Academic Work on Paganism in Germany

René Gründer shared a link to a monograph series that includes work on contemporary Paganism and shamanism. Information in English, but the books themselves are available only in German.

His web page also contains links to some articles in English.

Gallimaufry: It’s Traditional

¶ When an ill-informed blogger writes that “Wicca Attempts to Control Life” on a right-wing site, commenters weigh in. The gist: (a) religion has nothing to do with politics or (b) all religions are bogus. It’s nice to see street-level libertarianism thriving.

¶ Maxine Sanders’ new autobiography Fire Child: The life & Magic of Maxine Sanders, ‘Witch Queen’ is on my to-read list. She says the first mid-1990s draft was it badly written, self-indulgent and absolute rubbish. And then she adds something that is true of all memoir-writing:

When I did start work on Fire Child there were details that were not recorded in my magical diary and should have been. However, magical life is often repetitive and would have proved boring to the reader. On reflection, the differences between memory and diary entries made fascinating personal analysis.

Update: Another reviewer discusses some inconsistencies in the book but still recommends it.

¶ Volume 3 of TYR Myth-Culture-Tradition has been published, and I am just starting to read it.

This third issue is a big one, 530 pages, with articles such as Nigel Pennick on “Weaving the Web of Wyrd,” Joscelyn Godwin on “Esotericism without religion: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials,” and Christopher McIntosh on “Iceland’s Pagan Renaissance,” plus many pages of book and music reviews. Impressive.

Dem Bones

American archaeologists have had more a decade’s experience with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). It has also been misapplied, I believe, as in the case of Kennewick Man. Although that skeleton may have been proto-Polynesian rather than European, Steve McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly filed a brief in the court case over who got the skeleton under NAGPRA’s rules. Mattias Gardell (see 29 November post ) makes an interesting point: We know that Norse people visited North America, but if a Norse cemetery were discovered in, say, Maine, a literal reading of NAGPRA would require those bones to be handed over the nearest federally recognized American Indian tribe as “ancestral remains.”

Now similar legal issues could be on the horizon in Europe, as discussed in two stories on Spiked Online, “Battle of the Bones” and “Burying the Evidence.”

“So far as governments are concerned, repatriation strategies have become part of the way in which they attempt to connect with what they perceive as fragmented, divided societies. In the USA and Australia, the apparent failure to integrate indigenous populations had became a particular cause for concern by the 1980s, and with no new solutions to integration on the horizon, the issue became how best to build a relationship – any relationship – with these separate, impoverished groups of people came to the fore.

“Repatriation, in this context, represented a symbolic reversal of conquest – a giving back of what had been taken, a recognition of the value of indigenous culture at the highest levels of government, and an attempt to create, not one national identity, but a new ‘pluricultural’ ideal” (“Battle of the Bones”).

(Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily for sending me down this track.)

British Pagan are increasingly positioning themselves as “indigenous religion” and taking an active interest in the management of prehistoric Pagan archaeological sites, so these controversies will only increase.

Gods of the Blood

How to meet the Asatruar at an academic gathering–walk around carrying a copy of Mattias Gardell’s Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Gardell, a Swedish historian of religion, also wrote an earlier book on the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), In the Name of Elijah Muhammed. Both are published by Duke University Press.

From the cover blurb: “Gardell outlines the historical development of the different strands of racist paganism–including Wotanism, Odinism, and Darkside ?satr?–and situates them on the spectrum of pagan beliefs ranging from Wicca and goddess worship to Satanism.”

To Gardell, both the racist Pagans and earlier groups such as Christian Identity arise from a version of the “cultic milieu,” a shared basis of attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions, which is why he calls them more a counterculture than a movement. The actual groups keep breaking up, changing, and coalescing, but the counterculture as counterculture persists, because it embodies its own form of attitudes which are actually common enough in society at large: about nature, about government’s misuses, about a reaction against modernity and for capital-T Tradition.

I think these people need some help with naming. You have to understand as a reader that Wotan’s Kindred is not the same as Wodan’s Kindred is not the same as Wotansvolk (USA) is not the same as Wotansvolk (Sweden).

It’s a worthwhile book, but I did find one geographic howler, which shook my confidence a little. He describes the federal prison where David Lane is incarcerated as “deep underground in mountainous Florence, Colorado.” Um, no. I watched it being built, and, granted, the maximum security complex surrounds inmates with so much concrete that they might as well be deep underground. But Gardell must be one of those who thinks that all Colorado is mountainous. About 40 percent of Colorado is the High Plains, and Florence is on the edge of that region, in a gentle river valley with the prison only slightly higher. (Hardscrabble Creek passes not far away after it emerges from the mountains). Considering that Gardell includes a photo of Lane taken in prison, I don’t know how he came to write that sentence.

Smile When You Say ‘Tradition,’ Partner

Last week I found in my campus mailbox the first (only?) issue of Tyr: Myth-Culture-Tradition, a new journal focusing on Asatru-Odinist-Heathen thought. It’s quite a bit like The Pomegranate started out to be for the more broadly defined Pagan community (including A-O-H), before The Pom morphed into a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The first issue of Tyr was dated June 2002. I cannot find a web site to link to, but here is one online review. (UPDATE: Link is dead, so I removed it)

I’m always interested in what Joscelyn Godwin has today on esoteric subjects–here, he writes about the man who put the T in Tradition, Julius Evola–and on the evolution of the followers of the Indo-Europeanist Georges Dum?zil. But the trouble is, you never know when you are going to step over the edge when reading Tyr. Turn the page and someone is claiming that the his Heathen rock band’s music “resonates” with people of European origin because “DNA will out, you know.”

Uh, yeah. I once thought that that was why I was so thunderstruck the first time that I heard bagpipes playing when I was a child–my sliver of Scottish ancestry. On the other hand, I always liked blues music too–even did a blues show on my college FM station. Maybe my banks-of-the-Mississippi River ancestry is more important than DNA? Who knows? This “blood and soil” stuff so easily can be warped.

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