Revisiting Marija Gimbutas

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.

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Geomancy: Gnomes, Cantombe, and Eleggua

Go big or go home, right? I’ve been having a useful discussion with Iago over on this post from a few days back and it’s getting complex enough that I want to start talking about some of the issues being raised as independent posts, some of them a bit long.

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[NB] Indo-European Permutations

Stacey’s been reading up on her Indo-European myths lately, most especially the rival god/brothers, and it has brought Dumezil circling back into our discussions. Because I have been thinking so much about the Kabbalistic material from the point of the view of the Fall, I started to plug that into his model. What happens if we look at Dumezil’s exploration of Indo-European myth as the study of a thorough permutation of the sefirotic diagram? It goes interesting places almost right away.

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On Seeing and Naming Color: Blue Alienation

“Like it or not, we are slaves of the hour and its colors and forms, subjects of the sky and of the earth. Even the part of us that burrows deepest into itself, disdaining its surroundings, does not burrow along the same paths when it rains as when the sky is clear.”—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I’ve seen this piece from the Business Insider frustrating folks, reporting that terms for the color blue weren’t widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world. Most of that frustrations seems misplaced. We’re missing an opportunity because, while this is a puff piece, what it describes fits into a discussion that has been going on for nearly half a century within cognitive anthropology. It’s easy enough to hear the results of these studies as generally pejorative, but that’s not what I see. This sort of thing allows us to appreciate past cultures more deeply as it makes clear their differences from us, not their inferiority.

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[NB] Myth in History, briefly considered

I feel like I should say something about the place of myth in history given the last few posts emphasizing the Biblical ‘history’s’ mythological character. It’s a deep pool to wade into but I think there are some statements that I can make which hold in a general sense for most myths, Biblical and otherwise. For those interested in the gritty details of the Mesoretic material I’ve been discussing, let me just point you toward the two Wikipedia articles on Source Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis as guides for deeper diving.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons we have so much detail about the Biblical material is because we have put so many scholarly resources toward this; consider how comparably fewer have been put toward analyzing other myths.

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[NB] Myth and structuralism

I often lament the rapid transition between structuralism and post-structuralism, between modernity and postmodernity. While there are many figures grouped under the latter’s banner that are vital and important, in most cases it seems like the sort of rapid transition that hides more than it reveals. In the refusal to dwell with structuralism and with modernity, there seems to be a missed opportunity. Or, rather, a whole field of missed opportunities.

Take Claude Levi-Strauss’s most basic insight that myths aren’t singular, that the understanding of a myth requires establishing a sense of the family of myths that share and redistribute its elements. The myth comes to occupy a field defined by its variations. These variations are defined by sharing overlapping elements and themes, even as those elements and themes are constantly redistributed.

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A Witch’s Guide to Deconstruction

A blog post really won’t cover this, but I hope to lay out a rough set of orientations, a framework for exploration that might help orient us in the great wide world of spirit work. I don’t think deconstruction and witchcraft are such odd bedfellows, though I suspect few would agree with me. Still, consider the degree to which the sort of structuralism popularized by Claude Levi-Strauss began as an exploration of cognitive foundations of a cosmology. Those cosmologies have a deep tie to myth and rite. Derrida’s deconstruction, responding to this, is also, therefore, responding to a way of approaching myth and rite.

(Oh, and yes, I am using deconstruction to refer mostly to the Derrida-inspired variety, with its decidedly philosophical rather than literary or linguistic bent. Folks like Guyatri Spivak and Rudolph Gasche, yes. Folks like Paul De Man, not so much; though there is surely some overlap. I’m a sucker for the 1960s Derrida, so essays like “Force and Signification” and Of Grammatology loom large–those who know, will see why as I get going.)

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