The Japanese Do Animism So Well — But So Can You

Two things I was reading this week came together. One was this article in The Atlantic: “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo Isn’t Really a Makeover Show,” about the Japanese author of  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, who now has a show on Netflix.

[Kondo] worked as a [Shinto] shrine maiden in Japan during college, and there are elements of the KonMari technique that borrow from Shinto beliefs, specifically the notion that inanimate objects are bearers of kami, or divine essence—in the same way that plants, animals, and people are. That’s why Kondo taps piles of old books to “wake them up,” folds clothes so that they can rest more comfortably, and asks her clients to thank pieces of clothing for their service before setting them aside. Paradoxically, the exercise of cultivating empathy for the things that surround us, rather than encouraging materialism, seems to lead Kondo’s clients to also have empathy for one another, and for themselves.

Marie Kondo

Podcaster Fire Lyte at Inciting a Riot picked upon the animistic, Pagan-ish elements too:

It’s a show where a nice little Japanese lady comes into your home and teaches you how to keep your home neat and organized. (I SWEAR IT IS PAGAN-ISH…keep reading…stop rolling your eyes. …put that tongue back in your mouth, too.) Kondo spent 5 years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine, and the religion’s animism is apparent throughout the show. Before Kondo begins, she greets your home, and teaches everyone she meets how to appreciate the spirit and effort immanent in all the things in your life. If the events of this show are not an example of magic in action I cannot think of a show that is. Her clients discuss how the energy in their homes and personal spaces changes as they move through her method of tidying, which includes giving a heartfelt blessing to any items being discarded and a focus on keeping that which gives you joy.

But wait, there’s more. I was also reading a passage from Aidan Wachter’s new book, Six Ways: Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic. I might have more to say about it later, but let me just say now that if you played a round of “If you had just one book on magic, what book would you have?” Six Ways is definitely a contender. Whether your path is Heathen or Hoodoo, there is something here for you.

In a section on “Warding Your Home” (how many of us do that regularly?) he writes of washing windows:

Now take your bucket [of spiritually charged vinegar and water that you have prepared] and clean your windows and doors, again asking what you wish. “Window, allow only helpful spirits and allies into this house, and send away all harmful influences that seek ingress into this place.” Do this with all the windows and doors . . . . When you operate your windows or doors, thank them for their work, being clear what you are thanking them for. This is important. In modern terms, be proactive, not reactive. Ask your door to protect your home when you leave, and thank it when you return!

We train ourselves as we train our house of spirits By being clear to the others around you, we become more clear to ourselves. Expect feedback if you are doing this right!

It’s all about maintaining relationships, right? And thank your old sneakers before you put them in the trash.

Marco Pasi on Sex and Esotericism

Scholar of esotericism Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam) speaks at a conference in Estonia. Or is that Esoteronia?

If that video does not play for you, try this link: “The Social and Cultural Aspects of Esoteric Sex.”

Which “Paganism” Did the New York Times Mean?

When New York Times (mostly) political columnist Ross Douthat wrote a December 12 column titled “The Return of Paganism: Maybe There Actually is a Genuinely Post-Christian Future for America,” some Pagans got a little too excited — look, the NYT is writing about us!

Remember, there are at least three definitions for “pagan/Pagan.”

  1. A nonreligious person or an unbeliever, from a monotheistic perspective.1)For Jews, this means to never have them as close friends or family. For Christians, it means they should be converted. For Muslims, it means they should be converted, and meanwhile, it permissible to enslave them.
  2.  A person philosophically opposed to monotheisms on the grounds that they are life-denying cosmologies that desacralize the world. An example that I will return to is the French philosopher Alain de Benoist, known for his book On Being a Pagan, and other works. Camille Paglia fits here too. Such philosophical Pagans, however, often look down their noses at category 3.
  3.  Persons who declare that they are following a Pagan religion. This may represent a reconstructed version of what their ancestors did or a new set of practices deemed compatible with ancient Paganism or a reconstructed version of practices from an admired ancient culture (for instance, if I were a Hellenic reconstructionist although not Greek by heritage). In addition, “Pagan” sometimes is employed to cover all polytheistic,2)There are “atheist” and “humanistic” Pagans, it is true. Perhaps they are merely Unitarians who like to be in the woods. animistic, and indigenous religions

A lot of Douthat’s piece is about position #1.

Here are some generally agreed-upon facts about religious trends in the United States. Institutional Christianity has weakened drastically since the 1960s. Lots of people who once would have been lukewarm Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers now identify as having “no religion” or being “spiritual but not religious.” The mainline-Protestant establishment is an establishment no more.

Then he goes into a “spiritual smorgasbord” section, where the “religious impulse” produces new creations of spiritual entrepreneurs who “cobble together pieces of the old orthodoxies” that are still under the overarching monotheist worldviews.

Nevertheless, he continues, there comes a “moment when you should just believe people who claim they have left the biblical world-picture behind, a context where the new spiritualities add up to a new religion.”  He quotes a new book by Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac, which speaks of a “new religious conception”:

What is that conception? Simply this: that divinity is fundamentally inside the world rather than outside it, that God or the gods or Being are ultimately part of nature rather than an external creator, and that meaning and morality and metaphysical experience are to be sought in a fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent

That sounds exactly like what Benoist was writing in the early1980s, or like various other people in the “#2 Pagan” category. But we have not even gotten to Wiccans, Heathens, Druids, etc.!

He finally gets to Wiccans, etc., at the end, consigning them to a “New Age” category, which just shows his ignorance. After all, if your Paganism includes “the gods are a part of nature,” you are not New Age but very Old Age. “New Age” is all about leaping towards the transcendent, just in a more gnostic way than in the churches.

By the end, he is broadly hinting that this “new paganism” will lead to an increase in demonic possession — just follow his last hyperlink.

Writing for The Wild Hunt, Manny Tejado-Moreno claims that “Douthat has it backwards. . . . Douthat appears to be profoundly disturbed at the loss of central moral authority, and, apparently unable to cope with what organized religion has done to itself, seeks a scapegoat in Paganism.”

But no, it’d not “backwards” insofar as Doughtat is not really writing about us practicing Pagans. We are just an afterthought. He is indeed concerned about the loss of Christian hegemony, a concern raised a couple of generations ago in western Europe but only more recently popping up in North America, where Christianity was always the 600-pound gorilla in the religion room.3)Now it’s what, the 300-pound gorilla? He sees the #1-#2 “paganism” that is replacing it as a falling away from The Truth.

If you want to watch a thoughtful Christian writer struggle with that issue, bookmark Rod Dreher’s blog or read his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in Post-Christian Nation, which is selling well in translation in France and Italy, I wonder why.

Notes   [ + ]

1. For Jews, this means to never have them as close friends or family. For Christians, it means they should be converted. For Muslims, it means they should be converted, and meanwhile, it permissible to enslave them.
2. There are “atheist” and “humanistic” Pagans, it is true. Perhaps they are merely Unitarians who like to be in the woods.
3. Now it’s what, the 300-pound gorilla?

Call for Papers: Digital Paganism and Digital Occultism

For a special issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

My name is Heather Freeman (Professor of Art, UNC Charlotte, USA) and I am seeking research on Digital Paganism / Digital Occultism for a future issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.  Please see the CFP (below) for details.

I am particularly interested in research on practices that employ scripting/programming, social media platforms, and/or mobile technologies.  Most of the published research on digital practices is a decade old and focused on using then-new technologies to meet virtually and communicate. In 2018 this practice is not surprising, yet it stands to reason that digital Pagan and Occult practices may be much more nuanced and rich, even (or especially) when it is otherwise hidden from forward-facing social media platforms.

If you have existing research on any of these topics, or if this is something you might be interested in pursing, please email me at heatherfreeman@uncc.edu. If you would like, I’d be happy to meet via Skype, Hangouts, or a phone call to discuss the CFP further.

Thank you in advance,

Heather Freeman
Professor of Art, UNC Charlotte (North Carolina, USA)
 
 
Request for Proposals: Digital Pagan and Occult Practice

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to Pagan and/or Occult intersections with mobile technologies, game design, programming, hacking, social bots, trolls, sock puppets; spellcasting in OSNs (on-line social networks); on-line covens; software as spell crafting; virtual familiars, fetches, and spirit homes; blogging and Craft community ; digital spaces and virtual collectives of marginalized witches; young Millennial and GenZ Pagans in on-line spaces; Pagan generational gaps and the ‘digital divide’; digital chaos magick, both historic and contemporary; ritual magick in virtual spaces or with digital tools; challenges in the ‘Nature vs. Technology’ binary.What is the current interplay between digital technologies and Pagan and Occult practice? Many deliberately distance their Craft from new media technologies, seeing screen-based mediation as antithetical to a nature-based practice.  Yet many Millennial and GenZ Pagans and Occultists embrace these new tools. While earlier generations of Pagans used sites like Witchvox.com to find fellow practitioners, the rapid development of commerical on-line social networks, such as Facebook, present new avenues for Pagans and Occultists to pursue community. 
 
Digital spaces have created myriad new tools and opportunities for magickal practice, from Phantasmaphile’s WitchEmojis to the mass binding spell on President Donald Trump. On-line magickal practices, tools, and actions leverage the power of vast social networks, making normally hidden and secretive acts highly public — sometimes as a side-effect, sometimes deliberately. Millennial and GenZ Pagans appear to use sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter for their practice in a radically different way from older users. But is this actually the case? And if it is, are Millennial and GenZ beliefs and practices also different? Indeed, numerous blog posts on Patheos – Pagan have consider this question, with discussions ranging from ‘validity’ to a consideration of how digital natives adopt new technologies for magical practices. But are these new trends in on-line magical practice also new religions? Do Millennial and GenZ Pagans and Occultists have a different relationship to the gods and spirits and, if so, is this because of digital technology? Is there really an on-line schism between GenZ magical practitioners and older generations, or does it just appear that way on Instagram?
 
But these publicly available and searchable Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr feeds are only the most forward facing manifestations of Digital Paganism. What of ‘back end’ digital magick? On-line social networks are rich with (or polluted by, depending on your perspective) social bots, trolls, and sock puppets, which are software and account behaviors used to skew the appearance of popularity and therefore algorithmic rankings. Chaos magicians used software code in their operations from the 1990s onwards, yet there has been little written about this practice since the explosion of social media technologies in the last decade. MySpace, which is arguably the first widely adopted social media platform, come out in 2006; the first iPhone in 2007; the incredibly rapid development and adoption of these information technologies is astounding.

It seems obvious that Pagan programmers would adopt these new technologies towards their practices, but where are they? What are they doing, and why has this become so hidden, even as so-called “aesthetic witchcraft” has become so popular? There are certainly Pagans and Occultists building divination and astrology apps, but are they also discrete apps as spells? Or are their spells entirely backend? How do digital technologies (including OSNs, video games, mobile apps, AR, and VR, and other forms) present new ways for Pagans and Occultists to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Be Silent? What are the roles of gender, race, age, class, and global location in the adoption and manipulation of digital media technologies for the pursuit of Hidden Knowledge?  

And if there is a generational schism growing between GenZ and older generations of magickal practitioners, what might this mean for the future of Paganism in an increasingly networked and connected global society?
 
If you are interested in contributing to this special issue of The Pomegranate:The International Journal of Pagan Studies, please, email an abstract (200 – 400 words) to Heather D. Freeman (heatherfreeman@uncc.edu).
 
Heather D. Freeman is Professor of Art – Digital Media at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director/Producer of the feature documentary Familiar Shapes: The Story of Social Bots, Early Modern Witches, and How Information Technologies Reveal Them.

Heather D. Freeman
Professor of Art, Digital Media
Co-Director, The Digital Arts Center (D+Arts) in the College of Arts + Architecture
Faculty Advisor to the UNC Charlotte Archery Club and the Digital Art Mob

Familiar Shapes — A documentary about social bots, misinformation, early modern witches, and how human behavior shapes them.

The Moving Image Workshop: Introducing animation, motion graphics and visual effects in 45 practical projects.

Department of Art & Art History
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223
(o) 704-687-0184
heatherfreeman@uncc.edu 
www.HeatherDFreeman.com


Call for Papers: The Impact of Traditionalism on Contemporary Magical Communities

For a special issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies

Traditionalism is a philosophical school which has significantly impacted religious communities and political movements in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, yet it remains virtually unknown among scholars and the general public. Yet when Steve Bannon cited Réne Guénon and Julius Evola as key influences in formulating his political positions, this inspired new interest in the history and ideas informing the growing Alt Right. However, both Guénon and Evola have been known within Pagan and occult communities for decades as esoteric theorists. Overall, the tenets of Traditionalism, which include Perennialism, the cultivation of an initiated elite, the notion of cyclical time, a past golden age and anti-modern sentiments, have increasingly impacted Pagan and occult communities, as some of these ideas are complementary to Pagan and occult aesthetics, values and practices.

This special volume of The Pomegranate would feature articles examining the ways in which Traditionalism has influenced Pagan and occult subcultures. Topics could include

· Traditionalism and Pagan or esoteric publishing.
· The intersection of Traditionalist ideas with Pagan values and ethics.
· Neofolk music.
· Traditionalism and Polytheism, Reconstructionism and Heathenry.
· Pagan and occult themes in Traditionalist theory.
· The impact of Traditionalist debates in various orders, such as the O.T.O.
· The impact of Traditionalism on historic individuals relevant to Paganism, for example W.B. Yeats or Kathleen Raine.

Please note that while papers may reflect the impact of Traditionalism
on the Alt Right or New Right in relationship to these topics, that we
would like to ensure that we focus on relevant philosophies and
frameworks explicitly inspired by Traditionalism.

If you would like to contribute to this issue of The Pomegranate: The International
Journal of Pagan Studies
edited by Amy Hale, please submit an abstract
of 300-500 words to amyhale93@gmail.com by April 1, 2019. Final
Submissions of 5000-8000 words will be due August 1, 2019.

Call for Papers: Pagan Art & Fashion

CFP for a special issue of The Pomegranate on Pagan Art and Fashion 

 A beautiful young woman drapes her long auburn hair over a human skull, pressing it close to her face like a lover. Another, clad in black and holding a wooden staff, poses like a model in a photo shoot on location in an incongruous forest. Long, elaborately decorated fake fingernails like talons grasp shiny crystals, evoking the “just so”beauty of a staged magazine spread. In the world of the Witches of Instagram, the art of photography meets business witchery and feminist activism. 

  Is it (still) the season of the witch? Luxury fashion house Dior  has a tarot-themed collection; witchcraft featured in recent issues of Vogue magazine; young witch-identifying women perform “fashion magic”; and an alchemist-fashion designer has invented colour-changing hair dye, inspired by a scene in the 1996 movie The Craft.An angry yet luxurious sex-positive feminism is in the air; goddesses, witches and sluts are rising up again, a decade and a half after Rockbitch stopped touring and almost thirty years after Annie Sprinkle’s first workshops celebrating the sacred whore.  Exhibitions showcasing the work of living and dead occult artists have been on the increase for several years now, most recently Black Light: Secret Traditions in Art Since the 1950s at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, and Barry William Hale + NOKO’s Enochian performance at Dark Mofo in Tasmania..Multidisciplinary artist Bill Crisafi and dancer Alkistis Dimech exemplify the Sabbatic witchcraft aesthetic; Russ Marshalek and VanessaIrena mix fitness and music with witchcraft in the age of the apocalypse; DJ Juliana Huxtable and queer arts collective House of Ladosha are a coven; rappers Azealia Banks and Princess Nokia are out and proud brujas; and singer Lanadel Rey admits hexing Donald Trump. 

  Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies invites submissions of articles (5000–8000 words) for a special issue on Pagan Art and Fashion, edited by Caroline Tully(caroline.tully@unimelb.edu.au).How are Paganism, modern Goddess worship, witchcraft and magick utilised in the service of creative self-expression today? Potential topics might fall under the general headings of, but are not limited to, Aesthetics, Dance, Fashion, Film and Television, Internet Culture, Literature, Music, and Visual Art. 

Submissions due June 15, 2019.   For information on the submission process see: https://journals.equinoxpub.com/index.php/POM/about/submissions

Please note that The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies uses the University of Chicago Press notes-and-bibliography citation style: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-1.html