Book Club: Recap Parts I & II

[The notes that follow are much more rough than usual, as we were a bit meandering]

Attendees: Aleja, Cat, Kate, R, SO, SM, K

K, Aleja, Kate, Cat all finished part II.  SM still in Part I.

[Aleja’s rant about irish color word glas and journey myth types imramma and echrtrai, and mytho-real islands. “Sea” as neutral “water”]

[explanation of book by Cat and Aleja for R, who joined us for the first time]

K: chapter 7, ambivalent fairy. Like Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a cautionary tale. Don’t request healing and then refuse to pay.  Don’t curse people because negative attention

Aleja: TO. Be. Silent!!

K: don’t screw over witches also???

Cat: Overall Impression?

SM: interesting, but this is a weak point for me, learn better from discussion

K likes anthropological linguistics

Kate: Wilby is pretty sympathetic the way she tackles this topic.  I bought the Ginzberg books.  Spent most of my time working in African history and folklore, which comes at it in a fundamentally disrespectful way, coming at it assuming it’s not real.  Can recommend to pagans.

Aleja: Part II isn’t even that bad, it’s palatable

SM: yeah that’s my feeling too

K: supposed to be looking at customs without judgement, like journalism back in the day, just the facts and make up your own mind

Kate: but descriptive anthropology is so out of vogue, and they’re not giving disclaimers in the beginning

K: I took an anthro 101 in college like that

Kate: probably using old descriptive sources.  The merging of anthro and history has helped historians, because more resources, but I think it’s polluting anthropology, too much judgement and analysis… “Foucault’s model of power to…”

Kate: “so fucking sick of Foucault”

Kate: They immediately jettison the idea that they’re actually dealing with real spirits.  They’re either crazy or trying to get resources.  Louise White, “Comforts of Home” did well on treatment of prostitution in Africa, missed the mark on vampirism.  White liberalism, sex work is okay, but the minute we get to spiritual things, they miss the mark.

Cat: non-Christian spirituality

Aleja: academia has an atheistic bent, too, though

Aleja: my issue with part I was that false dichotomy, but it’s cemented as subverted in Part II

Cat: Part II then, [topic blurb]  Shamanistic influences from pre-Christian culture, not trickling down from ceremonial magic

Aleja: not usually reading anthropology, but this wasn’t bad except for the few jarring instances we discussed last time [sensitivity readers]

Kate: If I were her dissertation advisor, I would say Part II feels rushed.  She may have rushed, or publisher may have cut things.  Usually history is 10 chapters.  Long for this kind of book, but also has done very well, stayed in publication a long time.

K: Part II Ch 9, hazarding the soul, initiation as death of old self, but also might get lost each time they go in.  Soul Loss, Sarah Ingermann

Cat: compared to little death

Aleja: and dismemberment healing

K: psychopomp work and soul loss overlap a bit

Cat: soul retrieval as concept

SM: Oh, I was just thinking the French word for orgasm

K: slowing of heartbeat and blood and brain waves in deep meditation?

Cat: more like, have to die to be able to become a shaman, not quite all the way dead.  Show willingness to go and ability to come back

K: spiritual initiation usually a death-rebirth, never quite the same again

Aleja: Dead, mad, or a poet! Author Rec: Erynn Rowan Laurie, on filidecht & ogham

K: Christianity seems to kill and corrode paganism and shamanism

K: anti-magic field, negation magic

Aleja: card psychics, can’t do itheir usual success rates nearby professional skeptics. Anti-psi field, they called it

SM: Xanth series by Piers Anthony, most people have magic, pun based.  Boot Rear gives a swift kick and levitates.  One character’s talent is antimagic.  Breaks the world around them, or bends probability to prevent magic from affecting them.

Cat: familiar with the concept in urban fantasy

Aleja: is this setting high fantasy?

SM: yes.  But Piers Anthony has issues, pedophilia adjacent.  Underage characters too emotionally close to adults, considering age gap.  Misogyny. So: content warning.

K: shamanism as described is animistic, heal and harm

Cat: we discussed her discussion of the term

Aleja: we appreciate her acknowledgement that it’s a loaded term

Cat: I think we should finish this book, then do the article

[Discussion of the next book to read. Please send any suggestions to the Fellowship email!]

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