Tuesday 9 January 2024

Pagans, Dressed Trees, and the Green Man: My 2022 and 2023 Roundup

Following on from my round-ups of 2019 and 2020–21, it’s probably time to share a brief overview of what I’ve been up to in 2022 and 2023. My publication output has been a little reduced compared with previous years, largely because I’ve been focusing primarily on several larger, book-length studies that will hopefully see the light of day in a few years time, but I have still tried to keep up with publications for both academic and general audiences.

Probably my most prominent publication of 2023 has been Pagans: The Visual Culture of Pagan Myths, Legends and Rituals, a richly-illustrated work published as part of Thames and Hudson’s ongoing series on different religious traditions. As well as the original English language edition, there are also translations available in French, Spanish, and Korean, with a Japanese translation in the works. This was the first time that I had written a book for a general audience, and while doing so has its challenges (it is a more collaborative process than academic writing, for instance), I really hope that Pagans finds a welcome readership. Thankfully, reviewers have tended to like it.

I’ve also had a few academic publications out. My abiding interest in the Green Man resulted in an article in a special issue of the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture – “A New God for a New Paganism: The Green Man in the Modern Pagan Milieu.” There has been a growing interest in the Green Man figure in recent years, but I think few people realise the extent to which the character’s promotion has been interwoven with modern Pagan subcultures. My interest in human interactions with plant life can also be seen in a recent book chapter, “Bedecked in Ribbons and Bows: Dressed Trees as Markers of Heritage, Hope, and Faith in the Landscapes of Southern England.” This has been published as part of Rachael Ironside and Jack Hunter’s edited volume Folklore, People and Place: International Perspectives on Tourism and Tradition in Storied Places. While Routledge hardcovers certainly aren’t cheap, we can hope for a paperback edition at some point in future.

Again writing for a more general audience, I was invited to produce a series of articles for Encyclopædia Britannica, helping them to update their coverage of culturally alternative religions. To that end, my contributions have included new articles on Paganism, Modern Paganism, Wicca, Heathenry, and Satanism, with several further entries also being due in the coming months. In addition, I have continued working with the World Religions and Spirituality Project (WRSP), not only as their Lead Director for interviews, but also in providing an in-depth entry on the prolific New Age author (and subsequent Evangelical convert) Doreen Virtue, a figure who has been surprisingly overlooked by previous academic writing.

Of course, I have also continued my book reviewing, doing so for journals including FolkloreNova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, and the American Academy of Religion’s Reading Religion website. Topics covered in these reviews include the esoteric artist Pamela Colman Smith, the boggart lore of northern England, and the place of psychic science in American history.

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