BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Spotlight On: Walking the Worlds


Title: Walking the Worlds

Managing Editor: Galina Krasskova

Editor-in-Chief: H Jeremiah Lewis

Editorial Board: Edward Butler, PhD, and P Sufenas Virius Lupus, PhD

Designer: Sarah Kate Istra Winter

Price: $20/issue, $30/subscription

When the new journal Walking the Worlds -- peer-reviewed and polytheistic in perspective -- was first announced last summer, I immediately plunked down the thirty dollars for an annual subscription. I knew most of the people involved through various online forums, and some personal interaction, so I was confident that it was money well spent.

I was not disappointed.

The inaugural issue of WtW focuses on "Ancestors and Hero Cultus." As managing editor Krasskova explains in the introduction, "... our ancestors sustain us. They are our foundation." A logical place to start when launching a new endeavor that draws upon the traditions and peoples of the past, and which seeks to rebirth/adapt those traditions to the present.

In its nearly 130 pages, WtW manages to include essays from a variety of perspectives and traditions. Tamara Siuda, Nisut and founder of the Kemetic Orthodox Religion, opens the volume with "Dead Does Not Mean Gone: Restoring the Ancestors." This is her call to reverse the separation of the living from the dead which occurred with the Christianization of the West. As she points out, "How can a person worship a god coming from an ancestor-honoring culture, and yet ignore the ancestors who created that worship in the first place?"

This is followed by P Sufenas Virius Lupus' "Doíní, Dé 7 An-Dé: Hero Cultus in Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist Practice," in which e proposes adapting Irish Saint days as holy days for indigenous heroes who have a link to or qualities in common with that Saint. E pays particular attention to Cú Chulainn and Finn mac Cumhaill. (And I totally love Lupus' suggestion to replace the Epiphany with the Feis Trí Druad.)  

Next is Dagulf Loptson's "Askr and Embla: Microcosms of the Macrocosm," which digs deeply into the symbolism of the Norse cosmogony and anthropogony. Loptson examines what it means for the relationship between humanity, the natural world, and the Gods-as-ancestors if the creation of humans from an ash and elm mirrors the creation of the universe itself. I found his discussion of the Norns, the three roots of Yggdrasil, and the three wells which feed the World Tree particularly interesting. 

Fourth is "Time and the Heroes" by Edward Butler, a dense and thought-provoking piece which "explicates the Proclean doctrine of the three forms of time [...] with particular reference to the form of temporality associated with the heroes." As I said, dense. :) I had to read it twice.

Sarenth Odinsson follows this with an examination of "The Consequences of Ancestor Worship," including ancestors outside blood relationships, and even Gods; it pairs nicely with Loptson's preceding essay, and gave me lots of ideas for establishing my own ancestor shrine.

Next is Galina Krasskova's "Women as Warriors and Culture Builders in Herodotus," which I recommend to anyone with an interest in women's studies. Here, Krasskova focuses on four individuals and one group of women: Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae; Gorgo, wife of Leonidas of Sparta; Pheretime of Cyrene; Artemisia, naval commander from Halicarnassus; and the Sauromatian Amazons. (If your interest is piqued here, I highly recommend that you follow up Krasskova's essay with Hellenistic Queens: A Study of Woman Power in Macedonia, Seleucid Syria, and Ptolemaic Egypt by Grace Harriet Macurdy. Out of print, but readily available through used book sites.)

This is followed by K Fenrirsson's "Toxic Ancestors." Unfortunately, I know quite a few people who will find his advice on how to identify, respond to, and cleanse -- and even completely avoid -- dangerous ancestors very useful.

Next is the most unexpected essay in the journal: "Assuming the Mantle: The Lessons of Queen Anne Boleyn" by Beth Wodandis Lynch. I am sure that I am not the only one who was surprised to find a celebration of a devoutly Christian Queen in a polytheism journal, but it works. With clarity and detail, Lynch lays out exactly why she is drawn to Boleyn, and what Boleyn can teach modern polytheist women. I was ambivalent about Boleyn when I started the essay; now I'm a fan.

Lupus returns with a second essay, "On Being Fed on Boar and Lion Entrails and the Marrow of Bears: Antinous and Hadrian, Heroes and Hunting." Here, e focuses on how the perception of hunting changed during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, the homoerotic subtext of hunting, and the hunter-as-hero.

Those with an interest in the history of music will likely want to read H Jeremiah Lewis' "The New Wine We Were Promised." A long-time fan of Jim Morrison, poet and lead singer of The Doors, Lewis here argues that Morrison is/was "an archetype of the Neos Dionysus" who continues to have a profound influence on the world, and so deserves hero cultus. I'll admit that I went into this essay a bit skeptical, but Lewis makes some excellent points, and I have now added The Doors to my To Listen list. (Plus, he totally makes me want to build a time machine so I can visit the lavish temple of Homer in Alexandria.)

Virginia Carper takes the idea of ancestor devotion to its Earthly limits in "'That Which Is Remembered Lives:' To Establish a Cultus for Extinct Animals." If there was one essay in WtW which really got my creative wheels turning, it was this one. Fascinating stuff. (Dinosaurs do not appreciate having their fossilized remains displayed for our amusement, elephants actually like humans, and recently extinct species are in far too much pain to associate with us since we're the reason for their extinction.)

Lastly is one short, personal essay, and a collection of obituaries. In "Preserving a Legacy," Sarah Kate Istra Winter discusses the nontraditional route she took to honor her beloved, unconventional, atheist grandparents: she wrote a book. Specifically, The Secret History of Carnival Talk, illustrated by photos of her grandparents and their friends from their carny days.

The volume closes with a series of obituaries penned by Jason Thomas Pitzl (formerly of The Wild Hunt), in which he honors and remembers those influential members of the Pagan/polytheist community who passed on between October 2013 and October 2014. As a result, I am seriously contemplating a place for Margot Adler in my ancestor shrine.

In addition to these terrific essays, WtW is also beautifully designed. The simple font and creamy paper give it an antique feel. The cover logo is perfect: a tree with roots reaching into the past and branches reaching into the future. I have only a few small complaints. There is some smearing of the ink along the interior of the spine (for which one can blame the publisher, and that may not be universal to every copy) and there are a number of minor grammatical errors scattered through the text (e.g. missing commas, missing plurals, run-on sentences, and so on).

I highly recommend Walking the Worlds to anyone with an interest in modern polytheism and its antecedents. I look forward to future issues -- "Building Regional Cultus," "Magic and Religion," and "Philosophy and Polytheism" -- which I plan to keep handy on my bookshelves, for repeated consultation.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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