Short Film: “The Cunning Man”

So you want to be the cunning man at the edge of the village? Here is what you need to do.

From Hookland to John O’Groats, British folk horror is having some kind of revival. Or maybe it’s just what I am reading these days. Read more about this short film.

How the Ancestors Danced

“Adult male from grave 76a in Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov drawn as if he were alive during a dance session: 140 elk teeth on the chest, waist, pelvis, and thighs rattle rhythmically and loudly.” (University of Helsinki)

I feel obligated for my North American readers to note that in Scandinavia “elk” means “moose” (Alces alces).[1]Like a Norwegian elkhound is a dog you take moose-hunting, just to locate the moose is all. I suppose the Finns use that word “elk”  in English because Finland was ruled by Sweden for a time.[2]From the Middle Ages until 1809. More about the naming issue here. Meanwhile we use a borrowed Algonquian term.

Many elk/moose tooth ornaments have been found Stone Age graves (8,000 years before present) in Karelia, according to a news release from the University of Helsinki.

Analysis of the teeth showed they had been used as ornaments, sewn to clothing, and their rattling against each other left disctinctive patterns of wear.

“Ornaments composed of elk teeth suspended from or sown on to clothing emit a loud rattling noise when moving,” says auditory archaeologist and Academy of Finland Research Fellow Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki. “Wearing such rattlers while dancing makes it easier to immerse yourself in the soundscape, eventually letting the sound and rhythm take control of your movements. It is as if the dancer is led in the dance by someone. . . . ”

Associate Professor of Archaeology Kristiina Mannermaa from the University of Helsinki is excited by the research findings.

“Elk tooth rattlers are fascinating, since they transport modern people to a soundscape that is thousands of years old and to its emotional rhythms that guide the body. You can close your eyes, listen to the sound of the rattlers and drift on the soundwaves to a lakeside campfire in the world of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.”

In case you are wondering if I have Finnish or Karelian ancestry, I do not that I know of. And there is complicated story of groups of people here — Neanderthals, perhaps, then Stone Age hunters, Neolithic farmers/herders, and then Indo-European-speaking Bronze Age people. But go back far enough and one might have some of each. So I use “ancestors” in the broadest sense.

Notes

Notes
1 Like a Norwegian elkhound is a dog you take moose-hunting, just to locate the moose is all.
2 From the Middle Ages until 1809.

Are Pagan Zines — Like Vinyl Records — Coming Back?

I recently have purchased copies of two Pagan zines, and I am thinking about a couple more. (What is a zine? Read here.)

That is the most in years. Is this a trend? Is a small-press renaissance underway? A rebellion against the corporate social media of InstaFaceTwit etc. and their online “walled gardens”? They say vinyl records are outselling CD’s now, but that is more because CD sales have slumped than vinyl is rising, although vinyl has in fact risen in market share. Will zines come back too?

A saddle stapler for pamphlets, essential for zine publishers!

I used to have shelves of Pagan zines and a subscription to Factsheet Five, but the air leaked out of zine publishing in the late 1990s as people got used to the “World Wide Web,” which was free (or seemed to be) and where you could post your stuff without having to type or draw pages, take them to the copy shop, then collate, staple, and mail.

Before that, I’d been involved with a couple of literary zines, two Pagan zines not worth mentioning, and finally Fritz Muntean’s new, intellectually ambitious one: The Pomegranate: A New Journal of Neopagan Thought, which ended up as something else. Fritz flattered me by saying he was partly inspired by my short-lived (1984–86) effort, Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, which you can now read online, all four issues of it.

Some examples: Edited by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, who is interviewed here, Hellebore is published in Bristol (UK), and leans heavily towards folk horror, folk witchcraft, myth, and psychogeography. Issues are £6.75 (US $9.58) plus postage.

She grew up in a fertile environment for a zine editor, and she has an MA in archaeology from Bristol University (What do you do with an MA? Write a lot and start your own journal.)

I grew up in a fairly bookish home and I don’t remember not writing. As a child I used to make my own magazines, with comics I drew and articles I wrote. My dad was into ancient history and mythology, and my mum has always been a bit of an anglophile, and it probably rubbed off on me. My mum told me a lot of fairy tales, and what really fascinated me was the magic. You know, the witch, the magic mirror, the curses. A bit later I became obsessed with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, partly because of the settings (the moors, the Cornish coast, the ancient ruins), and with Sherlock Holmes

I bought issue #3, The Malefice Issue, (“What has been buried ought not to return”) and was reminded of some of the older Pagan zines. The resemblance was intentional, for she says she wanted “the aesthetics to evoke that particular era, the late 60s and 70s, grabbing inspiration from Czech film posters, with a touch of psychedelia, and an old-school fanzine finish.”

Is it typical of connected life today that I followed Fiddler’s Green for months on Instagram before I got around to ordering a sample issue? It is the zine of “Art & magic for tea-drinking anarchists, convivial conjurors & closeted optimists,” with a mailing address in Berkeley, California. I bought volume 2, number 3, “Gods of the Afternoon,” which is $15 + postage.

Speaking of postage, alongwith the articles, listed here, was a table of postal rates, which warmed my heart, and — OMG real zine culture! — several pages of zine reviews! Further explorations await.

And speaking of vinyl, the issue included a 45 rpm flexi-disk of “Mushroom Madness” by Anton Barbeau, so I need to blow the dust off my old Technics turntable and learn what it sounds like.

The famous Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, is re-opened post-COVID lockdown and also has a museum journal (I am calling it a zine too) called The Enquiring Eye, “that aims to showcase a wide range of research into all aspects of magical practise, witchcraft and the occult.” Issues are £5, and five have been published so far, with articles like “Wisdom from the Wilderness: Using the Fae to Re-enchant the Landscape in a Time of Crisis.” Table of contents for issue 5 here.

When it comes to vinyl record albums, says Charlie Randall, CEO of McIntosh Labs, “I think it’s natural for any generation to think that the technology of their time will be replaced by future technology and go extinct.”

In large part I think that’s the case except with vinyl records. There is something romantic about records, something satisfying about opening the album jacket, seeing the fantastic artwork and studying the liner notes while listening to the album. That’s something that today’s digital files just can’t replace.”

Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

Maria J. Pérez Cuervo agrees when it comes to print-on-paper:

So much of the content we consume these days is digital that print feels like a small luxury. And I wanted to make a beautiful object for everyone who loves these themes, because there wasn’t anything quite like it. Making it limited-run was partly a practical decision, but also, I think, reminiscent of a time when you didn’t have constant access to information. And you could be a little girl, catch a film halfway through on TV, and not know the name of it, but be haunted by it for life. And somehow this invests the film, or the book that you borrowed from the library but never found in any shops, with an almost mythical quality. Maybe in a few years there’ll be people saying “oh, do you remember that little zine?” Who knows?

“Goodbye Jesus” — Writers Sought for Anthology

News release from Oberon Zell:

Soliciting essays for “Goodbye Jesus” book

Goodbye Jesus; I’ve gone Home to Mother!

Oberon Zell’s well-known “Milennial Gaia” statue.

This is the title of an anthology for which I’ve been gathering essays over the past couple of decades. These are accounts of their journeys from former Christians—especially Clergy—who have left their churches and come over to Paganism and the Goddess.

This whole idea began in a hot tub over 20 years ago, after a CUUPS conference, where we were all sharing our stories of how we found (or were found by) the Goddess. A couple of us were former Christian Clergy, and I found their journeys fascinating, and thought they should be published. I have a couple dozen submissions now on-file, but other things came up over the following years, and I just had to set the whole project aside ‘til later. This is later.

I believe these stories are important to the world and should be told, so if you used to be Clergy in a Christian Church (any denomination), and now serve the Goddess, I’d like to know your story, and potentially include it in this collection. And even if you weren’t actually Clergy, if you were particularly devout as a Christian and then came over to the Goddess, I invite you to tell about your journey.

Here are some things you could address in your personal account:

  • Tell about your religious upbringing. What was it like for you? Was your family devout? What church did they (and you) attend? How deeply were you immersed in the church, its activities and teachings? Did you take Confirmation or other serious religious education?
  • As you came of age, did you experience conflict with your church’s teachings on moral issues and strictures, such as dancing, music, sex, birth control, abortion, sin, etc.?
  • If you were Christian Clergy, tell about your Calling. What made you decide to become Clergy? Did you attend seminary? How did you feel upon ordination?
  • How was it for you serving as Clergy? Did you experience challenges to your faith? Disillusionment? A “Crisis of Faith”?
  • And most important—how and when did you discover The Goddess? What was that like for you? How did your family and friends react when you told them?
  • What was your experience coming into the Pagan community? When was that? How did you feel? Was it with an individual, a small circle, a large gathering? Did you join a particular Tradition or group? And how has it been since?
  • How do you feel about Jesus now? Do you still hold him in high regard and reverence? Do you feel that you may have left the church, but not necessarily Jesus? Talk about this.
  • Tell about your present life in Paganism. How are you currently involved? Have you become a Priest or Priestess? How is that for you? Would you ever consider going back to your former church? Why or why not?
    • And finally, what message would you like to convey to other Christians (Clergy or otherwise) who are still in the Church?

There is no word limit, but essays will be subject to editing as may be needed. I will, of course, need your permission to publish your account, so please provide your contact info, and I’ll send you a permission form to be filled out.

While I would like to use real names, if you don’t want your name printed, no problem; just give me a pseudonym you’d like us to use. Also, readers would love to see your face, if that’s OK with you. If so, please include a 300 dpi jpeg portrait photo to print with your story.

Please submit your essay (and photo, if you wish) to: GoodbyeJesusSubmissions@gmail.com. I look forward to reading your story!

Thanks, and Bright Blessings,

Oberon Zell

Another Podcast: Ravens at the Crossroads

I have added another link to the list of Pagan podcasts in the right-hand sidebar: Ravens at the Crossroads, by Mistress Prime and Tyler Matthews, who “realized the stories of our community, especially of our elders, were being lost and forgotten. In an effort to preserve many of those stories the podcast was created.”

If you are not seeing the sidebar, click the banner at the top of the page (the photo and title) to go there. Or click here.

The podcasts are mixtures of interviews with notable Pagans such as Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and Macha Nightmare, and personal reflections.

How Old is the Cerne Abbas Giant?

If you have read anything on ancient Paganism(s) in Britain, you have probably read about the Cerne Abbas Giant, the huge figure made of chalk (crumbled into ditches) with an upraised Hercules-style club and an upright Cernunnos-style penis.

You probably read that he was prehistoric, or at least pre-Roman — although some dissidents claim there was no record of the giant’s existence before the late 1600s CE.

Now archaeologists have been working to date the site, and they are coming up with a different age.

Free Download: The Materiality of Magic

Fomr the description:
The Materiality of Magic is an exciting new book about an aspect of magic that is usually neglected. In the last two decades we have had many books and proceedings of conferences on the concept of magic itself as well as its history, formulas and incantations in antiquity, both in East and West. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the material that was used by the magicians for their conjuring activities. This is the first book of its kind that focuses on the material aspects of magic, such as amulets, drawings, figurines, gems, grimoires, rings, and voodoo dolls. The practice of magic required a specialist expertise that knew how to handle material such as lead, gold, stones, papyrus and terra cotta—material that sometimes was used for specific genres of magic. That is why we present in this well illustrated collection of studies new insights on the materiality of magic in antiquity by studying both the materials used for magic as well as the books in which the expertise was preserved. The main focus of the book is on antiquity, but we complement and contrast our material with examples ranging from the Ancient Near East, via early modern Europe, to the present time.

Invoking Gods and Elves

I am thinking of starting a series called “What You Can Do with a Master’s Degree,” such as be a lecturer or start your own online school. There was a time, pre-television, when well-known authors went on lecture tours, city to city, speaking to local literary societies, school groups, and the like. John Cowper Powys, author of A Glastonbury Romance, was one of many.[1]“Powys had success as an itinerant lecturer, in England, and in 1905–1930 in the US, where he wrote many of his novels and had several first published. He moved to Dorset, England, in 1934 … Continue reading

And I can think of one very popular Pagan-studies YouTuber who just completed a PhD, so there goes my titl — (except she started her YouTube channel first.

Maybe I should call it, “Start Your Own College,” in the orginal sense of “college” as an “organized association of persons invested with certain powers and rights or engaged in some common duty or pursuit.” You would need some collaborators. Or maybe all such people are part of the Invisible College of Pagan Studies and just don’t know it.

This is part one of a two-part video on Anglo-Saxon Paganism by Tom Rowsell of Survive the Jive, a former journalist, also filmmaker and scholar of medieval history, in which he received a master’s degree in 2021. He writes,

I continue to take an interest in polytheistic religions. The most recent direction of the StJ project since 2016 has been population genetics, with focus on the culture, identity and religion of the Indo-Europeans. My videos are based on thorough interdisciplinary research, drawing from archaeology, linguistics, historical sources, comparative mythology and population genetics — particularly archaeogenetics.

You can find Rowsell in the usual places: his “Survive the Jive” blog, YouTube channel, Tumblr, Instagram, and probably others.

I will return to this topic. Meanwhile, your suggestions are welcome.

Notes

Notes
1 “Powys had success as an itinerant lecturer, in England, and in 1905–1930 in the US, where he wrote many of his novels and had several first published. He moved to Dorset, England, in 1934 with his American partner, Phyllis Playter.’ [Wikipedia]. No master’s degree though.

Lucifer, Women, Witches, Freedom

Here Caroline Tully offers a detailed review of Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Women in Nineteenth-Century Culture by Per Faxneld.

This is more a literary than a religious Satanism, although any story of Satan has its religious underpinnings:

Although they attributed positive qualities to the figure of Satan, the subjects examined in this book were not satanists as commonly imagined; that is, they were not believers in a supernatural being called Satan and did not perform rituals dedicated to him. Rather, as Faxneld explains, they were satanists sensu lato (in the broad sense); they used Satan as a symbol to critique Christianity, its accompanying conservative social mores, and patriarchy. Theistic and ritualizing satanism, on the other hand, is termed here sensu stricto (in the strict sense). Thus, the book is not about satanism as a religious practice but as a “discursive strategy”

There is a chapter on “Satanic” witchcraft:

One of the most prominent examples of the negative association between women and Satan was the figure of the witch. In chapter 6, Faxneld investigates works such as Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière (E. Dentu Libraire-Editeur, 1862), arguably “the single most influential text presenting a sort of feminist version of witches” (198). Relevant to new religious movements today, Michelet’s ideas about witches influenced authors who in turn were used as sources in the construction of modern pagan witchcraft. Feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage interpreted witches as satanic rebels against the injustices of patriarchy; and amateur folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland’s work Aradia; or, the Gospel of the Witches (1899), which presented witches as proto-feminist rebels against social oppression, continues to hold an authoritative position within the contemporary pagan witchcraft movement.

This review and many others can be found at Reading Religion, an ongoing collection of book reviews provided by the American Academy of Religion. You do not have to be an AAR member to read them, although a member login is required to comment on reviews.