Is Contemporary Druidry an ‘Indigenous’ Religion?

I mentioned in yesterday’s post my sadness at missing one of the Indigenous Religious Traditions sessions at the American Academy of Relligion’s online annual meeting this year. (There is another one though). “Indigenous” is a word of power, like “decolonize..”[1]In the 1990s, every grad student in humanities wanted to “foreground the hegemony.” Now it’s “decolonize the [blank] body,” or something like that.

Enter Leeds Trinity University PhD student Angela Puca. (She just passed her doctoral oral exam — “viva” to the Brits — with flying colors, says Ronald Hutton, who was her external examiner,” so I suppose she is only waiting on the formalities now. She has been a graduate teaching assistant in the Dept of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds Trinity University in the UK.

She has been researching the way the term indigenous is employed in rehabilitating Italian witchcraft in light of contemporary Paganism, among other things. And in her copious free time, she has created a YouTube channel of short lessons and discussions in Paganism: Angela’s Symposium.

“Indigenous,” she admits, is a political classification invoked to protect the rights of certain colonized minority peoples. Colonization has happened throughout history and has affected almost all peoples at some point. But the term is limited when used to talk about religion, she points out. Some people are characterized as “indigenous” and others, who have lived on the same land for centuries, are not, yet they may have experienced cultural and religious colonization, e.g., what Charlemagne did to the Saxons.[2]Carole Cusack, “Pagan Saxon Resistance to Charlemagne’s Mission: ‘Indigenous’ Religion and ‘World’ Religion in the Early Middle Ages,” The Pomegranate: The International Journal … Continue reading

But “indigenous traditions” are not necessarily walled gardens. They can import and transform outside influences and just as importantly, they can export and share their own ways. She follows Suzanne Owen in building an argument that today’s European Druidry can be seen as indigenous, for it relates to t”he land, the people, and that which has gone before.”

Is a YouTube video an “oral tradition”? Discuss.

Notes

Notes
1 In the 1990s, every grad student in humanities wanted to “foreground the hegemony.” Now it’s “decolonize the [blank] body,” or something like that.
2 Carole Cusack, “Pagan Saxon Resistance to Charlemagne’s Mission: ‘Indigenous’ Religion and ‘World’ Religion in the Early Middle Ages,” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 13, no. 1 (2011) 33–51.

6 thoughts on “Is Contemporary Druidry an ‘Indigenous’ Religion?

  1. Honestly, I regard contemporary Paganism as sorted into fandoms–Intentional affiliations that crosscut various ethnic, cultural, national, religious,or ideological backgrounds.

    Indigenous implies a different origin and boundary that has to do with cultural sources, spiritual currents, or geographical presence.

    For example, I–a post-WWII Californian from the SF Bay Area whose ancestors arrived with the Gold Rush and who contributed to an emerging modern international culture–am not indigenous to California in the same manner as the various Native American peoples who were displaced,colonized, disrupted, and overwhelmed by this historical process.

    Who or what colonization do Druids and other Pagan groups need to be protected from? Global media corporations, maybe.

    You Tube presentation of Pagan occulture may not yet be a tradition but does share tropes.

  2. “Some people are characterized as “indigenous” and others, who have lived on the same land for centuries, are not, yet they may have experienced cultural and religious colonization, e.g., what Charlemagne did to the Saxons.”

    What the Livonian Order, which was an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order, formed in 1237, did to the Lithuanians also qualifies.

    • That is true. I think though that Prof. Cucsack’s paper was effective because it took Charlemagne, a cultural hero of Western Europe, and showed how much Pagan blood he had on his hands. (He was, however, “indigenous,” as were all the Franks.)

      • It’s the old “my god’s better than your god, so you either convert or we kill you” story. Sigh.

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