Publishing Thoughts after AAR-SBL 2018

Nothing gladdens an editor’s heart like seeing an author with his new book. Here Jefferson Calico talks about Being Viking: Heathenisn in Contemporary America with Giovanna Parmigiani, who also presented a paper in a Contemporary Pagan Studies session.

I got so busy with the “Season of the Witch(crap)” series that I wrote nothing about last month’s joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.1)The SBL is actually the parent of the AAR, but the child organization is now much bigger and broader.

The meeting this year was in Denver for the first time since 2001. Although I live in Colorado, I visit Denver only once or twice a year, and when I do, I feel like a country mouse in the urban canyons. There was a time when I sold print advertising up there once or twice a month and was pretty familiar with the central areas, but so much has changed, that my memories are palimpsests, and I have to learn its geography all over again. That restaurant that I remember as moderately priced is now more expensive, and they don’t have any tables available.

That said, if you are a meeting planner, Denver’s convention center is easy to navigate, is withing about four blocks of thousands of hotel rooms, and also within a short walk from many restaurants, so that 10,000 hungry intellectuals discharged into the city center can find places to eat lunch.

And you can take an Amtrak train (or a commuter train from the airport) into the city center and then ride a free shuttle bus into the hotel district. M. and I drove, however, handing our mud-splattered Jeep over to the hotel parking valet for the duration.

But enough boosterism. I was there with a light heart: I am no longer co-chair of the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit, and I had no obligations to anyone about anything, not to mention no obligation to attend the 7:15 a.m. chairs’ breakfast (yawn) or the tense negotiations of the steering committees’ reception, where, drink in hand and shouting in someone’s ear, you attempt to arrange joint sessions for the following year.

Thank you, term limits!

Instead, I went to sessions and talked to authors, coming away with a possible two books for the Equinox series in Contemporary and Historical Paganism and a contribution to an editing collection that is in progress. I will not name these, because I do not wish to jinx them.  The series, I should say, has published more than one book as it has moved from publisher to publisher, but after a merger and a de-merger, we had to re-set the meter to zero. Long story.

I also came away with plans for a guest-edited issue of The Pomegranate  on
Traditionalism and Paganism. I had always though of Traditionalism as concerned mainly with esoteric approaches to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but there is also Pagan or Pagan-friendly version, largely traceable back to the French philosopher Alain de Benoist.

And then we get into some very tricky territory. Here there be dragons.

Soon I will post all the “calls for papers” for three special issues of The Pomegranate, each with a well-qualified editor, and if you are working in any one those areas, I hope that you will get in touch.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The SBL is actually the parent of the AAR, but the child organization is now much bigger and broader.

Season of the Witch(crap), Part 2

Candace Aguilera trained in Guatemala’s jungle (Colorado Springs Independent).

“Season of the Witch(crap), Part 1” here.

Continuing . . .

• One more “high” priestess joke, and you’re out of here. From the Colorado Springs Independent, the weekly that gets all the cannabis advertising because the chain-owned daily paper won’t touch it: “Meet Colorado’s High Priestess of Cannabis.” Yes, it’s that favorite form of American creativity: Let’s start a church!

• The Catholic News Agency views the number of self-proclaimed witches with alarm: “Number of Americans who say they are witches is on the rise.” With video.

• If you dare . . . “Go inside a Wiccan ceremony.” Also with video. Fairly mild sauce, actually.

• It’s the Guardian again: “The season of the witch: how Sabrina and co [sic] are casting their spell over TV.”  “Diverse, digitally savvy and definitely feminist” — yes, that’s all it takes to be a media witch.

• And on public [sic] radio, “When you hear the word ‘witch,’ what does your mind conjure?” Damn, that’s clever writing. This time it’s the 1A show: “Hex in Effect: Why Witches are Back.” (Were we gone? Did I miss that memo?) A teaser for the radio show, which you can listen to if you have unlimited earbuds time.

• On Halloween, Vox.com covered the Sephora witch-kit kerfuffle, which is already old news. “The occult is having a moment. Companies want in, but not if witches can help it.” So much is wrong with this. Is there something measurable called “the occult”?  Sigh. I wanted to list everything Vox gets wrong, I would need a bigger blog. At least The Onion tells you that it is non-serious. Anyway, this one is over.

Maja, photographed by Frances Denny of Brooklyn. Denny is descended from a Salem witch-trial judge of 1692. That qualified her to “explore what it means to be a witch today.”(Daily Mail).

• Ah, those millennials. Now they are “ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology.” I could be snarky and say, “Hey, the Seventies called and they want their headlines back.” Or I could say that this is something that is always going on. Decades. Centuries.

The Daily Mail just goes for the photo shoot. If you don’t look like these “actresses, authors, and a technician,”  are you a real witch?

At least the photographer was inspired by a a worthwhile book, Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692. (What does it say that the Daily Mail cannot even get a book title right?)

Link fixed — sorry.

Don’t go away. There will be more. And guess what is missing from almost all of these articles.

Photos: Mexico City’s Day of the Dead Parade

No one does the Day of the Dead like the Mexicans, who, after all, made it what it is today.

And there was a pre-parade: on October 24, the Catrinas parade. The photos above are from the Catrinas parade, but you might have a hard time telling the difference.

Locally, I saw this coming on September 29th!

Paganism belongs in the streets!

The Pueblo Revolt and Pagan History

Commemorative poster by Kiowa artist Parker Boyiddle Jr. (1947–2007).

Some time in the early 1980s, M. and I were traveling through northern Arizona on one of our VW Bug-and-cheap tent tours, when we stopped for lunch at the Hopi Cultural Center, a/k/a The Cafe at the Center of the Universe.

We could not afford much at the gift shop, but I bought this poster, which commemorates a signal event in the Pagan history of North America — the time in August 1680 when the different Pueblo tribes, separated by language and geography,1)It is at least 350 road miles from Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo, where the revolt was planned) to the Hopi villages. Teenage boys ran the distance—an event recreated in 1980. rose up simultaneously, killing Christian priests, destroying churches, and chasing the Spanish settlers back to what is today Mexico.2)The Spanish did, however, come back in the Reconquista of 1692. It is often called the “bloodless” reconquest — as in this somewhat-biased link — but it was not. Calling it the ‘bloodless reconquest” perpetuates the myth that the simple natives welcomed the Catholic priests.

The poster has hung by my desk in three or four different houses.

For a good, sensitive history of the revolt, I recommend David Roberts’ The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards out of the Southwest.

Two things recently  brought the Pueblo Revolt back to my mind.

For one, last month American blogger Galina Kraskova linked to a Hindu blog, which itself was about “How Japan Dealt with the Christian Threat.” (This followed an earlier post by the same blogger on “Japan’s Defeat of Christianity and Lessons for Hindus.”) In short, during the early 17th century the Japanese shoguns all but eliminated the Catholic Christianity that had been spread by (mainly) Portuguese missionaries among the population. Their tactics included threats, torture, imprisonment, and a sort of  Buddhist Inquisition.3)For the movie version, see Silence, 2016, directed by Martin Scorsese. Now the Japanese approach is endorsed by some Hindus who advocate restricting or eliminating Christian missionary activity in India.

Pottery jar by Virgil Ortiz from “Revolt 1680/2180.”

But back to the Pueblo Revolt, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has a show up by Virgil Ortiz, an artist from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, titled “Revolt 1680/2180.” It will be on display through the first week of January 2016, and I must see it.

Ortiz’s Revolt storyline transports the viewer back more than 300 years to the historical events of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, and then hurtles forward through time to the year of 2180 – introducing a cast of characters along the way. Though the narrative will be largely based on the Revolt 1680/2180 storyline that the artist has been developing for some time, Revolution will focus on the Aeronauts and other main Revolt characters: Po’Pay, Translator and the Spirit World Army, Tahu and her army of Blind Archers, Runners, and Gliders. Set in the future of 2180, the pueblos are in chaos, the invasion of Native land continues, the scourge of war rages everywhere. The Aeronauts summon their fleet and prepare for extreme warfare against the invading Castilian forces. Desperately, the Aeronauts search for any remaining clay artifacts from the battlefields. They know that challenges and persecution will continue, so it is imperative to preserve and protect their clay, culture, language, and traditions from extinction.

If you can be in Colorado Springs over the next three months, the museum is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Notes   [ + ]

1. It is at least 350 road miles from Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo, where the revolt was planned) to the Hopi villages. Teenage boys ran the distance—an event recreated in 1980.
2. The Spanish did, however, come back in the Reconquista of 1692. It is often called the “bloodless” reconquest — as in this somewhat-biased link — but it was not. Calling it the ‘bloodless reconquest” perpetuates the myth that the simple natives welcomed the Catholic priests.
3. For the movie version, see Silence, 2016, directed by Martin Scorsese.

“The Importance of Rituals to the Hunt”

One of my camera traps captured this bull elk in late August 2016, four years after that hillside burned. Now look at the thick grass!

I have written a little about the intersection of hunting and ritual, but today I would ask you to read Jeremy Climer’s blog post “The Importance of Rituals to the Hunt.”

Before we go any further, we should define both “tradition” and “ritual” because people often use them interchangeably.  Although traditions can be religious in nature, ritual is more specific to spiritual matters.  So, for the sake of clarity in this article, we will use “ritual” to describe spiritual matters and “tradition” to describe non-spiritual matters.

Most rituals, even for Christian hunters like myself, originate from our pagan ancestors.  Some of these rituals are pre-hunt and some of them are post-kill.  As humans, we have always asked for blessings before the hunt and given thanks for our success after it.  This is not so different than the pre-planting rituals and the post-harvest rituals in our agrarian history.  We need food to survive, so we ask for assistance and when we’re full, we express our gratitude in hopes that our appreciation will be looked upon kindly when it comes time to ask for assistance again.

And then he quotes me saying something fairly blunt about ritual and taking life.

Climer lives in northern Colorado, but he was kind enough to rendezvous in Florence, a southern Colorado town that I visit weekly. (Try the Pour House coffeehouse if you are there.)

My first writing on Craft hunting ritual was published in 1992, in the chapter “Witches and the Earth” in Witchcraft Today, Book One: The Modern Craft Movement, that being a four-book series that I edited for Llewellyn in the 1990s. It included a description of pre-hunt ritual performed by my hunting partner and myself.

The essay Climer cites, “The Hunter’s Eucharist,” is something that I am still proud of. It made some money too, winning an outdoor writers’ essay contest sponsored by Winchester, as well as being printed three times. Its first publication was in Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions, while a shorter version, differently titled, appeared in Colorado Central, a regional magazine, and then was reprinted in David Petersen’s excellent anthology, A Hunter’s Heart.1)David Petersen was also a founder of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a rapidly growing and effective conservation group.

Climer’s “three popular rituals” are a pretty good argument for “Pagan survivals” on their own, even given that one is Cherokee, at least in his heritage.

Notes   [ + ]

1. David Petersen was also a founder of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a rapidly growing and effective conservation group.

Out with Mabon, In with La Catrina

La Catrina at the Hanging Tree Cafe.

Grumble grumble. Now  Día de los muertos decorations  are on display in late September.

The Chile & Frijoles Festival was last weekend, the equinox, and it’s on to the next holy day(s)!

At the Hanging Tree Cafe, it is kind of Día de los muertos every day. Today, though, I see the owner (tall guy, cowboy hat, tattoos) hanging an articulated skeleton from the ceiling of the main dining room.

It was a very Instagramable moment, which is why I did not Instagram it.

Being a Solitary Pagan Does Not Mean that You Celebrate Alone

They’re putting on a Mabon festival, so why not go to it? (Photo: Colorado.com)

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the fall equinox (Mabon) is nearly upon us — 1:54 a.m. Universal (Greenwich) Time on Sunday the 23rd. For North Americans, that is Saturday evening.

What will you do if you are a solitary Pagan? At Under the Ancient Oaks, John Beckett suggests, for example, slicing open an apple and contemplating the pentagram concealed in its inner structure.

Which sounds very sensitive and contemplative  . . . and lonely and depressing.

John is a smart guy and a good writer, but there is another option. Now, like Samhain and Yule, is one time when the whole society is celebrating — or at enough of them that you can ride the energy that is out there in the polis.1)A city-state, or a body of citizens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis.

Festivals! All around you are harvest festivals. I wrote once about attending the nearest winery festival — it was a good time.

I don’t see Mabon as a time for quiet contemplation. The season’s energy is “outer,” not “inner.” Eat, drink, and celebrate the turning of the Wheel!

Come Saturday, M. and I will be at the El Pueblo Museum farmers market, just below the bottom edge of the photo — and then we will have to visit some booths and listen to music. And buy some fire-roasted Pueblo chile peppers — that is a sacred obligation.

Maybe I can slice one open and contemplate it, before it it is chopped and tossed into the skillet.

Happy Mabon! (Or to the people that you meet, “Happy equinox!”)

Notes   [ + ]

1. A city-state, or a body of citizens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis.

UFOs, Bigfoot, and Economic Development in the Coal Camps

Some Rockvale residents are not too welcoming.

Three little towns in Fremont County, Colo., are referred to collectively as “the coal camps.” Rockvale, Coal Creek, and Williamsburg all housed coal miners of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I don’t know when their populations originally peaked — maybe in the 1920s.

They had a reputation for insularity, partly due to ethnic and language issues. Many of the miners were Italian or Slovenian or of other Eastern European origin. Meanwhile the county seat, Cañon City, was a stronghold of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan—the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic incarnation of the KKK. You can see how there might have been some conflict.

When M. and I lived in Fremont County in the late 1980s, these three town could almost have been called “ghost towns.” With house prices low there, we considered buying in Rockvale or Coal Creek, but unlike Cañon City with its several irrigation systems serving town lots, small orchards, and truck farms, the coal camps were bone dry, not good for gardeners at all.1)The word “truck” in “truck farms” does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Latin for wheel, but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means “barter” or “exchange”. The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866. [Wikipedia]

In my mind, inhabitants of Rockvale, for instance, were either old Italian ladies — widows of the aforesaid coal miners — or people with a front yard full of old cars and motorcycle parts, several pit bulls, a couple of pickup trucks and a Harley, and a general attitude of “Leave me the **** alone.”

Plus one real talented sculptor whom we knew. Mixed in there were some people who just found the coal towns to be a cheap place to live, as we almost did.

And some of them are fans of “the unexplained.”  Earlier this month, local newspapers reported an upcoming three evenings of story-swapping devoted to UFO (July), ghosts (August), and Bigfoot (September).

These hair-raising events are sponsored by the Rockvale Development Committee, which was formed in February 2018 to help the town recover from recent setbacks. The focus of the Rockvale Development Committee is to raise funds while providing positive community building events and experiences.

At $5 admission, they raised about $100 from a group of middle-aged to elderly locals, plus three teenagers, sitting on folding chairs in the tiny community building. Stories were swapped, and some of them were good ones — in other words, they defy rational explanation.2)I have had one literal “unidentified flying object” experience, and I was able to explain it rationally, but it took me a couple of years to duplicate the original circumstance.

One that did not involve “flying objects” struck me as highly strange. The speaker had been a teenager in the late 1960s, living in mostly agricultural Weld County in northern Colorado. One winter evening at dusk he was walking from a neighbor’s house back to his family’s farm, a route he took often. He passed an irrigation canal with a concrete-block pump house beside it as he turned onto a little dirt road. There was a car parked by the pump house — he thought it looked like a black mid-1960s Ford Mustang, with someone in the driver’s seat.

As he walked past and behind the car, he said, he looked at its interior from the rear. The interior was full of many sparkling multi-colored lights, far beyond the usual dashboard display for a Sixties car. This strange sight frightened him, and he started running

Then his cousin came along in his truck and offered him a ride. Their conversation was something like this:

Speaker: Did you go by the pump house?

Cousin: Yeah.

Speaker: Did you see a car parked there?

Cousin: I didn’t see any car.

Meanwhile people traded truisms like “There’s so much that can’t be explained in this world” or “Some talk about it, some don’t” or “The Indians saw a lot more than we do” or “There’s millions of planets out there.”

But here is what bothers me, as an orthodox Jacques Vallée-ian, is that people hold only one or two hypotheses.

  1. The “visitors” are from another solar system, flying here in physical spaceships.
  2. The so-called spaceships are actually secret military experiments.3)This group had no problem with secret military experiments, as long as the taxpayers get their money’s worth.

Both hypotheses are mechanistic. But consider what Vallée was writing years ago (via Wikipedia):

By 1969, Vallée’s conclusions had changed, and he publicly stated that the ETH was too narrow and ignored too much data. Vallée began exploring the commonalities between UFOs, cults, religious movements, demons, angels, ghosts, cryptid sightings, and psychic phenomena. Speculation about these potential links were first detailed in Vallée’s third UFO book, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers.

As an alternative to the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis, Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected.

When we get to the ghosts and Bigfoot events, will people make these links?

Rockvale may have some hostile residents, but it has no monster — nothing along the lines of Nessie, Mothman, or the Jersey Devil. Towns that do have monsters can use them for economic development, just like a saint’s grave or the temple of a god.

A Search for Mysteries and Monsters in Small Town America: How Monster Festivals Became American Pilgrimage Sites,” an article on Smithsonian.com by religion scholar Joseph Laycock, connects sightings with the human hunger for mystery.

Many find legends like the Lizard Man [of Bishopville, South Carolina] enthralling. But some become obsessed, longing to know more about something both mysterious and frightening. In these monster hunters, I see elements of religion. . . . Here I see another connection to religious traditions. Pilgrimage has always been an economic phenomenon, and many medieval towns depended on stories of local miracles to draw pilgrims. By inviting in the cryptozoology tribe, today’s small towns are celebrating aspects of local culture that were once pushed to the periphery or mocked. But like the medieval towns of the past, their local economies are getting a nice little boost, too.

Read the whole thing. And keep looking up.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The word “truck” in “truck farms” does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Latin for wheel, but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means “barter” or “exchange”. The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866. [Wikipedia]
2. I have had one literal “unidentified flying object” experience, and I was able to explain it rationally, but it took me a couple of years to duplicate the original circumstance.
3. This group had no problem with secret military experiments, as long as the taxpayers get their money’s worth.

The Trip to Salem: Southern Colorado — Chicago

The eastbound Southwest Chief, which originates in Los Angeles, rolls into La Junta, Colorado, at sunset.

A near-miss in Chicago: the sleeping car attendant had lined up everyone’s bags on the platform, which is a dimly lit.

I found my carry-on bag, rolled it into Union Station, down the corridors to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge, and lifted it onto a shelf in the storeroom.

“Why does your bag have a Red Cap tag?” M. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I didn’t ask for that.”

It was not my bag.

I was just explaining the mix-up to the lounge superintendent when she spotted a man checking in at the door with . . . a silver carry-on bag.

He had kindly brought it for me from the train. He thought it was his.

All praise to Hermes for the quick save.

Last Chance for Chiles


Saturday the 14th — the last chance to eat some chile colorado before heading east for New England cooking. (Tres Margaritas, Pueblo.).

But . . . today’s Amtrak breakfast menu featured a quesadilla of sorts, making that the first time that I had been served green chiles on the train.