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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Sabaeans
Not the Sharpest Athame: In Praise (More or Less) of Hans Holzer

Let's face it, Hans Holzer was not exactly the sharpest athame in the circle.

And there's the wonderment of the thing: that even through such flawed tools as ourselves, do They work Their will in the world.

Hans Holzer (1920-2009) was, by all accounts, an interesting guy. Born in Vienna, he PhD'd in Classical Archaeology (assuming this wasn't one of those invisible degrees that occultists are so good at conjuring out of the Air), emigrated to Chicago, and wrote 120 popular-press books on subjects arcane and occult.

In so doing, he gave hundreds of thousands of us our first leg-up into the Old Ways.

Though not exactly the brightest candle on the altar, Holzer had the nose, and the sense, to understand that the rise of the Modern Craft and the New Paganisms were profoundly interesting phenomena, and so—years before Margot Adler did it smarter and better—he traveled across Contemporary Pagandom interviewing the Movers and Shakers who were to become the First Generation of American Pagans. Then he wrote books about them.

In this way, Holzer became an invaluable chronicler of that shining generation of thinkers and doers who created Modern Paganism. In some cases—as with his interviews with Ordún of Chicago's Sabaean Temple—he preserved a record of brilliant and path-breaking work that has since gone largely forgotten.

To be sure, Holzer had his limitations. Often he simply didn't understand his informants. Again and again in his writings, Holzer tries to translate what his interviewees are saying into plain language. Frequently he just plain gets it wrong, transforming the insightful into the banal. That's the danger of interviewing one's Betters.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Twelve will get you thirteen, Anthony, that that book was his The Truth About Witchcraft, by far Uncle Hans' best-researched book
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading a Holzer book back in the 70's. I can't remember the title. I am almost certain that I made a few notes for f
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Credit where it's due: it was Holzer and his New Pagans that took the P-word out of the pagan ghetto and began to give it cultura
  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    For me it was "New Pagans." I was in SoCal when Feraferia, CAW and CES were all active (and I was a member of the latter two) and
Know Your Enemy: How the Quick-Thinking Pagans of Harran Outwitted the Caliph's Army

It's probably an apocryphal story.

Even so, it's so delicious that you really do have to relish it.

The people of Harran in Mesopotamia had managed to hold on to the Old Worship long after all the other cities in the area had been baptized.

But then, in late 639 or early 640, the Muslim army of 'Iyadh ibn Ghanam approached the city.

According to the Qur'an, all pagans are to be be given a choice between conversion to Islam or death. People of the Book, however, are permitted to retain their religion and live, under Islam, as second-class citizens.

Who, then, are the Peoples of the Book? Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, says the Qur'an. And in one passage it adds: “...and the Sabaeans.”

Who were the Sabaeans? Nobody knows. To this day, there's no scholarly consensus.

As 'Iyadh neared Harran, the gates opened and the city elders rode out to greet the caliph and his army.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Um...M. L. West's Indo-European Poetry and Myth counts, right?
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    To qualify, a community needs a book revealed by a prophet. "Um, yeah, our prophet is Hermes Trismegistos. And our book is anyth
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    There are always precedents for Living Together, always. In these days of deep division, it's important to remember.
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I love the story of Harran, the last haven of Pagan religious freedom in the Middle East...ruled by a dynasty of liberal Muslims!

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