New Issue of The Pomegranate Published

Issue 20.2 (2018) table of contents
Articles
On the Agony of Czech Slavic Paganism and the Representation of One’s Own Funeral among Contemporary Czech Pagans
Giuseppe Maiello

An Esbat among the Quads: An Episode of Witchcraft at Oxford University in the 1920s
Graham John Wheeler

Pagan and Indigenous Communities in Interreligious Contexts: Interrogating Identity, Power, and Authenticity
Lee Gilmore

Claiming Europe: Celticity in Russian Pagan and Nativist Movement (1990s–2010s)
Dmitry Galtsin

The Hunt for Lost Identity: Native Faith Paganism in Contemporary Lithuania
Dalia Senvaityte

Book Reviews-open access
W. Michael Ashcraft, A Historical Introduction to the Study of New Religious Movements
Carole M. Cusack

Anthony Ephirim-Donkor, African Personality and Spirituality: The Role of Abosom and Human Essence
Douglas Ficek

Jefferson F. Calico, Being Viking: Heathenry in Contemporary America
Galina Krasskova

Sunne [feminine], Light of the World

At one time, we had a book on the Sun as feminine (as in much of the old Germanic tradition) in the pipeline for the Equinox Publishing Pagan studies series. That did not work out, for complicated reasons. Meanwhile, enjoy the video, which is especially interesting if you are used to the Father Sun/Lady Moon dichotomy.

And I have been listening to Wolcensmen a lot of late. Here is their YouTube channel.

On the Dock, Pontifex, We’ve Always Been “D et D”

A study of ancient Roman dockworkers’ bones showed changes in their diet over time as the wealth of Rome declined:

When times were good, the dockworkers of Portus, the maritime port of Imperial Rome, enjoyed a surprisingly diversified diet. But new analysis of ancient animal and human remains — detailed in the journal Antiquity this week — suggests the diets of the city’s working class shifted as Rome fell into decline.

True, I am sure. But the article does not mention the fact that dockworkers historically skimmed off cargo, so I suspect that when “the dockworkers of Portus ate diversified diets featuring animal proteins, imported wheat, olive oil, fish sauce and wine from North Africa,” they were helping themselves to cargo.1)The invention of the “Conex box” and subsequent larger shipping containers certainly reduced casual theft of cargo, but no system is perfect.

As the union dockworker says in the classic movie On the Waterfront (1954), “One thing you’ve got to understand, Father, on the dock we’ve always been ‘D and D.'”

“What’s that?” asks the activist Catholic priest.

“Deaf and dumb.”

Watch the trailer. Then if you have not seen it, find On The Waterfront.

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. The invention of the “Conex box” and subsequent larger shipping containers certainly reduced casual theft of cargo, but no system is perfect.

Quick Review: “The Pagan King”

Medieval Pagan Latvians

Some 13th-century Latvian Pagans get the bad news: the  crusading Brothers of the Sword are coming, and their choice will be death, baptism, or both.

My “Pagan-ish” blog tag seems mostly to go to Latvian materials, and here is another one, The Pagan King.

Set in the 13th century, when the Baltic peoples were to be the last Europeans Christianized at sword’s point, it is the story of a young man named king of Semigallia, a region now mostly encompassed by the nation of Latvia.

He does not know it, but his land is the target of one Max von Buxhoeveden (probably based on this bishop), who has gained the pope’s blessing to lead a crusade against the Semigallian Pagans.1)This would probably be Pope Innocent III, who in the movie is capable of carrying out his own poisoning and stabbing — staples of the medieval pagacy — instead of contracting such activities out to professionals.

Namejs, the young king, is called to the throne just as he is about to lead a trading voyage to Constantinople. Without much preparation, he is thrust into a role of negotiating tribal alliances and trying to determine whom he can trust, all the while facing an invasion.2)In other words, 97 percent of human history. His people must adjust from celebrating Midsummer with happy lake-jumping and torch-lit Semigallian football matches (Shirts versus Skins) to all-out war.

In terms of the religion, The Pagan King punts the football, to use American rather than Semingallian rules. Although there is a wonderful sanctuary of standing stones and caves, the script speaks only of “the gods who are within us.” Not even Perkons (Perkunas) is name-checked. On the other hand, Namejs’ wife does appear to speak a little Snakish — is that a Latvian motif?

The costuming and set design seems to be a spin-off of the 2013–2019 History Channel television series Vikings. There are not enough beehives in Semegallia to produce wax for that many candles!!

In this movie, however, keep your eye on characters with the shaven head-plus-long beard “Ragnar Lothbrok” look. They are never what they seem.

Unless you cannot tolerate medieval battle scenes, of which there are several, you should watch The Pagan King. Here is the trailer:

Notes   [ + ]

1. This would probably be Pope Innocent III, who in the movie is capable of carrying out his own poisoning and stabbing — staples of the medieval pagacy — instead of contracting such activities out to professionals.
2. In other words, 97 percent of human history.

Secrets of the Gundestrup Cauldron

The Gundestrop Cauldron is one of the best-known Pagan artworks from Iron Age Europe. You can even buy inexpensive replicas.1)Just for information — I get no commission on this,  and I see that it is out of stock at the moment anyway.

What the reproductions will not have are the “ghosts,” as detailed in this post from the Balkan Celts blog:

While extensive academic attention has been paid to the cauldron’s iconography and origin over the past century, one fascinating element has been completely overlooked until recently. Scientific research on the back of the cauldron’s silver plate, using a ?bre illumination unit, as well as silicone rubber moulds, epoxy resin replica and macro photography, have revealed ‘Ghost Images’ unseen to the human eye for over 2,000 years.

The images, drawn lightly into the backs of the silver plates with a scriber and which are almost invisible to the naked eye, include a male figure 4.4 cm. discovered in the lower right corner on the back of inner plate C6572. The man is depicted in pro?le and blowing a horn instrument. It is worth noting that this instrument looks quite different from the relatively much longer instruments played by the three carnyx players depicted on the front of inner plate C6574.

Given that this was such a prestige item, I would have expected a better final polish job. 🙂

Notes   [ + ]

1. Just for information — I get no commission on this,  and I see that it is out of stock at the moment anyway.

‘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.