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Conference on Current Pagan Studies 2009

I was blessed to be invited to present two (2!!) academic papers at this conference in Claremont Graduate School in California.  I took notes on what other people presented, and what we talked about in discussion. While these are notes, I hope they will get you thinking, and I’ve tried to fill them out more so they make more sense. Look for these presenters in the future: I would be surprised if we did not see a few of them with excellent books out within the next few years.

I really want to go to the conference for 2010, but I do not have the funds this year, unless my mom wants to take me again. It’s weird to show up at an academic conference with your mom. But she had a great time, and helped me be more social with people I admire.

7 Feb 2009

We started quite late! There were fancy pastries, but we already had breakfast. There are about 25 people here, most of whom are presenting, it seems like. 3 tech guys and lots of tech problems.

We have a vision for a literate society. Pagans in the White House! A speaker tomorrow was at Obama’s inagural party!

***

Jeffrey Albaugh– “Images of Individuation within the Fery Witchcraft Tradition”

He told the myth of Feri creation. Goddess finds her reflection in the perimeter. Creation out of exstacy. Feri is now public, but wasn’t until very recently. Not wiccan or initiatory liniage. “Homegorwn American strains of witchcraft”. Elements form Huna, Gnostic, Sufi, Voodoun, etc. Very syncratic, powerful and transformative. Star Goddess, Divine Twins, Peacock God. Star Goddess is Hermaphrodidic, archaic and whole. Mirror separates knower from the known. Repeating motif of separating and coming together. Masks change on the twins but “mother makes the rules”. Feri dictim “I would know myself in all my parts” to create new conscious attitudes. Claim beauty and darkness to become truly whole. Divine Garden is the container in which transformation takes place. Tension held between opposites creates new forms. Unconscious is a process. The relationship of the ego to the unconscious develops personality.

Question: What does Feri teach about how we should relate to others.

Emphasis on Right Relationship with others, self and gods.  Become an individual within a context of their culture.

We partake of archetypal, and so are the Gods, but the Gods are more and so are we.

***

Brigit Silverbranch “Christian and Wiccan Initiations in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust: Reflections on a Craft Ideal”

Question: Did you struggle theologically with the transition between Christianity and Wicca?

Xtians take care of their clergy. How do you think Wiccans should care for their clergy?

Her family had no religious background. She took from whatever religion or tradition appealed to her.She went to Methodist church because they gave toys. Roman Catholic because of the paraphenelia and ceremony. It was in Latin. When she thought she might want to be a Nun, she told the Priest, the Priest told her mother, and she got a sound spanking (but probably for maybe trying to convert them!). We carry mental baggage from our early religions—after all, most of us werent’ raised as Witches. “Rites and Symbols of Initiation” look up this book. During ordination, she felt like she was floating, even with the heavy hands on her head. Got a stole “symbolic Yoke” from the Bishop. But they didn’t agree with homosexuality, so she looked around. “irreconscilable differences happen!” At that time 1975, things were changing in the Seminaries. They talked about women’s health, more women came in, and they talked about feminine images of God. Perfect Love is grown through initiation and doing magic. The password became a generalized Craft ideal. But how is it defined.

The phrase cannot be practiced or perfected outside the sacred circle. We cant’ do it outside circle. Should you apply it in a broader sense? I’m not sure.

***

William Blumberg, “Piety as a pagan religion”

“Usebia” A lot of conditional language! We need clarity. What about Piety?? Christians know a certain amount of their religion. Pagans have to be experts. Piety means “religious”. For us, it is a personal relationship with the divine, naturalistic world view, individualistic, etc. Piety is “moral conduct” and nothing more (or is it). Duty, Virtue, Respect for what is sacred. Piety should summon actions. Are Pagans Pious?? Piety: that which is loved by the Gods. But what does that mean? Rooted in family and community, it is rooted in our interactions in the world. We lack a core belief system of herasy or conversion (ous souls are not in danger). There is not one correct answer. Perhaps piety is a common thread in diverse pagan paths. Right action is why we create community.

Questions: How can Priest/esses encourage piety and virtue? Which ones should we encourage?

What are the advantages of Piety and virtue for Pagans? How do we know right action?

If we are all priests and priestesses, we must teach each other good habits. Making sure one comes to ritual. Making good habits. We don’t need to have “all the virtues” to have any of them. You can become better, through memorization, devotional practice. Become disciplined.

***

Galina Kraskova, “Performativity and the Development of Modern Heathen Culture”

In tremendous flux for practitioners. There is a lot of public discourse of how to talk about deity, worship, etc. Validity of personal gnosis. The body registers the world without verbalization and ritual is an extension of that. Comprised of many denominations and ideological approaches. Share a common core cosmology. Bloat is a ritual: folk gather, space hallowed, gods invoked, things offered to gods through drinking alcohol from a horn and devotion and gifts are given. Passionate prayer is not encouraged. Symbols is a ritual: does not include offerings. Horn of alcohol is passed 3 times for gods, ancestors, and oaths or boasts are shared. Some level of devotion is appropriate. Attempting to reconstruct an ancient religion, and with actual practice, it is evolving and shifting. Started as a concentrated study of lore, but with ritual practice has created conflict. The power of the experience moves it away from the textual evidence. It is impossible to predict whrere the religion will go. Personal gnosis is suspect. Text gives weight and authority, which colors Personal Gnosis. Personal experience is not legitimized unless it is in the lore. Indoctrination from their birth religion makes for fundamentalists. Specificly Protestant. But many sources were Christianized anyway. The lore isn’t supposed to be a place to find moral rules. They are practicing religion outside of the culture from which it evolved. Focus was on right relationships, not right morality. There is subtle (or not) social pressure for practitioners to obey invidible cultural rules. What bout social idenity? Most or working or middleclass pretestants, so it colors their understanding of heathenry. It recalls biblical literalism. They often have a sense of alienation. They want a single, homogenous whole tradition that will span generations. They want cultural markers. They want the tradition to be protected from other views. But the tradition is developing around them. With publication of devotionals, their doctrines become under the public eye. They draw identity from exchange with others, even antagonistic. Don’t need a palpable sense of the sacred, but desire community. Theology drawn from practice. Worship causing deity’s power to manifest was unthinkable years ago.

Shamans in Northern tradition believe they are “owned property of the gods” the mouth and eyes, not as divine as the gods.

Question: Do  you think the schism will entirely separate? What do you see as the future for the religious beliefs when a second generation comes along?

Can’t see the forrest for the trees.

Responded to the counter culture. Heathans do not want to be mistaken for Pagans, because they are historical.It’s highly politicized.

***

Prinny Miller “The Witchraft of Medea and the Modern-day Craft”

Important metaphor, but should we really look to her? Reknown witch, but requires trickery and murder to succeed. Classic Other who oversteps boundries assigned to her by society. To Jason, she has outlived her usefulness and he marries another. He says Corinthia is better off without her sorcery. She gets sympathy from Euripades, though still an outsider with destructive magic. Occupies a liminal place in grecco/roman mind. Victim of fate, hero, witch. Acts as a barrier between her and other citizens. Victory, fame, tragedy work in synergy. Instructive to modern Crafters. Uses her knowledge to help her family. But craft is not an extent of mysticism. Practical, but with no moral concerns or consequences.

Question: You said your view of medea changed after you had children. How did it change for you?

***

My paper: “Witches and Devilry in Wuthering Heights”

Ran out of time and had to cut in the interest of time. Will have to significantly shorten the other paper. Folks chuckled at my powerpoint, and I hope it added to the presentation. Jeffrey pointed out the Numinous aspect of Heathcliff. Macha’s friend said I made a “nice reader-response”, but pointed out that Victorians still believed in witches, devils, etc, even if they didn’t persecute them anymore. Suggested I examine it in light of Romanticism. I wish I had said that most Pagan readers aren’t versed in Victorian culture, they read it with their own perspective. The paper was a “what if” paper, asking what Pagans might read into it, not an actual criticism.

***

Macha Nightmare “Out of the Broom Closet and Into the World: Paganisms Come of Age in a Multicultural Multifaith World”

Began and grew out of the counter cultural movement in opposition to mainstream Abrahamic religions.

What can we learn from the early Christian movement? Their practice was forbidden too! They met under threat of persecution. We don’t have persecution, but we have to be discreet. We have the protection of the constitution, but we still have mundane lives we need to protect.

She doesn’t think the faith-based initiative is a good idea for Pagans.

Pagans have a poverty consciousness that has not served us well, but it seems to be fading. But the attitude from the overculture values commodity and we spend our money on statueary, tarot, books, etc. But we expect our spiritual teaching to be free.

We don’t have scripture, but we have books and the internet. “We’re people of the library! Not people of the Book!”

Thinks clergy class is inappropriate, but Priestesses council and lead ritual etc and need education. She’s afraid to buy into Protestantization from the overculture. Rely on your experience into the divine. Faith doesn’t enter into the equasion.

Getting land for Pagans to use is tricky because the income changes the focus.

Festivals has helped us build community. Pantheacon is President’s Day Weekend every year. 2400 visitors a year. Established institutions have resources to give service. But then you need “officialness”. You lose freedom and spontinaity.

Same with liturgy. You can accrue power with repetition, but fixed liturgy loses spontenaity. Familiarity can free the psyche, but it shouldn’t lose creativity.

How do we address these needs? We need community services, but in ways that are true to our beliefs? Baltimore washington pagan clergy association =>Google it!

We need to educate others in what we need. We need a strong ethic of service. We need to participate in the community, both ours and the larger world. We have a responsibility to social justice. Look up Dominican nuns.

We have to consider professionalism. We expect certain standards from those who provide us with services, even in a Pagan community. Accountability, competence, and ethical standards. But we can’t cop out and lose our uniqueness. We need to set our own standards.

Lyke wake dirge “let it begin now”

DETC.org for accreditation.

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  1. January 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm

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