Core Books in Pagan Studies

I recently completed an article on contempoary Paganism for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, so when it appears, I can at least say that I have been published by Oxford UP. Yay me. But is there still a market for academic encyclopedias in this day when undergrads must be taught how to use reference books? Someone must think so.

As to the article, instead of writing another “it all started with Gerald Gardner” article, I decided to give more space to (a) the Romantic movement and (b) the Latvian and Lithuanian reconstructionists of the 1920s and 1930s, that two-decade space when their nations escaped centuries of German and Russian colonization before being dumped in 1940 back into it—the Third Reich and then the USSR.

magical religionThe editors wanted a brief bibliography, of course, with primary and secondary sources, so I just went along my Pagan-studies bookshelves, grabbing this and that, including some titles that I think have always been under-appreciated.

Jim Lewis’s edited collection Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft was published twenty years ago, yet it is still relevant in the questions that it raises. Some of the chapters later turned into books, such as “Ritual Is My Chosen Art Form: The Creation of Ritual as Folk Art among Contemporary Pagans,” by Sabina Magliocco.researching paganisms

Likewise, the collection Researching Paganisms (2004) discussed issues of “religious ethnography” that every scholar of  religion should read, not just those studying some form of Paganism. From the description:

Should academic researchers “go native,” participating as “insiders” in engagements with the “supernatural,” experiencing altered states of of consciousness? How do academics negotiate the fluid boundaries between worlds and meanings which may change their own beliefs? Should their own experiences be part of academic reports? Researching Paganisms presents reflective and engaging accounts of issues in the academic study of religion confronted by anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, historians and religious studies scholars?as researchers and as humans?as they study contemporary Pagan religions.

paganism readerHere is the rest of the bibliography. I do not claim that it is complete, but it is representative. For example, if you look into the The Paganism Reader, which Graham Harvey and I compiled, you will see material from ancient centuries up into the early twentieth, for example, so it covers a lot of ground. Pity it got such a boring cover.

Primary Sources

Buckland, Raymond. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1986.

Clifton, Chas S., and Graham Harvey, eds. The Paganism Reader. London: Routledge, 2004.

Gardner, Gerald B. Witchcraft Today. London: Ryder and Co, 1954.

Graves, Robert. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1948.

McNallen, Stephen A. Asatru: A Native European Spirituality. Nevada City, Calif.: Runestone Press, 2015.

Murray, Margaret. The God of the Witches. London: Sampson Low, 1931.

———. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921.

Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale, 1989.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, ed. Green Egg Omelette: An Anthology of Art and Articles from the Legendary Pagan Journal. Franklin Lakes: New Page Books, 2009.

Further Reading

Aitamurto, Kaarina, and Scott Simpson, eds. Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Studies in Historical and Contemporary Paganism. Durham: Acumen, 2013.

Berger, Helen. A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Berger, Helen, and Douglas Ezzy. Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for Self. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Blain, Jenny, Douglas Ezzy, and Graham Harvey, eds. Researching Paganisms. The Pagan Studies Series. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2004.

Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. The Pagan Studies Series. Lanham, Md., Altamira Press, 2006.

Davy, Barbara Jane. Paganism, 3 vols. Critical Concepts in Religious Studies. London: Routledge, 2009.

Doyle White, Ethan. Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2015.

Eller, Cynthia. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Harvey, Graham. Animism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Hutton, Ronald. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

———. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

———. Witches, Druids and King Arthur. London: Hambledon and London, 2003.

Johnston, Hannah E., and Peg Aloi, eds. The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture. Controversial New Religions. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.

Lewis, James R., ed. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Magliocco, Sabina. Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Myers, Brendan. The Earth, the Gods and the Soul: A History of Pagan Philosophy from the Iron Age to the 21st Century. Winchester: Moon Books, 2013.

Pike, Sarah M. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001.

———. New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Rountree, Kathryn, ed. Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. New York: Berghahn, 2015.

———. Embracing the Witch and the Goddess: Feminist Ritual-Makers in New Zealand. London: Routledge, 2004.

Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. London: Routledge, 2002.

Weston, Donna, and Andy Bennett. Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music. Studies in Historical and Contemporary Paganism. Durham: Acumen, 2013.

Wise, Constance. Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought. The Pagan Studies Series. Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2008.

York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

Contemporary Pagan Studies 2016 Call for Papers

Here is our call for papers for the next annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, which will be November 19-22, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. For all the calls, go here, just in case you are interested in “Vatican II Studies.”

Statement of Purpose: 

The Contemporary Pagan Studies Group provides a place for scholars interested in pursuing studies in this newly developing and interdisciplinary field and puts them in direct communication with one another in the context of a professional meeting. New scholars are welcomed and supported, while existing scholars are challenged to improve their work and deepen the level of conversation. By liaising with other AAR Program Units, the Group creates opportunities to examine the place of Pagan religions both historically and within contemporary society and to examine how other religions may intersect with these dynamic and mutable religious communities.

Call for Papers: 

• Contemporary Paganisms are experiencing an internal conversation and debate about routinization, or the need to establish institutions and a degree of legitimate cultural and social integration beyond the structure of small groups and umbrella organizations. While many Pagans believe that these structures will provide the conditions for sustainability, others believe that institutionalization is contrary to the nature of Pagan practice. We seek papers which explore various facets of routinization in contemporary Paganisms. Topics can include the changing nature of Pagan leadership, support for or resistance to institution building, perceptions of standardization of Pagan religious culture through publishing, recording etc., and professionalization of leadership. Comparative perspectives are always encouraged.

• It could be argued that contemporary Paganisms are characterized by ideologies, theologies and aesthetics that critique the narrative of progress and modernity. As a result, Pagan religiosity frequently focuses on cultural reconstruction, metaphors of tribalism, a return to “nature”, and the use of imagined and idealized pasts to create alternatively modern futures. We are seeking papers that explore the ways in which tropes of antimodernism and primitivism inform the development of modern Paganisms. Topics can include ritual, aesthetics, rhetoric, politics and activism. We also welcome comparative approaches.

To encourage conversation during this session, we will be participating in the AAR Full Paper Submission system. Full drafts of all accepted papers must be posted online several weeks prior to the Annual Meeting, and will be accessible to AAR members only. Participants will then have the opportunity to read all selected papers prior to the session. Presenters will have ten minutes to summarize their argument, and the remainder of the session will be devoted to discussion and comments regarding the submitted papers.

For potential co-sponsorship by Contemporary Paganism Group and Religion and Sexuality Group: We welcome papers that critically engage the various ways in which transgender subjectivities, identities and practices challenge and destabilize perceptions of human and divine genders (especially in anthropomorphic traditions, but also including the Contemporary Pagan veneration of Goddess and God). Themes can include, but are not restricted to transgender and the ontological turn; transgender and new materialism; transgender and posthumanism. Papers can be focused around methodological, and/or empirical issues/approaches.

• There are a number of instances where the influence and exchange of belief and practice between Contemporary Paganisms and other religious groups has occurred. Examples include modern Celtic Christianity, ChristoPaganism, and the impact of Starhawk’s writings on Catholic theologian Rosemary Ruether. We invite papers that examine the complementarity and impact of modern Paganisms on other religions and that of other religions on Paganisms today. Topics might include hybridized ritual practice, environmentalism, theological exchanges and critiques, and the realities of living multiple religious identities.

Instructions on submitting proposals are here. The deadline is 5 p.m. EST, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Pagans and Others at the AAR-SBL

Thursday I arrived in Atlanta for the joint annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.

Attendees come from all over:
Mary's Name Tag

Kitty's Name Tag

They are focused on the presentations they must make:

Ali Beyer

Alison Beyer, “Creating Sacred Space with Art Exhibitions: Another Approach to Interfaith Work”

They attend a lot of receptions, especially those with a reputation for plentiful food and drink:

NAASR reception

North American Association for the Study of Religion. Janet Joyce,
managing director of Equinox Publishing,  center,  in black.

They go to more sessions:

ritual studies

Ellen Randolph, “Gnosticism, Transformation, and the Role of the Feminine
in the Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.” Grant Potts, session presider.

They try to find a place to sit.

Marriott Bar

They go to the book exhibit and make sure that their and their friends’ books are prominently displayed:

Pagan Britain

Yale University Press booth.

They slip away to museums:

GR and vases

Gwendolyn Reece at the Carlos Museum, Emory University.

They hang out in the various hotel bars and go out to dinner:

shawn, helen, barbara

Shawn Arthur, Helen Berger (back to camera), Barbara McGraw, (unidentified), Doug Cowan.

And then it’s back onto the escalator. Where is the “Dunwoody Room”?

between session

Until they are exhausted and must go home, where they sort out their notes:



UPDATE: Here is Thorn Mooney’s take on the same event, “Me, Pagan Studies, and the AAR.”

You’ll Be Amazed at How the Disabled Kitten Reacted to a Syrian Refugee

I go out to breakfast at a diner not in a big downtown hotel, and as I follow the hostess to my booth, words float up: “seminary,” “dynamics,” “Old Testment.”

Yes, it’s another joint annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature. Atlanta, again, as in 2010 and 2003. That could have something to do with the fact that the AAR, the child that outgrew its SBL parent, is headquartered at Emory University. I think the staff likes to schedule a meeting every few years that they themselves can drive to.

We Pagani have been busily scheduling our steering committee meeting, our annual dinner (which I may have to miss due to a key client meeting, dang it), and the Pagan Studies/Pomegranate drinks party, which I will not miss.

Oh, the post title? Just an experiment in clickbait. Did it work?

We Might as well Wear Lineages on our Chests

Academic bloggers Megan Kate Nelson and Elizabeth Covart are re-thinking the way that we wear badges at conventions—and other forms of labeling. What might work better than NAME and INSTITUTION (or for the non-affiliated, CITY)?

In Nelson’s post, I like “Academic lineage, a la Game of Thrones. Everyone always asks anyway (which I find bizarre when you’re 15 years out of graduate school), so you might as well cop to it.”

It’s true, at the American Academy of Religion, House McCutcheon sneers at the remnants of House Eliade. We might as well be open about it.

Shai Feraro on Canaanite Reconstructionism

Israeli scholar Shai Feraro talks about Canannite (i.e., Pagan) reconstructionism in present-day Israel. This is an excerpt from his presentation at the recent conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism in Riga, Latvia. (Wish I could have been there.)

He makes a reference to the “Canaanites” who were not reconstructionists. That would be these “Canaanites.” Note that some members were fighters in the Irgun — and there is apparently a story there from the days of the Israeli struggle for independence. Basically, this movement wanted to form an Israeli/Hebrew identity that was separate from both Jewish religion and Zionism — a re-enchantment of the land.

(Video by Christian Giudice.)

Contemporary Pagan Studies at the AAR, 2015

All of the evaluating and negotiating is completed, and the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion will be presenting the following sessions at the annual meeting, held November 21–24, 2015, in Atlanta:

1 Joint session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group: “The Problem of ‘Religion’ in the Study of Indigenous and Polytheistic Traditions.”

2. “Valuing Paganism in Public and Open Spaces.”

3.  “Tradition and Resistance in Paganism.”

I will post more about the contents of each session when the program book is ready.

Pentagram Pizza with Layers of Woo

pentagrampizza • Lydia Crabtree not only knows “woo,” she can organize it into a ten-part scale and a four-part diagram. Fascinating.

And there is a Part 2: “Parenting to the WooWoo.”

• Where did “the humanities” come from? Come travel back to the good old days of “philology.”

• Philology is not old enough for you? Relax with some Babylonian tunes.

There, That’s Done, Almost. Also John Cowper Powys

Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, destroyed at the orders of Henry VIII (Wikimedia Commons).

Where did the week go?

It seems like setting up the AAR sessions — two solo for Contemporary Pagan Studies, two co-sponsored, and one “quad” (four sponsors) — that plus a little snow, some fire department maintenance work, and some chainsaw issues that don’t belong here totally exhausted all my psychic energy. Just need to line up one more panel respondent.

When it is completed, I will publish the line-up of papers.

For refuge, I have fled to Glastonbury, not the real town but a close relative, John Cowper Powys’ massive novel A Glastonbury Romance.

As the explorer/writer Lawrence Millman said in a 2000 Atlantic piece, “One doesn’t read Powys so much as enlist in him.” (Of course, if you read all of A Song of Fire and Ice, you have “enlisted” in George R. R. Martin. Most people watch the TV series.)

This is all the fault of Carole Cusack, who in a recent blog interview on Albion Calling pronounced that “the entire oeuvre of John Cowper Powys should be of crucial interest to contemporary Pagans, but I suspect that he is almost unread these days, to everyone’s detriment, not just the Pagans.”

I took that as a challenge, and the helpful inter-library loan librarian quickly produced not just A Glastonbury Romance (1933) but Powys’ Autobiography (1934), which I read first. I could write more about the Autobiography. It’s frank enough, but repetitious — a good editor could have cut it by 40 percent without cutting meat. To quote Millman,

It is a record not of Powys’s achievements but of his various inadequacies. In it he described his manias and phobias, his “idiotic” mouth and “Neanderthal pate,” and particularly his sexual failures. He discussed “the sickening moments of dead sea desolation that came to me from my ulcerated stomach” and his chronic constipation. He called himself a “scarecrow Don Quixote with the faint heart of Sancho.” And yet the mood of the Autobiography is not gloomy or self-pitying. After all, this book was written by a man who treasured being “ill-constituted.”

I was surprised, therefore, how good A Glastonbury Romance is, if you are willing to give it time. Robert Altman would have struggled to direct a hypothetical movie version, there are so many interlaced stories going on.

Some of them are pure soap opera: Will Sam admit that he is the father of Nell’s baby? Will John and Mary be happily married even though they are first cousins? Will Mad Bet’s magical working against Mary destroy her marriage? Will the Communists destroy Philip’s factory? What is the nature of the esoteric books that Sam is getting from Owen the Welsh antiquary? And what is the Holy Grail?

Add the (feeble) influence of the dead, the palpable influence of The Past, the wind that blow through people’s dreams, and the all-out astral-plane battles between different factions trying to determine the future of Glastonbury. It’s really quite complex.

You might say that I have enlisted and will see it through to the end.