Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America by Sabina Magliocco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sabina Magliocco is a professor and California State University Northridge, the school from where I received my teaching credential. Before that she taught back eat as an associate professor. Once might say that certain event in her life cause her to embrace the path of Neo-Paganism. Her first ritual was with Starhawke.
After getting through a rather tedious introduction that almost put me to sleep I got into the main body of the book. The first chapter gave an over all history of neo paganism starting back to the interest I the noble savage and the desire to reconnect with nature and the borrowing over from Masonic rituals and Ceremonial magic. It offered a critical look at the accepted history from an insider view who still appreciated that mythologized history was needed for a mind set appropriate for the Neo Pagan. The first chapter got me hooked. Doctor Magliocco’s work was informative, interesting and easy to read.
Chapter two covered the loose and fluid boundaries of Paganism. Paganism differs from today’s religion in that boundaries are not so clear. Some Pagans belong to multiple groups and tradition. Some people are pagan for a short period in their life and then move on. Most Pagans are solitaires attending big group rituals for the eight sabbats as part of an outer court and getting most of their information from book and workshops. Most Pagans are more educated than most and tend to come from the Middle Class. They strive for employment that enables them to be of service and money is not that big a deal to them. Jokes with in the Pagan community are not only for humor but also serve to help identify who is part of the in group.
To be a witch or a Pagan, two terms which do not necessarily mean the same thing as witches practice magic and not all pagans are witches or practice magic. To be a Pagan puts one in the role of a rebel or someone critical of society. Pagans are critical of the rampant materialism and often identify with the underdogs. Many witches will identify with the victims of the burning times and the victimhood of other people. They see themselves as being oppressed by the Christian majority.
Magic and ecstasy are also discussed some see magic as transforming the world the better. A good example of world repair magick would be Starhawkes “Reclaiming Tradition”. Other see magic as changing the individual or their perception of things. Ecstasy could sometimes mean being put into a trance and being able to receive messages or travel spiritually to other dimensions. Possession and aspecting are also discussed. Aspecting is when you let a deity or spirit take over your body temporally and aspecting is bring the deity out from their internal niche within.
The Last chapter addresses ‘Cultural Appropriation” which is taking element from other cultural paradigms and applying to your own or a hodge podge system. Many form of magic and religion share the same characteristic and often times when cultures come into contact with each other they borrow elements. Some see this as theft or as leaving the Deity with out a context. Others see borrowing as natural and deities communicate no matter what the language. Excellent book.
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