LAP Lambert and the “Book-Mill Iceberg”

Slate contributor Joseph Stromberg chronicles his trip through “the shadowy, surreal world of an academic book mill.”

The bloggers and academics who’d written these posts had gotten emails virtually identical to mine and wrote about how the company obtained the rights to tens of thousands of theses, dissertations, and other unpublished works for essentially nothing; sold copies of them as books to unsuspecting online buyers (who assumed they were purchasing proofed, edited work); and kept essentially 100 percent of the proceeds. LAP Lambert, I learned, is the print equivalent of a content farm: a clearinghouse for texts that generate tiny amounts of revenue simply by turning up in search and appearing to be legitimate, published works.

So, naturally, I replied to Holmes, telling her I was interested in hearing more.

It’s a marriage of content-scraping and tax-evasion, by the sound of it. Certainly there is evasion of paying royalties. And this:

Some naive academics think publishing will add cachet to their C.V., but they find that having the Lambert name on it is an embarrassment.

Authors in the developing world may be the most easily exploited, thinking that they are being published by a prestigious German house. And like all vanity presses, this one makes some of its money by selling copies to the books’ authors.

Cross-Cultural Collection on Popular Religion Includes Paganism

The edited collection Religion, Tradition and the Popular examines “experiences of spirituality in combination with commercialization and expressive performative practices as well as everyday politics of identity. Based on innovative theoretical reflections, the essays take into consideration what the transcultural negotiation of religion, tradition and the popular signifies in different places and social contexts.”

Two contributions speak to contemporary Paganism in particular:

• Stefanie v. Schnurbein,  “Germanic Neo-Paganism: A Nordic Art-Religion?” (243–60).

• René Gründer, “Neo-pagan Traditions in the 21st Century: Re-inventing Polytheism in a Polyvalent World-Culture,” ( 261–82).

Quick Review: The Wizard and the Witch

wizard and witchOne of my earliest entries on this blog, clear back in 2003, was a complaint about the lack of biographical and autobiographical writing in American Wicca — and I would extend that to all types of new Paganism generally.

That entry did mention Margot Adler’s Heretic’s Heart (1997), but I did not care for Whispers of the Moon (1996), a biography of Scott Cunningham, because it seemed too obviously tidied-up and sanitized. (Sam Webster says that it is still valuable despite that — I won’t dispute the point.)

Michael Lloyd’s The Bull of Heaven (2012) broke the drought. His thoroughly researched book placed Eddie Buczynski in a cultural context — the New York Pagan and Gay Liberation scenes of the 1970s — and explored a wealth of connections and possibilities without blinking.

Now John C.. Sulak, who co-wrote Modern Pagans (2001) for RE/Search Press, has brought us  The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell & Morning Glory.

It is not just the history of a significant slice of  American Paganism from the 1960s until now, but also the love story of a couple married for forty years.

Yet Morning Glory, priestess of Aphrodite, invented the term “polyamory” (but not the concept)  and they embraced it. Paradoxes abound.

Sulak tells the story of Otter and MG through multiple voices, more like a radio documentary — there is even a voice labeled “Narrator.” I thought that was a little weird at first, but I got used to it.

Sometimes the Zells may seem like Pagan rock stars, but then you see them in screaming fights, or admitting that they made mistakes in who they trusted or dealt with their families of birth or how they raised their kids  (Those children, now grown, are also heard from.) Highs and lows, gains and losses, feasts and famines — it’s all here.

Reading it, you can see how the Church of All Worlds, founded by Tim Zell and his close friend Lance Christie, started out as what we now would call “spiritual but not religious,” and changed as it encountered other overly Pagan groups (such as Feraferia) as well as various Witchcraft groups.

There is much about the publishing chronicle of Green Egg magazine and the founding of the Grey School of Wizardry as well, not to mention the growth of the Pagan festival circuit.

When people wonder, “What was the American Pagan scene like in the 1970s, 1980s, 0r 1990s?” they will do well to read The Wizard and the Witch for one answer. It is a sign of Llewellyn’s editorial maturation that they published it, and I applaud that.

More Reflections on Doninger’s Hinduism Book

Like a lot of people, I was dismayed (to put it mildy) that Penguin India has pulled Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History from sale in that country.

Indologist Koenraad Elst, no stranger to such controversies, explains some of the background on Indian law about religions here.

Art. 295A was never the doing of Hindu society. It was imposed by the British on the Hindus in order to shield Islam from criticism. The reason for its enactment was the murder of Pandit Lekhram in 1897 by a Muslim because Lekhram had written a book criticizing Islam. While the British authorities sentenced the murderer, they also sided with him by retroactively and posthumously punishing Lekhram.

Though originally and for a long time serving to shield Islam, Hindus gradually discovered that they too could use the religiously neutral language of this Article to their seeming advantage. Christians as well have invoked it, e.g. to ban Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. This creates a sickening atmosphere of a pervasive touch-me-not-ism, with every community outdoing the other in being more susceptible to having its sentiments hurt.

American academics have a moral right to deplore this law, on condition that they have spoken out against it on the occasion of earlier conspicuous incidents of book-banning. Where was Wendy when Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses was banned? Not knowing her entire record, I leave it to her to provide the answer. At any rate, many Indian secularists, who mostly enjoy the support of those American academics, supported the ban, which was decreed by a self-declared secular Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) and ruling party (Congress).

Some . . . interesting . . . comments on Elst’s post, too.

At the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, Steven Ramey uses this incident to discuss some larger issues in religious studies and the old scholar-practitioner tensions:

One point of contention between Doniger (and many contemporary scholars) and some of her detractors is the difference between a generally post-modern conception of interpretation as subjective and a more modern, objectivist epistemology. While Doniger’s detractors identify specific assertions and dates that they have labeled as inaccurate, the central issue, the cause for taking offence, seems to be Doniger’s emphasis on less prominent anecdotes, images and interpretations that do not conform to the image of Hinduism that her detractors want to maintain. Doniger’s self-reflexive acknowledgement of her own selectivity within the “embarrassment of riches” that she identifies as Hinduism (and sometimes Hinduisms) becomes a further point of complaint. These opponents assume that questions have definitive answers. They acknowledge “the historical consensus,” whereas Doniger describes her book as “a history.” They consider the meaning of a text to be fixed, as expressed in the legal complaint, “When text remains the same it is obvious that its meaning & message have remained the same.” Doniger, on the other hand, acknowledges that multiple meanings are possible throughout the diversity of Hinduism.

There are some obvious parallels with the academic study of Paganism(s), which I will leave (for now) to my readers to ponder.

New Issue of ‘Pomegranate’ Journal Published

Some people are perplexed as to why this issue carries a 2012 date, although the articles are copyright 2014. We got behind schedule a couple of years ago and have been slowly catching up. The 2013 volume will be a double issue published during the first half of 2014, d.v., followed by the first 2014 issue. Full subscription information here.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Paganism, Initiation and Ritual PDF Open Access
Christian Giudice, Henrik Bogdan 181-183
How to Become a Mage (or Fairy): Joséphin Péladan’s Initiation for the Masses PDF Restricted Access
Sasha Chaitow 185-211
Pagan Rome was Rebuilt in a Play: Roggero Musmeci Ferrari Bravo and the Representation of Rumon PDF Restricted Access
Christian Giudice 212-232
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, But Oaths are for Horses: Antecedents and Consequences of the Institutionalization of Secrecy in Initiatory Wicca PDF Restricted Access
Léon A. van Gulik 233-255
The Law of the Jungle: Self and Community in the Online Therianthropy Movement PDF Restricted Access
Venetia Laura Delano Robertson 256-280
Meeting Freya and the Cailleich, Celebrating Life and Death: Rites of Passage beyond Dutch Contemporary Pagan Community PDF Restricted Access
Hanneke Minkjan 281-303

Review Articles

“Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year” PDF Restricted Access
Ethan Doyle White 304-308

Book Reviews

Melissa M. Wilcox, Queer Women and Religious Individualism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 276 pp., $24.95 (paper), $65 (cloth). PDF Open Access
Rachel Morgain 309-312
Catherine R. DiCesare, Sweeping the Way: Divine Transformation in the Aztec Festival of Ochpaniztli (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2009), 248 pp., $60 (cloth), $45 (ebook). PDF Open Access
Susana Perea-Fox 313-316
Carole M. Cusack, Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction, and Faith (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2010), 179 pp., $89.96 (cloth), $79.96 (e-book). PDF Open Access
Christine Hoff Kraemer 317-320
Philip West, The Old Ones in the Old Book: Pagan Roots of the Hebrew Old Testament (Winchester: Moon Books, 2012), 128 pp., $16.95 (paperback). PDF Open Access
Stephanie Lynn Budin 321-324
Kristy S. Coleman, Re-Riting Woman: Dianic Wicca and the Feminine Divine (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2010), 257 pp., $35.00 (paperback). PDF Open Access
Michelle Mueller 325-328

Pentagram Pizza: An ‘Apocalypse’ for Witches

pentagrampizza¶ From Scarlet Imprint, Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft. In its review The Daily Grail said,

Grey sets out to explicate a perspective on the familiar symbols and stories of witchcraft in the West which has little truck with the formalities of scholarship, the sensibilities of the Wiccan paths or the white-light Newage perspective. His is a witchcraft both messy and impudent, one that stinks of mud, blood and spunk — in a good way. One where the oft-ignored or sidelined aspects — the legends of human sacrifice, poisons, curses and The Devil Himself — are both represented and, on some level, embraced.

¶ Once again, local authorities are deeply unimpressed by a legal defense based on “sacred prostitution,” especially when the woman involved is trying to get a license for a Colorado marijuana dispensary. 

¶ The list of polytheistic devotional books (and some Pagan SF) published by the Biblioteca Alexandrina  continues to grow. I have one and should get a couple of others.

Orthography and the Modern Pagan

One thing I did at the recent American Academy of Religion annual meeting was stop by the University of Chicago Press booth and get the name of the managing editor of the press’s Manual of Style, which is the holy book, all 1,028 pages of it, for editors of academic books and journals—plus many publishers of serious nonfiction.

A petition has been sent to her by Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds, etc., as well as to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, the holy book of American journalists, about the capitalization of the word “Pagan.” Oberon has lined up forty-some writers and academics in support of the petition, which reads in part,

The current journalistic convention of printing lower case for these terms seems to have originated with the Associated Press Stylebook, first published in 1953.  However, a new era of religious pluralism has emerged over the past sixty years. The terms “Pagan” and “Paganism” are now being capitalized in a variety of publications, texts, documents, and references, including religious diversity education resources such as On Common Ground: World Religions in America, The Pluralism Project, Harvard University, and Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices, Technical Reference Manual, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice.

You can read the full text here.

So far, the University of Chicago Press has acknowledged receiving it and plans to forward it to its Reference Committee.

This is a worthwhile cause, I think, and it is a battle that I have fought since the early 1990s (at least) when I was writing The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics for the reference book publishers ABC-Clio. (A friend working there at the time commissioned it.) I won the battle on Pagan — even for ancient polytheists — but lost on BCE/CE versus BC/AD.

As editor of The Pomegranate, I have continued to insist on capital P’s except in direct quotations. This has put me in gentle conflict sometimes with British and other European contributors who favor “pagan” or at most use “Pagan” for self-conscious contemporary new religions and “pagan” for pre-Christian practices. I think that bouncing back and forth is confusing for the reader’s eye.

So the movement to change the stylebooks is underway, although I expect the process to be a slow one.


Pentagram Pizza: Where You Find an Eagle Eating a Snake . . .

pentagrampizza¶ After reading this article, I think I will write something for Fate magazine about how Tenochtitlan was really a Mexica overlay on a forgotten Roman colony. Should be good for a few chuckles.

¶ After a long hiatus (in comic book years), Asterix the Gaul returns.

¶ An old acquaintance, Loretta Orion, pops-up in this Samhain-themed article, “Phantoms of the Hamptons.” She is the author of Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revived (1994).

Iron Mountain Ritual Site To Be Restored

Iron Mtn., Manitou Springs

Iron Mountain, Manitou Springs, Colorado. (photo by Colorado Springs Gazette).

When M. and I read this item in the Colorado Springs Gazette, our hearts soared. When we were newlyweds and bought our first house (a barely winterized 1920s cottage, 740 sq. ft.), it was just outside the lower left boundary of this photo of Iron Mountain in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Iron Mountain is just a foothill, really, but when you look up from below, it blots out the higher ridges behind it.

Before we bought the house, we rented it, and our landlord was Tom McGee, who would later build “The House on Iron Mountain.” (I think the article’s date is wrong; we recall it being built around 1984.)

Before then, we would climb to the summit, where there was a natural stone throne, sometimes using it as a ritual site.

The coven we headed in the early 1980s was the Iron Mountain Coven, and Iron Mountain gave its name to a certain zine of the mid-1980s — Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion.

I put out only four issues, but they helped to inspire Fritz Muntean to start his own zine called The Pomegranate, and look at it now.

As for the McGees’ house, not only did it ruin “our” ritual site, but it was not even architecturally interesting. So they are razing it today? Hurray! And if that land upon which technically we trespassed becomes public open space, someone else can sit in the “throne,” if it is still there. I suspect that the rock outcropping survived the construction project.

Oceania Has Always Been at War with Lemuria

51119-243x366The Los Angeles Review of Books offers a review of two books on Ray Palmer, the Shaver Mystery, and pulp-esoteric publishing of the 1940s–50s: The War Over Lemuria and The Man from Mars : Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey.

From the review:

Of course, the underground worlds of Richard Shaver did not spring full grown from his brain, no matter how fevered it might have been. Subterranean adventure has long been a staple of science-fiction. Even more to the point, the belief in the existence of subterranean civilizations itself has a long history, and not just among the ancients who believed in one form or another of an underworld abode of the dead.  Indeed, there are other instances in which fictional stories about the underworld have been regarded by some readers as revealing a hidden, sometimes religious truth. The Shaver Mystery, it turns out, is not without precedent. John Cleve Symmes’s hollow-earth novel Symzonia (1820), Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril: The Power of the Coming Race (1871), and Willis George Emerson’s The Smokey God (1908) are all examples of fictional tales of underground civilizations that have been treated as true accounts and the source for religious belief by some members of the Theosophical and occult communities. Shaver’s stories are darker than the similar works that preceded them, but Palmer’s claim that Shaver’s tales contained truths about the hidden world under our feet is part of a long tradition.

Ray Palmer went on to found Fate magazine, which has done several retrospective articles on the Shaver Mystery over the years. Until 1988, Fate was published in Chicago, which just adds to that whole “occult Chicago” meme. (See also the work of occult journalist Brad Steiger.)