Vol 18 No. 2 (2016)


University of Pardubice
Pavel Horák is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pardubice, Czech Republic.
This article argues that the concept of “paganism,” though originally theological in nature, came to be used in the Enlightenment and its secular thought as a term for non-Abrahamic religions. Discussions on paganism were conducted in an environment where concerns about religious plurality had become central. As such, these discussions, and their subject—paganism, also served as a means to find solutions for concerns about religious plurality. This article will focus on three components of the discussion on paganism: (i) the origin of idolatry, (ii) the nature of gods, and (iii) the nature of pagan worship. This article argues that purportedly secular concerns regarding paganism expressed by Deist and Enlightenment scholars were in fact rooted in Christian theology. This article is divided into four sections. The first section gives a general account of relevant discussions taking place in the seventeenth century. The second section discusses the father of English deism, Herbert of Cherbury, and his notion of paganism. The third section discusses Herbert’s successors. The fourth section discusses David Hume and his work on paganism. The article argues that internal theological concerns in the seventeenth and eighteenth century gave rise to a specific conceptual language used in thinking about and discussing paganism. This language was later adopted by contemporary Pagans in the twentieth and twenty first century. As such, the article argues, in any study of the phenomenon referred to as “paganism” the present framework inevitably leads one to theological questions and answers. As a result, while the discussion on paganism continues to be a theological one, the phenomenon being studied remains inaccessible.
Suffolk County Community College
Christina Beard-Moose is a professor of anthropology and women’s studies at Suffolk County Community College, New York.
Thousands of women, and men, have made the effort to go on pilgrimage due to epiphany or research or distrust of their née religions on a Pagan path. That path leads them to an ancient Celtic—or at least a simulacrum—way of being. They, we are drawn to the sites/sights and sounds of a European “homeland” we have never seen before. How do these people, many with non-European backgrounds, come to this particular pilgrimage? Why search for Avalon? This article looks at the phenomena that pulls a stranger/tourist/pilgrim population to a “homeland” they have never seen, never experienced, and only came to as an adult making a decision after searching, not as an enculturated child. Further, this article discusses those “quasi-Stendhalian” epiphanies that are evoked when one reaches such “sacred ground.” Women who come in pilgrimage to find the Goddess – in whatever form they might think of her – have a multitude of experiences at various venues and “hotspots” that abound in Glastonbury. Whether it is going to sacred water, either Chalice Well or the White Spring, climbing the Tor to the summit or as far as one can get, or attending one of the Goddess-centered events throughout the year, pilgrims come to connect with She That Is and with each other. What is this visceral experience of anticipation and completion upon reaching the goal at Glastonbury/Avalon? This is an introductory article to search for these answers.
Central Michigan University
Laurel Zwissler is an assistant professor in philosophy and religion at Central Michigan University
Contemporary Pagans have historically been invested in the idea of Paganism’s survival from pre-Christian times through the early modern witchcraft trials to the present, but the story takes on specifically gendered significance within spiritual feminism. The “Burning Times” complex of ideas combines stories of horrific and often sexualized torture with assertions that the true religion of persecuted Witches was not only Pagan, but traces back to Neolithic, Goddess-centered matriarchy. Foundational spiritual feminists Mary Daly, Zsuzsanna Budapest, and Starhawk, as well as first-wave author Matilda Joslyn Gage, have put horror stories of the witch hunts in their publications, each deriving different feminist mandates from these shared tales of torture. I also take this opportunity to reflect on some of my own experiences as a scholar and feminist engaged with the moral weight of witchcraft history.

Review Articles

University of Bristol
Ronald Hutton is Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on the history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is also the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism. His paper The Strange History of British Archaeoastronomy was published in 2014 in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.

Book Reviews

University of Sydney
Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include religious conversion, northern European mythology and religion, medieval Christianity, secularization and contemporary religious trends. She is the author of Conversion Among the Germanic Peoples (Cassell, 1998), The Essence of Buddhism (Lansdowne, 2001), Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010), and The Sacred Tree: Ancient and Medieval Manifestations (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). She has co-edited several volumes, including Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf (Brill, 2010) with Christopher Hartney and New Religions and Cultural Production (Brill 2012) with Alex Norman. She has published widely in academic journals and edited collections. With Christopher Hartney (University of Sydney) she is Editor of the Journal of Religious History (published by Wiley) and with Liselotte Frisk (Dalarna University, Sweden) she is Editor of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions (published by Equinox).
University College London
A trained archaeologist, Ethan Doyle White is currently undertaking doctoral research into the archaeological evidence for popular religion in early medieval Britain at University College London (UCL). As an independent scholar, he is an established figure in the field of contemporary Pagan studies, being the author of both Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Sussex Academic Press, 2016) and a range of articles in such peer-reviewed journals as The Pomegranate, Nova Religio, and Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft. His current research interests focus on pre-Christian and folk religiosity in early medieval Europe alongside the adoption of pre-Christian beliefs and imagery within modern Pagan new religious movements.
Pantheon Foundation
Sam Webster, MDiv, PhD, graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in 1993. He earned his doctorate at the University of Bristol, UK, under Prof. Ronald Hutton in 2015, with a thesis on the History of Theurgy from Iamblichus to the Golden Dawn. He is currently the publisher at Concrescent LLC, and the executive director of the Pantheon Foundation, a religious educational and service nonprofit. He makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.