Vol 8 No. 1 (2006)

Articles

Ieuan Jones received a doctorate from the University of York in 2005 for his sociological thesis on modern British Paganism. Since then he has had a number of academic writings published, along with various pieces of music journalism, and is currently writing a paper on the Black Metal phenomenon.
This article takes a detailed and questioning look at the way Pagans have tended to conceptualize ‘Nature’. It holds that Pagan culture is dominated by what could be regarded as a ‘semi-orthodox’ viewpoint on the subject, which holds that notions of enchantment are synonymous—or at least broadly congruous—with ‘natural’ forces, with the logical and ideological corollary that those elements deemed to be ‘non-natural’ are therefore intrinsically antithetical to magical sensibilities to some degree. Drawing from academic and Pagan sources (the latter including interviews with practicing Pagans), its intention is not so much to ‘disprove’ this type of view, but rather to critique the assumption that it represents a fundamental or defining feature of the Pagan phenomenon, as opposed to a rhetorical and cultural adjunct.
University of Tasmania
Douglas Ezzy is senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Tasmania, Australia. His books include Qualitative Analysis (Routledge, 2002), Practising the Witch’s Craft (Allen & Unwin, 2003) and the forthcoming edited collection Researching Paganisms (with Jenny Blain and Graha Harvey, AltaMira Press, 2004). His most recent research is an international study of teenage Witchcraft with Helen Berger (West Chester University). Ieuan Jones received a doctorate from the University of York in 2005 for his sociological thesis on modern British Paganism. Since then he has had a number of academic writings published, along with various pieces of music journalism, and is currently writing a paper on the Black Metal phenomenon.
Witchcraft is often described as a ‘nature religion’ that is attractive because of its environmentally oriented mythology. This article examines the popular literature of contemporary Witchcraft to identify the extent to which Witchcraft reflects a substantial change from the dominant Western anthropocentric orientation to the other-than-human environment. I examine the rituals and worldviews in popular Witchcraft texts by Vivianne Crowley, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Scott Cunningham and Starhawk. I argue that there is substantial variation in the degree to which Witchcraft can be classified as providing an environmentalist ethic. While Witchcraft mythology is oriented toward nature, the focus of much Witchcraft on self-development leaves it open to becoming a religion of selfish individualism rather than a spirituality of respectful relationships.
Eastern Mediterranean University, Turkey
Christopher Miles is a visiting assistant professor in the Faculty of Communication & Media Studies, Eastern Mediterranean University, an English-medium university in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. His research focuses on paradoxes of communication and applications of second-order cybernetics to literature, commercial persuasion and esoteric discourse.
The English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) created a dense and fecund body of work that is built upon a foundation of automa¬tism, the pursuit of a state of Vacuity, and the reification of what Spare termed “Self-Love.” Although a one-time student of Aleister Crowley and clearly influenced by some aspects of Western European esoteric currents, Spare has remained on the margins of the twentieth-century occult revival due both to the complexity of his language and idiosyncratic nature of his system of magical theory and practice. A number of voices have, however, sought to locate Spare and his system within a “shamanic” framework linked to perceptions/constructions of “witchcraft” and “Amerindian sorcery.” This article seeks to examine what this might mean through a discussion of the dual influence of Michael Harner’s core-shamanism and Kenneth Grant’s mediation of Spare, while also providing an overview of Spare’s writings on “trance” techniques designed to address the apparent evidence for his “shamanic” identity.
Independent Scholar
Martin P. Starr is an independent scholar of Western Esotericism. He received his AB from the University of Chicago in Classical Languages and Literature in 1981 and pursued graduate studies in the History of Science. He is the editor of the Teitan Press series of the works of Aleister Crowley and the author of The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites (2003), the first documentary study of Crowley’s followers in North America.
This article presents a study of a post-1962 attempt to craft a new religious movement in the United States of America primarily developed from the elements of the occult orders and writings of the English occultist and prophet of the Law of Thelema, Aleister Crowley (1875–1947). The leaders of groups influenced by Crowley’s abundant esoteric legacy, itself the synthesis of a range of earlier Western esoteric initiatic systems, often developed a compelling unity of purpose within their small hierarchically organized collectives espousing Crowley’s beliefs, despite the radical antinomian overtones of the thelemic maxim “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The article reviews the literature, traditions, history, and transmission of authority in the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), culminating in a particular focus on the development of one such novel religious group, the “Solar Lodge” of Los Angeles, and shows how its conflict with society drove the surviving members of Crowley’s OTO to reactivate their esoteric order in the United States.