“Since , O Mazda from the beginning, Thou didst create soul and body, mental power and knowledge , and since Thou didst bestow to mankind the power to act , speak and guide , you wished that everyone should chose their own faith and path freely.”

Zaratostra - Yasna 31, Verse 11

One who always thinks of his own safety and profit, how can he love the joy-bringing Mother Earth? The righteous man that follows Asha's Law shall dwell in regions radiant with Thy Sun, the abode where wise ones dwell.”

Zaratostra Yasna, Verse 2

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Abstract for the conference by Caroline Tully
Researching the Past, is a Foreign Country:  Cognitive Dissonance as a response by practitioner Pagans to academic research on the history of Pagan religions.        
Neo-Paganism is an umbrella term for an increasingly popular cluster of new religions whose adherents are to be found primarily in the UK, USA and Australia. A movement that consciously looks to the past and claims to revive the ancient religious practices of pre-Christian Europe, Neo-Paganism has always been dependent upon academic scholarship—particularly history, archaeology and anthropology—in its project of self-fashioning. Dependant primarily upon late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholarship, Neo-Pagans vociferously reject more recent research, especially when it contradicts earlier findings, perceiving it as threatening to their structure of beliefs and sense of identity. Not only do the results of such scholarship traumatise Neo-Pagans—however unwittingly on the scholars’ part—in some cases it rebounds upon the researchers themselves when Neo-Pagans seek to traumatise the scholars, the “bearers of bad news”, in return. This paper will present case studies which display the contested nature of the past by highlighting the combative interaction between Neo-Pagans and academic researchers at three types of site-as-stage: the archaeological excavation, the museum and the text, and explain how the performers fail to communicate as a result of speaking different “languages”. It will also discuss the infusion into Neo-Paganism of hybrid vigour through the activities of the Pagan Studies scholar, a researcher in the role of participant-observer, who functions as a “go-between”, easing the sense of resentment by Neo-Pagans toward the perceived 
colonisation of their religion by “hackademics”.

Caroline Tully is a PhD student working on a thesis about sacred trees in
the prehistoric Aegean, Cyprus and Israel, under the supervision of
Associate Professor Louise Hitchcock. Caroline comes to academia from over
twenty years prior involvement in contemporary Pagan religions. Her
Postgraduate Diploma thesis, 'Spiritual Egyptomania: The Hermetic Order of
the Golden Dawn', was an attempt to critique and subsequently purge this
relationship from her psyche. Nevertheless, Caroline cannot resist the
lure of academic Pagan Studies and also continues to publish on aspects
Neo-Paganism for a popular audience.

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