Not Too Late to Register for the Conference on Current Pagan Studies

The organizers of the Conference on Current Pagan Studies have an excellent line-up of speakers (list here) for the conference this weekend.

Albrecht Auditorium, one of the conference spaces normally. (Stock photo from Claremont Graduate University.)

As in 2021, it’s by Zoom. I hope this will be the last time — or at least that they will be able to do a hybrid next year. I gave a talk there in 2020 [1]Before the Wuhan flu was offically here, but I had been sick all December 2019 — Influenza B? and of course the after-sessions at the bar were the best part. This is true of most conferences, and Zoom just ain’t the same.

This year, however, it’s a lot of good content for a reasonable price. Register quickly!

 

Notes

Notes
1 Before the Wuhan flu was offically here, but I had been sick all December 2019 — Influenza B?

“Wælcyrge or Witchcraft: Identifying Heathendom in late Anglo-Danish England”

Just one of many presentations from the just-finished online conference  Performing Magic in the pre-Modern North.

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.

There is an enormous amount of material here, and it is all free at this time.

Interview with Helen Berger, Leading Scholar of Paganism

Prof. Helen Berger

At his blog, now called On New and Alternative Religions, Ethan Doyle While interviews Helen Berger, one of the leading American scholars of contemporary Paganism.

Since completing her PhD research on the early modern witch trials in the 1980s, Berger has devoted her career to the sociological analysis of modern-day communities whose practitioners call themselves witches. Her first book, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (University of South Carolina Press, 1999), was a landmark in the subject and was followed up with important studies such as Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States (with Evan A. Leach and Leigh Shaffer, University of South Carolina Press, 2003), Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self (with Doug Ezzy, Rutgers University Press, 2007), and most recently Solitary Pagans: Contemporary Witches, Wiccans and Others Who Practice Alone (University of South Carolina Press, 2019). Currently a Professor Emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and an Affiliated Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Berger is continuing to work on the modern Pagan milieu, exploring its relationships with far-right politics. She tells us about her career and her thoughts on the future of the academic study of modern Paganism.

She explains how her interest in today’s Witches and Pagans grew from earlier research on the Salem Witch Trials and similar events. In the mid-1980s, she gave a series of lectures at the Boston Public Library — and realized who was in the audience.

The audience for each of the lectures varied with some people who attended every week and others who came only for a particular lecture. One elderly woman with white hair always sat in the front row, listened intently, and asked interesting questions. I looked forward to seeing her there every week. At the final lecture, when I said what was then a surprising fact; Witches looked like everyone else. You could be living next door to, or working with, a Witch and not know it. She stopped me mid-lecture and asked, “are you saying there could be Witches in the room.” As the average age of the participants had dropped significantly for this lecture, I offered that I thought there probably were Witches in the room. She stood up, turned around with her hands on her hips, and asked, “are there any Witches here?” I think it is because she looked like the quintessential grandmother that a number of people raised their hands.

Read the whole thing. Helen Berger has also published a number of articles in The Pomegranate as well as being one our most valuable peer-reviewers in the sociology of Paganism. Her 2015 article “An Outsider Inside: Becoming a Scholar of Contemporary Paganism” reflected on some of the issues involved.

Early Pomegranates Now Available Free Online

Issue 1 of The Pomegranate, February 1997.

The first eighteen issues of The Pomegranate, back when its subtitle was a still “A New Journal of Neopagan Thought,” are now available in in PDF form from Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Spanning from 1997–2002, these are the issues produced by its founding editor, Fritz Muntean, in Vancouver, BC.

Fritz and I spent some time at the 2001 and 2002 annual meetings of the Americab Academy of Religion seeking an established scholarly publisher to help it become a recognized, peer-reviewed journal, listed in all the databases.

Instead, after a short hiatus, we ended up with a start-up publisher, Equinox, which has helped it to grow in the subsequent years.

Lots of good content here: scroll through the issues here.

An Offer to Buy the Pomegranate, and Other Pagan Studies Scams

Statues of Communist leader Mao Zhedong in various Chinese temples (Bitter Winter).

Periodically I receive these emails, usually in the business-school dialect of babu English. Academic publishing, apparently, is full of scammy stuff like this.[1]I have also encountered them in real estate and in regard to mineral rights.

Dear Editor/Publisher,

Hope this mail finds you in best!

I am writing down this mail as a follow up in reference to the acquisition proposal I had sent recently. I request you to revert back and let us know if we can hope to take this forward.

Please feel free to get back to us with your valuable suggestions/queries.

Hoping for a positive response from your end.

Best regards,
Chia Appu

M&A Consultant
JCFCorp
Singapore | India | UK | US
Mobile/Whatsapp: +44 7451248959
website: www.jcfcorp.com

Not the first, won’t be the last. If I set the price at US $500,000, could I string “Chia Appu” on for a bit? The only problem there is that I do not own The Pomegranate; Equinox Publishing does. I would need to take the money and move somewhere that has no extradition treaty with the UK.

Academia has its scams, all designed for people willing to trade money for shortcuts.Diploma mills” have a hoary tradition, of course.

Sadly, I lost a friend over one of these shortcuts. “R.” had written a couple of articles for Pomegranate in the past, and he was good in his field. He then proposed another article, which appeared ready to publish — except that he wanted to list this Chinese professor as co-author.

Pagan studies is a fairly small world, and I had never heard of this man. I looked him up at [well-known Chinese university], and there he was, in the Dept. of Communist Studies or something like that.

It was clear to me that the Chinese professor had had nothing to do with writing the article, which was based on fieldwork in Western Europe. He was just being offered the chance to pad his c.v. in return for some other favor for R. — like a non-resident teaching position?[2]R. is lucky that he was not required to live there, given a certain well-known disease outbreak.

And there was more to the deal. [Well-known Chinese university] was supposedly starting a center for the study of new religious movements. The university was ready to “throw money at” the center’s projects.

If I were willing to designate their center as a “sponsor” of The Pomegranate and “put some Chinese names on the editorial board . . .  the arrangement [would be] more than nominally profitable [for you].”[3]R. had his own journal, which I am suppose now has some Chinese professors on the editorial board.

And there was no doubt that [Well-known Chinese university] had the cash.

There it was, a naked bribe. An odd  experience. Had I been as financially shaky as R. thought I was — as financially shaky as he himself had often been until later in his career — I might have been more tempted. Sorry, professor of Communist studies, you are not going to buy your way in Pagan studies that easily.

I said no, and R. cut me off completely.

Something chilling occurred to me later. The  incident was about five years ago. Since then, the mainland Chinese government has been cracking down on religion — all religions. The online journal Bitter Winter has carried many articles on the repression of not just “foreign” religions, mainly Islam and Christianity, in the People’s Republic, but also Buddhist and Taoist temples, new Chinese religious movements, and even family and clan memorial halls that go back for centuries.

All of them threaten President Xi Thought, apparently. All you can worship is Communism.

So if [major Chinese University] was preparing to study new reliigious movements, was that just part of a plan to wipe them out? There are predecents for that sort of thinking.

Notes

Notes
1 I have also encountered them in real estate and in regard to mineral rights.
2 R. is lucky that he was not required to live there, given a certain well-known disease outbreak.
3 R. had his own journal, which I am suppose now has some Chinese professors on the editorial board.

New Pomegranate Issue Published (22.2)

A new issue of The Pomegranate: The Internatonal Journal of Pagan Studies has been published, belatedly completing vol. 22, 2020.

This one lives up to the subtitle, with contributors from Slovenia, Czechia, Sweden, and Kurdistan.[1]You won’t find Kurdistan on the map, but it is real to the Kurds.

If you are at a college or university and in a position to influence journal purchases through the library, please request The Pomegranate — everyone with a campus IP address will then get electronic access.

And if you want an article and have access to a library with interlibrary loan service (which most public libraries of any size can provide), request it!

Book reviews are free downloads.

Notes

Notes
1 You won’t find Kurdistan on the map, but it is real to the Kurds.

A New Graphic Timeline of American Wicca

One of the non-Californians on the timeline, Grey Cat (Manya M.) lived in Tennessee and was a friend of mine.

The Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) “TImeline” is now available for free download online. Anyone interested in the history of contemporary Paganism in America ought to give it a look.

The CoG Timeline was compiled and designed by Andrea Joy Kendall with contributions from Anne Agard, Angie Buchanan, Jo Carson, Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, Amber K, Anna Korn, Rowan Fairgrove, Donald Frew, J. Hildebrand, M. Macha NightMare, and Starhawk. This timeline includes events of interest to anyone that wants to understand what the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and its members do.

The Timeline is presented in two PDF files: Part 1 and Part 2. Do understand that since CoG started in northern California, the Timeline reflects that geographical slant. The San Francisco Bay Area is somewhat over-represented. New Yorkers may wail and lament.

CoG itself was started in the 1970s:

In the Spring of 1975, a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions, all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft, gathered to draft a covenant among themselves.  These representatives also drafted bylaws to administer this new organization now known as the Covenant of the Goddess

It chief purpose, beyond fellowship, was to provide ministerial credentials to Witches who wished to perform weddings and fill other public roles.

“And even Wicca”: A Historical Study of Santa Muerte

An anthropologist and a historian examine the development of the cult of Santa Muerte (Holy Death) in this article, “Syncretic Santa Muerte: Holy Death and Religious Bricolage,” which currently is a free download.

“Bricolage” is a term beloved by scholars of new religious movements. It means building something with available materials in a do-it-yourself fashion — a little of this and a little of that. For its history in academic writing, see Wikipedia.

The authors write,

Firstly, taking an ethno-archaeological, anthropological and historical viewpoint, we argue that Santa Muerte accreted from the meeting of two distinct conceptions of death during the colonial era, when Spanish colonizers brought Christianity to Latin America to convert Indigenous people, and with it the figure of the Grim Reaper which represented death. . . .

Through further religious bricolage in the post-colony, we describe how as the new religious movement rapidly expanded it integrated elements of other religious traditions, namely Afro-Cuban Santeria and Palo Mayombe, New Age beliefs and practices, and even Wicca. In contrast to much of the Eurocentric scholarship on Santa Muerte, we posit that both the Skeleton Saint’s origins and contemporary devotional framework cannot be comprehended without considering the significant influence of Indigenous death deities who formed part of holistic ontologies that starkly contrasted with the dualistic absolutism of European Catholicism in which life and death were viewed as stark polarities

The nearest supermarket has candles for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santo Niño de Atocha, etc., but no Santa Muerte. I wonder how long it will take before “our distributor” (they blame everything on “our distributor”) has them in stock.

Jefferson Calico, Author of “Being Viking,” Interviewed by Angela Puca

Angela Puca, who recently earned a PhD in religious studies while still managing to be a dominant figure in Pagan-studies YouTube, has interviewed Jefferson Calico, author of Being Viking: Heathenism in Contemporary America, which I consider to be the best new study of Heathenry that is accessible to both scholars and practitioners. But as one of the editors, I am biased.

In case you wonder about “Heathenism” versus “Heathenry,” he gets into that at the beginning.

Mourning Wendy Griffin

Wendy Griffin as a Sixties folksinger.

My day was knocked sideways around noon when I learned that Wendy Griffin (1942–2021) had died a couple of hours earlier, peacefully and at home, according to Doug Cox, her husband.

After a late-blossoming career as an academic, where she retired after charing the Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at California State University, Long Beach, she took on the job of academic dean at Cherry Hill Seminary for a few years more. Earlier, she had been a folksinger, a published novelist,[1]As Wendy Lozano, author of She Who Was King and other works. and I don’t know what all else.

(For more on Wendy’s bohemian, pre-academic life, go here.)

Doug Cox and Wendy Griffin.

In 2004, when after eight years of trying, a group of scholars persuaded the American Academy of Religion to recognize Pagan studies by granting us our own program unit, Wendy was the first co-chair, along with Michael York. When I succeeded her, she walked me through how to handle all the bureaucratic scutwork that came with the job, something I am not always good at doing.

Wendy’s Paganism and academic life were intertwined. In an autobiographical essay for The Pomegranate she wrote,

When the large red-headed student stood up the first week of the semester and announced to my women’s studies class at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), that she was a Dianic Witch, I knew it was going to be an interesting semester. It was 1987 and I was a “freeway flyer,” one of those PhDs teaching on multiple campuses, trying to patch together enough part-time jobs to survive until that magical tenure-track position appeared.

Attending a Dianic Witchcraft campout, she had a realization:

From the time I was two years old until I was 16, I had spent every summer surrounded by women in the forests of Wisconsin and Michigan. My mother was the associate director of a Campfire Girls camp during WWII and then opened a girls’ camp of her own.6 Before the campers arrived and after they had gone, I would be left pretty much on my own. I would take a lunch and walk in the woods, build fairy gardens, try to communicate with small animals. When I was a little older I’d take one of the canoes and paddle around the three small connecting lakes, losing myself in the tall reeds. I always felt safe, protected because, I would actively pretend, I was part of the wilderness. I remembered how we campers would walk two by two, singing softly as we processed down through the silver birch trees to the lake and the campfire that awaited us. I didn’t know the word “spirituality” at the time and probably wouldn’t have recognized it if I had. But as I stood there in the mountains outside Los Angeles, the memories flooded back and the magic of the night brought that sense of connection from my childhood. That was when I realized the feelings were spiritual, that I was a spiritual person, and what these women were doing were practices that they believed healed them and connected them to a greater whole.

Wendy at the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta, 2015.

She had published an edited collection, Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of Identity, Healing and Empowerment, with AltaMira Press, who asked her to edit a Pagan-studies series. She knew me only through email, but she asked if I would help, and now here I am, with the series at home at Equinox.

Birth of a book series? Wendy Griffn (l), AltaMira Press editor Eric Hanson, and Kristy Coleman, author of “Re-riting Women: Dianic Wicca and the Feminine Divine.” American Academy of Religion, Denver, 2001.

When Wendy retired from teaching and book-series editing, she was not done yet: in 2010 she agreed to help Cherry Hill:

I took the [academic dean] position a few months before officially retiring from CSULB. At Cherry Hill, I have been fortunate to work with deeply dedicated and hard-working professionals. That is especially important, as only the executive director and the faculty are paid, the latter only during the semester they teach and never what they are really worth. We are a small seminary and exist on a shoestring budget. Fortunately, I get a small pension from CSULB now that I am “retired,” so I can afford to do service at CHS.

O Fortuna, velut luna statu variabilis

She continued,

Writing this article is the first time I have looked back at my career as a Pagan studies scholar in any detail. Four main things stand out to me. First, I never would have gotten anywhere without putting in a great deal of hard work. That is a given for all of us, but to begin undergraduate education as a single parent on welfare in her thirties is uniquely challenging.

Second, the networking I have been able to do through professional organizations and the contacts I made there have been invaluable, beyond anything I could have imagined at the time. To me, that is why these annual meetings are worth it, even if there have been times when I had to go hide out in my hotel room from overload.

Third, I believe it is important to take risks, and I certainly have taken my share. Risk-taking doesn’t always work out, but you can always learn something from it. That knowledge can pay off in future, unexpected ways.

Fourth, all the hard work in the world would not have led me to a successful career without good luck. In several key places I was in the right place at the right time and prepared enough to take the hand of the Goddess Fortuna when she offered it to me.

I have been blessed.

Wendy, we have all been blessed to know you.

Notes

Notes
1 As Wendy Lozano, author of She Who Was King and other works.