Book Club: Ch. 4

As before, all notes here are approximate, EBoard members are referred to by full name, and other attendees are referred to by initial.

Kate: As we usually do, do folks have overall impressions of the chapter?

Cat: I read it in a fucking whirlwind. This one was different than the other chapters. There are a lot more direct quotes from the source material which is why there is something like 82 endnotes.

Kate: It had a very academic feel. Felt like I was reading a journal article.

S: More historical

Kate: Like the articles that you would find on JSTOR.

Cat: I usually skim over the quotes.

Kate: I do the same.

S: I do that differently. I pay equal mind to the quotations. I tend to read in sequence, to link it to the argument.

(Discussion of how to read academic history journals and books. Along with discussion of college history classes and their level of difficulty. A bit of a ramble off topic.)

Kate: How does this chapter fit in with what we have already read?

Cat: So, one of the notes that Aleja took at the last meeting was that there were lots of questions about the end of chapter three. The dichotomy that she sets up.

Kate: Ch4 spends a lot of time with false dichotomy between witches and cunning folks….but also saying that there is a lot of overlap.

Cat: What is the point of picking of these terms? So much overlap.

(we digressed about yogurt for a moment

K: Very interesting the authors take on familiars. People seem to now talk about familiars as pets and not as a spirit being relationship.

Cat: In my experience and research, familiar is a spirit being. In modern neo-paganism it is often taken to be a pet. But, there is some discussion about if this because it is harder to get consent from an animal than a spirit.

Kate: Animals can consent to be familiars.

Cat: I have never had a familiar. Familiars are more like independent spirits.

Kate: I disagree. It can be animal and usually a familiar animal and consent to work with you. I think in the context in Wilby were talking about a helper. My animal familiar is a helper and a guardian and actively involved in my magic. For me, animals or spirits can be familiar. They have independent will and they make a choice.

Cat: Cunning folks and witches the encounter is a visual one. (pg61) Are we discounting that it can be a physical being?

Kate: We are not. It can go either.

Kate: “In these tales the protagonist usually finds themselves alone and in some kind of trouble, when a supernatural being appears suddenly before them and offers to help in some way.” Is that when you meet them in your practice?

K: In my experience, I go to them. And the right one shows up to help.

Cat: They respond to a request.

S: I don’t have any.

Kate: Kate is weird. I didn’t seek – they showed up. I started with elementals and then over time ancestors show up in times in deep stress. I guess I thought that is how it worked that way for everyone. I guess that is different.

Cat: I wish she would have expanded on this idea of folktales and myths…especially in the context of fairy familiars and anthropomorphic familiars. I don’t usually think of a humanoid spirit

S: I think having a familiar that was humanoid would be unsettling.

Cat: I would be less likely to trust them

K: I see humans as more dangerous than faeries.

Kate: I think all entities have their own agendas…

Cat: even Tulpas and Egregores

(We took some time to look up the definitions of Tulpa, Servitor and Egregores and discuss their roles)

Kate: False dichotomy….it continues through out the chapter and it is frustrating.

We discussed further the false dichotomy set up by Wilby between cunning folks and witches.

Cat points to the three methods for how a familiar is acquired:

  1. appearance of the familiar
  2. receiving as a gift form a relative
  3. from another more powerful spirit (p61)

pg62 – “There is also little to distinguish the appearance of a demon familiar and a fairy familiar.”

Instead of it being so being black or white, every one is a varying shades of gray. Back to the false dichotomy

Difference 71 King James definition – of witches having malevolent intent and searching for riches but then on the same page “The elite notion that greed lay at the heart of the relationship between a witch and her familiar is also thrown into question by the fact that the promise of riches is just as commonly found in the encounter-narratives given by cunning folk.”

Kate: we are talking poor and the peasant so when we talk about riches, we are talking about survival not wealth as we think of it. It is important not to place our values on them.

Pg 66 – “And it is here, at this juncture, that the encounter-narratives of cunning folk begin to differ significantly from those of their darker counterparts”

Kate: I do not think she had proven her argument in this chapter – but proves the opposite.

Cat: It seems like cultural baggage of the term witch. Witch must equal bad.

(Discussion of elite vs peasant magic)

Byron Ballard‘s description of high versus low magic from Hallowed Homecoming which we all thought was better but none of us could remember exactly.

[From Aleja’s notes, later: Ballard was quoting Jason Miller, using his terms Field Magic vs Temple Magic. In the field, you make do with what you have and you work it quickly. In the Temple, you spend time preparing and get everything just-so.]

S: Maybe instead of high and low we can talk about conventional versus asymmetric magic

We came back to the idea of physical survival for both witches and cunning folks with the appearance of familiars.

“In the majority of encounter …. struggle for physical survival” (67)

Transaction is clearly verbalized (67)

Primarily, used in healing

Concept  – often material gifts were fake (72) (top) “like gifts from …handful leaves”

Then all of a sudden…there were brownies?!?!?

Brownies….and demons and oh my…..fairies….

We thought the chapter did not feel well thought out or complete and didn’t feel like it fit with the rest of the book. Maybe it was an academic article that became a chapter?

Next Month’s Book Club is May 11! See you there!

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