Three Cool (Pagan) Things For Friday

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Happy Friday everyone! Here are three cool (Pagan) things from the news to start off your weekend right.

How Will They Include the Footnotes? Den of Geek reports that the BBC will be making a six-part adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s landmark fantasy novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” The book, which posits an alternate England where magic was once practiced but has fallen into the realm of antiquarians and scholars, tells the tale of two magicians and magic’s revival.

jonthan strange mr norrell

“6×60 series, based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness. Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an England where magic once existed and is about to return.”

No further information has been announced, but the book is an utter delight, one that captures the thrill and dangers of rediscovering magic, while building an alternate England with delightful footnotes and references. I know a lot of people are looking forward to HBO’s American Gods series, but I think I might be more excited for this adaptation.

Scaring the Winter Ghosts in Austria: The Reuters photographers blog has a post up documenting the Perchten festival in western Austria, where townsfolk dress up as demonic figures to frighten Winter spirits and ensure a good harvest. The resulting photos are amazing, despite photographer Dominic Ebenbichler’s skepticism about the rites.

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang.

“The explanation goes back to the years about 500 AD. Back then farmers performed pagan rites to disperse the ghosts of winter to help bring a fruitful harvest. They thought it might work with terrifying masks which should scare even ghosts. And what is more scarier than the devil himself? Right, nothing! Even ghosts have to be scared by the devil.

In 2012 not much has changed. Of course we know that scaring ghosts is not going to work, but traditions are deep-rooted and somehow people still believe in the power of pagan rituals. And in the countryside there is nothing more important than a good harvest, so why not help a good harvest along by getting rid of some winter ghosts one way or another. Old habits die hard I guess.”

The Perchten are the entourage of the goddess Perchta, a figure associated with Holda, whose name means “the bright one.” Perchta performed a Santa Claus-like role, dispensing gifts in winter to good children. The Perchten are a remnant of her worship.

How Ren. Faires Changed Everything: Finally, Chas Clifton points us to the release of a new book, “Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture” by Rachel Lee Rubin that “reveals the way the faires established themselves as a pioneering and highly visible counter cultural referendum on how we live now—our family and sexual arrangements, our relationship to consumer goods, and our corporate entertainments.”


“In order to understand the meaning of the faire to its devoted participants,both workers and visitors, Rubin has compiled a dazzling array of testimony, from extensive conversations with Faire founder Phyllis Patterson to interviews regarding the contemporary scene with performers, crafters, booth workers and “playtrons.” Well Met pays equal attention what came out of the faire—the transforming gifts bestowed by the faire’s innovations and experiments upon the broader American culture: the underground press of the 1960sand 1970s, experimentation with “ethnic” musical instruments and styles in popular music, the craft revival, and various forms of immersive theater are all connected back to their roots in the faire. Original, intrepid, and richly illustrated, Well Met puts the Renaissance Faire back at the historical center of the American counterculture.”

Seems like a must-own for anyone interested in the development of American counter-culture, and the influence Ren. Faires had on the development of modern Paganism in the United States. As a young man I spent a few years working at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I think  those experiences were formative for the person I was to become, especially in showing how alternative religions and lifestyles were absorbed into one “faire family.” I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!