Tag Archives: ancient religion

From Ritual to Romance

From Ritual to Romance by Jessie L Weston, part of the Mythos / Bollingen series, a 1993 paperback from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jessie L Weston From Ritual to Romance from Princeton University Press

“Acknowledged by T.S. Eliot as crucial to understanding ‘The Waste Land,’ Jessie Weston’s book has continued to attract readers interested in ancient religion, myth, and especially Arthurian legend. Here she reinterprets the saga of the Grail by exploring the legend’s Gnostic roots.

Drawing from J.G. Frazer, who studied ancient nature cults that associated the physical condition of the king with the productivity of the land, Weston considers how the legend of the Grail related to fertility rites—with the lance and the cup serving as a sexual symbols. She traces its origins to a Gnostic text that served as a link between ancient vegetation cults and the Celts and Christians who elaborated on the story. Conceiving of the grail saga as a literary outgrowth of ancient ritual, she seeks a Gnostic Christian interpretation that unites the quest for fertility with the striving for mystical oneness with God.” — back cover


Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity

You may be interested in Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity, a brand new thematic network associated with the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). This new group “aims to bring together scholars who specialize in esoteric phenomena in antiquity, regardless of discipline, in an effort to create a dialogue about shared issues and research while providing the necessary resources to facilitate further study.”

There are a number of people involved in the group, but of those whom I’ve mentioned on occasion previously elsewhere I will mention specifically April DeConick, one of the founding members, and Sarah Veale, the website coordinator. The NSEA coordinator is Dylan M Burns of University of Copenhagan and you can check out more about the founding members on their about page.

Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity

“AncientEsotericism.org is the website for the Network for the Study of Ancient Esotericism (NSEA), a thematic network associated with the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). NSEA specializes in the study of esoteric phenomena of the ancient period and provides contact for specialists of ancient esoteric thought, history, and literature.

This website is intended as a resource for scholars and students. While the ancient sources (Gnostic, theurgic, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, etc.) of Western Esotericism possess enormous importance for the development of esoteric currents from the fourteenth century onwards, there remains only a minimum of interaction between the antiquity experts and their (proto)-modern colleagues. The Network therefore is intended to 1) introduce scholarship on ancient esotericism to students of Western Esotericism, 2) serve as a forum in which to exchange ideas, notes and references, etc. outside of other professional bodies which are not concerned with esotericism per se, 3) to coordinate study and workshops with other working groups on the subject, such as the Society of Biblical Literature’s Section on Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity, and 4) (and most importantly) to provide a junction of the many resources online that can serve as aids in the study of this fascinating and difficult material (dictionaries, textual corpora, blogs, etc.).

Founding Members of the NSEA include:

Brian Alt (University of Indiana)
Dylan M. Burns (University of Copenhagen)
April Deconick (Rice University)
Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta (University of Groningen)
Nicholas Marshall (Aarhus University)
Joyce Pijnenburg (University of Amsterdam)
Lisa Emma Pizzighella (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)
Kocku von Stuckrad (University of Groningen)
David Tibet (Macquarie University)” [via]

 

“The Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) is happy to announce our new website, AncientEsotericism.org. With continually-updated online resources news, and conference announcements, AncientEsotericism.org is intended to be a one-stop location for scholars and students of the field.

What is esotericism in antiquity? This is a broad term that governs the use of secrecy, concealment, and revelation to talk about the really important stuff—from the true identity of the creator of the cosmos (Gnosticism) to the keys to the heavenly palaces (Hekhalot literature) to how to talk about the indescribable One (Neoplatonic mysticism), etc. So if the subject involves arcana celestial and subterrestrial, it’s ancient esotericism. Scholars in various disciplines have struggled to describe a spike in “secret revelations” in Hellenistic and Late Antique religion (Hengel) or the trend towards mythology in the “Underworld of Platonism” (Dillon)—what all this diverse material has in common is an interest in secrecy and revelation for dealing with the divine, and a common reception-history in “esotericism” in the modern era, ranging from Renaissance Platonism to the New Age.

The website is intended provide a guide to the wonderful, but dizzying, online resources available for the study of this vast and difficult body of literature. My goal (in collaboration with Sarah Veale) was to create the website I would have died to see when I was an undergraduate and just starting to get excited about this material, but totally confused about how to go about studying it, what scholarship was already out there, and, most importantly, where to find the most useful primary sources and reference materials on the web. A lot of the resources gathered here will be familiar to you—but perhaps not to your students, or colleagues in an adjoining field, or a friend. So, if someone has come your way who is starting to get into Nag Hammadi, or Iamblichus, or the apocalypses, etc. and asks you for some guidance to what’s out there, please consider making this one of the links you pass on to them. We will do our best to make it worth your while.

We encourage those interested in these fields to submit calls for papers, workshop notices, conference announcements, and other pertinent news and resources for inclusion on the website. You can submit by email or through our online submissions form. Those wishing to get involved with NSEA are invited to contact us for more information.” [via email press release]