Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community / Edition 1

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Recent decades have seen a revival of paganism, and every summer people gather across the United States to celebrate this increasingly popular religion. Sarah Pike's engrossing ethnography is the outcome of five years attending neo-pagan festivals, interviewing participants, and sometimes taking part in their ceremonies. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves incorporates her personal experience and insightful scholarly work concerning ritual, sacred space, self-identity, and narrative. The result is a compelling portrait of this frequently misunderstood religious movement.

Neo-paganism began emerging as a new religious movement in the late 1960s.
In addition to bringing together followers for self-exploration and participation in group rituals, festivals might offer workshops on subjects such as astrology, tarot, mythology, herbal lore, and African drumming. But while they provide a sense of community for followers, Neo-Pagan festivals often provoke criticism from a variety of sources—among them conservative Christians, Native Americans, New Age spokespersons, and media representatives covering stories of rumored "Satanism" or "witchcraft."

Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves explores larger issues in the United States regarding the postmodern self, utopian communities, cultural improvisation, and contemporary spirituality. Pike's accessible writing style and her nonsensationalistic approach do much to demystify neo-paganism and its followers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520220867
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/24/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 314
  • Sales rank: 918,057
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah M. Pike is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at California State University, Chico.

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Chapter One

Driving into Faerie

Place Myths and Neopagan Festivals

During several years attending festivals, I found that Neopagans everywhere describe their festival experiences in much the same way. Each festival has unique features, but Neopagans approach all festivals as opportunities to participate in a community of others who share some of their religious beliefs and practices. In later chapters I discuss in detail distinct characteristics of particular festivals. Here, however, I explore similar ways in which the festivals—Starwood, ELFest, Wild Magick Gathering, Summerhawk, Rites of Spring, Spiral, Lumensgate, and Pagan Spirit Gathering—are imagined as places of contrast with the rest of the world.

There is something magickal about simply going to a Festival. Especially if the journey is a long and rigorous one, to some "uncharted shore." I remember my first trip to Spiral.... After an all day trip through the beautiful scenery of the Kentucky and Tennessee mountains, we spent a couple hours finding our way past Atlanta and down a long, straight road as the sun began to set behind us and we struggled to stay awake and alert. A final turn off took us onto a winding, wooded track that brought us into an increasingly surreal tangle of pines, shadows and red clay illuminated by our headlights. I began to sense a change in the feel of the landscape, as if we were driving into Faerie, with the trees closing behind us.

Like many other festivals, Spiral takes place on a wooded site far from the lights and sounds of the cities from where most festival participants come. Kenn goes on to describe his arrival: "Finally we reached the campground and the welcoming yellow lights of the dining hall and registration table. I parked the car between tall pines and stepped out onto the blanket of fallen needles, feeling completely awake, alert and filled with joy." Festivals are uncharted shores emotionally as well as physically; Kenn remembers,

I could feel myself opening to the experience that lay before me, and I knew that it would be a Magickal one. Anything that happened there could not help but transform me. That was the first time I remember being so consciously aware of the transition to "festival space," but I don't think I've ever attended a gathering—before or after that first Spiral—where something similar didn't occur. Now I'm simply more aware of the process, and help it along at times by visualizing/sensing/feeling veils hanging in the air, which we pass through on our way into the site.[Note 1]

The veils that Kenn imagines moving through mark the boundary between the everyday world and the "Magickal one" of the festival. Festival goers anticipate that festival space will be transformational because it is different from their workplaces and homes. Kenn's vision of trees closing behind him separates Spiral from the quotidian world and marks his departure from daily routines.


Neopagan festivals generally strike outsiders as a radical new phenomenon in American culture. Some say the occasions represent frightening, even demonic trends in American religious expression. But in a number of ways—in their relationship to nature, spiritual eclecticism, nonconformity—in both form and religious content, pagan festivals are not that unusual in American religious history. Neopagan festivals belong to a tradition of collective events that first flourished in the "spiritual hothouse," to borrow historian Jon Butler's phrase, of the nineteenth century. Chautauqua Institutes (nineteenth-century Protestant conferences that blended religion and leisure), outdoor revivals, camp meetings, lyceum programs, and Spiritualist conventions were all intended to transform the mind and spirit.[Note 7] Like contemporary Neopagan festivals, these events of earlier eras were consciously experienced apart from the rhythms of daily life and drew boundaries between the participants' gatherings and the rest of society. Such gatherings were also places or events at which a multitude of meanings and desires converged; they served as vacation retreats, as opportunities for conversion experiences, and as avenues to new and radical ideas. Three North American religions and cultural trends from the nineteenth century best demonstrate the importance of the contrast between the ordinary world and the "place apart": Spiritualist conventions, evangelical camp meetings, and tourist attractions.

purposes. Merchants attend to sell their wares, spiritual seekers hope for intense experiences, and other Neopagans look forward to socializing with old friends. "I used to come to festivals to learn about ritual magic; now I come to hang out with friends," said Howie (as he was driving me home from ELFest in 1992), who has been attending the annual ELFest for many years.


Festivals become places separated from the everyday world not only because of their physical settings, but primarily because of the ways in which festival goers perceive them.[Note 28] Throughout festivals, participants work to make an experience set apart from their lives "back home." They create place myths: composites of rumors, images, and experiences that make particular places fascinating. These myths may extol a place's vices as well as its virtues. [Note 29] Neopagans tell stories designed to locate the festival in "an imaginary geography vis-a-vis the place-myths of other towns and regions which form the contrast which established its reputation as a liminal destination."[Note 30] But how do festivals take on these connotations of magical otherworlds and what makes them "liminal destinations"?


different from ordinary life because they are "more real," allowing for a more direct experience of "reality" and sharpening the senses in ways that are not possible in everyday life. Neopagans say that going to a festival is like traveling to a more real world of heightened experience and perception. "People feel starved for something real in their lives," I overheard in a conversation at Wild Magick 1992 about why Neopagan festivals are growing in number. Peh, an ELF elder who dresses in black clothes and long robes at festivals, expressed relief at leaving his work clothes behind. In contrast, when I met him in mundania during his lunch hour he was dressed in a business-like trench coat over khakis and a polo shirt, his silver pentacle necklace hidden beneath his clothes or left at home.

to the natural world. A popular festival chant attests to the important relationship between human and nature: "Earth my body, water my soul, air my breath, and fire my spirit."[Note 41] Neopagans make an effort to create, for a week, reality as they think it should be, a world that heals body and soul and encourages interaction with nature.


of forgetting the persecution and suspicion of conservative Christians or dismissal by an American public that associates "witches" with The Wizard of Oz and "magic" with David Copperfield's elaborate stage performances.

conventions linked with the secular world, as it is safe and efficacious to assume a different appearance by wearing masks or costumes."[Note 50]


The separation of festival world from mundania is also accomplished by making festival attendance a pilgrimage. Neopagans often journey to faraway places when they go to festivals, and they see this journey as a pilgrimage or a rite of passage that will transform them. Neopagans' accounts of their trips to festivals are similar to the stories of other religious people described in studies of pilgrimage.[Note 52] Neopagans envision the festival as a pilgrimage destination, and they approach the festival site as a place of miraculous experiences. When they attend festivals, Neopagan pilgrims set out on "sacred journeys" toward ideal communities and ideal selves.[Note 53] Festivals promise a world made over by Neopagan values because they involve "pilgrimages to nature," sacred to "nature-worshipping pantheists," as Neopagan psychologist Dennis Carpenter calls Neopagans.[Note 54] Loretta Orion explains that festival goers travel "to Earth—the goddess who is everywhere, everything. . . . Nature is not the setting for the pilgrimage but the destination and object of the pilgrim's quest."[Note 55] In contrast to pilgrimages to saints' shrines or deities' temples, Neopagan pilgrimages are not to places connected by myths to the life of a saint or deity (although Neopagans do make pilgrimages to ancient sites like Stonehenge). Rather, at festival sites like Lothlorien, the land itself, the trees, and the earth are invested with the desires and dreams of festival goers and become "sacred" destinations for festival participants.

of subjectivity that echoes the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Freud in particular saw himself as the "emotional excavator" of his patients, and in a similar fashion Neopagans excavate themselves at festivals. Neopagans draw on a common set of modern metaphors to craft an account of their multileveled journeys to pilgrimage sites.


Neopagans engage in self-exploration and commune with nature at festivals, but they also establish important friendships and intimate relationships with other festival goers. If they want to be archaeologists of the self, then they want to do so in the company of others and under the auspices of a Neopagan community. Observers of the relationship between self and community in the contemporary United States have argued that Americans tend to emphasize the needs of the self over those of the community. Robert Bellah and his colleagues point out in Habits of the Heart that when Americans describe their spirituality they talk most about personal empowerment and self-expression rather than the requirements of community.[Note 59] In contrast, Neopagan festivals emphasize both self-transformation and the creation of community. Festivals provide a unique opportunity to observe the ways in which these apparently conflicting projects are carried out.

The Opening Ritual on Thursday evening will be a time to create a magickal place of safety and protection. To build a sacred fire in the center of our universe. . . . We ask that once you arrive that you acknowledge and affirm your place within this Magickal Circle, thus beginning your participation in the active current. Realize that you are within a Circle surrounded by the SPIRAL Family. . . . The Opening Ritual will bring us together once again under the Full Moon in September. We will create a safe and free space to work our Magick. A place where you can be free to explore the magickal self that lives within.[Note 60]

Circles are central to Neopagan beliefs and rituals and are particularly important in defining sacred space (see figure 3). Circular spaces are in keeping with Neopagan emphasis on cycles of the moon, seasonal festivals, and reincarnation. Their attention to circles may also explain in part how Neopagans see the relationship between self and community. In this relationship, the circle of community is what makes possible work on the self. An announcement for Pagan Spirit Gathering describes one model for this relationship:

This Gathering is about experiencing Community—creating a Pagan Tribal Village together at this special place—sharing songs, meditations, rituals, dreams, food, ideas, fun, magic—sharing work as well as celebration—teaching and learning from each other—sharing our visions of the past, present, and future—examining ourselves collectively and individually as part of the Pagan/Nature Spirituality movement manifesting on Planet Earth. It is about living fully as our magical Pagan selves in this spiritual place for a week. . . . This year's Gathering focuses on Sacred Circles—with special emphasis on honoring circles as symbols of sacred time and sacred space, wholeness and balance, Nature's rhythms and life cycles, community, and the interconnectedness of all life.[Note 61]

At Pagan Spirit Gathering, circles are collective forms that encourage individualistic Neopagans to collaborate on a common project. Circles of this sort are most successfully created at festivals— "this special place"—that are explicitly separated from and opposed to ordinary life. After the Rites of Spring 1998 web ritual, Andras Arthen spoke about the importance and meaning of community embodied by the ritual circle. He asked participants to touch the ground, to note where it was hard or soft, wet or dry— "like life." He reminded us that we are dependent on community and responsible for maintaining and caring for our communities. He suggested that over the weekend everyone come to the web, which was left in place until the festival's closing ritual, to "take some power" and "give some," or walk into the intricately woven web. But he cautioned as well: "Be careful how you tread the web, because that is how you tread in community."

an opportunity to step out of our usual model of social interaction. Some of the same things applied, but when you got out there they made it clear that as long as you didn't hurt yourself or anybody else, basically whatever you wanted went. Now, when it comes down to it, that's not true. There were certain things that still held, but it was a lot more open, a lot more free. And even though it wasn't focused, it was providing an atmosphere, a place, a social mechanism by which people could express more of themselves and discover and explore more than they could back home and in their usual motif.[Note 63]

Here Kenn affirms the contrast between "back home" and the festival. But he problematizes the notion of the festival as an ideal place. Festival goers do not simply leave their old habits at home, he warns. They arrive at festivals with wildly conflicting ideals and expectations about what a festival home and family should be like. When I asked Peh to describe the meaning of "community" at Neopagan festivals, he explained to me that festivals are places where the community a person brings with them—by which he meant their social status, relationships in the mundane world, career, and upbringing—encounters the festival community.[Note 64]

Cherokee" and referred to his festival family: the three women, Don, and several other close friends who had become "like family" at festivals.

global tribal village," "spiritual community," "family," and "home." Announcements of festivals try hard to be inclusive. For example, a flyer for a pagan retreat called Harvest of Light in Missouri welcomes "all races, traditions, alternative family structures, and sexual orientations."[Note 70]

fixed. By going to Summerhawk, he felt he would be able to enjoy a more fluid identity unconstrained by role expectations. He believed the festival would enable him to explore those parts of the self that were obscured by marital and vocational concerns. The relationships among "higher selves" create community for Peh and others. But such a community is possible only in a place where the usual "masks" and "hats" are unnecessary, but at which new masks and robes can be tried on.


Neopagans say that self and community are more fully realized in a place safely bounded and metaphysically removed from the everyday world. Emphasis on boundaries between inside and outside is a constant theme at Neopagan festivals and essential to understanding how festival goers experience community belonging and personal freedom. At boundaries, definitions are made, and the elements that constitute self, community, and family are identified. Home and festival as well as specific places within the festival, such as ritual circles and healing shrines, are defined against each other as their boundaries are negotiated by festival participants. Neopagan boundary work follows a pattern described in an extensive literature by folklorists and anthropologists on festivals as places where conflicts develop and are resolved.[Note 73]

their ideals, but festival communities do not always live up to such expectations.

cities where no one is making sacrifices to connect themselves to the spirits.

Festivals are full of tensions and contradictions. They are set apart from mundania for self-realization and for intimate encounters with others; they are intended for communion with nature as well as for envisioning an alternative society; and they are safer than the hostile outside world. However, the woods and fields of festival sites are populated by mysterious and unknown spirits. Neopagans summon supernatural beings in rituals back at their home temples, but at festivals they may not feel familiar with spirits of the land or with the deities invoked by other festival goers during rituals. Gardnerian witches whose rituals involve a goddess and god, may not be comfortable with the spirits invoked by Vodou practitioners camped next to them. Festival goers may also be uncomfortable with the fact that there is no established tradition to define the relationship between the festival community and spirits whom they believe to populate the woods and hills where festivals take place. Neopagans must not only deal with the complex relationships and power struggles that exist in all human communities, but they must also confront the mysterious relationships between themselves and the supernatural beings whom they call upon for protection and self-transformation.

Chapter 1 Notes

  1. [Note 1] Kenn Deigh, letter to author, 2 June 1992.
  2. [Note 2] For general, cross-cultural studies of "magic" as a category, see Daniel O'Keefe, Stolen Lightning: A Social Theory of Magic (New York: Continuum, 1982), and Marcel Mauss, A General Theory of Magic (London: Routledge, 1972).
  3. [Note 3] John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, eds., Magic (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 131. Also see Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982); Doreen Valiente, Natural Magic (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975); and Isaac Bonewits, Real Magic (New York: Berkly Publishing, 1972).
  4. [Note 4] Mary K. Greer, Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses (Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1995), 64. Greer's book provides an insider's perspective of the ways in which women involved in the Golden Dawn used ritual and magic to transform their lives.
  5. [Note 5] Quotation from Loretta Orion, Never Again the Burning Times (Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 1995), 262.
  6. [Note 6] Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 6. Other important works on the construction of place and space are Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (New York: The Orion Press, 1958, reprint 1964); Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974, reprint 1992); and Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Cartographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (New York: Verso, 1989).
  7. [Note 7] R. Laurence Moore discusses Chautauqua Sunday School Institutes in Selling God: American Religion on the Cultural Marketplace (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). Moore writes that the institutes "lasted for two weeks and were organized around lessons, sermons, devotional meetings, plus concerts, fireworks, bonfires, humorous lectures, and music" (151). In 1998, a Starwood participant pointed out to me that Chatauqua was ten miles down the road from Brushwood, Starwood's current site.
  8. [Note 8] An anonymous message on the electronic "Arcana Discussion List for the Study of the Occult" (6 March 1994).
  9. [Note 9] In Alternative Altars, Robert Ellwood Jr. identifies a stream of alternative religious expression, including Spiritualism, to which contemporary Neopaganism clearly belongs (Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality in America [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979]. . . ).
  10. [Note 10] See R. Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
  11. [Note 11] Neopagans typically go by pseudonyms or first names only at festivals, both to protect anonymity and to reflect the informality and intimacy of festivals' atmospheres.
  12. [Note 12] Rhianna, e-mail to author, 25 April 1995.
  13. [Note 13] When talking about where their own dead have gone, some Neopagans use the term "Summerland," an adaptation of Spiritualists' name for the land of the deceased.
  14. [Note 14] Neopagans are active in a wide variety of causes; environmentalism is probably the most common. Dennis Carpenter proposes in Spiritual Experiences, Life Changes, and Ecological Viewpoints of Contemporary Pagans (Ph.D. diss., Saybrook Institute, 1994) that environmental concerns arise among Neopagans as a direct response to their spiritual experiences.
  15. [Note 15] Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), 19.
  16. [Note 16] Outside criticism did not succeed in disrupting Spiritualist gatherings. Moore suggests that attacks against Spiritualists resulted in bonding and solidarity. See his "The Occult Connection? Mormonism, Christian Science, and Spiritualism," in The Occult in America, ed. Howard Kerr and Charles Crow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 135-61.
  17. [Note 17] Braude, Radical Spirits, 43; Moore, In Search of White Crows, 40-69.
  18. [Note 18] Neopagans make a point of disavowing other available religious options and affirming their individualized religious practices, whereas participants at Spiritualist gatherings might identify themselves as Christians or Quakers as well as Spiritualists. Neopagans are also generally much less concerned with social acceptance. Spiritualists worked hard to gain acceptance, to prove that their practices were scientifically verifiable, but Neopagans seem to celebrate and thrive on their own difference.
  19. [Note 19] Moore, Selling God, 45-46. See also Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995).
  20. [Note 20] Philosopher of "place" Eugene Walter argues in Placeways that "A place is a unity of experience, organizing the intercommunication and mutual influence of all beings within it" (Walter, Placeways: A Theory of the Human Environment [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988], 23). See also John F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979]. . . ).
  21. [Note 21] Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 50-52.
  22. [Note 22] Flyer advertising "Harvest of Light: A Pagan Retreat," held near Columbia, Missouri, on Labor Day Weekend, 1993.
  23. [Note 23] Sears, Sacred Places, 8-9. See also D.. . . W. Meinig, ed., The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
  24. [Note 24] Historian Richard Slotkin argues in Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America that the frontier myth is the United States' most characteristic one (New York: Atheneum, 1992). The frontier myth was originally detailed in Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1920, reprint 1962).
  25. [Note 25] Winthrop set out his vision in "A Model of Christian Charity," in Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794, ed. Edmund S. Morgan (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965).
  26. [Note 26] Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence, ed. J.. . . P. Mayer (New York: Doubleday, Anchor Books, 1969).
  27. [Note 27] Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967, reprint 1973), 89. Nash traces this theme through the writings of John Muir and Aldo Leopold and discusses its manifestation in the 1960s counterculture.
  28. [Note 28] My understanding of festivals as "places apart" has been helped by Beverly Stoeltje, "Festival," in Folklore, Cultural Performances, and Popular Entertainments: A Communications-Centered Handbook, ed. Richard Bauman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); Jean Duvignaud, "Festivals: A Sociological Approach," Cultures 3, no. 1 (Unesco Press, 1976): 13-25; Alessandro Falassi, Time out of Time: Essays on the Festival (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987); and Frank Manning, ed., The Celebration of Society: Perspectives on Contemporary Cultural Performance (Bowling Green, Ky.: Bowling Green University Press, 1983).
  29. [Note 29] Neopagan festivals are marginal sites, or "heterotopias," to borrow Michel Foucault's term. There are places in every culture, says Foucault, "which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which. . . all the other real sites. . . are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted." "Of Other Spaces," Diacritics 16 (1986): 24. Other kinds of heterotopias that Foucault discusses in this essay include fairgrounds on the outskirts of cities and Polynesian "vacation villages." Much of Foucault's work is taken up with issues of power and space. My understanding of festivals and power has also been helped by Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994).
  30. [Note 30] Rob Shields, Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity (London: Routledge, 1991), 112. G. Rinschede and S.. . . M. Bhardwaj describe "place mythologies" as narratives of the virtues and sanctities of specific sites (Introduction to Pilgrimage in the United States [Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 1990], 11). But the sites they identify, like Neopagan festivals and the seaside retreats described by Shields, probably have negative associations as well. Other studies of place mythologies that have helped me understand festivals include John A. Agnew and James S. Duncan, eds., The Power of Place: Bringing Together Geographical and Sociological Imaginations (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989); Anne Buttimer, Geography and the Human Spirit (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); James Duncan and David Ley, eds., Place/Culture/Representation (London: Routledge, 1993); and Tony Hiss, The Experience of Place (New York: Knopf, 1990). For some good examples of place myths see James Griffith, Beliefs and Holy Places: A Spiritual Geography of the Pimeria Alta (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992); David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal, eds., American Sacred Space (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); and Jamie Scott and Paul Simpson-Housley, eds., Sacred Places and Profane Spaces: Essays in the Geographies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991).
  31. [Note 31] Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 21.
  32. [Note 32] Ibid., 115. The importance of the liminal phase in ritual is most thoroughly explored in the work of Victor Turner, and especially in The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969).
  33. [Note 33] Barbara Myerhoff, "Rites of Passage: Process and Paradox," in Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual, ed. Victor Turner (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982), 116-17.
  34. [Note 34] In Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974), Victor Turner contrasts flexible, egalitarian liminal events to the stratified, normal world (200-201). Neopagans explore a similar contrast in their literature about festivals.
  35. [Note 35] Stoeltje, "Festival," in Bauman, Folklore, 268. In his study of Brazilian Carnaval, anthropologist Roberto DaMatta describes the process by which a "special space" is "produced" for Carnaval by opposing "street" to "home" in the same way that Neopagans oppose festival to mundania (Carnivals, Rogues, and Heroes: An Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma [Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991], 81-84).
  36. [Note 36] Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 424.
  37. [Note 37] Salome, interview by author, 9 July 1993.
  38. [Note 38] Margaret Thompson Drewel, Yoruba Ritual: Performers, Play, Agency (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 174.
  39. [Note 39] Quoted in Orion, Never Again the Burning Times, 146.
  40. [Note 40] Vyvien, a Neopagan from Canberra, Australia, describes her first trip to a Church of All Worlds gathering (Pagan Summer Gathering 1992) in Australia (Green Egg 26, no. 101 [summer 1993], 30).
  41. [Note 41] I heard this chant at many festivals, but most recently at Ancient Ways, 1997.
  42. [Note 42] This places Neopagans in an American tradition of nature religion described by historian Catherine L. Albanese in Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). The concept of a "tribe" also turns up in an important phenomenon closely related to Neopagan festivals: the Rainbow Gatherings. Rainbow gatherings are held on both regional and national levels and sponsored by a loose network of people called the "Rainbow Tribe." I have met many Neopagans at festivals who had attended at least one Rainbow Gathering; some festival participants even became exposed to Neopaganism through their involvement with the Rainbow Tribe. The national meetings are much larger than Neopagan festivals, with more than 10,000 participants.
  43. [Note 43] The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993).
  44. [Note 44] Moonstar, Introduction to "Reader's Forum," Circle Network News 7, no. 3 (fall 1985): 9.
  45. [Note 45] Caitlin, Circle Network News 7, no. 3 (fall 1985): 10.
  46. [Note 46] Starhawk discusses the links between changing consciousness and social change throughout Dreaming the Dark, but especially 114-34.
  47. [Note 47] Lothlorien is the home of ELF festivals as well as festivals sponsored by other Neopagan groups such as The Trolls, who put on a spring festival called "Chants to Dance" or the Illuminati of Indiana, who have held several solstice festivals at Lothlorien. Wotanwald is based on an old Norse design and is the site for yearly gatherings "with a strong Norse/Teutonic flavoring" (Circle Network News 7, no. 3 [fall 1985]: 4).
  48. [Note 48] Roberto DaMatta, "Carnaval, Informality, and Magic: A Point of View from Brazil," in Text, Play and Story: The Construction and Reconstruction of Self and Society, ed. E.. . . M. Bruner (Washington, D.C.: American Ethnological Society, 1984), 230-46.
  49. [Note 49] Announcement for Spiral Gathering, Atlanta, Georgia.
  50. [Note 50] Orion, Never Again the Burning Times, 133.
  51. [Note 51] Michael, cassette tape to author, 9 June 1992.
  52. [Note 52] See for instance Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978); Robert A. Orsi, "The Center out There, in Here, and Everywhere Else: The Nature of Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Jude, 1929-1965," Journal of Social History 25, no. 2 (winter 1991): 213-32; Alan Morinis, ed., Sacred Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992); David L. Haberman, Journey through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Barbara G. Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974).
  53. [Note 53] Morinis, Sacred Journeys, 2.
  54. [Note 54] Carpenter, Spiritual Experiences, 8-9.
  55. [Note 55] Orion, Never Again the Burning Times, 154.
  56. [Note 56] Circle Network News (published by Circle Sanctuary), "Pagan Gatherings Issue" (summer 1992).
  57. [Note 57] Kenn Deigh, Mezlim 3, no. 2 (1992).
  58. [Note 58] Anne Buttimer, "Home, Reach, and the Sense of Place." Many of the essays collected in The Human Experience of Space and Place, ed. Anne Buttimer and David Seamon (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980) deal with the relationship between place and self-understanding (167). See also Winifred Gallagher, The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions (New York: Poseidon Press, 1993).
  59. [Note 59] Robert N. Bellah et al, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985). Other commentators on late twentieth-century American religion and culture have made similar observations. See for instance Wade Clark Roof, A Generation of Seekers (San Francisco: Harper, 1993); and Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn't What It Used to Be: Theatrical Politics, Ready-to-Wear Religion, Global Myths, Primitive Chic, and Other Wonders of the Postmodern World (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990).
  60. [Note 60] Spiral Gathering announcement, 1999.
  61. [Note 61] PSG 1993 "Village Guide."
  62. [Note 62] J. Milton Yinger observes in his study of "countercultural" religions that New Religious Movements tend to move in two directions, often both strands of movement within one group: "One branch adapting in some measure to the world around it while another pushes strongly against the dominant norms." J. Milton Yinger, Countercultures: The Promise and the Peril of a World Turned Upside Down (New York: The Free Press, 1982), 247. Movement in both directions is evident at Neopagan festivals.
  63. [Note 63] Kenn Deigh, interview by author, November 1992.
  64. [Note 64] Peh, conversation with author, 1 July 1993.
  65. [Note 65] "Pagan Gatherings—Discovering Spiritual Homeland," flyer for 1993 Pagan Spirit Gathering.
  66. [Note 66] From a mailing announcing Pagan Spirit Gathering 1995.
  67. [Note 67] Orion's discussion of kinship and rites of passage is in Never Again the Burning Times, 244-54.
  68. [Note 68] Flyer for Lumensgate 1994: "Opening the Way." Lumensgate is a small festival held at Brushwood Folklore Center in southwestern New York and sponsored by N'Chi, publishers of the Neopagan magazine Mezlim.
  69. [Note 69] Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, 424.
  70. [Note 70] Flyer for Harvest of Light, 1993.
  71. [Note 71] Several of the festivals I attended held workshops that dealt with issues concerning religious freedom and alternative families, such as homosexual partnerships and polyamorous arrangements, where multiple sexual partners were described as an extended family. I also attended gay handfastings.
  72. [Note 72] Rose, conversation with author, 29 May 1992.
  73. [Note 73] Roger D. Abrahams, "Shouting Match at the Border: The Folklore of Display Events," in "And Other Neighborly Names": Social Process and Cultural Image in Texas Folklore, ed. Richard Bauman and Roger D. Abrahams (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1982), 303-21.
  74. [Note 74] Orion, Never Again the Burning Times, 262-64. My understanding of boundary making has been informed by Anthony P. Cohen, ed., Symbolising Boundaries: Identity and Diversity in British Cultures (Manchester, Eng.: Manchester University Press, 1986), and by David S. Hess's study of boundaries and the construction of self against other in Science in the New Age: The Paranormal, Its Defenders and Debunkers and American Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993).
  75. [Note 75] Circle Network News, "Pagan Gatherings Issue" (summer 1992), 17.
  76. [Note 76] Green Egg 26, no. 101 (summer 1993): 30.
  77. [Note 77] Orian, Never Again the Burning Times, 140.
  78. [Note 78] Anthropologist Alan Morinis describes the continuity between pilgrimage and home: "While the sacred place is the source of power and salvation, it is at home once again that the effects of power are incorporated into life and what salvation is gained is confirmed" (Sacred Journeys, 27).

Copyright © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction: We Cast Our Circles Where the Earth Mother Meets the Sky Father 1
1 Driving into Fairie: Place Myths and Neopagan Festivals 11
2 Shrines of Flame and Silence: Mapping the Festival Site 41
3 The Great Evil That Is in Your Backyard: Festival Neighbors and Satanism Rumors 87
4 Blood That Matters: Neopagan Borrowing 123
5 Children of the Devil or Gifted in Magic? The Work of Memory in Neopagan Narrative 155
6 Serious Playing with the Self: Gender and Eroticism at the Festival Fire 182
Conclusion: The Circle Is Open but Never Broken 219
Notes 227
Bibliography 259
Index 273
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