Archives For Caroline Tully

A recent article in the Quaternary International suggests that the myth of Jason and the Argonauts took its inspiration from an actual voyage that occurred sometime between 3,300 and 3,500 years ago. A team of geologists, led by Avtandil Okrostsvaridze from Ilia State University in Georgia, report that they have found evidence that the Golden Fleece was real and was the product of ancient gold extraction techniques.

But did these scientists find definitive evidence? The Wild Hunt turned to a Ph.D. Candidate in the Centre for Classics and Archaeology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a London-based archaeologist and historian of religion to take a Pagan-friendly look at the paper.

Jason seizing the Golden Fleece from a fragment of a sarcophagus, National Museum of Rome. [Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen, cc. lic. Wikimedia]

Jason seizing the Golden Fleece. From a fragment of a sarcophagus, National Museum of Rome. [Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen, cc. lic. Wikimedia]

Mythos of the quest for the Golden Fleece
Although there are different written accounts of the quest, the basic myth is as follows. Before the Trojan War, Jason gathered together a group of heroes known as the Argonauts to sail to Aietis’ palace in the Kingdom of Colchis [modern day Georgia] to take the Golden Fleece. The fleece was thought to be from the famed golden-haired, winged ram of Zeus. Jason needed the fleece to restore his father as king of Thessaly in Greece.

Jason and the Argonauts faced many challenges – and fathered many children – during their voyage and received help from Gods and mortals. The most famous person who assisted Jason was Medea, King Aitis’ daughter. After they returned home, Jason sets Medea aside to marry another woman. Medea kills that woman and the children she bore to Jason, and then flees to Athens. Jason’s father takes the throne, but Jason dies, lonely and unloved.

Gold mining theory
In the academic paper, geologist Avtandil Okrostsvaridze stated that the quest was a real voyage to the kingdom of Colchis to learn how they extracted gold from rivers, streams and sand deposits.

The team of geologists carried out an eight-year study to test the theory. They compared geological data and archaeological findings with the myths the kingdom of Colchis. The locals in this region have been using wooden bowls to pour water and sand mixtures over thick sheep’s pelt for thousands of years. The sand, being lighter, washes out, while the heavy gold particles become trapped in the sheep’s wool.

This was not the first time that the “gold mining theory” has been suggested. Back in the second century AD, Roman historian Apian Alexandrine put forth this very theory. Since that time, it has been periodically entertained by archaeologists and historians. Yet this is the very first time that geologists have done a thorough examination to test the theory. Will it hold up to scrutiny?

Ethan Doyle White, is a London-based archaeologist and historian of religion currently engaged in PhD research at University College London (UCL). He has “a particular research interest in the pre-Christian belief systems of Europe and the manner in which they have been interpreted and utilised by contemporary Pagan new religious movements.”  He said:

Having read the original research paper, I’d say that the ScienceAlert article does a fairly good job of accurately summarising its conclusions. However, I must express some concerns regarding the original research paper itself. While I certainly would not go so far as to claim that the arguments presented are invalid, I am concerned by the fact that the paper has been written by geologists and then published in a geological journal. Now, without meaning to knock geology as a discipline, the study of rock strata really doesn’t provide the sort of theoretical and methodological basis needed to analyse the development and origins of ancient mythology, for which a blend of history, archaeology, folkloristics and perhaps also linguistics would be required.

Further, I would pay close attention to the statement in the paper’s acknowledgements: “The authors would like to thank the general director of the mining corporation “Golden Fleece”, Dr Mustafa Mutlu, which has funded this research”. I think that that is potentially very telling; a company with a vested interest in the name and concept of the Golden Fleece was funding the entire project.

Caroline Tully [Courtesy Photo]

Caroline Tully [Courtesy Photo]

Caroline J. Tully, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Centre for Classics and Archaeology at the University of Melbourne, primarily focuses on Aegean Archaeology. However, she is “also interested in the reception of the ancient world, particularly the reception of ancient Egyptian religion.” She said:

Like many non-Classicists, when talking about Classical Literature these authors are clumsy and rather cursory. I don’t think there is any point in trying to match the Argonauts’ journey with the alluvial paning for gold in Colchis using wooden utensils and sheepskin. I don’t think there is any point in claiming that the Argonauts’ journey was “real” – it may have been, it may not have been. As far as I’d go would be to say “The story of the Golden Fleece in the Jason and the Argonauts myth sounds like it may have been inspired by actual techniques of gold collection, using a wooden utensil and a sheepskin, by people who lived in the region of ancient Colchis and who still use that method today.

So, I’m saying that the description of a “golden fleece” in Colchis as it appears in the myth of the Argonauts’ voyage may certainly have been inspired by the actual method of collecting gold in ancient and modern Colchis – as Tim Severin suggested in 1984.  

When asked specifically about the geologists’ research approach, Tully said:

While they are rather cursory on their Classical literature, on the other hand, where the authors of this article have expertise, in their sciency approach to the subject, they seem fine and I would cite them myself. They seem to have done the work and know the topic. I, on the other hand, have no science background so I have to take their word for it. But the article is in a peer reviewed journal, which would suggest that it was of a reasonable scholarly standard. I would trust the authors in their expertise re the geology and mineralogy of Georgia / Colchis. What they’ve said in regards to the sciency angle seems reasonable to me.

I’m not saying their claims about the mythology are wrong, just that they shouldn’t bother trying to specifically match Jason and the Argonaut’s voyage – especially because they are not specialists in Classical Archaeology or Classical Literature… They should stick to their specialty – science.

Tully then went on to speculate more deeply on the theory from both a mythological or historical standpoint. She said:

Surely lots of Greeks went to the corners of the Black Sea. There were Greek colonies all around the Black Sea. That is well known. So, Jason and the Argonauts could be a sort of generic adventure that combines stories from all those sailors’ adventures. I mean there might be evidence of “Jason” over there in Colchis, I don’t recall any inscriptions saying “Jason was here” but there might have been and that would be mentioned in Severin’s book

Jason is quite interesting. His name comes from the root for “medicine” or “doctor” or “healing”, that sort of thing, the root being “Ia” as in “Iatros, or any mediciney word that derives from the Greek root “Ia”. thats “i”, not “L”. Anyway, there is talk that perhaps Jason was originally the magical one who had knowledge of herbs and poisons, rather than (or as well as) Medea.

What Tully is referring to here is a theory proposed by scholar Yulia Ustinova in 2004. In her paper titled Jason the Shaman, Ustinova claims that Jason’s mythical biography define him not only as a hero and a father, but also as having a “shamanic personality.”  She concludes, “The most important functions of a shaman are healing, retrieving of the souls of the sick from the malevolent powers, and escorting the souls of the dead to the nether world … These major elements, initiation period under the tutelage of a skilled shaman and seer, a horrible ordeal, healing talents and a voyage to the netherworld in order to bring back a dead soul and a magical object are present in Jason’s mythic personality.”

The Goddess Athena helping Jason's ship, terracotta relief, British Museum [Credit: Townley Collection, cc. lic. Wikimedia]

The Goddess Athena helping Jason’s ship, terracotta relief, British Museum [Credit: Townley Collection, cc. lic. Wikimedia]

Tully went on to say, “The idea that collecting gold with a sheep skin influenced the story of Jason and the Argonauts is perfectly feasible…” because, as suggested earlier, myths can be based in historical fact. She added as an aside:

Speaking of myths being real.. there’s a great new book out by Adrienne Mayor called “The Amazons.” Classicists have always thought the Amazons were completely mythical, but Mayor, who is a classical scholar, interprets archaeological remains of female warriors from around the Black Sea and into Central Asia as what probably were … the “Amazons” of Greek myth. Of course “myth” doesn’t mean “untrue”… but we mainly tend to think that the bulk of myth is just a story. But its perfectly feasible that myth has components of actual events in it.

While Tully believes that the geologists do make a reasonably good case from a scientific perspective, she said that their work would have been more convincing if they were “better writers” or knew more about “classical literature and archaeology.” Tully also would have liked to have seen a photo of one of the collected fleeces. However she also noted that this failing is not unusual in the academic world. She said:

This is a bit like the spate of articles that came out with varying degrees of dry sciency language when it was discovered that there indeed was a crevice that produced psychoactive gases under the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Because the scientists verified it.. but they aren’t very evocative writers.

In the end Tully summed up her discussion of the topic by saying, “Yes, it is a perfectly reasonable claim which seems to be backed by science. (Well, except that I think they can’t possibly say that it is “proof” that the Argonaut’s story was ‘true”. It’s suggestive that  some of the Argonauts’ story may have had factual components).”

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Pagan Studies Journal The Pomegranate Releases New Issue: At his blog, editor Chas Clifton announces that issue 13.2 of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies is now available online. There are number of interesting pieces, including two free review articles, one from Tamara Ingels on shamanic artist Joska Soos, and one from historian Ronald Hutton entitled: “Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History.”

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“During the past few years, a series of heated arguments have broken out among Pagans across the Western world, but much more particularly in North America and Australia, about the historical context of modern Paganism. This has been provoked by extensive scholarly revision of the traditional portrait of that context, which has caused dismay and anger among some Pagans. Their reactions have in turn produced similar emotions among some of their co-religionists and professional scholars (the two groups often overlapping). This review essay is intended to clarify the issues that are being debated; to examine the potential for Pagans to write their own history; to look at points at which the arguments may have provided useful historical insights; and to suggest a likely outcome for the controversy.”

I can already hear the partisans regarding Hutton preparing their talking points, but I do hope everyone reads the article first, as Hutton attempts to explore the recent trends of revisionism and counter-revisionism in Pagan history, notes places where he has changed his thinking, and suggests a way forward for all parties. He also, if I may indulge my ego for a moment, name-drops The Wild Hunt.

For those not terribly invested in the ongoing debates regarding Hutton’s work, let me urge you to subscribe to The Pomegranate, as subscribers also get access to fascinating articles like: “Robert Cochrane and the Gardnerian Craft: Feuds, Secrets and Mysteries in Contemporary British Witchcraft” by Ethan Doyle White,  “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult” by Mogg Morgan, and more. This is the beating heart of Pagan Studies, and we should treasure the work they do.

Witch School International Welcomes New Leadership: Popular online learning hub Witch School International has named a new leadership team. The new team includes  Lindsay Irvin, Director of Operations, David Moore, President of Tarot College, and Chief Technician Mike Ferrell will become Witch School’s new CEO. Outgoing CEO Ed Hubbard praised Ferrell’s skills, and said that “he has a deep understanding of how the Internet works, as well as working with global members. He will also be able to implement the move into other forms of interface such as tablet and mobile. WSI, Inc. is facing a wonderful future; Michael is the individual who will lead that effort.” In addition, Rev. Don Lewis announced that he was stepping down as Chancellor  of Witch School, though he will still take an active role in developing content for Witch School in the years ahead.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO is second from the right.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO Mike Ferrell is second from the right.

“Some people are asking if I will still be Chancellor of Witch School. The answer to this is no. This last year has necessitated many changes, and I have found that I cannot effectively be Chancellor of both Witch School and Chancellor of the Correllian Tradition. Witch School is independent of the Tradition with widely different duties best handled by Michael and Lindsay. I will however continue to be highly involved with Witch School. I will be continuing to provide content for Witch School, Tarot College, and Magick TV, and I am very happy in that role. In particular I have spent much of the last year working on the long-anticipated Correllian video lessons which will be making their debut soon, and which I feel will be a revolutionary development in their way. I am also working on a variety of other instructional materials for the future.”

As for Hubbard, who with the Rev. Don Lewis helped shape Witch School, he will, quote, “act as a support consultant, to ease the changeover to new leadership.” He will also remain active in the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. We wish them the best of luck during this time of change and transition.

Pictures from Patrick McCollum’s India Trip: For those of you who enjoyed my article about Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum participating in the Kumbh Mela, the Patrick McCollum Foundation has started to post photos of his experiences there.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

“We must be the example of what we want to see.  If we want our brothers and sisters to honor our planet, we cannot walk on flower petals and drink milk and honey.  We must instead choose the filthiest example of what we want to change and get down in the mud and clean it up.”Patrick McCollum, in a statement to Indian press about mucking trash in the Ganges River.

For more updates stay tuned to the Patrick McCollum Foundation blog and Facebook page.

In Other Community News: 

  • Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple are hosting a devotional blood drive at this year’s PantheaCon in San Jose. Quote: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” Interested parties should register, here, and use the sponsor code “PCon.” More here.
  • The excellent Invocatio blog announces that the Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) has launched their new website, AncientEsotericism.org. Quote: “The website is designed as a one-stop resource for pretty much every thing you might want to study in antiquity. (Seriously, the amount of things we have collected in one place is massive!) Even more, it is hoped that through the contributions of others working in the field the website will continue to grow.”
  • CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism, and Neo-Nazism, have issued an official statement of solidarity with the Idle No More movement. They also counsel non-Native/Indigenous/First Nations peoples against appropriation or hijacking the movement from its primary focus. Quote: “We urge our members and supporters of CAORANN to support Idle No More if their conscience leads them to do so. But we ask that non-Natives attend Idle No More events to support the Indigenous people, and to follow their guidance – to be there in solidarity, not to try to lead, and to listen more than they speak. We stress that this is a movement led by Indigenous women, and we are committed to making sure that remains the case.”
  • Ethan Doyle White at Albion Calling has posted the most recent interview with Pagan Studies scholars, this time with Caroline Tully. Quote: “Most Pagan Studies scholars seem to be in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, history and archaeology. I didn’t go to university in order to be a Pagan Studies scholar specifically, but to study ancient pagan religions and to compare them with modern Paganism.”

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

I’m out of town today, attending a doctor’s appointment in Ashland, Oregon, so I don’t have the time to do my usual exploration and analysis of news of interest to the Pagan community. Instead, I’d like to offer some links from across the Pagan media world that have drawn my attention. So enjoy, I’m hoping to hit the Oregon vortex on my way home!

That’s all I have for now, have a great day, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Welcome to a new supplemental feature here at The Wild Hunt, The Wild Hunt Podcast (you’re dazzled by the unique name, I can tell). This (hopefully) weekly podcast will take a deeper look at stories, links, and personalities that I feature in my daily updates. In this first episode of The Wild Hunt Podcast, we interview Elysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, and Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota about the Minnesota Pagan convention Paganicon, now in its second year. In the second segment, we interview Caroline Tully from the University of Melbourne about her recently-published paper “Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions.”

Elysia Gallo with her husband Tamas at Paganicon 2012. (Photo PNC-Minnesota)

Elysia Gallo with her husband Tamas at Paganicon 2012. (Photo PNC-Minnesota)

You can listen to, and download, the episode at Archive.org.

Segment Listing:

  1. Intro
  2. “Naiades” by Monica Richards from her new album “Naiades.”
  3. Interview with Elysia Gallo and Cara Schulz about Paganicon
  4. “Nereides” by Monica Richards from her new album “Naiades.”
  5. Interview with Caroline Tully about her Pomegranate article.
  6. Outro

Relevant Links:

I hope you enjoy the show, stay tuned for next time where I’ll discuss fascism and Dan Halloran’s potential run for Congress (not necessarily in that order).

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan scholar Caroline Tully has just posted a rare interview with historian Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft”, in which he takes the time to answer a recent resurgence of criticism regarding his work from within the Pagan community.


Ronald Hutton

“I have no interest in contesting the claims of modern Pagans to represent a secretly surviving tradition, as long as the practitioners do not attack me or offer any actual historical evidence for scrutiny. If they do neither, then they are effectively standing outside history and are not the concern of a historian. I regularly read articles by contemporary witches, expounding one system or another which they say has been passed down through their family or their initiatory tradition for centuries, and offering no evidence to support this claim. They are no concern of mine, and it is open to others to believe or disbelieve them as they will. Gerald Gardner’s Wicca was, however, based on specific historical evidence, above all the early modern trials, and academic framework of interpretation of it, which were very much the business of historians.”

I encourage anyone with any interest in Hutton’s work to head over and read the entire thing. There’s really too much to easily summarize, and quite a bit of insightful commentary concerning history and modern Paganism. In addition, Hutton generously lays out his plans for future books that may be of interest to modern Pagans, including works on witchcraft, and Britain’s pagan heritage. Thanks to Caroline Tully at Necropolis Now for making this happen.

Pagan Blog Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 12, 2007 — 5 Comments

Some quick announcements from the Pagan blogosphere.

Sia, from Full Circle Central, points out that there is a new discussion group started for the Gaia’s Guardians organization. Who or what are Gaia’s Guardians?

“Gaia’s Guardians is a loose confederation of professionals and volunteers who work on projects that benefit Mother Earth and her creatures. This is an inter-faith effort & people from all belief systems (or none) are welcome … This is a networking group for those who are already actively engaged in this sort of work. If you are new to community service, and wish to get involved, either visit Volunteer Match or write to Full Circle at info@fullcircleevents.org and we’ll try our best to hook you up with local efforts you can support.”

You can learn more about this group’s activities and history, here.

A soon to be launched web site called The Pagan Quill, promises to shine a spotlight on the best that the Pagan and occult blogosphere has to offer.

“[The Pagan Quill] is a writing project geared toward bringing the best pagan writers to the forefront of the blogging community. Pagan Quill will be a virtual environment where pagan bloggers much like yourself submit their works to be featured on the front page with hopes of getting their names out there, in the spotlight, where they deserve to be.”

If you think your writing deserves to be featured, send them an e-mail for submission details. No word on a launch date, but you can read their mission statement, here.

The occult group blog, Key 23, has re-launched as a occult web-zine/blog entitled Key 64 (featuring articles by Lupa, Nick Pell, and Taylor Ellwood). While New Zealand author Caroline Tully has launched a Pagan blog entitled Necropolis Now (with a focus on grave sites and death imagery within paganism).

Finally, I have launched a new blog at www.paganandoccultmusic.com to highlight and promote a new book I am working on. It will be a history of modern Pagan and occult music, hopefully to be published sometime in 2008.

“The ultimate goal of this work is to give the reader a short (yet hopefully informative) history of modern Pagan and occult music. A history that spans a nearly forty year period from the late sixties to the present day, and includes just about every conceivable musical style. We will discuss not only the musicians but also those individuals and groups that provided inspiration along the way. We will discuss the early pioneers of self-consciously Pagan and occult music, and finally, this book will discuss how all of these artists form an essential cultural component to the health and growth of modern Paganism.”

The blog will feature reviews, interviews, excerpts from the book in progress, and perhaps some legally released Mp3s for download. If you are interested in all permutations of Pagan music, why not add it to your reading list? You can also subscribe to the blog on Livejournal.