Vol 15 No. 1-2 (2013)


Editor's Note [+-] 5-6
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Chas S. Clifton is the editor of The Pomegranate.


PhD Candidate in History of Religions, Department of Theology, Uppsala University, Sweden.
University of Tromsø
Inga Bårdsen Tollefsen is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway.
Introduction to the Gender and Paganism special issue of the Pomegranate
University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute
Kaarina Aitamurto is a postdoctoral scholar at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki.
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.
Tel Aviv University (Israel)
Shai Feraro is a PhD candidate in the School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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.
University of Tromsø
James R. Lewis is a professor in the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway.
University of Tromsø
Inga Bårdsen Tollefsen is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway.
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.
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM)
Martin Lepage is a PhD. candidate in the Département de sciences des religions, Université du Québec à Montréal.
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.
Uppsala University
Manon Hedenborg-White is a PhD candidate in history of religion, Department of Theology, Uppsala University.
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.
Iowa State University
Nikki Bado is Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University.
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.
Bath Spa University
Michael York formerly directed the Sophia Centre at Bath Spa University, where he held the title of professor of cultural astronomy and astrology. He now lives in Amsterdam.
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.
Golden Gate University
Amy Hale is an adjunct professor in the Department of Liberal Studies at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
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.
Wake Forest University
Shawn Arthur is an assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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.
Department of Education, University of Bath
Janet Goodall is a lecturer in the Department of Education, University of Bath.
Division of Psychology Glyndŵr University
Lecturer, Division of Psychology
The University of Nottingham
Catherine Goodall is a research student at the University of Nottingham.
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.
York University
Sarah Veale is in the religious studies program at York University in Toronto. In addition to her studies, she is the co-director of the Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA).
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.
Greensboro College
Deirdre Sommerlad-Rogers is Associate Professor and Chair at the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Greensboro College, North Carolina.
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.
Independent Scholar
Christopher A. Plaisance recently graduated from the University of Exeter with an MA in Western Esotericism.
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.
University of Tromsø
James R. Lewis is a professor in the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway.
University of Tromsø
Sverre Andreas Fekjan is a fellow in the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway.
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.

Book Reviews

University College London
Born and raised in Greater London, Doyle White MA is an archaeologist and historian of religion with a keen interest in the adoption and use of aspects of pre-Christian belief systems in a contemporary context.
A critical review of Donna Weston and Andy Bennett's academic anthology, "Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music".
Cherry Hill Seminary
Academic Dean, Cherry Hill Seminary and Professor Emerita, Dept. of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies, California State University, Long Beach.
Book review.
Central Michigan University
Laurel Zwissler is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department at Central Michigan University.
Book review.
University College London
A Londoner born-and-bred, Doyle White is an independent scholar of the archaeology and history of religion with a particular interest in the development and history of religion, ritual and magic.
Book review.