Friday, December 02, 2005

interpretive drift

Currently reading Tania Luhrmann's Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England.

So far I have not actually read the whole book. I am up to the chapter entitled "The Child Within" where she talks about the psychology of magical practitioners. I found this somewhat simplistic and also a sweeping generalisation. Also there is no control group to compare us against, so how does she know that these qualities are unique to magical practitioners (even if what she says is true)?

I think what happened (as suggested by Ronald Hutton in Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft) is that she "went native" for a while, then realised that it would adversely affect her academic career, and a reaction against magic set in.

Also, a lot of people were offended by the concept of interpretive drift (the idea that people start out rational but then drift into the magical worldview by degrees, becoming less rational in the process) and the way we are presented in the book as living in a world of childhood dreams. And I think there's always a problem with setting down what people say in a book - for example the description of some of the people I found to be rather clinical and cold. (It's weird reading about someone you know well in a book - feels like some kind of voyeurism.) When Alexander Carmichael was collecting the material for Carmina Gadelica, one man gave him a poem and then walked 25 miles to ask him not to put it in the book, because he didn't want cold eyes to read it in a book. I know what he meant.

It seems from the book that ultimately she rejected magic & paganism - which is fair enough, except for the way she dismisses them as irrational. And nobody likes seeing their inmost thoughts and emotions analysed and dissected.

The early chapters of the book seem quite sympathetic, but then she gradually becomes more rationalistic as the book progresses.

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