Vol 8 No. 1 (2006)
Song of the Car, Song of the Cinema: Questioning ‘Semi-Orthodox’ Pagan Rhetoric about ‘Nature’ [+] 5-28
This article takes a detailed and questioning look at the way Pagans have tended to conceptualize ‘Nature’. It holds that Pagan culture is dominated by what could be regarded as a ‘semi-orthodox’ viewpoint on the subject, which holds that notions of enchantment are synonymous—or at least broadly congruous—with ‘natural’ forces, with the logical and ideological corollary that those elements deemed to be ‘non-natural’ are therefore intrinsically antithetical to magical sensibilities to some degree. Drawing from academic and Pagan sources (the latter including interviews with practicing Pagans), its intention is not so much to ‘disprove’ this type of view, but rather to critique the assumption that it represents a fundamental or defining feature of the Pagan phenomenon, as opposed to a rhetorical and cultural adjunct.
Popular Witchcraft and Environmentalism [+] 29-57
Witchcraft is often described as a ‘nature religion’ that is attractive because of its environmentally oriented mythology. This article examines the popular literature of contemporary Witchcraft to identify the extent to which Witchcraft reflects a substantial change from the dominant Western anthropocentric orientation to the other-than-human environment. I examine the rituals and worldviews in popular Witchcraft texts by Vivianne Crowley, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Scott Cunningham and Starhawk. I argue that there is substantial variation in the degree to which Witchcraft can be classified as providing an environmentalist ethic. While Witchcraft mythology is oriented toward nature, the focus of much Witchcraft on self-development leaves it open to becoming a religion of selfish individualism rather than a spirituality of respectful relationships.
Journey into the Neither-Neither: Austin Osman Spare and the Construction of a Shamanic Identity [+] 54-83
The English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) created a dense and fecund body of work that is built upon a foundation of automa¬tism, the pursuit of a state of Vacuity, and the reification of what Spare termed “Self-Love.” Although a one-time student of Aleister Crowley and clearly influenced by some aspects of Western European esoteric currents, Spare has remained on the margins of the twentieth-century occult revival due both to the complexity of his language and idiosyncratic nature of his system of magical theory and practice. A number of voices have, however, sought to locate Spare and his system within a “shamanic” framework linked to perceptions/constructions of “witchcraft” and “Amerindian sorcery.” This article seeks to examine what this might mean through a discussion of the dual influence of Michael Harner’s core-shamanism and Kenneth Grant’s mediation of Spare, while also providing an overview of Spare’s writings on “trance” techniques designed to address the apparent evidence for his “shamanic” identity.
This article presents a study of a post-1962 attempt to craft a new religious movement in the United States of America primarily developed from the elements of the occult orders and writings of the English occultist and prophet of the Law of Thelema, Aleister Crowley (1875–1947). The leaders of groups influenced by Crowley’s abundant esoteric legacy, itself the synthesis of a range of earlier Western esoteric initiatic systems, often developed a compelling unity of purpose within their small hierarchically organized collectives espousing Crowley’s beliefs, despite the radical antinomian overtones of the thelemic maxim “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The article reviews the literature, traditions, history, and transmission of authority in the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), culminating in a particular focus on the development of one such novel religious group, the “Solar Lodge” of Los Angeles, and shows how its conflict with society drove the surviving members of Crowley’s OTO to reactivate their esoteric order in the United States.
Review of Modern Pagans: An Investigation of Contemporary Pagan Practices by V. Vale and John Sulak 118-119