Archives For Western Esotericism

“Magic and religion are ultimately experiential in nature and should be treated as such.” – Nevill Drury

It has been announced that Australian art publisher and writer Nevill Drury passed away on October 15th. Drury co-wrote the first serious overview of Australian Paganism, “Other Temples, Other Gods,” published in 1980, and is the author and editor of several books exploring history, shamanism, magic, and modern Paganism. Some of his most recent works include “Pathways in Modern Western Magic,” as editor, and “Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic.” You can see a full list of publications at his web site.

Nevill Drury in 2006.

Nevill Drury in 2006.

“He is one of the most prolific authors in Australia on contemporary occultism and Paganism. He co-authored a defining early work “Other Temples Other Gods” (1980) on occultism and magical practice in Australia, directed a film “The Occult Experience” and wrote a key work on Rosaleen Norton, a Witch who lived in Sydney Australia in the early 1900s. He was awarded a doctorate for his work on Norton, and authored many other books on magic, shamanism, and related topics. He will be sadly missed.” – Douglas Ezzy, author of “Sex, Death and Witchcraft: A Contemporary Pagan Festival”

For many Pagans and occultists of a certain age, one of Drury’s most famous contributions to our movement may be his involvement in the 1985 film “The Occult Experience,” of which he was co-producer, researcher and interviewer. That documentary was many people’s first glimpse of Pagan practice outside of books, and included luminaries like Selena Fox, Margot Adler, Alex Sanders, and Janet Farrar doing ritual on camera.

Nevill.2013.Lesley Drury2.corrected_72dpi“This was a wonderful experience for me and came on the back of a television series on holistic health that I presented on ABC-TV in the early 1980s. I was approached by Sydney-based documentary-maker Frank Heimans to plan a 90-minute television programme on occult beliefs and practices around the world and Frank managed to raise $350,000 to finance it, which at the time was quite a lot of money. We filmed in Perth, Western Australia, where there were several Wiccan covens and also in the Yanchep caves north of Perth where a group of local enthusiasts carried out rituals based on ancient Egyptian magic – that made for some spectacular visual imagery. We also filmed a group of Sydney-based Christian fundamentalists ‘casting out demons’. However some of the most spectacular sequences took place overseas. We filmed well known American witch Selena Fox and her close associates conducting a ritual in the snow in Wisconsin; a wonderful, spontaneous ceremonial gathering of radical feminist Goddess worshippers in Oakland, California – including interviews with Z. Budapest and Luisah Teish – and a meeting with Dr Michael Aquino and his wife Lilith, key members of the Left-Hand path Temple of Set in San Francisco. We also filmed a shamanic workshop with Michael Harner and conducted an interview with Margot Adler in New York in the ritual space at the back of Herman Slater’s Magickal Childe bookshop. In Europe we visited visionary artist H.R. Giger at home in Zurich amidst his remarkable, hellish paintings. We also filmed an initiatory sequence with Janet and Stewart Farrar at their coven in Drogheda, north of Dublin, and visited the founders of the Fellowship of Isis at their Jacobite castle in Clonegal. Later we conducted an interview with Alex Sanders at home in Bexhill, Sussex and filmed him invoking an Aztec deity – a somewhat surprising variant on Wicca! – where he nearly set his pants alight with the flaming torches he was holding.” – Nevill Drury, on the making of “The Occult Experience,” from a 2013 interview with Ethan Doyle White.

Like many people involved in Pagan and esoteric practices, Drury was deeply invested in the arts, and enjoyed a separate career as a influential art publisher in Australia, co-founding the Craftsman House publishing imprint.

“After working in the Australian book industry as an editor for Harper & Row and Doubleday between 1976 and 1982, Nevill co-founded Craftsman’s Press with Judy Hungerford and Geoffrey King. Craftsman’s Press specialized in limited edition monographs, including publications on such artists as Justin O’Brien, Brian Dunlop and Lloyd Rees. But in 1985 a decision was made to change the direction of the company, moving its orientation more broadly into the visual arts – including printing, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design, jewellery and architecture – and making the books substantially more accessible, both in price and style. Nevill proposed changing the name of the company to Craftsman House but the essential focus remained the same: the aim was to produce high quality books on the Australian visual arts and publish monographs on the emerging generation of mid-career artists who had not yet earned widespread recognition across the country – something no other publishing house was doing at the time.”

You can read a full obituary about Drury’s life and works at his website. We thank him for his work and many contributions to our movement. What is remembered, lives.

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.

Pagan Federation banner.

Pagan Federation banner.

correspondences

Correspondences journal.

  • A new academic journal of Western Esotericism, Correspondences, has been announced.  Quote: “By providing a wider forum of debate regarding issues and currents in Western esotericism than has previously been possible, Correspondences is committed to publishing work of a high academic standard as determined by a peer-review process, but does not require academic credentials as prerequisite for publication. Students and non-affiliated academics are encouraged to join established scholars in submitting insightful, well-researched articles that offer new ideas, positions, or information to the field.” First issues is due in June, call for papers, here.
  • Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll is a thuggish Christian power-tripper who thinks he’s edgy because he writes about having sex with his wife. He’d be a huge joke were it not for his rampant (almost cultish) popularity in the Pacific Northwest. Now, the Seattle mega-pastor is attacking Twilight (because he’s oh-so-relevant) for sinking teen girls into Paganism and the occult. Quote: “…girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan.” No, this is entirely inane. Despite his Seattle-denizen ambient hipster facade, Driscoll is your typical evangelical social conservative who pearl-clutches over the thought of Paganism.
  • The creepy UK Pagan who was caught with a semi-undressed underage girl in the woods has narrowly avoided being put on sex offenders registry after the judge decided that the “sexual element” wasn’t sexual enough to justify his inclusion. Quote: “Sheriff Noel McPartlin said it was ‘hard to escape the view that him being naked in the room with the girl might suggest a sexual element [...] I am a bit hesitant but I do not think the sexual element is significant enough to justify placing him on the register.’” 
  • As a counter-point to the hysteria of Mark Driscoll, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision (the largest evangelical Christian relief organization in the world), suggests a culture-war cease fire between Christians and non-Christians. Quote: “We need to find a way to live in a pluralistic society without engaging in an arms race with those who are not Christians.”
  • Indian Country Today Media Network reports that a coalition of Native American spiritual leaders have signed a declaration opposing Canada’s oil sands and the new Tar Sands pipeline being proposed. Quote: “The statement, signed by more than 20 spiritual chiefs at a Sundance this summer in South Dakota, includes members of the Lakota, Navajo, Apache, Mohawk, Dine, Aztec and Ojibwe nations, spanning much of Turtle Island.”
  • Riordons Witchcraft Emporium in Australia wants you to know that they have a screening process: “Are they a borderline schizophrenic … or somehow mad? There are many vulnerable people in the world and you don’t want to make their situation worse.” Also profiled in the article is the shop Spellbox. Both establishments take pains to stress that they aren’t like Harry Potter, and they aren’t “New Age.”
  • Counter-cultural magazine Arthur has announced its return, featuring many of the magickal luminaries that made it such a hit in the first place. Quote: “Arthur’s gang of idiots, know-it-alls and village explainers are back, from Bull Tonguers Byron Coley & Thurston Moore to radical ecologist Nance Klehm to trickster activists Center for Tactical Magic to Defend Brooklyn’s socio-political commentator Dave Reeves to a host of new, fresh-faced troublemakers, edited by ol’ fool Jay Babcock and art directed by Yasmin Khan.” I suspect that this news will excite a certain portion of my readership.

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.

Three personages who’ve had an impact on our interconnected communities passed away recently: one a Wiccan Elder, and two scholars whose works have been cited repeatedly by Pagans, and indeed helped shape how many of us perceive ourselves. All three should be honored and remembered for their contributions, for what is remembered lives.

Mike Gleason (1951 – 2012): A beloved Elder within his community, Mike Gleason was an Alexandrian High Priest who distinguished himself as an early supporter of pan-Pagan festivals in the 1980s, and as a strong advocate for Pagan rights. This included serving as the head of WARD’s (Witches Against Religious Discrimination) Massachusetts chapter, the Witches Education League, and the Lady Liberty League. In addition to this, Gleason  was co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct  THINK! Magazine (1996-1999), and contributed to a number of print and Internet publications. You can read a selection of his recent book reviews, here.

“May those of us who mourn Mike’s passing take comfort in the memories of our good times with him and in knowing that his legacy within Paganism continues on in his writings and the many lives he enriched.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Mike Gleason is survived by his wife Cindy (Cynthia), his daughter Sheri Lynn, and his son Ed (Edward). Memorials are still in the process of being planned. His ashes are being interred at Circle Cemetery at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin. His family invites memorial gifts in his memory be made to Circle Sanctuary. May his spirit rest and return to us once again.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953 – 2012):  An eminent professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter, and co-founder of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotercism (ESSWE), Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is perhaps best known for his works exploring how esotericism interacted with fascist and extremist groups in books like “Black Sun,” “The Occult Roots of Nazism,” and “Hitler’s Priestess.” His most recent publication was 2008′s “The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction.” Sasha Chaitow of Phoenix Rising Academy remembers Goodrick-Clarke as “a gentleman, a fine scholar, and one of those teachers who always made you want to surpass yourself.”

“Through his work Nicholas expressed his great love for the history, culture and peoples of both England and Germany, and in the course of a distinguished academic career he brought his considerable intellect to bear upon their respective esoteric traditions. With his passing we have lost a wise and much-loved teacher, an incisive scholarly mind and a jovial and kind-hearted friend.”Hereward Tilton (University of Exeter), Wouter Hanegraaff (President of ESSWE)

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is survived by his wife, Clare Goodrick-Clarke, also a professor at the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism. In closing, Sasha Chaitow says that “my fellow-Exeter graduates and I have already concluded that the best tribute we can pay him is to try to  live up to his expectations and continue his vision of bringing the study of esotericism more firmly into academia.”

Anne Ross (1925 – 2012): While no official obituary or notice has been posted, I have received word from scholarly sources I trust that famed Celticist Anne Ross, author of “Pagan Celtic Britain” and co-author of “Life and Death of a Druid Prince” passed away recently. A former Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton, and teacher of lecture courses at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, Ross spoke Gaelic and Welsh, and her work had a huge effect on modern Druidry and reconstructionist Celtic traditions. Interviewed many times due to her theories regarding the famous “Lindow Man,” and oft-remembered for her brief appearance in the television documentary series “The Celts,” her work on the Celtic “cult of the head” is still the primary starting place for study on the subject.

Speaking from my own experience, I know that her work was deeply influential during a time that I was immersed in Celtic scholarship and voraciously pored over  “Pagan Celtic Britain” looking for clues to unlock the mystery of the past. Modern Pagan oriented works like “The Isles of the Many Gods” owe a direct dept to her scholarship. No doubt many obituaries and remembrances will be forthcoming, and I will post them here once they emerge.

May all these spirits be remembered, may their wisdom and work endure, and may they return to us again.

One thing is certain, the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting is overwhelming in its scope and it’s easy to get lost among the hundreds of panels, discussions, and lectures on offer each day. On Saturday I was lucky to attend two very thought-provoking panel presentations that should be of interest to Pagan and esoteric practitioners. The first was a sprawling forum entitled: “Demons In The Academy? Renouncing Rejected Knowledge, Again.” The panel centered on the study of Western Esotericism, and asked a central question: Is it possible to practice esotericism while also engaging in its research within an academic context? Also discussed were issues of interdisciplinary approaches to Western Esotericism, and the need to focus more on esotericism as experienced by modern pracitioners, not merely from a historical point of view.

Dr. Amy Hale presenting.

Dr. Amy Hale presenting.

The second panel I attended, Politics and Western Esotericism, explored extremism, both left and right, and its interactions with esoteric beliefs and practices. Papers presented here covered everything from obscure socialist authors to Portugal’s Fifth Empire. Perhaps of greatest interest were the presentations on esoteric extremism in Germany and Greece, these talks were at times comical in the absurdity, yet all the more horrifying when you realized that these beliefs are taken in deadly earnest by growing numbers of individuals. It was hammered home that esoteric extremism grows not from one isolated political ideology but from shared hunger for suppressed knowledge about the truth, a traditon of rejected knowledge that provides answers in times of social and political unrest.

Julian Strube, University of Heidelberg

Julian Strube, University of Heidelberg

Finally, I was lucky enough to attend a social gathering organized by the Northern California Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess that paired representatives from a large number of Bay Area-based Pagan organizations with visiting scholars. COG, OBOD, Solar Cross, The Troth, and several other representatives were there, and I ended up meeting and discussing religion, Paganism, and current scholarship with a number of delightful people.

Pagans socializing.

Pagans socializing.

Today I’ll be attending a number of panels presented or co-presented by the Pagan Studies group, and I look forward to sharing my impressions of them with you!