‘Lodge Tales’ Is a Native American Paranormal Podcast

My overall favorite paranormal podcast is Timothy Renner’s Strange Familiars, which now has logged 465 episodes.

Its style is low-key. Usually people discuss their experiences with “the Other” in conversation with the host. Sometimes he and a friend or two take a late-night walk on the Appalachian Trail or another locale in south central Pennsylvania looking for strange lights, sounds, and sightings. In others, his wife, Alison, discusses with him notable long-ago crimes, paranormal experiences, and Timothy’s personal favorite—the life stories of 19th-century hermits and “wild men.”

Some time back a man from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana named Rod Williamson came on to share his stories. He must have been a regular listener who decided “I can do this too,” because he started his own podcast, Lodge Tales, which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Red Circle, and elsewhere. And of course there is a Patreon page, where he writes,

I’m a Native American from the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana. I’ve always had an interest in ghost stories and strange encounters. Today I go out and interview fellow Natives about their experiences in these areas. Join us!

Lodge Tales is a place where Native Americans can share their experiences of the supernatural, paranormal, bigfoot, ufos, or anything that comes up!

I have listened to a number of Lodge Tales episodes since Timothy Renner promo’d it on his podcast. So far, Williamson has gotten a lot of material just from family and friends there in Montana. Some of the stories sound similar to those told by the people who appear on Strange Familiars, including encounters with Bigfoot and other unusual animals.

One difference is that an early interviewee was a Blackfeet cop, whose description of multiple police units responding to a
Goatman” sighting has become the podcast’s intro. (The first officer jumps on the radio, and he screams out, ‘Holy ****!”)

The Town Pump fuel station-convenience store in Browning, Montana, is the site of a “devil” being caught on CCTV. The figure enters the back seat of a car that later wrecks, with the driver being killed (Google Street View).

While many stories fit into the “North American paranormal” range, some are culturally distinctive. Interviewees often have stories involving hauntings at old Indian boarding schools, for example, while a young woman working in a nursing home plagued with mysterious voices declares that co-workers smudged it every month, but the voices kept returning, so they were going to try a more powerful ceremony.

Terryn (guest): “Little hands kind of like drug me up [from a stream]. . . I could see a little tiny trail [to my aunt’s house]. I feel like Little People helped me. They scare me at the same time; but at the same time they helped me and my brother to cross rivers, which is weird.

Rod (host): Little People . . . I’m really intrigued by them. They really help us a lot. I’ve heard good stories about them — and bad ones. They’re everywhere, in every country, not just here. They look like different things, too. Ours look like little Indians, like little shrunk Indians. I’m really fascinated by these stories. . . . There was something they seen in you that was worth their while, to take pity on you

. Lodge Tales, Episode 9, “Terryn and Mike”

Are there truly cultural differences in paranormal phenomena? Maybe kind-of sort-of, but “The Phenomenon” is so slippery to begin with that it is hard to say.

One thing that I appreciate about Lodge Tales geographical. It seems like most of American paranormal podcasting and video-making centers on the southern Appalachian Mountains. So it’s good to get something from the Rocky Mountains too.

Of Animals —  Magical and Cryptic

A new issue of the Hellbore zine, No. 11, “The Animal Issue” has been published. Real life is trying to keep up. (See below.)

Hellebore is available from a few shops in the UK or by mail.

Hares that are witches in disguise, ravens with prophetic powers, sacrificial wrens representing the god-king. Animals are often included in folk horror narratives because of their symbolic traits, or because of the folk beliefs surrounding them. Historically, animals have been understood as objects of cult worship, deities or devils incarnate, witches’ companions, omen bringers. They’ve also been re-imagined as hybrids, chimeras, and cryptids.

In this issue we tell tales of hares, moonlight, and madness, of half-glimpsed uncanny felines and the demon king of cats, of monstrous serpents with an appetite for destruction, of seemingly unassuming yet all-powerful toads. From the Isle of Man to the flatlands of Suffolk, the animals in these stories rise from the forest, from the field, from the waters, to re-enchant the landscape of these isles.

Elizabeth Dearnley’s article “Running with Hares” at least acknowledges North American jackrabbits (true hares). Nothing about Lepus americanus, the snowshoe hare — maybe we need to investigate its magical side.

TImothy Grieve-Carlson writes on the long British tradition of mysterious big cats on an island that is not supposed to have any wild cat larger than the Scottish wild cat, and there are not too many of those.

But wait! There is news about DNA samples from a sheep in Cumbria (NW England) that revealed the presence of something larger. “‘The Beast of Cumbria’ – Big cat DNA confirmed to be on sheep carcass” reads one recent headline.

Somehow I do not think that the old “escaped from a zoo” explanation is adequate anymore.

New Issue of The Pomegranate

Links to articles from the newest issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, (vol. 24, no. 2). These articles are paywalled — but you know a librarian, don’t you? If you don’t, you should.

Four Notable Books in Pagan Studies

From Reading Religion, the book review website of the American Academy of Religion, a post by Ethan Doyle White, who writes,

From Wiccan covens assembling in English drawing rooms to Rodnover midsummer gatherings in rural Russia, the modern Pagan religions represent a fascinating and diverse component of our contemporary religious landscape. Although their age, numerical size, and comparative cultural marginality leaves them outside the so-called “world religions”’ that attract the bulk of our attentions, I strongly believe that this family of new religious movements warrants far greater understanding among scholars of religion. In particular, these traditions offer us important insights into the modern reception of Europe’s pre-Christian heritage, into the construction of new religions, and into the complex interplay of gendered, ethnic, and religious identities in the 21st century.

As co-editor of Equinox Publishing’s Pagan studies book series, I am happy to have acquired one of the four, Jefferson Calico’s Being Viking: Heathenism in Contemporary America.

Calico’s Being Viking: Heathenism in Contemporary America is interesting in part because he was approaching Heathenry as a non-practitioner, something that set his work apart from much of the ethnographic research on modern Pagan traditions that had gone before. One of the things I particularly appreciated about Calico’s book was the attention he gave to issues of class, a topic often overlooked in academic studies of modern Paganism. Like the earlier work of Mattias Gardell, Calico’s project also highlighted the role of white nationalism and related far-right ideologies within certain sectors of the American Pagan milieu, an issue many other scholars had avoided.

If you are reading this blog, you have probably read The Triumph of the Moon, but all of these are worthwhile — I need to find Kimberly Kirner’s American Druidry now.

Spiritual Drama and the April 8th Eclipse

Religion scholar Bron Taylor, University of Florida who has worked mostly in the non-theistic side of nature religion, a.k.a “dark green religion,” is interviewed about spiritual interpretations of the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse.

To him, it’s partly about re-enchantment:

“People are on their own pilgrimages, and they’re trying to work out their meaning systems,” Taylor said. “This widespread fascination with the eclipse is a prime example of a turn toward the re-sacralization of nature.”

Read it all here.

“The wild world has something to say to us,” Taylor said, “and we should be listening.”

“Patrick, Pagans and Party Animals”

A screenshot from Patrick, Pagans and Party Animals, a video about the saint and the explosion of the secular holiday of St. Patrick’s Day.

Jenny Butler, a Pagan-studies scholar from University College Cork, appears at 3:00 and elsewhere to speak up for the “Pagan” dimension of the story.

Requires free Vimeo account.

Imbolc on Ice

Look south from Bennett Avenue, the bi-level main street of Cripple Creek, Colorado, across Poverty Gulch (once lined by the saloons and brothels of Myers Avenue), and there it sits, like the citadel of the Ice King.

At 9,494 feet (2,894 m.), the early February winds are still cutting and only the lengthening day suggests any turn toward spring. M. and I, plus my Pagan cousin and her partner, fortified ourselves with food and drink in a crowded restaurant and then zipped up all zippers and headed for the Ice Castle at our designated 6 p.m. entrance time.

The restaurant’s Facebook page said that they were so busy with Ice Castle visitors that they were not taking reservations, but we snagged a table by showing up at 4:30, ahead of the dinner rush.

This castle is a commercial venture. I had seen earlier versions in the ski town of Silverthorne in the 20-teens,and thought it would be cool-no-pun-intended to visit, but I was always on my way to or from somewhere else. Now we had our chance at Candlemas season. I like it when the Sacred Wheel matches up with popular activities, even when the coincidence is not planned.

Daytime must be different, but at night the Ice Castle hits the same sort of Underworld vibe that I get sometimes in Taos at PASEO, the fall art festival, when clumps of dark-clad people walk dim Spanish colonial streets until suddenly illuminated by the flare of a flaming gate or a giant robot or an art work projected onto high adobe walls. (See “The Robot God and the Underworld  Gate.”)

So it was sort of like that but without the writhing silent-rave dancers. There was feasting and good conversation and then a chance to stock my memory with images and sensations.

Cripple Creek is a small place, compared to its height c. 1900 when there were three railroads plus street cars and belching smokestacks. I walked Marco the dog around a little, strolling past some of the buildings I visited during a long-ago bout of ghost-hunting, back before the casinos came in. Those visits produced a little book, Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek, which in terms of copies sold is probably my biggest commercial success. Out of print now, but I see it is still on Amazon. (The photo was taken from the driveway of astrologer Linda Goodman’s house.)

Helen Cornish on Witchcraft Drumming and Chanting

The article “Musicking and Soundscapes amongst Magical-Religious Witches Community and Ritual Practices” by Helen Cornish is available as a free download from Religions journal.

Abstract

Drumming and chanting are core practices in modern magical-religious Witchcraft in the absence of unifying texts or standardized rituals. Song and musicality contribute towards self-creation and community making. However, Nature Religions and alternate spiritualities are seldom included in surveys of religious musicking or soundscapes. This article considers musicality in earlier publications on modern Witchcraft, as well as the author’s fieldwork with magical-religious Witches in the UK, to show the valuable contribution they make to discsusions on religious belonging and the sensorium through song, music, percussion, and soundscapes.

Keywords:

musickingsoundscapesmagical-religious Witchcraftcontemporary Paganismritualsensoriumhistoricity

The Creeping Menace of ‘Paganism’

Dear god! Nature religion! (Illustration by Katie Martin, Getty Images).

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple and (visiting at) Harvard Divinity School is like someone who steps in dog shit, comes back indoors, and keeps wondering where the smell is coming from.

“We are all children of the same God,” he announces in a essay in The Atlantic  (link goes to archived version).

And “we” are opposed to [small-p] “paganism,” which is about power, nature-worship, and wealth-worship. “Hug a tree or a dollar bill, and the pagan in you shines through.”((For Wolpe the exemplar of this “paganism” is, of course, Donald Trump, that notorious tree-hugger. But it’s an election year.))

The rabbi’s essay was not the first to make that point — as I will point out — but it hit at the right time and place, and suddenly contemporary Pagans were asking, “What’ s that smell?”

In  her letter to The Atlantic, anthropologist and Pagan studies scholar Sabina Magliocco, “long-time reader of and subscriber to The Atlantic,” lambasted the piece as “misinformed and distorts both historical and contemporary understandings of paganisms in ways that are profoundly damaging to both Indigenous and revived religions.”

Pagan blogger John Halstead observes correctly that the rabbi is not talking about actual people, today’s Pagans, but about this bogeyman lurking in the shadows, one described in 1937 by the historial Arnold Toynbee as “the new paganism.”

Wolpe equates nature with the most violent and base behavior. His fear, like that of so many other monotheists, is that, in the absence of a transcendental ideal of Goodness, we will all turn into savages raping and eating each other.

Halstead’s blog links to other responses to Wolpe’s article. I will mention just two more. The Wild Hunt has also covered this issue, as linked above.

At Harvard’s Program for the Evolution of Spirituality, Dan McKanan and Giovanna Parmigiani posted an open letter to David Wolpe, siscussing how his approach illustrates how hard it is to discuss religion when “many religions define themselves in opposition to other religions.”

One way to do this is to frame the critiques in the most culturally specific manner possible. Judaism did not emerge in response to “paganism” writ large; it emerged in response to the specific religious and political practices of immediately adjacent cultures. But again and again, Wolpe misses the chance to be specific in his critique. Instead, he identifies Donald Trump, Elon Musk, communism, fascism, Friedrich Nietzsche, the QAnon Shaman, and Peter Singer as diverse manifestations of a single phenomenon that he calls “pagan.” This universalizing gesture is especially problematic given the inherent diversity of Paganism.

Later, Dr Parmigiani noted on Facebook that “We heard back from David Wolpe and he appears to be willing to have a conversation with us and the Pagan community at HDS, once the semester starts.”

Holli Emore, executive director of Cherry Hill Seminary, had less luck, telling The Wild Hunt that she had invited Wolpe “to join me one day soon, perhaps on a Zoom call, to chat about how we can better understand each other.”

The rabbi responded, “I have been deluged with advocacies, requests for dialogue and so forth. The article did not and does not address the current pagan [sic] communities nor was it intended to.”

That makes me feel so much better. As she put it, “While his message to me was cordial, it is clear that he has no intention of revisiting his lack of research or redressing the feelings of the many he has slighted.”

The problem is defining Paganism. We have a long history of small-p paganism meaning “outside any [monotheistic] religion.”  This is the straw man pummeled by Wolpe and others, such as the British journalist Louise Perry, whose article “We Are Repaganizing” appeared only two months earlier in the interdenominational Christian magazine First Things.((The story about the babies’ bones sounds like the old anti-Catholic folklore that there are babies buried under every convent.))

Her borrowed definition of “paganism” ias not “an interest in entrails or in praying to Jupiter. Rather, [but]  a fundamentally different outlook on the world, and on the sacred.”

But Christianity takes a perverse attitude toward status and puts that perversity at the heart of the theology. “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” is a baffling and alarming claim to anyone from a society untouched by the strangeness of the Jesus movement.

And that led to converting Pagans by the sword, but we won’t go there. Look over here at the cathedral! And furthermore, as the legalization of abortion proves, “the Western world has arguably always remained more pagan than Christian. In some ways Christianity has been more of a veneer than a substantial reality.”((She quotes from Steven Smith’s Pagans and Christians in the City.))

The Christian writer Rod Dreher, with two bestsellers to his name (The Benedict Option and Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents), is also promoting the view that there was no morality in the ancient world (outside, perhaps, the imperial province of Judea) until Christianity arrived.((Sorry, Confucius. Sorry, Socrates.))

The book I finished last night, Pagan America, will be out from Regnery in March. The author, John Daniel Davidson, is not really talking about Wiccans and suchlike (though they do get significant mention), as much as he is talking about how the kinds of evils that permeated Greco-Roman culture, and that were eliminated by the triumph of Christianity, are coming roaring back now that Christianity has gone into abeyance in the West

Where does that leave today’s capital-P Pagans? You cannot accept Wolpe’s sidestepping of the issue because there are other singers in the choir, like John Daniel Davidson, who are apparently are happy to mix the two, jumping from “pagan = irreligious” to “Your gods are demons.”

(Davidson apparently wants to junk this silly “freedom of religion” idea and put the government firmly on the side of Christianity — his book’s subtitle is “The Decline of Christianity and the Coming Dark Age.”)

So we cannot get away with offering a pagan/Pagan (polytheist-animist) distinction. The cultural tides are moving. The secular talkers of both the right and left have moved from “Pagans don’t exist” to “they are bunch of silly New Agers” to the point of  “viewing with concern.” Pagan readers, don’t be surprised to be asked for your position on sacrificing babies.