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Book Notes

December 13, 2012

I decided today while finishing up the second chapter of “Introduction to Pagan Studies” by Barbara Jane Davy for the general Pagan book requirement that I’d post notes from the chapters as I went along.

I’m going to need to go back and read the introduction as it really put me off the book…to the point were I put it down and did not want to pick it back up.  So far I’ve read the first two chapters and have no complaints.  Seeing a scholarly work try to herd the cats that Pagans are as been interesting.

  • Chapter 1 – Beliefs
    • for me this chapter was the most helpful with defining and explaining terms that I’ve seen tossed about but never entirely clear what people meant.  While not perfect and a bit more Wicca focus than I care for, in general I found the descriptions accurate, informative and non-judgmental which is extremely refreshing. It is repeated, fairly often, that not all Pagans believe the same way along with explanations of how or why the differences.  Pagans are described as having a tendency towards romanticism (idealizing the past) and whose religion is categorized as late modern because it embraces relativism, globalism and skepticism.
      • immanence – “the belief that divinity is embodied in the world.  Pagans believe that the sacred is inherent in the natural world, meaning that divinity dwells within the physical universe.”
      • transcendence – “in which divinity is thought to reside outside or beyond the physical universe, so that God is a supernatural entity.”
      • pantheism – “the belief that all is divine (understood in monotheistic religions as all is God or God is in all things).”
      • dualism – “an understanding of the universe as fundamentally divided between two types of things, such as the natural and the supernatural, or the material and the spiritual.”
      • on Monism – “Pagans who subscribe to a monist view of the universe accept the idea that the planet Earth and the physical universe started with the big bang and proceeds according to physical laws, but they tend to think of the world as less limited than a strict empiricist view of the world would indicated…they conclude that it would not be appropriate to say the the god/desses or magic do not exist simply because their existence has not been proven.”
      • Panentheism – “divinity is immanent in the Earth, but also transcendent of it”
  • Chapter 2 – Social Organization
    • The overview of this chapter is one of generalities leading to specific organizations.  It is honest in describing the less that stable character of Pagan groups in general.
    • compares Paganism to shamanism
    • shamanism – “certain practices in indigenous cultures, particularly those cultures wherein people live in small groups and subsist by foraging.  It is usually associated with practices of healing and relating with the more-then-human world.  It is a scholarly construct, a term applied to cultures by outsiders…In the cultures which shamanism appears, religion is not generally identifiable as something distinct from culture by the people who live within it.  The participants do not perceive it as something distinct from the daily activities of hunting, fishing, and entertainment.”
    • “‘daily shamanism’, the everyday magical activities of people that occur outside of the more  spectacular shamanic rituals noted by early anthropologists.  People practicing these everyday  shamanic activities may be recognized as having specific powers in indigenous cultures without formal status as shamans.”
    • “It is the participation in everyday life as a Pagan that makes on a Pagan, as much as doing formal ritual in a group or having experiences mediated through others at public events.”
    • Pagan “Community is “sharing a sense of alternative lifestyle, life world, and politics   It refers not to a physical community such as a town or neighborhood, but to a shared life world or world view, including a perception of reality that accepts the efficacy of magic.”
    • Nature Religion as defined by Catherine Albanese “it is implicit, something that people do largely unconsciously or on an ad hoc basis, rather than a formally institutionalized religion with meeting houses and identifiable congregations”.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2012 4:23 PM

    Very nice. Has the author happened to mention anything about the capitalization of Paganism? A professor asked me why I capitalized it at the end of a presentation on a paper last week, and I wasn’t really sure how to answer. He seemed to think it was stupid to capitalize something as diverse as Paganism.



    • December 14, 2012 9:27 PM

      Not that I remember but that would have been in the intro which I’m not going to reread until I finish it. She does capitalize it through out however.

      Then it would be stupid to capitalize Christianity because that is a rather broad and diverse umbrella.


      • December 15, 2012 9:22 AM

        Honestly, that’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t really want to say anything to my professor while I was standing up in front of the class…:) I should have compared Paganism to Hinduism, since they are a lot alike structurally. Hinduism is a broad umbrella for a variety of practices, including devotion, yoga, contemplation, and others. They don’t all worship the same deity or deities either. Ah well.



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