Well, This Is Puzzling

who signed?Earth Day is upon us, and various people have been promoting the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.

As John Halstead, one of its strongest advocates, wrote on his blog,

The Statement represents the largest collective expression of Pagan voices ever and the most successful attempt to date to harmonize Pagan voices on what is the most critical issue of our time.

Signing it is not going to clean a single stream, but as has been pointed out, its greatest impact may be on interfaith groups that tend to ignore us.

I have been on the road most of the last three weeks but home again, I decided that yes, I should sign it. So I went to the site and tried to do so, only to get the message screen-captured above.

Three possibilities present themselves:

1. I signed it during some kind of blackout and had no conscious memory of having done so.

2. Someone else signed my name.

3. There was a software glitch.

4. The fairies are messing with me again.

Weird.

Magic in Philadelphia, Worshiping Game Characters, and a Holy Mountain in Scotland

exhibitions_magic1

Photo: Penn Museum

• If you live in or near Philadelphia, visit the U. of Pennsylvania museum for “Magic in the Anciet World,” an exhibit that “explores some of the magical objects, words, and rituals used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.”

• When a Chinese grandmother left an offering at a statue of a video-game character, social media there lit up. But was she merely carrying on tradition?

• “Last temple of the Celts” might be overstating the matter just a little, but it’s an interesting article about a holy mountain in Scotland.

CFP: “Pagan, Goddess, Mother”

DEMETER PRESS

Seeking submissions for an edited collection entitled

Pagan, Goddess, Mother

Editors: Sarah Whedon & Nané Jordan

Deadline for Abstracts: September 1st, 2016

Pagan spirituality and Goddess spirituality are distinct, yet overlapping movements and communities, each with much to say about deity as mother and about human mothers in relationship to deity. The purpose of this collection is to call categories of Pagan and Goddess mothering into focus, to highlight philosophies and experiences of mothers in these various movements and traditions, and to generate new ways of imagining and enacting motherhood.

What is distinctive about Pagan motherhood, what is distinctive about Goddess spirituality motherhood, and where is the overlap? How do these differ, and what does each have to learn from the other? How does study of these communities, philosophies, and practices highlight tensions and insights into gender, motherhood, and embodiment, more broadly? How do mothers in contemporary Pagan and Goddess movements negotiate their mothering roles and identities? What elements of these diverse contemporary traditions inform their experiences? How do theologies, thealogies, and devotions to Mother Goddesses affect experiences of mothering? How do Pagan and Goddess mothers engage with ceremony, ritual, magic, and priestesshood? How do Pagan and Goddess mothers interface with interreligious dialogue, social institutions for children, community leadership, social justice, and the public sphere?

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

The specific theologies, thealogies, mythologies, ethics, or practices of mothers in particular Pagan and/or Goddess traditions; theories of gender, motherhood, or embodiment in Pagan and/or Goddess traditions; Earth Mother, Great Mother, mother Goddess creation stories, eco-spirituality, or the maiden-mother-crone trinity; mothers’ participation in ceremony, ritual, festival, magic, or priestesshood; the relationship between mother Goddess and human mother’s empowerment; pregnancy, birth, early mothering, and beyond; Pagan and/or Goddess spirituality in mom blogging, custody conflict, religious freedom, children’s religious education, or other social institutions; diversity and difference in Pagan and/or Goddess mothering including grandmothering, race, disability, or lgbtq families.

Perspectives are welcomed from a wide range of disciplines and genres, including history, theology, thealogy, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, biography, spiritual autobiography, personal essays, life writing, poetry and artwork.

Submissions Guidelines:

Please send abstracts of approximately 300 words together with a short bio to

Sarah Whedon & Nané Jordan at: pagangoddessmother@gmail.com

by September 1, 2016.

Accepted papers of 4000-5000 words (15-20 pages including references and endnotes) will be due February 1st, 2017. Contributors will be responsible for ensuring that manuscripts adhere to MLA style.

DEMETER PRESS

140 Holland St. West, P.O. Box 13022 Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5

(tel) 905-775-5215 http://www.demeterpress.org info@demeterpress.org

**Please follow/like us on social media to receive updates on call for papers, events, conferences publications, reviews, etc. on mothering, reproduction, sexuality and family

PLEASE LIKE DEMETER AND MIRCI ON FB AND FOLLOW DEMETER ON TWITTER

https://www.facebook.com/MIRCIDemeterPress/?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/DemeterPress

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=156811997677066&fref=ts

CFP: Women in World Religions

Author-scholars are needed for the two volume reference work, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History, to be published by ABC-CLIO Publishing. We seek contributors with expertise in Women, Religion, and History to write articles of 500 to 2000 words, with overview, historical background, and selected details. Areas where scholars are needed include: Women in African Religions, Ancient Greek and Roman Religions, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Paganism, Prehistoric Religions, Shinto, Sikhism, and Spirituality. A wide range of entries are included in each religion category, such as art, worship, women’s rituals, leadership and organization, social and environmental issues, the feminine divine, holy days and seasonal celebrations. The deadline for this round of entries is August 15, 2016.

Please provide a brief summary of your academic credentials in related disciplines (or a cv) to General Editor, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions at sjdegaia@gmail.com. The encyclopedia title should appear in the subject line of your message.

Contact Info:
Susan de Gaia, Ph.D., General Editor, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History

Contact Email:
sjdegaia@gmail.com
URL:
http://susandegaia.weebly.com

New Norse Site in Newfoundland

Archaeologist Sarah Parcak in Newfoundland. (National Geographic).

The discovery of Norse ruins at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, in 1960 proved once and for all that the sagas were right: settlers from Iceland and/or Greenland came to North America.

Now a new discovery on the other side of the island suggests even more of a Norse presence.

After studying the area and researching prior land surveys, the archaeologists have identified other characteristics that would have made Point Rosee an optimum site for Norse settlers: The southern coastline of the peninsula has relatively few submerged rocks, allowing for anchoring or even beaching ships; the climate and soil in the region is especially well-suited for growing crops; there’s ample fishing on the coast and game animals inland; and there are lots of useful natural resources, such as chert for making stone tools and turf for building housing.

But the clincher is evidence of iron-working, something no indigenous people did.

A Bronze Age Battle Lost in the Misty Past

Tollensetal Impressionsfraktur

Some fighters had bronze weapons and armor; others carried wooden clubs — and used them. (Landesamt für Kultur und Denkmalpflege Mecklenburg-Vorpommern/Landesarchäologie/D. Jantzen)

Men came to Tollense . . . or whatever it was called about 3,260 years ago.1)“The things they carried” — an appropriate literary reference? In a river valley north of Berlin, two Bronze Age armies clashed, casualties were at least in the hundreds, and no one can say who fought or why.

“We have 130 people, minimum, and five horses. And we’ve only opened 450 square meters. That’s 10% of the find layer, at most, maybe just 3% or 4%,” says Detlef Jantzen, chief archaeologist at MVDHP. “If we excavated the whole area, we might have 750 people. That’s incredible for the Bronze Age.” In what they admit are back-of-the-envelope estimates, he and Terberger argue that if one in five of the battle’s participants was killed and left on the battlefield, that could mean almost 4000 warriors took part in the fighting.

And this comparison to a war that spawned literature we still read today:

As University of Aarhus’s Vandkilde puts it: “It’s an army like the one described in Homeric epics, made up of smaller war bands that gathered to sack Troy”—an event thought to have happened fewer than 100 years later, in 1184 B.C.E. That suggests an unexpectedly widespread social organization, Jantzen says. “To organize a battle like this over tremendous distances and gather all these people in one place was a tremendous accomplishment,” he says.

It’s my literary imagination at work — someone must have sung those dead warriors, maybe in a long elegiac poem like Y Gododdin — but in what language? And to what ends?

Lost, all lost.

Notes   [ + ]

1. “The things they carried” — an appropriate literary reference?

An Ancient Solar “Observatory” in Arizona

The Sun Dagger at Chaco Canyon — an Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) residential/ritual/governmental (?) complex in northeastern New Mexco that flourished during what where the early Middle Ages in Europe — is well-known among archaeoastronomers, as is the possible solar alignment built into one of the grand kivas nearby at Casa Rinconada.

Now another solar “clock” is being claimed at the the ancient Puebloan site preserved at Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona, where moving shadows and petroglyphs mark the solstices and equinoxes: an “imaging calendar,” as it is called.

To quote someone on the Casa Rinconada website,

“The historical accuracy of the alignment may be less important than its symbolic value, especially for those who flock to the site on the summer solstice.

“Casa Rinconada has become a place where people come to see an alignment. In our culture, we haven’t been taught to relate to the natural rhythm of what the sun and the earth are doing throughout the year. So here’s a place where you can come and see that—not a representation of a solstice, but the actual solstice, as mediated by a building. It’s a wonderful experience.”

So perhaps we look at all astronomical alignments in whatever country as wonderful examples of nature religion. Casa Rinconada attracted a crowd during the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, when various New Age thinkers, led by José Argüelles, promoted prophecies connected to a planetary alignment: “The convergence is purported to have ‘corresponded with a great shift in the earth’s energy from warlike to peaceful.'”1)No doubt you have noticed how much more peaceful the world is.

The New Age event was spoofed at a Pagan festival in New Mexico that summer by a dance performance of the “Harmonica Vigins.”

My view on astronomical alignments was being warped in the 1980s by seminars with Davíd Carrasco, a scholar of Mesoamerican religion who has spent a lot of time working with temple alignments and associated mythology.

My take-away was that astronomical alignments are mostly about priestcraft and power. Farmers don’t need rows of giant stones to tell them when to plant. Every locale has its indicators: here in the southern Colorado foothills, when the emerging leaves of Gambel oak are thumbnail-size,2)“As big as a mouse’s ear,” some people like to say, because it sounds more folkloric. the chance of a frost is usually past. (Usually!) And I know that the sun sets in a notch on the ridge to the west at the equinoxes, for what that is worth.

Being able to proclaim the cycles from the temple steps is probably more about showing how “King Jaguar” enjoys of the favor of the gods than anything else.

Notes   [ + ]

1. No doubt you have noticed how much more peaceful the world is.
2. “As big as a mouse’s ear,” some people like to say, because it sounds more folkloric.

Grappling with Workshops and Festival Culture

heartland

Heartland’s sponsor

Earlier this week I sent in my workshop descriptions to the Heartland Pagan Festival, whose organizers kindly invited me to present.

Now I get to be anxious for two months — can I do it? My experiences with turning my own writing into festival material has been, let’s say, sort of mixed. My last piece was a general entry on contemporary Paganism for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion — definitely not festival-workshop material.

They ask me my needs: day or night, chairs or outdoors, and all I can think of is to ask for a whiteboard, because if I can’t write at least a few things, I will feel crippled. That is what twenty years in a university classroom does to you — my thoughts go automatically to syllabi and reading lists — probably not what the festival crowd is looking for.

Florida Pagan Gathering

Florida Pagan Gathering

My last big festival was the Florida Pagan Gathering in 2009, I think, while the last smaller one I attended was Beltania here in Colorado three years ago, which used to be about twenty minutes’ drive from home, before organizers moved it to a more populous area.

Pagan festivals have changed, to be sure. The first gatherings I attended in the late 1970s were more like “cons”: they were held in hotels and they had a high ratio of lectures, talks, and panels to ritual. Music, when it happened, was someone with a guitar in their hotel room, or whatever band was playing in the bar.

And I do remember people writing equations on blackboards: there were a few engineer-witches who argued that magic occurred on the electromagnetic spectrum, like radio. (Discuss in the comments if you like.)

Llewellyn’s Gnosticons in Minneapolis, perhaps the biggest of the era, included all kinds of occultists, witches, astrologers, etc. in order to fill the bill.

Then camping festivals began. Various groups had had their own campouts for years, but I think the Pagan Spirit Gathering of 1980 was the first one to be nationally advertised as open to all compatible attendees.

The tradition established by the multi-day open-air Protestant Christian “camp meetings” of the early 19th century (including trance, ecstasy, and sexual excitement) was now re-established by the Pagans!

In the pre-Web 1980s and early 1990s, festivals spread Pagan music and ritual practices more and more, along with workshop topics. But then another change occurred: a move towards more professionalization. No more Morning Glory Zell with her guitar doing Gwydion Pendderwen’s latest song — now you get Wendy Rule or Sharon Knight and Pandemonaeon.1)I’m a big fan.

When I attended FPG, I was surprised that many campers not only put a lot of work in creating and decorating their camps, but then they just stayed there, skipping not just workshops but the Big Ritual and concerts. (At some point of size, do you lose the communal feeling?)

Which brings me back to the idea of workshops. At a music-focused gathering like Beltania, workshops are something less than an afterthought. The grounds are pretty dead (except for the Maypole erection) during the way, coming alive only in the evening when the headline performances start — or at least that was my experience.

That’s a lot to compete with when your focus is academic, as mine is. I admire Ronald Hutton’s ability to work a Pagan crowd, staying true to his profession of historian while still giving a Pagan-positive message. Maybe that works better in Britain when you can be talking about ancient Pagans, such as Lindow Man — he is definitely in the “murder victim” rather than the “human sacrifice” camp, but he can argue his case without making you feel bad that you took The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: The Story of an Archaeological Sensation as holy writ the first time you  read it.

So come the end of May, I might be asking as I have in other situations, “What would Ronald do?” (WWRD).

In a larger context, I wonder about workshops at festivals in general — not that I don’t appreciate the organizers giving the opportunity to try some material on a live audience — if anyone comes — if they are not busy sleeping off the previous night’s festivities.

But “cons” can have more of an intellectual focus than camping festivals do, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, I have started notes on two presentations with the working titles of “Nature Religion: You’re Doing it Wrong” and “Did Witches Ever Fly?”

Notes   [ + ]

1. I’m a big fan.

A Top Nazi’s Library, “Violent” Heathens, and a Middle Eastern “Old Religion”

himmler and hitler

Heinrich Himmler (front, leather coat) chats with der Führer.

According to the Daily Mail (dial skepticism appropriately) a collection of occult books1)Hans Thomas Hakl probably has more than Himmer did—but no castle. owned by Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler has been found in the Czech Republic.

The bulk of the collection was called the ‘Witches Library’ and concentrated on witches and their persecution in medieval Germany.

One of Himmler’s quack theories was that the Roman Catholic Church tried to destroy the German race through witch hunts.

UPDATE, March 31, 2016: The Wild Hunt reports that the news story quoted above resulted from a misunderstanding, and that there were no “occult books,” just some Masonic books.

• At Religion Dispatches, thoughts on how the History Channel series The Vikings both “subverts and supports the violent heathen trope” (my italics).

In one scene, the Christian Prince Aethelwulf, who earlier in the series said that “it is just not possible to imagine a world in which there is both one god and several,” unleashed genocidal fury on a settlement of unarmed, pagan [sic], Viking2)“Viking” is a job description, not an ethnicity. “Norse” would be a better choice. farmers who had been promised protection by the king. Yet,3)No comma needed after an introductory conjunction. So stop it! the show includes vestiges of the violent heathen trope that’s been a staple of how dominant religious groups have portrayed minority religious groups throughout history.

• According to this article, some Kurds, who are various in conflict with Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Iranians, are going back to the Old Religion, that of Zoroaster. (It has hung in some places all these centuries since the Arab Muslims rolled over Persia in the 8th century.)

The small, ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is being revived in northern Iraq. Followers say locals should join because it’s a truly Kurdish belief. Others say the revival is a reaction to extremist Islam.

One of the smallest and oldest religions in the world is experiencing a revival in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The religion has deep Kurdish roots – it was founded by Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, who was born in the Kurdish part of Iran and the religion’s sacred book, the Avesta, was written in an ancient language from which the Kurdish language derives. However this century it is estimated that there are only around 190,000 believers in the world – as Islam became the dominant religion in the region during the 7th century, Zoroastrianism more or less disappeared.

So does this count as a “Native Faith” movement, like Rodnoverie, etc., but not polytheistic?

Notes   [ + ]

1. Hans Thomas Hakl probably has more than Himmer did—but no castle.
2. “Viking” is a job description, not an ethnicity. “Norse” would be a better choice.
3. No comma needed after an introductory conjunction. So stop it!

Gallery of Saints and Muses


Last October, I posted about my Byzantine-style icon of the Emperor Julian the Philosopher, which now hangs in my study, and the artist who created it, Sasha Chaitow.

She is working on new series — saints, muses, angels — and posted a short video about her creative process and the cooperative gallery she created, Icon, on the Greek island of Corfu. (Because it is Corfu, there must always be icons of St. Spyridon, its patron saint, in the mix.) Here is the gallery’s page on Facebook.

Why am I writing about a painter of Christian saints? Because Sasha is an esotericist at heart, who moves from one manifestation of the sacred to another as easily as she switches from Greek to English.