The Anthropology Cult at CIIS

Some people in the Pagan studies field have a special place in their hearts for the California Institute of Integral Studies. This memoir (about events a decade ago) might help to explain why. It’s a “never been told story.”

We showed up willing and able to do whatever it took for the cause. Angana exploited us beyond recognition. She effectively used jargon and the discourse to force us to restructure, brutally interrogate and dismantle our sense of self in the most pathological way possible. It’s a classic cult grooming technique; it just so happened that the languaging in this cult used social justice concepts.

“Tower Time” Is Not as Simple as You Think

One of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group’s sessions at the American Academy of Religion was titled “Magic in the Time of the Tower” (see program screenshot below), and attendance was good.

There was discussion of magical workings coordinated by social media, and of magical workings blabbed about on social media.

At least one presenter acknowledged that the latter might not be a good idea, according to some practitioners. Don’t you remember the old “Magician’s Pyramid,” of which the last for the four admonitions was “To keep silent”?

Or as they say now, “The first rule of Magic Club is you do not talk about Magic Club.”

When some of the presenters spoke, I suspect that they — or rather the people whom they were describing — think that “the Tower” stands at 721–725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan — in other words, Trump Tower.

But there are other towers. And “Tower Time” did not start in January 2017. It has been going on for a while.

Some people talking about “Tower Time” are standing on ivory towers, and those are cracking too.1)New definition of Harvard University: At least under the new tax law it won’t be completely tax-free.

The days of building grander universities under the assumption that tuition can always be raised, because the students can always get federal grants and loans — how long will that continue?2)Since I spent about 21 years working in colleges and universities — and many of my friends still do — this issue cuts close to home for me.

Click to embiggen.

America has too many colleges and universities, just like it has too many shopping malls, and for much the same reason: everyone thought that there was room for another, and theirs would be a success.

And what about religious groups? The big example is the Roman Catholic Church, where I doubt if the leadership yet understands how much trust they lost over the clerical sexual abuse scandals. The pope can come out on his balcony and say whatever — and the news media report it —  but fewer and fewer people deeply care.3)And yet, if those church leaders compromise with secular society and toss out their traditional teachings, do they “lose their contacts,” as the ceremonial magicians say?

And that comes on top of the church’s long history of allying with repressive political regimes in both Europe and Latin America.

Talk about a teetering tower!

And, of course, there is Hollywood. Is there going to be anyone left?

Harvey opened the floodgates,” said one male Academy member. “Now the Academy’s drowning in a tide of s—t. They don’t know what hit them.”

Oscar is a “tower” too.

Ours is the era of “the end of prestige,” writes political blogger Richard Fernandez.

In the unending exposes of financial, moral and sexual turpitude we are witnessing a similar humiliation of a ruling elite. The critical role played by prestige in upholding the current status quo was no less important for the Western elite than it was for the old [imperial British] District Commissioners. Not so very long ago the elites were accepted as woke, part of the mission civilisatrice; better educated, better looking, better dressed, destined to greater things, the smartest people in the room.  They could pronounce on matters of morality, politics and even the climate.  What a shock it was to find through the Internet and social media it was all a sham; and these gods of Washington and Hollywood and the media were deeply flawed and despicable people.

Law professor Glenn Reynolds, writing in USA Today, makes a similar point in a piece called “The Suicide of Expertise“:

Then there’s the problem that, somehow, over the past half-century or so the educated classes that make up the “expert” demographic seem to have been doing pretty well, even as so many ordinary folks, in America and throughout the West, have seen their fortunes decaying. Is it any surprise that claims to authority in the form of “expertise” don’t carry the same weight that they once did?

You’re not going to fix all this by burying rotten carrots. You might fix it first by be responsible for as much of your own life as you can. I don’t mean that you have to weave your own cloth. Just don’t be the person who can’t change a tire, sew on a button, or understand a loan document.

And find your community. Not merely the online community: is your Instagram follower going to bring supper over when you’re sick? Can you call your Facebook friend if you need a ride to the doctor?

Not just a religious community, either. When my Jeep drove itself into a gully near the house (long story), I did not look for a Pagan friend, but rather a neighbor with a big winch-equipped truck who likes solving mechanical problems. (Depending on your neighbors means you cannot just condemn them for their voting patterns and otherwise ignore them.) But that only works if the neighbor can depend on you. If it really is “Tower Time,” the response is to work at the ground level.

Notes   [ + ]

1. New definition of Harvard University: At least under the new tax law it won’t be completely tax-free.
2. Since I spent about 21 years working in colleges and universities — and many of my friends still do — this issue cuts close to home for me.
3. And yet, if those church leaders compromise with secular society and toss out their traditional teachings, do they “lose their contacts,” as the ceremonial magicians say?

Aphrodite Will Not Be Denied (3) — and also Hestia.

In a 2003 post titled “Aphrodite Will Not Be Denied,” I linked to Muslim clerics’ criticism of Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe.

Another Muslim singer with more complicated ancestry, Deeyah, “irked the Muslim world” with her music videos, and I said, “As I once wrote, ‘Aphrodite will not be denied.’ You either acknowledge the powers of the gods, or they will assert themselves in uncontrollable ways.”

Now it’s an Egyptian’s turn

A female pop star in Egypt has been arrested after posting a “sexually suggestive” music video, in the second such case there in recent months.

Leila Amer appeared in an online video called “Boss Oumek” or “Look at your mother”, which includes sensual oriental dance and provocative gestures.

It also includes household laundry, meal preparation, and ducks. Very sensual ducks.

No joke for Leila Amer, however.

Prosecutors in Egypt have detained the singer for four days for “incitement to debauchery” after the clip sparked controversy in the increasingly conservative country.

Not knowing Arabic, I wonder if the message is somewhere between “Listen to your mom, you slacker” and “A woman’s work is never done.”1)From an old folk saying, usually given as “A man may work from sun to sun [dawn to dusk]. but a woman’s work is never done.” There is what could be considered a visual allusion to watching online porn.

Even here in the woods, I do know one thirty-something Egyptian woman in the nearest little town. I could ask her to translate, but then, she comes from a devout Coptic Christian family and is now married to an American evangelical Christian, so answering the question, “Why are you interested in this singer?” could get complicated. Or maybe not. Who knows?

Notes   [ + ]

1. From an old folk saying, usually given as “A man may work from sun to sun [dawn to dusk]. but a woman’s work is never done.”

I’m Here to Fill your Krampus-tide Stocking

Don’t forget to leave a penny for Krampus! (Maine State Museum).

Krampus likes lots of odd, pointy, and weird things, so let’s go . . . .

Was a genuine 11th-century Norse penny found in Maine dropped by a Norse explorer, or is it part of a long-time hoax? But would   “Egil Ketilson” have been carrying money? Where was he going to spend it, Skraeling-Mart?

• The initiates of Mithras also kept their secrets well. But they left some buildings, and people try to figure out the religion from those.

“I realized that if I designed my metal band, it would definitely be a pagan feminist folkcore band, which is a Swedish/Norwegian style of metal music. It’s really ambient and loud even though it’s not using as much electricity-style [sic] instruments. I realized that I didn’t know anything about paganism. I was grabbing onto it because it seemed logical for this brand of metal. Slowly, over the years, I started researching goddesses and figuring out that in paganism there is a lot of mathematics and numerology. That instantly peaked [sic] my curiosity because I like working with numbers.”

Being avante-garde these days is such a lot of work.  And you have to learn about runes and electricity and stuff. (Does anyone still say “avante-garde”?)

• “Your eyes appear to have a magical power all of their own”? “You operate at a lower body temperature than the people around you.” You might be descended from Fairies.  Yeah, sure, tell it to Krampus.

A Secular Solstice or Truly “Pagan-ish”?

I saw this sign last Friday at the public library in Pueblo, Colorado, and I liked it for a bunch of reasons.

Sometimes I get tired of the “jolly old elf” and would not mind seeing a more dignified winter monarch(s). For all its other problems, I thought that the Soviet Union’s promotion of (non-religious) “Grandfather Frost” was a pretty good idea. (Here is more about him, with regional variations.)

So has he infiltrated  the public library system? And has the Snow Maiden come along as well?

If she has, I am for it. But then I was the little boy who read Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen” and came away thinking that the Snow Queen was in fact admirable, not the villainess from whom the little boy had to be “saved.”

Meanwhile, our Pueblo Winter King can aspire to equal that Sakut “Khan of Winter” (photo at left).

I have not heard how the metro Denver “solstice war” is playing out this year — here was the 2015 version — but this year’s astronomical solstice is at 1628 GMT, so 0928 Mountain Time, Thursday the 21st. Perfect for drumming-up.


Survey on Environmental Values

I know Barbara Davy, and this is legit.

Calling all Pagan and Heathen practitioners. Barbara Jane Davy is surveying Heathens and Pagans on environmental values. To take this 20 minute survey, follow this link: The survey goes live today, Wednesday December 13, 2017, and will be open until enough responses are collected, somewhere between two days and two weeks. Please share widely with Heathen and Pagan practitioners.

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee (ORE#22450). If you have questions for the committee, contact the Chief Ethics Officer, Office of Research Ethics, at 1-519-888-4567 ext. 36005 or

IF you have any questions regarding this study, or would like additional information to assist you in reaching a decision about participation, please contact Barbara Jane Davy at or 226-581-3821, or Stephen Quilley at or 519-888-4567, ext. 38335.”

Woody Guthrie Got It Wrong

Sunset, 9 December 2017, near Horsethief Falls, Teller County Colorado.

I went camping with some friends last weekend.1)Note the general absence of snow, which is disturbing when you’re up at 10,200 feet (3100 m.. Some of my friends like to have music all the time, so there was a set of Bluetooth-enabled speakers and plenty of digitized music covering the last fifty years of American popular song.

One song was older, however — Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land is Your Land,” composed in 1940. It’s been covered multiple times by many famous musicians.

Only it hit me this time what an anthropocentric piece of Marxist crap it is.

You have heard the refrain, “This land was made for you and me.” Let’s think about that for a moment. Ol’ Woody, if not a Communist himself — he certainly hung around with them, and he claimed to be one — was expressing Marxist values there:  There is nothing beyond “Man.” No gods, nothing supernatural. “Was made” does not really suggest that presence of a Creator; it’s just a statement of fact: All of this was put here (somehow) for us to use because we are the most important creatures in the world.

Communist, capitalist, what’s the difference when they share this viewpoint?

So I looked up at Sentinel Point and thought, supposing Ol’ Woody had written, “You and I were made for this land”?

It would not scan, for one thing. There would not be the gratifyingly drawn-out me-e-e-e at the end. There is nothing in his lyrics about responsibility or reciprocity; it’s mostly a diatribe against the idea of private property, so it has appealed to generations of disaffected intellectual backpackers.2)Let’s have a show of hands.

But just as a thought experiment, turn it around in your head. “You and I were made for this land.” Wouldn’t we owe the land something? Wouldn’t we have to admit that we were not the only “owners” of it — a concept far beyond in Guthrie’s line about “As I went walking I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing'” (talk about not scanning!)?

The concept of “source of sacred value” is completely un-Marxist, but I have one, and it is not “Man as the highest good.”

The next time I hear that song — and I am sure that I will — I am making that change, and a little pledge.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Note the general absence of snow, which is disturbing when you’re up at 10,200 feet (3100 m.
2. Let’s have a show of hands.

The Dark Side of Avalon

Two years ago I mentioned that author Moira Greyland, daughter of enormously influential1)Especiallly to Pagans over 35, more or less fantasy writer Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, was speaking out about sexual abuse she experienced in their household.

Now you can read the book:The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon.

From “CT,” one of the reader-reviewers at Amazon:

As a science fiction and fantasy author myself, I grew up with Marion Zimmer Bradley as an embodiment of the kind of progressive feminist ideal which was used as an encouragement for young women to aspire to while young men should follow the example of in their own writing. I all but memorized The Mists of Avalon and considered it a guide to neo-paganism, re-evaluating old stories for modern consumption, and writing female characters. The discovery Marion Zimmer Bradley covered for her pedophile husband in preying on the children of science fiction fans was stunning but not as much as the discovery she, herself, was an abusive sexual predator.

UPDATE 23 Dec. 2017: Another blogger: “The Book that Made Me a Feminist Was Written by an Abuser.”

Notes   [ + ]

1. Especiallly to Pagans over 35, more or less

The Tarot of Dior

Dior handbag incorporating the Motherpeace “Judgement” card.

Boston: November 17, 2017: A group of Pagan studies scholars are walking through a shopping mall adjacent to the Boston Marriott Hotel when suddenly heads swivel to the left.

Our attention subconsciously attracted,  we are looking at images from Vicki Noble‘s  Motherpeace Tarot Deck — in the window of a Dior store.

It turns out the Dior has licensed the images for a line of handbags (full story behind paywall).

It’s another example of using esoteric imagery to sell products, right up there with Prada’s use of the Gnostic text “Thunder, Perfect Mind” more than a decade ago.

(If you can’t get to the video there, go here. Twelve years is a long time in Internet years, and links decay.)


They Were Not Witches — They Are Our Martyrs

Walking through the witch-trial memorial park.

This is the memorial created in 1992 for the victims of the Salem trials in Salem, Mass. Each “bench” contains the name of an accused person: “Margaret Scott. Hanged. September 22, 1692.”

Walk there, and you know that it has become a shrine.

Then you realize that you are walking on their words, their pleas to the uncaring judges: “God knows I am innocent of such wickedness.”

Twenty-five people died (five of them in prison), all professing their innocence, and I tend to believe them. But they left us something: Witch Tees!

And Witch Pix!

And a passel of museums, “haunted houses,” ghost tours, and the like.

Crow Haven Corner.

The first witchcraft shop was Laurie Cabot’s the Witch Shoppe in 1971, which later moved and was renamed Crow Haven Corner.

It has been joined by many others. Walking along nearby Pickering Wharf feels like a trip down Diagon Alley.

Could Sarah Good, a homeless beggar (hanged) or Susannah Martin, an impoverished widow (hanged)  have imagined that their deaths would produce a Salem where being a witch is fairly normal and the police cars have flying witches on their doors? 1)Meanwhile, two burly Salem cops are yelling at some kid to get off his bike, which he is riding illegally on the pedestrian mall.

The National Park Service visitor center, devoted both to Salem’s peak years as a port in the 18th and 19th centuries and to the events of 1692, contains several shelves of books on historical witchcraft.

It’s a crooked path, all right, from hysterical teenagers accusing adults of witchcraft before judges who accepted “spectral evidence” to a wax museum, signage directing visitors to Gallows Hill, and at least two dozen witchcraft shops, but there it is.

The “witches” of 1692 gave it to us.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Meanwhile, two burly Salem cops are yelling at some kid to get off his bike, which he is riding illegally on the pedestrian mall.