + Plants = Witchcraft?

Purdue University enthnobotanist Myrdene Anderson

From the Society of Ethnobiology website comes the saga of the battle between ethnobotanist Myrdene Anderson and the city of West Lafayette, Indiana.

Instead of a chemically treated and ritually mown lawn, she wanted plants and trees. And she ends up being accused of giving her neighbor cancer . . . through witchcraft!

To me, as an anthropologist, that assertion about my property being a fire hazard sounds close to wishful thinking, with more than a hint of witchcraft accusation. In evidence of my influence, a certain neighbor accused me of forcing him to exterminate 13 possums in a single evening, and another accused me of causing her cancer and its recurrence, although I guess not its interim remission. In 1996 a local conceptual artist depicted my yard in a gallery installation themed around “local notables”. I wrote an accompaniment: “sight on site; sight on sight”, underlining the fact that gaze is a voluntary act, rather different from most of the other senses.

 

By 1995 I was already deeply involved in searching out other cases of late 20th-century witchcraft accusation. Most cases around the U.S. involved women, anomalous in some way, often gardeners, and sometimes being attacked while they were perceived “down”. I mentioned my father’s 1988 death, but I could also have mentioned that of my stepmother in 1994, whom I had earlier brought to Indiana. Some of these women victims of neighborly hate had also just lost someone significant, one her own mother as a suicide in their joint home.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to petition drives and getting the right lawyer.

Blogging from an Undisclosed Location

Blogging tonight from an undisclosed location in northern New Mexico. This is the view from the porch.

Northern New Mexico, after all, is where I became a capital-P Pagan, with only the help of the old poet, Her touch, and the whisper of the acequia entre los sauces. It is where I go to think about things and to catch up with myself. (I realize that I am slightly closer to where I was born than to where I now live.)

The Undisclosed Location has pretty good wifi for not being in town. That’s a bonus. Pronghorn antelope look up from the grass as I drive by on the way to town. And I re-visited a place where they don’t exactly turn boys into men, but maybe into slightly less idiotic boys.

Central American Pagans, Wicca and #MeToo, and Good Writing

• Costa Rica now has a Pagan presence: Asatru, Witches, and Druids:

Think paganism [sic], and you probably don’t think of a conservative, Catholic-majority country in Central America. But Costa Rica, with its beautiful beaches and tropical charm, is emerging as an unlikely base for a growing pagan movement battling stereotypes and discrimination to assert its distinct identity. Denied the status of adhering to an official religion, pagans here have long been pushed to the fringes of society. Now, they’re pushing back, and publicly.

• I was interviewed for this article last January or February. The writer said she was a student at Columbia University, and all that she was interested in was Wicca-as-empowering-young women. (Too bad for the headline that #MeToo has had its fifteen minutes of fame.) Oh well, it’s good to see The Pomegranate name-checked in the New York Times.

• I find The Wild Hunt less and less interesting these days as a venue for Pagan culture — except when Eric Scott’s writing appears in it. Then it’s good. CORRECTION: The piece was by Luke Babb. My error. It’s still good! (I blame the influences of the Undisclosed Location.)

Pentagram Pizza with Magic Wands (Serves Five)

Years ago I made a wand of alder wood cut somewhere up Ute Pass, west of my Manitou Springs, Colo., home.

And then I made a fancier one in Craft class, a dowel with an iron rod running through it and silver wire wrapped around the handle.

I pretty much guarantee that if you stand a few yards away, close your eyes, and hold out the palms of your hands, you will be able to tell when the wand is pointed at you.

Anne Johnson, blogging at The Gods Are Bored, has something to say about wands.

How to Make a Magic Wand

The Harry Potter series made magic wands kind of popular and trendy, but wands have always been around. There are two kinds: ceremonial wands and working wands. Today, Teacher Annie is going to tell you how to make a working wand!

How Do Magic Wands Work?

Before I address the complicated question of how magic wands work, I feel like I should offer my credentials as a Pagan, so you’ll know I’m not a phony or anything. I see faeries. I worship vultures. I am crackerjack at explaining weird dreams.

Magic Wands and Romantic Love

So now we find ourselves at perhaps the #1 reason that young people want to try wands and spell work: love! Of course! You need supernatural help to get that certain someone to look your way! Okay. Before you do, please read the following cautionary tale. I didn’t write it. My good friend Anansi the Trickster Spider God didn’t write it either (although He wouldn’t mind taking credit for it).

Magic Wands and Why You Need One

If you’re a regular tourist on this site, you too might want to consider making a working wand. I’ve been writing “The Gods Are Bored” since 2005, and I’ve been alive a lot longer than that, and I have never known a time when I was more in need of a magic wand.

Read the series and learn what to do with that wand on the shelf — or how to make a new one.

Salem—It’s an International Brand

Photo from the Salem Witch Store & Coffee page on Facebook.

On August 3, 2018 Jason Mankey posted his list of the “25 Most Influential Living Pagans” on his blog—a good list, but slanted toward the English-speaking world (the “Anglosphere”).

On August 10, Jaime Girónes responded at The Wild Hunt with “The 15 Most Influential Pagans in México.”

I read it with interest, but I broke into laughter at his mention of Casa Salem Witch Store & Coffee.

I wrote all those posts last spring and summer about Salem, and I thought I had said everything I had to say, but I was wrong.

Salem—it’s an international brand for witches. ¡Es la verdad!

John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, and all the other victims of 1692 (now numbered among the Mighty Dead, Christians though they were) also gave their lives that there might be specialty coffees in the Colonia Narvarte district of Mexico City.

But turnabout is fair play. As I mentioned, Aztec-style coffee will soon be on sale in Salem, Mass.

Pagans on the Fringe of the AAR

 

 

 

Once again, I will be seeking an alternate activity to attending the American Academy of Religion’s presidential address in Denver next November. Such activities will probably involve bars, restaurants, and friends whom I see far too infrequently.

I might be tempted if Dr. Gushee’s “performing religion” actually included donning sackcloth and ashes. That’s biblical. But I have always wondered, do you put on a loincloth or tunic made of burlap and then pour ashes over yourself? Or do you rub ashes into your skin like some Hindu saddhus and then wrap a strip of burlap around your loins for minimal modesty? These are important ethnographic details!

But this is the AAR’s heritage: mainline Protestant Christians talking about themselves, even though the tent appears to have enlarged considerably since the early 1960s.

There is a fault line in the AAR. It is not between monotheists and polytheists—the former hardly realize yet that the latter exist. Nor is even so much between global East and global West.

Instead, the fault line remains between people who do god-talk in some form or other — who accept a supernatural dimension — and those who view religion purely as a human construction, like politics. The latter may call themselves Marxists, postmodernists, or to use the language of one scholarly group, they pursue “historical, comparative, structural, theoretical, and cognitive approaches to the study of religion.”1)North American Association for the Study of Religion

They are the ones who criticize other (Christian) AAR members for treating the annual meeting “like church.”

Where does Pagan studies fit into all this? Our program unit operated on an ad hoc basis from 1998–2004 and has been a full-fledged “unit” (formerly “group”) among all the other AAR units from 2005 to the present. Here is the list: scroll down to Contemporary Pagan Studies.

We scholars of Paganism have been accused of being too “curatorial,” taking care of “our people,” It’s a fair criticism of a what is still a new field, and I would not mind seeing more “historical, comparative, structural, theoretical, and cognitive approaches” as we go along.

And I expect the polytheist studies/monotheist studies divide to remain for quite some time, insofar as it is still mostly invisible.

Notes   [ + ]