Home > Uncategorized > Pagan Literature Class Syllabus

Pagan Literature Class Syllabus

You know how in college you can take classes on different perspectives on literature? You know, like I took Native American lit or you could take GLBT lit or the African American Perspective? Well, what if there was a Pagan one? I wrote this as an undergraduate level class. If I ever get a doctorate in anything, maybe I’ll teach it. Until then, here it is! If you’d like to use it, please let me know.

Goal: By understanding the Neo-Pagan perspective on life and literature, one can gain additional meaning from a text that might otherwise be overlooked. Paganism is complicated, organic and diverse. It is part history, part culture, and part religion.

Week 1: Day 1-What is Paganism? Read from Drawing Down the Moon. Bit of history from Prehistoric Goddess worshippers, to Middle Ages, to Occultism, to Wicca and Neo-Paganism.

Day 2-Our stereotypes and cultural images. Clips from: The Wizard of Oz, Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, Disney’s Snow White, The Craft, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, etc. What are the social ramifications of these images? Should one work with or against the stereotypes? Last watch Video: Lifetime Intimate Portrait: Witches. Misinformation Worksheet due beginning of class.

Day 3- examine where these stereotypes come from. Read from Maleus Malificarum, the Construction of Witchcraft. The Burning Times: All Neo-Paganism must be viewed with this in mind. What are the social ramifications of this? Where did these ideas come from? Clip: Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Week 2: Day 1-The Divine Feminine. A woman’s place in Patriarchy. Read: “Charge of the Goddess”. What does it mean that God is a Woman? Seasonal cycles. Read: Wiccan myths about seasons. Symbols of the feminine.

Day 2- Read: Inanna’s Descent into the Netherworld. ‘Thou Art God’ idea and its ramification. Read “Descent of the Goddess”

Day 3- Mythology and its place in Paganism. Read from: The Feminist Companion to Mythology. Group up, each choose a culture to present in class over next few weeks. Take cue from the essays: choose a myth not represented in the book and write an essay analyzing the role of women in the story and what it means to be a woman in that society. Use visuals, if possible. Tell of the major Deities in that particular culture. 3-5 pages.

Week 3: Day 1- Read and discuss: The Power of Myth. Hero Cycle and Spirit Journeys. Analyze The Matrix or other movie and “Inanna’s Descent into the Netherworld”

Day 2- Archetypes according to Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Psychology in Mythology. Bolen? Divine Archetypes. Intro to Tarot.

Day 3- Discuss the use of archetypes and cycles in myths that we’ve read. Deification of heroes like King Arthur. Discuss essay and presentation requirements.

Week 4: Day 1- Group presentations. Discuss: The Power of Myth all week. What is mythology? How is it important to us?

Day 2- Group Presentations. Mythical Beasts: what they say about our fears and inner psychology. Other issues in Campbell’s book.

Day 3- Group Presentations. Modern Myths: Comic books, movies and television, huge phenomena like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc.

Week 5: Day 1- Creation Myths: what this important myth says about a culture and its sense of self. What of America? What myths does it have? Start: American Gods.

Day 2- Discuss American Gods, book origins, Neil Gaiman himself, Norse culture. Any questions about book.

Day 3- The role of sexuality, Gods recognition. Symbolic roles using Tarot.

Week 6: Day 1- More on Tarot. History of Magickal Correspondences.

Day 2- Essay Due. Symbolism, Magickal Correspondences and uses in literature. Read and analyze “For Breaking a Curse”, MacBeth Act 4 Scene 1, “The Maypole of Merry Mount” and “Scarborough Fair”

Day 3- Rituals, tools and secrecy. Read: “Initiation Ritual”. Persecution today comes in many forms. Occult knowledge. Group Presentations. Finish American Gods. Essay?

Week 7: Day 1- Magic, prayer, and asserting your Will. Thou Art God as it relates to practice. Spells as they generally are done. Compare to Occult, Satanists, and ritualists (ie: Aliester Crowley, Golden Dawn or Masons) Read from: A Triumph of the Moon.

Day 2- Wordsworth, Kipling and other Naturalists. The reaction to the loss of spirituality in life and church. A resurgence (or reinvention?) of pagan themes.

Day 3- Discussion of texts. Brief overview of Astrology and how it can be used as Literary Analysis. Get a free reading from Astrology.com

Week 8: Day 1- Spell casting (sympathetic, candle, charms, talismans, curses, prayer, chant, astral work), ethics (rule of 3), black vs. white magick. Moon cycles and magick. Read “Before a Flight”, “Witches Rune”, “The Wiccan Rede”, Read a curse.

Day 2- Other poems from A Pagan’s Muse. Begin Wizard of Oz.

Day 3- Coming out of the Broom Closet. Modern Neo-Pagan movement. Gerald Gardner. The “New-Age”. Read: “A Witches Manifesto”. Read from: Voices from the Pagan Census. Discuss how Pagans recognize each other (symbols in packet).

Week 9: Day 1- Literature by Pagans, for Pagans. How can academics analyze? Read: “The Golden Ring” “God Rest Ye Merry Pagan Folk” “A Pagan Prayer for the Dead”

Day 2- Finish Wizard of Oz. Discuss how it impacts mainstream thought. Map using Hero’s Journey. Examine archetypes. Magic (consciously projecting the will).

Day 3- A day for catching up. Discuss final.

Week 10: Day 1-  Analyze any other Pagan/Non-Pagan texts of interest to class. Pagan jokes and parodies.

Day 2- Instructor evaluation. Text evaluation (what would you add or drop?).

Day 3- The future of Paganism: striving for equality. How you can help.

Final: Choose a Disney Movie. Analyze its Pagan elements, its structure, the potential ramifications of the themes presented as they relate to the mainstream, its material success, the development of the story, etc. Try to include one of the academically unusual methods of analysis we covered in class. 5-7 pages.

Suggested Disney Movies: Beauty and the Beast, Brother Bear, Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, Bambi, The Black Cauldron, Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Hercules, The Lion King, etc.

Required Texts:

American Gods, Neil Gaiman. Harper Torch, 2002.

The Complete Book of Tarot, by Juliet Sharman-Burke. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996. (?)

Drawing Down the Moon, by Margaret Adler. Beacon Press, 1979.

The Feminists Companion to Mythology. Edited by Carolyne Larrington. Pandora Press, 1992.

The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft, by Hans Peter Broedel. Manchester University Press, 2004. (?)

The Pagan’s Muse, Edited by Jane Raeburn. Citadel Press, 2003.

Read: “Thine Inmost Divine Self: An introduction to Pagan Poetry”, “Charge of the Goddess” by Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the God” by Archer, “A Song to Mithras” by Rudyard Kipling, “The Dandelion Woman” by Jessica Jordan Nudel, “The World is Too Much with Us” by William Wordsworth, etc.

A Paganism Reader, Edited by Chas S. Clifton, Graham Harvey. Routledge; 2003 (?)

The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Double Day, 1988.

The Spiral Dance, By Starhawk. Harper, San Francisco, 1979. (?)

A Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, by Ronald Hutton. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States, by Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, Leigh S. Shaffer. University of South Carolina Press, 2003. (?)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum.


Confessions of a Pagan Nun, by Kate Horsley, Shambhala, 2004.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Harper Collins, 2001.

The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by Theordore Roszak. Random House, 1995.

The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Del Ray, 1982.

Seasons of Magic, by Laurel Ann Reinhardt. Llewellyn, 2001.

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein. Ace Charter, 1995.

Waking the Moon, by Elizabeth Hand. Eos Printing, 1996.

Witches Were for Hanging, by Patricia Crowther. Mercury Publishing, 1998.

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. Penguin Books, 2003.

  1. Stevie
    June 16, 2010 at 11:02 am

    This is quite a good course. My only suggestion is that the cost to students for all the books is going to be on the high side — especially for undergrad. You may want to look into creating a reader for the students that is made up of the relevant sections/chapters/pages from each book rather than have them purchase every book for the class.

    • June 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

      That’s a great idea! I think I just got excited. 🙂

  2. Stevie
    June 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    LOL! It happens. There is always SO MUCH we want to cover, the tough part is narrowing it down to a workable course load for the term.

    • June 16, 2010 at 11:14 pm

      Maybe if the class was a semester instead of a quarter, we could cover all this…

  3. Shefa Benoit
    October 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    As an undergrad at Union Institute & University, I am preparing my self-designed semester to fulfill my literature and history criteria and knew I wanted to cover pagan literature and history. Your syllabus, with a few tweaks, largely satisfies my needs and I would like to use with your permission.

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