Pan’s People? Pagan Magic, Uncertainty and Embodied Desire

  • Dave Green

Abstract

Set against the threatened ecological backdrop of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society (1992), there has been a dramatic upsurge in numbers of self-proclaimed nature religions in the West (Albanese, 1990, 2002; Pearson et al., 1998). These heterodox spiritual movements venerate nature as the locus of life, divinity and magic. Invoking Gaian sensibilities and attempting to transcend anthropocentrism, they seek to locate humanity within a sacred and interdependent, though endangered, global ecosystem (for example, Pearson et al., 1998). Contrary to theses of radical de-traditionalisation (see Heelas et al., 1996: 3–7), the spiritual expression of these religions is marked by a return to the symbolism of pre-modern myth, often couched within the Dionysian practices of pre-modern indigenous earth spiritualities, and an emphasis on the sensual. Indeed, Catherine Albanese (1990) traces the roots of contemporary nature religions to the colonial meeting of Protestant settlers and indigenous cultures in North America and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of these nature venerating cultures. She, therefore, sees two distinct strands within the Western experience of contemporary nature religiosity: First, indigenous peoples who wish to reclaim their indigenous animistic practices, in doing so politicising and universalising their struggles as critique of modern excess — indeed of late modernity’s relationship to risk.

Keywords

Europe Schizophrenia Coherence Expense Cane 

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© Dave Green 2005

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  • Dave Green

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