Vol 16 No. 2 (2014)
Pagan Studies: In Defense of Pluralism [+] 135-149
Pagan studies should allow the inclusion of religionist ideas and concepts within its academic oeuvre. Such concepts and ideas have been, and will probably continue to be, productive empirically and theoretically. Religious language and concepts can provide new and interesting ways of seeing and understanding the world that are empirically insightful. Further, the academic study of religion should practice a “deep pluralism” in which religionist ideas sit beside critical-naturalist atheism. This arises out of a presumptive humility, recognising that one’s own perspective may not be the final and complete way of understanding all things.
Impediments to Practice in Contemporary Paganism [+] 150-177
This quantitative study is based on data from a large-scale national survey of Pagans, Witches, and Heathens in the United States (N=3,318) that was conducted by the author and examines the prevalence and severity of impediments to practice encountered by American Pagans. Obstacles can be organized into the following categories: (1) those rooted in interactions with the dominant culture in which Pagans live; (2) challenges arising from the non-institutional nature of Paganism; (3) requirements related to the practice of magick; (4) demands stemming from educational/developmental trajectories; and (5) pragmatic challenges encountered when trying to live according to one’s values. Contemporary Paganism is in the early stages of routinization. The analysis reveals that the “house church,” volunteer clergy model poses real, pervasive challenges not only for Paganism in general, but for the leaders and clergy in particular. The importance of nature is a notable feature of Paganism and the most common obstacle to religious practice discovered is the expense of living a Green lifestyle. Fear of prejudice and conflicts with the values embedded within the dominant culture’s educational system are also prevalent barriers that affect practice.
“You Took My Spirit Captive among the Leaves”: The Creation of Blodeuwedd in Re-Imaginings of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi [+] 178-206
This article traces the portrayal of Blodeuwedd’s creation, the woman fashioned from flowers in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, from the medieval version to twentieth and twenty-first century retellings of the story. Blodeuwedd’s creation will be situated in the wider context of the idea of the automaton and will be read as a posthuman construct, eerily relevant in today’s cybernetic society. The symbolism of the flowers from which she is created will be analyzed and the curious alignment of flowers to Sexuality, non-existent in the medieval text but exceedingly prominent in the modern versions, will be explored. This article will concentrate on mainly three works, which present diverse re-imaginings of the medieval material: Saunders Lewis’ Blodeuwedd, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service and Gwyneth Lewis’ The Meat Tree.
The present study examines contemporary Pagan movements which, situated on a spectrum with native faiths (“reconstructionist movements”) and universalist groups, exemplify two philosophical and religious trends: universalism and indigenism. Through forms of crosscultural psychology, sometimes called “ethnopsychiatry,” I compare contemporary Paganism to the colonization of indigenous populations through the development of acculturation models and the analysis of the benefit of reclaiming one’s own culture. I analyze from a sociological perspective what their native faiths bring to members of Pagan reconstructionist movements in societies which have endured different waves of acculturation. I argue that after modernity, liquid modernity or postmodernity, transmodernity is at the core debate in our multicultural societies, in particular, in Europe where the discussions about identity are virulent and show a disorientation of a continent and political institutions, which oscillate between multiculturalism and federalist/separatist viewpoints. In such a context, native faiths might inspire political and cultural projects as Europe is seeking and searching for common denominators.
The Cult of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Gods in Brazilian Wicca: Symbols and Practices [+] 239-252
This paper is a field report based on ethnographic data collected at two Brazilian Wicca meetings held in March and July 2014, in São Paulo and Brasilia, respectively. Both meetings celebrated Brazilian goddesses. This paper analyses this use and adaptation of local religious elements by Brazilian Wiccans. The religion arrived in Brazil during the 1980s, and today there are many Wicca covens and local traditions. This research focuses on one of these, the Brazilian Dianic Tradition. Led by Mavesper Cy Ceridwen, today this tradition has forty-eight priests and priestesses. Its magical family runs Abrawicca, a civil association that holds public Wicca rituals in five different Brazilian cities. They also organize the gatherings described in this paper. I present some of their practices, with a particular focus on the adaptation of Afro-Brazilian and native Indigenous gods and rituals by Brazilian Wiccans.
Douglas Ezzy, Sex, Death and Witchcraft: A Contemporary Pagan Festival (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 204 pp., $112 (hardback). 253-254
S. Zohreh Kermani, Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism (New York: New York University Press, 2013), 235 pp., $27.00 (paper). 255-257
Liang Cai, Witchcraft and the Rise of the First Confucian Empire (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014), 288 pp., $85.00 (hardback) $27.95 (paperback). 258-262
Graham Harvey, ed., The Handbook of Contemporary Animism (Durham: Acumen, 2013), 544 pp., $44.95 (paper), $140 (cloth). 263-266