Book Club: Ch. 10

As usual, Eboard Members are identified by first name, and others are identified by preferred initial! Attendees at this meeting 1/11/20 were Cat, Kate, Aleja, and SW, referred to below as S (not the same S as previous posts – that’s SM).


Aleja: My first note is “Oh look a thesis statement!” pg 163, most of the second paragraph

Cat: earlier, the bit about differences between the societies Wilby’s comparing for her anlysis is important, wish she had led with that in Intro Part II

S: it’s a newer trend in historiography, acknowledging these things. This book is fairly recent (2005)

Cat: I like having your perspective, as a historian.  Kate also, but hers is more anthropological

Aleja: I have some history lens but I’m primarily looking at it through a lens of faery witchcraft

Kate: but, thesis!

S: I appreciate when academics are clear like this

Aleja: 164, “the downward filtration of elite ideas about the stereotypical demn familiar was working in tandem with an upward filtration from below of dynamic and coherent popular folks beliefs.” My reaction? both.gif [here]

S: I’m surprised she doesn’t really talk about the Axial Age, big mainstream religions all from around the same period. 8th-3rd century BCE

Cat: link Wikipedia page when you do the notes

Kate: but Wilby’s very focused and maybe didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole

Aleja: could maybe have included as an endnote and then “for more information” resources

[We all prefer footnotes lol]

[digression about linguistics and internet dialects]

Aleja: next, “experiences” also on 164, second paragraph

S: it’s nice that she doesn’t judge it, we can’t see through their eyes

[Kate’s rant about Louise White, again, for S]

Kate: Wilby doesn’t have to pass judgement, she just looks at it

S: She just looks at their reported experiences


Aleja: Ontology definition: philosophical study of existence, being, reality

Cat: bottom 165 “It is best left to the psychologist to determine just what happened at these spirit raising sessions” and 166, top, “Whether he [Stoeckhlin] made up the stories of his soul journeys, or whether he really experienced some form of altered state of consciousness, is not important because the purpose of his stories wasprimarily to legitimate his claim to special knowledge, and that is precisely what he achieved.” and then the block quote on bottom. Comment: dick.

S: but that first one is from the 70s. Keith Thomas was kinda ahead of his time but now doesn’t seem progressive anymore.

Cat: I wonder how much emphasis that book had on the pagan movement in the early days  [S brought a hardcopy of “Religion and the Decline of Magic”, by Keith Thomas]

Aleja: endnote 2, after the quote top of 166, says that despite commenting about how it doesn’t really matter if the experiences were “real” or not, Valetta is one of the few to actually discuss the ontology

Cat: [black dog ramble]

Aleja: 167-168: this ambiguity (spirit or corporeal?) is a Thing in fairylore as well.  Both.gif again. They sometimes really seem to be flesh and blood and sometimes really don’t and it can be hard if not impossible to draw that line, and to decide how much was understood and properly discerned by the observer, versus mind and memory altering glamours.

Cat: pg 167 on shamanism: “this perceived link between shamanism and trance-induced visionary experience is now so strong that scholars in the filed increasingly cite the ability to enter trance as one of the defining characteristics of a shaman.”   That was always something that seemed innate to the idea, for me, the altered state of consciousness

S: from my limited knowledge, that’s pretty common across different North America nations too

Aleja: yeah, and also dreamwork a lot of the time

Cat: Margaret Murray on page 168, direct quote from Cat: “I fucking hate her so fucking much.” Her entire career is based on just making shit up.  The pagan community is like “But its an aCaDeMiC tExT” [spongebob meme]  Murray makes me want to pour hot coffee on my face.

S: I’m reading other stuff like that right now, problematic and not very academic

[semi academic book: The Once and Future Goddess, Elinor Gadon.]

Cat: 171 top, “Dude what the fuck” was my reaction to him cutting open the toad

S: even if it’s not a spirit it’s her pet!!!!!!!

Cat: He just MURDERS IT

Kate: maybe then it and its friends come after him because she hexed him

S: Plague! Of! Toads!  Plague! Of! Toads!

Aleja: endnote 22, mentions a collection of anecdotal material, where to look for examples of trance states caused by possession, bewitchment, haunting

Aleja: last line of that paragraph, “The interest in the supernatural experiences of Scottish seers expressed by several notable minds in the later seventeenth century, including English natural philosopher Robert Boyle, diarist Samuel Pepys and antiquarian John Aubrey, provide us with a fascinating exception to this rule”
I should maybe look this up for my personal practice.

S: Robert Boyle an early scientist?  [NB: Yep, sometimes considered the First European Modern Chemist!]

Cat: Isobel Gowdie is also Scottish, Aleja

Aleja: Yeah Wilby’s other book is definitely on my To Be Read list

Aleja: bottom 171: “The shaman is deeply and unconsciously rooted in his traditional culture and looks upon contact with a spirit being as a relatively normal occurence. In consequence, he feels no need to search for complicated explanations.”
This also is A Thing when people are recounting their journey or “godphoning” experiences on tumblr and other similar media. Building new polytheist subcultures

Kate: and somebody came up to me at Hallowed Homecoming to ask what I meant when I “heard” spirits. We need a panel on this for newbies, explaining different kinds of “hearing”. You can’t do it “wrong”

Cat: yeah same, “godphone” not a good image, gives the wrong impression

Kate: how do you know it was a deity? You just Know

Cat: or write it down, figure it out later

S: Yeah, like I had an interesting dream earlier this week

Aleja: did you write it down?  *grin*

Aleja: Bottom 171, “not a real event” ???? Wilby was just discussing them as “real” whether or not they were physically manifested, I’m uncertain why the difference here

Kate: what? Missed that

Aleja: physical event, corporeal event?  Editing problem, maybe.
And at the very bottom, “there seems to be no gradual change from normal consciousness to the trance state.”  As one (1) witch, can confirm. Sometimes it’s a flash, a blink.

172-73: Pretty pictures!

Kate: [reading aloud about the woodcut from the Met Museum website]

[Aleja’s Scottish Devil = Fairy King ramble]

Aleja: page 175, endnote 33 has an additional example of “monstrous” familiars

Cat: Temperance Lloyd, middle of 175, fucking weird. Oral sex in public??

Aleja: probably not wearing anything under the slip/petticoats.  No panties, this era.

Cat: black dogs with weird faces, not uncommon.  Have you seen “what we do in the shadows”? movie or TV shows. Shapeshifts, but keeps his human face

Aleja: 176, endnote 37, additional examples of physical sensations with familiar encounters.  Awkward

As we were running out of time and not everyone had finished the chapter, we stopped before the “Trance-Inducing Techniques” subsection, and will pick up there in March.

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