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Author Topic: Finding Reliable Sources?  (Read 8065 times)
Áine
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« Topic Start: May 14, 2008, 09:59:29 pm »

TC has a really good article about the difference between scholarship and fluff books.  I was wondering if you all would like to share your way of discerning the credible from the fluff in other media (like websites, etc).  What's your "personal checklist"?
« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 10:18:29 pm by RandallS, Reason: Subject Modified » Logged


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« Reply #1: May 15, 2008, 12:37:27 am »

I was wondering if you all would like to share your way of discerning the credible from the fluff in other media (like websites, etc).  What's your "personal checklist"?

This is a little flip, but when I'm considering a pagan-targetted book about Egypt, I scan through and see what it says about Set.  This is not just because I'm Setian in affiliation, but because Big Red's nuances are really, really easy to screw up.  (And the majority of such books don't notice that He has nuances....)  A book that has even a partial handle on Neb.y therefore comes off to me as more likely to have depth and understanding of other stuff; one that stops at "OMG nastybadscarydude!" isn't likely to have anything to offer me.

(I notice it in other things -- the history of the Devil I read recently had about half a page on Neb.y, loosely placing Him somewhere between 'Trickster' and 'Devil' in the cosmology, which is a sound interpretation.  And meant that I was more likely to trust what it had to say about things about which I know very little, like Zoroastrianism.)
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« Reply #2: May 15, 2008, 08:33:40 am »



Darkhawk's "Set Method" often works in other fields. If there is some common bit that is often gotten wrong, then you can look for that and see if the author got that right. If he did, chances are better that other material is right. For example, when talking about Greek deities Hekate is a great test. In ancient Greece she was seen as a young woman. So if something talks about the Greek Hekate as a crone goddess, I know the author hasn't done their research.
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« Reply #3: May 15, 2008, 11:22:23 am »

Darkhawk's "Set Method" often works in other fields. If there is some common bit that is often gotten wrong, then you can look for that and see if the author got that right. If he did, chances are better that other material is right. For example, when talking about Greek deities Hekate is a great test. In ancient Greece she was seen as a young woman. So if something talks about the Greek Hekate as a crone goddess, I know the author hasn't done their research.

That is one of my first and best tests. I'll flip to the index, find Hekate and then go read.  When I start seeing a triple goddess reference (unless it's one saying something about modern neo-paganism views) and/or the crone bit, I won't bother with it. Also, if there are too many references to Bullfinch, Campbell, or other early or conflationist writers.

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« Reply #4: May 15, 2008, 11:49:16 am »

That is one of my first and best tests. I'll flip to the index, find Hekate and then go read.  When I start seeing a triple goddess reference (unless it's one saying something about modern neo-paganism views) and/or the crone bit, I won't bother with it. Also, if there are too many references to Bullfinch, Campbell, or other early or conflationist writers.

I do the same (but with the Morrígan). But I've honestly not bought any new Craft-related books in...gods know when. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #5: May 15, 2008, 12:13:22 pm »

I do the same (but with the Morrígan). But I've honestly not bought any new Craft-related books in...gods know when. Roll Eyes

Ditto. I can't remember the last one I even looked at. Probably something Randall reviewed. I've just not had any real call to step outside the scholarly sections.
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« Reply #6: May 15, 2008, 01:19:10 pm »


I understand what you mean about looking for what is wrong first, but one must know which is right vs. wrong.  So, I suppose you could look at the scholarship of the book, look at the sources given, determine if this really resonates with what you believe personally, and trust your intuition?  Do you argue your UPG with scholarship?

But what if the Irish Potato Goddess resonates with you?  Shocked lol
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« Reply #7: May 15, 2008, 01:52:10 pm »

But what if the Irish Potato Goddess resonates with you?  Shocked lol

Just don't EVER make the mistake of bringing that up as some sort of factual deity at TC. Smiley

Seriously. Most everyone here who takes scholarship seriously will make exceptions for UPG (hell, we all use it to some extent), BUT, if a person comes up with something that is based on UPG and tries to make it a fact, they're going to get creamed for it.
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« Reply #8: May 15, 2008, 01:58:05 pm »

Just don't EVER make the mistake of bringing that up as some sort of factual deity at TC. Smiley

I wouldn't dream of it, lol.

I think my mistake is not really knowing what exactly I believe in, so I am easily duped into something.  I need to trust my intuition more, as opposed to "Well, of course".  F'ex:  The "Great Mother" cult and the big bad: Patriarchy.  I subcribed to that for most of my beginning spiritual journey.  It made sense that more people worshipped the Goddess and there were more Goddess statues....and the Big Bad was trying to supress all that for control.  Fit nicely in with that old belief that women are better than men.  Nice little gender discrimination for ya.  Roll Eyes  And looking at it now, I can't understand why I believed so readily.  I suppose I was hungry for something...Feminine as my previous beliefs supressed women.  So, it was really easy to buy into that. 

Eh, ya live and learn right?
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« Reply #9: May 15, 2008, 02:16:58 pm »

TC has a really good article about the difference between scholarship and fluff books.  I was wondering if you all would like to share your way of discerning the credible from the fluff in other media (like websites, etc).  What's your "personal checklist"?

Depends on the source, honestly: scholarly book is a bit different from book of personal experiences/ideas vs. blog vs. website vs. article in magazine.

1) What's the goal of the work?
If someone's sharing what worked for them ("Here's how I designed and went through a silent retreat"), I'm going to be a lot more interested in the commentary than the sources. Sources are good, but what worked, what didn't, and what the person thought about it are probably why I'm reading the material.

On the other hand, if I'm reading a medical study ("Herb X can do Y") or looking at something historical, I will want facts I can follow up if I wish. That requires a different kind of writing and source-notation.

2) Is it clear where they got their info from?
I actually often don't *care* whether it's out of someone's head - as long as they're clear that's the source. (There are times I do care, of course - but for a lot of personal religious material, most of what I'm looking for is people's experiences with material, not pure factual content.)

Similiar to Darkhawk's practice, I look to see how someone talks about their subject: someone who is generally careful to identify where their material is coming from (even in fairly broad strokes like personal practice/my group work/book X) tends to be a more reliable source overall.

3) Are there any obvious red flags?
If it's someone's blog, I usually skim at least 10-15 posts (and often more) to get a feel for what they talk about. Is there a range of material? Do they cite some stuff, but not other things? Do they appear to have baggage about particular issues? (It's hard to tell from that small a sample set, but I usually have a mental list of things to keep an eye out for.)

Do they have a rantingly passionate dislike for something? Tread lightly: there's sometimes a good reason for it, but sources who can get beyond the ranting part tend to be better. Related: do they use a lot of 'all X' or 'no Y' or 'every Z' language? Big warning sign, unless you're talking about a very tightly controlled group.

4) Are they attempting to be unduly emotionally manipulative through what they say or how they say it?
I'm not talking here about having strong opinions - those are fine. But I much prefer materials that are honest about their biases. This, incidentally, is one of my biggest issues with Ravenwolf: it's not just the content of what she says, but a lot of her phrasing implies (fairly subtly, until you break it down sentence by sentence) that *good* Wiccans only do X and Y, and *bad* witches do these other things, and if you want to be a *good* Wiccan, you'll do what she says. (Well, ok, it was subtle until _Teen Witch_))

5) What do they say about stuff that I know about?
This is easier when you have content knowledge - but even if you don't yet, you can look at stuff. What do they say about *learning* how to do stuff? Or working with a group? If you see someone saying "Oh, it's easy to learn this!" there's a chance there's something weird going on - a significant life change like a religion is not going to be a quick and easy thing to learn. If they're all about how joyful group work, and not about how hard it can be, anyone who's ever had a few group projects in school or at work can go "Hey, that's missing something."

Favorite topics of mine:
 - herbs (and especially ones with risks/dangers: I usually look at comfrey, rue, and mugwort for various reasons.)
- ritual work (if they say it's always risk-free, put the book down and step away quickly.)
- how they talk about research in general. (Do they have a balanced view of it?)
- various deities already mentioned.
- history: I personally tend to go look at Greek and Roman, because it's the place I have the most formal academic background in pre-Christian settings.
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« Reply #10: May 15, 2008, 02:37:32 pm »

I wouldn't dream of it, lol.

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And that's probably the best attitude you can have. I can't tell you the number of people who've gotten their feelings hurt on TC when they've posted some favorite author who is known for crappy history. I'd feel bad about it, but it happens too often.
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« Reply #11: May 15, 2008, 04:21:59 pm »

Ditto. I can't remember the last one I even looked at. Probably something Randall reviewed. I've just not had any real call to step outside the scholarly sections.

Same here. Someone asked me for recommendations not long ago and I just sat here blinking doing duuuhhh...LOL
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« Reply #12: May 15, 2008, 05:33:31 pm »

TC has a really good article about the difference between scholarship and fluff books.  I was wondering if you all would like to share your way of discerning the credible from the fluff in other media (like websites, etc).  What's your "personal checklist"?

Good topic and good points made already.

I use the 'Hekate'-Check too. If I find the Crone-Moongoddess stuff in a book, I wonder how acurate the other information can be, that I'm not able to verify the same way.

For german pages it's quite easy to see if they were copied down from the usual beginner books (or from each other). There are some paste & copy things that just scream at you.

If the bad patriachy and peaceful matriarchy thing goes on and every noun is made female (and if they had to drag it screaming and kicking into gender change) I close the site. Such pages are usually living of very creative history, to put it in a nice way. It's sort of combat-feminism, I really don't like this.

If the page/book drips with paranoia (esp. 'all the good white energy we have is attracting all those bad, bad black vibes and we must clean, clean, clean ourselves 24 hrs a day'), or if somebody has channeled something from some jupiter spacefleet commander - nope, I won't have that.

Oh and if the page is so fluffy, it was drowned in fabric softner - usually those pages are...mmh, colorful.
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« Reply #13: May 15, 2008, 09:02:31 pm »

If the bad patriachy and peaceful matriarchy thing goes on and every noun is made female (and if they had to drag it screaming and kicking into gender change) I close the site. Such pages are usually living of very creative history, to put it in a nice way. It's sort of combat-feminism, I really don't like this.

If the page/book drips with paranoia (esp. 'all the good white energy we have is attracting all those bad, bad black vibes and we must clean, clean, clean ourselves 24 hrs a day'), or if somebody has channeled something from some jupiter spacefleet commander - nope, I won't have that.

It does get annoying doesn't it?  You could get diabetes with all that cotton candy being consumed. bleh.

Thank you all for the suggestions, I have been using them in my research today.
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« Reply #14: May 15, 2008, 11:43:41 pm »


If an author talks about ancient wide spread goddess worship, I'm pretty much done with it.
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