Today I would like to encourage you to take a walk in my head and share one of the greatest fears I have about writing Baring the Aegis. You see, what I do here on the blog and in my own religious practice, Wikipedia writers lovingly refer to as 'armchair theorizing', 'an approach to providing new developments in a field that does not involve the collection of new information but, rather, a careful analysis or synthesis of existent scholarship'. Back when I was in school, we called that 'desk research'. At any rate, what I write here is all based on third-party sources and my own skills of interpretation, which is both a good thing and an incredibly scary thing; it menas that all posts here are only as good as a) the source material, b) my researching skills, and c) my powers of interpretation.

I'm not fishing for feedback here, in either a positive or negative sense. It's just that I have readers--nearly 100.000 hits since Baring the Aegis first started--and I try my hardest to make sure that my abc's line up to provide a picture that a modern classics department could agree with. Yet, scholarship is a moving field, and ever-changing field; hypothesis rise and fall, and sometimes they get traction along the way, making it hard to drop them.

What I do on Baring the Aegis to avoid the major pitfalls is crosscheck everything I find, and make sure to report bias, UPG, and any other form of personal interpretation whenever it comes up. I also don't often quote modern scholarly work, although I get much of my understanding from reading these books. Quotes on my blog come from origional (but translated) sources, and unless I find something really intriguing, I don't post information I can't varify (i.e. find more than one reputable source for), except perhaps with a disclaimer. I'm careful, but in the end, none of the historic information on this blog comes from first hand experience, either archeologically or through use of a time machine. As I am fond of saying; I am just a woman with a pile of books and an active household practice.

So, why the sudden desire to remind my readers of these facts? Marc, over at 'Of Ax and Plough' recently posted a wonderfully informed rant on Paganism and psuedoscholarship. To quote:

"It seems like academic pursuits and research methodology have a rocky past within the (re)emergence of Contemporary Paganism. I blame the 1970s-1980s, in all honesty. It doesn’t seem like there was a period within our collective published history that provides a greater dearth of factual veracity in regards to the publications hit the popular scene as this time frame. It seems like it was a time when any person could throw together inane theories, fabrications with the barest strands of reasoning and logic and pump out a book.
[...] Pseudoscholars of this stripe do only one thing: They invalidate the workmanship, the efforts, and the veracity of actual scholars. Not only that, they can lay the foundation of beliefs that range from simply incorrect and absurd to downright inappropriate or dangerous. In some cases it can take years, if not decades, to rework misinformation and correct viewpoints that have been twisted by the scholarship.
[...] I have nothing against doing something for the Gods you love. I have nothing against being wrong, at all. We’re all wrong, and I have made my share of incorrect assumptions. But my mistakes are learned from, for the most part. But there are ways to be a scholar without using or resorting to pseudoscholarship.
[...] To Pagans, pseudoscholarship can lead to poor information and the creation of – historically speaking – mockery traditions. It can perpetuate wrong information that wracks up a ton of negativity from the tradition that they’re mimicking. In some cases, it amounts to appropriationism that verges on bastardization."
Although my work on Baring the Aegis is informed, it bears repeating that I do not have a degree in the Classics--although I am contemplating getting one--and while I'm a good researcher with a decent head on my shoulders, I am not a trained academic. This is also one of the reasons I don't write books; I don't feel qualified to. There is something wonderfully sheltering about writing for the internet; in general, people do not take your word for gospel where they would if I wrote the same down in a book. Of course, that is no excuse to become complacent and/or slack off.

In the end, I do not want to perform psuedoscholarship, so I invest a lot of time and energy into getting it 'right'--as right as possible from the materials at my disposal. This is simply a reminder that I am one woman with a lot of books at her disposal, as well as a call to read Marc's critical post. What he writes is important for anyone (re)constructing something, especially when they do their own research, but even more so when they rely on the research of others. It's good to remain critical, and to always look for multiple sources. Much of what I wrote prior about scholarly UPG applies to general scholarship as well, and it is important to be aware of that.

I want to thank Marc for putting this fear back into the front of my mind--and while I write that with a hint of sarcasm, I do mean it. It never really left, but I'm more aware again. In the end, every writer is just a person with a soapbox, and they can be incorrect or not completely informed; myself included. The fault is in the intent, and for many of us in Paganism, the intent is at least to do good work. Marc writes in his blog post an example of a Pagan who gets it wrong but refuses to adjust his views because he now has a following; I don't want to be that person and have always admitted when I got somethign wrong. I always accept the wisdom of others when they can bring me proof. I might not like it, but I do. And then I pay it forward by bringing proof to others. This is how we keep each other honest and on the right path towards a fair and beautiful practice of worshipping the Gods. Thank you for granting me my soapbox and thank you even more for keeping a critical eye on what I do with it.