A Wicca Center in Thailand

The Ace of Cups coffee bar and occult-supply shop (Daily Mail).

There is a long tradition of metaphysical bookstores and occult-supply shops serving as the public face of Pagan groups. “Owner Wine Kongsorn said he opened the café in a bid to unite the community of Wiccans in Bangkok.”

And exactly how is “Wiccan” defined in Bangkok? The source is the (UK) Daily Mail, which is not known for careful reporting on new religious movements. Sounds like a great research opportunity for someone in Pagan studies.

But the Ace of Cups also serves cappucino, so I’m in.

Just more evidence that Ronald Hutton was right in labeling Wicca the first world religion to spring from England.

‘Gentle Whispering’ Meets the Triple Goddess or the Three Fates or Something

This post goes here because (a) a Pagan blogger, Moma Fauna, introduced me to the whole concept of “autonomous sensory meridian response” and (b) three women in hooded robes? That seems sort of familiar.

Videos of whispery women carefully opening packages and greeting cards do not put me into a trance state, but I will admit that when I was in school, certain teachers’ voices (usually female) had almost the same effect.

For a full explanation, read this from Boing Boing.

 

Scandinavian Style, 1400 BCE

egtved-textile-belt

(National Museum of Denmark)

The acidic peat surrounding this grave of a Bronze Age girl, labeled a “priestess” for her elaborate jewelry,  preserved her clothing and hair but not her skeleton. The burial was found in 1921, but only this month did analysis reveal that, for instance, the wool in her skirt came from the Black Forest region of German, but also that she herself may have traveled back and forth.

The Bronze Age teenager was wearing a wool skirt belted with a large bronze disk with spirals on it.

“She looks, in a way, very modern, in this kind of miniskirt and a kind of T-shirt,” [Danish researcher Karin] Frei told Live Science. (Her unique fashion sense has inspired scores of Pinterest-worthy re-enactments.)

Pagan Academic Online Conference Tomorrow (25 May)

Just a reminder:

The 3rd Online International Conference of Pagan Academic European Associates Network occurs tomorrow, the 25th, from 1800–2100 hours Central European Time.

The theme will be “The Future of Contemporary Paganism: Challenges and Developments.”

The conference is in cooperation with Pagan Federation International

This conference focuses on the different aspects of the future and development of contemporary Pagan culture and Witchcraft practices.

Visit the conference’s Facebook page or download this PDF.

The Persistence of Runic Memory

Seventeeth-century runic inscription from Sweden.

Seventeeth-century runic inscription from Sweden.

Why buy a book on learning runes from Llewellyn or Weiser when you can learn from the people who clung to them the longest?

But you say that they stopped using them a century ago? That is nothing in the spiritual tourism market. “My grandfather taught me the secret tradition that he preserved!”

If they are trying to keep Elfdalian Norse alive, bring the runes along too. Open some B&Bs, some small hotels decorated with runic inscriptions, some charming restaurants. Teach “runic yoga.” Never mind that it was not invented there. This is tradition we are talking about.

Call for Papers: The Occult Imagination in Britain

Christine Ferguson and Andrew Radford, both of the University of Glasgow, seek contributors for an edited collection, The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947.

We seek proposals for an essay collection entitled The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947, to be proposed to Ashgate’s new Among the Victorians and the Modernists series. Focusing on the development, popular diffusion, and international networks of British occulture between 1875-1947, the interdisciplinary volume will capitalize on the recent surge of scholarly interest in the late Victorian occult revival by tracing the development of its central and residual manifestations through the fin de siècle and two world wars. We aim to challenge the polarization of Victorian and modernist occult art and practice into discrete expressions of either a nostalgic reaction to the crisis of faith or a radical desire for the new. The collection will also map the affinities between popular and elite varieties of occultism in this period, recognizing the degree to which esoteric activities and texts relied on and borrowed from the exoteric sphere.

Further details at this link.

This is Not a Film for Your Wicca 101 Class

On 4 December 1969 a press party was held for a documentary film on Witchcraft, Legend of the Witches, directed by Malcolm Leigh. Among the media types attending was a magazine writer on assignment, a fifty-something man named Stewart Farrar, but that is another story.

Legend of the Witches offers a very Margaret Murray-style reading of the “Old Religion” — which everyone in the Craft wholeheartedly believed in then, I think — complete with the “Plantagenet dynasty as pro-Pagan sacred kings” legend, the bit about Joan of Arc being “really a witch,” and the alleged founding of the Order of the Garter as a group of covens with royal patronage.

One cult-movie site says, “Legend Of The Witches remains one of those films so ephemeral and so synonymous with the very concept of ‘collectable’ that you sometimes wonder if people are refusing to buy it or maybe even refusing to acknowledge its availability in order to preserve the legend.”

It is all presented very seriously:

The narrator (whose name does not seem to appear on the credits, and who employs the quintessentially polite, Ealing-trained yet slightly foreboding tone of voice so beloved of most contemporaneous documentaries, not too dissimilar to the camp voiceover that links the tracks on the equally-legendary 666 album by Greek prog-rockers Aphrodite’s Child) delivers several pieces of information which, although maybe not entirely grounded in fact, seem well-informed and at least blessed with a certain degree of enthusiasm for the subject.

The star is Alex Sanders, assisted by his Witch Queen, his wife Maxine in her bleach-blonde days. Sanders leads coven ritual, sacrifices a rooster and divines from its entrails, performs poppet magic at great length, and officiates at a Luciferian Mass, thus indulging his love of ecclesiastical vestments.

That era was the peak of his publicity seeking, and Maxine was the most photographed nude Witch of the 1960s. In her autobiography Fire Child she writes,

[In 1969] the requests for interviews and documentaries continued; filming took priority over ritual wrok. The new flat was constantly abuzz with people who wanted to know the witches for one reason or another. If we were not filming or appearing on some television show, people would crowd into the living room to listen to Alex talk. They were beginning to worship him. Alex was, in my opinion, developing megalomaniac tendencies. He gegan to use tacky shock tactics that did not portray the Craft in a true light (p. 159).

Other highlights include footage of a pregnant woman eating allegedly unspecified herbal entheogens? (Hey, it’s the Sixties. The kid will be groovy.) and scenes from one of the witchcraft museums founded by Gerald Gardner’s associate Cecil Williams. Sybil Leek is shown but not named.

The video is available on YouTube, as linked, and elsewhere. You can also buy it on Amazon. I would not show it to new students without a lot of explaining, but then I am one who is more offended by historically unsupported statements than by chicken sacrifice.

Is the Internet Killing Paganism?

I have not been keeping up with my blog-reading, so I just encountered this provocative piece by Sannion at House of Vines: “There’s a reason why Zeus is king of the gods and Hermes isn’t.”

He speaks of Hellenismos mainly, but what he says — as the commenters note — is broadly applicable.

Briefly, his thesis is that the Internet privileges communicators — the “chattering classes” — over doers.

Now I am a card-carrying member of the scribal class — somewhere in the house there should be an old Colorado Press Association ID card, and even rarer, in my desk is my Universal Life Church press pass — so should I be offended.

Not at all. Sannion makes some interesting points.There is more to Paganism(s) than the blogosphere and Twitter. But often you wouldn’t know it.  Read the whole thing.

An Alfred Kinsey-Aleister Crowley Connection?

Liam Neeson starred in the 2004 movie Kinsey.

A casual mention of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey’s interest in the sex magic diaries of Aleister Crowley sent me down an Internet rabbit hole.

Kinsey (1894–1956) was studied biology, particularly entomology, but while teaching at Indiana University in the 1930s turned to the study of human sexuality, attacking the “widespread ignorance of sexual structure and physiology” he saw around him.

In writing his monumental works on sexual behavior, Kinsey not only collected data with questionnaires, he created data (filming his research assistants having sex, for instance) and appropriated other people’s data, sometimes lying about his sources.

In the most notorious case (I think this was in the movie), he based his narrative on the sexual experiences of children on the precise and detailed records kept by one particular pedophile, which he took at face value. (But was that a scream of pain or an orgasm?)

A British Channel 4 documentary on this controversial research has never been aired in the United States (What’s up, PBS?), but you can see it on YouTube. It’s very good.

Alfred Kinsey, left, and occultist-filmmaker Kenneth Anger at Crowley’s former “abbey” in Cefalu, Sicily, in the early 1950s (Satanism in Hollywood website). Crowley himself died in 1947.

You can buy printed editions of some of Crowley’s magickal notebooks, including sex-magick workings, but they probably were not easily available sixty years ago.

Go much beyond this point, however, and you are wading into deep, dark, conspiratorial waters.

For instance, you can read on the Internet that the Rockefeller Foundation, which funded much of Kinsey’s research, was “pro-Nazi.”[1]

At the same time, Kinsey allegedly was part of a Jewish-Masonic-Illuminati conspiracy to undermine the moral fiber of America and “subjugate the masses.”

Right, a pro-Nazi Jewish conspiracy. It gets better, but you can find your own links.

A less conspiratorial anti-Kinsey movement is still alive and kicking. The Kinsey Institute is still “spinning” and defending itself against allegations of pedophila and underage sexual encounters in Kinsey’s research.

In retrospect Kinsey’s judgment in not anticipating such misinterpretations, and in placing so much emphasis on this one man’s evidence, can be questioned.

Note the use of the passive voice, favored by institutional spokesmen who do not really believe in their own message.

I don’t know if Kinsey ever read Crowley’s notebooks, but the very association is enough for some people to condemn him just for that.

For Kinsey, it was all data. “Kinsey worshiped data,” says one of the people in the documentary. Even Nazi pedophiles. But I see no evidence that he ever used Crowley’s sex-magick diaries, despite looking for them.

UPDATE: Crowley scholar Marco Pasi tells me that Kenneth Anger did share some of Crowley’s diaries with Kinsey — but is there evidence that Kinsey used them in his writing?

1. But then Michael Rockefeller was eaten by cannibals, so what goes around, comes around.

We Might as well Wear Lineages on our Chests

Academic bloggers Megan Kate Nelson and Elizabeth Covart are re-thinking the way that we wear badges at conventions—and other forms of labeling. What might work better than NAME and INSTITUTION (or for the non-affiliated, CITY)?

In Nelson’s post, I like “Academic lineage, a la Game of Thrones. Everyone always asks anyway (which I find bizarre when you’re 15 years out of graduate school), so you might as well cop to it.”

It’s true, at the American Academy of Religion, House McCutcheon sneers at the remnants of House Eliade. We might as well be open about it.