Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buzz Coil: November 2013

Some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously elsewhere or on the same blog). Please excuse the variation in some of the font sizes. I have tried to fix this in both Explorer and Firefox, but couldn't fix it all and had to stop due to persistent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Association for the Study of Women and Mythology: A November 4 post announces a “Call for Papers: Feminist Gift Economy,” and gives contact information in English and French, about an opportunity whose deadline is January 30.

Fellowship of Isis CentralA November 2 post, “2016 Convocation,” gives information about FOI’s planned convocation at the Isis Retreat Center in Geyersville, California, next October. An October 30 post announces “Inauguration of the Order of the Shining Helmet" of Athena, according to the wishes of FOI co-founder, the late Olivia Robertson.

Glenys’s blog: Glenys Livingstone’s October 24 post, “Seeing Her Land: the Twin Fires of Beltaine,” gives background on the holiday being celebrated at that time in the Southern Hemisphere.

Annelinde’s World: Annelinde Metzner wrote the poem in her November 2 post, “The Magic Pouch,” after the recent surgery. With art and prose commentary.
HecateDemeter: In her November 4 post, “Listen to the Rain,” blogger Hecate compares rain to lovemaking.
My Village Witch: In her November 14 post, “Miscellany,” Byron Ballard announces that she is moving her blog to her “revised website”. She writes that she expects the process to take “a few days.” The post also includes material she has posted on Facebook.

Yeshe Rabbit: Rabbit's Nov. 15 post compares ideas about duality and non-duality, and the meanings of the term, “Know Your Place.”
Hearth Moon Rising’s blog: Blogger Hearth Moon’s November 20 post, “No-Platforming Hurts All of Us,” discusses “what we can do to put a stop to bullying in our communities.”

The Goddess House: Frances Billinghurst opens her November 15 post, “A Time for Much Needed Peace,” with a quote from Lao-tse. Then she writes:
“During this time of sadness when violence and hatred seems to be increasing, may we turn our attention to the Greek Goddess Eirene (also known as Irene) who is the Goddess of peace, as well as being the Goddess of Spring (eiar, eiarinos).”
She continues with background on this Goddess.

Mythkenner’s Myths: Writing in the voice of the Goddess Persephone in an October 28 post, “Persephone Speaks,” Caroline Kenner tells of Persephone’s relationships with the deity Hades and with Persephone's mother, the Goddess Demeter.
Love of the Goddess:  Blogger Tara’s November 12 post, “Nemetona, Goddess of the Sacred Groves,” discusses this Germanic-Celtic Goddess.

Woods Priestess: This month blogger Molly has been running a series, “#30DaysofHecate.” I’m not going to focus on any particular one of them because I think you’ll want to read them all.

Large Goddess/Spiritual Feminist Blogs

Because of the large number and variety of bloggers and posts on these blogs, we are now suggesting that you visit them and select the posts that interest you most.

Pagan Square: This blog of many mostly-Pagan paths is sponsored by BBI Media and includes SageWoman blog posts.
Return to Mago: A Goddess-centered blog whose administrator/owner is Helen Hye-Sook Hwang.
Feminism and Religion: Many bloggers from many different religions and paths

The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.
The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Interview with Editor of Latest Joseph Campbell Book

Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth by Joseph Campbell, edited by Evans Lansing Smith, New World Library (2015), hardcover, 282 pages.

  This book is part of a series, The Campbell Collection, published by New World Library. We reviewed a previous book in this series, Goddesses. For Romance of the Grail we are interviewing the editor, who is the Chair of Mythological Studies at the Pacific Graduate Institute. This interview is a combination of one sent to us by the publisher and our own questions. The latter are bolded.

How and when did you begin work in the Campbell Collection?

After getting my Ph.D. I taught two years in Switzerland, another two in Annapolis, and then started a long 20 year stretch at Midwestern State University in Texas. Towards the end of that time, I began doing extra adjunct teaching in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Located on the grounds of Pacifica is the Opus Archive & Library, which house the Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library. One day in the library, surrounded by all of his books, I found a typescript of his Master’s Thesis for Columbia [University], called “The Dolorous Stroke,” a study of an important motif in the Grail Romances: the wound that creates the Waste Land. It was not a theme that I had heard Campbell speak much of during his many lectures, nor was it a theme I found much on in his published books. And so was born, in 2005, the idea of publishing the thesis.

Tell me about the archives and the process that lead to this book on the Grail?

My first job—and it took many years—was simply to compile an annotated bibliography of Campbell’s collection of books about the Middle Ages (which is one small part of a very large library). I found many fascinating items in the underlinings and marginalia of those books, which provided insight into the way Campbell became the great scholar of world mythology that he was—going well beyond the mythologies of the Middle Ages. And then there were the files of his lectures, letters and research notes. It was my next task to sort through all of the boxes devoted to the Middle Ages and the Grail mythologies, and catalogue them in some way. My goodness what a treasure trove! I was deeply impressed by the breadth of his interests, and, perhaps more importantly by its depth: an extraordinary encyclopedic and detailed awareness of all aspects of the culture, and their relevance to the Grail Romances.

 What do you consider to be the value of the Campbell Collection?

You can see how wrong so many of the critics of the post-Campbell, post-Northrop Frye, post-Jungian generation were, in their accusations that Campbell was a universalist with no concern for the specifics of a particular cultural mythology. He seemed to know so much more than any of them do about the anthropology, social, and political orders expressed in the myths, and their psychological and spiritual roots. As I said, it was both the breadth and the depth of his scholarship that so deeply impressed me in the years spent working on his beautiful, simple wooden desk in the archives.

In the chapter on the Wasteland mythology, could you explain the significance of the differences in the interpretations of the Grail in Christian, Celtic, Hellenistic, Indian mythologies, including the role of goddesses?

The chalice of the Eucharist in Christianity is the vessel which contains the blood of Jesus, sometimes seen as having been gathered from the wound inflicted by the spear of Longinus during the Crucifixion. The consumption of the wine symbolic of the blood of Christ during the communion ritual is said to confer immortal life upon the communicant. These notions of the Grail has the container of the food of immortality has its precedents Irish and Celtic myths in which, for example, the initiates consume the inexhaustible meat of a wild boar, and in so doing conquer death achieve regeneration. In Welsh mythologies, goddess Ceridwen presides over another kind of grail—a cauldron in which an elixir is brewed up, the imbibing of which confers the powers of poetic omniscience, prophecy, and transformation. The importance of the divine feminine in this myth hearkens back to such late Hellenistic artifacts as the Pietroasa Bowl, in the center of which we find a maiden holding a cup, surrounded by mythological figures of an initiation rite focusing on death and rebirth. Perhaps the ultimate archetype of these variations on the mythologies of the grail would be the sacred vessels of the Eleusinian mysteries of Ancient Greece, which revolve around the dynamics of death and rebirth presided over by the goddesses Demeter and Persephone.

As you may know, there is now an important contemporary Goddess temple in Glastonbury which, among other things, trains Priestesses of Avalon. Did Campbell draw any relationship between Goddess worship and the Arthurian legend?

For Campbell and many others inspired by the writings of C.G. and Emma Jung, the Grail Romances of the Middle Ages manifest the powerful reemergence of the divine feminine principle, repressed by the patriarchal orientation of doctrinal Christianity. Hence the central presence of the Grail maiden in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival coincides with the Mariolatry of Medieval Christianity, in which the symbolism of the Virgin Mary becomes central to the great cathedrals of the period—such as Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris, and later Einsiedeln, with its famous Black Virgin, just around the corner from Jung’s Bollingen Tower, and the end of Lake Zürich.

How did you select the materials presented in the book?

After approaching Bob Walter, President of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, and its Board members, with the idea of publishing the M.A. Thesis, I was asked to provide a broader context for “The Dolorous Stroke,” situating it in relation to Campbell’s lifelong interest in the Grail Romances, on which I had heard him speak so beautifully on so many occasions in so many different places: Brittany, the forests of Broceliande, the Nile, New York at the Open Eye, San Francisco at the Jung Institute, and here at what would become Pacifica Graduate Institute. So with the help of Bob, David Kudler, and Safron Rossi, I combed carefully through audio recordings, lecture notes, and outtakes from the files, to find the best versions of the stories, and the most illuminating commentaries on them, that would elucidate his unique approach.

What theme distinguishes your approach to those materials?

When Joseph Campbell left New York in the 1920s, after completing “The Dolorous Stroke,” he inevitably brought along with him the ideas of his mentor, Roger Sherman Loomis, whose basic assumption was that the Grail Romances emerged from the pre-Christian, pre-Roman mythologies of the Celtic worlds of Northern Europe, in Brittany, Wales, and Ireland. By the time Campbell got to Munich, after a year in Paris, that notion was exploded. The whole thrust of the German scholarship on the poetry of the Middle Ages had shifted eastwards. It was much more engaged with studies on the influence of Persian, Arabic, and Indian mythologies on the Grail Romances than on the Celtic world of Northern Europe. So by the time Campbell got back to New York, and before his epic journey across the continent to Big Sur, he had been reborn, so to speak, as the great comparative scholar of world mythology that he became, richly informed by the great spiritual reservoirs of the Near and Far East.

In his 1927 master’s thesis, “the Dolorous Stroke,” published for the first time in this book, Campbell appears to criticize anthropomorphizing, calling it “a tendency characteristic of ignorant peoples” and goes on to describe the process in which, “the feminine earth notion takes definite form, finally, of a goddess, and the masculine virtualizing principle takes shape in a vigorous god.” Did he continue to be critical of such beliefs in his later works?

Campbell’s M.A. Thesis was written at the time when the writings of Sir James George Frazer were exerting their hypnotic appeal on the literary modernism of the 20s (Eliot’s The Waste Land, the novels of D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Thomas Mann, and many others). Frazer’s writings directly impacted conceptions of the Grail mythologies through Jesse Weston’s From Ritual to Romance, which approaches the redemption of the wasteland via the sexual union with the goddess that brings rebirth and renewal—rituals associated with the dying and resurrection gods the Roman legionnaires brought northward. At the same time, Jane Ellen Harrison was focusing on the central importance of the divine feminine and the myths of death over which she presided in books like the Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion—a book which Campbell drew from extensively and celebrated in his lectures. So I wouldn’t say that he was critical of the myth of the earth goddess and sky god in the way you suggest in your question.

What other themes in the book do you feel would be of interest to people involved in Goddess spirituality and/or feminist critiques of religion?

Anyone interested in Campbell’s passionate celebration of the powers of the great goddess, and the writings of such exemplary figures as Weston, Harrison, and, later, Marija Gimbutas, should read the recent volume of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, expertly edited by Safron Rossi, called Goddesses: Mysteries of the Divine Feminine. Also, I remember a particularly stunning week of lectures Campbell gave at the Casa Maria in Montecito in April of 1983, during the course of which—at nearly 80 years old—he spoke all day long, then into the evening, three days running, delivery a moving and encyclopedic exposition of the powers of the divine feminine, which inspired so many people involved in the emerging Goddess spiritualities of the period. These and other lectures can be found among the audio-tapes available on the website of the Joseph Campbell Foundation.