Massive 2015 Year-End Link Dump! Something for Everyone!

This is a Druid knife. It says so.

Some of the links that I saved that never turned into blog posts . . .

• The Internet loves quizes, so “What Kind of Witch Would You Be?” (answer: hearth witch). I always suspect that the answer is based on just one question, while the others are there just for fluff and decoration.

• I saved this link from the Forest Door blog because I liked this thought:

This is, indeed, one of the roots of many problems in modern polytheism – people being unwilling to wait and let things naturally evolve. My biggest concern here isn’t the specific examples of mis-assignment (though they do exist, and are indicative of a serious lack of understanding in some cases). It is the fact that these folks are sitting around trying to artificially assign gods to places and things as if it’s just a game, or at best an intellectual exercise.

Local cultus is the new kale.

Is a knife named for Druids meant for Druids? (Echoes of allegations of human sacrifice?) Just what does “Druid” mean here?

• I did like John Halstead’s post on “the tyranny of structurelessness.” See also “Reclaiming.” See also “The Theology of Consensus.”

• Turn off the computer and play a 1,600-year-old Viking war game.

• From last July, a Washington Post story on Asatruar in the Army.

A photography book of modern British folklore. Not an oxymoron.

• More photography: “Earth Magic – Photographer Rik Garrett Talks About Witchcraft.”

What if witches hadn’t changed that much since medieval times and were still fairly close to the popular imagery conveyed by their early enemies during the classical witchhunts?

• So you’re a Pagan? Here are ten ways to show respect for your elders. It’s the Pagan way.

• Philosophy should teach you how to live. “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers.” Also, it’s Pagan.

• Reviewing a book on Greek and Roman animal sacrifice, which was, after all, the chief ritual back in the days when Paganism was the religion of the community.

• Was it the bells? Morris dancers attacked by dogs.

• Camille Paglia’s definition of “Pagan” is not mine, but she still kicks ass. Also, “Everything’s Awesome, and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”

• Embiggen thy word-hoard! Visit the Historical Thesaurus of Engish.

• But if you really want to go down the 15th-century rabbit hole, follow The Great Vowel Shift.

The New Yorker covers psychedelic therapy. To learn more, follow and donate to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Also: “How Psychedelics Are Helping Cancer Patients Fend Off Despair.”

Looking good for an academic interview.

A review from last year of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.

• From the Chronicle of Higher Education: “How to Be Intoxicated.” Not surprisingly, Dionyus figures in more than does binge-drinking.

• Apparently the Yakuza, the Nipponese Mob, planned to call off Halloween due to a gang war. So how did that work out?

UK Druids Restore Damaged Ley Lines

A major effort is underway:

The council of British Druids have been working through the night to restore ley lines which have been damaged by recent storms. Many households have been without spiritual energy throughout the Yuletide holiday which has affected psychic connections in many parts of the country. A spokesman for the Druids commented; ‘We are doing all we can to restore the lines during the traditional pagan festival of Winter Solstice and we hope to have positive energy flowing freely between Glastonbury and Stonehenge by the weekend.’

Pagans Preparing for Collapse

Archdruid John Michael Greer and the Four Quarters Sanctuary figure in this article on “doom time religion.”

Based on my limited experience, a strong religious emphasis might hold a communal group together. Otherwise, the people you need are not always the ones who want to live in the commune. The hard workers don’t want to have to carry a bunch of parasites and wannabes who think that “communal living” equals “easy.”

Falling Stars

A multicolored, long Perseid crossing the sky (from Wikipedia).

A multicolored, long Perseid crossing the sky (Wikipedia).

Last night after walking the dogs I spread an old blanket on the ground and lay watching the stars.

The Perseid meteor shower is under way, and in 15 minutes I saw five meteors.

One was just a blip of light, two were quick, and two left long streaks.

I had felt emotionally low all day. Isaac Bonewits’ passing was part of the cause, but only part, I think.

We were friends at a distance, but rarely saw one another. He moved East, and I have attended only one festival there in my life, and it was not one that he came to.

The time of year is part of it. After all those years in the classroom, mid-August still seems like the end of summer.

Last week I was talking with a friend at the university library. She mentioned that university convocation, which is followed by college and department meetings, comes next week. She said that I flinched when I heard that—even though it no longer affects me, even though it no longer means the end of summer break.

Back when our ancestors chopped with stone, they no doubt watched the night sky much more than we do. And they saw falling stars, of course, and no doubt they made analogies between meteors and human lives.

Isaac’s was one of the long streaks—at least so far as we Pagans are concerned. But there is so much black between the stars.

Still, watch the sky-show if you can. It is all that there is.

P.E.I. Bonewits 1949-2010

Isaac Bonewits (2nd from left) at the Greenfield Ranch tree planting, Jan. 1978

Isaac Bonewits, second from left, at a tree-planting in 1978.

All around the Pagan blogosphere, tributes are being written today for Isaac Bonewits, who died today.

Here is a chronology of his life and tribute by Ian Corrigan.

I can add only that he was one of the most prolific and visible figures of the Pagan revival from the 1970s forward.

As a student, he took what had been a sort of spoof “Druidry” and turned it into a genuine Pagan religion with a spoofy name, the Schismatic Druids of North America.

That in turn  become Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), which is very much alive today.

Druids are always associated with trees, and the photo is one that I took in January 1978 at a tree-planting at “Annwfn,” part of Greenfields Ranch, near Ukiah, California.

From left, Isaac’s then-wife Selene Kumin vega, Isaac (leaning on his hoedad), Morning Glory Zell, someone obscured (possibly Gwydion Pendderwen), and would that be Oberon Zell with arm outstretched?

I am glad that I was able to offer Phaedra some help in finding a home for his papers. Although I did not see Isaac often, we were always friends at a distance, and I shall miss his presence on the Pagan scene. Ave atque vale.

Review: Living with Honour: A Pagan Ethics

Emma Restall Orr is one of the leading figures of British Druidry, and her book Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics may be seen as an attempt for formalize the vaguely expressed ethical precepts (“If it harm none,” etc.) that characterize contemporary Paganism(s).

Orr herself admits that “Paganism can appear fragmented ” but that its diversity of belief and approach “is not always helpful those trying to grasp comprehension from the outside” (11). (I think she means, “Comprehend it from the outside.)

As have a number of other Pagan writers, she feels moved to act partly by social pressures. In order for Pagans and their concerns (e.g., “appropriate care of ancient monuments and artefacts”), “it is useful to be able to stand with one voice before the benches of a nation’s authority” (11).

She wants to locate her ethics in nature. This “nature” is primarily planetary as opposed to cosmic—and she makes an argument about hurricanes and tsunamis that I would agree with completely: “The *Pagan acceptance of nature’s destructive power is not about resignation, but reverence.” You can have a relationship with planetary nature, but it is not all about you.

Asterisk-Pagan is Orr’s special spelling for a Paganism with “a devotional reverence for nature” (35), and it is essentially countercultural and antinominan, mixed with a heavy dose of romantic tribalism.

But the more I read Living with Honour, the more I became aware of two huge omissions. One is Pagan philosophy. Orr knows that she does not want to return to a bloody, heroic duel-fighting “death before dishonor” type of tribal culture, as appealing as it looks from a distance of 2,500 years. So the book is not really rooted in the Northern European Iron Age cultures, despite a couple of nods in that direction.

Yet she almost completely ignores centuries of Pagan thought on ethics and philosophy from the Greco-Roman tradition!

The Stoics get a paragraph or two, and Epicurus one sentence that demonstrates the common modern misunderstanding of his teaching. The rest of the time, the reader is fed bits of the usual grumpy, depressed, and misogynistic 18th-20th-century gang: Schopenhauer, Hegel, Nietszche. (I will make an exception for Emmanual Lévinas, whose work has informed some other contemporary Pagan thought as well.)

The ancient philosophers ranged from the hardest of “hard polytheists” to skeptical materialists like Epicurus to the “honor the gods and do your duty” attitude of the Roman Stoics. And they had a great deal to say about living ethically in friendship, in marriage, and in civic life–even when (as under the worst emperors) one was caught up in a corrupt governmental system.

Why leave them out in favor of Schopenhauer, Martin Buber, or A.J. Ayer?

By contrast, Orr’s book says much about cosmos and “the Other” in an abstract sense, but neglects the polis—the world of civic and social relationships. That is the second omission.

It may be that Orr finds participatory politics distasteful–“American democracy is acknowledged as a farce,” she proclaims (6)–and would rather limit her wants and watch badgers. (Doing so would be Epicurean in the truer sense.) She admits to a fondness for philosophical anarchism.

But by neglecting the “political” (in the broadest sense of life in community) part of life, she has nothing to say on issues of rights and responsibilities, on how to be an engaged and “political” citizen.

Indeed, she rejects “any idea of duty” (323). If I ever have to teach another 8 a.m. lecture class but would rather sleep, I will remember that I have no duty to the university or to my students. I can just send them a group email and tell them to read the book on their own.

When Pagans (and *Pagans) come before “the benches of nation’s authority,” we need to make a simple case. Although a tiny religious minority, we will pull our weight. We do not ask for to be excused for our specialness, with sharia courts and kicking everyone else out of the public swimming pool.

Unlike fundamentalists of various sorts, we do not fear academic learning–Pagans invented the academy. And democracy. And Western philosophy.

Many of us are willing to take up arms for our nation, and we support our warriors. In all social realms, we are here, and we participate.

Thus, while I find much to like in Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics–I do enjoy seeing intelligent writers wrestle with the issue of just what “nature religion” is–I cannot help but see it as crippled by its rejection of still-relevent Pagan ethical traditions.

Book Posts in the Works

I am spread a little thin these days, and the below-zero (F.) weather the last few days threw some complications my way too.

Two book reviews are in the works. Here are the previews:

Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick, The Biography of Stewart Farrar by Elizabeth Guerra. Workmanlike biography of one of the key Wiccan figures of the late 20th century.

Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics by Emma Restall Orr, noted British Druid. I am part-way through it and thus far under-whelmed, but I will complete it and write a proper review.

• Meanwhile, if you are a university library (or rich), consider the Handbook of Contemporary Paganism, edited by Jim Lewis and Murph Pizza. Yes, that’s the price. If you thought that American reference books were expensive, consider the Dutch!

Gallimaufry with Bar Graphs

• Learn all about American religious affiliation from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life — until you get to us. We are in the “Other Faiths” category under (sigh) “New Age.” Notice how the Jews and Hindus score highest in education, the evangelical Protestants and JW’s lowest.

• Utra Press, the publishers of the journal Tyr now have their own web site.

• Isaac Bonewits is starting his own magick school. Jason Pitzl-Waters has the details.

Death of a Chief Druid

The awen is a symbol of revived Druidry.
Tim Sebastion, chief of the Secular Order of Druids in the UK, died on February 1.
He was always in the swirl of controversy around Stonehenge. This site, although dated, gives a feel for how that has gone.

His order was formed in 1975 and the acronym was chosen deliberately, or so I have been told. Based on my couple of meetings with Tim (the last in a Bath pub in 2004), it seemed that by appearing to not be totally serious, he was able to be very serious.

He also held the Bardic Chair of Caer Badon (Bath) after founding a gorsedd (poetic competition) in 1995.

A ton of British Druid Web sites exist: Here is a sampling.

One Druid Down

Fr. William Melnyk, the Episcopal priest in Pennsylvania who was also an active Druid, has resigned.. His wife, Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, also a Druid and Episcopal priest (no “-ess” allowed), faces disciplinary action.

My last post on this issue is here. Notice that the man must suffer more; women lead us into temptation, but a man is more morally culpable. Thus says the patriarchy.