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

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University of California Press, 2001 - Religion - 288 pages
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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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About the author (2001)

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

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