Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Entering the Magic Mists: Irish Contemporary Paganism, Celticity and Indigeneity

Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Jenny Butler [+-]
University College Cork
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Dr Jenny Butler holds a Lectureship in the Department of Study of Religions where she teaches on contemporary religions in Ireland, Western Esotericism and new religious movements. She was formerly a Lecturer with the Department of Folklore and Ethnology (2002-2013). She was awarded a Government of Ireland Research Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences by The Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) in support of her doctoral research on Irish contemporary Pagan culture.


This chapter explores the ways in which contemporary Pagans in Ireland engage with traditional culture, as well as with notions of the Celtic, in forming identities that are regarded by some practitioners as being indigenous identities. Drawing from ethnographic research into Irish Pagan beliefs, practices and worldview, this examination will include examples of rituals and other activities that modern Pagans utilise in order to connect to ancient European ancestral cultures as well as specifically to the traditional culture of pre-modern Ireland. Pagan culture reflects a desire to restore older spiritual traditions, particularly pre-Christian ones, and Pagans are known for combining disparate cultural elements in unique and novel ways. The sources that Pagans draw from for information and inspiration are examined, including the ancient myths recorded in medieval times (in the Irish context), archaeological sources, and antiquarian folklore collections of the eighteenth and nineteenth century; all of these resources are used to garner information about native Irish cosmology and lifeworlds and also inspiration for a new type of Irish indigeneity. This analysis includes a detailing of some of the ways in which Pagans innovatively utilise Celtic and pre-Celtic symbols, as well as Irish myth and folklore, in creating rituals, artwork and material culture. Also explored is the relationship between modern Irish Pagans and magical practices understood as native tradition, especially in relation to the Sídh (fairies) of popular belief which has strong roots in the traditional Irish context. In claiming a lineage to ancestral cultures now shrouded in the mists of time, modern Paganism in Ireland involves an interesting re-contextualisation of tradition. Folk religious customs and native Irish cosmology are reinterpreted in a new milieu. This chapter will provide an overview of the processes by which Pagans employ tradition in constructing their ‘indigenous’ identities and to communicate why this inventive creation of new Pagan traditions is culturally significant in the Irish context.

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Butler, Jenny. Entering the Magic Mists: Irish Contemporary Paganism, Celticity and Indigeneity. Indigenizing Movements in Europe. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 13-30 Mar 2020. ISBN 9781781797914. Date accessed: 06 Dec 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.36292. Mar 2020

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