Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Charms A-Plenty

There's a wonderful new book out that I have just barely had time to crack open, but if you're interested in the history of magic you will doubtless want to look into it as well:

Traditional Magic Spells for Protection and Healing
By Claude Lecouteux. 2016. Rochester: Inner Traditions. 328 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-62055-621-4 

There's a comprehensive review over at the Journal of Folklore Research, which is why I picked it up at once. Yelena Francis points out the strengths of Lecouteax's background and the accessibility of the format. There are also some great additional and often rare resources in the appendices. And because it's from Inner Traditions rather than a big academic press, it's actually an affordable volume (though you should be able to get it via interlibrary loan as well). 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Storm-Warding Charms and Rituals

Florence is pounding at the coastline of the Carolinas as I write. If you’ve been watching meteorologists’ predictions this past week, you’ll have noticed how frequently and wildly projections of her path have changed. She is a massive, powerful, and unpredictable force. Storms like Florence remind us of Mother Nature’s terrible power and that, in spite of all our cunning and advanced technology, we cannot control her; we remain subject to her, a small part of the greater tapestry of teeming, whirling life.

My neighbors’ parents live in Charleston and have come to stay with them to escape the worst of the storm. But even here, some 300 miles from the Virginia coast and buffeted by the ancient Appalachian peaks, we’re still anticipating winds up to 35 miles per hour and three to five inches of rain – nothing compared to our easterly neighbors, but a shock nonetheless for a region that doesn’t often see hurricanes. And, considering how our valley is predisposed to flooding and has already received quite a bit of rain in the past week, we’re all more than a little nervous, wondering how Florence will treat us when she arrives at our doorstep. It’s the subject of every half-overheard conversation I pass by. I can feel it coming – the sky is a mass of mottled gray; the winds are cooler and more persistent; there’s a tension in the air itself, as if every tree and bird and beast is bracing itself for the impact.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I live in Colonial Heights a town south of Richmond. Florence turned south and will miss most of Virginia. I did no storm wardin
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    That's great! I love hearing about others' rituals and traditions. At the time I was writing this post, it did look like Florence

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Setting Out on the Fairy Road

For many people the concept of fairies and the land of Fairy is the subject of children’s stories and cartoons; for some of us though these beings and their home is very real. Finding the truth about them, however, is a difficult proposition in a world that in many ways would rather relegate them to the toy bin and juvenile book shelf. Yet stories of fairies and encounters with them persist, enough that author Simon Young conducted a fairy census published in early 2018 that included hundreds of modern sighting of fairies which filled over 400 pages. Rather than relics of the past or twee kids’ tales we find a rich history of fairylore that extends fully into our modern era and persists today, but which is being buried beneath the more well known and popular mainstream cultural views. And that could be a problem when those mainstream cultural views only show one tiny piece of the picture and leave out the parts with teeth and claws.

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Frau Harke, Goddess of the First Harvest

Around Lughnasadh or soon after, I saw my first mourning dove at our Appalachian farmhouse. We’ve lived here since March, and while I’ve seen blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, falcons, crows, and more, mourning doves were conspicuously absent. And then there it was on our white post-and-rail fence. The next day, I saw another, and then more appeared in the bushes and trees over the next weeks. This morning, there were five perched on the fence, observing me as I let out our dog.

I think of Frau Harke when I see them, thanks to Jacob Grimm, who wrote in Teutonic Mythology that "Harke flies through the air in the shape of a dove, making the fields fruitful” (Vol. 4, p.1364). Harke is a giantess of German folklore in the Brandenburg and Thuringia regions. Her name means “to rake,” calling to mind the harvest and care of the earth. While usually a dweller of wild mountain forests, she does travel about during her holy days, like other goddesses of her type. Folklorist Benjamin Thorpe wrote that "At Heteborn, when the flax was not housed at Bartholomew-tide [August 24], it was formerly the saying, 'Frau Harke will come'” (142).

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
John Barleycorn & the Ale Wives

There's an Old English riddle from the Exeter Book that is part of a long tradition about the abuses of alcohol through the ages. While there is much to celebrate in the joy of drinking, there is a dark side, too, that many have fallen prey to over the years. The poem goes like this:

Biþ foldan dæl     fægre gegierwed
mid þy heardestan      mid þy scearpestan
 mid þy grymmestan     gumena ge streona ·
corfen sworfen     cyrred þyrred
bunden wunden     blæced wæced
frætwed geatwed     feorran læded
to durum dryhta     dream bið iinnan
cwicra wihta     clengeð lengeð
þara þe ær lifgende     longe hwile
wilna bruceð      no wið spriceð
 þōn æfter deaþe     deman onginneð
meldan mislice     micel is to hycganne
wisfæstum menn     hwæt seo wiht sy.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    Very interesting. Thank you!
Monsters in the Closet: Echoes of Household Spirits

For about a year, my son had a mild fear of goblins, ever since he saw the kidnapping scene at the beginning of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – nothing that kept him up at night, but something he mentioned frequently and required reassurance about.

What I find particularly interesting was his belief that goblins reside in and enter from his closet. His belief was so strong that, for a few months, my husband and I had to tie his closet doors shut with ribbons every night to reassure him that the goblins couldn’t come in. The closet seems a natural residence for fearsome things -- it is the darkest place in a room, especially at night, and we fear what we can't see. Yet this belief about spirits in storage places isn't new.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading about old stone axe heads being regarded as thunderstones. Those definitely qualify as ancient artifacts. Th
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    I love Natsume Yuujinchou! I know he'd be a big fan of Nyanko-sensei (but who isn't?), but some of the more aggressive yokai would

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
My Spiritual Pilgrimage Day 2

On the second day of my spiritual pilgrimage to the confluence project sites I drove into Oregon and toward home, because the sites actually led back that way. The first site I visited was Celillo Park. It's currently the only site where the project hasn't been installed, but I wanted to go there anyway. It used to be underwater, because of the falls that had been there. It was supposed to be a protected fishing site for the Native Americans But in the 1950's the U.S. government built dams, which changed the Columbia and silenced the falls. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_image000000-3.jpg

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