Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 9, 2011 — 47 Comments

I’m back from FaerieCon! First off, I’d like to thank all the wonderful folks who stepped up to do guest-posts while I was away: Sharon Knight, Star Foster, T. Thorn Coyle, Teo BishopLaura LaVoie, and Eric Scott. They all did an excellent job of providing interesting, informative, provocative, and inspiring pieces for you, and I hope you’ll follow them at their own blogs and projects in the future. As for me, I’ve returned to an avalanche of stories of interest to our communities, so I’m going to unleash the hounds in an attempt to get caught up.

That’s all I have time for today, expect a write-up of my FaerieCon adventures in the near-ish future. In the meantime, do check out my interview with Qntal’s Michael Popp at A Darker Shade of Pagan. As always, some of these stories may be expanded upon in future posts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Anonymous

    Re: safe satanic sex — Isn’t it wonderful that, in this country, anyone can write a book? And anyone can read a book? What happens after that is the legal responsibility of the reader — and possibly the karmic burden of the author. Any wilder implications laid on by the press should be refuted accordingly.

    • Pitch313

      I’m finding that phrase “safe satanic sex” compelling…beglamouring…offering a different angle on ritual magic and the great, greater, greatest rite. It’s so, I don’t know, non-satanic in it’s satanism…

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I haven’t encountered Luhrmann before, possibly because I only became Pagan in 1987. Can someone explain, in 25 sentences or less, what she did that was so offensive?

    • She was inducted into an English coven while doing ethnographic research on witchcraft. IIRC I think some people have found fault with her methodology or her conclusions; it’s been some time since I’ve read the book.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Chas Clifton talks about her “methodological atheism” but I thought that was the attitude an anthropologist is supposed to have in the field.

        • Thelettuceman

          Anthropologists are supposed to be able to set aside their cultural biases and accept things as objectively as possible. There is supposed to be some ethical consideration in the process of detailing other human beings, mostly a notable up-front attitude about your research. Not only that, it helps to show respect.

    • A phrase that pops up often in criticisms of Luhrmann is “betrayal of trust”. More specifically, she posed as a fellow believer among her “informants”, but then turned around and presented herself to the world as a detached, in fact unbelieving, observer. Luhrmann compounded this by insisting, falsely, that she had no choice. But work by such researchers as Timothy Knab, Barbara Myerhoff, Wade Davis, Nancy Sullivan, David Delgado Shorter, Edward Spicer, etc, all show that one can do excellent field work and remain objective but without “objectifying” the people one is studying.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker


    • Pitch313

      Luhrmann, I dimly recollect, was pretty harsh in some of her suggestions about why some folks would take up Neo-Pagan Craft and arrive at a conviction that magic acted effectively in the world as reason and science know it. Her phrase “interpretive drift” made and still makes me think of dark of night white line fever that takes the drowsy, fixated driver off the high side…

      I have never found Neo-Pagan Craft to invariably lead to such a white line fever of awareness or secular, scientistic rationalism never to cause terrible accidents of consciousness.

  • Thelettuceman

    Re: Fantasy/Christian.

    I think a lot of this image comes from the fact that a number bit of up-and-coming (and already established) authors are heavily vested in their Christian traditions. Brandon Sanderson is a member of the LDS church, and interjects a lot of those philosophies into his own books. He doesn’t preach, and in my opinion is a very good author, but you can read where a lot of it comes from.

    Likewise, areligious humanist wannabes like Terry Goodkind do the same thing, so I suppose there are a number of people who interject their philosophies into their writing regardless.

    I think the fantasy genre, founded in a Christian culture, looks through this with an overwhelmingly Christian lens. Not necessarily a proselytizing one, but decidedly Christian. It speaks specifically to the culture that it’s drawn from, which is still one of a majority Christian-background. Saying the genre is “overwhelmingly Christian” is inappropriate I think. But I think it’s fair to say (because it’s true) that the authors of the fantasy genre are “overwhelmingly Christian”.

    And my wondering is, “Does it matter”? If the fantasy is good, and it provides entertainment and an escape from the pressures of the day, does it really matter?

    • Fvrnite

      If it is good fiction, no it does not matter. However, if you know the evangelical Christian community, you will come across their dislike of Harry Potter, etc., for not conforming to their either-or theology. The Left Behind series, to be honest, are badly written melodramas but they sold well within this community.

      I have heard that there are Christian fiction versions of vampire fiction but I haven’t read any of them. Ironically they applaud C.S. Lewis for the Narnia series yet forget he also wrote a SF series with distinctly Pagan mythic elements.

      • deerwoman

        Regarding Christian vampire fiction: the Twilight Saga definitely falls into this category. Meyers is an LDS Church member and I think that certainly colors her writing – not just in the obvious “no sex before marriage” and “vegetarian” vampires theme but in subtler ways too. The series has been criticized for its weak and under-developed main female character and perhaps that stems from her particular Christian perspective as well.

        There was a scene in one of the books where the main protagonist gets to listen to a Quileute storyteller reciting the Tribe’s myths of origin. When relating of the important role of the wolf in their history, Meyers has him describe it as a “dumb animal” which is a perspective I do not think an actual traditional storyteller would have in relation to the their totem creature.

    • deerwoman

      In my opinion, it seems that while many fantasy authors draw upon fictionalized pre-Christian symbols and creatures, they still tend to force them into a very Christian mold, especially when it comes to the ethics espoused and displayed by the characters.

      Almost all of the fantasy novels and story lines I’ve encountered are still ultimately based on an epic battle between Good and Evil where Good always wins and peace reigns ever after. The dualism they present and the barely developed “Evil” characters in these stories mark them as Christian in my mind, even when they are dressed in fantastical garb.

    • Anonymous

      Disagree. It does matter. Reason?
      The most well written stories have influence over the human perception. If you have a best selling novel, and the underlying theme is Christian, even if there’s no mention of “god”, then it reenforces (within the culture) the Christian world-view.

      I would suggest that many authors don’t even realize they are writing Christian stories.
      This is a cultural mindset, not a religious one.

      However, if we can’t see more stories without dichotomous themes,
      “big bads” or “world saviors” then people will continue to believe (unconsciously) that this is how the world works.

      Many Christians will rally against certain stories.
      (I know there were protests about “The Matrix”, for example)
      when they don’t understand that the story reenforces Christian ideology.

      If the world culture continues to produce this kind of pseudo-oral tradition then humans will stay locked in a dichotomous infancy
      where everything is “good” or “bad” and there’s only 1 power behind the whole thing.

      (Maybe we should try to get pagan celebrities to come out of the broom closet…that would help in getting more pagan-world-view stories into the general public)


  • I don’t know why anyone would be surprised about a Rabbinical court trying a woman for witchcraft and, further more, accepting such evidence from a husband who may be biased due to going through divorce proceedings. But my question; where is the outrage? I guarantee if this took place in Cairo or Saudi Arabia, it would be all over the news. Another piece of “proof” regarding how backwards Muslim nations are. In the end theocracies suck (no matter who runs them).

    This may have changed but you actually NEED to go through the rabbinical court to get divorced in Israel. Oh well.

    Considering modern fantasy is HEAVILY influenced by Tolkien and he pretty much pulled all of his material from European pagan mythologies, ED Kain is right. That other bloke is probably just trying to rationalize why they like fantasy so much. It’s kind of like the one Christian guy I dated who attempted to convince me that sodomy with ME was okay because I’m a woman. Hilarity ensued.

    I’m glad you had a fantastic time at at FaeriCon and look forward to hearing your thoughts and stories.

    • Husband: She turned me into a bagel!

      Rabbi: A bagel?

      … … … …

      Husband: I got better.

    • The Bony Man

      Just a note, Israel is not a Muslim country. And Rabbinical is indicative of Judaism. Agreed that Theocracy in general sucks, though.

      • Doesn’t matter to me if it’s a Rabbi that stones the witch or the Imam, intolerance is intolerance, and a pox on all their religious houses.

      • I’m well aware. Perhaps my sentence was poorly constructed and should have read;

        “I guarantee if this took place in Cairo or Saudi Arabia, it would be all over the news as another piece of “proof” regarding how backwards Muslim nations are. In the end theocracies suck (no matter who runs them).”

        The lack of a conjunction throws the whole thing off.

  • The HuffPo article on Botanicas is great. Everyone should check it out. The article pays special attention to a Botanica in the Bronx that is owned and run by Spanish speaking Sephardic Jews from Turkey, and that also “has made space for the Pagan Center of New York, which holds witchcraft rituals and tarot readings.” Sounds like an extremely cool place.

  • All of the guest posts were valuable and inspiring, good to read.

    Cheerfully awaiting a report and photos of the fairy convention.

  • In other news, in Alexandria they covered up the Sirens of Zeus, for being “immodest and immoral.” I gave Jason the link a few days ago. For anyone in the article a while back on the danger to the pagan artifacts. First they cover it up, isn’t a far step to defacing and destroying, especially with other reports that I’ve heard about the massacring the Coptic Christians. 🙁

  • Pitch313

    I’m not getting very far in wrapping my head around the jump from divorce proceedings in an Israeli religious court to that same religious court trying one of the two parties for “witchcraft.” And taking seriously a religiously mandated death sentence. In the 21st Century.

    But, mulling it over, I believe in cartoons and civil courts adjudicating divorces.

    I suppose that I’m lagging in my lit crit theory, but I wouldn’t look at a literary genre as inherently derived from or reflective of any particular religion. Or of any particular historical culture’s mythology. Maybe it sounds kinda dumb, but “fantasy” seems like it would, as a genre, encourage making stuff up. You know, fantasizing.

    I mean, to say “Thou Art Deity!” isn’t the same as insisting that every talking dragon in every fantasy book I’ve ever read is Jesus Christ or Satan.

    And what about zombies???

    • But could we or could we not say that the father of modern fantasy is JRR Tolkien. His creations are so pervasive they’re considered cliche at this point. JRR Tolkien based most, if not ALL of Middle Earth, and its denizens on pre-existing mythology and fairy tales.

      I give the man credit for creating Elvish, and sure the Simarillion makes me want to knife my own eyeball out, but point blank if you want to know WHERE “fantasy” in its modern context comes from, it comes from him.

      • Jack Heron

        Tolkien’s an interesting case. He built a huge range of influences into his work from all over the place (academic study of folklore and mythology was one of his other lines of work, after all). So there’s stuff of pagan origin, stuff of folkloric origin without a specific religious context, a healthy dose of Christianity and absolutely piles of epic history. He’s proof that you can’t take a complex genre (or even a single book) and say ‘Look! It’s inherently pagan/Christian/Arthurian!’

        • Calico Blum

          I agree and would add that Tolkien’s own motivations were complex and sometimes at cross purposes. I say this as a Tolkien fan who does academic research on Tolkien for fun, but it is necessary to air out the dirty laundry sometimes: one of his major motivations was building a national mythology. This can be a great idea, but becomes at least potentially a lot more problematic when you remember that he was writing in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s (and yes, after)–decades where a rising nationalism on the part of many countries was one of several factors that led to the Second World War. Can his work be boiled down to participation in rampant Nationalism? No, not in the least. But neither can it be boiled down to a “Christian vision”–though there are undeniably elements of that too. And there are many Pagan elements as well, for Tolkien was a lover of history and despite his Roman Catholicism (perhaps even indirectly because of it) he had a love of myth, gods, goddesses, fantastical creatures and sweeping stories. Simply put, he had a love of fantasy and imagination. This is why, despite all the problems inherent to his work (and there are many) I still love it. It is also why, if he really is the Father of modern fantasy, we could have done a lot worse. Tolkien took the act of imaginative creation seriously, which is why his work is so broad and complex, epic in scope. And as for the elements we may find untenable or offensive? Luckily we don’t have to be exactly like our fathers if we don’t want to.

          • Jack Heron

            You’re quite right, although I feel I should defend Tolkien on the point of nationalism (not for you, I have no doubt you know this already, but for anyone reading who doesn’t). Tolkien felt that England lacked an indigenous mythology that wasn’t heavily influenced by the French or Welsh (King Arthur, after all, is influenced by both). He therefore hoped that his epic histories might in some way make up for this gap – so the nationalism was not a case of ‘we’re better than anyone else’, so much as a case of ‘we want what everyone else has’. He wrote some very grumpy letters about how the racial nationalism of Hitler and his ilk completely missed the point and perverted everything good about loving one’s country.

          • Calico Blum

            Yes, that’s right. I love reading some of his more grumpy letters to that effect, they are quite refreshing.

      • I’ll admit that the first time I read the Silmarillion (being only like 12 or 13 years old) I had trouble getting through it, but reading it again later as an adult I loved it. Not surprisingly, I love the depth of influence that the Finnish language and mythology had on Tolkein’s works.

  • The Haifa case should give pause to those who argue that Sharia courts in the US shouldn’t cause anyone anyone any consternation because we already have Rabbinical courts, so what’s all the fuss?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The Haifa story is indeed terrible, and futher erodes the Israeli conceit of being a bit of the West located in the Middle East.

      But rabbinical courts in the US act solely as resolvers of personal disputes, without the power to impose punishments, under general legal oversight that permits private mediation as an alternative to clogged courts.

      I don’t know if American Muslims would accept Sharia courts under the same restriction, or regard it as blasphemy, but that’s all they’d get.

      • A Muslim would regard it as blasphemy, judging by what I’ve read. Or they’d just ignore the legal restrictions and follow anyways. Belief is a tricky thing, especially when your religion is an entire social system covering all aspects of life.

        Though, I suppose we should be honest and at least praise the fact that the Rabbis tried and succeeded to find a solution other than stoning. For all we know, perhaps she was a witch. Yes, that their religion doesn’t permit witchcraft and that they would have death as the punishment is bad, but at least these Rabbis managed not to kill her, which is much more than any Imam in the middle east is willing to do. 😛

        • The way it’s written makes it sound as if these particular rabbis found a way around the death penalty here, but actually the ancient rabbis has already interpreted halacha (Jewish law) to make capital punishment almost impossible by making the requirements for it so strict that it could almost never happen. Also, the state of Israel only uses capital punishment for ex-Nazis convicted of crimes against humanity, which has only happened once when Eichmann was executed back in the 60s.
          Even if these rabbis had decided to condemn her to death, as a Bet Din they would not have been able to since under Jewish law such a sentence requires a full Sanhedrin and in any case they would not have had the ‘secular’ legal authority to comdemn anyone to death.
          I also think people have been too quick to jump onto the notion that somehow this ‘court’ is a legal Israeli court when this was no doubt a Bet Din for a specific Orthodox Jewish community where all the members of the community bring their issues before the Bet Din rather than the secular courts (this also happens in Orthodox communities in the US). In Israel such courts can cross over into what we would consider ‘secular law’ in regards to marriage (a fact which even most Israelis don’t like and it’s very common for Israelis to get married outside of Israel so that they don’t have to deal with the Orthodox control of legal marriages there).

  • It looks like someone has not heard the news about “Gentlemen of the Road”:
    Jews With Swords (a la the New York Times)
    Jews With Swords (a la Christianity Today)

    And for anyone who thinks that Michael Chabon is a one-off, there is also Aaron S. Rosenberg, author of at least three “World of Warcraft” novels and other fantasy related works such as the “Call of Cthulhu Game Master Pack”.

  • Kilmrnock

    I believe Mr Kain has it right. As far as the writers/subject matter of recent fantasy books /films .Just about all the recent ones have been pagan in their subject matter.Taken from Western European, Norse, and Medditereanian legends.
    His theories on Jewish stories/legions are rather odd as well. Kilm

  • Kilmrnock

    we have Rabbinical Courts here in the us? where?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      In New York City, a conflict within the Jewish community can be addressed by a beth din, a court of Jewish law. It doesn’t have the power to send anyone to jail or anything like that; it mediates the conflict.

      • Rabbinical courts in Israel also have very limited jurisdiction and powers. It is almost impossible, on paper, for a Rabbinical court to sentence a person to prison, and even that theoretical possibility is never exercised. It is important to realize that this is the case in a nation that is overwhelmingly Jewish in composition. In contrast, Sharia courts in Malaysia, a supposedly “moderate” Islamic country, can and do hand out prison sentences for such crimes as “apostasy”.

        Personally I am opposed to any forms of parallel legal systems, and especially so when religion (any religion) is involved. However, there is a long historical precedent (apparently) for the functioning of Rabbinical courts in the US with very limited scopes and powers. Personally I do not believe that this is a good thing, but precedent plays an important role in our legal system and for good reason.

        And I definitely don’t think that the existence of Rabbinical courts in the US creates a precedent that opens the door to Sharia courts. The examples of how Sharia courts operate around the world provides all the evidence that we need to justify saying that we should never allow Sharia in any form, whatsoever, on US soil.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I would not campaign for beth din establishment and, if one existed in my neighborhood, I would not submit to its jurisdiction. I am Jewish only by extraction (and the very orthodox would deny me that) and not by practice.

          Nonetheless I can coexist with it because it has limited power and helps clear cases from a choking court system. I am mindful that in parts of Africa Sharia has gained hold because colonial-derived national courts are slow, expensive and corrupt. Taking part of the burden off the system is OK by me.

  • Kilmrnock

    1 too find it very disturbing we have Rabbinical courts in the US at at , no matter how little power such a court would have . It’s very existance goes against the concept of a secular govt.for all the people.A Rabbinical court in Isreal is not surprising , being a declared Jewish state. But here , I find that unacceptable . Am i the only one that has a problem with this? Kilm

    • Jack Heron

      I don’t know about the ones in the US, but in the UK we also have courts such as these for arbitration purposes. The key fact about them is that submitting to their jurisdiction is entirely voluntary – you can choose them as an alternative to a civil court for certain matters of mediation if both sides agree. If you don’t want them involved, you simply don’t volunteer to involve them, so they have no power at all if you don’t want them to. In the same way, you can legally resolve disputes by sitting down with a mutual friend as mediator, it’s the same principle.

      • The key word here is “submitting”. Islam literally means “submission”. This goes double for women.

        The idea that Muslim women “voluntarily” submit to these courts cannot be taken seriously, and anyone who says such a thing is either incredibly naive or disingenuous.

        • Jack Heron

          Communities pressuring people to keep things out of the civil courts and opt for a religious one is indeed a problem – in theory there are safeguards to prevent this, but it’s pretty much impossible in practice.

          But the principle here is one that’s codified in English common law – that non-criminal disputes may be settled by any means mutually agreed upon. As I understand it, there is no way to prevent Islamic/Jewish/Pastafarian/Whatever courts being informally set up (without removing that right of people to seek mutually acceptable mediation, which is considered a highly valuable option), so if we’re going to have the courts anyway we might as well have supervised and approved courts.

          Again, these approved ones can only act within UK law. Given that UK law prohibits sexual discrimination, I would imagine that a properly supervised court could be surprisingly moderate. Whether this is in fact the case is a question I leave to further investigation.

  • Kilmrnock

    Rabbinical courts at all, we should have NO religius courts of any kind