You can play it on the site or download it. I always download podcasts and shuffle them onto and off of my iPhone, because I do not always listen in sequence and I don’t want the petty tyranny of some app saying, “Do you still want … Continue reading
I tell three stories of “time slips” that happened when I was much younger — just making a start as a journalist, just married . . .
One happened in a medieval castle in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Ireland, which apparently is well-known to paranormal investigators now, but maybe not so back then, when it was quiet and dusty.And the Celtic Tiger was just a blue-eyed kitten. Not only was my experience temporarily overpowering, but it was “sealed” by a knock-out synchroncity the following year.
One occurred at highway speed on the I-95 bridge over the Susquehanna River. Again, it looped around and re-appeared over a business lunch in Colorado Springs.
The third, closest to home, happened when I was gathering the stories that went into a little book called Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek.The cover photo was taken from a house owned by the famous astrologer Linda Goodman, for what that is worth.
And then jump forward to 2019, when M. and I were mushrooming, and, it would appear, Someone decided to teach me to be a little more respectful. Or something.
I did not see Anyone, but I did see “the ravine that was not there,” and for a moment almost entered it. The thought of doing that — and beckoning M. to join me — gives me chills even now three and a half years later.
And if my voice sounds a little scratchy, you can put that down to spring allergies.
|↑1||I always download podcasts and shuffle them onto and off of my iPhone, because I do not always listen in sequence and I don’t want the petty tyranny of some app saying, “Do you still want to subscribe to Podcast X? You have not listened in three weeks!”|
|↑2||And the Celtic Tiger was just a blue-eyed kitten.|
|↑3||The cover photo was taken from a house owned by the famous astrologer Linda Goodman, for what that is worth.|
I have been seeing a flush of Pagan-related articles in Anglosphere news media lately, so many that it feels like October, which is usually the only time we are noticed.Possibly with a smaller peak around Yule.
One reason may be upcoming coronation of King Charles III.I might as well say it: when I was young, my older sisters and I independently worked out that I was probably named for him, at least partly, by our anglophile mother. Officially, I was named for a … Continue reading There was a flutter of exitement over the Green Man on the coronation invitation. Was the king a closet Pagan?
When the Times announced that the Princess of Wales might wear flowers in her hair, historian Francis YoungAlso a contributor to The Pomegranate playfully tweeted, “The folk horror theme of this Coronation intensifies.”
Young, in fact, has written an article on the king’s coronation, “Monarchy re-enchanted: The new Coronation liturgy underlines Charles III’s sacral kingship,” which emphasizes both the coronation’s deep Christian roots and an attempt to add an element of mysticism.
[The King] has consistently demonstrated sensitivity to an expansive awareness of the sacred that exceeds the strictures of a single religious tradition, in spite of his unambiguous commitment to the Church of England. . . . Charles III seems intent on re-enchanting the monarchy through a Coronation service rooted in both the past and the present, but suffused with mysticism. . . . Charles III’s Coronation will be the first in many centuries to take place directly on top of the Cosmati pavement made for Coronations in the reign of Henry III, a talisman designed to draw down celestial influences on the new king. The new “Cross of Wales”, the processional cross, contains a relic of the True Cross given to the King by the Pope; the holy oil for the King’s anointing has been consecrated in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the King has insisted that his anointing, the holiest moment of the ceremony, be entirely hidden by a specially designed screen adorned with words of the mediaeval mystic Julian of Norwich, and he has elected to wear the full sacred vestments of his forebears.
Saturday’s coronation will be a deeply Christian ceremony with ancient roots. They are bringing out a manuscript of the gospels, the St. Augustine Gospels, believed to have been brought to England in 596 by Augustine, a missonary to the Anglo-Saxons, before there ever was a political entity called “England.”This is Augustine “of Canterbury,” not to be confused with the earlier Augustine “of Hippo,” the weaselly lawyer. (The Celtic British were largely already Christian by then, with a connection to Christian Ireland.)
But the sort of Pagan penumbra persists. Why does the BBC pick this time to discuss the The Wicker Man, the Pagan-themed horror that became a cult favorite of actual Pagans in the 1980s? (“Just ignore the ending,” they would say, which is of course not posssible.) Is there some sort of Fraserian sacred king/death/rebirth smoke in the air, ancient gospel manuscripts or not?
|↑1||Possibly with a smaller peak around Yule.|
|↑2||I might as well say it: when I was young, my older sisters and I independently worked out that I was probably named for him, at least partly, by our anglophile mother. Officially, I was named for a maternal great-grandfather, who was a job printer, newspaper publisher, and postmaster in Baxter Springs, Kansas.|
|↑3||Also a contributor to The Pomegranate|
|↑4||This is Augustine “of Canterbury,” not to be confused with the earlier Augustine “of Hippo,” the weaselly lawyer.|
I heard Christian Rätsch (1957–2022) speak in person only once, at a conference in England in the 2000s, shortly after I had bought a book he co-wrote, Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants. I also treasure a recorded lecture of his on henbane beer and such topics, in which he scoffs at the famous Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law of 1516) that limited ingredients to water, barley, hops, hissing, “Hops isss a depresssant!” — CSC
The Undying Contributions of the Late Christian Rätsch
From Coby Michael’s The Poisoner’s Apothecary Patreon page.
Reprinted with permission.
On the 17th of September, 2022 author, lecturer and ethnobotanist Christian Rätsch (Hamburg, Germany) died of a stomach ulcer that he had been dealing with himself for years. Rätsch leaves behind wife and fellow author Claudia Müller-Ebeling.
Christian Rätsch, Ph.D., is a world-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist who specializes in the shamanic uses of plants. He is the author of Marijuana Medicine and coauthor of Plants of the Gods, Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas, Witchcraft Medicine, and The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants. He lives in Hamburg, Germany, and lectures around the world. He has served as president of the German Society of Ethnomedicine. (Inner Traditions/Bear & Company)
Rätsch was one of the single most important authors of ethnobotanical research, the Poison Path, the Psychedelic Renaissance and poisonous/psychoactive plant lore. He earned a doctorate studying Native American cultures living and studying with indigenous cultures. As a child he became interested in shamanic practices and the study of plants. He worked closely with indigenous plant spirit medicine, preserving an extensive body of traditional lore. He also experimented with various psychedelic substances since a young age, and eventually became friends with LSD researcher Timothy Leary. He is the founder and co-editor of The Yearbook of Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness.
His work was something that I discovered early on in my Poison Path studies, because he was one of the only authors at the time to not only take an interest in poisonous and psychoactive plants but also provide the reader with extensive history, folklore and chemical information from a practical and academic standpoint. His book Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices and Healing Plants, was the first work of his that I read, a complete ethnobotanical history of European psychedelic practices in the context of witchcraft.
Originally published in 1979, this book was a precursor to the megalithic Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants. Originally written by Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hoffman, all three titans in their own right. World-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist Christian Ratsch provides the latest scientific updates to this classic work on psychoactive flora by two eminent researchers.
In my opinion, the single most important modern day compendium of ethnobotanical information in the Western Hemisphere. The book is over 900 pages long with 797 color photographs and 645 black and white drawing. It is a comprehensive tome on sacred plant knowledge from around the world. Accessible and all in one place, this is one of the few books that provides ALL of the available information!
He has written extensively, books and articles, in German.
A Permanent Impact
The work of Christian Rätsch has been invaluable in my own studies of psychoactive and poisonous plants. The tireless work and attention to detail that was required to bring such a tome of knowledge into manifestation is no-doubt divinely driven. While the world has lost an amazingly curious mind, he has left behind a body of work that will continue to grow, evolve and influence those of us continuing this work. I would have loved to have meet you Christian, and thank you for your contribution but I have a feeling we will meet one day.
You can visit his website but it is all in German www.christian-raetsch.de/
But there are execeptions. An archaeologist friend wrote to me last year recommending Neil Price’s Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings. Price, who teaches at Uppsala University in Sweden, blends the strands masterfully, along with some climatology, religious studies, and geography.
Why did the “Viking Age,” roughly the 8th through 11th centuries happen as it did? I have seen some people blame population growth – Scandinavia had excess people, and they had to go somewhere.
Wrong. The volcanic “Finbul Winter” — I wrote about it here — cut the Scandinavian population in half in the 530s. It was a terrible time for the Norse, the End of Civilization as They Knew It. An Iron Age version of Mad Max. Whatever the earlier cultures had been — and they included Bronze Age boat trips to Western Europe — this was literally the post-apocalypic version.
The ones who survived probably did so by forming warbands for mutual defense. There is no way that by the mid-700s there were too many people for the land.
So what grew up next were many small chieftaindoms. Pirate kings, you might say. And there was also a shortage of marriagable women, something like we see in China today after decades of the One-Child Policy and selective abortion in favor of boys.
The Big Men could have more than one wife; the poor boys were out of luck. So what is a poor boy to do? Join the jarl’s raiding crew and if lucky come back with lots of loot to impress the girl next door — and meantime, bring back a sex slave too. (So what if she only speaks Old Irish; she is not there for her conversational skills.)
Coupled with [conflict between petty kingdoms] were social pressures—the effects of polygyny creating an underclass of young men disenfranchised by the laws of inheritance and with minimal marriage prospects. A summer or two of maritime violence offered the potential for life-altering change in many directions. Lastly, there was the traditional Scandinavian worldview itself, and its weaponised expression in an assault on the Christian cultures that really were bent on its destruction (274–75).
Although it was left out of the History Channel Vikings series, the slave trade was big for them in both Western and Eastern Europe. So was fighting as mercenaries.
But there is more to Price’s big book that that. With chapters like “The Performance of Power,” “Meeting the Others,” and “Dealing with the Dead,” readers get more than raiders, kings, long ships and mead halls.
It was through the medium of sorcery, not cult, the most of the conversations with the powers were conducted. . . . At its simplest, sorcery was a means, or a method, a set of mechanisms by which people tried to influence or compel the Others to do their biding. In the Viking Age, this was a field of behaviour that lay within the real of ordinary communities rather than any kind of priestly or royal officialdom (221).
There are fascinating calculations, such as it would have taken three to four person-years to prepare the woolen yard and weave the main sail for one Vikig ship. “We might realistically speak of a year’s constant work for about thirty people to fully equip a ship and crew (387).” (Slaves probably did a lot of it, Price suggests.) Or the wool of two million sheep annually for the sailcloth of the warships, cargo vessels, and fishing boats of Norway and Denmark.
He gives the East equal space with Western Europe (and North America) and the Mediterranean. I started this book in late February and, trying to take my mind off the news, flipped it open only to read, “According to the Primary Chronicle [Kyiv] was founded by one Oleg (Helgi), a Scandinavian relative of Rurik, who expanded the Rus’ territories along the [Dniepr] river and needed a more southerly base (426).”
That trident (tryzub) insignia you see on Ukrainian aircraft, etc. comes from the Rurik dynasty. In other words, it’s Viking.
The Viking Age, Price writes, “was a time of horrifying violence and equally awful structures of institutionalised, patriarchal oppression. . . . also a period of social innovation, a vivid and multi-cultural time, with considerable tolerance of radical ideas and foreign fairths.”
Their most respected values were ot only those forged in war but also — stated outright in poetry — a depth of wisdom, generosity, and flection. Above all, a subtlety, a certain play of mind, combined with a resilient refusal to give up.
There are worse ways to be remembered (504).
The Vinland Map has been controversial since the 1960s when it popped into public view. Did it really record a Norse partial-mapping of North America? Its modern history is viewed as scandalous. Most scholars who examined it leaned toward its being a forgery.
But from when? And for whose benefit?
Acquired by Yale in the mid-1960s, the purported 15th-century map depicts a pre-Columbian “Vinlanda Insula,” a section of North America’s coastline southwest of Greenland. While earlier studies had detected evidence of modern inks at various points on the map, the new Yale analysis examined the entire document’s elemental composition using state-of-the-art tools and techniques that were previously unavailable.
The analysis revealed that a titanium compound used in inks first produced in the 1920s pervades the map’s lines and text.
It looks like another case of a forger using paper — or in this case, parchment — from the appropriate historical era but not taking the time to re-create the inks of the time. The ink, the Yale researchers say, is 20th-century.
In a follow-up article Smithsonian sees the map as playing a part in American struggles over identity, although leaving open the question of when it was actually forged. After the 1920s is the nearest that can be said.
In the modern era, the European discovery of North America became a proxy for conflicts between American Protestants and Catholics, as well as northern Europeans who claimed the pagan Vikings as their ancestors and southern Europeans who touted links to Columbus and the monarchs of Spain. Feted on the front page of the New York Times, the map’s discovery appeared to solidify the idea of a pre-Columbian Norse arrival in the American mindset.
As it turns out, the map was indeed too good to be true.
Lammas seasonNorthern Hemisphere has come, which means bloggers and social media users posting their photos of amber waves of grain. But there is dark side to our love of grain. It lies at the root of many evils: deforestation, environmental damage, slavery around the world, top-down imperial bureaucracies, epidemics, poor nutrition . . . pretty much everything that makes us human, right?
The photo shows 15 grinding stones — “querns” is an old medieval term. Maybe there were more. A woman knelt in front of every one. Maybe she was a palace slave — or an orphan, a foundling, or a widow with no family —someone of low status, however you look at it.
Back and forth she worked the upper stone, turning wheat into flour to make the bread. Bread for the king, bread for the royal court, bread for the temple priests and priestesses, bread for the royal guardsmen.
Archaeologists today can look at her toe bones, how they were shaped by kneeling for long hours at the grindstone.
This is not a blog post about the Paleo diet; in fact, before there were towns, people were harvesting wild grasses along with many other things.
There is a version of human prehistory what “most of us (I include myself here) have unreflexively inherited,” writes Yale political scientist James Scott in his recent book Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. In this “narrative of progress, “agriculture, it held, replaced the savage, wild, primitive, lawless, and violent world of hunter-gatherers and nomads. Fixed-crops, on the other hand, were the origin and generator of the settled life, of formal religion, of society, and of government by laws.”
Doesn’t this remind you of another “narrative of progress,” in which anarchic animism and shamanism were replaced by polytheism and then by a more pure monotheism — and then by atheism, particularly if you are a Marxist.
In chapters covering domesticaion, epidemics, slavery, war, barbarian-city rellationships, environmental destruction, and the fragility of city-states, Scott draws on examples from Bronze Age Egypt, Mespotamia, China, and other areas to contend that “the standard narrative” is wrong to suggest that people chose sedentary town life voluntarily. Yet archaeologists and historians pay more attention to the sites with stone ruins and writing than to those without, even though the early city-states represented only a tiny fraction of the Earth’s population.
I can’t help but see a parallel to the way that the study of religion focuses on large, text-oriented religious organizations and on the interplay of specialists within them rather than on the “lived religion” and the personal spiritual experiences of average people.
The “standard narrative,” Scott writes, holds that it is “nconceivable that the ‘civilized’ could ever revert to primitivism “— yet it happpened again and again. People often fled rather than be forcibly incorporated into city-states: “Fixed settlement and plough agriculture were necessary to state-making, but they were just part of a large array of livelihood options not be taken up or abandoned as conditions changed.”
Maybe being “spiritual but not religious” is like slipping past the royal guardsmen to take up a life of hunting, gathering, and easy feral agriculture once again.
To be clear, The War on Witchcraft treats historical writing about the late medieval and early modern witchtrials, seen as an outbreak of “unreason.”
From the publisher :
Historians of the early modern witch-hunt often begin histories of their field with the theories propounded by Margaret Murray and Montague Summers in the 1920s. They overlook the lasting impact of nineteenth-century scholarship, in particular the contributions by two American historians, Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918) and George Lincoln Burr (1857–1938). Study of their work and scholarly personae contributes to our understanding of the deeply embedded popular understanding of the witch-hunt as representing an irrational past in opposition to an enlightened present. Yet the men’s relationship with each other, and with witchcraft sceptics – the heroes of their studies – also demonstrates how their writings were part of a larger war against ‘unreason’. This Element thus lays bare the ways scholarly masculinity helped shape witchcraft historiography, a field of study often seen as dominated by feminist scholarship. Such meditation on past practice may foster reflection on contemporary models of history writing.
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
And I can think of one very popular Pagan-studies YouTuber who just completed a PhD, so there goes my titl — (except she started her YouTube channel first.
Maybe I should call it, “Start Your Own College,” in the orginal sense of “college” as an “organized association of persons invested with certain powers and rights or engaged in some common duty or pursuit.” You would need some collaborators. Or maybe all such people are part of the Invisible College of Pagan Studies and just don’t know it.
This is part one of a two-part video on Anglo-Saxon Paganism by Tom Rowsell of Survive the Jive, a former journalist, also filmmaker and scholar of medieval history, in which he received a master’s degree in 2021. He writes,
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.
I will return to this topic. Meanwhile, your suggestions are welcome.
Here Caroline Tully offers a detailed review of Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Women in Nineteenth-Century Culture by Per Faxneld.
This is more a literary than a religious Satanism, although any story of Satan has its religious underpinnings:
Although they attributed positive qualities to the figure of Satan, the subjects examined in this book were not satanists as commonly imagined; that is, they were not believers in a supernatural being called Satan and did not perform rituals dedicated to him. Rather, as Faxneld explains, they were satanists sensu lato (in the broad sense); they used Satan as a symbol to critique Christianity, its accompanying conservative social mores, and patriarchy. Theistic and ritualizing satanism, on the other hand, is termed here sensu stricto (in the strict sense). Thus, the book is not about satanism as a religious practice but as a “discursive strategy”
There is a chapter on “Satanic” witchcraft:
One of the most prominent examples of the negative association between women and Satan was the figure of the witch. In chapter 6, Faxneld investigates works such as Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière (E. Dentu Libraire-Editeur, 1862), arguably “the single most influential text presenting a sort of feminist version of witches” (198). Relevant to new religious movements today, Michelet’s ideas about witches influenced authors who in turn were used as sources in the construction of modern pagan witchcraft. Feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage interpreted witches as satanic rebels against the injustices of patriarchy; and amateur folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland’s work Aradia; or, the Gospel of the Witches (1899), which presented witches as proto-feminist rebels against social oppression, continues to hold an authoritative position within the contemporary pagan witchcraft movement.
This review and many others can be found at Reading Religion, an ongoing collection of book reviews provided by the American Academy of Religion. You do not have to be an AAR member to read them, although a member login is required to comment on reviews.