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Not That Kind of Pagan

Dionysus
Neopaganism (the religion and not the early-2oth-century literary and artistic movement) is a term that was coined by an old St. Louis hippy science fiction fan, then still calling himself by his real name, Tim Zell, in a commune in University City, to describe a syncretic religious movement combining the best of Diannic Witchcraft, Gardnerian Witchcraft, Discordianism, Thelema, west-coast Reformed Druidism, high ceremonial magic, several flavors of pre-Christian reconstructionist polytheism, and a kind of hippy panentheism that coalesced around the borrowed name "Church of All Worlds." A compromise sort of "Franken-religion" was built out of all these parts by Zell and his various contributors over the course of the late 60s, thrashed out in the pages (and especially the letter columns) of an Amateur Press Association magazine called Green Egg.

Isaac Bonewits, founder of three different attempts at reformed or re-created druidry and one of the early enthusiastic contributors to this project has long had a standing bet that it is impossible to complete the sentence "Pagans all believe ..." with anything and have it be true. I will never forget the first time I heard him say this, at a workshop at the 1985 or '86 (I forget) Pagan Spirit Gathering in Wisconsin. Some tiny little college student jumped up and said, "That's not TRUE! For example, we're all opposed to nuclear power!" She would have been hard pressed to pick a worse example; within seconds the whole workshop was on their feet, divided up into warring camps, literally screaming at each other for several minutes. Two equally divided camps. That being said, when it comes to theology, there is if not an actual agreement then certainly a very widely held attitude about the divine, and it goes approximately like this (with, of course, ample wiggle room for people to differ on the finer points at almost Talmudic length): the entire universe is alive, and divine. That divinity expresses itself first through two generic divinities; the horned hunter God of the sun and the maiden-mother-crone triple Goddess of the moon; all other Gods and Goddesses are special cases of or avatars of or misunderstood aspects of those two facets of the divine universe.

It's also fundamental to Neopaganism, at least where I live and as I see it in my Neopagan friends, that you don't have to believe any of that to be literally true. Some large percentage, probably approaching half, are for all practical purposes secular humanist agnostics or atheists to whom the god(s) and goddess(es) of Neopaganism are merely convenient spiritual or artistic symbols. In fact, if you count in the further large percentage of Neopagans who believe that The God and The Goddess exist because they're projections of our own human collective spirit, collective unconscious, and that what we're really worshipping are things that we made up ourselves? Then the percentage of Neopagans who believe that the gods aren't "really real" probably approaches the high 90% range. And they're okay with that. And frankly, as someone of a very scientific bent, when I left Christian fundamentalism so was I.

And of course, where Neopaganism takes the very specific form of Neopagan Witchcraft (which it pretty much does everywhere in this man's town), where the borrowings from Gardner and Starhawk are the thickest, you get that idea married to a pseudo-history that is, frankly, sillier than the Operating Thetan material from Scientology's claim that all human souls are reincarnated alien criminals, no, worse than that, even sillier than the Book of Mormon's claim that the Olmecs were Jewish: the belief that for all of human history there have been Goddess-worshipping, nature-worshipping herbalists and conjurers who called themselves "witches." You know what? When Margaret Murray and J.G. Frazer were publishing their separate but similar hypotheses to this effect a hundred years ago, this was vaguely plausible, just as a hundred years ago it would have been hard to disprove the Book of Mormon's claim that the Olmecs were the lost twelfth tribe of the Jews. Sorry, in both cases history and archeology continued to progress. And this leaves Neopagan Witches in an awkward position. While they keep insisting that their religion is, in some way, older than the late 19th century, if you compare what we know now about medieval (let alone pre-Christian) Europe with the parts of The Golden Bough that have since been discredited scientifically, the Wiccans are 100% on Frazer's side.

In its earliest forms, the old English word "witch" (however you spell it) doesn't mean any kind of a human, let alone a member of some religion. It's used synonymously with "pixie." In particular, a "witch" is a creature it is too small to see with the naked eye, that travels on the wind, and causes fevers, sickness, crop blight, and miscarriage. Historically speaking, witch is their word for "germ." Until Renaissance times and the sick inquisitorial fantasy that there were Satan-worshipping home churches like the secret Jewish reconverso synagogues that they were used to rooting out and slaughtering, and until they in their misunderstanding picked up the old English word for "disease-causing organism" and applied it to those fictional devil-worshippers, you cannot find any historical reference to any person being called a witch. At most, what you find is some kind of specialist in curing people of diseases caused by witches ... not witches, but witch doctors.

Now, when I thought that there were no true religions, that all human religions were human-made creations, I was perfectly comfortable with the idea that a fiction that was invented in the 1890s or the 1950s or the 1960s or even day before yesterday was just as spiritually valid as one that was made up in the 1500s or the 300s or before. But I'm afflicted with a curse: I am, at least in some situations, an Authenticity Cop. Once I get interested in something, I want to wallow in not merely tertiary but secondary sources, and primary sources if I can read the language they're in. And in the process of expanding my Neopagan spirituality, and studying as many pre-Christian pagan sources as possible, something really weird and inexplicable happened to me: piety.

Scattered among all of the ancients' (and even moderns') writings about the gods there are several historical periods where it is widely attested by multiple sober and generally reliable sources that beings who looked much like us, but had abilities far beyond those of mortal humans, walked among us. Whether we're talking about the djinn living in the Arabian and Sahara deserts, the faerie folk living in northern Europe, the angels seen by members of various Mesopotamian tribes, or the gods seen everywhere throughout the Peloponnese and Ionia, they are described with clarity and a degree of precision, and with an inescapable consistency. They claimed to have been here before, but to only have mingled openly with us in the aftermath of civilization-threatening disasters. At such times, they taught the survivors of various disasters like the fall of Bronze Age civilization or the fall of the Roman Empire various useful arts, married into and/or generally left children with various families, and handed out rewards and punishments for various virtues and vices among those who were organizing the reconstruction efforts in an attempt to make sure that viable societies arose. It's popular now to insist that these beings were fictions made up by people long after the fact who were embellishing the oral historical record for their own purposes. Maybe that's what you believe. It's not what I believe.

I don't know who or what those beings, those people, were, or where they came from. I don't know if they're in any way still here, watching us, although for a couple of generations after they withdrew from common contact they kept showing up to give nasty surprises to those who thought they could get away with stuff because the gods were no longer watching. But I honor them, now, not made-up gods of philosophers or hallucinated gods of mystics and other schizophrenics. And in particular, I honor the gods of one particular place and time, the gods who helped the Greek-speaking survivors of the end of the Bronze Age, for having hammered out a unique compromise way of life that was even better than the aristocratic monarchies the gods left behind everywhere else: freedom and democracy and entrepreneurial capitalism. All ideas that came from men, and that were sold grudgingly to the gods, but causes that a particular set of gods took up as their own after seeing just how much prosperity and (just as importantly) how much justice that way of life could create.

I don't think it's an accident that America became the shining beacon of those same values after they were rediscovered at the end of the Renaissance in the surviving writings of those particular worshippers of those particular gods. And I worry how much longer we can keep them in a world where, the gods help us, people are suddenly noticing the conflicts between the values of Hellenic pagan democracy and Christian monotheistic dictatorship and consciously choosing the latter. And I sure as all holy gods don't think it helps when even the vast majority of the Pagans believe, or act as if, the gods who co-created and endorsed that way of life that we've so benefited from in this country over the last couple of hundred years were just a convenient fiction, any more than I think that it's a coincidence that the generation of Athenians who were taught by the (wealthy-elite-funded) "philosophers" to call the historical reality of the gods "the lies of the poets" were the generation who fell into slavery to the Spartans, then their own wealthy aristocrats, then the Macedonians, then the Romans, and then the Church, and then the Caliphate, never actually gaining even a semblance of freedom for thousands of years.

So whenever I contemplate going to a Pagan gathering, I find myself confronting two awkward propositions. First of all, I feel like the only non-atheist in the room, practically the only guy in the whole gathering who actually believes that the gods have an external verifiable reality that extends beyond wishful thinking. And secondly, I find myself in the company of hundreds of people who are just as wrong about the provable facts of other history as the Flat Earthers and the Lamarckians and the young-earth Creationists are. And when they start nattering on about these things, and expecting me to agree with them because I'm some kind of a Pagan too, it puts me in a very uncomfortable situation.

(That, sad to say, is probably why I found it so easy to make excuses not to go to St. Louis Pagan Picnic this year.)

Comments

( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
harmfulguy
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:02 am (UTC)
I should have known that the little bit of history I was curious about would be directly addressed within your own story. Thank you.
omorka
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)
FWIW, I identify as a NeoPagan, and I am an actual polytheist rather than a duotheist, too. I also am well aware that the "history" of Wicca is a myth rather than a history, although since I am a Wiccan only by praxis and not theology, I really don't think about it very much at all.

I also agree with you about the first of these two things making it very difficult to have a serious religious discussion, or even religious chit-chat, with most people in the Pagan community. (The second one seems to be fairly common among Pagans around my own age and younger than me who have been Pagan for more than two years. This may be a regional difference.)
(Deleted comment)
nancylebov
Jul. 24th, 2007 07:47 am (UTC)
Could you go into more detail about this? I'm very fond of neo-pagan ritual, but I'm convinced we need a religion which deals better with the modern urban and commercial world.
goblinpaladin
Jul. 23rd, 2007 07:04 am (UTC)
I was with you, cheering you on despite my atheism, until you were willing to concede anything to that Murray woman. Her thesis shouldn't have stood up to criticism even in her age: she made most of it up out of whole cloth. Edited documents, pretended to have additional documents or simply ignored historical facts that disagreed with her. The woman was a travesty to anthropology.

I also take exception to your characterisation of Athenian democracy as a 'shining beacon' of anything. I prefer my republics sans slavery and allowing women (something approaching) equal rights. I'm sure it was very lovely, especially compared to contemporary cultures surrounding the Greeks, but in no way does Ancient Greek 'democracy' deserve comparison to the modern republican system of America or Europe.

Other than that, 'twas a fascinating read about your personal history. I always find tales of people 'finding' religion interesting and yours has an unusual ending. (One I disagree with profoundly, of course, but I'm not going to start trouble about that on your 'journal.)

Anyway, thanks.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 23rd, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
Greek Democracy
I think you should give Brad's other posts on Hellenic Recronstructionsim a perusal, he has previously addressed most (all?) of your complaints at some length.

Briefly, women had something "approaching" equal rights (eg men had the key to one room and one room only of the house, the rest the wife can and would withold at will), and Athenian slaves were treated no worse, and in some ways better than hired freemen.
goblinpaladin
Jul. 23rd, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Er, yes, I know all that. What Greek women had approaches equal rights only if you believe 'separate but equal' to actually be true. My concession to 'approaching' was an acknowledgement that no modern society has completely equal rights anywhere... but at least we're trying.

And yes, Athenian slaves were treated well for the most part.

Neither of these things changes the fact that Athenian 'democracy' was not anything close to the shining paragon of virtue that Brad is making it out to be.
samael7
Jul. 23rd, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
Brad's post specifically addressing the sexism of the time is here. The posts on the surrounding days also talk about some of the criticisms you've mentioned here.

This isn't by way of disagreeing with your assessments. Any sane modern comparison of our contemporary values to the premises of that age with regard to social justice and propriety will find certain aspects of that society wanting.

It *is* a rebuttal to an implied lack of awareness of this on Brad's part. In those posts, he's pretty explicitly aware of the social constraints and habits of the time, and offers his view of why things were that way. But he does acknowledge that time moved on and that some of those practices are no longer defensible nor relevant to this age.

If you did not mean to imply this, then I apologize for my incorrect inference. It was unclear whether or not you revisited those old posts, and still arrived at the same conclusion, so I linked to this one specifically as a backup of my rebuttal -- as well for the purposes of providing a link to some good old Brad-postin' from 2005 that is an enjoyable read, whether or not you agree with his take on the subject or still feel he's overstating the excellence of the culture.
goblinpaladin
Jul. 24th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
I hadn't seen this posts, so I'm glad you passed them along. I wasn't implying that Brad was unaware of these things, either. He usually shows a solid grasp of the facts of history and anthropology, so it was almost certain that he'd be aware of these matters.

I DO, however, feel that he is overstating the excellence of the culture. The post you linked me to (I've not time to read the others yet, but I intend to) is only slightly better than the tone here. Here the implication is "Yay Ancient Greece! How wonderful they were and how sad that they turned away from their gods and got enslaved."* In the post you linked to, it is instead: "Yay Ancient Greece! How wonderful they were- women weren't equal, but they had heaps to do and men had few rights either! I don't think we should emulate them, but they sure are better than modern society for their time period."

Yuck. While I'm glad to see a Hellenistic Pagan who is neither a) Misinformed enough to believe that his time period was a golden age of civilisation or b) That the time period was a brutal and uncompromising age of brutality, he is still putting a glossy sheen over the top. YES, women had more rights than, say, Mongolia. But NO, I wouldn't say that -even acknowledging period differences- it should be compared favourably to the mdoern republic.

Hmm. This is longer and more ranty than I intended. I don't intend to cause offence, and I actually find Brad's perspective on these matters interesting. I just *also* find it historially inaccurate.

But, hey, I could be wrong about that as well. I study the medieval period, and tend to prefer Rome to Greece. Perhaps my own biases are influencing me.



*For the record, the Romans treated their slaves pretty good as well, and had a Republic for a long time. And weren't they the ones that defeated Greece?
samael7
Jul. 24th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
You know, I was giving some further thought about it this morning, and it took me down a somewhat-related line on thought (bear with me). It occurred to me that dubbing any time period "The Golden Age of X" is kind of disingenuous. It seems like there may be some mutually-agreed standards for what makes an era "golden," like prosperity, technology, knowledge, and, perhaps most importantly, relevance to the modern age. These are things that historians can, and do, debate about for ages.

But it's totally relative to the culture in question. X's Golden Age might be slightly more tarnished than Y's.

I may be spoiled by those old posts of Brad with regard to a wider view of his take on the period. My assessment is that he focuses more on the overall prosperity of the culture and ascribes its flourishing to following some pretty trackable cultural laws and, as he posits, divine intervention. I can see where you'd think he's overstating things based on just this post alone, especially if you haven't read his older stuff on the subject.

I think it's perfectly legitimate to point out the tarnish of any Golden Age and base your opinion of the culture on the merits of that. It's also worth remembering that, in particular, the abolition of slavery and the rights of women are, by millennial standards and to the degree they are developed in this age, *very* recent developments. That's four to five thousand years of institutional marginalization across western culture, and then some. I agree, it's not good to have illusions either way about what came before, but I can't totally dismiss context and achievement from the picture.

My own knowledge is too flimsy to be too attached to any one take on the subject, so I won't argue too hard one way or another. That said, as soon as I get a working TARDIS, I'll hop back and see for myself. :)

And to your pondering on Rome's subsuming of Greece, Brad does touch on that, and I think his take on it is that the Greeks turned from the lessons the divine ones had taught them, and subsequently fell to ruin because of that.

P.S. I want a TARDIS! And an instruction manual to it that I can understand!
samael7
Jul. 24th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Edited to say: sorry that some of what I posted was repetitous of your own views. Your point that the Greek civilization, even at its most civili-sensational-ist was still marked by brutality, is a fair one. It was a hard age, and made people hard (as one might expect coming out of a dark age).

Brutality is a repeating feature of history, from the rape of the Sabine women, to the Inquisition, to our own state-sponsored torture today that overthrew the state-sponsored torture of its predecessor. It seems to be an underlying "optional feature" of human nature, waiting there in the dark, reptilian part of our brains. Civilization and prosperity are the best tamers of such a beast, but threats to said civilization and prosperity, ironically, loose its chains with alarming ease.

As I said, my own knowledge is too flimsy to say with any conviction whether or not brutality was a daily feature of the average Greek life, or the stuff from which it rose and later fell back into, with the occasional background noise of it. Or somewhere in between.

But I will recommend a song by The Church, called "Roman," which I've had in my head since you wrote the word:

Oh, Oh, what a feeling, baby,
Knowledge and brutality.
Whose soul you stealing, baby,
Lost your immortality.
Another empty conquest
Venus set me free
(Set me free)
(Deleted comment)
goblinpaladin
Jul. 25th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not going to disagree. In fact, I'd say that I agree, so long as we're talking about institutionalised practices. On a scale of things, though, the slavery practices by the Greeks wasn't that bad. Certainly a far sight better than the European-American slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries.

After all, when the alternative to slavery of prisoners-of-war is massacring the lot of them, slavery starts looking a whole lot better. Or something. While I'm not a big fan of the 'different culture' argument, here it applies to a certain extent.

What it shouldn't do is make the Greeks look like paragons of virtue. They weren't, and Brad is (at least to appearences) making them so.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 24th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
What exactly is the alternative to separate but equal?
I really don't understand this objection. Particularly before the invention of reliable birth control, there was no way of treating women "the same", pregnancy is a pretty bloody big difference.

If the choice is between "separate but equal" and "separate and oppressive" I'll take the former.

Comparing the lot of women in Ancient Greece with women today is a false equivalence, the only reasonable comparison is with contemporaries.
goblinpaladin
Jul. 24th, 2007 09:58 am (UTC)
It's not just about women, it's about slaves as well.

"Comparing the lot of women in Ancient Greece with women today is a false equivalence, the only reasonable comparison is with contemporaries."

It sure is. Which is more-or-less precisely my problem: "America became the shining beacon of those same values..." [emphasis mine] It denigrates the modern republic which even at the time of the American Revolution was substantially more advanced than Greece.

[It also gives short shrift to medieval and Renaissance societies, by implying that Athenian values disappeared during those centuries, when The Republic was widely read amongst the aristocracy. Not to mention Rome, which was ALSO a republic. But I digress.]

In essence, my objection is not to the preceeding paragraph, where he compliments his gods on helping the Greeks hammer out "a unique compromise way of life that was even better than the aristocratic monarchies the gods left behind everywhere else: freedom and democracy and entrepreneurial capitalism." [Although his most recent post essentially says that there was NO capitalism, which is interesting.] That's a perfectly acceptable statement, within his religious worldview.

What is not is the beginning of the succeeding paragraph, where he claims that the American Revolution is based on the same ideals as ancient Athens.
radven
Jul. 23rd, 2007 07:27 am (UTC)
Fascinating series of essays.

"Scattered among all of the ancients' (and even moderns') writings about the gods there are several historical periods where it is widely attested by multiple sober and generally reliable sources that beings who looked much like us, but had abilities far beyond those of mortal humans, walked among us."

I'd love to see you go into much more depth here - perhaps as another entry. What are the credible sources that convinced you of this?

- chris
harmfulguy
Jul. 23rd, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
Brad already wrote those entries, and you should be able to find them under his hellenic reconstructionism tag. I believe this is his most immediately relevant post.
ponsdorf
Jul. 23rd, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the refresher.
arturus
Jul. 23rd, 2007 08:20 am (UTC)
I'd like to ask a slightly related question here, if you don't mind. Given that you believe in the literal existence of the gods, what's your opinion of Discordianism? It seems to me that it must be all sort of heretical, and given the deity it's dealing with, not such a bright idea. But I don't really know. Do you think that Eris can take the joke?
bradhicks
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough, the same opinion that Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley both came to, according to interviews that Margot Adler got: that it's a philosophically and artistically useful project, but taken seriously it's disastrous.
drjon
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
We have a mondo: "Ha Ha Only Serious".
silveradept
Jul. 23rd, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
A Discordian who takes the religion seriously can easily be said to have Missed The Point by a rather wide margin, I would guess.
drjon
Jul. 23rd, 2007 09:43 pm (UTC)
I had the misfortune to have to deal with a Discordian Fundamentalist once.

That was fun.
silveradept
Jul. 23rd, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
To me, the words "Discordian Fundamentalist" should be something like "uncontrolled matter-antimatter reaction", and have about the same effect on the person trying.

I'm having trouble imagining how such a thing is possible, let alone how one would deal with such a person. Do tell, as this sounds like a rather interesting story.
drjon
Jul. 23rd, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
Not a lot to say, as I buggered off as soon as possible.

Much more interesting was the Chinese Taoistesque group I hung around with for a while, which turned out to be an apocalypic, millenial sect, believe it or not. Now they were interesting.
silveradept
Jul. 24th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
You've got quite the connections, it seems. Taoist apocalyptic millenials... hrm, that actually seems to work out in some sort of way. How did they work everything out?
drjon
Jul. 24th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
Frantically.
neowiccan
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:00 am (UTC)
oh my gods, brad.
you are always interesting.
now i think i love you.
:)
khairete
suz
drjon
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
I've spoken with both Zell and Bonewitz, and they've affirmed to me Adler's assertion that Kerry Thornley coined and prosetylize the use of "pagan" to describe the new religious "movement" (or, more accurately, movements), which is also prolly worth noting.
bradhicks
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
Huh. I stand corrected. All of the old-timers I've talked to credited Otter G'Zell, pointed to a particular essay in Green Egg by him. Or possibly we're talking about different things ... are they saying that Kerry coined the term Neopagan as well? Because that's the one I'm used to hearing attributed to Otter.
drjon
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
As I've had it, Thornley coined "pagan" and spread the use extensively, and Zell spun "neopagan" from it, as a differential.

Adler (1987) is suppose to mention the whole thing, but I don't have a copy to hand.

A quick google throws this up:
http://www.chronarchy.com/sp/histneodruid/req-4g.html
and states that Thornley used "pagan" in print in Kerista.

Unfortunately, Gorightly (2003) doesn't have an index, and I don't have an ecopy, so I can't check in there, but I think he expands on the story as well.

And Swabey (2001) mentions it in passing, but he's bloody hopeless (completely addled by taking Eris-as-metaphor far too seriously), so he can prolly be ignored.
hairyfigment
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
Adler p293, "How..did this word Pagan come to include newly emerging nature religions?...The change may have been due largely to Kerry Thornley". She gives the 1966 Kerista date.
tormentedartist
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
This was very interesting. Thanks for posting it.
monkeyd
Jul. 23rd, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
Spanning the globe
If you dig enough, and are familiar enough with the mythologies, one can put similar entities across Eurasia. Pre- and Sub-Saharan Africa don't seem to be lacking them, either. We know woefully little about the Americans, as the written records were destroyed, but I would be surprised if meta individuals were not also present pre-Columbian.

Personally, I find it more useful to work within the frameworks provided by the demonstrably human folks who seem to have tapped into remarkable prowess as humans. Since that is what I seem to be, I think it is useful to follow that advice. This is not to devalue what the meta folks had to say, as I think meta folk have a good bead on enabling the humans they interacted with to be heroes. I just find it more useful to try to be a hero than aspire to godhood or worship.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 24th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Spanning the globe
And where do you see, in Hellenic Paganism, any sort of "aspiring to godhood or worship"? The ancient Athenians were very clear that that's both impossible and deeply dangerous. You seem to be setting up some kind of straw man here, and i'm very confused.
monkeyd
Jul. 25th, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Spanning the globe
I think you may have misread me there, or perhaps I misspoke. Perhaps what I was trying to say, in fewer words, is that the Hellenic gods, insofar as they are external from the adherent, are entities that are worshiped. In that they are external from the worshiper, there is a effort to attend to that ideal: in short, not an attempt to become a god, but rather to emulate the qualities of the god.

As a Buddhist, I am firmly keen on the latter; not so much about the former.
ponsdorf
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
Scattered among all of the ancients' (and even moderns') writings about the gods there are several historical periods where it is widely attested by multiple sober and generally reliable sources that beings who looked much like us, but had abilities far beyond those of mortal humans, walked among us.

Taken out of context it sounds like Erich Von Daniken created a religion and I missed it. Personally I preferred "Morning of the Magicians" to "Chariots", but... different strokes and all that.

A fascinating read for all that. Thanks, Brad.

Aside: I discovered MOTM and Charles Fort at about the same time... and "The Prophet" as well, I think. There are 3 or 4 years in the late '60s and early '70's where timelines get a bit fuzzy. [grin]
fizzyland
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
And I've probably read some of the same works you have when it comes to the near-universal flood stories which were followed bearded white men who showed up to guide the rebuilding of civilization - Quetzcoatl, Viracocha, etc.

Whether they represented an advanced or isolated civilization or have some other origin, it's very interesting that remote cultures would end up with such similar stories.
fallenkalina
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
Can I get where you got that definition of witch? whenever I research, I just get back to it means witch. Which is terrible and circular, and I just don't know enough OE to figure this out.
silveradept
Jul. 23rd, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
This has been a fascinating series, Brad. Quite the ride, and in well-articulated prose. Hopefully you'll be able to see or construct temples to the gods in your lifetime. We could use a few more edifices to those gods that some people prefer to pointedly ignore.
zunger
Jul. 23rd, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
Hey Brad,

That was a very interesting essay. (I've really enjoyed this recent series) But I've still got one question: Why did you decide to dedicate yourself to Dionysus, in particular?
bradhicks
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
I felt like the answer deserved its own journal entry, here.
zunger
Jul. 23rd, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
Actually, I just thought of one more question. Gods move about between cultures fairly often; e.g., the Romans took on a number of Greek gods with slightly different names (Zeus becoming Jupiter, etc), and over time those gods took on distinctly Roman aspects and became quite different from their Greek forebears. In the other direction, local gods can shift to being considered to be aspects of some more well-known god, like Ephesian Artemis. (Who was almost certainly known by some very different name before the Hellenes came to Asia Minor)

If we identify the named gods with specific incarnations on this Earth, then when are two gods the same or different? Is worship done to Zeus also worship to Jupiter? Is worship to Ishtar also to Astarte? What about the more distantly-related Inanna?
bradhicks
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
I tend to withhold judgment on this question for the same reason I withhold judgment on a lot of speculation about the origin and nature of the gods: insufficient data, too much guessing. It is sufficient to me to believe that they are a well-reported historical phenomenon, and have shown themselves to be occasionally inclined to reward virtue or punish vice, and have taught us some pretty useful things.
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