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Group Reads > The Visions of Isobel Gowdie

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message 1: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Chosen by Old-Barbarossa for our group read.


message 2: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments This is a doorstop of a book folks...my copy is anyway.
Might be a week before I start this.
Anyone else (Morgan?) please join and rant away...I don't want to be seen as hogging this discussion.
And even if you're not reading this, please add comments if you are interested on the subject matter...grist to the mill and all that.


message 4: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Brief questions...
Lysistrata pointed out (correctly) on another thread that shamanism is a term that is technically only correctly used in reference to specific practices in limited regions (Siberia etc).
I think though that through common usage it has come to refer generally to trancework carried out as part of an indigenous tradition of magic and healing.
How do folk feel about the word's usage?
Does the term in the book's title predispose us to think of the evidence presented in a certain way?


message 5: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 11 comments This looks really interesting but the cheapest copy I see is over $65...


message 6: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 01, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Terri wrote: "This looks really interesting but the cheapest copy I see is over $65..."

Amazon (UK) has some cheaper ones...but then you might have to factor in postage and it is a heavy text.
If the £/$ exchange rate keeps dropping you might get it for a buck.
Whether you source a copy or not hang around and howl into the discussion...and I'll howl back...
Had a quiet day today...hence the many posts.


message 7: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Terri wrote: "This looks really interesting but the cheapest copy I see is over $65..."

Might you be able to ask your local library to get it in for you?


message 8: by Sara (new)

Sara Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Brief questions...
Lysistrata pointed out (correctly) on another thread that shamanism is a term that is technically only correctly used in reference to specific practices in limited regions (Siber..."


I have no problem whatsoever with the use of the word "shaman". From my perspective, while it originated in the language of a specific Siberian tribe, it passed into general usage as early as the end of the 17th century. It is a general term much in use by anthropologists these days. Your definition of it will suffice, though I personally don't like the word trancework. I find that most know at least generally what o e is talking about with the use of that word.


message 9: by Sara (new)

Sara Old-Barbarossa wrote: "The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland
Link for ease of finding the text."


Certainly not an easy one to come by! I'll hang out because I'm interested in the subject matter.


message 10: by Paisley (new)

Paisley | 7 comments This sounds truly fascinating. $65 for 660 pages justifies the price a bit I suppose, but too bad it's not something I have the budget for at the moment. Also sticking around to see what you all have to say about it.


message 11: by Toviel (last edited Mar 02, 2016 06:02PM) (new)

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments I really want to read this one, but $65 dollars for one book just isn't doable in my budget. ):
--------------------
Sara wrote: "Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Brief questions...
Lysistrata pointed out (correctly) on another thread that shamanism is a term that is technically only correctly used in reference to specific practices in..."


RAMBLING WALL O' TEXT INCOMING!

Cultural appropriation is starting to become a meaningless buzzword, but the use of the term "shamanism" as a catch-all for vaguely similar tribal practices seems... wrong. Is "the academics do it" a good reason to justify the continued use of a term that's often misused by both anthropologists and pagans alike?

The problem with the term's use in anthropology is that it puts a whole lot of weight on the "backwards" quality of tribal practices in comparison to "civilized" society as a whole. This black or white view of other cultures results in the tendency to erase the identities of living people (e.g. labeling the hundreds of unique tribes in the USA as one "Native American culture"). For examples, how many animists know that the origin of the word "totem" is from the Anishinaabe people (which in of itself is a conglomerate of several First Nation tribes, iirc), and it's actually supposed to be spelled "dodem"? Shamanism is a loaded term not because it originated from a specific role in Siberian tribes, but because of the biases it represents.

But to step away from the book discussion for a moment, should that baggage apply to the pagan and New Age use of the term? I don't have an answer for that.

The crux of the shamanism problem in a neo-pagan context is that it describes a complex role that fundamentally does not exist in first world society. Doctors, spiritual leaders, and political leaders are all roles played by different individuals-- historically and very broadly speaking, someone in the "shaman" category would fulfill all three. The fact that individual cultures with "shamans" have differing criteria, expectations, and cultural values regarding these roles further muddies the waters. Grabbing spiritual practices that work well together from a handful of sources does not a shaman make.

As such, I personally have a hard time visualizing even the most respectable tranceworker as a true "shaman," unless they are affiliated with legitimate tribes/indigenous people or organizations, and they're clearly working within the bounds of culture specific restrictions. If someone identifies as a shaman, however, I'm not going to think less of them because of their word choice.

At least the use of "Dark Shamanism" in the title of this book is easy to judge. It's bad academia, nothing more. I would have to actually read the book to judge whether or not it's offensive in any way, of course.

EDIT: I wonder why they added in "dark" to shamanism in the title, though? The original title apparently only used "shamanism" by itself.


message 12: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 02, 2016 10:30PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Lysistrata wrote: "At least the use of "Dark Shamanism" in the title of this book is easy to judge. It's bad academia, nothing more. ..."

I'm assuming it's a marketing thing...and basically a judgement on the practices through modern eyes.

Lysistrata wrote: "...Grabbing spiritual practices that work well together from a handful of sources does not a shaman make..."

I feel similarly about the use of the word "witch".

Lysistrata wrote: "The crux of the shamanism problem in a neo-pagan context is that it describes a complex role that fundamentally does not exist in first world society..."

Very well put.

There are a few words in the literature (eg: "totem" as you pointed out) that have become shorthand in the way that "hoover" is now the generic term for vacuum cleaner. The use of shaman in the context of south/central America seems to be commonplace now as well (even in the more academic literature), though technically this isn't really correct as you point out.
Having said that, I think the use in the more "neo-pagan" context is the one I get more twitchy about (for reasons you note above). But I can personally accept it as a shorthand when it comes to indigenous practices...


message 13: by Sara (new)

Sara I'm going to bow out of any further commenting in this discussion as I find myself in sharp disagreement with the perspectives espoused here. I'm perfectly comfortable with a more generalized use of the word "shaman" and see current practitioners as part of a long-standing tradition to which we are each privy when we do the work. No point in diverting the discussion of the book.


message 14: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 11 comments Lysistrata wrote: "The crux of the shamanism problem in a neo-pagan context is that it describes a complex role that fundamentally does not exist in first world society. Doctors, spiritual leaders, and political leaders are all roles played by different individuals-- historically and very broadly speaking, someone in the "shaman" category would fulfill all three. The fact that individual cultures with "shamans" have differing criteria, expectations, and cultural values regarding these roles further muddies the waters. Grabbing spiritual practices that work well together from a handful of sources does not a shaman make. (..."

This is a very interesting point and I think that is a problem we face with many pagan words. We can construct new words with more precise meaning I would think, but how would they get into usage? Esp. in academia which is loath to change.


message 15: by Toviel (new)

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Terri wrote: "This is a very interesting point and I think that is a problem we face with many pagan words. We can construct new words with more precise meaning I would think, but how would they get into usage? Esp. in academia which is loath to change."

Constructing new words presents its own problems. F'ex, the LGBT+ community is currently experiencing numerous (albeit minor) problems because there are literally *dozens* of new words to describe individual identities, but there is little to no consensus as to which ones are the better ones to use in any given situation. Pagans are a divisive bunch to begin with, so it'd probably take a very long time to settle on anything new if something similar happened in pagandom.

I prefer to use words that describe the functions of plastic shamanism, such as trancework, animism, spiritual healing, etc. They're relatively accepted terms in the pagan community and better describe what shamans do anyway.


message 16: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Lysistrata wrote: "I prefer to use words that describe the functions of plastic shamanism, such as trancework, animism, spiritual healing, etc..."

I always liked sorcerer...and wizard...no school like the old school.


message 17: by Toviel (new)

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Ahahaha. I reserve my wizards and sorcerers for ceremonial magicians and Harry Potter fanatics. Sometimes they're one and the same!


message 18: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 11 comments Lysistrata wrote: "I prefer to use words that describe the functions of plastic shamanism, such as trancework, animism, spiritual healing, etc. They're relatively accepted terms in the pagan community and better describe what shamans do anyway."

makes sense


message 19: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Back to the book...

Anyone started it yet?
Should be into it by Sunday, it's at home and I'm not.


message 20: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I always liked Mercea Iliade's definition of a shaman. You need to be able to talk to the dead, manipulate fire, and fly to be considered a shaman. Quite a resume!


message 21: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Back to the book...

Anyone started it yet?
Should be into it by Sunday, it's at home and I'm not."


I have! I have to take my time with it, so I've only read the first chapter, but so far I'm really impressed with Wilby's attention to detail, particularly in bringing to life historical context and Isobel Gowdie's immediate environment.


message 22: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 09, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments I agree. Just finished chapter 1 and this is a very good job of putting what is about to be discussed into a historical context.
Admittedly she only briefly touches on the complex and varied flavours of xtianity that were around in the area post civil war, but I think that would just muddy the waters.
The index has a load of interesting promises for later in the book...strangely has the Marquis of Huntly under Huntly, but the Marquis of Montrose under his surname.


message 23: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Ch2 is just the "confessions" all in 17th cent scribal scriblings...with the added confusion of dialect with a dash o' the Doric.
This may have been better as an appendix, but interesting none the less.


message 24: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments As I hit ch6 I would say to anyone else reading this: skip ch2 unless you are happy reading auld Scots/Doric filtered through a 17th cent notary.
It may put you off the rest so leapfrog ch2 and onward!
Having said that, I found it quite interesting and came across terms I'd not heard in years as many bits of dialect are still in use. If you read it phonetically you'll get more from it.
A bunch of stuff on the faerie tradition and more promised for later in the text, nice to see a mention of the trowies from the Northern Isles.


message 25: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "As I hit ch6 I would say to anyone else reading this: skip ch2 unless you are happy reading auld Scots/Doric filtered through a 17th cent notary.
It may put you off the rest so leapfrog ch2 and onw..."


Yeah I'm a bit of the way through chapter 2 (been very busy lately!) and struggling through it slowly. It's not putting me off, but it's definitely harder going than reading English trial transcripts. Reading it aloud in an appalling Scottish accent does help though...

Barbarossa, are you Scottish?


message 26: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Morgan wrote: "Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Reading it aloud in an appalling Scottish accent does help though..."

That is a great idea!


message 27: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Morgan wrote: "Reading it aloud in an appalling Scottish accent does help though..."

Assuming a level of continuity in accent may I suggest less of a Shrek stylee accent and more like this:
https://www.youtube.com/results?searc...

Morgan wrote: "Barbarossa, are you Scottish?"

Aye...amongst other things...now living in the West of Ireland.


message 28: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Morgan wrote: "Reading it aloud in an appalling Scottish accent does help though..."

Assuming a level of continuity in accent may I suggest less of a Shrek stylee accent and more like this:
https:..."


Haha, I'll give that a shot - I was originally doing it in a (botched) Edinburgh accent because that's the one I'm most familiar with, but I'll certainly try and see if that makes it any easier :P


message 29: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments So far, part 1 (up to page 250 or so) is very good at the context as well as looking at Hx of Scotland in the 1600s as a whole.
Loads of cultural info and relevant insights into oral tradition, storytelling, small community grudges etc.
One thing that I think many modern folk overlook and I think gets deserved attention here is the use of aggressive magic, or maleficium.
I may be placing a cat amongst pigeons here...but here goes.
Modern "witches" have a habit of sanitising the past when it comes to their own. There is an assumption that their "predecessors" were victimised local healers that never uttered a curse in their life. The contextualising done by Wilby gives the lie to that idea I think...as does any understanding of the roles of shaman/medicine man (or woman)/witch in any society where they still fulfil their old role.


message 30: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 14, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments OK...part 2 notes in the intro that the terms shaman and shamanism are a bit nebulous. Hope Wilby clarifies her definition soon.
Also, just noticed that the text could do with a modern map of the area...I'm OK without one at the minute as 3 of my 5 current bottles of whisky are from within a 60 mile radius of where this all transpires.


message 31: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments http://www.tomintoulwhisky.com/tomint...

Wee dram with the book this evening.


message 32: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "So far, part 1 (up to page 250 or so) is very good at the context as well as looking at Hx of Scotland in the 1600s as a whole.
Loads of cultural info and relevant insights into oral tradition, sto..."


That would've been a good idea, my Scottish geography is appalling. Tbf, my everything geography is appalling.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday that briefly discussed the modern occult publishing industry, and it mentioned that a few years ago occult publishers went through a 'shaman' phase where everything new-agey had to have 'shaman' in the title to make it sell better - it's entirely possible that the use of shaman in the title of this could be more a result of pressure from the editor/publisher than anything else?


message 33: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Morgan wrote: "I was listening to a podcast yesterday that briefly discussed the modern occult publishing industry, and it mentioned that a few years ago occult publishers went through a 'shaman' phase where everything new-agey had to have 'shaman' in the title to make it sell better - it's entirely possible that the use of shaman in the title of this could be more a result of pressure from the editor/publisher than anything else?"

I feel similarly about the use of the word "celtic" as a means to shifting product. (Can you post a link to the podcast? Would be interested in hearing it.)
But as part 2 commences it seems that the term is relevant to Wilby's hypothesis, and she takes time to set out a useful definition of it.


message 34: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 15, 2016 08:56AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Morgan wrote: "That would've been a good idea, my Scottish geography is appalling..."

If you hit google maps (or similar) for Moray in Scotland you'll have view of the whole area.
Or look for maps of distilleries in the Speyside area :)


message 35: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Morgan wrote: "I was listening to a podcast yesterday that briefly discussed the modern occult publishing industry, and it mentioned that a few years ago occult publishers went through a 'shaman' p..."

They only touched on it very briefly in an overarching topic - they pretty much commented that it was a thing and that it was kinda annoying and then moved on. I remember them talking about it in the second half but I can't be any more specific, sorry. But the podcast is here: http://newworldwitchery.com/2015/02/2...

I still haven't read any more yet (I've got distracted reading something else, oops!) but I look forward to reading Wilby's hypothesis.


message 36: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 16, 2016 02:30AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Morgan wrote: "I still haven't read any more yet (I've got distracted reading something else, oops!)..."

I've been wallowing in it. Might need a palate cleanser before continuing.
I'm thinking a quick burst of pulpy goodness: Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, or Elmore Leonard.
What did you get sidetracked with yourself?


message 37: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Frey | 23 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "What did you get sidetracked with yourself? "

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams - I've not read much of Plath's prose (apart from the Bell Jar), and some of it is stunning.


message 38: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Old Barb, I realize that I'm breaking in here at the end, sans reading it all, but...Your comment about the use of the word Celtic struck a cord. Since IG was Scots, can I get away with asking you if you've ever heard the Gaughan song "No Gods". It's not about the gods, such as they are, but give it a listen if you get a chance please? 93/93 and all that...lol


message 39: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Big fan of Gaughan's.
No Gods is a favorite, as is his take on What You Do With What You've Got.
Also love this: https://youtu.be/qd2AHZ22SJ8


message 40: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Yeah, I was so glad he calls himself Gaughan so that I could avoid having to say constantly that "I love Dick"....lol
Have you heard his version of Ruby Tuesday by the Stones? Amazing. On YT, btw.
He is one of my fave people on the planet. And yes, I kind of share his political views as well. ;)
Nice talking. Morgainne


message 41: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Old Barb, thanks so much for introducing me to another of Gaughan's brilliant songs. I love music as much as books, so a lot of times I think of musical references to subjects discussed here; but as a newbie I prefer not to jump right in and cause possible aggro with any comments. Plus, a lot of people don't get my slightly twisted sense of humour. (sigh)
Honestly, living in the States ain't all that great now, but it basically gave me the opportunity to get away from my family...(don't ask lol).
I'm glad we spoke; I'd wanted to before but was afraid of a possible bollicking from you after reading my intro attempt/debacle! ;-P
Again, nice talking, M.


message 42: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Morgainne wrote: "Old Barb, thanks so much for introducing me to another of Gaughan's brilliant songs. I love music as much as books, so a lot of times I think of musical references to subjects discussed here; but a..."

On the subject of music...have you heard any Eddi Reader? Amongst other things she does some smashing versions of songs byRobert Burns.https://youtu.be/8wl0uvfdPwA


message 43: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Sigh, I'm there for anything Rabbie...I'm trying not to gush slightly too much about how much I adore Burns.
I'll check out the link, pretty sure we'll end up having similar taste. Plus, I can pump you for more good music, if you don't mind. Slightly mercenary...lol
I was just listening to Hothouse Flowers' song Tell Me (Llaidre me or something like it in Irish Gaelic, one of the freaking hardest languages that I ever tried and failed to learn!).
And on that cheerful note, I bid you goodnight.


message 44: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments OB, Eddi Reader is brilliant; and once again I am in your debt for introducing me to some great song/s ( that I can DL for free, since I'm basically broke now--a real treat, so grateful).
I wonder if there is any music I could point you to, because you're probably familiar with it. I will try to find the link to Gaughan's Ruby Tuesday, since it's on one of my 150 song playlists that have a bit of everything in them, that I use to keep sane-ish. Was listening last night and I remembered mentioning it to you.
For a while, I was totally immersing myself in celtic music ( not being one for half measures), esp. Scottish stuff since blood calls to blood or whatever. Wow, that sounds so bloody pompous. Blame my too too good make you want to commit seppuku upbringing...

The Gowdie book sounds neat; but I need to eat, not read this month. Anyhoo, I was looking at an old book of mine that I had tried to tell Anne about called Norse Magic by Kveldulf Gundarsson. Was very transformative for me regarding the Norse trad. He is a true Vitki and his knowledge and wisdom amazingly deep. (imho for what it's worth). Sound familiar at all?

Stay well. Morgainne (with the 1000 yard stare now)


message 45: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Folks still reading this that are finding some of the context of Part 1 confusing might benefit from a quick viewing of series 2 episode 1 of A History Of Scotland by Neil Oliver. It used to be on youtube, probably taken down for copyright reasons. Having said that, while looking for it I came across loads that would help with context. Loads on wiki as well. A brief search for Civil war in Scotland and Covenanters will give the broad background.


message 46: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Actually a while back, I had listened to a Beeb radio play by Ian Rankin called The Serpents Back, and needed to bone up on the '45 stuff, so I went to Wiki and searched Jacobite Rebellion. Some person practically uploaded a thesis--starting with things in the late 17th century and the '15, and then the politics relating ultimately to the Culloden massacre and the political vibe in Scotland later. Very very detailed; I did skim a lot...(it seemed like it was 1000 pages long and I was looking for a general overview, not what King James fancied for breakfast).
Having vented that, if you go to certain chapters, there's a lot of neat stuff...and you gotta give the guy credit for the upload.
Don't know if that was helpful to anyone at this point. I'm listening to Highway 61 now so sorry if I am sounding snotty...lol
Have a good one. Morgainne :)


message 47: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Oh, Old Barb,
I found some vids of Gaughan performing live at some street fest doing a lot of the stuff from A Different Kind of Love Song, as well as Handful of Earth ( Now Westlin Winds, possibly Workers Song too). In Edinburgh, possibly the 80s, forgot to say. I'm not great with details in the morning before coffee...sigh.
Plus, some good Alistair Hullet stuff. Post-Roaring Jack acoustic shows from Oz. Suicide Town live in a small venue. Do you dig John Cooper Clarke at all, btw?
Sorry Isabel Gowdie is going off thread, M.
Oops, couldn't upload links with this phone, will send them by puter if you want. BB.


message 48: by Morgainne (new)

Morgainne | 36 comments Eesh, Old Barb, I thought you were a chick...
Just looked at your profile which I should have done immediately.
Umm, don't take my messages too personal, you ken? Just really am into books and music and magick. I have no social networking skills since I don't do it at all, and I guess this has turned into my first go. Really only joined GR while researching a book and was led to this site, and found the group somehow (think GR suggested it, good on them). Sorry to write this publically, but I would've had to sign in to send you a message and I forgot my pw. And I am really tired, shell shocked from my family holiday, and to my regret, do forget to censor the brain-mouth connection too often with strangers.
Sorry, dude. Later, Morgainne :/


message 49: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Mar 26, 2016 09:16AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Just finished ch10 (An Old Way Of Seeing).
Wilby sets out her understanding of the terms shaman/shamanistic around p252. Seems a useful shorthand for the purposes of the discussion, yet she acknowledges the limitations.
Also, this chapter looks at the way the observers doing the writing (Isobel's interrogators, or the author herself) can't help viewing whatever she was up to, or experiencing, through their own reality tunnel...so the interrogators filter through the world view of witch-finding covenanters and the author through her modern anthropologically influenced one...in many ways this limits the understanding, or portrayal, of Isobel's experiences through a lack of useful vocabulary (hence the need to use terms like "shamanistic").
This is a very interesting book. So far I can't recommend it enough.


message 50: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments OK…I’m starting to notice some things I don’t necessarily agree with in Wilby’s interpretations of events.
P308 for example, she claims that it isn’t an act of maleficium when Isobel says, in relation to magically entering folks houses, “we take meat and drink, and we fill wp the barrellis wth owr oven pish again”.
Now…if somebody pished in my porridge I think I would interpret that as bad magic.


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