2) Pagans and wiccans are becoming more established
More established [than self-identified shamans] are pagans [sic], who number 74,000 people (up from 57,000 in 2011) and who gather most in Ceredigion, Cornwall and Somerset, and wiccans [sic], who number 13,000. Wicca is sometimes described as a witchcraft tradition whose roots lie in pre-Christian religious traditions, folklore, folk witchcraft and ritual magic.
Don’t get a swollen head, unless you speak Romanian (see number 3).
The British Museum is hosting a big exibition on the Neolithic context of Stonehenge, and obviously I cannot go.“Neolithic” basically means stone tools + settled towns + agriculture + domesticated animals + pottery + some degree of social hierarchy. This what they said about it:
The image of Stonehenge is so iconic that if you were to close your eyes right now, you’d likely have a pretty accurate image of the monument in your mind. However, if you were asked to imagine the people who built and lived with the monument, you’d probably struggle a little more. So to help with that, curators Jennifer Wexler and Neil Wilkin have decided to take you on a tour of their British Museum exhibition The world of Stonehenge, to introduce to some of incredible people that built and lived around the time of the monument.
You’ll see some of the best gold work humans have ever created, some of the best stone work humans have ever created, as well as a pretty decent 1.7 kilometre wooden footpath created to cross an inconvenient marsh (trust us, the Sweet Track is awesome). And overall you should come away with a better understanding of who the people of Stonehenge really were, what they thought about the world, and why they built big stone circles.
“One of the frustrating things about this period is that the peope at this tim don’t represent themselves in artwork, at least in any way that we can recognize. So instead, we need to look at what they were doing. And one thing they were doing, in abundance, was making and using stone axes,” notes one of the narrators.
This was the period of hauling huge stones and carrying tens of thousands of baskets of earth to build artificial mounds such as Glastonbury Tor. Who organized all this? How were people motivated? Were there serious penalties if you did not show up with your basket? Why did peope often live in multi-family longhouses? Sometimes, it all seems rather ant-like to me. For 94 generations.
Yet obviously erecting big timbers and later stones was tremendously important. Farmers did not need to know the sky that closely — farmers go by local cues — “When the leaves on [tree] are as big as a mouse’s ear, it is safe to plant,” that kind of thing
Searching “World of Stonehenge” at YouTube.com will bring up more videos.
In this riveting account, renowned scholar Ronald Hutton explores the history of deity-like figures in Christian Europe. Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, literature, and history, Hutton shows how hags, witches, the fairy queen, and the Green Man all came to be, and how they changed over the centuries.
Looking closely at four main figures—Mother Earth, the Fairy Queen, the Mistress of the Night, and the Old Woman of Gaelic tradition—Hutton challenges decades of debate around the female figures who have long been thought versions of pre-Christian goddesses. He makes the compelling case that these goddess figures found in the European imagination did not descend from the pre-Christian ancient world, yet have nothing Christian about them. It was in fact nineteenth-century scholars who attempted to establish the narrative of pagan survival that persists today.
The book will be out later this spring. For some reason, Yale UP is not taking pre-orders, but you can pre-order from Amazon,If you do, you will help me pay my hosting fee or from several other sources linked on the Yale UP catalog page.
Here, Ross Downing deals with such issues as whether witchcraft and Heathenry were defined differently in the time of King Alfred the Great in the late 9th century, including details as the execution of condemned witches as well as animals accused of being witches’ familiars (although that was not the Anglo-Saxon term), including ethnic and gender issues in witchcraft accusations.
These all look fascinating, and I will have to watch three a week to finish by Candlemas. Read more about the conference, which focused on Scandinavian but here includes Anglo-Saxon and Danish-ruled England.
If you have read anything on ancient Paganism(s) in Britain, you have probably read about the Cerne Abbas Giant, the huge figure made of chalk (crumbled into ditches) with an upraised Hercules-style club and an upright Cernunnos-style penis.
You probably read that he was prehistoric, or at least pre-Roman — although some dissidents claim there was no record of the giant’s existence before the late 1600s CE.
Now archaeologists have been working to date the site, and they are coming up with a different age.
I am thinking of starting a series called “What You Can Do with a Master’s Degree,” such as be a lecturer or start your own online school. There was a time, pre-television, when well-known authors went on lecture tours, city to city, speaking to local literary societies, school groups, and the like. John Cowper Powys, author of A Glastonbury Romance, was one of many.“Powys had success as an itinerant lecturer, in England, and in 1905–1930 in the US, where he wrote many of his novels and had several first published. He moved to Dorset, England, in 1934 … Continue reading
I continue to take an interest in polytheistic religions. The most recent direction of the StJ project since 2016 has been population genetics, with focus on the culture, identity and religion of the Indo-Europeans. My videos are based on thorough interdisciplinary research, drawing from archaeology, linguistics, historical sources, comparative mythology and population genetics — particularly archaeogenetics.
“Powys had success as an itinerant lecturer, in England, and in 1905–1930 in the US, where he wrote many of his novels and had several first published. He moved to Dorset, England, in 1934 with his American partner, Phyllis Playter.’ [Wikipedia]. No master’s degree though.
Say what? Tim/Otter/Oberon Zell, who pushed “Neo-Pagan” as a religious designator in the pages of Green Egg, was still a little boy then, and that influential Pagan zine was almost two decades in the future.
So herein lies a tale and also a connection to the “tiki bar” craze, which has now become retro-cool.
For this research I thank Scott Simpson, co-editor of Equinox Publishing’s books series on “Contemporary and Historical Paganism,” who made some connections after prowling through Library of Congress databases.
He noted the line about “Bird of Paradise” fashions (the necklace would cost about $20 in today’s money) and linked it to a movie that premiered that year,Bird of Paradise, starring Debra Paget as “Kalua,” an “island princess.”Note that her name is only an “h” away from the name of the popular Mexican coffee liqueur, introduced in 1936. Perhaps it was the writer’s drink of choice.
So this is one of those “Will the princess be thrown in the volcano to appease the angry gods?” movies that used to be popular. Cultural anthropologists are welcome to cringe now. You can watch it on YouTube.
Some people had good wartime memories involving fruity drinks with umbrellas in them and tropical sunsets.
My stepmother lost her first husband, a young Navy ensign, when a German submarine sank his ship in 1942. But two years later she was in Honolulu, working as some general’s secretary, and filling a photo album of pictures of friends sitting around tables full of drinks with umbrellas in them, not to mention a lot of shots on the theme of “Me and Colonel So-and-So at the beach.”
She was not adverse to visiting Trader Vic’s either in later years.
What interests me now though is that “neopagan” was enough in the American vocabulary that it could be used in advertising copywriting! I think of advertising language because I spent a year in my early twenties as a copywriter in an ad agency. It was the English major’s equivalent of being drafted. And did it envoke angry volcano gods, semi-nude Polynesian girls, and rum drinks?
Scott Simpson found some other earlier uses of it (besides the G. K. Chesteron one that I already knew about). For instance, a group of young “creatives” at Cambridge University was using it c. 1908, including the artist Gwen Ravarat and the poet Rupert Brooke.
“But the New-Pagans seem to have had no real spiritual direction. The members went on long coutry walks and slept under canvas, but they made no serious attempt to restore the Pagan religions.”Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe(London: Routledge, 1995), 216.
“Fairies and fashion” as a suggested topic? Someone must have seen my “Dior Dresses the Fair Folk” post! Seriously, there are some fascinating topics under potential consideration for this conference:
Call for papers: Gothic encounters with enchantment and the Faerie realm in literature and culture
University of Hertfordshire, 8–10 April 2021.
The Open Graves, Open Minds (OGOM) Project was launched in 2010 with the Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture conference.We have subsequently hosted symposia on Bram Stoker and John William Polidori, unearthing depictions of the vampire in literature, art, and other media, before embracing shapeshifting creatures and other supernatural beings and their worlds. The Company of Wolves, our ground-breaking werewolf and feral humans conference, took place in 2015. This was followed by The Urban Weird, a folkloric collaboration with Supernatural Cities in 2017. The OGOM Project now extends to all narratives of the fantastic, the folkloric, the fabulous, and the magical.
The iconography and visuals associated with magic are highly evocative and responsible for a major part of its appeal. The strong, often iconoclastic imagery exerts a particularly powerful draw for the artist or craftsperson because of its ability to fire the imagination, and to inspire creative work in response. Until recent times, creative interpretations of magic within mainstream fashion have mainly been on a subtle and subversive level; generally within a counter cultural context. So why is magical symbolism being appropriated within high fashion at this particular point in time?
This article is part of Pomegranate’s “Paganism, Art, and Fashion” special issue, guest-edited by Caroline Tully. All content may be downloaded for free at this time.