Vol 9 No. 1 (2007) The Pomegranate 9.1, 2007


Ethnicity and race are imprecise social constructs. Many contemporary Pagans tend to identify their beliefs and practices with one or several European pre-Christian cultures. This aspect of Pagan reconstruction carries notions of implicit ethnic and cultural allegiance, irrespective of whether this phenomenon is conscious or deliberate in the minds of Pagans. This article is an exploration of the causes of the dissonance between the Pagan ideal of inclusiveness and diversity and the fact that contemporary Paganism tends to attract people of mostly European descent. The following is a discussion of how the processes involved in the construction of a Pagan religious identity are the main culprits causing this dissonance, which leads to an accidental ethnic near homogeneity among Pagans. This article is the result of several years of observing the Pagan communities in the city of Montreal, and most recently, in the Canadian National Capital Region, which became my home in 2003.
Modern Pagan groups often consult texts from the European Middle Ages and rely upon scholarly assessments of the authenticity of these texts and the traditions they contain. Often these texts become 'scripture' for Pagans and are thus vitally important for identity and community. This applies equally to Traditional and Eclectic Pagans, although they differ in their attitude to the past, the former group engaging in reconstruction where the latter are more flexible and engage in reinvention. This article investigates the sources for a minor Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, best known for bestowing her name on the Christian festival of Easter. Eostre has been chosen precisely because of her obscurity; academic discourses in Anglo-Saxon studies are unable to reach agreement even concerning her existence. In contrast to these cautious, sceptical, 'outsider' voices, the 'insider' voices of the contemporary Pagan community celebrate Eostre and perform rituals in her honour. It is here argued that there is a continuum of interpretations of the Eostre/Ostara material, with scholarly scepticism at one end and Eclectic Pagan reinvention at the other end, while the more historically grounded Traditional Pagan interpretations found in Asatru and some other Northern traditions negotiate a compromise between 'objective' scholarship and 'subjective' faith.
The ideology of contemporary Russian Paganism is analysed as a version of nationalism, 'nation' being understood as a primordial ethnic community. The author reveals a mixture of Soviet ideology with fragments of folk beliefs in the contemporary Pagan outlook, which serves as a sort of patriotism after the empire has collapsed and given way to a globalization that challenges national states and ethnic communities. Hence the Russian Pagans' main goals are to form a 'stable ethnic community' and to promote ethnic Russian values.
The ravens in the Tower of London are allowed to move freely on the Tower Green, but their wings are clipped to prevent them from flying very far. They are widely believed to have been domesticated by Charles II in the seventeenth century, because of an ancient prophesy that Britain would fall if the ravens leave the Tower. In fact they were only brought to the Tower in the late 1900s, and the legend only dates from about the end of World War II. The Ravens appear to have been brought to the Tower by the Earls of Dunraven, probably because of an esoteric connection between them and the Celtic deity Bran, whose head, according to legend, is buried in the Tower. This article examines the legend of the Tower Ravens as a Pagan myth of the modern era, created when archaic beliefs, which were preserved as matrixes of motifs and associations, gradually resurfaced in a secular and Christian context.
Through an examination of the concepts of universality and indigenousness, the authors' argument is that a more comprehensive definition of “religion” is possible than there is via traditional Western academic understanding. Instead of the more restricted, confrontational and inadequate “sacred”/ “secular” framework, the Japanese principle of Irekawari suggests the possibility of a mutual conversion between the sacred and the profane. The author explores two conceptual dyads: that of hare “festive” and ke “ordinary” that includes magic and sorcery along with religion and the sacred within a broader framework; and that between i/yu (a Japanese religious linguistic element) and ke that allows the consideration of defilement, pollution, danger, and obstacle as religiously significant, —for example, the funeral ceremony, spiritual curing, and so on. The authors' endeavour is to avoid the necessity of positing a transcendent or supernatural reality for the study of religion in its fullest understanding.