Pagan Studies: 2022 American Academy of Religion Call for Papers

(Photo: Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau)

The Call for Proposals for the Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, November 19–22, 2022 is now available, and the PAPERS System is open for submission.

This is the Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit’s particular call, to save you searching.

More info from the AAR secret headquarters in north Georgia:

  • The Annual Meeting will have an in-person only format this year. There will not be a virtual component for the 2022 meeting. For future years, we are exploring the possibility of offering a separate, virtual meeting in addition to the in-person Annual Meeting.
  • Annual Meeting proposal submission is restricted to current AAR members only. You will need to renew your membership in order to log into the PAPERS site.
  • Exceptions will be made for scholars outside of the field of Religious Studies and Theology on a case-by-case basis. Requests must be submitted through the AAR Membership Waiver for Proposal Submission form by February 25, 2022 to be considered.
  • The deadline for submitting proposals is Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. EST.

Egil Asprem and Giovanna Parmigiani on Esotericism Studies

Here is a webinar on “The Truth Shall Set Whom Free? A Conversation on Esoteric Knowledge, Alternative Spirituality, and Conspiracy Theories,” with Egil Asprem and Giovanna Parmigiani.

If, like me, you would sometimes rather read than listen, there is a transcript. For instance, here are some Egil’s opening remarks:

EGIL ASPREM: Yeah, sure. We can try. I mean it’s the million dollar question, what is this esotericism, actually. Because esotericism is a lot of different things. But one thing that it is a category, an umbrella term, more or less, that scholars use to talk about various, you could say, alternative religious, spiritual, philosophical currents. Pretty much the things that, I think, you referred to in your introduction of the series actually [? write ?] things that occur that are hard to classify in terms of the way that we look at religion and science today.

So they seem to clash with our understandings of institutionalized Christianity, for example, and science, natural science. So falling between these tiers. So in that sense, of course, they have a lot to do with knowledge, in the sense that there is often a focus on special ways of attaining knowledge, that’s central in it. Some people talk about the dynamic of the hidden and the revealed as being central to it, which can also go back to the origins of the term, actually.

Egil Asprem is a professor of history of religion at Stockholm University. while Giovana Parmigiani is a lecturer on religion and culltural anthropology at the Harvard Divinity School.

Both of the speakers have published in The Pomegranate. Asprem’s articles include “Heathens Up North: Politics, Polemics, and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway” 10, no. 1 (2008) 41–69, and several others. Parmigiani’s “Spiritual Pizzica: A Southern Italian Perspective on Contemporary Paganism” 21, no. 1 (2019):53–75, is turning into a book now in final editing, The Spider Dance: Tradition, Time, and Healing in Southern Italy, which Equinox will be publishing later this year.

Not Too Late to Register for the Conference on Current Pagan Studies

The organizers of the Conference on Current Pagan Studies have an excellent line-up of speakers (list here) for the conference this weekend.

Albrecht Auditorium, one of the conference spaces normally. (Stock photo from Claremont Graduate University.)

As in 2021, it’s by Zoom. I hope this will be the last time — or at least that they will be able to do a hybrid next year. I gave a talk there in 2020 [1]Before the Wuhan flu was offically here, but I had been sick all December 2019 — Influenza B? and of course the after-sessions at the bar were the best part. This is true of most conferences, and Zoom just ain’t the same.

This year, however, it’s a lot of good content for a reasonable price. Register quickly!

 

Notes

Notes
1 Before the Wuhan flu was offically here, but I had been sick all December 2019 — Influenza B?

No Amanita – Some Berserkers Were Even Christian

With the assistance of Roderick Dale, “doctor of berserkers,” YouTube military historian Lindybeige offers an entertaining and enlightening video on the literary legend of the Norse berserker.

From Dale’s blog post,

It is interesting to note how even those who accept the idea of berserksgangr as performance will often say something along the lines of “Ah yes, but when does performing madness spill over into becoming mad?” When I argue that berserksgangr was a performance with social and cultural meaning that is lost to us, it immediately becomes performing madness in people’s minds, even though that is not what I have proposed. The battle-mad berserker of popular culture is one of several realities that berserkir have. It just isn’t a medieval or Viking Age reality. However, the popular view of berserkir as mad warriors is so strongly ingrained in the language we use to describe the historical realities too that it is hugely difficult to imagine anything different.

“Wælcyrge or Witchcraft: Identifying Heathendom in late Anglo-Danish England”

Just one of many presentations from the just-finished online conference  Performing Magic in the pre-Modern North.

Here, Ross Downing deals with such issues as whether witchcraft and Heathenry were defined differently in the time of King Alfred the Great in the late 9th century, including details as the execution of condemned witches as well as animals accused of being witches’ familiars (although that was not the Anglo-Saxon term), including ethnic and gender issues in witchcraft accusations.

These all look fascinating, and I will have to watch three a week to finish by Candlemas. Read more about the conference, which focused on Scandinavian but here includes Anglo-Saxon and Danish-ruled England.

There is an enormous amount of material here, and it is all free at this time.

Our Thanksgiving Prayer

M. and I have this little tradition where every Thanksgiving we read aloud (people who eat with us have to participate) Gary Snyder’s poem “Prayer for the Great Family.”[1]He says it was inspired by a Mohawk prayer, but you can feel his Pagan-ish form of Zen Buddhism in it too. You can say “in our minds so be it” in unison if you like.

Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave and aware
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts and yet is within us—
Grandfather Space. The Mind is his Wife.
so be it.

Snyder has been influential in my life since I was in high school, as a poet and in a sort of “What would Gary do?” kind of way.[2]And we went to the same college, for what that is worth. He is an old man now, 91, I think. He won’t be around forever. I would walk in his funeral procession to the pyre, if I could, but I probably will not find out in time to dash to California.

Notes

Notes
1 He says it was inspired by a Mohawk prayer, but you can feel his Pagan-ish form of Zen Buddhism in it too.
2 And we went to the same college, for what that is worth.

Interview with Helen Berger, Leading Scholar of Paganism

Prof. Helen Berger

At his blog, now called On New and Alternative Religions, Ethan Doyle While interviews Helen Berger, one of the leading American scholars of contemporary Paganism.

Since completing her PhD research on the early modern witch trials in the 1980s, Berger has devoted her career to the sociological analysis of modern-day communities whose practitioners call themselves witches. Her first book, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (University of South Carolina Press, 1999), was a landmark in the subject and was followed up with important studies such as Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States (with Evan A. Leach and Leigh Shaffer, University of South Carolina Press, 2003), Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self (with Doug Ezzy, Rutgers University Press, 2007), and most recently Solitary Pagans: Contemporary Witches, Wiccans and Others Who Practice Alone (University of South Carolina Press, 2019). Currently a Professor Emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and an Affiliated Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Berger is continuing to work on the modern Pagan milieu, exploring its relationships with far-right politics. She tells us about her career and her thoughts on the future of the academic study of modern Paganism.

She explains how her interest in today’s Witches and Pagans grew from earlier research on the Salem Witch Trials and similar events. In the mid-1980s, she gave a series of lectures at the Boston Public Library — and realized who was in the audience.

The audience for each of the lectures varied with some people who attended every week and others who came only for a particular lecture. One elderly woman with white hair always sat in the front row, listened intently, and asked interesting questions. I looked forward to seeing her there every week. At the final lecture, when I said what was then a surprising fact; Witches looked like everyone else. You could be living next door to, or working with, a Witch and not know it. She stopped me mid-lecture and asked, “are you saying there could be Witches in the room.” As the average age of the participants had dropped significantly for this lecture, I offered that I thought there probably were Witches in the room. She stood up, turned around with her hands on her hips, and asked, “are there any Witches here?” I think it is because she looked like the quintessential grandmother that a number of people raised their hands.

Read the whole thing. Helen Berger has also published a number of articles in The Pomegranate as well as being one our most valuable peer-reviewers in the sociology of Paganism. Her 2015 article “An Outsider Inside: Becoming a Scholar of Contemporary Paganism” reflected on some of the issues involved.

Early Pomegranates Now Available Free Online

Issue 1 of The Pomegranate, February 1997.

The first eighteen issues of The Pomegranate, back when its subtitle was a still “A New Journal of Neopagan Thought,” are now available in in PDF form from Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Spanning from 1997–2002, these are the issues produced by its founding editor, Fritz Muntean, in Vancouver, BC.

Fritz and I spent some time at the 2001 and 2002 annual meetings of the Americab Academy of Religion seeking an established scholarly publisher to help it become a recognized, peer-reviewed journal, listed in all the databases.

Instead, after a short hiatus, we ended up with a start-up publisher, Equinox, which has helped it to grow in the subsequent years.

Lots of good content here: scroll through the issues here.

An Offer to Buy the Pomegranate, and Other Pagan Studies Scams

Statues of Communist leader Mao Zhedong in various Chinese temples (Bitter Winter).

Periodically I receive these emails, usually in the business-school dialect of babu English. Academic publishing, apparently, is full of scammy stuff like this.[1]I have also encountered them in real estate and in regard to mineral rights.

Dear Editor/Publisher,

Hope this mail finds you in best!

I am writing down this mail as a follow up in reference to the acquisition proposal I had sent recently. I request you to revert back and let us know if we can hope to take this forward.

Please feel free to get back to us with your valuable suggestions/queries.

Hoping for a positive response from your end.

Best regards,
Chia Appu

M&A Consultant
JCFCorp
Singapore | India | UK | US
Mobile/Whatsapp: +44 7451248959
website: www.jcfcorp.com

Not the first, won’t be the last. If I set the price at US $500,000, could I string “Chia Appu” on for a bit? The only problem there is that I do not own The Pomegranate; Equinox Publishing does. I would need to take the money and move somewhere that has no extradition treaty with the UK.

Academia has its scams, all designed for people willing to trade money for shortcuts.Diploma mills” have a hoary tradition, of course.

Sadly, I lost a friend over one of these shortcuts. “R.” had written a couple of articles for Pomegranate in the past, and he was good in his field. He then proposed another article, which appeared ready to publish — except that he wanted to list this Chinese professor as co-author.

Pagan studies is a fairly small world, and I had never heard of this man. I looked him up at [well-known Chinese university], and there he was, in the Dept. of Communist Studies or something like that.

It was clear to me that the Chinese professor had had nothing to do with writing the article, which was based on fieldwork in Western Europe. He was just being offered the chance to pad his c.v. in return for some other favor for R. — like a non-resident teaching position?[2]R. is lucky that he was not required to live there, given a certain well-known disease outbreak.

And there was more to the deal. [Well-known Chinese university] was supposedly starting a center for the study of new religious movements. The university was ready to “throw money at” the center’s projects.

If I were willing to designate their center as a “sponsor” of The Pomegranate and “put some Chinese names on the editorial board . . .  the arrangement [would be] more than nominally profitable [for you].”[3]R. had his own journal, which I am suppose now has some Chinese professors on the editorial board.

And there was no doubt that [Well-known Chinese university] had the cash.

There it was, a naked bribe. An odd  experience. Had I been as financially shaky as R. thought I was — as financially shaky as he himself had often been until later in his career — I might have been more tempted. Sorry, professor of Communist studies, you are not going to buy your way in Pagan studies that easily.

I said no, and R. cut me off completely.

Something chilling occurred to me later. The  incident was about five years ago. Since then, the mainland Chinese government has been cracking down on religion — all religions. The online journal Bitter Winter has carried many articles on the repression of not just “foreign” religions, mainly Islam and Christianity, in the People’s Republic, but also Buddhist and Taoist temples, new Chinese religious movements, and even family and clan memorial halls that go back for centuries.

All of them threaten President Xi Thought, apparently. All you can worship is Communism.

So if [major Chinese University] was preparing to study new reliigious movements, was that just part of a plan to wipe them out? There are predecents for that sort of thinking.

Notes

Notes
1 I have also encountered them in real estate and in regard to mineral rights.
2 R. is lucky that he was not required to live there, given a certain well-known disease outbreak.
3 R. had his own journal, which I am suppose now has some Chinese professors on the editorial board.

This Ain’t Your Film Set-CGI Viking Ship

The Sea Stallion rowed in calm water (Thilde Kold Holdt).

The best description I have ever read of sailing a long ship. I love it when people reconstitute old tech that still works — like the traditional Polynesian canoe that sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii and back in the 1970s, all without a compass, radio, or modern maps.

This is Danish writer Thilde Kold Holdt’s description of rejoining her “crew” for the first trip of the season aboard a traditional long ship, the Sea Stallion: “We’re 65 people on a ship no larger than a bus.”

Old habits must be remembered:

With the sail up, and not currently on duty, I’m no longer tied to my rowing seat, so I crash atop the oars, forgetting, as I do every year, not to lean against the thick shrouds, those enormous tarred ropes which hold up the mast. My long braid gets stuck to the tar and I have to wrench it off. I’m pretty sure this is why Vikings braided their beards.

The video included might remind you of the History Channel Vikings series, but this is not a CGI ship or a movie set, but the real deal, creaking and leaking and going forth.