Vol 15 No. 1-2 (2013)
Introduction to the Gender and Paganism special issue of the Pomegranate
Gender in Russian Rodnoverie [+] 12-30
Conservative and essentialist gender roles prevail in Rodnoverie literature, in which men are regularly presented as strong warriors and women as tender mothers and homemakers. Patriarchy is presented not only as a societal model of the pre-Christian Russian society but also as an ideal model for contemporary Russia and Pagan communities. Rodnoverie rituals also feature a conservative understanding of gender, and this tendency seems to be reified by the processes of unification and elaboration of ritual practices in the movement. Nevertheless, one may also detect features that break the simplistic idea of Rodnoverie gender roles as patriarchal and conservative. An integral element in Rodnoverie’s identity vis-à-vis Christianity is the criticism of the demonization and subjugation of women by the latter. In Rodnoverie ritual practices, women often creatively fashion their gender identities. The bipolar division into femininity and masculinity also characterized such Western Pagan religions as Wicca for a long time, and a more inclusive and open understanding of gender was the result of a conscious labor of widening the understanding of, for example fertility. Similarly, I suggest that Rodnoverie rhetoric about gender should be assessed in its social context. Admittedly, in comparison to many forms of Western Paganism, Rodnoverie seems extremely conservative in this matter. However, in Russian society, much of the essentialism simply reflects the general attitudes and underlying assumptions. Therefore, in a Russian context views that could be regarded as conservative in some Western discussions may in fact be moderate or even liberal in the context of Russian religiosity.
'God Giving Birth' - Connecting British Wicca with Radical Feminism and Goddess Spirituality during the 1970s-1980s: The Case Study of Monica Sjöö [+] 31-60
Ideas of radical feminism, Goddess Spirituality and Feminist Witchcraft— which originated in the United States during the late 1960s and the 1970s before taking root in Britain—were introduced to British Wiccans during the latter half of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Several United Kingdom-based radical feminists who combined their newfound political awareness with Goddess Spirituality acted as important conduits for the transference of these ideas. In the case of the artist and Goddess-feminist Monica Sjöö (1938-2005), I show some of the ways in which radical and spiritual feminist religious ideas did, contrary to a commonly held view, influence the British Pagan scene in the 1960s and 1970s.
Researchers often bemoan the lack of hard data on the size of the Pagan movement. There are, however, some national censuses that collect data on modern Pagans. These include the censuses of four Anglophone countries – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK. Using figures from the censuses of these four nations as well as from a large survey study, the Pagan Census Revisited, the present paper will discuss the demographic and attitudinal profiles of Pagans, with a focus on the differential distribution of gender. Congruent with prior research, the current study finds that the majority of Pagans are women – though a few traditions tend to be dominated by men. And while we uncovered certain gender-stereotypical differences between male and female Pagans, we also found numerous counter-stereotypical differences.
Contemporary Paganism portrays gender in an array of different ways and, as such, is very inclusive of sexual diversity. But how do queer people take part in the Pagan community? More precisely, what kind of efforts or changes do queer and transgender people have to make in order to relate to the pagan community? To answer these questions, this article examines how queer and transgender people proceed to different kinds of negotiations, especially regarding the concept of gender, that allow them to either participate actively in the Pagan community or to distance themselves from it. After a brief definition of the Pagan community in Montreal and its take on gender, it will demonstrate, with the help of certain concepts from queer studies and performance studies, how a few queer individuals perform gender in ritual context and how gender and queerness impact their relationship with Pagan religious beliefs, practices and communities.
To Him the Winged Secret Flame, To Her the Stooping Starlight: The Social Construction of Gender in Contemporary Ordo Templi Orientis [+] 102-121
Based on fieldwork in the United States, the article analyses the social construction of gender in contemporary O.T.O.. The article addresses an important and often neglected area of study in research on Western esotericism, and discusses how the notion of binary gender is both created and challenged in interactions between O.T.O. members. Thelemic divinity as presented in Liber AL is envisioned as consisting of a divine father, Hadit, mother Nuit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit, their divine offspring. Despite the gender polarity constructed thus, contemporary O.T.O. members stretch the boundaries of binary gender through a plethora of deities, personal gender performances and acceptance of different sexual orientations and lifestyles. The creativity and innovation of contemporary O.T.O. members’ gender constructions demonstrates the necessity of greater methodological diversity in research on Western esotericism, in order to allow an understanding of esoteric traditions as lived religions.
Dancing in a Universe of Lights and Shadows [+] 122-135
The insider/outsider problem remains one of the most controversial and divisive issues in religious studies, affecting not only whose voices are heard within the Academy, but hiring and tenure within universities as well. The scholarship that produces this distinction shares similarities with other forms of dichotomous thinking, producing such binary oppositions as subjective versus objective and practice versus theory. The poles of these binaries are frequently philosophically aligned: outsider/objective/theory against insider/subjective/practice. These distinctions are often far too easily and quickly made, concealing the underlying assumptions making them problematic. Dichotomous thinking almost always essentializes, reducing each end of the binary to a uniform monolith not reflected in experience. Rather than a single, unitary voice, insider and outsider conceal an entire realm—a universe—of discourse engaged in by a multitude of shifting voices and perspectives in negotiation or contestation with one another, making for more than one legitimate point of view.
This paper responds to Markus Davidsen's critique of contemporary Pagan Studies published in *Method and Theory in the Study of Religion*, issue 24 (2012). In contrast to Davidsen's 'classical' and critical-naturalist emphasis, insider research that is methodologically sound is defended.
Pagan Studies and Esoteric Studies, while having somewhat different academic institutionalization patterns and methodological foci, are experiencing a greater convergence of subject matter and potential research approaches. This article compares the positions of the two fields with respect to their relationship to lived communities, academic objectivity and scholar activism, taking as a starting point the critiques of Pagan Studies made by scholar Markus Davidsen.
Response to the Panel, “What Is Wrong with Pagan Studies? Critiquing Methodologies”: Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Baltimore, Maryland, November 24, 2013 [+] 164-177
This article is the culminating response to a panel of speakers discussing the strengths and weaknesses of Markus Davidsen's 2012 published critique of Contemporary Pagan scholarship in the edited volume "The Handbook of Contemporary Paganism" (2008). Here, the author summarizes the previous three speakers and provides an alternative perspective for understanding Davidsen's critique - one that was very well received in the panel itself.
This article reports on an exploratory qualitative project exploring how the concepts of "prayer” and “worship” are understood by those who identify as Pagan in the UK. There were more than four hundred completed responses to an online survey containing a modified version of the Attitude to prayer scale. We found that although respondents raised issues in relation to the use of the terms, “prayer” and “worship”, in relation to Pagan practice, the majority were in agreement that they did, by their own definitions, both pray and worship.
Orientalism in Iamblichus' The Mysteries [+] 202-222
Iamblichus' On the Mysteries of the Egyptians is part of a larger Neoplatonic debate over the soundness of theurgical practices and Eastern ritual. The discussion of Egyptian practices in The Mysteries reveals the legitimating structures which underlie Iamblichus' argument, specifically, an Orientalizing discourse which contributes to a larger esoteric market of knowledge. This is figured both through stereotypes of Egypt as a site of ancient mysteries, but also from a very real inaccessibility of Egyptian religion to the Greeks. This emphasis on timeless, secret knowledge converts Iamblichan theurgy, a disputed new system of Platonic thought, into a unit of social currency which confers worth, prestige and power upon its creator and sets it apart from the dominant mode of philosophical rationalism.
Prior research has shown that Pagans emphasize a spiritual connection with nature, which is also linked to their pro-social environmental behaviors. It is this reverence for the natural world that is believed to drive their environmentalism. This project found ninety percent of the all Pagans surveyed engaged in some environmental behaviors. In looking at the inclusion of environmental issues in their spiritual practices, Wiccans were significantly less likely to state this compared to other contemporary Pagans and Druids. We found that reverence for the Earth and as well as survival of the planet and humanity were significant motivations for environmental behaviors. Additionally, the longer one had been a Pagan as well as the inclusion of environmental issues such as healing the earth and creating a cleaner environment, in their spiritual practices was also significantly correlated with engaging in environmental behaviors. Neither being Druid nor being Wiccan impacted the level of environmental behaviors. Overall this project found significant levels of engagement in environmental behavior with spiritual reverence for nature as a significant reason for these behaviors.
The Transvaluation of “Soul” and “Spirit”: Platonism and Paulism in H.P. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled1 [+] 250-272
This paper in the doxographic history of Western esotericism examines H.P. Blavatsky's use of the terms “soul” and “spirit” in Isis Unveiled. “Soul” and “spirit” have been given great importance both in early Greek thought and throughout the subsequent history of Western philosophy, religion, and science, and uses of these terms are generally bound up with the attributions of one Greek school or another. As Isis Unveiled specifically frames itself as a “Hermetic” work, it would be reasonable to assume that Blavatsky’s early use of “soul,” “spirit,” and their cognates in other languages would comport to the usage of the Alexandrian Hermetists—who phrased the relationship between the two in terms of spirit being distinct from and inferior to soul, with spirit acting as an intermediary substance which bridges the gap in the emanative descent from the soul to body. However, Blavatsky’s use both of the English and Greek terms (as well as their Latin equivalents) curiously follow an inversion of this usage. As such, the principal purpose of this study is to examine her understanding of these terms, and of the sources to which she appeals in an attempt to uncover how and why this transvaluation occurred. This is accomplished by first examine Blavatsky’s usage, and then those of the historical precedents, charting the semantic shift from antiquity to that of Isis Unveiled.
As a number of different studies carried out in the second half of the twentieth century indicated, the people who become involved in Paganism tend to be more educated than average. In the present study, we confirm this pattern utilizing data from the national censuses of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition to being more educated than the average citizens of their respective nations, Pagans also tend to be more educated than members of such mainline denominations as Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholics.
Donna Weston and Andy Bennett, eds., Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music (Durham: Acumen, 2013), 246 pp., £65.00 (cloth), £19.99 (paper). [+] 285-288
A critical review of Donna Weston and Andy Bennett's academic anthology, "Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music".
Carole M. Cusack, The Sacred Tree: Ancient and Medieval Manifestations (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), xvi + 200 pp., £34.99 (cloth). [+] 289-290
Asa Trulsson, Cultivating the Sacred: Ritual Creativity and Practice among Women in Contemporary Europe (Lund, Sweden: Center for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, 2010), 423 pp., no price available (paperback). [+] 291-292
Anna Fedele, Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 336 pp., $35 (cloth). [+] 293-295
Alison Butler, Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic: Invoking Tradition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 248 pp., £32 (cloth). [+] 296-298
Kathryn Rountree, Crafting Contemporary Pagan Identities in a Catholic Society (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010), 206 pp., B&W illustrations, $99.95 (cloth). [+] 299-301
Cynthia Eller, Gentlemen and Amazons: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, 1861–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 290 pp., $60 (cloth), $27.95 (paperback). [+] 302-304