Ancestry and lineage are hot topics in magical circles these days, but in talking about these things we often fall into vague and romantic notions about how kinship is constituted and defined. Having talked about the very concrete connections between kinship and kalunga recently, Lucien Scubla’s Giving Life, Giving Death: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Philosophy has been a timely read. The way in which Scubla repositions kinship studies to emphasize the central fact of maternity (and highlight how it is often overlooked) resonates with much of my own thinking.
Yuval Harari’s Jewish Magic before the Rise of Kabbalah includes material that clarifies the relationship between magical skulls and incantation bowls, the tight linkage between witchcraft and harlotry, the invocation of angelic spirits (‘princes’) to acquire knowledge of both a practical and theoretical sort (most especially knowledge and understanding of the Torah), and so on. As the title suggests, it focuses on the pre-medieval dimensions of the Jewish magical tradition, looking quite a bit at the rabbinic material, but it does dip into the debates that are taking place on the eve of the medieval era (most prominently those defined by Maimonides).
Recently, I had the chance to attend an exciting panel of talks around the challenges of translation in the context of African diaspora religions. The panelists talked not just about the practical issues that plague every translator, the challenge of finding corresponding meanings across languages, but also the challenges of appreciating how Africans forcibly displaced from their homeland both preserved and remade the language of their religious practices in a generations long effort to translate themselves and their spiritual world into an entirely different social and ecological milieu. And of appreciating the folks who tried to speak on their behalf.
It was helpful to think with as I have this very small but dense translation enterprise that has been preoccupying me lately, that of understanding the term ‘kalunga.’ Since the term contains both a prefix and a root, that led to other related terms (lunga and -lunga derived terms, as well as others more distantly related, like -lambo/-lombo derived terms).
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation (ἀποκαλύψει; apocalypse), or by knowledge (γνώσει; gnosis), or by prophesying (προφητείᾳ), or by doctrine (διδαχῇ; didactic knowledge or instruction)?—I Corinthians 14:6
I have mentioned Revelation a bit, but I came across this more recently and realized it provides a useful model for talking about what is going on in the text and how it might meant to be received and used. I like it, too, because it helps to flesh out what the gnosis of gnosticism is supposed to be and how it relates to other forms of knowledge and communication. There is also something to be taken here about the place of knowledge derived from ecstasies and trance, which is no small thing either.
I came across this article thanks to Warren Ellis; I see Ellis’s point clearly enough and it’s one that I have been more than a little concerned about myself, especially in the greater occulture. Kingsnorth, the Dark Mountain, and the broader halo of thinking that surrounds and informs them has significant influence on the scene. It’s a trend that extends well-beyond the greens, too. A lot of folks who are committed to ‘preserving a culture’ are edging along similar terrain, looking to join national autonomy to cultural safety.
Being sick last week had the silver lining of getting to spend a fair bit of time with both Marija Gimbutas’s The Living Goddess and The Language of the Goddess. There is enough accumulated opinion around her work that I might not have otherwise done that had not sickness whittled my world down to a spare space around the couch, where her books, fresh from the library, sat within easy reach. That’s more than a little ridiculous, when you think about the scholarship I would otherwise tolerate from within the greater magical community.
Of course, that’s part of it, isn’t it? The magical community has garnered for itself a sense of academic credibility (at least in its own mind) in part by accepting certain fashionable academic opinions as givens, including the ones that basically suggest Gimbutas is full of it. The spirit of seriousness lures us with the promise of acceptance if only, as Michael Serres observed, we exclude this third man from our dialogue. Or, well, pace Serres, not a third man, but a woman.
Lately, I haven’t had much that I wanted to post here; I’m trying to decide if this is because I am winding down what I am doing here or if I may need to overhaul what I am doing here. No good answers to those questions yet, but while I have been sick these last few days, a few notebook-worthy observations have crossed my mind. Pardon the mess; I’m still feeling a little logy.