Sunday 29 June 2014

My reflections on "New Antiquities: Transformations of the Past in the New Age and Beyond", Freie Universität Berlin

I’ve just arrived back in (rainy) London after a week under the slightly sunnier skies of Berlin, where I took part in the two-day academic conference “New Antiquities: Transformations of the Past in the New Age and Beyond.” Held at the Freie Universität Berlin in the city’s leafy southern suburbs, the conference was organised by Almut-Barbara Renger of the Freie Universität and Dylan Burns of the University of Leipzig and sought to undertake a “critical examination of how individuals and groups appeal to, reconceptualize, and reinvent the religious world of the ancient Mediterranean as they attempt to legitimize developments in contemporary religious life (1960s–present day).”

After an introductory welcome from Renger and Burns, the event kicked off by delving into the role of contemporary Pagan religions in appropriating and re-using elements of pre-Christian Mediterranean religion. First up was a Russian scholar, Ravel Nosachev of Moscow’s Saint Tikhon’s University, who discussed the life, thought, and influence of the mid-20th century Russian esotericist Evgeniy Golovin, a worshipper of Dionysus who articulated his own unique form of Traditionalism. I had never heard of Golovin before, but I found Nosachev’s description fascinating. The conference moved on to look at Western-centred Pagan concepts of a matriarchal, Goddess-venerating Mediterranean past, starting with the University of Zurich’s Meret Fehlmann, who outlined the emergence of this theory in the works of Jane Ellen Harrison and Jacquetta Hawkes and then focused on how it has been articulated by the prominent American Goddess Movement thealogian Carol P. Christ. Fehlmann’s presentation was followed by a paper from Kathryn Rountree of New Zealand’s Massey University, read in absentia by Nicholas Marshall. Here, Rountree discussed the differing approaches to ancient Mediterranean goddesses found in the Maltese Goddess Movement and in Greek Hellenismos, two Pagan groups with somewhat differing approaches to reinventing aspects of the past.

Sticking with this theme was Australian archaeologist Caroline Tully of the University of Melbourne (whom I interviewed about her work here at Albion Calling back in January 2013), with her analysis of how the belief systems of Minoan Crete have been utilised by two Pagan groups, the Goddess Movement and the Minoan Brotherhood. Lily A. Bonga of the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete then explored how the concept of an ancient south-eastern European society devoted to a Mother Goddess developed within academia, highlighting the work of scholars like Arthur Evans, James Mellart, and Marija Gimbutas, and asserting that while her ideas are nevertheless incorrect, much of the criticism levelled at Gimbutas has been unfair and relied on straw man arguments. Taking a contrasting position to Bonga’s latter argument was the Freie Universität’s archaeologist Helga Vogel, who provided an overview of current research at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and highlighting how this does not support the interpretations of such sites articulated by adherents of the Goddess Movement. A longstanding feminist activist, Vogel presented the intriguing argument (albeit one that has been made previously by others, namely Cynthia Eller) that a belief in ancient matriarchies and a linked Great Goddess religion is unnecessary for contemporary feminism and instead reinforces essentialist gender stereotypes.

Also talking about the contemporary Pagan use of Mediterranean sources was Hubert Mohr of the University of Basel, who gave an overview of online Pagan “temples,” building on the work of Douglas Cowan. Unless I simply misunderstood (which is always possible), I believe that he argued that contemporary Paganism was primarily a reaction against Christianity, and that with the decline in Christian dominance in Western nations we could talk about the emergence of a “Post-Paganism.” In my own paper, I examined the revived worship of Antinous, the deified lover of the Emperor Hadrian who has become particularly beloved of gay men and others identifying under the wider rubric of “queer.”

Subsequent discussions about modern Paganism remained good humoured but did reveal some opinions quite a bit harder than my own; many participants took a firm view that modern Pagan views of the past were fundamentally wrong and needed to be treated as such. Drawing on the work of (mostly British) scholars such as Robert Wallis and Jenny Blain, I argued the point that such a combative and hostile attitude would be detrimental to dialogue and would hinder attempts at forming good relations between Pagans on the one hand and heritage management and archaeologists on the other. Seeking to educate people about contemporary scholarship regarding past societies is one thing, but pushing views that border on religious discrimination is quite another. 

Following the papers on contemporary Paganism, the workshop moved on to look at how another broad family of new religions, the “Neo-Gnostics,” have utilised ancient Mediterranean material. This was a subject about which I knew very little, but it was fascinating to listen to a variety of excellent papers on the subject. Kicking this off was a paper by Franz Winter of the University of Vienna, read in absentia by Dylan Burns; in this, Winter discussed the use of ancient Gnostic texts in the work of Colombian esotericist Samael Aun Weor. This paper was followed by an offering from Nemanja Radulović of the University of Belgrade in which he examined the use of Gnostic elements within two “Neo-Bogolomist” groups active in south-eastern Europe: Bulgaria’s Universal White Brotherhood and Croatia’s Slavic Church of Bogomils and Holy Grail. We then headed over to rural Oregon with Anne Kreps of the Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Here, she discussed the Essene Church of Christ, a New Age-influenced Christian group founded by Brother David “Day” Nazariah which claims a pedigree stretching right back to the ancient Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect which has come to be associated (rightly or wrongly) with the Gnostic Dead Sea Scrolls.

Nicholas Marshall of Aarhus University provided a paper on the relationship between scholarship and occultism during the 20th century, focusing in particular on the interpretation of theurgy within the two communities. Particularly intriguing for my own interests was his discussion of how followers of Thelema, the new religious movement founded by Aleister Crowley, have interacted with academia. Following this was Matthew Dillon of Rice University, Houston with a paper arguing that mnemohistory is the best approach to adopt when examining contemporary “Gnostic” movements. The final paper on Neo-Gnosticism was provided by Linda Simonis of the Ruhr University Bochum and delved into the Gnostic elements present in the lyrics of two songs by British esotericist and musician David Tibet. Throughout these papers, I was repeatedly reminded how many of those occultists who embrace elements of ancient Gnosticism mix them with elements of contemporary Paganism, thus making it all the more appropriate that these two broad religious movements were being discussed together at this workshop.

This was a really good event and my thanks go out to both Almut and Dylan for organising it, and to everyone else who helped to make it an intellectually stimulating couple of days. Hopefully it will inspire future events across Europe at which similar topics can be discussed and pioneering new research can be presented.

Thursday 19 June 2014

An Interview with Professor Sabina Magliocco

Today here at Albion Calling I am honoured to present an interview with Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge. A trained folklorist, Professor Magliocco is internationally known for producing some of the most important research on contemporary Paganism in the United States published to date. Her research has also delved into the politics of festival in rural Sardinia, Italian vernacular magic, and the May Day customs of Cornwall. In this insightful interview, she discusses the many projects that she has undertaken over the course of her career, enlightens us on her formative influences, and tackles the “insider/outsider” divide in anthropology.

Magliocco in Monghidoro, Emilia-Romagna in 2005. Image by Giorgio Polmoni.

EDW: Having attained a BA in Anthropology from Brown University in 1980, you went on to obtain an MA in Folklore at Indiana University and then a PhD from that same institution in 1988. The following year you obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct post-doctoral research in Italy before obtaining a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1990 to 1994, and then at University of California, Los Angeles (1994), University of California, Santa Barbara (1995), and University of California, Berkeley (1995–96) before finally arriving at California State University, Northridge in 1997, where you have remained ever since. At want point did you decide that you wanted to pursue an academic career and what were the formative influences that made you decide that you wanted to devote yourself to the related fields of anthropology and folkloristics?

SM: Without a doubt, the greatest formative influence on my personal development was growing up between two cultures: those of Italy and the United States. Unlike the typical immigrant experience, which is one of loss of the home language and culture, my family shuttled back and forth in a yearly seasonal migration, spending the school year in the American Midwest and summers in Italy. This pattern allowed us to maintain strong bonds with our culture of origin; we children essentially grew up bilingual and bicultural. But belonging to two cultures and shuttling between them also creates feelings of disjuncture, of always being marginal and temporary, of belonging at once to both cultures and fully to neither. My aunt used to call me her little platypus: I was an odd child who was neither one thing nor another. I grew to be very observant and extremely adaptable; I learned to identify the markers of being a cultural insider and imitate them in order to not be excluded by the other children. Sometimes it worked; many times, it did not, and especially in the context of my American schooling, I grew up feeling marginalized and liminal. Eventually I came to feel comfortable in the margins, sympathetic to other cultural, ethnic, and racial outsiders as well as towards anything that was excluded or stigmatized by the dominant paradigm.

Going into academia seems a logical choice in hindsight, but it was not a foregone conclusion for me. I come from a family of physicians, and my father’s wish was that I follow him into that noble profession. From a young age, he trained me in the methods of scientific observation: every weekend, we would look at slides of various materials under my great-grandfather’s old brass microscope. Some were slides his grandfather had made as a young field veterinarian in Sicily which my father had kept and brought to the United States; others we made ourselves, looking at onion skin, pond water, cork, and other things from the natural world. My father taught me to keep a field journal with meticulous notes, commenting on each aspect from the collection of materials to the nature of the cells we looked at. When I was a little older, he introduced me to the library at the university where he taught, and I began to do research there for my school papers.

But much as I loved science and the natural world, my mother’s love of literature also transferred itself to me. She was trained in Classical languages and literature, and named us all out of the Latin authors. From the time I was small, she read me children’s versions of Classical Greek and Roman myths, folktales, and stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, was a gifted storyteller who would spin fantastic tales that blended elements from popular romances with details from our own lives, making it seem that the heroes and heroines were children just like us. These stories, plus the family legends recounting my parents’ survival during the Second World War and the deeds of distinguished ancestors, created a kind of connective tissue that bridged the gaps of culture and geography in my life. My love of stories was reflected in my childhood games, in which I created elaborate cultures and folktale-like scripts for my troll dolls, or acted out stories I read in books, such as Emilio Salgari’s novels of pirate adventures in distant corners of the world.

While I began university with the idea that I would study medicine, it quickly became apparent that I had more of an aptitude for humanistic disciplines. I wanted to write fiction and poetry, but as a college student, I had little life experience to draw on, and I was better at expository writing, anyway. In my anthropology and folklore classes, I discovered a vocabulary for expressing the cultural disjunction I felt growing up bicultural, as well as methods of analysis that made use of my scientific skills. I was also strongly influenced in my career choice by an aunt by marriage who was a cultural anthropologist at the University of Bologna, and by Margaret Mead, a close family friend – she and my father had met when he was working at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, where Mead was a frequent lecturer. I was powerfully drawn to the idea of fieldwork – living for long periods of time in unfamiliar cultures and engaging in participant-observation. In the end, I chose to specialize in folkloristics because I was more interested in European cultures and traditions than in those of Third World peoples, and because I was deeply invested in so many of the genres within its purview, including supernatural legends, foodways, folk crafts and architecture, and folksongs (I enjoyed a stint as an amateur folksinger from my teens to my mid-thirties). I loved the methodology of cultural anthropology, and folkloristics seemed to unite all of my various passions under a single discipline.

Magliocco with an orphaned possum she hand reared, 1980.
Photograph by E. Bruno Magliocco

EDW: Your early published research focused on a pastoral highland community in Sardinia, looking in particular at their Catholic festivals and highlighting the socio-economic pressures that they were experiencing as a result of globalisation. Your research was published as The Two Madonnas: The Politics of Festival in a Sardinian Community (Peter Lang, 1993; second ed., Waveland Press, 2005), with an Italian translation also published in 1995. What made you decide to head all the way over to Europe to undertake this research and what did you see as this project’s struggles and achievements?

SM: I grew up partly in Italy, spending most of my childhood summers with my grandmothers in Rome, or with cousins at various seaside villas along the Mediterranean coast; so doing fieldwork in Europe seemed like a natural extension of my early life. I originally wanted to work in Ireland or one of the Celtic countries, and in fact studied Gaelic for a time; but my graduate advisor Linda Dégh, who came from the Hungarian school of European ethnology, persuaded me that it would be best to work in my own country, with a culture with which I was already more or less familiar. I chose Sardinia because of a woman who had worked as a domestic for my grandmother, and to whom I had grown much attached. Bettina, as she was called, looked after me during those summers I spent in Italy, and regaled me with stories of her village in the Sardinian highlands. I imbued it with romantic, pastoral ideals that were intensified by the general scorn with which the region was regarded by my urban, bourgeois family; already drawn to the marginal and rejected, it only made me more determined to go there one day. After my grandmother’s death, Bettina retired to her village, where I visited her in the summer of 1983. I like to say that Sardinia got into my blood that summer: I knew then, with a strange feeling of destiny, that I would do my doctoral fieldwork there.

Yet even spending part of my childhood in Italy could not have prepared me for the culture shock I experienced when I first went to live in the village of Bessude with my old nanny and her family. There were all sorts of tensions and struggles, beginning with those of social class and extending to gender expectations and political conflicts. I grew up in a bourgeois, cosmopolitan, urban family, with a father who treated me as a son; Bessude was a peasant village, and I was both resented and regarded as an outsider by most of its inhabitants. What I knew about rural Mediterranean life came from academic books. I had a lot to learn. I eventually forged very strong bonds with a group of young women also in their twenties, who lived at home in the village and either attended the university in Sassari or worked at various jobs. Through them, I gained access to other village networks, as well as the organizing committees of the festivals that I was studying. I also became aware of local political tensions and how they came to be expressed through the festivals. The results were reflected in my ethnography The Two Madonnas: the Politics of Festival in a Sardinian Community, a book that is quite sensitive to tensions between the categories of “tradition” and “modernity” as they were expressed in the margins of Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s. Because of my gender and position as a fieldworker, it offers unprecedented insights into the dreams, ideals, and struggles of village women, showing them as cultural and political agents in the context of globalization.

EDW: Your interest in the folklore of Italy has continued into recent years, as is evidenced by some of your important research into Italian folk beliefs regarding magic and the preternatural; you have penned papers on Italian “cunning folk” as well as on the folk figure of Aradia, in which you put together a compelling case that the latter had genuine folkloric antecedents and was not the creation of American folklorist Charles Leland for his Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899). What led to these particular areas of exploration and is Italian folk magic a topic that you hope to delve into further in future?

SM: When I was living in Bessude, folk magic and the preternatural were all around me. Even though I was studying festivals and economic change, I collected a great deal of supernatural legends, charms, healing, and magic, partly because it was interwoven with material about saints and their festivals, but also because I was trained as an anthropologist to pay attention to everything that was going on around me. I had the opportunity to interview several traditional healers, and while I did not write about them in my first publications, it was always my intention to return to that material and do something with it.

When I began to study contemporary Paganism, and especially as I became interested in ethnic varietals such as Stregheria, I was curious about the alleged connection between Old World and newer, reclaimed forms of magic. Many Italian American streghe told stories of inheriting their tradition from a grandmother or other relative, and while some of these could easily be dismissed as typical “grandmother stories,” a form of invented tradition or “fakelore,” others were more compelling and not so easily dismissed, especially because I had seen practitioners of Italian folk magic first-hand. This interest led me to collaborate with two Italian scholars, Augusto Ferraiuolo of the University of Caserta and Boston University, and Placida Staro, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Bologna, to examine vernacular magical traditions in Campania and Emilia-Romagna in 2005-06. Our work showed that there was some continuity between the beliefs and practices of revival practitioners in the U.S. and folk magical traditions in Italy. In some cases, Italian American streghe were re-contextualizing and elaborating on healing traditions that existed in many families, such as the removal of the evil eye, which is still ubiquitous in many regions.

 I was also aware of Charles Godfrey Leland’s claims in Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, and while there, too, I suspected a great deal of embroidery and invention, I had a niggling suspicion that some core of the work might bear a relationship to actual practice. It was by bringing together historical research with some of my earlier work on legends and magic in Sardinia that I unraveled the puzzle of the name “Aradia,” linking her to a Sardinian folk character known as “S’Araja Justa” or “Sa Rejusta.” We know this character goes back as far as the 13th century in Sardinia, and that her presence coincides with the influence of Pisan and Genoese clerics, who brought Italian inquisitorial ideas to the island; therefore, it is quite likely that a character with the name “Aradia” existed in Italian folklore at that time. Whether this character exactly corresponds to Leland’s Aradia is another matter; since folklore changes constantly in response to changes in the socio-cultural context, by the time Leland arrived in Florence in the late 19th century, Aradia’s story might have undergone a number of further changes. I did not find evidence to support Leland’s claims of witchcraft as a religion with an unbroken chain going back to Etruscan times; that is highly unlikely and impossible to prove.

I still have a great deal of material on Italian vernacular magic that I would like to publish someday, but in the current economic climate, it’s been difficult to find a publisher interested in this material or grants to support the writing of the project. This one may have to wait until I retire from teaching and can dedicate myself more fully to research and writing.

EDW: After your research in Sardinia, you re-focused your research in order to explore the contemporary Pagan community of the United States, resulting in your books Neo-Pagan Sacred Art and Altars: Making Things Whole (University Press of Mississippi, 2002) and the more detailed Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). You were probably the first trained folklorist to explore this subject matter, thus bringing an important new perspective to the study of Paganism. What was it that inspired you to delve into this new area of research, particularly one that was potentially quite controversial among academic anthropologists and folklorists at the time?

SM: After I left the field in 1986, the political situation in Bessude became quite volatile, so much so that my efforts to publish The Two Madonnas in Italian got caught up in the internecine conflict. The local administration, which at first had supported my project, felt that the results did not portray their community as they would have liked; they thought my book made them look backwards and old-fashioned. The mayor took out her anger and disappointment on Bettina and her family, because they had hosted me, by taking away a part of their land in order to build a road – a road to nowhere, as it turned out. They had relied on this land to grow vegetables and pasture sheep, so the loss hurt them economically. I was mortified by this outcome. As an anthropologist, I am bound by a professional code of ethics to put the good of the people I work with before my own, and I felt responsible. The last thing I had ever wanted was to cause lasting harm to the very person who had nurtured me like a second mother, and who had made possible my doctoral dissertation research and the career I hoped would come from that. I took it as a personal failure on my part, and for a time, I did not want to return to Sardinia for fear that more harm would come to the people I loved as a result of my presence. This coincided with a period of instability in my professional and domestic life in which I had neither the funds nor the possibility to return to Italy, so I began to cast about for a new research topic. Since I had examined women’s roles in ritual and politics, I hoped to find another venue in which to explore that theme closer to home. I was also keenly aware that American academic publishing was becoming less interested in European ethnography; several colleagues advised me to find something more relevant and significant to study.

At the time, I was teaching a course I had developed called “The Supernatural in the Modern World” (a course I still teach today). It looks at vernacular traditions that make reference to magic and the preternatural against the context of an Enlightenment construction of modernity. Among the topics I covered was modern Paganism; I used Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, which had just come out in 1989. I was teaching at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and I became aware of a woman called Selena Fox who claimed to be a Witch and was a graduate student in the School of Social Work on campus. I invited her to come speak to my class about her traditions, and she, in turn, invited me and my students to an Earth Day ritual at Circle Sanctuary, a nature preserve she ran with her husband, Dennis Carpenter, out near Mt. Horeb. On a sunny, cold Saturday, I rented a van from the uni and drove down there with a passel of students from the class. The ritual was like nothing I had experienced before. It was held on a tall mound encircled by birth and oak trees, with a view of the valley below. Selena, a powerful woman with flowing dark hair and a strong, deep voice, called on the four directions, invoked the names of goddesses and ancestors, and advocated for a spiritual connection to the land and political action to protect it. It seemed to me then that I had found a possible topic – that modern Paganism might be another way for me to explore the connections between gender, power, and ritual in a new context.

I thought my new topic was timely and more interesting to American academic publishers than peasant culture in rural Italy; in fact I was encouraged to pursue it by several senior colleagues. I did not at first realize how controversial this new area would be among academics; but even if I had known, I don’t think I would have made a different decision. As in the case of Sardinia, I felt a sense that fate was drawing me towards this project. I have always followed my heart and intuition in research; I honestly don’t think I can work any other way.

At first, one of the things that drew me to study modern Paganism was, paradoxically, a longing for my land of lost content in Sardinia.  I missed the friendships I had formed there with other girls my age; I longed for the sense of community, the connectedness of things, and the rhythm of the year cycle scanned in festivals and celebrations. In modern Pagan festivals, I could experience some of the same feelings – jumping over a midsummer bonfire, for example, at the same time that I knew my friends in a village half a world away were doing the same thing. Eventually, I formed the same kinds of close bonds with my Pagan interlocutors that I had with my Sardinian ones, and the new project took on a life of its own. When, at a ritual in 1995, I experienced a vision of the goddess Brigid melting my heart in her forge and shaping it into a new one, when she put it into my chest while saying, “This is your heart, and fire shall make it whole,” I interpreted it as a confirmation that my field methodology, my particular way of working, was valid, and would heal the wounds I still felt as a result of what had happened in Sardinia.

EDW: In Witching Culture, you explained that although not raised a Pagan, in coming to study the community you went through an initiatory process and found yourself having genuine spiritual experiences as a member of a Wiccan coven. Thus, you bridged the traditional anthropological divide between the insider and outsider. Given that the issues surrounding insider-outside standpoints within Pagan studies have been reignited fairly recently by Markus Altena Davidsen, could you provide us with an overview of your own perspective on this issue? More specifically, I’d be interested to learn more about how you have reconciled being an academic anthropologist and folklorist with being a practising Pagan given the sometimes hostile attitude toward the latter in the academy?

 SM: So much has been written about this issue in anthropology in the last 20 years that it still amazes me when it comes up. Aren’t we done with it yet? I guess not, so here goes.

First of all, as a folklorist/anthropologist, my job is to access other cultures to try to understand them, and bring those insights back to my own culture so we can learn more about others and ourselves. My methodology involves participant-observation – note the “participant” part. You can’t learn much about another culture or religion if you’re not willing to participate, and religious rites require some basic level of participation as a show of respect. When I was studying festivals in Sardinia, I attended dozens of celebratory masses, as well as weekly Sunday mass, where I did what I had to do to blend in: I learned to stand when other congregants stood, kneel when they knelt, and cross myself when they did, even though I was not Catholic or even Christian. I did not take communion or go to confession – but then, neither did most people my age. As Jone Salomonsen noted, modern Pagan rituals are highly participatory events; there is no outside from which an observer can watch, undetected, to discover what’s going on. This is especially true of mystery traditions such as Wicca. So I did what any anthropologist or folklorist worth her salt should do: I found a group with which I felt comfortable, which felt comfortable with me and my research project; I attended their rituals for a year, and eventually I underwent initiation. I also attended dozens of rituals from other Pagan traditions. In some of these contexts, I had extraordinary experiences – and thank goodness I did, because had I not had them, I would have missed the whole point of what my interlocutors were experiencing: I would have failed to understand one of the primary reasons why they found their religions compelling, powerful, and important. In other words, I would have failed at my job.

I am hardly the first anthropologist or folklorist to have had these experiences. Scholars studying a number of mystery traditions have undergone initiation to better understand them – for example, Karen McCarthy Brown, who studied Vodou among Haitian immigrants in Brooklyn, was initiated as a practitioner and “married” to the lwa Dambala as part of her work. Paul Stoller underwent initiation as a sorcerer among the Songhay of Niger. Jeanne Favret-Saada, studying witchcraft in rural France, found herself having to participate in the world of magic to some degree, because, as she found, when it comes to magic, there is no “outside;” either you’re an insider, or you won’t learn anything at all. Now, when you get involved with magic and ritual, you are inevitably going to have some unusual, even extraordinary experiences; that’s the whole point of these events as art forms. Again, many anthropologists before me have had these experiences, and some have written about them. The best-known is probably Edie Turner, who saw a spirit in the shape of a dark cloud rise from the body of a patient who was undergoing a healing ritual among the Ndembu; but others include Bruce Grindal, Raymond Lee, David Young, and Jean-Guy Goulet.

Some reviewers of Witching Culture have criticized me for writing about these experiences, perhaps even for having them, assuming that they had somehow changed my beliefs and clouded my ability to be objective about modern Paganisms. This point of view is mistaken on a number of counts. The first error – assuming that my beliefs changed as a result of initiation and participation – is understandable, because coming from a Christocentric perspective, as most Westerners unconsciously do, belief is seen as the central feature of religion. But like the majority of world religions, modern Paganisms are not primarily religions of belief; they are religions of practice and experience. My beliefs have not fundamentally changed as a result of the experiences I had during my Pagan fieldwork. Instead, I have a deepened, enriched understanding of a religious culture and its performative art forms that helped me portray it in a more holistic way. In fact, had I not had the experiences, the picture I would have been able to paint would have been incomplete. No one would bat an eye if a folklorist studying a potter apprenticed herself to that craft in order to better understand how pots are produced, or if an ethnomusicologist studying Irish folk music learned to play the fiddle or (gods help us) the bódhran. But because we’re dealing here with religions, a co-religionist is assumed to try to convert others rather than to give an unbiased account. Once again, this misconception is based on an evangelical model of religion that does not apply to any of the modern Paganisms.

The second way that the critics are mistaken is in assuming that it is possible to give an objective account of a different culture. The postcolonial, postmodern critique of the social sciences has pretty much eliminated the idea of objective research – the notion that the researcher operates as a completely neutral observer who can deliver the “Truth” about another society. As James Clifford stated so eloquently, all ethnographies are only partial truths, because we all bring unique points of view and prejudices with us wherever we go. Those viewpoints and prejudices influence what we see, how we see it, what we think is important, and how we convey it. In that sense, as Clifford wrote, all ethnographies are “fictions,” in the sense of carefully constructed documents, rather than pure, unadulterated facts. The important thing is to admit to ourselves and our readers where our blind spots might lie, so they can better evaluate the texts we produce.

In the Introduction to Witching Culture, I tried to lay out for readers exactly what my biases were. As you say, I was not raised as a Pagan. However, I was raised in a non-religious household by parents who had been schooled in Italy in the 1930s, with a national curriculum that celebrated the glories of Classical Rome as a Golden Age to which modern Italians should aspire. While neither of my parents’ families were politically Fascist, it would be nearly impossible not to be influenced on some level by the rhetoric that predominated at the time. In turn, their viewpoint influenced my own education: I studied Latin for eight years, and Ancient Greek for two; I spent summers exploring Italian archaeological sites and museums; I steeped myself in Classical literature as well as young adult fiction that reconstructed that period for a modern audience – I loved the works of Mary Renault, Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Stewart. As I grew older, my interests extended to the Iron Age cultures and literatures of the Celts; in addition to The Mabinogion and The Táin, I read the works of Lloyd Alexander and Evangeline Walton, and of course, the fantasy literature of J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. LeGuin, to name just a few of my favorite authors from that time. My literary passions were reflected in my activities: I joined my high school’s Classics Club, which put on plays re-enacting scenes from Classical mythology, and I continued to elaborate on the make-believe world I had created for the trolls, producing books of troll epic poetry, elaborate genealogies, and histories of the troll world. All the while, I was also very engaged with the natural world: whether along the Italian maremma or in the hills and hollows of the Ohio valley, I spent long afternoons in the woods observing nature, watching animals and often caring for orphaned wildlife. I developed a worldview that was deeply informed by both my reading of the Classics and my participation in the natural world. Among modern Pagans, I found people whose worldview was quite similar to mine, influenced by many of the same books and pursuits. It shouldn’t be surprising that even after my field research was over, I found myself continuing to enjoy their company and participating in their rituals.

Pagan scholars are not the only ones who experience a sense of split allegiances in scholarship. Feminist scholars, minority scholars, and scholars who are what Lila Abu-Lughod calls “halfies” of one sort or another all face this dilemma, and must carefully negotiate between their belonging to a community and their study of it. Yet the very act of studying something forces us to distance ourselves from it, to be reflexive about our participation in it, and thus changes our relationship with it. There is really no such thing as a “native ethnographer.” Along the same vein, anthropological notions of “going native” are based on old-fashioned ideas that served to separate Western anthropologists from the colonized peoples they studied. They also assume that identity is fixed and unchanging. We now understand the fluid, evolving, and contextual nature of identity, such that who we are and how we choose to identify depends on many different factors, including whom we are with. That means that either-or constructions of identity are inaccurate and unhelpful.

The key to doing anthropology or folklore research effectively lies in successfully negotiating between the cultures you are studying and the culture of the academy. It is a form of “walking between the worlds,” as Pagans like to say, only in this case, I’m not talking about the spirit world, but about cultures that belong very much to the material world. You must learn to move between them with grace and reflection. You go deep, participate, get close to people, feel what it’s like to be one of them – then pull away and reflect on what just happened, using analysis and theoretical language to frame your thoughts. Then you go back and do it all over again. Because I grew up shuttling between two cultures, this process is second nature to me; I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t doing it. But anyone can learn it.

You ask how I’ve reconciled being an academic anthropologist and folklorist with being a practicing Pagan. I find this an odd question, because it presumes these two worlds are somehow impossible to reconcile, while I don’t see much of a contradiction between them. Academic research in folklore, anthropology and archaeology made possible the reclamation of tradition that is at the root of modern Paganisms; it’s not something apart from Paganisms. I think it was Ronald Hutton who observed that academia is a three-degree initiatory system with robes even more splendid than those of most modern Pagan traditions. The truth is that the academic world and the Pagan world are both “homes” in which I feel comfortable. They have different rules, to be sure, but then, most of us belong simultaneously to various subcultures that have different conventions, styles of dress, and modes of behavior, and we move seamlessly among them. If you play a sport, you wouldn’t dress, behave, or speak on the pitch the same way you would with your boss at work. It’s no more complicated than that.

It probably helps that I am not a very religious person. My strengths lie in research, organization, planning, and creating an environment in which other people can experience enchantment and express creativity. Those administrative skills make me a good teacher and department head as well as an effective priestess. I am lucky in that I have experienced very little prejudice or discrimination on the job because of my religious practice. I teach at a regional comprehensive university in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the world. The presence of that diversity makes my Paganism kind of a non-issue: I have colleagues and students who are Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Druid, agnostic, and atheist, as well as just about every variety of Christian you can think of. When I teach courses in the anthropology of religion, they are very much about active pluralism: preparing students to interact and negotiate with people of other religious traditions, including modern Paganisms, with mutual respect and appreciation.

EDW: One aspect of the American contemporary Pagan community which you have examined in closer depth is Stregheria, a variant of Wicca that adopts elements from Italian folklore and which has proved popular with some members of the Italian-American community. Indeed, your work on the subject, included as a chapter in Michael F. Strmiska's edited volume Modern Paganism in World Cultures (ABC-CLIO, 2006) is the foremost academic study of the topic. What inspired you to explore this particular area and how do you feel practitioners of Stregheria have reacted to your work?

SM: I wrote above about my research on Italian vernacular magical traditions. Another research area in which I have published is Italian American folklore. I was immediately interested in Stregheria because it united these two interests of mine. I saw Stregheria as a creative way some Italian Americans were choosing to craft identities that re-connected them with some of the traditions of their ancestors, albeit, of course, in a form that suited their contemporary identities. As a folklorist, I see tradition as a process that involves constant adaptation, variation, and innovation; Stregheria typifies that process. It is certainly not an exact reproduction of Italian vernacular practices as they existed in rural Italy, but it reformulates them, inserts them into a modern Wiccan framework, and creates a narrative around them which makes them appealing to second-, third-, and fourth generation Italian Americans, as well as to members of other ethnic groups.

Some practitioners of Stregheria and other modern Italian-based Pagan traditions at first reacted with hostility to my publications, which they interpreted as trying to de-legitimize their practices. I’ve even gotten threats and hate mail. However, the majority of respondents have actually been very positive and helpful. Information provided by my readers helped me more substantively connect vernacular Italian magical traditions with Stregheria. I have warm, supportive relationships with Lori Bruno, one of the co-founders (along with the late Leo Martello) of the Trinacrian Rose tradition in New York, and Raven Grimassi, the architect of Stregheria. Lori hosted me in high style when I visited New York in 1999; Raven and I have presented together at Pantheacon, the largest American Pagan conference, and over time our views have come closer together. I see him as a creative innovator and preservationist of Italian American vernacular magic.

Magliocco at Stonehenge, 2005. Photograph by Jaynie Rabb Aydin.
EDW: One of your more recent projects has been in examining the ‘Obby ‘Oss tradition that takes place every May Day in Padstow, Cornwall, as well as the manner in which it has been adopted by a Wiccan group, the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, in Berkeley, California. On the basis of this research you and John Bishop produced the short documentary film Oss Tales (2007), which is available on DVD. What led you to explore this particular folk practice and will you be delving further into Cornish folklore and the manner in which it has been appropriated and re-used in future?

SM: I am interested in how academic research feeds back into communities, influencing how people understand and practice tradition. American folklorist and film-maker Alan Lomax had a tremendous impact on our understanding of folklore today. John Bishop, who is Alan’s nephew, and I were curious about how Lomax’s film “Oss Oss, Wee Oss” (1953) affected two communities: Padstow, a Cornish town with a May Day hobby horse where Lomax had shot “Oss Oss” in 1951; and a group of Pagans in Berkeley, California who were inspired to re-create certain aspects of the Cornish custom as part of their Beltane celebration, directly as a result of Lomax’s film. We went to Berkeley to interview members of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD) as they rehearsed and performed the Beltane rite. We were able to get a small grant to travel to Padstow with two students to film the May Day custom fifty years after Lomax’s expedition. We also interviewed a number of film-makers who were involved with that project, including the late English folklorist Peter Kennedy. The DVD set, which includes the original Lomax film, digitally remastered, is a study of the effects of folklore scholarship on the process of tradition.

While I would love to delve further into Cornish folklore and its revival and appropriation, I have a number of very capable colleagues, such as Amy Hale, who are already doing that much better than I could. I continue to examine the intersections of academic knowledge and modern Paganisms, most recently the reburial issue and English Heritage, in an essay entitled “Intangible Rites: Heritage Sites, the Reburial Issue, and Modern Pagan Religions in Britain,” in Cultural Heritage in Transit (2014).

EDW: From 2004 to 2009 you served as the editor for Western Folklore, a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the folklore of the Western United States. How did you come to take on this position and what do you see as the importance of regionally-focused journals such as this one?

 SM: Although Western Folklore started out as the Journal of the California Folklore Society in 1942, its focus is now international, as is that of the other major American folklore journals, Journal of American Folklore and Journal of Folklore Research. It is the highest-rated and longest continuously-running of the regional folklore journals in the United States. In a large country such as the United States, regional folklore journals are important because they often focus on issues that are specific to one part of the country; they may have to do with a regional culture, ethnic minority, occupational group, or social movement that is local, although globalization and the advent of the Internet are increasingly deterritorializing all these issues. Regional journals can sometimes take more risks and publish more cutting-edge, innovative research than flagship journals, which are under a different kind of pressure to establish and maintain disciplinary norms. When Editor Barre Toelken of Utah State University suffered a stroke in 2003, the journal’s managing editor was searching for someone to take his place. Ours is a small field; so many regional journals had already succumbed to the economic pressures facing academic publishing that I didn’t want the same fate to befall WF. The loss of even one journal would mean significantly fewer venues for the publication of works in folkloristics. With the support of my university, I decided to step up, because I believe in the journal’s mission and wanted to make a contribution. It was an interesting and valuable experience for me and for the students who served as my editorial assistants during the five years of my tenure as editor.

EDW: What projects have you got on the horizon which we should be keeping our eyes out for?

SM: The project I’m working on now is called “Animals and the Spiritual Imagination.” It grows out of my lifelong love of animals as part of the natural world. I began by investigating how modern Pagans conceptualize animals as spiritual beings and make use of them in religious practice, but as a result of my students’ research, the project has now expanded to include mainstream religions. We know that most Pagan cosmologies have an important place for animals, but one of the surprises (I love the way research always surprises me) has been the discovery of how members of mainstream religions create vernacular cosmologies that give animals, especially household pets, important spiritual dimensions that are often neglected or denied by formal religious teachings. We also looked at how spiritual beliefs about animals affect behavior. Here, too, there have been some surprises: it seems that while Pagans are much more likely to attribute spiritual qualities to animals and work with them in spiritual practice, they don’t differ significantly from members of mainstream religions in terms of how they have modified their behavior towards animal and environmental causes. So perhaps belief is not as important in motivating behavioral change as we previously thought. I’m working on publishing some preliminary articles based on this data, but eventually hope to gather it all into another book that will be filled with wonderful stories my respondents have told me about their experiences with animals in both material and spiritual realms.

EDW: I like to round off every interview here at Albion Calling by asking my interviewees where they think that their respective field(s) are heading in the coming decades. In your case, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the future prospects for both folkloristics and Pagan studies, and in particular what you see as the potential for further intersection between the two areas?

SM: Let me start by answering your second question first. I see many exciting possibilities for fruitful intersections between Folklore and Pagan Studies. Folklore is the study of traditional expressive culture and informal knowledge in complex societies, and its remit coincides perfectly with many aspects of modern Paganism, as my work has demonstrated. But my research has barely scratched the surface of all the different ways these subjects could be approached; I would love to see a new generation of scholars applying interdisciplinary approaches informed by the study of folklore to a variety of issues in modern Paganisms. There are, however, some serious obstacles to this.

Both folkloristics and Pagan studies occupy marginal positions in the academy today. To my knowledge, there is no official academic program in Pagan Studies at any American, European, or British university. There are a number of scholars who have written about Paganism from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, but most of us are not at research universities where we can train Ph.D. students. There is only one institution in the United States that grants a Ph.D. specifically in Folklore: Indiana University. Folklore Ph.D.s are available at a few other institutions, including Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Oregon, the University of California at Berkeley, and Utah State University, but at all of these, Folklore is an interdisciplinary program, and the student’s primary degree is in another discipline, such as English Literature or Anthropology. While I am entirely in favor of interdisciplinarity, the administrative realities of interdisciplinary programs are that they are invariably dependent on a number of variables they cannot control for funding and staffing, putting them in a very vulnerable position in today’s corporatized universities. This creates a situation that is not sustainable for long-term growth in either of these specializations.

For Pagan Studies and Folklore to thrive in the academy, there would need to be active Ph.D. programs at research universities in both fields. These programs would produce trained experts who would, in turn, be hired by viable departments and programs. That isn’t happening, and unfortunately, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. The problem isn’t necessarily with these areas of study – although that is not to say that Folklore and Pagan Studies don’t have their challenges; they do. The trouble lies in the changing model of academia as it increasingly loses public funding and becomes more corporatized, and as our national values (I’m talking here about the U.S. specifically, but much of what I say also applies to universities in Canada, Europe and Great Britain) move further and further away from the humanities, and more towards viewing colleges and universities as job training programs. In this climate, any discipline that does not have an immediate practical application is vulnerable. Folklore has to a certain extent been able to insert itself into, or reinvent itself as, “heritage management” or “cultural resource management.” The challenge for Pagan Studies, if it is to survive and thrive, is how to make itself relevant in the new economy. While the purview of Folklore is expanding as scholars reimagine it as “traditional knowledge” and “heritage,” the purview of Pagan Studies is being challenged by struggles to define “Paganism,” both within the movement itself, and by scholars who study it.

I think one of the greatest risks for Pagan Studies is the same thing that beleaguers other area studies programs: becoming a ghetto to which anyone working on Paganism is relegated, by virtue of a focus on that particular subject. The way around this is to come at the subject from a strong disciplinary focus. My advice to young people who want to “do” Pagan Studies is to choose a discipline and get the best disciplinary training they can in that field: become historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists, literary or language scholars, and so forth, and approach issues within modern Paganism from the perspective of that discipline. Disciplinary rigor doesn’t mean we can’t be interdisciplinary, but it forces us to learn methodology and theory through which we frame research. Strong disciplinary training can circumvent some of the flaws that Markus A. Davidsen points out in his critical essay. In an ideal world, Pagan Studies programs would emerge at research universities after a number of scholars who study Pagan subjects have already established themselves in a variety of disciplinary niches.

The good news is that courses on Folklore and Pagan topics are increasingly part of the curriculum at a variety of institutions, from community colleges to research universities, in departments of Anthropology, English, Religious Studies, and Communication. That means undergraduates are being exposed to both bodies of knowledge, creating a new generation educated about folklore and Paganisms. My hope is that this will eventually lead to a new generation of folklorists and Pagan Studies scholars working in traditional academic disciplines, who can come together in strength to form new kinds of interdisciplinary learning environments that will thrive in the marketplace of higher education.

EDW: Professor Magliocco, thank you so much for talking to Albion Calling today. You've given me and my readers much to think about; I wish you all the best in future!

Wednesday 4 June 2014

An Interview with Professor Robert J. Wallis

Today here at Albion Calling I am privileged to have Robert J. Wallis, Professor of Visual Culture at Richmond, the American International University in London, here with me. Wallis is an archaeologist and over the past two decades he has worked extensively on rock art and the interaction between archaeology and the contemporary Pagan and Neo-Shamanic religious movements. Here, we talk about his research and career, covering such issues as the ‘shamanic’ interpretation of visual imagery, the relationship between mainstream academia and ‘alternative archaeologies’, and the archaeology of falconry. 

[EDW]: An archaeologist by training, you are currently Professor of Visual Culture and Associate Dean of MA Programmes in the School of Communications, Arts and Social Sciences at Richmond University, the American International University in London, having joined the faculty there in 2002. In previous years you have also worked for the University of Southampton, the University of Winchester, and the Open University. Can you tell us a little bit more about your academic trajectory and how you reached the point that you are at today?

[RW]: I didn’t start out with an ambition to be an academic. I was passionate about nature photography and wanted to go to art school but just didn’t cut it. So I had a necessary rethink. Alongside my interest in wildlife, I was reading about ancient art, literature, mythology, religion and archaeology, with a particular interest in the pagan religions of ancient Britain. So I decided to apply for an archaeology degree and was offered a place at Southampton University where I started in 1992. Only in my second year did I really find subjects that interested me – prehistoric art, rock art specifically and indigenous religion, shamanism in particular. Peter Ucko (co-author of Palaeolithic Cave Art, 1967) initially took me on as a dissertation student and suggested I talk to a new lecturer who had just arrived from South Africa, Thomas A. Dowson. Thomas encouraged my interest and pointed me to his work on Southern African rock art and the neuropsychological model he co-authored with David Lewis-Williams for interpreting Upper Palaeolithic cave art, all of which I read with great interest.

I went on to write my undergraduate dissertation under Thomas’ supervision, focussing on megalithic art, specifically the shamanistic interpretation of Irish passage tomb art, and also benefited from the advice of Julian Thomas, one of the few later prehistorians to have examined megalithic art at that time. I then completed the MA Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art (1995-1996), the first degree of its kind, and wrote a dissertation on rock art in Namibia where I had conducted fieldwork with a Southampton team in 1995. I examined ethnographic records on the Bushman (San), ranging from the Bleek and Lloyd transcripts to Katz’s Healing Energy (1982), and offered a shamanistic interpretation of the engravings at Twyfelfontein (in central Namibia) based on the landscape context of the art within a semi-arid river valley subject to flash floods. I made a link between the significance of rock art juxtaposed with sources of water informed by shamans’ metaphors for trance such as drowning and submergence. All of this might sound somewhat dated now but despite the vitriolic reaction against shamanism in rock art studies – Paul Bahn was almost libellous in his attack on our MA presentations at the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG), in British Archaeology magazine (issue 31, Feb 1998) – this approach to certain rock art traditions (e.g. parts of Southern Africa and North America) is accepted by most scholars.

I tell my MA students that my MA was one of the best years of my life and that they should relish the experience of independent learning and research because, unless they have the opportunity to work on a PhD (which increasingly few do given funding cuts to the humanities and social sciences), they will never be so fortunate again – to engage in pure research, at such a formative time in their lives.

I started a PhD with Thomas as his first PhD student, during which time I taught his undergraduate courses ‘Art and Society’, ‘Art of Prehistoric Europe’ and modules on the MA including on ‘Cave Art’, and had a brief stint co-ordinating adult education in archaeology at Southampton’s New College (now part of the University). Teaching ‘mature students’ who’ve been out of education for a while but returned to it with enthusiasm was a real pleasure and I’ve since enjoyed teaching the 4000-level introductory course ‘The Arts Past and Present’ (2003-present) for the Open University because of the enrichment I’ve seen and been a part of.

I completed my doctorate in 1999. Thomas was an excellent supervisor and I would not have succeeded on the BA, MA or PhD without his advice, for which I am truly grateful. He moved to the University of Manchester so I was at the right place at the right time to be employed as a temporary lecturer in archaeology at Southampton, covering the undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, dissertation supervision plus some PhD advising. I also moonlighted at Winchester for the Department of Cultural Studies on their MA in Death, Religion and Culture. Knowing these positions were short-term though, during 2001-2002 I worked hard to find a full-time academic post and applied for over 80 lectureships, fellowships and research positions. I was short-listed for three interviews, one at the University of Sussex for a lecturer in the History of Art, one in archaeology at University College London (UCL), the other at Richmond. I took up the post of Assistant Professor of Visual Culture and Associate Director of the MA in Art History at Richmond in 2002. The MA was set up by Jos Hackforth-Jones, now Director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Jos’ vision – forward looking in art history at that time – was an MA in Art History with a distinctive intercultural outlook. This enabled me to teach the archaeology and anthropology of art, including rock art, on an Art History MA – still almost unheard off, sadly. Richmond is a small, independent, private liberal-arts institution, offering an American-style education in Britain. I have been there for 12 years and continue to convene the MA programme in its reconfigured form of ‘Art History and Visual Culture’ and as Associate Dean I also oversee four other MAs. The international student body and small class sizes make teaching there a pleasure and a privilege.

At the Hovgarten Runestone, Sweden

[EDW]: One of your main interests has been the archaeology of rock art, and the relation that such imagery has with religion and spirituality, and in particular with animism and shamanism. You recently contributed to a special volume of Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture devoted to rock art. Where do you see the role of rock art research within the discipline of archaeology?

[RW]: Until fairly recently, archaeologists tended to neglect art (including rock art) and religion in favour of such presumed safer topics as artefact analysis, subsistence patterns and social hierarchies, or they examined them in isolation from other social phenomena. We have tended to think about art as an add-on to society, based on modern traits of seeing the artist as an inspired genius living outside social norms and prehistoric religious practices have often been viewed as inaccessible without supporting historical or ethnographic records, even though ‘ritual’ has been a problematic dumping bag. But in indigenous communities (and probably in prehistory) artists and religion are usually active and entangled parts of the social fabric and people’s broader engagements with their world.

Rock art scholars such as Dowson and Lewis-Williams demonstrated that ethnography could inform rock art interpretation and an etic term such as ‘shamanism’ could offer a useful heuristic. But their interpretation of certain Upper Palaeolithic cave art imagery as shamanistic was controversial and scholars fell into two increasingly polarised camps, denying shamanism’s usefulness outside Siberia or seeing shamanism or altered states of consciousness at least, in almost any visual art. We have, thankfully, moved on from a simplistic entoptics=shamanism equation, uncritical application of ‘shamanism’, and sweeping dismissals of these lines of enquiry.

I am concerned, though, by an increasingly essentialist and materialist emphasis on neuroscience and evolutionary biology in certain areas of rock art studies and archaeology more generally. Raymond Tallis calls this neuromania (2012), ‘we are our brains’, expressed in rock art research as neurotheology, the reductive notion of ‘god [i.e. religion] in the brain’. This is part of a ‘material turn’ which has included a backlash against theory, in some cases limiting enquiry to only the scientific examination of artefacts with grand claims for the scope offered by new technologies, as if research can be done in an atheoretical vacuum and that the accumulated data can speak for itself. Data collection is obviously important but should not be an end in itself; the recording of or attempts to date rock art do not in itself reveal meaning.

More interesting research has looked beyond motifs and the rock art panel, to archaeological and landscape contexts, including excavations at rock art sites which have had interesting results. Richard Bradley and Andy Jones’ work have been significant in this respect (e.g. An Animate Landscape, 2011), and I like Andy’s approach to rock art as process rather than product, the sensory aspects of rock art and its locales, and the relationship of rock art to other aspects of material culture – rock art is part of archaeology.

[EDW]: Your first book was an anthology co-edited with Kenneth J. Lymer for the BAR International Series of publications, A Permeability of Boundaries: New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore (British Archaeology Reports, 2001). This contained 15 papers –– contributed by an impressive line-up including Richard Bradley, Miranda Aldhouse Green, Chas S. Clifton, Paul Devereux, and Thomas Dowson –– and had its origins in a conference that you had organised at the University of Southampton in 1999. A big part of the volume’s significance was in bringing together mainstream academic archaeologists with “alternative archaeologists” in constructive dialogue, a theme that has subsequently reappeared throughout your research. How did this conference and publication come about, and did you feel that there was a lot of support for this pioneering endeavour; conversely, were you dogged by opposition from more insular elements of the academy who wanted to keep “alternative” ideas out?

[RW]: I worked on the Permeability conference and subsequent book with two other PhD candidates at Southampton, Kenneth Lymer and Simon Crook. We all felt that our interests in art, religion and folklore were largely ignored by mainstream archaeology – Ken working on shamanism and rock art in Kazakhstan, Simon on fairy folklore and rock art in Britain, myself on neo-shamanistic engagements with archaeology and anthropology. We also recognised that studies on art, religion and folklore, across disciplines, had a great deal to offer one another, particularly in archaeological interpretation. And we felt that these ‘fringe’ areas and thinking on them from outside the academy had an important contribution to make to ‘mainstream’ archaeology. This was around the time that such alternative archaeology journals as The Ley Hunter, Northern Earth and 3rd Stone established themselves as serious forums and published such university-based heavy-weights as Barbara Bender, Thomas Dowson and Julian Thomas.

The conference proposal was supported by the Department of Archaeology in principle, although on the day the lecture hall was mainly filled with delegates from outside the institution and outside the academy – independent scholars, folklorists, earth mystics, Druids, Pagans and artists. Post-processual archaeology claimed to approach all perspectives on the past as valid, if not equally sound, yet this seemed to us like lip service. The conference brought together a wide range of thinkers who were variously examining art, religion or folklore, and in many cases all of these, from inter-disciplinary points of view. We also brought mainstream and alternative communities together who talked and found common ground.

We had a conference debate on ‘alternative archaeology, has it happened?’ with presentations from a panel comprised of David Miles, Chief Archaeologist of English Heritage, Melanie Pomeroy, author of the Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan (1998), Paul Devereux, an independent earth mysteries scholar, and Tim Sebastion, Chief of the Secular Order of Druids (SODs). The following discussions were genuinely productive. I remember very clearly the moment when David and Tim shook hands, agreeing that further dialogue was needed on public access to Stonehenge at summer solstice. Just a year later, the first solstice managed open access event happened – thanks to the ongoing work of the Stonehenge roundtable meetings rather than an outcome of our conference, but it was clearly the right time for such an event.

There has been a great deal of collaboration between heritage managers and Pagans since then, but in recent years an increasing polarisation to do with the reburial issue. Some Pagans campaigning for respect for and the reburial of prehistoric human remains in Britain challenge the process of excavation and analysis of human remains, two key elements of archaeological practice, even though the resulting information is often used by Pagans in the construction of their Pagan identities. Of course not all Pagans are calling for reburial, but the issue has gained press coverage and contributed to a ‘crisis in British burial archaeology’, the theme of the Papers from the Institute of Archaeology in 2011 (volume 21).

I am currently co-editing a book with Jenny Blain in which archaeologists, heritage managers and Pagans contribute their current thinking on ‘ancestors’ and the human remains debate particularly. But I want this to be more than a space for points of view. The Avebury reburial consultation may have been transparent (it was applauded by the Museums Association in this regard) but the outcome of retention of the remains was prefigured in the discussion. ‘Transparency’ actually counted for little in terms of reaching common ground. Our aim is to bring dialogue back to the table but in a way which leads to practical solutions including policy and practice. So despite finding common ground at the Permeability conference, 15 years later there is still a long way to go, requiring compromise on all sides.

[EDW]: A book of yours that I thoroughly enjoyed reading was Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans (Routledge, 2003), in which you look at the historical development of Neo-Shamanism and the manner in which it has made use of indigenous shamanisms. As part of that you championed it as a valid spiritual practice, rather than focusing, for instance, on criticising it as a manifestation of cultural misappropriation (as others have). What led you to research and write this book?

[RW]: Shamans/neo-Shamans was the re-write of my PhD thesis. For the PhD I initially wanted to work on the shamanistic production of rock art in the present, but there was very little to go on (at that time). Thomas suggested that if my interest was in contemporary shamanism, then why not explore neo-shamanistic practices, specifically those westerners engaging with indigenous shamanisms and interpreting archaeological material as ‘shamanistic’. I had been involved with Pagans and neo-shamanistic practices for some years then, so had knowledge, experience and informants to draw upon. The area of ‘Pagan studies’ was also being formed at that time in the study of religion, but very few archaeologists had considered contemporary Paganism or related groups as being of serious interest (the trail blazers were Chris Chippindale [1986], Christine Finn [1997] and Kathy Denning [1999]).

I recognised, though, that neo-shamans, Pagans and others were engaging with the past and the concept of shamanism specifically in ways which had relevance to archaeologists and anthropologists, such as the interpretation of imagery on the Gundestrup cauldron as shamanistic and the appropriation of American Indian sweat lodge and medicine wheel ceremonies by ‘plastic medicine men’ or ‘white shamans’. I also found that archaeologists and anthropologists had themselves influenced those neo-shamans who based their readings of the past on out of date academic literature (e.g. O.G.S. Crawford’s eye goddess [1957]), or that which was on the fringes of academic acceptability (e.g. Marija Gimbutas’ great goddess [1974]). Rather than ignore this as eccentric or unimportant, I thought the current vanguard of archaeologists should be engaging with the topic and how misrepresentations of archaeology and anthropology filtered into popular culture.

In addition to discussing problematic aspects of neo-shamanism, I also recognised that some of their approaches to the past contributed in positive ways to archaeology and anthropology. Academics tend to limit their thinking to theory largely derived from Eurocentric philosophy, rational materialism and empirical method. Neo-shamans might think in these ways too, but they find particular value in more emotional, subjective and spiritual approaches, and gain understandings of the past as a result, some of which I thought had value for archaeologists. And I recognised that while some neo-shamans appropriate indigenous religions, others are more respectful and in some ways ‘give back’, ‘pay extra’ or contribute positively in the exchange. In writing Shamans/neo-Shamans, I hope to have achieved a more balanced appraisal with implications for all the interest groups.

[EDW]: In Shamans/Neo-Shamans, you are quite open about being a practitioner of Neo-Shamanism yourself, and so I’d be interested to learn more about how you came to be involved in this particular spiritual tradition, and how it influences your attitude and approach to past societies. Furthermore, how do you feel that your spiritual beliefs interact with your status as an academic, particularly considering the general mistrust of new religious movements that is present within the mainstream archaeological community?

[RW]: I have identified as a Pagan since I was 16 and would now, if pressed, ‘label’ myself as a Heathen animist. When I came to write the PhD which was later published as Shamans/neo-Shamans, I immediately found myself challenged by the insider-outsider problem. I was a ‘neo-shaman’ of sorts (during this time I co-authored Galdrbok: Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism and Magic 2000, 2005), and an academic, but anthropologists and scholars of religion are not supposed to compromise their objectivity by ‘going native’. As feminists had shown from the 1960s, though, absolute objectivity is impossible to achieve; the ‘objective’ research done largely by white, male Europeans was itself subject to the vagaries of the white, male European. As fallible beings, humans are always subject to biases and prejudice. The key is to recognise one’s potential biases and upfront them.

The post-modern ‘theoretical turn’ and importance of reflexivity in humanities and social sciences’ research impacted on archaeology as post-processualism, and on anthropology as ‘Writing Culture’ (Clifford & Marcus 1986) and ‘experiential’ and ‘auto-ethnographic’ methods (e.g. Young & Goulet 1994). Pagan studies has demonstrated that being an ‘insider’ brings its own value to the study of religion, alongside more established approaches. In the book I attempt to ‘queer’ archaeology (see also my 2000 World Archaeology article) in my examination of neo-shamanism by proposing an ‘autoarchaeology’, which allows me to take my own experiences as valid data, and to critically reflect on this in order to achieve some balance.

What this brought to my research, in the form of Shamans/neo-Shamans and publications since then, I think, is an attempt at an even-handed approach to the material. Unlike others (e.g. Cult Archaeology and Creationism: Understanding Pseudoscientific Beliefs about the Past, 1995), I have not dismissed neo-shamans, Pagans and others outright as dangerous ‘pseudo-archaeology’, nor have I let them get away with it. I point to people such as Gordon ‘the toad’ MacLellan, an environmental educator and storyteller who is changing the way children view their world through such simple things as mask-making and pond-dipping. I also considered the Heathen practice of seidr, which draws closely on literary sources in the Eddas and sagas, and archaeological data, to reconstruct a neo-shamanistic practice relevant today, and with interesting results for scholars of the period (as best demonstrated in Jenny Blain’s book Nine Worlds of Seidr-Magic, 2002).

And yet I held other neo-shamanisms to account. Core-shamanism, invented by former anthropologist Michael Harner, for instance, now has a global reach by claiming to be the bare-bones of shamanism without cultural baggage; but this stripping away of indigenous culture decontextualises shamanism and imposes Euro-American values of individualism, personal growth and inner journeying – even if Harner has made important contributions to the reinvigoration of certain indigenous shamanisms with his method. I think emotional and spiritual engagements with the past have value not only in themselves or only to those claiming them, but also to scholars of past societies. Only fairly recently has an archaeology of the senses (Tarlow 2000; Harris & Sorensen 2010) and sensorial archaeology emerged (see Yannis Hamilakis’ Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory and Affect 2014), so I think it is time for an archaeology of, not just about, spirituality (and towards this end see the papers in Archaeology of Spiritualities 2012).

[EDW]: With religious studies scholar Graham Harvey of the Open University you co-authored the Historical Dictionary of Shamanism (Scarecrow Press, 2007). How did this project come about, and what do you see as the potential for greater unity between scholars of religious studies and archaeologists of religion?

[RW]: Graham and I had worked together before (for example, the chapters I wrote for his edited volume Shamanism: A Reader (2002) and co-edited volume Researching Paganisms: Religious Experiences and Academic Methodologies (2004). With our mutual interest in shamanism, in all its variety, it made good sense for us to collaborate on the dictionary. It was fun to write, because each short entry was self-contained so we could work on the thing in bite-size chunks alongside other projects. And because it covered so much ground we learnt a great deal more about the subject. It had an impact too, perhaps more so than we expected, with favourable reviews and a diverse audience ranging from scholars and libraries to neo-shamanistic practitioners – precisely the broad readership we and the publisher had hoped for – leading to a paperback edition, the A-Z of Shamanism in 2010.

The project hopefully shows the positive contributions which collaborations across disciplines can offer. This is nothing new, but there is resistance to trans-disciplinary research, even given the increasing emphasis of funding bodies on collaborations. I suppose scholars of religion are most interested in what is happening now in the synchronic, anthropological sense, while archaeologists are more concerned with the ancient, material past. But there is overlap and dialogue, and I think the dictionary stands as a good example of that. We are currently revising and expanding it for a new 2015 edition.

[EDW]: With the anthropologist Jenny Blain of Sheffield Hallam University you embarked on the Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights project ( in 2001, in which you examined how members of the contemporary Pagan community interpreted and interacted with archaeological monuments in Britain. This project resulted in a publication, Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archaeological Monuments (Sussex Academic Press, 2007), which really is the first –– and so far only –– monograph dealing with the complex relationship between the contemporary Pagan and archaeological sites. How did this project get off the ground, what do you hope that it has achieved, and what is the project’s future?

[RW]: Jenny and I had both been working on neo-shamanisms and Pagan engagements with the past, in different ways, in the late 1990s. I was taking a broader look at neo-shamanistic engagements with archaeology and anthropology. Jenny’s work was more specifically focussed on reconstructionist Paganism in the form of the neo-shamanistic practice of seidr. And while I had considered Pagan engagements with archaeological monuments and their implications for archaeologists, her paper for our Permeability conference and subsequent book focused on Celtic neo-shamanisms in relation to prehistoric archaeology in Scotland. As we each moved into the next phase of research and funding applications, it made sense to collaborate rather than compete.

We founded the Sacred Sites project and worked together for over ten years, during which time we attracted small grants from the ESRC and Nuffield Foundation to conduct fieldwork at various archaeological monuments across Britain frequented by Pagans. We published our findings in a series of publications including journal articles in Folklore (2003), Journal of Material Culture (2004), The Pomegranate (2004, 2009) and Public Archaeology (2006, 2011) – and the book. We aim to have demonstrated that Pagan engagements with archaeology are diverse, with contributions and challenges which affect archaeologists, heritage managers and museum professionals.

Regarding site impact, Pagans are most often allies to archaeologists and heritage managers, volunteering in site clean-up after festival dates, keeping a watchful eye for many years over sites they live near, and protesting against such threats as quarrying (e.g. Stanton Moor, Derbyshire). Where there is antagonism, over the reburial of prehistoric human remains for instance, we have argued for closer dialogue and collaboration in order to reach situationally pragmatic outcomes. There is still work to do in this area, as I’ve noted above, and that is where the project is heading next. Our future research will also look more closely at Pagan materialities with a focus on Pagan visiting to museum collection displays and the implications of this often silent yet significant stakeholder group for museum professionals engaged with diversity and widening participation.

[EDW]: Your most recent book is Antiquaries and Archaists: The Past in the Past, the Past in the Present (Spire, 2009), co-edited with Megan Aldrich, in which you have brought together eight essays looking at how material culture has been interpreted in different ways. How past societies have in turn interpreted the past is something that has gained increasing attention from archaeologists in recent years, and I wondered if this was an area that you wish to look at in further depth?

[RW]: The project began as a pub conversation in The Blowing Stone Inn, a stone’s throw from the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy (which I went on to introduce Megan to that day). Megan raised her interest in how artists and antiquaries approached, interpreted and reinterpreted the ancient past and I pointed to examples of ancient communities engaging with earlier archaeology, such as pagan Anglo-Saxon burials in prehistoric monuments. This led to our co-organising a conference on Antiquaries and Archaists at the Society of Antiquaries of London (of which we are both Fellows) in the year of the Society’s tercentenary, and the subsequent book.

There has now been a good deal of research on uses of the past in the past, particularly the re-use of later prehistoric monuments, but this has mainly been focussed on Britain (e.g. Sarah Semple’s paper in the book and her recent book, Perceptions of the Prehistoric in Anglo-Saxon England 2013). Part of our aim with the conference and book was to take a more global approach, but there is clearly more work to be done here. Well-known antiquaries such as [William] Stukeley and [John] Aubrey in Britain, and how they imagined and re-imagined the past, are well-represented but research on the work of various lesser-known antiquaries and those outside Europe is lacking. And there has been interest in how artists engage with the ancient past (e.g. Sam Smiles’ The Image of Antiquity 1994), but again this has tended to focus on modern artists in the West. My specific interest has been in how Pagans in Britain interpret the past, and my chapter in the book considered that with an update on my thinking at that time.

[EDW]: Your most recent publication, just out this month, is “Re-examining prehistoric stone wrist-guards as evidence for falconry equipment in later prehistoric Britain”, in the journal Antiquity (88[340]: 411-424). Please tell us a bit more about it?

[RW]: From a young age I have been interested in birds of prey. My mother took me to the Hawk Conservancy in Hampshire (now not far from where I live) when I was about 8 years old and I felt exhilarated by the experience of having a raptor sit on my fist. Since then, I have wanted to be a falconer. I read Kes, of course, My Side of the Mountain, and The Goshawk. I finally made this dream a reality three years ago. I had read various falconry manuals but hands-on experience is essential. So I completed the excellent LANTRA Beginning Falconry course (which should be mandatory for novice falconers in my view), then trained a female Harris’ Hawk, and we have had three wonderful hunting seasons. There is something very special, difficult to describe, about working closely with a wild creature (birds of prey cannot be domesticated) in a hunting partnership.

I have brought my passions for the archaeology of art and the ‘art’ of falconry together in some of my most recent work. I am interested in how little is known about the earliest evidence for falconry, beyond the much-recounted assumption of Central Asia as its ‘origin’. In fact, archaeological evidence in this region is only just emerging, with the earliest rock art image of a possible falconer dated to around 1000 BCE. But the oldest archaeological evidence is much earlier and from further west, from third millennium BCE Anatolia and Syria, in the form of imagery on pottery sherds, seal impressions and stele.

In An Examination of Prehistoric Stone Bracers from Britain (2011), Woodward and Hunter argue that these polished stone objects from the Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, often known as archers’ wrist-guards worn to protect against the recoil of the bowstring, were used as falconry equipment. Usually associated with high-status Beaker inhumations, the ‘wrist-guards’ may have been used to carry raptors or more plausibly mounted on falconers’ leather gloves to display wealth and status. This idea begins with the antiquary Lord Londesborough’s dramatic find during his excavation of a cist in a barrow at Driffield, Kelleythorpe, east Yorkshire, which contained a wrist-guard in close association with the remains of a hawk’s head. Other finds of raptors deposited in later prehistoric contexts might supoort a ‘falconry connection’ and this idea seems to have caught on since Woodward and Hunter’s publication. If persuasive it would extend the earliest archaeological evidence for falconry in Britain by some 2000 to 2500 years and compete with the earliest evidence from Anatolia.

My detailed consideration of the wrist-guards and associated objects from a falconer’s perspective, however, demonstrates that the argument is unconvincing. In brief, the stone would blunt the bird’s talons and beak, compromising its effectiveness in hunting; the bird’s talons would in turn damage the carefully manufactured – and clearly intentional – polish of the stone; and the position of the ‘wrist-guard’ anywhere on the glove would present a potential hazard to safe and practical falconry. As to what stone wrist-guards were actually for, well I think they may originate in archer’s functional leather wrist-guards but most were non-functional. The context of Beaker funerary rituals suggests stone wrist-guards were involved in performances of high-status identities (in funeral dramas at least; it is possible the objects were produced purely for the mortuary ceremony), and negotiating concepts of individuality and community—including human-raptor relations—at the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age transition, a period of significant social change. Having made the case against stone-wrist guards as falconry equipment I have now returned to the archaeological evidence for falconry in Anatolia and Syria, and extended the project eastwards, in order to more closely scrutinise the earliest evidence for falconry.

Image by Richard Mansfield

[EDW]: Have you got any projects on the horizon that we should look out for?

[RW]: In addition, to those I’ve mentioned above, I’m working on a number of projects which should see publication in the next couple of years. One of these is a series of articles and a book examining art and shamanism ‘from cave painting to the white cube’. I’m interested in how these two concepts have become entangled in western discourse since the Renaissance and Enlightenment, to the point that today such a wide variety of artforms has been labelled as being ‘shamanistic’ and artists as ‘shamans’, from prehistoric rock art to the works shown in contemporary art galleries. In unpacking this history I hope to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of what constitutes shamanistic art, within a broader social, relational setting.

Relating to this, I am in the early stages of working with Max Carocci and Graham Harvey on an exhibition on animism. Finally, you might also be interested in checking out my review of Vikings: Life and Legend (The British Museum 6 March – 22 June 2014) in Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, due out next month, and my forthcoming chapter on ‘Witchcraft and magic in the age of anthropology’ in The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic, due out later in the year.

[EDW]: A question that I ask everyone in this interview series is where they think that their particular academic field is headed. This being the case, I’d like to ask you where you think both rock art studies and contemporary Pagan studies are headed, and in particular how do you think that they will continue to react with archaeology in the coming years and decades?

[RW]: I’m excited by the way in which some archaeologists have re-engaged with art and religion over the last decade through the broader theorising of materiality across disciplines – how things constitute behaviour and structure people’s relational engagements with their world (e.g. Archaeology after Interpretation, 2013). The rethinking of animism in anthropology and the study of religion has had an important impact on archaeology in the last ten years, just as Melanesian anthropology did in the 1990s in reconsidering prehistoric personhood (e.g. Fowler, 2004) and the roles of ‘objects’ in the ongoing negotiation of identities. Irving Hallowell’s pioneering work with the Ojibwe in the mid-twentieth century has been revisited, and the Ojibwe’s animist approach to a world (to paraphrase Graham Harvey in Animism [2005]), ‘filled with persons, only some of whom are human’. Amazonian animism has also been re-evaluated by Viveiros de Castro as a relational ontology, pointing to a broad Amerindian pattern with localised expressions.

There has since been vigorous debate among anthropologists on indigenous ontologies and the application of relational animism outside the Americas (e.g. Animism in Rainforest and Tundra, 2012), and among archaeologists on the possibilities of this thinking for archaeological enquiry (e.g. the special issue of Cambridge Archaeological Journal 2009). As I set out in the Time and Mind articles (2009, 2013), I think this thinking has potential for the shamanistic interpretation of certain rock art traditions in moving interpretation beyond the individual shaman, their interior altered states and representation of visions in rock art, to rock art imagery as something more or other than representation, and shamans operating with a broader, more-than-human social context.

But we still need to work harder to move out of our own ontological and epistemological comfort zones, and find theoretical and methodological ways to do so. The animals which prehistoric people hunted and domesticated are now often described as ‘persons’, granted with agency in human affairs, but archaeologists still tend to situate this within evolutionary and cognitive schemas in which these ‘persons’ and their ‘agency’ remain vertically below human consciousness, and humans ascendant above ‘nature’. Animals might have been perceived by prehistoric people as having cultures, but it is the humans having the conversation. Amazonian animists recognise by contrast that while all ‘persons’ share culture it is our natures, our bodies, that are different; a case of what Viveiros de Castro terms multinaturalism and uniculturalism, not uninaturalism and multiculturalism. Elsewhere, Aboriginal Australian totemism involves kinship, mutual responsibility and inclusivity across species boundaries (Harvey 2012: 88). If we are all related, all ‘persons’ share ‘culture’ and differ in our natures/bodies, then what is ‘materiality’ is not what it seems and humans are not so special. Daily encounters require relating, with respect, in order to sensually (not ‘objectively’) participate in and negotiate daily life within a more-than-human world. Harvey expresses it as ‘turtles all the way down’, ‘the turtles standing in for consciousness’, and ‘all the way down’, ‘referring to all levels of matter’, and adds ‘hedgehogs all the way around’, referring to those ‘emblematic species… with whom you have interesting encounters, whose interests should interest you’. Archaeologists still have a long way to go in levelling the field and recognising those turtles and hedgehogs.

Pagan studies has matured as an inter-disciplinary field over the last decade, successfully incorporating theory and method from such disciplines as anthropology, religious studies, sociology, psychology and archaeology in the process. We now have a solid if far from complete range of histories and ethnographies of Paganism in the Western world, some of which has set the record straight (I’m thinking of Ronald Hutton here). We also have important theoretical and methodological contributions to the disciplines which Pagan studies draws upon, particularly in terms of insider research and the value of extraordinary experience to expanding our knowledge (e.g. Researching Paganisms, 2004). Criticism (e.g. of Hutton) from outside Pagan studies and within Paganism is an important sign of Pagan studies’ maturity and the health of the debate. Markus Altena Davidsen’s “What is Wrong with Pagan Studies” (in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 2012) and your response (in The Pomegranate, 2012) also mark good examples of this.

I agree with you that Davidsen’s approach reduces the scope of research to so-called objective method, which in itself is a problematic aim, and that a mix of approaches, insider and otherwise, is important to the growth of the field. I’m less concerned than you over Pagan studies agreeing on terms, though. Christian theologians, for instance, do not necessarily agree on a definition of Christianity, so I think ongoing discussions and disagreements about the remit of ‘Paganism/paganism’ is OK. I’m more interested in how Pagan studies is adopting and adapting emerging thinking from the disciplines surrounding it, anthropology, archaeology, and so on, particularly the work on new animism and relational ontologies, and perhaps make innovative contributions back as a result. I’m also interested in the impact of Pagan studies on Pagan thinking, for example how Pagans have responded to revisions of the history of paganism (beyond Margaret Murray) and taken up the notion of animism. And I’m especially interested in how academic thinking on ancient paganisms informs Pagans’ ongoing (re)negotiations of their understandings of the past and their own identities. I think there are really interesting studies to be done on how Pagans outside of Europe perceive and engage with British prehistory and religion (which has currency among many international Pagans), how they engage with prehistoric cultures ‘at home’ (e.g. megaliths in eastern Europe), and the role of social media in all of this as an increasingly important part of Pagans’ global-reaching identities (e.g. building on Douglas Cowan’s Cyberhenge 2004, from an archaeological point of view). And returning to an ‘alternative archaeology’, in contrast to some other thinkers (e.g. Schadla-Hall 2004; Holtorf 2005; Fagan & Feder 2006; Cusack 2012), my take on this is that a genuine alternative archaeology is not only about recognising and examining unorthodox archaeologies, but about developing ways of negotiating respect, understanding and informed decision-making among the interest groups – archaeologists and Pagans included – regarding how archaeological material is treated.

[EDW]: Dr Wallis, thank you so much for sharing your story and thoughts with me and my readers today. I wish you all the best with your future endeavours!