Vol 17 No. 1-2 (2015)
Tracing the history of Pagan studies, primarily in the United States, I look back to the Pomegranate's inspiration, Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion and touch on some high points in the history of Pagan studies book publication well.
The Divine Feminine in the Silver Age of Russian Culture and Beyond: Vladimir Soloviev, Vasily Rozanov and Dmitry Merezhkovsky [+] 14-50
The so-called Silver Age of Russian culture saw a revived interest in unorthodox religious ideas and new ways of thinking about the divine. The religious philosophy of this era was influenced by three thinkers who stressed the importance of the Divine Feminine: philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, journalist Vasily Rozanov, and novelist Dmitry Merezhkovsky. While Soloviev’s “sophiology” was a Russian continuation of a long tradition of Christian mysticism, Rozanov overtly appealed to preChristian Pagan images of the Divine Feminine as necessary for modern humans, while Merezhkovsky envisioned a synthesis of Christian and Pagan views in his “Third Covenant” theology. Later in the twentieth century we see in Russia and among Russian émigrés new religious movements with a stress on images of the Divine Feminine, which could have been suggested by Silver Age religious philosophy (the Roerichs’ “Living Ethics,” Gleb Botkin’s Church of Aphrodite, Daniil Andreyev’s “Rose of the World,” and Russian and Ukrainian NRMs of the 1990s). The present essay outlines the main traits of the Divine Feminine as it formed among the three Silver Age philosophers, and how their ideas may have influenced Russian alternative religion.
Elements of Magic, Esotericism, and Religion in Shaktism and Tantrism in Light of the Shakti Pitha Kāmākhyā [+] 51-70
India’s northeastern state of Assam (ancient Prāgjyotishapur and Kāmarūpa), known for its goddess shrine, the Devipītha (Seat of the goddess) Kāmākhyā, has enriched the mosaic of the Indian religious tradition with its unique contribution in Shaktism and Tantrism. Shaktism and Tantrism represent a particular phase of religion which was in the main personal and esoteric. Assam or the northeast of Bengal, is the source from which ShāktaTāntric beliefs and practices found its AustricTibetan base around Devipitha Kamakhya and it became a strong Tantric center that remained influential in Bengal, Orissacentric Eastern regions that resulted in mantra, yantra, çakra, etc. In this context, this article tries to address some such interesting features of the Mother Goddess Kāmākhyā and her various transformations.
Special Section - Paths into Pagan Studies: Autobiographical Reflections
Introduction to The Pomegrante Special Issue: Paths into Pagan Studies: Autobiographical Reflections. The individual contributions comprise one extended article.
The Old Pomegranate and the New [+] 81-85
Fritz Muntean and Diana Tracy founded The Pomegranate: A New Journal of Neopagan Thought as a semi-scholarly journal in 1997. The aim was to improve dialogue between academics and Pagans. Chas S. Clifton and Ronald Hutton were early contributors. The “new” Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, published by Equinox, appeared in 2004. While fully academic, the price makes it unavailable to most Pagans. Both academics and Pagans would benefit from a forum that bridges the gap between the academic study of Paganism and the literate Pagan-in-the street.
Walking Widdershins [+] 86-98
This article covers the author’s academic career from part-time “freeway flyer” to Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary. Introduced to contemporary Witchcraft by one of her college students before anything called Pagan Studies existed, Griffin was one of the very first to publish fieldwork on the topic in an academic journal. Here she explores the challenges, where she found support for her work, and the key circumstances and choices that allowed her a measure of success.
A reflection on the development of a career partly concerned with the study of Paganisms. After indicating some ways of using a quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the article considers the question of the subject matter of Pagan Studies. It connects contemporary Paganisms and other cultural phenomena (e.g. indigenous religions and animisms) and indicates the importance of respecting the hosts of our research. The second half of the article concerns the “difficult game of academia.” It offers some ideas about learning how to play, being open to serendipity, and being aware that some colleagues think different rules are important.
From early encounters with Methodism, Will Durant and Anton LaVey, my spiritual questing intersected with the Haight-Ashbury Counterculture. One culmination of this encounter was the emergence of the Strawberry Hill Coven. A second culmination was my disenchantment with Turtle Island and self-exile to Europe. In time – after many years of wandering through both Europe and India, I began to read for my Ph.D. at King’s College London and became completely seduced by the academic world. This seduction coincided with the rise of contemporary Western paganism as a new religious movement as well as the sociological interest in understanding the movement. The rest of this contribution delineates what I have been able to witness of the advance of Pagan Studies within the field of education. Successes have been slow but incremental and steady. For the well-being of our planet, they are also vitally necessary.
This article explores how serendipity resulted in one sociologist becoming a scholar of a minority religion of which she is not a member. As one of the early scholars of contemporary Paganism, Berger describes both its transformation in the past thirty years and her contribution to that change. She argues that contemporary Paganism, with its lack of rigid structures and use of virtual space to create a “disorganized community” with a network of interactions, learning, and sharing is an excellent venue for studying many aspects of religion, culture, and political action in late modernity
The Owl, the Dragon and the Magician: Reflections on Being an Anthropologist Studying Magic [+] 141-154
This article documents the life of an anthropologist studying magic; it chronicles her trajectory of finding a place between the rationalized, analytically based academy on the one hand, and a life infused with spirits on the other. Not wanting to prioritize either critical thinking or the reality of a non-material world, Susan Greenwood shows how she has explored a magical terrain engaging sensory experiences, the imagination as a ‘doorway’ into an inspirited reality, and critical thinking through her anthropological work. Greenwood shows how she has negotiated often uncomfortable - but highly relevant - subjective and theoretical domains with the aim of not reducing or privileging one to the other. In the process she has sought to legitimize magic as an important aspect of knowledge that can bring academic - as well as individual - insights.
The Academy, the Otherworld and Between [+] 155-169
The paper discusses twenty-five years of research, beginning with feminist witches in New Zealand, moving to the small but diverse Pagan community of Malta, then to European Pagan communities more broadly, and recently to larger themes pertinent to Paganisms globally, such as nationalism, trans-nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and local/global influences and processes. My career and this paper are preoccupied with researcher and Pagan identities and positioning, and with the socio-cultural contexts in which they are crafted, including the academic one. An anthropologist is always and inevitably, to some degree, a liminal being, whose position as a perpetual ‘in-betweener’ has long been problematized within the discipline. For those who research witches and Pagans, this liminality is amplified because our research participants, too, are liminal in the societies they inhabit, and because seeking liminality – or going ‘between the worlds’ – is fundamental to Pagan rituals and everyday life. In this narrative I show that while an anthropologist’s positioning is inherently problematic, liminality can be comfortable and explicable by employing the metaphor of the hag who, though liminal, can fully occupy multiple worlds.
Making the Strange Familiar [+] 170-179
From studying Pagan festivals as a graduate student to writing about Burning Man, Hare Krishna hardcore music, ecstatic dance and so-called eco-terrorists twenty years later, this essay describes my journey as an academic through what many other religious studies scholars might consider the fringe of our academic purview. In the essay I consider the ways in which the concerns that emerged in my earliest work in Pagan Studies—sacred space, the role of memory in identity construction, relationships with the more-than-human world, ritual creativity, religious freedom, childhood experience and religious improvisation—continue to be central to my scholarship over two decades later.
Reflecting on Studying Wicca from within the Academy and the Craft: An Autobiographical Perspective [+] 180-193
This reflexive biography discusses how discovering Wicca initiated a dual learning process within the international magical community and the Academy. It describes an ongoing dynamic of personal, intellectual and spiritual development within the context of two communities, and examines perceptions and experiences of the personal, public and contested interactions of scholar and practitioner. It demonstrates the complexities of belonging to, and choosing association with, perceived communities, and how these choices influence methodological and theoretical choices in research and publishing. It highlights the dichotic and unnatural simplicity of the “insider/outsider” position, particularly within our own culture, and some of the pressures on people who identify as members of both communities. It concludes by recommending Graham Harvey’s concept of “guesthood” when working with any community, and argues that in researching our own culture in our own language it is not only easy and polite to share conclusions and invite response from the researched, but recommended in order to produce work with greater depth that avoids problematical assumptions of the researcher as superior and detached. The paper also discusses the development of Pagan Studies, and how the study of contemporary Paganism is beginning to contribute new challenges, methods and tools to the academic study of religion.
Pagan(ish) Senses and Sensibilities [+] 194-205
An academic biography serves as an opportune moment for thinking about how one's research in Pagan studies fits the larger patterns of one's research and life trajectory. In this (auto)biographer's case, it informs a debate over whether Paganism is or ought to be a religion among other religions, or a set of sensibilities -- including sensorial engagements, individual and collective, with a common material world. I argue that the latter should have its place at the table of Pagan studies, as it draws on the study of Pagan religiosities to produce insights that can inform a much broader set of debates about religion, imagination, environment, identity, and even politics.