Vol 20 No. 1 (2018)

Paganism and Politics

Orange County Community College
Michael Strmiska is an associate professor of world history at the Orange
County Community College (SUNY-Orange).
This essay begins by reviewing definitions and categories of modern Paganism (also variously termed contemporary or neo-Paganism) that the author first proposed in the 2005 book Modern Paganism in World Culture and then proceeds to discuss parallels with certain political trends in Europe and America today. Particular attention will be paid to how the rising tide of pro-nativist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim sentiment in contemporary European and American politics mirrors certain views and values espoused by the more ethnically oriented forms of Paganism, even though this seeming convergence of interests between Pagans and rightists at the political level is undercut at the religious level by the right wing's firm adherence to Christianity and rejection of religious diversity. The essay proceeds to examine how competing nineteenth century visions of ethnic-centered nationalism and universal humanism are replicated today in the more ethnic and traditional types of Paganism versus those that are more eclectic and universalistic in their outlook. Pagan responses to the events of August 1-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia form the final topic.
Masaryk University
Mendel University
Josef Smolík is a political scientist who focuses on terrorism, organized crime, extreme right, extreme left, patriotism, youth subculture, security issues, criminology and criminal policy, collective violence, political and intercultural psychology, and football hooliganism.
The chief aim of this paper is to describe the relationship of contemporary Czech Pagans-those who identify themselves as such and practice their belief in ritual-to what is described as extremism, using the methods of qualitative analysis, interviews and observation. The paper focuses on the subjective views of Pagans themselves, which allow us to understand the internal processes within this highly particular community. An important element of this is how Pagans themselves understand the term "extremism." The paper outlines specific positions taken by individual Pagans, proceeding to generalize in order to characterize the Czech Pagan community as a whole. It also analyses potential trigger mechanisms, which in some cases entice individuals from the community to take extremist positions.
Masaryk University
Jan Reichstäter is a PhD student at the Department for the Study of Religionsin Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic). He works and lectures in the fields of religions in the pre-Christian Europe, mainly in the religiosity of northern Indo-Europeans. This text is a revised contribution to the conference "Paganism and Politics: Neo-Pagan & Native Faith Movements in Central & Eastern Europe," 3-4 June 2016, Brno, Czech Republic.
In the ancient reports that mention the ethnic situation in the present day Czech Republic region, the Celtic tribe of the Boii appears as the first known inhabitants. This information, together with specific political circumstances in the post-war period, has given rise to a cultural trend of modern Czech Celtophilia. This phenomenon, meaning "love of things Celtic" and concerning usually Celtic cultures or peoples (either historical or modern), can be also considered as a basis for modern Celtic Paganism, which seeks to revive and adapt old Celtic religiosity for contemporary use. The following text will address the phenomenon of Celtophilia within the framework of Czech identity and history. The discussion will deal with two main issues: (1) the historical development of Czech Celtophilia, in its both non-religious and religious forms, and (2) the dynamics of its present-day decline. Though the reasons for Czech enthusiasm for Celtic history and identity, as well as skepticism about Czech Celticity, were always diverse and variable, the purpose here will be to arrive at a general explanation of these issues and their contributing factors. This brief study will mainly engage with the most evident aspects of the whole phenomenon.
Vytautas Magnus University
Eglė Aleknaitė is a researcher at Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania.
The paper aims at examining participation of contemporary Lithuanian Pagans (represented by Romuva in this study) in politics of heritagization. After presentation of a broader picture of the research and the revival of ethnic culture during both Soviet and post-Soviet periods, contemporary Pagan discourse and practices intended for society, as well as attempts to make influence through state institutions are analyzed. The case study shows that they interact and compete with other religious groups and inheritors of the past and can employ a range of strategies to seek power and influence in heritage politics. The post-Soviet context that accounts for some specific characteristics of contemporary Eastern European Pagans is also an important factor in heritage politics related to worldview-based competition, and in Lithuanian case, the well-known hostility of contemporary Pagans towards Christianity is accompanied by the threat that representatives of the Catholic Church feel because of the Pagans' influence in heritage politics.

Book Reviews

University of Sydney
Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. She researches and teaches on contemporary religious trends (including pilgrimage and tourism, modern Pagan religions, NRMs, and religion and popular culture). Her books include Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010) and (with Katharine Buljan) Anime, Religion, and Spirituality: Profane and Sacred Worlds in Contemporary Japan (Equinox, 2015). In 2016 she became Editor of Fieldwork in Religion, and she is also Editor of Literature & Aesthetics (journal of the Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics).
Bernd-Christian Otto and Michael Stausberg (eds), Defining Magic: A Reader (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2013); xiii, 281 pp., $44.95 (paperback).
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Formerly of Colorado State University, Pueblo, he researches and writes on new religious movements and contemporary Paganism. He served as a contributing editor of Gnosis: Journal of Western Inner Traditions from 1986–2000, and as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's Contemporary Pagan Studies Group from 2011–2016. His published work includes Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America and as co-editor with Graham Harvey, The Paganism Reader.
Edward J. Watts, The Final Pagan Generation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015) 344 pp., 29 B&W photographs, map. $34.95 (hardcover, ebook).
University of York
Matt Coward is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of York, UK 
Karen Fjelstad and Nguyễn Thị Hiền, Spirits Without Borders: Vietnamese Spirit Mediums in a Transnational Age (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), x + 219 pp., $139.99 (hardcover), $49.99 (paperback), $39.99 (ebook).
University of Sydney
Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. She researches and teaches on contemporary religious trends (including pilgrimage and tourism, modern Pagan religions, NRMs, and religion and popular culture). Her books include Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010) and (with Katharine Buljan) Anime, Religion, and Spirituality: Profane and Sacred Worlds in Contemporary Japan (Equinox, 2015). In 2016 she became Editor of Fieldwork in Religion, and she is also Editor of Literature & Aesthetics (journal of the Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics).
Mark Williams, Ireland’s Immortals: A History the Gods of Irish Myth  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016); xxx, 578 pp., $39.50 (hardback).
Richmond University, London
Robert J. Wallis, Art History, Richmond University, London.
Trude Fonneland, Contemporary Shamanisms in Norway: Religion, Entrepreneurship, and Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 248pp., $99 (hardcover), $97.99 (ebook).
University of Limerick
Ana Camillo, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.
Elizabeth Wayland Barber, The Dancing Goddesses: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance (New York: Norton 2013), 448pp., $35 cloth. Elizabeth Wayland Barber is a folkdancer, archaeologist and linguist. In The Dancing Goddesses: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance she analyses deeply how the belief in mystical female spirits has developed not only into ritual dances for fertility and healing but also in a variety of customs and traditions of villagers and peasants. Some traditions have survived to present day in Europe as symbols, superstitions, and even in calendar customs. The Dancing Goddesses is the result of a deep research based on fieldwork, archaeology, anthropology, and linguistics and is of interest to any person pursuing deep knowledge regarding not only the origins of European dance but also on ritual, folklore, and archaeology.