I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.
Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I’ll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.
In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don’t always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion… Even so, Discordianism’s still around and stronger than ever, even if it’s not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like. Continue reading
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book (“The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide”) helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other respect. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading
Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, by Charles Godfrey Leland
The Witches’ Almanac, 9780982432358, 178 pp., 1899, 2010
Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903) was an American folklorist who published some twenty books on American and European folklore, Romani traditions, witchcraft, and other subjects. He is chiefly remembered today for his influence on the development of modern Paganism, primarily through the publication of Aradia. Continue reading
This slight annoyance of being regularly asked by ‘fluffy Pagans’ if we are Satanists probably goes with the territory of being chaos magicians – at the very least we are supposed to eat a baby a week, it seems. The founder of Satanism, the late Anton LaVey, made the very pragmatic point that “stories of unbaptized babies being stolen by Satanists… were not only effective propaganda measures, but also provided a constant source of revenue for the Church, in the form of baptism fees. No Christian mother would, upon hearing of these diabolical kidnappings, refrain from getting her child properly baptized, post haste.” It’s all about the money, honey.
We have also had dealings with several people who would fall under the stereotypical definition of ‘real nutjobs about Satan.’ These include one especially memorable person at an academic conference on alternative religion that we attended a while back. Continue reading
A Teaching Handbook for Wiccans and Pagans, by Thea Sabin
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2710-3, 309 pp., 2012
It has been a number of years since I have read any of Thea’s writings. In fact, it had been so long that, when I saw a quote from my review of her previous work, I had to go back and reread that review. As I delved into this latest work, my original opinion seems to have been more than borne out. I was impressed by her practicality at the time, and I am even more impressed by it at this time. If there is one thing sadly lacking in the field of Pagan education (after discounting the lack of uniformity) it is common sense. Thea supplies that in abundance.
This is a collaborative effort. Ms Sabin approached numerous teachers of Pagan topics – those who teach in-person; those who teach online; those who have been teaching for years; and those who are just starting out as teachers – on a variety of approaches, techniques and pitfalls. You know those things which are “needless to say…”, she says them because since everyone knows them, we often forget to include them in our thinking and preparations. You know the kind of disaster I mean – you have all your media on a flash drive, but when you arrive at the location you discover that the files have been corrupted (or even worse, you grabbed the wrong flash drive)…how do you recover? Or you have that one student who seems bound and determined to wrest control of the class away from you…how do you deal with the situation? Continue reading