Some of you know about this already, but for those who don’t, I’ve recently been published among a host of other excellent authors (including a few of my fellow podkin) in the latest release from Misanthrope Press. It’s called Etched Offerings: Voices from the Cauldron of Story, and features dark fiction with a magical, pagan-y, or generally metaphysical bent. My story is called “Wolves,” and deals with an ice storm, a teenaged ghost, and an old man who really likes hot dogs with mustard. Oh, and the titular wolves appear at some point, too.
Misanthrope Press has been putting out some really neat anthologies lately, including this one and Children of the Moon, a werewolf compilation. They’ve also got a great dark speculative fiction magazine called Title Goes Here that is worth checking out.
Okay, shameless plug done! Go take a peek at these stories and let me know what you think!
I know there are at least a few folks who read the blog or listen to the podcast and who also enjoy wordsmithing in a fictive vein. In case you haven’t heard, Misanthrope Press is holding an open call for submissions of short fiction to be included in their upcoming Etched Offerings: Voices from the Cauldron of Story pagan fiction anthology. They’ve extended their submission deadline to the end of April, so I highly recommend you put together your best short story with touches of the magical, the mythical, and the metaphorical and send it over to them for consideration. Here are some of the details from their website:
“If you are reading this anywhere other than www.misanthropepress.com, we urge you to visit our website and view the full guidelines page. We have had to reject several submissions that did not fit our intended theme because people didn’t fully review the guidelines first; we don’t want you to waste your own time by being another one. Etched Offerings: Voices From the Cauldron of Story is a Pagan religion themed short fiction anthology. We are seeking stories about, or relevant to, contemporary Pagan paths and lifestyles, regardless of tradition. Stories about the gods and goddesses, about modern Wiccans, witches, shamans, and other magickal practitioners, as well as fantasy stories of myth and magick are all welcome…
Stories that retell existing myths and legends are acceptable, but there needs to be an original twist or fresh perspective in the telling…
Stories not strictly about Pagan topics, but featuring Pagan characters are very welcome…
We are not looking for stories that focus too heavily on how difficult it is to be Pagan in our society. It’s a valid issue, very much so in some geographic regions, but it’s not what we want to focus on in this anthology. We’re looking for stories that celebrate the joys and rewards of following a Pagan path, not ones that lament the challenges we face. If your character faces such a challenge and overcomes it, and your story focuses on the triumph of that, that’s acceptable. We won’t, however, accept many stories of this nature, so keep that in mind when submitting.
Along these same lines, while we will potentially accept a very small number of stories that deal with the clash of religious beliefs and/or groups, we won’t be accepting any stories that directly criticize or bash the beliefs of another group. It’s a fine line, we realize; if you’re not confident in your ability to walk it, pick another topic for your story.”
Full guidelines are available at the Misanthrope Press site, so please head over there and throw your ink-stained hat in the ring!
Yesterday, when I went to the mailbox, I pulled from amidst the circulars and credit card pre-approvals the always-entertaining J. Peterman Catalog. For those who don’t know anything about this catalog, it’s basically a clothing and accessories shop with its ad copy in the form of mini-travelogues. The company’s charismatic founder, J. Peterman, allegedly visits exotic locales and has wonderful adventures, then brings back inspirations for different lines of shirts, dresses, hats, and fragrances. He’ll spend a summer evening in Chile camped out in the Andes and come back with a rugged but stylish belt. He’ll recall a wonderful oyster dinner at a café in Paris and design a dress after his dinner companion’s outfit that night. And so on. The company is also fairly famous for being Elaine’s job on Seinfeld for a few TV seasons.
The clothing is expensive, though it certainly looks nice and has an air of romance about it. But that’s not really what I’ll get into here today. As I walked up my driveway, I flipped open the catalog to a random page, and found an interesting womens’ top with the following description:
The Crystals of the Sabbat are being polished.
The cry for more myrrh is heard.
An open call for fire dancers is taking place.
The healing masters are calling their travel agents.
They’ll be outdoing themselves at the Mabon Pagan Autumn Festival this year.
So what are you wearing?
Something exotic from India perhaps?
Vintage Pagan Embroidered Jacket (No. 2803). Tie front closure. Which means you can keep it tied or, depending on what the ceremony calls for, open. Embroidery continues along front, short sleeves, shoulder, yoke, and hem. Black piping on sleeves and around neckline. Very casual and easy. You can wear long sleeves under it.
And you know how good pagan looks with jeans. Imported.
Hopefully the scan of the catalog page above will let you see this advert in all its glory, but I think you get the gist.
I’m not going to get on any high horse here. I’m not offended by the catalog or the company. In fact, I am pretty tickled by it. Fire Lyte posted a blog entry yesterday about fear-mongering in the Pagan community, and I thought that this ad was a rather serendipitous arrival as I pondered on his points. While I don’t take a hard stance on Jason Pitzl-Waters’ Wild Hunt Blog (I’ve never noticed the paranoia Fire Lyte mentioned myself, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not there as an undercurrent). Fire Lyte’s broader point about the persecution complex prevalent in some Pagan circles seems valid to me, though. If I’m being honest, I experience almost no persecution, despite being in the Bible belt and regularly attending a church with people who know I’m not Christian and have magic books. Sure, hot button issues flare up from time to time, but they mostly tend to be ideological (such as the Creation vs. Evolution debate) rather than religious (though I readily admit that one of the first five questions a new acquaintance asks is “So where do you go to church?” in this part of the country). But I just don’t see the witch-hunting that seems to be implied in many cases.
That’s not to say there aren’t a number of folks genuinely experiencing some kind of enforced closeting or living in a state of anxiety over their belief system. I know there are. But I don’t know anyone who’s lost a job due to religion, myself, unless they made a big deal out of it and generally became a pest or nuisance. I’ve visited federal prisons (not as an inmate, if you’re wondering) and generally seen a very pluralistic attitude toward religion. In fact, it appeared as though religion was encouraged no matter which branch or denomination it was—copies of the Quran, the Bible, the Talmud, Buddhist texts, and even a “new age” book or two all sat on the rolling library cart.
What I’m really getting at is the other side of this particular coin. While there are plenty of folks upset over being hounded by Christians and conservative groups and bemoaning the presentation of witchcraft on “Bones” as a bleak cult phenomenon, I think there are ever more positive images of Pagans, witches, and magical folk surfacing in the world. The J. Peterman catalog is one example of someone taking the stereotype of the “hippie witch” and playing with it to create a little romance and allure—all in the name of capitalism, of course. I’m sure some would accuse this catalog (or me even) of “Uncle Tom” passivity over the commercialization of sacred traditions, but honestly I’m just pleased as punch that they referenced one of the much-less discussed holidays on the general Pagan calendar (though it’s not on my personal calendar, but that’s beside the point). Anyone will mention witches and Pagans at Halloween—who talks about Mabon, though?
I’ve noticed that this sort of “popular Paganism” has been surfacing more and more, which is rather heartening to me. On a Simpsons episode recently, Lisa temporarily joins a Wiccan coven, then stops the town from engaging in a full-on witch-hunt. An episode of Futurama from a few years ago showed main character Leela wishing to be a witch, but only “As long as I get to hurt people and not just dance around at the equinox.” I even seem to recall an episode of the animated Batman series from the 90’s where Batman needed the help of a Wiccan coven to solve a case (why is it that cartoons are so dang progressive?). I’m not saying that I think all of these portrayals are accurate, but they are all positive (Leela’s desire to be a “wicked witch” notwithstanding—she does portray non-wicked witches in fairly benign terms).
I don’t usually go into posts like this here at New World Witchery, and I don’t plan to make a habit of it going forward. I just found the lovely coincidence of the catalog arriving just as I was thinking about Fire Lyte’s post to auspicious to pass up. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Do you see Pagans, witches, animists, and other magical folk as persecuted? Have you experienced outright persecution in your life (not a fear of it, but actually losing custody of a child or getting fired from a job because of it)? Do you see popular examples of paganism elsewhere? Do you think the public perception of Pagans is going less from “scary weirdos” to “funny eccentrics” as I do? Please leave your comments and your thoughts!
Okay, enough op-ed for the day from me! Thanks for reading!
P.S. To all you wonderful folks who have commented or emailed and not received responses, I promise I’ll be getting back to you soon! Sorry for the delay!
In this show, we spend some time trying to pin down that elusive word, “witch,” and figure out just what makes a person fit that term. Then, in the second half of the show we have an excellent pair of guests, Dr. Brendan Myers and Juniper from the Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow. Plus, we have a reminder about our current weather-lore contest.
Cory review’s Chas S. Clifton’s Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca & Paganism in America.
I’ve just finished reading Chas S. Clifton’s Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca & Paganism in America this morning, and I thought that as his topics and my own intersect somewhat I might offer my take on his work. First of all, I only recently learned who Mr. Clifton was through another podcast, T. Thorne Coyle’s Elemental Castings. She was part of a panel discussion at the Florida Pagan Gathering in 2009, and Mr. Clifton was on that panel as well (other guests included Gavin and Yvonne Frost and Margot Adler). The entire discussion can be heard at Ms. Coyle’s website, here. What convinced me to read Clifton’s book was that in the panel, he spoke as an academic, but also a participant, and he did both with great skill.
After reading his book, I am inclined to think that his personality on the podcast is very much the same personality he puts forth in his writing—albeit a bit homier and less formal when he is speaking than writing. He manages to provide a good, simple survey of the modern Pagan and Neo-Pagan movement in America, without resorting to overbold brush-strokes when he does so. He doesn’t take the Gardnerian history at purely face value, but he also doesn’t simply dismiss it out of hand. Rather, he takes the scholarly approach of examining the texts available and presenting the most reasonable conclusions he can based on those texts (or in some cases, media or personal correspondences). Like Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (which I feel Clifton’s book is greatly informed by), this book is not trying to make any fanciful claims about Paganism’s place in America (he makes the point repeatedly that there’s not a census of religion in America which can present a reliable number of “earth-based religious practitioners” in the US—he instead cites an independent survey which ranges from the upper hundreds of thousands to the low millions). His examination of the various branches of Paganism in America is particularly noteworthy, as he gives short histories of each segment sourced not only from the branches themselves but from external documentation as well.
I enjoyed learning about the various areas of American Paganism with which I was only marginally familiar: Feraferia and the Church of All Worlds (CAW), for example. I also learned a lot about branches I was completely ignorant of, such as the Church of Aphrodite (the first Pagan religious group recognized in America) and the Psychedelic Venus Church. Some of the better information in the book is about the interaction between various groups which may not always have been apparent. The Church of Aphrodite, for example, had a great deal of influence on Feraferia because of a shared member, and the influence of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land on not only the CAW, but groups like the Psychedelic Venus Church.
The book did leave me a little disappointed in some areas: Clifton relies heavily on certain sources, such as Margot Adler, and on some information which is not particularly accessible (such as the aforementioned personal correspondences). The largest drawback is that the work really only looks at the mid-to-late twentieth century in America with any great detail, other than to draw a few parallels between Transcendentalism and the modern Neo-Pagan movement. I would have been greatly interested in finding out what influence movements like Spiritualism and Theosophy had on the Occult revival in America, and what effect in turn that revival had on Wicca and Paganism later on. But I can also understand that the point of this book may not have been to dig back so far. The bibliography and footnotes alone make the book worth purchasing or borrowing from the library, and the work certainly doesn’t disappoint in its stated purpose of chronicling the rise of modern Paganism in America.
In the end, while I wanted more, perhaps that is the best recommendation I can give. This book is great for whetting an appetite for more information on American witchcraft and Paganism, and it certainly can provide a springboard into other areas of discovery.