Something So Ordinary That It Was Lost

From the Moongiant calendar

I left for the Heartland Pagan Festival at the new Moon, and the first time that I noted the crescent was Saturday night, as the Moon rose over the Pavilion where Tuatha Dea was playing.

So I made my usual gesture, which is just blowing a kiss to Her.

But there used to be a different gesture that people used in Greece and elsewhere. I have asked several Classicists, but no one has yet told me what it was.

From an old book on Neoplatonism comes this story of the philosopher Proclus when he was a young man studying in Athens, which in the early 5th century was still a polytheistic enclave in the increasingly Christianized Roman empire:1)C. Bigg, Neoplatonism. Chief Ancient Philosophies (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1895), 319–20.

For life at that time no small courage was wanted. But Proclus did not lack resolution. When he paid his freshman’s call upon Syrianus [head of the Platonic Academy], it was the evening of the new moon, and the old professor dismissed him rather curtly, being anxious to get to his devotions as soon as possible, and not knowing what manner of man he had to deal with. But happening to catch a glimpse through the window, he saw Proclus take off his shoes, and do obeisance to the crescent moon in the open street.

In other words, Proclus made it clear that he, like Syrianus, was a devout Hellenic Pagan at a time when that was becoming riskier and riskier.

One friend thought that the obeisance might be a raising of the arms, but what about the taking off of the shoes?

Obviously this was once a commonplace gesture, like (in the USA) placing your hand on your heart when the national flag goes by at the beginning of a July 4th parade.

Now no one seems to know how it was done.

Notes   [ + ]

1. C. Bigg, Neoplatonism. Chief Ancient Philosophies (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1895), 319–20.

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?

Assessing Margot Adler and Moving Toward a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion

¶  Link to National Public Radio audio (14 minutes) of Ronald Hutton and Phyllis Curott talking about Margot Adler’s influence on contemporary Paganism.

The presenter rather made it sound as though we Pagans were all in the wilderness (no elders?!) until Margot brought us out, but then, as you pointed out in milder language, one thing that Margot did was make Wicca, etc., a bit more respectable to the chattering classes of the Northeast by being something that they recognized: a politically pink, secular-seeming Jewish intellectual, descendent of a famous psychoanalyst, thus easily penetrating their particular bulwarks of snobbery — not someone from Flyover Country or the wrong sort of foreigner.

Drawing Down the Moon was the third or fourth “I go among the witches” book of the era, following on Hans Holzer’s The New Pagans, Susan Roberts’ Witches USA, etc. and hitting some of the same locales, but it was far, far better and deeper, and I agree that it did give contemporary Paganism a bit of intellectual ballast.

¶ A philosophy professor from India talks about how beginning with Hinduism instead of one of the desert monotheisms changes how we discuss the philosophy of religion.

Taking Christianity as the exemplar of religion skews philosophical discussion towards attempts to solve, resolve or dissolve difficult philosophical puzzles inherent in monotheism: problems about God’s powers, goodness and knowledge; attempts to provide rational arguments for God’s existence; the problem of evil; and so on. Hindu philosophers have traditionally been far more interested in a quite different array of problems, especially questions about the nature of religious knowledge and religious language, initially arising from their concerns with the Veda as a sacred eternal text and as a source of ritual and moral law.

¶ What about a polytheistic philosophy of religion? Using ancient Greek materials, Edward Butler offers Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion (parts of which previously appeared in The Pomegranate, I am happy to say).

Three Related Blog Posts

From Deborah Castellano, who also blogs at Charmed, I’m Sure: “The Art of Career Occultism.”‘

Let me ask you, how do you see a career occultist?  Do you see her as someone who gets up and does sun salutations, writing in her dream diary over herbal tea and an organic scone, sauntering through a field with an animal companion as she chooses herbs to harvest while wearing something fabulous and floaty, coming home to her gorgeous dedicated workshop for afternoon sketching for new designs?  Because . . .if so, you’re going to be greatly disappointed as to what’s actually the job.

From Heather Awen at Adventures in Animism: “Dancing in the Ashes of the New Age.”

A friend recently said to me that she’s going to go for it and do some really hard things to make her dreams of working to improve children’s lives a reality. She said that she had to believe the Goddess would provide for her. I used to believe that. I want to believe that, but I don’t anymore. I asked her to explain this, not to be a bitch, but because I was hoping she’d be able to convince me that the Goddess works this way. . . . .  How did the Goddess decide who to provide for? So why should I trust that “we always get what we need” when clearly the facts say that we don’t?

Both are about facing some facts of mundane life and a balance between willing, affirming, etc., and actually doing.

At Pantheon, Star Foster is talking about an ancient philosopher who could help sort these questions out: Epictetus.

So as I sit here worrying How am I to live? and How do I cope with this huge change in my life? I am finding my answers in Epictetus.

He lived from 55-135 CE. He was at first a slave — an educated slave, as some were, but still a slave. That ought to give him a certain amount of street cred, don’t you think, when it comes to knowing what you can change and what you cannot?

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.

Pentagram Pizza for April 21st

Week-old pizza from the back of the refrigerator …

• Here’s an idea for a novel: “two down-on-their-luck entrepreneurs who stumble upon the idea of reviving for-profit idolatry. Selling statues of household gods to the masses, and building a neo-pagan religion around it.” Um, I think that people have been doing this for some time.

Circus Breivik. Norwegian scholar of esotericism Egil Asprem analyzes the trial of Anders Behring Breivik. (He wrote about the shootings for the current Pomegranate.)

This trial will be about two things: psychiatry and ideology. Two drastically conflicting reports on Breivik’s mental health have already ensured this. Added to this, of course, is Breivik’s own clearly stated wish to be judged as sane, and have his actions confirmed as ideologically motivated.

Teaching classical philosophy to Brazilian schoolchildren:

I assured the students that until the nineteenth century hardly any philosopher was an atheist. Plato’s Euthyphro—with its argument about the relationship between ethics and the will of the gods—gets us into a lively discussion.

* This is called “edgy, irreverent outreach” by some of today’s Christians Jesus Followers. I think the pastor needs to look up “pathos” in the rhetorical dictionary, because he is doing it wrong. But to be fair, some long-ago saints would have agreed with him.

• Alcohol  “sharpens the mind.”  But “beer goggles” are real too.

Canada braces for more Danish aggression.

Wicca without “Woo”

I linked earlier to one of Eric Steinhart’s series of discussions and critiques of Wicca from a non-theistic philosophical perspective. Here is the last, apparently, on Wicca without the “woo”:

It’s probably not possible for Wicca to renounce the culture of woo.  But an atheistic nature-religion in the United States is possible.

Despite Steinhart’s perspective, however, his blogging annoyed some of the heavyweights at Freethoughtblogs.com, of which Camels with Hammers is part.

Having read a few of Eric’s contributions, I am disgusted. Prolix bafflegab, confusion, thinly veiled attempts to rationalize pagan mysticism, and just general longwinded bullshit. Why have you invited him here? He’s awful.

Woo indeed. Apparently Wicca comes under the heading of Things That May Not Be Discussed if you are a committed atheist. (Condemnation from the security of one’s armchair would be all right, I suppose.) If you take it seriously enough to discuss the possibility of an “atheistic nature religion,” you have become ideologically unclean.

Ironic, eh?

“Tolerance” or “Cowardice”?

“They learn to accept [both] gay rights in North America and stoning gays in Afghanistan.”

A Canadian hgh-school teacher wonders if being non-judgmental and “celebrating diversity” can go too far when he sees his students morally paralyzed by a act of sexual violence from another culture.

As a member of a religious minority, I am all for “tolerance.” But I am realistic enough to know that we tolerate what we do not like but cannot change.

I cannot get rid of all the mosquitoes in the world, so I tolerate being bitten, although I try to minimize mosquito bites.

So I figure that if I am to be tolerated  on one account, I need to make sure that I am contributing to society in other ways. Then people can say, “Well, he is one of those, but he’s OK.”

But back to the main topic, what are you required to tolerate? Where are the limits?

As Kevin Bearquiver, an official of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said in a different context, ” “Tolerance is a European thing brought to the country. We never tolerated things. We turned our back on people.”

Yes, there are more nuanced forms of cultural relativism out there—ask any anthropologist. But most people’s moral development does not include cultural anthropology classes.

Via (indirectly) Brendan Myers.

 

The Dream Philosophical Academy

Three night ago, I was dreaming that someone was lecturing on some sort of gnostic philosophy. “Gnostic” was the term used in the dream, although it might not have been appropriate.

The lecturer drew a distinction between the Pagan view of “remembering” the soul’s perfection, versus a Christian approach of attempting to become more and more perfect.

The former, at least, seems like fairly mainstream Platonic teaching.

All this was followed by a very cinematic dream about a young man returning by train to his home town in Wyoming. Since Amtrak does not serve Wyoming, and since it seemed that through CGI that the Wind River Range had been moved closer to the town, it was clear that I was dreaming.

The way I figure it, I had just joined the Association for the Study of Esotericism because of some new projects that I am pursuing, and they were just getting my coordinates into their dream-projector.