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Well, I was reading John Coughlin's Dark Paganism over lunch today, and I would like to say I am thoroughly impressed. I'm not, though.

Don't get me wrong - I thought his remarks on the validity of a dark path were spot on, and very well-expressed (although with a tendency, perhaps, to Christian-bash). It was his discussion of "Dark Deities" that got me irritated.

It felt like he'd gotten so far along, then wimped out entirely. Instead of discussing the dark aspects of Deity, warts and all, he plumped for the usual "oh but they're only nasty as a result of Christian rewrites, really they're welcoming and empowering". Bleah.

Here's an example ... all about the Crone Goddess :

"Many 'fluffy' Pagans see her as a hag or being too spooky to approach, but on the contrary, those who take the time to know her find that she is often smiling back at us from behind that veil of darkness and mystery. She is like a grandmother than can comfort a child."

- as though the Death Goddess were some kind of kindly Nanna who offers you cookies and cuddles you to her cardigan-draped bosom!

Yes, okay, She is the Layer-Out, the one who prepares you for transition, just like in the Good Ole Days o' Yore - but get real! There are still countries today where that task falls to the old women of a community - and they are anything but fluffy! Sure, they might be good cooks, knit or sew, and have a garden in which they potter - but when they come to lay out the dead, they take on an air of mystery and - let's face it - they're bloody scary.

Imagine those hands ... you saw them only this morning, perhaps kneading bread or reddened from scrubbing dishes. They're twisted with age and arthritis, spotted and clawlike, and they touch the dead person. And not just touch - those hands engage in all sorts of intimate tasks. Undressing, washing away the last of life, re-dressing, combing hair, putting on jewellery - these women are fully aware of the magnitude and importance of their task, and when you look into their eyes, you can see the Washer at the Ford looking back at you.

And when the task is done, she ties on her kitchen apron again, washes those hands, and returns to her everyday routine. She might smile, maybe even offer you cookies, but you know she is so much, much more than some kind of greeting-card grandma - and you damn well better respect that, because when your time comes, she'll know every secret you've tried to hide under your clothes and behind your face.


And his section on "Trickster/Malicious" deities is even worse. For a start, there's no mention of Satan. Yes, some pagans do invoke Him, under any number of names traditionally associated with the Devil. Then there's the comment that even dark pagans don't tend to work with the "real" deities, but rather a fluffier version of them. I'm not even going to dignify that one with a rant.

His list of such deities is narrow : he names only Loki, Eris, Lilith (who, for some reason, is not listed under "Sexuality"), Ares and Seth. Now, I'm fairly sure he's not claiming to provide a comprehensive list, but for gods' sake! Ares? What's malicious about Him? He's basically a thug with poor impulse control - probably less malicious than Athena, when you're talking about motivation!

He's concatenated Trickster deities and so-called Malicious deities - and frankly, not only is that misleading in the extreme, but seems entirely arbitrary. Seth is malicious, but Pan is not. Lilith is malicious, but Kali is not. This sets up exactly the kind of distinction he was saying dark pagans don't make.

No mention of Persephone as a deity of Death, or any Goddesses of sexuality whatsoever! Nope, that's confined to Cernunnos, Pan, Dionysos (which he spells "Dionysius", thus unwittingly drawing a hilarious connection with the Christian saint) and Min. Dionysos isn't about sexuality, He's about licence - about stepping over the line and breaking your own rules.

He ignores entirely the idea that the "fluffy" deities have their own dark aspects, and you better-by-gods not forget it. Go on, just try treating Aphrodite like a sex kitten. Or Demeter like a Mum. See how far it gets you.

And don't get me started on his portrayal of Hekate.

All in all, I'm pretty bloody annoyed (as you can probably guess) ... the book started with incredible promise, then just fizzled into nothing but another book on paganism, albeit with an interesting angle.




( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2005 05:03 am (UTC)
isn't everyone's nanna a scary death-goddess? mine was...
Nov. 3rd, 2005 05:49 am (UTC)
Sound like you should write a book......
Nov. 3rd, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
YEAH! what crosspeen said! you write the book! or maybe be editor and see if you can't scrape up some interesting angles from your circle of aquaintences and prod them into acceptable english. it needs to be written, and obviously no-one else is going to do a proper job of it. and you can have the launch party one midnight in the hall at the back of my shop and we can all swan around being arcanely knowledgable denizens of the dark side - with COOKIES!
Nov. 3rd, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 8th, 2005 01:08 am (UTC)
Re: they just keep on popping up everywhere
Am I supposed to be impressed by that ridiculous waste of bandwidth?

Or are you out to intimidate me by remaining anonymous? Pardon me while I yawn.

I have no idea what your game is, but kindly take it elsewhere.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 06:22 am (UTC)
Re: they just keep on popping up everywhere
Nov. 10th, 2005 10:13 am (UTC)
I have this book and I only remember for its validating my desire for a 'dark' path. I dont remember anything it said about deities! Maybe I dont remember for a good reason!

I think you SHOULD most definitely write a book!!!
Nov. 12th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I've been tempted to buy this book for a while, I love your review of it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )