Witchcraft, Paganism, and Detective Fiction

Jen Bloofield’s Witchcraft and Paganism in Midcentury Women’s Detective Fiction is avallable as a free PDF download from Cambridge University Press through 7 July 2022, if I understand correctly. Paperback copies are US $20.

From the publisher:

Witchcraft and paganism exert an insistent pressure from the margins of midcentury British detective fiction. Gladys Mitchell’s Come Away, Death is dedicated to ‘Evelyn Gabriel, whom Artemis bless and Demeter nourish; upon whom Phoebus Apollo shine’.Ngaio Marsh’s Off With His Head revolves around a folk dance when ritual words are muttered and a murder is committed. Margery Allingham’s Look to the Lady depicts the spontaneous rebirth of witchcraft in the depths of the English countryside. The theme appears across the work of multiple writers, going beyond chance occurrence to constitute an ongoing concern in the fiction of the period. This Element investigates the appearance of witchcraft and paganism in the novels of four of the most popular female detective authors of the British mid twentieth century. I approach the theme of witchcraft and paganism not simply as a matter of content, but also as an influence which shapes the narrative and its possibilities. The ‘witchy’ detective novel brings together the conventions of Golden Age fiction with the images and enchantments of witchcraft and paganism to produce a hitherto unstudied mode of detective fiction in the midcentury.

No One Can Cancel Your Paganism

M. made these smudge sticks — from Artemisia sage, not Salvia sage, because we live in the Mountain West. In English, the verb “to smudge” goes back to the 1400s, at least.

I am handing the microphone today to Tom Swiss and his excellent “Smoking Out the Pagan Gatekeepers” post at his blog The Zen Pagan.

He begins,

In some of my recent internet interactions, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern of young people feeling that they need to ask permission to be Pagan.

To some extent this seems to be connected to the bogus ideas of “closed practices” and “cultural appropriation” (one of our favorite topics here at TZP, cough). Rather than the freedom to worship and practice as we are called (subject to the usual “your right to swing your fist ends at my face” considerations), certain social currents have these new Pagans afraid they will step on a cancel culture minefield and be publicly shamed in the permanent record.

You may have heard of overharvest on species of genus Salvia sage for the smudge stick market. Swiss links to an article about that. That is true, it happens, but you can smudge with all sorts of things. I came up with the acrid smell of genus Artemisia sagebrush; various junipers also work well, because they are oily. Use what you got — all Paganism is local.[1]Or you may also hear, “All sorcery is local.” “All magic is local.” Same thing, basically.

“The gods decide who to work with,” Swiss writes. I totally agree. No Intenet busybody can stand between Pagan X and Deity Y. If the god/dess does not like what you are doing, you will most likely just get sort Inner Planes busy signal. No harm, no foul. You are unlikely to be hurled into the 32nd dimension, and your little dog too

And just to reinforce what he says about the antiquity of the verb “to smudge” in the English language, I offer this from the Online Etymology Dictionary.[2]I love etymology.

early 15c., smogen “to soil, stain, blacken,” of obscure origin. Meaning “to rub out or in” is by 1865. Related: Smudged; smudging. The noun meaning “a dirty mark or stain, spot, smear” is attested by 1768, from the verb.

The smudge meaning “make a smoky fire” is by 1860, also of unknown origin, but perhaps related. According to OED now dialectal and North American. OED also gives it in an earlier, obsolete sense of “to cure (herring) by smoking” (1590s).

The related noun smudge is attested by 1767 as “a suffocating smoke” (to repel mosquitoes, etc.); from 1806 as “heap of combustibles ignited and emitting dense smoke.” Hence smudge-pot (1903). Smudge-stick as a Native American (Crow tribe) artifact is by 1908

It only gets tricky if you claim to have human teachers whom you did not, or to have be blessed by a group that you do not belong to.

If anyone critiques your personal practice (as opposed to setting yourself up as an authority), tell them to go sit on a non-psychoactive cactus.

Notes

Notes
1 Or you may also hear, “All sorcery is local.” “All magic is local.” Same thing, basically.
2 I love etymology.

Free Book Reviews from Latest Pomegranate

As ever, book reviews in The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies are open-access free downloads. Here are links to the four in this issue.[1]I receive a small commission on Amazon sales, which helps to pay for this website.

The King in Orange: The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power by John Michael Greer, reviewed by Chas S. Clifton. Download PDF here.

Greer, a Druid leader, and writier on ecology, spirituality, and the future of industrial society, here confronts class issues in America and their political ramifications, as well as some Big Ideas about historical cycles. Did Kek and Pepe the Frog magically help swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump? And what was magically incompetent about the post-election “Resistance”?

Quebec’s Distinct Paganism: A Study on the Impact of Language, Culture, and History in the Development of Contemporary Paganism in Quebec by Marisol Charbonneau, reviewed by Helen A. Berger. Download PDF here.

“One of a growing genre of books and articles that explore the particularities of contemporary Paganism in a specific geographical place. Composed of two distinct linguistic communities, Quebec offers what sociologists call a natural experiment: two different groups in the same place that have different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This existent distinction between groups permits Charbonneau to explore the question of how much language and cultural differences influence the practice of those who become contemporary Pagans”

Spirits of Blood, Spirits of Breath: The Twinned Cosmos of Indigenous America, by Barbara Alice Mann, reviewed by Sarah Dees. Download PDF here.

“Barbara Alice Mann contributes to discussions of Indigenous worldviews, mapping what she describes as the “twinned cosmos” comprised of complementary blood and breath energies throughout Turtle Island or North America. Taking a comparative approach, Mann examines the interconnection between blood and breath spirits and energies as they have manifested in multiple communities.”

The Imagination of Plants:  A Book of Botanical Mythology by Matthew Hall, reviewed by Michael D. J. Bintley. Download PDF here.

“A  generously illustrated treasure trove of plant mythology selected from across world from ancient times to the present. This is not all; the backbone of the book is formed by a series of discursive essays in which Hall identifies thematic links between his selections, and makes a series of interventions that will be of equal interest to specialist and general readers alike.

“Passages are drawn from editions easily accessible to readers for further reading, and range from the mythologies of European Antiquity to the Vedas, the Popol Vuh, and more recently recorded indigenous wisdom of (for example) Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Without simply listing the range of people and places covered in the book, it is fair to say that Hall’s collection is generally representative, rather than exhaustive, in its coverage of plants in the global imaginary”

To submit a book for review or to beome a reviewer yourself, please contact Christopher Chase, Dept. of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Iowa State University.

Notes

Notes
1 I receive a small commission on Amazon sales, which helps to pay for this website.

You May Be Celebrating Ostara, But Are You Vogue-ing Ostara?

Actually, this piece comes from the well-known British HPS, author, and academic Vivianne Crowley, and it is worth reading.

On 20 March, druids, witches, and lovers of nature will gather to celebrate the spring equinox, one of the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year. For millennia, the spring equinox was celebrated across cultures as a time of fertility, creativity, and renewal. But spring celebrations are not just for people who want to greet the dawn at Stonehenge. Here are a few ideas to try out this year at home.

She has a new memoir/how-to out titled Wild Once, which is going on my To-Read list. A tip of the pointy hat to the publicist at Penguin.

Ronald Hutton’s Goddess Book Available for Pre-order

From the publisher, Yale University Press:

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,[1]If you do, you will help me pay my hosting fee or from several other sources linked on the Yale UP catalog page.

Notes

Notes
1 If you do, you will help me pay my hosting fee

“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 Kaarina Aitamurto on Russian Paganism

Kaarina Aitamurto, Univ. of Helsinki

Kaarina Aitamurto, University of Helsinki, Finland

Prof. Kaarina Aitamurto, University of Helsinki, is interviewed here for the World Religions and Spirituality Project about her research on Paganisms in Russia. She has published on Russian Paganism in The Pomegranate (here and here) and co-edited the important collection Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe with Scott Simpson.

This interview was conducted by Ethan Doyle White. It also deals with her work on other minority religions in contemporary Russia.

I started my research through esoteric bookstores and stalls as well as inquiring if my Russian colleagues knew any Wiccan groups in Russia. Every way I turned there were hardly any signs of Wicca and questions about the topic usually led to ethnic Slavic Paganism. To be honest, I was initially a bit reluctant to change the topic of my research because it was the feminist aspect of Wicca that had appealed to me. In contrast, contemporary Slavic Paganism seemed emphatically patriarchal and conservative. Moreover, infrequently it was linked to intolerant nationalism. In many respects, this ethnic Paganism with its emphasis on warrior spirit and admiration of masculinity seemed to represent an opposite to the kind of feminist spirituality that had originally drawn me to Paganism. However, gradually I became captivated by Slavic Paganism. First, I have always loved Russian culture and folklore so, of course, being able to gain a new perspective on it was fascinating. Secondly, it was intriguing to notice that Rodnoverie contained many similar features to the forms of Paganism I had encountered previously and which had initially drawn me to it: the emphasis on independent thinking and individual freedom, a connection to nature, the central role of aesthetics and play in religious practice.

Download the whole interview as a PDF file here.or read it on Doyle White’s blog Albion Calling here.

Are Pagan Zines — Like Vinyl Records — Coming Back?

I recently have purchased copies of two Pagan zines, and I am thinking about a couple more. (What is a zine? Read here.)

That is the most in years. Is this a trend? Is a small-press renaissance underway? A rebellion against the corporate social media of InstaFaceTwit etc. and their online “walled gardens”? They say vinyl records are outselling CD’s now, but that is more because CD sales have slumped than vinyl is rising, although vinyl has in fact risen in market share. Will zines come back too?

A saddle stapler for pamphlets, essential for zine publishers!

I used to have shelves of Pagan zines and a subscription to Factsheet Five, but the air leaked out of zine publishing in the late 1990s as people got used to the “World Wide Web,” which was free (or seemed to be) and where you could post your stuff without having to type or draw pages, take them to the copy shop, then collate, staple, and mail.

Before that, I’d been involved with a couple of literary zines, two Pagan zines not worth mentioning, and finally Fritz Muntean’s new, intellectually ambitious one: The Pomegranate: A New Journal of Neopagan Thought, which ended up as something else. Fritz flattered me by saying he was partly inspired by my short-lived (1984–86) effort, Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, which you can now read online, all four issues of it.

Some examples: Edited by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, who is interviewed here, Hellebore is published in Bristol (UK), and leans heavily towards folk horror, folk witchcraft, myth, and psychogeography. Issues are £6.75 (US $9.58) plus postage.

She grew up in a fertile environment for a zine editor, and she has an MA in archaeology from Bristol University (What do you do with an MA? Write a lot and start your own journal.)

I grew up in a fairly bookish home and I don’t remember not writing. As a child I used to make my own magazines, with comics I drew and articles I wrote. My dad was into ancient history and mythology, and my mum has always been a bit of an anglophile, and it probably rubbed off on me. My mum told me a lot of fairy tales, and what really fascinated me was the magic. You know, the witch, the magic mirror, the curses. A bit later I became obsessed with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, partly because of the settings (the moors, the Cornish coast, the ancient ruins), and with Sherlock Holmes

I bought issue #3, The Malefice Issue, (“What has been buried ought not to return”) and was reminded of some of the older Pagan zines. The resemblance was intentional, for she says she wanted “the aesthetics to evoke that particular era, the late 60s and 70s, grabbing inspiration from Czech film posters, with a touch of psychedelia, and an old-school fanzine finish.”

Is it typical of connected life today that I followed Fiddler’s Green for months on Instagram before I got around to ordering a sample issue? It is the zine of “Art & magic for tea-drinking anarchists, convivial conjurors & closeted optimists,” with a mailing address in Berkeley, California. I bought volume 2, number 3, “Gods of the Afternoon,” which is $15 + postage.

Speaking of postage, alongwith the articles, listed here, was a table of postal rates, which warmed my heart, and — OMG real zine culture! — several pages of zine reviews! Further explorations await.

And speaking of vinyl, the issue included a 45 rpm flexi-disk of “Mushroom Madness” by Anton Barbeau, so I need to blow the dust off my old Technics turntable and learn what it sounds like.

The famous Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, is re-opened post-COVID lockdown and also has a museum journal (I am calling it a zine too) called The Enquiring Eye, “that aims to showcase a wide range of research into all aspects of magical practise, witchcraft and the occult.” Issues are £5, and five have been published so far, with articles like “Wisdom from the Wilderness: Using the Fae to Re-enchant the Landscape in a Time of Crisis.” Table of contents for issue 5 here.

When it comes to vinyl record albums, says Charlie Randall, CEO of McIntosh Labs, “I think it’s natural for any generation to think that the technology of their time will be replaced by future technology and go extinct.”

In large part I think that’s the case except with vinyl records. There is something romantic about records, something satisfying about opening the album jacket, seeing the fantastic artwork and studying the liner notes while listening to the album. That’s something that today’s digital files just can’t replace.”

Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

Maria J. Pérez Cuervo agrees when it comes to print-on-paper:

So much of the content we consume these days is digital that print feels like a small luxury. And I wanted to make a beautiful object for everyone who loves these themes, because there wasn’t anything quite like it. Making it limited-run was partly a practical decision, but also, I think, reminiscent of a time when you didn’t have constant access to information. And you could be a little girl, catch a film halfway through on TV, and not know the name of it, but be haunted by it for life. And somehow this invests the film, or the book that you borrowed from the library but never found in any shops, with an almost mythical quality. Maybe in a few years there’ll be people saying “oh, do you remember that little zine?” Who knows?

“Goodbye Jesus” — Writers Sought for Anthology

News release from Oberon Zell:

Soliciting essays for “Goodbye Jesus” book

Goodbye Jesus; I’ve gone Home to Mother!

Oberon Zell’s well-known “Milennial Gaia” statue.

This is the title of an anthology for which I’ve been gathering essays over the past couple of decades. These are accounts of their journeys from former Christians—especially Clergy—who have left their churches and come over to Paganism and the Goddess.

This whole idea began in a hot tub over 20 years ago, after a CUUPS conference, where we were all sharing our stories of how we found (or were found by) the Goddess. A couple of us were former Christian Clergy, and I found their journeys fascinating, and thought they should be published. I have a couple dozen submissions now on-file, but other things came up over the following years, and I just had to set the whole project aside ‘til later. This is later.

I believe these stories are important to the world and should be told, so if you used to be Clergy in a Christian Church (any denomination), and now serve the Goddess, I’d like to know your story, and potentially include it in this collection. And even if you weren’t actually Clergy, if you were particularly devout as a Christian and then came over to the Goddess, I invite you to tell about your journey.

Here are some things you could address in your personal account:

  • Tell about your religious upbringing. What was it like for you? Was your family devout? What church did they (and you) attend? How deeply were you immersed in the church, its activities and teachings? Did you take Confirmation or other serious religious education?
  • As you came of age, did you experience conflict with your church’s teachings on moral issues and strictures, such as dancing, music, sex, birth control, abortion, sin, etc.?
  • If you were Christian Clergy, tell about your Calling. What made you decide to become Clergy? Did you attend seminary? How did you feel upon ordination?
  • How was it for you serving as Clergy? Did you experience challenges to your faith? Disillusionment? A “Crisis of Faith”?
  • And most important—how and when did you discover The Goddess? What was that like for you? How did your family and friends react when you told them?
  • What was your experience coming into the Pagan community? When was that? How did you feel? Was it with an individual, a small circle, a large gathering? Did you join a particular Tradition or group? And how has it been since?
  • How do you feel about Jesus now? Do you still hold him in high regard and reverence? Do you feel that you may have left the church, but not necessarily Jesus? Talk about this.
  • Tell about your present life in Paganism. How are you currently involved? Have you become a Priest or Priestess? How is that for you? Would you ever consider going back to your former church? Why or why not?
    • And finally, what message would you like to convey to other Christians (Clergy or otherwise) who are still in the Church?

There is no word limit, but essays will be subject to editing as may be needed. I will, of course, need your permission to publish your account, so please provide your contact info, and I’ll send you a permission form to be filled out.

While I would like to use real names, if you don’t want your name printed, no problem; just give me a pseudonym you’d like us to use. Also, readers would love to see your face, if that’s OK with you. If so, please include a 300 dpi jpeg portrait photo to print with your story.

Please submit your essay (and photo, if you wish) to: GoodbyeJesusSubmissions@gmail.com. I look forward to reading your story!

Thanks, and Bright Blessings,

Oberon Zell

Another Podcast: Ravens at the Crossroads

I have added another link to the list of Pagan podcasts in the right-hand sidebar: Ravens at the Crossroads, by Mistress Prime and Tyler Matthews, who “realized the stories of our community, especially of our elders, were being lost and forgotten. In an effort to preserve many of those stories the podcast was created.”

If you are not seeing the sidebar, click the banner at the top of the page (the photo and title) to go there. Or click here.

The podcasts are mixtures of interviews with notable Pagans such as Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and Macha Nightmare, and personal reflections.