Vol 7 No. 1 (2005)
The evolution of Margaret Murray’s theory of a historical witch-cult deserves as much scrutiny as the topic of witchcraft itself. Its widespread acceptance despite glaring inaccuracies to the eyes of a modern reader testifies how little interest the academic world had in witchcraft in the first half of the twentieth century. Its enduring popularity in the face of contrary evidence reveals the emotional nerve struck by Murray’s works. Today there are those still devoted to the concept of an ancient witch-cult, and they credit Murray with discovering it, even though the cult they describe may bear almost no relation to Murray’s witches.
The Theological Interpretation of Myth [+] 27-41
This article seeks in the Platonic philosophers of late antiquity insights applicable to a new discipline, the philosophy of Pagan religion. An impor¬tant element of any such discipline would be a method of mythological hermeneutics that could be applied cross-culturally. The article draws par¬ticular elements of this method from Sallust and Olympiodorus. Sallust’s five modes of the interpretation of myth (theological, physical, psychical, material and mixed) are discussed, with one of them, the theological, singled out for its applicability to all myths and because it interprets myth in reference exclusively to the nature of the Gods and their relationship to a model of the cosmos in its totality. The other modes of interpretation, while useful in particular contexts, are not uniformly applicable to all myths, interpret the myths as concerning things other than the Gods themselves, and interpret the myths with reference to particular sectors of the cosmos. Accordingly, it is from Sallust’s theological mode of interpre¬tation that the new method draws its inspiration. From Olympiodorus the method derives strategies for interpreting basic narrative attributes that myths share with all stories. Thus temporal sequence is interpreted as an ascent, from our perspective, from less perfect to more perfect manifestations of the powers of the Gods. Passivity, conflict, and transitive relations in general between the Gods are interpreted as expressing attributes of the cosmos to the constitution of which the Gods dedicate their energies, rather than as placing constraint upon the Gods themselves. The article concludes with a series of broad principles meant to guide the new method.
Through a close textual analysis of relevant sections of Donna Haraway’s 1985 paper, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, and with specific reference to her closing remark in that article, I explore the compatibility of Haraway’s work with a Pagan political philosophy. After a general introduction to what I take to be the key concepts for a Pagan politics in Haraway’s work, I offer a brief outline of her use of the figure of the ‘cyborg’. With this background established, I begin my consider¬ation of the final line of ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, which reads: ‘Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’. Through my unpacking of this comment I offer an explanation of the type of position that Haraway is attempting to adopt, a position that takes into account both the unique opportunities that we are offered, and the risks that we are exposed to, by technologies in the modern world. Equipped with this understanding of Haraway’s position, we are able more clearly to see her critical perspective on Paganism (which I argue is part of what is represented by the ‘goddess’ figure in the above quote). I then offer a re-reading of this goddess figure in light of the political and philosophical reality of contemporary Paganism’s engagement with the technological, and argue that the cyborg and the goddess should be understood as kin, not as adversaries. Finally, I present what I take to be the most important challenge that Haraway’s paper offers to contemporary Paganism, namely the challenge to think carefully about powerful dualisms—like those between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ and between the ‘organic’ and the ‘techno¬logical’—and to ask ourselves about the roles that they might play in our Paganism and our politics more generally.
Since its popular inception in the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web has been subject to a set of interrelated mythologies about its potential as a social technology. Virtual reality has been confused with online activity, the question of computer-mediated community has been debated, and researchers have begun to explore the Internet’s impact on religious belief and practice. This excerpt addresses some of these concerns in terms of the Internet more generally and modern Paganism on the Internet more specifically. While some Pagans regard the Net as the next leap in magickal evolution, others consider it little more than a global notice board for the privileged classes. This is an extract from Douglas E. Cowan, Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2005), 224 pp. Reprinted with kind permission.
Review of The Rotting Goddess: The Origin of the Witch in Classical Antiquity’s Demonization of Fertility Religion by Jacob Rabinowitz 98-101
Review of Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology by James L. Pearson 103-104