[The following is a guest post from Dr. Kimberly Kirner. Dr. Kirner is a cultural anthropologist specializing in applied cognitive anthropology, working on issues in political ecology and ethnoecology, medical anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. She is interested in understanding the relationships between cognition, emotion, and decision-making; the construction of identity, place, and community; and the way cultural knowledge systems interact with policy and large-scale systems to impact human behavior. Her research has focused on the political ecology of the American West and the medical anthropology of minority religious traditions in the United States. In addition to Dr. Kirner’s academic work, she has worked as an applied anthropologist in program design, evaluation, and fund development.]
Some of you know me as the cultural anthropologist who began the Pagan Health Survey Project, which collected responses a large dataset from Pagans across the United States in 2010 and 2012.
As an academic discipline, Pagan Studies is certainly a “new kid on the block,” just as Paganism as a term for a living religious tradition is still relatively new in the current era of world history. (I have had to clarify for some people I’ve met in recent history that identifying as Pagan doesn’t mean “no religion at all” on several occasions…!) Some of the writers who have produced seminal works within Pagan Studies come from a journalistic background, like Chas Clifton and Margot Adler. The focus of a great deal of Pagan studies up until this point has tended to be anthropological, with exemplary writers like Sabina Magliocco coming from this discipline and forging paths in this new area. Many of these have done so while being practitioners themselves. But, the field of Pagan Studies is (like many such “____ Studies” subjects) an interdisciplinary one, taking in elements from history (the field of Ronald Hutton, amongst others), literary studies across many fields, sociology, psychology, and religion, as well as a variety of other possibilities, in addition to anthropology.
Just a few items to start off your week, beginning with a rather tragic update on the James A. Ray sweat-lodge death controversy. Chas Clifton alerts us that a third victim has succumbed to injuries sustained while in the sweat-lodge. “An Arizona homicide investigation now includes three deaths after a woman died more than a week after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony that hospitalized nearly two dozen people. Liz Neuman of Minnesota died Saturday at a Flagstaff hospital, Yavapai County sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said. The 49-year-old suffered multiple organ damage during the Oct.
A growing meme over the past thirty years has been the notion that National Socialism in Germany, the Nazis, and Hitler were in no way Christian. That they were “pagans” or “neo-pagans”. The truth is that Hitler and other leaders within the Nazi party seized on elements of both Christianity, and romantic pre-Christian belief to create a twisted and perverse hybrid of both (Hitler believed himself to be a Catholic until the day he died). Members of occult orders who didn’t toe the Nazi line were imprisoned just as defiant Christians were. But this hasn’t stopped many from laying the blame in one place only, pre-Christian ideas and belief.In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, while addressing the Jewish community of Cologne, laid out exactly what the new party line on Christian involvement in the Holocaust was.”And in the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.