Vol 11 No. 2 (2009)
Based on statistics from selected search engines, websites, and blogs this paper argues that there are indications that the phenomenal growth of Witchcraft and Paganism during the late twentieth and early twenty-first century may be slowing. In particular, inquisitive inquiry about contemporary Witchcraft—that is, those who are not Witches but are looking for information about it, such as seekers, dabblers, researchers, students doing term papers, and newspaper reporters—has declined since 2004. This decline, however, does not indicate that the religion is “dying” out because while the rate of increase has slowed it has not been eliminated; and of greater import, community networking appears to have remained stable, or possibly to have increased. Community networking can be seen in the use of Internet sites to share information about Witchcraft, upcoming rituals, or books and teachers; those participating in dialogue; or using the Internet as part of their spiritual work or for communications between coven meetings, or with coven members who are unable to attend. The statistics suggest that contemporary Witchcraft and Paganism may be in a period of change, in which there is a consolidation of membership with a slowing of the rate of new members, particularly among the young. Community building on the Internet continues to be important, but the intensity appears to be lessening, with indications of more people “posting” but doing so less frequently. We suggest that this indicates that Witchcraft is now entering a new phase that of consolidation with less intense participation by members.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Pagan families around the United States, this article examines the changing spiritual needs of Pagan parents and children as evidenced in the development of child-friendly and child-centered rituals. Pagan parents’ ritual adaptations and innovations provide ways for children to participate in ritual and offer instances of the religious creativity of Pagan families. Examples of child-oriented ritual adaptations are drawn from a private family ritual as well as a large community ritual performed by a SpiralScouts circle. In addition to these adaptations of “traditional” ritual elements and tools, this paper suggests that understandings of “ritual” be expanded—especially when children are involved—to include seemingly mundane everyday activities within the family as well as larger, group ceremonial practices. The emphasis within Pagan families on the performance of ritual activities and spiritual practices in everyday life reflects the importance of considering ritual as only one of the many venues for religious expression among adults and children.
Glory to Dazhboh (Sun-god) or to All Native Gods?: Monotheism and Polytheism in Contemporary Ukrainian Paganism [+] 197-222
Contemporary Ukrainian Pagans offer an alternative way of constructing a distinct national identity, based on old Slavic traditions, during times of socio-political turmoil. Despite some unifying characteristics, including nationalist views, there are many groups whose doctrines differ markedly. One of the major polemics is connected with the notions of monotheism versus polytheism as the basis for a contemporary Ukrainian spirituality. The debate between polytheism and monotheism, related to creative interpretations of the largely unknown past and dissimilar visions of the future, forms the main focus of this work. Polytheism and monotheism are often viewed as antagonistic categories. Moreover, some scholars argue against these terms, emphasizing their modern origins and strong political connotation. They are viewed as anachronistic when applied to complex and shifting spiritual practices, especially in ancient contexts. In contrast to this, Ukrainian Paganism shows that both models can sometimes coexist and influence each other in the complex process of identity formation even within the same religious movement. While old Slavs likely did not think about themselves in these terms, their present-day Ukrainian counterparts consciously embrace “monotheism” and “polytheism” as modern political categories. In fact, these categories help Ukrainian Pagans to negotiate (among themselves) the best way to build a “pure” national identity. Monotheistic Pagans associate monotheism with the idea of “progress” while polytheists emphasize the “authenticity” of their own worldview. Indigenized in this way, “monotheism” and “polytheism” are valid terms for describing contemporary ideologies.
The Williams Scale of Attitude toward Paganism (as a particularised measure of the affective dimension of religion) was completed by seventy-five participants at a Pagan camp in celebration of the Midsummer Festival, together with the abbreviated form of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (including a recognised measure of neuroticism). The data demonstrated that, after controlling for sex differences (routinely found in indices of neuroticism), more positive religious affect was significantly associated with higher neuroticism scores, but was not significantly associated with extraversion scores, psychoticism scores, or lie scale scores. These findings from research conducted in a (specific) Pagan context are contrasted with the consensus from studies (employing a comparable measure of religious affect) that have tended to find that more positive religious affect was associated with lower neuroticism scores in a Christian context.
Gender Essentialism in Matriarchalist Utopian Fantasies: Are popular novels vehicles of sacred stories, or purely propaganda? [+] 240-259
In The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future (2000), Cynthia Eller attacks feminist narratives of a peaceful, egalitarian, Goddess-worshipping Neolithic Europe. She argues that they are too gender essentialist to be socially liberating to women. Popular novelists, who play a powerful role in spreading these narratives, however, resist the essentialism of more expository accounts of prehistoric matriarchy. Instead, their fictional accounts present more nuanced views of women’s roles in imagined Goddess societies, and suggest ways in which the myth might be successfully used as a liberating sacred story.
Field Report: Doing Ritual, Doing Time [+] 260-278
According to Susan Van Baalen, former Director of the Federal Prison Chaplaincy Program, most women in prison have never seen a “free” Pagan, one who is not and has never been incarcerated. Yet, she states that Pagan Spirituality, in particular Wicca, is a growing phenomenon in women’s prisons in the United States. This paper explores the spiritual needs of Pagan women prisoners and is based on interviews with Pagan prison chaplains and the author’s self-reflective, ethnographic field notes from a visit inside a medium security federal penitentiary where Pagan women have created “sacred space” and perform rituals invoking the Goddess.
A tenth-anniversary appreciation of Joscelyn Godwin’s Latin to English translation of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream, London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. (First paperback edition, 2005.) 279-283
Book Review: Pagan Themes in Modern Children's Fiction: Green Man, Shamanism, Earth Mysteries 283-285
Book Review of Russell, Jeffrey B and Brooks Alexander. A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1980 and 2007. Second edition. 286-287