This survey is a means of gathering information about beliefs, behaviors, and demographics from Heathens and Pagans in the United States and Canada. It will ask you questions about aspects of your religious and personal life, and your opinion on hot-button issues. Its results will tell us what Heathens and Pagans have in common across borders, and how different Pagans are within them. For the purposes of this survey, “Pagan” is defined as anyone who practices a form of Paganism and / or identifies as a practitioner of any form of Paganism, and “Heathen” is defined as anyone who practices a form of Heathenry or Asatru or identifies as a practitioner of any form of Heathenry or Asatru.
Warning: A lot of the questions are about race, guns, and politics, so if you are uncomfortable with slicing and dicing that stuff, don’t go there.
Among other things, The Golden Bough contributed much to the idea of “ancient Pagan survivals” that influenced just about all late-nineteenth and twentieth-century folklore research as well as the grown of conetemporary Paganism.
The high priest of my first coven really wondered at one point if the male leadership should not be decided Rex Nemorensis-style.
This conference hosted by Drs. Caroline Tully and Stephanie L. Budin under the auspices of the University of Melbourne from Friday, 10 February to Sunday, 12 February 2023 evaluates the continued influence of Sir James G. Frazer and his magnum opus The Golden Bough on the Humanities in modern academia. Talks are 20 minutes/40 minutes (keynote speakers) each, with a short time for Q&A after.
Presentations include “The ‘resurrection’ of Frazer’s dying gods in the ancient Mediterranean mythology: A fresh take on the divine death and resurrection through comparison: the case of Baal, Inanna/Ishtar and Dionysus,” plus “’A Victorian Educated Gentleman’: Frazer and his Golden Bough in Context,” and many others.
When I was new to Pagan studies — actually, “Pagan studies” had not even coalesced as a field of study — Jim Lewis’s edited volume Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft(SUNY Press, 1996) was one of my go-to volumes.
I had an essay in it, not something I am proud of, but definitely a product of “fake it till you make it.”It has not been cited often. Once was in a court brief over a prisoners’ rights case.
And like many scholars of new religious movements (NRMs), he had a hard time making a living in academia. Despite the vibrancy and relevance of NRM research, it just does not draw the funding and respect. You’re better off specializing in New Testament studies and writing yet another book about the Apostle Paul, or developing some new slant on gender-and-theology, if you want to be hired.
Born in 1949, Jim died October 11, 2022. I did not learn this until the American Academy of Religion meeting in late November, sadly. He was hugely prolific as an author and editor, but he was also working right up to the end — because he had to.
After some para-academic publishing work, Jim had taught in the University of Wisconsin system for some time but apparently never had a solid position. Then he was hired by the Arctic University of Norway in Tromso, which really is so far north that you lose the Sun for a while. Seasonal affective disorder aside, it seemed like a good gig, and I for one was happy for him. And presumably there would be enough petro-kroner for a pension.
But apparently there was a problem in Norway — he had not put in enough years — he could not get a full-time appointment past age 66 — or some such thing. I don’t how this worked, but he ended up at Wuhan University in China, although he was working remotely in 2020, luckily for him.
If you look at his publications from 2018–2021, you will see a lot about Falun Gong, the large, international new religious movement that has been a particular target of the Chinese government.
To be honest, the Chinese government, after a period of general hands-off, has been realy hard on all religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, Chinese Christian groups, ancient Daoist temples, family and clan ancestral shrines — all have been shut down, bulldozed or forced to turn themselves into government billboards.
Beyong writing critically about Falun Gong, he tried cutting some corners in order to pad the rèsumès of his new Chinese colleagues. As far as The Pomegranate was concerned, I refused to play along, and he cut all communications.
But whatever he did, I suspect he took the Wuhan gig to make some last good money as a senior scholar for himself and his wife. Which loops me around to where I started, that the study of new religous movements still, after fifty or sixty years, is not taken as seriously in academia as it ought to be — and hence not compensated.
And that is why too that I don’t expect to see any endowed chairs in Pagan studies in my lifetime.
Until recently many academic disciplines and subjects avoided the subject of the occult, deeming it too ‘irrational or ‘eccentric’ for serious study. Exceptions to this include the discipline of anthropology, which since the 19th century, embraced the study of religion and belief from Western rationalist perspectives. In recent decades anthropology has explored magic and occultism from a broader range of viewpoints, including phenomenology, relativism, and post-structuralism. In the last two decades adjacent disciplines to design history such as history, art history, sociology, cultural studies, and film studies have increasingly embraced occult subjects. Likewise, the interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities has examined Indigenous, Western and Eastern ideas about the relationships between humans and the natural world, including esoteric, folkloric, and occult concepts.
However, within the field of design history esotericism, occultism, and magic have been largely overlooked with no sustained explorations of their relationships with design and the decorative arts. Notable exceptions to this include studies such as Zeynep Çelik Alexander, ‘Jugendstil Visions: Occultism, Gender and Modern Design Pedagogy’ Journal of Design History, Vol. 22, Issue 3, September 2009, pp. 203–226, and Elizabeth Otto, Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics (The MIT Press, 2019)
I will have to get this issue of the journal when it’s published. (Pointy hat tip to Sabina Magliocco for the link.)
Even though The Pomegranate published its “Paganism, Art, and Fashion” special issue a while back, this remains a topic of editorial interest.
Cracow Monsters is a Netflix series about “a young woman haunted by her past [who] joins a mysterious professor and his group of gifted students who investigate paranormal activity — and fight demons.”
Comes nowhttps://grammar-ttlms.blogspot.com/2007/07/comes-now.htmlAndrzej Szyjewski, professor of religious studies at Jagiellonian University, which has been doing business in Cracow/Kraków since 1364, as they calculate it, back when demonology was an academic discipline.
The viewers are subjected to a whole series of disgusting and terrifying characters of various origins. It quickly becomes obvious that even Trentowski’s inventive vocabulary and imagination is not sufficient enough to describe the mix of entities gathered under the banner of supposedly Slavic mythology. The screenplay incorporates ideas from other, more contemporary Native Slavic faith believers (Rodnovery) and New Age workshops. For instance, in episode four, Chworz summons a creature called Spas. He is, in essence, a personification of certain holidays, described by Ukrainian Rodnovery volkhv (wisewoman) Halina Lozko, which the series depicts as something similar to Ded Moroz, who in turn can be likened to Santa Claus. Over the course of the series, Spas, carrying a staff decorated with hanging dolls, busies himself with freezing and then hanging people who failed to give him a present. The ‘Slavic Grinch’ meets his end when Alex electrocutes him with a high voltage wire. It therefore seems that the screenwriter didn’t bother to carry out at least a minimum amount of research when it came to the most key aspect of the show. She didn’t know that the name ‘Spas’, coming from the word spasitel, which means ‘saviour’ and denotes Christ, is unsuitable for a pre-Christian demon. . . .
Even when the screenwriter bases the story around concepts introduced by [19th-century writer Bronislaw] Trentowski, she seems not to understand them and misrepresent them, either knowingly or unknowingly. The best example of this is using the neologism bo?yca, which Trentowski means as ‘knowledge of gods and religion’, to signify a kind of protective spirit, a radiant entity guarding the main protagonist. She also calls it an Aitvara, which indeed denoted a guardian spirit, but one that watched over homesteads, not individuals. Aitvaras were reptilian in shape, brought wealth and prosperity, and were absolutely not exclusive to high priests and priestesses.
One of the series’ strongest points could be its setting: Kraków, a city famous for its rich legendary and historical symbolism. Unfortunately, Kraków also becomes a fantastical amalgamation of real and fictitious places (such as Wanda Mound). Judging from the places visited by the protagonists during their chase after the zapadliska, they can magically jump from one side of the Vistula to the other every few seconds. The viewers will also get the impression that all classes at the Jagiellonian University are conducted solely in Collegium Novum, the administrative centre of the University. Because of this, the eponymous Kraków becomes a simulacrum just as much as the ‘Slavic beliefs’. The most convincing idea related to Kraków in the series is the issue of the curse: the city is unable to develop properly, trapped in a hollow, drowned in smog and ravaged by extreme weather. In the series, Kraków becomes something akin to London, either shrouded in fog or beaten by rain. In this regard, the screenplay rises to the challenge.
I probably could not last through all two seasons, but now that I have Starlink and can stream easily to my isolated forest hideout, I am tempted to give it a look all the same, bearing Prof. Szyjewski’s cautions in mind.
(Thanks for the link to my co-editor in Equinox Publishing’s Pagan book series, Scott Simpson, who also teaches at Jagiellonian University and is the reason why I know anything at all about it. Trust me, he is “more than just a teacher.”)
Masaryk University, Faculty of Arts, Brno, Czechia
The Department for the Study of Religions at Masaryk University invites your participation in a conference on the overall theme of “Paganism and its Others” to be held in Brno, Czechia, 13-14 June, 2022, with in-person participation encouraged but online presentations also acceptable.
Although relating to the religions of ancient times, the contemporary Pagan movements are part of our shared modern world, bringing up many challenges and opportunities in interactions with their Others. It is precisely these interactions and their implications that we would like to explore at this conference.
The topics we seek to cover include (but are not limited to) these:
Paganism, its Others and the war in Ukraine: targeted to the theme of Pagans and their perception of the war in Ukraine. How do different Pagan groups interpret the war in Ukraine? How did the war change the relationship between Pagans in Ukraine and in Russia? Do Pagans actively participate in the war (e.g. in the army)? How do Pagans across Europe perceive refugees from Ukraine? Do Pagans help refugees?
Paganism in relation to Christianity: this could concern the contemporary situation or past Pagan-Christian relations; Pagan views of Christians, past or present; strategies of Pagan groups for coexistence with Christianity in contemporary Christian-dominant societies; Pagan acceptance or rejection of Christian elements in Pagan religions; attitudes toward Christian “converts” to Paganism.
Paganism in relation to other minority religions: this could also involve contemporary situation or past history; Pagan views of Jews, Muslims, Eastern religions, New Age movements; strategies of Pagan groups for coexistence, collaboration or competition with other minority religions
Paganism and its internal Others: splits in Pagan groups based on personal or doctrinal differences; successful and unsuccessful strategies to deal with such splits
Paganism and its Sexual and Gender Others: analysis of Pagan responses to increasingly prominent issues of sexual and gender diversity; whether Pagan groups are seeking to be more inclusive of homosexuals, transgendered individuals and others, or excluding them; how Pagan “traditionalists” interpret sexual and gender diversity
Paganism and its Ethnic Others: with most Pagan movements grounded in pre-Christian European religious traditions with primarily “white” European identity and membership, how do Pagans relate to people who are ethnically different in their societies, such as Roma, Africans, Asians? Are Pagans moving to include, exclude or ignore people with such identities in their Pagan associations? Are new interpretations of Pagan traditions developing to enable inclusion of ethnically different persons, or are ethnic borders hardening? Are Pagans supportive of policies and programs to help disadvantaged others such as Roma? Have any Pagan movements developed charity programs to assist such persons and groups?
Paganism and its Scholars: Reflections on the fieldwork and scientific research of Modern Paganism; researcher-researched dynamics, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, advances and problems in Pagan Studies; Pagan Studies in relation to other fields of study.
The special double issue on the theme of Pagans, museums, and heritage organizations was guest-edited by Pomegranate’s new associate editor, Caroline Tully.
She is an archaeologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia and the author of The Cultic Life of Trees in the Prehistoric Aegean, Levant, Egypt and Cyprus and many academic and popular articles. Caroline is an expert on Egyptomania and the religion of Minoan Crete. Her interests include ancient Mediterranean religions, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Thelema and contemporary Paganisms, particularly Witchcraft and Pagan Reconstructionism. Caroline has curated exhibitions of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, and regularly presents lectures and workshops on ancient religion and magic.
Müller-Ebeling and Rätsch are married and live in Hamburg, but Storl was born in Germany in 1942 and came with his family to Ohio in 1953. Now he goes back and forth but lives primarily in Germany with his American wife.
Despite the cover and and subtitle, “A German ethnobotanist’s wild roots in the Psychedelic Sixties,” what Storll’s memoir, Far Out in America, really describes is the pre-psychedelic late 1950s and early 1960s, the time when only a few university students would have heard of LSD and — lacking a connection to certain psychology professors or a father working in the right section of the CIA — would have had no idea how actually acquire some.
Storl himself describes Far Out in America as a story of personal adventure that would be “told in the hall of the gods.” When not in school, he sets out on epic hitchhiking adventures, passing through every subculture from Appalachian moonshiners to civil rights activists to Chicano adventurers to seasonal workers in national parks.
I liked the two half-assimilated German beatniks, sons of German scientists brought to the US after World War Two “to continue their reearch on miracle weapons, rockets, antigravitational objects, and jet fighters.” They introduce college freshman Wolf Dieter to the music of Bob Dylan, whose 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Storl says “expressed the feeings of the times, the Weltschmerz, world-wearienss, and all that was stirring young hearts.”
For a bright young Ohian, Ohio State University is an obvious choice, and he goes off to Coumbus to study botany and agriculture, only to discover that he has enlisted in the Green Revolution, learning to “export high-yield ‘miracle seed’ to backward peasants in Asia, africa, and South America,” as one of his professors explains. The program is totally about large-scale, mechanized, monoculture farming guided by technocrats like he was being groomed to become.
He drops out. After other false starts, he ends up in anthropology, where one of his professors is Erika Bourguignon (1924–2015), who taught more than forty years at OSU, and who was one of the few anthropologists to take “woo” — excuse me, “extraordinary states of consciousness” — seriously.
She published a lot, and when I was in grad school myself, her books and article were widely cited.Nikki Bado, my friend and former Pagan-studies book series co-editor, was one of her students.
Another was Felicitas Goodman (1914–2005), whom I met in the 1990s and thought of as sort of the European Michael Harner. She came to OSU as a middle-aged student, another one whose family emigrated to America after WW2, and earned a PhD there. She also started her own school of (neo)shamanism, The Cuyamungue Institute, in New Mexico, but also taught classes in Denmark, Germany, and other countries.
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.