Vol 14 No. 2 (2012)


PhD Candidate Gothenburg University
Gothenburg University
Christian Giudice and Henrik Bogdan introduce this special issue of Pomegranate, on Paganism, Initiation, and Ritual.
University of Essex
Sasha Chaitow is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, University of Essex, United Kingdom
Immensely prolific, discredited during his lifetime, Joséphin Péladan (1858–1918) constructed a vast, complex, yet coherent oeuvre with the purpose of demonstrating the transformative power of art by manifesting the highest ideals on the material plane, in response to the social decadence he perceived in fin-de-siècle French society. Central to Péladan’s vision was his conception of artists as initiates: select individuals who could bring a small part of the divine into the mundane sphere. In his cycle of novels, La Décadence Latine, his characters represent archetypal ideals facing ontological and metaphysical dilemmas against a background of a dying, corrupt, Western culture. His goal was to inspire his readers to seek a more ideal existence through a form of selfinitiation that he dubbed kaloprosopia, an art of transformation of personality through a life lived as a work of art. His theoretical esoteric works, Comment on Devient Mage and Comment on Devient Fée, respectively written for men and women, were handbooks for self-initiation representing the theory underpinning his novels. A formalized version of this process formed the basis for his Rosicrucian order. By presenting the same idea in different forms—through art, literature, and more intellectually demanding writings—Péladan's intent was to bring this call for regeneration to as wide an audience as possible, and in so doing, to spark a social renaissance.
Gothenburg University
Christian Giudice is a PhD candidate in the Department of Literature, History of Ideas and Religion, at Gothenburg University, Sweden.
Outside of its national boundaries, studies regarding twentieth-century Italian occultism have been sorely lacking. While the role of occultism and occultists in modern nations such as England, Germany, France and the United States, has been studied in detail, the events and main characters that influenced the esoteric circles in early twentieth-century Italy have been mostly neglected or relegated to very cursory enquiries. It is my intention, in this paper, to focus on the theme of a Pagan new beginning for the newly reunited Italy, first sketching a historical portrayal of the influence the idea of Ancient Rome had on both artists and occultists, then focusing, by utilising recently discovered archival material, on poet and playwright Roggero Musmeci Ferrari Bravo and his tragedy on the birth of Rome, Rumon Sacrae Romae Origines, viewing the play as an attempt to mass-initiate the auience to the alleged palingenetic virtues of Roman traditionalism, in view of a new Italian renaissance.
Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
Léon van Gulik is a lecturer in psychology at the Department of Applied Psychology, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. His scholarly interests range from mysticism, ritual, cultural and ecological psychology, creativity, contemporary Paganism, magical thinking, to cultural transmission and spatial aesthetics.
Drawing on a theoretical sample from my on-going fieldwork on religious creativity, I offer a psychological perspective on the issue of secrecy in contemporary initiatory Wicca. Secrecy is understood here to exist in those relationships where a supposed inequality of knowledge is actively maintained by managing access to the surplus of that knowledge. First, a descriptive account of the various etic narratives of secrecy is given, successively relating the topic to mythistory, oath keeping, magical practice, and mysteries. Second, moving from the manifest level to the latent level of these narratives, I will then offer an explanation and interpretation of the functions secrecy in terms of the maintenance of ownership, appeal, and association. The latter is explained as ritual hygiene and shown to be the functional opposite of secrecy. In the concluding part two implications of the institutionalization of secrecy are discussed: misrepresentation of knowledge and stalled religious development are shown to be detrimental side-effects of upholding secrecy in contemporary Paganism.
University of Sydney
Venetia Robertson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney, Australia.
The Therianthropy community is comprised of individuals who profess an other-than-human identity, in particular an animal identity. Existing almost solely online, this socio-spiritual identity group experiences tensions between the individual and personal gnosis, and the community and communal consensus, when it comes to evincing the epistemologies, that is, knowledges concerning Therianthropy. By examining how themes of authority, belonging, and both group and self-acceptance are played out in the discourse and activity of this movement, implicit modes of initiation and rites of passage can be envisaged. These modes are vital for the success of this movement, as they continuously solidify a sense of group and individual identity through the clear designation of an in- and out- group. Yet, in doing so, the Therianthrope is held up as a liminal figure, an other-than-human being who resides in a sacred interstitial state. This is the essence of what separates Therianthropes from other humans, and what makes this identity group a challenge to traditional conceptions of initiation and rites of passage.
Vrije Universiteit
Hanneke Minkjan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
Rites of passage, being significant markers in a human life time, have, due to processes of secularization been diminished in Dutch society. This article investigates how different contemporary Pagan movements have affected modern civil society in the Netherlands in finding new expressions of celebrating rites of passage. Contemporary Pagans have, since the movement’s emergence, been conscious about cycles of change and accordingly of the importance of rites of passage. The most important Pagan “liturgy” of the seasonal calendar of the Wheel of the Year incorporates in its symbolism changes in the human life cycle. The relationship between the Wheel of the Year and rites of passage will thus be discussed for five Dutch Pagan traditions, examining how Dutch contemporary Pagans have inspired non-Pagans in celebrating their rites of passage.

Review Articles

University College London
A Londoner born-and-bred, Doyle White is a postgraduate archaeology student at the UCL Institute of Archaeology with a particular interest in the development and history of religion, ritual and magic.
This review article critiques the Horniman Museum's temporary exhibition, "Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year" (22 October 2011 to 09 September 2012), which contained fifty photographs by Sara Hannant documenting English folk festivals in the early twenty-first century. In particular this review focuses on the portrayal of contemporary Paganism within the exhibit.