|The Official Certificate of Non-Fluffiness|
Issued by the Dark Pagan Office for the Protection of Morality and Proper Beliefs,
PS. Ok, I'm obviously making fun of something here. First, my website's immensely popular "Fluffy bunny" essay. The icon is mine (except from kidnapping the bunny from somebody's Cafepress). The Dark Paganism reference is pretty obvious to anybody who knows me and the Loki-Hades worshiper I live with plus the black cat.
I didn´t finish the Dedicant path till the end of the year, obviously. I still want to finish it though. I think I deserve some sort of recognition for my studies and efforts. But I have to admit things seem less straightforward to me now and I am unsure what the next turn of the path would be.
Let me give you some facts first, and then I can discuss the feelings. It´s pretty obvious that Our Druidry has almost no presence in Europe, especially continental Europe. (If you are wondering about the weird pin, forget it. That´s my own endeavour, soon to end.) Which means several things. Foremost, I need to compensate the need for actual, physical community somewhere else. It´s nowhere close to ideal, but there are some workshops, seminars and training possibilities in continental Europe that I can make use of. The Bonewits tour was enriching.
Second. Foreign contacts, teachers etc. are fine, but we are still talking about mostly distance work done in English. Therefore, local Czech community is of importance, too. We are launching a long-term project in which I am heavily involved precisely because i understand the need for a proper strategy if the Neopagan movement has to survive here. But that´s not going to bring much satisfaction to me in the beginning, and there are almost no resources (elders and teachers) here, obviously if I am considered a prominent leader myself. So that is a supportive reason for doing the distance training.
The rest is not facts, but rather spiritual and emotional omens. When I ordered that Dedicant pendant back in October (?), I didn´t quite expect that the goldsmith won´t respond at all. She is this way, but from the spiritual perspective it says something. in the meantime I made a real progress in my business plan. So I did a tarot reading, asking about the potential of certain projects and I got a very unfavourable omen for "teaching ADF style Pagan lessons". I also specifically asked "Whether i should do the dedicant´s oath with a pendant I choose from the wholesale catalogue, when it arrives." The answer was obscure - Home. In Czech "You´re home" means in slang "you got it". But perhaps it was trying to point me in another direction.
I am getting pretty sure that my patron Athena wants me to open a business. She is ending so many good omens and offers my way that I can´t miss the kick. Anyway, I was asking for support repeatedly. I have the feeling that i should wait for an omen and then perform the oath. I have no idea when that would be. I just follow the road signs. The truth is I need a stable income more than anything, not even my religious studies because the scholarly carrier is not an option here. I can imagine running an esoteric centre and doing religious studies as an endeavour of my own. I always wanted to be financially and materially independent as soon aspossible, and now the progress is good. I have a long-term relationship (two,actually). Skoll is afely on the private IT school with a shiny perspective and Torm has left the corporation for a better job abroad. He really looks so much better than when I had to drag him to the witch this summer and we were thinking he is cursed. My new friend, the very same witch, seems to know her shit well and I have a good chance of success with her a business partner.
Just don´t tell me i shold ask the gods what to do next. I am not a Quaker or Charismatic, first, and second I just don´t think it works that way. I think sometimes you have to keep up with the signs.
- Current Mood: contemplative
I submitted to our Archdruid my nomination for the 2nd category of Oak Awards (inspiring external project). I didn´t think about submitting anything at first because of my language weakness, but right now I really wish I receive some sort of recognition for what I have done. If I succeed, it will be a great honour for Davny obycej. The first involvement of a Czech Neopagan in interfaith on international level! When I volunteered to take care of ecumenism and interfaith (besides ADF and Hellenic Paganism) as my areas of duty on the board of directors, I was serious. We´ve just had our bank account opened and oher things will follow.
However, right now what we need more than ecumenical work is diplomacy, some kind or Arthur Shipkowski and the office of member´s advocate. I still need to finish the proceedings with Pagan Federation International and the situation is rather unfavourable... *sigh*. I´d better contact Art!
- Current Mood: cold
I'm working on this one! - Noira
[T]he idea, the point, of doing the Two Powers can be many. Some see it as a grounding and centering. Some see it as an act of unity [since] the folk [of the grove] see their roots and branches growing together, and some see it as an empowering, a filling of ourselves with the powers of the Cosmos, as I do. If done well, it can also be all three of these happening simultaneously.
- Rev. Kirk Thomas
During my Dedicant year I found out, to my pleasure, that the type of meditation we call Two Powers is widely spread in various Neopagan traditions and communities. The reason for this popularity, I think, is theological. What I do when I perform the Two Powers exercise is I attune myself to the cosmos, the spiritual structure that lies behind the visible world.
The microcosm relates to the macrocosm, thus gaining more stability (grounding). The worshipper becomes an embodiment of the greater model, becomes its center (centering).
The actual scripts an imagery vary from path to path, depending on how the cosmology is perceived, but the basic pattern stays the same. It occurs to me that cosmology behind this exercise is what makes it so varied and powerful. For example, I have been to a Dianic circle where, to my surprise, both powers (the heavenly one and the underworld one) were considered of female nature. It was somewhat unusual for me, after indulging in the correspondence lists written by other Dedicants, but it made sense – and it was a completely different feeling when we were reaching out to the silvery moon and the dark waters of life.
One problem I have found is that since this meditation is so common, one has already become accustomed to a certain way of doing it before joining ADF. For example, I did learn to ground from my base chakra, growing a root from there when I learnt Crowley Thoth Tarot many years ago. I have a different body-image, so I am somewhat unable to grow roots from my legs. Actually, it feels wrong.
On a practical note I have found out that, being a very rational, civilization bound person, I always feel a greater need to dip into the primeval chthonic forces. I feel more at ease doing this type of meditation outdoors, facing a tree, than indoors. One interesting point is that perhaps this typy of spiritual practice works better for me when dne in a group setting. When performing ADF ritual alone at my hallows, I omit this step and do a sort of cosmological attunement when I reach the point of recreating the cosmos.
Comment, correct, suggest editing! Do you think it is too long? - Noira
When talking Pagan theology1 I think it is important to remember that theology is, at its best, a human effort to conceive the Sacred by the capacity of our intellect. It shall not be mistaken for the Divine. In ADF, we are taught to address the Divine as three general groups of spiritual beings: the Deities, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. I will also discuss the category of Outdwellers which is significant for our theology in my opinion, even though the requirement passes it by.
My first subject of reflection is the term we chose to address the Divine in Our Druidry. Since there is no direct equivalent in my native language2, I made effort to come to understand the significance of this word´s choice. The dictionary definitions stress the aspect of relatedness which corresponds well with one of the basic tenets of our faith, the *ghosti nature of human-Divine relations.
The first observation of my Divine communion that strikes me is that our categories, the Kindred, are actually a continuum. There are demigods and heroes (deified dead), ancestral spirits that take on form of natural features and lesser local deities that resemble local spirits in the aspect that they are best reachable from specific places. And, lastly, the definition of Outdwellers is more functional than substantial (i.e. depending on the occasion and context).
In the world of our ancestors, everything was alive. One of the faults of many Neopagans is that in their romanticized view of nature they omit the heritage of ancient urban Paganism. The household where one dwelt, a safe place within ordered space, has always been the cosmological center, not the Nature.3
|Household Spirits (genii domestici||Favourable|
|Boundary Spirits (terminus)||Favourable if you are inside the territory|
|Wilderness Spirits (silvanus)||Ambivalent or unfavourable|
Actually, as my favourite pagan author has argued convincingly in Urban Primitive, there is no reason to believe the urbanized space is any less inhabited, quite the contrary. The most common type of a local spirit that comes to my mind is one that dwells in a specific man-made feature, like a statue, well or small sites of religious significance. (Our country is full of such features with its Catholic past and rich construction history.) Modern civil monuments are often animated, too.
I tend to identify Nature spirits with Local Spirits since, it occurs to me, the most characteristic feature of both is that they seems to be tied to a particular place. I live in suburbs of the capital city. Contrary to the idea nature spirits are roaming all around. I conclude they must be tied to the place for several dozen years as it was only in the 1960´s when the forest was wiped.
Some natural or even man-made features are quite prominent and that´s where we get close to a borderline category – local deities.
Ancestors are particularly close to us, because they were once like we are. Perhaps that is the reason why this category has been a source or dispute among various Neopagan theological schools. Our Druidry adopts a very ecumenical approach, including many possible conceptions of Ancestry. Therefore, I will try to stay off the argument and just shortly comment on my observations.
It occurs to me that understanding of ancestry in the United States is very specific due to the country´s history as the land of expatriates. There is not this kind of interest in genealogy and such in Central Europe.
Sometimes, it´s a good idea to concentrate on the purely spiritual understanding of ancestry, like when one has been cut off his bloodlines by being disowned, for example, or rejected. Rev. Hyperion of The Unnamed Path suggest gay men should find their way to the lineage of gay men who are their real spiritual ancestors. (It makes sense if you think a little about procreation principles).
Some local Neopagans take a fundamentalist approach, backed up by a certain New Age philosophy that we ought to worship our actual blood ancestors – even if they are still alive they ought to be paid religiously motivated honor. In response, my Norse friend Lokean writes that the ancestors were honored because they passed the tradition down to us, but we are all converts, therefore there is no point in claiming it is a „Pagan“ thing to honour your parents. (It´s a pretty darn Old Testament thing, adds my inner voice.)I personally prefer yet another understanding of Ancestors. In my own spiritual experience I perceive the spirits of the dead as tied to the land they once walked. I believe many souls stay close to our realm when they pass away to aid their loved ones. Funerary rites and taking spiritual care of the dying is of utmost importance in my opinion and I would like to do this work one day.
Deities are a complex issue, so consider my remarks to be only beginner´s notes on the way.
There are basically two types of deities, I found out in my Hellenic practice, greater gods and lesser gods. Greater gods have more important positions in the pantheon and they have a broader area of rule, sometimes being almost omnifunctional.
Lesser gods on the other hand have a tiny area of rule and a narrow specialization, but they are real experts in their thing. I have a relationship with some major goddesses, bu I´ve recently discovered the joy of getting to know some lesser known deities, Hygeia and Nyx.
There are also two Roman gods who seem to me as having a peculiar local spirits quality to them, Vesta and Ianus.
The liminal gods or psychopomps, like Hermes or Hekaté, share some common characteristics with the mighty dead and they are closer to us.
I can subscribe to Rudolf Otto´s observations on the nature of the Sacred. All gods, in my experience, have four faces to show to humans: mysterium tremendum (the fearful one), fascinans (the fascinating one), maiesticum (the majesctic one) and mirum (the wondrous one).
I continue to acknowledge the Black Madonna as a chthonic power, a face of the primordial Terra Mater (see Nature Awareness) and in the actual forms as a local Deity.I eventually found a Pagan understanding of Jesus, whom I consider a prophet, a magician and a deified Ancestor. Now that must sound rather heretical to the anti-Christian Neopagans, but from the preserved material4 it is clear that the Hellenes of that time pretty much accepted Jesus as one of the profétai. It was the exclusivist and universalist claim of Christianity that caused trouble. Also the notion of historicity.
I wonder why the training doesn't ask the dedicant for an understanding of this category, too, since it's so commonly addressed at various ritual and other occasions. I feel the urge to ask a simple question here: Who are the Outdwellers and how do they relate to the above described categories?
The answer to the first part is rather simplistic, they are those spiritual beings who are perceived by us humans as dangerous and unfavourable. (The notion of subjectivity is important here since if you omit it, you fall into the trap of erroneously addressing Outdwellers as „evil“, which they are not. Why? Evil is essentially a human-related category. It is an ethical category, at least in my worldview5, therefore it has to do with self-awareness and free will which are exclusive characteristics of man.)
The second part of the question, however, is a more complex one. I have the intuition that in relation to the previously described categories of spiritual beings Outdwellers can technically fall into all of them, as this table depicts:
Typically favourable or neutral. Have explicit public cult. Upholds the Order. Civilization gods and goddesses. The second and third generation of gods.
No explicit cult is known of in antiquity. Today marginal mystery cults. Challenges the Order or lives on its edge. Primordial forces of creation, the elder race of gods.
Good Ancestor Spirits (often tied to the household in some way)
Specters and Unquiet Dead (including, but not limited to, vampires, werewolves, succubus...)
Good Nature and Local Spirits (spirits of healing springs, sacred trees, household spirits...)
Spirits of wild, untamed nature dangerous to man that shall be appeased
Deities (see above)
Tricksters, first race of gods (see above)
The case becomes most clear in the case of mighty dead. In most historical cultures a notion of revenants was present, exorcism were done and precautions taken in order to prevent a dead person from turning into an Outdweller. On the other hand there was an equally spread worship of the good dead, one´s own ancestors who aid the living.
From my studies it occurs to me that even Outdweller gods were considered to be a part of the world order though they acted in a mysterious way. Sometimes the culture lost the reflection during its history and a deity was vilified and misunderstood, like in the Egyptian cult of Set. To discuss the concept of Order and evil in Pagan worlview is beyond the scope of this essay, though. I just wanted to demonstrate my understanding of ADF theology as it has been revealed to my by spiritual practice and analytical reflection of sources. There's much more to be said and I hope do deepen my understanding in the future.
1Or, as some prefer, thealogy or polytheology.
2I miss the aspect of being connected by blood or in a very profound way in the translation „spříznění“ (adj.) which does not imply such quality and „příbuzní“ only denotes one´s relatives. So I add “spřízněné rody” which means related clans.
3Since romantic philosophy was obviously unknown in antiquity.
4I was deeply influenced by The Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety. This was the first book that really opened my eyes for the Pagan world-view and I understood how it is different from the Christian one.
5I am aware that some consider evil to be a metaphysical reality.
- Current Mood: calm
I had the 1986 edition borrowed from a friend a few months ago, but didn´t finish reading it. I remember feeling slightly lost in what seemed to be outdated information. With amusement I read about Isaac Bonewits, who has “just started to organize something”. Also, seven years after publishing of Hutton´s ground-breaking historical work the whole debate about Wicca felt sort of funny.
The 2006 revision finally returned this book where it belongs in my opinion: to every Pagan´s bookshelf. Reading it from the perspective of a young Pagan convert and, possibly, a prospective religious studies scholar, I was both amused, annoyed and caught in some fascinating mind trips at times.
The places where Adler employs a characteristically apologetic style of writing were the sources of my irritation. It may be because I am an intellectual myself, or that I don´t find the forms of Neopaganism I´ve been confronted with particularly representative, but actually, despite my occasional raised eyebrow and furious mental dispute, I think the apologetic value in this book is what makes it so remarkable. This being said, I personally felt that she repeated the same points throughout the first few chapters (i.e. the defence of validity of polytheism, Paganism, witchcraft, ritual and magic).
Now, onto the highlights. I found very useful the outline of the contemporary Wiccan traditions. I appreciate a lot Adler´s contribution on the topic of the so-called “hereditary” or “family tradition” witchcraft. Her conclusions resonated with my own experience.
Unlike some other Dedicants (was it because they were male?) I have thoroughly enjoyed chapter three where she examines the upsurge of Dianic Witchcraft and the impact of Second Wave Feminism upon Neopaganism, which has been immense. The confrontation of the Gardnerian circles and the new, politically conceived Craft, while unfriendly at first, has created a new stream and ultimately transformed the whole Neopagan movement. In the addendum to this chapter Adler returns to the text after more than 30 years. She weights the history and concludes that the spirit of the 1970´s (“the time before Reagan, Bush and a host of other changes” - p. 229) was different from that of the contemporary. Pagan women of today have little knowledge about the feminist fights of their foremothers and little sense for that type of spirituality. Perhaps it is because “Women´s spirituality is now all over the place: books, workshops, rituals, and music. Some of this has nothing to do Paganism or Wicca. – ibid.” I cited this chapter a lot in my recent paper I submitted for the issue about men´s and women´s spirituality we were making in Dingir.
The discussion about trends in Asatru was very well done – and audacious, I must add.
As a scholar I was absorbed in the discussions on the institutionalization of the Neopagan movement and the rise of Pagan studies as a marginal, yet vital discipline.
The appendix itself is worth buying this book, so I would consider networking to be the second prominent value of Adler´s work. Even though it is U.S. based, the magazines listing, for example, is unmatched. Talking cultural biases, it occurs to that certain amount of my initial confusion from this book might come from its coverage. It covers movement unheard of in Europe, like Feraferia, Sabaean Order or Church of the Eternal Source while it doesn´t mention at all many remarkable Europe based organizations, like the Fellowship of Isis or British Druid orders – not to mention the varieties of Neopaganism in the Eastern Europe (though, to be just, Adler provides excellent summaries of many Pagan organizations in the appendix). Looking back at the book´s subtitle more closely, it seems to me though that this minor grievance of mine is actually irrelevant.
- Current Mood: complacent
To be honest, I had trouble completing this essay. There is so many side twists in the story of my Paganism that I can´t seem to find the right thread and weave everything into a pattern – what we so dearly call “the personal narrative” in religious studies. I personally like to use my own term, “personal mythology”. In many ways, my personal mythology avoids any patterns I have seen among Neopagan converts. I was raised Catholic, and yet I wasn´t. I was taught astrology and Tarot in my family and yet witchcraft was out of issue. I became a goth in my teens and there was something inherently spiritual about it. I read a lot of Christian apologetics and theology in order to come to terms with that tradition. Several years after I became an apostate, vaguely identified with Neopaganism, I discovered in sheer wonder that I actually didn´t know anything about the real religion I was supposed to be raised in, and I contemplated if the lack of it wasn´t the single issue that irritated me most as a teenage seeker.
As you can see, I haven´t found the real significance of my upbringing and how it influenced me in my quest for personal religion. Somewhat alike to the woman who once said: “Being raised Unitarian Universalist, I had no tradition to rebel against nor to sink my teeth into.” After I went to the university to study religion I became more appreciative of the fact that I was expose to various spiritualities at young age. The only thing I can say with certainty is that since I have joined ADF and started to study its programme on my own I became much more aware of spirituality in my life. It came in various fashions. When I contemplated the concept of patrons, those who have been with me for years already started talking to me in a much clearer voice. I realized I already have Patrons. One of them was sitting on my desk since I was eleven when I was given that owl statue from a classmate. When I tried to write liturgies I was confronted with the concept of Gatekeeper. My other patron told me she will do the job gladly for me. And that´s how this year has been for me, mostly. Just open your eyes and ears, the Powers are waiting out there for you to listen.
Studying helped me to categorize my experience and thoughts and I adopted ADF theology and liturgics as my own.
The perspective of the vast unexplored realms of spiritual world sends a chill down to my spine. I know I won´t proceed any time quick looking at how busy I am these years. Much of it has to do with simple demographics. Starting a carrier, having a committed relationship and pursuing material independence eats up the most part of my resources, and I realize the financial stability is a necessary thing for any kind of regular spiritual life, especially when there is no established Pagan religion around locally. My altar cost me a lot with all those tools for private and group worship, and I spend countless hours in papers decoding the ADF Core Order of Ritual in order to be able to do the ritual requirement.
I also burned out as a Protogrove GO and became much more realistic about my missionary zeal. When I joined ADF the summer a year ago, my major goal was to, with the aid of an international Pagan organization, establish a local congregation and serve as the glorious example for people and achieve the unthinkable, that is a functional Pagan community in my country. Today, I still think it would a nice thing to have one, but I am also more sure about my vocation which, at this time, is different.
I went through a lot of experience this year. Mountain locked in a spa for one month, I had much opportunity to think about the way I relate to my body and health; seeing my first academical achievements I became certain about my vocation; losing home and property to own relatives I appreciated the value of freedom and genuine friendship.
I found teachers, both in physical realm, books and ideas. The Dianics taught me about the importance of rites of passage and the Divine Immanence, my Norse Voodoo priestess directed me towards the inspirationalist end of the lore vs. spirit argument. I met our vicearchdruid and founder in person within the range of just a few months. I went to an interfaith encounter to face my own anxieties and returned stronger in my understanding. I released all hell loose when I publicly signed myself under a complaint about local Pagan issues. Then, following what I have learnt, I mediated between both sides. Lastly, I met Pagan academics who parted their ways with the institutions and communities of their faith as a result of mindset transformation. I hope to stay. I might wander into the halls of academia, away from Pagan leadership and community, I might run into a prospective business, I might join other Pagan traditions in order to satisfy specific spiritual needs or because they become reachable locally. I will most probably continue to take part in interfaith initiatives and mediate between the Pagan world and the people of Sofia. But I am certain ADF is the framework for me.
Right now, I would identify as “universalist Hellenic (Hellenic in the historical sense of the word) moving towards the inspirationalist end of things, practicing ADF ritual framework as solitary and in the family circle of our polyfamily”. Let me expand on that. The liturgy I developed for household High Day rituals we use now draws from Greco-Roman culture without using the contemporary reconstructionists´s contribution. I prefer to slowly build up my own understanding where fundamentalist reliance on primary sources interpreted through contemporary cultural bias of ethnicity has no place. I rather let myself expose to the ancient names and images and open my eyes and ears to what the Powers what to tell me. And it has worked remarkably for me. (Indeed one of my biggest issues with many recon groups is that they shun anybody who claims to have prophecy.) I address the Kindred in Latin since I speak Latin better than Greek and I embrace the Roman categorization of spirits. I have worked with Hekate and Ianus as Gatekeepers and sacrificed to Vesta, Hera, Hygeia and Athena. I also have certain affinity to the Hellenic Egyptian cults and I remain a devotee of Bast.
- Current Location:Prague, Czech Republic
- Current Mood: calm
- Current Music:quiet
I must say I have a bad personal history of oaths, or perhaps more broadly, formal statements regarding faith and duty, like confessions. I was a practising Catholic (more less) till my early teens, and one of the key steps in my apostasy was perhaps the last time I went to confessions. I was around twelve, I think, and I went to this convent with a 24/7 confession service - booths with light signals, which made me wonder, really since it looked all so modern - and I confessed to what seemed an old monk with very little, if any, idea of a teenager's life. I told him something I regretted, and he went on a sermon on "how it's not the time yet for me and the boys". It turned out to me stupid and insensitive and I never went back, even though I longed intensely for spiritual guidance.
My trauma with oaths and such is that I remember wayyy to well how it feels to say things you don't really mean, being pressed into it. And the feelings of guilt, I have them too, they occur under the most stupid circumstances.... well, some of you may have heard that the local Pagan scene here is not exactly splendid and with some concrete issue the word "cultism" springs to mind. I attended twice a certain retreat, surrounded by a great deal of secrecy, and signed pseudolegal forms and pseudopromised that "I won't speak to anybody outside about anything that took place here."
Well, I did. I spoke to a therapist, because after this event I was really bad. I thought that my feelings of guilt, "betrayal" and shame is the first sign that something is really wrong here.
Blah, that's not what I was going to talk about.
Or maybe yes. I have issues with this requirement, but I think I am on a good way to solve it. I sent a letter with design to one jewel smith who will make the Dedicant pendant for me. I wanted to create it myself, for reasons of specialty, but also for more mundane (arcane?) reasons which are that I cannot wear any jewellery but from this very smith. Everything else just mysteriously breaks, gets lost et cetera. I guess it's the Mars opposition Uranus....
I gave much thought to this pendant and the related Oath. The requirement asks for something "ADF specific" and there is one ADF concept which I like very much and that is the Treefold Duty: Virtue, Piety and Study. That is something I can swear upon. I want these words in Latin engraved around a stylized tree in a circle, which stands for Druidry, ADF and some other things I guess. On the backside, I wanted to have the cup of Hygeia, who is my recent Divine date and a very tolerant lesser deity.
I was thinking hard what symbol or Deity to prefer, and it occurs to me that best choice would be something less "theologically controversial" and something that stays relevant for me in future years. Looking on my health I think this is a suitable choice. Patrons may change, but... also, the symbol (everything depicted, I guess) will certainly charge the pendant with a specific energy. I need to make sure it's a type of energy that runs smooth. I mean, no offence to my patrons, but both the Owl-Eyed lady and the Keeper of the Crossroads tend to get me in confrontational situations by empowering me with a their gifts*.... which help me immensely, but. But. Lesser deities tend to have a rather narrow fieldwork which on the other hand guarantees they are used to getting along with the others.
I have more patrons, I know, but you can't stash it all into a single pendant, not to mention that every stupid letter I wnat to have done adds to the final cost. Since the new statue and the ghost cat running around at home I don't need any more Bast presence around :) BTW our physical cat is in a much better mood since the arrival of her new friend. I will want to get some statues of Hera and Isis, but I am not sure how would they all get along. My primary patrons have cooperated in Noira, ltd. for a long time now, so long that I almost lose the sense of two deities and perceive them as one. Seems they get on very well. I will have the names Pronoia and Enodia made into sigils on the back of the pendant.
I am looking forward for the goldsmith to write back to me!
* - I wonder what some other people, like the Lokeans, would do!
- Current Mood: thoughtful
This book is based on transcripts of university lectures, a course in comparative mythology, and it shows. It reminded me of one similar work, The Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety by E. R. Dodds which was also written from a successful series of lectures. The difference with Dodds is that he supplied his text with an exhaustive list of footnotes, which are not found in Comparative Mythology.
Unlike Dodds's at times highly intellectually demanding style, Puhvel employs a rather quick-paced self-confident, witty1 style of writing and also a rather quick tempo. At many places the author expects knowledge of various fields, e.g. etymology, history of religion, classical languages.
This is definitely not a 101 book or an introductory work to the topic of ancient pagan religions. I believe that it would easily scare off a student with no previous background in history of religion or general college-level humanities, who are, however, in a majority if we can trust the research available on the topic.2 For these students, this book is definitely a challenge and they will have to look up references.
What Puhvel is doing in the book is classical comparative scholarship. In order to follow, the reader has to be solidly knowledgeable in the raw material from which the author derives his conclusins. By “raw material” I mean that one has to know what are the Eddas and Vedas are, who Snorri and Saxo are and other such things, because Puhvel doesn´t spend a minute explaining that to you. Currently in 3rd year of Religious Studies, I still have a very vague idea about some of the cultures and myths he treats throughout the book.
I am glad that I made it through this book, because first it allowed me to add a bit here and there to my knowledge of Pagan religions and, second, because it´s the only IE studies book from the list that has been translated to Czech. If somebody came to me for advice, I would sincerely recommend picking up the Pennick´s introductory book if they know some English or perhaps trying Dumézil´s collected works, which have been translated.
- Though his jokes are probably only amusing to his students and colleagues.
- For example Margot Adler has found that the most common professions among Pagans were IT specialists and engineers, and this result has been confirmed by my personal observations.
- Current Mood: cold