Mall Ninjas of Pagandom

Vengeful Druids poisoned Gerald Gardner because he was an oath-breaker — did you know that?

Probably not, because it never happened.

I got this particular b.s. tossed by a Facebook friend (as opposed to an actual friend), a Druid from Kansas.

I suggested that he might check one of Ronald Hutton’s books on Druidry or even Philip Heselton’s Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration. Even though Heselton missed the obvious about Gardner’s spiritual journey, his basic legwork and research in primary sources is outstanding.

None of this helped, because Kansas Druid just wanted to be abusive under the guise of asking questions about Paganism.

He seemed to have a bee in his bonnet about Gerald Gardner, making various claims such as that in 1947 the Ancient Order of Druids (a more fraternal than religious form of Druidry) ordered its members not to associate with Gardner.  (By my reckoning, Wicca did not yet exist in 1947.)

And although he listed Isaac Bonewits as a person he admired, he persisted in claiming that Druids were warriors. Isaac could have set him straight on that, since Isaac was quite interested in the theories of the Indo-Europeanists such as Georges Dumézil, who saw ancient patriarchal I-E societies (from Ireland to India) as “trifunctional,” divided into classes of priests, warriors, and commoners (farmers, artisans) In that hypothesis, Celtic Druids equate with Indian Brahmins as ritual specialists, lore-keepers, etc. — not the aristocratic warrior class.

I thought about pointing that out to the Kansan, but by then I realized that I was dealing with a Pagan mall ninja, someone who just wanted to spew about Gerald Gardner, Wicca, “hippies,” and so forth, fully armored in his ignorance.

The virtual food courts of the Internet are full of them.

The larger point is this: at the recent American Academy of Religion annual meeting, two speakers in one of the Contemporary Pagan Studies sessions talking about walking the line between “pure” scholarship and “advocacy.” We don’t want to be Pagans talking about Paganism for other Pagans—although some in Pagan media seem to expect that we should be doing that—a topic for another post.

Instead, we want to show how larger issues in the study of religions work themselves out in Paganism—or how Paganism can cause other issues to be re-examined, such as the whole sacred materiality/idolatry thread that started at the 2009 annual meeting in Montreal and which is still playing itself out in The Pomegranate.

But there was also discussion of a scholarship of service—I think Ronald Hutton, for one, strives for this in the talks he gives at Pagan gatherings in the UK and in the upcoming documentary on Gerald Gardner with which he is involved.

On the other hand, when people do not want to be exposed to ideas that challenge what they think they know, what can you do? How do you engage them at Orange Julius or Sbarro?


  1. Lynn says:

    ~sigh~ I suspect I know who this is. I just want to say for the record, as a KS Druid, some of us do read and study the research. This makes me very sad and disappointed.

  2. John Beckett says:

    Re: “pure scholarship” vs. “advocacy” – I don’t see these as mutually exclusive. If you do good scholarly work and you make it accessible to ordinary Pagans then many of us will find it and incorporate it into our systems of belief and practice.

    That won’t rid the world of mall ninjas, but it will help to inoculate the rest of the world against their willful ignorance.

  3. Gareth says:

    What’s this about an upcoming documentary on Gerald Gardner? All I can say about the druid is “do not feed the trolls”.

  4. Rummah says:

    In modern academia, the line between scholarship and advocacy can be very thin indeed.