Taking the reader into the heart of one of the fastest-growing religious movements in North America, Sabina Magliocco reveals how the disciplines of anthropology and folklore were fundamental to the early development of Neo-Paganism and the revival of witchcraft. Magliocco examines the roots that this religious movement has in a Western spiritual tradition of mysticism disavowed by the Enlightenment. She explores, too, how modern Pagans and Witches are imaginatively reclaiming discarded practices and beliefs to create religions more in keeping with their personal experience of the world as sacred and filled with meaning. Neo-Pagan religions focus on experience, rather than belief, and many contemporary practitioners have had mystical experiences. They seek a context that normalizes them and creates in them new spiritual dimensions that involve change in ordinary consciousness.
Magliocco analyzes magical practices and rituals of Neo-Paganism as art forms that reanimate the cosmos and stimulate the imagination of its practitioners. She discusses rituals that are put together using materials from a variety of cultural and historical sources, and examines the cultural politics surrounding the movement—how the Neo-Pagan movement creates identity by contrasting itself against the dominant culture and how it can be understood in the context of early twenty-first-century identity politics.
Witching Culture is the first ethnography of this religious movement to focus specifically on the role of anthropology and folklore in its formation, on experiences that are central to its practice, and on what it reveals about identity and belief in twenty-first-century North America.
Introduction: The Ethnography of Magic and the Magic of Ethnography
PART I. ROOTS AND BRANCHES
Chapter 1. The Study of Folklore and the Reclamation of Paganism
Chapter 2. Boundaries and Borders: Imagining Community
PART II. RELIGIONS OF EXPERIENCE
Chapter 3. Making Magic: Training the Imagination
Chapter 4. Ritual: Between the Worlds
Chapter 5. "The Juice of Ritual": Pathways to Ecstasy
PART III. BEYOND EXPERIENCE: RELIGION AND IDENTITY
Chapter 6. The Romance of Subdominance: Creating Oppositional Culture
Chapter 7. "The Heart Is the Only Nation": Neo-Paganism, Ethnic Identity and the Construction of Authenticity
*Must Have, Double Bag!* is old school comic fandom's term for things that a fan _cannot_ live without--and have any fanboy or fangirl cred in the eyes of her or his fan peers. And a perfect, to-the-point description of this book. Witching Culture is thoughtful, insightful, fruitful, grounded, and, maybe, provocative. Witching Culture is well-crafted and a joy to read. Witching Culture is one of the best ethnographies that I've read in a long time. Magliocco manages to accentuate the participation in her participant-observations, but sustain a vibrant and keen postmodern theoretical analysis at the same time. She takes the reader *there* to a living experience of an alternative culture. Like the Neo-Pagan bricoleurs she discusses, she takes advantage of theories and insights borrowed from a number of disciplines and discourses, putting the mix to good, understanding use. Magliocco considers Neo-Pagan culture to be oppositional to dominant culture, postmodern in its world view at a time when the dominant modern culture offers little beyond materiality, consumerism, alienation, oppression, and spiritual--if not economic--impoverishment. She traces some roots of this oppositionality to sources in the Romantic and European nationalist movements. And provides a good account of Neo-Paganism's cultural creativity in shaping magical ritual, even political action, from these sources, among others. Her approach to the creative and enculturating role that song plays in today's Neo-Paganism alone makes the book worthwhile. Witching Culture is a *Must Have, Double Bag!* book that all of us should be proud to add to our libraries. Note: I am Sabina's friend, and the *Pitch* in the book. All I can assure you is--as an old-school comic guy--if the book sucked, I'd say so. Far from it-- Witching Culture shines bright!
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