PAEAN Online Conference: Contemporary Pagan Culture and Witchcraft

Pagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN)

PAEAN is proud to present the program of its first online conference

Contemporary Pagan Culture and Witchcraft
26th March 2014

This conference is a cooperation of PAEAN with PFI (Pagan Federation International). The lectures are focused on the different aspects of the contemporary Pagan culture and witchcraft practices. The online conference in a platform in which scholars, pagans and non- pagans can engage in, includes, amongst other things, an inter-religious dialogue that will hopefully increase learning, understanding and developing from the combined discussions.

Introduction and arrival/log-in – 18:00

To log in to the conference, please go to the following link at the time of the conference: 

18:00 – 18:25 opening speechs: Morgana & Hili

18:25 Introduction Melissa. Morgana

The First Panel – History of Contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft

Time: 18:30-18:55

Dr. Melissa Harrington  – “Wicca” – migration and mutation of nomenclature, meaning and affiliation in Modern Pagan Witchcraft, University of Cumbria

When Modern Pagan Witchcraft was first promulgated by Gerald Gardner in the mid twentieth century nomenclature was simple. Everybody was an initiate, and everybody was a witch. The religion rapidly diversified and denominated as a praxis based polycephalous network with contemporary spiritual appeal. Within sixty years the words “Witch” and “Wiccan” have come to have many diverse meanings and affiliations within the broad faith community of twenty-first century Paganism. This is a predictable effect within a spiritual path that eschews the bureaucracy of church/sect structures, and emphasises personal gnosis; which also demonstrates sociological processes of the growth of a new religion. This paper will describe, examine, and discuss the evolution of the meanings, affiliations, and understandings of the nomenclature of modern Pagan Witchcraft, and evaluate the effect of these developments as the religion has migrated from England, mutating abroad, and returning to seed new forms and meanings.

19:00- 19-25

Mr. Shai Ferraro“God Giving Birth” – Monica Sjoo’s Role as a bridge between Radical and Spiritual Feminism and British Wiccan-derived Paganism, c.1970 – c. 1990, PHD Student at Tel- Aviv University.

The rise of Wicca – the religion of pagan witchcraft – in 1940s-1950s Britain has led to the widespread development of religions and spiritual traditions commonly known as ‘Contemporary Paganism(s)’. There exists a clear correspondence between these religions and the Feminist Spirituality Movement, which first started developing in the United States during the 1970s-1980s. Spiritual Feminists (also known as ‘Goddess Feminists’) share Contemporary Paganism’s call for restoring the connections between human beings, the natural world and the Sacred Feminine. In this paper I will survey the writings of an artist and Goddess Feminist by the name of Monica Sjoo (1938-2005).   Sweden-born Sjoo spent most of her life in the UK, and during the 1970s she embraced Goddess Feminism as part of her involvement in radical feminist groups. I intend to claim that Sjoo served as a bridge between Radical and Spiritual Feminism and British Wiccans during the 1970s-1980s.

There is a wide consensus amongst Scholars of Contemporary Paganism that Wiccan practices and ideology were influenced by second-wave radical feminism as a result of Wicca’s ’emigration’ to the US. These Feminist influences became dominant in American Paganism.  British  Paganism, on  the  other  hand,  did  not  receive  a  similar  flood  of academic studies, and works on the influence of Radical and Spiritual Feminist ideas on 1970s-1980s British Paganism are seriously lacking. As common view has it, British Wicca was not affected by feminist developments in the US, and Radical (and Spiritual) Feminism’s influence on the British Pagan ‘scene’ during this period was negligible. My ongoing PhD is the first study to examine this subject from an historical perspective. It shows that previous treatments of this question produced a tainted and incomplete image. Indeed, UK-based radical feminist who combined their newfound political awareness with Goddess Spirituality acted as important conduit for the transference of these ideas to British Wiccans. This will hopefully be shown through using a case-study – that of Monica Sjöö. I will present data gathered from Monica’s books and Pamphlets, her writing for Pagan and feminist magazines, as well as from the ‘Monica Sjoo Papers’, located in the Bristol Feminist Archive.

19:30 – 19:55

Dr. Isobel Andrade – Endovellicvs – Iberian god of Healing and Oracle, National Coordinator of PFI Portugal. PhD on History, department of Classical Studies on Universidade Classica de Lisboa

As the Romans extended the presence throughout the conquered world their attitude in general was to absorb the deities and cults of the conquered peoples rather than eradicate them, as they believed that preserving local traditions promoted social stability and acceptance of their new rules; one way that Rome incorporated people was by building temples to local deities that framed their theology within the hierarchy of Roman religion.

This is why ENDOVELLICVS and many others deities are revealed to us, as the inscriptions of the Romans recorded side-by-side to local gods on the worship including dedications made by Romans, so this can tell us how life was like. ENDOVELLICVS , on dialect ENDOBOL the Lusitanaen/Celtici father God of Healing, Protector and Oracles comes on the top of the 158 local most popular peninsular deities.

19:55 BREAK

20:00 introduction 2nd panel and Dmitry Morgana

The Second Panel – Contemporary Pagan Culture in Literature and Films

Time: 20:00-20:25

Dr. Dmitry Galtsin Russian Silver Age and the Divine Feminine, Rare Book. Department Library of Russian Academy of Science (Saint-Petersburg)

The present ¬paper focuses on three Russian authors of late19-early 20th century (the so called Silver Age of Russian Culture), who are well-known for their treatment of the Divine Feminine: Vladimir Soloviev, Vasily Rozanov and Dmitry Merezhkovsky. Soloviev was looked up to by the authors of the Silver Age as a teacher, so his ideas about the “Eternal Feminine”, which he structured into a teaching now known as “sophiology”, are of a particular interest here. Rozanov tried to divorce Soloviev’s Divine Feminine from Christian context and adopt it for a religious philosophy, which put a stress on human sexuality. Merezhkovsky went even further in his “The Mystery of Three”, bringing together ancient religious imagery of Babylon and Egypt and his heterodox Christian theology of the “Third Covenant”, where Holy Spirit, the ultimate theophany of the Trinity, is seen as female.

The fin de siècle discovery of Divine Feminine in the West and in Russia was a common cultural phenomenon brought about by the urge to spiritually consecrate the realms of human experience that were perceived as repressed: Femaleness, Nature and Sex. Russian Silver Age mystique of Divine Feminine, though largely dependent on imagery, viewed as “pagan” by the authors, didn’t break from Christianity, being in most extreme cases an effort to transform it from within. However, one of the younger children of the Russian Silver Age – Gleb Botkin – founded the first legally recognized religious organization centered around the worship of a Goddess – the Church of Aphrodite.

20:30 – 20:55

Dr. Lila Moore – Transformative Cinedance as Technopagan Ritual, Artist film-maker, Middlesex University, Department of Mysticism and Spirituality, Zefat Academic College

In this paper, I will explore the art form of cinedance as a transformative technopagan ritual.  I will suggest that the aesthetic components of the form can function as ritualistic screen-based forms, and be utilised to invoke enchanted visions and induce transformative impacts in the viewers and participants. Emphasis will be given to the crucial role of 21st century technology, especially the internet and small mobile touch screens, in transmitting the collective and depersonalised aspects of the ritualistic form, and in allowing new forms of ritualistic behaviours and practices to evolve.

The concept and perception of a ritualistic practice on screen is based on my research of Maya Deren’s seminal body of films and writings with special reference to her view of the ritualistic form, and as exemplified in Ritual in Transfigured Time, (1946). I’ll also explain the difference that Deren initially identified between the role and knowledge of shamanic artists in ancient or primitive cultures, and the task of modern artists in devising new rituals for the individual and the global collective in the technological age. Deren’s self-documented possession by the goddess Eruzlie will be addressed within the context of her aesthetic vision of a film experience that is totally transfiguring and healing. I’ll elaborate on the notion of a visionary cinematic ceremony where the viewers’ participation is akin to a participation in a pagan ritual that integrates and transcends the dancing patterns of deities, nature, spirits and human consciousness.

For the purpose of illustrating transformative forms that develop as a result of digital technology, I’ll highlight the blending of aboriginal sensibility and dance-ritual in Michelle Mahrer’s film River Woman (2004). Technopagan ritualistic practices and performances via the internet and touch screen technology will be analysed in relation to my creative experiments, e.g., Fire and Water Ceremonies (2013).

21:00 closing speech  – Hili 

The conference will take place on 26th March 2014 at 18:00 to 21:00 / CET.

We wish to thank the PAEAN conference committee for organising this event and the lecturers who participates in it.

The PAEAN Conference committee:

Morgana Sythove

Hili Ratzon

Daniel Exposito Romero