Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Pomegranate, Nova Religio, and Material Religion: My recent publications on the study of modern Paganism


The past few weeks have witnessed the release of a number of my research articles (and a book review) in several peer-reviewed journals, all of which I hope will be of interest to those active within the field currently known as “Pagan studies”. They reflect my increasing diversification away from the study of modern Pagan Witchcraft and toward the study of other expressions of modern Pagan religiosity.

The first, and perhaps the most important, of these articles is titled “Theoretical, Terminological, and Taxonomic Trouble in the Academic Study of Contemporary Paganism: A Case for Reform”, and it appeared in the latest issue (volume 18, no 1) of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. It outlines my concerns about the state of the field as it currently exists, and then provides some suggestions for how these problems might be dealt with; one of my major suggestions is that we should cease talking about “Pagan studies” and instead embrace “the academic study of modern Paganism”. The article caught the eye of the scholar of esotericism Egil Asprem, who kindly posted about it in a very positive manner over at his blog, Heterodoxology (here). This post subsequently resulted in an interesting debate in the blog’s comment section which contained contributions from the prominent scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff and from the scholars of Paganism Chas S. Clifton and Amy Hale

The second article of mine to have been recently published is titled “The New Cultus of Antinous: Hadrian’s Deified Lover and Contemporary Queer Paganism”. Appearing in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions volume 20, issue 1, this article outlines some research that I carried out in 2014 into the Pagan new religious movement that has grown up in veneration of Antinous, the male lover of the Emperor Hadrian who was deified upon drowning in the Nile. Far less theoretically oriented than my Pomegranate paper, this article instead seeks to document a new religious community that has largely sprung up only in the last fifteen years and which thus far has evaded any sustained academic attention. Particularly interesting is that the modern veneration of Antinous represents a form of ‘Queer Paganism’, with the majority of its practitioners being gay men who revere Antinous as “the gay god”.

My third article is on the topic of “Old Stones, New Rites: Contemporary Pagan Interactions with the Medway Megaliths”. Again based on research that I conducted in 2014, this article has been published in Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief volume 12, issue 3. Those familiar with my work will be aware of my longstanding interest in the ways that modern Pagan and other religious communities interpret and make use of archaeological material (see for instance here and here), and this article takes that approach further by examining how the Medway Megaliths of Kent have been utilised by the area’s Pagan community. In particular I have examined how different Pagan groups approach these prominent landscape features; for certain Heathens, these are places that symbolically cement a connection to their ancestors of the blood, whereas for Druids, they cement a connection to their ancestors of the land. 

For those perhaps more interested in my work on modern witchcraft and Wicca (on the subject of which I wrote my somewhat recent book), I have also published a book review of Philip Heselton’s recent biography, Doreen Valiente: Witch, again in the latest issue of The Pomegranate. Unlike the other works cited here, this one is available to read and download for free, either from the Pomegranate website (here) or my own academia.edu account (here).

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