The Magic Mundane

Feb 19, 03:52 by IROSF
Are you a Bradley fan? Neo-paganist? Have a comment?

The essay can be found here.
Feb 23, 18:18 by Kate Laity
It's always dangerous to rely on second-hand information -- particularly second-hand information that's so old. Pagans today have a diverse variety of beliefs which you are, at best, over-simplifying. Fry's depiction of pagans is charmingly quaint -- and a couple of decades out of date.

Re: "...the respect traditionally lent to the Arthurian legend" Amongst medievalists, Arthurians tend to be the least respected scholars (perhaps unfairly, admittedly) because of the perception of most of them as less scholarly than romantic. It would be proper, too, to speak of the Arthurian legends as they vary greatly over time and across cultures, from the Welsh legends to Geoffrey's politically motivated "histories" to the more romantic (and proto-feminist) versions by Marie de France, all the way into the later and far different versions like Malory's. Each era creates the Arthur it desires -- for whatever reasons.

As for Xtians co-opting paganism, you don't have to rely on pagans' "insistence" -- the medieval record speaks for itself. See Bede or read Pope Gregory I's letter to Abbot Mellitus for a specific examples.
Feb 26, 17:31 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
On the whole a fairly well written essay, however, as a graduate in Comparative Religions there are a few points that I feel I must argue.

First is the use of the term "Pagan monomyth". Is the author and his sources refering to Campbell's monomyth as espoused in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, The Power of Myth and Campbell's other works? If so, why the modifying term "pagan"? The monomyth theory as developed by Campbell describes how all myths can be reduced to a single scheme (pagan and Christian both), hence the term monomyth. If Bradley is not refering to Campbell's theory, where can I find more information on this "Pagan monomyth" he is refering to?

Campbell's monomyth theory has been rendered more or less obsolete by the simple expedient that it is far too broad to be useful as a academic tool. Those authors working outside the religious studies field often use Campbell without following up on the current state of his theory or how it is regarded by academics in the field. The author's sources are not specifically works on religion or religious history, and while they may be relevant to some of Bradley's arguments, they remain suspect.

I also must take issue with the author's argument that neo-paganism is inherently and uniformly feminist. This is patently untrue. While the modern pagan movement has been feminized somewhat, it would be fallacious so suggest that all neo-pagans and neo-pagan movements are feminist. Here again we run into issues with the author's sources. While I will applaud Bradley for carefully selecting sources that support his thesis, he is a victim of finding only sources dealing with the feminist text of The Mists of Avalon. It would be pointless to argue that Mists . . . is not a feminist text (as it clearly is), and most of the critical work on it is by necessity feminist.

However, by reading the sources cited by Bradley, one would assume that all neo-paganism is feminist (as, it would seem, Bradley has). Neo-paganism is an umbrella term used to describe a wildly varient set of non-monotheist (though some would argue non-Abrahamic, there are mono-theist paganisms) religious reconstructed traditions.

Neo-paganism is not any one thing, nor is it only feminist. Yes, several (and perhaps even a majority) neo-pagan religions are strictly feminist. Several more are heavily weighted towards feminist ideology. There are, however, just as many that are not feminist in any way, and even more that are equally balanced in terms of gender roles. Feminism is an ideology. Several neo-pagan religions are informed or based on this ideology (one could credibly argue that feminism itself is a religion), but not all. Bradley, through his somewhat sloppy terminology, implies this.

One last issue: 'neo-paganist'. This is grammatically and terminologically incorrect. The proper adjective is 'neo-pagan'. 'Pagan' is itself an adjective which (now, and only sometimes) doubles as a noun. 'Neo-paganist' is redundant. Adherents of neo-paganism are 'neo-pagans', their beliefs are 'neo-pagan'. 'Neo-paganist' is the product of a modern tendancy to add suffixes to words which are already adjectives. (Yes, this seems like nit-picking, and languages always evolve yada-yada-yada, but bad grammar sticks in my craw).

Bradley's essay does show a deep reading of the primary text. Of this there is no doubt. Furthermore, he raises several interesting points about M. Z. Bradley's use of magic as a way of delinating contiguous realities. Despite what seems to be a somewhat harsh criticism, I quite enjoyed Bradley's essay. The Mists of Avalon remains one of my favourite novels, mostly because of the feminist (although as M. Z. Bradley portrays it, entirely fictional) take on the non-Christian paganism of Britain. It was, and remains, a wonderful and bold piece of fantasy literature.

Mar 2, 16:58 by Darin Bradley
I'm pleased to see that the article has generated both discussion and correction. It was my primary objective to widen the discourse of representation in the Arthurian Tradition (particularly outside of purely academic circles), and of course I welcome the elaboration of those who specialize in the topic.

I would clarify that when intoning the "respect traditionally lent to the Arthurian legend," I was not referring exclusively to academic communities of discourse; rather, I meant the general reading public's regard for the legend, which, as evidenced by the myth's endurance, has earned a form of narrative "respect." I agree that a more comprehensive study would situate postmodern Arthurian incarnations (including but not limited to The Mists of Avalon) more explicitly in relation to the Mabinogion, The History of the Kings of Britain, the work of Chrétien de Troyes, etc., and I also agree that each era creates the Arthur it desires (which was essentially my argument: for postmodern audiences); however, doing so is beyond the scope of this article in this instance and would have prohibitively lengthened it.

As for the Christian co-opting of paganism, K.A. Laity is absolutely correct: reading any of the lives of the saints (Northumbrian Oswald, for example) in Historia Ecclesiastica is another way (among many) to discover this. For those who are not aware of or have not seen the textual evidence that proves this, however, offering at least one point of departure for examination is, of course, beneficial (in my case, the "pagan insistence").

K.A. Laity and errant371 both point out (quite rightly) that the essay offers the idea that all Neo-pagans are feminists. They are also both correct in pointing out that this idea is patently absurd. My intention was to suggest narrative resonance with Neo-pagans who do espouse feminist ideology; however, as my language was unclear, I wholeheartedly support the correction that both have put forth.
Mar 3, 17:14 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
You are absolutely correct in your argument that each age re-creates the Arthur legends to suit its societal expectations. This is one of the fascinating things about this particular myth. One does not see the Christ myth reconstructed to suit modern expectations (although you do see this happen throughout the early church and during the early middle ages) when you would expect it. The Arthur myth remains adaptable and flexible despite its texts.

One of the most interesting discussions during my undergrad degree occured in my Romance literature class (that is Romance literature originating in the Aquitaine Courts of Love in the early 12th Century and progressing through the Romantic Age of the 19th Century and into contemporary media). An argument was posed that James Bond was the embodiment of the Cold War age Arthur. The discussion was heated on both sides of the issue, but in the end the class decided that the "love and adventure" of the early Arthur legends (and other texts of the time) equated the "sex and violence" of modern media.

In as much as the Arthur legend was re-created by M. Z. Bradley in a feminist mode for a specifically feminist audience (although Mists... appeal is far more broad than that), both her novel and Darin C. Bradley's current essay work admirably. There is indeed a strong resonance between the feminist neo-pagan community and The Mists of Avalon. I have, in fact, encountered a few neo-pagans who have based their belief structure around the ideas in Bradley's novel. Unfortunately, these same few espoused the claim that the 'Old Religion' as Bradley portrayed it was factual history and Mists... was secret wisdom handed down from pre-Christian times!

Having been involved in the neo-pagan movement since the mid 1980s, I can attest the powerful effect that Mists... has had on the movement in general. It is a case of the novel being published at the exact right time, when the zeitgeist of neo-paganism was primed for a work of its magnitude and message.

I would like to thank Darin for his essay and inspiring me to reread Mists... again. It has been a very long time since I last read it, and I will have a copy of Darin's essay to hand when I do. It will make for a more informed reading of the original text, I am sure.
   

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