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

We are all fairy-tale princes and princesses, trapped by some wicked spell within bodies and behind faces that we don't recognize in the mirror or in photographs - because they are not the real us. 

It is often impossible to see beneath the surface of things; but we can train ourselves to sense beneath it. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
ISIL, Inanna, and the Lamassu

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you, I have a copy of Myths from Mesopotamia by Stephanie Dalley but thus far no guided imagery or pathworkings for dealing
How Pop Culture Introduced me to Magic

I read my first fantasy book when I was 7 or 8. It was The Hobbit and it conjured up a magical world of adventure that I was fascinated by. I didn't stop at The Hobbit. I read the Greek Myths and then I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and later the Dragonlance sagas. Inevitably my favorite characters were the magicians or the people who somehow or another got some magical object that gave them an advantage in the adventure. As I grew up, I never got over my fascination with magic or fantasy books for that matter. And as I read each book, I thought about magic a lot and wondered if it was real or just some element of fantasy. Yet it was because of fantasy books that I discovered that magic was real.

When I was 16, a fellow student in my high school sat me down and told me about his experiences on the astral plane. He later admitted that he told me his experiences because he noticed I liked to read fantasy books and he was hoping to freak me out. The last thing he expected was for me to ask, with baited breath, if I could learn myself and if there were books on the topic. The next day he brought me a couple books and I eagerly read them and did the exercises, to see what would happen. At last, I had found out magic was real and more importantly that I could do it myself. It wasn't the same magic as what I read about in fantasy books, but it was something and I took that to heart. I read every book I could find and talked with whoever else was interested in the same topics. I tested everything I read, eager to see what I could do and how far I could take it.

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In Support of our own: understanding Unitarian Universalist Idealization

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last year this time I responded to an essay written by John Michael Greer titled, "A Bad Case of Methodist Envy:  Copying Christian models of clergy is a Pagan dead end."  His essay argued against the notion of payed professional clergy and my response was to argue in favor of professional clergy -- at least having the option of professional clergy.  In this essay it is my hope to build upon the ideas I shared in last year's essay but also share further reflections on the subject of the evolving nature of Paganism in general and Pagan clergy in particular.

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  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    It seems we all have different ideas of what "clergy" means, and I think people here are talking past each other a little bit beca
  • Wendilyn Emrys
    Wendilyn Emrys says #
    Ancient Egyptian priests most often donated their time and assets to the Temples. They might get to share in food offerings, and g
  • Jenni West
    Jenni West says #
    What benefit does a clergy based hierarchy provide for such a belief system? It opens the door to abuse of power and canonization
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Jenni, there have always been clergy within the Pagan movement and there has always been abuse of power within the community by so
  • Jenni West
    Jenni West says #
    With all due respect, if Paganism becomes clergy based, I will slip further from the public path.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Disreputable English Magic

To assuage the sadness of knowing there is no more Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to come (or perhaps there is a but a long way off), I have been thinking about how English magic did fall into disrepute so that a man of Norrell's character found it necessary to make it respectable once more. One of the first examples to occur to me is Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's Tale (hereafter CYT because I will tire of spelling it out).

CYT features one of the belated arrivals to pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales. The canon and his yeoman catch up to the pilgrims and the yeoman launches into a recital of the canon's alchemical life that soon makes his boss leave in a huff. The yeoman takes this opportunity to show that the canon is a scoundrel in this 'elvysshe craft' known as alchemy

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    May be it that craft is so easy to learn? I'm sorry you're sad about your show but so glad to read this!
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    I think it's easier to learn the form of it -- appearance of it? -- and then feel frustrated that one doesn't know more. I'm think
The Theological Aftermath of PSG: A Flood Narrative For Modern Times

"Twelve hundred years had not yet passed

When the land extended and the peoples multiplied.

The land was bellowing like a bull,

The god got disturbed by their uproar.

Enlil heard their noise

And addressed the great gods,

"The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,

With their uproar I am deprived of sleep." --Atrahasis Epic

 

It is hard to make your way in our modern world without at least cursory knowledge of flood narratives in some form--whether that is the story of Noah and the Ark, Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, Metamorphoses, or many others from multiple cultures around the globe. Indeed, there is an ongoing relationship between man and the divine that involves water particularly as a cleansing agent. This particular post is not going to delve into the deeper meanings of punishment inflicted on humankind by the divine use of water. Rather, I'd like to take a look at theological implications for the Pagan community in the aftermath of one of the most significant natural disasters of this decade. 

I was a prime observer of the 2015 Pagan Spirit Gathering deluge. I showed up on Sunday afternoon, and after a harrowing few days evacuated the area on Wednesday afternoon after having drove thirteen hours from Maryland to get there. During that short time period I witnessed marvelous acts of sacrifice and kindness--the kind that inspires me to continue doing my work as a minister in training for Circle Sanctuary. There is no question in my mind of the bond shared by our community, or the significance this event personified.

First and foremost, I have participated in and been witness to multiple conversations on creating intentional community. Many of us realized having our spiritual and emotional cup filled only once a year is not enough, and have begun seeking out like-minded individuals to either purchase land to live on or start some other form of community with more permanence. In this way it is possible to draw upon narratives like the Jewish diaspora for inspiration (not that I am comparing the Pagan community to the Jewish community). Having shared this particular experience as a whole, we carry our own pieces and memories of the loss with us, using it to fuel our search for something more.

Secondly, we are beginning to see more attention being garnered for climate change and its effects. It is a bit of bitter irony that while I am up to my knees in mud and we are pushing cars out of a lake, that California and other portions of the nation are still experiencing intense drought. This is only one example of how our weather is shifting in many ways due to mankind's involvement--highlighting a greater need to discuss remediation with our planet.

Lastly--and I'm throwing a hurt feelings disclaimer out there--events like the one we just experienced have large scale implications for "culling the herd." In mythology it's called cleansing the sinful. In today's society it's called where your heart lies. This event will have turned many off to the idea that PSG is worth their time or their money. We will see the numbers drop, but we will also see a strengthening of existing bonds in ways nothing else could have accomplished. For better or worse this event, this flood narrative of our modern time, has marked us as a people who love and work and sacrifice for each other. So for that I am grateful. #wearetribe 

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Great Conflation

I am looking forward to the final episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell on Sunday (I think it's begun in the States more recently). It's been fun seeing an 'alternate' history of magic, though I will be sad to see it end. It got me thinking about a period in history that leads to a lot of confusion. When people say 'witch hunts' most people still seem to think of the Middle Ages, though the worst years were part of the Early Modern era, sometimes known as the Renaissance (a much disputed term for a variety of reasons). While many see the dividing line as the Reformation, the roots of that change can be see in Wycliffe and the Lollards in the 14th century. I tend to see Gutenberg's innovation as a technological change, though even there printing existed before his moveable type -- but the speed of the technology has all kinds of impacts as we know in the internet age.

We may not think of magic as technology, but all knowledge is technology. A revolution in technology may be regarded as good or bad or something in between, but it usually hard to deny once it happens. A big change happened in the history of magic that had a huge impact that leads to the widespread witch hunts of the Early Modern era (and on into the so-called Age of Enlightenment). For background, I highly recommend you get Michael D. Bailey's Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages. Perhaps easier to obtain is his briefer essay, 'The Feminization of Magic and the Emerging Idea of the Female Witch in the Late Middle Ages' (available via Project Muse in many libraries).

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