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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in history

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
What's the big deal about bronze?

The ancient Minoans lived during the Bronze Age; you've probably heard that somewhere. But what, exactly, was the Bronze Age and why is it a big deal?

You may have noticed that periods of history (and prehistory) are denoted by the main substance with which the people of the time made their tools: the Old and New Stone Age (that's the Paleolithic and Neolithic), the Copper-Stone Age (that's the Chalcolithic Age, if you're looking it up in a history book), the Bronze Age, the Iron Age. We still use iron tools - those knives in your kitchen are stainless steel, a form of iron - though some people have tried to style us modern folks as the Silicon Age. Personally, I'd have a hard time making a sandwich with a silicon chip.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Get Charming

I'm teaching a course this semester called 'Witches, Healers & Saints' mostly so I could teach a lot about witches. One of the themes developing in all my courses is how the few people with power often abuse it (honestly, it's always been there -- I'm just making it more overt now), but a major theme in this class is magic as technology.

My aim is to get away from the modern impulse to see magic only as 'superstition'; our belief in our superiority to the past causes us to dismiss too many things. If you think of magic as the best knowledge available at the time about some very mysterious things, it's easier to understand the role it played. I'm introducing the students to sympathetic magic and the power of charms (like the Anglo-Saxon Charm for Bees or the Charm against a Wen).

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I'd like to take that class.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    That would be fun!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Great Conflation

I am looking forward to the final episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell on Sunday (I think it's begun in the States more recently). It's been fun seeing an 'alternate' history of magic, though I will be sad to see it end. It got me thinking about a period in history that leads to a lot of confusion. When people say 'witch hunts' most people still seem to think of the Middle Ages, though the worst years were part of the Early Modern era, sometimes known as the Renaissance (a much disputed term for a variety of reasons). While many see the dividing line as the Reformation, the roots of that change can be see in Wycliffe and the Lollards in the 14th century. I tend to see Gutenberg's innovation as a technological change, though even there printing existed before his moveable type -- but the speed of the technology has all kinds of impacts as we know in the internet age.

We may not think of magic as technology, but all knowledge is technology. A revolution in technology may be regarded as good or bad or something in between, but it usually hard to deny once it happens. A big change happened in the history of magic that had a huge impact that leads to the widespread witch hunts of the Early Modern era (and on into the so-called Age of Enlightenment). For background, I highly recommend you get Michael D. Bailey's Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages. Perhaps easier to obtain is his briefer essay, 'The Feminization of Magic and the Emerging Idea of the Female Witch in the Late Middle Ages' (available via Project Muse in many libraries).

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Breaking The Mother Goose Code

Imagine... What if Mother Goose was the ancient European Mother Goddess in disguise, hidden from the patriarchal, monotheistic church that took over Europe, appearing in print just as the Inquisition and Witch-hunts drove anything non-Christian underground? What if the Mother Goose “nursery rhymes” taught to children over the last few centuries were a way to pass on an encoded pre-Christian worldview? Are fairy tales the carriers of the Pagan values of ancestors who had to disguise them as “peasant imbecilities” to keep them in cultural memory in a stratified society, of which the hierarchical authorities wanted to eradicate their egalitarian, animistic, and earthy worldview?

These questions are explored in Jeri Studebaker’s new book, “Breaking the Mother Goose Code: How a Fairy-Tale Character Fooled the World for 300 Years” published by Moon Books. I was excited to read the advance copy I asked for, since folklore and fairy tales have always fascinated me, and I really love reading about history - especially Pagan history. I know I’m not alone in these interests, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the book after reading it.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    Dear Lia, Just got Studebaker's book. Great read! Plus she wrote another book that i just love "Switching to Goddess" I recomme
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVbB1tkKkFg Dear Lia, Go to this video that I made about The Real Mother Goose if you want to see
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    Thank you for sharing your video, Constance. The intriguing artifacts like the goose boat and the chariot pulled by geese were coo

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The Anglo-Saxons often explained disease and inflammation by the presence of small creatures or their “weapons.”A well-known charm seeks to remove the evil influence of “elf-shot” and several others fight the effects of other poisonous arrows.  This may seem quaint to our modern sensibilities—unless we consider this to be a metaphorical understanding of germs and viruses. Maybe our medieval forebears weren’t so naïve after all. 

The following charm appears in a manuscript that dates to the 12th century (BL Royal MS 4 A xiv).  It tries to cajole and threaten a wen (“a lump or protuberance on the body” per the Oxford English Dictionary) to take up residence elsewhere and leave the afflicted person.The tokens of the wolf and the eagle may well have been used in the healer’s ceremony—many scholars believe the Anglo-Saxons to have had a shamanic  tradition.  This charm can easily be adapted to remove from your life any unwelcome presence (and works well, in my experience!).  Underlines indicate the alliterating pairs of words: the primary arrangement of Anglo-Saxon poetry is repeated sounds at the beginning of words (as opposed to end rhyme, the more familiar "moon/june" type of rhyming). It helps that any vowel alliterates with any other vowel.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Sutin, Lawrence. Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2000.

For better and worse, Aleister Crowley is one of the pivotal figures in the recent history of magic. He is also one of the more inscrutable, and the difficulties of his deliberate misdirections are multiplied by the revulsion that his actions and ideas can create. He proclaimed himself the divinely inspired messenger of a vast cultural shift and a magician of the highest achievement, but was widely reviled and - much worse from his perspective - often ignored. Capturing the breadth of these paradoxes in a single personality is not easy, and Sutin tackles it well in his biography of Crowley, which makes an excellent introduction for anyone trying to gain the necessary perspective on Crowley and his work.

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enLIVenING with the Muses-The Scroll of Clio

This is the third posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series

The Muse, Clio is considered the Muse of History. Her name, sometimes spelled Kleio is a form of the greek verb, “Kleo” which means to make famous, to recall or to celebrate. She makes full use of her birth right as the daughter of Mnemosyne (Goddess of Remembrance) as memory is a key component that every historian must rely upon to accurately give account of events, people and places. Unlike her sisters, who are more directly related to the act of inspiring whatever their specialty is, Clio works at the level of codifying and giving durability to what is the product of those inspirations.  

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