Thursday, 27 June 2013

Spica: The Online Postgraduate Journal for Cosmology in Culture

Hot on the heels of the publication of issue 1(1) of Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism earlier this month, another online, peer-reviewed, open access journal devoted to an area of this exciting topic has just surfaced. Spica: The Online Postgraduate Journal for Cosmology in Culture is - as its title suggests - the product of postgraduate students studying the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David's School of Archaeology, History, and Anthropology. Edited by Rod Suskin, it contains contributions from a number of students on the newly introduced correspondence course, who have converted some of their best course essays into papers for public consumption.

In his guest editorial for Spica, Nick Campion, the specialist in the academic study of astrology who runs the course, praises the creation of the journal, and notes that MA research can often provide "a valuable contribution" to emerging fields such as that which he studies. As a masters student myself, this is a sentiment that I agree with wholeheartedly and its great to see an academic higher in the hierarchy openly praising the achievements of those of us a lot lower down on the ladder. Indeed, it is two master's degree students - Aren Roukema and Jimmy Elwing - who are the masterminds behind Correspondences, and it just goes to show that you don't have to have a PhD or a professorship in order to contribute to the vast sum of scholarly knowledge.

Although my research has so far never focused on astrological and astronomical beliefs in past cultures, I think it's wonderful that scholarship is at a point where "unorthodox" subjects such as these can gain growing acceptance and publication. The mindscape of the scholarly community, largely rooted as it is in the tradition of western rationalism, has all too often deemed the study of astrological beliefs pointless due to the perceived irrational nature of astrology itself. However, even though astrology might lack a rational base as a scientific discipline, it is still a widely held belief across the western world, and has been intricately bound up with astronomy in past societies; for this reason the study of past astrologies is a hugely valuable part of studying past cosmologies and mindscapes. Spica might only be a small contribution to that new field, but it is certainly a welcome one.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism

The peer-reviewed journal is the lifeblood of academia, allowing scholars to present research to their fellows and propelling the cause of scholarship ever forward. It plays a vital role in every discipline, whether science, social science, or humanity, and remains the repository for some of the most important advancements in human knowledge. This being so, it is tragic that the overwhelming majority of such journals are protected behind off-puttingly high pay-walls, being available only to the wealthy and those fortunate enough to have university access subscriptions.

For years, there has only been one solitary peer-reviewed journal devoted to the academic study of Western esotericism, the aptly named Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism. Its an excellent journal, and has allowed for the publication of much important research, but its monopoly of the field was near total, and at 58 euros for an annual subscription, it didn't come cheap. Though scholars were able to offer their work for publication in a number of other related journals - Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft, The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, or the now sadly defunct Journal for the Academic Study of Magic - Aries was alone in being devoted 100% to Western esotericism. This week, that monopoly was broken in an important step for the ongoing diversification of the field.

Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism is the brainchild of two postgraduates at the University of Amsterdam, Jimmy Elwing and Aren Roukema. Perceiving the need for a new, more inclusive scholarly outlet for their field, they devised the journal with the support of various specialists in the subject, many of whom agreed to sit on the publication's editorial board. Here at Albion Calling, we'll be undertaking an interview with Elwing and Roukema in the coming weeks to find out more about how this project came to fruition, so watch this space!

For me personally, Correspondences marks an important step in my academic career, because it is the second peer-reviewed journal in which my own work has seen publication. In my latest article, "An Elusive Roebuck: Luciferianism and Paganism in Robert Cochrane's Witchcraft", I continue with my research into the beliefs and praxes of Robert Cochrane. Well known among the "Traditional Witchcraft" community as something of a tutelary figurehead, Cochrane (1931-1966) was the founder and Magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain, and formulated his own magico-religious tradition in the early 1960s, prior to his ritual suicide. I find him a fascinating historical figure, and consider him one of the most enigmatic esotericists of twentieth-century Britain. Whereas my former paper on the subject, "Robert Cochrane and the Gardnerian Craft: Feuds, Secrets and Mysteries in Contemporary British Witchcraft" was published by The Pomegranate, and can only be accessed through a £14.00 pay-wall (for which I don't see a penny, it should be noted), the structure of Correspondences means that this new offering is entirely free and downloadable as a PDF. So, if it sounds like your cup of tea, please be my guest and give it a read! I hope that it encourages constructive dialogue and debate on what is a much neglected aspect of occult and contemporary Pagan history.

My thanks go out to the Correspondences team for their promising new venture, and I thoroughly look forward to what they have to offer us in future issues!