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Chapter 11 Notes

April 11, 2013

moved from Oaken Scrolls

Chapter 11:  Research in Pagan Studies from Intro to Pagan Studies by Barbara Jane Davy

This chapter details the methods used to study Paganism and the problems (from within the scholarly community and from the Pagan community) that any scholarly researcher encounters when doing so.

Things the jumped out at me in this final chapter:

  • cult defined as a new religious movement
  • “Text-based studies of Paganism did not have much to work with initially, since there is no sacred text or scripture that is accepted as authoritative, and scant theological writing was available in Paganism.  This lack of written sources initially led scholars to regard Paganism as “primitive”, because academic work focuses on written documents, and modern religions that do not focus on texts were thought to be “uncivilized”. “
  • Current research practices requires some sort of participation observation but this generates accusations of  “going native” and of losing one’s objectivity.  It also leads to accusations by the observed of misrepresentation.
  • “no research position is without bias”
  • Religious studies aims to describe religion as it is lived.
  • Theology aims to study religion as they ought to be by studying the  sources regarded as authentic within the religion.
  • “The idea of “going native” is colonialist, a remnant of the idea that religion is something that “other” people do and that Westerners study…anthropologists have been participating in the cultures they study since at least the 1930s…” (Ronald Hutton)
  • “Study of religious beliefs should entail a certain willingness to change as [Jone] Salomonsen says, which might entail taking the risk that one could change one’s religious perspective.”
  • Researchers “take the risk of becoming disillusioned in studying their own religious tradition.”
  • “To explain magical experiences in terms that attempt to demystify them is to misunderstand them…The focus on extraordinary experience, [Douglas  Ezzy] says, should be on how  people make sense of them, not the accuracy of their accounts.”
  • reactivity – the effect produced on a social group by the scholar who is studying it
  • guesthood – the idea that scholars of religions are guests and should treat their hosts with respect; not try to walk in the other’s shoes but sit across from them and converse responsibly and respectfully.  (Graham Harvey) [can we say xenia?! – me]
  • “After sixty years, contemporary Paganism is not longer a new religious movement [a cult! – me] but a world religion.”

I ought to note that this book is heavily footnoted (found at the back of each chapter) and also contains an extensive glossary and bibliography.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2013 12:45 PM

    Not all NRMs (new religious movements) are cults. Every religion was an NRM at one time. The most recent one I can think of that has grown is that of Mormonism. It began as an NRM and has become a legitimate religion. Another NRM that comes to mind is Christian Science, though fewer people practice it now than when it was first introduced. Just some thoughts from a religious studies point of view. 🙂



    • April 11, 2013 1:10 PM

      By the definition of the author: a cult is a new religious movement. Cults are generally (as in by the layman) considered something that only wackos join so by saying that Pagans are no longer a new religious movement she is saying that scholars of Relgious Studies no longer see Paganism as a cult. That is a GOOD thing in my opinion.


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