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The Incredibly Stupid…it buuuurrrrnnns

I usually try to ignore the garbage I see online but Patheos’ latest post reached such a level of confusion and just outright stupidity that as an historian I feel the need to jump in just to correct the historical mis-information. I’m literally just stunned at the depth and breadth of inaccuracy and flat out historically incorrect nonsense being presented as fact here. Ready, Readers? Take a good stuff drink and buckle up because here we go. 

“Christianity had the privilege of a couple thousand years of recorded history. Men, white men, have contributed the most Christian theological information than any other ethnic or gender in their field.”

This is flat out incorrect. The first two seriously influential Christian theologians were….North African (Tertullian) and Egyptian (Origen). In fact, the majority of Christian writers for the first four hundred or so years of Christianity were from the east, particularly places like Antioch, Alexandria,  Damascus, Cappadocia, Babylon, Syria and Turkey, in addition to North Africa and of course Italy and Judea. During the medieval period you also had significant intellectual movements within Islam and Judaism – so how dare this ill-informed author claim that only white men have contributed? Christianity for instance, crossed all classes and ethnicities (one of the reasons I suspect Constantine chose to legalize it. Christians in his time may have only been about 10% of the society, but they were 10% across every possible social stratum). 

“White men also dominate books written on Paganism, the Occult, and Witchcraft.”

Really?  Working hard to win the oppression Olympics aren’t you, sweetheart? Let’s see, I’ll pull three or four for each category just off the top of my head: Occultists: Dion Fortune, Margerie Cameron, Helena Blavatsky, Leila Waddell, Moina Mathers, Pamela Colman Smith, Ida Craddock; Paganism, Witchcraft, and Polytheism: me (lol), Diana Paxson, Margot Adler, Phyllis Curott, Tamara Siuda, Janet Farrar (like her or hate her, she was very influential early on), Starhawk, Sybil Leek, Margaret Murray, Olivia Durdin Robertson, Normandi Ellis….shall I go on? And just for kicks, here are some early female Christian writers: Egeria, Perpetua, Hildegard, Mechthild, Marguerite Porete, Catherine of Sienna, Catherine of Genoa, Margery, Julian, Clare, Teresa of Avila, Angela Folino, Anna Komnena, Proba Betitia Faltonia, Athenais-Eudocia, Macrina, a ton of desert mothers…and this is all off just the top of my head. With a quick web search or a look at my bookshelves I could come up with dozens more. 

Our genius goes on: 

“So when we support movements like #defendoccultbooks then we are inherently supporting classism and sexism.” 

No, you’re supporting competence and excellence. If you can’t go to the library and get a book, you shouldn’t be practicing any occult art. Knowledge is the great equalizer across classes, but the reason this tag came into being is we have a generation of children wanting to style themselves occultists who can’t be bothered to read. They want to learn their craft indiscriminately from videos and tiktoks. It doesn’t work that way. 

She continues: 

“Upper class men and, eventually women were the only people with formal education for a long time. Even then women weren’t allowed to read or write for a huge portion of recorded history. Additionally, black and brown people weren’t given access to formal education for most of that time.”

This is why we need you to read, dear. You might actually have some grasp of historical fact if you opened a book occasionally, you know, those things people are trying to defend. The earliest known writer historically is a woman, a priestess in Sumer named Enhenduanna. Female literacy across the ancient world was quite high, likewise in the medieval period, though it is true that formal education was a privilege of the wealthier classes. As to black and brown people…Egypt. Ethiopia. Syria. Carthage. In these countries alone – and I could list a dozen more – there were key centers of learning. The ancient world didn’t divide itself into racial categories as we do now. That was something that happened only in the early modern world. They might recognize differences of appearance, but what mattered was customs, culture, and learning. These things could be acquired – Again, education was and is the great equalizer. 

This author then goes on to offer a list of some well-known occult and witchcraft authors: 

“Aleister Crowley, Cornelius Agrippa, Anton LaVey, Dion Fortune, Eliphas Levi, Israel Regardie, Helena Blavatsky, Samuel Liddell Mathers, Raymond Buckland, Doreen Valiente, Gerald Gardner, Robert Cochrane, Scott Cunningham, Paul Huson, Ronald Hutton, Raven Grimassi. What largely ties them all together? Being white, being educated, and mostly being male.”

Firstly, note how her list of rich white male occult writers 1) ignores the contributions of women (except for Dion Fortune, Blavatsky, and Valiente) and 2) overlooks the fact that a number of them were of Jewish and Romani backgrounds and 3) some of them were massively poor and struggled to eke out a subsistence living. (Thinking in particular of Scott Cunningham and Anton LaVey.). And that they are male, is because she cherry picked a list of mostly male authors. She’s purposely ignoring the contributions of anyone who doesn’t fit her demographic there so she can beat her breast, cry oppression, and avoid the responsibility for actually learning anything. 

I do agree with her when she says that “having education doesn’t make a person more worthy, better, or intellectual.” These things say nothing about a person’s intellect or character. Some of the most intelligent people I have known haven’t finished high school. Education however does help with intellectual formation, whether that education is formal or acquired on one’s own through hard work and study. If you want something badly enough, you find a way to make it happen. Libraries are wonderful things. The internet too, for all its problems, allows for a remarkable access to knowledge. 

This person goes on: 

“Raise your hand if you have a disability that makes it difficult to comprehend text-based information.” 

If that is the case, then the onus is on you to speak up and tell your teachers what you need. Advocate for yourself but do the work. Don’t use your disability as an excuse for why you can’t acquire a particular bit of knowledge. There will sometimes be teachers who refuse to even attempt to work with you – well, in that case, find another teacher.  

You might also try showing respect to your elders and teachers – something sadly lacking in most of the communities this author is discussing. That of course, would mean taking responsibility for oneself and obviously that’s occasionally onerous (and before you accuse me of being ableist I have both physical and learning disabilities. Does it make knowledge acquisition more difficult? Yes, in some cases it does. Does it make it impossible? NO. Not if I’m willing to put in the work like an adult). She is correct of course in saying that disabilities do not make one anti-intellectual. I’m not sure why one would think they did. 

This author brings up folklore and says,

“These practices and beliefs were rarely written down by practitioners in older times, perhaps out of fear of persecution. That, or another likely answer is that witches of yore simply could not read or write well enough (or at all) to put it in a book. Or they didn’t have enough money to buy ink and paper, let alone cough it up to have a book bound.” 

Usually such practices weren’t written down because the best way to learn is from teacher to student, elder to neophyte, mother to child, etc. Putting something in a book means that it is available across a broad swath of one’s community. It opens up knowledge (think I’m wrong? Look at the results of both translating the bible into the vernacular and inventing the printing press. It led to a democratization of knowledge with consequences both good and bad for the institutional church). Most traditions throughout history have had their mysteries, and mysteries are not for the uninitiated. Also, fear of persecution. When? If you’re talking about the supposed “burning times,” those women and men were not, for the most part, occultists or witches. We see plenty of written occult tomes (my favorite come from Iceland) in the late medieval/ early renaissance period. Nor was paper the only material used in books. In the ancient world, papyrus, parchment, vellum, even cloth were used. Ink is easy to make. Professional book binding was complicated, but I’ve made books myself simply by sewing folios together. It’s not rocket science and our ancestors weren’t stupid. While owning books was in the past a sign of luxury, with the internet, kindle, libraries, and the relatively low cost of paperbacks today, that is no longer the case. Lending libraries in particular are a wonderful thing and so is inter-library loan, but perhaps she hasn’t heard of them (though she says she’s a librarian). 

Books are a grace and a gift in the process of learning. Ideally, in addition to all the reading a novice should do, he or she also –usually–collects a personal journal, grimoire, whatever you want to call it. One creates one’s own repository of knowledge. Is this a privilege? Absolutely. Everything worth having requires sacrifice.  Everything worth having is a privilege. If we can learn, if we have the capacity intellectually to learn well, if we have access to formal education …yes, these ARE privileges and we’re damned lucky. I look at writing sometimes, just the process of putting pen and ink to paper and think what a miraculous thing it is and how incredibly lucky we are to have this knowledge. I believe that equal access to teachers and books is a good thing, an important goal toward which to work. That is going to take commitment and ongoing dialogue (I want to hear from my students when something isn’t working. We can work together to find something that WILL work to help them better acquire the knowledge I’m trying to teach). The one thing we can’t guarantee even then is equal outcome, because excellence is a choice and the result of hard, ongoing work. 

Also, and I know this isn’t going to be popular, in the end, the occult arts aren’t meant to be open to everyone (that’s why they’re called “occult,” i.e. “secret” or “hidden”). You work and if you have the talent, if you’re able to stay the course physically and mentally, if you budget for your work, if the stars align, you’ll get somewhere. You don’t need a ton of money (I learned the most as a magus when I had nothing, up to and including a period of homelessness), but you do need commitment, sound judgment, and personal discipline. But these arts were never meant to be open to anyone and I’m just fine with that. I think with the occult in particular, a necessary formation happens as one struggles to acquire knowledge, works to gain access, to learn, to practice, to become competent. That process cannot and should not be truncated because the art and end result will suffer. The work forms the magus and there are no short cuts there. 

No one should be barred from learning because of race, finances, or disability but once you’re in the door, if you want to gain any measure of sustainable competence, hard work, study, humility, and BOOKS are going to be part of the game. If that’s not your cup of tea, fine, but then don’t call yourself an occultist. 

My Current Book Hoard

So, I recently received a few books to add to my ‘must read’ end of the semester pile. I can’t wait to delve in. What are you guys all reading (and hopefully enjoying)?

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Books

Today is the last and final installment of my Yuletide Shopping Guide. I created the Yuletide Shopping Guide in part because Yule is one of my favorite times of year. The guide features items polytheists might enjoy seeing in their homes or under their tree this yuletide. All with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer in a difficult year by finding items that can help feed our devotions within our polytheistic traditions, but also to hopefully along the way lift up some of the artisans in our midst too.

So far I’ve included resources for crafters, makers, and DIYers: cookie cutters, crafting molds, fabric (MesoamericanEgyptianGreekNorthern Europe), machine embroidery designs, cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, as well as knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve also highlighted some items on a Krampus theme. I’ve spotlighted items you can use to deck the halls & trim the tree. 

Check out the Greco-Roman themed products relevant to devotees of Cultus Deorum and Hellenismos, the Egyptian themed products ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) relevant to devotees of Kemetism, Northern European themed products ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5) relevant to Northern Tradition polytheists (Heathens, Asatruar, etc.), as well as some Miscellaneous ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) spotlights featuring artists and artisans who offered a range of product across pantheons, or whose work focused on a tradition that I didn’t have enough items to spotlight on its own. Peruse with care and you will find items related to deities from the Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Polynesian, Mesoamerican, Minoan, Assyrian, Sumerian, Welsh, Asian, Native American/Inuit, and more!

Today I’ll be spotlighting books.

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

I am an avid reader and quite the bibliophile. If I really wanted to do this section justice, I could be writing for over a year on suggested books. So I decided to approach this list primarily from the point of view of more recently published works I have either personally read and therefore recommend, or for texts that are on my to read list. I’ve also sprinkled in a few classics, and some books I felt kids could enjoy too so we can pass our traditions to the next generations.


Academic Reading

Unfortunately, I will warn you that some of the academic books are part of small academic print runs and can be prohibitively priced as a result.


Books for Polytheists

The Illustrated Havamal and Illustrated Voluspa takes the old Bellows translation of those eponymous texts but is released with illustrations by artist Sam Flegal. The Man Who Spoke Snakish is a fictional work with strong themes that should resonate with polytheists. The remaining texts were all written by polytheists for polytheists.


Mythology Books

Many of these texts are geared towards children and young adults, so content tends to be adapted for that audience.


Coloring Books

Coloring books for both kids and adults.


My Books

In case you missed it since last December I have released 9 books. A Modern Guide to Heathenry is a significantly revised and expanded book built on the foundation of Exploring the Northern Tradition with over 70,000 words of additional, new content. Sigyn: Our Lady of the Staying Power is a re-release after a change in publishers. The other books are all new releases.


Walking the Worlds

After several years and 12 volumes, Walking the Worlds, a peer-reviewed journal of polytheism and spiritwork has concluded its run. In commemoration, here are the links to each release of the journal in case you missed any.


What books are on your to read list? What books would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments.

30% Off Sale (US Only)

If you haven’t picked up my books “A Modern Guide to Heathenry: Lore, Celebrations, and Mysteries of the Northern Traditions” or “Living Runes: Theory and Practice” you can currently enjoy 30% OFF through December 31, 2020 using discount code FORT at checkout direct from the publisher’s website: redwheelweiser.com. Please note that this deal only applies for orders being shipped for delivery to the United States.

As a reminder, my book A Modern Guide to Heathenry (2019) takes what I created in Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites, and Celebrations from the Norse, German, and Anglo-Saxon Traditions (2005) as a foundation and significantly expands upon it with more than 70,000 words of new material especially on devotional work, honoring the ancestors, and theological exegesis. It’s basically twice the word heft of its predecessor! Living Runes: Theory & Practice, however is a re-publication under a new title of my earlier work Runes: Theory and Practice book.

Newest Novena Book is Now Available

Good morning, readers (at least it’s morning as I’m writing this!). As promised, here is your update on the availability of my latest devotional.

Seven for Sekhmet is now available here. It joins the passel of other pocket-sized devotionals that I’ve been doing lately. I have a few more planned but probably not until at least mid-winter.

Now I’m off to drink some tea, make some breakfast, and get ready for my patristics class (at the ungodly hour of 9am lol). enjoy your day, everyone.

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Coming Soon…

I had my start as a polytheist in service to Sekhmet so this volume is a particular pleasure to add to my novena series. It’ll be out soon. I’ll post about it here, but take a look at the gorgeous cover courtesy of L. Perkins. (the image is the same as the Sekhmet prayer card she did for me several years ago). Since I retired ‘When the Lion Roars,’ I rather consider this its replacement, smaller, more compact, but it will do. 🙂

New Book Release: My Novena Book to Anteros is Now Available

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

I have paid my debt to this God. The small novena book I promised Him is now available. Like my other novena books, it is pocket-sized and offers nine days of prayer to Aphrodite’s son, Anteros, the God of requited love. It’s now available here. Thank you, Wynn, for coming up with the title. ^_^

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Norse Mythology for Kids

A few years ago when visiting Denmark, I was able to spend part of a day with Mathias Nordvig, who showed my oath-sister and I a lovely time around the Moesgard Museum, and then lunch afterwards. At the time he was still deep in his student studies in pursuit of his Nordic Mythology PhD from Aarhus University in Denmark, but since then he has earned the degree and now teaches Viking studies, Norse mythology, Scandinavian folklore, etc. at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His work tends to combine deeply thoughtful academic research, with an immense enthusiasm for the subject matter. Later this month his new work: Norse Mythology for Kids: Tales of Gods, Creatures, and Quests (Affiliate Disclosure) will be releasing on June 23.

The concept of the book evokes to me fond memories of the classic D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths which I enjoyed as a child. While I’ve not had a chance to check out this new book yet by Dr. Nordvig, I do know that in addition to the 20 selectively chosen stories from the myths, and stunningly beautiful illustrations by Meel Tamphanon, the book also comes with language lessons with a glossary and pronunciation guide, and a bit of a spotlight on some of the familial connections between the featured gods. Even sight-unseen I’m going to recommend that those of you with children should definitely check this book out. Keep in mind this is not a religious text, but looks to be shaping up to be a lovely introduction to some of the most well known myths and stories.

 

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OUT OF PRINT

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I have several book titles that have now been retired, this means they are officially out of print, and any product at retailers is being sold from any remaining inventory they have, or they are re-selling used product. If you want these books, and do not have them, you better pick them up them sooner, rather than later.

OUT OF PRINT

 

 

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In the case of both Whisperings of Woden and Walking Toward Yggdrasil, this content is also included with additional material in my book He is Frenzy: Collected Writings on Odin, however the German language content of Walking Toward Yggdrasil is not present in any other form.

Root, Stone and Bone, as well as Sigdrifa’s Prayer will be re-printed in a new edition.

[Updated for clarity] Excerpts of content from the other retired books may eventually be seen in other works, but if you want to enjoy the retired works’ complete content, these out of print books will be the only way to grab them.

Living Runes and A Modern Guide to Heathenry for 30% Off

One of my publishers, Red Wheel / Weiser Books is having a sale of 30% off their entire inventory, plus free shipping for those in the continental United States. So for those who like a deal and who have been waiting to pick up Living Runes, or a Modern Guide to Heathenry, now is your time to act and increase your book hoard. Better act fast if you’re interested, the deal expires on April 14, 2020.

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