Vol 7 No. 2 (2005)


Long Island University
Kristy Coleman earned her doctorate in Religion and Culture from Claremont Graduate University. Her dissertation, “Resurrecting the Repressed Feminine,” combined Luce Irigaray’s work with Coleman’s ethnography of a Los Angeles-based Dianic Wiccan group. She is currently faculty member and associate director for Long Island University’s Comparative Religion and Culture Program.
Why does the idea of the divine feminine result in such intense fear in some people and excitement in others? Writings on the Goddess movement consistently document that adherents sense the power of symbols and use them intentionally to create something profoundly different. My approach employs semiotic theory to offer a terminology and established theoretical base that imparts an understanding of “what” and “how” Goddess spirituailty and its alternative cosmology pose for some such a risk and for others such promise. Replacing the established transcendental signified of “God” with “Goddess” ruptures and displaces the systemic and totalizing structure of Western metaphysics. This is why, I believe, reactions to the idea of the feminine divine can be so pronounced. For some, the Goddess promises to solve Western culture’s problems by creating a new, more female-valuing symbolic structure. For others, She threatens the very core of the current system of signification and everything within it.
Carleton University
Síân Reid holds a PhD from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University. Her interests include social theories of late and post-modernity, qualitative methods, and identity narratives. She is currently engaged in follow-up research to her 1995 Canadian survey, replicating both the survey and interview portions beginning in spring 2005.
A perception of reduced stigma and increased access to information facilitate increased involvement in contemporary Paganism in Canada, from a rational-choice and demographic standpoint. Original research done within the Canadian Pagan community from 1995 to 1998 suggests that, given the available data both on current demographics and on cultural trends, the number of self-identified Pagans on the 2011 and 2021 censuses will continue to increase at a rate higher than that of other religious groups.
Massey University
Kathryn Rountree is senior lecturer in social anthropology at Massey University and author of Embracing the Witch and the Goddess: Feminist Ritual-makers in New Zealand (Routledge 2004). As well as publishing widely in academic journals on aspects of feminist witchcraft and Goddess spirituality, she has written texts on academic writing and a series of educational books on New Zealand prehistory and early Maori settlement. Recent research and publications have focused on Goddess pilgrimages and embodiment, and on competing discourses in relation to archaeological sites in Malta and Turkey.
Participants in Goddess spirituality in New Zealand share two fundamental characteristics: their feminist political stance and their deep sense of con¬nection with, love for and concern about the natural environment. Eschewing the essentialist formulation of women/nature, men/culture, they wish to dismantle all such dualisms, to advocate the embracing of Green philosophies and practices by all people, and to promote a worldview that honors the sanctity and inter-relatedness of all life. To some extent, these ideas have much in common with indigenous Maori ideas about nature, even though each belief complex is uniquely embedded in its own culture and unique relationship to landscape and history. Nonetheless, Goddess spirituality’s ideas about nature have a great deal more in common with worldviews that perceive the ‘natural world’ as entirely animate and intimately connected with humanity than they do with the ideas of modern capitalist societies, which reduce nature to an inanimate resource available for human exploitation.
Past-President of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada
Barbara Jane Davy holds a PhD in religion from Concordia University, Montreal, and is Past-President of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada. She is the author of Introduction to Pagan Studies, and is currently editing an anthology titled Nature Religion Reader in Paganism and Ecology, both forthcoming from AltaMira Press.
Pagans have accused Judaism of a transcendental disregard for nature, while Jewish thinkers have suggested that paganism exhibits a natural, if primitive, disregard for ethics. For the most part, the paganism of which Jewish philosophers have spoken is understood as religion that has not yet developed any awareness of or respect for God, rather than contemporary Paganism. Pagans have cited some biblical texts in environmental work done by Jewish philosophers and activists. It seems obvious that individual Pagans and Jews have more or less appreciation of nature based on their personal inclinations; there are certainly many examples of good work being done on both sides. Addressing the basic difference in worldview or cosmology that underlies the accusations, I suggest a supplementation of Jewish and Pagan ideas, drawing on the work of the (post)modern Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995). If Levinas’s under¬standing of transcendence is interpreted in terms of a lateral transcendence of one’s own ego, and one’s limited view of the world, rather than the vertical transcendence of nature, his ethical theory can contribute to the development of interpersonal environmental ethics in a contemporary Pagan worldview.
York University
Chris Klassen is a PhD candidate in the Women’s Studies program at York University in Toronto, Ontario. Her dissertation is titled Storied Selves: Technologies of Opposition and Speculation in Feminist Witchcraft. She also teaches in the Religion and Culture department at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
Feminist Witchcraft is a nature religion that posits a holism based on the immanence of the Goddess. This article outlines how these concepts—’nature’ and ‘holism’—are understood by feminist Witches and then explores the implications of these concepts in the context of two novels. A holism based on the inclusion of humanity and the rest of the natural world in the body of the Goddess implies that humans, and their cultural and mechanical constructions, are also part of nature. Thus a dismissal of mechanistic technology as inherently unnatural does not fit with the declared holism. Yet both of these novels show suspicion, to varying degrees, of mechanistic technology. A conversation with Donna Haraway and her cyborg theory provides a way to rethink the divide between natural and technological sometimes found in these novels and in feminist Witchcraft in general.
University of Vermont
Adrian Ivakhiv is an assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, where he coordinates the graduate program in Environmental Thought and Culture. He is the author of Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona (Indiana University Press, 2001) and of numerous articles on environment, religion, and culture, which have appeared in such publications as Nova Religio, Culture and Religion, Ecotheology, Social Compass, Topia, Ethnic Forum, and Gnosis.
Paganism is frequently cast by Anglo-American scholars as a form of “nature religion.” Some have also identified its political leanings as left rather than right. This article tests these preconceptions against the evidence provided by East European, especially Ukrainian, Paganism or “Native Faith.” The author examines Native Faith notions of nature as land, as “blood,” and as “tradition,” and argues that these are underpinned by a concept of “territorialized ethnicity”—the belief that ethnic communities are natural and biological entities rooted in specific geographical territories. The article traces this idea to its precursors in European and Soviet thought, and suggests that it may be more commonly found around the world than Western theorists presume. In light of such a different understanding of nature, the concept of “nature religion” may need to be rethought.

Book Reviews