Friday, 21 December 2018

From Antinous to Traditional Witchcraft: My 2018 Roundup


Following on from my roundup of 2017 publications, I thought it time to take stock of the past year and provide a brief overview of my scholarly output over the past twelve months. With such a profusion of academic journals existing and new monographs and edited volumes appearing all the time, it can be difficult to keep up with the specific topics of one’s interest, let alone research in one’s broader field. It is certainly the case that my recent research will not be of interest to everyone, but I hope that this quick round-up might alert interested persons to certain publications of mine which might otherwise pass them by.
Two of the articles that I have had published this year have explored the boundaries between the modern Pagan milieu on the one hand and the modern Satanic and Luciferian milieu on the other. Too often these are seen as completely separate phenomenon, often by practitioners with vested emic interests in policing their taxonomic boundaries in certain ways. In “Between the Devil and the Old Gods: Exploring the Intersection between the Pagan and Satanic Milieus”, published in the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, I tried to tackle this issue head on, providing three case studies that illustrate how modern religious groups can mix and match elements and strategies from both milieus. This argument will not, of course, surprise many specialists in these fields, but I thought it important to provide a specific and focused examination of this issue given that nobody had done so before.
The second article is a more refined exploration of a particular sector of the contemporary occult scene: “Traditional Witchcraft”. This is a term that has become increasingly popular among Pagans and Luciferians since the early 1990s, and has attracted commentary both from many occultists and from scholars observing the subject, among them Ronald Hutton, Helen Cornish, and myself. In “The Creation of “Traditional Witchcraft”: Pagans, Luciferians, and the Quest for Esoteric Legitimacy”, published in Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, I provide the first full-length academic discussion of this increasingly popular term and why it has proliferated in recent decades.
My work on the modern Pagan veneration of the god Antinous – the deified boyfriend of the Roman Emperor Hadrian – has continued with a new article discussing several issues raised by the movement’s use of archaeological and historical material: “Archaeology, Historicity, and Homosexuality in the New Cultus of Antinous: Perceptions of the Past in a Contemporary Pagan Religion.” Modern Paganism brings to the fore interesting questions regarding present-day people and their relationship with the past and I hope that this article encourages others to begin thinking more about these issues as well as contributing to greater dialogues between those who study modern Paganism, reception studies, ancient history, and archaeology.  The article stems from work done for the 2014 ‘New Antiquities’ conference held at the Free University of Berlin and has appeared in a special issue of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions. It is also appearing in an edited volume arising from the conference, New Antiquities: Transformations of Ancient Religion in the New Age and Beyond, that Equinox are bringing out imminently.
Those looking for an introduction to the modern Antinous movement might be interested in the article of mine which appeared in Nova Religio back in 2016 (here), or the entry on the topic which I was asked to write for The World Religions and Spirituality Project (here). This useful website has been set up to provide overviews of a wide range of religious groups and individuals, and unlike most academic publications, access is entirely free. This year I also wrote the project’s entry on a related form of ‘Queer Paganism’, a Wiccan tradition known as The Minoan Brotherhood (here). Formulated for gay and bisexual men, the Brotherhood were founded in the 1970s and draw much of their imagery from the archaeological evidence from Bronze Age Crete.
I’ve also remained active as a book reviewer for Nova Religio, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, and the Reading Religion website, on whose editorial board I presently sit. Published by the American Academy of Religion, Reading Religion is a fantastic free resource that anyone could (and should) read. Over the past year I’ve reviewed books on neoshamanism, early modern witchcraft, Spiritualism, and the Crossbones ritualists for the site. I’ve also dipped into reviewing exhibitions again, in this instance the British Library’s exhibit on magic for the Material Religion journal.
2019 looks set to be a big year for me. I have several new publications scheduled to appear, including a co-edited volume, and will also be rounding off my PhD research into popular religious practices in Anglo-Saxon England. What happens then… who knows what the Fates have in store!

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