She Started Life as “Astarte Lulu” . . .

. . . and ended it as “Louise.” But read who her father was. Muhler20141207_20141206

I don’t see any family resemblance though.

Still, there is a story here!

Animal Sacrifice and ‘Hard’ Polytheism

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A sacrifice to Kali in Nepal. (Washington Post)

There was some discussion last week at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting as to whether the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group should sponsor or co-sponsor a session devoted to issues surrounding animal sacrifice.

Some voices in the Pagan world suggest that you are not really a “hard” polytheist (truly understanding the gods as independent beings) unless you do it or at least accept its feasibility. Certainly it was a chief feature of civic Paganism in the ancient Mediterranean world. For many people, probably their chief or only opportunity to eat red meat was in the context of communal sacrifice.

At any rate, if being a hard polytheist is the goal and sacrifice is a way to get there, then these Nepalese Hindus in the middle of a sacrifice of thousands of animals are the “hardest” (and perhaps the longest and thickest) of polytheists.

A New ‘Guide’ for Lithuanian Romuva

Jonas Trinkunas, the leader of Lithuania’s Romuva Pagan movement, died last January — click here for video of his funeral.

His successor as “guide” has now been elected: Kriva Inija Trinkuniene.

Inija Trinkuniene was born in 1951  . . . in 1969 graduated from high school in 1974 . . .  at Vilnius University has gained a master’s degree in psychology. Since 1974 she has been working sociologist Academy of Philosophy and Sociology, since 2001 – at the Institute for Social Research, now called the Lithuanian Social Research Centre.

For more information and photos, here is a Google-translated article from Lithuania.

Get the Harvard Classics, Free

The Harvard Classics, also known as  “Dr. Eliot’s/The Five Foot Shelf of Books,”  are available as a free download.

From a time when university presidents actually cared what people read, as opposed to just the size of their donations:

What does the massive collection preserve? For one thing . . .  it’s “a record of what President Eliot’s America, and his Harvard, thought best in their own heritage.” Eliot’s intentions for his work differed somewhat from those of his English peers. Rather than simply curating for posterity “the best that has been thought and said” (in the words of Matthew Arnold), Eliot meant his anthology as a “portable university”—a pragmatic set of tools, to be sure, and also, of course, a product. He suggested that the full set of texts might be divided into a set of six courses on such conservative themes as “The History of Civilization” and “Religion and Philosophy,” and yet, writes Kirsch, “in a more profound sense, the lesson taught by the Harvard Classics is ‘Progress.’” “Eliot’s [1910] introduction expresses complete faith in the ‘intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization.’”

These books were in the public library of the Colorado town where I went to most of high school. The one that I checked out over and over, of course, was the mythology volume: Beowulf, The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel — tales like that. Over and over.

Sexuality and New Religious Movements

sex & nrmsSexuality and New Religious Movements, a collection edited by Henrik Bogdan (associate editor of The Pomegranate) and Jim Lewis, an American teaching in Norway, has been released by the academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

So far it is only in hardback, hence expensive.

Jeffrey Kripal, a noted scholar on sex and spirituality, has this to say:

Sex is not just sex. As anyone who has deeply engaged the history of religions knows, human sexuality runs the gamut from the most mundane fetish or fantasy to the profundities of charismatic authority, mystical experience, discarnate erotic encounter, alien abduction, even human deification. The essayists in this new volume demonstrate this still ill-understood truth in abundance and with astonishing historical and psychological detail. They thus take us further down the road toward a genuine understanding of our real situation in this weird, weird world.

I have an essay in there, written long enough ago now that I have trouble remembering what I said — and, who knows, I might want to revise some of those opinions. But the opening was good: it started with this sacred procession.

A New Investigation of Fairy Encounters

This request for help with a compilation of contemporary Fairy encounters and lore comes from Simon Young of the re-launched Fairy Investigation Society. The FIS was founded in 1927, died in the early 1990s, and in late 2014 it came back to life.

The survey (‘the fairy census’) is split into three parts: (i) for those who have seen fairies, (ii) those who have second-hand accounts of fairies and (iii) a more general one on fairy belief, which can be filled out by anyone who understands the word ‘fairy’, I did it with my four-year-old daughter yesterday . . . I have used the phrase ‘associated with the FIS’ in all press releases. I did this because I thought it might be a good way to attract extra members, as I was trusting in coverage around the world in the two years it runs. In the first forty eight hours we had forty detailed fairy sightings (in the first and second category). Just to put this in perspective the great and energetic Marjorie Johnson managed a couple of hundred sightings in her two year survey, 1955–1956. It would be great to get to two thousand, which would mean by far the biggest folklore survey of its kind.

He is also the author of a paper on the original Fairy Investigation Society, available at Academia. edu, along with other of his works.

Link to the survey.

I have previously mentioned Diane Purkiss’s historical survey of fairy lore, and I still hold the position that fairies are not your friends.

The Viking “Blood Eagle” Never Happened, Says Historian

ageofthevikingsA Swedish archaeologist reviews a new book, Anders Winroth’s The Age of the Vikings, and makes this observation:

Myself, I was intrigued to learn that the infamous, messy and impractical “blood eagle” murder method may just be the fruit of High Medieval writers misunderstanding one of the countless references in Viking Period poetry to carrion birds munching on the slain (p. 37). There is to my knowledge no osteological evidence for it. Also interesting to me, I can’t recall reading about the Spanish Moor Al-Tartushi’s report on life in Hedeby before (p. 197). But that may just be because I’m not an historian.

Funny thing, I had been thinking of that alleged method of torture/execution a couple of days before.

Read the rest at his blog: “New Popular Book on the Viking Period.”

Jesus [Heart] Mary Magdalene (Again)

Let’s get this out of the way first — yes, the source is the Daily Mail, which, I strongly suspect, occasionally makes up “news” articles from scratch.lostgospel

And I cannot speak to the quality of research in this new book, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene.

But the idea that Jesus was married, perhaps to the woman know to history as Mary Magdalene — who was not a prostitute but, more likely, the sort of well-to-do woman who you often find underwriting spiritual leaders’ work — seems totally plausible to me.

The idea of celibacy for spiritual purposes was foreign to Judaic culture (and still is). Assuming that he was a healthy, thirty-ish man, he would have been married. Period. Village culture would have seen to it.

I think we can say that even while treating as unproven all the hypotheses that Mary M. was a priestess of Canaanite goddess religion (see Robert Graves’  1946 novel King Jesus); that she after his death went to the South of France, to Egypt, to Glastonbury, or some other place; that she is connected with the medieval “black Madonna” figures; or anything else.

Since this book is being released just ahead of the American Academy of Religion — Society for Biblical Literature joint annual meetings, I expect I might see copies in the book show. Reviews from people who can ready Syriac and Aramaic will follow in due course.

I have seen some tiny, brownish bone fragments purported to be relics of Mary Magdalene in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Salt Lake City, of all places. Maybe Salt Lake could use some Canaanite goddess priestess energy. She happens to be the patroness of that diocese.

What is Your Spirit Animal (Internet Version)?

A piece in The Atlantic takes note of the proliferation of online quizzes devoted to helping you find your “spirit animal.” Sadly, it does not really fulfill the promise of its subtitle: “How did the concept of the spiritual guide leap from Native American tradition to Internet irony? With the help of Tumblr, the Times, and Samuel L. Jackson.” But it’s still a fun read. Pizza? I had no idea.

There are, after all, so many spirit animal options out there, across so many spirit animal categories! If you take the Internet as your spiritual guide, your spirit animal could be another person (Elizabeth Warren, Jennifer Lawrence, Lana del Rey, Stevie Nicks, Bea Arthur), a fake person (Ron Swanson, Nick Miller, Rayanne Graff, Sansa Stark, Liz Lemon), or a fake semi-person (Lisa Simpson). It could be a food (the pizza, the fried green tomato grilled cheese sandwich, the epic Chipotle burrito you had for lunch the other day). It could be an actual animal (the dolphin, the corgi, the sloth, the Geico camel). It could be a Disney princess. It could be Grumpy Cat. It could be science. It could be whiskey.

Burning Alex Salmond

The neighborhood celebration of Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night happened last night, three nights past the canonical date, but we are southern Coloradans, not necessarily up to date.

scotland and colorado

Flags of Scotland and Colorado, united in a garage devoted to beer, auto restoration . . . and table tennis.

The hostess is emphatically Scottish. Although she has lived here more than twenty years, raised two kids, and stayed employed, she retains her British citizenship—and when the 18th of September rolled around—the Scottish referendum on independence — you could count her in the “No” camp.

alex salmond for burning

On his pocked, “45%,” the vote percentage gained by the pro-independence side.

I wasn’t too surprised then that this year’s “guy” was an effigy of Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond. It’s not always a political thing, although one night a local landowner almost got his turn on the fire.

As usual, the daughter of the house carved a Guy Fawkes-themed jack o’ l2014 guy fawkes pumpkinantern.

I may live in a community (not a statutory town) of about six hundred, but even we have our moments of globalization.

On the other hand — and my hosts were well aware of this — had we burnt Salmond in the UK, it would have been a matter for “police concern.” In  the Sussex town of Lewes, an interesting substitution was made.