Tag Archives: shamanism

Reading Roundup: 10 September 2012


Sad news for esotericists everywhere as more esoteric scholars have passed away this past week, including Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, whose work featured in my Packet One research. His Introduction to Western Esotericism is one of the most concise texts that discusses the history of the modern esoteric movement that I know of.


Sufenas Virius Lupus, a queer, non-binary pagan talks about the intersection of paganism and queerness. He has even founded a specifically queer pagan practice devoted to Antonius. A lot of my recent readings come out of his very public voice, and I found his introduction to have a lot of similarities to religious studies stance.


Are pagans practicing “indigenous” traditions? Sufenas Virius Lupus has a good reason to say “no, not really” — and I agree. “Indigenous” is a loaded descriptor, and in many cases, trying to claim the “indigenous” label for a religious tradition is a move of legitimization, which ironically can be appropriating and erasing of the struggles of indigenous religious practitioners.


Raven Kaldera’s breakdown of what he calls “classic” (as defined by Eliade) and “core” (as defined by Harner) shamanism. As Kaldera is one of the loudest/most visible voices in the neo-pagan shamanistic circle, his definitions have a lot of currency. I do like the term “shamanic practitioner” as an alternative for “core shaman”.


Raven Kaldera also sets out to define why his “northern-tradition shamanism” isn’t reconstructed, indigenous, or heathenry, and distinguishes “shaman”, a spirit-worker who has been initiated by the Gods,  from a “shamanic practitioner” who uses certain techniques of spirit work. I disagree with some of his points about what are appropriate traditions to draw from and utilize but appreciate the clarity and candor of his vision about  his “wight-taught shamanism”, as well as his sensitivity to issues of appropriation and colonialism.


Speaking of Raven Kaldera, how about a response to the chapter on Agdistis in his book Hermaphrodeities? A really insightful historically-oriented critique of some of the presentation of myth cycles, as well as a critique on the use of “third gender” to lump all non-cis genders together that I agree with.


An American couple is traveling around the world for 3 years to get married as many places and ways as possible. Including, in their own words, by a Peruvian shaman. This is an interesting and rather odd instance of privilege; that these two affluent white Americans can roll up into any country and borrow and buy their way to a “culturally-flavored” wedding in 3 days kind of astounds me. I cannot travel around the world and have a marriage ceremony anywhere I feel like — if I tried, I might simply be refused, or I might be physically threatened, harassed, or arrested. Consuming culturally-specific rituals like dozens of marriage ceremonies illustrates a lot of curious attitudes towards the right of white Westerners to consume whatever rituals they want, wherever they want, regardless of whether they are practicing those rituals correctly or in context. It also reflects the interesting dynamic that by and large, white straight Westerners are permitted to do these things and implies an interesting relationship between indigenous cultures and the West in which indigenous people will facilitate this behavior (perhaps because of the money involved?)


Reading Roundup: 16 August 2012

Is Obesity Actually a Taboo from a Magical Point of View? at Esoteric School of Shamanism and Magic Blog.

I sadly cannot find a link to the original post this referenced (it appears to have been deleted), but it argued that obesity is against pagan morals and values because it is harmful to the body and can kill you, and pagans shouldn’t die of preventable diseases. The reply is, apparently, more nuanced than the original, but trying to track down the reference to the “Navajo Beauty Way” led me down a curious and puzzling path of intersection between Native American traditions and their uses out of context by white Westerners. Still trying to get the pieces of this one together which rather distracted me from the original post. Another theme of the blog post, their “Rules of the Road”, seemed worth consideration with regards to ethics:

The magician judges the “goodness” or “badness” of his or her own acts, whether they are conscious or unconscious acts, on the basis of what the Universe reflects back on him or her. The same is true of judging others, entire communities, states, or nations.

How problematic this approach can be. It can be very comforting in some hands (who isn’t satisfied when somebody petty, selfish, & mean “gets it” when their own actions backfire on them?) and on the others it can lead to very strange, fallacious logic which blames victims for their own suffering (for example: “Voodoo is a violent belief system, that is why Haiti is poor & oppressed”, a sentiment really expressed to me this year).  But how are we to regard the ethics of our behavior, from where do we look for the sense that our ethical stances make sense? If we don’t believe in “Instant Karma”, how do we conceptualize “cosmic justice” that isn’t arbitrary, cruel, or more problematic than it is satisfying?

The Talmud’s Many Demons

A discussion of demons & the practical magic used to see them in Talmud. While the author is perturbed to see a belief in demons & the magic that unveils them (and the deeper theological implication in a belief in demons & spirits, which is at odds with his modern understanding of monotheism), the spell he includes is extremely interesting. In previous semester work I had difficulty tracking down references to Jewish magic, so this one delighted me.

 And there are magical ways of making demons show themselves. All you have to do is find a black female cat who is the firstborn daughter of a firstborn mother, burn her placenta to ashes, grind the ashes, and put some of them in your eye, and you will be able to see the demons. Be sure, however, to place the remainder of the ashes in a sealed iron tube, lest the demons steal it from you.

It show some markers of folk magic I would expect; the magical qualities of  black cat (as a black cat owner I’m gratified to see it doesn’t advocate harm to cats in any way!), the power of placentas to show things which would otherwise remain hidden,  the importance of birth order, and the power of fire to render things into usable form. I’m not sure I’d want to put something as unhygienic as placenta ash in my eyes, but perhaps this is why I don’t see demons…

The Kabbalah: Letter and Spirit (Visual Discourse)

In more links to Jewish studies, here is a beautiful group of historical images relating to themes of Jewish Kabbalah with some explanations, focusing mostly on its mystical and meditative qualities.

Art and Occultism (Visual Discourse)

By the same author, it is an interesting & eclectic offering of mostly (but not exclusively) 19th century occult ideas & their depictions in art.

Giordano Bruno’s Definition of Magic

An excerpt of definitions of magic. Quite interesting/useful. For my research I particularly like these two:

Second, ‘magician’ refers to someone who does wondrous things merely by manipulating active and passive powers, as occurs in chemistry, medicine and such fields; this is commonly called ‘natural magic’.

Fourth, magic refers to what happens as a result of the powers of attraction and repulsion between things, for example, the pushes, motions and attractions due to magnets and such things, when all these actions are due not to active and passive qualities but rather to the spirit or soul existing in things. This is called ‘natural magic’ in the proper sense.

This one might perhaps offend pagans of my acquaintance, but this kind of rhetoric used to be common:

The sixth sense adds to this the exhortation or invocation of the intelligences and external or higher forces by means of prayers, dedications, incensings, sacrifices, resolutions and ceremonies directed to the gods, demons and heroes. Sometimes, this is done for the purpose of contacting a spirit itself to become its vessel and instrument in order to appear wise, although this wisdom can be easily removed, together with the spirit, by means of a drug. This is the magic of the hopeless, who become the vessels of evil demons, which they seek through their notorious art. On the other hand, this is sometimes done to command and control lower demons with the authority of higher demonic spirits, by honouring and entreating the latter while restricting the former with oaths and petitions. This is transnatural or metaphysical magic and is properly called ‘theurgy’.

The astonishing 2,500 year old tattoos of a Siberian princess, and how they reveal little has changed in the way we decorate our bodies

The “Siberian Princess” found in the Russian permafrost has tattoos of animals significant in Siberian spiritual practices, including deer, and some of what she was buried with indicates she might be a healer or a spiritual leader. The tattoos themselves are beautiful, and the art forms surprised me with their similarity to medieval art found in Ireland. “Not much changes”, indeed.