• The blacker the body, the whiter the light—the incandescent, active virgin heart from which all comes. Victor Anderson

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One Hell of a Rabbithole

For the last day I have been down a very deep rabbithole of investigation. Basically, I wanted to do an expansion of sorts on my summary of the history that goes into The Soup What Made Modern Paganism Happen and so I’ve been collecting data to that end.

It is an amazing, complicated soup. And the thing is that one can say, “Okay, that bit, that bit doesn’t connect up with the other bits” until one looks at the details. And then there are the things that connect up that make one go “Buh?” because basically everyone active at that time was into at least four things and knew half a dozen other people who were involved in different parts of the soup.

Which means that one can’t think about Flinders Petrie (seriously, is that a Potterverse name or what?) inventing modern archaeology by starting to catalogue in detail his dig sites without connecting him to E. A. Wallis Budge, the Egyptologist who did so much work for the British Museum. Obviously, right? Now, Budge’s work was not only read by basically every half-penny English-language occultist and spiritist looking for deeper truths, but he himself had an interest in occult phenomena and was a strong believer in ghosts, which had him hanging out with people from the Ghost Club. Now, the Ghost Club was a reasonably posh club for people interested primarily in ghosts and ghost-hunting, but also occult phenomena and weird religion, and included a number of other people. Like William Butler Yeats. Yeats! Influential poet! Also one of the driving forces behind the Irish Literary Renaissance, part of the Celtic Revival, and a major collector of Irish folklore and heritage information. You can’t not get there from here, if you actually look.

Oh, also Petrie did the first serious survey of Stonehenge. If that’s your bag, instead.

And that’s the stuff that isn’t actually all that weird. I mean, I’ve also turned up the influential German nudist who wrote a screed in 1907 about how his principles were a recipe for the German people’s defeat of their neighbors and the casting out of the Jews. Which is, um. I’m sure the book was about more than nudism. But the mental images.

(But oh, some of the way things get tangled. Back to the land movements and the valorisation of pastoral life fed into blood and soil movements where each ethnicity was supposed to be associated with its native lands, and that of course feeds anti-Semitism because of the Jewish status as a people without a homeland. It’s not a straight line from “let’s all paint nymphs and fairies and shepherds” to Dachau, but there is a line, and it’s visible when not drunk.)

(Oh, speaking of Dachau, there was a runeologist sent there for not including anti-Semitism in his interpretations of the runes.)

So some thoughts on the project so far:

* Ay yi yi the New Religious Movements stuff produced a fuckton of denominations
* How many different Rosicrucian groups are there anyway?!
* The occult community of the period was full of influential women, wow
* Whoa, man, nineteenth century science
* My brain in a fit of overtired has decided henceforth to refer to Iolo Morganwg as “You Only Live Once, the Bard”

2 comments to One Hell of a Rabbithole

  • Thene

    I read a couple of Dion Fortune’s novel’s last year, and. The Goat-Foot God has the most unfortunate last sentence of any book that’s ever been written, I swear. It really drove it home that paganism and fascism are two kids that grew up together.

    • wyfwolf

      Really really really two kids in the same family. I keep coming across disturbing cross-connections that drive it home.

      I have this vast spreadsheet of data title “This Soup is Made of Soup”, because it’s all melded together in complicated ways. And basically everything I’ve seen modern pagans complain about “Why is this shit in my religion?” It was in the soup.

      Why are people getting naked? It was in the soup.
      Why do people make references to fantasy novels? It was in the soup.
      Why are people doing weirdly appropriative shit with Hindu-originating concepts? Holy shit was that in the soup.
      What is this obsession with magic? It was in the soup.
      Organic gardening? The soup.
      I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens. The soup.
      Atlantis? Soup.

      And being horrifyingly racist and anti-Semitic? Oh yeah. The soup.