New Age in Norway - Ingvild Sælid Gilhus

New Age in Norway - Ingvild Sælid Gilhus

Angels: Between Secularization and Re-enchantment

New Age in Norway - Ingvild Sælid Gilhus

Ingvild Sælid Gilhus [+-]
University of Bergen
GILHUS INGVILD SÆLID is Professor in the history of religions at the University of Bergen (1988-). Research interests: late antiquity and Gnosticism, new religious movements, and theories and methods in the history of religions. Vice Dean (1988) and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Bergen (1989-90) and member of the board of the Norwegian Research Council for Social Sciences and Humanities (1993-96). Member of the board of the University of Bergen (1999-), Deputy Chairman of the board of the Norwegian Research Council (2003-), Chairman of the board of Chr. Michelsen Institute. Development Studies and Human Rights (2001-), member of the board of the Bergen Festival (1999-) and member of the Executive Commitee IAHR (1999-2004). Deputy General Secretary of the Executive Committee IAHR (2005-2010). Member of the the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters in Trondheim and of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo.


Angels are travelling light. They are cultural constructions that are continually reimagined and they seldom bring with them more luggage than that they can slip through the masks of the cultural net. Appearing in a secular context, their religious origin contributes to make them attractive. When angels are used to promote Christmas sales, for instance, they tap into the Season’s spirit of love and willingness to give, which have strong Christian connotations. Versatility belongs to the modus operandi of angels and it works in many directions – geographically, historically, linguistically and across the religious/secular divide. Versatility contributes to make these cultural constructs useful and successful, and angels are part of several discourses and spaces. In this chapter we will identify and map some of them as they are developing in contemporary Norway. We use the spatial model of Jonathan Z. Smith of “religion here, there and anywhere” and adds a fourth space, which is “religion everywhere”. The chapter begins with identifying the spaces of angels in Norway in the 20th century, especially church, school and home (there and here). It discusses their migration into new spaces and especially how New Age entrepreneurs use angels (anywhere) and how they appear in various media (everywhere). Focus is on the connections between the different spaces, on angels as messengers and companions, and on the contestations they are part of when the Church tries both to struggle against and to adapt itself to New Age spirituality.

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Gilhus, Ingvild. Angels: Between Secularization and Re-enchantment. New Age in Norway. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 139-156 Mar 2017. ISBN 9781781794173. Date accessed: 28 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.28883. Mar 2017

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