The earliest megaliths were built in what’s now northwestern France as early as around 6,800 years ago, says archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Knowledge of these stone constructions then spread by sea to societies along Europe’s Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, she contends in a study posted online the week of February 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“European megaliths were products of mobile, long-distance sea travelers,” Schulz Paulsson says.
Around 35,000 megalithic graves, standing stones, stone circles and stone buildings or temples still exist, many located near coastlines. Radiocarbon dating has suggested that these structures were built between roughly 6,500 and 4,500 years ago.
Scholars a century ago thought that megaliths originated in the Near East or the Mediterranean area and spread elsewhere via sea trading or land migrations by believers in a megalithic religion. But as absolute dates for archaeological sites began to emerge in the 1970s, several researchers argued that megaliths emerged independently among a handful of European farming communities.
This would make a nice bookend to the American Renaissance Tarot — Emi Brady’s North American Tarot.
For more than a decade, Denver artist and printmaker Emi Brady toyed with the idea of her own tarot card deck. She “wasn’t ready” until more recently.
“Technically, I wasn’t ready and I think emotionally I wasn’t ready,” Brady said. “I was definitely still learning a lot of things about myself and I think the Tarot is about having a depth of knowledge and compassion for yourself and for others. And I just wasn’t there” . . . . .
Her own deck, The Brady Tarot, is a set of hand-colored, linocut cards that she released in 2018. The imagery features nature, particularly fauna and flora native to North America. One of the most important things she wants is for people to realize that animals also “have rich inner lives and we’re not alone on this planet.”
I saw this video (there is a higher-resolution version at the link) on a Moscow Times story, “Russian Witches Cast Spells in Putin’s Support.”
Russian witches and seers performed on Tuesday one of their most powerful rituals, “the circle of power,” to pass on their mystical energy to President Vladimir Putin.
Dozens of people who claim to have supernatural powers stood side by side, reading spells in their effort to support the Russian head of state.
Self-proclaimed leader of the Russian witches Alyona Polyn said the main intention of the gathering is to enhance quality of life in Russia, the whole world in general and to support the president. (Read the rest.)
Who is Alyona Polyn? I asked a Pagan studies colleague in Eastern Europe who responded, quoting Polyn’s website:
“Alyona Polyn is a clairvoyant hereditary witch, author of magic books, oracles, and the world’s only complete Tarot deck.” I don’t see any place on her website where she calls herself any kind of yazychnik. She says in one of her videos that “wedma’”(witch) is often “confused” with “Vedism”(usually meaning the Book of Veles end of Rodnoverie) and shamanism, which I think counts as distancing herself at least a little from both of those. And there are no Slavic deities prominently mentioned on her website, and no obviously Gardner-derived materials. Nor does she seem to hang out much with the Moscow chapter of PFI from what I can see online.
We in the United States have seen news stories about Pagan Witches working against President Trump. Consider, however, that Russia and the United States are both large and diverse countries. There might be Russian magickal practitioners working against President Putin, for all I know. And I would not bet against the possibility that some American Witches, etc., are working on behalf of President Trump. But as I said, “The Gods Do Not Vote, So Why Are You Asking Them?”
Back in the mid-1990s, Nancy Mostad, then the acquisitions editor at Llewellyn, told me that they estimated that 70 percent of purchasers of books on Paganism were solitaries.Hence the immense success — by their standards — of Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
Meanwhile, sociologist of religion Helen Berger has been studying American Pagans for decades herself. Her earlier works are A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States and (as co-author) Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States and Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self.
Her new book, Solitary Pagans: Contemporary Witches, Wiccans, and Others Who Practice Alone is available for pre-order. It will be released at Lammas. Since I probably will not read it until next fall, here is what the publisher (U. of South Carolina Press) is saying:
Solitary Pagans is the first book to explore the growing phenomenon of contemporary Pagans who practice alone. Although the majority of Pagans in the United States have abandoned the tradition of practicing in groups, little is known about these individuals or their way of practice. Helen A. Berger fills that gap by building on a massive survey of contemporary practitioners. By examining the data, Berger describes solitary practitioners demographically and explores their spiritual practices, level of social engagement, and political activities. Contrasting the solitary Pagans with those who practice in groups and more generally with other non-Pagan Americans, she also compares contemporary U.S. Pagans with those in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
Berger brings to light the new face of contemporary paganism by analyzing those who learn about the religion from books or the Internet and conduct rituals alone in their gardens, the woods, or their homes. Some observers believe this social isolation and political withdrawal has resulted in an increase in narcissism and a decline in morality, while others argue to the contrary that it has produced a new form of social integration and political activity. Berger posits the implications of her findings to reveal a better understanding of other metaphysical religions and those who shun traditional religious organizations.
New from Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Ascendant: Modern Essays on Polytheism and Theology. From the publisher:
Monotheistic assumptions so pervade our culture that even those few people born into polytheist religions (or those who grew up with no religion at all) cannot help but be influenced by them.
Polytheology raises questions that cannot be adequately addressed by answers originally developed in a monotheistic context. Because polytheism is inherently open to variation, the goal of polytheology is not to arrive at a single truth so much as to elucidate the possibilities, to honor and embrace differences, to explore the nature of the Gods and their relationship to humanity. These philosophical ideas provide a greater understanding of the Cosmos, Gods and humanity, and topics such as morality, mortality, and myth.
The contributors are Edward P. Butler, Patrick Dunn, John Michael Greer, Brandon Hensley, Wayne Keysor, Gwendolyn Reece, and Samuel Wagar.
It can go on my short but good modern polytheistic theology shelf, along with Michael York’s Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion, Jordan Paper’s The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology, and John Michael Greer’s A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism.
I do not call myself a theologian, but I do want to know what the new Pagan theologians are doing!
One more thing: if you buy a book or anything on Amazon from these links, you are helping to pay my hosting bill, and I thank you.
• Is this a case of misplaced devotional offerings? The Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers Association says yes.
• The Live Science news site is not the place where you expect tor read about Norse (or any other) polytheism, but this article strikes a reasonable note.
• Icelandic elves again, this time on the BBC. I never get tired of reading this stuff though.
In August 2016, I mused about having a Contemporary Pagan Studies on “Paganism and Violence” at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, inspired by a recent gift of multiple cartons of archival material related to the murder trial of a prominent Wiccan figure in 1980.
The universe was listening, but gave my thought a different spin. As I wrote last fall in a post called “Feeding My Little Archives to Bigger Ones,” instead of a conference panel session, I was asked by Massimo Introvigne, a leading scholar of new religious movements (NRMs) to contribute to a special issue of the Journal of Religion and Violence with the theme of NRMs and violence.
Finally, there was the venue for an article that I had messed around with since the mid-2000s.
I have also uploaded the paper to Academia.edu for those who use that site — the journal permits uploading a ms. in Word format, but not the final PDF.
Yes, there is one obvious question that I will not answer in print. And now to deal with those archives.
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.
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.
To be right for my family, however, the goats would have to be replaced with German shepherd dogs. You all have a very merry . . .