Sampling the Pagan Blogosphere

¶ Andy Letcher goes to Helston in Cornwall for Flora Day, with flowers, pageantry, and the Furry Dance:

Then there is the Furry Dance itself. According to Ronald Hutton, the first mention of any Mayish activities in Helston is in 1600, but the dance is the last surviving Cornish Processional Dance (of which there were once many). It became popular, and formalised, in the nineteenth century, a legacy that remains, giving it the feel of something out of Trumpton.
There are four dances throughout the day, each processing right round the town and in and out of select shops and houses. They’re driven along by the Helston Town Band playing that tune.
If it’s a contender for the most irritating tune ever written then that’s only because some of us are old enough to remember Terry Wogan’s ghastly 1978 chart-topping rendition of the song (which is a later addition). In fact the tune is full of pomp and brilliantly infectious. It echoes round the streets and does the job of spurring the dancers on.

¶ Apuleius Platonicus tries to put to rest the idea that Hitler and his inner circle were some kind of Nazi Neo-Pagans with a post titled “Hitler Hated Heathens.”

I disagree though with his flip over to the position that Hitler was therefore pro-Christian. In fact, he regarded both Catholic and Lutheran clergy and those would revive ancient Germania as useful idiots — fine if they helped the cause; otherwise, they got a nice holiday at a camp in the countryside. Since the majority of Germans were Christians, it helped to have compliant clergy give the Nazi message a Christian garnish— pray for the troops, etc.

¶ At Invocatio, scholar of esotericism Sarah Veale looks at the Harvard Black Mass story, which has set a black cat among the journalistic pigeons this week.

The shock value of Satanic transgression, ironically—and ideally—will lead to greater discussion about the place of religion in the public sphere. Will it lead to acceptance for marginalized groups? I’m not sure. But it illustrates quite clearly that the laws are for all.

(We saw what you did there, Sarah.)

Apollo and the Whammy Bar

Andy Letcher links to a video reconstructing the ancient Greek kithara, a surprising complex cousin of the common lyre, associated with the god Apollo.

Whoever invented the ‘whammy bar’, the device which gives this ancient lyre its characteristic vibrato, must have been divinely inspired, as must have Michalis Georgiou, the luthier who patiently rediscovered it.

Wicker Man, Wicker Masks

One of the Armagh Rhymers’ masks, via The Bosky Man.

At The Bosky Man, Andy Letcher tells how playing a gig at the Ludlow Medieval Fair let him to meet an Irish band whose members perform wearing wicker masks, made by a 90-something-year-old Irish mask-maker who is the last of his kind.

That’s a pity because both invoke an odd, almost indescribable atavistic feeling. It seems to me extremely important that we all should know that feeling first hand, that we should experience it at key moments in our lives and in the yearly round of winter, spring, summer, fall. For whatever else the feeling is, it’s the sense of being brought up sharply against something Other, and you never know, that might just save us from ourselves.

I agree; in fact, I helped to write a book about that subject.

Pentagram Pizza: Not a Lie

pentagrampizza¶ An insightful interview with Pagan musician Sharon Knight.

¶ Why TED talks are lying to you.

This is what a dolmen should look like — “This enormous structure is the Soto dolmen in Trigueros, Spain, which has been returned to its prehistoric glory after a nine-year restoration. The mound is 60 metres across and 3.5 metres high, making it the largest of more than 200 dolmens, or megalithic tombs, that dot the Huelva province.”

Two Important New Books in Pagan Studies

Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson, has now been released in hardcover. (No paperback edition appears to be coming in the near future.)

You can read the complete table of contents and see ordering information at Acumen Publishing’s website.

Also being released in June — Pop Pagans: Pagans and Popular Music, with contributions from some of the people on my blogroll, I am happy to say.

The same publishing arrangement applies, one of the reasons that my series co-editor and I said farewell to Acumen.

Ancient Roman Music (Conjectured, Imagined)


The trouble with most of the “early music” groups that I have heard is that they take stuff originally played by drunken peasants (setting aside Christian church music) and make it sound like it is played by anorexic graduate students.

In this case, however, no one knows what ancient Roman music sounded like. They have the instruments and knowledge of ancient modes — and the rest is just conjectural.

But I still think they all need to slam back some of the good Falernian wine and then play.

“Sheikhs against shakes”


Nine years ago I wrote a post about Islamist reaction against popular Middle Eastern singers such as Haifa Wehbe. For some reason, I kept working in references to Sappho.

The process continues. Now a court in the new, improved Islamist Egypt has ordered al-Tet, a television channel devoted to belly dancing, shut down.

The channel was also accused of airing advertisements that “arouse viewers,” sell sexual-enhancement products and promote matchmaking, according to the court’s statement.

According to [Baleegh] Hamdy, the court ruling was not based on accurate evidence. “The judge was supposed to check the facts present in the lawyer’s allegations.”

There is not much the court can do about the the owners’ YouTube channel, however.

Pentagram Pizza: Some Good Reads and Free Music

Finding a complementary relationship between Paganism and Tantra at The Pagan Perspective. Not this:

My sabbatical led me down the rabbit hole of tantra, or rather neo-tantra, which turned out to be nothing more than a mobsterized store front for polyamory and polysexuality. Now I am the last person to dismiss sexuality or the free expression of it; however, when sexuality becomes a religion in disguise, we lose something of both sexuality and religion.

Download a free compilation album, Songs of the Goddess.

• Edward Butler, who has published two articles in The Pomegranate, has put them and some other material into a book: Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion.

Occult Chicago links to an old article about a “spirit photographer” of that city. Some people sure did want to believe, didn’t they.