‘The Goddess Doesn’t Want Any More Prophets’ and Other Observations by ‘Robert’


First of all, “Robert” is Frederic Lamond, one of Gerald Gardner’s early coveners—his mundane name is not exactly oathbound material these days, now that he has written books and has his own Wikipedia page.

But this screenshot is from the documentary Robert: Portrait of a Witch, made by Malcolmn Brenner in 1991 and now transferred from VHS to digital video and put on YouTube by Valdosta State University as part of their New Age Movements, Occultism, and Spiritualism Research Library.

Lamond joined the Craft when he was in his mid-twenties. He later went on to a career in finance — “in the City” as the British would say,  the equivalent to “on Wall Street” for an American.

He was also a key resource for the American scholar of Wiccan history Aidan Kelly in writing Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion.

Sit back: there is lots here on Gardnerian Wicca in the 1950s, Gardner’s own lack of charisma by religious-leader standards and his puckish sense of humor, why the North American Gardnerians went wrong in trying to enshrine one Book of Shadows, and Lamond’s own thoughts on how patriarchal monotheism came to dominate the world.

“Out of the Broom Closet” — American Wicca in the late 1980s

Valdosta State University in Georgia has digitized and posted two videos by Wiccan journalists Malcolm Brenner and Lezlie Kinyon. (That is Brenner’s voice-over narration.)

This one, Out of the Broom Closet, was released in 1991 from video shot in the preceding years.

This documentary begins with a protest of Z. Budapest speaking about witchcraft at the St. Theresa Public Library in San Jose, California on July 12, 1986. What follows are formal and informal interviews of Pagan leaders explaining what Wicca is, how the general public has a misconception of what witchcraft is, and why it is important for practitioners to come “Out of the Broom Closet” to educate the public.

It and much more are cataloged in VSU’s  New Age Movements, Occultism and Spiritualism Research Library (NAMOSRL), created by librarian Guy Frost.

Religion News Service: Baltic Pagans Spurred by Conservation

People gather at the Lokstene Shrine, where Latvian Pagans hold ceremonies and annual celebrations, on May 6, 2017, in P?avi?as Municipality, Latvia. RNS photo by U?is Nastevi?s

A new article from the Religion News Service, which does not normally acknowledge polytheists, describes the long-standing Pagan revivals in the Baltic republics:

The pagan [sic] religions have been spurred especially by a growing awareness of climate change and the rise of conservation movements that tap into a deep local connection to nature and a desire to protect sacred spaces.

“In Lithuania there is a strong movement against deforestation,” said Trinkuniene.

Outside Tammealuse Hiis, the sacred grove in the Estonian forest, a sign states that as late as the 1930s people would converge on the area to meet relatives, play music and dance. “The long tradition of get-togethers died during World War II, but the power of the sacred site continued,” wrote local author Ahto Kaasik, a folklore researcher, director of the Center of Natural Sacred Sites at the University of Tartu and key figure in the movement on the sign.

Rehela often celebrates Munadepüha, a folk equivalent of Easter, at the grove. During this event his community holds rituals where members strike knives on axes to make bell-like noises, and the ritual leader gives a speech to the old gods and their forefathers.

Pagan with a Capital P

In editing the current issue of The Pomegranate, one of my “favorite” issues came up again: whether or not Pagan is capitalized.

American scholars and Pagan authors tend to say yes. There has been a small campaign to convince the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, widely used in the news media, and the Chicago Manual of Style, widely used by university presses and serious nonfiction publisher.

It’s a matter of accurate labeling and of respect. If Muslim, Hindu, etc. get capital letters, so should Pagan.

This is not an issue that will be settled in a year, or even two or three. But I have hope.

Meanwhile, “pagan” can be used in direct quotation, particularly when it has the sense of “irreligious,” as in C. S. Lewis‘s reference to the Roman poet Ovid as “that jolly old pagan.” (But he was also a cap-P Pagan, in my view.)

On the other hand, writers in the UK tend to lowercase “pagan.” Others try to split the difference, using “pagan” for the ancients and “Pagan” for practitioners of post-1900 Pagan traditions, i.e. “Neo-Pagans.”1)And that term, popular in the 1970s–80s, is more and more supplanted by “contemporary Pagan” or “modern Pagan.”

To my editorial eye, this approach is worse than no capital P at all. Imagine someone writing this: “Ancient pagans and today’s Pagans differ in their attitudes toward animal sacrifice.”

The reader might think that someone had either forgotten to capitalize one “pagan” or mistakenly capitalized the other. Confusing.

I was happy to see recently that Koenrad Elst, a Belgian scholar of Hinduism, was using the capital-P in a broad sense.2)Although he has a PhD in the study of Hindu nationalism, he is in fact is a civil servant, not an academic, which gives him certain advantages. Here, interviewed in the Hindu Post, he implies that “Pagan” is like “Hindu”—a label imposed by outsiders that nevertheless has been adopted today:3)This is a pro-BJP (ruling party) website.

The historical definition of the term “Hindu”, brought by the Muslim invaders[1], does not define a specific worldview and practice, as the definitions of Christianity and Islam do. “Hindu” is a geographically defined slice of Paganism, viz. all Pagan (=non-Christian, non-Muslim) traditions coming from Bharat (India). This means every possible belief or practice that does not conform to either Christianity or Islam. It includes the Brahmins, the upper and lower castes, the ex-Untouchables, the Tribals, the Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), the Jains, and many sects that didn’t even exist yet but satisfy the definition: Lingayats, Sikhs, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, ISKCon. I am aware that many now refuse to be called “Hindu”, but since they satisfy the definition, they are Hindu, period. Elephants are not first asked whether they agree to being called elephants either.

My preference, too, is to use capital-P Pagan for all non-monotheists, ancient or modern. It is a simple and orthographically uncomplicated solution. And if anyone questions it, just refer them to the umbrella term “Hindu,” now accepted by (almost all) Hindus.

Notes   [ + ]

1. And that term, popular in the 1970s–80s, is more and more supplanted by “contemporary Pagan” or “modern Pagan.”
2. Although he has a PhD in the study of Hindu nationalism, he is in fact is a civil servant, not an academic, which gives him certain advantages.
3. This is a pro-BJP (ruling party) website.

Driven to Drink by Editing

Yes, that is coffee and wine together. And a candle.

This is my world this week, as I wrap up a tardy issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studiesas soon as a certain person OK’s my copyediting job on her article and I can send it to the layout editor with the rest. Articles in this issue come from Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic,1)Are we supposed to say “Czechia” now?Britain, and the United States.

Then will come layout for the Bulletin for the Study of Religion and, oh yes, another Pomegranate to get us back on schedule.

Always at hand (to the left of the wine glass), the Chicago Manual of Style. Learn it, people—or at least bookmark the important shortcuts. (Actually, CMS is for editors; academic writers can get by with A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations  for considerably less money.)

On the right, Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson’s edited collection, Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe — the article that I was editing referenced it quite a bit. And of course a back issue of The Pomegranate for those “How did I do X last time?” questions.

Male evening grosbeak (Cornell University).

But there are advantages to working at home, like being pestered by dogs, particularly Wendy the foster dog, an excitable German wirehaired pointer.2)She has been living here since March, but now that her owner is out of the hospital and feeling better, he hopes to pick her up next month.

She clatters into my study: “Come quick! come quick!” then rushes through the open door onto the veranda.”Look! Birds! Birds! We must act!”

“No, Wendy,” I say, “those are evening grosbeaks. We are not hunting them.”

“Ha!” she says, and the next morning on dog walk,she dashes into the brush and comes out with a very very dead grosbeak, which she carries proudly into the house.

Retrieving birds is what she does — can’t punish her for that! And she knows it.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Are we supposed to say “Czechia” now?
2. She has been living here since March, but now that her owner is out of the hospital and feeling better, he hopes to pick her up next month.

Fervent Followers of YHWH Flustered by Female Form

Three young women wearing bras and jeans face down Ultra-Orthodox mob.

photo: Times of Israel

This is several days old, but I am still laughing.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men and boys clashed with police Saturday afternoon, blocking traffic and attacking officers during a protest against Shabbat transgression by workers preparing the Eurovision Song Contest final in Tel Aviv on the Jewish day of rest.

As protesters blocked roads beside an ultra-Orthodox area in the center of the city, at least four women stripped down to their bras, forcing the protesters to leave the area due to the prohibition against looking at women in dress deemed immodest.

What the cops could not do, they did. It might work on some Muslims too. Of course, the next escalation could be “Stone the immodest whores!” Follow the link for more examples of this attitude.

Onward with song and beauty! Aphrodite will not be denied.

Swedish Social Democrat Politician Wants to Ban Runes?

From Sputnik News

Back in the late 1990s, I had a young Swedish student in my English 102 (second-semester composition) class. I noticed that he wore a small silver Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) around his neck on a chain, under his shirt.

Was he a Norse Pagan or just making a cultural statement, I wondered. So I complimented him on it a neutral way.

I don’t think he was Pagan as such. But he was interested in the Viking Age and all that.

Nevertheless, he told me, he was afraid to wear the hammer at home, “because people would say that I am a Nazi.”

Now it’s twenty years later, and at least one Swedish government minister is worried about “Nazi associations” with runes. Never mind that they are many centuries old,

A partisan Swedish website reports:

The government is currently investigating the possibility of banning the use of Norse runes. It is reported that the Minister of Justice, Morgan Johansson (S) [Social Democrat], is behind the initiative. In the Asa community, which organizes asa troops and people with an interest in the Norse cultural heritage, the outrage is great about what one thinks is a restriction on, among other things, religious freedom. A collection of names has been started and on Friday [May 24, presumably] a manifestation [demonstration] is arranged outside the Parliament House in protest against the proposal. (Machine-translated by Google Translate).

This was picked up by the site Sputnik News (“Pagans, History Buffs Rage as Sweden Considers Banning ‘Nazi’ Runes,”), which sounds like another Russian shit-stirring operation. Nevertheless, I think there is a kernel of truth here.  They quoted a Swedish Asatru group, which said (translated)

Our attitude is that prejudices and misunderstandings are best cured with knowledge and facts. It is not okay to try and replace the meaning of our symbols with one’s own prejudices or political meaning they completely lack. Banning them would wipe out a part of our own history, culture and beliefs — and our freedom of expression because of political interpretations that do not belong in the Asa community.”

Maybe the Swedish Social Democrats could just ban the letters N and Z. My student knew his own culture’s predilections, I can say that much.

Are Fairies Indigenous to North America?

Image from The Fairy Census

Regular commenter Pitch 313 added this to my post titled “Bejaysus, It’s the Eco-Fairies.

A few items for context: a.) My family immigrated to Northern California shortly after the Gold Rush, and that’s where I grew up; b.) it was apparent to me that Fairy beings of European character were present and active in Northern California, and I later gathered that post-Gold Rush practitioners had more or less done things to make these Fairy beings feel at home; and c.) it was apparent to me that the European settlement of the Americas–and particularly the European settlement of California–had massively, catastrophically disrupted Native American lives and cultures and those of resident Fairy beings known to Native Americans. In my experience, at least, contact with Fairy beings of NativeCalifornian character was complicated and chancy. (Read the whole thing.)

You can read quite a few supportive stories if you look at the North American section of  The Fairy Census 2014–2017 (PDF file, 5.3 MB).

It is part of an ongoing research project, the Fairy Census.1)Ha, like it’s possible to count them!

The Fairy Census is an attempt to gather, scientifically, the details of as many fairy sightings from the last century as possible and to measure, in an associated survey, contemporary attitudes to fairies. The census was inspired by an earlier fairy census carried out by Marjorie Johnson and Alasdair Alpin MacGregor in 1955/1956, a census that was published in 2014.

There are two (anonymous) census forms: one for witness accounts and one for second-hand accounts (experiences of grandma, uncle, friend etc). Confidentiality is assured and, in the case of publication, personal details will be changed to assure anonymity. Note, however, that by filling out these forms you approve their use in an academic survey.

Some of the results (Fairies speaking Irish?) would sound like the Fair Folk came over the water. But maybe they just offer up whatever will resonate or disturb us the most. (“Gray” aliens, for instance.)

As described at The Daily Grail:

In the PDF, the experiences, recorded between 18 Nov 2014 and 20 Nov 2017, are divided into five sections based on geography: Britain and Ireland; North America; Europe; Australasia; and the ‘Rest of the World’. Editor Simon Young, a British historian who has written extensively on the topic of folklore, says that the Census is being released in PDF format free of charge in the hope that it will allow and encourage others to undertake their own research into the topic of fairies.

In my own comment, I mentioned Alex Bledsoe’s “Tufa” novels. In his telling, the Fair Folk were here before the first immigrants followed their dogs through Berengia, tens of thousands of years ago. I suppose that that is possible.

I like this one. I have added some paragraph breaks, punctuation, and notations.

§215) US (Alaska). Male; 2000s; 31-40 . . .

‘I, at the time, worked as a sawer [sawyer] for *** crew fighting wildfires in the Alaskan interior forests. As we were cutting line around the fire, it began to rain a bit ,and for the most part the fire was controlled but still not contained.2)There is a technical distinction here used by wildland firefighters.

It is our job to cut line around the entire fire to eliminate any chance of it drying up and spreading. So it was [a]  low-adrenaline regular run-of -he-mill day at work. Slow and steady. My saw partner and I would each run the saw till the tank ran out and switch. One would act as saw[y]er and the other as swamper.3)The assistant who tosses the cut branches and small tree trunks out of the way. As we switched tanks, I began to cut and he began to swamp the trees; the burnt hot ones go into the black while the green ones went to the green side, this [thus] cutting our eight to ten foot control line on top of this rocky ridge.

As I was cutting down these pecker poles about two to three inch wide and ten to fifteen feet tall, I went to cut into the bottom of one, and right before my eyes the tree shrunk down and a not-so-handsome little man about a foot tall with a beard and many wrinkles on his face stared up at me and screamed ‘Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo’.

My hands held steady [on]the saw that vibrated from the four hundred and fifty cc motor and my eyes widened large. My partner later told even through the screen protective lenses he could tell something [was] amiss.

He yelled ‘***, *** [the sawyer’s name].’ With no response, I stood stiff. He shook my shoulder; then my partner, a seasoned veteran and paramedic shut off the saw and again asked me what happened? I still stay[ed] stiff into [sic] he turns me with grabbing both shoulders and tells me to take a seat. For fifteen minutes he tries to get what happened out of me.

How could I tell this man who trusts me with his life that I saw? That I saw… Finally he says he will have to call our crew supervisor,. I turn to him and say ‘***, I saw an elf!’ He looks at me and just shakes his head in full acceptance. I look puzzlerd, I say ‘You saw it too?’ He says ‘no’. I say ‘what?’ Trying to read his mind, ‘others, others on the crew have seen them?’ He nods his head, yes. Understanding this I keep silent and continue about my day. I nor the others on the crew were ready to share and hold their truth amounts the possibility of fall out that could have incurred. Happy to share it now. Blessings and love to the many dimensional beings we share this world with.’

‘Old rugged kinda ugly though I don’t like to say so. Kinda bald and dirty.’ ‘I said elf to my buddy but it could easily be a name. I just know what I saw. It was in the woods, and my wisdom spoke up and remembered something that lay dormit [? dormant].’ ‘[Fairies are] a dimensional being that can support humans if they wise up in connection with Mother Earth. Fairy is a large dimension of characters. Some to trust while others are a bit more tricky.’ ‘Being a thirty-nine-year old man that has retired from a job that most people considered brave, tough, and masculine. I love sharing this story to those who are like. Well I [it?] got me thinking anyway.’

I’m not the sawyer on our fire department’s crew, but I took the class. My own chainsawing usually takes place on the hill behind the house, for reasons of firewood or fire mitigation. I don’t feel so bad about cutting dead stuff—and I have left a few beetle-killed pines for the cavity-nesting birds, but I get more and more edgy about cutting live stuff.

“Hey, I need to cut these little trees, Just pretend that I am a fire, OK? It will mean more water for the rest of you.”

We have forest fire burn scars4)That’s the new term. We used to just say “burns.” on all side. If you are going to live as an animist, there is always someone else you have to talk to.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Ha, like it’s possible to count them!
2. There is a technical distinction here used by wildland firefighters.
3. The assistant who tosses the cut branches and small tree trunks out of the way.
4. That’s the new term. We used to just say “burns.”

Bejayus, It’s the Eco-Fairies

In the last of the four-part post about “the cousins” (start the series here), I raised the question of what do fairies look like.

Here is the man who knows, says the (Irish) Independent:

“I kind of expect it. When I was younger if I hadn’t seen them, you’d think there was something wrong. I’ve seen them on a good few occasions after that.”

Galway farmer Pat Noone is used to encounters with the Good Neighbors, and he says they sent him a message.

“I was coming down after looking at the cows in that 16-acre field. I heard the music and saw the fairies dancing and I went over and got talking to them. They talked English to me, I had no problem talking to them. They told me they just wanted me to keep the land the way it was, and told me not to take any of the bushes out. I listened to the music and I went home.

“I have great luck with the stock, with farming, you’ll have your ups and downs with sick animals and nature takes its course, but overall I’ve had very good luck with the farm. And I don’t use any chemicals or sprays. That’s what the fairies told me. I use no weed killers at all whatsoever. It’s not the modern farm that people expect, I let the ditches grow naturally and then trim them back with the saw. It’s left naturally here.”

Chemical-free farming. That is what They want, and you should know better than to cross them.