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The Super Scholar – Common Personalities in Modern Paganism (and how to deal with them)

This second article on personality archetypes within the pagan “scene” will focus on the Super Scholars: Pagan Ultra-Academics.

Often the complete opposite of the Pogan, the Super Scholar can usually be found around the fire late at night at gatherings, where they will debate and discuss every possible facet of their current area of study, while at the same time arguing about every tiny point of Pagan history – both ancient and modern. These are the people who make a beeline for Elders (actual or perceived) at gatherings, anxious to glean any information that they can, and will interject with “actually, I think you’ll find…” at least four or five times during conversations on anything remotely related to Paganism.

But how do you pick a Super-Scholar from a run-of-the-mill academic?

  • Similar to the Craft Whore, the Super Scholar hoards books, artefacts and knowledge, and will happily trot out information and “facts” at the drop of a hat. The Super Scholar is less concerned with creating meaningful worship experiences, and more concerned by what Gerald Gardner said to his milkman in the summer of 1944.
  • Some Super Scholars raise themselves up to the same level as Pagan “Celebrities”, chasing and collecting initiations, titles and degrees by any means necessary – including phoney-baloney internet PhDs!
  • Often, these people will be the proverbial “dog with a bone” if they think you have information they can use.

While for these reasons and more Super Scholars should be kept at a safe distance if you come across them, it is important to think of this: in some ways, we should feel sorry for them. These mega-academics of paganism have not actually done themselves any favours, when it comes to worship and community.

The curse of the Super Scholar is threefold:

  1. Usually, they will have spent so much time studying Paganism and Pagans that they are in some ways unable to “switch off” – Every pagan event, ritual and social gathering becomes an anthropological study for them. In turn, this means that they can never truly relax and fully invest themselves in what is going on. There is always a need to analyse every tiny going-on, and then compare it to the huge swathes of information they have collected over the years.
  2. In the research phase, certain Super Scholars are so hungry for craft “wisdom” and “history” that they will lend an ear to almost anyone: bonafide “witches proper”, the fluffiest of bunnies and every squeaky wheel in between. Without proper discernment and fact-checking, this can lead to some fairly worrying or one-sided things being published. As a result, well-known Super Scholars are often mistrusted by understandably cautious pagans, and are kept at arms’ length in many instances.
  3. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the Super Scholar is his or her own worst enemy as far as ritual experience goes. Because when one studies (and studies, and studies) the rational explanations and unpackings of things like magical/ritual experience, shared experience, trance, energy raising, etc, it can lose a lot of its meaning at a divine level, and leave the poor old SS feeling more conflict and ennui than originally intended.

Generally, I prefer pagans who not only know their stuff to some extent, but are able to discern between the diamonds and the bollocks. But in some cases, folks overdo it. Sometimes it really is a case of knowing too much. I cannot speak for others, but I resent having my spiritual practice reduced to some sort of anthropological oddity. When all your tomes, recounts, artefacts and hearsay start affecting your ability to experience ritual and your relationship with most other pagans, it might be time to stop for a while. Shouldn’t some Mysteries remain just that?

– Galloway.

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