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Gary R Varner

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A reply to ecauldron
by Gary R Varner   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, January 24, 2009
Posted: Saturday, January 24, 2009

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I recently became aware that I was subject to discussion on a pagan forum site, called "ecauldron." People on the site maligned my recent book, Creatures in the Mist, indicating that a search of my name on the internet raised numerous "red flags" which they failed to define. I was unable to repond on ecauldron due to the sites inability to allow me to register. I take this opportunity to adress the posted comments.

Greetings! I would like to interject a few comments here if you don’t mind. After all my name is in your subject line! I have just become aware of this thread and am sorry I didn’t see it earlier so I could have responded before so much time elapsed.

You asked “who is this guy?” I am not sure why as I have not seen that question concerning other authors of either non-fiction or fiction. But I will be pleased to answer. I majored in anthropology at San Diego State University and worked as an archaeologist in Southern California for several years, surveying and excavating Palo-Indian and historic sites. I have always been fascinated with folklore and mythology and the many common themes found in cultures which have spanned a breadth of time and geography. I am also an eclectic Pagan. I am not sure why “red flags” were raised concerning me or my work. I do not make outlandish claims but simply explore and compare mythological subjects, finding common threads that seem to link multiple cultures. I suppose the individual saw a red flag due to the fact that I have not been published by Llewellyn—which is by choice. I write in a serious (ie. not “fluff”) niche market and few publishers wish to take on work that isn’t quickly and widely marketable. However, I am not writing to live in a life of luxury but simply to share my findings and ideas.

I can say that contrary to the individual’s comments my works are seriously written. Each one of my books has extensive footnotes, bibliographies and indices. I don’t make this stuff up out of thin air. I cite all my sources. As such, Creatures has been purchased by 230 university and public libraries including UC Berkeley, CalPoly, Stanford, Loyola, Harvard, Cornell and even the Princeton Theological Seminary—they apparently are more open minded and fair than the posters appear to be. It has also been purchased by the Smithsonian Institution for its National Museum of the Native American library.

I am somewhat dismayed that my work was criticized because of its publisher’s FAQs and the use of a certain edition of a reference work rather than for the books content. You are correct that the submitted works do not receive peer review—this is a commercial publisher and not a university press. However it only publishes non-fiction works, many by leading scholars, teachers and members of governments in the US and Europe. You won’t find books on spells or books purporting to contain long lost secrets of ancient witch cults. Funny how authors of those books do not receive any scrutiny at all but are accepted without question. Reminds me of one New Age writer who consistently states that he is the “world expert” on a subject that he has written almost nothing on but he is accepted in the Pagan community without question. I could claim to be the world’s expert on global warming or nuclear weapons but that doesn’t make it true .

I am very concerned that individuals continue to malign others through innuendo and insinuation, while sitting safely behind their New Age monikers, but don’t bother to provide any sort of rational for their statements. What items do you find to be of the “red flag” nature? I don’t ask you to like me or even to read my work but I would hope that you would bother to do more research and, just maybe, read the book you are bashing so a fair evaluation can be made. The following is a review of Creatures that appeared in The Library Journal, written by a University librarian:

Library Journal Review (8/15/07 issue)
Varner, Gary R. Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men and Spirit Beings Around the World; A Study in Comparative Mythology. Algora. Aug. 2007. 208p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-87586-546-1. $29.95; pap. ISBN 978-0-87586-545-4. $21.95.


Varner (The Mythic Forest, the Green Man & the Spirit of Nature) has published another volume in a series of works comparing legends and beliefs from cultures around the world. This latest covers mythological beings including fairies, giants, mermaids, horned creatures, harpies, werewolves, and vampires as well as the folklore of animals and insects. He provides an overview of creatures from ancient times to the present, incorporating examples from European, Asian, African, and Native American traditions. This global comparison emphasizes shared customs and illustrates a universal belief in these mythic beings. Though not a comprehensive look at folklore themes, this book is unique in its focus on the magical creatures of our collective imagination. It is appropriate not only for popular reading collections but also for academic research collections, as sources are cited throughout and a bibliography of resources is included. -Eloise R. Hitchcock, Western Carolina Univ. Lib., Cullowhee, NC

I am even more saddened that the Pagan community has become so cliquish, snobbish and judgmental. It certainly wasn’t like that twenty years ago. One or two persons who took a class in religion or history seem to take a stand that they are much more knowledgeable than someone who has spent 30-40 years in the study of such things.

Anyway, if you have more questions about me or my work, please ask, I am more than open to any query. Thank you all for allowing me to respond.

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Reviewed by Patricia Della-Piana 1/24/2009
Gary, I find it shameful when those who disagree with any small thing about our work find it necessary to bash the entire product. I have always found your work to be well-researched and intelligently presented, whether it coincides with any long-held beliefs of mine or not. There have even been times, believe it or not, when your research has turned my head back to doing my own research on the subject, so that I might either prove myself right or teach myself something you've opened my eyes to. I hope you will keep us advised as to any replies you receive from ecauldron regarding this matter.

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