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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
500 Years of Theban

2018 marks the 500th anniversary of the first publication of the Theban script, now widely used by modern witches.

Theban first saw light in Johannes Trithemius' 1518 Polygraphia, in which he attributes the script to the legendary magus Honorius of Thebes: hence the name.

Trithemius' student Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535) later included the alphabet in his De Occulta Philosophia (Book III, ch. 29) in 1531. From Agrippa, Theban made its way into several early 20th century popular books about the occult, and it is through these that it probably entered the the modern Craft.

Certainly it came in early on. Ronald Hutton tells me that he's seen references to Theban among Gardner's papers now in Toronto, and it was in current use in London during the early 60s. I myself became aware of the script in Paul Huson's controversial 1970 Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens. For my money, Huson's serifed Theban is still the most elegant version of all.

And Theban does have its own weird, witchy beauty. With all due deference to my colleagues who can read it as fluently as the ABCs, it's not a practical script. The letters are too complicated, too similar in shape for general daily use. But that's all part of its—ahem—charm. And as something that a certain group of people share, it's brilliant in-group strategy. If you can read this, you must be one too.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Some years ago I was looking through an art book of ancient Greek sculpture. One statue of a horse caught my eye. It had Theban
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    Fascinating. I hadn't heard of this script before. Just added Huson's book to my AMZN cart.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." That's from Herodotus isn't it?
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I figure that as a storyteller, it's my responsibility to tell the best stories that I can. As a historian, it's my responsibility
Crossing the River: L. M. Boston's 'An Enemy at Green Knowe'

It's a tribute to the evocative nature of the modern Craft that, even as the Craft itself was taking shape, it had already begun to influence contemporary popular literature.

Anthony Gresham has remarked on the thrill that those of us reading our way into the Craft at the time would experience when encountering these literary confirmations of what we were already knew from the “nonfiction” of the time. (I remember this experience with nostalgia myself.) Not to be overlooked, of course, is the confirmational nature offered by this cross-referencing as well. The more wide-spread the information, the more authentic it appeared.

One very early (and frequently-overlooked) example of the modern Craft's influence on contemporary popular literature is L. M. Boston's 1964 An Enemy at Green Knowe.

Boston's acclaimed Green Knowe series of young readers' books revolve around a young boy—Tolly—his great-grandmother, and an 11th-century house in Buckinghamshire called Green Knowe. (Knowe, interestingly, means “barrow” or “burial mound,” although the mound as such does not figure into the books.) The series is beautifully-written, subtle, and filled with magic, featuring the young hero's encounters with previous inhabitants of the house, so delicately drawn that one can hardly call them ghosts.

Although magic figures in all the books, it comes to the forefront in An Enemy at Green Knowe.

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Some Bunny to Love – Pop Culture Rabbit Archetypes and Symbols

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post titled Rabbit Symbolism in the Tarot. With Easter/Ostara fast approaching, I thought I'd examine rabbit symbolism in light of pop culture. This article was interesting to research, and I hope you find the historical tidbits as fascinating as I do.

March Hare – From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Host of the Mad Tea Party. Also known as Haigha in Through the Looking-Glass. Carroll noted that "Haigha" rhymes with "mayor". "Mad as a March hare" is an English expression based on observing the behavior of Lepus europaeus during March breeding season. Supposedly, female hares not wanting to breed would repeatedly kick aggressive males with their forelegs to repel them (it used to be believed, incorrectly, that these leporidae fisticuffs were males fighting for supremacy). Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of March Hare featured haphazard pieces of hay on its head, a Victorian symbol for madness.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Off hand the only rabbit that comes to mind are the chocolate bunnies that appear around Easter Time.
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    Ha! True, true. I can't believe I forgot THE Easter Bunny--and Peter Cottontail. D'oh! And then there's Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom fr

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mother Cairn

Hey, let's build a cairn.

It will be a shrine, a place for the Mother. Everybody honors her. Well, they do if they have any sense.

To seed it, we'll bury her little image beneath where the cairn will rise. It will have to be a beautiful image, precious, enough to hurt. That's what makes it a worthy offering, a foundation.

Then we'll heap on the stones: small stones, each the size of a fist. We'll start with a small cairn, maybe a couple of feet high, but big enough to seed what comes after. And through the years it will grow.

A cairn is the ultimate in democratic architecture. Anyone can bring a stone and leave it. You'll place your stone, and then there will be something of you there forever, part of this thing that we're doing together down the years.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Heinlein once wrote that the secret to creating a proper English lawn is, "roll it and seed it for 600 years." Reading this stor
Scorpio, Death, Resurrection, The Phoenix and The Sun

In this episode of the Naked Tarot Podcast, I discuss the mystical, symbolic aspects of the death and resurrection of Christ as represented by the scorpion/Scorpio and the Phoenix--as well as the Death and The Sun cards of Tarot. Listen in, or download, at the link below.

Scorpio, Death, Resurrection, The Phoenix and The Sun Podcast

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Is There a Witch Culture?

Do contemporary witches have a culture of our own?

I would contend that we do.

Culture: the totality of transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or population.

I would contend that as witches, we're a people, or at least a people-in-the-making. (Look at the past: these things happen all the time.) As such, we have our own culture, whether or not we're fully aware of it yet.

True, our historic culture has not come down to us intact. That's why it's so important to be willing to learn from other people's wisdom. That's why it's so important, when we're borrowing, not simply to take from someone and somewhere else and plunk it down whole and all in our midst. That's why, when we borrow a story, a trope, or a way of doing from someone else, we need first to translate it into Witch.

That's why it's not enough to say (for instance): Yemayá.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I remember well that frisson, Anthony. Mine came while reading L. M. Boston's Enemy at Green Knowe, from her series of teen novels
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember when I first read "The Horned Crown" by Andre Norton. The author used stuff I was reading in the witchcraft books from

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sage

In the Paganisphere, there is perhaps no more widely used incense than sage.  When I vend at Pagan events, sage bundles are usually the first thing that sells out.  But there is a lot more to “sage” than might meet the eye.

First, we should define “sage”.  Most of us use common names to refer to plants, although this can be confusing.  “Sage” is definitely one of those instances.  In the Pagan world, people generally mean “white sage” (salvia apiana) when they say sage.  Other forms of sage are also used in incense making.  “Culinary” or “garden” sage (salvia officinalis) comes in many different varieties and is a wonderful ingredient in incense.  Pineapple sage is my personal favorite. In fact, the whole issue of common names comes up again when we talk about “desert sage” because there are several different plants called by that name.  and Salvia eremostachya is known as “desert sage”, as is artemisia tridentate.  Although not a true sage it still imparts a very similar scent.  This is one of the reasons that plant aficionados like to use Latin names for plants to ensure everyone is on the same page.  The fact that there are four totally different plants that we often refer to as “sage” is a good illustration of why.

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